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Crusading Arkansas journalist Tony Moser, 41 –

killed Saturday
night by a 1995 Chevy pickup truck
— was a friend of mine. We bonded quickly and intensely on America Online, journalistic colleagues and compatriots, the way it happens suddenly, sometimes in cyberspace. Though it makes me terribly sad, I am not surprised at his sudden, suspicious death.

I last talked to him briefly the night before he died. It was Friday evening, June 9, and he Instant Messaged me, anxious to chat about his new political column, how thrilled he was to be doing it. Then he proudly e-mailed me a copy of his latest and, as it turns out his last, piece — the second in as many weeks for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

I was rushing off to do an overnight radio show, and said I would talk to him the next day. And now he is dead.

While I didn’t save his entire column, here’s a particularly hard-hitting section which I e-mailed him back to say that it was so good, it simply took my breath away:

    … Children would provoke a loud and lasting sense of horrified public outrage. Well, you can forget about that. Moral outrage is DECLASSE. The trendy swells and country club liberals who personify the leadership of the Arkansas Democratic Party are already predicting that voters will not hold the party accountable for the fact that its heaviest-hitters ran a plethora of Ponzi schemes in which unfortunate children from broken homes were their carefully targeted victims.

    In case the core facts have already been forgotten, I will repeat them. Nick Wilson of Pocahontas — the cigar-chomping former state senator who once bestrode the Capitol like a colossus — was Godfather of a racketeering ring in which he enlisted several of his toadies in Arkansas’ upper legislative chamber, as well as a rogue’s gallery of bureaucrats and political hangers-on. Two of their variations on three-card monte were schemes to defraud programs aimed at providing AD LITEM attorneys for children in child custody cases, and to siphon funds from child support enforcement efforts. Nick lacked neither chutzpah nor cunning. After all, the kids involved were too young to realize they were being scammed. Older citizens have the AARP to scrutinize programs which serve them, but the infant, pre-teen and adolescent lobby has never packed much of a wallop. And not to worry about these kids’ lawyer. …

Monday, I clicked on to WorldNetDaily around dinnertime for the first time that day and saw the Page 1 skyline,

“Arkansas corruption
crusader killed by car.”
Could it be? It was. I simply could not believe it. I was shocked. Stunned. Numbed. And scared. Mainly because I had occasionally joked with him about how he had avoided being dead meat on Clinton’s enemies list.

He felt he was simply too visible to be taken out. He might have been wrong.

Mostly, Tony Moser and I talked about literature, and movies, and writing, and life, and how his favorite sports teams were doing, and the things regular people discuss. I was curious what it had been like for him covering the Clintons earlier. He gave me a blind quote for one of my columns. We read and commented on each other’s work. As to his past, he alluded darkly to some bad times, rough patches, narrow scrapes, but he felt those were behind him. He was comfortably off, he said, due to a windfall of some stocks his late father had left him.

And yet Tony Moser had had a rough childhood, spent in part in an orphanage. His mother had battled lifelong mental illness. Now he was divorced and looking. He had an ex-wife in Memphis, he said, a pharmacist. He hoped to get married again and settle down and raise a family. Society women and beauty queens, he said, were not his ideal, though he had known them. He said he felt he was brilliant, and he sought brilliance. He wanted to make his mark as a writer.

Highly articulate, Tony Moser had a philosophical bent. He loved baseball, loved it. His AOL screen name was ToMoser40, his real name, and his profile was factual and pretty accurate, not some lame pseudo-charmer. He was not one of those cyber-creeps who hid behind fake screen names. He wasn’t hiding from anyone. That’s for sure — they knew where to find him, walking in the middle of a road in Pine Bluff, Ark., at 10:10 p.m. on a Saturday night.

When I went to check around 7 p.m. Monday evening, his AOL profile was still posted. This is what it said:

    Member Name: Tony M.
    Location: Little Rock & Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA
    Sex: Male
    Marital Status: single
    Hobbies: writing, reading, history, philosophy, art, classical music, journalism. Goofy intellectual.
    Computers: B.A., history and political science, Hendrix College. M.A., Univ. of Missouri.
    Occupation: Writer, journalist, newspaper reporter, political writer & sports writer.
    Personal Quote: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. — Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

Though he laughingly referred to himself as “a redneck from Arkansas,” he was anything but. Forthright with his opinions, he was serious about learning: “I like all the dead white males,” he once told me. “Like Plato a lot. I think Thomas Aquinas is important. I’m really more into political philosophy, i.e., Locke, Hume, John Stuart Mill.”

Though Tony Moser was in his early 40s, he was conscious of the passing of time. He would kid, “Time to be talking about a place in Florida and investing in a ‘clapper.’ Don’t you remember those endless TV ads for the things where you clap your hands and the lights and TV come on? For old people too lazy to get out of bed?”

After he got comfortable with a person, he would share his humor, and it could be unexpected. “Well, I used to read both Commentary and Dissent. But I got Dysentery, so I quit. (Old Woody Allen Joke.)”

Though he cared deeply about rooting out government corruption, he could be wildly irreverent, with his own comic spin on mostly everything, even the Clinton-Monica perplex: “Hey, it’s 10:30 p.m. All you’ve got is a pizza and a government shutdown. There’s a plump Jewess right in front of you. What would any red-blooded American male do?”

The president Tony Moser covered as a governor “went for beauty pageant winners, TV news and weather girls, young lawyers looking for a, ahem, leg up.”

The last thing I ever said to Tony Moser was, “Let’s see a ballgame together sometime.”

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