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, June 14, 2007

Hamas Stings Gaza

There is a new civil war in the Palestinian Territories. CNN reports that Hamas has taken over all the Fattah offices in the Gaza Strip, meanwhile the BBC reports that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the Hammas led government and is ruling by decree in the West Bank.

Do you remember the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion asks the frog to take it across the river to avoid a flood. About halfway across the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog and the scorpion both drown the frog asks the scorpion why he stung him. The scorpion simply replies: "Hey, I'm a scorpion!"

It is worth taking another look at the nature of Hamas. They have insinuated themselves into cities in the West Bank and Gaza much the way Irish gangs in Boston and Italian gangs in Chicago operated in the 20's.

Gangs provide a sense of identity and security for the disenfranchised. They also make a lot of money opperating beyond legal bounds. They often smuggle drugs, alcohol, or whatever is proscribed by the ruling powers.

They also provide social services to people who are overlooked and neglected by the official government. They also help matters in their favor by making it very difficult and dangerous for the government to serve these areas.

In the Palestinian Territories this model was made even worse by there not being an official local government for years. This was made possible and even inevitable by the larger politics of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

From Israel's declaration of statehood in 1948 until the 1967 war Egypt ruled Gaza and Jordan ran the West Bank. However, these Arab states cared more about the land as a staging area for another war with Israel than as a land with people who needed their care (indeed they saw their rule as temporary until they could defeat Israel).

After Israel won the war they ended up responsible for these lands themselves, but did not want to assume full control and thus annex millions of non-Jews (they also saw their rule as temporary until they could come to an accommodation with their Arab neighbors).

And so these territories have remained in limbo for years and this limbo is a perfect climate for gang-rule (indeed gang rule may have been the best solution at the time).

Recent efforts to bring about a "two state solution" are really a project to create a legitimate government, the Palestinian Authority, in the territories. This would naturally weaken gang rule in the same area. The obvious response of Hamas was to kick up trouble whenever possible to derail this Peace Process.

The people of the West Bank and Gaza blame the failure of the Peace Process and the Authority government on corruption within the secular political party Fattah, (which itself grew out of Arafat's old gang). In frustration they actually elected the terrorist gang Hamas to government last year instead of Fattah.

So now Al Capone is running City Hall and nobody wants to do business there anymore. The US, the EU, and the UN have all held back donations to the Palestinian Authority because they cant quite stomach funding a terrorist gang. Even other Arab governments have held them at arms length.

Meanwhile Fattah has attempted to run a shadow government that negotiates with Western Powers on its own and tries to funnel funding to its own officers. They have particularly resisted efforts by Hamas to sieze control of the police and the military in the territories.

The result is now a civil war in the Palestinian Territories. Al Capone and his men have taken out their tommy guns and occupied all the police stations in Gaza, while the old gaurd of Fattah is cracking down on Hamas in the West Bank. The two parties kidnap eachother's leaders and shoot RPG's into government buildings controlled by their opponents.

The people of the Palestinian Territories are huddled in their basements unable to even retrieve the dead from the streets. They are understandably angry and looking for someone to blame. Fattah and the West (the US, the EU, and the UN) have taken most of this blame, even from their old supporters in the moderate wings.

Palestinians complain that Fattah's resistance to Hamas forced them to their current level of violence. Much as Lefties in America tried to sort out the logical reasons for 9/11 they seem unwilling to accept the true nature of their enemies. Instead they blame themselves, or one subset, and their own behaviors.

But it is a bit pointless to ask why Hamas has launched this war on Gaza. They are a terrorist organization, a 1920's gang. When they provide free day care or welfare payments to Palestinians they are not doing anyone a favor. They are buying loyalty and forcing out the local government (or simply stepping in where it was missing).

Giving them the keys to the city will not make them act more responsible (as many of us hoped), they will not become the government. They are simply a better armed gang.

Perhaps the Peace Process and its Two State Solution is now officially dead. If so then the neighboring powers need to step in and fill the vacuum in the Palestinian Territories. Perhaps Jordan and Egypt need to come back, maybe the Palestinians would even accept Israeli intervention.

Otherwise we will have nothing but gang rule, Chicago, the Wild West, or the Dark Ages... pick your metaphor. Right now we have masked bandits running amok. The scorpions are just doing what comes naturally.

Sean: Thursday, June 14, 2007 [+] |
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