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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Friday, June 08, 2007

Putin Raises Ante

This week US President George Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.

Bush has famously claimed to have gazed into Putin's eyes and seen a good soul. But lately he has been complaining that Putin appears to be tightening the reins on Russian democracy (jailing businessmen and killing reporters).

Meanwhile, Putin, a former KGB head, has been complaining about Bush's plans for missile defense installations in the former Soviet satellites of Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin worries that a system based in Europe would be directed against Russia, not the Middle East as the Whitehouse claims.

So the meeting this week was seen as a possible fiasco, with both leaders trading verbal barbs and maybe not even sharing photo ops.

However Putin is a smart diplomat who still sees the world with complicated Kremlin colored glasses. He disarmed the conflict and sent the Whitehouse scrambling for a political position by offering up Azerbaijan, a different former Soviet satellite, as a base for missile defense.

The suggestion by Putin appears to show Russian "cooperation" on this issue and may be a bone thrown in Bush's direction to throw him off the scent of democratic reform.

When I was in Russia last year I had an hours long conversation with a pretty young woman studying for her doctorate in international relations in St. Petersburg.

She expressed a common Russian point of view that where the Soviet Union had pulled back the US would obviously attempt to move in - what one empire controlled another would want.

I reminded her that America is essentially a self-centered child with roughly good intentions towards the rest of the world - we are a potential friend (or at least trading partner) to nearly anyone (even countries that we fought vicious wars with, such as Germany and Japan).

We put up with social upheaval, economic sluggishness, and military over-spending during the Cold War with the expectation that we would get a Peace Dividend to spend on ourselves once the Soviet menace was resolved.

So we really do not want to spend money running the rest of the planet (particularly former Soviet states). We would rather they ran themselves serenely enough to do business with, while we ignored most of their problems of human rights and the environment.

Everyone forgets that Bush mocked "nation building" during his first campaign against Gore and when he took over the Whitehouse in 2000 he immediately tried to cancel all our treaties and obligations with our allies.

He suggested that we bring our troops home from Korea and Germany. He hired Wolfy and Rummy to "reinvision" a leaner (fewer soldiers, fancier equipment) fighting force, focused more on small tactical operations instead of winning invasions and occupations, and our top generals quit in protest.

Everyone (especially in the Mid East) wondered if the US was turning inward, and turning its back on, the rest of the world. Bush was even heckled by the press as having "zero foreign policy" (or experience).

Then 9/11 happened. Bush stood "bravely" on heaps of rubble in NY and appeared somber at Pentagon commemoration ceremonies. He took a while, much maligned in the press, to come up with any serious response to this reminder that we cannot ignore the rest of the world.

Then he authorized the invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of Saddam in Iraq, and pushed forward with plans for Missile Defense. He sent Condi to try to restart the Israeli peace process and began meeting with Central Asian leaders to set up new bases. The world now complains of a hidden US push for Empire.

Putin is probably not trying to help the US out of "friendship". They probably really are worried that we are trying to muscle into their turf and are just trying to gain control of the game (KGB experience and all).

Meanwhile no one seems to be noticing the creepiness of Russia complaining about losing control of Poland and Czech, both extremely unwilling members of the Soviet Sphere, while handing over Azerbaijan on a platter.


Bush and Putin in pajamas (in China).

Sean: Friday, June 08, 2007 [+] |
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