Mark Barton: The Unasked Questions

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

When school kids hose down their classmates with automatic weapons we have to endure weeks of sermonizing about Goths, the baneful influence of Marilyn Manson, computer nerds, the Hitler craze, the need for tougher gun laws, alienation in the suburbs legislators speed ot pass even more laws hemming in the Youth Menace. Right-wingers talk about discipline and liberals brood about firepower.

Yet when Mark Barton, a stock trader in Atlanta, loses a bundle and wastes his second wife (after possibly doing in the first a few years earlier), plus his two children, plus nine in two brokerage houses, plus 12 more injured, do we hear lectures about the lethal perils of the market? Do we have legislators drafting “red light” laws, requiring automatc computer alerts of local police once an investor has lost over $100,000 in a 12-month period?

Do Ted Koppel or Jeff Greenfield host “town meetings” in Main Street, USA, to discuss the psychic powder-keg constituted by millions upon millions of Americans invested well above their eyeballs in a market regarded by many as insanely overvalued? Does Geraldo Rivera probe the question of how many Americans, when the market finally goes seriously down, will take the same course as Barton and pledge to kill “the people who greedily sought my destruction”?

(It is true that Chris Matthews did fleetingly mention Columbine and Atlanta in the same sentence on MSNBC show Hardball last Saturday night. But he was making even less sense than usual, having been thrown into a state of confusion by Janeane Garofalo’s knowledgeable citation of Gustave LeBon’s theory of the mob, apropos the topic of Woodstock mayhem. Alas, Le Bon’s theory was extremely reactionary, and I was sorry to hear Garofalo pointing people in his direction, rather than to more elevated intellectual opinion on the revolutionary nature of crowds.

And come to think of it, how many commentators bothered to trace the deaths of John Kennedy, along with his wife and sister-in-law, to capitalism and the greed that can lead to doom? It seems virtually beyond doubt that the plane went down because Kennedy became disoriented in darkness. He flew in the dark because he took off from Essex county aiport in New Jersey at 8.38 p.m., 12 minutes after sunset. Kennedy, according to some press accounts, had been planning to fly in daylight, but had to wait for his sister-in-law Lauren Besette, who was working late at Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter, making deals. She couldn’t just tear herself away. Just as in the old horror movies, cross-cutting between the setting sun and a young woman wandering through a vampire-crammed graveyard, Lauren Besette went on working her phone and the quotron, even as the sun arced down over the Hudson, taking her destiny well beyond the limits of John Kennedy’s aeronautic competence.

Hurrah for House Repubs

Well now, how many CounterPunchers think that the House of Reps, with a Democratic majority, would have voted down a Clinton-backed effort to put through funds for a vast new FBI-controlled computer-network, surveillance system? And do you think such a House of Reps would have cut funds to the School of the Americas, where the US Army trains its surrogates in the arts of counter-insurgency and torture? When the democrats did control the congress efforts to cut back funding for SOA were consistently rebuffed.

But, as with those votes refusing to give Clinton authority for the war on Serbia, the present House of Reps, with its Republican majority, has just explicitly prohibited expenditures for this computer surveillance system, canceling them from the $36 billion budget for the department of Justice, Commerce and State. The victorious alliance was of Republicans and the left edge of the House Democrats. The same coalition voted 230 to 197 to cut torture and death funds to the School of the Americas. Those voting the decent way included Mrs. Bono. Phone her office to congratulate her on this fine vote. The fight now goes to members of the House Senate foreign operations conference committee. CP

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