Burn this bill

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The perennial calls for a constitutional amendment to prohibit desecration of the flag is among the most absurd features of contemporary American political life. Why? Because no matter where you fall on the free speech implications, you have to acknowledge that there simply isn't much of a problem with flag burning in this country. As the People for the American Way point out, there have been just four reported incidents of flag desecration on American soil since 2003. For this, we need to tinker with the Constitution?

That's what the House of Representatives has concluded, which yesterday passed the measure by a 286 to 130 margin. Of the eight house members from Minnesota, just three (Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar, Martin Sabo) opposed the bill.

The real test will be in the Senate, where the vote is expected to be razor thin. This makes Senator Mark Dayton's support for the amendment all the more critical--and puzzling. Since Dayton isn't running for re-election, you can assume that his position is genuine. It really would be easier to understand as craven political calculation.

As the legislation marches along, free speech folk can console themselves with one intriguing area of speculation: Will Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the sponsor of the amendment in the House, be indicted before flag burning becomes a federal crime?

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