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, January 31, 2006

Of Beer and (Danish) History

We visited Frederiksborg Castle at Hillerod this weekend. The castle is famous for its baroque gardens, but they were under a thick blanket of snow. Instead we focused on the interior and the wonderful painting collection covering Danish history.

The castle was first built in 1560 by King Frederik II but was later almost entirely rebuilt by his son Christian IV who wanted a more sunlit royal dwelling. However the castle fell out of favor with the royal family after 1800 for being still too dark and foreboding.

In 1859 a chimney fire destroyed much of the interior and the roofs. However, in 1878 the founder of Carlsberg Brewery, J. C. Jacobsen, paid to have the castle restored and installed much of the painting collection now housed there. Today the brewery actually runs the building and museum for the country.

The first hall we entered was a hunting hall decorated in bas relief sculptures of game animals complete with real antlers and tusks inset into their heads. On the ceiling are the crests of all the Danish territories in the 17th century which included Sweden, Norway, and parts of Germany.

The royal chapel was used for coronations from 1671 to 1693 and was the setting for the royal wedding of Prince Joachim and Princess Alexandra in November of 1995. Inside are the shields of the two main honorary orders of Dannebrog and the Elephant.

The elephant has been a royal symbol for Denmark since it had colonies in India and Africa in the 18th century. The Order of the Elephant is reserved for Danish royalty and foreign heads of state. The Order of Dannebrog is given to about 500 Danes and foreigners each year for exemplary service to Denmark.

The castle is filled with room after room of marble floors and amazingly detailed ceilings. At least one fireplace heats each room and these actually caused the fire after one was put into service after a decade of disuse. The details have been painstakingly restored and are more than a century old. The place feels just like an old castle should, which is probably why the royal family has more cheerful quarters today.

Much of the painting collection is devoted to portraits of nobles and royals. It was fun to compare the clothing styles over the centuries. My favorite showed Queen Alexandra and hung in the ballroom with many other monarchs.

Alexandra was the daughter of Denmark's King Christian IX and was married to England's King Edward VII in the 19th century. Christian is known as the grandfather of Europe as many of his children became kings and queens of other countries.

After the Napoleonic wars devastated her family fortunes Alexandra lived very frugally. She even waited on tables (in the palace) and sewed her own clothes. Her father was a very personable monarch and would meet with people in need. Christian actually funded Hans Christian Anderson's education.

Several rooms were also devoted to military and naval scenes. Interestingly Denmark has never won a war and its territory has been shrinking ever since the Kalmar Union in 1536. However these rooms celebrate the heroes of individual battles that the Danes actually won.

The traditional Danish sphere of influence has been confined to the Baltic region and Scandinavia, but it intersects with Europe and America during the Viking era, the American revolution, the Napoleonic wars, and WWII. They cherish the image of themselves as "neutral" (which usually meant helping both sides) and avoided much of the damage of European wars (which meant partial collaboration with the Nazis - although the Danish navy scuttled it ships rather than let Germany have them and the Danes risked much to help their Jewish population flee).

Today Denmark is emerging from a period of protestant modesty and diplomatic isolation and they are once again having a hand in world affairs. Their economy is one of the strongest in Europe, they participate in peacekeeping in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they host many UN and EU offices. Copenhagen is filled with immigrants from around the world with exotic clothing and food evident on most city streets.

Denmark is also a blending of the old and new as well as traditional and foreign influences. That morning, as I left a shawarma sandwich shop, I encountered a column of 60-100 soldiers with machine guns and a fife and drum band playing upbeat marching tunes. They stamped down the cobbled pedestrian street on their way to the palace for the changing of the guards. I could still here the band several blocks away as I boarded the bus for Hillerod. That's Denmark!


Castle courtyard and fountain.


The Hunting Hall.


The Royal Chapel.


American President Eisenhower has his own family crest in the Order of the Elephant. The motto says "peace through understanding" (no mention of all the tanks and guns that he used to free Europe).


The passage to the audience chamber.


The royal ballroom and portrait hall.


Queen Alexandra, daughter of Christian IX and wife of England's Edward VII.


The 12th century conversion (by the sword) of (German) pagans by Bishop Absolom and King Valdemar I.


A knight's armor from the 16th century.


A typical castle interior room.


War hero from the Danish civil war of 1842.


A military tattoo in Copenhagen marching to the palace.

Sean: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 [+] |
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