Ask Mr. Newspaperman

2:58 pm March 20th, 2013

“I don’t always know everything, but when I don’t, I know how to find out.”


Dear Mr. Newspaperman,

I have several faded and worn United States flags that are in need of proper disposal. Is there any place in Kuna that will accept them? I see lots of U.S. flags flown by residents in and around Kuna and I would think that proper flag etiquette and disposal information would be an interesting and useful article for the community.

– Richard Watts, Kuna


Dear Richard,

It took nearly 150 years from the time Betsy Ross first stitched the stars and stripes for George Washington to when there were guidelines established as to how Americans should display the flag. Prior to the establishment of Flag Day on June 14, 1923 there were no guidelines by the state or federal government as to how the United States flag should be displayed or treated. It took another 19 years until President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the United States Flag Code as federal law on June 22, 1942.

Since then, not much has changed in the guidelines as to how to display the flag. However, with varied success there have been a few attempts to amending the law in recent decades. During the 1980s there were several efforts to outlaw flag burning as a form of protest. Two cases even made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In both cases it was ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the government to prohibit desecration of the flag due to the protection of free speech as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Recently, a 2005 law was passed that prohibits real estate management organizations from restricting homeowner’s rights to display the flag. Also in 2005 the House of Representatives passed with a two-thirds majority an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the burning of the American flag but when the vote came up in the senate in 2006, it missed the margin needed to pass by one vote. If it had passed, it would have needed to be ratified by at least 38 states before becoming an amendment.

While the United States Flag Code is federal law, there is no penalty for failure to comply with it. The U.S. Supreme Court has established that breaking these rules is protected by American’s First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech.

So it is quite ironic then, that the proper way to dispose of an American flag that has seen its better days is to burn it. What? You say?

It comes down to respect. Guidelines for displaying the American flag include not displaying an old, tattered rag that is no longer fitting to serve as a symbol of the United States. Would you burning the flag in protest? No. You are burning it out of respect for what it represents.

Several organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts and the National Sojourners offer their services to dispose of flags. Some hold ceremonies, usually on Flag Day, in which flags are folded, burned thoroughly and the ashes buried.

There is nothing in the guidelines that say you can’t dispose of a flag yourself. Simply fold the flag properly in the triangle shape then create a nice, hot fire, big enough to burn the flag thoroughly with no parts or pieces left over. Be sure to check local outdoor fire rules or burn bans before doing this part. While burning the flag it might be nice to salute, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, have a moment of silence or even sing a patriotic tune. In other words, give the flag some respect while you burn it. Collect the ashes of the burned flag and bury them in a respectable place. The American flag is considered a living thing, so give the ashes a nice burial.

We checked with the local VFW in Kuna but they said that they do not perform a flag burning service. Todd McGillivray, Troop Committee Chair for Boy Scout Troop 181 in Kuna said they regularly collect flags to dispose of and handle the process during their campouts in a private ceremony. If you have a flag to dispose of you may contact McGillivray at 208-861-7800.


Dear Mr. Newspaperman,

Did you know that it will be another 823 years before we have another March with five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays in the same month?

– J.R., Melba


Dear J.R.,

I didn’t know that, because it isn’t true.

This is a common email message myth that gets sent round and round. It creeps up every so often like a bad cold sore. While this March has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays there are other months that this happens as well.  You can look at  May 2009, January and October 2010 and July 2011; and so will August 2014, May 2015… and so on. The cycle follows a multi year cycle of six, five, six and 11 years due to skipping between leap years. The longest stretch between the same months with quintuple three-day weekends is 11 years, not 823.

In some versions of this email, it also tells how this is based in Chinese Feng Shui and is called “Money Bags.” Supposedly if you send the message on to friends, you will be rolling in money within four days. If you believe that I have a Nigerian
prince I’d like to introduce
you to.

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Posted by on March 20, 2013. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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