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, January 18, 2008

Global Climate Change Part XXV

So at a "Welcome Back From Iraq" party for blogger/journalist Michael J. Totten the topic of global climate change and nuclear energy came up, again.

Voices around the room claimed that a) dissent within the scientific community was being censored in the press, b) that the scientific community was still "undecided" on the issue of "global warming" or "global climate change" because a petition had been signed by tens of thousands of scientists and c) that nuclear energy was now being pushed as an alternative by the head of the Sierra Club!

After several micro-brews and a bottle of red wine I was no longer fit to argue the case, but I tried anyway. Later I thought that, although I have made the arguments again and again on this blog, I owed a follow up.

First, on the issue of the head of the Sierra Club favoring nuclear power... actually, it turns out that it was NOT the Sierra Club, but Greenpeace. It also turns out that the man is not the "head", but was a co-founder. And it turns out that he left the movement decades ago and now works for... a nuclear power company. And furthermore, Greenpeace has "disowned" the man. For the record, the Sierra Club remains against nuclear power as an alternative to oil use and continues to back renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Carl Zichella, regional field director of the Sierra Club, called nuclear power “a spectacularly flawed technology” that is unnecessary, given advances in solar and wind power.

As an example, he noted that Oak Creek Wind Energy is launching a 1,550-megawatt project in Kern County. In comparison, each nuclear generator at Diablo Canyon and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has a capacity of between 1,070 and 1,087 megawatts.

“Why should we use nuclear power to combat climate change when we have cleaner, cheaper, faster and safer alternatives?” Zichella asked.

Second, the petition by thousands of scientists disputing global warming? Actually, "scientist" is a rather broad term that does not imply any expertise in meteorology, geology, or any field related to the subject of historical global climate change and its causes.

The petition in question was spread by Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a group founded by largely deceased Oregon physicians. The petition has been signed by sociologists, psychologists, and employees and supporters of the oil industry and other "interested parties".

Also, how many scientists are there and how does the number of signers of this petition relate? Well, SESTAT databases states that they currently represent "about 13 million scientists and engineers in the United States."

As 17,000 "scientists" have signed the anti-global warming petition they represent about .01% of American scientists and if Americans only represent about 20% of world scientists then the dissenters are a very, very small minority of global scientists.

Meanwhile, some of the signers have questionable credentials as experts on global climate change or are outright conflicted in their judgment by professional or ideological connections.

I took the very first name in the petition list and tried to figure out who he was/is... is he a climate scientist, a geologist, or a chemical engineer? Is he qualified to dispute the causes and effects of climate change? And does he really dispute the theory of anthropocentric climate change?

When I viewed the list by state I found the first name to be a Dr. Ronald G. Alderfer, PHD from Alaska... so I tried to find this fellow...

The only "scientist" by that name with publications listed on Google is one Ronald G. Alderfer, formerly of the biology department at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. The article was on the effect of sunlight on plant canopies and was published in the journal Ecology in 1971.

This may be the same co-author of an article on the effect of partial defoliation on bean leaves published in the Botanical Gazette in 1976 and listed as part of the biology department at the University of Chicago, Illinois.

This may be the same co-author of an article on the relationship between water quality management planning and land use planning published in the Handbook of Water Quality Management Planning in 1977.

According to the footnotes for these articles this author was employed by Harland Bartholomew and Associates in St. Louis, MO. This firm was founded by Harland Bartholomew, who along with Robert Moses, founded urban planning via slum-clearance and highway construction. Today this is one of the biggest urban planning firms in the country, with offices in every major US city, and was a major backer of the interstate freeway system.

This may also be the same fellow listed as Vice President and General Manager of of PDC Technical Services, Inc., the largest "waste hauler and landfill services" company in Peoria, Illinois and the loyal customer of Findett Corporation (a maker of traction lubricants and greases) along with the business director of Monsanto, the technical director of Reichold Chemicals, and others in certain petroleum friendly industries.

Any of these investigatory links may be false. And the connection to major polluting industries and activities may be completely separate from the man's criticism of the Kyoto Protocol... which is the real target of the big online petition... not anthropocentric climate change at all, according to the OISM website.

If a skeptic wishes to cite actual hard facts, data, calculations, or personal experiences and reports I would not hold their professional or academic background against them. However, when they offer merely their personal opinions I will certainly hold their industry ties and ideological baggage against the seriousness of their claims. I would do this with Hezbollah supporters criticizing Jewish politicians as well and you likely would too.

How about the claim that peer-reviewed journals are censoring climate debate? I did some digging and found an article on just this subject in London's Telegraph newspaper. However, when I read the article the only "censorship" that I found was that the top US and UK journals have rejected one particular man's article for publication.

The "dissenter" in question, Dr. Benny Peiser, is a "sports historian" and NOT a "climate change scientist" - although he is presented that way in this article. Apparently Dr. Peiser is an environmental dissenter in his spare time. In this context he is famous for his counter study "refuting" the work of Dr. Naomi Oreskes.

Dr. Oreskes holds a degree in geology and has taught Earth Science at Stanford, Dartmouth, and Harvard. She has worked for both the EPA and the NAS and has published three books - one on plate tectonics, one on continental drift, and one on geophysics and history. In 2004 she published a study of over 1000 journals and found clear consensus within the scientific community that humans were causing global climate change.

Peiser "countered" Oreskes by using completely different key-words and including non-peer reviewed articles and then only their internet abstracts. Dr. Oreskes used a university developed search algorithm and key-words. She only peer-reviewed science journals she used their entire publications. The one is not equal to the other, even though it has been presented that way by the Telegraph and on the internet.

By the way... since his famous letter to Science refuting Oreskes, Peiser has since retracted his claim against overwhelming consensus on the issue (at least according to his wikepedia entry).

Popular newspapers and magazines love a good controversy and are happy to publish off-the-wall claims if they help sales. While academic journals may have higher standards of citation and documentation, they also need to sell copies to remain relevant. I cant think of a good reason why they would reject a reasoned and supported counter argument.

The only real reason for the mainstream scientists to shun the dissenters is if they truly represent an economically and ideologically tainted minority. In that case, shouldn't we all be a bit skeptic of these skeptics?

*image from Buy Central Heating.

Sean: Friday, January 18, 2008 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere