Burn 'Em While You Got 'Em

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The Flag Desecration Amendment is coming to the Senate floor today, and an alliance of triumphant Republicans and scared Democrats are this close to making it pass.

"We are right on the precipice," said Daniel S. Wheeler, president of the Citizens Flag Alliance, the group leading the push for the amendment.

Mr. Wheeler acknowledged that the organization still needed at least one more vote to guarantee victory. And with most lawmakers already declared one way or another, that vote might be difficult to find.

"When we are sitting there with 66 votes, anything can happen," said Mr. Wheeler, who is also the executive director of the American Legion. "We are hoping for a last-minute conversion."

Reason has long taken the lonely pro-free speech position on this issue; Jacob Sullum tackled it in 1999. Earlier this month I attacked this and the gay marriage amendment as transparent efforts to mollify the GOP base. But this, unlike the "queers go home!" amendment, has a real chance of passing.

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  1. Sometimes the idiocy is awe inspiring.

  2. this is one of the stupidest things I have ever known the us government to do. and that’s a whole lot of stupid. some war protestors are going to get a flag too worn to be flown anymore, and, without letting it touch the ground, burn it in the respectful manner approved of by boy scouts and army privates everywhere. then what the fuck are the police going to do? worst. amendment. ever.

  3. I’m going to take to burning giant copies of the Constitution in the street. Might as well go all in.

  4. Maybe the FBI will give me some combat boots and a digital camera if I promise to burn a flag…

  5. Orrin Hatch was on C-SPAN this morning, defending the bill. Apparently, its not about quashing the First Amendment or creating a secular religious icon, but about ‘returning the power to Congress’ to protect the flag.

    I was tempted to call in and ask him if its about loss of Congressional power, why don’t they reign in the Administration to feel relevent?

  6. If this piece of shit passes, then we are going to go through all this red state/blue state bullshit when the states weigh in. And I’m going to be forced to side with the blue.

    Jesus Christ, my head hurts.

  7. Section 4 subsection k of the U.S. Flag Code

    “(k) The Flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

    Burning is a the preferred dignified way. If the burning amendment is passed will we, 1. Determine an even more dignified way of destroying the flag, or 2. Be required to fly a dirty, torn up flag. or 3. Throw old flags in the garbage like common garbage.

  8. Mr. Nice Guy,

    You said it!
    “forced to side with the blue.” How annoying is that? Ugh. This is one of the most idiotic ideas since the National Anthem in Spanish thing.

  9. I hope this embarassment passes. Bring it on, Red, I got my dukes up!

  10. Easy, fellas, no mass suicides just yet. Even if it passes, it still requires ratification by the States. If the States endorse it…well, we will have gotten the amendment we deserve. Let’s hope the States are wiser than their representatives. I am not optimistic, but remember the ole Equal Rights Amendment? Who isn’t for “equal” rights? Heh heh.

  11. From the majority decision (5-4, Scalia actually on the right side) in Texas V. Johnson (the 1989 Supreme Court case which is the reason why they have to now pass it as an amendment rather than just a bill):

    “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”

    “…if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.”

  12. From the majority decision (5-4, Scalia actually on the right side) in Texas V. Johnson (the 1989 Supreme Court case which is the reason why they have to now pass it as an amendment rather than just a bill):

    “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”

    “…if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.”

  13. Fantastic! Now I can sell flags resembling old glory, but with 49 stars and 14 stripes. Thanks for passing the ammendment Senator Hatch, your cut…campaign contribution is in the mail!

  14. It is designed to hurt. It is not designed to persuade.

    Actual quote from Sen. Arlen Specter, to explain why flag-burning is so bad the Constitution should be amended in regards to it. Great, there goes ninety-nine percent of all blog commentary, too.

  15. In the British Navy, when a Union Jack is ready to be retired, they reportedly tear it up to use as rags………..saves a little on paper towels….sometimes I think we’d be better off if we were still a colony……….

  16. Did Specter actuallly say that??? What kind of a ridiculous reason is that???

  17. Did Specter actuallly say that??? What kind of a ridiculous reason is that???

    Yup.

    I don’t mean to be the type of person who always makes comments like “if you read the latest post in my blog you’ll see that blahdy blahdy blah,” but. . . well. . . if you click on my name you’ll see my latest post, where I linked to the article that quoted him.

    Said article also claims that all 50 states have requested a flag-protection amendment.

    Hell.

  18. Burning is a the preferred dignified way. If the burning amendment is passed will we,
    1. Determine an even more dignified way of destroying the flag, or 2. Be required to fly a dirty, torn up flag. or 3. Throw old flags in the garbage like common garbage.

    I say we should have to eat it and wash it down with piss.

  19. Dear Jennifer:

    I guess we have different values. Burning a flag, for what ever motive, doesn’t bother or hurt me at all. On the other hand, labeling the death of thousands of innocent children in Iraq as “collateral damage” really gets to me. Although I don’t think flag burning is a good way to protest such a thing, many other choices I could think of would be much worse.

  20. I guess we have different values. Burning a flag, for what ever motive, doesn’t bother or hurt me at all. On the other hand, labeling the death of thousands of innocent children in Iraq as “collateral damage” really gets to me.

    Oddly enough, I feel the same way.

  21. I’m quite serious about burning large cloth copies of the constitution if this amendment passes. I mean, if those idiots are going to show it enough disrepsect to put a Protection of Dyed Cloth amendment into it, we might as well light it on fire.

  22. And, you know what bothers me most about this whole flag nonsense? If it succeeds it’ll be only the second amendment to restrict the freedoms of the people. The first one was a miserable mistake, and this one will turn out the same way. The constitution is supposed to restrict the power of government, for shit sake.

  23. One could always burn the Malaysian flag.

    Let me make this easy for members of Congress: Vote for this or any other liberty-limiting amendment, and I’m not voting for you. Ever. For any office. Even if I hate the other candidate. Not even on American Idol. In the event of an evil-amendment-voter competition, I’ll vote third party. Any third party. I’m very fond of the United States, and I even like the flag, but between the flag and the Constitution? Burn the friggin’ flag.

    The Censor wouldn’t put up with any of this nonsense. No sirree.

  24. Burning is a the preferred dignified way. If the burning amendment is passed will we, 1. Determine an even more dignified way of destroying the flag, or 2. Be required to fly a dirty, torn up flag. or 3. Throw old flags in the garbage like common garbage.

    Lethal injection, maybe?

  25. Will the amendment cover American flag bikinis and underwear?

  26. M’ one should hope so! Those things are sacred, especially for nubile co-eds ages 18-25.

  27. It would say a lot if this passed and afterwards people started burning copies of the Constitution instead & that didn’t get demonized…

  28. Pro Libertate,

    What’s your stance on voting for politicians who vote for unconstitutional legislation?

    Have you voted for anyone who has voted in favor of any of the federal war-on-drugs legislation, for example?

    If you haven’t and won’t vote for members of Congress who vote for unconstitutional legislation, then you’re probably already not voting for any Democrats or Republicans (possible exceptions include Ron Paul). OTOH, if you’re willing to give politicians a pass when they vote for unconstitutional legislation that you’re not willing to give them for when they follow the Constitutional procedure for amendment, perhaps you’re sending the wrong message.

    I’m not voting for any politician who votes in favor of this amendment either, but to be honest, I don’t think I have much pull with the folks that I’d never vote for anyway, and I’m certainly not going to vote for someone who flouts the Constitution just to reward him for not voting to amend the Constitution.

  29. The best way to point out the absurdity of this proposed Amendment would be to burn a flag of 51 stars & 13 stripes on the Capitol steps. If such a flag were not stretched out before being set alight, it would be impossible to determine if it was, legally, an American flag or a 51-star-impostor. Then, because the evidence would destoryed by fire, the police would not be able to prove if the “28th Amendment” was violated.

  30. Will the amendment cover American flag bikinis and underwear?
    Christ, what if it covers the flag napkins I eat off of every fourth of July. And I have at least one shirt with an American flag on it, and a couple of patches. What about flag bumper stickers? Why do I feel like I’m taking crazy pills?

  31. Shouldn’t this be an issue for the nation’s fire marshals?

  32. So would this ammendment stop me from smearing shit all over the flag? What about if a create an animated gif of a flag burning? What if I burn an American flag OUTSIDE the U.S. and return?

    STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!!

  33. Nah, I hate ’em for voting for unconstitutional legislation even more. At least this is the legal way of doing such things. Not principled or consistent with American values, no, but definitely legal.

    On the other hand, me issuing threats on every piece of legislation doesn’t make a danged bit of difference. Maybe drawing the line at unnecessary and stupid amendments will help?

    Sorry, I just swallowed my tongue from laughing too hard. No, no, it’s okay, don’t save me.

  34. Me thinks The Constitution is going to double in size overnight.

  35. I think the proposed amendment might cover flag lookalikes, so the 51-star or 14-stripe loophole won’t work.

    But if this damn thing passes, I will absolutely go to my friend’s house (he has a backyard barbecue, so the fire marshal won’t be an issue) and burn some flags on the grill.

  36. APL – you ought to burn that shirt with a flag on it for fashion reasons alone, friend.

  37. Douglas Westerman,

    If the killing now going on against the elected government of Iraq is collateral damage, what was Saddam’s killing of 30K a year?

    Business as usual?

  38. I wish I could remember who to credit with this idea, but the best response to this proposed amendment I’ve heard would be to instead pass an amendment requiring that all American flags be made of asbestos. That way you can’t burn them, and any politician who drapes himself in the flag gets what he deserves.

  39. The First Amendment permits government to prohibit burning a cross with intent to intimidate. The First Amendment presently prohibits government from criminalizing the burning of a flag as a means of political protest.

    Notwithstanding this First Amendment jurisprudence, Congress has not enacted any criminal statute specific to cross-burning.* Some members of Congress, however, regard flag burning as being important enough to circumscribe by amendment the existing constitutional guaranties of free expression.

    Should this be taken to mean that supporters of the flag “protection” amendment are more offended by the burning of a flag than by the burning of a cross?

    By the way, would a prosecution for flag “desecration”–which in common parlance means violation of the sacred character thereof–require the government to prove that the flag is sacred in the first place?

    ——————————–
    *Burning a cross under some circumstances can support prosecution under a more generic statute, 42 U.S.C. ? 3631, and a conspiracy to do so in some circumstances may be actionable under 18 U.S.C. ? 241.

  40. According to MSNBC.com the Senate failed to pass the amendment. No further details other than a ticker at the moment.

  41. 66-34. One single vote saved us this time.

  42. One vote is too close for comfort.

  43. Sadly, without even seeing the roll call I know how my Senator’s voted. Thank Cthulhu one of them is retiring at the end of this term.

  44. Read em, weep and vote them out of office. Or rather, do so in an hour or so when they get the tally posted.

  45. While were on the subject of freedom hating rat bastards, here’s the House Roll Call as well.

  46. you ought to burn that shirt with a flag on it for fashion reasons alone, friend.

    It has a big eagle’s head on it, too. I get one every time I give blood, and it’s hard to get rid of them. Of course, now that everyone is watching the Colbert Report, eagles and flags are in vogue again.

  47. I hope this is a reminder of why people should not equate Republicans or conservatives with Libertarians.

    For those who said, “Ugh…I now have to side with ‘the blue,'” no you don’t. You’re on the side of freedom. Sometimes the Democrats get it right; sometimes the Republicans do.

    With that said, remember that when it comes to social liberty, the Democrats are usually on our side.

  48. This isn’t meant as a defense of the 66 assholes who voted for the amendment, but I would like to think that they wouldn’t have gotten 66 if a few of them had thought there was a realistic chance of getting 67.

    Maybe that’s too optimistic.

  49. Boy howdy. I guess this means that for the time being I don’t have to pucker up and kiss the flag.

  50. This is one of the very few issues where my opinion has not changed one bit since I was a young adult (late 80’s). IMO – as long as it is legal to burn the flag, people who burn the flag seem fairly marginalized, ignored, and generally disrespected. If burning the flag becomes illegal, all that falls apart – it becomes counterculture, genuinely risky, and maybe even hip to light one up. At that point, burning it may be nothing more than an expression of the desire to have the right to burn the flag, rather than any hatred for the United States or its other policies.

  51. The above comment makes a point that is very rarely mentioned – the amendment would make martyrs/heroes of people who are now barely noticed except by those wishing for material for their “patriotic” diatribes. I have a similar reason for opposing “hate crime laws,” in addition to the obvious illegality of punishing a motive rather than an act. Besides, isn’t it illegal, at least in most jurisdictions, to start fires in public without a permit? I say, make them get permits, and they’ll be less likely to burn the flag (which is certainly a very rude thing to do, but should not for that reason be illegal of itself). If they dont get permits, issue citations for the actual, legal, infraction, and they will look silly, not noble.

  52. Maybe the FBI will give me some combat boots and a digital camera if I promise to burn a flag…

    Comment by: thoreau at June 27, 2006 09:44 AM

    Best. Comment. Ever.

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