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Showdown: The left vs. the Web
WND ^ | July 20, 2005 | Richard Poe

Posted on 07/20/2005 4:24:28 AM PDT by Kaslin

"I have decided to leave the 'CBS Evening News,'" Dan Rather announced on Nov. 23, 2004. The venerable anchorman's retirement had been in the works for months, CBS explained. He was 73 years old and it was time to move on. Maybe so. But Rather stepped down in the midst of CBS's internal investigation of the so-called "Rathergate" scandal. Most industry observers drew the obvious connection.

In the weeks and months ahead, many writers would credit the blogosphere for bringing down Dan Rather. And bloggers did play a crucial role. But the citizen journalist who broke the Rathergate was not a blogger. He was a Freeper – a registered poster on the message board, who called himself "Buckhead."

On Sept. 8, 2004, the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes 2" aired what it doubtless hoped would be the magic bullet to end Bush's presidency. It asserted that Bush, while serving in the National Guard, had disobeyed an order from his superior Lt. Col. Jerry Killian in 1973, to report for duty and take a physical. CBS rested its case on a set of memos allegedly written by Killian. The memos turned out to be forgeries, which CBS had accepted from a source and showed on the air without proper authentication.

On a discussion thread, Buckhead spotted the problem immediately and posted his analysis. "Every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts. The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. … I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively."

In all the ensuing media hoopla over the power of the blogosphere, FreeRepublic tended to get short shrift. Many writers lumped it in with the blogs. But FreeRepublic is not a blog. It is an online community, a message board where tens of thousands of regular posters meet every day to analyze the news and coordinate their political activism.

Founded in 1996, FreeRepublic played a major role in the Web-based dissident movement of the '90s. Like many Clinton foes, the Freepers felt the fury of Hillary's Shadow Team. But they outlasted their adversaries. Freeper activists helped turn the tide during the election crisis of 2000.


Hillary's jihad against the Internet backfired. While she won some battles, she lost the war. At least temporarily. The more ruthlessly Hillary persecuted Internet dissidents, the stronger the cyber-resistance grew.

Some websites went further than mere dissemination of information. They pioneered cyber-activism – direct political action, coordinated through the Web. leads the field in conservative cyber-activism.

The site's founder and mastermind is Vietnam veteran, computer programmer and software entrepreneur Jim Robinson. Today, Robinson is confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. But his disability has not dampened his fighting spirit.

Robinson grew up dirt poor in Fresno, Calif., in a family of nine children. His father was a laborer, working in construction and farming. "During the summer, when the fruit, grapes and cotton got ready for picking, my whole family would go to work in the fields," recalls Robinson. "That's how we earned our money for school clothes."

During the Vietnam War, Robinson served on destroyers in support of U.S. ground troops, steaming up and down the Vietnamese coast, bombarding enemy positions. Enemy shore batteries often fired back. I asked Robinson if he had been frightened during these battles. "The first time I was," he replied with simple honesty. "Not the other times."

Robinson earned his high-school equivalency degree and attended electronics school in the Navy. Following his honorable discharge in 1969, he worked as an aircraft sheet metal mechanic and later sold vacuum cleaners. Robinson became a computer programmer in 1972. By 1995, he was a successful high-tech entrepreneur, the chairman and CEO of a $2 million public company he founded called ProtoSource.

But harsh trials lay ahead. In May 1994, Robinson's wife, Sheila, suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. About two years later, Robinson was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. "As I grew weaker, I could no longer travel by myself or even step up a curb to enter a client's building, much less climb stairs," Robinson recalls. "Plus, I had to spend ever increasing amounts of time at home helping my wife. …" The board of directors asked Robinson to step down as CEO in April 1996. His world was crashing down around him.

Still, with help from his programmer son, John, and from another partner, Amy Defendis, Robinson managed to organize a small business called Electronic Orchard that provided Internet computer consulting.

