Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:

 

Conservative:

Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.

 

Reactionary:

Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.

 

Radical:

Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.

 

The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.

 

The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.

 

Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income

 

Capitalism:

Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 

Socialism:

Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 

Communism:

Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.

 

Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.

 

Democracy:

Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

 

Republic:

Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.

 

Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President

 

Fascism:

Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

 
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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Terrorism And Its Discontents

Terrorism is not a new tactic. As defined by Webster's, terrorism is violence committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands. This tactic has been with us from the Greeks and Romans to the American Revolution. However, it doesn't always work and it is not always worth the costs. Today, many people who once held sympathy for terrorism are beginning to become disillusioned.

The latest round of terrorism, from the 1970's until today, has largely been committed by Arab and Islamist extremists in a bid to harm Israel, drive Westerners out of the Middle East, and inspire Muslim followers - if not create a new pan-Islamic superstate. Its targets have been other Arabs and Muslims, Europeans, and lately the United States.

But these attacks have not succeeded in destroying the "Zionist entity". They have not ended US involvement in the Middle East, but have increased it. The US, Britain, Italy, Poland, etc. now occupy the hub nation of the Middle East, Iraq. Furthermore, the economies of belligerent nations such as Lebanon, Libya, Iran, and Iraq have all been decimated, while the economies of friendly nations such as Israel, Kuwait, the Gulf Emirates, and Egypt have been the beneficiaries of billions in aide and investment.

Terrorism and other religious violence clearly costs Muslims everywhere. In Britain, Muslims note that any movement towards integration, or even cohabitation, was destroyed by backlash to the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Beirut, Lebanon, once a center of tourism and international culture in the Middle East, was largely destroyed by religious violence. Yet today the city is enjoying a resurgence as terrorism damages the reputations of its neighbors.

The latest terrorist actions... hostage taking against France in a bid to overturn a ban on religious symbols in schools and the attack on the Russian schoolhouse in Beslan in an attempt to spark a war in the Caucuses... have resulted in widespread repudiation and horror by Muslims around the world. Even the supposed architects of such attacks, such as Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, have passionately denied their own involvement.

The NY Times reports that many French women and girls openly defied not the French government, but the Islamist terrorists.

France's five million Muslims have never felt as strongly that they are Frenchmen and "citoyens" of the Republic than during this crisis... For the first time, French Muslims felt that they had been "taken hostage and profoundly hurt" by their extremist fellow Muslims.

Even the most radical movement among France's Muslims, the Union of Islamic Organizations (UOIF), which sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood and vehemently opposed the [French headscarf ban], is cooperating. It called upon the girls to "behave in a civic manner."

In fact, the feared cultural clash that had threatened to erupt when classes began last Thursday never materialized. Many female students, who had initially seemed determined to demonstratively flout the law, now opted to exercise restraint. Under no circumstances did they wish to create the impression that they were playing the extremists' game.

17-year-old Anissa, from Morocco, arrived at the Lycèe Joliot-Curie in the Paris suburb of Nanterre wearing a veil that reached almost to her ankles. She is still outraged by the law, but she removed her veil without hesitation outside the school gate. "My studies are more important to me," she said, "I want to be integrated."


The NY Times also reports Muslim criticism of the Russian attack is widespread and even institutional.

"It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims," Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of the widely watched satellite television station Al Arabiya said in one of the most striking of these commentaries.

Writing in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat, Mr. Rashed said it was "shameful and degrading" that not only were the Beslan hijackers Muslims, but so were the killers of Nepalese workers in Iraq; the attackers of residential towers in Riyadh and Khobar, Saudi Arabia; the women believed to have blown up two Russian airplanes last week; and Osama bin Laden himself.

"The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the world, were Muslim," he wrote. "What a pathetic record. What an abominable 'achievement.' Does this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies and our culture?"

A columnist for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyassa, Faisal al-Qina'I, also took aim at Sheik Qaradawi. "It is saddening," he wrote, "to read and hear from those who are supposed to be Muslim clerics, like Yusuf al-Qaradawi and others of his kind, that instead of defending true Islam, they encourage these cruel actions and permit decapitation, hostage taking and murder."

In Jordan, a group of Muslim religious figures, meeting with the religious affairs minister, Ahmed Heleil, issued a statement on Wednesday saying the seizing of the school and subsequent massacre "was dedicated to distorting the pure image of Islam.''

In Beirut, Rami G. Khouri editor of the Daily Star, wrote "all of us today are dehumanized and brutalized by the images of Arabs kidnapping and beheading foreign hostages."

A Palestinian columnist, Hassan al-Batal, wrote in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al Ayyam that the "day of horror in the school" should be designated an international day for the condemnation of terrorism. "There are no mitigating circumstances for the inhuman horror and the height of barbarism," he said of the school attack.

In Egypt, the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram called the events "an ugly crime against humanity."

In Saudi Arabia, under the headline "Butchers in the Name of Allah," a columnist in the government daily Okaz, Khaled Hamed al-Suleiman, wrote that "[Islamist terrorists] turned today's Islam into something having to do with decapitations, the slashing of throats, abducting innocent civilians and exploding people,'' he said. "They have fixed the image of Muslims in the eyes of the world as barbarians and savages who are not good for anything except slaughtering people."


The latest sign that Terrorism has finally lost its blush may be that the long time US adversary, Russia, has finally had enough... Reuters reports a severe loss of irony and humor on the subject:

Ivan Shapovalov, the impresario behind lesbian pop duo Tatu, is courting controversy again by promoting what media are calling the "Little Suicide Bomber". Her first Moscow concert is slated for the third anniversary of the plane attacks on US cities that killed around 3,000 people. "This is sick. That man is sick. The producer should be jailed for doing that after so many people died across Russia in the past weeks," said Nastya, a 25-year-old Muscovite.


To quote Christopher Hitchens: "There used to be a saying among the hard-bitten Left, or rather a question asked knowingly among them, to the effect of "When Was Your Kronstadt?" In other words, at what point had they broken decisively with "The Party"? The best answer on record comes from Daniel Bell, who would reply that "Kronstadt was my Kronstadt".

Many Arabs, Muslims, and their sympathizers in the West are now beginning to see Islamist terrorism for the failed ideology that it is. In the years to come we may hear generations whisper... "Beslan was my Beslan".

Sean: Thursday, September 09, 2004 [+] |
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