Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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In honor of Flag Day....

The Senate is going to vote today on a flag-burning amendment, an act that even the conservative base knows is meaningless. Seriously, is this really a problem in this country? Utah Senator Bob Bennett points out the obvious: "The only time there's any significant amount of flag burning is when the flag amendment is introduced and people go out and burn flags in opposition to the amendment."

If you must think about this kind of nonsense, go read this Julian Sanchez post about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning. And then try to think of an even sillier amendment to the Constitution and post it in the comments.

UPDATE: Thanks to the reader who linked to this John Scalzi post from last year on this very topic.

posted by Dan on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM


Burn, Baby, burn. Seriously, I think this will conflict with the first amendment freedom of speech protection.

What will the Supreme Court say about this then? Guess it depends on who is sitting at the time.

I dropped out of the American Legion this year because they are supporting the amendment.

And I swear I'll go to Canada to burn one if it every passes and is ratified.

I have a nice picture of our flag flying on my blog today.

Hang in there!

posted by: Jim on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

Perhaps one of the simplest and most convincing arguments I've ever seen against a flag-burning amendment is given by Jon Scalzi here:

posted by: Shane on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

There is no conflict with the 1st amendment. The later amendment overwrites the 1st amendment. I guess if they wanted to be extra careful, they could put in a clause saying -- Congress has the power to regulate desecration of the flag notwithstanding any provisions of the First Amendment, but that would make it too obvious that the two may be in conflict.

posted by: erg on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

Oh yeah - the money quote:

"Red, white and blue? Check. 13 stripes? Check. 50 stars? Check. Well, then it must be an Americ-- hey. Wait a minute. Isn't that the Hamburgler in the bottom right corner? I may not know much, but I do know that the great Flag of the United States of America does not feature a second-tier corporate mascot, especially one with acknowledged -- indeed, celebrated -- criminal tendencies. This is not the American flag. Let's soak it in gasoline and roast weenies!

Now, aside from not being the flag of the United States of America, what else do these last six objects have in common? Well, what they have in common is that each and every one of them would fail what I like to call the "VFW Test," which is conducted like so:

1. Go to your local VFW hall on the 4th of July.
2. Burn the flag-like object in the parking lot.
3. See if you don't get your ass kicked. "

Hamburgler. Say it a few times out loud. You don't even have to be high.

posted by: mickslam on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

I do not have a law degree but I do know grammar. "Speech" means "the spoken word" - what it meant to the authors of the First Amendment, and what it means to most English-speaking peoples who ever existed on Earth. The First Amendment does not protect "expression." Any outward action is expression, from buying a lady a drink to blowing up a federal building. The First Amendment protects only a few subsets of expression.

That said, the flag burning amendment (FBA) is a bad idea. First, the Constitution should restrict government, not citizens; legislation is the proper vehicle for restraining private activity.

Second, such an amendment sets a dangerous precedent: if the flag can't be desecrated, what else will be afforded such protection? Will backers of the "freedom of expression" fallacy interpret the coexistence of the First Amendment and the FBA to mean that the former does not protect desecratory speech/expression, equating desecration with yelling "fire" in a theater? If a future Supreme Court ever makes such a ruling, well, there goes the blogosphere.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

Proposed ammendment. It is illegal to disrespect the office or the individual of the president of the united states.

In particular, calling him President Coco Bananas is punishable by death, by SNOO-SNOO!

posted by: Nicholas Weaver on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

Proposed Amendment:

Before anyone can take a drink of their alcoholic beverage, they must take the invisible little green man off of their can/bottle/glass. After completing their drink, they must put him back. Those who do not do so must take 5 drinks.

posted by: Jake on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

I believe that during the 'Day without an Immigrant' protests, some counter-protestors were arrested for burning a Mexican flag. I believe that there is a Wash. D.C. law banning burning of foreign flags within X yards of the respective embassy. I believe that certain juristictions have tried to ban kids from wearing American flags to school during the recent contratemps over immigration.

The point is not that the FBA is a good idea. The point is there seems to be a strange inversion of the concern over free expression. One should be free to express disdain for this country, but libertarians and liberals show no interest in defending spontaneous, non-government driven expressions of national solidarity (wearing an American flag to school) or criticism of another country or those from another country (embassy flag burning, burning the Mexican flag). But surely these later actions are expressions which carry political content, and thus need to be defended. In today's climate, they probably need more defending than burning Old Glory does.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

So... the deaf have no First Amendment rights, and we can outlaw seditious signing? Awesome. (Ditto, I guess, actually *acting out* a satirical play, as opposed to merely reciting lines.) Seriously, I'm all for a pretty literal reading of the Constitution, but not when it makes a hash of the clear purpose of the relevant provision. Next up: The Second Amendment guarantees that citizens may possess ursine limbs.

posted by: Julian Sanchez on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

I think Alan's second paragraph makes a good point.

I also think "mickslam" makes a good argument against the amendment. This issue is, in the end, about banning an offensive act. And, even if that were consistent with the American tradition, it would be terribly difficult to write into law. Mickslam is correct that something silly like the "VFW test" would be necessary to express the intent of the FBA, and he provides a persuasive illustration of the folly of this type of law.

posted by: Andrew Steele on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

Sillier constitutional amendment?

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a terrible crime agains the unborn. We need a constitutional amendment that any woman caught drinking alcohol while pregnant must be confined for the remainder of her term, and if someone is convicted of selling or giving her the alcohol they must receive the same penalty.

Also, women who are known or suspected of being fertile must have monthly public pregnancy tests by their public health department. And pregnant women must all wear a big red P to warn the public not to permit them alcohol.

posted by: J Thomas on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

I think that Congress would dearly love to pass an amendment that stated no one could ever make fun of members of Congress.

Mind you, I'm doubting that it would muster the two-thirds vote of the states to pass.

posted by: Meryl Yourish on 06.14.06 at 04:19 PM [permalink]

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