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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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 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere