Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
-- Thomas Jefferson

Particularly in this latest election cycle, the Constitution is receiving a lot of attention. The Constitution was completed by the Delegates to the convention on September 17th 1787.

The Constitution was the result of a trade dispute between Virginia and Maryland. At issue were tolls and tariffs levied by both states on Potomac river commerce, as well as Chesapeake Bay Commerce. The parties met several time between 1784 and 1786 to discuss trade issues. Culminating in the 1786 Annapolis Convention. As a result of difficulties discovered in the Articles of Confederation, the Annapolis meeting called for a Convention in Philadelphia to make corrections to the Articles of Confederation.

There were several different positions, presented during the Philadelphia convention. The major differences were over whether the Convention had the authority to present a completely new document rather than a revision of the existing one. Ultimately enough delegates persevered through the debate and presented the document and process that are the Constitution.

To truly understand our Constitution, its operation and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship more is required than merely reading the document. As seen in the brief introduction there is a considerable background needed to understand the creation of the Constitution.

After it was ratified by the Convention and presented to the Continental Congress, it was presented for debate and ratification to the member states of the Confederation. During the ratification debate one of the finest series of essays written on the operation and intentions of the Constitution was presented to the Citizens of New York. Known to day as the Federalist Papers, they were presented over a period of several weeks. The authors originally took the pseudonym Publius. Eventually the identity of the writers was revealed. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay had attended the Convention and taken part in the debates. Recognizing that New York was a critical, perhaps the make or break state for ratification they rose in defense of their creation, and gave us one of the critical tools for understanding the Constitution.

The anti-Federalists also took advantage of the press and presented issues and solutions to problems that they saw with the proposed constitution. The principle evidence of their work was incorporated into the Constitution and became the first ten amendments to the Constitution. We know these changes as the Bill of Rights.

In recent years several scholarly collections of Anti-Federalist literature have been made, these essays are the third important source of understanding for the Constitution. Many of the criticisms still resonate today, and are being repeated in modern language yet again.

The least talked about, but possibly most important source of information on the interpretation of the Constitution comes from the 200 plus years of rulings by the Supreme Court. A relatively naive reading of the Constitution without reference to the opinions of The Court quickly leads to confusion about how various laws, rules and principles of the Constitution work in our daily life.

Since the 1950's the Scholars of the Congressional Research Service, compile a volume of annotations to the Constitution taken from the Cases of the Supreme Court. Many of the Cases that come before the Supreme Court arise from issues where one principle of the Constitution must be balanced against another principle. Over time, some of the decisions have come to be regarded as brilliant explanations of our law. Others, which stretched the limits of the court at the time of the ruling, have been altered, extended or rejected in favor of new theories and principles.

I urge everyone with an interest in the way that our Country works to spend some time examining the Constitution, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist writings and the Opinions of the Supreme Court as applied to our current understanding of the Constitution.

My purpose today is not to tell you what to think of the Constitution, but to urge you to think about it and study it.


  1. The Constitution of the United States of America
  2. The Federalist Papers (Perhaps the most readable version I've seen)
  3. The Anti-Federalist Papers (Best online Collection) (The Borden Collection Collects the Anti-Federalist works and pairs them with Federalist Papers)
  4. The Annotated Constitution of the United States HTML hyperlinked version. Authoritative Version by GPO
  5. The Founder's Constitution readings on the background of the Constitution
Note: These are references that I have used, they may not be the best possible ones, but they are certainly not the worst.

Remembrance (Updated)

Major Edward Ball Cole, USMC Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Belleau Wood, France
Major General Randolph Carter Berkeley, USMC Congressional Medal of Honor, Veracruz, Mexico.
Sergeant Darrell Samuel Cole, USMCR, Congressional Medal of Honor, Iwo Jima
Lieutenant Junior Grade Thomas Mack Wilhoite, USNR, Silver Star, Rabat-Sale, Morocco

{I should have noted earlier that the update was the correction of Wilhoite's rank. The military has a tradition of tombstone promotion. Yet another honor for our fallen heroes.}

The thread joining these men is that each was memorialized by the building of a warship. Major Cole's service and valor were commemorated by the Wickes class destroyer DD-155. While completed too late to serve in World War One, the Cole served with distinction during World War Two

Lieutenant Junior Grade Wilhoite was honored with the construction of the Edsall class Destroyer Escort DE-397. Following exemplary service in World War Two, Wilhoite was converted into a RADAR picket ship, serving in the Viet Nam war as part of the Market Time task force.

General Berkeley was honored for his service with the construction of USS Berkeley a Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyer. Berkeley served in the Viet Nam war, and throughout the Cold War. Following decommissioning in 1992 Berkeley was transferred to the Hellenic navy serving as the H. S. Themistokles. Decommissioned a second time the ship was sold as scrap.

Sergeant Cole's service was honored by the construction of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer DDG-67. Of the ships in this list only USS Cole is in Active service following major repairs to damage caused in an October 2000 terrorist attack in Aden Yemen.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Paratus Et Potens (Ready and Able)

Since November of 1995 I've been going to a small memorial wall for the 111th Artillery and the 29th Infantry Division. Memorial Day is one of two days that I try to get to the memorial. When I can't be there I look for some other opportunity to remember and honor America's fallen heroes.

Today, I really didn't want to go. I was up at Arlington National Cemetery last month to bury a shipmate from the USS Cole. Work has been busy and I didn't feel up to going to the memorial and playing taps.

I went anyway - and once I got there and the City Parks and Memorials folks started setting up the chairs. Followed by the first couple of guys from the 29th Association, I started to see why I needed to come. Carl, the Adjutant, was grumbling about not being able to get a bugler from any of the local army bases.

The local post of the 29th Assoc. has a couple of D-Day veterans but we weren't expecting any of them to come out as they are getting on in years. Fortunately our weather was sunny, warm and dry. One of our D-day vets was able to come and he brought a photo of some of the men he served with. He closed with a story, about one of the fallen soldiers of the 111th, a LT Wilcox. In the days leading up to D-day they were on a break and the LT came over to talk to this gentleman. The LT asked him if he could go home would he. His response was LT you wouldn't even have time to blink, I would be gone that fast. The LT's response was that he wouldn't miss it for the world. He thought that it would be an awesome spectacle, something to tell the grand kids some day.

Sadly, LT Wilcox never saw the end of the day on June 6th, but men he served with did and remember him. And that for me is the key and the source of importance for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. We who remain, remember those who went and did not come home.

What got me there was a sense of obligation, I've become attached to these men who died before I was born. I was afraid that if I didn't go that there wouldn't be anyone to play taps for them. That brings me to the second man I met who made an impression on me. He was standing toward the back of the folks as they arrived for the memorial service. He stood out like a nail on a wood deck. He was wearing a Retired Chief Petty Officer cap. He had seen a note about the ceremony on the web and had come to ensure that there was a bugler on hand. We had a good bugler to bugler conversation. Finding among other things that we share a dislike for the Digital Insert, and a conviction that the worst live bugler is better than the best recorded bugler.

So while I had gone out of a sense of obligation, God had made provision for my weakness. This is the first time since I have been going to the 29th memorial that there has been another bugler there. We're going to try to get together before Veteran's Day and work out a version of Echo Taps.

Lastly my good friend Ultraguy, a much more prolific blogger than I, put up a post today about the importance of being available and willing, or if you prefer Ready and Able, to speak to others about the Christian Hope in us because of the sacrifice of Jesus. He went through much the same process that I did, and finally submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit and acted. I'll let him tell the story, He's better at it.

for the full story see

It's the second half of the post but the whole thing is worth reading in my opinion.


As I wrote last September, the Father has seen fit to put a Muslim family from Turkey in the home next to ours as renters. I have prayed earnestly for each of them by name that Christ be revealed to them somehow.

As the vehicle for their conversion, I was thinking private dreams and visions, perhaps a flashy Damascus Road knock-down… maybe a glowing white Bible dropping out of the sky… something supernatural. He is God, after all. Why not?

Besides, who am I to suppose I’d do a good job being salt and light in a notoriously difficult, dangerous realm where I do not speak the language and have no inside knowledge. I’m a writer, not a street evangelist.

Sure, I used to do cold-calls now and then when I was in sales. I was actually OK at it. But that was long ago. It was different. It took a lot of energy. It’s not my bag now.

Thoughts of the family patriarch running out of the house, long, gleaming sharp sword in hand yelling “Allah-akhbar! Get away from my kids!” briefly crossed my mind.

In the previous post I shared how it began to dawn on me how the Father might be orchestrating events to use me despite such fantastic protestations. The kids have become part of the neighborhood scene. They love our dog and find any excuse to engage us with constant questions. They play basketball in our driveway. I’ve lent things to the dad who seems pleasant and humble. We have a relationship.

Last Sunday, as I returned from a worship service and some time alone in a micro-fast (postponing a meal a few hours can do as much to put my ravenous metabolism into spiritual ecstasy as a few days might achieve for some others) I noticed the older boy, age ~10, riding his scooter as I pulled into my driveway.

Getting out of the car, I looked around. Just as had been the case eight months ago, he was alone — highly unusual in our active, kid-filled neighborhood, especially on such a nice evening. I could tell he wanted to talk. The Spirit gently confirmed:

It’s go time; he’s ready; you’re ready; I’m beside you.

I had every reason to brush him off and go inside, but that Spirit-sense stopped me. The boy (whose name I’m leaving out on purpose) related how, at a picnic earlier that day, at a lake, he and his family had witnessed a drowning. The details were less important than his deep, dark, searching eyes fixed on mine as he recounted it.

He went on to recall how, back in Turkey, a friend of his father’s — almost an uncle to him — had also drowned. It was not hard to infer the impression that event must have made — his father’s uncharacteristic grief; the loss of a loving man in his life.

The death of a stranger had brought it all back. He had no answers.

I looked around again. We were still alone in the driveway. Highly unusual.

“You said your brother died, right?”

His words resounded in my soul like the starter’s pistol I’d been waiting for.

It’s go time; he’s ready; you’re ready; I’m beside you, came the gentle, sub-lingual whisper, again.

“Yes, he did.” I heard myself saying… “…but I know I will see him again, alive.”

He stopped scootering in circles just long enough to stare at me.

“Hunh? But how do you know that?”

I wish I could bottle up and convey the total innocence with which he said this.

“Because there was this guy, you see… You remember how I told you about Jesus before?” He nodded silently. “Well Jesus died and came back to life. He promised that if we follow him, we will too. That’s why I know I will see my brother again.”

He asked many questions after that, genuinely intrigued by the concept.


Oh, the kicker? He was born in the city once called Iconium (see Acts 14) — now one of the most conservative Muslim enclaves in that Muslim country. God finds a way…


If you want to show solidarity with America's fallen Heroes the Honor and Remember Flag:

Bugles Across America - If you need a bugler - Or if you are a bugler or want to be one:

If you are a disable veteran or know one:

If you served overseas in a war:

If you served at any time: