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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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Iraqi Debate: WMD Update #228

If you google for "Iraq mobile weapons lab" the first hit you get is a June 2003 article from the Guardian that triumphally torpedoes previous news that WMD production facilities had finally been found in Iraq.

"Tony Blair faces a fresh crisis over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, as evidence emerges that two vehicles that he has repeatedly claimed to be Iraqi mobile biological warfare production units are nothing of the sort. Instead The Observer has established that it is increasingly likely that the units were designed to be used for hydrogen production to fill artillery balloons, part of a system originally sold to Saddam by Britain in 1987."

This article tries to reverse the support for the war that finding mobile weapons labs might have given the British and US governments. They refer to "investigations and reports" by the government, but ultimately rely upon only their own guess work to publish as "fact" their refutation of the government's claims.

However, the very next hit on google gives you an October 2004 article collected by WorldNet that disputes the Guardian directly.

"A trailer found by the U.S. in Northern Iraq last year likely was used by Saddam Hussein's regime as a mobile biological weapons laboratory, and not to fill hydrogen balloons as some in Britain and the U.S. have charged, a view supported by exclusive photos obtained by WorldNetDaily that for the first time offer inside views of the trailer components."

This reporter notes that initial tests for biological agents in these trucks came back negative (a "smoking gun" of refutation for the Guardian) because they had been carefully disinfected with strong chemical cleaners (a suspicious finding all on its own).

"They found the entire mobile unit had been thoroughly cleansed and decontaminated with a strong caustic agent that rid the trailer of traces of whatever material had been produced."

Fine, what about the Guardian's claim that the equipment inside was not suitable for WMD production, but was instead merely used to fill hydrogen balloons?

"The images show a large fermenter, several cylinders to supply clean air for production, canisters to "feed" biological agents, industrial heating machines and a system to capture and compress exhaust gas to eliminate traces of residue - a function not normally used for legitimate biological processes and certainly not for hydrogen production, analysts told WorldNetDaily."

Meanwhile we have evidence from Iraqis themselves who support the conclusion that these are WMD labs.

"Iraqi defectors have reportedly told the U.S. that an accident on a similar trailer killed 12 during a production run in 1998. The incident, a report says, shows "Iraq was producing [biological-weapons] agent at that time." The Iraqis later altered the design, installing the heating and cooling system visible in the photos to prevent overheating, an analyst said."

Many people don't realize that the CIA, The State Department, and perhaps even NPR are run on the Cold War rules of "realpoltik" which holds that the enemy you know is better than the one that you do not and "he may be a bastard, but he's our bastard". This is the worldview that allowed us to support Pinochet over Allende and Saddam over the Ayatollah. It isn't pretty, or particularly moral, but it makes strategic sense, which is what these agencies care about.

Meanwhile groups like the British Foreign Office and the BBC see the role of their nation as one of spiritual and political uplift of less "civilized" nations. In this worldview India and Pakistan were two sides of the same coin, one good, one not so good. They see nations like Iraq and Iran not as enemies, but as potential customers.

These groups never wanted us to invade Iraq. Not because they cared much about "collateral damage" or the breakdown of civil order, but rather because it upset their maps and policies. Without Saddam Hussein they had to start over arraigning the puzzle pieces.

Whenever news comes in that supports the executive branch's decision to go to war these government "renegades" are more than happy to give a contrary quote to reporters. Therefore many people only need to read one article deep to find support for their "anti-war" views [as if everyone isn't opposed to war]. And this is how "memes" such as "there never were any WMD's in Iraq" or "there is no connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein" get started.

The same realpoltic that runs the State Department or the Foreign Office can easily resolve these wrongheaded memes. Iraq, Iran, and North Korea all believed that they were on the US short list for "regime change". Each of these nation's leaders believed that possessing WMD would secure them from the threat of either internal or external revolution.

From 1991 to the present all three nations actively pursued WMD. All three tried to hide their efforts while playing the US, the EU, and the UN for time and donations. Since Saddam's ouster in 2003 Iran and North Korea have gone public with their pursuit of WMD in the hope that the mere possibility of possession may save them from Saddam's fate.

Did Saddam have WMD? We know that he did during the 1980's war with Iran, we know that he did when he gassed the Kurds in 1991, and we know that he was actively circumventing UN sanctions to continue his nuclear program until the defection of his top scientist in 1998. As late as 2001 the UN was itself condemning Saddam's failure to comply with inspections. And by 2003 the worldwide left was fed up with the sanctions which were the only thing stopping full resumption of Iraq's WMD programs. The idea that we could have avoided war and still guaranteed that Iraq would not join India and Pakistan in the WMD club is a fantasy.

The "fact" that we have yet to find WMD evidence is both untrue and beside the point. Iraq is a nation the size of California with a comparable population and police force (as compared to Coalition and new Iraqi forces) and California cannot find or stop marijuana growers, meth labs, or neighborhood drug dealers. However, the WMD justification for the 2003 invasion was only one plank in the platform.

The earliest arguments made by the Bushies and the NeoCons were that bringing democracy to the middle east would "drain the swamp" that grew terrorism... a direct and grudging response to 9-11. Prior to 1991 Bush said that he was against "nation building" by the West, including US involvement in the Israeli and Palestinian dispute, in fact he put all previous treaties and alliances "up for review". A move that set the agencies mentioned earlier, the CIA and the State Department, into an uproar of disapproval and helped draw the battle lines that we see in today's press coverage of the war and the occupation in Iraq (the entire "Rove Controversy" is a perfect example).

This leaves the rest of us to make up our own minds about these affairs. If the media, the CIA, and the President are not giving us "the whole truth" about the particulars... did the 9-11 bombers meet with Iraqi spies in Prague, did Saddam try to buy yellow cake from Niger, did we really find mobile weapons labs... then we have to decide whether to support actions like going to war against Saddam purely on larger principles rather than minute forensic evidence. So, which was better to let Saddam have unlimited access to cash from oil and WMD from cash, to keep UN trade sanctions that "killed hundreds of thousands of babies", or to finally finish the Gulf War and remove the worst despot in the world of 2003?

Sean: Tuesday, August 02, 2005 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere