Flashes 08-19-1999

It's the Media Violence, Stupid

That tap dancing you hear coming from the west is the frenzied footwork of United States Senator John McCain, who started a big presidential campaign swing through California on Monday -- and found himself staring down the barrel of a subject he'd rather not discuss: gun control.

Last week's shooting at a Jewish day care center has so elevated the issue that even a media "maverick" like Humble John finds it impossible to continue to suppress his many right-wing allegiances.

Tuesday's New York Times reported that McCain told the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith that public officials bear their share of blame for "an environment of disaffection, contempt and hate that poisons our land," because "there's too much 'us' and 'them' in our political discourse and not enough 'we.'"

"When we stand on a soapbox and denounce Jerry Springer, and then go to the floor of Congress and behave like guests on his show, it's little wonder that the American public has long since stopped looking to us for guidance or leadership," the Times quoted McCain as saying.

Then the Times writer and California voters got a dose of Humble John's infamous temper. The Times piece continued:

"But minutes later, McCain's own voice rose and his tone sharpened considerably as he addressed a listener who wondered whether the senator, who had spoken of the need to keep assault weapons from the hands of children, would support barring adults from owning such weapons.

"'If you want to take every gun in California and dump it in the Pacific Ocean,' McCain said tersely, 'I'll still take you to a web-site where it teaches children how to build a pipe bomb, and children have already done that. And I'll teach you and take you to a web-site where the worst kind of hate language that is terribly offensive to all of us exists. I can take you to a video game that's being sold to our children where the object of the game is to kill police.

"'So I understand the importance of this issue of the weapons,' McCain said, 'but to somehow define it as that being the major cause, there's a whole lot of causes.'"

The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, reported that McCain on Monday was absolutely mealy-mouthed and "alternately welcomed a new look at gun control and grew indignant about the prospect of it."

He bravely called for congressional hearings on gun control -- the accepted Beltway method of deep-sixing an issue.

The Los Angeles paper reported that McCain criticized questioners "for asking more about gun control measures than media violence and Internet Web sites that promote hatred. And he belittled a question about whether Americans should be required to register their weapons as they register their cars."

"'A gun and a car are not the same,' he said. 'How about treating a gun like an elephant? They are not the same.'"

The New York Times piece quoted McCain as saying, "I'm sure I could give you some reasons that there shouldn't be" an outright ban on assault weapons. . . .

"I would obviously want to respect someone's right to own a gun."

McCain opposed the two major gun-control measures of recent years, the 1994 ban on several types of assault weapons and the Brady Bill, which required a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases.

What neither newspaper reported was the fact that McCain also took a $9,900 check from the National Rifle Association last year.

U.S. vs. The Fifester: The Sequel

For those of you who've been vacationing on Mars, the following informative update:

The countdown to the possible reconviction of former governor J. Fife Symington III has begun. Federal prosecutors filed an appeal August 5, asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a ruling that overturned Symington's 1997 conviction on six felony bank fraud counts.

The Fifester was saved from a 30-month sentence in a cushy federal pen by a three-judge appellate panel that voted 2-1 in June to reverse Symington's conviction. The panel ruled U.S. District Court Judge Roger B. Strand violated Symington's right to a fair trial by improperly removing a juror after 12 days of deliberations.

Strand dismissed juror Mary Jane Cotey after determining she was "unable or unwilling" to participate in deliberations.

Prosecutor David Schindler has asked for the full Ninth Circuit to review the case; such requests are rarely granted.

A more likely scenario is that the full court will reject the appeal, clearing the way for prosecutors to seek another grand jury indictment against the former governor turned chef.

Schindler has indicated that the government will very likely seek an indictment on at least 19 counts. An indictment must come within 60 days of the Ninth Circuit ruling on the government's appeal.

Symington could be reindicted by the end of the year and face a new criminal trial sometime in 2001, setting up a rematch between Schindler and Symington's blowhard Washington attorney John Dowd.

While Dowd continues to bluster that Symington is innocent (the three-judge panel noted there was enough evidence to convict Symington on at least three charges), Schindler is preparing to leave the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles to join a private law firm in October.

But Schindler -- who will practice intellectual property law -- is not going to walk away from the Symington case. He's already making arrangements to be appointed as a special prosecutor if the government elects to reindict Symington and take the case to trial.

Symington, meanwhile, will have to continue to dig deep into his wife's wallet to finance his decade-long battle to stay out of the brig. He's already spent more than $4 million since 1991 -- with most of it going to Dowd.

Another indictment and trial will ring up a few million more in legal fees. In the end, Symington will likely be packing his bags for an extended stay in a federal prison.

It would have been far cheaper if the Fifester had just paid his debts rather than circulating bogus financial statements that inflated his worth -- and ego -- to skyscraper proportions.


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