Author Archives: cleek

[He] Went To North Korea

What You’ve Heard Vs. What [he] Saw…

I’m not about to argue that the country is secretly a paradise. But if we reduce North Korea to a state run by cartoon supervillains, it becomes equally absurd and dangerous. Their government may be atrocious, but there’s still a clear logic to their actions — to dismiss them as lunatics invites the paranoid fantasy and anxiety that nuclear war is just a bored Kim Jong-un’s whim away. Unfortunately, our tour didn’t get the chance to sit in on any high-level strategy meetings, but that same line of thought extends to everything there. It may be foreign, and it may often be cruel, but it’s not a dark fantasyland — there’s a reason for all of it, even if that reasoning rarely accounts for human happiness.

Even mere sightseeing debunked a good chunk of what floats around online. There is, for example, a theory that Pyongyang’s metro station consists of just two stops that run only when tourists visit. Well, I rode through six stops, and I can’t imagine that the government has nothing better to do with its time and resources than to make hundreds of actors pretend to ride it with us for the benefit of a motley collection of visiting writers, teachers, and computer programmers. Shockingly, it turns out that dictatorships are capable of maintaining basic public transportation, presumably because they like it when their people make it to work on time. But that’s all part of the biggest myth about North Korea …

From The Outside

WaPo asks: What if Western media covered America’s white tribalism the same way it covers other nations:

The international community is yet again sounding the alarm on ethnic violence in the United States under the new regime of President Trump. The latest flash point occurred this past weekend when the former Confederate stronghold of Charlottesville descended into chaos following rallies of white supremacist groups protesting the removal of statues celebrating leaders of the defeated Confederate states. The chaos turned deadly when Heather Heyer, a member of the white ethnic majority who attended the rally as a counterprotester, was killed when a man with neo-Nazi sympathies allegedly drove his car into a crowd.

Trump, a former reality television host, beauty pageant organizer and businessman, rose to political prominence by publicly questioning the citizenship of the United States’ first black president, Barack Obama. Since his election, Trump has targeted Muslims, refugees, Mexicans and the media. He has also advocated for police brutality. These tactics have appealed to and emboldened white ethno-nationalist groups and domestic terrorist organizations.

It’s quite true! When I’m late for work, I catch the start of the BBC’s News Hour program. And for everything besides UK and US news, they take on a noticeably anthropological tone.

So, what does an Indian news site think of this stuff? Here’s The Times Of India:

WASHINGTON: America is erupting into a flaming debate about its dark past after President Donald Trump made incendiary remarks that appeared to give a free pass to white supremacists and neo-Nazi extremists. He has equated them with counter-protesters opposing their racism and blamed them for confrontation and violence during protest rallies in Charlottesville last week, while re-opening a debate whether the country’s Founding Fathers were racist.

Notably, Trump glossed over the fact that the white extremist protesters, carrying tiki torches, chanted hateful, provocative, racially charged slogans such as the ”Jews will not replace us” and ”blood and soil,” and taunted white liberal counter-demonstrators for ”betraying your race” while insisting they will ”take back our country.”

White extremists, all descendants of European invaders and settlers who stole the country from Native Americans, have a sense of privilege and ownership of a country where they are as much immigrants as later settlers. Trump’s own family emigrated from Germany, but on Tuesday, as he has done often in the past, he implicitly appeared to support nativist forces who believe there is no place for anyone other than white people in the United States.

The Charlottesville clash and Trump’s remarks on it goes to the very heart of the country’s founding and its subsequent evolution into a plural, diverse melting pot.

The all-white rally was protesting moves to rename a Charlotteville park named after Robert Lee, a Confederate General who led the American South during the Civil War, and whose defeat eventually led to the modern American union that abolished slavery, and at least in principle, put it on the path to end racism.

Many white extremist groups idolize Confederate symbols and flags under the guise of respecting history, while many liberals see it as a throwback to a dark and ugly time when white America practiced slavery.



The last 31 incoming calls on my phone have been robocalls. Three weeks ago, my father called me. Before that, the previous 25 incoming calls were robocalls. This is since July 7th.

32 of those robocalls were either “Unknown” or “No Caller ID”.

Verizon could fix this.

Instead, they’re going to lose a customer when my contract is up.


NC Governor Cooper wants NC to Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. But history is not on their side. We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.

It’s time to move forward. And here’s how I plan to do that.

First, the North Carolina legislature must repeal a 2015 law that prevents removal or relocation of monuments. Cities, counties and the state must have the authority and opportunity to make these decisions.

Second, I’ve asked the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to determine the cost and logistics of removing Confederate monuments from state property as well as alternatives for their placement at museums or historical sites where they can be studied in context.

Third, the North Carolina legislature should defeat a bill that grants immunity from liability to motorists who strike protesters. That bill passed the state House and remains alive in the Senate. The Senate should kill it. Full stop. Those who attack protesters, weaponizing their vehicles like terrorists, should find no safe haven in our state.