Sean LaFreniere

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

 

Conservative:

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

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

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

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

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

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

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

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

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

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

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reactionary:

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

 

Radical:

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

 

The Right:

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

 

The Left:

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

 

Capitol Goods:

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

 

Capitalism:

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

 

Socialism:

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

 

Communism:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Democracy:

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

 

Republic:

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

 

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

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

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

 

Fascism:

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

 
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Military Matters

A story by David Pace of the AP today investigates the current practice of marking soldier's headstones with the name of the campaign in which they died. Critics of today's war see the words "Operation Enduring Freedom" and call a political foul on the Bush administration.

Prior to 1997 grave markers were purely utilitarian and anything beyond name, rank, service, and dates was paid for by the family. However, under the Clinton administration the government began paying for whatever the family wished.

Perhaps as a cost saving measure the government didn't make a habit of telling families that they could ask for more frills on grave markers, but this changed with the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The charge of politics might have begun when the Pentagon named the 1989 invasion of Panama "Operation Just Cause" and initiated a trend of naming operations "with an eye toward shaping domestic and international perceptions about the activities they describe."

I suppose calling a conflict "Blazing Sword" is just too provocative for today's military.



Edward Epstein covers the story of San Francisco's rejection of the historic battleship Iowa in an 8-3 vote on Tuesday.

City supervisors said their vote was a protest against the military's policy against service by gays and lesbians. They also cited local disfavor of the current war on terror and the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last, and perhaps least, they cited the cost of operating the ship as a museum.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, secured $3 million several years ago to move the decommissioned ship to California and the Port of Stockton, in the northern bay, plans to donate 1,000 feet of dock space for the ship, along with a 90,000-square-foot building for a museum and 10 acres of land for parking.

Financial concern is the only appropriate worry here. The museum would honor those who died in WWII - a conflict that even a hippy vegan can usually support (how did the Nazis feel about tofu?). Making political hay out of such a memorial is in poor taste and is not very effective on nation-wide issues.



While war critics worry about the appearance of gravestones or museums, a city in Connecticut fights to keep its sub base, a mainstay of the town of Groton since 1872.

Groton is one of three submarine bases on the east coast and the Navy argues that this many bases only made sense when they ran over 100 subs during the Cold War and closing the base would leave money in the budget for more high tech weapons. The US hasn't fought a war in North America since the end of the 19th century and off shore bases closer to the world's hot spots makes more financial sense.

However, arguably the most important role of military bases on the mainland is that it connects the soldiers to their civilian customers. Since WWII every sub commander and every admiral in the Navy has served some time in Groton, even President Jimmy Carter (who was from Georgia). And the city notes that over 12,000 jobs would be lost in a town of only 39k - the economy and the character of the town would be deeply damaged.

States with a deep connection to the nation's history and character often have the most bases and having lots of bases might either reflect or increase (or both) the ability of a state to pull in federal dollars. Only seven states are currently with out a listed military base (Oregon, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Indiana, and Iowa).

Portland, Oregon's 939th Rescue Wing and the 142nd Fighter Wing, stationed on a corner of busy PDX airport, are also being reviewed for closure. The Pave Hawk helicopters are currently used to search and rescue lost or injured climbers and campers as far away as Mt. Rainier in Washington state. The F-15 Eagle jets offer the only air defense for Oregon and Washington states (consider the need to assist or intercept a private or commercial plane in trouble over Portland or Seattle).

Without the air wings Oregon will be left with only the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot in the remote eastern desert. When the military thinks of Oregon they may only see a recruiting ground and a munitions waste basket. While Oregon may not feel future conflicts or the benefits of peace in the same way.

Although today the Oregon Nat'l Guard is the most deployed reserve unit they may have to serve at a base in another state. The average citizen could find that wars are fought by other people and freedom and prosperity might seem like rights rather than hard won privileges.

Meanwhile, with out a major sports franchise (do the Blazer's count?), university, hospital, corporation, or military facility Oregon's national footprint will shrink - the larger nation will mean less to Oregon and Oregon will matter less to the nation.

Sean: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 [+] |
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