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, September 12, 2006

The Myth Of The Shale

Every few months links appear on Fark and other news list-serves to articles touting the vast oil sands of Colorado as a solution to US dependence on foreign oil. Will the oil sands, shale oil, or organic marblerock -as it is alternately called- save our SUV driving hides?

Shale oil is actually an organic material called kerogen trapped in sedimentary rocks. Burnable carbon can be yielded from these rocks after it is de-bonded from the rock, usually after being super heated (to 500-700 degrees) and enriched with hydrogen.

The normal process of extraction is surface mining, either "open-pit" or "strip mining", which is extremely environmentally damaging as it involves removing many millions of cubic tons of earth and vegetation and depositing large dumps of refuse material contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins (the super heated soil expands by roughly 30%, so you need a larger area to dispose of the slag than it came from). Large quantities of water are also required for the creation and transport of the fuel.

Royal Dutch Shell has an experimental process code named "Mahogany Research Project" in which the ground is first super frozen using ammonia, to limit environmental damage, and then super heated with an electric element. The soil is baked for roughly four years, then water is pumped into the well, and fuel is pumped out.

Shell claims to get a return of about 3:1 with this method (as compared to less than 2:1 for most methods, conventional oil returns about 5:1). In most models at least 40% of the potential energy is spent in the recovery, modification, and transport of the fuel -sometimes much more.

The drawback of relying on shale is that the price per barrel of oil must be above $70 permanently in order to justify extraction. However, once production commences the addition of shale to the market immediately lowers the price.

Significant investment was lost in the 80's when the price dipped at the end of the first Middle East Oil Crisis and current investors are still skittish (an Exxon joint venture in Australia collapsed in 2003 and cost them nearly half a billion dollars).

The Shell plan proposes to bake a 1,000 ft deep, 6 mile by 6 mile, chunk of Colorado and would consume nearly all of Colorado's available ground water. It would also require "the largest power plant in Colorado history." The plant would cost about $3 billion, it would consume 5 million tons of coal each year, and produce 10 million tons of greenhouse gases, with an annual electric bill of about $500 million.

Shell hopes to produce about 10,000 barrels a day from shale after four years of production. According to The Energy Bulletin that is about 1% of current US consumption and China and India hope to consume even more than the US over the next decade (World consumption may be around 26 billion barrels of oil a year). And in the last 150 years humans have used 1 trillion barrels of conventional oil and will use another trillion in the next 30 years. So how much will shale oil help?

From The Energy Bulletin:
Producing 100,000 barrels per day of shale oil [is possible]. But the nation currently consumes that much oil every seven minutes. Improving the efficiency of our automobiles by 2 miles per gallon would save 10 times as much fuel... a more efficient fleet could save 20 times as much petroleum as oil shale is likely to ever provide. -Randy Udall, director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, and Steve Andrews, a Denver-based energy expert.


Alternative energy that comes from renewable sources is much more promising than just putting off peak oil another few years or even decades. However, they are extremely capital intensive and unreliable. They also usually turn out to have unforeseen environmental consequences (many states are now removing river dams in order to save fish runs and respond to sedimentation problems).

And in they end all such power schemes produce usable power, in the form of electricity, but not storable power such as petroleum and coal. This wont help a Boeing 777 or a Caterpillar bulldozer on a job site.

Our only answer is the disappointing realization that the world cannot continue to consume as it does now, let alone when the Chinese "catch-up". We must all do with less of the major lifestyle-enabling technologies.

We can probably keep our I-pods and laptops, probably. But we will not be able to farm where there is no water, or live in either the desert or the sub-arctic, and we wont be able to drive our current SUV's to work.

Sean: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 [+] |
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