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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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Connecting The Dots, Part Two

Roger Simon links to Austin Bay regarding the current media/Washington/lefty meme that "former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda... have been thoroughly discredited". Austin knows this is a lie, as I also tried to point out back in 2003. And this site lays it all out in black and white (or beige and white).

The basic skinny is that Saddam was offering safe housing to international terrorists, such as Abu Nidal and Abu Zarqawi, as far back as the 1990's (and probably even earlier). Saddam funded an assassination attempt on the US President in Kuwait and backed the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Saddam also began training Al Queda members, supplying them with WMD, and even offered Osama a safe house back in 1999.

Was there a connection between Saddam and Al Queda? Definitely. Was Saddam behind the final deadly attack on NY and Washington in 2001? Probably. How can one say that? Saddam and Osama both hated the US and had made separate plots against the World Trade Center, by the end of 2000 they were known to be working together, and the lead 9/11 terrorist, Mohammed Atta, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just weeks earlier. Now you can connect the dots.
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Sean: Sunday, May 29, 2005 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Democratic Surrender

Today 7 Senate Democrats signed the document of surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri... ok, not exactly, but close.

CNN reports that the Senate has reached a "compromise" wherein the Democrats agree to allow the confirmation of two judicial nominees so "controversial" that they have been blocked four times already.

In return the GOP agreed not to strip the Democrats of what little power they still retain by ending a parliamentary rule that has allowed minority parties to protect themselves from complete annihilation since the 19th century - the much discussed "filibuster".

This is yet another example of the utter powerlessness of the Democratic Party. More to the point, since it did require (once again) several turncoats, it proves how little spine the Democrats each have.

Once again, can I please have a third party? Cause these two suck!

Sean: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 [+] |
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Friday, May 20, 2005
Prison Abuse Part 569.2

I am not a peacenick. I believe in defending ourselves and I am willing to use overwhelming force to do so. As one naval commander put it: I don't ever want us to be in a "fair fight".

That being said...

If you read this report from Afghanistan with objectivity you must conclude that it is time to end the practice of military detentions for the entire US armed forces in perpetuity.

Torture does not yield useful intelligence and holding prisoners only yields bad press. Worse, running "detention centers" turns otherwise good soldiers into bad prison guards.

We should all be familiar with the Standford Prison Experiment. Almost anyone will become a thug when forced to act the part.

War already forces people to do terrible things, they kill people, but there can be some rationalization that it is in self defense. But there is no defense for beating a skinny cab driver to death, in either Brooklyn or in Kabul.

Someday we will leave the theatre of war, but the monsters that we create there from our own stock will come home to roost. Meanwhile, we harm our own war efforts and sow the seeds of future conflicts.
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This war in Iraq should teach us two things... holding prisoners does little good and releasing fighting men to go home early only allows them to fight another day.

We need to kill more of the enemy during the shooting stage and make life for the general public as difficult as possible during active combat.

Fighting us needs to have serious consequences, but losing and being run in receivership needs to be a good thing. Therefore we should not be involved in running any unpleasant business during the occupation stages of a conflict.

Let Iraqis run their own prisons for civil matters, with our oversight (and international observers from other democratic nations). Meanwhile, like the samurai of old, we should only draw our sword when it must needs taste blood.
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Sean: Friday, May 20, 2005 [+] |
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Thursday, May 19, 2005
Rise Lord Vader

I saw the midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode Three last night. It was awesome! Which was a relief after episodes I and II. The special effects were topnotch and Lucas gave all the old fans their requisite moments - such as Luke's stepfather Owen standing on the "roof" of their troglodyte dwelling gazing into the setting sun.

However, don't expect Oscar quality acting from anyone in this cast. Most of the time they are acting opposite a blue screen, after all. But if you take this as a comic book based movie, which it has largely become with the intervening years of fan based and franchised storytelling, then you will not be disappointed.

This movie is all Anakin's with a strong second by Obi-Wan and a tertiary role to Yoda. Mace Windu also has a few shots, and since he isn't digitally animated maybe I should give him third lead. Padme is sorta a blue screen of her own, sadly, but she is still pretty, if in a matronly way.

But this movie series is all about the special effects and alien scenery and Episode Three delivers here. The final battles on the volcano planet Mustafar are stunning. And we were all waiting for Anakin to become a cyborg and that scene was appropriately horrifying.

Maybe when I see it next time, and I will, I will be less satisfied and more critical. But for now I am basking in the lack of a serious screw up to my childhood film saga. Hurray for King George!

Previews here.

Sean: Thursday, May 19, 2005 [+] |
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Globalization For Dummies

Yesterday Frank Stasio interviewed Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, regarding their now annual release of the Globalization Index.

Dr. Naim earned his PHD at MIT, served as Venezuela's Minister of Trade and Industry, was dean of the technical school in Caracas, and held management posts at the World Bank.

After discovering that there was little solid data to use in arguing globalization policy issues Dr. Naim set out to gather existing numbers on telephone lines, newspapers, postal service, international trade, and other statistics available on 62 countries.

Ireland, last year's number one, traded places with Singapore. Switzerland was unchanged at number three. And the United States jumped ahead of Denmark and the Netherlands to number four. Iran was last.

This measurement of the interconnectivity of a nation was then cross referenced by other studies on environmental impact, income distribution, and political corruption.

Dr. Naim found that nations which scored highest on globalization also fared best in these critical measures of a citizen's overall happiness.

The guest host of NPR's Talk of the Nation, Frank Stasio, expressed complete surprise and bewilderment at this result - it was "counterintuitive" he said.

Only to a Lefty.

A nation that allows transparent communication both in and out of its borders cannot hide the relative success of their local economy or politics from either its own people or the rest of the world.

A nation that allows both capital and labor migration must remain competitive in benefits for both workers and management or fall behind.

It is hardly shocking then that the best places to live are in the globalization marketplace that Lefties have feared for so long.

Read more here (free registration required).
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Sean: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Trump Towers

Donald Trump dumps on Daniel Libeskind's skeletal "freedom tower" design and proposes simply rebuilding the old towers bigger and better than before.

The design for the Freedom Tower is an egghead design, designed by an egghead, which has no practical application and which, frankly, didn't look very good," Trump said at the time.


Trump is aware of previous architectural criticism of the old WTC and claims to have improved the original. But anything is better than the embarrassment of the Daniel Libeskind design. That sucker looks like it is hunkering down under a decoy.

I was flying over the Statue of Liberty, and I said to myself, 'You know, if that ever came down, they wouldn't replace it with something that didn't look like the Statue of Liberty.


The Donald sure has experience putting up large towers and managing huge real estate ventures (his lack of success running casinos outstanding). Maybe it wouldn't be so crazy to turn this thing over to his team?

Rebuilding plans site.

Interesting, unabashedly American design.

Gardner-Belton model.

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Sean: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 [+] |
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Thursday, May 12, 2005
Kingdom of Lies?

I saw the new Ridley Scott film with Michael Totten on opening night. We both love Ridley and made Blade Runner our very first DVD purchase (I grew up with the soundtrack, by Vangelis, being played during cocktail parties at my parents' home). Alien, Legend, and Gladiator were also excellent films; and I even liked Black Hawk Down for what it was. So I was not about to miss his latest film no matter the controversy.

Michael already wrote his review, and he pans the film fairly - for bogus scenery, among other sins. However, I saw it a second time due to familial obligations (I don't usually rewatch movies) and I was less bothered by the inaccuracies and more impressed with the visual and musical craft.

First off let me say that the bare bones history was fine (not accurate, but it carried the gist). The actors are great and give solid performances. Eva Green is affecting as Sibylla and Ed Norton gives a solid, if 'secret', performance under amazing costumes as Baldwin IV. The scenery is awesome (although again not precisely accurate). And the entire movie is well shot, lit, and set to music (a special Ridley skill). There are even two scenes with (unintended?) humor by Raynald and Guy.

Now let me admit that Michael is correct to point out that the scenery, in which Spain subs for France and Morocco for the Holy Land, is distractingly inaccurate for anyone who knows the real locations. And let me agree that the literary and political license taken with the facts is annoying. The love affair is baloney, the succession of the Kingdom is abridged, and the Christian knights and Muslim 'cavaliers' are depicted in accordance with today's politics rather than actual history.

But the largest error by Ridley was probably in choosing this material and this time period. Maybe we are running out of epic tales, but this certainly is not an epic story. The characters on all sides are ambivalent and the action is indecisive. This film is a bit like watching a college basketball game by two schools that we did not attend (maybe since I am neither Christian nor Muslim).

One useful reminder was that the technology and manpower by both Muslim and Chrisitian invaders (afterall, they were both outside powers) was always about equal. The Lefty myth is that Europe was a bully and the Arabs lost the global contest unfairly. However, both Saladin and the Ottoman Empire sat at the grown up table in the game of Empire. But then, as this film teaches, "war never solved anything" and the story of war is always told in lies.
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Sean: Thursday, May 12, 2005 [+] |
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Bolton Overload

Are you tired of Bolton? I mean John Bolton, and his nomination for UN ambassador, and the fracas that the Dems are throwing over it? Me too.

Marc Sandalow at the SanFran Chron puts his finger on it in today's column...

Sen. Chris Dodd uttered a remarkably candid observation during a recent hearing on John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.S. representative to the United Nations.

"The position at the United Nations is not that terribly important," Dodd, D-Conn., said.

"The real issue is that most Democrats, and some Republicans, are very concerned about what they view as the Bush administration's unilateralist foreign policy," said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who supports Bolton's nomination. "This is basically a debate over Bush's foreign policy."


Ok, ok, fine. But let's get back to Dodd's point. Who cares? With the UN chief now seriously implicated in the Oil For Food Scandal and the Assembly room filled with the unelected toadies of tyrants who seriously cares if the man we send to have lunch is a teddy bear or not?

I would much rather see the Dems spend their political capitol fighting "torte reform" (too late), "BKO reform" (too late), or forest (mis)management. How about blocking another homophobic judge? This is why I don't consider myself a fan anymore, this team has horrible offense, defense, quarterback and a bad set of coaches, no wonder they cant win a pennant.
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Sean: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 [+] |
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Thursday, May 05, 2005
Totten Returns

Michael Totten has returned from an extended stint in Beirut, Lebannon covering the Cedar Revolution and is already experiencing reverse culture shock... "Life in this country is experienced the way a cat experiences a nap in the sun compared to the way Middle Easterners live." Read more here. He is also interviewed in our local weekly here.
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Sean: Thursday, May 05, 2005 [+] |
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Monday, May 02, 2005
Market Drama

Guest financial commentary from reformed day trader Jack Whitsel...

"After a brief absence from trading I have returned to the market (please, no trumpets). And what do I see today…DRAMA.

Remember the good old days when stocks were fuelled by simple earnings reports and advances in technology? Oh, how the market has changed.

Watching CNBC is no different than tuning into Days of Our Lives. There is so much chaos in the stock market right now, even the savviest of speculators have to down six-pack [or a three martini lunch, ed.] before hurling themselves upon the trading floor.

We are still thronged with corporate scandals, reaching deep into the insurance industry., exploding oil prices have made life wonderful for us daily commuters, and we can watch our automotive industry deteriorate daily. And let’s not forget the war in Iraq.

You can still make money by focusing on the positives and negatives.

Automakers such as GM are in the toilet right now and have no idea how to turn things around. This company spends more money on employee health care than steel. And can you remember the last time consumers were dazzled by their new design line?

With carmakers struggling that leaves all the service companies associated with them to drown in red ink. Going short on these companies could be profitable since there is no sign of a government bailout in the horizon.

On the positive side, I lean toward the rebounding tech stocks and the established “gods” of industry. Cable companies and satellite radio are gaining subscribers by the week while making alliances with other service firms to enhance their products. Even larger companies such as GE are weathering the storm of earnings discontent by producing quality numbers.

There are no guarantees in this market, but the above strategies show promise. Take caution, or like Days of Our Lives, you may spiral into your own soap opera from which there is no return."

-[Black] Jack Witsel
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Sean: Monday, May 02, 2005 [+] |
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