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:



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.



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.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



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



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



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.



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.



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.



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



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, December 28, 2007

Book Release

My father's big book is now available now at and local retailers...

"Professor Gilbert LaFreniere has released The Decline of Nature from Academica Press...

This book is the culmination of 26 years of teaching environmental history and geology at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon and 15 years working for government agencies as a scientist in southern California

(My dad worked on the report for San Deigo County that advised against putting housing on the hills that recently burned).

Prof. LaFreniere combines his personal experiences exploring the natural history of Europe, New England, California, the Pacific NW, and Canada with advanced degrees in both geology (MS, Dartmouth) and history (PhD, UCSB) to create a unique synthesis of philosophy, history, and science.

(My dad's dissertation was centered on the 18th century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Idea of Progress.

The Decline of Nature presents the history of Western civilization's ecological impact upon the planet and examines both the idea of Providence (the Christian worldview) and the idea of Progress (the technological/capitalist worldview) as the foundation of careless and voracious use of Nature.

The book also reconsiders the historical idea of Cycles, once suggested by the 20th century German historian Oswald Spengler, as a preferable organizing principle for world historians attempting to understand the interaction of successive civilizations and their environmental interaction.

(The theory of cycles was very interestingly revived by William Stauss and Neil Howe in their books The Fourth Turning, Generations, and Millennials Rising).

Today's expanding human population combines with advanced technologies to deplete the planet of vital resources while the costs of past consumption reveal themselves in the form of global warming, air and water pollution, health defects in humans and animals, and even the mass extinction of species.

This ecological crisis provides both a catalyst and accelerant to current social pressures, warfare, and terrorism. Any attempt to reverse this course of history will require a discerning investigation of how we arrived at today's crisis situation and Prof. LaFreniere's new book provides this much needed introspection and criticism."

I noticed that several retailers have the book incorrectly listed as a "paperback" for $70+. That is incorrect. This version is a beautifully bound hardback with a stunning dust jacket. A less expensive paperback will be out in the spring with different cover art.

The book is a serious scholarly examination of the history of the Environmental Movement. Although "academic", it is well written and includes several personal anecdotes, so it turns out to be very readable. Go Get It!

Sean: Friday, December 28, 2007 [+] |
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Oregon Food Bank Needs Help

For many years the USDA has rated Oregon and Washington as the worst states in the nation for hunger. Despite recent improvements, this month's floods in western Washington and Oregon threaten to put our states back on that list.

Statewide demand for emergency food boxes has leveled off to about 750,000 annually in the past couple of years, after doubling between 1996 and 2004. However, requests for assistance in October were 35 percent higher than the same month one year ago, according to the Salem office for the Oregon Food Bank.

The regional food bank supplied 968,669 meals at shelters and low-income housing last year and is likely to top 1 million meals this year. Just last week the Oregon Food Bank delivered 35,000 pounds of food to Vernonia, Astoria and Tillamook, and will deliver another 10,000 pounds to Newport this week.

Twenty years ago state food banks were 75% supplied with farm surplus donated by the USDA. But modern computerized "just in time" food delivery systems means that farmers and grocers are much more efficient in getting food to markets and have far less surplus to donate.

Today only 10% comes from national farm surpluses, the majority of support comes from volunteers and donations. Nearly 60,000 food boxes of food are donated each year from Oregon residents and local volunteers put in 19,000 hours sorting, packing, and delivering food.

Jean Kempe-Ware, a spokeswoman for the state food bank tells us that fill-the-bag drives from local businesses bring in the majority of food donations... "People, stores and businesses... are hearing our message and responding... we are hoping they continue their efforts, because they are making a difference." Jeans

If any one feels able to give either time or money to help our neighbors we will have an easier time enjoying our own warm kitchens this holiday season. Please consider an office food drive or a Friday or weekend sorting food into aid boxes.

People can drop off donations at several locations including: Oregon Food Bank, Jiffy Lube, U.S. Bank, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Bally Total Fitness, Grocery Outlets in Washington County , Ron Tonkin Dodge, McCollum Automotive, Metro Car Care, Oswego Luxury.

The food bank is also seeking cash donations. Donate online at, call 503-282-0555 or send your check to Oregon Food Bank, P.O. Box 55370 , Portland , OR 97211 .

For more information, please visit

Sean: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


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