Sean LaFreniere

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



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

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

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

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

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



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

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

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

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

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

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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


The Right:

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


The Left:

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


Capitol Goods:

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



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



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



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


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

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

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

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

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



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



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


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

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

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



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

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Liberal Embarassment

Tom Friedman and a NY Times editorial really step in it today. Here are two posts from the Times claiming that the democracy argument came after the WMD argument for the war in Iraq. But we know this is not historicaly accurate.

Come on guys, you have to wait at least 10 years before rewriting history because some of us still remember it, or at least Google does. As Glen reminded us all...

Bringing democracy to Iraq was also stated as one of the reasons for going to war in the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use military
force against Iraq. (Link)

Roger Simon explains the whitewashing thusly... "What I think is really going on here is liberal embarrassment. They have been caught on the wrong side of history. Worse, the anti-idealistic side."


Sean: Wednesday, April 27, 2005 [+] |
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
100,000 Dead Statistics

A reprint because this issue has come up again lately...

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 as 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, specifically 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 did they try to 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 (actually suggested in this report) 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 who use ambulances to transport ammo and then 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.

UPDATE: "The government supports an estimate from Iraq's Ministry of Health that 3,853 civilians were killed and 15,517 injured between April and October this year, Straw said in a statement. Those figures may include insurgents."

Sean: Tuesday, April 26, 2005 [+] |
Sunday, April 24, 2005

You might have missed the news last week that the NYSE is going public. That's right, the stock market is going to list itself. Under the terms of the deal a Chicago holding company will own the largest single block (30%) of the new company's new shares (a real coup for America's "Second City") but the company will remain headquartered in NY City. Evidently there is a precedent for this kind of move as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange itself went public in December of 2002.

Sean: Sunday, April 24, 2005 [+] |
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Habemus Papam!

CNN reports that Catholics have elected a new man to lead their church. Which seems to beg two rather obvious questions... how "holy" can the man be if he is elected and why cant an organization that itself utilizes democracy get more solidly behind spreading that political system around the world?

Many Catholics were hoping that the Cardinals would make a bold choice for a Third World leader, someone who might help grow the church while at the same time adapting to the needs of a modern Liberal world. But Benedict was not that choice.

"Pope Benedict's well-known stands include the assertion that Catholicism is "true" and other religions are "deficient"; that the modern, secular world, especially in Europe, is spiritually weak; and that Catholicism is in competition with Islam. He has also strongly opposed homosexuality, women as priests and stem cell research." - Quote

Benedict was a German soldier-boy in WWII who defended a BMW plant (making engines for the Luftwaffe airforce). He deserted (to his credit?) towards the end of the war but was still rounded up as a soldier-aged youth when Germany fell to the Allies. In his memoirs he resentfully noted that the American GI's took photos of the vanquished German army - so at least he is instep with current anti-Americanism.

Electing a Pope who was formerly the head of the Holy Inquisition, the man in charge of "disciplining heretics", is hardly a strong show of continuing John Paul's attempts to reach out to the world, to other faiths, and to begin to make amends for past injustices.

This Pope is publicly against both Charismatic Catholicism (which attempts to bring a little song and dance back to the church) and Liberation Theology (the political philosophy behind Latin American revolutions by the poor against their Euro-imperialist overlords). Nor is it likely to bring Sister Europe back into the fold.

"They still think they have the truth and that their truth must be imposed on everyone," said Didier Vanhoutte, former president of the Fédération des Reseaux du Parvis, an umbrella organization of 41 Catholic reform movements across Europe. "They haven't accepted the limits of their power. They have to get closer to the people by accepting a certain degree of poverty and, certainly, humility." - Quote

After nearly 30 years of relative progress in the 20th century the Catholic Church is now going to get in touch with its 15th century roots. Which is not a great start to the 21st century for the Mother Church of Western Civilization.

On the other hand, as an "area priest" was quoted in our local paper, "We don't know that much about [Pope Benedict XVI] until he gets into the job." So, let's wait and see what the CEO of the Catholic Church will actually do over the next spiritual quarter.

Sean: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 [+] |
Friday, April 15, 2005
Of Mortars and Boobahs

Check out this blog by a National Guard soldier in Afghanistan. His Ten Rules For Care Packages is "the most important document to come from Afghanistan since the Bible".

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Sean: Friday, April 15, 2005 [+] |
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Unrest In China

Publius Pundit tells us that the Chinese are protesting in cities wide and far.

Thomas Lifson at American Thinker has an important item out about growing unrest in China. Huge riots are occurring, not just in the remote, impoverished west, but now in the wealthier coastal cities. At issue is corruption and impunity. And with the rise of mass communications and Internet connectivity, Chinese expectations about governance are rising. A billion people are getting sick of all the corruption and oppression they see around them.

Is it possible that W's democracy epedemic might spread all the way to China?

The Chinese Threat - lately.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Sean: Thursday, April 14, 2005 [+] |
Friday, April 08, 2005
Right To Life?

If the facts are correct this case should earn a Congressional hearing, no?

Two weeks ago, Magouirk's aorta had a dissection, and she was hospitalized in the local LaGrange Hospital. Her aortic problem was determined to be severe, and she was admitted to the intensive care unit. At the time of her admission she was lucid and had never been diagnosed with dementia.

In her living will, Magouirk stated that fluids and nourishment were to be withheld only if she were either comatose or "vegetative," and she is neither. Nor is she terminally ill, which is generally a requirement for admission to a hospice.

Also upon Gaddy's request and without prior legal authority, since March 28 Hospice-LaGrange has denied Magouirk normal nourishment or fluids via a feeding tube through her nose or fluids via an IV. She has been kept sedated with morphine and ativan, a powerful tranquillizer.

Her nephew, Ken Mullinax, told WorldNetDaily that although Magouirk is given morphine and ativan, she has not received any medication to keep her eyes lubricated during her forced dehydration.

This case is even more important than that of Terri Schiavo because:

Ron Panzer, president and founder of Hospice Patients Alliance, a patients' rights advocacy group based in Michigan, told WND that what is happening to Magouirk is not at all unusual.

"This is happening in hospices all over the country," he said. "Patients who are not dying – are not terminal – are admitted [to hospice] and the hospice will say they are terminally ill even if they're not. There are thousands of cases like this. Patients are given morphine and ativan to sedate them. If feeding is withheld, they die within 10 days to two weeks. It's really just a form of euthanasia."

Hat tip to Megan McArdle and Instapundit.

Sean: Friday, April 08, 2005 [+] |
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Totten In Lebanon

Blogger Michael Totten is in Beruit to cover the democracy movement. Check out his blogging amongst the "guest blogging" on his webpage here. Donate to the movement here.

Sean: Tuesday, April 05, 2005 [+] |
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Nationalism and Racism

Many people have the preconception that the United States has a problem with racism. This is largely because we air our dirty laundry in full public view. However, we should keep in mind that no other nation on Earth has doubled its population every 50 years through massive immigration and few could withstand this cultural friction with out a great deal more blood shed and even civil collapse. Read more here.

England is still having problems with African and Aisian immigrants more than 50 years after the end of its imperial era. After race riots in Bradford the Home Secretary commissioned a study of immigration issues. They concluded that, as a historically racially homogenous island nation the English are naturally resistant to newcomers and rarely give nonwhite citizens acceptance as "truly English". Read more here.

Japan, another racially homogenous island nation, even has two alphabets (actually three if you count our Roman letters) one for all things, and people, "Japanese" and one for all things foreign, including any Japanese who has lived for even a brief stay anywhere other than the home islands. And people of mixed ethnicity may never be truly accepted. Read more here.

Even continental nations of supposed ethnic diversity have their own problems with immigrants. France has never assimilated millions of Arabs from their old colony of Algiers. Paris is now ringed with Muslim suburbs so dangerous that the police will not enter with out military backup. Read more here.

African nations have endured seemingly endless civil wars as one race murders and removes another. In the Sudan Arabs are ethnically cleansing their black African neighbors. In Nigeria Muslims and Christians murder each other in a seesaw motion. And the most developed nation, South Africa, is still investigating the "truth" of the Apartheid era. Read more here.

In most countries immigration is still largely a tribal power struggle over economic benefits. The truth is that Turkish immigrants to Germany do not want to become German, they just want economic opportunity, and the Germans don't want them to ever feel at home, they just want them to do their "dirty jobs". In this context the roots of racism everywhere are revealed. Read more here.

America's most talked about "race problems", such as inner city violence and minorities in prison, are actually issues of urbanism and poverty that effect people in any nation. These problems can be largely resolved by reforming social services, education programs, and criminal justice systems to be simply "better" rather than making them racially focused. The British Home Secretary called the US a benchmark and model of immigrant assimilation. At least in the US we want immigrants to "fit in". Read more here.


Update: responding to a comment about past racism against Irish, Italians, and Chinese I would reply thusly...

Hey, I'm an "Irish-American". I do NOT discount that the US has responded to newcomers with defensive (and 'offensive') racism. But that racism is only "skin deep".

Once Italians, Irish, and even Chinese adopted [some of] the customs, dress, and educational/economic norms of the general population they were accepted and even celebrated in short order [in fact many individuals have actually retained many customs and costumes from home and are accepted anyway].

San Francisco is quite proud of its Chinatown, the Italians of New York and Chicago are the stuff of movies from the Godfather to Moonstruck, and the Irish have practically run Boston for 200 years and even got one of their own into the White House.

This "storybook success" can not be matched in Europe where racial tensions are always at a quiet boil. The recent murder of Theo Van Gogh and the violent backlash against Muslims in Denmark is a perfect example. In Japan "foreigners" cannot hold government jobs even if they were born to a Japanese parent and have lived in Japan all their lives.

The main difference between the US and Europe is that the US worries about race relations all the time. We are constantly examining ourselves, in public, and trying to improve our assimilation of newcomers.

And it largely works.... Europeans and Asians are now well accepted in the main stream of America while Latino immigration is relatively new and has not slowed down enough for assimilation as yet.

As an Irish-American I do not feel "discriminated against" and the jokes about drinking and fighting are annoying, but I probably don't help matters much by being a quarrelsome drunk myself. ;)

These stereotypical "tags" are probably an element of human nature that we will never get around. Humans like "branding" whether it be toothpaste or their neighbors.

The question is whether the public image of your group marks you as an outsider and hurts your chances of getting a job or if that image is considered "ethnic flare" and helps you get a date (consider a man with a French or Irish accent).

In Europe you will always be an outsider unless you look like the local ethnic group, have their last names, and speak their language (not to mention share either atheism or light Protestantism with the locals).

In America you can keep your swarthy skin tone, your Genoese last name, and your strict Catholicism and still "assimilate".

In Europe the problem is that the locals don't want you to get too comfortable, while in the US we cant wait for you to become settle down and become "one of us".


Sean: Saturday, April 02, 2005 [+] |

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