A few years ago I engaged with North Korea in direct, high-level conversations on one of the the most secure international communication networks known to man: Twitter.
Back in 2010, North Korea launched an official Twitter account, @uriminzok. This was the first presence the secretive nation had on social media, and I thought, “Wouldn't it be fun to get North Korea to tweet at me?” So, using Google translate I simply asked: “What is your YouTube account?”
One day later, North Korea responded -- they sent me a link to their YouTube account.
So, North Korea tweeted at me. As far as I’m aware, I’m the only American to have ever been tweeted at by North Korea. Which is admittedly very, very strange.
The tweet almost certainly put me on an NSA watchlist. Around the same time, the spy agency began collecting data on social connections of US citizens to track “connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States.” This tweet gives me a direct connection to North Korea, so I’m probably on the “people to keep an eye on” list. It also gives my Facebook friends and Twitter followers a second degree connection to North Korea ... so, you’re probably on the list too. My bad.
A year after this tweet, I discovered that a Japanese blog -- which has since been deleted -- had looked rather extensively into the exchange. They wanted to know one thing: “Who is Mr. Nick Butler?”
This screenshot is the only remaining image of the blog post. Luckily, I sent excerpts of the post to a friend on Facebook shortly after discovering the article. The Facebook chat is still archived today (which is slightly unsettling), so I can share some of the things that were said in the post.
Ultimately, the blog looked at my brief exchange with North Korea and my background, noting my Twitter profile described me as “the senior editor of MovieViral.com,” concluding that I was a “movie lover.” The post also noted that I like politics. It went on to examine whether or not I had a “special relationship with North Korea.”
After reviewing my tweet, North Korea’s reply, and my subsequent reaction, the author of the article concludes that “Mr. Nick seem to be extremely normal American,” but went on to say, “Mr. Nick North Korea's support is indescribably creepy.”
Well, there you have it folks. My support for North Korea is, according to at least one Japanese blog, “indescribably creepy.” But definitely not as creepy as the guy North Korea follows.
Nick likes politics and does not, in any regard, support North Korea. Like Sometime Weekly on Facebook and Twitter.
(Please note: I’ve altered names in this post to protect individual identities.)
This may come as a shock to a lot of you, but I’m not the only Nick Butler in the world -- in fact, Nick Butler is a pretty common name. In the early 1900’s, one guy named Nick Butler was the President of Columbia University, ran for Vice President of the United States, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. He pretty much knocked me out of contention for the “Best Nick Butler Ever” award. Given the commonality of my name, last year I hosted a Nick Butlers “Meeting of the Minds” convention on Twitter (only two other Nick Butlers participated).
Well, it turns out that one of me is a high-ranking official in a well-known British company that has a lot of interest in the dealings of the British government. As such, you can imagine that this Nick Butler would have a number of ties to both houses in Parliament. Normally, this would be of little interest to me, as I generally don’t follow the lives of other Nick Butlers. However, back in 2012 I received an email which was a bit mysterious. It was addressed to me and seemed innocent enough. But I just didn’t understand it:
Then I looked at the email address… @parliament.uk… what? Then I looked at the name in the “Sent” line… Lord Barnes… what? Then I looked at the confidentiality clause at the bottom of the email.
UK Parliament Disclaimer:
Wait, what? Why the hell did a member of the House of Lords just email me asking if I know who Nicole Wade from British Petroleum is? Something isn’t right. (Also, I’m realizing now that by sharing this story I’m breaching the disclaimer above, whoops). So, I responded honestly:
Robert responded two hours later, with a brief message that, too this day, remains the most British thing anyone has ever said to me:
Now that we were on first initial basis, I responded with a brief messaging saying it wasn’t a problem and as an American student studying political science it was a thrill to receive an email from a member of the House of Lords -- even if by accident. We exchanged a few emails chatting about politics. He described himself as a socialist guru and questioned how far right American politicians really lean. Then he took a shot at George McGovern for how badly he was “drubbed” in the 1980s. Finally, he complained about the current state of politics in the United Kingdom saying, “...and now we want European levels of public service at American levels of taxation!” It was all very entertaining, but our two day stint as international pen pals ended as quickly as it began. Or so I thought.
Three months later, I receive another email:
No, Robert, I can’t help. I have even less of an idea of what you’re talking about than you do. At this point I’m wondering why anyone would let you handle your own emails. Seriously, you shouldn’t be blasting out emails left and right to people who share the name of whoever it is you’re trying to reach.
In any event, I responded saying he had yet again reached the wrong Nick Butler. To which he replied (again) in a very British manner, “Oh dear so sorry.”
I responded with a quick email saying (again) it’s not a problem and it’s always a thrill to get an email from a member of Parliament as it’s something I can tell my friends about. I figured that was the end of our bizarre relationship which, at this point, has basically become me telling him I’m not the Nick Butler he’s looking for and wishing him luck. But then I got another email:
Woah, wooooahhhh. Robert, I’ve emailed you like 5 times. You’ve got to be more careful making jokes like this. One screenshot sent over to the British tabloids and you’re in a world of trouble. Think before you act, you’re a Baron for Christ’s sake -- you can’t be joking about bribes with people you don’t know!
But luckily for you, we share a sense of humor (or “humour”) so it isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, I’m fired up! You’re dishing it out, so I’m gonna send one back your way! I reply to his email with a quick response:
Then I wait.
And I wait.
And I wait.
Nothing, no response. No “haha,” no “LOL!” Nothing!
Lord Barnes throws me an alley-oop, I slam dunk it, and then he goes radio silent! The hell is that Robert? I thought we were on first initial basis? Do you know how awkward it is for me to have emailed a joke about a bribe to a Lord of Parliament and then have them completely ignore me for the rest of time, Robert? I have to live with that. How am I the one feeling like I did something wrong? I’m not a member of Parliament, you are! You shouldn’t be joking about bribes!
Alright. Well, that’s it. That’s the story about the time a Lord of Parliament offered me a bribe -- and then I offered one back to him and he totally ignored me.
I hope you’re happy, Robert. I hope you’re happy.
In case you missed the original story a few weeks ago, Donald Trump threatened me with a $100,000 lawsuit over my ownership of the top-level domain trump.foundation, a domain name I registered in good faith. Mr. Trump believed the domain infringed on his “Trump” trademark, even though the word trump was first used over 400 years ago.
After weeks of legal advice and soul searching, I decided it probably wasn’t in my best interest to get in a legal kerfuffle with an elderly wig who throws a hissy every few weeks for attention (and who has millions of dollars to dump into a lawsuit). So, I agreed to transfer ownership of the domain to Mr. Trump if his organization reimbursed the original cost of registration -- $39.99. Mr. Trump’s attorney said that request was acceptable, and now I have a $39.99 check from The Trump Corporation.
Sure, $39.99 doesn’t seem like a lot. And sure, I may not be able to afford a $25,000 Ivanka Trump diamond-capped seed pearl double tassel lariat, on a vintage-style seed pearl chain, accented by a small diamond-set oval station -- every boy’s dream tassel lariat -- but there’s still a lot of things $39.99 can buy. For example, $39.99 can buy nearly 4,000 copies of Trump’s book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” which is listed on Amazon for $0.01 and makes for great kindling (shipping and handling not included). It can buy two bottles of Trump’s cologne “Success,” which you can spray directly into your own eyes to avoid imagining what a Trump presidency would look like. And finally, $39.99 can get you six Merriam-Webster dictionaries where you can look up the word trump and not see a picture of Donald Trump, because trump is a fucking word that has been used since 1529. But, I have a better idea of how to spend this money.
Funded entirely (and accidentally) by a check from The Trump Corporation, the Tronald Dump Foundation was established in May 2015 with a single mission: slightly annoy Donald Trump. For decades, the Trumpinator has been masquerading around claiming he’s a successful businessman, but the man has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times! FOUR! That’s three times and one more additional time! If life was an episode of “The Apprentice,” Don would've been fired years ago.
While Donald “The Hairpiece” Trump may have had a legitimate claim on trump.foundation because of his trademark, he has no such claim on TronaldDump.Foundation. The Tronald Dump Foundation is clearly a parody, meaning it’s protected free speech. Just like we have to listen to the unbearable things that come out of Donald Trump’s dumb stupid mouth, so too does he have to listen to what I say about his stupid face.
For example, I can say “Donald Trump is a goofball” and he can’t do anything about it. I can also say “Every night, Donald Trump dresses up as Benjamin Franklin and flies a kite atop Trump Tower” without repercussion, because making a joke is protected free speech. In fact, I can even share a photo of Donald Trump dressed as Benjamin Franklin flying a kite atop Trump Tower and still be protected by free speech rights, because it’s clearly a parody.
Parody is protected free speech, and because Donald Trump is (unfortunately) a well-known public figure, I can post that manipulated photo -- and own TronaldDump.Foundation -- without facing a serious lawsuit. When a reasonable person looks at that picture, they know it isn’t real, just like a reasonable person knows Barack Obama was born in the United States even though he doesn’t look like the previous 42 presidents we’ve had (I’m not counting you twice, Grover).
In any event, I’m happy to have this trump.foundation nonsense behind me. Now I can look toward to a bright future with TronaldDump.Foundation. I hope you never know what it’s like to stand toe-to-toe with a wealthy, human-sized orange who once Tweeted, “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He said that. A guy with a billion dollars said that. God help us.
I encourage you to follow Sometimes Weekly on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest and greatest blog posts as soon as they’re available. One of our lucky followers will win a free copy of Donald Trump’s $0.01 book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” Just kidding, I literally wouldn’t spend a penny on that book.
Nick Butler was Time Magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year. He believes strongly that Donald Trump is a goofball.
There comes a time in every man’s life when Donald Trump threatens to sue them. For me, it was Monday, March 23rd, 2015 — the day after my 22nd birthday. It seems Mr. Trump’s idea of a birthday present is threatening a $100,000 lawsuit. What a goofball!
You can read the entire cease and desist letter on Scribd, but here’s the gist of it: I own the domain name trump.foundation and Mr. Trump’s General Counsel, Alan Garten, believes that’s a violation of the “Trump” trademark. He also believes it’s a violation of the U.S. Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
I fully disagree with Mr. Garten’s accusation that I’m infringing on Mr. Trump’s trademark or in violation of anti-cybersquatting law. When I received this cease and desist letter, trump.foundation was parked on my server with no content other than the default HostMonster landing page. I have not used, nor have I ever attempted to use, the Trump brand for commercial purposes. I have not contacted, nor have I ever attempted to contact, Mr. Trump or any member of his organization(s) in an attempt to sell the domain name to him.
Today, I updated the website with a clear disclaimer that it is in not owned by nor affiliated with Donald Trump or any of the trademark holder(s) of the Trump brand. I also provided a definition of the word trump, first used in 1529 — over 400 years before Donald Trump was born (according to Wikipedia, I’d have to see his birth certificate to confirm).
Mr. Garten has given me 7 days to respond to the cease and desist. He has demanded that I transfer ownership of the domain name to Mr. Trump. Though I have yet to formally respond to the cease and desist demand, I have no intention of transferring ownership of the domain name to Mr. Trump at this time.
I’ll be sure to provide updates as this develops.
I’m happy to report the wonderful folks over at Men’s Wearhouse have responded to my customer service request that I shared here last week. This is part of what they had to say.
Unfortunately, I took the suit to my local Men’s Wearhouse and it appears the rip is beyond repair. So I responded to their email.
A few hours later, Tae-ahj'hsha responded to my response. Here’s what she had to say.