JimWes Thinks

September 28, 2020

Old Soldiers Never Die. . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — jimwes @ 4:09 am

By James Pickett Wesberry, Jr., Page U.S.House of Representatives, 1949-1951

When President Truman fired General MacArthur, the Republicans were apoplectic. Former Speaker Joe Martin (R-Mass.) was so flushed we predicted he would have a heart attack any minute. The Democrats were in a panic. Many of them didn’t support the decision but couldn’t declare so publicly. There was talk of impeaching Truman.

When Gen. MacArthur came to speak to the Joint Session, there was more security and press coverage than I had ever seen. The occasion was so great it represented the only time I ever pulled rank as an Overseer – I had my assistant man the Page desk and I went down to the front of the Chamber in order to be as close to Gen. MacArthur as possible. In pictures of the event, you can see me under the portrait of Gen. Lafayette.

As the dignitaries entered the Chamber, I saw some of the great heroes of World War II that I had only heard about from newsreels. The most compelling of them was Gen. Wainwright, thin and frail, who never recovered his health after the Bataan Death March.

The Chamber was packed.   Gen. MacArthur was probably the greatest orator I had ever heard, and he had the rapt attention of every Member of Congress during the entire speech. It was a very moving experience. I learned later from the Democratic Pages that Rep. Bosone (D-Md.) rushed from the Chamber in tears. In fact, there were few dry eyes in the Chamber that day. I confess that I cried too, and the depth of emotion on display has stayed with me ever since. What stunned me as a 16-year-old boy, who had been taught that grown men don’t cry, was what was happening right in front of my eyes. Sen. William Knowland (R-Cal.) was wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. My eyes were riveted on Richard Nixon, now a Senator, who had tears streaming down his face, unashamed, with no effort to wipe them away. Here was a man I looked up to, who delivered the historic “Pumpkin Papers” speech, with whom I remember talking as we once walked to the House Office Building together. Ever since then I have felt that many of the cruel things said about Nixon were simply unjust. At that moment, I saw a man I admired honestly showing a kind of patriotism for the United States that I have ever seen anywhere else.

Jim went straight from 11th grade at Capitol Page School to Duke University, then moved to Georgia State University where he received a degree in Accounting and earned his CPA. His Page experience and interest in government led him to specialize in government accounting, auditing and financial management as well as fighting corruption – at a time few CPAs had such an interest. He then went on to head his own CPA firm and served three terms in the Georgia State Senate. In 1967 he went to Peru with the Alliance for Progress and spent the rest of his career working in and/or with Latin American countries’ governments. He retired in 2006 and now lives in Quito, Ecuador.

(This article is from the U.S. Capitol Page Association website: https://www.capitolpagealumni.org/ originally posted November 2016 ).

November 14, 2020

75th ANNIVERSARY OF THE National Federation of Accountants of Ecuador Presentation by Jim Wesberry, Meritorious Accountant of the Americas, November 13, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — jimwes @ 10:06 pm

First of all, heartiest congratulations to the National Federation of Accountants of Ecuador, the Colleges of Accountants and all Accountants on the 75th year anniversary of the profession and on National Accountants Day that we are celebrating. Since I received my Certificate of Public Accountant No. 784 from my state of Georgia 64 years ago I have proudly participated and enjoyed the tremendous development of our profession in the educational, regulatory, technological and professional ethical fields. Since my first arrival here in 1974 I have followed the progress of the profession in Ecuador. I have been an honorary member of that Federation and the Colegio de Pichincha for more than 20 years.

I just want to emphasize tonight one of the many challenges that confront of us at this critical moment in our careers and lives. For several years I have been saying that:

“We live in a Century of Corruption fostered and increased by the increase of mal-information and mal-administration.

Bad or mal-information is the auditor’s main enemy and you know it well.

But the increasing mismanagement evidenced by the increase in fraud and corruption worldwide carries a parallel increasing probability that the auditor himself may be involved in collusion with fraudulent and / or corrupt acts if he does not take precautions that are sometimes very difficult to establish. Even the most honest auditors run the risk of associating with executives and / or colleagues who invite, seduce, or entrap them in activities to cover up, minimize, or underreport irregular matters.

Due to the nature of his professional duties, the auditor is in a position to know and disclose in his reports matters that would otherwise remain unknown and that could cause problems for his company and / or its executives when there are irregular acts of fraud or distortion of the financial or other information.

We are seeing more and more cases of accounting fraud, in which various company executives collaborate to obtain illegal profits or to manipulate financial information or to favor the financial position of a company or its apparent profits. Large companies are under constant internal and external pressure to inflate their earnings per share or to lower or hide (a la Enron) their liabilities.

When executives commit fraudulent acts of this nature they often need and seek the collaboration of the internal or external auditor to cover their nefarious acts. Sometimes those who are involved in acts of collusion apply strong pressure on the auditors.

The tragic case of the alleged bribery of the WalMex company in Mexico illustrates the sad situation of an auditor general who fell into temptation. Likewise, the hundreds of publicized cases such as Enron and WorldCom (USA) and even more recently those of Siemens (Germany), Gurtel (Spain), PDVSA (Venezuela), “La Linea” (Guatemale), “Panama Papers,” Gupta Familia ( South Africa), “Paradise Papers” (Bermuda), “Lava Jato” including Odebrecht and Petrobras, (Brazil), “Troika Dialog” (Russia), “1MDB”(Malaysia), “Burisma” and Former President Yanukovych (Ukraine) and of course FIFA.

The great tragedy of many of these cases has been the absence, negligence, blindness, and sometimes the involvement of private and / or state auditors.

More and more auditors are called upon to investigate and report misinformation and mismanagement.

When it is your turn I urge you to beware of error and temptation.

Watch your thoughts… ..they become words.

Watch your words… ..they become actions.

Watch your actions… ..they become habits.

Watch your habits… ..become character.

Watch your character… ..it becomes your…

……..Destiny.

I urge you, in addition to our professional code, to adopt a personal code of conduct or ethics like this one that is over 3,000 years old — by David King of Israel and Judah adapted from Psalm 15:

Walk with integrity
Do what is right
Speak the truth of your heart
Beware of the slander of your tongue
Do not harm others
Do not speak ill of your peers
Keep your word … even if it costs you
Do good without expecting a reward
Don’t take bribes
Look down upon evil men
Honor those who serve God

May God bless the Federation, the Colleges, our collegue Accountants and our beloved homeland od Ecuador.

September 24, 2020

TOUGH PUNISHMENT FOR ONLY ONE WORD

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — jimwes @ 5:48 pm

I have been thinking about writing this family anecdote for some time and it looks like now is the right time.

When I was a small boy about 1940 or so my father was pastor of the First Baptist Church in the small South Carolina town of Bamberg. The church was only a long block  and across the railroad track from the parsonage so my father was usually home daily for the midday meal (“dinner” for us Southerners).

One day as we were at the dining table with my parents and another person, I think one of my grandmothers; I had the surprise of my young life. I suddenly was lifted straight up very high by two great hands placed under my armpits and carried rapidly into the adjoining master bedroom by my father.

He sat on the bed, threw me across his knees and proceeded to give me a terrific spanking, the worst I ever had. I only remember his spanking me three times as his punishment really got results. This time though, I had absolutely no idea why he was punishing me.

My father, who loved everybody, and especially me, his only child, always broke down crying himself about midway through my punishment but he kept on until he was through and then we always tightly hugged each other as we recovered with me hanging on his neck and him telling me how much he loved me and that the punishment was to help me be better.  But this time as I became able to talk I said, “Da-dad-daddy, why did you spank me?” When he realized that I did not know the reason for my punishment he started crying even more than ever and I did too.

Finally we both became more or less coherent and he explained to me that at the dinner table I had said a terrible word that we did not say in our house or family…it was the word now usually known as “the N word.” When I asked my question he suddenly realized that as a young boy in our small Southern town I had heard many folks, white and black, use that word and had absolutely no idea that it was wrong to use it. So, as I was still sniffling, he took a good bit of time to explain why we did not use it even though others did.

My father had gone to divinity school in Boston, unlike most Southern pastors and there he became quite aware of the seriousness of racial segregation long before it became a great issue in the South. In Boston he himself was discriminated against for being a Southerner so he developed strong feelings that he could really not fully express from the pulpit when he returned to preach in the then totally segregated South. But he sure communicated them to his only son that day.

The result: I have never used that word since and never will. Lesson learned by punishment and worth it!

The next year my mother passed away, so my father and I became extremely close. He never needed to punish me after that. I always did my best to obey him and though he has been gone now for 28 years, I still do. I know I’ll be seeing him again very soon.

I like very much the New Century Bible translation of Proverbs 13:24 and believe that it is tragic that many do not agree with, and practice it, in these tumultuous times.


If you do not punish your children, you don’t love them, but if you love your children, you will correct them.  

Thank God My Father Loved Me That Much.

jpw115-1

James Pickett Wesberry, Sr. & Jr.

September 22, 2020

WHO AM I?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 12:56 am

Preface:  Today I am celebrating my 86th birthday. In recent years I have been trying to define exactly who I am and what I think and believe. Here is an attempt to do that:

~- I am James Pickett Wesberry, Jr., the son of God’s servant the Rev. James Pickett Wesberry of Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA.

~- I am a Christian, a believer in the Bible as God inspired, in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior and I am a Southern Baptist. I believe that each Christian is duty bound to read and interpret the Bible for himself. I detest the continual disintegration of Christianity into segments, groups and cults often differing over trivialities. I do not believe that laypersons should make an undue show of their religiosity and I generally dislike the custom of public prayer for show purposes. I prefer to read modern translations of the Bible in the language I speak.

~- I am a loyal United States citizen, a Southerner, loyal to the nation and to the good and positive traditions of the Southern United States.

~- I have spent much of my career in Latin America and my family is now more a Latin American family. I love all the Latin American countries.

~- I especially have a great love for those countries where I have lived: Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico and the Philippines, as well as all the other countries where I have worked or visited.

~- I oppose and detest all forms of evil, corruption, vice and moral pollution of, and by, human beings.

~- I believe in love, friendship and fairness in all undertakings and relations.

~- I am a political independent. I oppose all political parties believing that they should be prohibited as well as the expenditure of any money on political campaigns. I believe that political campaign contributions are obviously bribes. In my last years I am losing faith in democracy as a form of government but know of none better.

~- I oppose the taking of life of all living things and their restriction of freedom except where absolutely necessary.

~- I am saddened by and refuse to celebrate or rejoice over the fall, disgrace or death of my own enemies and those of my countries.

~- I do not consider myself an environmentalist, but I oppose the destruction of forests and the cutting down of trees. I love nature and the outdoors and dislike great cities.

~- I favor free enterprise but with necessary controls and restrictions to assure that it is not abused, unfair or unduly imbalanced by extremes separating poverty and wealth.

~- I distrust all extremely large entities, organizations and groups knowing from my own experience that their size diminishes their efficiency and honesty.

~- I do not sign petitions or any document where signatures or endorsements are solicited.

~- I distrust the movements of crowds or large numbers of persons in favor of or opposed to anything and I will not follow them.

~- Though I grew up in the segregated South, I was a young man during major desegregation efforts and have had many friends and mentors of diverse backgrounds. As a young politician I championed the equality of the races and the principle of “one man, one vote. I have had so far 25 descendants, all partially Hispanic and have lived over 28 years in Latin America where I am now retired.

~- I am very thankful to God for blessing me throughout my life in a manner far greater than I have ever possibly deserved and far, far more than most persons…most especially with a loving and loyal wife, seven children, 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren with more undoubtedly to come.

IN 1989 I SOUGHT TO SET OUT MY HOPES AND BELIEFS IN THE FOLLOWING CREED OR CREDO THAT I HAVE TRIED TO FOLLOW SINCE THEN:

MY ACCOUNTABILITY CREDO

 I am accountable…

…to my spouse for love, honor, loyalty and an equal share in all I do    or own now and always.

 I am accountable…

…to my children for love, care, discipline and teaching, especially as  regards their own accountability.

 I am accountable…

…to my parents for love, honor, obedience in my youth and care in their advanced age.

 I am accountable…

…to my country for loyalty, obedience to law, self-discipline and, when called upon or elected to public office, for unselfish service.

