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November 1: The Sum of Our Fears

Friday, October 18th, 2013 - by James Simpson

Dragon DayDragon Day, a tense thriller set to release November 1st, depicts a Chinese takeover of the U.S. after our government defaults on its debt. Unlike other films of this genre, Dragon Day is uncomfortably realistic, and given what is happening today in Washington, DC it seems almost prophetic.

The story begins with Ex-NSA engineer Duke Evans, who has lost his job due to the continuing financial crisis. Forced to foreclose on his home, he resettles his family (wife, daughter and sister) in a mountain cabin inherited from his recently deceased grandfather. They have barely gotten in the door when things start happening. Lights go out, the TV goes blank and a huge airliner swoops by at treetop level, erupting in a fireball on the next mountain.

The Chinese have launched a cyber attack. A secret computer virus embedded in Chinese manufactured computer chips has allowed the Chinese military to turn them off remotely. America’s entire computer-based infrastructure comes screeching to a halt: power goes off, lights go out, autos and trucks stall, trains go off the rails and planes fall out of the sky.

TV service is temporarily restored, and the President appears, announcing what has happened, the screen then goes blank, followed shortly by an eerie red flag image and a message welcoming those who swear allegiance to the Peoples Republic. At the same time, everyone’s cell phone starts ringing, and the same graphic appears on them all.

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Evans quickly realizes what has happened. He was the NSA engineer in charge of a secret government cyber warfare program he now sees was compromised. He thought he was doing this for his country, but it turns out that many in government have been secretly working for the other side all along. His idea was hijacked by the communists.

He destroys all the family’s cell phones and anything else that can lead the enemy to his hideaway. The country quickly reverts to pre-industrial conditions, and the movie offers a fairly realistic window into what would actually happen in such a situation. Stores are ransacked. People begin to starve and die of thirst. Roving bands of thugs begin robbing and murdering.

Anarchy rules. But you are offered escape. If you willingly attach a “Citizen’s Freedom Band”, presumably you will be spared further anguish. Urgently needed food and water are just around the corner, so you think. But instead it proves to be a high tech dog collar which will kill you if you move out of your assigned zone. Surprisingly, the local sheriff’s office has a large supply of these, obviously obtained before the attack occurred.

Unlike Red Dawn and similar fare, there are no absurd heroics, or unrealistic depictions of the town forming a militia to fight off the Chinese hoards. Watching Communist thugs getting blown away by vengeful high school kids in Red Dawn is entertainment, nothing more. A genuine takeover would not go well for such resistors.

Dragon Day portrays more of the things that would really happen: friends, neighbors and authorities – even the U.S. military, I am afraid to say – likely turning against you. At least the military would now that Obama has purged patriotic leaders. There is no ability to communicate or travel, and food and water are almost nonexistent. Many people do what average citizens would do facing starvation and uncertainty, they put on the bracelets. It becomes obvious that many within government at all levels have conspired with the enemy, but it also becomes obvious that for most, their treason will not pay off.

While some might dismiss the possibility of a system-wide cyber attack like this, according to Defense Tech, an American-designed, Chinese-made microchip used in defense applications was recently discovered to have a virus hardwired into it. The article states:

Basically, Chinese cyber spies can use the chip’s built-in malware to decipher military passcodes and gain remote access to the chip and reprogram it to do their bidding; ‘permitting a new and disturbing possibility of a large-scale Stuxnet-type attack via a network or the Internet on the silicon itself,’…

This discovery has led experts to worry that all Chinese manufactured chips may have similar vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, the events depicted in the movie are almost indistinguishable from what would happen following an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack. EMP is the result of either an unusually large solar storm or high altitude detonation of an atomic bomb. It roasts electrical circuitry. As in the movie, aircraft would fall from the sky, transportation would cease, and energy, food and water supplies would vanish. Iran has conducted missile tests believed to be test runs for EMP attacks.

Meanwhile, in the real world, China, by far the largest single owner of U.S. Treasury debt, has been abandoning Treasury bonds to invest directly in U.S. land, buildings and businesses. Recently, China entered an agreement with the European Union to swap currencies, forgoing purchases of U.S. dollars – the world’s reserve currency – to finance transactions. Both of these activities are a consequence of the risk associated with astronomical U.S. debt, almost doubled since President Obama took office. On October 11, China called for the world to be “de-Americanized,” its leaders ridiculing Washington over the shutdown impasse.

Dragon Day Director Jeffrey Travis says, “When I would pitch the film to people, I could rarely finish the logline before the reaction was ‘Oh my God, that’s really going to happen’. Our joke was we had to finish the film before it became a documentary.” Given where we are today, that may not be so funny.

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Evans with shortwave radio and potato battery

There are some gimmicks the tech-savvy viewers will enjoy. Evans’ mountain neighbor Albert, a good friend of his deceased grandfather, brings over an old short wave radio, but the battery is dead. If Evans can just reach his old NSA boss, he knows he can get help. He rigs up a potato battery to run the radio. Don’t laugh; they work! The only thing that bothered me was where the heck did he get all those potatoes?

It also bothered me that they didn’t appear to be using the apparently plentiful potatoes as a source of food or water when these ran short. They could have, and did give a few potatoes to two kids who came to the door begging.

But this was a small detail. The movie was fast moving and kept me on the edge of my seat. I appreciated the realism. This movie showed a family doing its best to innovate and survive in a chaotic situation – very believable.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of it for you so I’ll just leave it there. This is a low budget Indie film made with less than $400,000. They did an amazing job with what they had. While it won’t earn academy awards, the acting is convincing, the camera work is good, and the entire storyline, right down to the way different people might react in such a situation, really rings true. Read about the cast and crew here. If you would like to see a realistic survivalist, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it type film, Dragon Day will not disappoint. See it in theaters November 1st. You can also get it on DVD, Blu-ray or USB wristband. They even have a “Government Shutdown” special.

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Finally, a Christian Film Both You and Your Teens Will Like

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 - by James Simpson

This is a film with a powerful Christian message you can share with your teenagers without them thinking you’re square. Okay maybe they think you’re square anyway, but they’ll still appreciate the film. It is a little bit mushy in parts, but hey, it’s a love story. As writer and producer Galley Molina says, it’s a story of “surrender, redemption and second chances.” Inspired by Molina’s own life experiences,  I’m In Love with a Church Girl tells the story of a man trying to break away from his past life as a drug dealer after doing time in prison.

Miles Montego, played by hip-hop star Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins, is now a successful show promoter. But has he really left that old life behind? He still hangs out at his old haunts with his “boys,” Martin, (played by Christian rap star, T-Bone), “T” (played by Tobymac), and their gang. Trailing Montego are a DEA surveillance team, (Stephen Baldwin and Michael Madsen) gathering evidence to arrest them in a major drug bust.

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Stopped at an intersection in the middle of town, Miles spies Vanessa Leon (played by Adrienne Bailon) driving by in the opposite direction in a silver convertible. Smitten, he turns his car around and speeds off after her, only to be stopped by the police. Later he coincidentally meets her at a pool party put on by a mutual friend, Nick, (well-known star of The Sopranos, Vincent Pastore). Thus begins their stormy romance, where Miles is inspired to learn about God through his love for Vanessa, and Vanessa learns, to her consternation, about Miles’ past life.

Church Girl Producer Galley Molina is CEO of Reverence Gospel Media (RGM). The movie closely parallels his life. In the movie, however, Miles finds the church girl and God after leaving jail. In real life, Molina found the church girl (to whom he is now married) and God first.

Then he went to jail.

“They think that once you become saved your life is just peaches and cream,” said Molina. “For me, the storm of my life happened after. I gave my life to Christ and then I was indicted, I went to bed on top of the world and I woke up with the world on top of me.”

Molina began writing Church Girl while in prison. In the movie he plays himself as the pastor of Vanessa’s church. On Miles’ first visit to the church, he sees Galley drive up in a gleaming white Lamborghini, decked out in white shirt and slacks, wearing a white cap. When Galley walks out on the stage to give the sermon, Miles is shocked to realize he is the pastor. It is an understatement to say that Galley does not look like your average pastor. After the service, they have a humorous but meaningful exchange:

Miles (skeptical): “So, you’re really like a pastor, huh? I mean like, a real pastor?”

Galley (amused): “As opposed to, like, an imaginary, cartoon pastor?”

Miles (skeptical): “Nah, that’s not what I meant. I mean, you don’t even look like a pastor.”

Galley (amused): “So, what’s a real pastor supposed to look like, Miles?”

Miles (skeptical): “I don’t know, I mean, look at you, man… your clothes, your jewelry…

Galley (amused): “You’re kinda decked out yourself, Miles.”

Miles (accusing): “Yeah, but, I don’t drive no Lambo pastor.”

Galley (amused): “Lambo huh? I recall pulling into the parking lot and seeing a four-door black Bentley that I ain’t never seen here before, and I’m assuming that’s yours, man.”

Miles (skeptical): “Yeah, but I ain’t no pastor.”

Galley (serious): “True that, but last time I read the Bible, it said nothing about style being a sin… Kinda goes back to that old saying about ‘you cannot judge a book by its cover,’ you heard?”

Miles (accepting): “Yeah I dig. So what made you want to be a pastor anyway?”

Galley (persuasive): “Well, God had a calling in my life, Miles. And as much as I tried to avoid that call, I couldn’t avoid it anymore. And here I am… He’s got a calling in your life too… in everybody’s life. But you gotta answer the phone when he calls, you dig?”

The narrative is authentic and the actors are comfortable with it. It sounds real because it is real for them. The dialog comes right from the streets where they grew up, and Ja Rule, Molina, Bailon and the others give compelling performances. Moreover, in writing the script, Molina managed to pull off authentic street dialog without any character uttering a single expletive – an accomplishment in and of itself.

I won’t tell you the rest of the story. You will have to watch the movie yourself to find out what happens.

In a genuinely ironic case of life imitating art, Atkins went to jail immediately following the movie’s filming in 2011 to serve a two year prison sentence on weapons and tax evasion charges. Though he had dabbled in religion, unlike many of the film’s participants, Ja Rule was not a Christian. At the time, Molina said, “Ja Rule has been ministered to. He’s a dear friend… We’ve been praying for him a lot. He’s been open; he’s been so [receptive] to the word.”

Now out again, Atkins says it changed him. “It’s been real crazy. Real reflective. You go through something like that…it changes you a little bit… You get a chance to really to be at one with yourself. A lot of late nights, by myself… So, you know, I’m really in a good head space. I really want to just do what I’m doing and not focus on nothing negative at all… Right now I’m on my God flow, you know what I mean? I got Job 1:21 tattooed on my chest.”

The soundtrack was produced by 5-time Grammy Award winner and Christian music legend Israel Houghton, who wrote and performed original songs for the movie, including Providence, Sunday Kind of Love, Better, Worthy of All Praise and I Surrender. T-Bone also performed in a number of pieces, including, Possess My Body, Return of the Bionic Man and others.

For his part, T-Bone was enthusiastic to participate in the film upon reading the script. A Christian for 15 years, he too has a similar life story of street life and redemption. What got him the most was when he realized that the character he plays in the movie was actually someone he knew of “back in the day, when I was doing my thing…”

As a piece of contemporary drama, the film stands on its own. Actors turn in good performances and the story is solid and entertaining. Still, given Hollywood’s hostility to anything and everything Christian, this is a very brave film. It is boldly, proudly Christian, and as Molina says, it is indeed an inspiring story of “surrender, redemption and second chances.” Films like this should be supported if for no other reason than to reward producers willing to risk making healthy, clean and entertaining movies with an uplifting message, in counterpoint to the typically violent and decadent Hollywood fare.

Grammy Award-winning singer Donnie McClurkin said of the film, “I’ve seen this movie, and am both moved and inspired by the story, the characters, and the quality of both movie and music… This is not what people have come to expect from Christian films, and I know it will resonate deeply with viewers – even those who would never have gone anywhere near a movie that touches on the subject of faith.”

I’m In Love With a Church Girl Opens nationally on October 18. HERE is a list of theaters where you can see it in your state.

James Simpson is an economist, businessman and investigative journalist. His articles have been published at American Thinker, Accuracy in Media, Breitbart, PJ Media, Washington Times, WorldNetDaily and others. His regular column is DC Independent Examiner. Follow Jim on Twitter & Facebook

 

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Larry Grathwohl – RIP American Hero

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 - by James Simpson

America is a smaller place today. Larry Grathwohl, one of America’s truly unsung heroes, has died. He will be missed. Readers may recognize Larry’s name as the only informant to successfully penetrate Bill Ayers’ communist Weather Underground Organization (WUO). He wrote a book about his experiences, Bringing America Down: An FBI Informer with the Weathermen, re-released this spring.

During the run up to the 2008 election, an interview with Larry surfaced in which he described a meeting he attended where Ayers and company discussed how they would have to murder an estimated 25 million people following the revolution they were then attempting to foment. You can still see that interview, here:

Despite making the rounds of Fox talk shows and earning extensive write-ups in the blogosphere, Larry’s story was suppressed in the extremist left, Obama-promoting mass media. But why not, according to Obama, he was just a “guy who lives in my neighborhood.”

Sure. Nothing to see here, move along now…

Most people are also unaware of just what kind of fighter we had in Larry Grathwohl. During the Vietnam War, Larry was a member of a Hatchet Force unit of the 101st Airborne Division. This small force of 40 or fewer men was sent in to rescue other Special Operators in trouble and/or challenge the Vietnamese Communist forces operating in the area. They were among the toughest of the tough. Larry was an utterly fearless, dedicated patriot.

He carried that fearlessness and patriotic dedication into his undercover work, which started with the Cincinnati police – on a strictly voluntary basis while he held down a full-time job and tried to raise a family – and ultimately led to his work for the FBI. He testified before the U.S. Senate in 1974 about WUO operations, including naming Dohrn as the person responsible for a deadly bombing. Despite his unimpeachable testimony, Ayers and Dohrn were able to squirm out of convictions for their treason and murder on a technicality.

Most people are unaware that Ayers and Dohrn were under control of Cuban intelligence, along with fellow comrades Mark Rudd, Carl Davidson and others, during their Weather Underground days, according to declassified government documents. So Ayers was even more than just a communist terrorist – as though that weren’t enough. He was an active traitor working on behalf of our sworn enemies during wartime. WUO activities at the time included multiple bombings, plans to bomb passenger airplanes and plans to assassinate the President, Vice President, Attorney General and New York Governor Rockefeller.

And while he is feted these days as a “distinguished professor” Ayers retains his communist ideology and continues to regularly hobnob with enemies of our country. It would be interesting to know if he still has Cuban handlers. Not likely to find out – or maybe he doesn’t even need them anymore – with the Cuban terrorist sympathizing Eric Holder running the DOJ, and Ayers’ Marxist friend, Barack Obama, in the White House.

Larry, however, never gave them a break. On his own dime, he would travel to seminars where Ayers and Dohrn were scheduled to speak, and wait his turn to challenge them about their endless lies and participation in terrorism and murder. Most of the time, the gutless Ayers ducked out of the building before Larry could confront him. But Larry never gave up trying.

He also participated in an ongoing, years-long effort to reopen the murder investigation of Police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell, who died in the 1970 San Francisco Park Station bombing. The San Francisco Police union has joined in this effort. This bombing was carried out by the WUO, and according to Grathwohl, Ayers implicated Dohrn when he complained of certain members’ lack of commitment to the cause, explaining that Dohrn had to do the bombing herself:

As soon as we had all assembled, Bill began a criticism session of myself and my associates for having spent too much time preparing for actions (bombings) and not doing anything.  He reminded us of the commitment all of us had made to the overthrow of the U.S. government at the National Council Meeting in Flint the previous December and how our inactivity was harming the Cubans, the Vietnamese and the Chinese.  Bill went on to describe how Bernardine Dorhn, a Weather Underground central committee member and considered the leader of the Weather Underground, had to plan and commit the bombing of the Park Station in San Francisco.  This bomb contained fence staples and was placed on a window ledge during a shift change ensuring the presence of the greatest number of police officers and the greatest possibility of death and injury.  Several Police Officers were injured and one, Sergeant McDonnell, was killed by fence staples used in the bomb.

Grathwohl also challenged other WUO members about their participation in terrorism. In an interesting exchange at a recent seminar, Mark Rudd referred to Bernardine Dohrn offhandedly when asked about his participation in murder. “I don’t think the issue of my relationship to Bernardine Dohrn is what’s at stake here. Rudd defends himself, but there was no reason to mention her name specifically except in reference to WUO violence.

There is no statute of limitations on murder, and while that is unlikely to motivate the FBI right now, under a loyal, patriotic administration, such an investigation could be resumed. In the meantime, a significant amount of corroborating evidence has surfaced, including extensive photos of the San Francisco WUO bomb factory where the Park Station bomb was likely constructed. Larry never missed an opportunity to talk about it.

In the video below, Larry talks about how a 2012 Robert Redford movie “The Company You Keep” absurdly romanticizes the Weather Underground. But there was nothing romantic about this group. Bill Ayers’ manifesto, Prairie Fire, spelling out the WUO’s determination to bring communist revolution to America, makes that unambiguous. George Soros now controls the documentary portion of Redford’s Sundance Institute. Larry places this absurd propaganda film in the context of the Weather Underground’s extensive campaign of bombing and terror, which killed and injured many people.

Larry dedicated the better part of his life to seeing these despicable traitors brought to the justice they so richly deserve, and he paid heavily for it. It is a sad day in America when such a true hero dies in obscurity, while one of our very worst is feted in the cocktail circuit, lives high on the hog as a parasite on America’s back, and spends his every waking moment trying to destroy the country that could produce such men as Larry.

At the end of his Weathermen chronicle, Fugitive Days, Ayers states, “Guilty as Hell, free as a bird – it’s a great country.” If there is any justice, Ayers and Dohrn will ultimately reward Larry’s sacrifices by facing prosecution for their crimes in this world. Either way, they will certainly face a horrible reckoning in the next.

Goodbye Larry; friend, compatriot, hero. America is a smaller place today.

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Communists Devised “Path-to-Citizenship” Immigration Plans Being Hawked by RINOs

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 - by James Simpson
DC Immigration Rally: one picture is worth a thousand words (Credit: dhogberg.com)

DC immigration rally: one picture is worth a thousand words (Credit: dhogberg.com)

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has announced a closed-door meeting with the entire Republican caucus, scheduled for today, Wednesday, July 10, at 3 pm, to decide the immigration issue. Politico has called it “the most important day for immigration reform.”

This meeting was originally requested by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to air grave concerns about this “reform” shared by many Republicans, but it is unclear if this meeting was the Speaker’s answer to King or his own idea. In either case, many fear that the Speaker will use the meeting as a vehicle to impose the plan Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has already gone on the talk show circuit to promote.

Well, here is some news that may bring that effort to a screeching halt.

The U.S. Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration “reform” plan and the dismally similar plan now being suggested by Ryan and a bi-partisan House “Gang”, both offer the “roadmap to citizenship” originally conceived and carefully developed by American Communist Party members (CPUSA) working within the Democratic Party and among the radical left activist network. Unknowingly or otherwise, prominent Republicans are now serving their cause.

Their purpose is plain: Communists seek to use amnestied illegals to build a “permanent progressive majority.” Most thinking Americans know that Democrats only care about illegals for the winning voting bloc they can provide, but most are unaware that this idea was hatched and developed by the American Communist Party.

This has been painstakingly documented and revealed in Trevor Loudon’s new book, Enemies Within: Communists, Socialists and Progressives in the U.S. Congress. This book is not yet out, but Trevor has generously shared a chapter: Latino Immigrants: Tools to Ensure a “Governing Coalition” for the Left. From WorldNetDaily:

According to Loudon, the Communist Party USA has influenced U.S. policy toward illegals since at least the 1960s. He traces the history, showing how communists and communist-founded organizations slowly built the movement from the ground up. While other groups certainly joined the effort, the communists were always at the center.

For example, he tells the story of CPUSA member Bert Corona, the “Communist Father of the ‘Immigrants Rights’ movement.” In 1964, Corona, Cesar Chavez and future Democratic Socialists of America member Dolores Huerta forced Congress to end the guest worker “Bracero” program. Later, Corona sought ways to address “problems confronting Mexicans in the United States who had no visas or citizenship documents” – in other words, illegal aliens – including “how to defend persons detained by immigration authorities and how to help immigrants acquire disability and unemployment insurance and welfare.”

Along the way, Corona founded and/or led numerous organizations, such as the Mexican American Political Association, or MAPA, Centro de Action Social Autonoma, or CASA, and La Hermandad Mexicana Nacional (the National Mexican Brotherhood), all influential in the “immigrant rights” movement. The Communist Party still has strong influence in MAPA, which acts as a king-maker for Democratic Party candidates in the Los Angeles area.

Antonio Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor and 2012 chairman of the Democratic National Convention, got his start with CASA. He was also a former member of the Communist Venceremos Brigades and worked with the Brigades in Cuba. As mayor of Los Angeles, he was “the most pro-illegal immigrant mayor the city has ever seen.”

Lorenzo Torrez, a long-time organizer of the Arizona Communist Party, paved the way for Communist-backed Congressmen Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva to win congressional seats in Arizona. He organized opposition to Southwestern states attempting to prevent illegal immigration and also helped change voting patterns across the entire region.

Loudon’s book identifies many influential communist and socialist politicians holding positions of influence in Congress and state and local governing bodies. For example, Rep. Judy Chu, D.-Calif., writes Loudon, has “a thirty-year history with the now defunct pro-China Communist Workers Party (CWP) and its surviving networks.” Chu is an advocate for “progressive” immigration reform and was a co-sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez in 2010. In 2012, Chu served as co-chair of President Obama’s reelection campaign.

For his part, Gutierrez is a former member of the Marxist-Leninist Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and chairs the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Longtime amnesty activists Gutierrez and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), both members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are working with House Republicans on this latest amnesty effort.

There are so many things wrong with what the Senate and now House RINOs are doing to promote amnesty it is indeed a sad day for our country. They are supporting this on behalf of big business for the benefit it will provide in the way of cheap labor.

That benefit, however will only be temporary. As soon as these amnestied illegals get citizenship, their cost structure will mirror American citizens. In the meantime however, they will steal more American jobs due to the fact that employers will not be required to meet the Obamacare mandate, a $5,000 saving per employee.

The Senate bill deferred citizenship for 13 years, but if a version of this passes, Democrats will begin demanding citizenship immediately and likely make it a 2016 or even 2014 election issue, so even the dubious short-term benefit to business will vanish before their eyes. For the American worker, amnestied illegals will swamp the unemployment rolls and depress wages. Has anyone yet devised a better argument for dumping unions – currently foursquare in support of amnesty?

The ugly truth, however, is that it is not even necessary for illegals to achieve citizenship to significantly impact the vote in key districts. As a recent report for Capital Research Center detailed, (The Blueprint: How the Left hopes to capture America), Democrats are already employing illegals to boost get-out-the-vote efforts among Hispanics, and won a major victory in a local Arizona election in 2011 watched closely by President Obama and the Democrats. They hope this strategy will win them key swing states, especially Texas, whose electoral votes will provide guaranteed Democratic Presidents for the foreseeable future.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Louie Gohmert, (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA), Trey Goudy, (R-SC), Bob Goodlatte, (R-VA), and others, seventy House members in all, as well as Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-NV), and others, are bravely standing up to the self-serving, corrupt, DC insider crowd, who are merciless toward anyone with the audacity to challenge them – even among their own Party.

These friends not only deserve our admiration, they require our unflagging support. As the last remnant of an America loyal to her founding principles, it is once again essential for us all to hang together if we are not to hang separately.

The Washington Times published a piece Tuesday indicating that wiser heads may be prevailing in House deliberations.  That would be welcome news, if true. Because if amnesty succeeds, say goodbye to the Republican Party and say goodbye to our country. Once their undefeatable majorities are obtained, the communists will come out of their hiding places within the Democratic Party. And if you think things are bad now, just wait.

James Simpson is an economist, businessman and investigative journalist. His articles have been published at American Thinker, Accuracy in Media, Breitbart, PJ Media, Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, and others. His regular column is DC Independent Examiner. Follow Jim on Twitter & Facebook

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Copperhead Movie a Unique Take on the Civil War

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 - by James Simpson
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Wednesday, June 25, 2013 – Orthodox mythology of the Civil War holds that the Northern states rallied in unity behind the messianic President Lincoln on a noble mission to liberate the slaves and preserve the Union. Its terrible cost in American lives – unmatched by any other conflict before or since – is taken as a measure of that nobility, and anyone who challenges that view can only be an idiot, or worse, a closet racist. The truth, as usual, is a little more complicated.

Copperhead, a movie set to open this coming Friday, June 28, grapples with one of these complicated truths: Northern opposition to the war. This is a truly unique Civil War movie. There are no battle scenes; no exploration of different campaigns and the military logic that informed them. Rather, this movie explores the politically uncomfortable realities – the divergence of interests and opinions, of rhetoric versus reality, and the social upheavals – that accompany major conflict. It may not change your view on the Civil War, but certainly challenges orthodox thinking, and deepens our understanding of an aspect that is rarely mentioned.

