Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 31 1999 6:47 AM

Death and Taxes

The Washington Post leads with the release of Atlanta gunman Mark Barton's confessional notes. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times front this story, and accompany it with profiles of Barton's victims, whose names were also released. All three papers also front coverage of the fallout: increased scrutiny of day trading (NYT, LAT, WP) and renewed clamoring in the House for tighter gun control (WP, reefered by the LAT). The NYT and the LAT lead with Senate approval of a $782 billion tax cut plan. The bill differs slightly from a counterpart House bill passed earlier this week, and Clinton is all but certain to veto both. Linda Tripp's indictment by the state of Maryland on wiretapping charges is also fronted by all three papers.

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Notes left by Barton in the apartment where his second wife and two children were found dead shed light on the motives behind his killing spree: estrangement from his wife, recent massive day trading losses, and a strange allusion to a "fear" passed from his father, to him, and ultimately to his son. In the notes, Barton also pleads not guilty to the 1993 murder of his first wife and her mother (he had been the prime suspect in the case), saying "there's no reason for me to lie now." And though he pledges to destroy "those who greedily sought his destruction," the only connection between him and his victims appears to be a love of day trading. (The NYT's profile of the victims runs under the subtle headline: Victims were Drawn to their Deaths by Lives in Day Trading.) The WP digs deep enough to report that Barton's photograph never appeared in his high-school yearbook, but neglects to mention that he was investigated for molesting his 3-year-old daughter a year after his first wife's death, a detail which the NYT includes.

Mysteriously, Barton's notes make no explicit mention of his day trading exploits, but the papers now have all the numbers---he lost $105,000 in 15 days of trading over an eight-week period. All of the papers predict that tighter day trading regulation, including a closer screening of aspiring traders, is on the way. The NYT also mentions that criminal charges will likely be filed against one unnamed firm, and points out day trading's long odds--an estimated 90 percent of traders end up net losers. The WP reports that Momentum, a day trading firm used by Barton, would ply its clients Circus Circus-style with free pizza and ice cream to keep them from leaving for lunch. An expert in online addictions tells the LAT that day trading is surpassing chat rooms and pornography as the Internet jones of choice.

Anticipating increased public pressure in the wake of the shootings, the House voted to appoint negotiators to reach a compromise with the Senate on new gun control measures. The WP notes that legislators hope to pass laws mandating background checks on gun show weapons buyers, implementation of child safety locks, and bans on large-capacity ammunition clips by the August recess.

The Senate tax cut bill differs slightly from that passed in the House earlier this week. Instead of the House's 10 percent across-the-board rate cut, it drops the only the lowest rate (from 15 percent to 14 percent), and makes more people eligible for this rate. It also includes more measures to reduce the marriage penalty and fewer to reduce the estate tax. It's similar to the House proposal in size ($782 billion), time of implementation (10 years), and likelihood of presidential veto (certain). The papers agree that the GOP is using the bills mostly to define issues for the coming elections.

Linda Tripp faces two felony counts for taping her conversations with Monica Lewinsky. Taping conversations without the consent of both parties is illegal in Tripp's home state of Maryland. Each of Tripp's wiretapping violations carries a maximum sentence of five years, $10,000, or both. But for her to do time, prosecutors must prove that Tripp was aware of Maryland's law against unauthorized taping of calls. She (or, at least, her tapes and grand jury testimony) may also be protected from state indictment under the broad federal immunity deal she negotiated last December.

I've had lunch with John John, I've had cocktails with John John, and you, Reverend, are no John John: In a NYT op-ed piece, Frank Rich takes aim at journalists and other commentators trying to bask in the glow of JFK Jr.'s celebrity. Walter Isaacson, Tom Brokaw, and Jonathan Alter are among the many reprimanded for using the tragedy to boast of their own intimate meals and conversations with the departed scion. Even the Rev. Jerry Falwell tells Fox, "I'm admittedly much like John Kennedy Jr. in that all my life ... I've lived close to the edge."