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, October 12, 2007

Disintegrating States

Many Americans remember the 1999 Kosovo War as one of the "good wars". Unlike with Bosnia, we did not sit back idly and watch a people be "cleansed" from their homes and countryside. Nor did we invade for oil (although some undoubtedly made that claim).

We gathered our NATO allies and stepped in, with out UN sanction, and bombed the Serbian capitol of Belgrade (we even took out the Chinese embassy when they took in parts of a downed "stealth fighter” jet) until the Serbs withdrew their military from the area. Then we restored refugees (from both sides) to their homes and reestablished the province’s pre-existing autonomy.

Now Kosovo is once again pushing for statehood and just last week Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders proposed November 28, 2007 as the date for a final unilateral declaration of independence. However, the president of Serbia, Boris Tadic immediately rejected the idea. He warned the world that independence for Kosovo would encourage violent separatists around the world...

"Kosovo's independence would present a huge danger for many sovereign countries ... that have separatist movements," he said. "It would have very serious consequences - there are many Kosovos in the region (including) Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia ... Macedonia, Bosnia or Kurdistan."

Most Americans probably ignored this entire news item. However, those interested in international politics, even those who followed the Kosovo War and such news items, still probably scratched their heads and said: “Independence for whom?”

Bosnia - A new country, (Tadic was kinda dumb for including this one in his list, since it already has independence), formerly part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it broke free in 1991.

Bosnia is perhaps the heart of the Balkan Region. This area includes the mountainous lands south of Croatia, west of Serbia, north of Greece, and east of the Adriatic Sea (part of the northern Mediterranean). The climate is mild in the summers and snowy in the mountains during winter. The Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic was once a tourist Mecca, filled with picturesque medieval towns and Italianate villas.

Bosnia was once part of the Illyrian kingdom, the Roman Empire, and then the Byzantine Empire. Waves of Celts moving east in the 6th and 7th centuries, and Slavs moving south in the 10th and 11th centuries destabilized the region and in the 15th century it was conquered by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.

Under Ottoman rule many residents converted to Islam, although Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Judaism were openly tolerated by the Porte (Ottoman) government. This easy rule lasted until WWII when the region’s Jewish and Gypsy populations were decimated by local terrorist militias.

In the early 20th century the region regained its independence as part of a confederated kingdom of Croats, Serbs, and Albanians. Unfortunately, WWI was begun when a local partisan assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne when he visited Sarajevo (he was killed out of fear that Austria would take over the area).

Following WWI the region was ruled by Serbia and following WWII became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Under the Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito, local ethnic and religious character was repressed in favor of socialist unity. However, after Tito's death the various ethnic groups began to struggle to control the military assets of the old federation and to displace the other groups.

In 1991 the Bosnian assembly declared independence, this move was confirmed by public referendum in 1992. However, local Serbs succeeded in capturing 70% of the country and most of the Yugoslav military based in the area. The West largely stayed out of the conflict, allowing the Croats and Serbs to do most of the fighting. However, the West chose to overlook Islamic support for the Bosnian Muslims coming from the Middle East and Asia.

In 1995 NATO finally intervened in the conflict with an aerial assault against Serb military positions that finally brought them to negotiate the 1995 Dayton Accords. The Croats had earlier signed a US negotiated ceasefire in 1994. under this agreement Bosnia gained international recognition and became an independent, multi-ethnic state. This fledgling nation has been monitored by UN led IFOR observers to this day.

Macedonia - This country is separated from the Adriatic Sea by Albania and also borders Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, and Greece to the south. The land was originally a part of the ancient Greek kingdoms of Thrace, Illyria, and then Macedonia (centered in today's Greek state of Macedonia - confusing aint it?). It was later absorbed by the Romans and remained part of the Byzantine Empire until coming under Ottoman rule in the 17th century.

Following the collapse of Ottoman Empire in 1913 the area was split between Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia After WWI the area was incorporated into the Serbian Kingdom, which changed its name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. In 1941 the area came under Axis rule and was split between Bulgaria and (Italian occupied) Albania. After WWII the country was ruled by the communist leader Josip Tito from 1945-1980.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Yugoslavia also began to fall into civil war. Although Macedonia was able to avoid most of the fighting in neighboring Croatia and Bosnia it was destabilized by the refugee crisis caused by Serbia's war against Kosovo in 1999, the government openly fought Albania rebels in 2001 until a UN brokered and monitored ceasefire in 2004.

Macedonia was admitted to the UN as an independent state in 1993. It is a member of the WTO, the Organization for the Security of Europe, and since 2005 has been a candidate for EU and NATO membership.

Kosovo - the southernmost province of Serbia. This area separates Albania and Bulgaria, and Serbia proper from Macedonia and Greece. This region is part of the east coast of the Adriatic Sea.

The area is home to a population of 2.2 million people, mainly ethnic Albanians. Its capitol, of 600,000 people, is Pristina, located in the center of the region.

The province is separated from Albania to the east by the Dnaric Alps, a range of 6,000 ft mountains, while it is divided from Macedonia by the Sar Mountains, a range that includes 8,000 ft peaks.

The area was an early part of the Roman and then Byzantine empires. In the 5th and 6th centuries waves of Slavic tribes invaded from the north and peiodic Byzantine campaigns were required to keep the region under nominal control.

When the Byzantine lands began to shrink during the 10th and 11th centuries, under pressure from eastern Muslims and western barbarians, the region came under the sway of the Bulgarian Empire. The province then became part of an independent Serbian kingdom in 1208.

The Ottoman Empire moved in from 1398 to 1455. The Ottomans would rule the entire Balkan region for nearly 500 years and many of its subjects converted to Islam during these years. The region was finally liberated from the Ottomans in an allied push by Serbian, Bulgarian, and Greek forces in 1913. However, many ethnic groups would remain Muslim indefinitely.

During WWI Serbia, including Kosovo, was occupied by the Central Powers forces of Austria and Bulgaria, briefly regaining independence until being occupied by Axis armies during WWII. After the war the communist partisan Joseph Tito took over rule of a Slavic-dominated federation known as Yugoslavia, that he ruled as supreme leader from 1946 until his death in 1980.

Under Tito the Serbian province of Kosovo was granted wide autonomy. This self-rule increased from 1946, to 1963, until complete self-rule in 1974. Self-rule included recognition of Albanian as the language of Kosovo, Albanian education, a local university, an independent congress and president, independent media, and a state bank.

Following Tito's death in 1980, Yugoslavia began to disintegrate. The regions of Slovenia declared independence in 1991, Croatia also declared independence in 1991 but fought Serbia until the 1996 Dayton Agreement, and Bosnia also declared independence in 1991, but fought an internal civil war in which Serbia armed Bosnian Serbs and Croatia surreptitiously back the Bosnian Muslims until the Dayton Accords in 1994-1996 brought peace and UN supervision.

Kosovo had a much rougher go at statehood. Violence erupted almost as soon as Tito died. Student protesters were arrested en masse in 1981. In 1989 Serbia tried to revoke the independence of both Kosovo and a more northern province, Vojvodina. When the assemblies of these provinces met to discuss their situation the delegates were stopped by Serb tanks. In 1990 the Kosovo assembly declared their independence and a public referendum ratified the move in 1992.

Peaceful resistance to Serb rule lasted from 1992 until 1995 when it became clear that Kosovo would be left out of the Dayton Accords. In 1996 armed resistance began with the creation of the KLA, or Kosovo Liberation Army. However, the KLA armed itself through drug trade, theft, and extortion and its initial actions were considered terrorism by most international critics - but not officially by the US.

The Serbian counter offensive killed thousands and led to several hundred thousand refugees streaming across the mountains into Albania while being filmed by Western media. Eventually NATO and the US intervened with weeks of large-scale air strikes against Serbian military and economic targets, forcing a Serb withdrawal and ceasefire agreement in 1999.

Kosovo is now run by an joint NATO-UN regime protected by the KFOR peacekeeping mission. In 2004 the province was rocked by unrest after several ethnic Albanian children drowned in a local river with area Serbs blamed for their deaths. In 2005 the ethnic Serb finance minister was forced to resign in an accounting scandal. And since 2006 the international force has been deliberating on the eventual future of the province.

Nagorno-Karabakh - A defacto independent region of about 150,000 people situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It is actually located inside Azerbaijan, south of Russia and Georgia, north of Iran, and only about 10 miles from Armenia. It is land-locked, mountainous, and heavily forested. Its capitol is the city of Stepanakert.

The region was Christianized in the 4th century, but has been ruled by Muslim Caliphs in Iran (Persia) or Turkey (Ottoman) from the 7th century until the 19th centuries - except for a revered period of local rule from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The ethnicity of the region is mainly Turkish, with historic clothing of belted coats, tall hats, and a fascination with falconry.

The area was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1805, however in 1918 Armenia and Azerbaijan gained independence from Russia and began to fight over Nagorno-Karabakh, until the Ottoman Empire moved in during WWI. Following defeat of the Ottomans, the British occupied the region and brokered a brief truce. The dispute was set aside again when the Soviet Union expanded into the area and granted Nagorno-Karabakh autonomy once again.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Armenia and Azerbaijan resumed fighting over the region. A Russian brokered ceasefire was established in 1994, leaving the area under local and Armenian control, but officially recognized as part of Azerbaijan. However, Russian encyclopedias refer to the area as an independent entity that historically was part of Armenia - prompting Azerbaijan to lodge a formal diplomatic protest.