 I am accountable…

…to my employer or those I serve in business or government for work performed to the best of my ability and for seeing that time and resources are used efficiently and effectively and are not wasted or misused.

 I am accountable…

         … to all people…

    * for treatment in the same manner in which I would expect and    want to be treated.

    * for fairness and honesty in all my actions.

   * for self control over my ambitions for achieve­ment and wealth      and over my actions in satisfac­tion of bodily desires.

    * for conducting myself with a gentle temper of mind, a positive, collaborative attitude, giving fair treatment and judgement and exercising self-control necessary to protect their rights while exercising my own.

    * for protecting the environment from contamination and from needless waste or destruction of natural resources and habitat.

    * for reflecting humility, fairness, and obedience to authority.

    * for providing a good example to others who observe my actions and activities at work and in my personal life.

 I am accountable…

              …to myself

               * for protecting my mind from illness by maintaining a positive, constructive attitude and avoiding selfish or evil thoughts or acts.

               * for protecting my body from illness, maintaining it in good physical condition and avoiding harmful substances or promiscuous sexual activities.

               * for exercising the foresight necessary to avoid situations or conditions which might place undue temptation upon me to deviate from the goals of this credo.

               * for being ashamed when I have not lived up to the expectations of this credo, the faith demonstrated in me by others and my own ethical and moral goals.

 I am accountable to God…

                                            …for all of the above.

                              /signed/    James P. Wesberry, Jr.

July 29, 1989

September 13, 2020

Review of “Cicero” by Anthony Everitt

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 3:23 pm

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I wish I had read this book 60 years ago when I was entering politics but, of course, it was not written then. There can be no doubt that Cicero was a great, if not the greatest Roman politician as the book advertises. His rise to political power was unorthodox in a world where military might and moneyed families dominated the government. Moreover his almost always consistency of support for the collapsing Republic was highly unusual for the times.
While he was not completely ethical and honest in all his political activities, he was apparently much more so than the typical Roman politician of his times. He was surrounded by corruption, greed and mismanagement of the government which appalled him. Notwithstanding his normally moral and honest positions he rose from obscurity to a position at the peak of power in the Republic dealing daily with the top officials of both major political persuasions of the time. He could have risen even higher but stuck to his position until almost the end. Finally he, who had always been a moderate and peacemaker, gave in to a last ditch attempt to save the Roman Republic that he believed in, sacrificing his own principles of rule of law and justice in a failed try to stop Octavius from following Julius Caesar as “Dictator” that cost him his life.
The honors he received during his life and thereafter substantiate his place in history as one of the world’s greatest orators and politicians.
It was difficult to resist the temptation to compare Roman politics of 2000 years ago with ours today in the USA. While the system of governance is different in many respects, the Roman Republic, among others, was used as a guide by the US founding fathers and there are quite a few similarities both in organization and in political activities. The most stunning similarity to me was the political hatred of the time that parallels that of our own times (with the exception that no political leader has yet been assassinated in the US at least very recently).
The military played the strongest role in Roman politics and Cicero was never a military man, though apparently friendly with all. His ability to hold to a middle ground between the great political forces of the time distinguishes him greatly. There in no US politician today that can do this successfully, and only a few try.
In my opinion, Cicero is a great role model for young politicians even today and I hope many read this book.



View all my reviews

June 9, 2020

THE REAL INVISIBLE HAND

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 4:40 pm

via THE REAL INVISIBLE HAND

THE REAL INVISIBLE HAND

Filed under: Future, politics, Truth, Wisdom — Tags: — jimwes @ 4:28 pm
[ By way of explanation I hesitated to post this until I had thought it over thoroughly to consider and reconsider the sad content I wrote a few weeks ago while at my daughter’s home in Charleston, South Carolina. Since then things have gotten worse, not better, so here it is as I wrote it then…]
>>> Right now a few miles from here a highly expert team of doctors led by the best in the field is performing an eight hour plus operation upon the heart of my newly born eight day old sixteenth grandchild.  Meanwhile we have been seeing for the past few days here in this state of South Carolina, where I was born, political gymnastics of the most frightening type watched by the nation. I myself have lived outside the USA for the past nineteen years so believe I have a rather more objective view than most folks around here. This is what has been, and is going through my head as I try to think logically and clearly with my aging 85 year old brain. <<<
 
Following the Thursday night Democrat Party debate and the Friday evening Trump Rally, I sat Saturday afternoon in the fantastic 21st Century electronics filled hospital room with my newborn 16th grandson, Zachary, my wife and his parents listening to and watching on my cellphone President Donald Trump’s speech to CPAC. Looking from Zachary on life support to Donald Trump on video I could not help but begin think about what kind of country young Zachary, if he survives today’s open heart surgery,* will inherit and in which he will eventually work and live. 
 
I thought that my parents would never have believed (nor would have I in my first 50 or 60 years) how the USA has changed…both for the better…and for the worse. From the depths of depression when I was born through the heights of world leadership after World War II, my country has now fallen to the depths of despair as I see it viewing from afar in South America where I live.
 
What will Zachary face as he grows into childhood, youth and adulthood?
 
As an accountant, I see in accounting terms a country that is now absolutely insolvent…its liabilities exceed its assets in every measurable category:
 
       Insolvent morally
         Insolvent spiritually
           Insolvent ethically
             Insolvent financially
               Insolvent educationally
                 Insolvent intellectually
                   Insolvent politically
                     Insolvent lawfully
                       Insolvent medically
                         Insolvent sexually
                           Insolvent matrimonially
                             Insolvent family-wise
                               Insolvent generationally
                                 Insolvent inspirationally
 
 Obviously each of the above areas merit discussion and explanation but that is not now my intention.
 
My intention is to point out that for a new born child in any family in the USA or for that matter any country, the future appears to be very bleak…if not absolutely hopeless.  This is because the current human race is on the verge of abandoning everything that ever brought it success over the past millennia. If you do not understand this, you will not understand what I am trying to say.
 
Others have, and are now writing, about the decline and fall of great nations and empires with a clarity that shows the USA is following the herd of its predecessors headed right over the cliffs of doom. Apparently about half of the citizens of the USA understand this and the other half do not.
 
I am wondering as I look at tiny Zachary in his tiny raised hospital bed surrounded by electronic instruments, screens and wires…
 
Can there be hope for his future? 
 
My instincts say no, no, a thousand times no…because it is far, far too late to turn back the clock.
Technology and progressiveness cannot be stopped, nor reversed.
 
And as I also watch and hear Donald Trump on my private screen saying “Keep America Great” I recognize to myself that it is not and may never again be great in spite of Trump’s valiant efforts. Never, never in history has a politician had so many powerful forces against him. The powerful personalities and money aimed at destroying Trump are absolutely overwhelming. His own wealth is insignificant against them. If the political situation were evolving normally Trump would have absolutely no chance of reelection…but it isn’t.
The unexpected happened in 2016. Will it reoccur in 2020?
 
There are new factors that are changing the political situation and the world situation from the normal:
 
— The coronavirus threat —
— The socio/communist threat —
— The racially convoluted violence threat —
— The unbridled evil threat —

We are, more than ever before in the hands of the Creator.

>>> May he have mercy upon us! <<<

* Happily baby Zachary was blessed with recovery after his surgery.

April 7, 2020

A Supreme Coincidence – April 7, 1969

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 7:21 pm

I recently learned that 51 years ago on this same day, April 7 the United States Supreme Court issued two contrasting opinions regarding matters that interested greatly my father and myself.

In my father’s situation, he had been for many years Chairman of the Georgia State Literature Commission created to fight the curse of pornography (see http://jimwes.com/jamespickettwesberry/id9.html ). Those who fought pornography were rapidly losing the battle everywhere and the Supreme Court pretty well put an end to their fight on April 9, 1969 with this Georgia case:

April 7, 1969—Justice Thurgood Marshall’s majority opinion in Stanley v. Georgia declares that the First Amendment forbids criminalizing the possession of concededly obscene material. Marshall blithely distinguishes away the Court’s previous categorical statements that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. Stanley, Marshall grandiosely proclaims, is asserting “the right to satisfy his intellectual and emotional needs in the privacy of his own home.” Yep, that carefully captures what viewing obscenity is all about. (Three justices, including Brennan, decline to join Marshall’s opinion and instead separately find a Fourth Amendment basis for vacating Stanley’s conviction.)

In my own situation, as a resident of the second largest Congressional District in the nation with only one Congressional seat, but under the Constitution, deserving two, I had been fighting for fair apportionment of the US House of Representatives in which, through my father’s efforts, I had worked as a Page during 1949-51. Along the way I rather accidentally became the principal plaintiff in the landmark 1964 Supreme Court case Wesberry v Sanders that had ordered the redistricting of the US House (see http://jimwes.com/id20.html ). In the case below my legal victory was even more enhanced by assuring equality in the population of Congressional Districts.

April 7, 1969—In majority opinions by Justice Brennan in Kirkpatrick v. Preisler and Wells v. Rockefeller, the Supreme Court, building on its 1964 ruling in Wesberry v. Sanders (see This Day for February 17), rules that the states, in crafting their congressional redistricting plans, must aim to “achieve precise mathematical equality” in the populations of congressional districts. It rejects the argument that there is any “fixed numerical or percentage population variance small enough to be considered de minimis.”

In dissent, Justice Harlan laments that the Court “transforms a political slogan [‘one man, one vote’] into a constitutional absolute”:

Strait indeed is the path of the righteous legislator. Slide rule in hand, he must avoid all thought of county lines, local traditions, politics, history, and economics, so as to achieve the magic formula: one man, one vote….

[I]nsistence on mathematical perfection does not make sense even on its own terms. Census figures themselves are inexact; our mobile population rapidly renders them obsolete; large groups of ineligible voters are unevenly distributed throughout the State.

Harlan also presciently observes that “the Court’s exclusive concentration upon arithmetic blinds it to the realities of the political process…. The fact of the matter is that the rule of absolute equality is perfectly compatible with ‘gerrymandering’ of the worst sort.”

Until now I had not been aware that on the exact same day when my father’s valiant efforts were practically ended by the Supreme Court, my own efforts in a completely different area were greatly strengthened.

History is truly amazing.

January 4, 2020

THE DISINFORMATION NATION

Filed under: credibility, government, Truth, Uncategorized — jimwes @ 6:34 pm

Here are two long extracts from an obscure article[1] titled The Disinformation Nation. In my opinion, this article could have been great had its author resisted the today popular temptation to mix opinion with fact.[2] It contains much factual information about disinformation that needs to be read, especially by Netcolics like me. These extracts mostly appear to be quite factual and unbiased. Unfortunately the central part of the article (not reproduced here) degenerates into intense Trumphobia for a good way, finally returning to mostly factual and helpful information about disinformation. Following its own advice, I hesitated to quote from it. But I really believe that these extracts are worth reading and paying strict attention so here goes. Use you own intuition about its content. I personally think it is a brilliant article even thought I disagree with parts of it.

PART ONE

>> It may be getting harder and harder to figure out the truth, but at least this much is clear: It’s a good time to be a liar.

We’ve spent three years arguing if fake news swung the 2016 election — debating whether the hordes of Russian bots, hoax Facebook pages and inflammatory, dishonest tweets tipped the democratic balance to elect Donald Trump as president.

 

Yet in those same years we’ve learned that the stakes in the fight against truth, in a muddy world of social media platforms, go beyond politics.

In Brazil, public health workers were attacked after far-right activists lied on YouTube that they were spreading the Zika virus. In Myanmar, government soldiers used fake Facebook accounts to drive an ethnic cleansing, full of incendiary claims and false stories about Muslim minorities raping Buddhist women. Gunmen radicalized by false white-supremacist conspiracies on internet forums like 4chan and 8chan shot up a synagogue in California, a Walmart in Texas and mosques in New Zealand.

Elections have consequences. So do algorithms.

So now, heading into the 2020 election, experts are warning that trolls, hoaxers and dishonest politicians are arming themselves with a whole new arsenal of weapons of mass deception. New technology is making it easier to hoax audio and video, while advances in artificial intelligence are making it all the more difficult to weed out computer-automated “bot” accounts.

And there’s a deeper risk, beyond figuring out the inaccuracy of any one article.

The deluge of misinformation — full of Trump tweets, deepfakes, InfoWars videos, Russian bots, 4chan trolls, that Washington Post correction, those out-of-context memes and your great aunt’s latest questionable Facebook post — has become so overwhelming that some of us may simply give up trying to make sense of it all.

A lie doesn’t need to be believed. It just needs to create enough doubt that the truth becomes polluted. With enough pollution, it’s impossible to see what’s right in front of you.

“When you’re flooded with so much bullshit,” New York Times media columnist Charlie Warzel says, separating fact from fiction becomes so difficult that “the task of trying to do it becomes, you know, tiresome, so you just stop.”

It’s the sort of thing your college philosophy professor might call an “epistemic crisis.” We don’t know what to believe. Truth is hazy. Reality itself becomes irrelevant. It’s a phenomenon that has already happened in places like Russia and the Philippines — and experts say that in the past few years, the United States has suddenly found itself on the same path.

“And that, to me, is one of the scariest things to think about,” Warzel says. “It feels like we’ve come incredibly far since 2015.”

THE WEB OF CONSPIRACY 

History has a pattern.

An advancement in communications technology hands liars the means to lie louder and spread those lies further. Look at the 1830s, when the invention of the steam printing press and other paper-making technologies produced the rise of the “penny press.” Newspapers became cheaper, more independent, more widespread, more competitive, and eager publishers found the power of the 19th-century version of clickbait. The New York-based Sun put out a series of entirely fictional stories that purported that “man-bats” and other exotic creatures were scurrying around on the moon.

Soviet-born British TV producer Peter Pomerantsev, author of This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality, argues that when tech rips open the floodgates of communication, the bad guys always find a way to exploit it. Dictators quickly harnessed the power of radio. Joseph McCarthy, as a U.S. senator in the ’50s, used television to spread his anti-Communist conspiracy theories.

Yet for decades, the internet was heralded as a new frontier that allowed “citizen journalists” to take on the stodgy media elite. In 1998, the Drudge Report, a right-wing news-aggregating website, broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal when Newsweek got cold feet. In 2004, when Dan Rather and 60 Minutes put out a 1973 memo purporting to show that President George W. Bush had received special treatment while in the Texas Air National Guard, Drudge elevated the conservative bloggers who persuasively argued the memo was a fake written in Microsoft Word.

An “Army of Davids” — as some bloggers dubbed themselves — swarmed to debunk flawed media accounts, trying to counter bias wherever they saw it. The gatekeepers were being overthrown, the drawbridge had been flung open and the villagers could storm the castle.

But the villagers had their own standards for newsworthiness. Drudge also sent his readers to darker corners, where sketchy websites claimed Barack Obama wasn’t an American citizen and Bill Clinton had a secret love child. Drudge even provided fuel for “Pizzagate,” the conspiracy that drove a man in 2016 to fire an AR-15 inside a pizzeria, because the internet told him that they were harboring child sex slaves.

Conspiracy theorists used to spread their gospel through books, newsletters, public access television shows, and by standing on street corners and handing out fliers. But the web gave every community a niche — no matter how fringe — and allowed them to spread their message in only a few keystrokes. On the internet, the corkboard is infinite and the spool of yarn used to connect pictures of shadowy figures never runs out.

The internet, Warzel says, handed fringe figures like Alex Jones of InfoWars a powerful new megaphone.

“He was one of the early pioneers of internet radio and video,” Warzel says. “It was a way to get around the notion that it was hard to sell advertising around some of his kooky ideas

An audience of millions repeatedly tuned into Jones’ red-faced rants about 9/11 being an inside job, Obama chemtrails turning frogs gay, and the Sandy Hook shootings being faked. Drudge repeatedly linked to him.

Social media sites only accelerated the spread of misinformation. It’s easier than ever for a single comment, particular an untrue one, to go viral. In ancient times, the opinions of quacks were largely quarantined to a newspaper’s page of letters to the editor.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and racist Twitter randos with names like “@WhiteGenocideTM” are all simmering in the same stew together. Both, after all, get retweeted by the president.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study published last year took a look at over a decade of Twitter posts and found that tweets about false news went viral six times faster than tweets about true news. After all, lies are often more sensational, tapping into human emotions of shock, fear and disgust.

