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Angry Poodle: An Inconvenient Dog

SMOKE ’EM IF YOU GOT ’EM: Legendary baseball
great Satchel Paige once warned, “Don’t look back.
They may be gaining.” I’ve got news for Satchel: There ain’t no
“maybe” about it. I can feel their fetid breath on the back of my
neck, and it’s only getting warmer. This Tuesday, the U.S. Senate
came within just one measly vote of celebrating the Fourth of July
by torching the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. By that,
I’m referring to the 66 U.S. Senators — including California’s
ranking Dempublicrat Dianne Feinstein — who voted
in favor of amending our Constitution to ban flag
burning
. They needed 67 votes to send this inane empty
gesture back to all 50 states for ratification. This is the third
time I can remember that they tried to run this one up the
proverbial flag pole to see how many dummies would salute. The good
news is that it always loses. The bad news is that the number of
supporters always gets bigger. And I’m even sorrier to report that
Santa Barbara’s usually sensible Congressmember Lois
Capps
is one of them. When it comes to tinkering with the
Constitution, I tend to take an emphatically restrained approach;
you don’t mess unless it’s a really big deal, like securing voting
rights for all Americans. (It’s worth noting that congressional
Republicans recently blocked an extension of the Voting Rights Act
of 1964, initially designed to combat terror tactics deployed to
keep black people from voting.) In this context, the flag-burning
amendment qualifies as a solution desperately in search of a
problem. As a statement of protest — which is what it is — flag
burning pretty much went out of style with Nehru
jackets
, and they haven’t been around since before the
great Kohoutek comet no-show. The Left learned
long ago that while flag burning might be good for venting pent-up
rage of the most infantile sort, it did little to win friends,
though much to make enemies. Even proponents of the Constitutional
amendment readily concede there’s not a whole lot of flag burning
going on. It’s a rare occurrence.

You can make a better case for amending the Constitution to
restrict exorbitant late fees charged by greedy video shop
owners
. At least someone would benefit. Or perhaps to ban
politicians from uttering the word “folks” in public speeches; I’ve
always found that annoying. But even if people were torching Old
Glory in such numbers that the smoke contributed to global warming,
it would still be a bad idea to ban flag burning. One of the
reasons our country is so freaking great is that our Constitution
allows us to burn flags if we want to. It’s called freedom
of speech
. Look it up. It’s buried somewhere amid all the
fine print. Call me naïve, but I’ve always found it odd that people
who profess to care so much about the symbol of our freedom could
seize upon a remedy so violently at odds with the realities of
those freedoms and the principles from which those freedoms derive.
Talk about your perverse ironies: kind of like raping to save
chastity. Given all the other freedoms that are currently being
trampled underfoot — like the freedom from government spying — I am
especially mystified that Capps would lend her vote and her good
name to this charade. The only way the flag-protection ploy makes
any rational sense is as a political contrivance designed to
galvanize the raw-meat contingent of the Republican Party’s
white-wing base. (Again, I don’t see how a liberal
Democrat like Lois gains by joining that crowd.) Given how far
Bush’s overweening, unchecked, and unfettered unilateralism has
strayed from anything remotely resembling core “conservative”
principles, this is becoming increasingly difficult to do. Last
month Republican senators unleashed a proposed Constitutional
amendment to save heterosexual marriage from the
blasphemies of gay and lesbian imitators, but it failed to clear
its first legislative hurdle. Now that the flag ban has also
failed, what’s next? A Constitutional ban on gay illegal
immigrants
from adopting unwanted American babies and
converting them to their illicit lifestyles?

Naturally, Democrats — not wanting to face accusations that
they’re “soft on flag burning” — have allowed themselves to be
steamrolled on this one, mistakenly arguing, and perhaps even
believing, that a Constitutional amendment abridging our freedom of
speech is merely a meaningless symbolic gesture. To justify their
glaring spinal deficiencies, many Democrats have embraced a
semantic dodge, arguing that flag burning technically does not
qualify as political speech but, rather, is an action. While such
pseudo-clever sophistry makes me want to reach for my gun, I should
give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, there’s a lot of
confusion in political circles about what constitutes political
speech these days. When politicians in Washington, D.C., take large
campaign donations from oil companies and labor unions fearful that
Congress might actually pass a sensible law requiring higher fuel
efficiencies, for example, that’s not considered bribery. That’s
not even considered “an action.” Like nowhere else on Planet Earth,
people in Washington know that “money talks,” and
they’ve decreed that campaign spending qualifies as “political
speech.” As such, it is to be protected at all costs from the
slings and arrows of would-be campaign finance reformers — who
earlier this week got shot down again by the Supreme Court. One
would expect that people steeped in such nuanced semantic
sophistication where campaign donations are concerned might have
intuitively grasped how flag burning was also a form of political
expression. No doubt they were mystified because there’s no
exchange of cash in the process, only the release of smoke and hot
air.

I expect to get bludgeoned by Republicans like Orrin
Hatch
, Bill Frist, and all those other
pious poseurs. But when I’m beaned in the head by the likes of Lois
Capps, well, that hurts. In the meantime, I don’t know how I’ll be
celebrating the Fourth. Who knows, I might just burn a flag. To be
honest, I’ve always thought it a dumb-ass thing to do. But the way
things are going, it may be my last chance.

— Nick Welsh

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