Explainer Mailbag: Flagging Support

Explainer’s cup overfloweth with questions from flag-flying Americans who worry that they don’t know all the nuances of flag etiquette. The customs for civilian flag-flying are codified in Title 36, Section 10 of the U.S. Code. If you’re feeling particularly patriotic, you can read them here while listening to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Or if you prefer, try “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

After Slate readers finish the assignment, Explainer expects you to hoist the flag briskly, to lower it ceremoniously, to make sure you have an all-weather flag for inclement weather, and to affix the staff firmly to the chassis or right fender of your motorcar.

Interestingly, the code is quite specific about how long to fly the flag at half-staff after the deaths of various public officials:

The flag shall be flown at half-staff thirty days from the death of the President or a former President; ten days from the death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.

Who’s making these flags? The Washington Post profiles a Chinese factory that’s making a slew of them.

The Post also went a long way today toward answering one of Explainer’s questions from last week. Can al-Qaida be thwarted by freezing Osama Bin Laden’s assets? Click here to read the story. Key points: 1) Many terrorist cells self-finance themselves through criminal activity such as identity theft and credit-card fraud; 2) many sources, including U.S. government reports, believe that Bin Laden is not “the sole or even the primary source of al-Qaida funds today”; 3) al-Qaida draws funds from all over the Persian Gulf, some of which is mob-style “protection money”; 4) al-Qaida often bypasses electronic money transfers in favor of old-fashioned suitcases stuffed with cash (not to mention the virtually untraceable money transfers known as hawala); 5) President Clinton froze Bin Laden’s U.S. assets in 1998, but no U.S. assets have been found.

A final point: Many readers have protested that the Civil War battle of Antietam was America’s deadliest day. True, Antietam was bloody, with nearly 23,000 casualties on both sides. But the term “casualties” includes both the killed and the wounded. Out of Antietam’s 23,000 casualties, somewhere in the range of 4,000 lost their lives.

Next question?