FreeRepublic – an online community

"I had not been all that politically active prior to President Clinton's election," Robinson recalls. "Yes, I complained about government and politics just like everyone else … but politics was not particularly high on my list of priorities – until Slick came along."

Robinson saw that the Clintons had brought a new and dangerous level of corruption to American politics. He could no longer remain aloof. "I knew that the newspapers and news media were lying and I knew that government had been encroaching on our individual rights and that our politicians were as corrupt as the day is long. I also knew that nothing would be done about it unless we the people somehow joined together to exercise our political free-speech rights."

Robinson began to frequent the Prodigy "Whitewater News" board around 1993 or 1994. As mentioned in Part 2, Robinson – like many other Prodigy regulars – grew weary of the nosey moderators who policed the bulletin board, censoring anti-Clinton messages. Seeking greater freedom, Robinson and his son John launched in September 1996. They added its key feature – the message board – in January 1997. "I was the only poster for a few months," says Robinson, "but I kept sending my URL to search engines and trolled the newsgroups by reposting articles from the forum and eventually I picked up a few readers. …" editor Justin Raimondo, who frequented FreeRepublic in its early years, writes, "FreeRepublic … soon attracted hundreds, then thousands, and eventually tens of thousands of individual visitors. … A cybercommunity of like-minded souls began to develop … united not only by politics but by mutually observed rules of behavior. … [A]n online subculture was being born."

Today, the Freepers – that is, registered members of the site – constitute a highly motivated activist community numbering in the tens of thousands. FreeRepublic chapters have formed in every state. The term they use for political action is "freeping." A freep can be anything from an e-mail campaign to a boycott or a street demonstration.

The war on Jim Robinson

Every dissident website of any significance was targeted for harassment during the Clinton years. was no exception.

Like thousands of newsgroups and message boards, FreeRepublic offers a forum for posting and discussing articles picked up from newspapers, magazines or other websites. Posting of full-length articles for discussion purposes has been a standard practice since the earliest days of the Internet.

On Sept. 12, 1997, however, the practice suddenly became controversial – at least for The trouble began when a Freeper posted an article from that day's Washington Post, revealing new developments in the Chinagate scandal. The article cited intelligence sources accusing Indonesian businessman Ted Sioeng, a suspected agent for the Chinese government, of having donated $250,000 to the Democratic Party – possibly as part of a broad Chinese plan, confirmed by electronic intercepts, to influence U.S. policy through illegal campaign contributions.

Soon after, Jim Robinson began receiving cease-and-desist orders from major news organizations, charging commercial misappropriation, copyright and trademark infringement, and unfair competition. They commanded Robinson to stop posting their articles. The Washington Weekly noted:

"There is something odd about these cease and desist orders, which Robinson has shown to the Washington Weekly. They use similar wording and details, and three of the letters were sent on the same day, Dec. 5. The timing and language suggests that this was a concerted effort. Some person or group did the legal research on Robinson and his website, uncovering all his past and present business affiliations, and distributed a legal brief to the news organizations Times Mirror, Dow Jones, Reuters and Washington Post."

The Washington Weekly identified Debevoise and Plimpton – a law firm used by the Clintons and the Democratic National Committee – as the coordinator of the attack.

"Debevoise & Plimpton [is] a DNC law firm that has conducted most of the internal investigation of illegal foreign contributions received by the DNC," wrote Wesley Phelan and Marvin Lee in the Washington Weekly. "Clinton private eye Terry Lenzner admitted in a Filegate deposition earlier this year that he had been retained by Debevoise & Plimpton to perform investigations of a political nature. Debevoise & Plimpton refused to answer questions about the selection of the FreeRepublic site when contacted by the Washington Weekly. …" Robinson had recently noted a large number of visits to his site from, a White House domain, suggesting that he was under White House scrutiny.

The e-mail that Robinson received from the Washington Post complained specifically about FreeRepublic's posting of the article about suspected Chinese agent Ted Sioeng and his ties to the Clinton machine.

Robinson refused to stop posting articles, arguing that the Freepers had a First Amendment right to discuss news stories, and that posting copies of such stories for reference purposes on a nonprofit discussion forum constituted "fair use" under copyright law.

By the time Debevoise & Plimpton attacked, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were both confined to wheelchairs. But they fought with extraordinary zest and courage. "They'll have to pry my keyboard from my cold dead fingers," Jim Robinson famously told Washington Weekly in April 1998. The battle lines were drawn.

On Sept. 28, 1998, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times – the latter owned by the Times Mirror Company – joined forces to sue for copyright infringement, filing suit in a Los Angeles federal court. However, the plaintiffs seemed to lose interest in the case after the Clintons left office. Though they had already obtained a million-dollar judgment against Robinson in a lower court, during Robinson's appeal in May 2002, they quietly agreed to settle for a token payment of $5,000 apiece from Robinson. He agreed that in future he would permit Freepers to post only excerpts and links to the plaintiffs' articles, not the full text.

Taking it to the street

Small businessman Gene McDonald lives in Nevada today and sells Freeper-oriented goods through his website. He was formerly president of the Florida Chapter of FreeRepublic and helped found the Free Republic Network, an activist arm of the Freepers dedicated to taking the fight to the streets.

McDonald was 50 years old when a 30-ish Clinton supporter physically attacked him because he was holding an "Impeach Clinton Now" sign. The incident served as a wake-up call for McDonald. At the suggestion of a fellow Freeper, McDonald read "Radical Son," the autobiography of '60s-radical-turned-Republican activist David Horowitz. "It rang a bell with me," says McDonald. "Conservatives have to adopt the tactics of the left and use it against them."

It wasn't long before McDonald and his fellow Freepers were called upon to put their theory into practice. As a resident of Boca Raton, Fla., McDonald unexpectedly found himself at what he calls "ground zero" of the 2000 election crisis. The town was in chaos after the election, filled with reporters and angry citizens.

"We all went up to the West Palm Beach Courthouse," says McDonald. "Jesse Jackson was trying to turn it into a racial thing, saying he was going to bus in 30,000 people in two days and hold a rally in front of the courthouse, about how blacks were disenfranchised. Emotions were raw. People were screaming and yelling. You felt a riot was going to break out any minute."

On Nov. 13, McDonald and a small contingent of Freepers showed up at the Jesse Jackson rally. About a hundred counter-demonstrators – Freepers included – huddled by the stage, amidst a crowd of about 2,000 of Jackson's demonstrators.

"We decided we were going to somehow disrupt this process. But we didn't know how," McDonald recalls. "Then all of a sudden it dawned on us. We're not going to allow these guys to speak. It was like a group-think process, a spontaneous decision. We weren't going to let Jesse do it. And since we were literally two feet in front of the microphone and we had a megaphone going full blast, we could do it."

For about an hour and a half, the Freepers drowned out every speaker who attempted to take the stage, leading the counter-demonstrators in chants of "Jesse, go home! No more Jesses!" Tempers flared on both sides, but no riot erupted. Jackson's people outnumbered the demonstrators at least 20-to-1, but they seemed strangely intimidated by the unexpected sight of ordinary, law-abiding, middle-class folks standing up for their rights.

"Jesse made a few attempts to speak," McDonald recalls. "He got on the stage. But every time they tried to introduce him, we would not allow him to speak." After about an hour and a half, says McDonald, Jackson retreated to his limo and fled the scene. "We stayed there chanting and chanting until it broke up," says McDonald. "I'll never forget it. I'm proud to have been there. It's something I'll always be proud of."

Red-state rabble rouser

"Personally, I think one of the best ways to improve airline security is to put September 11 pictorials on the back of every seat on every airplane," says J.J. Johnson, founder and editor of "There's enough Americans out there who'll get up and do something. Attempted hijackings have been stopped by passengers many times. That's the America that I love."

J.J. Johnson is a black man, born and raised in the ghettos of Buffalo, N.Y. He was also a prominent member of the militia movement from 1993 to 1997 – a movement in which blacks, Hispanics and other minorities have participated heavily, says Johnson, despite media stereotypes to the contrary.

Johnson ultimately decided that "the pen is mightier than the sword" and left the movement in 1997. He has not, however, lost his belief in the right of an abused citizenry to seek redress, by any means necessary.

An electrician by trade, Johnson started in January 2000, a website that caters to the so-called "red states" – states that voted for George W. Bush.

Sierra Times deals with federal land grabs, oppressive environmental laws and other issues of special interest to the cowboys, ranchers and farmers of the West. "The Jim Crow laws are moving out west, directed against any person that's not walking on four legs," Johnson quips.

Johnson now lives in Pahrump, Nev. "When I look out of my house, I see the Sierra Nevada," he says. "You walk outside and you see mountains, tumbleweed, people wearing cowboy hats."

When it comes to cyberactivism, is where the rubber meets the road – a power point on the Web where protest can escalate quickly to mass civil disobedience. SierraTimes is to the Web Underground what Concord Bridge and Lexington Green were to the Minutemen in 1775.

"I don't like war," says Johnson. "I grew up in the ghetto in the turbulent '60s. I know what war is. I grew up hearing gunshots and sirens. I remember fires and breaking glass and armored personnel carriers in the streets, and coming home from school at 6 or 7 years old and seeing soldiers pointing guns at guys spread-eagle on the street.

"I don't want confrontation, because people get hurt. But I'm no pacifist. When diplomacy fails, that is when men take up arms and go to battle."

During the election crisis of 2000, became the command-and-control center for Operation Truckstop 2000 – a planned general strike of all trucking in the United States. Had Gore succeeded in stealing the election, Johnson claims that Operation Truckstop would have paralyzed the nation.

"I think it could have gotten ugly," says Johnson. "They would have called out the National Guard. Neither side was budging. We knew the left was going to be out in the streets, with the Big Media backing them up. I was saying, 'OK, conservatives, you can't just sit on your butt and complain anymore. You're going to have to meet these guys nose to nose.'

"We had truckers organized, prepared to shut down this country. People were saying now is the time for action. I heard them on the CB networks. We were simply not going to accept a Gore presidency."

Fortunately, Operation Truckstop never came to the test. A general trucking strike would have constituted the most serious act of civil disobedience in our country since the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. But the deadly earnestness with which Johnson and his network pursued their plan testifies to the deep and ever-widening divide that sunders American from American in the 21st century.

A page from the leftist handbook

Like Gene McDonald, Cuban-born Freeper Luis Gonzalez took to the streets in Miami as the election crisis deepened. A trio of creative Freepers bearing the screennames "Registered," "Mass Exodus" and "CPL BAUM" had designed the now-famous "Sore Loserman" logo with its teardrop emblem, and Freepers around the country were downloading it and making up posters.

"We were waving the Sore Loserman sign and confronting leftists in the street," Gonzalez remembers. "There were shouting matches. Cops had to separate us. It was intense and it felt so good, just to say, 'You know what? We're not going to lay down here. Miami is my city and they're not going to steal my city.'"

On Nov. 21, the all-Democrat canvassing board of Miami-Dade County attempted to move the recount into a small, inaccessible room at the Stephen Clarke government building in Miami. Reporters would be excluded. Also, the board suddenly began announcing last-minute rule changes in the vote-counting procedures. Since there was not enough time to hand-count all the ballots, they said, they would only hand-count some ballots, but not others. This was plainly illegal, as the law stated that all ballots had to be counted in a hand recount.

As the vote-counters disappeared into the new "tabulation room" to work their black magic, reporters demanded to be let in. Republican observers began chanting, "Let them in! Let them in!" Before long, the chant changed to, "Let us in! Let us in!" and Republicans began pounding on the doors.

Rumors of Democrat skullduggery spread like wildfire through the Miami grapevine.

