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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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Judge Roberts Confirmation

The Senate confirmation hearing for the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court has taken over NPR this week. Listening has been both informative and a complete waste of time. The Democrats do not have the votes to stop the confirmation and can do little else than attempt to annoy Judge Roberts into doing or saying something that he shouldn't. And we are learning that Judge Roberts cannot be so easily disturbed.

John G. Roberts was born in Buffalo NY in 1955. He attended Harvard as an undergrad and as a law student and completed his education in 1979. From 1981-1982 he worked for Reagan's Atty General William French Smith. From 1982-1989 he worked as an assistant counsel to the Reagan administration and from 1989-1993 for the first Bush administration. Roberts also clerked for Judge Henry J. Friendly on the US Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit and for Justice William Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. Judge Roberts currently sits on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (bio from the Washington Post).

As a Supreme Court nominee Judge Roberts is a politically inspired choice for the second Bush administration. As a mere assistant to other lawyers and judges Roberts left behind little paperwork that might give the Democrats ammunition against him. As a foot soldier of the past Republican administrations they know that he is onboard their program. And it turns out that Roberts has a sort of telegenic power, if not charisma, even angry Democrats have been forced to admit that facing the grilling of the committee without notes for 11 hours straight shows a powerful, even borg-like, intellect.

Roberts is going to be confirmed; the Democrats simply do not have the votes to block it. Democrats come from the urban coasts and are immigrants, blue collar workers, and college students. These people have a varied personal history and a habit for thinking for themselves. They do not have a common vision of their political future and they do not march in step to the voting booths - and this makes them weak.

For the last decade the Republicans have been working to take over local and federal government and use it to remake society into the 1950's - the Golden Era of American power, security, and comfort. Beginning with Newt Gingrich's take over of Congress in 1994 the Republicans have been on a role and with the terror threat since 9/11 they have been unstoppable.

With control of both Congress and the Presidency they have only awaited a few deaths and resignations on the Supreme Court to gain control of all three branches of government. Judge Roberts is very young (by court standards) and will be the Chief Justice for many, many years. His nomination appears modest due to his cool demeanor, but it is a homerun for this administration and the Republican Party.

With unchallenged dominance of government we should expect to see the Republicans, shrewd political operators that they are, redraw voting districts to entrench their power, rewrite parliamentary rules within Congress to strengthen their hand (such as ending the filibuster, the last defense of the minority party), and overturn past court rulings that protected individual liberties and rights (such as Roe v Wade).

This Republican putsch will not actually remake the country into a quasi-Nazi Germany. Soldiers will not be goose-stepping down your local main street, newspapers will still publish stories critical of the President, and you will still be able to move about the country (and out of it) at will. But you will be living in Pleasantville, which some of you might actually enjoy.

We should keep in mind that the Republican Party actually serves big business, it only pays lip service to the religious right and social conservatives to mobilize their votes. So the primary result of Republican power will be the end of regulations that constrain corporate greed today, but they will trade these gifts for political acts that expand the influence of religious conservatives.

The Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the SEC, local PUD's and other regulatory bodies will be scrapped. We should expect to see the tax burden on corporations, already at a historic low, drop even further and there will be more tax cuts for the top income brackets. Meanwhile banks will be allowed to charge whatever fees they wish to the middle class and poor while they continue to offer America's richest citizens ways to cheat on their taxes. Alaska, the Rockies, the Gulf, and the coasts will be opened to unlimited oil exploration. Class action lawsuits, already gutted at the Federal level, will be made even more painless at the state level (probably by capping damages below the profit line of corporate malfeasance).

In many states where the Republicans hold a majority they will pass bans on abortion (allowable once Roe v Wade is gone), and vibrators and condoms will become scarce (as they are in Alabama today). The Pledge of Allegiance will keep its 1954 anti-communist addition of the words "under god" and will become mandatory in public schools - as will the English language. Biology classes will be changed to drop the scientific theory of evolution in favor of the religious story of creation. Gay people will be barred from marriage and the adoption of children, they may even be barred from certain jobs, and 19th century sex laws may be enforced to jail them or drive them out of these states. Churches will begin backing political candidates and funding ballot initiatives, while keeping their tax exempt status, and look for these churches to begin to merge into larger, more politically powerful blocs.

On the international scene we can expect the US to pull back from organizations that it does not control. If the UN cannot be reformed into the tool of American power that it was intended to be at its creation it will likely see less American money and continued pressure in the press over allegations of corruption and greed (from which it does truly suffer). Treaties will be reworked, bases opened around the globe, and more nations will join the British in the role of deputy global sheriffs. Meanwhile the French will continue to be mocked and ignored (as they richly deserve when selling banned weapons to rogue nations) as the EU crumbles into a seething mass of anti-Americanism. Terrorists will be hunted ruthlessly, but spawn continuously, which will give our military something to do for decades.

Not all these changes will win approval, even in the South, certainly NY and San Francisco will stay just the way they are. In fact, it may be in the interest of the corporate power class to see continued controversy and scandal regarding these very moves (the better to keep you distracted while they rob you blind). Therefore life probably wont make any drastic shifts anywhere. But slowly life might begin to feel a bit more black and white. Which should make it easier to accept the rulings of an unflappable Chief Justice Roberts on the Supreme Court. At any rate, resistance is futile.

Sean: Thursday, September 15, 2005 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere