Senate to vote on flag burning

Later this week, the Senate will vote on a Constitutional Amendment that would ban the desecration of the American flag, a nefarious act of unequivocal disrespect that the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4 in 1990, to protect under the First Amendment.

With the bill passing effortlessly in the House last year, 286-130, according to the Associated Press, the amendment is only a single vote away from acquiring the required 67 Senate votes.

But the question remains: should desecrating the flag be illegal, or is it protected expression?

The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justice John Stevens, delivered eloquent dissenting opinions in 1990 regarding flag desecration. They argued:

The creation of a federal right to post bulletin boards and graffiti on the Washington Monument might enlarge the market for free expression, but at a cost I would not pay. Similarly, in my considered judgment, sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value -- both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it.... The Court is quite wrong in blandly asserting that respondent "was prosecuted for his expression of dissatisfaction with the policies of this country, expression situated at the core of our First Amendment values." Respondent was prosecuted because of the method he chose to express his dissatisfaction with those policies. Had he chosen to spray-paint -- or perhaps convey with a motion picture projector -- his message of dissatisfaction on the facade of the Lincoln Memorial, there would be no question about the power of the Government to prohibit his means of expression. The prohibition would be supported by the legitimate interest in preserving the quality of an important national asset.

Far from being a case of "one picture being worth a thousand words," flag burning is the equivalent of an inarticulate grunt or roar that, it seems fair to say, is most likely to be indulged in not to express any particular idea, but to antagonize others. Only five years ago we said that "the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to employ every conceivable method of communication at all times and in all places." The Texas statute deprived Johnson of only one rather inarticulate symbolic form of protest -- a form of protest that was profoundly offensive to many -- and left him with a full panoply of other symbols and every conceivable form of verbal expression to express his deep disapproval of national policy. Thus, in no way can it be said that Texas is punishing him because his hearers -- or any other group of people -- were profoundly opposed to the message that he sought to convey. Such opposition is no proper basis for restricting speech or expression under the First Amendment. It was Johnson's use of this particular symbol, and not the idea that he sought to convey by it or by his many other expressions, for which he was punished. (Rehnquist)

Surely one of the high purposes of a democratic society is to legislate against conduct that is regarded as evil and profoundly offensive to the majority of people -- whether it be murder, embezzlement, pollution, or flag burning. (Rehnquist)

The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach. If those ideas are worth fighting for -- and our history demonstrates that they are -- it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration. I respectfully dissent. (Stevens)

The graffiti analogy that Stevens convincingly characterized tipped the scale for me. When gangs deface buildings with spray-paint, smearing their often hateful rhetoric across the respected façade, not only are their actions condemned, their actions are deemed illegal by society. Likewise, when deranged invalids burn the cherished flag, they are vandalizing an “important national asset” and society has a “legitimate interest in preserving the quality” of that asset.

Thus, desecrating the American flag is illegal.

Posted by Alex Fitzsimmons at June 27, 2006 2:08 PM
Comment #162323

The real desecration of the flag isn’t done on the streets or protest rallies. It is done behind closed doors, when lobbyists write laws to enable their industries’ thefts and the ability to ignore environmental and anti-trust laws, when corporations evade tax law and outsource millions of production jobs overseas to make shareholders happy, when billions of dollars meant for construction and rebuilding of Iraq “disappear”, when a president ignores the rule of law and the seperation of powers by shabby signing statements that avoid veto overrides, when agencies of the government refuse to make transparent policies and decisions that affect millions of citizens, when prisoners are tortured and held without access to legal representation or loved ones, when treaties and solemn pledges to abide by international law are considered “quaint” and are broken without remorse or conscience, when voting security is scoffed at, and egregious malfesance and chicanery are shrugged off as “business as usual”, where lawfully elected heads-of-state are harrassed, smeared, belittled and threatened, and even attempts to over-throw legally elected governments are conducted, when governmental policies consistantly and overtly favor the powerful, the extremely wealthy and the corporations over the middle class, the poor and the weak, where industry monies and lobbying consistantly overrule the voices of the many in demanding universal and affordable health care (health care that evey other industrialized nation has)—a shining example of the failure of “market forces” which are making a shambles of health care in this country,making it the most expensive and poorly run among industrialized countries, cutting aid to the poor, to student loan programs and food stamp programs while vorciferously yelling for banishment of the estate tax, again helping the wealthiest of the wealthy and robbing the national treasury of a trillion dollars over the next ten years, the criminal and astonishing lack of any financial restraints that create an additional 2.5 tillion dollars to the national debt in a little over five years, the cynical blocking of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so as to continue Jim Crowism in the critical South, the real Right Wing of the GOP, starting a criminal war in Iraq with flimsy, fabricated reasons that have killed tens of thousands, left hundreds of thousands scarred and bereft of the basic necessities of life, left 20,000 Americans wounded both physically and psychologically while cutting funding for the Veteran’s Administration….

The flag is only as respected and honored as the policies that it represents, as the truth that it seeks and upholds, as the laws it supports and obeys, as a member-in-good-standing with the civilized nations of the world.

This government, this country has multilated, underminded and sneered at international law, it’s own internal laws, threatened patriotic dissent and whistleblowers and courageous others who have dared to point out the mendacity of our government.

I think flags ought to be burned everyday, until the end of time, or until this government is overthrown and a real democratic government is installed.

The flag has become a rag that oils the corporatocracy that has made what it used to stand for a mockery.

Posted by: Tim Crow at June 27, 2006 3:07 PM
Comment #162327

Question: are you allowed to write on a flag under the Hatch amendment?

Posted by: William Cohen at June 27, 2006 3:12 PM
Comment #162330

Comparing a flag that I can buy at most grocery stores for $.99 to the Washington Monument is a stretch.

How weak do you people think America is that burning a symbol will actually have a negative effect?

Posted by: David S at June 27, 2006 3:23 PM
Comment #162334

Maybe its not about weakening America David S. Maybe its about love of country.

Posted by: kctim at June 27, 2006 3:28 PM
Comment #162337

That wedge is sooo, how do I say this, 1995!

Duh, arrre they gunna’ ban it in the middle east and South America too??? Maybe go to Tehran, Venezuela or Palestine and take all those evil doers into custody and chuck ‘em in an east Texas slammer??? It’s like a pinhead think tank going on over there huh?

Let me make one thing clear: American liberals DO NOT burn flags! Alex this issue makes the Republicans verifiable whores—just admit that, seriously it is your American duty—Republicans are a buncha’ wedge-dividin’ whore bitches. Who knows maybe John Ashcroft or Orrin Hatch will sing once this useless piece of legislation is passed, like stupid whore bitches.

Apparently the Republicans have nothing better to do or maybe don’t have the brains to know what they should be doing at all—that dumb-ass piece of legislation is the tax-payers dime too.

Must you be such whores all the time?—that is pure pandering to trailerpark Jerry springer guest nairdewells with names like Skeeter and Lolita.

Liberals do not burn flags pure and simple so who is this legislature for? Dumb hicks to rant and rave about—that’s who.

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 3:32 PM
Comment #162338

Shooting further holes in the “grafitti” analogies, the issue there is not freedom of speech but destruction of property. If I own a building I can spray paint it if I want to, or allow grafitti artists to spray paint it. If I own a piece of cloth, regardless of what it means to you, I should be able to do as I wish with it. And where would the limitations of “desecration” fall? What about using the flag in advertisements? That could be viewed as desecration. Does the American flag really belong on a can of Coke? Is it right for Coca-Cola to use the flag to further their own fortunes? Is this what our soldiers died for? What about using the flag in political ads? Can a candidate use the image of the flag to further their cause, even though some may see their use of the flag as questionable? Who determines when burning a flag is OK? When I was in boy Scouts, we had a flag burning every month for flags that were old and frayed, or had touched the ground, as is customary. Would the Boy Scouts need to have Federal oversight when they held these ceremonies? There are so many holes in this thing it can never hold water.

Posted by: David S at June 27, 2006 3:33 PM
Comment #162340

America and its flag have survived 230 years without the benefit of an amendment prohibiting desecration of the flag. Those who take this dim view of America’s ability to persist in the face of its internal critics have far to little faith in America itself.

We pledge allegiance to a flag in our classroom and to the Republic for which it stands. America is a country built on free speech, not on the excessive idolization of the symbols used in that speech. If some guy wants to burn, tread, take a crap or a wizz on it, or fly it ragged and in the rain, that’s their problem, and I’m glad to report most Americans don’t have that problem.

It’s not worth marring the constitution with the first explicit limitation on free speech in its entire history just to impose our positive view of America and the flag on people who likely will not have their minds changed by this proposed Amendment or any law the federal government or states put on the books.

I tell you, some conservatives treat this country like a china plate, for which free speech and open, vigorous debate are just too much jostling around.

Let me inform you folks of something: this country is strong, and it remains strong. What protects the flag is the honor people pay the principles behind it, and one of those principles is that nobody is forced to their love of this country.

It’s funny, that unlike so many other countries where flagburning might get you shot or imprisoned, people in this country freely maintain a love for it that knows no limits.

Unfortunately, some feel that patriotism is a competition, rather than a state of mind, blind faith in a government or a party, rather than a simple love for the place one calls home.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 27, 2006 3:34 PM
Comment #162341


That made no sense. You cannot legislate thought. What is the point of this ammendment? There is none. It is election year politics at its worst.


You made even less sense than kctim.

Posted by: David S at June 27, 2006 3:36 PM
Comment #162343

Wow, Tim Crow! That was a terrific rant. I enjoyed reading it, and I agree with you 100%!

William, indeed. Bush seems very fond of flag desecration — but as we should all realize by now, our modern day King George sets himself well above any laws, exactly like the eighteenth century version did.

Posted by: Adrienne at June 27, 2006 3:41 PM
Comment #162347

David S.
“That made no sense. You cannot legislate thought. What is the point of this ammendment? There is none. It is election year politics at its worst”

Who said anything about legislating thought? I was simply saying maybe its not that those who support an amendment think burning a flag “weakens” America, but maybe they are for an amendment as such because they love their country.
I know its 2006, but there are some people who still love their country no matter what and no matter which party is in power.

And I do agree that it is nothing more than election year politics. Ranks right up there with all the blame Bush for everything rhetoric.

Posted by: kctim at June 27, 2006 3:53 PM
Comment #162353

Sorry david S, not blunt enough for you as far as what they are using this for. It’s whoring themselves out for November to reenvigorate that base—want me to draw you a diagram?

Okay hockey helmet, they had a rift earlier this year and a good portion of last year with the illegal alien amnesty thing—maybe you heard about it. Okay the Republicans are split so they are using legislation like this to pull it back together being that it is a “trusty” issue to do that—they hope.

Clear enough?

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 4:02 PM
Comment #162354

Supreme Court decisions become law according to the majority opinion, not the minority. You can’t pick and choose, though a lawyer might be able to appeal to principle brought up in other opinions. Rehnquist was on the minority end of things. Therefore, you’re wrong.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 27, 2006 4:06 PM
Comment #162360

What’s worse…burning the flag or killing our children in an illegal war???

Posted by: Lynne at June 27, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #162362

Saying and or claiming flag burning as a form of “speech” is both sad and infantile. When a man, in the course of debate, begins to lose an argument, he has two options:

a) admit his position as not well defended and promise to renew the debate with fresh insight or new evidence.

b) stamp his feet like a child and demand attention to his faulty arguments by acting out.

Flag burning is an intellectual cowards way out of real debate, arguing facts vs feelings. If America is becoming something that you as an individual want changed, engage yourself in the political process, write letters, lobby, get signatures, VOTE. To burn the flag for attention to your stance on an issue shows to me a lack of intelligence, lack of debating skills and a profound lack of understanding as to the history of the flag and it’s relationship to our country. If lighting something on fire is all you have as a motivating factor in your argument your best bet is as a Vegas Club showman, not a serious political debater.

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 4:15 PM
Comment #162364


“Let me make one thing clear: American liberals DO NOT burn flags!”

Just who do you think burns flags?
I’ve never seen flag burning at VFW halls or American Legion halls. I’ve never seen a flag being burned at any consevative political rally.
The only people I’ve ever known to desecrate the flag or threaten to (see the blew column) have been liberals.
I didn’t check his voter registration card but I’m pretty sure the pathetic turd who made the mistake of spitting on a flag in front of me in 1983 didn’t vote for Reagan.

Posted by: traveller at June 27, 2006 4:16 PM
Comment #162368

i think that the supreme court should make flag bunning illgeal. sure i believe in free speech but burning the flag what does that accomplish notthing it is wrong and un-american to a symbol that our forefathers fuaght for. the flag shows us the freedom we have and what our forefathers and everyone else who fuaght those wars has given us i am not here to bash anyone or say anything to offend anyone. I just simply think why should we have the right to burn something that means everything to this country we have the flag to remeber how we made this country and how hard it was for our forefathers to gain our independance from england. so yes i really want flag burning to become illegal.

Posted by: tyler at June 27, 2006 4:20 PM
Comment #162372
Saying and or claiming flag burning as a form of “speech” is both sad and infantile.

Remember, this is the same country whose Supreme Court said that money is equated with free speech…

Posted by: Lynne at June 27, 2006 4:21 PM
Comment #162374
If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved….

Texas’ focus on the precise nature of Johnson’s expression, moreover, misses the point of our prior decisions: their enduring lesson, that the government may not prohibit expression simply because it disagrees with its message, is not dependent on the particular mode in which one chooses to express an idea.

This proviso, we held, … cannot survive in a country which has the First Amendment.”

To conclude that the government may permit designated symbols to be used to communicate only a limited set of messages would be to enter territory having no discernible or defensible boundaries.

We decline, therefore, to create for the flag an exception to the joust of principles protected by the First Amendment

We are tempted to say, in fact, that the flag’s deservedly cherished place in our community will be strengthened, not weakened, by our holding today. Our decision is a reaffirmation of the principles of freedom and inclusiveness that the flag best reflects,

We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one’s own, no better way to counter a flag burner’s message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by — as one witness here did — according its remains a respectful burial. We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.

For an argument against this amendment, I think Justice Brennan said it best in his majority opinion.

Posted by: Cube at June 27, 2006 4:26 PM
Comment #162376

I like Renquists exaggerations “..Flag burning is the equivalent of an inarticulate grunt or roar that, it seems fair to say, is most likely to be indulged in not to express any particular idea, but to antagonize others.”

Yeah right they all showed up on their lunchbreaks, no there’s a planned protest of some sort going on. Hence it is a rally based on an IDEA, hence that flag is part of some level of symbolism—EXPRESSING A PARTICULAR IDEA. And furthermore nobody does it.

I can’t remember the last time someone burned an American flag in some form of protest.

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 4:28 PM
Comment #162378

Burning the American flag is a mockery and treason to this nation. Violators must pay!

Posted by: stubborn conservative at June 27, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #162380

Burn the flag… don’t burn the flag… I don’t care.

It’s an infantile action designed to create an angry reaction.

Use your freedom of speech… real words… in a productive manner to debate what has you upset.

Just make sure those words have real meaning… unlike most of the anti-Bush rants this blog attracts.

That’s how you win a debate… and elections.

The American people know this…

But, its a truism libs/dems seem to have forgotten.

Posted by: Right-of-Way at June 27, 2006 4:33 PM
Comment #162382

For those who prefer that we do not protect the American flag with an amendment to the Constitution, I suggest that you get the laws changed to make it legal to kill an American Eagle. They are both national symbols that represent the greatness of this glorious and great United States of America. Of course, I would expect those same people to remove “In God We Trust” from buildings, money and any other symbol of this country and her glory.

Posted by: tomh at June 27, 2006 4:41 PM
Comment #162383

“I can’t remember the last time someone burned an American flag in some form of protest.”

The rent-a-mob does it at every anti globalization protest. It happens at some anti war protests.
I’ll bet they’re all liberals, too.

I disagree with the leftist Brennan and concur with Rehnquists’ and Stevens’ dissents.

Posted by: traveller at June 27, 2006 4:41 PM
Comment #162384


EXACTLY! Does anyone really believe that the writers of the Constitution held the idea that a physical action, or a financial action was considered speech? They were concerned about King George breaking up their coffee house meetings, imprisoning those who desented via their oratory, those showing much prowess in their ability to argue their position so emphatically with the pen. If the physical act of burning a flag is speech, so is streaking, so is smashing the windows of a government building, (a building my tax dollars pay for), as a protest - as speech. The whole idea is sorry. If you are at a loss for words, find someone of a like mind whose intelligence you trust to make the case for you, don’t use burning or destruction of symbols as your debate. It smacks of desperation and ignorance.

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #162385

When the Founding Fathers enshrined free speech they made no provision that it be intelligent or effective speech. Whether it’s a dumb act of intellectual cowardice or a brazen brilliant eloquent act of defiance to the powers that be is irrelevant to whether it’s protected as free speech. Personally it’s crass to burn a flag, but I have negative opinions of other opinions I have no wish to surpress, regardless.

Should I ascribe to you the beliefs of a militia man in the west who believes that violent overthrow of the federal government is necessary, or should ask you your opinion instead?

The flag is only a symbol for what means everything to this country. Our values will not collapse into ashes with the fabric that this burnt. We have no need to self-inflict this kind of amendment on this country to preserve its values.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 27, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #162387

OK, but since this is a political issue now, and I want to make a clear statement on how I feel about the political process, isn’t burning the flag political speech - and political speech has the most protection of any.

This is a stupid argument to be having, but it seems to be supported lock, stock and barrel by those who I completely expected to be goose stepping into the thick of things.

burn a flag, piss on a cross: if you feel that either can actually do harm to your beliefs or your religion and/or government - you need some serious adjustment in your self confidence… You need to dig a little deeper in support of your convictions.

Posted by: tony at June 27, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #162389

“I’ve never seen a flag burning at VFW halls or American legion halls.”

That’s great I’ve never seen a flag burning at a protest. This whole thing is to rally up a splintered base after illegal Alien Amnesty. All the while a Cana-mex highway is going smackdab through the heartland. Just can’t stop that Bush.

(Which hurts American growers to have Mexican produce coming into the US to be sold nationally—why don’t the Republicans work to stop that instead?)

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 4:50 PM
Comment #162390

That great leftest Brennan, was appointed to the Bench, by the great leftest president,

Posted by: Cube at June 27, 2006 4:51 PM
Comment #162391

Okay here is my thought on this. I have been a strong supporter for years for a anti flag burning amendment. I have changed my mind now.

This is why. I do not see many flag burnings any more. I know it use to frequently but if we pass a ban on flag burning then people are going to do it more and more. Just to make a point that the government cant stop them. That point is true. We will give a rallying cry for liberals to use in the election. They will be able to rally the faithful behind a topic that they can unify on.

They need to have a topic they can unify on since currently they do not have one. They are not able to win elections without some form of unity. No one agrees on everything but a party needs to have some agreement to be effective.

I do not wish this to be that unifying issue for democrats.

Posted by: Randall Jeremiah at June 27, 2006 4:58 PM
Comment #162400
Supreme Court decisions become law according to the majority opinion, not the minority. You can’t pick and choose, though a lawyer might be able to appeal to principle brought up in other opinions. Rehnquist was on the minority end of things. Therefore, you’re wrong.


The great part of debating is that nobody’s “wrong”. It is in the eye of the beholder. The law says I’m wrong, but that’s why we challenge laws, because we think they are wrong.

David S:

The idea behind the spray-paint anology is that if someone destroys someone else’s property, they can be held criminally responsible. Sure, one individual might not care if someone desecrates (ie, physically destroys) his property, but the government does, and society does…and the flag is government property, society’s property.

Posted by: Alex Fitzsimmons at June 27, 2006 5:10 PM
Comment #162401

Tony said:

This is a stupid argument to be having, but it seems to be supported lock, stock and barrel by those who I completely expected to be goose stepping into the thick of things.
(emphasis added)

Right-of-Way responds:

I just love the way libs “debate”…

Call an issue “stupid”… then label those opposed to your view Nazis.

Way to go, Tony. Howard Dean must be so proud of you!

Posted by: Right-of-Way at June 27, 2006 5:10 PM
Comment #162406

In keeping with the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” I am would like to state that I am fully in favor of the Bluebird of Happiness as our national symbol of Happiness. Furthermore, I insist upon a constitutional amendment protecting this national symbol of happiness.

You are in favor of happiness, are you not? Ok, then. That is what I thought.

There are some evil people- and I am not pointing any fingers, but we all know who “some” refers to- and they treat bluebirds abominably. They are worse than traitors- they are the proverbial “Debbie Downers” of our national geist. Some people say these horrible “Debbies” catch bluebirds in netting made from the American Flag, which they proceed to fricassee over a hot flame.

It will come as no surprise that these people call bluebirds roasted in American Flags
“French Flies.”

Let us protect our national symbol of Happiness with a constitutional amendment.

Posted by: phx8 at June 27, 2006 5:17 PM
Comment #162408

We all have the right to express our feelings. But burning our national Flag is a disgrace. The Pledge of Allegance is to our flag which represents this Nation. If people don’t like the political process in this Country, write your representatives voice your opinion to them. Don’t desecrate what I fought to protect and millions of others fought to protect. If you don’t like it here LEAVE.

Posted by: Richard at June 27, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #162410

I see graffiti on the Washington Monument as different from flag burning. The reason is location and ownership. One cannot legally deface public property, but one can write graffiti all over their own home, if they so choose.

Likewise, one cannot legally burn a flag that was, say, on a flag pole outside a public school, but if they buy their own flag, that would be private property.

Those who burn the flag do so, as Rehnquist eloquently said, with “an inarticulate grunt”. It says much about their inability to properly articulate their thoughts that they must resort to a sad, tiny-fisted cliche of a tirade. Would that they could put some of their angst and energy towards something fruitful, instead of the empty meaningless whine that flag burning is.

I’d agree that the issue is one of politics. In that spirit, let them decide quickly on the issue and move forward to the more pressing issues. If they vote for or against the flag burning amendment, I don’t particularly care—I only hope they do so with haste.

Posted by: jeobagodonuts at June 27, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #162409

No one has greater respect for the flag than the person who chooses to burn it. To the flag burner, the flag is a symbol. The flag has meaning. The flag is the embodiment of freedoms, liberties, and equality. To the flag burner, nothing better represents the things they are fighting for than the flag. Flag burners should be applauded for their love of country and their love of the things that have come to symbolize it.

They are the heroes and patriots—not the dime-store flag wavers to whom the flag means nothing more than rah rah bring on the fireworks.

Those returning vets who see the flag as a symbol of something they risked their lives for should salute the patriots who are willing to fight in their own way for the freedoms that our troops have defended with their lives.

Posted by: Stan at June 27, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #162411


Dumb acts are not speech. When the debate raged in America about declaring independence the main arguments laid down for & against came out in the federalist papers and the anti-federalist papers. Communicating an ideal or issue intelligently is the hallmark of a civilized society. The founding fathers enumerated no laws against dumb acts, truly stated, but to develope the role of government in our lives, to enumerate the tremendous freedoms we have as Americans they used intellect, writings of clarity and wisdom and spoke the words that changed the world. George Washington, Patrick Henry, the Lincoln Douglas debates, the Gettysburg address, JFK’s inaugural address - this is the speech envisioned by our founders. Cheap theatrics, insightment, are these the elements of leadership or judgement that any group would chose as it’s statement to the people? Many things are not clearly stated within the constitution, abortion?, yet someone somehow finds them there. Speech is speech, theatrics are theatrics and to protect someone who is insulting the symbol of our nation and it’s citizen soldiers who paid the price in blood, is at the very least degrading to their memory and our heritage and at worst, I hope, illegal.

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 5:19 PM
Comment #162415
The only people Ive ever known to desecrate the flag or threaten to (see the blew column) have been liberals.

How about Tim McVeigh? Surely there was a flag or two in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Posted by: Woody Mena at June 27, 2006 5:25 PM
Comment #162416

It’s a piece of died cloth for Pete’s sake, sold for profit. The cloth is worth a few bucks to perhaps a few hundred. Burn it, keep warm with it, make clothes out of it, Whatever. Doing so cannot injure what the piece of cloth stands for. Only Americans attitudes and failed observance and protection of the principles of our Constitution can injure what Old Glory represents.

And we appear to be doing a pretty good job of injuring it too, while wasting time and money fighting freedom of speech, protest, assembly, and the press.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 27, 2006 5:29 PM
Comment #162417

The issue with banning flag burning is that there is fundamental logic flaw, which is: a flag is signifier. Its a metaphor. You cant control what I do with my metaphors. The Washington Monument is a building. There’s only one of it. The only way Stevens argument works is if one were to say - not only cant you write on the monument - you cant write on a model of the monument, or a photo of the monument, or a drawing of the monument. Because a flag is all of these things. If I take a slip of paper, draw a blue rectangle and red and white lines, it becomes a flag. If I take a picture of a flag - that photo is a flag. The artist Jasper Johns plays with this notion all the time in his paints. One of the more famous ones is - thats right - a painting of a flag. Or is it a flag? Or a painting of America? A flag is a symbol - nothing more.

Posted by: justin at June 27, 2006 5:31 PM
Comment #162421

As usual, some good, thoughtful points here, and some less so … I wanted to respond to some original points of the post, and just a few made later. With all due respect to Chief Justice Rehnquist and his memory, I disagree with his premise that,
“Surely one of the high purposes of a democratic society is to legislate against conduct that is regarded as evil and profoundly offensive to the majority of people — whether it be murder, embezzlement, pollution, or flag burning.”
I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that it is the duty, or right, of democratic government to legislate morality and/or determine what is evil for its citizenry. The legal prohibition of murder, rape, burglary, etc. is not based on morality, even if a majority of people would call these things ‘evil’, but on the practical understanding that they encroach on the civil rights of others. I maintain that we do not have an inalienable right not to be offended by the beliefs and actions of others, no matter the majority or minority of those offended.
I do agree that such forms of political speech and protest may be largely unproductive—the equivalent of a grunt or roar—but so, in my humble opinion, is most of what I read on these blogs on a daily basis. If the government has the right to deem which methods and political arguments are the most reasonable and well thought out, and then disallow those that amount to nothing more than chest-thumping or inarticulate rambling, I’m afraid that many of us will be in violation of the constitution. I, for one, do not disparage those who believe so strongly in this amendment, however, I as vehemently maintain that I cannot see any defense of it that is actually founded in the constitutional principles upon which our country continues to evolve.

Posted by: checking in at June 27, 2006 5:35 PM
Comment #162422

JR, what a verbose way of saying you want to silence those who disagree with you. Keep it simple. Keep it brief. Just come and say you want to criminalize speech that doesn’t agree with yours, and jail those who would criticize your party, its leaders, and our nation’s errors and wrongs.

If our nation were communist and socialist through and through under an American flag and you’d been born and raised under that system, I suspect you would still attempt to silence those who disagreed with the leaders of your nation.

I understand. It is a common human trait which our founding fathers attempted to protect our nation’s future from, with the First Amendment.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 27, 2006 5:38 PM
Comment #162424


I never thought of it that way…
And I will never think of it that way…

A person who burns the flag in protest has respect for the flag? hardly…(show me a picture of that, would you?)

However, disposition of a worn flag is done by burning in a solemn ceremony…not quite the same…

Posted by: discerner at June 27, 2006 5:43 PM
Comment #162426

Randall Jeremiah,

“They (Democrats) need an issue they can unify on.”

Which is precisely why republicans are dredging this issue up—to regain the republicans they lost this year and last. Could Dems use it? I don’t know if these are the years to use it in. I mean we have Howard Dean paying some form of homage to US soldiers (however awkward looking or sounding) I suspect they won’t use it if it doesn’t pass, not officially anyway, it will just roll around the blogosphere. At best from the DNC, a feeble republican attempt to consolidate a base will be made note of on a stump somewhere.

I also think they may actually pass it this time, which is a consideration, as a form of Abramoff and illegal amnesty cleanser, maybe, being that those 2 are big stains pushing things to the hilt. Will that be a Democratic hot button? We’ll see, I’ve been wrong about the Dems before.

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #162427

Brilliantly said David. You forgot to mention that the piece of cloth was probably made in China, where the workers had not the slightest idea of what it was intended to symbolize.

I had a small paper sticker the other day that very much resembled a flag. I paid our government 39 cents for it. I stuck it on the outside of an envelope. A government worker then put it through a machine and mangled it. There they stamped black ink all over it. How many people along the way showed that little sticker any respect? Had the envelope been heavier, someone would have probably covered the sticker with a note saying postage due.

Posted by: Stan at June 27, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #162428

Richard said: “Don’t desecrate what I fought to protect and millions of others fought to protect.”

Well I consider fighting for a the profits of some flag maker a pretty thin cause. I enlisted in the Army in 1972 to get the GI Bill and save American lives, and defend the Constitution INCLUDING the First Amendment.

And you fought for a piece of died cloth? Hmm… I think the First Amendment is a much more worthy item to fight for, myself.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 27, 2006 5:47 PM
Comment #162429

David R,

I think JR is really asking a rhetorical question.

Is nothing sacred?

Things used to be, but not anymore.


I Wonder…

Posted by: Cliff at June 27, 2006 5:48 PM
Comment #162433

Cliff, I consider the First Amendment sacred. Does that count?

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 27, 2006 5:52 PM
Comment #162434
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: Cube at June 27, 2006 5:56 PM
Comment #162435

“Way to go, Tony. Howard Dean must be so proud of you!”


Posted by: tony at June 27, 2006 5:57 PM
Comment #162437

Oh, I wanted to respond to JR, too. If you want to discuss intellectual honesty and serious political debate, I’d like to hear your justification of equating throwing a brick through an office window and burning an inanimate object in a (let’s presume for our purposes) safely contained space. Furthermore, it seems to be you doing the foot stomping and name-calling you would accuse flag-burners of. I cannot speak for others who oppose this amendment, but I’d imagine, like me, they do not necessarily agree with the practice, nor do they engage (or wish to) in it themselves. This debate is not about the merits of the political or social message of those who would do it, but whether they have the right to do it; I would argue that they do. And do you really believe that every argument or debate or vote, whether in the corner tavern or on the Senate floor, is decided solely on the basis of reason and understanding, on dispassionate, considered debate? Have not some of our favorite presidents and statesmen (not to mention other cultural icons), perhaps even some of your favorites (based on your self-proclaimed reliance on a profound understanding of our nation’s history) been little more than “Vegas Club Showmen”?

Posted by: checking in at June 27, 2006 6:00 PM
Comment #162438


I’ve always viewed you as a smart democrat, usually with hard hitting and substantive facts in an eloquent not overly wordy debating style that really reflects well the mainstream Democrats. But what the f*ck are you talking about?!! This is a debating tactic I have never seen before. Was the N.o.r.m.l. rally/weedfest today?

Blue birds? Debbie Downers?

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 6:02 PM
Comment #162439

Go ahead and burn as many flags as you libs want.

It only makes the average American mad and think you’re all nuttier than peanut butter.

Which is just where “The Great Satan” (aka Karl Rove) wants you. :-)

Posted by: Right-of-Way at June 27, 2006 6:02 PM
Comment #162454


Do you know how an American Legion hall retires a flag? They burn it. Should that be illegal too?

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 6:34 PM
Comment #162456

David R
I welcome any and all ethical, well thought out, reasoned and reasonable debate over any and all issues that face our country today. But, verbose?

So nothing means nothing, so long as we understand the difference between our rights to what? We have hate speech laws in place now, is that in the constitution? I would rather it be illegal to burn the flag then to hope some law enforcement official reads someones mind correctly before tacking on additional charges to a crime because someone thought it was hateful. Hate speech is hate speech, why? Is it because it offends someone? Does it incite like minded individuals to violence? Protests? Talk about your liberal double standard!

I say I don’t care for someones politics or stance on an issue, I comment vigorously - they cry hate speech - If that person and myself are of differing race or religion I can be arrested for a federal crime, my speech. Flag burners decry whatever element of America they despise and are covered by the blanket of the first amendment? Flag burning is hateful and offensive and can incite riots or worse. Passing an amendment that americans feel will protect their country from this type of hateful act should get the same understanding under the law as “hate speech”. Verbose indeed!

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 6:35 PM
Comment #162459

Wow, guys, why even argue this crap?

We have much more pressing issues such as the War in Iraq, War in Afganistan, and the the War on the tactic known as “Terrorism”. Not to mention we have a huge national debt, growing tensions in the Middle East, outsourcing, the gap between rich and poor getting larger, global warming, and of course there is the oil crisis.

Congress, White House, and the Supreme Court is doing a crappy job at “tackling the issues”; gay marriage and burning the good ol’ red white and blue aren’t a threat to America. There are much bigger fish to fry, not some useless topics such as flag burning.

Posted by: greenstuff at June 27, 2006 6:39 PM
Comment #162461

And if the American flag were flown by a repressive authoritarian government as we are becoming, would you still denounce those who would burn the flag as a statement of protest against that government, and draw public attention to that government?

What’s next, arresting Americans for flipping the bird at President Bush during a GOP Rally? That too would incite folks. See, it just snowballs …

On second thought, you probably don’t want to see. That’s fine. The point here is well made.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 27, 2006 6:48 PM
Comment #162462


This is the red column.

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 6:52 PM
Comment #162468

It’s all moot anyway. Senate defeated this bogus ammendment, just like Gay Marriage and Silver-Spoon Tax ammendments before it. Another few days wasted so Karl Rove can have some ammo.

Posted by: David S at June 27, 2006 7:05 PM
Comment #162474

Does anyone have a financial total for these past “toss-away” bills? (Gay Marriage, Flag Amendment, recent Tax amendment) How much did we as a country spend to have our Representatives arguing this crap?

Posted by: tony at June 27, 2006 7:12 PM
Comment #162476

checking in

I did no name calling or foot stomping. If a flag as a symbol of the country or government is o.k. for burning what is next? When I mentioned the building I was using the idea to point out the problem of saying one thing is o.k. without understanding that after a time one becomes two, three and on and on. Use the abilities you were born with and get involved in politics at every level, but to strike a match and burn a flag and claim free speech takes no effort at all, no input - good or bad in the process. Does the first amendment cover such actions? I believe no. I do know that the founders understood that for this country to endure it’s citizens needed to be engaged in the process. That’s why there is a such debate now and hopefully an amendment clarifying once and for all. What Presidents do you have in mind? What great law or constitutional protections do you believe came about while the founders ignored active debate and just stood in a circle and burned the British flag? Speech is what it is, physical actions are what they are. Burning is speech, so, what about a computer virus? - it’s a protest about the overreaching technology of the government, it this speech? I don’t want to guess what’s possible for those who claim first amendment protections for their actions instead of for their words.

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 7:15 PM
Comment #162478

Master why do they not argue more sensible issues?

Grasshopper, do not attempt to understand the mysterious inner workings of the Republican mind. It is a mystery covered in talkingpoints, wrapped in an empty beercan and shoved down the barrel of a howitzer. They do what they do because they think they would enjoy this country if they actually did get all the things they wanted.

Posted by: Grasshopper analysis at June 27, 2006 7:19 PM
Comment #162481


(I’ll ask you this question now)

Jr, do you know how American Legion halls retire a flag? They burn it. Should that be illegal too?

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 7:24 PM
Comment #162486


To respond to the question you asked JR, no they should not be prosecuted, so long as they are burning the flag out of ceremonial tradition and respect for the flag (ie, it was dropped).

You are trying to take an overtly unrelated circumstance and spin it to satisfy your argument…too bad it’s apples and oranges.

Posted by: Alex Fitzsimmons at June 27, 2006 7:37 PM
Comment #162496


They burn a retired flag because it is the traditional means of disposing of it. We retire flags with dignity and respect when they become worn, torn, faded, or badly soiled.

A flag ceases to be a flag when it is cut into pieces.

So we carefully cut and separate the 13 strips that represents the original 13 colonies, and the 50 stars to pay homage to the 50 states that together make up this great nation.

This service is done respectfully, most times in solemn silence, not to fire up a crowd of anti-american protesters who can’t put together a clear statement about their reasons for protesting, heck they just light a match and dance around in circles. Hurray for you all!

I wonder, could I get you guys on the left to fight as passionately for the 2nd amendment as you do for the 1st?

Didn’t think so.

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 7:55 PM
Comment #162498

“Should I ascribe to you the beliefs of a militia man in the west who believes that violent overthrow of the federal government is necessary, or should ask you your opinion instead?”

How is that question even relevant to this thread and what in my posts lead you to ask it?

Desecrating a symbol is not a show of respect. It is a show of hatred and contempt for what the symbol represents.

I recommend you read “The Politician” by Robert Welch.

“How about Tim McVeigh? Surely there was a flag or two in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.”

McVeigh was a misguided fool with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood and a neo pagan.
Like many Americans he was outraged by Clinton and Reno’s massacre.
He was stupid enough to murder innocent people in retaliation.
In his crime he undoubtedly destroyed American flags. That isn’t what this thread is about.

“Do you know how an American Legion hall retires a flag? They burn it. Should that be illegal too?”

Flags are retired in a ceremony where the flag is symbolically laid to rest with military honors.…&content=flag_ceremony

Posted by: traveller at June 27, 2006 8:00 PM
Comment #162506

Thomas Paine 1783

“And when we view a flag, which to the eye is beautiful, and to contemplate its rise and origin inspires a sensation of sublime delight, our national honor must unite with our interest to prevent injury to the one, or insult to the other.”

What does the flag mean to you?

Posted by: JR at June 27, 2006 8:17 PM
Comment #162511


You might have opened a new can of worms with the advise to read “The Politician” by Robert Welch. I have read it. I agree that millions more should read it. It has revelation in it.

Posted by: tomh at June 27, 2006 8:24 PM
Comment #162515

Free speach, women burning bras, some nut case burning a flag because they raised your taxes.
What next burn your neighbors house down because you don’t like his politics. All this under Free speach. Where do we draw the line under free speach.

Posted by: Rich at June 27, 2006 8:41 PM
Comment #162516

I see the Traitors in the Senate failed to pass the Flag Burning Amendment…

So when do you Patriotic Real American Types expect the USA to fall into despair and chaos?

Posted by: Aldous at June 27, 2006 8:50 PM
Comment #162525

I agree, about the can of worms, and that millions of people should read it.
The bad thing is, the cancer on our body politic is on display for all to see but they refuse to.
Pointing it out only exposes you to ridicule rather than provoking thoughtful inquiry.
That doesn’t stop me, though.

Posted by: traveller at June 27, 2006 9:35 PM
Comment #162530

When people used to get arrested under state law for burning the American flag, they made headlines. That was back in the 1960’s. Flag burning helped bring about the end of that waste of human life effort called the Viet Nam War, and it helped bring about Civil Rights promised in the Declaration of Independence but not realized until flag burning in the South raised the nation’s awareness of the atrocities by white police against citizens exercising peaceful exercise of the 1st Amendment.

Then, the Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag was free speech and protected. Guess what? What is the last huge national story or movement you can remember being brought to the nation’s attention by a good old fashioned Flag Burning? Making it legal took its power away to garner national media.

Think about it conservatives. You really are trying to shoot yourselves in the foot on this issue. If you got your way, every minority cause could once again get headlines for their arrest for burning Old Glory. Is that what you want? That is what you will get.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 27, 2006 10:03 PM
Comment #162532

More free speech. A kid in Arizona wrote this.
Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd
If Scripture now the class recites
it violates the bill of rights
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene.
The law is specific,the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God’s name is prohibited by the state.
We’re allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They’ve outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the good book makes me liable
We can elect a pregnant senior queen, and the unwed daddy our senior king.
It’s “inappropriate” to teach right from wrong.
We’re taught that such “judgements” do not belong.
We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed
No word of God must reach this crowd.
It’s scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school’s a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make……
Should I be shot; My soul please take!
Freedom of speech for some not all!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Rich at June 27, 2006 10:05 PM
Comment #162535

Rich - non starter. Any one can prey in school.

Posted by: justin at June 27, 2006 10:08 PM
Comment #162541

I appreciate your thoughtful reply, and those to others I’ve seen; I do confess you seem a good spokesperson for your side of this issue, and I appreciate your views. Let me try to respond accordingly. First, you argue that we will not know where to draw the line when it comes to protesting a symbol of the government; first a flag, then a federal building with a brick. Isn’t that line already there … if you destroy or defame the property, and/or assault a person or persons, that seems covered, likewise a computer virus, or the shooting of a public figure to protest his/her policies.
I initially opposed what seemed to be an argument that relied heavily on personal interpretation as to the rationality or effectiveness or true motive of the desecration of the flag. Perhaps we agree that these considerations do not affect one’s freedom of speech.
So you are drawing the distinction between speech and physical action. The first amendment goes on to add the freedom of the press, and to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. These are more action-oriented, and certainly in the colonies between 1665 and what, 1783, the political protests of the new Americans were much more than verbal. I did not say that Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Madison, et al. ignored active debate, they were, if memory serves, in their own ways all simply brilliant in the art of debate, as demonstrated by the beauty and longevity of both the Declaration and the Constitution. But part of that art was showmanship, as well as pure manipulation and deceit.
But hell yes did they also, and their fellow colonists with and for whom they acted, stand around burning British flags, and so much more. Boston Massacre, other uprisings, that Tea Party, the Sons of Liberty, statues of George III desecrated. There were many more than just those who convened in Philadelphia in 1887 that shaped this country’s founding principles. Furthermore, Jefferson may have been this nation’s greatest guarantor of the civil liberties we enjoy today; he was also a master manipulator who eventually won a sensationalized and mudslinging campaign that could compete with any thing we’ve seen since—waged largely through the press and in the streets—to also make my point that pure reason or high-minded debate—on which you seem to rely as a gauge of acceptable protest—does not always carry the argument). Jefferson also suggested that a revolution is good for a democracy every 20 years or so.
But I digress, I am not saying that the framers intended to have riots in the streets—that’s what the Constitution was being enacted to protect against—but these guys were revolutionaries—writing is an action, using the printing press, distributing flyers, leaving one’s home to congrgate and read and speak, these are all actions—as is speech itself—as is democracy itself.
Do you believe walking to a street corner and shouting into a loudspeaker is not an action—or not meant to provoke a response? What about walking to that street corner and standing with a sandwich board but remaining silent? I do believe the founders and framers understood speech to mean various forms of expression and not simply the physical use of the voice to make sounds—which also doesn’t take any effort either, but actually less than taking a match to a flag, especially if you want to be anywhere you’ll get noticed.
I guess I really do see it as coming down to people, very likely a majority of people, believing very strongly in protecting the flag, want this amendment for those convictions, but that I, for one, must stand against it.
P.S. As we all know by now, it has been narrowly defeated, but I had to finish the thought. Thanks JR for the discussion.

Posted by: checking in at June 27, 2006 10:23 PM
Comment #162547


The reason I brought it up is because obviously either you forgot it was there as a practice or did not know it in your rantings against something protesters have not done since the 1960’s as David Remer mentioned. And as for JR mentioning the Revolutionary War I can trace my roots back far enough to know my ancestry fought in that as well.

The point is you are looking at reports coming out of places like Haifa and equating it in your minds as Americans doing that , obviously by your claiming there is “dancing around” that surrounds such an event. WHEN DID YOU SEE AN AMERICAN BURNING A FLAG RECENTLY? You make it sound as if this is a common occurance.

Yes Palestinians did that on 9-11, but those aren’t Americans—do name an incident.

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 10:35 PM
Comment #162549


Yeah that’s least we have to worry about kids dyeing their hair and putting studs through their nostrils. The reason religion is not taught at school is because it shouldn’t be THAT IS THE PARENT’S JOB NOT THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION’S JOB. They are having a hard enough time trying to teach your stupid kids how to read.

Do you really want the school system teaching your kids a religion?

Please knock it off until you’ve thought it through.

Posted by: Novenge at June 27, 2006 10:47 PM
Comment #162556

You presented the Rehnquist argument and said, therefore, flag-burning is illegal.

In all actuality, though, it is not.

There are only a limited number of ways to be right, and taking the minority opinion’s POV that go against a majority ruling as law is not one of them. I have always thought that one of the purposes of debate was to clarify issues by forcing either side to push further into the issue than they otherwise would.

What’s Dumb? Some consider mimes to be dumb. Clap them in chains, hogtie them whenever they start feeling the inside of an invisible box? No, the Founding Fathers did not make free speech exceptions for stupidity, because stupidity can be seen from many points of view. There are intellectually sophisticated theories that some people consider intelligent, that others think are the work of brain donors.

Once you start letting somebody act as censor, saying this is wise, this is not, then you’ve lost the whole point. People in this country have the right to judge for themselves. Cheap theatrics or magnificent scenes, it shouldn’t be some authority’s decision what has the imprimatur of free speech.

As for the second Amendment, I have to admit it doesn’t get me fired up. I’m all for people having guns, so long as they are sane, not convicted felons, of age, and responsible. My friend has quite a few. But I got to admit, it’s not something as dear to my heart as the first Amendment. Objects like guns don’t appeal to me as much as ideas and knowledge and all that.

My point in making the comment I did is this: have you folks tried asking whether we would think to burn a flag? At least give us the chance to incriminate ourselves with our own words! Personally, I could tell you right out that I would never do something like that.

As far as flag desecration goes, my pet peeve is desecration through neglect. I don’t know how many flags I’ve seen that wave in tatters over somebody’s business or in somebody’s car window. It puts me into a bad mood to see people who likely would punch out a flag burner turning old glory into a faded rag. Sometimes I think it’s symbolic as to the way some folks’s patriotism works. Patriots have to do more than pay lip service to their country. Actions must follow words and give them meaning. I would appeal to anybody who flies a flag that if they care about flag desecration they should respectfully replace the flag and retire the old worn out one appropriately.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 27, 2006 11:08 PM
Comment #162574

I know that not all liberals would burn the flag. I know some libs who view the flag as reverentially as I do. The fact is that some leftists do burn the flag.
(note to Novenge-there have been many flag burnings at protests in America since the 60’s)

I fully agree with you about desecration through neglect. I find it appalling.
Before the SC decision legalizing desecration people were sometimes fined for improper display of the flag.
When I was growing up we were taught in school how to display the flag properly and people were careful to do so.
It was once illegal to fly the flag at night or in the rain. When the end became ragged it was trimmed. Getting fined for a flag violation was a terrible embarrassment. The embarrassment was probably a better motivator than the fine. The SC decision made the rules unenforceable and now we have a sad state of affairs regarding our flag.

To answer your question re militias. A resounding NO.
I always thought they were misguided. I would never support the violent overthrow of the government. We “overthrow” it every two years.
I do consider myself part of the Constitutional militia, however. At 50 I’m outside the statutory age group for the unorganized militia but as long as I’m able bodied I’ll come to the aid of the country if I’m needed.

Posted by: traveller at June 27, 2006 11:58 PM
Comment #162575

I think it’s valid to ask What was it about the Democrats and especially the Clinton administration that so terrified people that they were willing, even preparing, to take up arms against the government. Food for thought.

Posted by: traveller at June 28, 2006 12:03 AM
Comment #162581

My reference to Eisenhower as a leftist, because he appointed Brennan was obvious satire. The following I found, points out which extreme area of the political spectrum you must lay, if you found some merit in the book, “The Politician.”

J. Edgar Hoover and top officials of the FBI subsequently concluded that the John Birch Society (founded and headed by Robert Welch) was “irrational”, “extremist”, “irresponsible” and part of the “lunatic fringe” in our country due to material that the JBS disseminated which contained the same premises and conclusions as offered in The Politician regarding the purported treason and disloyalty of American leadership since World War II. In testimony before the Warren Commission, J. Edgar Hoover stated: “I think the extreme right is just as much a danger to the freedom of this country as the extreme left. There are groups, organizations, and individuals on the extreme right who make these very violent statements, allegations that General Eisenhower was a Communist, disparaging references to the Chief Justice…
Posted by: Cube at June 28, 2006 12:21 AM
Comment #162587


Do name such an incident of flag burning since. Admit it, you haven’t seen it in quite some time have you? So no one can name one incident of it…interesting. Yes you might see it in Amman or Tehran that I’ll give you and that’s not the US.

And what organized people to take up arms against the Government during Clinton era? Republican spin if you’ll note as much as we may despise Bush this has never crossed the table. That’s you people tecnically speaking, just being TREASONOUS as usual.

Posted by: Novenge at June 28, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #162599


I have never been a member of the JBS. I am very familiar with their stanace on issues. I am also familiar with late J. Edgar Hoover’s attitude toward the JBS. It was one of respect. There were and are former agents of various agencies of government that were active within the JBS. So, that citation does not ring very true.

Posted by: tomh at June 28, 2006 1:39 AM
Comment #162604

“I wonder, could I get you guys on the left to fight as passionately for the 2nd amendment as you do for the 1st?”

I’m on the left and I passionately support of the 2nd Amendment. As a liberal, it’s one of my biggest frustrations. I don’t own a gun. I don’t want to own a gun, but this does not change the fact that it states clearly in the Constitution that the citizens of this country have a right to bear arms. There isn’t an argument - if you want to change this you have to change the Constitution and I think, generally, this is a bad idea.

This is how I feel on the flag burning issue: I don’t like it. I find it offensive. It makes me angry. It is an insult to me as an American.

But I can’t support a Constitutional Amendment that outlaws insults any more than I can support one that outlaws handguns.

Because both amendments are restrictions on freedoms that the Constitution guarantees us.

Posted by: andrew at June 28, 2006 2:13 AM
Comment #162618

Just some food for thought — the patriotic, thoughtful words of Colin Powell on the subject of the amendment.

Posted by: David Wright at June 28, 2006 3:12 AM
Comment #162622
Anybody who would allege that Eisenhower was a communist agent, has something wrong with him.

J. Edgar Hoover


I love it when people write: Even though I am not a member, I agree… As if such a statement gives an argument some weight. If you are not a member, why not if you agree so passionately with said group. Why the need for a disclaimer? Or the second broad statement I love is: I know many people that… Who are these people? For any no name you can cite, I’m sure somebody else can cite a no name for which the opposite is true.

That you would defend the John Birch Society speaks volumes about your ideology. The citation I quoted earlier contained a quote that was taken from the Warren Commission transcript. The above quote was also made during the Warren Commission. The following are two supposed memos released through the Freedom of Information Act, written by the FBI concerning the JBS. There seems to be droves of information concerning the FBI’s investigation of the JBS and all of it negative. While I can’t speak of their validity, you can feel free to look it up yourself.

The Bureau has, of course, been cognizant over a period of time of the many fanatical right-wing anti-Communist organizations which are presently spreading widely throughout the country and of their utterly absurd viewpoints. For your information, I am attaching copies of letters dated March 6 and 8, 1961 from (names deleted for privacy) which typify the absolute confusion and lack of confidence in American institutions and one’s fellow man being caused by representatives of such organizations.” [HQ 62-104401-789, March 15, 1961, D.C. Morrell to C.D. DeLoach].

“The supporters of this organization and those influenced by the vicious propaganda it has been putting out are typical of the fanatics who have been attempting lately to disparage and discredit Bureau speakers who have been giving audiences a true, factual picture concerning the nature of the threat which communist activities in this country represent.”
[HQ 62-104401-791, March 9, 1961, W.C. Sullivan to A.H. Belmont].

Posted by: Cube at June 28, 2006 3:57 AM
Comment #162629

I see the flag burning amendment got shot down by one vote in the Senate. I think we could have come to a reasonable compromise, maybe something like this. “Congress and/or other governmental authorities shall have the right to pardon a person who inflicts physical harm to anyone seen desecrating the flag of the United States.” Problem solved.

Posted by: Duane-O at June 28, 2006 5:00 AM
Comment #162634


The graffiti analogy that Stevens convincingly characterized tipped the scale for me. When gangs deface buildings with spray-paint, smearing their often hateful rhetoric across the respected façade, not only are their actions condemned, their actions are deemed illegal by society.

Buildings are material assets. Graffiti are altering them and it cost money to both protect them and restore their original status.

US flag symbol is *immaterial* asset. Everyone could wave an US flag, even non US citizens. It’s juts a piece of cloth. When one flag is altered or destroyed, one could make or buy ten in the same time.
But the immaterial symbol, the flag “asset”, have always live in the flags and while continue to live until a majority of citizens will burn it.

The graffiti analogy is weak.

Likewise, when deranged invalids burn the cherished flag, they are vandalizing an “important national asset” and society has a “legitimate interest in preserving the quality” of that asset.

Calling flags burners “deranged invalids” don’t help your argument to make a point.
Tell me how the symbol quality is attacked by flag burners?
Tell me how the free speech quality is NOT attacked by this amendmnent?
Tell me how free speech is not a major right of US constitution?
Tell me how the US constitution is not the basis of US country?
Tell me how the US flag is not the symbol of the US country?

Thus, desecrating the American flag is illegal.

Thus, eating french fries/croissants should be illegal worldwide: they’re a cherish symbol of France (french fries are actually from belgium :-) but let’s move on, would you?). I’ll call my representative right now to ask him to propose a new law banning eating french fries worldwide, our most symbolic France nation asset!

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 28, 2006 5:30 AM
Comment #162645

The anti globalization riot in Seattle. Some anti Iraq war protests. Don’t you watch the news?

Posted by: traveller at June 28, 2006 7:46 AM
Comment #162646

Ok, so pass a law against burning a flag. There are a thousands other ways to disrespect the flag in order to protest against a country, why are they focusing on this one? Please tell me, I’m confused why the government is obssessed with this, it makes no sense.


The only way to properly dispose of a worn American flag is to burn it. Now what are we supposed to, use the worn and dirty flags as rags?

Posted by: nick at June 28, 2006 7:51 AM
Comment #162649

The day they force me to respect the flag, is the I stop respecting America or it’s our flag.

Let me protect the respect for the flag, don’t tell me I must.

There is a difference between EARNED respect and FORCED respect!

Posted by: mem beth at June 28, 2006 7:58 AM
Comment #162652

mem beth, bravo! Very well said and so succinctly. There is no freedom when one does not have choice, is there? Quite right.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 28, 2006 8:04 AM
Comment #162666

Sometimes, but not very often, I am surprised at how easily Americans can be distracted from the real issues we face.

Posted by: RMD at June 28, 2006 9:16 AM
Comment #162694

ZR - That’s exactly it. You basically made the perfect case for why the ammendment will most probably always remain shelved.

If I went out into the street with a lighter, a flag and a megaphone, and expressed discontent with the government, all while stomping, kicking, walking on the flag, and the set fire to it, some people would be livid.

If I, however, went out into the street with the same gear, plus a knife. Made the same speech of discontent, and cut the flag entirely apart and burned each piece in a barrel, the same people would be just as livid.

The difference is that the second method is the approved one, and it still wouln’t make any difference, because of the megaphone and the speech.

Think about it. If you saw it on TV with the sound off, it would seem like one thing, and if you turned up the sound it would be something entirely different.

Most people know that this ammendment’s primary function is to “turn down the sound”.

Posted by: DOC at June 28, 2006 11:21 AM
Comment #162754

“The difference is that the second method is the approved one, and it still wouln’t make any difference, because of the megaphone and the speech.”

You are wrong. The approved method of retiring a flag doesn’t include a protest speech. Also, the flag doesn’t have to be cut up and if it is a knife isn’t used.
A flag is retired by cremating it and symbolically laying it to rest with military honors, not by being cut up and burned in a barrel by some brain dead yahoo.

Posted by: traveller at June 28, 2006 1:56 PM
Comment #162784

traveller - Pardon me, but I know “exactly” how a flag is supposed to be retired, it was one of the questions asked of me during my promotion board prior to making E5. The circumstances were used to illustrate a point. Which you’ve proven for me. The point is that mere “Physical” desecration will never be enough and it will be linked to free speech issues.

Posted by: DOC at June 28, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #162816

The disclaimer of not being a member of the JBS was so that people would not consider me a spokesman of the JBS.

The FBI has never investigated the JBS.

The letters cited above were written in 1961. The JBS was founded in 1959. They were not well known in 1961. Certainly not for high ranking FBI officials (Bill Sullivan and Carla DeLoach) to be interested in the JBS. Those letters were so sanitized that you could insert any organization in the blanks and say “see I told you so”.

A book written by Robert Welch called “The Politician” gave evidence that Dwight David Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles could have had an allegiance to something or someone other that the United States of America. He reached certain conclusions for his own reasons. He also gave the reader choices to disagree with him. It was up to the reader to decide to agree or disagree with his position.

Posted by: tomh at June 28, 2006 3:13 PM
Comment #162837

I can’t understand why these Muslims are getting so riled up about a few cartoons - I mean he’s just a symbol of their religion and our free speech rights mean we can say anything we want about him.

Oh sorry - wrong argument. I can’t imagine why I got confused there…

Posted by: Mark at June 28, 2006 3:51 PM
Comment #162970

To put it simply, the Far Right purposefully isolates itself from the MSM and Mainstream culture in a way that Liberals are encouraged not to. Within that isolation, right-wing folks are bombarded with propaganda that basically tells them that our stands on the issue, if we are allowed to govern, imperil the very survival of the nation, even if they are such simple things like Gay Marriage.

The left has its nutjobs too, but since we don’t view ourselves as apart from the mainstream, we mostly just ignore them, instead of feeling compelled to defend them. Were the Republicans more secure about their dealings with Mainstream America, they might learn to do the same, but sadly, even as the majority, they found it difficult to drop the paranoia.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 28, 2006 8:41 PM
Comment #163035

We on the right ARE the mainstream.
The left celebrates and encourages depravity and debauchery. They display iconoclastic contempt for the principles that made America’s greatness possible, ridiculing and denigrating the things we hold sacred. I quit watching TV several years ago because I was repulsed by what I was seeing. Being made by the left, TV is a mirror of the left’s values.
The left governed for over 40 years and what was their legacy? A war that tore America in two. An economy on the brink of collapse with a president who said America’s best years were behind her. A culture where demands for moral behavior in our public officials are met with howls of derision.
I detest the Republicans as much as I detest the Democrats, and for the same reason. They’re both collectivist, contemptuous of the Constitution, greedy and grasping for power.
Anyone who thinks the Bush administration is conservative hasn’t been paying attention. Bush is a leftist wolf in sheep’s clothing. His actions as President show him to be to the left of Clinton. Not an easy feat.
The left IS governing, just not YOUR preferred gang, and look what’s happening to our beloved country.

Posted by: traveller at June 28, 2006 9:59 PM
Comment #163361

I must say that i feel that flag burning is wrong, but is legal under the first ammendment. I feel that it is a valid form of protest. Anyways, for one to burn a flag is to be hypocritical. Any flag burner burns a flag because they feel that the government is wrong or oppressive, so for them to burn a flag is ironic, because they do it to rebel against the government, but they really arent rebelling at all, they just are getting angry. And another point: Would this flag burning law apply to flags of other countries, how about states, what about Nazi Flags, or Confederate flags? are those all protected. What about any symbol for that matter? if we are talking about disrespect, any protest could be considered disrespectful. However much people disagree with flag burning, the necessity for it to be legal is a true necessity.

Posted by: Brian at June 29, 2006 6:08 PM
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