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Saturday, October 22, 2005
THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET OF THE RIGHT
or, BOORTZ AND GREENSPAN AND DANUTA, OH MY!

This rant was, to be fair, only catalyzed by Danuta Pfeiffer on the radio yesterday afternoon. So, while I take grave offense to my treatment at her hands, she is neither the issue, nor is she atypical in her dismissive response.

In the spring of 1976, at TCU, I proposed to write a paper for my Junior Honors Philosophy Seminar, and, as with Danuta yesterday, I was pooh-pooh'ed -- dismissed out of hand -- without so much as an opportunity to defend or explain my (quite rational and justified) thesis, I was dismissed disdainfully.

[Lest you think I'm making this up, I received the following email from another listener this morning: "I heard it. Tom **** (I think) called in afterwards and agreed with what you'd said and she blew him off too."]

"No one takes THAT seriously," I was told by my professors.

And, calling in to Danuta Pfeiffer's talk show, yesterday, I wasn't even afforded that. She just hung up, not bothering to mouth the words, but they were there, nonetheless:

"No one takes THAT seriously."

But for nearly thirty years now, I've been watching "that" and it would seem that a lot of people take it seriously, and many of those people are making policy at the highest levels of our government.

They are the ones who cut the taxes for the wealthiest Americans. They are the ones who are cutting Head Start, the ones trying to privatize Social Security. They are the ones who emasculated and outsourced both the military in Iraq and FEMA on the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

And, Danuta, surprise! They AREN'T "Right Wing Evangelicals." (Danuta used to be Pat Robertson's co-host on "The 700 Club"; now she's a 'liberal' talk show host locally, but she's still constrained by the blinders of her reaction, seemingly)

Which explains, perhaps, why she completely missed the point, because the movement of which I speak springs entirely from a rationalistic atheism, and, while many adherents have made an easy truce between their politics and their Christianity, the latter has nothing to do with it.

Let's back up.

Here's what Danuta Pfeiffer was upset about (ranting being the objective, rather than reasoning, as she termed it "fascist"):

http://mediamatters.org/items/200510140006

From the October 13 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: OK, I've got an insensitive thought, folks. There's a news story out there -- there's a news story out there that rich people got some sort of an email notification of the terrorist threat against the New York subway before poor people did. OK? They're making a big deal out of it. Let me see if I can find it on the Drudge Report here. Let's see. There's a guy strangling a goose. That's a pretty good -- that's a pretty impressive picture. It's something about bird flu. So he's got this goose and he's just wringing its neck. You can -- oh, who tipped off the big shots? OK, now here's the story. And it says, "The Homeland Security Department launched internal probes yesterday into whether its officials tipped off friends and relatives to a possible subway terror plot days before average New Yorkers were alerted." So the real gripe here is that it seems that some wealthy people got notified of the terror plot before the great unwashed, before the others. Now, the Daily News in New York has a headline: "Rich got terror tip." Rich got terror tip. OK, let's get logical about this, folks. Let's play logic with this. This is as it should be. OK? If we are faced with disaster in this country -- let me ask you this, OK? You just be logical. Get all of the emotion out of this. Get all of the emotion out of this. But if we are faced with a disaster in this country, which group do we want to save? The rich or the poor? Now, if you have time, save as many people as you can. But if you have to set some priorities, where do you go? The rich or the poor? OK? Who is a drag on society? The rich or the poor? Who provide the jobs out there? The rich or the poor? Who fuels -- you know, which group fuels our economy? Drives industry? The rich or the poor? Now if you -- all of a sudden, somebody walks up to you and says, "Hey, Boortz listener. You're gonna have a -- you have to make a choice. You're going to -- we're gonna move you to another country. And you're just gonna have to make your way in this other country. We have a choice of two countries for you. In this country, people achieve a lot and they are wealthy because of their hard work. In this country, people don't achieve squat. They sit around all the time waiting for somebody else to take care of them. They have children they can't afford. They're uneducated. They can barely read. And the high point of their day is Entertainment Tonight on TV. Which country do you want to live in? The country of the high achievers, or the country of sheep, the country of followers?" You know what you're gonna do. I don't see what the big problem is. I just don't. I mean, if you -- who do I want to save first? The rich. Save the poor first. Then, when everything's over, where are you gonna go for a job? OK, hey, if I get a tin cup, can I sit next to you and sell pencils too?

[...]

I'm serious about that, folks. You see, that's the kind of thing that's going to end up in news stories: "Neal Boortz said that in times of disaster we should save the rich people first." Well, hell, yes, we should save the rich people first. You know, they're the ones that are responsible for this prosperity. I mean, you go out there and you look at this vast sea of evacuees, OK? You want to get an economy going in some city? Well, who you gonna take back? The people who own businesses? Or the people that sit around waiting to get their minimum wage job, work 'til Friday, get a paycheck and then not show up again until the following Wednesday? Come on. Just put a little logical thought into this, folks."
OK. I pointed out that Danuta's rage was entirely justified, but this had NOTHING to do with Right Wing Christianity. It was from another, underground strain of extremism that has fueled the worst excesses of this Administration. Here, compare Boortz' boorishness with this sound bite:

"Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways-- by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.

"The creator's concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite's concern is the conquest of men.

"The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive.

"The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary.

"The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first. He declares that man exists in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.

[...]

"Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution--or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.

"Men have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. But suffering is a disease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer--in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creators has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man's body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceive.

"Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.

"Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self...."
Have you figured it out yet?

The quote above comes from Howard Roark's penultimate courtroom speech in Ayn Rand's THE FOUNTAINHEAD, a book that, in a sense, is the basis of the Libertarian Party, which is the party and philosophy that Neil Boortz espouses.

[Read the whole Roark speech at: http://www.davehong.com/monologues/roark.html ]

It Ayn's Kampf, and Oliver Stone's parody of that speech,
"Greed is Good" ultimately derived from that speech.

OK, trivia buffs, INDIRECTLY, according to Imdb: "Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" speech was inspired by a similar speech given by Ivan Boesky at the University of California's commencement ceremony in 1986. (Boesky was a Wall Street arbitrageur who paid a $100 million penalty to the SEC to settle insider trading charges later that same year.) In his speech, Boesky said 'Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.' " http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094291/trivia

But that only reinforces the point. Ayn Rand, who "nobody took seriously" according to my philosophy profs, and Danuta, is driving the agenda. (Ayn was a devout athiest, please note). Her philosophy of "egoism" has provided a rationalization for a generation of greed and more. It is not surprising that it has been embraced by the wealthy and the wealthy wannabes, like Neal Boortz.

Of COURSE we should save the rich. They are all Howard Roark "creators" and "SOOOOper-geniuses" (to quote Wil-E-Coyote, in his only speaking role).

When I was a kid, growing up in and around the University of Wyoming, I saw an awful lot of college students' and professors' homes. And EVERY ONE had ATLAS SHRUGGED on their bookshelf (or in their closet, on their toilet, by their bed, etc.) in the way that the next generation universally had STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, DUNE and/or LORD OF THE RINGS in their libraries.

It was a generational rite of passage, a book that marked the thinking of an entire sector of American intellectual society, which was why, in 1976, I realized that my philosophy professors were entirely full of crap, and that while Ayn Rand might not be a "serious" philosopher, her ideas were widespread and an AWFUL lot more influential than, say, Dr. Solomon at the University of Texas, who is only known in philosophical circles.

No one in government seems to be coining national legislative agendas based on Dr. Roger Poole's TOWARDS DEEP SUBJECTIVITY. No: whether Danuta Pfeiffer and my philosophy profs ever "get it" or not, Ayn's Kampf is the Kampf (struggle) of the secular -- and by secular, I mean money and banking -- portion of the Republican Right. The guys in power, in case you hadn't noticed.

Alan Greenspan is a disciple of Ayn Rand. As is Nathaniel Brandon, who was instrumental in the formation, in 1971 of the modern Libertarian Party.

You can't find a Libertarian site that doesn't have laudatory references to Ayn, and many sell her book on the site, like:

http://www.bmstahoe.com/Libertarian/

"Read Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged"
(link to Amazon.com and there's a link to Ayn Rand at libertarian.org http://www.libertarian.org/theory.html#rand which has become http://www.theihs.org/libertyguide/ now http://www.theihs.org/libertyguide/people.php/75856.html
at the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University:
"Ayn Rand is the author of the classic American novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and the originator of a comprehensive philosophical system called "Objectivism" that emphasizes the primacy of human reason, the moral importance of individualism and the necessity of political freedom."
And, I might add, the reason that you need to save the rich first in a terrorist attack or a hurricane.

And why those on welfare or Social Security and those who collect taxes are "parasites."

You thought the Boortz sound bite was bad? Hey, it's a straight Ayn Rand sort of statement, and at least HE didn't term the non-rich "parasites." Rand does, and unapologetically so.

But let me make the connection between Boortz' "libertarianism" and Ayn Rand's "Objectivism" a little more explicit:

http://home.ca.inter.net/~grantsky/aynrand.html
A REQUIEM FOR AYN RAND? by GRANT SCHUYLER

For most of the 1960s and part of the 1970s . . . I worshipped and idolized the Russian-American novelist-philosopher Ayn (rhymes with "mine") Rand.

[...]

In an Objectivist world with Objectivist nations, Rand believed, there would be no social welfare, no tariffs, no economic subsidies for anyone: each of these would be a violation of natural rights, the state's imposition of force -- state and taxation power -- on some for the benefit of others.

It was the postured ideality of Rand's Objectivist political system that caused the most important rupture in her movement. This was not the split in 1968 with her follower and "intellectual heir" Branden. It was the belief of some of her students and followers that her logical and ethical philosophy was inconsistent with its politics.

These followers believed that the logic of her philosophy, the egoistic logic of her ethics, required as its political expression not a limited constitutional democratic republic but laissez-faire anarchism. They formed the most lively part of the movement that succeeded strict Randism. They began to form the capitalist (big-L) Libertarian movement in 1971.

Rand had wanted her followers to remain what she called "students of Objectivism". She believed that before the state could be reduced to its proper role of defending what she called "man's [natural] rights", much educational work remained: the public would have to be persuaded of the logic and goodness of egoism and capitalism. The public would also have to be persuaded of the crucial importance of reason.

But the Libertarians believed that the time for political action was now. They formed the Libertarian Party of the United States to run political candidates immediately. They did not care whether any of the supporters of the Libertarian Party believed in man's rights, although they would have been happy if they did. Instead, the Party was to be a home for those who wanted to vote for less government and for immediate increased freedom from government.

Rand and her closest associates condemned the new movement in stinging words. They accused the new Libertarians of being irrational; of being without clear, logical principles; of being premature; and of being without intellectual foundations for their political action. The Libertarians, small-government minimalists and anarchists alike, ignored the rebuke.

Well, they didn't get very far. A few hundred thousand votes in each presidential election since then, and one electoral vote (!) in total. Whether the Libertarian movement has been worth the effort, I do not know.
And, Schuyler adds in his parallel essay, CAPITALIST LIBERTARIANISM http://home.ca.inter.net/~grantsky/capitalistlibertarianism.html :
Students of Objectivism disagreed with none of Rand's opinions, even the most trivial . . . or claimed to. Capitalist Libertarians, on the other hand, disagreed with Rand's opinion that the present was no time to organize politically. The early 1970s, in Rand's opinion, were the time in which to calmly spread the word about Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. After some decades of educational work, perhaps, the time would arrive to begin political action. One would then organize political parties, for example, so as to bring to fruition all of Rand's political and social ideas.

But the Libertarians would have none of this patient waiting. They believed this was too passive. The times cried out for political action and rapid change. Society was in danger of falling into a catastrophic socialist-totalitarian abyss. They must immediately form political coalitions with anyone who believed in laissez-faire or greater political liberty, no matter what that person or party had as its basic premises, and no matter how that person or party labeled itself. This group of Randists therefore held a founding convention in 1972 and created the U.S. Libertarian party. They began to run candidates for president and vice-president of the United States. (At their high point in the 1972 presidential election, their candidate won one electoral vote.) Later the Libertarians tried to run candidates in congressional, state, and local elections, with a few successful outcomes."
But Schuyler is entirely wrong about the effect of Rand's breakaway acolytes. They drive the Republican agenda, from flat taxes to tax cuts, to the elimination of the "death" tax, to the elimination of social programs, government regulation of corporations and international trade, and the responsibility of government for disasters and wars.

In the Iraq war, the MESS HALLS were outsourced! In Katrina, so much of FEMA had been subcontracted that FEMA was fundamentally impotent. And the suspension of Davis-Bacon (prevailing wage), the $62 billion being handed out willy-nilly by FEMA to private contractors to rebuild et al are also outgrowths of this fundamental philosophy, promoted most notably by the Cato Institute (the Libertarian think tank) and other D.C. think tanks and policy mills.

"Greed is good," could as easily have come from Howard Roark's mouth (and Ayn Rand's pen) as from "Gordon Gekko" a/k/a Ivan Boesky, or the Cato Institute, or (gasp) Ronald Reagan.

The Objectivist/Libertarian philosophy has fueled the right wing of the Republican party at LEAST as far back as Barry Goldwater (who Ayn took to task for basing his libertarianism in "faith" and not in "reason, but then forgave, since Barry was crusading on her behalf.)

It is a seductive philosophy, save for one small, monstrous chink.

[NOTE: I will talk here about Ayn Rand's best book, THE FOUNTAINHEAD, rather than her so-called "masterpiece," ATLAS SHRUGGED, which could easily have been shortened by 800 didactic pages, and which I seem to be alone among my acquaintances in having actually READ all the way through. THE FOUNTAINHEAD is the superior, and, mercifully, shorter book.]

The story behind Roark's penultimate speech (the pure explication of Rand's position) is that Roark has blown up a housing project for the poor -- a project whose plans Roark had drawn up but had been altered without his permission:
"It is said that I have destroyed the home of the destitute. It is forgotten that but for me the destitute could not have had this particular home. Those who were concerned with the poor had to come to me, who have never been concerned, in order to help the poor. It is believed that the poverty of the future tenants gave them a right to my work. That their need constituted a claim on my life. That it was my duty to contribute anything demanded of me. This is the second-hander's credo now swallowing the world.

"I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.

"I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others...."
That's all well and good ... except that Roark presumes that only HIS "genius" built the project. None of the drivers, laborers, welders, bricklayers or thousands of other workers who had built the project MATTER!

That, my friends, is monstrous.

That ONLY the scribbler of the plans counts? (Anyone who knows squat about construction projects of such size knows that no plan ever devised is perfect, and modifications would have to be made, no matter HOW hard the builders tried to follow the original plans!)

What about the genius of the engineer? The hod-carrier? The bulldozer operator? What about the genius of the brickworker, the steel mill operator? The truck drivers? The carpenters, the plumbers, the painters and plasterers?

No: this is a monstrous dehumanization. If Howard Roark's plans matter, then he only has the right to burn THEM. He has NO right to destroy the work of so many others -- others whose work and existence his entire existence as a "creator" depends on. Without builders, an architect is just a scribbler -- one who had better be able to make his own paper and his own charcoal for drafting, by the by.

And the expression of that monstrousness is perfectly seen in Neal Boortz' statement that only the rich matter. The rest, Ayn Rand would argue, are all parasites. And so Boortz affirms.

The insinuation of this monstrous philosophy of self-serving and selfish greed has been the most profound and least-reported aspect of the entire attack of the Right Wing in our present national emergency. Evangelical Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

It is an atheistic Calvinism (and, significantly, George W. Bush has been reported as a crypto-Calvinist in his personal religious practices): where virtue is equated with wealth, and poverty is equated with sinfulness or lack of virtue. (For the Christians, I would only point out that the Book of Job provides a stunning refutation of this hogwash).

But in the atheistic formulation (initially) of Libertarianism, this economic Calvinism lies -- stated or un- -- at the heart of the philosophy that drives policy. We recall the "welfare queens" of Reagan, the current screeching against "illegal aliens," or even the infamous moment wherein Bill O'Reilly screamed at Al Franken "It's MY money! It's MY MONEY!!"

All of which presume that we are all Howard Roarks operating in a vacuum, creating wealth without government/socially supported roads, infrastructure, regulation, et al, ad infinitum.

(Let me tell you a little secret: left entirely to his own devices on a desert island, a man ends up screaming soliloquies at a volleyball stuffed with straw.)

Man is a SOCIAL animal, and Ayn Rand and her adherents insanely reject this fundamental truth. As a result, while a few have enriched themselves, our society is falling apart, and our infrastructure is rotting.

And the core of that rotten apple that's spoiling the whole bunch is the Objectivist/Libertarian philosophy so eloquently stated by Neal Boortz.

In other words: ("In order for me to assert my 'individuality' I have to deny yours. (Heck: you're probably a parasite anyway.)"

And from his webpage, let me leave you with one of his favorite quotes:

http://boortz.com/more/quotes.html
Neal's Favorite Quotes

"America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to 'the common good,' but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance -- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way." [Ayn Rand]
Courage.
.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
WHY JUDY MILLER IS BATSHIT CRAZY
AND OTHER MYSTERIES OF THE BIZARRO UNIVERSE EXPLAINED

They've been "piling on" with regard to Judy Miller. At least that's how it's starting to be explained. For three days after Sunday's dual NEW YORK TIMES "tell all" tales of the Judith Miller Affair, every blogger, newsie and just about anyone with access to the internet, it seems, has been writing about L'affaire Scooter. By this morning, the story was the stories about the story, and, thus, the "piling on" quote, as though that said anything.

The entire spectrum of opinion has been heard, from Editor & Publisher's devastating critiques,
['Hidden Scandal' in Miller Story, Charges Former CBS Newsman
By E&P Staff
Published: October 16, 2005 4:00 PM ET

NEW YORK Since the posting of The New York Times lengthy article on Judith Miller's involvement in the Plame scandal Saturday night, much Web buzzing has ensued concerning the revelation that she had some sort of special classified status while embedded with troops in Iraq at one point.

The issue came to the fore because Miller, in recounting her grand jury testimony, wrote about how her former classified status figured in her discussions with I. Lewis Libby. She was pressed by the prosecutor on this matter.

E&P columnist William E. Jackson, Jr., had first raised this issue last year. Today, former CBS national security correspondent Bill Lynch posted his views in a long letter about it at the Romenesko site at poynter.org. Here is the letter:

There is one enormous journalism scandal hidden in Judith Miller's Oct. 16th first person article about the (perhaps lesser) CIA leak scandal. And that is Ms. Miller's revelation that she was granted a DoD security clearance while embedded with the WMD search team in Iraq in 2003....
and
Judith Miller: The 'Classified' Angle
By William E. Jackson, Jr.

(October 15, 2005) -- One of the most damning admissions in Sunday's New York Times article on Judith Miller's role in the Plame scandal is Executive Editor Bill Keller's statement that even after he ordered her to stop covering issues related to WMDs and Iraq, she kept sneaking her way (somehow beyond his control) back on her old beat....]
-- to Reuters ...
[Mon Oct 17, 2005 8:10 PM ET
By Richard Satran

NEW YORK, Oct 17 - (Reuters) - A long tell-all by reporter Judith Miller and The New York Times has done little to exonerate the newspaper for its handling of the case in which a CIA operative was exposed, media critics said on Monday, and raised fresh questions about journalistic ethics.

After the publication in the Times on Sunday of a 5,800-word account of the saga, some media critics called on the influential newspaper to dismiss the reporter and others said the Times needs to give a fuller explanation.

Miller, who covers national security, spent 85 days in jail rather than reveal a source's name to prosecutors in the leak probe. Then a deal was worked out for her to testify before the grand jury in the case.

When she testified, Miller said could not remember where she learned the CIA operative's name. In the published account, Miller said she "didn't think" she was given the name by Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby, who had been identified as her source.

Media critics said her explanation was hard to fathom and they slammed Times' editors for failing to provide oversight. The article also failed to explain why Miller tried to avoid testifying and why she never wrote a story about the events, they said....]
to PRAVDA (literally, "The Truth") in Russia ...
[Judith Miller inaccurate information about Valerie Plame can be important to the criminal investigation, 19:32 2005-10-18

... Defense Department officials looked into Miller's claim that she had a security clearance while working as an embedded reporter during the Iraq war, shortly before her conversations with Libby. "For a security clearance you have to go through any number of specific background investigative checks," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

He said reporters who were embedded with military units during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars signed ground rules in which they agreed not to make public sensitive or secret information that they learned while with the unit...].
Even the Associated Press roused itself from somnombulance to note the controversy:

Journalism community turns on Times, Miller
By DAVID B. CARUSO
Associated Press Writer
October 17, 2005, 9:05 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- With a ferociousness usually reserved for presidents caught lying to the public, the journalism world has turned on The New York Times and its reporter Judith Miller, who only weeks ago was being lauded for going to jail to protect a source.

A few media critics and academics suggested Monday that the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter should be fired for her actions covering the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Miller also was blasted for failing to explain how she learned the identity of the CIA agent wife of a Bush administration critic.
Meantime, the rest of the journalistic community feted Miller, and sniffed, like Aaron Brown did tonight, on CNN, that if this weren't about Bush & Co. everyone would be praising Miller. (Add Brown to the ranks of the ethically clueless, if you haven't already.)

Why, on consecutive nights, Judy Miller presented an award to "Deep Throat" Mark Felt and then RECEIVED a "First Amendment" award from the Society of Professional Journalists -- an act of supreme irony that even some professional journalists are seemingly capable of noting.

But one of the salient features of this blog has always been that we take a different slant on the news of the day, or, if it's the standard cliche, we don't go there. (Why? Because there are only so many times that you can read the same story and slant using a different word order before fossilizing from sheerest boredom.)

So, I've been silent for the past couple of days (aided by the Elephant Flu) because I've been waiting to see if the infamous MSM (and the Barking Moonbats of Right Wing bloggery) would pick up on the tonic note of the Judy Miller "What I Done" article in the New York TIMES this weekend: that there is a fundamental, crazy contradiction in all of this, and an inexorable conclusion.

Happily, they haven't.

Judy Miller went to jail for 85 days, rather than "reveal a source" and "betray a confidence." That's the story. That's what they stuck with, and that was the basis of Miller's explanation as to WHY she decided to testify before the Fitzgerald grand jury, after all, and why she agreed to stop being in jail and to cooperate with an investigation as to why an undercover CIA agent was "outed" as an act of political retribution -- against an acknowledged expert who had been tasked by the CIA to confirm or deny the charge in the State of the Union address -- the famous sixteen words -- that Niger was selling uranium, or had been approached to sell uranium "yellow cake" to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, proving the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" case that justified Bush's invasion of Iraq.

