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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Friday, August 19, 2005

Begging For An Interview

Casey Sheehan was a member of the 1st Armored Cavalry Division out of Vacaville, CA. He was killed in action on April 4, 2004 in Baghdad, Iraq. He had only been in Iraq for two weeks, although this was his second enlistment at 24 years old. Although his mother saw Iraq as another Vietnam and offered sneak him into Canada, Casey told her that going was his duty. And although his mother wanted him to reenlist as a Chaplain's assistant, Casey volunteered for combat duty, specifically a dangerous rescue mission to save his "chief" who was in a convoy trapped in Sadr City by militants.

When her son died Cindy received the infamous letter from his CO. She also met with President Bush briefly at Ft. Lewis in Washington two months later. At the time she described President Bush as sincere in his desire to bring freedom to Iraq and truly saddened by the death of her son.

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith." -Vacaville Reporter

Over the next year Cindy changed her tune. She says that Bush didn't seem to know her son personally and never used his name when talking to her. She also says that recent "evidence" that Bush's war was based on lies has turned her against the Whitehouse. For the last several weeks she has set up camp outside President Bush's Crawford ranch "begging for an interview" so that Bush can "explain why her son died". Many people don't understand why Bush wont meet and hear her tragic story. But this isn't a case of personal woe and a mean old Commander and Chief, this is a story about politics and misinformation.

The death of Cindy Sheehan's son in the line of duty is sad, but it is not a "tragedy". As the mother of a slain soldier she deserves a letter of condolence from the President (and maybe even a visit). And as a citizen of the United States she deserves the right to question her government's policy. But she has already had her letter and her meeting with the President (in June 2004) and her questions should have no more (or less) freight than those of any other bystander or armchair general, nor should her questions and claims be above criticism.

Cindy Sheehan believes that the war in Iraq is about oil and was fought at the behest of Neocons in the service of Israel. She thinks that the President never intended for Iraq to have elections, but that this idea came from the Iraqi cleric Ali Sistani. She believes that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 because most of the hijackers were Saudi and she thinks that the 9/11 Commission proved there was no connection. And she believes that Americans would never go to war just to free another people, but only out of fear of an eminent threat. She has other criticisms as well, more specific to the battle her son died in, more on these later.

First, the idea that this war is about oil is a little silly. Damage to the oil fields, refineries, and pipelines since the war began has actually decreased Iraqi oil exports. Iraqi oil production peaked in December 1979 at 3.7 million bbl/d and then was at 2.58 million bbl/d in January 2003 just prior to the invasion. As of May 2005 Iraqi production is just under 1.9 million bbl/d with the majority of exports going to Asia and Europe, as we had to promise the other world powers before the invasion.

Secondly, the idea that the war was fought for the benefit of Israel is also nonsense. In the 1991 Gulf War Israeli cities suffered scud missile attacks and Saddam promised more in any second conflict. However, by 2003 polls showed that most Israelis were more worried about the missiles of Syria and Iran. In fact, Israel has long proved that it is perfectly adept at defending itself, repelling six Arab invasions and destroying Saddam's nuclear weapons lab in 1981. The only way toppling Saddam would benefit Israel would be by removing ONE source of payment for Palestinian bombers (although both Saudi Arabia and Iran paid much higher bounties).

The claim that Ali Sistani, not President Bush, came up with the idea of national elections in Iraq is also illinformed. Ali Sistani's claim to fame was that in March of 2003 he rejected the Bush plan to hold regional caucuses to draft a new constitution before holding nationwide elections for an assembly. Sistani rejected the idea that it was too dangerous to hold elections in much of the country or that voter rolls were incomplete and he demanded elections even with out UN oversight. While I agree with his sentiments I think he was rushing things needlessly.

President Bush had plans for a constitutional democracy in Iraq since he first began calling for regime change. Condi Rice, as Nat Sec Advisor, was quoted in the Financial Times in Sep of 2002 saying that the US would be "completely devoted to reconstructing Iraq as a unified, democratic state". And also in Sep of 2002 the Washington Post quoted Colin Powell, as Sec of State, assuring the world that a post Saddam Iraq would be defined by "Iraqis governing in a democratic fashion". And in October of 2002 President Bush explicitly stated that the US planned to liberate and not conquer Iraq.

We should remember that the Democrats, under President Clinton,also called for regime change and democracy in Iraq. In fact, Al Gore backed the overthrow of Saddam back in 2000. The idea of democracy for the Middle East, as a way of increasing security for other democracies in the world (such as the US and Israel) has long roots in Washington, that it took Neocons (and ones with Jewish names) to finally win the call to action is a bit irrelevant.

The claim that war with Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 because the hijackers were Saudis is another misconception. Yes, most of the hijackers were born in Saudi Arabia. However, most had lived for a long time in Europe and the US. The most important common tie was that they were Muslims, like Saddam (he converted on the battlefield in 1991), and they hated the US, like Saddam. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was lead by Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani cleric who held an Iraqi (Iranian and Pakistani) passport (with Egyptian, Yemeni, and Jordanian accomplices). This followed threats from Saddam to turn "every Iraqi into a missile" when he tired of UN sanctions. We also know that the Czech security services still claim that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 2001 WTC attack, met with Iraqi security services in Prague just weeks prior to 9/11. Meanwhile, that the 9/11 Commission did not find any evidence of a connection does not mean that none exists to be found.

And finally the claim that the US people would never go to war to help others with out an eminent threat is a bit problematic. We sent a million men to die in Europe in WWI and WWII. We fought to liberate the Philippines in 1899, Korea in 1950, and Vietnam in the 1960's. One could say that in each of these wars there was a threat to US security, or at least a military provocation (the destruction of the USS Maine or the Gulf of Tonkin incident), was present. However, it is about as likely that the Koreans would have invaded Los Angeles as Saddam to invade New York. A similar point can be made about Somalia or Kosovo. Occasionally it appears that Americans DO support military intervention for purely humanitarian reasons.

Cindy does have valid complaints in the area with which she has some actual insight - her son's death.

She notes that her son's unit, the 2-5 Cavalry, was given open desert training but her son was killed in an urban guerilla attack.

She complains that he was wearing an inadequate helmet and a Vietnam era flak jacket while other soldiers were issued Kevlar body armor.

She says that her son was not ready for combat duty after sleeping in the back of his Humvee for 2 weeks because there wasn't room for him to have a cot.

And she claims that the troops he went out to rescue got into trouble because they were without tanks and Bradleys and had to go into battle in non-armored Humvees.

She then claims that he son's death was ultimately the responsibility of Paul Bremer because he took away the Sadr militia's tv station and newspapers and that "it was well known by the Iraqi people that their citizens were being tortured and defiled in the [US run] prisons".

The critique of equipment and tactics can probably be answered simply enough... the convoy was on a routine trip (thus no tanks or Bradleys) when they encountered gunfire in a Baghdad suburb, thinking it was a "lone gunman" their commander decided to detain the man, and when they stopped they were attacked in a pre-planned ambush by Iranian backed militants. When Casey volunteered to go rescue his chief mechanic his lack of sleep became irrelevant (although his CO did try to talk him out of it). He went out with out a proper helmet or flak jacket because he was a mechanic in an urban base (again his CO tried to talk him out of it). Meanwhile, although he died, Casey's mission was a success and his family was presented with his bronze star.

We should always assume that the enemy has a grievance against our government, people, and army. However, soldiers in the US military volunteer to enforce the decisions of their elected civilian leaders and their appointed members of government, whether or not they (or their mom's) agree with them. Bremer was doing his job when he closed the militia's media connections and he was unaware (as were Iraqi civilians) of any wrong doing in US military prisons. And Cindy's son was doing his job when he put his life on the line to uphold this policy. If you have a problem with the policy you can work to elect someone else (something Iraqis couldn't do under Saddam), which Cindy Sheehan is doing, in a way, in Crawford.

Sean: Friday, August 19, 2005 [+] |
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