Exiled from the Underworld

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Perhaps Representative Istook wanted to look into taxis, not taxes

Or perhaps he wanted to give Congress the power to look into ataxia. I live in Oklahoma, where I have a nearly perfect voting record-- my selected candidates almost always lose. On the other hand, our state elects true losers, from Senator "Outraged by the outrage" Jim Inhofe to Representative-turned-Senator Dr. "Death penalty for abortion-providing physicians" Tom Coburn.

Our Congressional Class Clown has to be the perennially creative Ernest Istook. Rep. Istook earned recognition early in his government career for sponsoring flag-burning/desecration amendments to the Constitution. If I am correct, he reintroduces this proposed amendment each session, no doubt attempting to extinguish the widespread conflagration of colors in the U.S. One wonders, if this amendment were to be incorporated into the Constitution, if it would be used to prosecute those desecraters who put flags on their clothes, tie them to their car antennae (where they tatter, fade, and shred at highway speeds), and use reproductions of the flag as merchandising tools. I would love to preside over the case wherein a Walmart customer gets charged under the amendment for destroying the cardboard "Made in America" tag with the flag's picture on it.

In addition to the flag amendments, Mr. Istook regularly tries to reconstruct the First Amendment to accommodate his bias toward religion. For a number of years he introduced proposed amendments (variously titled "Religious Freedom Amendment" and "Religious Speech Amendment") to mandate prayer at public events, especially in public schools, to give general revenue funds to religious groups, and to enable states to enact particular sectarian measures when those states have substantial majorities of a sect. Imagine--Utah could officially be a Mormon state! On the other hand--Imagine the redistricting fights in Texas! Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics redrawing lines against one another to get larger majorities in the state legislature. Think DeLay-Cromwell. Or don't.

This time, however, our Mr. Istook has angered members of his own party. He managed to slide an amendment into the 3,000-page, $388 billion spending bill just before it was sent to vote in the House. The amendment would would have given access to any person's income tax returns to two committee chairmen and their assistants. Fortunately, the amendment was removed before the bill was passed by the House. According to a statement Istook issued, "Nobody's privacy was ever jeopardized." I can accept that statement now that the amendment is out of the bill-- at least for now.

n.b. Among the enlightened measures supported by our esteemed Representative this year:
Rep. Istook proudly voted for the House 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act in October. The House bill permitted the U.S. to "outsource" torture, among its other provisions.
Istook also recognized the problems caused by having too few guns in D.C., and voted for the District of Columbia Personal Protection Act.

Statesmanship. It's what's for dinner.