Abkhazia - Another defacto independent region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people live in a narrow strip of land between the Black Sea and the Caucus Mountains with a mild maritime climate. It is extremely rugged terrain, with mountain peaks that exceed 13,000 ft in elevation and deep valleys with heavy rain and good soil.

The region produces tea, tobacco, wine, and fruit. Electricity comes primarily from hydro power projects of the Soviet era. Today the area uses the Russian ruble for currency and relies on Russia tourism for an economic base. The government hopes to host the 2014 Olympics and is building a large stadium in Sukhumi - the capital.

The area was settled by Greek traders around 63 BC, was conquered by Rome in the 1st century, and remained part of the Byzantine Empire until the 9th century. In 1001 the area came under the rule of the first Georgian unified kingdom, which lasted until it was conquered by the Ottomans in the 16th century.

The growing Russian Empire acquired the area piece by piece from the retreating Ottomans from 1829 to 1842. After the Russian revolution of 1917 the region enjoyed a brief period of self-rule, until the Red Army invaded in 1921, in 1936 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin made the region an autonomous area within the new Soviet State of Georgia.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 Georgia declared independence from Russia and in 1992 Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia. A short war of independence led to Georgian military defeat in 1993 as ethnic Georgians fled the area.

Since 1994 a joint UN-Russian peace keeping force has monitored a ceasefire and some ethnic Georgians have begun to return to the Gali region. Meanwhile, even while the international community refuses to recognize their government, Russia has been issuing passports to ethnic Abhazians and openly backs Abkhazian independence.

South Ossetia - Roughly 70,000 people live in this part of Georgia, between Russia and Turkey, east of the Black Sea. The area was dominated by a Persian speaking people once known as the Alans and then absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1806.
After the Russian Revolution the region was split into the Soviet Mountain Republic and the Soviet Republic of Georgia. Later the Mountain Republic was broken up into North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia.

As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 the Supreme Soviet of Georgia revoked South Ossetia's autonomy and prompting many ethnic Alans to flee across the border into North Ossetia.

Independence drives in neighboring Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Chechnya - along with conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia - have led to some of the bloodiest terrorism and warfare in modern history and have greatly impacted neighboring Russia, which maintains many soldiers in the region, brokers, and enforces most of the ceasefires, and suffers terrorism at home from all sides.

Kurdistan - Both the defacto northern independent portion of Iraq and ethnically also parts of southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, and northwestern Iran. This region is very mountainous and dry. It looks much like southern California east of LA near Palm Springs. There are large oil fields under the southern city of Kirkuk, however this region is currently outside of Kurdish control.

Ancient Kurdistan was fought over by Greece and Persia, then passed unto the control of various local dynasties. The region then became a vassal of the Roman Empire from 66 BC until 384 AD. Local warlords and kings rose up as Rome withdrew, but were then conquered by Arabs and converted to Islam in the 7th century AD.

Kurdish areas finally gained independence again in 837 and remained autonomous until eventual conquest by the Ottoman Empire in 1505. Constant battles between the Ottomans and Persia led to massive Kurdish emigration. Turkey even imported ethnic Turks into the region in the late 16th century in an attempt to resettle the area - but they were soon assimilated.

In the 1800's the Ottoman Empire and Russia fought several wars in the Caucus Mountain region to the north of modern Turkey, including activities in many Kurdish areas. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed following WWI the Allies negotiated independence for many ethnic regions, including Kurdistan, but the Treaty of Sèvres was never signed. Instead, Kurdish regions were split between modern Turkey, British Iraq, French Syria, and Iran.

Following the 1991 Gulf War and the establishment of No-Fly Zones in northern Iraq, Kurdish forces were able to rest control of their region from Baghdad. Since the fall of Saddam in 2003 they have ruled their zone with complete autonomy. No Iraqi flags fly in the region and they have their own parliament and military. Although US led Coalition forces are based in the region and guarantee its external security, the locals do their own daily patrols and law enforcement.

Some critics see the defense of Kosovo (and the invasion of Iraq) as an illegal action of Western military bullying. They see independence for Kosovo as a loss of sovereignty for Serbia. Worse, they see our action as support for secessionist movements around the world and the integrity of all nations seems at risk.

On the other hand, the UN has long upheld the principle of self-determination for all peoples. How should the world respond when a region democratically chooses to sever its ties to a remote capitol? Our Chez-T-Shirt-wearing lefties have long backed the people against the government. So why not now?

Sean: Friday, October 12, 2007 [+] |
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