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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Monday, January 31, 2005

New Dawn In Middle Earth

Iraq's first election is in the bag. Many more people turned out to vote and far fewer people died in the attempt than anyone expected. Ultimately what we all have discovered by this election is that Iraqis, just like anyone else, want democracy.

I have grown bone-weary of so-called Liberals claiming that "democracy is not for everyone", that a revolution cannot be "forced" on anyone, and even that "Arabs are not ready for democracy". Ultimately what these people seem to believe (and have even confirmed to me) is that democracy is not "the best form of government", that it is somehow "culturally relative".

These people are full of crap. What they would really say if you doped them up enough is that they don't feel that our capitalist system rewards them enough for their creativity and intelligence... and therefore they hate Republicans and George W. Bush (the ultimate symbol of a "smirking chimp" getting the ultimate "reward" while they get squat). They hate W so much that they are against freedom and democracy elsewhere if he is the one's proposing it. This is a morally bankrupt position, but all too common.

The truth is that no one has any "prior experience" with democracy. We all started out in a "state of nature" where the strong dominated the weak. One day several people got tired of it and together brought their local tyrant down. From then on they discussed things and agreed to them as a group.

Was this an improvement? Some of our 1970's educated cultural relativist pundits would say "no". But that is simply a case of it taking really smart people to be phenomenally stupid. The correct answer is "Yes" voting on issues rather than letting the toughest thug make the decision for everyone is better.

Some might say that democracy is not the most "effective" and claim that "at least under Hitler the trains ran on time" - which is not even true. Victor Davis Hansen has made a career out of pointing out the opposite... time and again democracies defeat their rivals and "win" both economically and militarily. Today the "hyper power" of the US should prove this point beyond argument.

To point out that American voter turn out is low, that minorities have trouble voting, or that sometimes there is fraud in the outback is to prove the point... people don't even feel threatened enough to mob the polls, minorities can vote (as opposed to Saddam's Iraq where they were gassed to death), and even the most backward parts of the country share in the process.

The complaints above do not disprove that democracy is the best form of government, rather they show that it is hard to achieve. And it should be no surprise. No one is born with a ballot in their hands, democracy, indeed just like civilization itself, is not something we are born with, but something that we attain... often with help.

The American colonies only achieved their independence with the help of the French... King... who cared nothing for democracy but only wanted to embarrass the rival British. The colonies, by the way, were run by landed gentry who ruled white and black slaves and dominated a people culturally born of religious extremist refugees. The support of Louis XVI was not wholly to his benefit either, in the long run he was deposed in the name of democracy as well (never mind the years of chaos, the Terror, Napoleon, or the Restoration... today the French are free, right?).

Democracy is the only just form of government, it is the most effective, and it is the most costly. It does not spring fully formed from the foreheads of people with "prior experience" or from proven secular heretics. In fact, it can be achieved by religious nuts (like the New England patriots) or from the hands of a benefactor (even the Sun King). And on Sunday the people of Iraq defied death to claim their own liberal democratic future (there are no guarantees, either for them or for us, democracy must be continually earned and defended).

Sean: Monday, January 31, 2005 [+] |
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Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Michael Totten Editing Iraqi Election News

Michael Totten has taken on the responsibility of presenting English translations of Iraqi election news as reported by Iraqis on the ground. Visit this site, link it, and pass along the word. Democracy is comming...

Sean: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 [+] |
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Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Germans Improve Suicide Bombing

Fark pointed me to this article regarding a "new VW add".

I find this a HUGE improvement over past suicide bombing. This way you still get all the attention of the bombing, and the moral imprimatur of the suicide, but no strewn bits of nanny and pram. Here's to a successful export campaign.

If we cant export democracy, at least maybe we can export Polos.

What is the moral impact of a true suicide bombing on the logic behind the (multiple)homocide/suicides. Discuss.

Sean: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 [+] |
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Monday, January 24, 2005
Roger "P" Simon

The new "P" is for prolific. The man has been posting faster than I can read him (among the zillion other Blogs Of Note). And now he has two free software downloads that are worth their links in gold. Thanks Roger.


Sean: Monday, January 24, 2005 [+] |
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Thursday, January 20, 2005
Log Cabin Republican?

Andrew Sullivan, together with C.A. Tripp, author of "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln," makes a pretty compelling case that President Abraham Lincoln was gay.

Why does this matter? Well, it appears to matter to conservative Christian Republicans, for obvious reasons, and to homosexuals of all political persuasions, for equally obvious reasons. But it just might have relevance to us all.

The Republican party was founded in a Wisconsin school house in 1854 by white women, who could not vote, in their efforts for black men (and women) who could not live free. That they were led in this effort by a gay lawyer who could not love free or live openly seems appropriate to the level of poetry.

Sean: Thursday, January 20, 2005 [+] |
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Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Libraries of the Future

I am interested in the future of the library as a place while the idea of the library itself undergoes a major transformation as the nature of books themselves evolve. The once fictional idea of books with out paper, hyperbooks, is now becoming an technical reality. The storage of books in stores and libraries is giving way to gallery space, reading rooms, and coffee shops. When Libraries no longer contain books how will this effect their place among people and how will their form adapt?

In the early days of the library books were some of the most valuable possessions of an individual or institution. While there has long been an interest in sharing the written word with others, they remained possessions under lock and key. Whether they were secured in a "book-press" or chained to a podium the books had a definitive relationship to the place in which they were kept. If the book disappears into "cyberspace", and can therefore be available everywhere and anywhere, will they still have a relationship to a physical space - and what will it be?

Libraries have never been just a place to store books. Libraries occupy a specific place in their society. The monastery library was always close to the altar and the sanctuary, and the academic library anchors the campus, while the city library usually was built in the geographic center of town. These positions are obviously important in the intellectual, social, and spiritual life of the community - and one securely under the control of authority figures such as the abbot, the provost, and the mayor.



Libraries have long been associated with the organization or individual who sponsored them... the Jesuit Libraries and the Carnegie Libraries represent the power of the church or the wealthy patron. These libraries became an extension and reflection of the patron. Academic libraries on religious campuses tended towards a reflection of ecclesiastic architecture, while private libraries looked like enormous private homes. The quality of the architecture, as much as the building's location, made obvious the sponsor's values and cultural focus.



During the 20th century governments began to provide more social services, such as parks and schools, and many private libraries became public. This shift in who provided the books also impacted the nature of the library and the quality of the architecture. By the end of the century governments began to suffer from "tax revolts" and budget conscious cities turned to industrial types of design and materials such as the concrete warehouse.



When cities look to solve their budget crisis they often turn to corporate sponsorship of "public" places. Today wealthy individuals and churches are being replaced by wealthy corporations as sponsors of new public buildings such as stadiums (Costco Field) and perhaps libraries (Seattle Public Library - Microsoft). What will these corporate sponsors want the libraries they sponsor to say about them and how will this impact their architecture (the Seattle Public Library as an information machine, ala the computer). If books have been replaced by "writer's galleries" and "living rooms" (again, see the Seattle Public Library) as the primary functions of Libraries how will this effect their structure and style?

Comments welcome...

Sean: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 [+] |
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Friday, January 14, 2005


Patrick considers the Christian implications of torture. And it's not what you might think... "We are more willing to lose a war than to abide amoral troops."


Sean: Friday, January 14, 2005 [+] |
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Thursday, January 13, 2005
The Immigration Lottery

At the end of 2002 the Daily Telegraph reported a survey that showed a majority of Britons wanted to move to the US or Australia. And if language was not a barrier they would consider Spain or France.

There are probably millions of Americans who would like to trade spaces with their UK or EU counterparts, at least for a while. But if you look into moving you may find that opportunities are limited.

Both the US and the UK, indeed most "developed nations", limit the number of work visas and may release them only via a "lottery". And Citizenship requires 4-5 years of residency and the passing of a basic historical/cultural test. Dropping your school credits or raising your work hours can get you deported and set back your immigration "clock".

A major reason for these restrictions appears to be the protection of limited local jobs and fear of burdening social services. However, Professor Mark Kleinman of the London School of Economics and Professor Robert Rowthorn of the University of Cambridge have concluded that the economic impact of immigration is negligible.

"The economic impact of migration on the UK is positive but not very large. Hence the argument for immigration restriction on the basis of 'unsupportable' economic costs is wrong. But at the same time, there is not a compelling long-term case for increased immigration purely in terms of economic benefits".

The largest barrier to the migration of able-bodied souls has always been communication. However, English has become an inevitable (if resisted by some) common language.

Meanwhile, the culture, values, and history of North America and Europe are deeply united. We fought wars together, traded ideas in science and philosophy, and vacation with each other.

Despite long standing (sibling) rivalry the people of "the pond" seem interchangeable. Why not revise our immigration laws to reflect this truth?

Is there a better way to end Old Europe's carping about American strength? Or a better way to increase American appreciation of Europe's cultural contributions?

Cross-migration would increase our personal sense of freedom, increase our understanding of each other, and further unite the liberal democracies of the world. And everybody wins that lottery.

Sean: Thursday, January 13, 2005 [+] |
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Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Rather Noir

David Burge at Iowahawk takes Rathergate back in time and up a few notches. Enjoy this. Hat tip to Roger L Simon.

"My name is Rather. And I'm a dick."

Sean: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 [+] |
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Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Britain May Close Cambridge Architecture Program

David Pallister at the Guardian reports that a board reviewing the research income of Cambridge's programs has reccomented cutting architecture.

A group of Britain's leading architects today describe as "an act of extraordinary folly" proposals to close Cambridge University's much-respected department of architecture because it has failed to meet the university's research [income] standards.

Explaining its decision, the board said: "The department has made insufficient progress towards meeting Cambridge standards in terms of research quality (income)."

[This is despite the fact that] Architecture has been taught at Cambridge for nearly a century and has consistently achieved the highest ratings for teaching and research in the country.

The department is ranked top among schools of architecture in both the annual league tables for university subjects - one of which is compiled by the Guardian. Over the last five years it has consistently ranked in the top two.

Leading the campaign is Cambridge alumnus Sir Richard MacCormac. He is a former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), whose designs include Southwark tube station on the Jubilee line extension and the current £400m BBC's Broadcasting House extension.

He is joined by an A-list of British architecture which includes Lord Norman Foster, whose grand designs include the Reichstag dome in Berlin, the Millennium Bridge and Stansted airport, and Lord Richard Rogers, designer of the Millennium Dome, the Lloyd's building and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.


This is what happens when bean counting becomes more important than growing beans, making refried beans, and eating the beans with chips(crackers to you Brits).

More comments here.

The president of Cambridge University student union, Wes Streeting, notes...

"The chronic problem of underfunding is not unique to Cambridge, but illustrates a national problem of underfunding, which is threatening other departments, such as the chemistry department at Exeter."

Jerry Lander, a graduate of 1983, said he was "dismayed" by the proposed closure.

"It's appalling," he said. "It's a brilliant school in a city that is full of outstanding architecture. A lot of the architecture in Cambridge was designed by ex-students."

This event seems to point to larger problems in the UK and EU education system... is there academic trouble in the "worker's paradise"?


Sean: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 [+] |
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Wednesday, January 05, 2005
History of School Vouchers

Alex Molnar is Professor of Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Wisconsin was the first state to try out school vouchers in the US in 1990. He gives a very telling account of the history of school vouchers and their effectiveness on their own terms and that of their advocates - here.

In the early 1870's, demoralized by their crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the social turmoil that followed, many French citizens angrily attacked the public school system as the source of their woes and embraced the simplistic political declaration that it was "the Prussian teacher [who] has won the war."1

To improve the schools, and presumably France's prospects in the next war, in 1872 a French parliamentary commission recommended a religious school voucher plan remarkably similar to the ones currently being championed in the United States.

However, in 19th century France hostility to the idea of providing public money to support church schools was so widespread that the plan was never taken up by the French Assembly.

Just over 100 years later, the authors of A Nation at Risk declared that America was headed for a disastrous defeat in a global economic war.2 And, as in nineteenth-century France, the public schools were blamed. A Nation at Risk made the belief that the U.S. system of public education was a catastrophic failure an article of faith in the nation's school reform debate. In so doing it helped set the stage for attempts to enact school voucher plans in the late 1980's and 1990's.

