Sean LaFreniere

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

 

Conservative:

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

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

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

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

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

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

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

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

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

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

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reactionary:

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

 

Radical:

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

 

The Right:

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

 

The Left:

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

 

Capitol Goods:

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

 

Capitalism:

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

 

Socialism:

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

 

Communism:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Democracy:

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

 

Republic:

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

 

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

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

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

 

Fascism:

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

 
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NY City Labor Battle

Traffic in NY City is tangled today due to a strike by transit workers. Judges and politicians are calling the strike illegal and hitting the union with heavy fines and rhetoric. But the issues that caused the strike remain to be resolved and the fate of general labor rights hangs in the balance.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg attacked the union, saying: "[This strike] is robbing people of their opportunities to earn a living and provide for their families... This selfish strike is illegal. We live in a country of laws where there can be severe consequences for those who break them. Union members are no different ..."

But evidently politicians are because the Taylor Law that Governor Pataki and others have cited all week as forbidding public-sector workers to strike is also the one that gives the legislature the power to decide pension issues instead of the MTA.

The average MTA employee makes about $45k a year. The union wanted an 8% pay increase, but the MTA wanted to hold them to a 3% raise, wanted them to pay 1% towards their health care costs, and wanted them to retire at 62 instead of 55.

Since inflation is running about 2% the MTA essentially wanted to freeze wages for another four years and hold off the Boomer retirement flood for seven (the state legislature is trying to lower MTA retirement to 50, so management would actually gain 12 years).

In our market based economy we tell ourselves that people are paid according to their value to society, this is why doctors make so much money, play lots of golf, and drive convertibles. We claim that if the government tries to set compensation by fiat this is socialism and is economically inefficient.

And yet we now have laws that forbid bus drivers, teachers, and cops from striking -forcing them to accept any compensation package that management or the legislature offers. When the employees stand up for their rights by striking (the ONLY tool they have in the employment game) we fine them and blame them for everything from unexpected day care costs to the wholesale collapse of the economy.

If bus drivers are so vital to the economy of NY City, if they are truly responsible for $400 million dollars a day as the mayor and governor claim, then maybe they deserve to make more money or to retire earlier?

A NY blogger's point of view.

Sean: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 [+] |
...
Friday, December 16, 2005
Iraq's Third Ellection

Iraq has completed its third national election since the US invasion in 2003. Each time the violence and intimidation decreases and voter turnout increases.

This time the critical Sunni minority, those who used to run the country under Saddam, came out and voted in record numbers - perhamps 60%. Turnout overall may reach 80% which is better than most elections in the "Free World".

Common statements are that people in Iraq want stability and security, they want democracy, and they want the US to leave... slowly.

"It's a day of victory, a day of independence and freedom," said 60-year-old Shia Muslim Mohammed Ahmed al-Bayati as he voted in Baghdad.

Teacher Khalid Fawaz in Falluja said he was voting "so that the Sunnis are no longer marginalised".

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric, "Today Iraq will be born again; today is Iraq’s birthday."

"We all are going to vote. We will waste not a single vote. We do not want to repeat the last election’s mistake.” said Abdelhakim Latif, a Sunni cleric.

Sean: Friday, December 16, 2005 [+] |
...
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Pentagon anounces Deathstar Fully Operational

The United States Air Force declared today that Lockheed Martin's F-22A Raptor, the world's only 5th generation fighter aircraft, has reached initial operational capability.

The Air Force is now capable of deploying and supporting 12 F-22A Raptor aircraft anywhere in the world to execute air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

"We've completed final assembly on 67 of the 107 revolutionary stealthy aircraft presently on contract. In short, the F-22A program is healthy, solid and on track -- with superb production and solid aircraft performance."

Evidently this plane costs about $125 mil each, which, after standard inflation, is similar to the cost of past jets such as the F-15.

Most importantly, in evaluation tests this jet ran circles around up to five F-15's. The F-15 being the world's best 4th generation air-superiority fighter.

And this jet is as stealthy as an F-117a, not even our ground controllers and AWACS can see it!

China and other nations are continuing to upgrade their fleets and someday may think that they can offer safe haven to our enemies, or come out of the closet and attack us directly.

The Deathstar was taken out by one crappy old X-wing fighter flown by a crop-duster level teen age farm boy. But still, it is good to be light years ahead of enemy R&D.

Sean: Thursday, December 15, 2005 [+] |
...
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Rendition Torture Claims

The Guardian is reporting allegations of torture in the war on terror.

Evidently an Ethiopian student was arrested when he returned to London from a visit to Pakistan, sent to Morocco where he was tortured by CIA and MI6 agents, and then signed a confession regarding his association with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, and Jose Padilla, who may have been planning a "dirty bomb" attack in the US. He is currently being held in Gitmo and faces a military trial.

The torture tale includes claims of hanging by the wrists, kidney punches, and cutting the penis with a scalpel.

It is a horrible story, if true. Although if he was really arrested in 2001, spirited away into a web of secret CIA prisons, and is now locked in Cuba... Then how did we get his story?

It seems a bit fishy that this story arose just as Condi was touring the EU explaining away the very existence of such secret prisons. It is also unlikely that the Guardian really has a CIA source who is willing to tell them that the CIA is "in panic mode" over these very issues, as if CIA agents are so willing to spill the beans that torture is not even necessary.

But if it is all true, the CIA should check itself, for the good of everyone involved. Information gained by torture is unreliable, as someone will say anything to avoid pain and suffering. And acting out an X-files episode plays into world-wide suspicion of our government and must make it more difficult to gain cooperation in our war on terror.

Sean: Sunday, December 11, 2005 [+] |
...
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Saddam Doesn't Get It

After listening to hours of gruseume testimony regarding his peferred methods of torture Saddam suddenly jumped to his feet and complained that he had been deprived of a shower.

"This is terrorism," he said.

Meanwhile Saddam might be nervous about this report that most civilized people (i.e. France) think torture is ok, for certain really bad people.

Sean: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 [+] |
...
Monday, December 05, 2005
French Philosopher Flamed

Tech Central Station brings us an article by French novelist Nidra Poller... She tells us about Alain Finklekraut, a famous lefty French philosopher and student protest organizer from the 1960's, who was interviewed by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, regarding the recent riots in France.

Alain called them like he saw them, but advised the interviewer that he could never speak freely about the matter inside France. Of course, his entire interview was retranslated from Hebrew into English and back to French and used inside France to beat Alain blue on national television.

What Alain said was that the rioters were black and Arab Muslim North Africans and that they were not rioting about economics or discrimination but as an act of civilizational warfare.

I will paraphrase since a direct transcription is apparently impossible...

France would like to see the riots as a revolt of youths from the suburbs against unemployment and discrimination. Some say that the riot derives from the colonial breakdown.

But the integration of Arab workers in France was much easier during the time of colonial rule. Partly it was done through the Republic's schools as a means of assimilating people into French society.

Parents send you to school to prepare you to find a job. When these people destroy schools they are not crying out for better schools or better jobs.

Moreover, there's a contradiction here. Because if these suburbs were truly in a state of total neglect, there wouldn't be any schools to torch.

Many of the youths say the problem is that they don't feel French, that France doesn't really regard them as French. But the real problem is that most of these youths are blacks or Arabs with a Muslim identity, who don't regard themselves as French.

The rioters are in fact striking out against the Republic and Europe in general, with its Judeo-Christian history and culture. They are refusing to be assimilated while at the same time demanding the benefits of European society.


I think that Alain is essentially correct here. Acts of Muslim violence are as much about social and economic ills as rape is about sex.

Whether in the Middle East, North Africa, or Europe the angry Muslims are upset that they do not have economic, social, and military might.

The West is on top because it learned to subjugate religion and culture to science and economics. The US trashed more culture than religion, while in Europe religion gave way more than culture, but in each continent the rational pursuit of science and economics (and the scientific and economic persuit of military might) dominates.

Meanwhile the Muslim world still has a strong culture and religion, but their economy consists of selling the West oil (to power its economic, social, and military might) and their military might appears limited to blowing themselves up at weddings and malls.

Yet, ironically, it may be that with out a strong cultural and religious heart the West will not be able to fend off the Muslim advance (look at France getting mugged). And even more ironically the Muslim world may find that it cannot maintain and enjoy the spoils of victory and keep its strong cultural and religious core.

Sean: Monday, December 05, 2005 [+] |
...

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