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Friday, December 02, 2005

Half Staff

I noticed the flags were flying at half staff when I left the hospital tonight. I've noticed it a lot lately, and I'm no longer sure why. In the old days, it seems, it was rare to see the flag thusly displayed--the death of a former president might warrant it, or some other dignitary. I usually knew why. No longer.

I went to the "Home of Heroes" web site (sent that way by Google) to get an idea of when we lower the flag. According to them (and statute), the flag is lowered on
• Memorial Day (only until noon)
• Peace Officers Day (May 15th)
• "Upon the death of great individuals or current or former government officials, the President of the United States can direct that the flag be flown from the half-staff position 'as a mark of respect to their memory.'"
(It is my belief that the governor of a state can also order flags lowered within the state.)

There is a strict hierarchy for government officials:

When respect is thus shown upon the death of current or former United States government officials, the flag is flown at half staff according to the following:
• 30 Days from the death of the President or a former President
• 10 Days from the day of death of the Vice President, a sitting or former Supreme Court Chief Justice, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives
• From the day of death to the day of Internment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of an Executive or Military Department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession of the United States
• On the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress
The president can also direct that the flag be flown at half-staff as a symbol of respect for great Americans who are noted for their non-government service and achievement, or as a symbol of respect for other officials and foreign dignitaries.

In recent years, Bush has gotten a bit carried away. The flag has been lowered for victims of terrorist acts, natural disasters, and unnatural disasters (the War in Iraq).

I have no idea why the flag was lowered today, and why it has been lowered so often recently. I suspect it is to honor the death of Democracy.


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