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Tuesday, March 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Raindrops on a Rose


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By Steven L. Taylor

As a far briefer follow-on to the previous post, I propose the following test: if one can rant about how totalitarian one’s government is (or is becoming, or might become soon, or whatever) on TV, in the newspaper or via one’s blog, then one does not live in a totalitarian state.

Pretty simple, really. No complex political science degree required to get that, one would think.

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By Steven L. Taylor

It is bad enough that people keep tossing around the term “socialism” without knowing what it means,1 I increasingly keep noticing the careless usage of the word “totalitarianism” as well.2


The latest example to come to my attention comes from the blog American Power:

I’ve long refrained from attacking Barack Obama for his totalitaraian inclinations, and I recently praised President Obama on his “pragmatism” in foreign policy; but this administration’s recent moves on the economy are simply breathtaking in the centralization of power in the bureaucratic state. It’s no wonder those tea parties keep growing

This particular example is especially problematic for two reason.

First, it is the context of the GM/Chrysler business. The problem here is that it is GM and Chrysler that is asking for government help and money-it isn’t like the administration (or the previous one) went knocking on their door and said “we’re taking over.” The sequencing here, in fact, seems lost on a lot of those who are commenting on this situation.

Indeed, it isn’t even the current financial crisis that is at the root of these companies’ problems. David Brooks aptly notes in today’s NYT (Car Dealer in Chief)

For 30 years, G.M. has been restructuring itself toward long-term viability.

And need we be reminded that Chrysler was already rescued once by the federal government, and in recent history not even Daimler-Benz could make the company work properly.

I am fundamentally a free-marketeer and still wonder if the best course of action from the get-go wouldn’t have been to let the market do its thing with these companies, and allow them to fail. However, I can understand how the dramatic nature of the current economic situation led Bush and Obama both to not go that route.

However, once these companies started looking to the federal government for refuge, they stopped having the same rights and privileges of companies not asking for hand-outs. It changes the nature of the game. If the administration were truly engaged in an authoritarian power-grab of the auto industry, they would be going after Ford, Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, et al. To put it is simple terms: the administration is bossing around GM and Chrysler because GM and Chrysler wants something, and have to be bossed around in order to get it.

Second, the author of the sentence above from is a political science professor who should know better.3

Defining the Term
As is the case with most social science concepts, there is some debate on the exact definition of “totalitarianism” or, at least, as to which states it ought to be ascribed. If anything, authoritarianism4 is the broad category, while totalitarianism is typically construed to be the most extreme form of that type of governance. As the name suggests, it is a regime that seeks to use the state to totally control the society. It is a thoroughly modern type of states, as it requires a certain level of development and technology.
A particularly useful definition can be derived from the work of Friedrich and Brzezinski5 as adapted by Wiarda 6

A totalitarian regime has the following characteristics:7

1. An official, all-encompassing ideology covering all aspects of existence and to which everyone living in the society must adhere.
2. A single mass party, typically led by one person, combined with and inseparable from the governmental apparatus, and monopolizing all political activities.
3. A system of terroristic police control employing modern torture and surveillance techniques.
4. A technological monopoly in the hands of the party or dictator controlling all means of mass communication, such as the press, radio, television, and motion pictures.
5. A system of terroristic police control employing modern torture and surveillance techniques.
6.A technological monopoly in the hands of the party or dictator controlling all means of mass communication, such as the press, radio, television, and motion pictures.

Anyone who wants to say that any of the above is happening in contemporary America (or is at all indicated as a real possibility by the current administration), have at it in the comments section.8

Another classic work on this topic is the following:

Linz, Juan J.  2024.  Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. Boulder, CO:  Lynne Rienner Publishers. 

  1. And, at least, given the fact that the issues at hand are the convergence of government and the economy, one can at least understand the confusion, even if the term is almost always used incorrectly. []
  2. For example, I noted Glenn Beck’s usage and WND‘s in a footnote in a post the other day. []
  3. He teaches at Long beach City College. []
  4. Understand: not all authoritarian states are equal, e.g., living in Mexico under the PRI sure beat living in Cambodia under Pol Pot. []
  5. Friedrich, Carl J., and Zbigniew K. Brzezinski (1965). Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy. New York: Praeger. []
  6. Wiarda, Howard J. (2000) Introduction to Comparative Politics., 2nd Edition. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, pp. 121-122. []
  7. Adapted from my own POL 4433: Comparative Government class notes. []
  8. And let the hilarity ensue. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: ‘Toilet row’ lowers space morale

The International Space Station, once a place where astronauts would share food and facilities, is said to be embroiled in a Cold War-like stand-off.

A Russian cosmonaut has complained he is no longer allowed to use a US toilet as well as a US exercise bike.


Before he lifted off to join the ISS crew on Thursday, Mr Padalka had asked whether he could use a US gym to stay fit.

“They told me: ‘Yes, you can.’ Then they said no,” Novaya Gazeta quoted him as saying.

“Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative.”

Worse still, the regulations now required US and Russian cosmonauts to eat their own rations, he added.

“They also recommend us to only use national toilets,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide,” he told the newspaper. “It’s politicians and bureaucrats who can’t reach agreement, not us.”

The story blames increased commercialization of the station:

space missions became more commercial in 2024 and Moscow started billing Washington for sending its astronauts into space, he said. Other nations responded in kind, he added.

And, there are now more folks up there. Strangely, the infusion of cash and more people has lead to conflict. Who knew?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Haaretz: Netanyahu government to be sworn in today

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has officially asked the Knesset to hold a swearing-in ceremony for his new government - which, with some 30 ministers and at least another six deputy ministers, will be the largest in Israeli history.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place at 5 P.M. Tuesday.

While the ministerial appointments of all of Netanyahu’s coalition partners have been finalized, there is still uncertainty within his own Likud party. As of late last night, Netanyahu was still meeting with senior Likudniks, with no final decision having been made as to who gets which portfolio.

Kadima, meanwhile, is ready for opposition:

Kadima leader and outgoing foreign minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Kadima will serve the nation from the opposition. “This is the service we have decided to give. The government that will be formed tomorrow will be large and bloated, with portfolios and ministries divided into fractions and sub-fractions. Tomorrow will also see the rise of a large opposition headed by the largest party,” said Livni during a Kadima meeting held in the Knesset.

Indeed, another piece in Haaretz notes Livni: Kadima won’t hesitate to criticize Netanyahu government (in case anyone was wondering).

For some details on who is getting what job, as well as some of the tensions within Likud, see: Netanyahu cabinet: Heavy on coalition partners, light on Likud.

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Monday, March 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Miguel Abeja (aka, Michael Bee)

A 365 extra (from the same outing as “Remnants”)

Inspired by un amigo mio.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Azalea Path

365.89: Early spring in Alabama means Azaleas. These are on the campus of Troy University.

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By Steven L. Taylor


365.88. Near my neighborhood was an old little house that had been obscured by overgrowth, but was recently exposed due to construction. I thought that the house itself would have been a nice subject for photos, but before I could get around to it, it was torn down. I went to take pictures of the wisteria growing along the road, but ended up finding the foundation that was left behind to be quite interesting as well.

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By Steven L. Taylor

If you didn’t see Fareed Zakaria’s interview with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva yesterday on his show Fareed Zakaria GPS, I would highly recommend giving it a look on the net: GPS: President Lula .

There are several reasons to do so. First, Brazil is an extremely important country that is, like most of the world, under-covered by the US press. Second, he has a rather remarkable story-one that Horatio Alger would have rather substantially appreciated. Third, for those who fret about leftists (indeed, self-proclaimed socialists) in Latin America might find themselves a bit surprised by some of the things that Lula says in the interview/might be more at ease about the topic.

If anything, his (and Brazil’s) story is an impressive one in terms purely of democracy. Brazil went through multi-decade military rule to only fully emerge into democratic governance in 1990 (with civilian control having come in 1985). Lula was first a factory worker, then a union activist (jailed by the military, in fact) who later became a politician, and eventually a two-term president of his country.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Turkish PM’s party slips in polls

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party has won local elections by a wide majority - but nevertheless suffered a significant fall in support.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) won about 39% of the vote, according to unconfirmed results - down from the 47% general election landslide of 2024.

Which is, of course, all the more problematic after certain boasts from on high:

The prime minister had boasted that his party would surpass the 47% share of the vote it gained in 2024, but instead suffered its first fall in support since sweeping to power in 2024, our correspondent says.

Still, what this actually means in terms of seats and such is not made clear in the article, which of course is ultimately the measure that matters. It does note that:

Secularist parties made inroads into AKP support in both Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, and the capital, Ankara.

Meanwhile, the AKP was well beaten in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the country’s Kurdish-dominated south-east, by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, and in Izmir by the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

CNN’s report notes:

More than 90,000 positions are up for grabs Sunday, from the mayor of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, which has a population of more than 12 million, to the muhtar, or headman, of the smallest Anatolian village.

The NYT (Turkey’s Governing Party Wins City Races) provides the following breakdown:

By late evening, the CNN-Turk news channel was reporting thatMr. Erdogan’s party, Justice and Development, led with 39.13 percent of the vote, while the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, had 22.83 percent, and the nationalist People’s Action Party had 16.22 percent.

I tried to access Hürriyet, a Turkish paper with an English language services, but clearly a lot of others are trying to access it as well since all I can get is a busy browser that eventually resolves to a Page Load Error.

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