Under federal law, as we reported Tuesday, flags on federal buildings are supposed to be displayed at half-staff in the nation's capital and in the home state or district of a deceased member of Congress until the day after his or her funeral.

This is to report that in the case of Rep. Gillis Long (D-La.), who died on the eve of the public presidential inauguration ceremony, the flag situation in Washington has been utterly chaotic. On the inaugural morning the flags were permitted to stay at full staff -- properly, we think -- but were lowered after the presidential swearing-in.

But on Wednesday and again yesterday, it remained confused. My own eyeball survey yesterday showed flags at half-staff over or adjacent to the Capitol and its office buildings, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Kennedy Center, the Interior Department and the Office of Personnel Management but at full staff over the White House, the Veterans Administration, Fort Myer, some buildings of the General Services Administration, the Small Business Administration and the multiagency Lafayette Building on Lafayette Square.

Private enterprise was also divided: for random examples, the First American Bank in Rosslyn had its flags at half staff, but the Madison Hotel in Washington didn't. Nor did most other private enterprises.

Long's funeral was held yesterday in Alexandria, La. That means all flags should return to full staff today.