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:



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.



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.



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



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



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



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.



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.



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.



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



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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Saturday, October 30, 2004

The New New Palestinian Leadership

One of Israel's primary complaints regarding dealings with the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza has been that they do not have a serious negotiation partner. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has lost most of his credibility through decades of futile agreements and seemingly endless uprisings. Arafat is now in Paris for serious medical attention. While he may not die this weekend, he will probably never recover the authority and control that he once exercised over the territories. The Israelis may now face the threat/opportunity of (a) new negotiation partner(s).

CNN reports that the Palestinians are negotiating for a new political order. Former Prime Minister Abu Abbas has been tapped to replace Arafat as "Dear Leader".

In light of these developments I did a little "datascrapping"...

Mahmoud Abbas, commonly known as Abu Mazen, was born in Safed in British Mandate Palestine on March 26, 1935.

After the founding of Israel in 1948, and the subsequent occupation of the rest of the former Mandate by Jordan and Egypt, he left as a refugee for Syria. He graduated with a degree in law from Damascus University and a Ph.D. from the Oriental College in Moscow in History (on supposed contacts between the Zionist movement and the Nazis).

He worked as an elementary teacher in Syria in the 50's and as director of personnel in Qatar's civil service in the 60's. He was a founding member of Fatah and a member of the Palestine National Council (since 1968) and the PLO Executive Committee. He accompanied Yasser Arafat into exile in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia during the 70's and 80's.

Abbas also has made numerous radical statements, for example, claiming that the Nazis killed "only a few hundred thousand Jews," not six million. He has recanted on some of these in recent years. He has been charged with involvement in terrorism: Mohammed Daoud Oudeh (Abu Daoud), the mastermind of the Munich Massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972, charges that his operation was funded by Abbas. He is also said to hold strong views about the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Mahmoud Abbas is widely regarded as a pragmatist. He was one of the main initiators of the dialogue with Jewish left-wing and pacifist movements in the 1970s. He led negotiations with Matiyahu Peled that established the "two-state-solution" in January 1977. He is credited as the architect of the Oslo peace process and accompanied Mr Arafat to the White House in 1993 to sign the Oslo Accords. He returned to the territories in September 1995 after 48 years in exile and took residences in Gaza and Ramallah.

Abbas was popular in the United States and with most Israelis, but never had the support of more than a tiny fraction of the Palestinian people. Though considered in the Arab world as the brains behind the PLO, he lacked Arafat's charisma and was considered by many Palestinians too conciliatory toward Israel. He resigned as Prime Minister in frustration on September 6, 2003, after just four months in office. He was replaced by Ahmed Korei.

Leadership analysis:

By early 2003, as both Israel and the United States had indicated their refusal to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, Abbas began to emerge as a candidate for a more visible leadership role.

As one of the few remaining founding members of Fatah, he had some degree of credibility within the Palestinian cause. Abbas's reputation as a pragmatist garnered him favor with the international community and certain elements of the Palestinian legislature, and pressure was soon brought on Arafat to appoint him Prime Minister. Arafat did so on March 19, 2003; initially Arafat attempted to eviscerate the post of Prime Minister, but eventually was forced to give Abbas some degree of real power.

However, the rest of Abbas's term as Prime Minister continued to be characterized by numerous conflicts between him and Arafat over the distribution of power between the two. Abbas had often hinted he would resign if not given more control over the PA's administration. In early September 2003 he confronted the PA parliament over this issue. The United States and Israel accuse Arafat of constantly undermining Abbas and his government.

In addition, Abbas came into conflict with Palestinian terrorist groups; his moderate pragmatic policies were diametrically opposed to their hard-line approach. Initially he pledged not to use force against the militants, in the interest of avoiding a civil war, and instead attempted negotiation. This was partially successful, resulting in a pledge from the two groups to honor a unilateral Palestinian cease-fire.

However, continuing violence forced Abbas to pledge a crackdown in order to uphold the Palestinian Authority's side of the Road Map for Peace. This led to a power struggle with Arafat over control of the Palestinian security services; Arafat refused to release control to Abbas, thus preventing him from using them in a crackdown on militants.

On September 4, 2003 demonstrations and threats against Abbas peaked with death threats. Two days later on September 6, he called a closed session of the Palestinian Legislative Council detailed his reasons and submitted his resignation from the post of Prime Minister, citing inability to carry out his duties in the face of continual opposition from Arafat and others in the Palestinian Authority, as well as a lack of support from Israel and the United States. He presided over a "caretaker" government until his successor Ahmed Qurei was sworn in on October 7, 2003. He has since dropped out of the public eye but was seen in January 2004 carrying out talks with Palestinian factions in Gaza.

In an interview Newsweek on June 13, 2004, he revealed that a major reason for his resignation was that he felt his life was in danger due to increasingly hostile protests against his leadership. When asked "how many of these things were instigated by Chairman Arafat?", he responded, "I wouldn't want to mention anyone by name. But I'll give you something to understand; I don't have any relationship with the chairman from the resignation to this day."

Along with a new leader there will need to be a new head of security... that will be... Ahmed Qurei.

Ahmed Qurei, known as Abu Ala, was born in Abu Dis, Jerusalem, in 1937. He joined the Fatah wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization at the end of the 1960s. He became a kind of economic director for the PLO in the 1970s. When the PLO was forced out of Lebanon, Abu Ala went to Tunis with Mr. Arafat.

One of his main contributions, according to the Palestinian strategic analyst Yezid Sayegh, was to help put together a Palestinian development plan which was presented to a World Bank conference on aid in 1993.

He also helped design the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) - an organization channeling international capital - before he was elected to head the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Abu Ala is reported to be a man of great personal charm - tolerant and good-humored - which has no doubt contributed to his appeal as a negotiator. His easy-going style has won him friendships over the years with his Israeli counterparts. But Abu Ala may be handicapped by the fact that he has no power base within the PLO.

These men are both famous for their work on the Oslo Accords and for understanding economics... they know how much the Intifadas have cost the Palestinians and they know how important peace is to the quest for a Palestinians state. They both want the violence to end. However, neither has the power required to stop the terrorists. They are two more Yasser Arafats. But then again... they are NOT Arafat... so maybe they can bring something different to the table.

Sources: Roger Simon, BBC, the Jewish Virtual Library, and Wikpedia.

Sean: Saturday, October 30, 2004 [+] |
Friday, October 29, 2004
A Clean Slate

It appears that nearly everyone at MSN's Slate is voting for Kerry, even Christopher Hitchens...

I am assuming for now that this is a single-issue election. There is one's subjective vote, one's objective vote, and one's ironic vote. Subjectively, Bush (and Blair) deserve to be re-elected because they called the enemy by its right name and were determined to confront it. Objectively, Bush deserves to be sacked for his flabbergasting failure to prepare for such an essential confrontation. Subjectively, Kerry should be put in the pillory for his inability to hold up on principle under any kind of pressure. Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.

The ironic votes are the endorsements for Kerry that appear in Buchanan's anti-war sheet The American Conservative, and the support for Kerry's pro-war candidacy manifested by those simple folks at I can't compete with this sort of thing, but I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.

Well, it looks like Chris actually came around to my point of view... making the Dems drive for a while might give them some perspective, make them grow up a little, or at the very least, shut them up for 4 years. Of course, I feel vindicated.

In fact, a quick survery of Slate shows a nearly clean sweep for John Kerry, everyone besides an economic writer and an intern.

But you know what? I still havn't been able to make myself fill in the little bubble for Kerry and get that sucker in the mail. I have a hard time rewarding the Dems for being little whinny brats or doing anything that might make Zarqawi or Osama feel empowered (even mistakenly).

I hate this election.

UPDATE: Christopher is a UK citizen, and cannot vote (why?), thus he is not voting for Kerry. Besides which, he has stated many times that he could make a case for either candidate and could live with the victory of either. Which is still pretty much how I fell. Sigh.

Sean: Friday, October 29, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
The Elections And Iraq

If the U.S. Army suffered numerous humiliating losses, Kerry would emerge as the hero of the American people, American elections and Iraq are linked tightly together. We’ve got to work to change the election, and we’ve done so... we’ve dragged Bush into the mud.

Terri McAulfie? Theresa Heins? Bill Clinton? Zach Exley? Mary Beth Cahill?

Cant tell?

(Answer: Terrorists Abu Jalal and Mohammad Amin Bashar)

“All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and
the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those
who stand to profit - politically, financially, and emotionally - from the
total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the
rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be
greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of
exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed
and their occupants been exterminated.

On the other hand, they say that foreign extrmeists, who are enjoying the current turkey shoot (until they become the turkeys), are backing Bush... "They prefer Bush, because he's a provocative figure, and the more they can push people to the extreme, the better for their case."

And then again, as Naderites have been saying for years... there really is little difference in who wins... except for the pychological effect of feeling like they influenced the elections...

The nation of infidels is one, and Bush and Kerry are two faces of the same coin," said Abu Obeida, nom de guerre of a leader of Fallujah's al-Noor Jihadi regiment. "What is taken by force will be returned only by force, and we don't care what the results of the elections are.

Hat tip: The Command Post and California Yankee.

Sean: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 [+] |
Monday, October 25, 2004
Eternal Enemy?

John J Miller, author of "Our Oldest Enemy" (along with Harvard lectuer Mark Molesky), is interviewed by Front Page Magazine.

Many in France believe a one-superpower world is a dangerous world, even when the superpower is benign. So they talk of balancing American “hyperpower”--and for them “balancing” is a euphemism for “opposing.” This is what Francois Mitterand spoke about shortly before his death: “We are at war with America,” he said. “A permanent war ... a war without death. They are very hard, the Americans--they are voracious. They want undivided power over the world.” This hardcore anti-American outlook makes it possible for French leaders to say some pretty outrageous things. Just a couple of weeks ago, French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin announced, “The Iraqi insurgents are our best allies.” What kind of friend or ally talks like that?

"In Our Oldest Enemy, John J. Miller and Mark Molesky provide a provocative counterpoint to the dewy-eyed sentimentality that usually surrounds the history of U.S.-France relations. Instead of Lafayette and all that, they write about clashes from the French and Indian Wars, through World War II and Vietnam, and right up to the Iraq War. Sometimes the French have literally fought Americans, as in the little-known Quasi-War of the late eighteenth century. More often, they have tried to curb American influence in peaceful ways while furthering their own ends."

-- Max Boot, author of The Savage Wars of Peace

"If we grow exasperated at the French and demand gratitude, expect shared purpose, and wish friendship, we will probably grow only more exasperated--since John Miller and Mark Molesky show that French animosities are centuries old and derive from who Americans are rather than from what we do. Their romp through our shared history would almost be funny--if it were not so sad in the present post--9-11 world."

-- Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture and The Western Way of War; Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University

**** Comprehensive, Fair and Accurate, October 21, 2004
Reviewer: elvindeath (Detroit, MI)

As a young undergrad majoring in International Relations, I had occasion to spend a year studying in Brussels, interning at NATO headquarters. I believed, in general, the myth of the French beign our brothers in liberty, ready to promote the cause of justice and equality for which the US stands.

Luckily over the span of several months worth of evening ales with my British instructor I was challenged to be more objective in my assessment of the NATO alliance, and France's role in world security. I arrived at many of the same conclusions raised in this book.

I certainly do not subscribe to the belief that the French, in and of themselves, are enemies in the sense of a concious, constant plotting to bring about harm to citizens of the US. Having spent a good deal of time in France, on a personal level I found them to be polite, engaging, and rather respectful.

However, it is clear that in the realm of international actors, the French care for naught but the French. I would not use words such as self-sacrificing, altruistic, courageous, or moral to describe the history of France's behavior on the world stage.

The emerging "oil for food" scandal (which might explain their objections to enforcement of the UN resolution on Iraq) is just the latest in a long line of illustrative incidents which support the authors' premise.

John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the author of The Unmaking of Americans. Mark Molesky is Assistant Professor of History at Seton Hall University. He received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, where he was a Lecturer on History and Literature.

Well, before we get to irate with the French we might keep in mind that they invented Bubbly, The Follies, and topless beaches. They also gave us Alizee.

Sean: Monday, October 25, 2004 [+] |
Saturday, October 23, 2004
Hitch Watch

The indomitable Christopher Hitchens resurfaces at the Nation.

I sympathize with the "prisoners' dilemma" that faces liberals and leftists every four years. The shady term "lesser evil" was evolved to deal with this very trap. Should you endorse a Democrat in whom you don't really believe? Is it time for that deep-breath third-party vote, or even angry abstention, of the sort that has tortured some Nation readers ever since they just couldn't take Humphrey over Nixon?

But absent from this triangular calculation is the irony of history. Do you know anybody who really, deeply wishes that Carter had been re-elected, or that Dukakis had won? Implicit but unstated, in the desire of the prisoner to escape, is the banal, unexciting assumption of our two-party oligopoly: Sometimes it's objectively not so bad that the "other" party actually wins.

I can't wait to see President Kerry discover which corporation, aside from Halliburton, should after all have got the contract to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry. I look forward to seeing him eat his Jesse Helms-like words, about the false antithesis between spending money abroad and "at home" (as if this war, sponsored from abroad, hadn't broken out "at home"). I take pleasure in advance in the discovery that he will have to make, that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a more dangerous and better-organized foe than Osama bin Laden, and that Zarqawi's existence is a product of jihadism plus Saddamism, and not of any error of tact on America's part. I notice that, given the ambivalent evidence about Saddam's weaponry, Kerry had the fortitude and common sense to make the presumption of guilt rather than innocence. I assume that he has already discerned the difference between criticizing the absence of postwar planning and criticizing the presence of an anti-Saddam plan to begin with. I look forward, in other words, to the assumption of his responsibility.

In a well-worded nutshell this is why I have been toying with the idea of voting for Kerry. I look forward to his assumption of responsibility and an end to the democratic protestantism regarding the WOT.

Once handed the reigns I expect their kvetching to end within months, weeks, maybe even days. And, on this issue, I expect the Republicans to do the right thing by our nation and cooperate with whatever plan a President Kerry might settle on to resolve Iraq, Afghanistan, et al.

I do sympathize with one of my readers who noted "that is like rewarding a child for throwing a tantrum." Yes, it may be, but it still might be less harmful than letting Bush 43 continue to lose the game in the forth quarter (with the help of not a little partisan shinanigans from the whinny Dems).

Should the electors decide for the President, as I would slightly prefer, the excruciating personality of George Bush strikes me in the light of a second- or third-order consideration. If the worst that is said of him is true--that he is an idiotic and psychically damaged Sabbath-fanatic, with nothing between his large Texan ears--then these things were presumably just as true when he ran against Al Gore, and against nation-building and foreign intervention. It is Bush's conversion from isolationism that impresses me, just as it is the parallel lapse into isolationism on Kerry's part that makes me skeptical.

What about the endless smirks and smarmy hints about the Administration's difficulties, whether genuine or self-imposed? The all-knowing, stupid smirks about the "secular" Saddam, or the innocuousness of prewar Iraq? The sneers about the astonishing success of our forces in Afghanistan, who are now hypocritically praised by many who opposed their initial deployment? This is to say nothing of the paranoid innuendoes that are now part of pseudo-"radical" rumor-mongering and defamation.

I must admit that Kerry supporters annoy the bejeesus out of me and I often catch myself "rooting" for Dubya. Elections really are like a prisoner's dilema, or worse, its a train wreck that you cant look away from, or a "Sophie's choice" about which child to save. Win, win is really lose, lose.

Hat tip: Marc Cooper and Michael Totten.

Sean: Saturday, October 23, 2004 [+] |
Friday, October 22, 2004

How the Germans see America 50 odd years after we stopped their agression, freed them from their tyrant, and gave them democracy on a platter (not to mention paying for their defense in blood and treasure for half a century).

If only the Iraqis could have such freedoms.

Hat tip to David at Medienkritik.

Sean: Friday, October 22, 2004 [+] |
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Art With Out Detail

We should permit our eyes once in a while to stray from the picture to the frame and wonder at its meaning. - “Order and Purpose in Nature”, Ernst Gombrich

Ernst believes that the viewer is an active, not a passive, perceiver of their environment and rejects Locke’s view that the infant is a blank slate. Ernst identifies Kant as the first philosopher to break with this older concept of perception. Kant asked how a person could ever begin to perceive their environment with out a pre-existing “filing system”. However, Kant was primarily concerned with human beings. Today we are beginning to understand how more primitive creatures perceive their worlds as well. The basic questions for any organism are “What?” and “Where?”. Ernst goes on to argue that these basic questions are not asked by or with any consciousness, but are innate to our most basic biology, shared with all creatures.

Ernst notes that we can detect the organs of observation (eyes) in others, even spiders, immediately and instinctively, by recognizing a certain pattern in the physical structure. But we do not have any understanding, or conscious perception, of the mechanisms of these eyes, how they are constructed, in what spectrum the receive information, or what the animal is likely to do with the information it gathers with these organs. Thus Ernst argues that there is a difference between perceiving order (the eyes) and understanding meaning (what is behind those eyes).

An interesting point that Ernst makes in his introduction is that the basic biological perception includes a sense of balance, but we are usually only conscious of this achievement when it “goes wrong”. Similarly, when perceiving our world we only notice when information violates the ordered pattern that we expect. Thus while sitting and reading a book a person will continually perceive information about the book, the chair, the light which is all ignored until or unless the light goes out, the chair moves, or the book begins to crumble in your hand.

Ernst goes on to note that there are naturally occurring patterns in nature, such as “fairy rings”, which man has anthropocentrically associated with a rational and ordering mind such as our own (or with a superior mind, that of a/the god). Camoflouge also works because of the repetition and imitation of a naturally occurring pattern, such as fallen leaves or grassy fields. Furthermore, Ernst notes that humans have traditionally tattooed their skin in specific ways, patterns, which convey information, meaning, about tribal or religious affiliations.

That is the basic premise of Ernst Gombrich, that perception and order (meaning) are separate and yet related. As applied to architecture in a more general sense we might not appreciate the sense of order present in a medieval gothic cathedral. The relation of the apse, transept, and nave might be imperceptible to the untrained eye. However, if we see a movie with a church with an inverted crucifix we notice this deviation right away. Similarly, modern buildings that do not appear to have an ordering rational, or have a new or esoteric organization, may well give users a feeling of unease or disorientation.

Ernst makes a last connection to traditional art (and chitecture) when he discusses the frame of a painting by Raphael, the Madona della Sedia, in Palazza Pitti, Italy. He notes the intricate “Corinthianesque” detailing and gilding. He asks why spend so much time carving the intricate layers of ornament and detailing in the acanthus leaves, the plaits, and why add the expensive gold enamel? Why have a frame at all? I would direct this question to men such as Corbu and Meis. I do not believe that we have gained as much as these men have often argued by severing the historic ties of spatial composition and the expression of function in form to the successful incorporation of ornament and detailing that was once common in the crafts (such as architecture).

Sean: Thursday, October 21, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Hashemites Hoist A Flag

Debka reports that Jordan is challenging Saudi Arabia and/or Al Quedian fundamentalists.

[Israelis and Egyptians] awoke to the sight of an enormous flag flying from a 136 meter- (446 foot) high pole. The flag, measuring 80 meters (262 feet) by 44 meters (144 feet), was almost the size of an American football field, a towering presence even against the backdrop of the 1,200 meter (3,900 feet) -high mountains behind Aqaba.

Dimensions aside, there was something odd about the pennant. It looked almost but not quite like the Jordanian national flag; it lacked the trademark star and its colors were in the wrong order. Instead of being arranged in a black, white and red pattern, the flag was black at the top, green in the middle and white at the bottom (See photo) .

After some research, DEBKAfile’s sources were able to identify it as the royal flag – not of Jordan but of the Hashemite dynasty that reigns in Amman today but originated somewhere else. Thereby hangs the tale of the huge flag.

If the royal family in Saudi Arabia truly fell to Al Queda extremists should we support a Jordanian claim upon the kingdom? How about Iraq? How ironic if the global caliphate of old was actually won under secular leaning Abdullah?

Hat tip to Roger Simon.

Sean: Wednesday, October 20, 2004 [+] |
Monday, October 18, 2004
You Say You Want A Revolution?

Architecture is more than just about buildings, it is also about sociology, politics, and history. Here is a passage from a 1970's article on spatial composition. Even though it appeared in the Harvard Review of Architecture, it deals with a lot more that just bricks and mortar.

The critique that is so necessary has not occurred and remains problematic largely because there is no longer a constructive approach to solutions at a time of crisis.

The confusion derives from a fundamental attitude toward change that has become inverted: it is now no longer based on anticipation but on retrospection; it is no longer an avant grade revolution but has become a conservative reaction.

Through uncritical habit the approach to problems is couched in the familiar spirit of progressivism; revolutionary actions continue but with out an adequate process or program to focus conviction.

The uncritical continuation of the avant-garde attitude of crisis leads only to its unconscious transformation into a posture of dandyism.

Just as the 18th century dandy attempted to fulfill the social role of the lost aristocracy by substituting an extravagant posture for a legitimate old position, the current posturing of the avant-garde role is a false re-enactment.

There is a prevailing sense of nostalgia for the position provided by the lost avant-garde.

The past is approached as a substitute for missing convictions about the future. New beliefs are postured with extravagant taste and changing rhetoric.

The danger in this nostalgic emulation of the avant-garde is the risk of being dazzled only by performance itself, or blinded by the simplistic identity and popular success of extreme positions.

In the rush for notoriety, useful information and ideas may be passed over; the value of the intelligent criticism may be obscured.

- Steven Kent Peterson - roughly quoted from Harvard Architecture Review, Spring, 1980.

Steven is ostensibly talking about architecture, but I removed all the field-specific words (just a few, mind you) and now it could be about society at large. I have noticed the character flaw that Steven is discussing with my own generation (GenX) and their response to Globalization, 9-11, and the War On Terror. They jumped on the protest bandwagon as a means of contrasting themselves to an ideological "evil" and validating their own essential "goodness". They appeared avant-garde, but they were coming out against the spread of freedom and democracy around the world. Rarely are their arguments, slogans, or placards logical, rational, or even historically accurate (as in quoting George Orwell as an anti-war critic, which he was not, he was hawkishly anti-fascist). As Steven might put it, they are caught up by the form of the protest itself, in the pattern of acting critical, with out actually thinking that way.

Sean: Monday, October 18, 2004 [+] |
Friday, October 15, 2004
The Nuke Question

Worldnet reports that Iran is agressively persuing a nuclear capability.

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged his country's weapons developers to step up work on making a nuclear bomb, a U.S. official said, according to Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence news service.

Khamenei told the gathering, "We must have two bombs ready to go in January or you are not Muslims," the official said.

Iran's military announced earlier this month that it would test-fire a "strategic" missile during the Ashura 5 military exercises of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Experts widely believe that both North Korea and Iran actually already have 1-4 bombs between them. With out an effective means of deliverying them to their enemies each nation has avoided tipping its hand on the issue. However, in recent months both nations test fired long range missiles capable of hitting the US and/or Israel. And in the last few weeks each has gotten more bold about hinting at a nuclear capability for these weapons.

This all raises one of the most horrible US foreign policy questions... what would the US be willing to do about a nuclear attack - either on our soil or an ally's, either overtly launched by one of these nations or by a proxy terror group?

Would we nuke them back? Would we respond in kind and quantity, or launch the 1960's model of "madman retaliation"? Or might we respond with conventional military meassures?

If we did obliterate the offending nation this would mean the death of civilians. We post-modern Americans learned that these citizens are not culpable for the actions of their despotic regimes. So how could we live with ourselves moraly?

If we are not willing to nuke the crap out of the offender, then why do we have nukes?

I ask these questions in all seriousness because I believe that a nuclear attack is unavoidable in the longterm.

Sean: Friday, October 15, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Saddam Was Busy

CNN reports that another mass grave has been excavated in Iraqi Kurdistan. This was one heavily used to execute and bury women in children, hundreds, perhaps thousdands, perhaps tens of thousands.

A pool reporter recently was taken to the site, and the evidence gathered at the site -- a remote wadi, or valley that cannot be seen by passing vehicles -- is expected to be used in the war crimes trial against Saddam Hussein and his Baathist allies (what about the French?).

"A perfect place for execution," Greg Kehoe, the head of the Regime Crime Liaison Office and leader of the forensic excavation, said Wednesday.

"It is my personal opinion that this is a killing field," Kehoe told reporters during a visit to the site south of Mosul.

"Someone used this field on significant occasions over time to take bodies up there, and to take people up there and execute them."

Authorities began digging September 1 at the site, found a year ago by the U.S. Army.

Let me remind everyone that they began excavating this site one year ago. And they knew where to look (Kurdistan was an obvious choice given the regime's history with the Kurds) and where to dig (satalite imagery led them to the general area). But it still took them a year to uncover anything worth showing a reporter.

For those of you who cry "There are no WMD!" just because they haven't been found yet, please keep this in mind. History may overturn your convictions.

A lawyer, Kehoe also spent five years working on the Balkans War Crimes Tribunal.

Kehoe said that most mass graves in Bosnia largely contained men of fighting age. Graves near Hatra included many women and children, he said.

Many of the victims wore multiple layers of clothing and carried small personal items like jewelry and medication. One child was found with a ball in his hand.

The women -- four or five of whom were pregnant -- and children appear to have been killed with a single small-caliber gunshot to the head.

Human rights groups believe about 300,000 people were killed during Saddam's 24-year rule, which ended when U.S.-led forces toppled his regime in 2003. And this estimate doesnt even take into account the million Muslims killed (both sides) in his 10 year war with Iran over... nothing.

Please, puleeese, can this be enough of a reason to go to war? Fewer than ten thousand people, on both sides, have lost their lives during our toppling of Saddam and the ensuing occupation. And at least these lives were lost to bring those people freedom, or at least a chance for it. Meanwhile Saddam was slowly murdering his own nation and those subject to them, to the tune of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, all in an attempt to deny them freedom and basic humanity.

And for those of you who shake your head with grave wisdom and scoff that Democracy is not appropriate or possible for "those people"... let me remind you that before 1776 there was not a single example of a republican democracy in the West when the American colonies lurched towards freedom in the 18th century. We were a collection of barely civilized agrarian colonies that were 90% illiterate; with out local government beyond a few key cities; made up of immigrants from many different countries; spoke French, Spanish, Dutch, and various native tongues in addition to English; were Protestant and Catholic in equal doses; and were armed to the teeth. Not to mention that many neighboring nations were against our independence and our chosen form of government (no king) and the successful establishment of our new state would "shake up" a region of despots (the English, French, and Spanish empires). A more apt comparison to Iraq today I cannot imagine.

Today, merely two hundred years later, there are more democracies than ever, over 70 open and liberal governments, from all ethnic, religious, and geographic regions of the globe.

Democracy is the wave of the future... that we can help it spread in any way is our privilege and our duty.

THAT is a Liberal position on the war in Iraq and the war on Terror.

Sean: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 [+] |
Monday, October 11, 2004
Superman Is Dead

Christopher Reeve, who starred as Superman in three Warner Bros films of the comic book hero, passed away of a heart attack at 5:30 Sunday night.

Christopher Reeve was born September 25, 1952, in New York City, the son of a novelist and a newspaper reporter. He appeared on the soap opera "Love of Life" while attending college at Cornell University; his senior year, he was also one of two students selected to attend New York's prestigious Juilliard School to study under John Houseman (the other, according to the Internet Movie Database, was Robin Williams).

He debuted on Broadway in 1976 in the play "A Matter of Gravity," opposite Katharine Hepburn, and later starred in Lanford Wilson's work "Fifth of July," playing a gay, crippled Vietnam veteran.

But it was "Superman" that thrust Reeve into stardom. At an athletic 6-foot-4, the actor appeared to be a model for the superhero (an image helped by the fact that he performed many of his stunts, including dangerous "flying" exercises) -- and yet, with the merest addition of some glasses and a meek voice, easily turned into the shy and hesitant Clark Kent, often overpowered by Margot Kidder's brash Lois Lane.

Reeve made frequent attempts to avoid typecasting. He starred as a playwright who goes back in time to meet a beauty in "Somewhere in Time" (1980), Michael Caine's rival in the film version of Ira Levin's play "Deathtrap" (1983) and an unscrupulous reporter in "Street Smart" (1987), the film that helped make Morgan Freeman a star.

Among his other films were "The Bostonians" (1984), "Switching Channels" (1988), "Noises Off" (1992) and "The Remains of the Day" (1993).

Although Christopher was certainly a talented actor, his greatest role was as an icon of hope and perseverance after a tragic horse ridding accident left him paralyzed and dependent upon medical equipment to live. Seemingly through force of will, he was able to regain limited sensation and movement despite most doctors' expectations. He was also an outspoken advocate of medical research with stem cells to develop nerve regeneration.

The Death Of Superman may well be my generation's JFK. I know that I found myself very upset by this news. Farewell "man of steel".

Sean: Monday, October 11, 2004 [+] |
Friday, October 08, 2004
Finaly, A Three Canidate Race

CNN reports that the WMD issue has now entered the political debate. When was it missing?

Sean: Friday, October 08, 2004 [+] |
Thursday, October 07, 2004
"See?! I didn't stockpile no stink'n weapons!"

New CIA report by analyst Charles Duelfer says:

Iraq's WMD program was essentially destroyed in 1991 and Saddam ended Iraq's nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War.

The massive report does say, however, that Iraq worked hard to cheat on United Nations-imposed sanctions and retain the capability to resume production of weapons of mass destruction at some time in the future.

Although Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, seized on the report as political ammunition against the Bush administration... I don't think it is a smoking gun of any kind.

"The danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time," Bush said in the speech delivered October 7, 2002. "If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"

Now the Left and the M.S.M. would like you to understand this statement as a bold-faced lie designed to kill your children (in the Army) for (Bush's) access to oil in the Gulf. But, this is itself a bold-faced lie.

Everyone in the world believed what Bush said in 2002, not because Bush is a clever liar, but because they all had the same information that he had... which clearly indicated that Saddam indeed retained stockpiles.

Perhaps Saddam was a really clever liar himself, or maybe his generals had learned to be good at it to hide bad news from him and thus stay alive themselves. I mean... his officers handed out bio-chem suits to their men during the invasion.

The bottom line here is that the world believed then that Saddam was a threat, or wanted to be. The world also knew, under its breath, that sanctions were not working (the French, Germans, Russians, and Chinese ought to know since they were selling Saddam all the banned weapons they could sneek in). The world also knew then, or does now, that as soon as sanctions were officially lifted that Saddam was going to go on a WMD shopping spree (like N Korean and Iran are now).

So we are left with the same question that Bush faced in 2003... leave the sanctions, lift the sanctions, or go to war. I think that the last option, although the hardest at first, is the best for the long-term.

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday, panel Chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, reminds us that "As we speak, over 1,700 individuals -- military and civilian -- are in Iraq and Qatar, continuing to search for facts about Iraq's WMD programs," Warner said.

I would remind us all that Iraq is a sandbox the size of California or Germany, over 7000 miles away, with only a hundred thousand soldiers in it, who are not spending all their time digging in the dirt. So, it might forever be hasty to declare "no WMD found". And really, it doesn't matter at this point except to people playing petty politics at home.

Sean: Thursday, October 07, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Spain Re-converts to Islam

The Telegraph reports: Undoing 500 years of history, and the sacrafice of countless lives, the leftist appeasement government of Spain announces that it will scrap state sponsorship and cooperation with the Catholic Church in favor of state support of mosques and more Islamic education.

The Spanish government sparked a furious row yesterday after it emerged that it had drawn up a timetable to halve state funding of the Roman Catholic Church and to ban crucifixes from public buildings.

The Socialist government has already pedged to confront the Church ideologically and fiscally and to transform Spain into a fully secular society by scrapping the Church’s “privileged position in society”.

Further enraging conservatives, the government has drawn up plans to finance the teaching of Islam in state-run schools and to give funds to mosques on the grounds that it will create greater understanding of the country’s one million Muslims.

It is amazing what a little train bombing will buy you in Europe these days.

Hat tip to LGF.

Sean: Wednesday, October 06, 2004 [+] |
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
It's Spreading

The new CIA map of the world defines areas of "light" and "dark". The civilized world vs. the jungle. Haiti is part of the jungle.

CNN reports that rebels in Haiti are beheading policemen in imitation of the Iraqi "insurgency".

Three of the slain policemen were decapitated after being shot during clashes with pro-Aristide demonstrators last week.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who is leading a U.S.-backed transitional government installed after Aristide's ouster in February, has said the police killings were part of an offensive by pro-Aristide gangs dubbed "Operation Baghdad."

"We'll be in the streets until death or Aristide comes back," said Milo Fenelon, 24. "We won't stop. If they come in here, we're going to cut off their heads. It's going to be just like Baghdad."

Dozens of police officers were killed by rebels -- who included gangsters and former soldiers from Haiti's disbanded army -- who torched police stations. Hundreds of officers fled their posts, and some fled the country

"We will fight until the return of Aristide," said Georges Jean, a 33-year-old mechanic. "We can also cut off [President] Latortue's head."

The Heart of Darkness is in our backyard.

Sean: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 [+] |
Monday, October 04, 2004
Space, The Final Frontier

Space Ship One made its second trip to the "black sky" in two weeks and won the X-prize. As Burt Ratan, the designer, and Paul Allen, the financial backer, pointed out - if space travel is left to the government the people will never get their hands on it (or their breathing apparatus and pressure suits into it). Mmmm... they may have a point...

Ok, then let's privatize Missile Defense... cause as it is, the government is doing a lousy job... this week they made the claim to be installing missiles in Alaska and going "operational", even though the system hasn't been approved by QA testing yet.

Sean: Monday, October 04, 2004 [+] |
Friday, October 01, 2004
John John, Wins Wins

The verdit from conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan: John Kerry did fine in the debate. Bush sucked.

Ok, that wasn't a surprise. We have all known, or should have since the last election, that Bush is a dolt. And most of us were not surprised to see Swiss-finishing-school John Kerry carry a good, strong debate. No shockers.

But it is always a bit disconcerting, and even frightening, to realize that the man "with his finger on the button" is an idiot.

Ok, so Bush doesn't so much lead the nation as present the public face of the "team" that does. And that team is Cheney, Condi, and Wolfy. Well, how have they been doing?

The Bush Domestic Agenda: tax cuts, regulation cuts, "tort reform" and "bankruptcy reform" (the first designed to shield corporations from financial, class action, liability in lawsuits stemming from defective products or dangerous business practices and the latter designed to eliminate protections for the homes of working class families who file BKO).

The Bush Foreign Policy: no to the international criminal court, no to international environmental treaties, no to international trade agreements, and no to the spread of Islamofacsism, help from NATO or the UN or no.

On the Domestic front Bush has accomplished squat - except for the tax cuts. Environmental regulations that were dropped to great fanfare early in his first year were quietly reinstated later. Tort reform and BKO reform never got traction. Bush has had to settle for appointing some appellate judges and declaring "mission accomplished". Oh, and the Dems voted for those tax cuts early in the term and just voted to extend them again last month, so they share the blame.

On Foreign Policy Bush has been much more successful - except for the occupation. We are still not bound to kangaroo courts in Brussels and retain our civil rights as Americans... no one is going to a French prison for selling Roquefort salad dressing. We refused to hamstring our heavy industries while Russia and China trade "credits" with New Zealand to go nuts with theirs. And we have yet to pass CAFTA and repeat the mess that was NAFTA. Meanwhile Bush won two major wars in parts of the world that, we were told, not even Russia could take and hold. But the occupation has gone on a year with little good news and the American public likes good news.

So, as a Lefty Liberal I have suffered very little from the Bush team over the last four years. Meanwhile, as an Independant Hawk I have been quite pleased with Bush's ability to stand up to "Old Europe" and to fight terrorism in all its haunts - rather than just the politically safe stage of Afghanistan. But, of course, the occupation has been a let-down.

Nothing there causes fear sufficient to fire Bush.

Meanwhile John Kerry was able to convince me that he is a smart and serious fellow... which I already knew. But he also came across as a bit in the clouds about Iraq and the war on terror. The Dems love to repeat the mantra that the war on terror only belongs in Afghanistan, that only the Taliban and Al Queda attacked us, and that Saddam was "manageable" in Iraq under UN sanctions and inspections. Meanwhile he still claims that he can get international support for the current, mistaken, occupation once he gets into office.

This is all crap. The first attack on the WTC, in 1993, was ordered by Saddam Hussein. The Al Queda team that hijacked the planes and finished the job also met with Saddam's man in Prague (don't believe any m.s.m. b.s. to the contrary, the Czechs stand by this info to this day). Meanwhile, UN sanctions and inspections caused massive humanitarian suffering while allowing Saddam to continue to buidl palaces and buy banned French missiles (used against us in the 2003 invasion). And lastly, France and Germany both just announced that they will not be sending any troops to Iraq no matter who wins the US election.

But on the Domestic front I believe that John Kerry, or more specifically, John Edwards, will roll back tax cuts on the rich and hold corporations more accountable. They might even protect the environment... although once they realize that protecting the Earth costs union jobs they may have a pickle to eat.

So nothing here causes me to get excited about hiring John Kerry.

Still, in the end, I am inclined to give Kerry the non next month - if only to shut the Dems up once and for all with a chance to drive this tank.

Sean: Friday, October 01, 2004 [+] |

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