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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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Swamps South

Hurricane Katrina devastated Mississippi on Tuesday. Homes and even entire apartment buildings (with people in them) were stripped from their foundations - at least 80 deaths are predicted for one gulf coast county. The storm surge in Biloxi was over 25 ft high (three stories tall). The storm even caused three tornados in Georgia.

However the city of New Orleans in neighboring Louisiana appeared to get a pass from the storm...

Today they are not so lucky. Heavy rains appear to have broken the levy that keeps Lake Pontchartrain out of the city. At least 80 percent is now reported flooded, some to a depth of 20 feet.

Up to 10,000 people are now trapped in the Super Dome where they sought shelter days before. The city's drinking water is out after a break in the main line, the twin bridge spans of Intestate 10 are gone, and the airport is still closed even to emergency flights.

Over 1.7 million homes are without electricity and some 75,000 people are registered in shelters. Some residents have even talked about moving away after this last storm.

UPDATE: Oil trading halted after storm drives prices above $70 a barrel or $3 a gallon.

UPDATE: Donate what you can to a relief fund for Katrina.

Sean: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 [+] |
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Friday, August 26, 2005
Hand To Hand In Iraq

Michael Yon gives an excellent report on a recent car chase-foot chase-close quarters-hand to hand battle in Iraq. This is a must read if you want to know what actual combat there is like. Also note that the terrorist in question was previously caught and released. Hat tip to Belmont Club.

Sean: Friday, August 26, 2005 [+] |
...
Thursday, August 25, 2005
With Fricken Laser Beams...

We finally entered the era of Buck Rogers.

Last year Space Daily reported that Lockheed Martin successfully tested a solid-state laser capable of shooting down enemy missiles, but it was so large that it had to be mounted in a 747.

In March 2005 Defensetech reported on the uparmered and solid-state-laser-equiped ZEUS hummer that was sent to Afghanistan to detonate mines from a distance.

And today Reuters reports that the Pentagon's DARPA merged a solid-state and liquid-state laser design to develope a laser small enought to fit on a fighter jet, yet powerful enough to knock down an enemy missile in flight.

Huba huba.

Sean: Thursday, August 25, 2005 [+] |
...
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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Friday, August 19, 2005
Begging For An Interview

Casey Sheehan was a member of the 1st Armored Cavalry Division out of Vacaville, CA. He was killed in action on April 4, 2004 in Baghdad, Iraq. He had only been in Iraq for two weeks, although this was his second enlistment at 24 years old. Although his mother saw Iraq as another Vietnam and offered sneak him into Canada, Casey told her that going was his duty. And although his mother wanted him to reenlist as a Chaplain's assistant, Casey volunteered for combat duty, specifically a dangerous rescue mission to save his "chief" who was in a convoy trapped in Sadr City by militants.

When her son died Cindy received the infamous letter from his CO. She also met with President Bush briefly at Ft. Lewis in Washington two months later. At the time she described President Bush as sincere in his desire to bring freedom to Iraq and truly saddened by the death of her son.

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith." -Vacaville Reporter

Over the next year Cindy changed her tune. She says that Bush didn't seem to know her son personally and never used his name when talking to her. She also says that recent "evidence" that Bush's war was based on lies has turned her against the Whitehouse. For the last several weeks she has set up camp outside President Bush's Crawford ranch "begging for an interview" so that Bush can "explain why her son died". Many people don't understand why Bush wont meet and hear her tragic story. But this isn't a case of personal woe and a mean old Commander and Chief, this is a story about politics and misinformation.

The death of Cindy Sheehan's son in the line of duty is sad, but it is not a "tragedy". As the mother of a slain soldier she deserves a letter of condolence from the President (and maybe even a visit). And as a citizen of the United States she deserves the right to question her government's policy. But she has already had her letter and her meeting with the President (in June 2004) and her questions should have no more (or less) freight than those of any other bystander or armchair general, nor should her questions and claims be above criticism.

Cindy Sheehan believes that the war in Iraq is about oil and was fought at the behest of Neocons in the service of Israel. She thinks that the President never intended for Iraq to have elections, but that this idea came from the Iraqi cleric Ali Sistani. She believes that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 because most of the hijackers were Saudi and she thinks that the 9/11 Commission proved there was no connection. And she believes that Americans would never go to war just to free another people, but only out of fear of an eminent threat. She has other criticisms as well, more specific to the battle her son died in, more on these later.

First, the idea that this war is about oil is a little silly. Damage to the oil fields, refineries, and pipelines since the war began has actually decreased Iraqi oil exports. Iraqi oil production peaked in December 1979 at 3.7 million bbl/d and then was at 2.58 million bbl/d in January 2003 just prior to the invasion. As of May 2005 Iraqi production is just under 1.9 million bbl/d with the majority of exports going to Asia and Europe, as we had to promise the other world powers before the invasion.

Secondly, the idea that the war was fought for the benefit of Israel is also nonsense. In the 1991 Gulf War Israeli cities suffered scud missile attacks and Saddam promised more in any second conflict. However, by 2003 polls showed that most Israelis were more worried about the missiles of Syria and Iran. In fact, Israel has long proved that it is perfectly adept at defending itself, repelling six Arab invasions and destroying Saddam's nuclear weapons lab in 1981. The only way toppling Saddam would benefit Israel would be by removing ONE source of payment for Palestinian bombers (although both Saudi Arabia and Iran paid much higher bounties).

The claim that Ali Sistani, not President Bush, came up with the idea of national elections in Iraq is also illinformed. Ali Sistani's claim to fame was that in March of 2003 he rejected the Bush plan to hold regional caucuses to draft a new constitution before holding nationwide elections for an assembly. Sistani rejected the idea that it was too dangerous to hold elections in much of the country or that voter rolls were incomplete and he demanded elections even with out UN oversight. While I agree with his sentiments I think he was rushing things needlessly.

President Bush had plans for a constitutional democracy in Iraq since he first began calling for regime change. Condi Rice, as Nat Sec Advisor, was quoted in the Financial Times in Sep of 2002 saying that the US would be "completely devoted to reconstructing Iraq as a unified, democratic state". And also in Sep of 2002 the Washington Post quoted Colin Powell, as Sec of State, assuring the world that a post Saddam Iraq would be defined by "Iraqis governing in a democratic fashion". And in October of 2002 President Bush explicitly stated that the US planned to liberate and not conquer Iraq.

We should remember that the Democrats, under President Clinton,also called for regime change and democracy in Iraq. In fact, Al Gore backed the overthrow of Saddam back in 2000. The idea of democracy for the Middle East, as a way of increasing security for other democracies in the world (such as the US and Israel) has long roots in Washington, that it took Neocons (and ones with Jewish names) to finally win the call to action is a bit irrelevant.

The claim that war with Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 because the hijackers were Saudis is another misconception. Yes, most of the hijackers were born in Saudi Arabia. However, most had lived for a long time in Europe and the US. The most important common tie was that they were Muslims, like Saddam (he converted on the battlefield in 1991), and they hated the US, like Saddam. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was lead by Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani cleric who held an Iraqi (Iranian and Pakistani) passport (with Egyptian, Yemeni, and Jordanian accomplices). This followed threats from Saddam to turn "every Iraqi into a missile" when he tired of UN sanctions. We also know that the Czech security services still claim that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 2001 WTC attack, met with Iraqi security services in Prague just weeks prior to 9/11. Meanwhile, that the 9/11 Commission did not find any evidence of a connection does not mean that none exists to be found.

And finally the claim that the US people would never go to war to help others with out an eminent threat is a bit problematic. We sent a million men to die in Europe in WWI and WWII. We fought to liberate the Philippines in 1899, Korea in 1950, and Vietnam in the 1960's. One could say that in each of these wars there was a threat to US security, or at least a military provocation (the destruction of the USS Maine or the Gulf of Tonkin incident), was present. However, it is about as likely that the Koreans would have invaded Los Angeles as Saddam to invade New York. A similar point can be made about Somalia or Kosovo. Occasionally it appears that Americans DO support military intervention for purely humanitarian reasons.

Cindy does have valid complaints in the area with which she has some actual insight - her son's death.

She notes that her son's unit, the 2-5 Cavalry, was given open desert training but her son was killed in an urban guerilla attack.

