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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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Election Vindication?

After the last midterm election the newly ascendant Democrats announced that the election vindicated their call for "a new direction" in Iraq [Nancy Pelosi celebrates].

Even the Republican President George Bush conceded during a press conference that the election had been "a thumping" and that the Democrats had enjoyed "a good night".

But was this a sweeping victory? In each of the Senate races the Republicans were only defeated by the tiniest of margins, often just one or two percentage points.

Still the Democrats were only able to make it 49-49. The Democrats still needed two Independants to side with them to give them control.

In the House races there were 435 seats up for grabs... the Democrats managed to pick up a couple of dozen to make it 233 to 202 in their favor - still fairly close.

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq appeared to figure in none of the Democrats' Senate victories and was probably equally missing from the House races.

In Missouri Senator Jim Talent (R) was brought down by his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Montana's Conrad Burns (R) was burnt by the same scandal. Even so, each race was a squeaker and undecided until long after election night.

(The Abramoff Scandal: in which members of Congress from both parties were caught doing what we all imagine everyone in Congress to do everyday - accepting golf trips and other perks in return for political access).

In Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R) lost in a "swing state" only after his Democratic opponent took his side on a host of issues from gun control to abortion.

In Ohio Senator Mike Dewine (R) was considered a moderate who often voted with the Democrats, but he was caught up in his state's Governor's fundraising scandal.

In Virginia Senator George Allen (R) was leading the polls until the press spun his campaign chatter with a cameraman working for his opponent into a supposed racial slur. He still nearly won.

(Allen got the man's name wrong, calling him Mr. Macacca... which is a racial slur in South Africa and Allen had a grandmother from North Africa... so, obviously... well, not obviously, but what matter to the press? [YouTube footage]).

In Rode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee (R) was also a moderate who voted with the Democrats and said that he did not vote for Bush in 2004... his challenger shared his well-healed roots, a Yale pedigree, and moderate stances on all issues. Chafee lost in a close race, most say, simply because he was a Republican [senate election breakdown].

Again, was the turn against Republicans related to the war in Iraq? Maybe, somewhat. However, it might simply reflect Americans' "throw the bums out" mentality that works against entrenched political power.

It has been noted by some that since WWII the party in control of the White House has lost around 30 House seats and six Senate seats in the midterm election of the president's second term [historic trends against incumbents].

Exit polls showed that three out of four voters were responding to corruption (or simply the implication of such). Eight in ten said the economy was most important. Only six in ten mentioned the war in Iraq, barely more than half [exit polls].

In fact, incumbent Democrats almost lost in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Maryland on the same anti-incumbent and anti-corruption movement. And pro-war Democrat Joe Lieberman won Vermont despite losing his own party's support [Democrats at risk].

It is now quite obvious that the Democrats do not have a new direction on Iraq. They can only suggest a retreat. This comes at a time when the new head of US forces in the area, Lt. Gen. David Patraeus, a man that all the democrats celebrated as a patriot, a hero, and a scholar, warned them of the perils of defeat in Iraq [Patreaus Hearing].

Meanwhile, the efforts in Iraq are only one part of a much larger problem involving rogue regimes with nuclear weapons and state-less terrorists groups with an agenda that varies from cleansing Jews from the Middle East, slaughtering Christians in Africa, and overthrowing both monarchies and democracies in SE Asia.

Democrats have long been seen by the voters as "soft on foreign policy". John Kerry could not escape from the mental ghost of Vietnam long enough to take our current situation seriously. And even a mental midget such as Bush was able to defeat him on this issue.

But Democrats still have the pulse of minorities and the working class. They still have the high ground on Global Warming and the environment. Socially polarizing issues such as gay marriage and abortion may be more touchy, but elections and polls have shown clear liberalizing trends on these issues.

In the 2008 election I would like to see the Democrats take a new direction in politics. They should focus on the domestic issues that are most important to voters... corruption and the economy, then immigration and the environment.

They could also take a new direction on Iraq and get serious about religious terrorists, nuclear non-proliferation, civil rights and genocide in Africa, and upsetting un-democratic status quos instead of bemoaning their demise.

Sean: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 [+] |
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Monday, February 26, 2007
Interesting Movies - below are feature films that are comming this year to an overpriced stadium seating theatre near you...

First Snow - trailer - Guy Pierece gets his palm read by J. K Simmons who tells him that he has no future after the first snowfall of the year. Guy then spends the rest of the movie figuring out how he dies and trying to stop it. This may be yet another variation of the "fight the future" theme that was shopped around Hollywood last year and surfaced as "Deja Vu" and now "Premonition" (it also became a TV show called "daybreak").

Mr. Brooks - trailer - Kevin Kostner and William Hurt revise Brad Pitt and Ed Norton. In this version Kevin plays a successful father and business man who used to also be a hit man. Hurt, as the hit man persona, convinces Kevin to do one more job... one too many that is. This one looks dark and intersting, but it also stars Kevin "Waterworld" Kostner.

The Abandonded - trailer - Anastasia Hille plays an American who grows up to be informed that her "real parents" were Russians who were murdered and the house they died in has been left to her in their will. When she travels to see the house she meets her twin brother played by Karel Roden. The two soon realize that the house thinks they should have died with their parents.

Sunshine - trailer - a cast of unknowns star in this sci-fi horror film as astronoauts sent to reignite the failing sun and save the world. Only everything goes wrong. Now this might seem like a thin plot, ala "Event Horizon", but the director/writers who did "28 Days Later" and "The Beach", it might not suck.

Black Snake Moan - trailer - ok this movie had me at "Chritina Ricci in her panties..." But it also has Samuel "Snakes on a mutha effen plan" L. Jackson. In this thin plot film Jackson tries to cure Ricci of her "itch" for sex by chaining her up in his living room (yeah, right). Suprisingly it has been getting great reviews on Rotten Tomattoes... and you know you want to watch the trailer.

Sean: Monday, February 26, 2007 [+] |
...
Monday, February 19, 2007
Free Kurdistan

My friend Michael Totten and I drove through Turkey to Iraq last year. Michael has spent a lot of time in the area and I was intrigued by his stories of their peaceful reconstruction.

Now the MSM has finally picked up these stories as well with an article on 60 Minutes that gives a pretty good picture of this region. I agree with most of their observations, although I would probably not have worn white pants and a blue oxford during taping.

My overwhelming impression was of a region and a people desperately wanting to be "normal". I was also startled (after living in Europe) to hear people talk about defending their land and risking their lives to do it. These people are peaceful, but pack guns - like Texas.

Their greatest complaint was of boredom. They are tired of hanging out at the "state park" at the waterfall in the hills every night. They want a Starbucks, a few more shopping centers, and maybe a movie theatre.

They seem used to spotty power and poor plumbing. Turkey gives them a few hours each day and the rest comes from generators. It is a bit sad since the Kirkuk oil fields should provide them with ample power if not for the political problems.

They have plenty of mosques and some women wear conservative dress. But I also saw Christian churches. And I never saw anyone drop what they were doing for the call to prayer (I have not seen that in any Middle Eastern country). They seem no more religiously strict than Alabama, maybe less.

Construction was everywhere: new roads, new schools, and new hospitals. Almost every car was shinny and new. The new houses were all several stories with impressive porches, hot tubs, and flat screen TV's.

Now that they have the freedom to spend some money on themselves they are going for bright and flashy. Maybe it is all a bit overdone, but I think I can understand. This is a bit like California, where too much is just enough to show your change of fortune.

American soldiers were visible at their base at the border. We also met British soldiers on leave at the mall. But it was Kurdish soldiers who manned the checkpoints and even guarded the Coalition bases. They seemed both friendly and professional, everyone waved to them.

When you consider that these people have been dispossessed for centuries, their nominal leader tried to gas them to death, and many had to live in the mountains with blankets and goats for years the current Wild West boom town is very impressive.

Everywhere we were treated very well, more so when they learned we were Americans. Sometimes it was even embarrassing. Overwhelmingly I wanted us to do more to repay their faith and friendship.

As the Kurdish man on the 60 Minutes video says "America did not invade Iraq, it liberated it from a dictator". What the Iraqis then do with their liberty is their own affair. In Kurdish Iraq they have proved that with little natural resources and precarious security they can make a going concern blossom from the rocks.


Crossing from Turkey into Iraq at Zhako.

Saddam's "Klingon Architecture"

Rocky fields that have to be cleared by hand for farming!

The city of Dohuk in its mountain fastness.

About 800,000 people live in a natural setting that resembles Palm Springs, CA.

The center of town is a rabbit warren of shops beneath dangling wires.

If you want to make your own baggy pants, pick a fabric.

The entrance to a mosque.

A Christian church compound.

Major public works projects underway.

Apparently Turkish construction companies or their techniques help rebuild.

New offices, schools, and hospitals are sprouting everywhere.

Large, gawdy housing over garages and shops.

A modern supermarket with laser scanners.

Leftover Christmas decorations and even fake trees.

A huge Kurdish flag on the dam behind town... no Iraqi flags appear anywhere.

An army/police checkpoint on a busy street keeps everyone safe.

A UN camp for "displaced persons" left over from either Turkish or Iraqi campaigns.

Heading back towards Turkey through the mountains.

The last remnant of the Klingon Empire.

Sean: Monday, February 19, 2007 [+] |
...
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Non-binding

All the drivel in the news about non-binding Iraq resolutions ought to annoy and outrage serious Americans. While the two parties play football with opposing words geared towards the 2008 elections they ignore the damage they cause.

And although I understand why John Stewart laughs at Bush's warning that dissent "emboldens the enemy", I also understand that he is right. Any resolution to cut off funds, set a date for withdrawal, or to oppose reinforcements obviously cheers the enemy.

As Mark Steyn tries to warn us, the only people seeming to take Iraq seriously are the Iranians. They understand that violence in Iraq, violence against anyone not just Americans, is pushing America closer and closer to Vietnam.

The debate in Washington plays on the very real feeling of being bogged down in Iraq... heading towards the dreaded Vietnam term "Quagmire". This bogging down is deadly to our military and to our morale. We need to keep moving forward.

Our goal in both causes was not to annex new territory. We do not fight for land, but against an idea... it was Communism then and it is Islamofascism* now. To win we need to create a better world, but the enemy only needs to break this one.

We have a pragmatic reason to want to build a better world, it is also a safer world. Our original intent in moving into the Middle East was to remove repressive regimes that breed discontent and replace them with open democracies that build strong economies.

This of course brings up a lesson that should have been learned earlier in Iraq... one does not build a better world through military action alone (military action merely breaks the old world order), but with money.

Which brings up another point, discussed by Michael Totten and Toni Nissi in Lebanon, which is that we also need to send people to use those dollars (otherwise they tend to get "lost"). Much like the British during their classic empire days, we also need to expend human capital to remake the world.

We need more investment in Iraq, not less.

However, the longer we stay bogged down the harder it is to convince the region that we do not have ownership intentions. And the closer we appear to pulling out the harder it is for locals to trust in our better world.

Right now we are allowing the enemy (represented most by Iran) to chose the location and type of action. This is not good for us. We need to be setting the terms instead.

Ironically, Iranian youths probably got it right in 2002 when they held up signs saying "US Army This Way Next". If not Iran directly, then its nearest proxy such as Hezbollah or Syria.

The only way to break out of a quagmire, unlike quicksand, is to keep moving.

*this term does not equate all Islam with fascism, but refers to a specific militant interpretation of Islam which shares its basic ideology (and history) with German fascism in the 1930's and 40's.

Sean: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 [+] |
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