How we got here.

Well, happy new year to y’all, too. I hope you had a pleasant pair of long weekends, or in my case, TWO SOLID WEEKS of not having to think about work (too much). I had a particularly fine time reading the comments on the last entry, about how so many of you made it here, and why you stick around.

To clear up some points made there, which I might as well do now, because I’m not sure when, precisely, this blog began, although J.C. probably does:

NN.c was born out of boredom, restlessness and a sense that things were changing in my business, and some skills in the new era might be useful. J.C. had already launched his own site — and that’s what we called them, just websites or “personal websites” — which was updated then more often than it is now. I always looked forward to reading it, and in his always-encouraging way, he urged me to try it myself. At least secure your, he said, so I did, at Network Solutions, for something like $25. I only got the .com, because $75 to secure the .net and .org seemed like a lot of money to spend on something I might not ever even do.

On one of J.C.’s swings through town, he showed me how to work Adobe GoLive in sort of an all-thumbs, basic way, and in about 10 minutes, mocked up the first NN.c. Dominant color: Blue. He showed me how to make new pages, how to upload to the server. I understood what a server was. And so I tapped out a tentative first entry, introducing myself and telling the world that I now had a personal website. There were pages devoted to my scary-clown news clippings, and my postcard collection, links to sites I regularly visited, and that was about it. All this was in January 2001.

I sent emails to everyone I know, saying hey, I now have a website. And I told my editors, just in case there was a conflict. They decided there wouldn’t be, as long as I didn’t try to sell anything that might be construed as competing with the paper. Everyone looked at Day One, patted me on the head and said, “Isn’t that nice” and went back to putting out the paper.

I believe I got 104 visits that day. Clicks, anyway. Google analytics didn’t exist yet.

As Day One drew to a close, I called up my page and looked at it. The question “now what?” seemed to announce itself. Guess I should write something new, I thought, starting the first weekly archive page, pasting the first day’s content to that and starting anew in the now-blank box on the home page.

On that second day, I considered a few things when at the keyboard. First, that one of my great regrets in life is that I haven’t kept a regular journal, and large swaths of my life are only committed to my increasingly faulty memory. Another is that I couldn’t keep a real journal on a site that was called by my real name, because it’s the internet and I don’t want everyone reading the intimate details of our household, or that my boss was a jerk that day, or whatever. So I fell into a style that had become familiar to me over the years, in my long-running correspondence with my best friend, who now lives in Milwaukee: A letter to a friend. Sort of easy and breezy and a report on the day’s events, trivial and less-so. A journal with some intimacy, but not total access. And that’s really how it went, for quite a while.

But then a couple things happened: 9/11, which was followed by an explosion of these things called weblogs, or blogs for short (a horrible word, in my opinion). Most of them were atrocious and rightly died a swift death, but they led to a shift in the conversation about websites that weren’t established and maintained by an institution, but by an individual. New tools — Blogger, Typepad, et al. — made it easy to get your own version of NN.c up and running in a matter of minutes. Suddenly it wasn’t just me and J.C. and a few others. It was everyone.

The other thing that happened was the Humiliation and Firing of Mr. Bob Greene, which happened over a weekend. I saw the news via Jim Romenesko, probably, and dashed off a column-length piece about it. I announced what every young woman who’d ever passed within 10 yards of the guy knew — that he was a horndog, a fact so widely known in media circles that it hardly even counted as gossip. I also said he was a hack, and had been for some time, another observation that barely rises above Duh. And I mentioned his stupid toupees, because are they not a metaphor for his hackitude and desperate need to paw women? They are. I uploaded it and went to bed.

The next morning, I looked at my email. “Great rant,” said someone with an address from — a staff writer. More continued to arrive through the next few days, one from none other than Lucianne Goldberg. It turned out I’d been linked by Romenesko, and then by Slate, and then by many other blogs and publications and whatnot. Newsweek magazine quoted me. A Japanese magazine writer conducted a phone interview, in halting English, through a bad phone connection. For the first time, I was Internet Famous.

I told the executive editor, expecting an explosion of whatthefuck, but got little more than the that’s-nice head-pat he’d given me on day one. And that, more than anything, exposed a few things in sharp relief. First, that the newspaper business had no idea what was coming for it, and second, that if I wanted to be known outside Fort Wayne, Indiana, I should stop trying to get carried by the Knight-Ridder wire service (which had turned me down more than once) and start writing more stuff like 700 dashed-off words about Bob Greene. If it’s true that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, it’s equally true that no one knows you’re a nobody toiling for a fading daily in the Hoosier state.

I’ve said it many times, in many places: Every good thing that’s happened in my writing life has happened because of this site. I was routinely ignored by hiring K-R editors who passed through the Fort, but here? Here’s where I met Laura Lippman, and her husband Mr. Lippman. Here’s where Ben Yagoda found me, and put me in a textbook about finding your writing voice. (Take that, stupid hiring editors!) This here place is what I wrote about in the essay that got me a Knight Wallace Fellowship. Here’s where the career of Tim Goeglein, White House aide, went up in flames. (And Tim? I am pissed I didn’t get mentioned in your book. Not once.)

And here’s where I met all of you guys. Because after 15 years, frankly, there are days when I sit in front of my blinking cursor and can barely think of one thing to say. Now that I’m a working reporter again, I have to be more circumspect in what I write here, and that chafes sometimes, believe me. But I know that if I put up just a little something, someone here will take it and run with it, or will introduce something else and go in another direction.

Something else I’ve said many times: This place, and its commentariat, is the world’s greatest and friendliest bar. Some people teetotal, some cry into their beer, some fall off their stools (a moment of silence for Prospero here). If “Cheers” had a bigger set and cast, it would be like this site. Which is really one of the things the internet did for everyone, right? If you were a lonely gay boy in Nowhere, Nebraska, you could find other gay boys out there. If you collected paintings of chickens and only chickens, somewhere out there someone is keeping a blog for you. Not all of these communities have been good and healthy ones, but this one? It’s pretty good. After all, it has Coozledad, who not only amuses us here, but also at his own site. (Read that one — it’s pretty good. I so wish he’d write a book.)

And just now, looking at my word count, I’m struck by the horrible feeling I’ve written this thing before, probably many times.

Anyway, today isn’t the anniversary of the blog. That was either the 14th or 21st, maybe? Those dates stick in my head. But I’ll take today to say, once again, how happy I am to have you guys in my life, even on days when I feel like pulling the plug. Because a writer without readers is just shouting into the void, and a writer with readers who can talk back and contribute is lucky indeed.

On to the links:

What the hell is going on in Oregon? Discuss.

If Boston Globe reporters and editors were going to moonlight as carriers, they should have just done it and kept it to themselves. This just comes off as self-aggrandizement, to me.

One of the trainers at my gym just announced she’s planning to attend one of these learn-to-surf camps this summer, to commemorate her 50th birthday, and invited others to come with her. I cannot. Get it OUT. Of my mind. Someone talk me out of spending a September week in San Onofre, Calif. making a fool of myself. But I cannot deny, being able to get even one ride on a surfboard would be a total bucket-list item for me.

Here’s to 2016, all. It can be a pretty great one, if we make it so.

Posted at 3:09 pm in Housekeeping, Same ol' same ol' |

46 responses to “How we got here.”

  1. brian stouder said on January 3, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Happy Birthday, NN.c, indeed.

    The one healthy thing about the Oregon oddballs is that it provides the opportunity for reasonable people to ask Trump/Cruz supporters what they would think of these same protesters if their names and visages were middle-eastern rather than lilly-white.

    When Grant (our 20-year old) and I met my brothers in San Diego, to deliver my mom’s & dad’s ashes to the United States Navy for burial at sea (a story in itself!) – we spent a week knocking around, visiting the attractions and enjoying various beaches, especially Coronado –

    and I would definitely volunteer to bring all the icy-cold Diet Pepsi, and maintain the beach blanket area, and wade out chest-deep into the water, but that’s about it!

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  2. MichaelG said on January 3, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Why not?

    And a Happy Birthday to NN.c!

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  3. Jolene said on January 3, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Definitely go for the surfing camp. We all need more once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

    What sort of postcards do you collect?

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  4. Deborah said on January 3, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I say go for the surfing experience. I did my crazy once in a lifetime thing when I took that building class in upstate NY at the age of 62. To each her own.

    Nancy, you probably linked to your Bob Green rant before but I’d like to read it. I think I’ll google around for it.

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  5. alex said on January 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Deborah, here’s the best I could find by googling:

    The comments there aren’t from the commenters here, however.

    I used to be able to find the original and comments right here on this site but the search functions don’t seem to turn up much anymore.

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  6. Hattie said on January 3, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Those guys in Oregon expect to get their way by intimidating everyone and then going boo hoo when they get called on their crap. The Burns people should go out there and call their bluff, letting them know that they aren’t scared of them and don’t feel in the least sorry for them, either.
    I enjoyed your reflections on blogging. Blogging’s done a lot for me too, and, though very much under the radar, I have been getting surprising feedback, some from people who don’t or can’t comment. A person I respect a lot, a real journalist like yourself, even said I do some good stuff.
    Best of New Years to all the gang!

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 3, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Still dwelling on the Peach Bowl adventure I got to ride shotgun on with our high school band: here’s a view from a kid with quads and a GoPro, not in our crew but you can see a few Blue Aces around him. It’s the full pre-game, 14 minutes.

    I recall thinking about what Nancy says quite clearly in her post, back around 2002 or ’03. The editors did not get this internet stuff at all, and to the degree they knew it existed, they didn’t like it. I’m not saying they should have, but it was like a British diplomat saying in the 1930’s that they had no interest in getting to understand and comprehend better these National Socialist boors and rabble in Germany. (Yes, I know I just picked up a speed camera ticket under Godwin’s Law.) Anything you tried to say or suggest about websites, links, or social media back then was greeted with condescension and mild derision, like saying to Walter Cronkite he should look into this CB radio craze.

    Now, the survivors in the suites say they saw it all coming, but their superiors wouldn’t let them/set them free to make the most of the technology. And honestly? If I had a Leonard Downie or Punch Sulzberger type position in 2002, do I know what I would have done better then that would have put my staff and production in a better place come 2016? I’m not sure I do. The WSJ seems to have threaded a fine needle with their early and solid paywall, but like Bloomberg they had some unique positioning to their advantage.

    And now that we’ve gone to both paywalls right down to the level of a Granville Sentinel, but still a morass of click-to-exit ad veils bogging down the reading experience even for us few remaining paying customers, I’m just not sure how to respond to the creative destruction going on around me other than to watch the movement of the ice chunks to know where to jump when the time is right, knowing that sooner or later I’m going to end up in the cold water, whether through missed leap or flipped floe.

    But it does all make me think about those early days of hearing senior editors ask me “do you hear much from those internet readers, anyhow?” in the same tone my dad would ask “are there really that many of you reading comic books about . . . superheroes and mutants?” We all know that platform was doomed to be a dead-end, too.

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  8. Deborah said on January 3, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Alex, thanks for the link. I can see why Nancy got some attention for that, it was great.

    In the Boston Globe link above there was a different link to an article about Bobby Kennedy and his speculations about JFK’s assasination. Fascinating.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 3, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    (The video isn’t really interesting until about 5 minutes in…)

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  10. David C. said on January 3, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    If only I was wise enough to figure out what to do with these proto-Nazis. I’d like to say light them up and let them see the consequences to their sedition. But I don’t want to live in that country after the bat-shit crazies are stirred up even more than they are now. How many Oklahoma City bombings will they cook up after that. Maybe put up a fence around them. They love fences. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long, scary time before the cork is put back into this bottle.

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  11. Jolene said on January 3, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Just saw a click of the Obama family getting off AF1 after their flight back from Hawaii. What a homecoming! Iran and Saudi Arabia at each other’s throats, armed goofballs in Oregon occupying federal property, Donald Trump relentlessly issuing his noxious messages . . . If I were him, I might have asked the pilot to turn the plane around.

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  12. alex said on January 3, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Doesn’t sound like much of a teabagger insurrection in Oregon. If they had any balls they’d seize a more important federal building than that one.

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  13. nancy said on January 3, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    This was pretty instructive:

    The number of militiamen that broke into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Building on Saturday evening was first estimated to be about 150 people. Although the official number has not been verified, it seems that only a few dozen men are occupying the federal building.

    Oh, and Alex — there were no original comments on the Bob Greene piece because this blog didn’t have comments then. We added comments in fall 2003, when we migrated to WordPress.

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  14. basset said on January 3, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Put a fence around it and cut off the utilities – they’ll come out when they get hungry.

    Starting a blog seems to be technically pretty easy these days, and I’ve thought about it, never would be able to come up to this standard though.

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  15. Deborah said on January 3, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    I wanted to start a blog about our building project in Abiquiu, but for this and that reason I never did. I would have to learn a lot about how to do it, maybe I will someday, I certainly have a bunch of photos of the process so far. It would be mostly photos.

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  16. beb said on January 3, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    The BLM is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation. My first impulse is to shoot them all to hell and beyond. But that only creates martyrs. While ignoring them only encourages them to keep doing what they’re doing. Maybe stink-bombs and loud rock-n-roll?

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  17. Julie Robinsonther said on January 3, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    A few years back my then-employer, as part of a push on internet literacy, encouraged us all to start blogs, and mine lasted about five minutes. I had maybe three or four entries before I ran out of ideas. Since then many other blogs I’ve read have come and gone, and I tip my hat at such continued excellence. Plus, I sure love the community here!

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  18. alex said on January 3, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Guess I was remembering Goeglein, Nancy, because I remember the comments having to be cut off. But anymore I find it hard to retrieve old stuff from years gone by, some of it very funny. Word searches don’t necessarily turn up what I’m hoping to find. Maybe a good thing. It’s probably better not to fight with trolls, but every now and again I so want to make some of them eat their old words.

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  19. Sherri said on January 4, 2016 at 2:05 am

    I took a surfing lesson with my daughter on a trip to Hawaii about 12 years ago or so. It kicked my butt, but it was undeniably cool when I was able to ride a wave. I’m not that good a swimmer, though, and so the constant swimming out to try to catch the next wave after I had crashed and burned wore me out. That plus it’s a whole lot easier for a kid to stand up on a surfboard than for an adult, thanks to the lower center of gravity! My daughter wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I was (the instructor was towing her out).

    The great thing about getting older is who cares if you make a fool out of yourself?

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  20. Dexter said on January 4, 2016 at 3:34 am

    The letter-to-a-friend style reminded me of another style Mike Royko used every month or so: stories of the escapades of his fictional pal and alter-ego, Slats Grobnik.

    We rarely saw surfers around Monterey beaches during my year there, as then most of the surfing was being done a few hundred miles south around LA and San Diego. Scuba diving was a big deal…a few friends got into that, but I had no interest.
    Now that the Monterey Bay marine life is thriving and that area is a focal point of study in the deep blue waters, the diving is surely great again. Ocean swimming is treacherous and dangerous. Be careful…here’s some words and photos of a dangerous-as-hell beach I used to visit.

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  21. Lisa said on January 4, 2016 at 4:08 am

    I have been reading you since the Bob Greene thing and have not missed one entry. Sometimes i will read a weeks worth at once and sometimes daily. You are one of a half dozen i have read since i started online in 1999. You have taught me quite a bit and i really enjoy your style and humor. I truly hope you never quit your blog.
    I am in Springfield,Ohio so i always enjoy when you talk about Columbus and your days there. I tried for a career at the Spfld News Sun but it did not work out so i love hearing about the old days of newspapers.
    I had NO idea about Bob being a horndog! Damn shame.

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  22. ROGirl said on January 4, 2016 at 5:11 am

    I think I came here via Lance Mannion, who was linked from another blog. The first time I came across a piece about Mitch Albom I knew I wasn’t the only person who wondered how and why he was paid to write his columns.

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  23. alex said on January 4, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Writing from my iPhone this AM. Last night while fumbling in the dark with USB charging cables I stuck one into my laptop the wrong way and the computer went black and there appears to be no reviving it. Sucks.

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  24. ROGirl said on January 4, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Didn’t the whole “let’s show our hatred of the government by going after a federal building” schtick fail to whip up a revolt when it was carried out in Oklahoma City? Have things changed that much since then?

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  25. LAMary said on January 4, 2016 at 9:43 am

    If you come to San Onofre I’ll come visit and bring the dogs. We can sit on the dog beach and toast the sunset.

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  26. Icarus said on January 4, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Happy Birthday to NN.c!

    one of my unofficial NY resolutions is to become less of a lurker here and instead become more engaging/interactive.

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  27. brian stouder said on January 4, 2016 at 10:13 am

    RO Girl: indeed.

    If a person is off his or her nut, and is dark-skinned – RUN!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!


    But if a person is off his or her nut, and is a white person AND/or wears one of those ‘tree of liberty’ tee shirts – well, these things happen, y’know?

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  28. Snarkworth said on January 4, 2016 at 10:26 am

    As some wag said of the militia crazies: Maybe they’re hoping to become martyrs so they can go to paradise and claim their 72 cousins.

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  29. Connie said on January 4, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I’m with Bassett. SUrround the place and starve them out.

    I used to live near the beautiful Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in southern Indiana. I believe that all of that land was acquired from farm failures/ tax defaults during the depression.

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  30. jcburns said on January 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

    I’m amazed you remember that there even was an Adobe GoLive. As far as the Armed Militia of Inconsequential Doom goes, I think letting them have the refuge through the winter but blockading supplies and services is a good tactic. It gets cold, bitter and boring out there on the high ground of my namesake, Burns Oregon.

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  31. Colleen said on January 4, 2016 at 11:36 am

    I’ve been around here for a long time, perhaps since the beginning. I remember finding the blog after googling the proprietress’ name to find her column in the N-S when I was living in Columbus. And that was..oh god…20 years ago. I, too, like the community of literate commentators with interesting ideas.

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  32. MichaelG said on January 4, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    There was a pair of twins born in, I think, San Diego over the New Year. One was born just before midnight New Year’s Eve and the other was born just after midnight on New Year’s Day. That means that, although born just minutes apart, the two kids were born on different days, in different months and in different years. Far out!

    Two excellent takes on the Oregon business:

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  33. Sue said on January 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    “Put a fence around it and cut off the utilities – they’ll come out when they get hungry.”
    Absolutely. Especially since it appears that everyone from the Oath Keepers to presidential candidates are refusing to play along.

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  34. Scout said on January 4, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I found this community through a blogger I used to read, (probably long gone and definitely forgotten by me) who listed her bookmarked daily reads. She provided a link to each and the reason she read them. Under Nancy’s she said, “Because I love great writing.” And I said to myself, “I like great writing too!” So I clicked the link and I’ve been here ever since. It was probably 2002 or 2003 that I started reading and a bit longer until I felt brave enough to dip my toe into the commenting arena. I love the posts, the site hostess and all of you who regularly or even just sometimes share your knowledge, opinions and personal trials and triumphs. I cried when Moe and then Prospero died; I felt like I lost personal friends. I got to meet Deborah and Little Bird in Santa Fe. I feel like I know all of you in some way and none of it would have happened without Nancy’s Cyber-Cheers. So I lift my glass to all who contribute to creating this space.

    On twitter they are calling the bird sanctuary bundy bunch #YallQueda, #heehawdists and #VanillaISIS. That is a good example of why it’s worth having a twitter account. I do so enjoy clever.

    Happy New Year to all.

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  35. FDChief said on January 4, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Well, my take on the Malheur Rebellion is here ( and here ( but the overall points can be summed up fairly well by a couple of former U.S. officers who knew something about what to do about rebels in arms:

    “Washington organized a militia force of 12,950 men and led them towards Western Pennsylvania, warning locals “not to abet, aid, or comfort the Insurgents aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.” (from the Mt. Vernon website on the Whisky Rebellion)


    “My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom. (LTG W.T. Sherman on the way to he made good citizens out of rebels)

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  36. Charlotte said on January 4, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    The Audubon society had a good statement on the Oregon issue — the Bundy’s in particular have issues with wildlife preservation. One of their violations was impacting desert tortoise habitat — it’s no mistake that they’re at a bird refuge:

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  37. FDChief said on January 4, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    And it’s worth noting that in this case the recommendations of generals Washington and Sherman have been disregarded, with the fairly expectable consequences.

    Frankly, at this point I’ve pretty much lost patience with treating these rebels in arms as if they had an actual point other than the one on their heads. Perhaps the time has come for hanging a few traitors to see if it’ll have a salutary effect on the survivors, a sort of pout l’encouragement les autres, so to speak.

    Because losing the Whisky or Shay’s Rebellions is not a healthy outcome for a republic.

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  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 4, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Speaking of the question as to whether editors (or owners) of newspapers did or do get social media, there’s this brewing storm:

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  39. FDChief said on January 4, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Some more good stuff from Chas Pierce on the HeeHawsbullah:

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  40. David C. said on January 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    I’d rather have them starved out and hope they go Donner party before they the last one crawls out. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to thin that herd.

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  41. Brandon said on January 4, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    “Coozledad, who not only amuses us here …”.

    Not lately. What’s going on, do you know?

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    • nancy said on January 4, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Don’t know, but he posted on his own site on New Year’s Day. I assume he’s busy.

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  42. Scout said on January 4, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    The “militia” needs snacks. Shoulda maybe thought of that…

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  43. Sherri said on January 4, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Law enforcement wasn’t so patient when a black anti-government group was barricaded in Philadelphia:

    Since their stated purpose is the overthrow of our government, I think that “traitors” is a more appropriate term for them than “activists” or “protestors”. ACORN was a group of activists. These guys want to kill federal law enforcement agents.

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  44. Julie Robinson said on January 4, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Speaking of changes in the newspaper world, we picked up a Chicago Tribune over the weekend while in Illinois. Out in the hinterlands, the Sunday Trib now costs $5! For that price, you get not much more than the Sunday Journal Gazette as far as size and number of sections, and the book section has been eviscerated to one page in another section.

    But worst of all, the pulp being used is of such low quality that the paper is literally gray, and reading is difficult. I was reading it in the car, and combined with the gray skies outside, could barely make out the letters. What a disappointment.

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  45. Jon Carroll said on January 5, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Don’t get me started on Bob Greene. I worked in Chicago for as year, and he was very highly thought of there, for reasons that passeth understanding. I refused to print him. That won me no points with anyone, but I’m glad I did it. Horndog I wouldn’t know about, but hack — yup, that’s the guy.

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