As we've delved into here before (Wednesday, July 06, 2005, A HIGHER DUTY or, PROTECTING WHOM? on the "why" of protecting sources and journalistic ethics), the initial argument is, at base, fundamentally selfish: it maintains the reporter's sources, and, by eventual implication, the public's right to know. The sad feature of this is that we all agree that, without snitches, leaks and covert sources, we, the people, have no possibility of knowing what's actually going on inside our government. We live in a snitchocracy, a snivelization. A government of, by, and for the stool pigeon.

And, purportedly, Judy Miller went to jail to protect stoolies everywhere. (Either that, or else she's lying, which probably disqualifies her for a career in journalism, right Jason Blair?)

In the festively-entitled October 16, 2005 NY TIMES piece, "My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room, A Personal Account, by Judith Miller" she writes:
... I testified about these conversations after spending 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury inquiry. Having been summoned to testify before the grand jury, I went to jail instead, to protect my source - Mr. Libby - because he had not communicated to me his personal and voluntary permission to speak.

At the behest of President Bush and Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Libby had signed a blanket form waiver, which his lawyer signaled to my counsel was not really voluntary, even though Mr. Libby's lawyer also said it had enabled other reporters to cooperate with the grand jury. But I believed that nothing short of a personal letter and a telephone call would allow me to assess whether Mr. Libby truly wished to free me from the pledge of confidentiality I had given him. The letter and the telephone call came last month....
And, in the parallel story, "The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal," by DON VAN NATTA Jr., ADAM LIPTAK and CLIFFORD J. LEVY (Oct. 16) it is noted:
Once Ms. Miller was jailed, her lawyers were in open conflict about whether she should stay there. She had refused to reopen communications with Mr. Libby for a year, saying she did not want to pressure a source into waiving confidentiality. But in the end, saying "I owed it to myself" after two months of jail, she had her lawyer reach out to Mr. Libby. This time, hearing directly from her source, she accepted his permission and was set free.
The article goes on to delineate this strange, Machiavellian take on the reasons for Miller's testimonial recalcitrance, and journalistic self-martyrdom:
Ms. Miller authorized Mr. Abrams to talk to Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate. The question was whether Mr. Libby really wanted her to testify. Mr. Abrams passed the details of his conversation with Mr. Tate along to Ms. Miller and to Times executives and lawyers, people involved in the internal discussion said.
[Note: even though everyone agreed that Libby had said it was OK for Miller to testify in what is, in essence, a treason case, Miller wasn't sure he REALLY wanted her to testify. "Do you love me?" Yes, Dear. "No. I mean, do you REALLY love me?" Yes, Dear. "I mean do you really, REALLY love me?" Yes, Dear. "How much?" etc.]

The article continues, later on:
"Judy believed Libby was afraid of her testimony," Mr. Keller said, noting that he did not know the basis for the fear. "She thought Libby had reason to be afraid of her testimony."

Ms. Miller and the paper decided at that point not to pursue additional negotiations with Mr. Tate.

The two sides did not talk for a year.

Ms. Miller said in an interview that she was waiting for Mr. Libby to call her, but he never did. "I interpreted the silence as, 'Don't testify,' " Ms. Miller said.

She and her lawyers have also said it was inappropriate for them to hound a source for permission to testify.

Mr. Tate, for his part, said the silence of the Miller side was mystifying.

"You never told me," Mr. Tate wrote to Mr. Abrams recently, "that your client did not accept my representation of voluntariness (sic) or that she wanted to speak personally to my client." Mr. Abrams does not dispute that.
[You never called me. I waited by the telephone for a year, but you never called. So I didn't know whether you REALLY wanted me to testify or not.]

Frankly, kids, this is batshit crazy: "I interpreted the silence as, 'Don't testify,' " Ms. Miller said.

Miller, having been given a waiver to testify decided that the waiver might have been coerced. So, she called her lawyer, who called Libby's lawyer, who said she could testify, but she didn't believe it. Therefore, she made no attempt to contact Libby or his lawyer for a year. And she didn't bother asking, feeling it "inappropriate."

This is batshit crazy.

Then, after 85 days in jail, she suddenly decided that "appropriateness" was no longer the big issue that it had been 85 days earlier, and she contacted the Libby camp, who had been under the impression that explicitly giving Crazy Judy a waiver to testify would be sufficient.

Alas, Libby's camp couldn't speak Millerese. They didn't know that she was looking for Osama bin Laden-style secret messages in his utterances and communications directly with her lawyer. And, not having those assurances, what did batshit crazy Miller do?

Why, she made NO attempt to contact Libby's camp -- instead waiting a year (including 85 days of incarceration) for HIM to call HER. You'd have thought that he got her phone number in a bar. Will he call me? Why doesn't he CALL me?

And that, kiddies, is batshit crazy in anybody's book.

Follow this logic with me: First, having been given a waiver to testify, Miller doesn't believe it. She tells her lawyer to contact his lawyer, who ALSO states that she is free of her promise of confidentiality. But even this isn't enough for Miller. She waits for mysterious "messages," from Libby (who has already, to his mind, given her TWO explicit waivers). Then, she cuts off all communication, goes to jail and waits for spirit messages from a spirit that doesn't have access to Judy Miller's Ouija board.

She eventually tires of jail food and tells her lawyer to contact his lawyer. And voila!

Within hours of contacting Libby (her lawyer to his lawyer), Libby calls her, and even sends her a little mash note.

And, with these endless assurances clutched tightly in her little fists, Crazy Judy finally agrees to testify, and gets out of jail immediately.

In other words, having painted herself into a logical corner ("there's a hole in the bucket, dear Scooter, dear Scooter"), and having further awaited Libby's "real" message -- which he had already sent, explicitly, twice -- batshit crazy Judy Miller insisted on hearing it from Scooter himself TWICE more, both in a letter and by jailhouse phone.

Which means that she spent 85 days in jail for no reason whatsoever -- unless you believe that Miller was playing a subtle public relations game aimed at reconstructing her shattered credibility. Me? I'm not at all convinced that she's that smart; the evidence would seem to suggest otherwise. Too-devious by half, Judith Miller testified to the grand jury, and suddenly went brain-lock literal-minded. (See just about anyone else for details.)

And the testimony was batshit crazy, too.

I won't go into the "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" stuff, or her endless agonistic writhing over "potential conflicts of interest."

Nor will I go into the Gordian Knot of ethical pretzel logic that the NEW YORK TIMES' editorial/management disappeared into. Suffice it to say that if Miller's logic appears tortured, at least we can speculate with some degree of precision as to WHERE those moral yoga positions trickled down from. The legalistic contortions are sufficiently dealt with by everyone else -- most significantly, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, which is THE trade magazine of, by and for newspapermen and editors.

Endlessly.

No, I just want to add the fillip that Judy Miller ends her TIMES apologia with:
When I was last before the grand jury, Mr. Fitzgerald posed a series of questions about a letter I received in jail last month from Mr. Libby. The letter, two pages long, encouraged me to testify. "Your reporting, and you, are missed," it begins.

Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to read the final three paragraphs aloud to the grand jury. "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me," Mr. Libby wrote.

The prosecutor asked my reaction to those words. I replied that this portion of the letter had surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job.

Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter's closing lines. "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning," Mr. Libby wrote. "They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."

How did I interpret that? Mr. Fitzgerald asked.

In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.

"Judy," he said. "It's Scooter Libby."
Right. The comment about how the aspen all turn at the same time because of the CONNECTEDNESS of their ROOTS had no other meaning than reminding her that she'd met Scooter at a Rodeo ... significantly, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Dick Cheney's new home town and August vacationing spot) after traveling from Aspen, Colorado? (Eureka!)

This? From someone who seeks secret cabalistic messages in every communication and NON-communication that Libby had sent her way?

"Yes, I'm so clueless that I didn't recognize Scooter in a cowboy hat in 2003, even though I interviewed him three times about the Plame Affair in 2002." Whether she batted her eyelashes fetchingly at that point in her testimony remains (mercifully) unreported.

Judy Miller is batshit crazy.

They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.

Courage.
.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
SICK

No, not this blog; me. Been sick. Think it's elephant flu.

Courage. (sniffle).
.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
WHY THE GOP ACTS THE WAY THEY DO
or, A QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE


OK. We just had to replace our old car with what we could afford -- a fixer-upper. Today was spent up fixing. So, no time to even check email. But keep those cards and letters coming in, folks, to quote Wally Schirra.

Speaking of which, one reader writes:

Hey Hart. I have watched the video "How To Be A Republican" and now I have decided to accept Jesus Christ as my own personal weapon, so I don't have to worry about morality and human rights.
Now, while my esteemed correspondent was being tongue-in-cheek, the question has often arisen: Why, for a bunch of self-professed "religious" values types, do they so often act like a herd of vicious swine? Well, I think I know the answer. I replied:

Dear ****,

Well, that must be a great source of solace, then.

I am certain that you have undergone a joyous transformation, such as Mr. Twain chronicled.
***
The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut
by Mark Twain

I was feeling blithe, almost jocund. I put a match to my cigar, and just then the morning's mail was handed in. The first superscription I glanced at was in a handwriting that sent a thrill of pleasure through and through me. It was Aunt Mary's; and she was the person I loved and honored most in all the world, outside of my own household. She had been my boyhood's idol; maturity, which is fatal to so many enchantments, had not been able to dislodge her from her pedestal; no, it had only justified her right to be there, and placed her dethronement permanently among the impossibilities. To show how strong her influence over me was, I will observe that long after everybody else's "do-stop-smoking" had ceased to affect me in the slightest degree, Aunt Mary could still stir my torpid conscience into faint signs of life when she touched upon the matter. But all things have their limit in this world. A happy day came at last, when even Aunt Mary's words could no longer move me. I was not merely glad to see that day arrive; I was more than glad--I was grateful; for when its sun had set, the one alloy that was able to mar my enjoyment of my aunt's society was gone. The remainder of her stay with us that winter was in every way a delight. Of course she pleaded with me just as earnestly as ever, after that blessed day, to quit my pernicious habit, but to no purpose whatever; the moment she opened the subject I at once became calmly, peacefully, contentedly indifferent--absolutely, adamantinely indifferent. Consequently the closing weeks of that memorable visit melted away as pleasantly as a dream, they were so freighted for me with tranquil satisfaction. I could not have enjoyed my pet vice more if my gentle tormentor had been a smoker herself, and an advocate of the practice. Well, the sight of her handwriting reminded me that I way getting very hungry to see her again. I easily guessed what I should find in her letter. I opened it. Good! just as I expected; she was coming! Coming this very day, too, and by the morning train; I might expect her any moment.

I said to myself, "I am thoroughly happy and content now. If my most pitiless enemy could appear before me at this moment, I would freely right any wrong I may have done him."

Straightway the door opened, and a shriveled, shabby dwarf entered. He was not more than two feet high. He seemed to be about forty years old. Every feature and every inch of him was a trifle out of shape; and so, while one could not put his finger upon any particular part and say, "This is a conspicuous deformity," the spectator perceived that this little person was a deformity as a whole--a vague, general, evenly blended, nicely adjusted deformity. There was a fox-like cunning in the face and the sharp little eyes, and also alertness and malice. And yet, this vile bit of human rubbish seemed to bear a sort of remote and ill-defined resemblance to me! It was dully perceptible in the mean form, the countenance, and even the clothes, gestures, manner, and attitudes of the creature. He was a farfetched, dim suggestion of a burlesque upon me, a caricature of me in little. One thing about him struck me forcibly and most unpleasantly: he was covered all over with a fuzzy, greenish mold, such as one sometimes sees upon mildewed bread. The sight of it was nauseating.

He stepped along with a chipper air, and flung himself into a doll's chair in a very free-and-easy way, without waiting to be asked. He tossed his hat into the waste-basket. He picked up my old chalk pipe from the floor, gave the stem a wipe or two on his knee, filled the bowl from the tobacco-box at his side, and said to me in a tone of pert command:

"Gimme a match!"

I blushed to the roots of my hair; partly with indignation, but mainly because it somehow seemed to me that this whole performance was very like an exaggeration of conduct which I myself had sometimes been guilty of in my intercourse with familiar friends--but never, never with strangers, I observed to myself. I wanted to kick the pygmy into the fire, but some incomprehensible sense of being legally and legitimately under his authority forced me to obey his order. He applied the match to the pipe, took a contemplative whiff or two, and remarked, in an irritatingly familiar way:

"Seems to me it's devilish odd weather for this time of year."

I flushed again, and in anger and humiliation as before; for the language was hardly an exaggeration of some that I have uttered in my day, and moreover was delivered in a tone of voice and with an exasperating drawl that had the seeming of a deliberate travesty of my style. Now there is nothing I am quite so sensitive about as a mocking imitation of my drawling infirmity of speech. I spoke up sharply and said:

"Look here, you miserable ash-cat! you will have to give a little more attention to your manners, or I will throw you out of the window!"

The manikin smiled a smile of malicious content and security, puffed a whiff of smoke contemptuously toward me, and said, with a still more elaborate drawl:

"Come--go gently now; don't put on too many airs with your betters."

This cool snub rasped me all over, but it seemed to subjugate me, too, for a moment. The pygmy contemplated me awhile with his weasel eyes, and then said, in a peculiarly sneering way:

"You turned a tramp away from your door this morning."

I said crustily:

"Perhaps I did, perhaps I didn't. How do you know?"

"Well, I know. It isn't any matter how I know."

"Very well. Suppose I did turn a tramp away from the door--what of it?"

"Oh, nothing; nothing in particular. Only you lied to him."

"I didn't! That is, I--"

"Yes, but you did; you lied to him."

I felt a guilty pang--in truth, I had felt it forty times before that tramp had traveled a block from my door--but still I resolved to make a show of feeling slandered; so I said:

"This is a baseless impertinence. I said to the tramp--"

"There--wait. You were about to lie again. I know what you said to him. You said the cook was gone down-town and there was nothing left from breakfast. Two lies. You knew the cook was behind the door, and plenty of provisions behind her."

This astonishing accuracy silenced me; and it filled me with wondering speculations, too, as to how this cub could have got his information. Of course he could have culled the conversation from the tramp, but by what sort of magic had he contrived to find out about the concealed cook? Now the dwarf spoke again:

"It was rather pitiful, rather small, in you to refuse to read that poor young woman's manuscript the other day, and give her an opinion as to its literary value; and she had come so far, too, and so hopefully. Now wasn't it?"

I felt like a cur! And I had felt so every time the thing had recurred to my mind, I may as well confess. I flushed hotly and said:

"Look here, have you nothing better to do than prowl around prying into other people's business? Did that girl tell you that?"

"Never mind whether she did or not. The main thing is, you did that contemptible thing. And you felt ashamed of it afterward. Aha! you feel ashamed of it now!"

This was a sort of devilish glee. With fiery earnestness I responded:

"I told that girl, in the kindest, gentlest way, that I could not consent to deliver judgment upon any one's manuscript, because an individual's verdict was worthless. It might underrate a work of high merit and lose it to the world, or it might overrate a trashy production and so open the way for its infliction upon the world: I said that the great public was the only tribunal competent to sit in judgment upon a literary effort, and therefore it must be best to lay it before that tribunal in the outset, since in the end it must stand or fall by that mighty court's decision anyway."

"Yes, you said all that. So you did, you juggling, small-souled shuffler! And yet when the happy hopefulness faded out of that poor girl's face, when you saw her furtively slip beneath her shawl the scroll she had so patiently and honestly scribbled at--so ashamed of her darling now, so proud of it before--when you saw the gladness go out of her eyes and the tears come there, when she crept away so humbly who had come so--"

"Oh, peace! peace! peace! Blister your merciless tongue, haven't all these thoughts tortured me enough without your coming here to fetch them back again!"

Remorse! remorse! It seemed to me that it would eat the very heart out of me! And yet that small fiend only sat there leering at me with joy and contempt, and placidly chuckling. Presently he began to speak again. Every sentence was an accusation, and every accusation a truth. Every clause was freighted with sarcasm and derision, every slow-dropping word burned like vitriol. The dwarf reminded me of times when I had flown at my children in anger and punished them for faults which a little inquiry would have taught me that others, and not they, had committed. He reminded me of how I had disloyally allowed old friends to be traduced in my hearing, and been too craven to utter a word in their defense. He reminded me of many dishonest things which I had done; of many which I had procured to be done by children and other irresponsible persons; of some which I had planned, thought upon, and longed to do, and been kept from the performance by fear of consequences only. With exquisite cruelty he recalled to my mind, item by item, wrongs and unkindnesses I had inflicted and humiliations I had put upon friends since dead, "who died thinking of those injuries, maybe, and grieving over them," he added, by way of poison to the stab.

"For instance," said he, "take the case of your younger brother, when you two were boys together, many a long year ago. He always lovingly trusted in you with a fidelity that your manifold treacheries were not able to shake. He followed you about like a dog, content to suffer wrong and abuse if he might only be with you; patient under these injuries so long as it was your hand that inflicted them. The latest picture you have of him in health and strength must be such a comfort to you! You pledged your honor that if he would let you blindfold him no harm should come to him; and then, giggling and choking over the rare fun of the joke, you led him to a brook thinly glazed with ice, and pushed him in; and how you did laugh! Man, you will never forget the gentle, reproachful look he gave you as he struggled shivering out, if you live a thousand years! Oh! you see it now, you see it now!"

"Beast, I have seen it a million times, and shall see it a million more! and may you rot away piecemeal, and suffer till doomsday what I suffer now, for bringing it back to me again!"

The dwarf chuckled contentedly, and went on with his accusing history of my career. I dropped into a moody, vengeful state, and suffered in silence under the merciless lash. At last this remark of his gave me a sudden rouse:

"Two months ago, on a Tuesday, you woke up, away in the night, and fell to thinking, with shame, about a peculiarly mean and pitiful act of yours toward a poor ignorant Indian in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in the winter of eighteen hundred and--"

"Stop a moment, devil! Stop! Do you mean to tell me that even my very thoughts are not hidden from you?"

"It seems to look like that. Didn't you think the thoughts I have just mentioned?"

"If I didn't, I wish I may never breathe again! Look here, friend--look me in the eye. Who are you?"

"Well, who do you think?"

"I think you are Satan himself. I think you are the devil."

"No."

"No? Then who can you be?"

"Would you really like to know?"

"Indeed I would."

"Well, I am your Conscience!"

In an instant I was in a blaze of joy and exultation. I sprang at the creature, roaring:

"Curse you, I have wished a hundred million times that you were tangible, and that I could get my hands on your throat once! Oh, but I will wreak a deadly vengeance on--"

Folly! Lightning does not move more quickly than my Conscience did! He darted aloft so suddenly that in the moment my fingers clutched the empty air he was already perched on the top of the high bookcase, with his thumb at his nose in token of derision. I flung the poker at him, and missed. I fired the bootjack. In a blind rage I flew from place to place, and snatched and hurled any missile that came handy; the storm of books, inkstands, and chunks of coal gloomed the air and beat about the manikin's perch relentlessly, but all to no purpose; the nimble figure dodged every shot; and not only that, but burst into a cackle of sarcastic and triumphant laughter as I sat down exhausted. While I puffed and gasped with fatigue and excitement, my Conscience talked to this effect:

"My good slave, you are curiously witless--no, I mean characteristically so. In truth, you are always consistent, always yourself, always an ass. Other wise it must have occurred to you that if you attempted this murder with a sad heart and a heavy conscience, I would droop under the burdening in influence instantly. Fool, I should have weighed a ton, and could not have budged from the floor; but instead, you are so cheerfully anxious to kill me that your conscience is as light as a feather; hence I am away up here out of your reach. I can almost respect a mere ordinary sort of fool; but you pah!"

I would have given anything, then, to be heavyhearted, so that I could get this person down from there and take his life, but I could no more be heavy-hearted over such a desire than I could have sorrowed over its accomplishment. So I could only look longingly up at my master, and rave at the ill luck that denied me a heavy conscience the one only time that I had ever wanted such a thing in my life. By and by I got to musing over the hour's strange adventure, and of course my human curiosity began to work. I set myself to framing in my mind some questions for this fiend to answer. Just then one of my boys entered, leaving the door open behind him, and exclaimed:

"My! what has been going on here? The bookcase is all one riddle of--"

I sprang up in consternation, and shouted:

"Out of this! Hurry! jump! Fly! Shut the door! Quick, or my Conscience will get away!"

The door slammed to, and I locked it. I glanced up and was grateful, to the bottom of my heart, to see that my owner was still my prisoner. I said:

"Hang you, I might have lost you! Children are the heedlessest creatures. But look here, friend, the boy did not seem to notice you at all; how is that?"

"For a very good reason. I am invisible to all but you."

I made a mental note of that piece of information with a good deal of satisfaction. I could kill this miscreant now, if I got a chance, and no one would know it. But this very reflection made me so lighthearted that my Conscience could hardly keep his seat, but was like to float aloft toward the ceiling like a toy balloon. I said, presently:

"Come, my Conscience, let us be friendly. Let us fly a flag of truce for a while. I am suffering to ask you some questions."

"Very well. Begin."

"Well, then, in the first place, why were you never visible to me before?"

"Because you never asked to see me before; that is, you never asked in the right spirit and the proper form before. You were just in the right spirit this time, and when you called for your most pitiless enemy I was that person by a very large majority, though you did not suspect it."

"Well, did that remark of mine turn you into flesh and blood?"

"No. It only made me visible to you. I am unsubstantial, just as other spirits are."

This remark prodded me with a sharp misgiving.

If he was unsubstantial, how was I going to kill him? But I dissembled, and said persuasively:

"Conscience, it isn't sociable of you to keep at such a distance. Come down and take another smoke."

This was answered with a look that was full of derision, and with this observation added:

"Come where you can get at me and kill me? The invitation is declined with thanks."

"All right," said I to myself; "so it seems a spirit can be killed, after all; there will be one spirit lacking in this world, presently, or I lose my guess." Then I said aloud:

"Friend--"

"There; wait a bit. I am not your friend. I am your enemy; I am not your equal, I am your master, Call me 'my lord,' if you please. You are too familiar."

"I don't like such titles. I am willing to call you, sir. That is as far as--"

"We will have no argument about this. Just obey, that is all. Go on with your chatter."

"Very well, my lord--since nothing but my lord will suit you--I was going to ask you how long you will be visible to me?"

"Always!"

I broke out with strong indignation: "This is simply an outrage. That is what I think of it! You have dogged, and dogged, and dogged me, all the days of my life, invisible. That was misery enough, now to have such a looking thing as you tagging after me like another shadow all the rest of my day is an intolerable prospect. You have my opinion my lord, make the most of it."

"My lad, there was never so pleased a conscience in this world as I was when you made me visible. It gives me an inconceivable advantage. Now I can look you straight in the eye, and call you names, and leer at you, jeer at you, sneer at you; and you know what eloquence there is in visible gesture and expression, more especially when the effect is heightened by audible speech. I shall always address you henceforth in your o-w-n s-n-i-v-e-l-i-n-g d-r-a-w-l--baby!"

I let fly with the coal-hod. No result. My lord said:

"Come, come! Remember the flag of truce!"

"Ah, I forgot that. I will try to be civil; and you try it, too, for a novelty. The idea of a civil conscience! It is a good joke; an excellent joke. All the consciences I have ever heard of were nagging, badgering, fault-finding, execrable savages! Yes; and always in a sweat about some poor little insignificant trifle or other--destruction catch the lot of them, I say! I would trade mine for the smallpox and seven kinds of consumption, and be glad of the chance. Now tell me, why is it that a conscience can't haul a man over the coals once, for an offense, and then let him alone? Why is it that it wants to keep on pegging at him, day and night and night and day, week in and week out, forever and ever, about the same old thing? There is no sense in that, and no reason in it. I think a conscience that will act like that is meaner than the very dirt itself."

"Well, WE like it; that suffices."

"Do you do it with the honest intent to improve a man?"

That question produced a sarcastic smile, and this reply:

"No, sir. Excuse me. We do it simply because it is 'business.' It is our trade. The purpose of it is to improve the man, but we are merely disinterested agents. We are appointed by authority, and haven't anything to say in the matter. We obey orders and leave the consequences where they belong. But I am willing to admit this much: we do crowd the orders a trifle when we get a chance, which is most of the time. We enjoy it. We are instructed to remind a man a few times of an error; and I don't mind acknowledging that we try to give pretty good measure. And when we get hold of a man of a peculiarly sensitive nature, oh, but we do haze him! I have consciences to come all the way from China and Russia to see a person of that kind put through his paces, on a special occasion. Why, I knew a man of that sort who had accidentally crippled a mulatto baby; the news went abroad, and I wish you may never commit another sin if the consciences didn't flock from all over the earth to enjoy the fun and help his master exorcise him. That man walked the floor in torture for forty-eight hours, without eating or sleeping, and then blew his brains out. The child was perfectly well again in three weeks."

"Well, you are a precious crew, not to put it too strong. I think I begin to see now why you have always been a trifle inconsistent with me. In your anxiety to get all the juice you can out of a sin, you make a man repent of it in three or four different ways. For instance, you found fault with me for lying to that tramp, and I suffered over that. But it was only yesterday that I told a tramp the square truth, to wit, that, it being regarded as bad citizenship to encourage vagrancy, I would give him nothing. What did you do then: Why, you made me say to myself, 'Ah, it would have been so much kinder and more blameless to ease him off with a little white lie, and send him away feeling that if he could not have bread, the gentle treatment was at least something to be grateful for!' Well, I suffered all day about that. Three days before I had fed a tramp, and fed him freely, supposing it a virtuous act. Straight off you said, 'Oh, false citizen, to have fed a tramp!' and I suffered as usual. I gave a tramp work; you objected to it--after the contract was made, of course; you never speak up beforehand. Next, I refused a tramp work; you objected to that. Next, I proposed to kill a tramp; you kept me awake all night, oozing remorse at every pore. Sure I was going to be right this time, I sent the next tramp away with my benediction; and I wish you may live as long as I do, if you didn't make me smart all night again because I didn't kill him. Is there any way of satisfying that malignant invention which is called a conscience?"

"Ha, ha! this is luxury! Go on!"

"But come, now, answer me that question. Is there any way?"

"Well, none that I propose to tell you, my son. Ass! I don't care what act you may turn your hand to, I can straightway whisper a word in your ear and make you think you have committed a dreadful meanness. It is my business--and my joy--to make you repent of everything you do. If I have fooled away any opportunities it was not intentional; I beg to assure you it was not intentional!"

"Don't worry; you haven't missed a trick that I know of. I never did a thing in all my life, virtuous or otherwise, that I didn't repent of in twenty-four hours. In church last Sunday I listened to a charity sermon. My first impulse was to give three hundred and fifty dollars; I repented of that and reduced it a hundred; repented of that and reduced it another hundred; repented of that and reduced it another hundred; repented of that and reduced the remaining fifty to twenty-five; repented of that and came down to fifteen; repented of that and dropped to two dollars and a half; when the plate came around at last, I repented once more and contributed ten cents. Well, when I got home, I did wish to goodness I had that ten cents back again! You never did let me get through a charity sermon without having something to sweat about."

"Oh, and I never shall, I never shall. You can always depend on me."

"I think so. Many and many's the restless night I've wanted to take you by the neck. If I could only get hold of you now!"

"Yes, no doubt. But I am not an ass; I am only the saddle of an ass. But go on, go on. You entertain me more than I like to confess."

I am glad of that. (You will not mind my lying a little, to keep in practice.) Look here; not to be too personal, I think you are about the shabbiest and most contemptible little shriveled-up reptile that can be imagined. I am grateful enough that you are invisible to other people, for I should die with shame to be seen with such a mildewed monkey of a conscience as you are. Now if you were five or six feet high, and--"

"Oh, come! who is to blame?"

"I don't know."

"Why, you are; nobody else."

"Confound you, I wasn't consulted about your personal appearance."

"I don't care, you had a good deal to do with it, nevertheless. When you were eight or nine years old, I was seven feet high, and as pretty as a picture."

"I wish you had died young! So you have grown the wrong way, have you?"

"Some of us grow one way and some the other. You had a large conscience once; if you've a small conscience now I reckon there are reasons for it. However, both of us are to blame, you and I. You see, you used to be conscientious about a great many things; morbidly so, I may say. It was a great many years ago. You probably do not remember it now. Well, I took a great interest in my work, and I so enjoyed the anguish which certain pet sins of yours afflicted you with that I kept pelting at you until I rather overdid the matter. You began to rebel. Of course I began to lose ground, then, and shrivel a little--diminish in stature, get moldy, and grow deformed. The more I weakened, the more stubbornly you fastened on to those particular sins; till at last the places on my person that represent those vices became as callous as shark-skin. Take smoking, for instance. I played that card a little too long, and I lost. When people plead with you at this late day to quit that vice, that old callous place seems to enlarge and cover me all over like a shirt of mail. It exerts a mysterious, smothering effect; and presently I, your faithful hater, your devoted Conscience, go sound asleep! Sound? It is no name for it. I couldn't hear it thunder at such a time. You have some few other vices--perhaps eighty, or maybe ninety--that affect me in much the same way."

"This is flattering; you must be asleep a good part of your time."

"Yes, of late years. I should be asleep all the time but for the help I get."

"Who helps you?"

"Other consciences. Whenever a person whose conscience I am acquainted with tries to plead with you about the vices you are callous to, I get my friend to give his client a pang concerning some villainy of his own, and that shuts off his meddling and starts him off to hunt personal consolation. My field of usefulness is about trimmed down to tramps, budding authoresses, and that line of goods now; but don't you worry --I'll harry you on theirs while they last! Just you put your trust in me."

"I think I can. But if you had only been good enough to mention these facts some thirty years ago, I should have turned my particular attention to sin, and I think that by this time I should not only have had you pretty permanently asleep on the entire list of human vices, but reduced to the size of a homeopathic pill, at that. That is about the style of conscience I am pining for. If I only had you shrunk you down to a homeopathic pill, and could get my hands on you, would I put you in a glass case for a keepsake? No, sir. I would give you to a yellow dog! That is where you ought to be--you and all your tribe. You are not fit to be in society, in my opinion. Now another question. Do you know a good many consciences in this section?"

"Plenty of them."

"I would give anything to see some of them! Could you bring them here? And would they be visible to me?"

"Certainly not."

"I suppose I ought to have known that without asking. But no matter, you can describe them. Tell me about my neighbor Thompson's conscience, please."

"Very well. I know him intimately; have known him many years. I knew him when he was eleven feet high and of a faultless figure. But he is very pasty and tough and misshapen now, and hardly ever interests himself about anything. As to his present size--well, he sleeps in a cigar-box."

"Likely enough. There are few smaller, meaner men in this region than Hugh Thompson. Do you know Robinson's conscience?"

"Yes. He is a shade under four and a half feet high; used to be a blond; is a brunette now, but still shapely and comely."

"Well, Robinson is a good fellow. Do you know Tom Smith's conscience?"

"I have known him from childhood. He was thirteen inches high, and rather sluggish, when he was two years old--as nearly all of us are at that age. He is thirty-seven feet high now, and the stateliest figure in America. His legs are still racked with growing-pains, but he has a good time, nevertheless. Never sleeps. He is the most active and energetic member of the New England Conscience Club; is president of it. Night and day you can find him pegging away at Smith, panting with his labor, sleeves rolled up, countenance all alive with enjoyment. He has got his victim splendidly dragooned now. He can make poor Smith imagine that the most innocent little thing he does is an odious sin; and then he sets to work and almost tortures the soul out of him about it."

"Smith is the noblest man in all this section, and the purest; and yet is always breaking his heart because he cannot be good! Only a conscience could find pleasure in heaping agony upon a spirit like that. Do you know my aunt Mary's conscience?"

"I have seen her at a distance, but am not acquainted with her. She lives in the open air altogether, because no door is large enough to admit her."

"I can believe that. Let me see. Do you know the conscience of that publisher who once stole some sketches of mine for a 'series' of his, and then left me to pay the law expenses I had to incur in order to choke him off?"

"Yes. He has a wide fame. He was exhibited, a month ago, with some other antiquities, for the benefit of a recent Member of the Cabinet's conscience that was starving in exile. Tickets and fares were high, but I traveled for nothing by pretending to be the conscience of an editor, and got in for half-price by representing myself to be the conscience of a clergyman. However, the publisher's conscience, which was to have been the main feature of the entertainment, was a failure--as an exhibition. He was there, but what of that? The management had provided a microscope with a magnifying power of only thirty thousand diameters, and so nobody got to see him, after all. There was great and general dissatisfaction, of course, but--"

Just here there was an eager footstep on the stair; I opened the door, and my aunt Mary burst into the room. It was a joyful meeting and a cheery bombardment of questions and answers concerning family matters ensued. By and by my aunt said:

"But I am going to abuse you a little now. You promised me, the day I saw you last, that you would look after the needs of the poor family around the corner as faithfully as I had done it myself. Well, I found out by accident that you failed of your promise. Was that right?"

In simple truth, I never had thought of that family a second time! And now such a splintering pang of guilt shot through me! I glanced up at my Conscience. Plainly, my heavy heart was affecting him. His body was drooping forward; he seemed about to fall from the bookcase. My aunt continued:

"And think how you have neglected my poor protege at the almshouse, you dear, hard-hearted promise-breaker!" I blushed scarlet, and my tongue was tied. As the sense of my guilty negligence waxed sharper and stronger, my Conscience began to sway heavily back and forth; and when my aunt, after a little pause, said in a grieved tone, "Since you never once went to see her, maybe it will not distress you now to know that that poor child died, months ago, utterly friendless and forsaken!" My Conscience could no longer bear up under the weight of my sufferings, but tumbled headlong from his high perch and struck the floor with a dull, leaden thump. He lay there writhing with pain and quaking with apprehension, but straining every muscle in frantic efforts to get up. In a fever of expectancy I sprang to the door, locked it, placed my back against it, and bent a watchful gaze upon my struggling master. Already my fingers were itching to begin their murderous work.

"Oh, what can be the matter!" exclaimed by aunt, shrinking from me, and following with her frightened eyes the direction of mine. My breath was coming in short, quick gasps now, and my excitement was almost uncontrollable. My aunt cried out:

"Oh, do not look so! You appal me! Oh, what can the matter be? What is it you see? Why do you stare so? Why do you work your fingers like that?"

"Peace, woman!" I said, in a hoarse whisper. "Look elsewhere; pay no attention to me; it is nothing--nothing. I am often this way. It will pass in a moment. It comes from smoking too much."

My injured lord was up, wild-eyed with terror, and trying to hobble toward the door. I could hardly breathe, I was so wrought up. My aunt wrung her hands, and said:

"Oh, I knew how it would be; I knew it would come to this at last! Oh, I implore you to crush out that fatal habit while it may yet be time! You must not, you shall not be deaf to my supplications longer!" My struggling Conscience showed sudden signs of weariness! "Oh, promise me you will throw off this hateful slavery of tobacco!" My Conscience began to reel drowsily, and grope with his hands--enchanting spectacle! "I beg you, I beseech you, I implore you! Your reason is deserting you! There is madness in your eye! It flames with frenzy! Oh, hear me, hear me, and be saved! See, I plead with you on my very knees!" As she sank before me my Conscience reeled again, and then drooped languidly to the floor, blinking toward me a last supplication for mercy, with heavy eyes. "Oh, promise, or you are lost! Promise, and be redeemed! Promise! Promise and live!" With a long-drawn sigh my conquered Conscience closed his eyes and fell fast asleep!

With an exultant shout I sprang past my aunt, and in an instant I had my lifelong foe by the throat. After so many years of waiting and longing, he was mine at last. I tore him to shreds and fragments. I rent the fragments to bits. I cast the bleeding rubbish into the fire, and drew into my nostrils the grateful incense of my burnt-offering. At last, and forever, my Conscience was dead!

I was a free man! I turned upon my poor aunt, who was almost petrified with terror, and shouted:

"Out of this with your paupers, your charities, your reforms, your pestilent morals! You behold before you a man whose life-conflict is done, whose soul is at peace; a man whose heart is dead to sorrow, dead to suffering, dead to remorse; a man WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE! In my joy I spare you, though I could throttle you and never feel a pang! Fly!"

She fled. Since that day my life is all bliss. Bliss, unalloyed bliss. Nothing in all the world could persuade me to have a conscience again. I settled all my old outstanding scores, and began the world anew. I killed thirty-eight persons during the first two weeks--all of them on account of ancient grudges. I burned a dwelling that interrupted my view. I swindled a widow and some orphans out of their last cow, which is a very good one, though not thoroughbred, I believe. I have also committed scores of crimes, of various kinds, and have enjoyed my work exceedingly, whereas it would formerly have broken my heart and turned my hair gray, I have no doubt.

In conclusion, I wish to state, by way of advertisement, that medical colleges desiring assorted tramps for scientific purposes, either by the gross, by cord measurement, or per ton, will do well to examine the lot in my cellar before purchasing elsewhere, as these were all selected and prepared by myself, and can be had at a low rate, because I wish to clear, out my stock and get ready for the spring trade.
***
Now, wasn't that a happy story?

Tomorrow, a special treat. Why Judith Miller (of the NEW YORK TIMES) is batshit crazy. Seriously.

Courage.
.
hart williams
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