Copperheads were the derogatory name given by Republicans to “Peace Democrats,” a wing of the Democratic Party that opposed the Civil War. While Republicans were referring to the poisonous snake of that name, Copperheads responded by defiantly wearing lady liberty lapel buttons cut from copperhead pennies. They wielded a fair amount of influence, especially in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, but their protest was felt throughout the North. Most Copperheads believed the war was unconstitutional and destructive, and that Lincoln was abusing his power. Some low-income laborers, for example in the coal fields of Pennsylvania, also saw liberation of the slaves as a threat to their jobs. Prominent leaders included Ohio Representative Clement Vallandigham.

The Copperheads’ polar opposites were the “Radical Republicans,” represented by such figures as Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade, Horace Greeley, Frederick Douglass, Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, who believed that Lincoln was not working hard or fast enough to emancipate the slaves. Their sentiments at the time were perhaps best captured by General Order Number 38, written by Union General Ambrose Burnside, making it illegal to criticize the war effort. The Order was used as pretext to arrest Clement Vallandigham for treason. Embarrassed by this excess, Lincoln commuted the sentence, but banished Vallandigham to the Confederacy.

The movie centers on two upstate New York families and the town’s reactions to their unyielding positions as the war’s effects hit home. The Copperheads are represented by patriarch Abner Beech (Billy Campbell), his wife M’rye (Genevieve Steele) son, Jeff (Casey Brown), and the orphan they have taken in, Jimmy (Josh Cruddash). The Beech’s run a dairy farm.

The Radical Republicans are represented by the family of Jee Hagadorn (Angus Macfayden of Braveheart fame), his daughter Esther (Lucy Boynton), and son Ni (Augustus Prew). Jee runs a saw mill and manufactures wooden barrels. Avery, an elderly Republican who attempts to keep peace among the various town factions, is played ably by Peter Fonda. One criticism of the film is that it is slow in developing the characters, thus it takes a while to figure out how each one fits into the story.

The period covered in the film, 1862, saw Democrat Horatio Seymour elected governor of New York State, along with a number of other Democrats. A Democrat was elected governor of New Jersey and Copperheads also won majorities in the Illinois and Indiana legislatures that year. Abner Beech provokes the town following the election by holding a celebratory bonfire, which the town’s Republicans see as an open act of defiance.

The antagonists’ opposing sentiments are well captured when Abner comments aloud to his family on a local newspaper story following the election: “Benjamin Wade, a Republican of Ohio, says anyone who quotes the Constitution in the current crisis is a traitor. A traitor! Can you imagine? But listen how a Democrat paper in Ohio gave it right back to him: ‘Such an abolitionist should be hung until the flesh rots off his bones and the winds of Heaven whistle Yankee Doodle through his loathsome skeleton.’”

Echoing Romeo and Juliet, Jeff Beech becomes enamored of Esther Hagadorn. Esther only courts him, however, after he agrees to use his middle name, “Tom.” She finds “Jeff” unacceptable, because it reminds her of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, even though he explains that he was named after Thomas Jefferson. He agrees anyway and becomes “Tom” to her family and his friends. Abner’s response to the influence Esther and her father is having on his son’s political views is classic Dad: “The way to a woman’s heart, boy, ain’t by rejecting one’s own kin and parroting the asinine opinions of her father.” Nonetheless, Jeff defies his father, joins the Union Army and goes off to war.

Jee Hagadorn, meanwhile, seeks to dissuade Esther from her interest in Tom with a torrid quote from Mark: “Brother will betray brother unto death, and the father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death…” He adds “I am a blind pilgrim on this earth, but even I can see when a boy sparks a girl.” To which Esther responds “Dear father, sparks don’t always lead to a fire.” He then flatly states, “If you marry him, well, he will kill me.”

Jee Hagadorn’s son, Ni – short for “Benaiah” one of David’s Old Testament generals – tolerates his father’s rigid dogmatism with sarcasm and defiance. Ni relates to Jimmy how every day his father lambasts him for not living up to his name. “I should’ve named you Pete, or Steve, or William Henry!” Jee wails. “I get this every day,” Ni tells Jimmy, but adds, “I said ‘Now listen here, patriarchs in glass houses mustn’t heave stones. You’re named after Jehoaddan, that’s in the Bible. He made a covenant with God. I ain’t never seen you make no covenant. All you do is make barrels.’” Jimmy asks “What did he say?” Ni smiles, “I left before he could say anything.”

The movie’s plot thickens as news of town casualties come back from the front, and the Radical Republicans, led by Jee Hagadorn, become increasingly hostile to Beech and the other Copperheads. Beech finds almost no buyers for his dairy products, and is scorned by the local preacher at the Sunday service. It is easy to imagine such drama playing out in a small town, where residents interact on a daily basis. I won’t spoil the dramatic ending for you.

The film has an unmistakable air of authenticity. It was shot entirely on location at Nova Scotia’s King’s Landing, a “living museum” reconstructed to mimic a 19th century North American town. The book on which the film was based, Copperheads, was written in 1893 by Harold Frederic, an author who lived through the period in question. His novel therefore captured the mannerisms and speech of the day.

Copperhead was directed by Ron Maxwell, who also directed two other well-known Civil War classics, Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. The screenplay was written by Bill Kaufman, a novelist whose contrarian political leanings appear well-fitted for this contrarian plot. Kauffman has been described as a pacifist, an anarchist, an anti-war conservative, even paleoconservative; he is most decidedly anti-war and this is a prevailing theme in Copperhead.

This is perhaps best captured in an exchange between Jimmy and Abner. Jimmy asks, “Mr. Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal. Those slaves are men, aren’t they?”

Abner responds, “They are, they surely are. But their cure is worse than the disease. War ain’t a cure for this. Slavery ain’t right… but killing people, destroying whole cities and towns and turning the government in Washington into God’s almighty army isn’t right either. Why make things worse… only make for a lot of dead boys.”

One is tempted to draw a comparison between Copperheadism and the anti-war sentiments of sixties radicals. The Copperheads were boisterous activists and a few did have sympathies for the Southern cause. However similarities cease there. Copperheads really were opposed to the war, both because they saw the war’s death and destruction as tragic and unnecessary, and because they believed it to be unconstitutional. Most also remained loyal to the Union.

Leftist leaders of the anti-war movement, on the other hand, weren’t and aren’t really anti-war, but simply anti-US. This is best exemplified by  Obama’s friend Bill Ayers, who wrote in his manifesto Prairie Fire, “We are communist women and men… Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside… Without mass struggle there can be no revolution. Without armed struggle there can be no victory.”

Peace Democrats, for sure.

Conservatives will appreciate the other major theme of the movie, the U.S. Constitution. Many Copperheads firmly believed the war was unconstitutional and that Lincoln was abusing his power. What is left completely out of the movie, however, is the fact that some were also racist, and opposed the war on that basis. So while one can appreciate their devotion to the Constitution, and enjoy the movie because of it, their image remains tarnished by that reality.

Kauffman deliberately remained faithful to the book’s rich dialog. As Maxwell explained, “That line where an ear of burnt corn is described as ‘tougher than Pharaoh’s heart’ is so good you’d be crazy to cut it. The book was filled with them, illuminating a time and a place and a mind-set that’s been positively informed by the memorizing of scripture.”

This loyalty to the day’s dialog is refreshing in its honesty and wholesomeness. There is only one curse word to be found, and that uttered by the town bad boy, from which such might be expected – but even that seems out of place. I kept contrasting this in my mind with the idiotic Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters, which I had to sit through recently. The film pretended to be set in some fantasy medieval period, but was so rife with “F” and “S” bombs you couldn’t even enjoy the sophomoric humor, much less believe the setting. As Hollywood would doubtless be surprised to learn, Copperheads is enriched by both its authenticity and the absence of such base gimmicks. This historical honesty also evidences the nation’s then devout Christianity, another welcome departure from typical Hollywood fare.

As Paul Buhle & Dave Wagner write in a Swan’s Commentary review: “This is a movie with a script that is for a change equal to the complicated politics of the dangerous moment it explores, when the outcome of the Civil War was far from certain.”

This is a movie well worth seeing; both for its accurate depiction of the times, its rich narrative, and the unique, rarely discussed subject matter, which was in fact a major component of the days’ controversies. It is also completely family friendly – a rarity in Hollywood these days.

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