Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Yes, the Soviet Union Was an Evil Empire, Though We Have Our Issues As Well

I'd like to share two articles from the December 2021 Reason magazine. I would have shared this last night except I was distracted by the Tuesday election results along with the climax of the World Series. (Congratulations, Braves fans.)

Reason routinely produces excellent journalism that fails to get the recognition it deserves. The first article is from their December issue marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Like Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, she brings an insider's view to this in depth story that has contemporary applications.

The second article ought to keep us from gloating. To fight for freedom means we have to be humble, vigilant and aware. 

Yes, It Was An "Evil Empire"

It was the summer of 1983, and I, a Soviet émigré and an American in the making, was chatting with the pleasant middle-aged woman sitting next to me on a bus from Asbury Park, New Jersey, to Cherry Hill. Eventually our conversation got to the fact that I was from the Soviet Union, having arrived in the U.S. with my family three years earlier at age 17. "Oh, really?" said my seatmate. "You must have been pretty offended when our president called the Soviet Union an 'evil empire'! Wasn't that ridiculous?" But her merriment at the supposed absurdity of President Ronald Reagan's recent speech was cut short when I somewhat sheepishly informed her that I thought he was entirely on point.

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The woman on the bus in 1983 did not surprise me. By then, I had already met many Americans for whom "anti-Soviet" was almost as much of a pejorative as it had been in the pages of Pravda, the official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party. My favorite was a man in the café at the Rutgers Student Center who shrugged off the victims of the gulag camps by pointing out that capitalism kills people too—with cigarettes, for example. When I recovered from shock, I told him that smoking was far more ubiquitous in the Soviet Union, and anti-smoking campaigns far less developed. That momentarily stumped him.

You can read the full story here. Cathy Young's account is loaded with insights.

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The second story is a reprint from 2013. It's a must read because it shows the extent to which the U.S. is involved in illegal domestic surveillance. 

Thank You, Edward Snowden

"The NSA has turned the internet into a giant surveillance platform."

Last week the Cato Institute put on a terrific conference about unconstitutional domestic spying. The Cato conference took place after a summer of alarming revelations of just how deep and extensive the feds' secret surveillance of our everyday communications had become. The conference, held at the institute's downtown D.C. headquarters, brought some of the most knowledgeable Internet luminaries together with some of the fiercest fighters for Americans' Fourth Amendment rights.

Watchdog organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sought for years to expose the extent and depth of federal surveillance, but their efforts were largely stymied by the very walls of secrecy they were trying to breach...

The walls of surveillance secrecy were finally cracked by the June revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden's files conclusively show that the federal government has been operating a vast spying program that violates the Fourth Amendment rights of tens of millions of ordinary Americans.

This one, written by Ronald Bailey, is another good read:
Thank You, Edward Snowden

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Related Links

Solzhenitsyn on World Communism

George Orwell: Insight from a Man Who Saw It All

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