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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Thursday, November 30, 2006

UK Divorce Or Remarriage?

The Sun reports on a new poll that shows Scots want to seperate from England by 52% and the English want a divorce even more so with 59%. Nearly 70% of English at least want their own parliament.

With the trouble the UK has had as a part of the EU perhaps with national devolution a new union might present itself. This one could reunite in a loose supra-federation the english speaking democracies of the world.

Sean: Thursday, November 30, 2006 [+] |
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The People Of Lebanon

In a recent conversation with Hezbollah over at Michael's comment thread their representative referred to his group as "the people".

He implied that Hezbollah represented everyone in Lebanon. But then he acknowledged that the Sunni hate them, oh and the Christians don't like them, but are staying out of it.

This has probably all changed this week with the killing of the Christian leader Pierre Gemayel.

National festivities to celebrate "independence day" were canceled and people gathered around televisions to watch a live funeral broadcast.

So far Syria has killed five prominent Lebanese politicians, including former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (the man who rebuilt Beirut), in the last two years.

The response this week has been immediate, with burning tyres, vandalism to cars, and attacks on Hezbollah offices.

The people are now nearly entirely against the "party of god".

Sean: Wednesday, November 22, 2006 [+] |
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Friday, November 17, 2006
Casino Royale

The new Bond film is out. This one is from a parallel universe. In it Bond is a new 007 agent who earns his license post-9/11. He is buff and badass, and cold as ice. He does get some nice cars and gadgets, he gets to lay some one liners, and a few chicks. But mostly he kills people. Like the government assassin he was meant to be. Ian Flemming... is this your Bond?

Sean: Friday, November 17, 2006 [+] |
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The Democrats' Poisoned Pill

A recent Newsweek poll, discussed on The News Hour last night, shows that the general public is very worried that the Democrats will indeed "cut and run" in Iraq (Iraqis are worried too).

Yes, the war hasn't been going perfectly. Yes, we still don't have a smoking gun to prove the WMD case. Yes, we appear bogged down in a police action that shows no end.

But most American's believe that the invasion of Iraq was worthwhile anyway. Many understand the important distinctions between Vietnam and Iraq (lower casualties and local support). In the end they know that if we run, they die.

The war will not last beyond Bush's term in office, he was always going to have to wrap it up by the next election. But now it's the Democrats who are calling for the retreat.

Republicans such as John McCain, who push for MORE rather than less troops, can argue that they would have won the war, while the Democrats will get blamed for defeat.

This last election was close. The Pennsylvania Democrat that unseated Rick Santorum ran as pro-life and pro-gun and if Virginia's incumbent had simply got a photographer's name right the GOP would still have the Senate.

With McCain and Giuliani the GOP can offer wavering voters Presidential candidates they can trust not to cut women's rights, mistreat gay people, or destroy the environment. And these guys both have stronger records on crime and national defense than probably any Democratic candidate.

The Democrats need to stealthily drop the Iraq issue. The die is already cast, we will be out by 2008. Meanwhile they need to reconnect with their electorate and learn what OTHER issues will play well in the NEXT election.

Sean: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 [+] |
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Monday, November 13, 2006
The Once And Future Leader

Fox is announcing that former NY City mayor Rudy Giuliani has formed an "exploratory committee" to begin raising funds to run for President in 2008.

Rudolph Giuliani III was born in 1944 in Brooklyn, NY to Italian immigrant parents. He attended Manhattan College and graduated magnum cum laude from New York University School of Law in 1968.

In 1970 Giuliani worked for the office of the US Attorney. In 1973 he was named Chief of the Narcotics unit and rose to executive US Attorney. In 1975 he moved to Washington, D.C. and served as Associate Deputy Attorney General and chief of staff to the Deputy Attorney General.

In 1981 Giuliani was named Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice were he supervised all US Attorney Offices, the Department of Corrections, the DEA, and the US Marshals.

In 1983 Giuliani was appointed US Attorney for the Southern District of New York where he prosecuted corrupt Wall Street traders such as Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken.

In 1989 Giuliani ran for mayor on both the Republican and Liberal party tickets (NY has four major parties and a person can be registered with two, they are Democrat and Republican, as well as Liberal and Conservative).

Giuliani's time as mayor saw crime fall below rival Los Angeles and even below the national average. He tackled organized crime such as the Gambino family, and their hold on essential city services, cutting garbage collection bills by $600 million.

Giuliani also got behind urban renewal schemes such as the Times Square project in which peep shows and porn shops were replaced by MTV and Disney. Critics complained that his plans usually turned public spaces into private places.

Giuliani almost ran for Senate (perhaps against Hillary?) in 2000, however he withdrew when diagnosed with prostate cancer. His illness was also key to his divorce of Donna Hanover and remarriage to the more sympathetic Judith Nathan in 2003.

Giuliani is perhaps most famous as the mayor who pulled NY City through the 9/11 attacks. He was credited with presenting a public face of both sympathy and resolve, while multi-tasking to manage competing government response and reconstruction efforts.

Rudy has developed a reputation as a moderate Republican. He supports gay rights and is pro-choice. On the other hand he is tough on immigration and crime. Presumably he would also be tough on national defense. In many ways he mirrors this November's mid-term election victors, both Democrat and Republican.

While the Conservative core of the GOP might boycott Rudy, he has a 63% favorable rating within the party as a whole. He also has one of the country's most recognizable names and faces after 9/11 television time and being named Time Magazine's Person Of The Year in 2001.

Sean: Monday, November 13, 2006 [+] |
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Thursday, November 09, 2006
The People Have Spoken, The Bastards

Ballot initiatives have infected our democracy. This sickness allows outside influences to trick voters into passing bills that do themselves harm. We need to wake up to this danger and cure what ails us.

Referendum or "direct democracy" was introduced to America from Switzerland in the 19th century. Initiatives might work fine for small, homogeneous populations with a short order of political business. However, in Switzerland they were also used by Napoleon to trick the nation into voting away their own independent government.

In America what started as a specific effort to pass progressive reform over the heads of legislatures perceived as corrupt has grown into a flood of measures designed to benefit the very moneyed powers behind such influence. We now regularly pass bills that no self-respecting legislator would attempt to pass through their colleagues.

In California a disastrous property tax cap (proposition 13) was passed that slashed state income and destroyed the school system. In Colorado a state spending cap (TABOR) was passed that did the same damage from the other direction. And in Oregon, a state admired world-wide for smart land use planning, measures have passed that largely block both usage zoning (measure 37) and urban renewal (measure 39).

The initiative process requires an educated and active electorate, which we do not have. We are not paid to sit in committees for months to learn about the pros and cons of a legislative solution. And we are extremely open to media scare campaigns by outside interests, while our local governments are often barred from even explaining their own positions.

In a recent Cato Institute review reporter David S. Broder points out that "most of the checks and balances [of the legislative process], except for judicial review, are missing in the initiative process". There is no give and take, or compromise, to address the conflicting needs of interested parties.

In some cases referenda are crafted by skilled and careful lawyers, such as Prop 13 (the property tax cap) in California which future Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had a hand in writing. But this is rarely the normal model. Today many initiatives are thrown out by courts either before or after the election for simply being poorly worded.

Another important step missing from this process is accountability. If the legislature passes an unpopular bill the people can "throw the bums out" in the next election. However, who do you throw out when a referendum passes? On the flip side, legislatures often use referenda to avoid casting controversial votes themselves, such as when Oregon lawmakers forced the citizens to directly pass the "Death With Dignity Act" a second time.

Since referenda on constitutional amendments do not require a super-majority, as they do when moving through the legislature, major changes can be made over night. Since these changes are often aimed at minorities, and since voters quickly lose interest with out expensive TV ads, it can be very hard to fix a bad ballot measure.

From a handful of such initiatives before 1978 this process has swelled, with Oregon circulating over 65 propositions in one year alone. In Oregon the voters' "pamphlet" is regularly two thick newsprint books or more. From nameless incumbent judges we now have to wade through scores of referenda carefully worded to obscure their intent or even flat out trick the voters.

The day after important elections our local television news usually presents interviews with dozens of voters who are surprised to find out exactly what their votes will actually enact. The last hope is often left to the courts to find fault with these measures and Oregon has been saved from disaster more than once (such as Measure 3's term limits, and Measure 8's anti-anti-discrimination effort).

Referenda can certainly be useful, as in the case of reforming a truly corrupt legislature (I guess they serve the same role as an independent sovereign in a parliamentary system). However, we usually do ourselves harm by playing our own doctor. The process of passing legislation, like giving a drug prescription, should be very limited and undergo some formal oversight.

We should make registering a ballot measure require a high number of signatures relative to state electorate population - to ensure that there really is a local problem that needs fixing.

We should require that ballot titles be written by impartial sitting judges (who face elections) - to ensure that voters are not tricked at election time.

And we should allow the government to campaign for its own position the same as any newspaper editorial or television ad - to ensure that both sides of an issue are heard.

Last, there should be an automatic constitutional challenge of every referendum passed, rather than waiting for an "injured party" to speak up - to ensure that our long-term values are respected.

As for accountability we might put the petitioner's name into the ballot title itself... Bill Sizemore's 53rd Ballot Initiative kinda puts a referendum into perspective.

Only in this way will the people be speaking up directly, and the bastards forced to say what they mean, and someone be accountable for the results.

Sean: Thursday, November 09, 2006 [+] |
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Governator Victorious

California has re-elected the Governator. The governor's race has been decided, according to multiple news sources, former bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger has trounced his opponent by receiving 63% of the vote.

While growing up in the 80's Arnold was an icon. He was certainly much revered in the gym. And who couldn't respect a guy who left Austria with a clear game plan to become Mr. Universe, a Hollywood star, and then the President of the United States?

And he has nearly made it to the Whitehouse. Although running the world's ninth G8 nation is nothing to sneeze at (California has long been in the top 10 world economies and has a dominant slice of the US military pie).