Until the 1980's, when they were revived by a resurgent conservative movement, the constitutional prohibition against church-state entanglements, public opposition to the use of tax funds for religious schools, and a lack of other alternatives to public schools kept voucher schemes on the fringes of American school reform.

Educational vouchers were first proposed in the United States by economist Milton Friedman.3 Friedman argued that providing parents with vouchers and allowing them to choose any school public or private for their child to attend was a way of getting the government out of public education. In his view, an educational market would be much more efficient at allocating educational resources than a system of government run schools. Friedman's idea initially drew scant attention and little serious support.

When private school choice plans were proposed in the U.S. in the late 1950's and early 1960's it was not the alleged virtues of an educational market that motivated their sponsors. The first efforts to create private school choice in America were part of an openly racist response to court-ordered desegregation.

In 1956, the Virginia legislature passed a "tuition-grant" program and in 1960 a "scholarship" plan which provided students with tax dollars they could use to pay the tuition at any qualified non-sectarian school in their district. The express purpose of the Virginia laws and other "freedom of choice" plans like them passed by southern legislatures was to help maintain segregated school systems in the wake of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Over the next 40 years private school choice moved from the darkest edge of racial politics into the mainstream school reform debate. This transformation was possible in part because through the years vouchers have consistently found support among Catholics eager to use tax dollars to save their schools, free-market advocates, and people of all political persuasions who, for various reasons, were dissatisfied with the shortcomings of what David Tyack, a historian of public education, has labeled "the one best system."


Alex Molnar is Professor of Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, School of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction. He is also associated with the Urban Research Center at UW-Milwaukee. Molnar is a prolific author and has served as a consultant to Educational Leadership for contemporary issues. His new book, Giving Kids the Business: The Commercializion of America's Schools, was published by Westview/Harpercollins.


Sean: Wednesday, January 05, 2005 [+] |
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Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Surfing Tsunamis

A Briton vacationing in Sri Lanka claims to have surfed the SE Asian tsunami...

"Suddenly I saw that the rocks near the shore had simply disappeared," he recounted. "At first, I didn't understand what was happening and I concentrated on surfing. When I finished surfing, I discovered that I was on the highway, about half a mile from the beach where my room was. Fortunately, the waves pulled me and my surfboard into shore instead of out into the ocean."ide

Video footage of some crazy sob actually surfing a tsunami...

Even the state of Hawaii warns against the dangers of trying to surf a tsunami...

The state Department of Civil Defense is distributing a D-V-D that explains the difference between high surf and the dangerous ocean waves generated by earthquakes.

Officials say ten years ago a tsunami warning drew more than 400 surfers off Oahu's North Shore.

University of Hawaii-Hilo oceanography professor Walter Dudley says that if that wave had turned out to be deadly, those 400 surfers could have been killed.

Officials note that a tsunami wave on the open ocean can travel as fast as 500 miles per hour. That's far faster than the 30 to 35 miles per hour of a normal surfing wave.

Officials say they'll distribute 15-thousand copies of the D-V-D to isle surf shops. It's part of Disaster Preparedness Month.


Definition and history of Pacific tsunamis via Wikpedia:

1946 an earthquake in the aleutian islands of alaska sent a tsunami to hawaii that killed 159 people

1958 a localized quake and tidal wave hit alaska.

1964 another alaskan earthquake sent a tsunami 6 m tall that killed 120 people, including 11 in California.

1974 a tsunami killed 5000 people in Phillipines.

1983 104 people in western Japan were killed by a tsunami from a nearby quake.

1998 3000 people in Papua New Guinea died from a tsunami 12 m tall from a nearby 7.2 quake.

(Notice that the Indonesian tsunami is already entered as history in Wikpedia - the power of the internet baby!

Sean: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 [+] |
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Monday, January 03, 2005
Child's Play

AP reports:

"There were bubbles and the tide went out all of a sudden. I recognised what was happening and had a feeling there was going to be a tsunami. I told mummy."

While other holidaymakers stood and stared as the disappearing waters left boats and fish stranded on the sands, Tilly recognised the danger signs because she had done a school project on giant waves caused by underwater earthquakes.


Meanwhile CNN reports that a Thai weatherman tried with out success to warn his government...

Sean: Monday, January 03, 2005 [+] |
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