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December 25, 2004

"A Valley Forge Christmas"
Many American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen celebrate Christmas today away from their families and at war. As Senator Mike Crapo writes at, the American military has observed many such Christmases but none as desperate and seemingly hopeless as the Christmas at Valley Forge in 1778:

During its long history, the American Military has celebrated many wartime Christmases. Our men and women in uniform are doing it again right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, perhaps one the most difficult Christmas celebrations by members of the Armed Forces occurred very early on in our history and it demonstrates the true grit and tenacity of American troops.

In December of 1778, just before Christmas, the Army was retreating in the face of a British advance. The Continental Army under George Washington had been based in Philadelphia, where two years before the Declaration of Independence had been signed. But when the British began to move into the city, our Army, outgunned and outnumbered, took to the Pennsylvania countryside to a place called Valley Forge.

When Washington arrived at Valley Forge, the situation was desperate. But his overall objective that season remained the same--to keep the Army together and keep the dream of American independence alive.

While the situation seemed dire, the Army still celebrated Christmas. It snowed heavily on Christmas Day 1778 and the men, having not yet built more sturdy structures, were still in tents. They were a long way from home in very difficult conditions, but Washington did his best to see that the soldiers had some kind of Christmas. He visited as many of the men as he could on Christmas Day and saw to it that what rations were available were distributed for what passed for a festive meal.

It was also at Valley Forge that George Washington is said, on Christmas Day, to have ridden into the woods by himself to pray. No one really knows what he prayed about, but his need to find some time to be alone and talk to God, was a mark of the very spiritual side of this rather remarkable individual. A print of this event as imagined by Arnold Friberg hangs in my Washington, D.C. office. It serves as a reminder to me of how Washington faced some of the trying times during our country’s early years.

Amazingly enough, in spite of all the adversity, the morale of the Continental Army that Christmas was surprisingly high. Even without adequate rations and in the face of appalling living conditions, the men sang, told stories, and passed a joyous, albeit somewhat meager Christmas.

Christmas in Valley Forge became a turning point for the Army. It gave them the lift in spirits that started a transformation. As the winter continued, the Continental Army went about remaking itself. Each day, even in the face of cold and hunger, men from all the different colonies trained together, worked together, undertook field exercises, and got ready for what was still a very long war ahead.

When our Army left Valley Forge in June, morale was high, and discipline and organization far better than it had been a few months before. Just ten days after breaking camp, our troops fought the British to a standstill at the Battle of Monmouth. But the real message of Valley Forge was in the spirit of our young military, at that time only three years old, and its commitment and perseverance in the face of hardship.

Although 226 years have passed since that Christmas at Valley Forge, our military, whether at home, or overseas, continues to show that same spirit of perseverance and determination that is the backbone of American independence. I think George Washington would be very proud of them.

  • B. Sides @ 9:38 AM
  • December 10, 2004

    The 'Reagan Earthquake'
    Economist Brian Westbury writes in today's Wall Street Journal that "after the Reagan earthquake first rocked our economy, the aftershocks are still a very real and continuing phenomenon."

    Other excerpts:

    Every tax cut, every regulatory stranglehold broken, every economic shackle unlocked, and every despot or totalitarian regime toppled increases freedom, creativity and entrepreneurship. And in the ultracompetitive world that has sprung from the ashes, "old line" hegemony and subjugation lose their strength ...

    ... The result of these changes is a New World Order -- one in which competition comes from everywhere. A growing number of people have "skin in the game" and a "personal stake" in public policy. This has created an American population, as we saw in the election, that values greater individual freedom and supports government actions that bolster economic growth and wealth creation, not wealth redistribution.

    Not surprisingly there are ruthless Armand Hammer-wannabes (i.e. greedy leftist control-freaks) -- such as that kook George Soros -- who vigorously oppose economic freedom, competition and wealth creation for anyone but themselves. But, thanks to the Reagan aftershocks, these enemies of freedom are losing. Writes Westbury, "in an era of global deregulation, international financiers have a more difficult time profiting from personal relationships and intimate knowledge of government actions. Absolute returns tend to equalize among investors in a truly free market."


  • B. Sides @ 10:41 AM
  • December 08, 2004

    One Man's Poison Is Another's Face
    According to the Times of London, doctors have concluded that Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko "was poisoned in an attempt on his life during election campaigning ... "

    Judging from the photographic evidence, the poison does nothing but transform the victim into the likeness of Boris Yeltsin.

    Seems like Putin's old KGB buddies are losing their edge.

    You'll know the moment Yushchenko's opponents start playing for keeps: when he looks in the mirror some morning and sees Khrushchev's wife.

  • B. Sides @ 9:52 AM
  • December 07, 2004

    Breakfast Aboard The Arizona
    At approximately eight o'clock on the morning of December 7, 1941, I was leaving the breakfast table when the ship's siren for air defense sounded. Having no anti-aircraft battle station, I paid little attention to it. Suddenly I heard an explosion. I ran to the port door leading to the quarterdeck and saw a bomb strike a barge of some sort alongside the Nevada, or in that vicinity. The marine color guard came in at this point saying we were being attacked. I could distinctly hear machine gun fire. I believe at this point our anti-aircraft battery opened up.

    We stood around awaiting orders of some kind. General Quarters sounded and I started for my battle station in secondary aft. As I passed through casement nine I noted the gun was manned and being trained out. The men seemed extremely calm and collected. I reached the boat deck and our anti-aircraft guns were in full action, firing very rapidly. I was about three quarters of the way to the first platform on the mast when it seemed as though a bomb struck our quarterdeck. I could hear shrapnel or fragments whistling past me. As soon as I reached the first platform, I saw Second Lieutenant Simonson lying on his back with blood on his shirt front. I bent over him and taking him by the shoulders asked if there was anything I could do. He was dead, or so nearly so that speech was impossible. Seeing there was nothing I could do for the Lieutenant, I continued to my battle station.

    When I arrived in secondary aft I reported to Major Shapley that Mr. Simonson had been hit and there was nothing to be done for him. There was a lot of talking going on and I shouted for silence which came immediately. I had only been there a short time when a terrible explosion caused the ship to shake violently. I looked at the boat deck and everything seemed aflame forward of the mainmast. I reported to the Major that the ship was aflame,which was rather needless, and after looking about, the Major ordered us to leave.

    I was the last man to leave secondary aft because I looked around and there was no one left. I followed the Major down the port side of the tripod mast. The railings, as we ascended, were very hot and as we reached the boat deck I noted that it was torn up and burned. The bodies of the dead were thick, and badly burned men were heading for the quarterdeck, only to fall apparently dead or badly wounded. The Major and I went between No. 3 and No. 4 turret to the starboard side and found Lieutenant Commander Fuqua ordering the men over the side and assisting the wounded. He seemed exceptionally calm and the Major stopped and they talked for a moment. Charred bodies were everywhere.

    I made my way to the quay and started to remove my shoes when I suddenly found myself in the water. I think the concussion of a bomb threw me in. I started swimming for the pipe line which was about one hundred and fifty feet away. I was about half way when my strength gave out entirely. My clothes and shocked condition sapped my strength, and I was about to go under when Major Shapley started to swim by, and seeing my distress, grasped my shirt and told me to hang to his shoulders while he swam in.

    We were perhaps twenty-five feet from the pipe line when the Major's strength gave out and I saw he was floundering, so I loosened my grip on him and told him to make it alone. He stopped and grabbed me by the shirt and refused to let go. I would have drowned but for the Major. We finally reached the beach where a marine directed us to a bomb shelter, where I was given dry clothes and a place to rest.
    -- Marine Corporal E.C. Nightingale, "Attack At Pearl Harbor, 1941," EyeWitness to History

  • B. Sides @ 8:54 AM
  • December 03, 2004

    Terrorist Suggestion Box
    While announcing his resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services today, Tommy Thompson wondered aloud, "For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do."

    Apparently all that hair and eyebrow dye has seeped into Tommy's brain.

    While Thompson's concern is justified, it's hardly advisable to announce to the world that America's food supply would be "easy" to attack. What's to be gained by telling the enemy where we're vulnerable? Sheesh.

  • B. Sides @ 10:54 PM
  • December 02, 2004

    Jesse In The Buckeye State
    Alleging electoral fraud, has-been race hustler Jesse Jackson was busy this past week annoying Ohioans with demands that the Ohio Supreme Court invalidate President Bush's Ohio victory.

    Jackson said in a radio report today that proof of such fraud can be found in some counties where there was a large difference in votes cast for Kerry and votes cast for a Democrat-endorsed candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court. In other words, Jackson is claiming that the vote tally for the Democratic presidential nominee should be similar to the tally for the Democrat-endorsed candidate for Ohio's high court.

    Jesse should take a break from stepping-out on the Mrs. to familiarize himself with the basics of Ohio election law. Unlike presidential candidates, judicial candidates' party affiliation isn't listed on the ballot in Ohio. So Jackson is comparing the results of a partisan race to the results of a non-partisan race. Oops!

    Looks like Rev. Jesse will have to find some other straws to grasp. Or perhaps he should just stick to what he's good at: blackmailing large companies, using PUSH/Rainbow Coalition funds to pay off his mistress and siring children out of wedlock.

  • B. Sides @ 3:28 PM
  • December 01, 2004

    Censoring American History
    Remember James Lord? He's the student in Illinois who was booted by Dupo High School officials for daring to close his school's closed-circuit news broadcast by saying "God bless." Of course, the simpleton school administrators believed the James Lord's transgression violated the constitutionally-mandated separation of church of state.

    Never mind the fact that such a constitutional mandate doesn't exist.

    Dupo High indoctrinators...oops...educators aren't the only school officials in desperate need of a remedial course in American government. Not to be outdone by her Illinois counterparts, Patricia Vidmar, the principal of Stevens Creek School in Cupertino, California, has barred a fifth-grade teacher from "giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence," Reuters reports. Other historical documents banned by Vidmar include the private journals of George Washington and John Adams, William Penn's plan for governing Pennsylvania and a treatise on colonial rights by Samuel Adams.

    [Note: If you are a school administrator, I should explain a few things: George Washington was the nation's first president; John Adams was the second president; William Penn wasn't the inventor of modern self-inking writing utensils but the founder and proprietor of Pennsylvania and, ironically, a tireless champion of religious tolerance; and Samuel Adams is not a beer but an American colonial leader who helped organize protests and, later, rebellion against British rule.]

    Principal Vidmar is obviously a "Constitutional Separation Of Church and State" zealot. But I'm willing to wager that she and most other people masquerading as educators have never bothered to read the Constitution. If they had, they'd know that there's no such separation doctrine in the Constitution. What the Constitution does say about religion is found in the first phrase of the First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .

    The meaning is beyond question. Congress is prohibited from creating a Church of the United States, forcing anyone to join a particular religion and interfering with anyone's religious observances.

    By this prohibition on Congress, the Founders -- some of whom are now on Principal Vidmar's censor list -- sought to prevent an American version of the Church of England. In 1531, the English Parliament broke with the pope in Rome and declared that their king, Henry VIII, and every subsequent English monarch the supreme head of the Church in England. Two years later Parliament passed the Submission Act which forced all English clergy to acknowledge Henry, rather than the pope, as their spiritual father. Then, shortly after the Submission Act, Parliament passed a law forbidding anyone in England from giving money to the Catholic Church. And those who defied these acts of Parliament were subject to imprisonment, grisly torture and execution by decapitation, hanging or burning at the stake. By these laws, the Church of England was transformed into an agency of the English government. This is the "establishment of religion" to which the framers of the Constitution referred.

    Printing "In God We Trust" on currency is not an establishment of religion.

    Including the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is not an establishment of religion.

    Opening each session of the House and Senate with a prayer is not an establishment of religion.

    The Defense Department's involvement with the Boy Scouts is not an establishment of religion.

    A student saying "God bless" in a school broadcast is not an establishment of religion.

    And a child seeing the word "God" in the Declaration of Independence during a history lesson is not an establishment of religion.

    If Principal Vidmar doesn't know this, then she has no business being an educator. If she does know this, then she's just another leftist charlatan promoting an anti-America political agenda by denying American school children knowledge of their heritage -- all while posing as an educator.

    Paraphrasing Samuel Adams seems especially fitting here. "Go home," Ms Vidmar, "and may posterity forget that you were our countryman."

  • B. Sides @ 1:14 AM
  • Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11


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