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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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Northwest Architecture

It is often remarked that humans are social animals; but then so are dogs, horses, and even fish. More uniquely, humans actually construct their own physical environment to support their complex and evolving social order. Buildings tell us who and what is important and how and where to act in response. Our best urban architecture is then both a guide and a record of our highest social establishment.

Around the turn of the century architects began to combine classical elements of style and proportion with innovative technical and decorative techniques. Cast iron facades, steel and reinforced concrete, and automatic elevators allowed for taller buildings. Which were embellished with glazed terra cotta tiles, art deco and classical motifs, and buff or gray brick exteriors. Architects A. E. Doyle and William Knighton established a local architectural foundation during this period.


Selling Bldg. - Doyle


Seward/Governor Hotel - Knighton

During the Great Depression skilled artisans from many crafts and industries were pulled together to work on public buildings through out our region. Timberline Lodge, picnic shelters, and even toilet facilities utilized local materials and local workers, and were built to withstand local environmental challenges - such as the steady seasonal rains. This began to create a regional architectural dialect distinct from New England, the South, or the Southwest.


Paradise Lodge, WA


McKenzie River Ranger Station, OR

The International Movement (Pietro Belluschi and his Equitable Building, as an example), begining the 40's, and then Post Modernism in the late 80's (Michael Graves and the Portland Building), appeared to sidetrack this local evolution. While these movements saw the rise of many beautiful and important buildings, it also saw the redevelopment or destruction of historic districts throughout the West.


Equitable Bldg -Belluschi


Portland Bldg -Graves

The Pacific Northwest has its own history, but the native architecture has been plowed under and in modern times nearly any style, or no style at all, suited rapid and often transitory buildings needs. Most good architecture in Portland or Seattle was built under the influence European and East Coast styles. And we are only just beginning to see a return to a more local architecture in new projects such as Portland's Pear District.





Photos of the Pearl District, Portland, OR c. 2003

The work of Leon Krier and James Howard Kuntsler encouraged me to study urban architecture. They often discuss how modernism and functionalism, as well as phony neo-traditionalism, or kitsch, work against the natural human urge to "read" architecture to relate to and to use civic buildings.

In the Pacifc Northwest we have a unique opportunity to build our own authentic and indigenous architecture, one that "speaks our language" and works for us.

Sean: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Going Back To School

I was born in Santa Barbara, CA in 1972. Although we moved north when I was still young we retained friends and family throughout Southern California and the Bay Area. And I spent many summers in Los Angeles and made frequent trips to San Francisco and Berkeley.

My earliest memories include the feel of sunshine and beach sand, as well as the view of distant mountains and the Channel Islands out over the ocean, and of course the smell of eucalyptus (and hot tar). I also recall a few really grand houses that belonged to better-off family friends and some monumental civic buildings (Santa Barbara's County Courthouse has been rated "the most beautiful public building America by travel guides and San Francisco's City Hall, Opera, and Library complex rival the capitol buildings of many nations). The architectural motifs of Spanish Colonial, Mission, and Craftsman style architecture are deeply rooted in my sense of place and environment.

My father, Gilbert LaFreniere, has a PHD in French intellectual history and a masters in geology. We moved to Oregon in 1979 when my father began teaching environmental history at Willamette University in Salem. My mother certifies teachers for the state and shares my father’s interest in all things European. They traveled frequently in Western Europe and my father filled many slide carousels with beautiful photos of cathedrals and castles.

After my first trip abroad, to Italy, Switzerland, and France, I returned with my own photographic collection. I even gave slide presentations to my fellow art students in high school. After college I followed up this experience by touring the West and East Coasts, and “the old sod” of Ireland. I visited many famous buildings and museums, always with and eye to Urban Planning and architectural design. European cities seamed bigger and busier than most of their American counterparts - and they oozed history.

I talk a lot about local planning issues and critique many of the new projects in Cascadia, aka. the Pacific Northwest. Eventually I turned my college roommate onto Urban Planning and Architecture and watched him complete a Master’s at PSU and begin working for the Department of Transportation with the State of Washington. He talks of his work with a relish and often teases me with his access to plans, blueprints, and secret databases.

Meanwhile I married, bought a house, and had my first child. For many years I worked in high tech jobs way out in the suburbs. Although I have always loved urban life, and follow planning and architecture, I was pretty well established on a different path. Honestly, it was a struggle to keep my creative brain alive while verifying someone else's coding.

However, after two lay-offs and the death of nearly all my relatives I am at a crossroads. I find myself unsatisfied with the world of computers and the web, although they are useful tools, I have yet to turn them to support my true creative and intellectual interests. Now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I find myself turning back to my original interests in Urban Planning and Urban Architecture.

So, it's off to graduate school... please wish me luck.

Sean: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, January 26, 2004
Michael Totten Sizes Up The Seven Dwarfs Of The Democratic Party

  • John Edwards is Bill Clinton without the sleaze. He’s smart, articulate, decent, and convincing. He doesn’t wallow in Bush-hatred, nor does he attack the other candidates. He is optimistic, cheery, and focused on the future instead of the past.

  • Joe Lieberman is too sanctimonious and moralizing. [But] he has little chance of winning the primary. He’s a protest vote.

  • John Kerry is a decent and reasonable man. [But his] foreign policy ideas can be boiled down to Bush lied and Bush was rude to France.

  • Wesley Clark is just bizarre. He's a caricature of a Democrat... because he doesn’t know how to be a real one.

  • Dennis Kucinich is the Pat Buchanan of the Democrats.

  • Al Sharpton doesn’t deserve a response.

  • [Dick Gephardt]


  • Sean: Monday, January 26, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Friday, January 23, 2004
    Where The Jobs Went

    Mike Hughlett of the Pioneer Press tells us that we just got our asses kicked in the job market.


    In fact, a study released this week by a Washington, D.C., research group supported by organized labor shows that over the past two years, lower-wage jobs have increasingly supplanted higher-wage jobs.


    It goes on from there. You know the drill. No matter what the GOP in Washington tells you the truth is pretty simple... America's economy is draining away the highest paying jobs to foreign labor pools. Once those wages rise, relatively, they will move from there to the very next low wage labor pool. And so on and so on. The remaining jobs, and the new "service" jobs, will NEVER pay what the old ones did. Lowering tarrifs and international trade barries exacerbates this problem. It will never go away. Politics SHOULD be used to mitigate the issue as much as possible. God gave us tarrifs to save American jobs. Amen.


    Sean: Friday, January 23, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Thursday, January 22, 2004
    And Then We're Going To... Hell. Yeaaagh!

    Inevitbly, the internet brings us danceable remixes of Dean's anti-acceptance-of-reality speach.


    One of the first remixes to surface, Jonathan Strong's "Dean Goes Nuts Remix" hosted by Right-Magazine.com, featured Dean's shrieking yowl set to Aphex Twin's frenetic electronic "Wax the Nip" from 1995's I Care Because You Do. The track has since been taken down due to bandwidth issues. With many pundits speculating that Dean's campaign has gone off the rails, it's no surprise that a remix with Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" has also made its way onto the Web. Other remixes include Dean paired with Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" and Lil Jon's "Throw It Up."


    Dean goes wild

    "Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train (Dean's Aboard)" mix

    "Welcome to Dean's Jungle" mix

    "Dean Goes Nuts" mix

    "Yeagh" mix

    That "Yeeeeeeah!" figures prominently in many of the remixes, mostly created by resourceful college students and blog enthusiasts, such as the high-energy house version ("US Tour (Chris Flyer Remix)"), the funky horn mix, (Jonathan Barlow's "Howarddean") and the Ministry-like alarm call version (James Lileks' "Yeaahg"). Metal band Viral Solstice even made their own hardcore punk tweak, "Hardcoredean."


    There yah go James!




    Sean: Thursday, January 22, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Wednesday, January 21, 2004
    Iraqi Shiits Demand Saddam's Execution

    Wow, did anyone else catch this? CNN reports that Iraqis marched in the streets Tuesday, demanding Saddam's execution. This wouldn't even have occured to them to ask 12 months ago. I hope they can keep this in mind when we pull out in June.

    "Saddam is a war criminal, not a POW ... execute Saddam," the 5,000-strong crowd chanted.

    Not to be overshadowed... Iraqis also marched in protest of Bush's planned "speedy handover" this June.

    "The rallies were far smaller than one Monday in which nearly 100,000 Shiites marched in the Iraqi capital to demand early, direct elections, rejecting a U.S. blueprint for handing over power on July 1 to an unelected Iraqi provisional government."

    I said this before... and quoted a US general's opinion on 'Nam... setting a deadline for a US withdrawel invites a real defeat of all our goals there. We are rushing to our own failure just so that Bush can make it out of Iraq by November's elections. This sucks.

    Sean: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Tuesday, January 20, 2004
    SOTU: Bush Misreads The American People

    CNN boils down Bush SOTU address as calling for:

    • Make permanent some recently enacted tax cuts.

    66% of Americans are think that taxes are "about right".

    • Set limits on malpractice lawsuits.

    61% of Americans want to allow patients to sue, even if this measure would raise health care costs and increase the government bureaucracy.

    • Codify into law an executive order that allows religious institutions to use tax dollars to deliver various social services.

    65% of Americans balk at faith based social services as soon as you start mentioning non-protestant providers.

    • Renew provisions of the Patriot Act, the law passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks that granted law enforcement agencies new powers.

    67% of Americans are more worried about preserving their freedoms than further empowering the government to fight terrorism at home.

    • Change the law so that a portion of Social Security payroll taxes can be invested into personal retirement accounts.

    57% of Americans favor maintaining the current SSI system.

    • Support his temporary guest worker program under which millions of illegal immigrants could get temporary legal status in the United States.

    90% of Americans want more law enforcement at the border and do not trust Bush's "guest worker" program.

    • He called for a doubling of federal funding to promote abstinence programs in schools.

    89% of Americans favor "medicaly accurate" sex education.

    • And he voiced anew his support for recognizing marriage solely as "the union of a man and a woman."

    A (bare) majority of Americans are actually against Bush's constitutional ammendment (the numbers against "gay marriage" have been dropping every decade).

    • On the international front, Bush stood by his actions in Iraq, saying the United States was right to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is now in U.S. custody.

    Well, one out of nine aint bad... recent polls find that Bush has even won over the Bay Area on the Iraq issue.

    However, a Gallup poll released January 20 found that 53 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with how things are going in the United States.

    If Bush cant figure out what issue the voters REALLY care about, and a Dem can, he may follow his father's path to defeat.

    Sean: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Monday, January 19, 2004
    Democrats Miss The Lesson of Iowa

    I'm not terribly surprised. But the Democrats appear to have the wool pulled firmly over their own eyes.

    Listen, before the Iowa caucuses I heard plenty of folks talking turkey about Dean, the war, and the voters. It is not, in fact a mystery, or at least it shouldn't be. CNN covers this here.

    You see, despite popular opinion, not all the Dems are against the war. In fact, less than 40%. However, that minority has been excited about the election ever since last year. This group of wing nuts gave Dean a false sense of being the front runner.

    Going into the caucus the "entrance polls" told us that the war in Iraq wasn't even on the voters' radar. The number one issue was the economy, number two was national medical coverage (SSI and Medicare/caid), and education was third. Iraq was a very distant fourth.

    So the fact that both Kerry and Edwards beat the pants off Dean should be no surprise. The fact that Gephardt came in a distant 4th is also not such a surprise, Gephardt, bless his soul, is a practiced loser.

    But did the Democrats seem to learn the obvious lesson? Not according to the pundits and the interviews after the caucus. To them the issue was Dean's personality and his horrible "gaffes".

    Ok, those are bad... but that's not why Dean lost in Iowa nor why he will lose in November if the Dem's do pic him.

    Sean: Monday, January 19, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Friday, January 16, 2004
    Now Even Sean Penn Gets It

    Sean has taken a sort of "guest" credential at the San Francisco Gate and has a multipart article coming out giving his impressions from his latest trip to Baghdad.

    Sean has this problem that I kinda call the Janeane Garofalo Syndrome... in which celebs think that their opinions matter. Ok, they do, cause they ARE celebs... but they shouldn't, not simply because they are celebs. Before the war Sean came across as a complete knee-jerk leftist peacenick and I kinda wrote him off, another Garofalo.

