A Link To Some Official Photos Of North Korea, Catalonia, And A Great Morning Walk

Via Mick Hartley:  You never go full Stalinist (photos at the link):

So much emptiness and marble kitsch:

‘Dutch photographer Eddo Hartmann travelled four times to North Korea, between 2014 and 2017. He makes no claim that the resulting project and book – Setting the Stage – are a behind-the-scenes look at the real Pyongyang. On the contrary, he was chaperoned at all times, the images approved by his minders. This is the official North Korea, as they want it to be seen – which makes it all the more chilling. Pristine marble totalitarian kitsch, with the few isolated individuals only serving to emphasise the soulless alienation of the socialist utopia.’

Behold the Dear Leader promoting gleaming new make-glorious subway cars!  All is well!

Remember, Madrid has had to deal with ETA, and real terrorism, so the issue is complicated.

A while back, I was a young mole in Barcelona for a month at a law faculty, and there was an older woman who came in for a few hours a day, sharing our tiny, rented office. She explained her job was to make sure all posters and communications in Spanish at the law faculty also appeared in Catalan.  This was a very important job.

She was small in a way many Spanish (Catalonian!) people are small, diminuitive, and in her case determined and a bit mousy.  I can still hear her voice echoing ‘Si, digi‘ as she picked up the odd phone call.  Down the corridors she’d be off again on another stroll to ensure protocol.

Per Josep Goded:

‘Pro-independence parties have restarted talks on the formation of an effective government in Catalonia. The negotiations broke down two weeks ago, following a wave of mutual reproaches and criticism.’

Personal update: This blog is a way to communicate and share ideas, and if you were to meet me, you’d probably have a pretty good sense of what kind of guy I am after a few minutes of conversation (like all of us, right?). May we meet one day, talk, and share a few moments on this strange journey.

Today, I decided to hike alone at the rather pedestrian Cougar Mountain on a sunny and cold morning (out of the noise of the house and away from work).

The ground was frozen and crunched underfoot. There was a welcome stillness and only a few light breezes (5-10 mph from the west/northwest) occassionally clacking some smaller trunks together.

After an hour or so of walking, I arrived at the small falls where a healthy amount of winter water tumbled and cascaded down.  I decided to clamber up the left side and go off-trail.  I took a few photos back towards the falls, and for some reason, just kept going off-trail.

Exhilarated, I soon found myself powering through pretty dense undergrowth, getting lashed in the face, having my shoes pulled off occasionally, falling down a few times, and you know, wondering what I was doing, exactly.

I checked my phone and there was no signal.  I figured I had another mile to go through the growth at that heading, and such a mile was becoming long, unsure and miserable.  I did what any self-respecting suburbanite would do and decided to double-back towards the stream and the falls and the ravine.  Executive decision.

I sat and took the photo below in a little clearing under the 10:30 am sun along the way back.

I saw a female mule deer bounding ahead, in and out of shafts of sunlight, keeping a safe distance between us.  I must have disturbed her.  Her ears swiveled wildly and I could see her eyes watching me.

In another shaft of sunlight, back near the stream, I saw a piliated woodpecker swooping ahead of me from limb to limb (explains the woody, jackhammer sound I’d been hearing). Flashes of black, white and red.

All in all, a great morning:

IMG_1146

Some Links On That ‘Community Of Nations’-North Korea And The Use Of Force

From Millenial Transmissions-‘John Stuart Mill Predicts Soviet Communism’

Well, predictions are hard, especially about the future…:

I’ll just pull part of the quote:

‘The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”

Mill provided a fairly comprehensive underlying moral philosophy as to why to individual liberty should be championed; deep reasons as to how you should live and what you should do towards these ends.

It’s odd that some in the West look upon the post-ish-Communist landscape (China, Russia, North Korea) and merely see States not sufficiently included within ‘the community of nations.’  This, rather than seeing States with vastly different, and often competing traditions and interests than oursand who are still often crushing individual liberty underfoot.

It must be said that such folks in the West harbor deep sympathies with Communist collectivist ideological constructs themselves, or at least a kind of one-world secular idealism which sees any use of force as illegitimate (often on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom, or perhaps…something more like a global collective).

As you’ve noticed, there’s still a thoroughly bankrupt, totalitarian regime on the path to deliverable nukes in North Korea (yes it still possesses a reasonably competent military seeking all aspects of nuclear delivery…for all the worst reasons).

Force and the threat of force are still on the table, but now there appear to be fewer good options in the halls of American power.

From The Atlantic (complete with a standard underlying suspicion of all ideas realist and nationalist):

‘Kim Jong Un must be made to understand that, under no uncertain terms, can he ever use his nuclear weapons; doing so would mean the end of North Korea. Whether the United States likes it or not, the country now poses a clear strategic threat, and it must be treated as such.’

America has a soft and hard power game to play in the Asian theater in order to foster the kinds of freedom that lead to greater trade, understanding and knowledge, as I see it.  Self-interest is often a reasonably honest, and reliable guide.

For even if we apply Mill’s thinking to the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Chinese, depending on circumstances, individuals with whom we deal may not return the favor, especially with their own interests and obligations to the traditions, governments, and institutions of which they are a part.

In the meantime, the mess that is North Korea sits on their doorsteps, after all, and seeks to increase its scope to our shores.

A previous piece here.

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

What are some things China might have to gain and lose from a still-existing North Korean regime?

Some people have a lot of experience with this problem:


Even if there were a global collective and community of nations honoring every single human-rights bill and charter it would still use force and the threat of force…I should think.

So much for ideals of peace and harmony promised? (delivery from history and much of our own natures).

Where are we headed, here?

As previously posted:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position (regarding Obama):

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

From Malcolm Greenhill: ‘I believe my good friend, Jeff Hummel, has made the best attempt so far at solving the public goods problem of national defense:’

http://mises.org/document/274/National-Goods-versus-Public-Goods-Defense-Disarmament-and-Free-Riders

On this site, see: George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

From Mick Hartley: ‘At The Mausoleum Of The Dear Leader

Take a trip to the Hermit Kingdom:


Via another reader-

Christopher Hitchens on North Korea: ‘Visit To A Small Planet

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Full piece here.

More on Kennan (wikipedia).

Now that Putin is playing the Russian strongman in Ukraine (video of Russian tactics):

‘Yet one wonders how many U.S. government officials during the 1940s would have been able to behold the fruits of the policy with the sort of critical distance that Kennan demonstrates. His black, razor-sharp diagnosis of Stalinism—at a time when pro-Soviet wartime propaganda in the United States presented a diametrically opposed picture of the regime—is of a piece with this innate skepticism and independence of thought.’

Many diplomats and first-class thinkers can be frustrated by the constraints of a democratic system. Some are like Grandmasters, playing a global game of chess. They can spend their entire lives envisioning strategic outcomes, advising and calculating many moves ahead as they run through a rolodex of hundreds of names and players.  

It can be dispiriting for them to have to try to explain the logic of it all to a President and his team who might give them 10 minutes to get a point across, and then have them write a follow-up position paper. 

Or, in the case of Kennan, it might be even harder when their ideas are actually adopted into policy.

‘SOME OF HIS crankiest observations deal with the shortcomings of democracy. During his time as a government official Kennan had often witnessed how the principles of good policy were undermined by the short-term thinking of elected politicians, and he had concluded from the experience that democracies were inherently incapable of devising and pursuing rational strategy.’

Perhaps it’s an inherent good to have the logic and experience of even the very wise frustrated by the democratic process.

A realism you can get behind?

Henry Kissinger:

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”

and:

“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.