As we approach the Fourth Of July, your patriot producer wishes to declare independence from several disturbing and silly legislative actions surrounding our Grand Old Flag.
DOWN IN FLAMES. A constitutional amendment banning flag desecration -- burning it, stomping on it, and other ghastly acts we've heard about but won't mention -- failed in the Senate by one vote.
The proposed alteration: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
Letters to USA Today illustrate the problems with such a vaguely worded amendment. Who defines what desecration is, and how far do they go? Do we punish people for flags that get hung up on poles, torn up by the wind, or wet in the rain? If I wear a flag t-shirt and spill mustard on it, is that a crime now? Especially if it's French's?
Here's the worst part: if the amendment was ratified, the Supreme Court couldn't throw it out. You can't declare a constitutional amendment unconstitutional.
Add some irony: the U.S. flag code clearly states burning is considered an appropriate way to destroy a worn or soiled flag.
Stir in some teapot tempests: flag burning rarely happens in this country. The Citizens Flag Alliance points to only four known acts so far in 2006, and 12 in 2005. Compare that to the thousands of violent crimes in this country every year, and flag burning is less than a pockmark on society. Further, the people burning flags are not walking away unpunished when they're caught. They're being charged with arson, destruction of property, criminal mischief and vandalism, according to CFA's own web site. We already have laws to deal with the problem.
And still, some people think it's necessary to amend the Constitution -- and the First Amendment -- over this.
STARS AND STRIPES FOR EVERY ROOM. Here in Arizona, Governor Janet Napolitano just signed a bill requiring the flag be displayed -- along with the Constitution and Bill of Rights -- in all public classrooms. That includes charter schools and universities.
No money is provided for this mandate. KOLD News 13's J.D. Wallace quotes Arizona Representive Russell Pearce, the new law's sponsor, as saying private businesses will help pick up the cost. But curiously, no discretion is given to the use of each classroom, meaning a flag, Constitution, and Bill Of Rights might have to appear next to the Periodic Table Of The Elements in your child's science lab.
"Students, what did our framers say about splitting atoms?"
However, things should get interesting in Biology I, especially when talking about reproduction.
NATIONAL PRIDE. Both the Arizona and federal measures seem predicated on the notion we're not patriotic enough, which a new study proves is hogwash. The University of Chicago found Americans are the most patriotic of any nation on earth.
Venezuela was number two, although saying Marxist regimes are patriotic is like saying blood is red. Be proud or we'll shoot you.
FLUFFY STUFF. Apparently, marshmallow fluff is just as American as apple pie, especially in its birthplace of Massachusetts. So when a Massachusetts lawmaker proposed curtailing fluff from school lunches, he felt the fury of fluff loyalists.
And you thought your lawmakers wasted time on fluffy subjects... (rim shot).
IT AIN'T CHEATING WHEN YOU SIT AT THE BIG DESK. Teachers frown upon students who buy research papers over the Internet. But now we hear teachers are selling lectures, course outlines and study guides to each other on an eBay-like site.
We at The Lightning Round realize the difference between cheating -- an avoidance of learning -- and selling techniques for learning. We also realize how much educational toiling goes unappreciated and ridiculously undercompensated.
But I can still hear the complaints from students: "Miss Betty, did you copy this homework assignment from somebody else? I'm gonna tell Mom!"
LYING DOWN ON THE JOB. Motivational reading, massages and bed rest actually qualify as work under some states' welfare-to-work programs. But not for much longer as the Bush Administration tightens welfare rules.
What? No more paid nap times?
DRUNKEN DIALING. A new cell phone with a built-in breath analyzer hits shelves later this year. Not only will it tell you if you're too loaded to drive, it can prevent you from dialing certain numbers in the address book if you're legally skunk-drunk -- handy for preventing embarassing calls to your mom, boss, girlfriend, etc.
The Lightning Round is still waiting for the phone smart enough to keep you from dialing in restaurants.