"I heard on the radio that they were not going to count the heavily Cuban districts," says Gonzalez. By excluding Cuban districts, which were mainly Republican, the Democrat canvassing board would skew the vote toward Gore. Gonzalez joined the angry crowd outside the Stephen Clarke Building, many of whom were fellow Cubans. "We were ready to go in there and fight, if we had to," he says. "I was ready to fight."

Only when Gonzalez got home afterward and saw the TV news did he realize what had happened. Intimidated by the public outrage, the Democrats had backed down. The canvassing board announced that it would obey the law after all. Since there was no time to hand-count all ballots, they would conduct no hand-count at all. The vote would stand as is. The recount was over.

"I couldn't believe that we had actually done this. It was always my idea that conservatives did not do this, that that was the liberal thing to do, to go out in the streets and take the streets," says middle-class family man Gonzalez, a mild-mannered salesman in ordinary life. "It was very emotional that day. I'm getting goose bumps thinking about it. Driving home afterward, I was singing. I rolled down my window on I-95 and I was yelling out the window, all the way down."

At a Nov. 25 press conference, following the ruckus, Democrat Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, "A whiff of fascism is in the air. … [A] mob threatened them [the Miami-Dade board of canvassers], banged on their doors, roughed up people, threatened them, and they succumbed to the mob violence and the intimidation."

Wade Rathke, leader and founder of the radical ACORN group, took a more realistic – and more honest – view of the event. In the November 2001 issue of ACORN's Social Policy magazine, Rathke scolded leftwing activists, writing, "[W]e allowed conservatives to steal pages from our playbook and do actions on us in Dade County."

Why Gore lost

Through websites such as and, conservatives have begun availing themselves of the full arsenal of radical tactics long wielded by the hard left, from street protests to general strikes. But, as J.J. Johnson observed, the ability to disseminate information – the power of the pen – remains decisive in political conflict.

No more than a few hundred votes were disputed in the Florida recounts that held America spellbound for over a month. But Big Media robbed Bush of many times that number of votes simply by calling Florida for Gore while the polls were still open in the Florida Panhandle.

The Panhandle – which favored Bush two-to-one, according to polls – extends into the Central Time Zone, and thus runs one hour behind the rest of Florida. By calling Florida for Gore while people were still voting in the Panhandle, Big Media cost Bush a net loss of about 10,000 Florida votes, according to post-election surveys.

TOPICS: Editorial; Free Republic; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: hillaryssecretwar; richardpoe
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I found this via RightNation.US

Click here and read the comments

1 posted on 07/20/2005 4:24:28 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
Robinson grew up dirt poor in Fresno, Calif., in a family of nine children. His father was a laborer, working in construction and farming. "During the summer, when the fruit, grapes and cotton got ready for picking, my whole family would go to work in the fields," recalls Robinson. "That's how we earned our money for school clothes."

I never knew anything about Mr. Robinson's personal life. Not to downplay any of his other remarkable achievement (he's certainly achieved more than I ever will), but to me this makes him a hero as much as anything. He rose above this kind of poverty to make a real life for himself. Bravo.

2 posted on 07/20/2005 4:30:52 AM PDT by Hardastarboard
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To: Kaslin
A fantastic review of Free Republic from its infant days. We're outlasting the dinosaur old media! They wanted to strangle this website with multimillion dollar lawsuits, intimidation, and the Internet equivalent of thuggery but they failed. Today, its the MSM that's becoming discredited as the partisan warhorse of the Left.

(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)
3 posted on 07/20/2005 4:33:13 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Hardastarboard

Indeed he did

4 posted on 07/20/2005 4:34:43 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Hardastarboard
If it weren't for Clinton and the Left's attempt to censor free speech, I don't think Free Republic would have been born. While Jim Robinson founded it, its larger than any one man now. They have to shut down an entire online community, not just one individual. That's what changed over the years since the website sprang up.

(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)
5 posted on 07/20/2005 4:35:39 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Kaslin

When the history books are written after we're all gone, Jim Robinson and FreeRepublic will be in them.

May God Bless Jim and all those who stood up for our Republic and Liberty.

6 posted on 07/20/2005 4:37:37 AM PDT by TruthFactor (A mind is a terrible thing to waste with a PC Education.)
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: TruthFactor
If reincarnation is real, we'd like to come back and see our writings in a thousand years. The Web should still be around then, and God willing, Free Republic!

(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)
8 posted on 07/20/2005 4:41:44 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Kaslin
Good post.

History a newbie like me only caught sketchy details of over the years.

Those sketchy details are what brought me here, good or bad for the Free Republic, it is nice to have the pieces put into proper perspective.
9 posted on 07/20/2005 4:49:24 AM PDT by mmercier (a machine that would go of itself)
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To: Kaslin


10 posted on 07/20/2005 4:52:52 AM PDT by fanfan (" The liberal party is not corrupt " Prime Minister Paul Martin)
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To: Kaslin


11 posted on 07/20/2005 4:58:28 AM PDT by aliquis
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To: Kaslin

Ah yes (again)...our history now in the books.

12 posted on 07/20/2005 4:59:55 AM PDT by harpu
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To: Kaslin


13 posted on 07/20/2005 5:03:07 AM PDT by BunnySlippers (Be a Good Mullah Now ...)
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To: Kaslin

Great article...thanks for posting it.

Jim Robinson -- Thanks! You're more of a hero and patriot than you'll probably ever realize.

14 posted on 07/20/2005 5:04:59 AM PDT by RavenATB
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To: Kaslin
Free Republic is a new creature on this earth. FR is a full-scale press agency, gathering, investigating and reporting news... but more. FR is a conservative clipping agency... but more. FR is a bulletin board, gathering place and forum for conservatives who have been denied a voice in American culture and policy. FR is a brain trust, whose thousands of members can summon astonishing intelligence, first-hand experience and expertise on any subject. FR is self-correcting -- peer-reviewed as it were -- by members who are lightning quick to sniff out fraud, false reports and errors. FR is an historic archive of news that the MSM refuse to cover. FR is a truth squad, as Dan Rather will ruefully attest.

Free Republic is a force. FR is done the way all things that matter are done, starting with one man and his vision. Its effectiveness is a tribute to the grit and dedication of Jim Robinson, and through Jim, his many friends and supporters.

15 posted on 07/20/2005 5:18:43 AM PDT by T'wit (If any liberals get to Heaven, they'll lecture God on what's wrong with it and reform it all to Hell)
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To: Kaslin
Great article. Thanks for posting.

The concept of we the people becomes reality. In order to form a more perfect union, we need the best ideas from individuals. Thanks Jim, Sheila, John and Amy.

16 posted on 07/20/2005 5:19:20 AM PDT by PGalt
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To: Kaslin

I'm a recent Freeper.
Was fascinating to see the achievements of FR and other conservative sotes in 2000. Kudos, you make me proud!

17 posted on 07/20/2005 5:31:25 AM PDT by voletti (The meaning of life, the universe and everything...)
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To: Kaslin

I wondered about all those copyright threats and lawsuits and never before got the full story. Makes me more inclined than before to contribute money as well as words.

18 posted on 07/20/2005 6:35:29 AM PDT by madprof98
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To: Kaslin

I used to post under another name at RightNation for more than a year before finding the FReep.

A good group of like-minded, yet less physically cohesive and active people.


19 posted on 07/20/2005 10:11:06 AM PDT by Jack Deth (Knight Errant and Disemboweler of the WFTD Thread)
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To: voletti

Yep. FR's past is something to be proud of and I'm going to enjoy it's next 50-60 years.:)

20 posted on 07/20/2005 11:22:08 AM PDT by WinOne4TheGipper (It's going to be a hoot to see the Swimmer judge ANYONE'S character.)
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