But this year the razor thin election results remind me that our nation is truly unsure of its proper direction. Any politician who acts like they have a mandate is fooling themselves.

We don't know if we should be the world's police man or surrender sovereignty to the UN. We don't know if we want to defend our civic values or avoid offending our enemies. We don't know if we want to drown our government in a bathtub or create universal healthcare.

Even in California the Governator doesn't know if he is a Democrat or a Republican. He is for gay rights, abortion, and the environment. But he is also for fiscal responsibility, small government, and a strong military.

One thing the Governator is not afraid of is confrontation. He was elected to take on the State Congress and solve California's dire financial problems. And he did this head on... he helped pass three major referendums to repeal a steep car tax, cap state spending, and reform worker's comp.

He then supported a California ban on gay marriage while reaffirming his support for civil unions. He passed tough environmental regulations that angered the car industry. Then he signed an increase in California's minimum wage.

The Governator kept his campaign pledge and tried to get things done. And he took huge hits in popularity, with his support falling to 24% in June 2005. Rather than give up he took on even more controversial issues and suffered further defeats (with four more reform initiatives failing at the polls).

At least in California one man knows what he wants from his government... Even if no one else knows exactly what that is. And in a fit of desperation the people there have elected strong leadership over clear ideas.

I say that with out my tongue in my cheek... This election a number of people swapped party allegiance, certainly some of the GOP base stayed home, while others simply voted out the incumbent. Our leaders don't have a sure vision of the future, and we know it.

To mangle Winston Churchill's comment about America... Some might say that we are going to try to be the best people we can possibly be, once we figure out what that is.

Keep an eye on the Governator, he has known what kind of man he should be since childhood.

Sean: Tuesday, November 07, 2006 [+] |
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Sunday, November 05, 2006
300: The Movie

A new movie version of the Battle Of Thermopylae is coming out soon.

As you may recall this is a famous story of 300 Spartans who held off a Persian army of half a million for several days on a mountain pass leading from lower to upper Greece. Although the Spartans lost, they gave Greece enough time to form a defense.

Ok, the 300 were not alone, there were thousands of other Greek allies (the actions of the Thespians should give jocks everywhere a pause). But this is a moving story of the heroism and sacrifice of a few for the many. And this battle shows that defeats, if done right, can also be victories.

Frank Miller was so inspired that he wrote a potent graphic novel on the subject and then turned this into a film. Miller is the man who gave us Batman: the Dark Knight Returns and Sin City.

We can expect Miller's movies to be filmed in a grey tones, with a mix of live action and animation, and to be very bloody. But this one should also be extremely gorgeous and totally kick butt. See the trailer here.

Sean: Sunday, November 05, 2006 [+] |
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Air America Is Old News

I caught just a whiff of Air America this morning. The talking heads were consumed by the Kerry college speech blunder... the one where Sen. John Kerry warned students to study hard in college or they would end up stuck in Iraq. The commentary reminded me of what is wrong with American politics today... it's stale.

The folks at Air America were upset that people on the right were mad at Kerry for making a clumsy stab at the GOP which in one way of reading it asserts that our soldiers are college drop outs or in another way of reading it appears to mistake our all-volunteer army and the year 2006 for the Vietnam-era draft.

In pique at their political opponents the Air America people suggested that the rightwing politicians were unmanly, stupid, and criminal. Adds for their own radio service that played in between advised listeners that they needed to stay tuned in order to hear "the truth". Then the politics show was replaced by a syndicated stock market show usually seen on MSNBC at night.

It occurred to me that our politics today is no better than the horse races of the Byzantine Empire... back in 531 AD people rooted for one of two teams, the Blues and the Greens (as denoted by the color of their jerseys). There was little real difference between the two teams except that their fans usually represented one political faction or another. Races could then become quite emotional and even violent.

Today the Democrats and the Republicans are the Blues and the Reds. Both parties have their own stars and their own rhetoric. And while there may be both minor and major differences on policies such as Iraq and taxes they are more and more alike.

People from both parties are worried about and interested in money, hence the stock market show on Air America. Both parties need money to chase power and chase money with power. Members of both parties accept bribes and give their ears to lobbiests (from Rep. Bob Ney to Rep. William Jefferson).

Both parties are worried about terrorism and national security and would probably respond the same to both (today the Dem's kvetch about Iraq, but they voted to authorize military action along with the GOP and if Gore had been in office during 9/11 probably would have taken on Afghanistan and Iraq just the same).

Despite claims from either side about media bias both parties have their quasi-religious or cult-like echo chamber media outlets... hence Air America's claim to "the truth" and Bill O'Reily's "no spin zone". Here group members reinforce eachother's allegiance to the party line and their contempt for the opposing team.

Wrapped up in the ecstasy of the contest we wave our colored flags. And anyone who doesn't pick a faction, say a Green or a Libertarian, is pressured to choose a side. Then the media talks about how "deeply divided" we are, even when these differences are only hide deep. American politics has become Byzantine.

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