    But after being led to this article of his by Andrew Sullivan (thanks man) I have to say that I did a revision of the man. Sean is NOT an idiot. He actually went to Baghdad, for a couple of days, before the war and so his opinions are at least that much informed. And his fear... that any invasion would do more harm than good were let's say, understandable. But upon his revist to Baghdad post invasion he has both the lucidity to get the point that things are better and the honesty to say so in print.

    I found this quote to be quite interesting. I wouldnt have thought that Sean was so... subtle and decent. I dont know why not, I guess I havent been to fair to the man. Give it a read, note the last lines.

    The communications tower, or what is left of it, is under the guard of soldiers from the new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. This is the recently trained army that, since my return, suffered an exodus of 400 out of the 700 trained soldiers, who complained that the $60 per month paid them by the occupying authority wasn’t going to cut it. In essence, they were being asked to risk their lives in the service of an occupying army for a monthly salary that would, in Baghdad, buy the equivalent of one night at a Holiday Inn. With not much else to do, these Civil Defense guards deny me access to photograph the stricken building. It is an impotent order. If I backed 10 feet around the edge of a corner building, I’d have ample opportunity to photograph. But I don’t. It is, after all, their only real authority I’d have been violating.


    Bravo Sean.

    Another good article of some one, German reporter Boris Kalnoky, now "getting it" can be found here.

    The only people who are against the Americans now are those who were rich before. Now they know that they can’t sit at home and get wealthy. They will have to work and they don’t like it. They lost the power and authority. It is very dangerous.

    What would I say to the American people? You have to be proud of your sons. You have to be proud of your army. They are fighters for freedom.


    Good one Boris.

    Sean: Friday, January 16, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Thursday, January 15, 2004
    Kettle, meet Pot. Pot, this is Kettle

    USA Today uncovers letter from Dean to Clinton calling for war in Bosnia. The upshot:

    "I have reluctantly concluded that the efforts of the United States and NATO in Bosnia are a complete failure," he wrote, citing reports of genocide during the Bosnian civil war. "If we ignore these behaviors ... our moral fiber as a people becomes weakened. ... We must take unilateral action."


    Dr. Dean urged Clinton to "go unilateral" on Slobo. But its just plain wrong when Bush does it to Saddam. Why?



    Sean: Thursday, January 15, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Wednesday, January 14, 2004
    Slave Mart

    Steven Greenhouse at the NY Times reports on America's most successful retailer being flogged in court last month.


    A federal jury in Portland, Oregon, found Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, guilty yesterday [December 18] of forcing its employees to work unpaid overtime in the first of 40 such lawsuits to go to trial.

    The Oregon suit was not a class action. Instead it involved a mailing sent out to 15,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees in Oregon that invited individuals to join the lawsuit. [Damages are expected to be typicaly low in these cases - essentially limited to lost wages only].

    Carolyn Thiebes, the lead plaintiff who worked as a personnel manager at stores in Salem and Dallas, Oregon, said in an interview that Wal-Mart asked her to use her computer to erase hours from employees' time records to help hold down costs, especially overtime costs.

    Bill Wertz, a spokesman for Wal-Mart: "We tried to demonstrate to the jury that we have a strong policy against requiring our workers, our associates, to work off the clock, and that any violations were scattered and infrequent. We apparently did not make our case well enough."

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs said Wal-Mart lost credibility when it put more than 50 managers on the stand to testify that they had never seen employees work off the clock. "The company's witnesses said this absolutely never happens at Wal-Mart, and the jury didn't believe them," said Shane Youtz, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

    In a class-action lawsuit in Colorado, Wal-Mart reportedly paid $50 million two years ago to settle a case involving 69,000 workers in that state. In another case, it agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a case covering 120 workers at one store, in Gallup, New Mexico. Lawyers have sued Wal-Mart in more than three-dozen states.


    Heck, Walmart even found itself guilty last month... Again from Steven.


    [And internal] audit of one week's time-clock records for roughly 25,000 employees found 1,371 instances in which minors apparently worked too late at night, worked during school hours or worked too many hours in a day. It also found 60,767 apparent instances of workers not taking breaks, and 15,705 apparent instances of employees working through meal times.

    If the same rate of violations were found throughout the Wal-Mart system, that would translate into tens of thousands of child-labor violations each week at Wal-Mart's 3,500 stores and more than one million violations of company and state regulations on meals and breaks.

    Several months after the Shipley audit was finished, Wal-Mart stopped requiring employees to clock out and in for 15-minute breaks. Wal-Mart officials said they eliminated this requirement for their employees' convenience, but Frank Azar, a lawyer involved in the off-the-clock suits, said Wal-Mart did this to make sure no paper trail could show that employees were not taking breaks.


    Hey but at least prices are low, right? What's it matter if a few employees are whinning? (again via Steven).


    Leila Najjar said that when she worked for a Wal-Mart in a Denver suburb at age 16 and 17, she sometimes was forced to miss breaks, work past midnight and work more than eight hours a day even though Colorado bars minors from doing that. Time records from a court case [verified her claims].

    Maria Rocha, who ran the restaurant inside a Wal-Mart in Dallas, said her workload was so great and the restaurant so understaffed that she never took breaks and often missed lunch. "It was just too busy to take a break," said Ms. Rocha, who quit in October. "There were a lot of customers, and the managers would be mad if you took a break."

    Bella Blaubergs, a diabetic who worked at a Wal-Mart in Washington State, said she sometimes nearly fainted from low blood sugar because managers often would not give breaks.

    Verette Richardson, a former Wal-Mart cashier in Kansas City, Mo., said it was sometimes so hard to get a break that some cashiers urinated on themselves.

    John Lehman, who ran several Wal-Mart stores in Kentucky, said he was sure that large-scale violations on child labor, breaks and meals continued at Wal-Mart. In the months after the company distributed the audit internally, he said, store managers like him received no word to try harder to prevent violations.

    "There was no follow-up to that audit, there was nothing sent out I was aware of saying, `We're bad. We screwed up. This is the remedy we're going to follow to correct the situation,' " said Mr. Lehman, who said he quit in 2001 because he was disgusted with the company's treatment of employees. He now works for a union trying to organize Wal-Mart workers.

    "Wal-Mart stores are so systematically understaffed that they work minors just like they do adults," he said. "They don't have enough workers to take care of the business. Yes, their prices are low but then the stores are so understaffed that workers often don't have time to take their breaks or lunches."

    "This case is about people working for free for America's largest employer," the plaintiffs' main lawyer, James Piotrowski, said in his closing argument last Friday.


    The company policies of this behemoth are barely above slave driving. But then, let's keep in mind that this corporate "family" is from The South, from Newport, AR, in fact. But, I'm sure there is "no connection". You can read more here.

    When this company opens up in your hometown you can kiss goodbye your own local "mom & pop" photoshop, grocery, drugstore, etc. Then you will probably find the mom and pop's "greeting" you at Wal-Mart's doors, working past their bed times and off the clock. More on Walmart's impact upon the general business community can be found here.

    More corporate evil doing... the RIAA police.

    Sean: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Tuesday, January 13, 2004
    Clarifying Statements

    Apparently Dean has a problem with speaking in public. Apparently his mouth and his foot cant leave each other alone. As Roger L. Simon and Michael J. Totten have pointed out before, Dean isn't exactly a rocket scientist (I know, I know, 'but he's a doctor', evidently that means squat). Those who bash Bush for not giving the US presidency the sheen and luster it deserves (by being an idiot who mangles what he says in public) have no business then taunting the Good Doctor (tm).

    Watch Dean spin previously televised criticism of the Iowa caucuses.

    "If I knew then what I know now ...," Dean said before pausing during a media scrum outside one of his campaign events in New Hampshire.

    "Iowa has been very good to me. I couldn't run for president if I didn't have Iowa," Dean told Fox News before leaving the scene.

    Asked if he was retracting his comments from 2000, Dean said, "Iowa's a great place for people like me who have started out with no money and now have a good message."

    Dean has been trying to contain the fallout over comments he made on the Canadian talk show "The Editors" while Vermont's governor. Dean appeared on the Montreal-based show at least 90 times between 1996 and 2000, discussing a host of issues on U.S. and Canadian politics, including relations with Israel and his appraisal of President Bush as a political "moderate."

    In the episode on the U.S. presidential primary system (search), Dean told the program that the Iowa caucuses are a waste of time.

    "If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests, in both sides, in both parties. The special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes," Dean said.

    "I can't stand there and listen to everyone else's opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world," he added.

    "Reacting to Dean's earlier comments, Gephardt said he found the remarks "unbelievable." He should certainly give them an explanation of what he meant when he said these things," Gephardt said. "I think the Iowans deserve an explanation on how he came to these conclusions and if he has changed his mind."

    Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter quipped that Dean "is going to extremes of his own to win over Iowa voters."

    "Which Howard Dean are Iowans going to vote for -- the one who insults them, or the one who will be soon releasing yet another clarifying statement?"


    So, Bush Bashers (tm) need to clarify their support for Dean given that both men are prone to Mad Candidate Disease.

    Hat tip: Mark Dobie (sorry man, apparently you have no permalinks).

    Sean: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Monday, January 12, 2004
    Helicopter Kills

    This amazing video shows what Iraqi insurgents face when they decide to take on Uncle Sam. This isn't Vietnam. This is a turkey shoot.

    But make no mistake, these turkeys could still win if Washington doesn't follow through on that dreaded "nation building" stuff.

    This footage is being taken off nearly every available site. Get a peak at it while you can. Just for reference.

    Update 1: first link went down, try this link for background.

    Update 2: and try this one for the footage.

    Update 3: if the last link dies, contact me.


    Sean: Monday, January 12, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Friday, January 09, 2004
    Tron 2.0: Enter the Matrix

    I've been trapped in the house for days due to snow. Plenty of time to finish saving the system as Jet Bradley in Tron 2.0. Although "just another shooter, this game works on several levels. First off, of course, it is a blast from the past Behind The Music (tm) revist to the 80's. Also, if we keep in mind the visual effects of the original movie, the graphics for this game perfectly fit today's capabilities... everything looks real in a cartoon kinda way - this is very cool. And the game has some excelletent geek humor... like the Progress Bar - I'll have a Overclock Martini please, shaken not stirred. Also, there are many hours of gameplay to be had. Enjoy on your next snow day!

    Sean: Friday, January 09, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Thursday, January 08, 2004
    Geurrillas In The Mists

    Christopher Hitchens fillet's the radical left in this week's Slate piece.

    "The Battle of Algiers" is now scheduled for [screening] at the New York Film Forum. This event will lead to a torrent of pseudo-knowing piffle from the armchair guerrillas (well, there ought to be a word for this group).

    I myself cherished the dream of being something more than an armchair revolutionary when I first saw this electrifying movie. It was at a volunteer work-camp for internationalists, in Cuba in the summer of 1968.

    I was astounded to discover, sometime later on, that Gillo Pontecorvo had employed no documentary footage in the shooting of the film: It looked and felt like revolutionary reality projected straight onto the screen.

    When I next saw it, in Bleecker Street in the Village in the early 1970s, it didn't have quite the same shattering effect. Moreover, in the audience there were some idiots who fancied the idea of trying "urban guerrilla" warfare inside the West itself.

    All that needs to be said about that "moment" of the Left is that its practitioners ended up dead or in prison, having advanced the cause of humanity by not one millimeter.

    Sean: Thursday, January 08, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Wednesday, January 07, 2004
    Nameless Accusers

    I tried to stay clear of the Kobe case. I did, I really did. It pushes a lot of buttons with people and it is impossible to have a reasoned discussion of the issue without people's nobility, buried family issues, and who knows what triggering an emotional response.

    But then J Bowden at No Watermelons had to go and show me this news of yet another famous athlete being pilloried from behind the iron veil of rape victim "protection". And now I have to give my two pence.

    I don't know who's story is "true". But I am struck by the essential unfairness, not to mention unconstitutionality, of rape prosecution. As Paul Carpenter wrote in TruthAndJustice last November... Accountability is a pillar of our justice system.

    The Ninth Amendment gives us all the right to face our accuser, "not their lawyers". But this right is challenged in certain cases by rank paternalism and condescension. Paul reminds us that it was long held that children simply didn't lie in court about adults. Similarly people assume that rape is too stigmatized a crime for a woman to make false accusations.

    "I can't imagine anyone lying about this," said Dawn Foor, supervisor of Orange County's sexual-assault victim assistance services.

    But like it or not, people do lie, people do bear false witness, even children, and even grown women, and even about a crime as "shamefull" and horrific as rape. Pretending that this isn't true throws our legal system out of balance. Hiding the identity of the accuser puts ALL the burden of proof on the accused, yet another upturning of the Constitution, by putting the person of the accused "out of bounds".

    As Lowe and Kass write in the Rocky Mountain News, "Bryant's defense team must give the jury some reasons why a woman would make a false rape allegation." These reporters then go on to reveal that Kobe's accuser had a history of severe mental illness from several years to two months before she made the rape allegations. But Kobe's defense probably wont be allowed to mention this at all.

    "The victim in this case doesn't need to be scrutinized," said Cynthia Stone of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

    But like it or not, as Smith and Lourie report in the Mercury News, "Her privacy, which was nearly impossible to protect in a town of 3,000 residents and one main public high school, is gone." Nevermind that she was widely reported (via NBC no less) as having bragged about her sexual encounter with Kobe at a local party before she filed charges against him.

    So her privacy really isn't an issue here, nor should it be. The argument that rape is so terrible that the accuser cant even admit to being the victim merely continues an unfair view of the crime. If we really believe that rape isn't about sex, it isn't about the victim's dress or demeanor, then we should treat it exactly like any crime and any other criminal accusation.

    Equally important is the degradation of the system treating women and children as not fully human; as either too pure to lie or too weak to speak for themselves. In the one case, children, the court has had to treat them as less rarified in order to preserve justiuce for all. In the other case the court must now treat women as less weak; as strong enough to make their own accusations and to stand by them.

    It is time for the victim to take his or her fair place in the courtroom and in the legal system and be named.

    Sean: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Tuesday, January 06, 2004
    The Western Disease

    Victor Davis Hansen puts the last few years of American warfare into historical perspective.

    In 24 months the United States defeated two of the most hideous regimes in modern memory. For all the sorrow involved, it has already made progress in the unthinkable: bringing consensual government into the heart of Middle Eastern autocracy, where there has been no political heritage other than tyranny, theocracy, and dictatorship.


    Hat tip to Daniel Drezner, while being Andrew Sullivan...

    Sean: Tuesday, January 06, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Monday, January 05, 2004
    Portland Is Gunna Get Snowed Again

    A major storm is brewing up. This one should suck all the way around... wont come in until you are already at work, wont be pretty to look at, and will wash away in time for you to have to come in tomorrow. Thanks a lot Mother Nature.

    Road conditions: click here to trip check.


    Sean: Monday, January 05, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Michael Earns His Keep, Liberalism vs. Leftism, Defined

    Michael Tottens gives his long-promised defense and definition of Liberalism.


    The liberal agenda, or the platform of the Democrat Party, changes over time, as does the character of people we refer to as leftists. But the line which divides liberals from leftists remains mostly unchanged. And it is this:

    A liberal (substitute with Democrat if you want to) believes in reform. And a leftist supports revolution. Liberals (Democrats) are the left-wing of the Establishment. Leftists are radicals who seek to overthrow the Establishment (either through violence or the ballot box) and replace it with something else.


    While I might quibble with him on minor points (Liberals, classically, DO support "revolution", per se) he successfully nails down the two specimens of political thought with an itemized list and accounting of major political planks and the views of the two camps.



    Liberals want to ban clear-cutting. Leftists want to ban the logging industry.

    Liberals want higher taxes on the rich because it's fairer to the middle and working classes. Leftists want to soak the rich out of class hatred.

    Liberals see America as the land of opportunity and freedom. Leftists see America as the bastion of Imperialism, Racism, and Oppression.

    Liberals support globalization and trade for economic growth and to boost labor and environmental standards in the Third World. Leftists hate trade because they think it's all about the West raping the rest.

    Liberals blame the September 11 attacks on religious and political extremism in the Middle East. Leftists blame America.

    Liberals fly the American flag. Leftists burn it.


    For everyone to the Left of Bush who cant figure out what all the intercine warfare on this side of the isle is all about, and for all those smug Reaganites who love to tar their opponents with the term and cant figure out why it doest stick for anyone other than their own choir... go read.

    Winston Churchill once outlined some differences between liberalism and socialism, socialism being leftist. Though his words date back to the early part of the 20th Century, they're as true today as they were then:

    Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. There is a great gulf fixed. It is not a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle [...] Socialism seeks to pull down wealth. Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference [...] Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly. Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man.


    Great quote, (nearly) says it all.

    Sean: Monday, January 05, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Friday, January 02, 2004
    Mass Murder In Iraq

    A recent Gallup poll suggests that more than 60,000 people were executed in Baghdad alone under Saddam Insane

    Gallup asked a scientifically representative sample of Baghdad’s 6.39 million residents whether any member of their household had been executed under the previous regime. An astonishing 6.6 percent said yes.


    Gallup’s survey found that the average Baghdad household has 6.9 residents. Assuming one execution per victimized household, the reported execution incidence of 6.6% projects to roughly 61,000 executions of Baghdadis over the course of Saddam Hussein’s 24-year rule.


    Do you still think this war, with its under 10,000 in casualties, was wrong?

    Sean: Friday, January 02, 2004 [+] |
    ...
    Thursday, January 01, 2004
    Restoring Middle Income America

    Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect claims that a decent income isn't a pipe dream for Middle Class America... It just takes a new political reality that probably comes close to one.


    America is needlessly generating a disproportionate number of low-wage jobs, but other paths are possible.

    Low-wage America is a nation of hard-working people struggling to make ends meet -- and a nation of politically disaffiliated and disempowered citizens.

    These two realities are related. This story is less about technological inevitabilities than politically determined social arrangements.


    Two popular myths:


    The first myth is that it's natural and desirable just to let many manufacturing and service jobs go to lower-wage countries, and that American ingenuity will simply replace them with better jobs.

    In truth, the trading system, like the domestic economic system, is based on a set of politically determined rules. The current trading system serves investors over workers and undermines a more egalitarian social compact at home and overseas.

    The second myth is that the widening wage inequality and proliferation of low-wage jobs are primarily the result of a skills deficit, which has been intensified by increased demand for "knowledge workers" in an era of corporate restructuring.

    The old, stable firm with its paternalistic responsibility for workers has been replaced by shifting and contingent loyalties. In the new economy, supposedly, what protects workers is their "employability" -- the skills, and capacity to learn new skills, that they can bring to a succession of employers.

    However, in diverse fields workers with exemplary skills are being displaced into lower-wage jobs, many jobs combine advanced technologies with low-skill work, and advanced workers must compete with cheaper, equally qualified, foreign workers.


    Education is no panacea:


    Better education and training will not ensure that bad jobs are replaced with good ones.

    Certainly America needs better systems of basic education and lifelong learning, for civic reasons as well as economic ones. Broadly speaking, a well-educated workforce is the source of an affluent society and an effective democracy.

    But the allocation of that affluence is also a result of social arrangements that can be either friendly or hostile to wage and salaried workers. So the distribution of earned income reflects not just distribution of skills but of political power.

    Improving the human-capital side of the employment equation will produce only frustrated, overeducated workers unless there is a rendezvous with good jobs.

    The idealized progression of an America steadily shedding bad jobs and adding good ones requires supportive policies; it will not just happen spontaneously.


    Regulations might not be such a bad thing:

    The low-wage job problem is mainly the consequence of a new social contract strikingly different from that of the post-World War II boom.

    The mid-1940s to the mid-1970s [included] stronger regulation of industries and of labor markets, broader acceptance of trade unions, and [protection against] speculative international capital flows and low-wage competition.

    Consequently, ordinary wage and salaried workers had more bargaining power to command more of the total economic product.

    The earnings distribution actually became slightly more equal between 1947 and 1973, a period also noted for robust gross domestic product growth and relatively tight labor markets.

    So this more highly regulated and socially just form of capitalism coexisted happily with an efficient economy.


    Robert goes on to suggest a social, political prescription, read on...

    Sean: Thursday, January 01, 2004 [+] |
    ...

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