The Screaming Pen

Providing Global Insight, Context, and Perspective

Classic Pen: On Prose and Politics

VIA MEDIA
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, The Four Quarters

Of the events of the 1930’s leading up to the Second World War, no other event inspired young ideologues more than the Spanish Civil War. Young Intellectuals enlisted in droves to fight on both sides, including the writers Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. The socialist backed International Brigade, funded in part by the Soviet Union, allied with Spanish Republicans in an attempt to defeat the Spanish fascists led by General Francisco Franco in a war that served as a precursor to the war that by 1940 engulfed most of Europe.

A portrait of the artist as a young man

Nancy Clare Cunard, a left wing intellectual living in Paris at the time, sent out a questionnaire to two-hundred writers living in Europe. She posed the following question: “Are you for or against the government of the Republican government of Spain? Are you for, or against, Franco and Fascism? For it is impossible any longer to take no side.” The Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot responded with a “neutral”, leading to the assumption by Cunard and others that he was either politically ignorant or sympathetic to the fascists. This was not true, however, as he was a believer in “via media” or the “middle way”, a belief that moderation is the only stance that takes into account the shortcomings of human nature. During a debate between T.S. Eliot, a fascist writer, and a communist writer, T.S. Eliot mentioned the following:

“Fascism and communism, as ideas, seem to me to be thoroughly sterilized. A revolutionary idea is one which requires a reorganization of the mind; fascism and communism is now the natural idea for the thoughtless person. This in itself is a hint that the two doctrines are merely variations of the same doctrine: and even that they are merely variations of the present state of things…. What I find in both fascism and communism is a combination of statements with unexamined enthusiasms.”

Eliot believed that these “unexamined enthusiasms” led to irrational decisions during a time when rational thought was completely necessary.

This example of moderation is still relevant today, as we are faced with an increasingly polarized nation where sides are being taken and decisions are being made, sometimes irrationally. It is always important to take a step back and objectively examine issues in context. At thescreamingpen.com we attempt to place news events in context, while providing non-partisan analysis and perspective.

-JPL

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August 22, 2006 Posted by | Author: JPL, Business, China, Energy, Europe, Financial Markets, Flat Tax, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TSP does Summer

In 1905, Albert Einstein proved the existence of atoms, developed quantum theory, and outlined his special theory on relativity. Unsurprisingly, Einstein’s magnificent year was dubbed his annus mirabilis. We at TSP are hardly arrogant enough to compare our musings to theories that spawned a century of innovation in physics, warfare, and other far flung fields. Yet the past several months have seen the pouring out of ideas and criticism that had been building for several years, some of which nonetheless remain unrecognized in the international arena. Moreover, that they’ll eventually become widely realized is not in question. So despite the reward of the endeavor and a recent flurry of article fodder emanating from around the world, TSP’s authors have temporarily turned to other extracurricular pursuits. And as it stands, we’re not at all ashamed of our quarter-annus half-mirabilis.

We’ll resume posting this fall, and if you’d like us to notify you when we do just send an email to thescreamingpen@hotmail.com with the subject “notify me.” Thanks to all of our readers and don’t let the bastards get you down!


Stupid annus mirabilis…Why you gots to be so good?

Also, on a lighter note, TSP has been notified by readers in China that the government there has made an attempt to block access to this site. Hardy fans are only able to view TSP by way of third-party sites like those mentioned below in “Wired For Truth.” So to all those in the Middle Kingdom, here’s to you: keep on keepin’ on!

July 25, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Herodotus Wouldn’t be Pleased

The policy of a state lies in its geography.
– Napoleon

Political scientists bicker constantly over the factors most influential to international affairs. Economics, race, force, power, globalization, culture, religion, and others are frequently mooted, yet there is at least one dimension routinely given short-shrift: geography. So fundamental is the field that it’s routinely overlooked, especially when viewed from an America that misses local fault lines in its broad, global sweep of the world, and which is fortuitously largely free of geographical conflicts itself. Other places aren’t so lucky. Here’s a survey of how geography affects three selected political and social issues around the world:


For Pete’s Sake Herodotus, Stop Making Maps of Far-Away Lands & Put On Some Clothes!

Turkey & the European Union. Turkey has been working towards admission to the EU since the 1960’s, and is now closer than ever to entry. Yet the path to membership is still far from certain, due mainly to obstreperousness from France, the Netherlands and others. The debate hinges on many angles – the nature of Turkey’s government and society, Islam, disparities in GDP per capita, and more – but one assertion routinely voiced has to do with geography: dissenters point out that most of Turkey in fact lies not in Europe, but in Asia. Divided from Europe by the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara, Turkey does indeed touch Syria, Iraq and Iran. But the protesters’ claim is disingenuous and belied by the fact that Cyprus (the Greek half at least) – just off the coasts of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel – is an EU country that lies further from Europe than does Turkey. Geographers aren’t pleased that their trade is a guise for prejudice and insecurity.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The SCO was founded in 2001 by six nations – China, Russia, Kazahkstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgystan – and was based initially on the “Treaty of Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions” and the “Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions,” and now includes political, economic, cultural, and security cooperation. The group’s six members are officially “equal partners” but the locus of the group is clearly China. As China’s neighbors to the South and East are warier of the country’s hemorrhaging might, Beijing is looking towards Central Asia to build regional security hub. And only a cursory knowledge of the SCO’s member governments is needed to know that they are wicked. The Screaming Pen is losing sleep in a bad way that will only be remedied through a post in the near future.


Kurds: Cutting a Wide Swath

Kurdistan. If you’ve never heard of Kurdistan, it’s probably because it doesn’t exist; at least as a state that is. Despite numbering some 25 million, Kurdish people make up the largest ethnic group anywhere without a country. Kurdistan, however, is the term used to refer to areas dominated by Kurds, and which includes northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeastern Syria, and northeast Iran. An unfortunate product of haphazard colonial-era boundary-making, Kurdistan was dissected and abused by governments in faraway capitals, and – with the exception of in Iraq now – still is. In fact, the Kurdish issue is supreme in Turkey’s discussions with America over Iraq, and Turkey’s troops prey along the mountains between the two countries searching intently for Kurdish rebels.

A simple perusing of maps often confirms or explains global events and always has. When the Germans sent the Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico in 1917, in an effort to cause trouble for the United States in its own backyard, it was pure geopolitics. So next time you want to know who’s spooning with who, make sure you’ve got a good atlas on hand.

Note: The Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas, Austin, has the most comprehensive collection of maps on the internet, and is the source of most Screaming Pen plots. And in case you were wondering, Herodotus is often considered the father of history and was the maker of some of the world’s earliest maps.

– DML

 2006. All rights reserved.

June 25, 2006 Posted by | Asia, China, Europe, European Union, International Relations, Kurdistan, SCO, Turkey, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pocahontas, Marlin Brando, and Me

Shakey Chimes In

 

In 1979, Neil Young and Crazyhorse released “Rust Never Sleeps”, an album held in high regards by both critics and fans alike. From the narrative “Powderfinger”, to the transcendant “Pocahontas”, Young, using rust as a metaphor for inevitable deterioration –see 1981's Re-ac-tor– proves that he possesses the tools to ward off rust, namely his creativity and ability to reinvent himself. Young’s newest album, Living With War, is a powerful indictment of the Bush Administration, addressing the current state of American politics, all the while placing his grievances in an emotional and historic context that is a breath of fresh air, especially considering the mostly sad state of dissent among the newest generation of popular musicians. The resulting album, although lacking lyrical depth at times, is a powerful effort that should remain relevant long after the current administration leaves office, in the same way that his 1971 classic "Ohio", written about the massacre at Kent State, remains relevant today.


Hey Hey, My My, Rock and Roll Will Never Die

While some songs on Living With War, namely “Lets Impeach the President” read like a moveon.org pamphlet or a University of Vermont sociology major’s away message, others such as “Families” and “Roger and Out” leave much more to the imagination, effectively conveying the justifiable discontent that many Americans are feeling right now. Powerful protest songs, which usually convey emotion without being terribly forward, seem to be rare these days, especially among the younger generation. Many of the newer anti-Bush efforts coming from Generation Y, examples being Bright Eyes "When the President Talks to God" and NOFX's "Idiots are Taking Over", are lacking in both lyrical content and accuracy. They also seem to lack the "Folky" appeal that historically has transcended age and class. For generally better efforts, see Steve Earle's The Revolution Starts Now, and selected tracks from Bruce Springsteen's excellent Devils and Dust.

Conclusions

Neil Young's newest album, while not flawless, serves as an effective protest album that is also an artistic success. Living With War's lyrical imagery, combined with Young's vocals, provides the listener with an original, experienced voice. It is apparent that it is this experience, gained through both songwriting and a lifetime of careful observation, is what seperates Neil Young from his younger counterparts.

June 24, 2006 Posted by | Author: JPL, Bright Eyes, Dissent, Music, Neil Young, NOFX, Politics, The GOP, The Media, The War on Terror, Uncategorized, United States | 1 Comment

Cours, camarade, le vieux monde est derrière toi !

On the Anniversary of a Riot

On May 17, 1968, a general strike paralyzed France. Started by angry students at Paris’ Sorbonne, the powerful French Labor unions eventually joined, resulting in millions of French workers walking out of work demanding economic and social change. A week later, on May 24 1968, radical students raised a red flag over the Paris Stock Exchange and threatened to burn it to the ground. Eventually, Prime Minister Pompidou negotiated with prominent Union leaders and appeased the students by passing legislation that improved education funding and guaranteed minimum working conditions. French politicians, eager to please their constitutents and afraid of radical rabble rousers, passed increasingly socialist legislation in the following years that created an almost unpenetrable labor market for outsiders, strict hiring and firing laws, high costs for employers, and near ten percent unemployment. Although some good came out of changes brought on after the 1968 riots, the employment situation caused by socialist French employment policies has resulted in a nation in dire need of labor market liberalization. We will evidence this by adding context and perspective to two subsequent riots, those that took place in Fall of 2005, and the most recent riots related to Chirac’s CPE.

When thrown, stale baguettes make surprisingly effective projectiles
Fast Forward

Initially incited by the accidental death of a muslim youth, the riots that shook France in the Fall of 2005 lasted over twenty days, as disaffected muslim youth in the suburbs of Paris burnt cars and businesses. Seen as a threat to the French secular model, French muslims of North African descent face discrimination in an almost impenetrable workplace. Unemployment among native born French university graduates of North African origin is estimated by the BBC to be 26.5%, compared to white graduates’ 5%. According to BBC, “a French non-profit group said that after they sent identical curriculum vitaes (CVs) to French companies with European- and African or Muslim-sounding names attached, they found CVs with African or Muslim sounding names were systematically discarded. In addition, they have claimed widespread use of markings indicating ethnicity in employers’ databases and that discrimination is more widespread for those with college degrees than for those without.” It is evident that the riots that gripped France in the Fall of 2005 were the result of an unemployed, disenfranchised population who were fed up with their treatment at the hands of the society that has failed them.

When clowns cry

The CPE

In an attempt to liberalize the choked up French employment situation, Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin proposed the CPE, an amendment that attempted to tackle double digit unemployment. In France, after you are hired by a company, it is almost impossible to be let go, barring factors such as being violent on the job. This makes it extremely hard to fire incompetent workers or those not suited for the position, causing employers to be reluctant to hire. The CPE’s most controversial element was that it allowed workers under the age of 26, or who have been there less than two years, to be let go if the employer did not think they were right for the position for whatever reason. The proposal of the CPE was met by riots and protests as over three million demonstrated on April 4, 2006. The CPE was withdrawn on April 10, 2006.

Let them eat brie

Conclusions

It is apparent that employment has been a contentious issue among the French for the past few decades. The riots in 1968 helped bring about the socialist employment practices that have been partly responsible for the high unemployment rate today due to employer’s reluctance to hire new workers. It is also apparent that the French muslim underclass, who are discriminated against in the workplace, desperately need measures such as the CPE to be passed in order for their condition to be improved, as a loosening of hiring restrictions would allow them to prove themselves as equals in the workplace. The mostly white protesters that were protesting the CPE could have been doing so in an attempt to retain their status in a country that is increasingly threatened by the pressure of globalisation, something that will eventually cause the French to modernize or face serious economic and social consequences.

-JPL

May 18, 2006 Posted by | Author: JPL, Europe, France, Globalisation, Uncategorized, Unemployment | 1 Comment

On Prose and Politics

VIA MEDIA

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, The Four Quarters

Of the events of the 1930's leading up to the Second World War, no other event inspired young ideologues more than the Spanish Civil War. Young Intellectuals enlisted in droves to fight on both sides, including the writers Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. The socialist backed International Brigade, funded in part by the Soviet Union, allied with Spanish Republicans in an attempt to defeat the Spanish fascists led by General Francisco Franco in a war that served as a precursor to the war that by 1940 engulfed most of Europe.

A portrait of the artist as a young man

Nancy Clare Cunard, a left wing intellectual living in Paris at the time, sent out a questionnaire to two-hundred writers living in Europe. She posed the following question: "Are you for or against the government of the Republican government of Spain? Are you for, or against, Franco and Fascism? For it is impossible any longer to take no side." The Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot responded with a "neutral", leading to the assumption by Cunard and others that he was either politically ignorant or sympathetic to the fascists. This was not true, however, as he was a believer in "via media" or the "middle way", a belief that moderation is the only stance that takes into account the shortcomings of human nature. During a debate between T.S. Eliot, a fascist writer, and a communist writer, T.S. Eliot mentioned the following:

"Fascism and communism, as ideas, seem to me to be thoroughly sterilized. A revolutionary idea is one which requires a reorganization of the mind; fascism and communism is now the natural idea for the thoughtless person. This in itself is a hint that the two doctrines are merely variations of the same doctrine: and even that they are merely variations of the present state of things…. What I find in both fascism and communism is a combination of statements with unexamined enthusiasms."

Eliot believed that these "unexamined enthusiasms" led to irrational decisions during a time when rational thought was completely necessary.

This example of moderation is still relevant today, as we are faced with an increasingly polarized nation where sides are being taken and decisions are being made, sometimes irrationally. It is always important to take a step back and objectively examine issues in context. At thescreamingpen.com we attempt to place news events in context, while providing non-partisan analysis and perspective.

-JPL

May 14, 2006 Posted by | Author: JPL, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Oil, Gold, ETFs, Oh My!

“Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die in euphoria.”

– Sir John Templeton
The financial media’s obsession du jour of rising commodity prices has resulted in a frenzy of investing by amateurs seeking the high returns that they cannot seem to capture in the current lackluster American equity market. A recent article in the Financial Times mentions that pension funds in the United Kingdom have been pouring record amounts of money into the commodities markets. ETFs that allow investors to bet on the price of oil and gold have been opening at a record pace, as news conscious investors are afraid that they will miss the boat on the commodities boom.

While it is possible that long term factors such as rising world demand for commodities, along with shorter term factors such as the current situations in Iran and Nigeria will cause increases in the price of oil and other commodities over time, it is foolish to believe that the current bull market for commodities, especially oil, will continue forever without experiencing a price correction. There is a distinct possibility that we may be in for a short term bear market within a secular long term commodities bull market , especially for oil. For today’s discussion we will focus on oil prices, as it is a topic receiving heavy attention in the American media right now.

source: Oilenergy.com

Graph: Notice that the current bull market for light, sweet, crude is longer in duration and greater in magnitude than other historical booms, most notably the one that occurred in the mid 1970s.

Smart investors are aware that the time to buy into an asset class is when that asset class is out of favor with other investors, not when it is experiencing record returns. Logic tells you that the time to invest in an oil ETF would have been in the late 1990s, when oil prices were low. It is apparent that the global herd of investors are acting illogically and this is where the smart investor will recognize and seize opportunities. It is possible that the same people who saw opportunities at the height of the tech bubble in 2000 and lost money, are some of the same people who are buying into Oil and Gold ETFs right now. Although past performance is not indicative of future results, we may be experiencing a price ceiling right now, which would be negative for those who recently bought into oil, but good for the price of gasoline at the pump.

-JPL

 2006. All rights reserved.

thescreamingpen.com is not liable for any loss resulting from any action taken or reliance made by you on any information or material posted by it. You should make your own inquiries and seek independent advice from relevant industry professionals before acting or relying on any information or material which is made available to you pursuant to thescreaminpen.com’s information service, as it may not prove accurate. You rely on this information at your own risk. thscreamingpen.com is not for profit.

May 7, 2006 Posted by | Author: JPL, Oil, Uncategorized | Leave a comment