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:



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.



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.



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



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



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



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.



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.



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.



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



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 08, 2006

Hearts and Minds

The Pundits have been wagging their jaws on the "News Shows". The arguments sound familiar. We are told that the Israelis have "miscalculated" and have committed "atrocities". The rough actions of the IDF in Lebanon have lost them the good will of the world and of the all important "Arab Street".

After 9/11 French president (for life?) Jacques Chirac said "We are all Americans". What he meant, it turns out, was that when America looks on the brink of collapse, Manhattan in flames and our planes grounded, the world can shed some tears. America unmanned deserves some sympathy.

Then we launched two of the most successful invasions in world history (nevermind the aftermath). In short order the Taliban of Afghanistan, the undeniable culprits of 9/11, were rooted out of their 3rd world perch and sent running for the (Pakistani) hills. In Iraq the once defiant Saddam Hussein was no longer shopping for yellow cake or sending funds to the World Trade Center bombers, but hiding in a "spider hole".

The wounded giant was back on his feat. Once again his enemies feared retribution (Hamas gave an interview with Christiane Amanpour in which they admitted that Arafat, Syria, and Iran had warned them to keep their heads down and Israel enjoyed months with out a suicide bomber). Suddenly the French went right back to condescending "anti-Americanism".

The world (including Arianna Huffington on Larry King last night) patiently explained to us that while we held the hearts and minds of the world in our pain and in our grief, when we took up the gun and hunted down the bad guys (smoked them out) we lost the good will of the world. Today Arriana and others tell us that civilian deaths in Lebanon have lost Israel similar sympathy.

But Israel never had the "hearts and minds" of the Arab world. According to Islam the "chosen people of God" (the Jews) had let Him down and were to be replaced by the followers of Mohammed. The simple proof of this change of heavenly favor would be the conquest of Jerusalem by the Arabs.

Which is exactly what happened, 12 Crusades not withstanding, Jews were dispersed and reduced to third class status, bound by laws and customs to slowly die out. Then came the Holocaust, in which Christian Europe either actively or passively worked to finish the job (Christians have a similar problem in claiming to be the new Chosen People). Accordingly the Jews gave up all patience and declared their own state, in the land of their ancestors, where they could at least defend themselves and not rely upon the protection of foreigners.

The Arab inhabitants of the Holy Land reacted in horror and fled for the borders (the date of Israel's statehood is known as the Catastrophe in the Arab world). However, none of their neighbors would give them more than temporary shelter. In Jordan the Palestinians plotted to overthrow the king. In Lebanon the Palestinians armed themselves well enough to participate in the 1980's Civil War. In Kuwait, Iraq, and Tunis they formed an important source of cheap labor. In all the Arab world the Palestinians were used and abused.

Today the Palestinians have nearly achieved statehood. The Israeli settlers are gone from Gaza and fenced in on the West Bank. In Lebanon the IDF pulled out of all but the strategically important Sheba Farms and Golan Heights (with out which Israel would be vulnerable to Syrian attacks). US led efforts in 2000 gave the Palestinians an EU funded air and sea port and defacto recognition by Israel. Yet, on the heals of a booming economy (reliant on trade and employment in Israel), the Palestinians responded with a new Intefadah and the elevation of the Hamas terror group to government in open elections.

Following a similar miracle in Lebanon, in which peaceful civilian protests forced the withdrawal of Syrian forces, and in which 16 years of civil war was followed by the rebuilding of the historic city center and the revival of a booming tourist trade, after more than 10 years of peace with Israel, Lebanon raised the terror group Hezbollah to a Cabinet level political party. Hezbollah took over administration of the Israeli border, built up "listening posts", and stashed some 12,000 unguided missiles.

Then both Hezbollah and Hamas managed to cross the Israeli border, kill more than a dozen Israeli soldiers, and kidnap three to use as hostages. And Israel had enough. Israel has managed daily missile attacks, suicide bombings, and symbolic stoning from both Hamas and Hezbollah. In each case the host state has denied responsibility since the groups launching the attacks were beyond their control. But this year, as noted, both Hezbollah and Hamas ARE part of the governments of Palestine and Lebanon.

I have friends and acquaintances from Lebanon. I was planning to write my Master's thesis on the reconstruction efforts in Beirut. I have no desire to see that fair city reduced to rubble. But I have always supported Israel's right to exist. This puts me in a complicated position, according to the pundits.

What should Israel have done? Negotiate, as they have time and again? Pull out of more territory? Israel has already shrunk from nearly the size of Jordan or Syria to about the same size as tiny Lebanon (once you remove the West Bank, Gaza, and most of the Negev Desert from the maps on CNN). Seemingly no concession will win them so much as a place at the negotiation table from Hezbollah or Hamas, let alone a lasting peace deal.

What about the hearts and minds of the Arab world? As noted, the very existence of a Jewish state in the middle east is anathema to the Muslim faith, it violates their scriptural promise and puts them in the position of heretics instead of God's new chosen few. Israel never held the sympathy of a single devout Muslim, they have only served as strategic partners for some Arab rulers who felt threatened or annoyed by Palestinian (and Shia) terrorists.

What about the hearts and minds of Europe, or the rest of the world? Again, as shown by WWII, or the innumerable local pogroms, Jews have never held the sympathy of the world unless they were being killed off. As with 9/11 they only held the world's pity, not its sympathy, and that is an important distinction. As with the United States, Israel should only count world emotion with a grain of salt. Their actions need to be based on cold hard security calculations. And in this math the lives and economies of states that are either run with or by terrorists can only be a distant worry. The hearts and minds of these enemies can never be won.

Sean: Tuesday, August 08, 2006 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere