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Will Northeastern Syria Become A Flashpoint Between Turkey and the United States?

Will Northeastern Syria Become A Flashpoint Between Turkey and the United States?

Last November, the United States saw a rather dramatic presidential election that put a lot at stake and in many ways was supposed to determine the direction of Washington’s foreign policy.

The new administration under Joe Biden’s leadership has repeatedly signaled its intention to introduce a number of adjustments to the current situation in the Middle East, recast the shape of relations with regional powers such as Iran and Turkey, and reinvigorate cooperation with the Kurdish-dominated Autonomous Administration of the North and East Syria (AANES), the main U.S. ally in Syria.

Needless to say, the White House’s ambitious endeavors did not receive a universal welcome in the region. The main obstacle is the Turkish authorities who, unlike Washington, show zero desire for changes in their policy towards the Syrian Kurds. The AANES military wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), incorporates the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), an entity that Ankara considers to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey. In this regard, the rising power of the SDF, albeit under the American protectorate, runs counter to the interests of Turkey and poses a serious threat to its national security as routinely stated by Turkish officials.

Ankara’s controversial foreign policy has recently secured it fame of as aggressor state in the MENA region. As a result, Turkey now has rather strained relations with both European and Middle Eastern states. In turn, purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems has caused a rift between the Turkish leadership and American authorities. Moreover, a number of U.S. congressmen expressed concern over Turkey’s aggression in northern Syria and called on Joe Biden to put pressure on the Turkish officials. This sentiment was shared by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who said that Turkey “is not acting like an ally” and called purchase of the Russian-made anti-aircraft missile systems “unacceptable.”

In a stark contrast to this generally negative attitude, a recent statement by the U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price looked somewhat surprising. During a briefing Price called Turkey an important NATO partner, and stressed that the two states share common interests, including the matters related to the settlement of the Syrian conflict. He also added that all present disagreements with Ankara should be resolved within the framework of political dialogue.

Perhaps seeing a narrow window of opportunity, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin urged President Biden to cease support for the AANES and the Kurdish armed units, while Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar confirmed Turkey’s readiness to continue its “counter-terrorist” operations in northern Syria.

A revealing trend in the coverage of the Syrian file in the Turkish media has linked the rise in activities of the Kurdish units with Joe Biden’s coming to power. The state-run Daily Sabah newspaper that is tasked with projecting Turkey’s agenda in the West has openly accused the Kurds of abusing Washington’s protection in order to strengthen their positions.

To add fuel to the fire, the areas of northern Syria controlled by the Turkey-affiliated factions of the Syrian opposition are witnessing an increase in terror attacks that are generally blamed on Kurdish sleeper cells. In the latest example, a series of explosions hit the cities of Azaz, Afrin, and Al-Bab, resulting in the death of over 20 civilians. After the incident the U.S. State Department issued an unprecedented statement stressing that “those responsible for perpetrating the violence should be brought to justice,” which was a chilling surprise for the Kurds.

With this in mind, the question is: does Recep Erdogan, despite his aggressive rhetoric against the Kurds, actually have the audacity to confront and potentially spoil relations with an obviously stronger NATO ally who supports the SDF and trusts them to protect oil fields in eastern Syria? A web of diplomatic challenges is closing in on the Turkish leader, pushing him into making a choice between territorial claims and the fight against the Kurdish administration on Turkey’s border on the one hand, and maintaining relations with the key ally on the other.

It is worth noting that prior to entering the Oval Office Joe Biden was extremely critical regarding Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria and called it a “betrayal” of the U.S. regional ally, the SDF. If Biden sticks to this firm stance on the Kurds, Turkey is unlikely to get any concessions from Washington.

It is difficult to speak with certainty about the outcome of the escalating confrontation between the U.S. and Turkey. However, by pursuing such a belligerent policy in Syria and seeking to eliminate the “threat” from the SDF/YPG/PKK, Turkey risks becoming not only a regional aggressor, but also a rogue state. The months—or perhaps even days—to come will show whether Erdogan is able to restrain his political ambitions in the interests of maintaining a strategically important partnership with the United States, or Turkey will follow the path of a “final solution” of the Kurdish question, ignoring all international laws and its allies.

Ahmad Al Khaled is a Syrian freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post and Global Security Review.

Another Bogus Impeachment

Another Bogus Impeachment

The Senate impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump confirms historian Henry Adams’s adage a century ago that politics “has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” The impeachment process was a farce that should fortify Americans’ disdain for Washington. Considering how Democrats are using the January 6 clash at the Capitol to justify enacting a new domestic terrorism law, Americans need to recognize the frauds that permeated this process from the start.

At last week’s trial, House impeachment manager Jaime Raskin (D-MD) boasted to the Senate, “I think we have done an exceedingly thorough and comprehensive job with all the evidence that was available.” But the House Democrats did not bother accumulating evidence before the trial. Instead, House impeachment managers showed up at the Senate with video clips and tweets and a bunch of overheated rhetoric and thought that should suffice. House impeachment manager Ted Lieu summarized the proceedings: “Trump is receiving any and all process that he is due.”

Shortly before the Senate was expected to cast the final vote on the trial, Raskin announced that the House team wanted to call an actual witness. Democratic senators first voted to call witnesses and then, a couple of hours later, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced that, instead of witnesses, they would simply add one news article based on hearsay to the official record. Unfortunately, the only laughter that erupted on the Senate floor occurred when Trump’s lawyer threatened to summon witnesses for depositions to his law office in “Philly-delphia.” (His house was vandalized after the trial ended.)

The formal article of impeachment condemned Trump for inciting supporters who “unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel.” House manager Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) condemned “the violent insurrectionists, criminals who killed and injured police officers.” Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the House Democratic Caucus chair, declared, “Blood is on the hands of every single House Republican sycophant.”

But the murder allegation is collapsing. Even CNN admitted that prosecutors seeking to build a murder case on Sicknick’s demise were “vexed by a lack of evidence.” Capitol policeman Brian Sicknick died a day after the clash but his demise is shrouded in secrecy. He was apparently fine after engaging with protestors but reportedly suffered a stroke the next day. The Capitol Police have refused to release his autopsy report and his body was quickly cremated. Some accounts have suggested that Sicknick died after being exposed to bear spray or pepper spray. If so, his death is a tragic result of the clashes that day. But police regularly spray peaceful protestors with pepper spray or other nasty substances.

Politicians have sanctified themselves by wildly exaggerating the threat they faced on January 6. Raskin wailed to the Senate: “All around me, people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones to say goodbye.” Representative Cicilline declared, “Senators, remember, as one of you said, during this attack, they could have killed us all—our staff, the officers protecting all of us, everyone.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) declared, “We came close to half of the House nearly dying“ from the attackers. But no members of Congress suffered any physical harm.

The only person who was shot at the Capitol that day was Ashli Babbitt, a thirty-five-year-old Air Force veteran; she was killed by a Capitol policeman at point-blank range. The most flagrant “weapon” case involving protestors was that of sixty-year-old Richard Barnett, who achieved notoriety after being photographed with his feet on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Barnett faces a felony weapons charge and ten years in prison for carrying with him a ZAP Hike ‘n Strike walking stick/stun gun that Amazon sells for $98. (Barnett would have been outgunned by the two thousand Capitol Police officers carrying Glocks with twenty-two rounds.) Barnett, like many other protestors, is being legally scourged for his bad attitude. Barnett was ordered jailed until trial later this year, in part because federal judge Beryl Howell was enraged that Barnett told a reporter he had “scratched my balls“ in Pelosi’s office.

January 6 also quickly metamorphosed into epic comparisons to fan national outrage. Schumer compared that ruckus to Pearl Harbor—a “day of infamy.” Schumer complained that the “temple to democracy was desecrated … our offices vandalized.” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) compared an incursion that broke some windows and furniture with the 1814 British invasion that torched the Capitol. But most of the eight hundred protestors and others who entered the Capitol left peacefully after a few hours. As journalist Michael Tracey quipped, “Who knew it was so easy to squash an ‘armed insurrection’—just announce a curfew and most of the ‘insurrectionists’ will voluntarily abide.”

Schumer claimed that Trump’s “incitement” of the January 6 protestors was “the most despicable act that any president has ever committed.” This is “Trump-washing” all of the prior official crimes in American history. From President Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears to President Woodrow Wilson imposing Jim Crow on a federal basis and dishonestly dragging the nation into World War I, to President Harry Truman unnecessarily dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, to President Lyndon Johnson dishonestly dragging this nation far deeper into a Vietnam quagmire, to President George W. Bush dishonestly launching the Iraq War, there have been far more damaging presidential abuses of power than sometimes reckless Trump’s blather.

Democrats are also exploiting the January 6 Capitol clash to sanctify the 2020 presidential election. House impeachment manager Madeleine Dean (D-PA) declared, “Trump’s conduct over many months incited his supporters to believe his big lie, that the only way he could lose was if the election were rigged.” Schumer hit the same point, deriding Trump for a telling “a big lie that the election was stolen and that he was the rightful winner.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that Republican members of Congress who refused to ratify the Electoral College results “gave aid and comfort to [protestors] with the idea that they were embracing a lie—that the election did not have legitimacy.” But if only traitors would not vote to ratify the Electoral College results, why did the Founding Fathers include that safeguard in the Constitution? And was Raskin guilty of treason when he challenged Electoral College votes for Donald Trump in 2017?

Schumer also denounced Trump for having “inspired, directed, and propelled a mob to violently … subvert the will of the people.” This sounds like the ultimate heresy in a democracy. Since November, the “will of the people” has been one of the most popular themes for Democrats. But where was the “will of the people” discovered? At the bottom of an unmanned mystery ballot drop box in Kenosha, Wisconsin?

The 2020 election was determined in part by the novel doctrine that verifying ballots was a crime against democracy. Biden won thanks to fewer than fifty thousand votes in a small number of swing states that abandoned many of the existing safeguards for ballots, including most of the security procedures for absentee or mail-in ballots. The attorney general for Texas complained in a brief to the Supreme Court about the “unconstitutional relaxation of ballot-integrity protections in [Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania] election laws.” The Supreme Court did not take that case but that was no endorsement of last year’s electoral reforms. Though most of the media acts as if all the issues regarding the 2020 election are long since settled, legal disputes continue. On January 27, a Virginia circuit court struck down a late rule change by the Virginia Board of Elections permitting the counting of mail-in ballots that arrived three days after the election without a postmark. Similar arbitrary decrees happened across the country, probably spurring far more dubious votes than in prior elections. None of this proves the election was actually stolen, but there are plenty of legitimate questions about the electoral conduct of numerous state governments.

Democrats are seeking to use last year’s electoral innovations as the model to impose sweeping federal mandates on every state election system in the nation. H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021,” would compel all states to rely on mass mail-in ballots and other “reforms” justified last year in part due to the covid pandemic.

But Democrats’ disdain for verifying votes’ intent has a gaping loophole. Apparently citizens are much more trustworthy when they conferring political power than when they seek to revoke it. Californians are launching a massive effort to recall Democratic governor Gavin Newsom. Richard Grenell, one of the likely Republican gubernatorial challengers, scoffed on Twitter on Friday: “Suddenly, California officials want aggressive signature verifications. The hypocrisy with politicians is a sickness” (link added).

Perhaps the biggest danger from the impeachment saga is that Democrats will exploit the outrage they are fanning to enact a new catch-all “domestic terrorism” law. Biden denounced the January 6 protestors as “domestic terrorists”—a theme echoed and expanded by many of his Democratic colleagues. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) suggested that it was “time to call Republicans the terrorist right.” Since there are already plenty of federal laws to prosecute the minority of protestors who assaulted police, why do we need a new law? Former representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) warned that proposed new terrorism legislation could target anyone who happens “to be a white person, obviously likely male, libertarians, anyone who loves freedom, liberty, maybe has an American flag outside their house, or people who, you know, attended a Trump rally.”

After the Senate’s failure to convict Trump, hatred and rage will continue to permeate Washington. The latest impeachment saga simply confirms Thomas Paine’s adage: “The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.” Score: another victory for the Swamp.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

NATO Planning to Octuple Presence in Iraq

NATO Planning to Octuple Presence in Iraq

On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance is increasing its military presence in Iraq.

“The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000 and training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions and areas beyond Baghdad,” Stoltenberg said after a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers.

NATO describes its presence in Iraq as a “security training mission.” Stoltenberg said the alliance’s presence “is conditions-based and increases in troop numbers will be incremental.”

The U.S. currently has 2,500 troops in Iraq. According to CNBC, a Pentagon official told reporters this week that the US was “enthusiastic about and welcomes NATO’s increased focus on Iraq.” The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would not disclose if the US is planning to add more forces to Iraq.

The announcement comes after a rocket attack on the US military base in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, that left one contractor dead. While the media is blaming the incident on Iran, the US has yet to attribute blame. With Iran seeking sanctions relief from the new administration, Tehran has no reason to stoke tensions with the US in Iraq.

Also on Thursday, Stoltenberg said no decision has been made on whether or not NATO will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1st, the deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Prepare for Negative Interest Rates

Prepare for Negative Interest Rates

Negative rates are the destruction of money, an economic aberration based on the mistakes of many central banks and some of their economists, who all start from a wrong diagnosis: the idea that economic agents do not take more credit or invest more because they choose to save too much and therefore saving must be penalized to stimulate the economy. Excuse the bluntness, but it is a ludicrous idea.

Inflation and growth are not low due to excess savings, but because of excess debt, which perpetuates overcapacity with low rates and high liquidity and zombifies the economy by subsidizing the low-productivity and highly indebted sectors and penalizing high productivity with rising and confiscatory taxation.

Historical evidence of negative rates shows that they do not help reduce debt, they incentivize it. They do not strengthen the credit capacity of families: the prices of nonreplicable assets (real estate, etc.) skyrocket because of monetary excess and because the lower cost of debt does not compensate for the greater risk.

Investment and credit growth are not subdued because economic agents are ignorant or saving too much, but because they don’t have amnesia. Families and businesses are more cautious in their investment and spending decisions, because they perceive, correctly, that the reality of the economy they see each day does not correspond to the cost and the quantity of money.

It is completely incorrect to think that families and businesses are not investing or spending. They are only spending less than what central planners would want. However, that is not a mistake from the private sector side, but a typical case of central planners’ misguided estimates, which come from using 2001–07 as “base case” of investment and credit demand instead of what those years really were: a bubble.

The argument of the central planners is based on an inconsistency: that rates are negative because markets demand them, not because they are imposed by the central bank. If that is the case and the result would be the same, why don’t they let rates float freely? Because it is false.

Think for a moment what type of investment, company, or financial decision is profitable with rates at –0.5 percent but unviable with rates at 1 percent. A time bomb. It is no surprise that investment in bubble-prone sectors is rising with negative rates and that nonreplicable and financial assets are skyrocketing.

Instead of strengthening economies, negative rates make governments more dependent on cheap debt. Public debt trades at artificially low yields, and politicians abandon any reformist impulse, preferring to accumulate more debt.

The financial repression of central banks begins with a misdiagnosis assuming that low growth and below-target inflation is a problem of demand, not of the previous excess, and ends up perpetuating the bubbles that it sought to solve.

The policy of negative types can only be defended by people who have never invested or created a job, because no one who has worked in the real economy can believe that financial repression will lead economic agents to take much more credit and strengthen the economy.

Negative rates are a huge transfer of wealth from savers and real wages to the government and the indebted. A tax on caution. The destruction of the perception of risk that always benefits the most reckless. It is a bailout of the inefficient.

Central banks ignore the effects of demography, technology, and competition on inflation and growth of consumption, credit, and investment, and with the wrong policies generate new bubbles that become more dangerous than the previous ones. The next bubble will again increase countries’ fiscal imbalances. Even worse, when central banks present themselves as the agents that will reverse the effect of technology and demographics, they create a greater risk and bubble.

When this happens, it becomes necessary for to protect one’s savings with gold, silver, inflation-linked instruments, and stocks in sectors that do not suffer from negative rates.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Nancy Pelosi’s Disastrous Idea To Have a ‘9/11 Commission’ About the Capitol Attack

Nancy Pelosi’s Disastrous Idea To Have a ‘9/11 Commission’ About the Capitol Attack

Many members of Congress remain outraged at the Trump protestors who charged into the Capitol on January 6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently declared, “We must get to the truth of how this happened…Our next step will be to establish an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to investigate and report on the facts and causes.”

But another pious fraud from the political establishment is the last thing that America needs right now. The 9/11 Commission should be a warning that Washington dignitaries are the last people we should trust to expose the truth.

After the 9/11 attacks, a joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee investigation in late 2002 exposed a vast array of federal intelligence and law enforcement failures preceding the hijacking of four airliners. Because the Bush administration often stonewalled the Senate investigation, 9/11 widows and widowers pressured Congress to create an independent commission to investigate.

Bush and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders stacked the commission with former congressmen, high-ranking government officials, and others entwined in the Washington establishment (“Insiders all,” as a New York Times headline noted). Beverly Eckert, a 9/11 widow, complained, “We wanted journalists, we wanted academics…. We did not want politicians.”

Read the rest of this article at The Daily Caller.

Ron Paul Calls Out Joe Biden’s Threat to Restrict Interstate Travel

Ron Paul Calls Out Joe Biden’s Threat to Restrict Interstate Travel

Candidate Joe Biden promised not to abuse his executive authority or shut down the economy in order to fight the coronavirus. Instead, he said he would “listen to the science.” An order limiting the ability of Americans to travel across state lines would violate all three promises.

Such an order would be one of the most tyrannical acts of a president in American history. The only realistic way this order could be enforced is to militarize state lines. Is President Biden really willing to deploy U.S. troops to keep Texans from vacationing at Disney World?

Restricting interstate trade and travel would further damage an economy still suffering from the overreaction to coronavirus, causing even more small (and maybe some large) businesses to close their doors, thus throwing millions more Americans out of work.

Restrictions on interstate travel would be ineffective in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted lockdowns do not stop the spread of coronavirus. However, lockdowns are effective at increasing rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and suicides.

Statistics show states that have enacted mandatory lockdowns have higher rates of coronavirus infection than states whose governors have not forced businesses to close and people to “shelter in place.”  One of the states that has not experienced a massive coronavirus outbreak despite not locking down is Florida, which is the state most likely to be targeted by any federal order restricting interstate travel.

If the Biden administration decides to try to restrict interstate travel, Campaign for Liberty will mobilize pro-liberty Americans to pressure Congress to pass legislation overturning the order.

This article was originally featured at Campaign for Liberty and is republished with permission.

The Banned Books of the Cold War-Era Soviet Union

The Banned Books of the Cold War-Era Soviet Union

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”- George R. R. Martin

The authoritarian nature of the Soviet Union has been buried by apologist revisionism and has been romanced in the upsurge of sexy depictions of the Cold War. It’s a fondness for a past that never really existed. For its victims it was grim and chilling period of repression. The Stalinist era is one of dystopian horrors, genocide and gulags with centrally planned nightmares converging into a monstrous state headed by a dictator that was saved by the bloodiest war in human history. A period of uncertainty emerged after Stalin’s death, while the promise of reforms spirited the energies of the people and the intellectuals. At the 1956 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Stalin and his years of terror were condemned. A glimmer of hope emerged and writers wrote and unveiled the works that they had hidden during the dark years under Stalin.

For Russians, censorship and prohibited literature was not an exclusively Soviet era limitation. The first Russian book indexing prohibited writing goes all the way back to 1073 and insecure, ruthless leaders have imposed versions of censorship ever since. The 19th century was also a period where certain pamphlets containing speeches and essays that condemned the Tsar or questioned the status quo were banned. After the 1905 failed revolution, greater rule was imposed, including more censorship. Many of the heroes of the communist revolution were themselves victims of the censor and would go on to enforce their own censorship once they became the rulers. Under the tyranny of Stalin a prison state emerged and a cloud of death loomed throughout as thoughts and words became a very dangerous act.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of the greatest writers in history. Arrested in 1945 while he fought in the “Great Patriotic War,” his crime was sharing his thoughts in 1940 about the Soviet system and insulting Stalin. The punishment could only confirm his condemnation and would provide fuel for his future writing. His experiences in a hard labor prison for eight years would not only give the world great works, but The Gulag Archipelago would also provide a voice and vindication for the many victims of the Soviet state.

Given relative literary freedom in the decade after Stalin’s death, writers and editors probed the boundaries of allowable opinion. It was a frontier of thought and expression that delved into dangerous territory, not only at the time but for future repercussions, as artists and writers explored and experimented in what became known as the Khrushchev “Thaw.” It was an era where the officials were uncertain as to what they could censor and punish. The authoritarians that had cut their teeth and ruled with omnipotence under Stalin still existed but they lacked the cultural moment to exercise their sinister instincts. Unfortunately, that time would return.

Boris Pasternak completed his novel Doctor Zhivago after over forty years of work. In 1956 he was able to reveal it. In 1957, after Italian Communist Party journalist Sergio D’Angelo tracked down Pasternak and received a copy of the manuscript in hopes of publishing it outside of Russia, Pasternak told him, “You are hereby invited to watch me face the firing squad.” The book was published in Italy that same year. Pasternak was nominated for a Noble Prize in literature the year after. The book was soon criticised by the Soviet authorities for its pro-individualist sentiments and criticism of Stalinism, collectivization, and general anti-Soviet tone. Communists the world over condemned the book and hate mail (along with death threats) were directed at Pasternak.

Doctor Zhivago remained popular and would go on to be made into a movie. The book was also used as a CIA prop as the agency purchased many copies and circulated them to defy the Soviet authorities. The book was no longer a story about individuals in a fictional setting but an emblem of division. It was a predecessor of Salman Rushdie’s Satantic Verses, which drew calls for his death from extremists in the Islamic World while simultaneously he became a champion for free speech advocates and atheists alike. Pasternak’s book was unable to stand on its own as a literary work, and instead would become a pariah piece criticising an ideology of centrally planned authoritarianism.

And in 1962 Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the literary journal Novy Mir, 95,000 copies were instantly sold. The work would later become banned and unprintable inside the Soviet Union, except in illegal typescript where it was widely circulated in secret along with other works. The book was about one day inside a labour camp as experienced by Ivan, it revealed more about the cruel system and institutions than any statistics have or could. Solzhenitzysn would become famous outside of the Soviet world and would himself also win a Noble Prize for Literature. His work becoming less available into the 1960s from within the Soviet Union and his status as a writer negated over time as he had become controversial and by 1966 when his new piece ‘Cancer Ward’ was ready the editor of Novy Mir was reluctant to print the work without the support of the Soviet Union of Writers, the ‘thaw’ had ended.

In 1965 two Soviet authors Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel had been arrested for publishing their works in the West under fake names. Immediately the Soviet media attacked them and ran their names through dirt. In early 1966 both writers were tried and sentenced to suffer in prison camps. The State and its officials had shown its hand, the repression had returned and the two writers were a famous example of any who would dare to express themselves. Even as Russian writers and literature was being celebrated the World over the message and tone of the work may have varied, none of it was so dangerous that those outside of a specific ideology and government felt so threatened that they needed to edit or prohibit it.

The Master and Margarita is a book that in its creation has a fantastic story, the authour Mikhail Bulgakov in 1940 burned the completed copy after having spent 12 years writing it. In his later years Bulgakov wrote his work again and around 1966 after his death a heavily censored version of the book was published. An underground version without the edits soon circulated and the complete version of the book was available in 1973 and a final version was released in 1989. The spiritual and Christian themes were a dangerous threat to the Soviet officials. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was another in many books also denied publication in the Soviet Union. However it was also banned in Australia, France, the UK and New Zealand and other territories, the original manuscript was refused by several publishers. The romantic and lustful interests of an adult man towards a young girl pushed taboos that transcended Soviet interests but challenged the moral sensibilities of supposedly liberal and free nations. The idea of adults reading words of such a nature would raise the ire of censors and officials the world over.

Soviet typewriters and printing machines had their typographic samples collected from the factory when they were manufactured and then stored in a government directory. The micro features of the typewriter is then used like a finger print.  When a typewriter was purchased it is registered to the owner. This then would allow the officials to determine which machine was used to print the offending works. Some East German and Warsaw Pact typewriters were not subject to such a directory and constraints. So many Soviet citizens purchased some of these machines, free of the registry process and along with smuggled in Western typewriters a dissident activity known as Samizdat (‘self-published’) was able to copy texts and distribute them avoiding the Soviet censors.

Those involved in the illegal reading market also used X-ray film to conceal works and found ingenious ways of hiding banned books or pages inside of the accepted-legal books. It was not just works written inside of the Soviet Union that were banned, many books from the World over, from HG Wells and George Orwell to political and religious texts that may challenge the minds of the reader or raise thoughts that could not be controlled by the State.

The Samizdat typewritten copies covered a variety of topics and genres from poetry, unpublished works to controversial pieces on politics, religion and nationalism. Despite the censors and official media, a lot of people wanted to be exposed to different views and perspectives. Whether they agreed or not, the proletariat was hungry for information. The official lies did less to conceal, it ultimately revealed the repression and shifting narratives of the Soviet state. What was acceptable could suddenly change and then the past officially scrubbed or adjusted to fit the States contemporary necessity. When Soviet citizens were able to read books like Doctor Zhivago and see just how benign its content was, it would only serve to prove the over reaction of the censors and the insecurity of the State itself.

Contraband works made available by Samizdat nourished a liberal instinct and helped to subvert the tyranny of the State, along with rock n roll, blue jeans and the continued economic idiocy that was felt by the common person daily. It is the writer who has the ability to put up a mirror on the system or society that is often the most threatening. The reflection of truth is far more dangerous than any lies. And this is where men like Alexander Solzhenitsyn became so dangerous to the Soviet government that at times they were uncertain how to deal with him. The crime in the past was in condemning the present and in the post-Stalin world it was in comparing the present to that past. Solzhenitsyn and other Russian writers fought this battle against the censors and the officials.

Through the 1970s the Soviet authorities were waging a losing battle against those writing and spreading the contraband. By 1985 over one million items of prohibited material existed deep inside the ‘restricted access collection’ of the Lenin State Library. Under the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika and Glasnot reversed many of the ancient censorship and allowed artists and intellectuals to express themselves, within certain constraints. Some liberalization does not mean complete freedom. The spigot seemingly had opened up.

In the post-Soviet world, Russia like many other countries has its own nuanced sensibilities when it comes to censorship.  Inside of modern Russia the government itself does not need to impose traditional bans on books as it could have done in the past, instead the publishers do so for the state. Russia is again dominated by the cult of personality, Vladimir Putin. No where near as terrible as Joseph Stalin, though under his leadership Russia is not a free society.  A cultural homogenization exists, where private entities narrow the lanes of acceptable opinion and omit, criticise or banish anything outside of them. A form of cultural nationalism and a vanguard against any subversive ideas or immoralities that may corrupt or hinder Russia.

This is also a modern trend of large corporations and companies all over the world, not limited to publishing books and magazines. The modern Russian censors are fixated on prohibiting the publishing of materials about suicide, homosexuality, some religious texts and in some cases criticisms of Stalin himself, as was the case with the film and graphic novel, The Death of Stalin. A black comedy based on true events just before and after the death of the dictator revealing how deadly men were at times self obsessed buffoons despite ruling over millions.

Though it is in many cases not as bad as the Soviet era modern Russia has its share of direct and self imposed censorship.  Books relating to the usage of drugs such as Apocalypse Culture and The Ketamine Necromance have been banned and copies destroyed. Just as hard to publish are children’s books, where government and non-government actors heavily control such literature. It is not only the content of these books, the font and format that are dictated by the Russian government.

For the state and those interested in controlling others, it is not just the adult’s mind but especially those of children that are important to steer. The family, the school or even the child themselves does not come into consideration, all are determined to be inferior in their own learning and intellectual development. It is from the state and for the state that becomes priority. Such a miserable blandness of cultural porridge is ensured by the brain trust that adores authority. And the authority itself.

As technology and media evolved radio sets, cassette tapes and then video tapes all did the rounds and introduced the citizens behind the Iron Curtain to various perspectives that differed to their own. It helped to grow ideas and ideals, to expose them to the other world that existed beyond the bleak one of control and Soviet utopianism.  It is for the officials and central planners of modern regimes whether those of China and North Korea or even in democracies to massage or deny any alternative narrative. It is the imperial nature of those who are in control and those who benefit from such a system, to remove the alternative thoughts and works. To suppress literature and to condemn it as dangerous or immoral. To treat the citizen as a child like subject unable to make decisions for themselves.

What does it say of a government or society that makes words contraband? Whether a novel such as Doctor Zhivago is not merely a threat to the Soviet Union but communism itself exposes a fundamental flaw in the ideologies and states need to force and repress. In a free market, it is in the access to all forms of thoughts and expressions that can either confirm or condemn freedom itself. It is thanks to freedom that one can share and consider such thoughts. Inside a Soviet system one is deterred and denied from speaking outwardly about the only method of rule. Alternatives are the enemy, a deadly insecurity exists in those past and present who would inflict their views absolutely on others. Then to imprison who would dare to write something contrary, to ban or scrub their words, rather than to argue and to disprove.

The world is a better place thanks to the words of Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak. It is not a better place for the labor camps that imprisoned or the censors that sought to rid words written by such men. For the officials of the Soviet Union did what they needed to preserve the system and to maintain authority. That in itself was a righteous calling. To have a society of one or very few voices is the ore of iron rule, and it is impressive in its frightening scale that such an empire lasted so long and ruled over so many lives. Banning words (not just books and pamphlets) is not unique to the Soviet Union, but they do set an example for reflection. To make art and writing contraband only creates dissent and dissidents. The dissidents’ voice will whisper wherever the tyrant rules and in time they will yell until tyranny itself whimpers. Write on comrades!

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News Roundup

News Roundup 2/25/21

US News YouTube removed a Consortium News video that covered election suppression in the Georgia Senate runoff. [Link] Facebook plans to invest $1 billion in the news industry over the next three years. Facebook invested $600 million in the industry since 2018. [Link]...

Blog

Tom Woods’ Show

The great Tom Woods had me on for another Scott Horton Week on his show to talk about the new book. War's Roots Iraq War II Syria War All the Time Iran's nuclear program

Cop Kills Man

Father of tiny helpless children gets in a car wreck, calls 911, cop murders him to death so now he can never be there to protect his family. Cop wins "Officer of the Year" award.

The Scott Horton Show

Free Man Beyond the Wall

Conflicts of Interest

Don't Tread on Anyone

Liberty Weekly Podcast

How 2021 Could Be Better Ep. 149 ft. Jose Galison

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2oCgFf2cLs&feature=youtu.be I joined Jose Galison on "No Way Jose" to finish up a belated recap of 2020. We discuss the 2020 campaign trail, allegations of election fraud, Hunter Biden, internet censorship, "trusting the experts,"...

Year Zero

Reporting The Revolution w/Erik Sawyer

Erik Sawyer, formerly of the Revolution Report, joined Tommy to discuss current events, culture, and the Libertarian Party. They cover r/wallstreetbets, Doug Mackey, identity politics, the multi-front war against the cathedral, and how the culture of the LP has been...

Techno-tyranny And Subversive Technologies w/Ryan Bunting

I asked Ryan to join me on the show once again. We wanted to chat about the tech tyranny and subversive technology that helps to keep your information safe, secure, and uncensored. ryanbunting.com for any of your graphic design needs Paypal.me/tommysalmons...

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Tommy invited Coop onto the show to discuss the parallels between modern culture, relativity, objectivism, and how nations enter the period of their ultimate demise. https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/strangerencounterspodcast/coopfinal.mp3

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