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, February 12, 2006

Historic Free Speech

Andrew Sullivan links to Die Welt, which ran a transcript of a speech by Hirsi Ali regarding the Danish Cartoon Controversy and the importance of free speech to Democracy. As Andrew notes, this speech is extremely important, chances are it will be required reading in universities of the future. You should check it out if you care about either women's rights, religious freedom, liberal philosophy, or democratic society. Read it here.

I am here to defend the right to offend.

It is my conviction that the vulnerable enterprise called democracy cannot exist without free expression, particularly in the media. Journalists must not forgo the obligation of free speech, which people in other hemispheres are denied.

I am of the opinion that it was correct to publish the cartoons of Muhammad in Jyllands Posten and it was right to re-publish them in other papers across Europe.

Let me reprise the history of this affair. The author of a children's book on the prophet Muhammad could find no illustrators for his book.

He claimed that illustrators were censoring themselves for fear of violence by Muslims who claimed no-one, anywhere, should be allowed to depict the prophet.

Jyllands Posten decided to investigate this. They -- rightly -- felt that such self-censorship has far-reaching consequences for democracy.

It was their duty as journalists to solicit and publish drawings of the prophet Muhammad...

We have been flooded with opinions on how tasteless and tactless the cartoons are -- views emphasising that the cartoons only led to violence and discord. What good has come of the cartoons, so many wonder loudly?

Well, publication of the cartoons confirmed that there is widespread fear among authors, filmmakers, cartoonists and journalists who wish to describe, analyse or criticise intolerant aspects of Islam all over Europe.

It has also revealed the presence of a considerable minority in Europe who do not understand or will not accept the workings of liberal democracy. These people – many of whom hold European citizenship – have campaigned for censorship, for boycotts, for violence, and for new laws to ban ‘Islamophobia’.

The cartoons revealed to the public eye that there are countries willing to violate diplomatic rules for political expediency. Evil governments like Saudi Arabia stage “grassroots” movements to boycott Danish milk and yoghurt, while they would mercilessly crash a grassroots movement fighting for the right to vote...(more)


My kind Danish professor blames the paper and the PM for provoking the Muslim community. He is a good guy and he means well. However, I believe that his view on this affair is shaped by the fact that he was born to a well-functioning Democracy in Northern Europe. His society has been largely homogeneous, comfortable, and safe for his entire life (he was born after WWII). Thus he feels safe inviting Muslim refugees (more than 50% of the 150k Muslims in DK are refugees) into his country and sees nothing wrong with extending them the courtesy of tip-toeing around their religious/political beliefs (let's face it, these are a single item in Islam).

By contrast Ali Hirsi was born in Somalia in 1970. When she was 5 years old her she was circumcised in the manner common to Muslim countries in Africa. To be clear, those parts of her, given by Nature or God to make sex pleasurable and thereby assist in the procreation of the species and allow even the most poor and wretched human some delight, were cut from her body in an attempt to make her a docile toy for her future husband. When her father arranged a marriage for her to a man she had never met she fled (not before physical violence) to the Netherlands.

While working on her masters degree at university Ms. Ali worked as an interpreter in the Dutch-Moroccan immigrant community. She was shocked to find that the suffering of Muslim women continued unabated in Europe. Forced marriages, physical and sexual abuse, and abortions were high among the immigrant communities where Muslim women were forced to wear the veil and stay inside family compounds, just as if they were in their home countries. Although the men had fled poverty and war in Africa or the Middle East, they did not want to accept the new rights and freedoms of Europe.

Despite race riots in England and France in the 1990's Europe politely refused to discuss the problem with its immigrants until the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Then right-wing politicians and artist provocateurs began to air the dirty laundry. In May of 2002 the right-wing gay Dutch politician (sounds oxymoronic)Pim Fortuyn was murdered and the crime blamed on animal rights activists. However Mr. Fortuyn had been a vocal critic of conservative Muslim clerics for years, so one may doubt this conclusion. At the very least the conservative clerics he troubled were relieved by his departure.

Around this time Ms. Ali joined Dutch politics from the Left and became a vocal critic of Islam and immigration issues in Europe. Her book The Son Factory attempted to expose the way Muslim immigrant families continued to subjugate women even in Dutch society. In 2004 she worked with the controversial Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh (yes, related to Vincent). Their film Submission also focused on the oppression of women in Islam. In November Theo was found dead with an Islamic manifesto pinned to his chest with a knife. For the last few years Ms. Ali has been living under police guard in response to death threats and fatwas against her.

This week Ms. Ali came out of hiding to speak up on the Danish Cartoon Controversy. She said pretty much what I said to my Danish professor. Free speech is central to the functioning of a democracy, if you dont use it you will lose it, and the cartoons were just doing their job... biting political commentary of social and political issues in a graphic and often ironicaly humorous manner. Censorship of such speach by either the authorities, politic society, or the artist/editorialist themselves is dangerous to the overall health of Liberal Democracies.

Sean: Sunday, February 12, 2006 [+] |
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