She complains that he was wearing an inadequate helmet and a Vietnam era flak jacket while other soldiers were issued Kevlar body armor.

She says that her son was not ready for combat duty after sleeping in the back of his Humvee for 2 weeks because there wasn't room for him to have a cot.

And she claims that the troops he went out to rescue got into trouble because they were without tanks and Bradleys and had to go into battle in non-armored Humvees.

She then claims that he son's death was ultimately the responsibility of Paul Bremer because he took away the Sadr militia's tv station and newspapers and that "it was well known by the Iraqi people that their citizens were being tortured and defiled in the [US run] prisons".

The critique of equipment and tactics can probably be answered simply enough... the convoy was on a routine trip (thus no tanks or Bradleys) when they encountered gunfire in a Baghdad suburb, thinking it was a "lone gunman" their commander decided to detain the man, and when they stopped they were attacked in a pre-planned ambush by Iranian backed militants. When Casey volunteered to go rescue his chief mechanic his lack of sleep became irrelevant (although his CO did try to talk him out of it). He went out with out a proper helmet or flak jacket because he was a mechanic in an urban base (again his CO tried to talk him out of it). Meanwhile, although he died, Casey's mission was a success and his family was presented with his bronze star.

We should always assume that the enemy has a grievance against our government, people, and army. However, soldiers in the US military volunteer to enforce the decisions of their elected civilian leaders and their appointed members of government, whether or not they (or their mom's) agree with them. Bremer was doing his job when he closed the militia's media connections and he was unaware (as were Iraqi civilians) of any wrong doing in US military prisons. And Cindy's son was doing his job when he put his life on the line to uphold this policy. If you have a problem with the policy you can work to elect someone else (something Iraqis couldn't do under Saddam), which Cindy Sheehan is doing, in a way, in Crawford.

Sean: Friday, August 19, 2005 [+] |
...
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Drilling For Posterity

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960. It contains 19.5 million-acres and is home to thirty-six species of land mammals, nine species of marine mammals, and at least thirty-six species of fish. And 180 species of birds from six different continents migrate through the region.

Unfortunately for the wildlife there is oil under that frozen tundra. Arguments have been made on the grounds of economic prosperity and national security to begin drilling for this oil as soon as possible. And anyone who doubts the merits of this plan risks being criticized as un-patrioric.

Republican Congressman John Sununu of New Hampshire points out that drilling will be limited to just 2,000 of the 1.5 million acres along the coast plain or just 0.01% of the total ANWR acreage. However, the 2,000 acres don't have to be contiguous, roads are ignored, and only the point where the equipment touches the ground is counted, thus oil companies will actually be allowed to spread out over the entire 1.5 million acres.

Meanwhile the Teamsters and some Democrats claim it would create over 700,000 jobs however this prediction comes from an 11-year-old study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute. Time quotes Eban Goodstein, an economist at Lewis and Clark College, who predicts the real job growth will be less than one-tenth that number.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) says ANWR would produce 1 million barrels a day, everyday, for over 30 years. This would replace roughly 30 years of Saudi Arabian oil imports, increasing our national security for 30 years

However, the USGS estimates that the amount of oil that can be recovered from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is between 3.2 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. Of this amount, only 2.6 billion barrels are "economically recoverable," for a total of only 800 million barrels a day a year, the equivalent of
a six-month supply of oil.

In comparison, the United States consumption of oil exceeds 18 million barrels per day, more than all of Europe, all of Africa, or all the states of the former Soviet Union. Of this consumption, domestic production is approximately 7.8 million barrels of oil a day; the remaining 10.7 million barrels or 56% is imported.

Of these imports the largest suppliers are Canada at 1.7 and Mexico at 1.8. Another 1.6 comes from Saudi Arabia, .6 from Iraq, and .14 from Kuwait for a total of 2.3 mbd from the Mid East or 20%. That is only 12% of America's oil comes from the Mid East and only .03% from Iraq.

ANWR cannot "wean us from Mid East oil" or "keep us out of Iraq" or any other oil producing hotspot. Meanwhile the environmental impact of all the infrastructure needed for oil production will have a huge impact on the tiny heart of ANWR (2000 acres of infrastructure "net" spread across 8% of the "park") and the jobs produced may benefit some Alaskans (Eskimos or not) while robbing the rest of America (and the world) or a natural treasure.

And yet polls in 2000 found that 75% percent of Alaskans and 78% of nearby Eskimos want to open up the refuge for drilling The US will probably begin pumping oil from ANWR by 2013, and from currently protected areas of the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and southern California, because when push comes to shove we need our oil and we will not change our consumption habits until absolutely forced to do so by economic (not environmental) scarcity.

Sean: Wednesday, August 17, 2005 [+] |
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Friday, August 12, 2005
Have You Seen This Man?

Ben Bolger has an interesting life story. Not only did he enter college at the tender age of twelve and work for the Clinton White House by 18, apparently a heck of a lot of celebrities have let him get a snap shot of them together. Now, one or two of these photos is not very impressive. But over 100?!



US Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Greenspan


Former Atty General Janet Reno


World Famous Architect I.M. Pei


Former Senator and former Presidential Candidate Gary Hart


MSNBC's Hardball's Chris Matthews


Disney Chairman Michael Ovitz


Action Movie Star Bruce Willis


Independent Film Prince Ben Affleck


Ice Cream Kingpins Ben and Jerry


Comedy Central's The Daily Show's John Stewart

Why does it not surprise me that John looks like a smart alec in real life?

Sean: Friday, August 12, 2005 [+] |
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Treating China Like An [Nuclear Armed] Enemy

Australian news reports that the Aussies might sell China nuclear material if the price is right and the Chinese promise not to make nuclear missiles out of it... what could go wrong?

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Government was opening talks "on a nuclear co-operation agreement" that would allow China to buy Australian uranium.

He said the deal would "establish safeguards ... to ensure Australian uranium supplied to China is used exclusively for peaceful purposes".

Uranium prices have been rising steadily in recent years, to around $29 per pound from nearly $10 a pound four years ago, fueled by growing acceptance of nuclear power as an alternative to greenhouse gas producing fossil fuels such as coal and oil.


China might someday be a normal nation. They are working on Capitalism and their Communist Party is certainly doomed to loose control someday. But as of now they still do not have any sense of a Liberal government, the Rule of Law, or Democracy. They have a history of invading their neighbors and rewriting their history books. They have hundreds of missiles pointed at all three of their democratic rivals... Taiwan, Japan, and India... and they have dozens of nukes pointed at the US. They have run over their own people with tanks and crashed into our (unarmed) surveillance planes with fighter jets. They are not our friends. So... when our friends and allies sell them nuclear material we should have a problem with that.

On a related angle... the French are up to no good as well...

"French nuclear power company Cogema is lobbying traditional land owners in a bid to mine its multi-million-dollar, 14,000-tonne Koongarra deposit in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu park."

Sean: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 [+] |
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Monday, August 08, 2005
Peter Jennigs Is Dead

The unflappable ABC news anchor Peter Jennings died on Sunday due to lung cancer. Peter was diagnosed four months ago and his insistence on continuing to broadcast during treatment was an inspiration to everyone living with a serious illness. However, considering that Peter quit smoking 20 years ago his death should be a warning to every smoker who says they will quit when they are older (and closer to death).

CNN carried the news this morning and included this brief bio...

Jennings was born July 29, 1938, in Toronto with journalism in his blood. His father, Charles, was the first voice of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when it was established in the mid-1930s. At age 9, Jennings hosted "Peter's People," a short-lived Saturday morning children's show on the CBC.

He was hired by ABC in 1964. The following year, when he was 26, Jennings was picked to anchor "The ABC Evening News." But two years later, he told his bosses he needed more seasoning and returned to field reporting, CNN Correspondent Jeff Greenfield, a former ABC News employee, has said.

Jennings became a foreign correspondent for the network, covering such stories as the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, when members of the Arab terrorist group Black September seized the Israeli compound and took athletes hostage and later killed them.

He hosted its flagship World News Tonight programme since 1983. Jennings led ABC's coverage of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Jennings became a U.S. citizen in 2003.


UPDATE: An Indian news site had this rumor... "He had quit smoking 20 years ago, but some reports said he resumed the habit briefly after 9/11."

If you don't smoke, don't start. If you smoke, quit. If you quit, don't start up again. Or you might die earlier than you intend and have a hard time of it.

Sean: Monday, August 08, 2005 [+] |
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Thursday, August 04, 2005
Steven Vincent, First US Journalist Murdered in Iraq

I follow journalism like many amateur bicycle riders follow the Tour De France. I don't know all the Lance Armstrongs of reporting, but I feel something profound when I hear about reporters dying to bring me the news that I enjoy blogging about.

Reporters such as Michael Kelley of the Washington Post, Gaby Rado and Richard Wild of ITN, Paul Moran of ABC, David Bloom of NBC, and Taras Protsyuk of Reuters all lost their lives in Iraq to bring us the morning news and we should pay attention when they die doing it.

I can't do justice in any kind of eulogy, I didn't know the man like that, but here is Nick Gillespie of Reason on his friend and contributor...

He was great to work with. His story pitches were clean, crisp, and to the point. He hit his deadlines without fail. His reporting was impeccable and infused with sounds, sights, and smells... Unlike many journalists, he actually spent much of his time—in retrospect, perhaps too much of his time—out and about, beyond the comforts and protection of an office or an apartment. He was fantastically well-traveled, especially to places on the busted seams of history—places like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong on the eve of its annexation by China.

He was, in short, the sort of pro you want to work with more often, no matter how often you do.

You don't have to agree with him to appreciate and admire the spirit behind his work. His death, like his work, transcends easy categorization or simple understanding. Precisely because he was at such risk—because he was far beyond the barricades of Baghdad's Green Zone and was not ensconced within the apparatus of a major news organization—he was bringing stories and perspectives that otherwise wouldn't have been told. -Reason August 4.


Steven was a truly great writer. Even just an excerpt can make me laugh and carry a lot of data as well. Some recent great lines...

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of "death car": a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment. -NYT July 31.

Not only for the city's [Basra's] numerous contractors, but also for the crooked politicians, parasitical religious parties and criminal gangs who take their cut from every construction job, creating a business climate that combines the accountability of Tammany Hall with the law and order of 1920s Chicago. -CSM, and his blog, July 26.

Ali is a minority in this land of humiliated pride, grandiose fantasies, and conspiracy theories: An Iraqi who exhibits a realistic sense of cultural self-criticism. Unlike the most people I’ve met in this country, he does not believe that Iraqis are congenital sad sacks, doomed by genes or maktoob to failure — or, conversely, a people possessed with such brilliance that lesser nations of the earth must expend vast resources to suppress, undermine and exploit them. Rather, he grasps the debilitating effect of the Arabs’ centuries-long slumber in the bejeweled cavern of tribal Islam — and, more specifically, the sensory-deprivation torture inflicted by Saddam Hussein. -NRO June 14.


One of my best friends, Michael Totten, is moving to the Middle East to bring us monthly and weekly publishing (and probably day to day blogging). After a recent trip to Beirut one of the people he had dinner with, Samir Kassir, was killed in a car bomb. This career is not with out risks, yet these people facilitate the flow of information about the world beyond my local coffee house and I believe that they make the world a better, more sane, and safer place by choosing to put themselves where the world is neither sane nor safe.

Thank You.

Sean: Thursday, August 04, 2005 [+] |
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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 [+] |
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Monday, August 01, 2005
Deaths In The World Today

Saudi King Fahd is finally, officially, really, really dead this time, again.

U.S. President George W. Bush promised a close partnership with Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Abdullah, whom Bush referred to as "my friend."


CNN reports that the elderly stroke victim, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, has finally passed on and will be replaced by his equally elderly (over 80) and stroke prone brother (runs in the family), the new King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia - not to be confused with the King Abdullah next door in Jordan.

CNN also reports that Sudan's lone southerner in the government, vice president and former rebel leader John Garang, has been assassinated. And bloody street clashes have erupted between Christian and Arab gangs in Khartoum.

And CNN reports that the death toll from India's recent floods have topped 1000 souls.

Sean: Monday, August 01, 2005 [+] |
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