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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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dark Seas

Wretchard at the Belmont Club lays out the current world view of the 30-something geo-politically involved set.

He notes that 9/11 obviously was not some sort of crime similar to Oklahoma City, nor was it a cry for help from the world's poor, nor was it chickens coming home to roost.

It was one of a series of attacks (including the Kobar Towers, the African embassies, and the USS Cole) launched by wealthy Islamist idealists who envisioned a world where Muslims used the power of oil and terror to force the West into submission to a "greater Islamic world" similar to the fantasy of the Third Reich.

What happened on 9/11 was not an earthquake, over and done quickly, but a long, slow and complete reshuffling of the tectonic plates that comprise human civilization; something comparable to the death of empires and the passing of eras. Such events are not over in a day, or a year, or a decade.


The funny thing is that my friends and I "got" this message the instant the second plane hit the towers. We knew what we were up against, what needed to be done, and how long it would take. What has driven me nuts is watching the slow, tortuous spread of this realization to the pundits and politicians of my parents age.

I accepted the declaration of war by Osama Bin Laden (I visited my local Army recruiter the very next Monday) and I was in it for the long haul. That is why I supported Bush moving on Afghanistan and Iraq even though I loath the man's politics. This is also why I am not shocked and dismayed at the length of time or the loss of soldiers lives during the GWOT.

I don't like this anymore than you (Lefties) do, but I spent my life learning to appreciate Western Civ from my professor father, and I am not willing to see that civilization plowed under by vicious medieval thugs.

Sean: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 [+] |
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Monday, March 20, 2006
Was It Worth It?

Time magazine has the gall to ask if the Iraq war was worth it. I read the headline and pictured a room full of insurance actuaries tabulating the price of bullets and weighing it against that of a human life.

My friend Michael Totten has reported from Northern Iraq, unofficially called Kurdistan, where an entire race of people is now free from the crushing grip of Baghdad. Mike visited the new genocide museum in Sulimania...

The old headquarters of the mukhabarat, the secret police, still stands in one of Suli’s quiet neighborhoods, gutted and pock-marked with bullet holes.

The entrance to the museum is in the back of the building. To get there from the front you have to walk past one of the rape rooms. Women’s underwear and contraceptives were found in that room when the prison was liberated by the Peshmerga.

Some rooms in the museum don’t have pictures at all. Instead they show the instruments and the methods of torture. In one room, the so-called “Washington Room,” men and women had hot electric irons pressed into their skin.

Dozens of people were packed into single caged cells. This one, pictured below, needed to have blood scrubbed off the walls before it could be opened to visitors.

The hardest thing to see was the cell used to hold children before they were murdered. My translator Alan read some of the messages carved into the wall.

“I was ten years old. But they changed my age to 18 for execution.”

“Dear Mom and Dad. I am going to be executed by the Baath. I will not see you again.”

10,725 people were killed in this building alone, all died during torture, while those actually sentenced to death were shipped to Abu Ghraib and who knows how many died there.


This region lived in terror of a man the US once backed as less-bad-than-Iran. And maybe he was, but the stories from Kurdistan left me asking if we should have ever supported him at all. Certainly it was our duty to remove him as soon as we learned the extent of his evil.

The people from Kurdistan kindly forgive us taking so long to realize what a snake was in our pocket. But I cant expect them to forgive our casually asking if saving their 6 million lives was "worth" 2500 of our own (professional soldiers rather than civilians) and a few billion dollars out of our $12 trillion dollar GDP. How does one nation weigh the worth of another?

Sean: Monday, March 20, 2006 [+] |
...
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Danish Countryside

I am sorry for the lack of landscape photos. I had horrible visibility on my last trip. However, I don't want to put anyone off from visiting this lovely county. So I am presenting some cherry picked photos from the web. I would like to thank the user "Jeppe" from Trekearth.com. If you want to explore the world from your desktop I highly recommend browsing this site.



A typical old danish farmhouse. These were built as one building, then a wing, then another wing, until they formed a square around a work yard, garden, and pig pen.



Swans and other water fowl are common in the lakes, canals, and sounds of Denmark as the country lies on a prime Europe to Africa migration route.

This is pretty much my weather lately; cold, misty, snowing, and windy.



Egeskov castle and mill in Fyn. Egeskov is a wonderfull old estate with buildings from the 16th century. Legend says that an entire oak forest was used to build the pilings of this lake castle.

The round church of Fyn. Round churches, or a church in a tower, was a common early form of chapel in Denmark. This one has all the typical later square additions, a weapons room and a bell tower, cobbled onto its round shape.




This is the weather they promise me, when Danes head to the bathing houses along the coast, supposedly there is much naked basking on the beaches.

(again, these photos are ripped from the pages of Jeppe at trekearth.com, thanks man)

Sean: Thursday, March 02, 2006 [+] |
...
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Western Denmark

Our school took a trip out to Western Denmark to see the countryside and some important architecture. I am sorry for the lack of landscape photos but the land was lost in snow and mist, little showed up. Also, I am waiting on a sunny day to photograph Copenhagen, but I will go ahead and show you Aarhus and Kolding on the "mainland" of Jylland (say "joot-land").

We met our bus early in the morning at the cathedral square behind school. Our driver spoke no English, the first I'd met, but was a tolerant fellow. The bus was comfy and warm by comparison to the cold and foggy weather outside.

We left the city and crossed some pretty big bridges to reach the Island of Fyn (say "foon"). Our first stop was a new church in Antvorskov designed by Arkitektgruppen Regnbuen. This church claims to have a rather active parish by Danish standards, but it still seemed like the complex is really a community center built around the idea of a church.

The chapel itself is made of white painted bricks and bare yellow bricks. The warmest features are the wooden benches and doors. The "big idea" is letting indirect light in to wash over the uneven brick walls. Right away we all spotted the Dane's traditional model ship hanging from the ceiling.




The new church at Antvorskov

We then stopped at a medieval church at Orbaek for comparison. This church is also white washed brick and stone. Again the big idea is the play of light from deep-set windows with clear leaded glass and the warmest features are the wood benches and doors.

Unlike Antvorskov, this building was purpose-built as a church for worship. The oldest section dates from around the 12th century and it has seen regular additions ever since. First they built a "weapon room", what we might call a mudroom or foyer, then the roof was raised and then a square bell tower was added.




The old church at Orbaek.

We also visited the Musholm Faerie Centre" which is a Muscular Sclerosis hospice by the beach. Concrete walls set in a fan shape perpendicular to the shoreline define the complex. The units sit between these walls and are covered with sod roofs. The boldest features are the sky lit bathrooms with colorful mosaics in each unit - a lot of time is spent here with sick kids so it was a nice gesture.



Musholm Faerie Center.

Our primary destination on Fyn was the art museum in the little town of Faaborg. The patron, Mads Rasmussen, was a wealthy cannery owner who made a lot of money trading to both sides during the Danish civil war. He developed quite an art collection and in 1912 he created an arts foundation and opened a museum.

This building gets a lot of attention for its restrictive program. Architect Carl Petersen had to squeeze the galleries into a sliver between Mad's factory and his garden. The result is an odd little building that is long and narrow.

The museum unfolds as a series of unique rooms each dedicated to a specific type of art. While the rules were tight, the building works quite well. Aesthetically it is noted for its bold use of color and its Asian influences.





The village of Faaborg, the museum, and an SUV.

Then we crossed to the mainland of Jylland and drove into the city of Kolding. About 30k residents nestle into a lake, locks, and port below a restored castle. The city feels both lively and cozy at the same time (the misty weather helped the mood).

The firm Arkitema has a wonderful library in Kolding that may have been inspired by Rem Koolhaas's Seattle Library. Although, in Kolding all the Rem elements seem to work better. And while the building is less visually stunning it makes for better urban design.

The library fully occupies its block in the center of town with housing above and a cafe that opens directly onto the street and the library. Glass walls let you see what is going on inside and invite you in. Two glass box atriums bring daylight and weather into the interior and a spiral stair and open reading area sit between them.

The materials pallate includes metal, glass, and white plaster. These ellements are contrasted against carefully chosen real living plants (as compared to Rem's green carpets) and the book sorting machine is well displayed. Most importantly the best views are given to common users rather than to staff and event patrons.




The library at Kolding.

The next day we walked down to the lake to visit the town swimming pavilion (designed by Nohr & Sigsgaard) and the castle. Along the way we saw a typical apartment complex and two single family houses. Swans swam through the chilly water and came looking for handouts.



The swim hall and the castle on the lake.




Danish housing.

The Danish architects Inger and Jahannes Exner took an unusual approach to restoring the old castle. They did not "fix it" but rather re-enclosed it in obviously new materials and just saved what was original. The new intervention laterally floats above the old roofline and the floors do not meet the walls. A new copper stair sits where one of the stone ones collapsed.







The "restored" castle in Kolding, viking runes, and a wild boar (scariest land animal in Denmark).

We also stopped at the Trapholt furniture and art museum to see some professors' work along with many famous Danish artists. The building was designed by Bente Aude and Bo Lundgaard and is remarkable for being primarily an underground hallway with skylights. The typically Danish lunch was very good, set with Danish plates and furnishings, of course.



Our professor's chair at Trapholt.

Another provocative destination was the Okalariet, in Vejle, designed by Karen Exner. This building sits sandwiched between two older structures and is used as a showcase for sustainable design. It was simple but nice, creating an interesting outdoor area for events and a tower media room with a great city view.


The eco-larium at Vejle.

As we pulled into Arhus, Denmark's second largest city at 250k, we stopped by a tiny co-housing community called Hjortshoj. The snow here was about a foot deep and it was very cold. We stood stamping our feet as the gardner explained the community's history, focus, and recent successes.

The residences are simple homes that conserve energy and water. The community tries to share social activities and the maintainance of the structures. They also grow veggies for sale to residents and visitors.

Currently most residents commute into Arhus to work. Although they have other goals, at the momment it seems more like a successful bedroom community. Arkitema was behind this project as well.



The eco-village of Hjortshoj.

The next day we visited the art museum by Schmidt+Hammer+Lassen, and music hall by Johan Richter, Arne Jacobsen's city hall, and the university planned by Kay Fisker and CF Moller. My camera ran out of juice, but I may visit Arhus again and I will be sure to take more photos.


Art Museum

Concert Hall

City Hall

University
(these four are stock photos from the web, all others are my own)

Sean: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 [+] |
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