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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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Rainbow Warrior Sunk By France

This story came and went with out much fanfare back in the pre-blog days of the 80's. However, in the current age of Cold War with France we might as well review it for the record.

Evidently France bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior on July 10th 1985 in Auckland harbor, New Zealand.

This account is excerpted from the Greenpeace archives but can also be found via Wikpedia and other onlines sources...

As it emerged that the bombing was a deliberate act of sabotage, there was little doubt in Greenpeace minds who was responsible. Two days after the bombing the French Embassy in Wellington issued a statement echoing the flat denials emanating from Paris. 'In no way is France involved,' it declared. 'The French Government doesn't deal with its opponents in such ways.'

But within a few days Auckland police had arrested French secret service agents Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur as they tried to return their van to an Auckland hire company. While they were held in custody, the charter yacht Ouvea, carrying another team of agents implicated in the bombing, sailed to Norfolk Island and then disappeared a few days out to sea heading north for Tahiti. Her crew was reportedly picked up by the French nuclear submarine Rubis, which turned up in Tahiti on July 22 - the first time a French nuclear submarine had been known to enter the South Pacific.

Following claims in the London Sunday Times that President Mitterrand had known of the bombing plan, and implicitly, therefore had authorised it, French Defence Minister Charles Hernu resigned and Admiral Pierre Lacoste, director of the DGSE, France's intelligence and covert action bureau, was sacked. Within days Prime Minister Fabius admitted French secret service agents had bombed the Rainbow Warrior under orders. It was, said New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, nothing more than 'a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism'.

Charged with murder and arson, on 4 November Mafart and Prieur, just two of a much larger team of saboteurs, pleaded guilty in the High Court at Auckland to lesser charges of manslaughter and wilful damage and were each sentenced to ten years' jail. Their guilty plea ensured that the facts of the police investigation would never be made public.

In June 1986, in a political deal presided over by the United Nations Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, France agreed to pay compensation of NZ$13 million (US$6.5 million) to New Zealand and 'apologise', in return for which Mafart and Prieur would be detained at the French military base on Hao atoll for three years (italics are mine).


Via Wikpedia "The Rainbow Warrior was used as a support vessel for many Greenpeace protest activities against sealing, whaling and nuclear weapons testing during the late 1970s and early 1980s."

Why did the French sink an internationally renowned peaceful protest and research vessel?

In 1985, she had travelled to New Zealand to lead a flotilla of yachts protesting against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. During previous nuclear tests at Mururoa, protest ships had been boarded by French commandos after sailing inside the shipping exclusion zone around the atoll. With the 1985 tests, Greenpeace had intended to monitor the impact of nuclear tests and place protesters on the island to do this. The French Government infiltrated the New Zealand organisation and discovered these plans."


We should keep in mind that France pulled out of (the command structure of) Nato in 1966 in a bid to maintain nuclear, um... independence. And for all its apparent Lefty qualificaitons France never ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty, leaving it open to conduct nuclear tests at will. In 1972, Greenpeace managed to delay nuclear tests by several weeks with its ship illegally trespassing in the testing zone. When France conducted a test in 1995 Greenpeace didn't have such an option, since their flagship lay at the bottom of the sea.

Perhaps this episode highlights a natural affinity between France and such would-be-indepdendant-nuclear-powers as Iran, Iraq, Lybia, and North Korea?

Sean: Sunday, November 28, 2004 [+] |
...
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
The Revolution Will Be Blogged

A pair of Christian missionaries in Kiev, Ukraine are blogging the revolution taking place there this month. What, you didn't know there was a Russian invasion of it's democratic neighbor, a phony election, and a revolution? Read about transport planes of commandos, tanks on the outskirts of town, and protestors being shot "for effect". Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link.

Sean: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Woman's Torso Found, And Forgotten

The media very quietly reported this gruesome tale a few weeks back... due to military, diplomatic, and criminal red tape more info has been slow in arriving and the press appears to have let the story drop down "the memory hole".

The body of a blonde-haired Caucasian woman with her legs and arms cut off and throat slit was found last night in a street in the battle-torn city.

The discovery of the woman wearing a blue dress and with her face shockingly disfigured was made as US marines moved through the south of Fallujah, hunting the remaining diehard rebels after a week of fierce fighting to regain control of the city.

"It is definitely a Caucasian woman with long, blonde hair," said a military official, who cut open a cover that had been over the corpse. Two Western women are known to have been kidnapped in Iraq. Teresa Borcz Khalifa, 54, a Polish-born longtime resident of Iraq, was seized last month and has blonde hair.

Margaret Hassan, 59, director of Care International in Iraq, was also abducted last month and has chestnut-coloured hair.

"It is a female ... missing all four appendages, with a slashed throat and disemboweled, she has been dead for a while but only in this location for a day or two," said Benjamin Finnell, a hospital apprentice with the Navy Corps.


New reports say the hair was darker than originally reported. Now they say this woman is most likely Mrs. Hassan. If so, then she was the wife of an Iraqi national with a Iraqi citizenship and the head of a humanitarian organization in Iraq. And yet she was brutally, ritually slaughtered by foreign led terrorists for the dramatic television effect...

In another story the citizens of Falluja report regular torture and harassment, our marines find "jail" cages and bloody interrogation rooms on every block.

Others were not so lucky. In one street soldiers found three people who had apparently been executed. A man and a woman died hugging one another, each killed by a shot to the head. Nearby a blonde woman had been shot in the head, disemboweled, and had her feet cut off.

The woman was the sixth corpse found with the feet hacked off. It is not clear why the insurgents are mutilating a few of the bodies. Some speculate that it might have something to do with Islamic law which calls for things such as the amputation of a hand for theft.

Posters, which can be seen tacked up around the city warning residents not to violate various Islamic laws, suggest insurgents were trying to establish a Taliban-style rule in the city.


Meanwhile, a wounded marine who shoots a possum-playing terrorist in Falluja makes every newspaper for weeks (ok, the man was probably not faking death, but severely wounded, but that is not what the marine thought). And Abu Ghraib gets top billing for months.

Only certain stories that follow a certain story line get much play in the Press.

Sean: Tuesday, November 23, 2004 [+] |
...
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Cuban Dissidents Bounced From Cocktail Party

CNN reports that Europe is "rethinking" its annual cocktail party for Cuban dissidents in deference to Old Man Castro.


Sean: Saturday, November 20, 2004 [+] |
...
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Machines For Doing

Architecture is the re-creation of a symbolic order, deployed in the most immediate and concrete universe of essences. It is concerned with the articulation of the immutable, the mathesis as "given" in the primordial geometrical engagement of humanity-in-the-world.

- Alberto Perez-Gomez, Professor of Architecture at McGill University, "Architecture as Embodied Knowledge", Journal of Architectural Education, vol 40, no 2, 1987.


Professor Perez-Gomez asserts that Architecture is indispensable for the survival of culture. The physical constructs of mankind, from buildings to vehicles and monuments, convey essential information, knowledge, and wisdom. Architecture enables humans to “transcend our mortal individuality and become part of a larger, significant and timeless reality”.

Art and Architecture provide an embodied metaphysics for society. The symbolism of forms and ornament convey the collective knowledge and wisdom of a culture. However, in the last two hundred years this task has been made increasingly difficult by the self-referential values of the modern technological worldview and the nihilism of post-modern thought.

Traditional buildings are specific to their culture. A Japanese temple creates the same mental serenity in Los Angeles as in Kyoto and a Catholic hospital in Saigon conveys the same information about the role of the Church in physical and spiritual health as it would in Paris. The knowledge these buildings represent is specific to the culture that defined the form.

Today architects have a wealth of information and tools (computers, the internet, etc.) that enable them to meet the practical issues of any given building program. However, most architects do not wish to burden their structures with even the most basic nod to their society’s values, myths, and hopes. These ideas are seen as culturally relative, ethnocentric, or simply ‘dated’.

Hospitals used to run by religious organizations. The buildings were often converted from monastic life and the architecture clearly revealed the connection. The "fact" that religious compassion provided the patient his medical care was a bit of knowledge about the organization of the patient's society and the role of religious values in their life and wellbeing.

Historically hospitals contained several large, sunlit halls filled with patients, with nurses and doctors making their rounds. Now the patient lives in an artificially lit cubicle; cut off from the internal life of the building and the external life of their city or countryside surroundings. Today hospitals are built with the same focus on maximum occupancy as a self-storage facility and the same focus on movement and efficiency as a factory.

Thus a new hospital may be praised for meeting the needs of the doctors and nurses who utilize the building every day, but “the fundamental problem of meaninglessness prevails”. The patients who momentarily inhabit the building, but are the essential users of the building, may find themselves trapped in a "soulless" construct that makes their health and wellbeing seem insignificant.

The 2,000-year role of Architecture as a system of conveying knowledge within a society has been lost. Consider how the Acropolis continues to inform Westerners regarding the role of the city in human life. Can anyone imagine a similar study of a county courthouse, jail, or hospital built in America after 1950?

Today's buildings could be from anywhere, they have no cultural role, only a functional role. This focus on the activities of our society, and the lack of faith in the ideas of our society, has led to the creation of meaningless "machines for doing". Professor Perez-Gomez suggests that architects need to reclaim their role as the constructors of monuments of human culture.

Sean: Thursday, November 18, 2004 [+] |
...
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Mach 10

The LA Times reports that NASA's X-43a aircraft hit Mach 10, or 6500 mph, on Tuesday.

And CNN reports that Russia has announced new nuclear missiles the likes of which not even God has seen before.

Several other countries, notably France, Japan and Australia, also are moving forward with scramjet projects.

Remember those old movies where over-stuffed men in olive green uniforms watch red triangle missiles track across a "big board" while yelling into a red phone "For god sakes it was an accident, call them off!" and after many tense moments someone pushes the "abort" button?

Well, that was then. Now missiles can cross the continent in 20 minutes. Soon a missile could incinerate Sydney simultaneous with the push of a button in Paris.

We are entering the era of weapons of instant destruction (WID's). The Day After is as close away as our "scramjets" and microwave satellite guns can make them... which is yesterday.

Sean: Wednesday, November 17, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, November 15, 2004
Guarding Bias

Andrew Sullivan sends us to look at a recent article in the Guardian reporting on American soldiers "kicking ass" in Falluja.

In the huge, muddy field which serves as a forward base, Major-General Richard Natonski prepared his troops for the battle ahead. 'We're goin' in to raise the Eye-raqi flag above Falluja - to give it back to the Fallujans,' he shouted, the eyes of the entire 1st Marine Division on him....

'I guess there are some good people - it's jus' that we don' have nothin' to do with them,' mused a marine as he and his colleagues sorted their kit and cleaned their M16 assault rifles. 'I see the little kids in the cars and I feel sorry for them, but when they turn 16 they're evil.'

'Only two songs send a shiver up my spine,' said one marine, his face scored with the pockmarks and confidence of youth. 'The marine hymn, and that song by Toby Keith after 9/11 which says "we're gonna kick you up the ass - that's the American way".'


You see, all Americans are zit-faced zealots from "red states" and we are here to kick your ass in a culturally insensitive manner. Nevermind that the US Army sends its recruits to Egypt for "cultural appreciation" classes on the 'enemy', nevermind that we regularly let local Iraqi, or is that Eye-rack-ee, soldiers enter mosques ahead of our troops (no matter the obvious danger that puts them in), nevermind that we began distributing MRE's today (before we even secured the area for our own soldiers)... nevermind, the Guardian's oh-so-sophisticated reporters definitely have our number.

Sean: Monday, November 15, 2004 [+] |
...
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Kristallnacht

On the nights of Nov 9 and 10, 1938 mobs in Germany and German controlled Austria raged through Jewish neighborhoods. At least 96 Jews died, hundreds were injured, over a thousand synagogues were burned, seven thousand businesses were destroyed, cemeteries and schools were vandalized, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. This was the beginning of Hitler's "Final Solution" and the Holocaust of WWII. This pogrom, or riot, is known as "Kristallnacht", which is German for "Night of Broken Glass".

Andrew Sullivan reports that Bruce Bawer observed it in Norway thusly:

This evening in Oslo there was a march commemorating Kristallnacht. According to TV2 News, no Norwegian Jews were present. The authorities, saying that they did not want any trouble, forbade any Jewish symbols, including Stars of David and Israeli flags. On the TV2 evening news, a group of Jews and their friends who wanted to take part in the commemoration were shown being firmly told by a policeman to "please leave the area." This in a city where Muslim demonstrations take place on a regular basis, and include signs and banners bearing hateful, barbaric slogans.


As Andrew notes: "What on earth is happening to Europe's sense of right and wrong?"

Well Sully, might I remind you how often pogroms like these occur in Europe?

From the final expulsion and exclusion of Jews from Judea and the renaming of their kingdom to Palestine by the Romans in 130 a.d. until Hitler's Final Solution in the 1940's Europe has a continuous history of riots and expulsions of Jews.

In the first century there were massacres in Alexandria and Rome. In the 3rd century at the Council of Nicea the Christian Church declared that Jews must continue to exist, for the sake of Christianity, but in seclusion and humiliation. In the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries Jews were massacred in France, Spain, and Germany (as well in North Africa and Arabia with the rise of Islam).

In the Middle Ages Jews were persecuted throughout Europe. In 1182 the French confiscated Jewish lands and expelled the population from the country and in 1242 the Talmud (the Jewish bible) was burned in Paris, in 1290 the Jewish population was expelled from England, and in 1298 Jews were massacred in 146 towns in Germany. In the 14th century Jews were blamed for the plague and were attacked in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

In the 15th and 16th centuries Jews were systematically persecuted, concentrated, and murdered in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. The first "ghetto" was created in Venice in 1516. Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant movement, began preaching violence against Jews in Germany in 1544. And the Talmud was burned in Rome in 1553.

In the 17th century anti-Jewish riots swept Russia, Sweden, Poland, and the Ukraine. These attacks continued every decade for three centuries until WWII. Serious attempts to kill or expel Jews in German territories began in earnest in the 1800's, with mass expulsions occurring in Russia and Germany in the 1890's.

The "Protocols of the Elders Of Zion" was first printed, in Russia, in 1905 - it created the myth of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. The KKK was formed in America in 1915 and Henry Ford printed the Protocols in Michigan in 1920. Hitler's Mein Kampf appeared in 1925 and blamed Germany's economic woes not on WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, but on the world's Jewish population.

Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. The Nuremberg Laws introduced anti-Jewish rules in 1935, (Russia followed with its own anti-Jewish laws in 1937), and Kristallnacht occured on November 9th and 10th, 1938. The Holocaust began in earnest with the outbreak of WWII in 1939 and over six million Jews were systematically slaughtered.

Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. The Nuremberg Laws introduced anti-Jewish rules in 1935, (Russia followed with its own anti-Jewish laws in 1937), and Kristallnacht occurred on November 9th and 10th, 1938. The Holocaust began in earnest with the outbreak of WWII in 1939 and over six million Jews were systematically slaughtered.

So no one should be shocked by European anti-Semitism, it is not an aberration, it is the norm. This is why the Jews redeclared their own nation in their land of origins in 1948 - because no one would let them live anywhere else. The re-creation of Israel is also an attempt to undo Roman ethnic cleansing and redress 2000 years of injustice.

This does not mean that the Arab population now living beside the Jews of Israel should be without rights or citizenship, not at all. Today justice for this population is as important as justice for the Jews - no one can truly have justice so long as one among us is oppressed. The death of Yasser Arafat may be a perfect opportunity for the world to examine the plight of both.



Sean: Thursday, November 11, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Flowers For Van Gogh

DISCLAIMER: I don't want to start a flame war, or an international shoving match. Nor do I wish to detract from memorials to Van Gogh. But the background to this story is going to be ignored by the M.S.M. and I think that it shouldn't be. The events surrounding this story are a warning to the world and a challenge to the idea of any nation's "exceptionalism".

Theo Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker of distant relation to the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. Theo specializes in short films of a social or political nature. His latest entry "Submission" exposes the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of women sanctioned by the Koran. It received critical acclaim and the ire of the very Islamic extremists that worried him.

On November 2 he was assaulted as he walked home from the grocery. He was shot several times and his throat cut down to the bone. A six page letter threatening the lives of several Dutch politicians was impaled to his heart with a knife. Witnesses observed him pleading with his assailant "Have mercy!". The police arrested a Dutch-Moroccan immigrant with terrorist ties after a brief shootout.

In the wake of this violent assault a series of memorials paid tribute to Theo. The place of his murder is covered in flowers and heartfelt letters of condolence. "Stop the senseless violence in our beautiful, free Amsterdam and Netherlands," read one note. "You are not alone. You died for freedom of thought," read another. These letters imply that at least some Dutch understand that terrorism really is "about freedom".

There is also a darkside to the Dutch response to Theo's murder. Several Dutch mosques were set on fire this week and a school was even pipe-bombed. Many Dutch-Morrocans are worried for their safety. Meanwhile, an Egyptian terrorist group has threatened more attacks in response to the violent backlash.

The attacks in the Netherlands already dwarfs the violent response to 9-11 in America. The only major acts of violence in the US were the murder of an Indian Sikh in Texas and another Indian in Arizona on September 17, 2001. Although no Muslims have yet been killed in the Netherlands, the breadth of the arson attacks is much more substantial, and it was only luck that no one died.

Today the world has two lessons (at least) from this attack. One, no one is safe from terrorism, not even the Dutch in the 21st century. Two, no one is above a violent response, not even the Dutch in the 21st century. So the next time that a European tells an American that the reason they are hated in the Middle East is because of foreign policy decision a, b, or c they should be politely asked to pipe down (yeah, Old Europe). And the next time that a European lectures an American on "acting like a Cowboy" in response to terror they should also be asked to pipe down.

No one is exceptional here. The terrorists are using violence to get what they want and their victims are fighting back. This is normal human behavior. The only question that should be asked is "what are they fighting for?" The Muslim who murdered Van Gogh was defending the mutilation of women by his culture. The Dutch soldiers deployed in Iraq are defending "freedom of thought" and even offering this very gift to their tormentors.

In memory of Theo Van Gogh, July 23, 1957 - November 2 2004.

Link to Theo's film, Submission. Thanks to Michael Totten and Harry's Place.

Sean: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, November 08, 2004
100,000 Dead Statistics

Almost like magic, just five days before the election, we began to hear tales of 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed by the US Army. These figures were then cited and recited and cited again. I doubt that they had much influence on the election, but this urban legend deserves investigation nonetheless. If true this level of "collateral damage" should cause a huge debate in civilized nations around the world. If these are inaccurate, or even lies, this should also be a topic of much concern.

This statistic comes from a survey conducted by John Hopkins, Columbia School of Nursing, and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Although these are all reputable sources, their methodology appears hopeless given the facts on the ground,. The survey group itself noted that their results needed to be "independently verified with a larger sample group" and called for "further confirmation by an independent body such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, or the World Health Organization".

The survey was conducted by unscientifically visiting several neighborhoods around Baghdad and other major cities. The researchers had "ideas" about which areas had been hardest hit and directed the survey teams accordingly. The data collectors then knocked on the doors of many houses as they could reach safely and asked how many deaths the families suffered this year and who they blamed.

About 10% of the households refused to participate. The others all claimed about twice as many deaths post-invasion, blamed them on US military action, and claimed that they were all women and children. The Sunni-Triangle, especially the terrorist stronghold of Falluja, claimed the most civilian deaths.

Out of nearly 1000 households the interviewers only asked for 78 death certificates, being provided with only 63. Of these households the interviewers either did not ask or could not verify how many people lived there or if this number was higher or lower during and after the war as opposed to before. Nor could they, or did they, determine the sympathies of those families either for or against Saddam or the US.

Several facts are certain and they throw the results of the entire survey into question. First, the total population figures for Iraq are of indeterminate accuracy. Saddam was famous for discounting non-Arab populations, like the Kurds, and inflating Arab numbers. Saddam was also famous for playing fast and loose with birth figures and infant mortality numbers. Therefore the base figures that the survey group used in their math are worthless.

Meanwhile this survey assumes both honesty and accuracy on the part of the families interviewed. This ignores anti-US sentiment or pro-Baathist allegiance. Also, Iraqis lived in a police state where people often disappeared from homes in the middle of the night... these people were either never registered as deceased or the families were too afraid to report the losses. Conversely they may now be encouraged to over report deaths as the US does not punish collectively and in fact often pays cash for a family's loss.

Lastly the idea that US helicopter gunship have been out hunting Iraqi women and children is patently absurd... "Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children," they said... "about 95 percent of those deaths [were] caused by bombs or fire from helicopter gun ships." And yet, "the researchers stressed that they found no evidence of improper conduct by the Coalition soldiers."

If 100,000 woman and children died accidentally, we can only wonder how many Iraqi soldiers and terrorists died on purpose (more). However, these claims come from a people who's "minister of information" famously denied US entry into Baghdad even as US tanks rolled past his cameras last year. These claims come from people ambulances to transport ammo and claim that every terrorist who shows up at hospital is a "civilian". These claims are pure propaganda (more).

The one truth that came out of this survey is the importance of gathering data both before, during, and after a conflict. "There is a real necessity for accurate monitoring of civilian deaths during combat situations. Otherwise it is impossible to know the extent of the problems civilians may be facing or how to protect them," explained study co-author Gilbert Burnham. The US military does not collect data of civilian casualties, presumably to protect itself from feeding the propaganda mills. However, in the absence of honest information, propaganda is all that we can expect.

Sean: Monday, November 08, 2004 [+] |
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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Teetering Part 2

Evidently America looks very different depending on the story you want to write, the axe you want to grind, or the electorate you want to arrouse.

Hat Tip: Michael Totten


Sean: Saturday, November 06, 2004 [+] |
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Thursday, November 04, 2004
Architecture Without Engineering


No mouldings, no frills, were permitted to distract one?s attention from true architectural values; the relations of wall to window, solid to void, volumes to space, block to block.
- Nikolas Pevsner

Before all else the wall must be shown naked in all its sleek beauty, and anything fixed on it must be shunned as embarrassment.
- H. P. Berlage

From Thomas Schumacher in The Skull and the Mask, Cornell Journal of Architecture Volume 3, 1988.


Schumacher explains that Modernists were greatly influenced by technological advances that freed them from constructive constraints while eventually dividing the profession into architects and engineers. Modernists were then left with only the most basic elements of building design, shapes (voids and masses) and light (and shadow and maybe color). There was no room for an artistically developed or meaningful façade.

The modern rejection of traditional arts and crafts was justified by their theorists and apologists as a rejection of unnecessary (presumably overly expensive) artifice. Traditional building vocabulary was formed and limited by construction requirements that no longer existed. Additionally they argued that past styles and orders were restrictively beholden to societal pressures.

Despite the rhetoric summarized above, Schumacher identifies the professional divorce of engineering and architecture as being a primary motivator of the new zeitgeist. As he explains, when architects lost the logic of construction to the engineer he was left with out a ready "rationalization of his mission". The architect then turned to social theory and the behavioral effects of space and light manipulation in building.

The Post-Modernists, by contrast, Schumacher believes understand the void of meaning in the purely geometric and materialist creations of modernism. With out a new building vocabulary many Post-Modernists turned to historical forms as metaphors (such as the caryatids of HighPoint). They justify the displaced architectural elements as stand-ins for new forms as yet created. However, post-modernism most often comes across to non-architects as either clumsy and grasping, or even mockingly irreverent (of the historic forms they sample from). This may simply reflect ignorance in the general public of the goals and methods of post-modernism expression and discourse (but if a joke needs explaining...).

Technology and architecture appear to have failed in both their traditional and self-proclaimed missions of building quality inhabitable space and shaping behavior and thus reforming society (the most common effect to their big empty voids and planes is actually increased graffiti). The Modern Movement has been one of the longest running architectural styles (200 years as described by Schumacher) and yet it is still arguing with itself and its clients (most civilians express "hatred" of most modern buildings, even the great Twin Towers received an ambivalent adieu after 9-11) regarding both its mission and its ability to serve that ideal.

Some architect/engineers such as Santiago Calatrava are attempting to reconstitute the profession by reintegrating the fields of engineering and architecture. Calatrava usually escapes criticism for applying ornamental skins to his structures (such as the pylon of the Alamillo Bridge in Seville). Perhaps it is because many critics assume that these details are technical elements (indeed the skin was suggested by the construction foreman). Schumacher's most convincing argument then, whether or not he intended it, is that maybe only an engineer can get away with making successful architecture today.

Sean: Thursday, November 04, 2004 [+] |
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I Dont Wanna Hear It...

I am going to return to school in the People's Republic of Eugene tomorrow and hear a bunch of sour grapes about Bush winning. Kids too young to even have a grandparent who served in WWII will tell me that we are heading to a Nazi police state and complain that Bush stole the election again to steal more Iraqi oil. Whatever.

How do people vote Democrats into every state office and then vote for a measure limiting civil rights for gay people, a meassure that destroys urban planning (and environmental regulations), and a measure capping medical malpractice damages? And then vote against protecting the forests, against expanding medical marijuana, and against abolishing a scandal ridden insurance company. Compassionate Conservative? How about just compassionate Liberals? I don't know the Democrats anymore if this is what people who vote for them stand for.

Cry me a river.

Sean: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 [+] |
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Teeteringly Divided

Once again the CNN county by county map reveals that in each state you could draw a circle around any metropolitan area with more than 200k people and call it for Kerry and the rest (the rural areas) for Bush.

Last election year USA Today asked: "What does this mean? Are we 'deeply divided'?"

In both elections the presidential race was won by less than a million votes out of nearly 150 million registered voters. We are certainly evenly divided.

NPR claimed that those who worried more about values tended to vote for the GOP while those who worried more about the jobs voted for the Democrats. All voters cared about both issues, but in some states the economy was more dire and thus voting for jobs won out by a small margin.

If each state is a mixed bag of blue counties and red counties, and each of these counties teetered on the edge of voting for either candidate, then maybe Americans have more in common than they think, no matter who they voted for.

Sean: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 [+] |
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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Midnight Pacific, W Wins it.



CNN predicts W will win Floriday.

Fox news has Bush at 269 electoral votes to Kerry's 242. That means that it is not statisticaly possible for Kerry to win. He could tie, but then a GOP controlled house would hand it to W anyway. So, there it is. It is over.

Sean: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 [+] |
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Monday, November 01, 2004
Fisking The Ballot

This year Oregon goes to the polls to do our legislature's job for them, so they can avoid any controvesy and get reelected... to not do anything, so that they can...

Measure 31 - Amends Constitution to allow the postponement of elections when a nominee dies... this is purely a housekeeping measure with no harm in voting yes.

Measure 32 - Amends Constitution to reclassify mobile homes as houses, instead of cars. The truth is that mobiles are not "houses". They may not be cars either. But I am inclined to continue to categorize mobiles as "non-homes" in case too many people get to used to these contraptions.

Measure 33 - Amends Constitution, and the Medical Marijuana Act, to raise the possession limit and allow authorized "dealers". I don't care about pot, per se. But, if we give people too much freedom on the drug issue somebody (the Feds) might come along and take it all away from them. Even the Libertarians are (reluctantly) against this measure, so it must not be all that it appears.

Measure 34 - Amends Constitution to require balancing timber harvests with environmental protections. From the statements for and against it I figure it increases environmental protections and cuts production. That would be fine by me. I don't believe that this state can, or should, rely on timber harvests to support our economy or tax basis. We need to diversify. Meanwhile, we only have the one planet and she needs protection from... us.

Measure 35 - Amends Constitution to limit damages for pain and suffering caused by a healthcare provider (or insurance company) for negligence or recklessness. This one is a pure sucker punch to the little guy. The only people looking out for these victims here are the juries, it sure wasn't the doctor and their insurance company. These folks only feel big fines, so limiting them is the same as eliminating them - and who wants that?

Measure 36 - Amends Constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman. Marriage is essentially a religious sanction of an economic relationship. I don't know why the State should have anything to do with it. We should let the churches decide whether to honor a particular arrangement. If the state wants to regulate hospital visitation and tax benefits then they better keep these rights open to all people, of any sex or race, or they will (should) run afoul of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Measure 37 - Forces governments to pay property owners when regulations lower property values. Supposedly this bill is about "fairness". But it is really an attempt to end land use planning and regulation state-wide. Those regulations are there to protect all of us. They stop pig farms and nickel smelters in your neighborhoods, let alone porn shops and gun clubs near your schools, they also protect farms and forests from runaway development and sprawl. This measure is a giveaway to out-of-state land speculators. Don't be fooled.

Measure 38 - Abolishes SAIF. SAIF was created back in 1965 as a last resort source of accident liability insurance for businesses after the state bassed a law requiring such insurance. Under the current system any business is allowed, to seek a private insurer. However, if no private insurer will cover them a business may turn to SAIF for such insurance. Usually the premiums are less and the coverage much better. However, occasional stories of rejection, abuse, or executive scandal have made SAIF a target of the anti-government crowd. We don't need to abolish SAIF, but we do need to clean it up.

More than half these measures amend our state Constitution. Half of them only made it due to the work of paid signature gatherers, half of whom may go to jail this year for fraud. The rest of us didn't even know these issues were on the table until last month. We don't have the time or interest to keep up... and we shouldn't have to. We have representative government for a reason. They are our paid experts, our consultants, our representatives. Passing these bills was supposed to be their job. We need a ballot initiative to roll back this initiative process.

Sean: Monday, November 01, 2004 [+] |
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Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere