Sean LaFreniere

Independent News And Political Commentary
Welcome to Sean's Blog blog | home | contact
The Blogger
Blogger Bio 
The Archives
Search This Site

Site search Web search

powered by FreeFind

Support This Site
Favorite Links
World Trade Center Attacks
Bali Nightclub Attacks
Beslan School Attack
London Underground Attacks
Raddison Hotel Bombing
Katrina Hits New Orleans
Defend Denmark's Free Speach
The Anglosphere
Support Democracy In Iraq
Democracy Whisky Sexy
Chief Wiggles
Anderson Cooper's 360
The Command Post, making CNN look like the school newspaper.
Andrew Sullivan Dot Com
The Argus, Central Asian news.
Winds Of Change Dot Net
Free The Chief's Iraqi Generals
Michael J Totten
Blog Iran
Moderate Risk
Roger L Simon
free iran petition
victor davis hansen
Save Angel
Oregon Trip Check
iraq's election news
The Hitch
Game Of Life
Sponsored Links
Find info on VA loans and watch this video on the VA loan process.
News Links
Arab News Portal
Belfast Telegraph
BBC News
Dublin News
Edinburgh News
French News
German News
Iran Daily
Iran News
Iraq News
Irish Abroad
Irish Emigrant News
Irish News
Irish Quarterly
Israeli News
Jerusalem Post
London Local
London Times
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Pakistan News
Persian News
Roman News
Scottish News
Translated News
World Wire
Magazine Links
The Atlantic Monthly
The American Prospect
The Economist
Foreign Affairs
Front Page Magazine
Mother Jones
The National Review
New Republic
New Yorker
NY Review Of Books
Policy Review
Tech Central Station
Washington Monthly
Weekly Standard
Movie Links
Film Jerk
McMenamins Theatres
Movie News - Trailers
Rotten Tomatoes
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.

Blogging Resources
Technocrati Link Cosmos
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by
Site Meter
Blogroll This Site
(Copy image and hyperlink)
Sean LaFreniere
Support This Site

Monday, October 30, 2006

Public Education In America

Every election the state of the public education system is a major player. In some years in some states it is a property tax cap. In my state this year it is a local levy to prop up the schools after a property tax cap gutted funding.

We seem to have lost sight of the proper role of both the state and public education. Before we argue about how to fund our schools we ought to decide what we want them to do.

The first "public schools" in America were run by private citizens out of their homes. These schools taught whatever subjects the people who ran them knew themselves. They charged a fee either to the parents or to a church or civic organization.

Then around 1900 these schools began to recieve state funding and accreditation. Then teachers associations and unions were formed. Due to the constitution reserving to the states all rights and duties not explicitly given to the feds the game remained largely local until federal testing benchmarks in the 2000's.

In most states compulsory education didn't come until WWI. Prior to that higher education was largely limited to agricultural colleges such as Oregon State University (1868) in Corvallis. It was regularly accepted that students would drop out even before high school to work in the fields or shops of their parents.

Around 1850-1910 many districts in Protestant America worried about the rising tide of immigrants from "Papist" European states such as Italy and Poland. Public schools were a way to teach these students English and "secular civics" as a ward against the ways of the "old country".

Families who expected their children to go on to college or university regularly sent their kids to "Prep School", that is private schools designed to prepare kids for the rigors of academia. Everyone else was happy to have their children graduate public high school and get a job selling Fords or Kirbies.

With the return of vets from WWII we entered the era of mass college attendance, thanks to the GI bills and universities housed in old barracks trailers and defunct high schools, such as Portland State University (1955), once housed at Vanport before the flood and then at Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Hall). Now everyone hoped that their boys (and increasingly girls) would go on to higher education.

Now we are a nation confused about public education. What is it for, what must it do, how will we fund it? In my hometown the old local high school doggedly held on to a hope to be state champions in football, choir, and band. Other schools dreamed about state science fairs and "model UN" meetings. And we all hoped for a good sized stadium, gym, and ample computers.

But at the same time aging boomers refused to pass bonds to fund schools in which they had no children enrolled. Property taxes were deemed out of control and were then capped. But property taxes had always funded schools, which suffered then from regional divides, the rich cities vs. the poor country districts.

My own school never passed its local levy while I was enrolled in the 80's, but parents always "donated" the difference and we always made it to the playoffs in football and choir. And this mechanism has ensured that local differences have survived the property tax cap and other efforts to equalize the school budgets.

So today we have no federal funding, but federal test minimums to meet. We have no permanent funding mechanism through the state "general fund". And conservative Christians push "school vouchers" while Liberals push "charter schools", all of which drain funds and support from local public schools.

We need to decide if public schools are for everyone or just for the poor. We need to decide if public schools are there to absorb immigrants unfamiliar with our secular values or if they are to be used to push the religious views of the current majority. We need to decide if public schools are supposed to train our children in a vocation or send them on to college. And then we need to figure out how to pay for this service.

Sean: Monday, October 30, 2006 [+] |
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cafe Griensteidl in Vienna

Ritual Roasters in San Francisco

Please permit me to make this obvious observation... the internet and the laptop are now to the cafe what the newspapers and broadsheets once were. The same people from the same ilks do the same things with them in the same places today. Viva la revolution, plus la change, etc.

Sean: Saturday, October 28, 2006 [+] |
Friday, October 27, 2006
Like Fire And Water

Scientists have managed to turn water into a metalic alloy, and make it into a bomb in the process. Michael and I were just discussing how if anyone ever turns underwear, or water, into a bomb airplane travel will truly become a nightmare. Sigh.

Sean: Friday, October 27, 2006 [+] |
Thursday, October 26, 2006

Youtube is awesome. Miss something on TV a while back? Is it important? Log on to Youtube and watch it!

Everytime I have heard a reference to George Allen's "macaca" quote I have just shook my head. How can any politician, any person, be so stupid? Even if he didn't mean it racially, just saying a word like that when you are stumping for office is idiotic.

But then I actually watched the clip on Youtube... aw man, it's a non story. Quite clearly Allen thought it was the the name of the camera-man (for the opposition candidate). He was not using it as an epitaph, racial or otherwise. This is clearly yet another case of the media simply creating a news item.


Sean: Thursday, October 26, 2006 [+] |
Friday, October 20, 2006
Taking Back Government... With A Whimper

This may be one of the saddest "take-overs" of Congress ever. Yes, the Democrats look poised to win a bare majority in each house in this mid-term election. Yes, the Republicans are running scared. But the Democrats will have little to brag about on their day of victory Nov. 3rd.

As discussed briefly on NPR this morning and on CNN yesterday, it does look like voters are tired of the bad news coming daily from Iraq. Voters here and the people over there are both giving in to the pressure of violence (terrorism).

Iran has been funding death squads around the world for years. In Iraq their goal has been to start a civil war and thus push the Americans out so that they can take over. With their parallel efforts in Syria/Lebanon and Gaza/Westbank they are poised to literally take over the middle east.

The only thing stopping the victory of the Iranian mullacracy was the threat of "regime change" from the US. The people of Iran long ago grew tired of their bossy, nagging, and violent government. When the US invaded neighboring Afghanistan in 2001 many Iranians held up signs saying "US Army: this way next".

However, by creating a nuclear trump card the regime in Tehran has killed two birds with one stone. They have rallied much of their population behind the idea that nukes bring prestige and that the US is bad for trying to stop them. A perfect score.

Over the past few years the death squads in Iraq were resisted by ordinary Iraqis. The people knew that when a few heads showed up in a burlap sack in the morning it was just Iran looking for power. Admirably they resisted joining the bloodshed.

But eventually the needs of daily survival took over. The Iraqi people formed militias and joined the civil war that Iran was throwing for them. And it looks miserable on CNN's nightly news.

America's voters are also tired of the bad news. Despite the knowledge that defeat in Iraq will be a victory for Iran and bad news for car driving Americans everywhere (to say nothing of freedom and democracy loving Americans), the American voter is tired enough of the violence to give Iran the win.

This mid-term election is poised to throw out many Republicans. The war, the economy, and quite a few scandals have tainted the GOP. This will throw a lot of voters into the Democrat camp this election. But not because they love the Dems, only because they are tired of the Republicans.

The Democrats will have won little (as will Iran, just wait and see). American voters do not think that the Democrats have a better plan for the US economy (they almost never do). American voters do not think that the Democrats have a better plan on Iraq or national defense (they almost never do). And American voters do not think that the Democrats are any less corrupt or prone to scandal (in fact, they are usually more clumsy in their cover-ups).

On Nov 3rd few Dems will have the temerity to wave banners and flags announcing their take-over of government. This victory will not be celebrated with a bang, but with a whimper.

The Dems will take over a government deeply in debt and scheduled to get worse and a failing war against terrorism that is likewise scheduled to get worse (Iran will take the Dem victory as a score on their side and will only ramp up the bloodshed and the push for nukes as a way to get in a final few points before the bell of UN negotiations).

Hurray for the Democratic victors this November, and to all of us... good luck.

Sean: Friday, October 20, 2006 [+] |
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
In Defense Of Style

From Webster's... Style: 1) a distinctive manner of expression (style of writing) 2) a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed (a style of riding) 3) a distinctive quality, form, or type of something (style of architecture) 4) the state of being popular (stylish clothes).

In architecture schools across American young people train to be the next big thing, the next star architect, the next original artist.

Peers and professors stress the holy grail of "authenticity" and any attempt to reference history in one's work is ridiculed.

The buildings that win praise are those that rely heavily on computer generated graphics and that attempt to solve programmatic issues with highly unusual technical apparatus.

Meanwhile the general public tends to mistrust and devalue the profession of architecture, expecting a gross building way over budget.

Many politicians are loath to spend much on an architect to design everyday projects, meanwhile any pile of unusable sculptural pieces are accepted from an architect when the goal is to put a place on the map.

What we are forgetting is the true meaning of style and its relation to our work. All of our buildings are in a particular style. The real question is whether it is the right style for the job.

Most of my fellow students are designing projects in a "modern style" which has come to be further subdivided into genres such as "functionalist" and "organic".

Before WWII most public buildings in America were designed in a Neoclassical style, many churches in America were built in Gothic or Romanesque styles, and many homes were Federalist or Colonial.

Today the most outrageous and "original" (read "authentic") architects can also be placed into a style group... Norman Foster is "techno", Frank Gehry is "deconstructionist", and Thomas Mayne is "tectonic".

The real issue is not if our buildings follow a style but rather how well they serve the client and contribute to the larger fabric of their context.

A stodgy university might grow tired of its brick and ivy halls and hire a "starchitect" to build them a dorm that looks like a wet sponge. But if the students do not feel comfortable in the building, or if donors fail to recognize their alma mater and reduce their contributions, than the building, the architect, and the client will have failed.

Meanwhile a city which puts in place rigorous design guidelines to restrict future growth to a historic model, or even one chosen by market research, may limit the creativity of an architect or the desires of a client.

However, if the city wins international acclaim for its style and grace, if property values go through the roof, and if each major building continues to serve its original functions and to be relevant to future generations then success is undeniable.

Santa Barbara is a California city with a rich Hispanic heritage. It was founded by Spanish missionaries and soldiers in the late 18th century. Its principle buildings for a hundred years were adobe structures with red tiled roofs. The Presidio, the Mission, the comandante's home (Casa De La Guerra Museum) were all Hispanic in style.

When America took over California in the mid 19th century new styles came to Santa Barbara. Store fronts along State Street were built in Victorian and Italian styles. New homes near the mission began to appear in Victorian and Tudor styles. These were the modes of building current at the time these buildings were constructed and no one worried about what "style" they represented because they were simply "stylish".

However, by 1920 a new fashion took the city. George Washington Smith, an out of work Pennsylvania architect, had just arrived with paintings of his visits to Spain and he built himself a stylish Spanish villa. Soon his neighbors were asking him to design them new homes and businesses in this style that matched Santa Barbara's Hispanic history. The new courthouse, the city hall, and the train station were all done in adobe with red tiled roofs.

When a magnitude 6.5 earthquake leveled the Victorian storefronts the city created architectural standards, a review board, and a community drafting office to direct the reconstruction in one of several Hispanic styles. By WWII Santa Barbara was famous as America's Riviera and was home to some of the biggest movie stars, politicians, and business tycoons from around the world.

Today all the major buildings constructed in Hispanic styles are still in use today. They perform their original functions and are popular with the general public - including many new immigrants from Mexico. The cheapest two bedroom home runs just under a million dollars and the population has boomed to nearly 100,000 residents. George Washington Smith's work has been honored as both original and as American by New York reviewers even though it was consciously built in a Spanish "style".

Consciously choosing a style is American, putting building codes into law by popular consent is American, and adapting these styles to meet new programmatic and technical challenges is very American. Doing all this and making buildings that please the eye and uplift the soul is highly original. And wanting to live in a nice place where property values appreciate nicely is very authentic.

Style is like money, we only worry about it when it's missing.

Santa Barbara Presidio

Santa Barbara Mission

Casa De La Guerra

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara City Hall

Union Pacific Depot

Victorian State Street

Damaged State Street

Rebuilt Hispanic State Street

State Street Pedestrian Traffic

A hispanic market on State Street

A medical office courtyard

Houses on the American Riviera

Sean: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 [+] |
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Wilderness Now

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines "wilderness" as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled and where man himself is a visitor who does not remain".

The dictionary tells us that a "wilderness" is a "tract of land, or a region, uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wide, barren plain; a wild; a waste; a desert; a pathless waste of any kind".

Wikepedia has perhaps the best definition: "a natural environment that has not been modified by human activity".

This definition would include forests and fields in which people can visit and even harvest from so long as the original processes that exist there continue largely undamaged.

This would allow hiking and perhaps even careful camping, but not riding ATV's or parking the RV.

Officially the title "wilderness" can be granted by an act of congress for federal land that retains a "primeval character" and that has no human habitation or development.

According to Wiki, approximately 100 million acres are designated as wilderness in the United States. This accounts for 4.71% of the total land of the country; however, 54% of this wilderness is in Alaska, and only 2.58% of the continental United States is designated as wilderness.

There are 680 separate wilderness designations in the United States, from Florida's Pelican Island at 5 acres to Alaska's Wrangell-Saint Elias at 9,078,675 acres.

According to a 2002 study by Conservation International, 46% of the world's land mass is wilderness, down only slightly from the 54% which prevailed through most of human history.

However, according to an UN report published in 2003, only 10.9% of the world's land mass is currently a Category 1 Protected Area, that is, either a strict nature reserve (5.5%) or protected wilderness (5.4%).

The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates that 26% of the earth's land mass falls into the category of "Last of the wild."

The wildest regions of the world include Siberia; parts of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland; the Amazon; the Himalayas; the Australian outback; and the Sahara.

Wilderness matters to us because we often use it, either literally or psychologically, gaining energy and releasing tension - a process often called "recreation".

American writers and philosophers such as Henry David Theroux often commented on the value of wilderness to mankind, as did statesmen such as President Grant who created Yosemite in 1872.

Perhaps the greatest value of wilderness seems only tangential to humans and yet is of maximum impact. The overall ecological health of the planet relies upon large, interconnected, regions within various climate zones to provide food and breeding areas for the interconnected "web of life".

With out a large enough breeding population the health of a species declines. Lions isolated to parks in Africa develop immune disorders, while elephants in India regularly come into conflict with human farmers.

When a species at the top of the food chain fails the prey species they once consumed experience a population explosion, use up all their own food, and suffer disease and starvation. When a species at the bottom dies off a chain reaction follows up to many top level animals (a die off of algae in the ocean will starve schooling fish and their own predators).

The loss of plant and animal species shrinks our own food pool and diminishes our resources for fighting disease and improving human life (25% of the active ingredients in today's cancer fighting drugs come from the Amazon).

The mere knowledge that we are having such a destructive impact on the planet damages our own mental health as individuals and our national psyche (as understood explicitly by Eastern nations such as China, Japan, and India who celebrate ecological health in art and commerce and implicitly by Western nations who are avid hikers and campers).

Wilderness may be hard for some to define, but however you label a healthy planet, we need it. Maybe we can learn to co-exist within a wilderness area. However, we must protect these lands, even from ourselves, if need be.

So, now how about ANWR? Should we drill there, harming the wilderness of the area or should we ask Detroit and Japan to give us more efficient cars? Or we could all learn to drive a bit less, support higher urban densities (which leads to more vibrant cities), and not live in climates where we don't belong (like Atlanta).

Sean: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 [+] |
Monday, October 09, 2006
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

After years of coddling the enemy, a policy called "sunshine", South Korea and its allies now face a noo-cue-lar armed Kim Jong Il.

The nuclear genie is now fully out of its bottle, if it ever was contained. The US, Britain, France, and Russia all have nukes. Then China. Then India and Pakistan. Now North Korea has tested its own bomb. And soon we will hear announcements from Japan that they have their own to counter N. Korea. Then Iran will announce it has a few, then Israel will admit that it has its own to counter theirs. This is how the world unravels.

Sean: Monday, October 09, 2006 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere