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Investing $10k on death of Israeli bus driver seems a tad sick

August 10, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Raise your hand if you knew that Admiral John Poindexter was still hanging around the halls of government.

Heck, forget government, I could have sworn he was dead - died of a broken heart after they shut down his gun-running to the Ayatollah in exchange for cash for the Contras. Or was it cash for the Contras and guns for the Ayatollah? I never could figure that scandal out. Give me an intern and a good cigar any day - one that's simple and doesn't involve a lot of thought.

But apparently Poindexter is alive and kicking and at it again. And his latest scheme makes Iran-Contra look about as technical as Pong.

The plan was to introduce terrorism to Wall Street, by creating a futures market by which you could "invest" in the odds of an upcoming attack. For example, back in May 2001, if you had laid down a couple of Benjamins on World Trade Center/jet airliner/major tsuris, you would have mopped up.

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Shame about those 3,000 dead people, but at least you could lift a flute of champagne in their honor, happily knowing that all those unfortunates had landed you in the Forbes 500.

The thinking, if any, was that market efficiencies would tip off the government to impending terrorist attacks, which it could then move to prevent. Knowledgeable investors would be alert to chatter among terror operatives and bid up events that were more likely to occur.

I'm all for thinking outside the box cutter, but this one strikes even me as a little bizarre. And that's saying something.

Since morals have never been a particular strength, I'm not terribly concerned with the moral nausea of creating personal wealth on the back of a charred corpse. If it worked for the rail barons, it works for me.

But I do have trouble with this oxymoronic phrase "knowledgeable investor." We would put our national security in the hands of the Wall Street folks who brought us Enron and Pets.com? Who thought that JDS Uniphase was worth $120 a share? Who were convinced that 4 billion starving Chinese would run right out and buy a cell phone from Nortel? Who staked billions of dollars on shell partnerships that were known as "Raptors?" Who believe we're being too hard on Martha Stewart?

Come on, you would be putting our lives in the hands of some of the most certifiably stupid people this side of the Eagle Nebula.

The second problem I have, is that this could actually encourage and help fund terrorism. If I'm a terrorist, and I'm planning an attack on the Shrine of Bel-Helmutz, I'm certainly going to swing by the broker on my way to the fuse store and casually place a few bills on the target - and then use the proceeds to blow up something else.

And how is it going to make the public feel if workers at the nuclear power plant pick up the Wall Street Journal and see their "stock" has just gone up 52 percent? If they see the pot rising through the roof, this is not going to make a lot of Israeli bus drivers feel more secure about their career choice.

What I like about the plan is that it almost forces the terrorists to embrace and play along in the free market society that they so openly detest.

But irony doesn't strike me as a sound basis for policy decisions.

In fact, it doesn't make you sleep any better at night to think that we are living under a government that would, even for a split second, think that any of this was a good idea.

Remember when we were assured that, true, Bush himself may be a little light in the old lemon, but we could count on the fact that he was surrounding himself with the best and brightest?

As uneasy as it makes me, I'm starting to think that Bush is the smart one. Or at least the sane one. If Bush is Dean Wormer, he needs a Mayor Carmine DePasto right about now to tell him "you better sit on that zoo fraternity of yours." Because look out, here comes "Daniel Simpson Day" Poindexter driving his motorcycle up the stairs.

On the up side, at least Poindexter makes Rumsfeld look normal.

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