It wasn’t just that humans were more likely to share these kinds of stories. It was that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube developed algorithms to elevate certain types of content into your social media feed. It usually didn’t matter if they were true — social media sites didn’t want to become the truth police. It mattered that the stories drew people in.

“The way they keep people clicking and sharing and commenting is prioritizing things that get your heart pumping,” says Andrew Marantz, author of Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. “It’s like stocking a huge grocery store, but all of the visible aisles are Oreos and rat poison.”

YouTube actually started rewarding conspiracy theories above popular content. YouTube used to have what they internally called the “Gangnam Style” problem, where YouTube’s autoplaying recommendation engine would eventually send every viewer to the 2012 South Korean pop hit. In response, YouTube changed their algorithm in 2015, turning down the recommendation dial for merely popular videos and cranking up the preference for videos that led people down rabbit holes. Conspiracy-theory videos flourished.

Simultaneously, the internet had handed brand-new weapons to pranksters, vandals and assholes — “trolls” who could use misinformation and harassment to make life hellish for chosen targets. Image boards like 4chan combined anonymity and a near-total absence of moderation to become a frothing hive of racists, trolls and trolls pretending to be racists.

The boards delighted in pulling hoaxes — creating fake Jewish Twitter accounts to sow discord in the Jewish community, publishing coupons claiming black people were getting free coffee at Starbucks, and attempting to trick journalists into identifying mass shooters as the wrong person.

Sometimes the hoaxes became reality. A 4chan scheme to trick mainstream media outlets into reporting that the “OK” hand gesture was a white-supremacist sign resulted in white supremacists actually adopting the signal.

One particularly pernicious trolling tactic was to call 911 from a spoofed number and report a horrific crime, in hopes an armed SWAT team would descend on that location.

Marantz says he spent three years embedded in this world.

“There are people who just want to watch the world burn,” Marantz says. “And that’s a phrase I returned to again and again.”

The motivations vary. In Macedonia, Warzel says, there are clickfarms filled with teenagers pumping out hoax news stories for fake publications, buying Facebook likes, all as a way to make money.

“It’s essentially just like a lemonade stand for them,” he says. But there are also foreign governments trying to influence global trends, politicians trying to game power and true believers who spread falsehoods because they think it’s the truth.

“To some degree, it doesn’t matter as long as there’s power to be gained and money to be made,” Warzel says. <<

PART TWO

>> In August, the Pentagon started talking to partners for their new Semantic Forensics program, intending to develop technologies “to help to identify, understand and deter adversary disinformation campaigns.”

The private sector’s pushing for similar measures.

Last month, Facebook, Microsoft and a slew of research institutions announced they were joining forces for the “Deepfake Detection Challenge,” a contest to better understand the little clues that give even sophisticated deepfakes away. Deepfakes rarely blink in the right way. The heads might have a strange tic. The eye color might be off.

Facebook chipped in $10 million to the effort. But those trying to create hoaxes are innovating, too, trying to think of ways to outthink the detection system.

“Networks of bots are behaving more and more like you and me,” Warzel says.

Ultimately, he says, it may come down to two different artificial-intelligence systems trying to outthink each other.

“You basically have two sets of computers playing war games with each other,” Warzel says.

The fight isn’t just about technology. It’s about corporate policies. In the last two years, tech companies have tried to change their policies, ditching their laissez-faire libertarian approach to try their hand at benevolent censorship.

White supremacists and conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones got banned from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. YouTube shifted viewers away from straight-up conspiracy theory videos in its recommendation stream — although liberals may be unhappy to learn they often landed at Fox News instead. Twitter banned the #Resistance-tweeting Krassenstein brothers in June, citing rules that prohibit “operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions.”

Right now, both major political parties are calling for regulation, including raising the prospect of forcing Facebook to shrink in size. But Republicans and Democrats want different things. While liberals complain about lax regulation allowing “Nazis” to run wild on the site, conservatives fret about overregulation, worried that conservatives could be censored for their political opinions.

But the lack of censorship is dangerous, too, argue some experts. Whitney Phillips, author of the forthcoming book You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Network Pollution, points to YouTube and Facebook’s recent announcement that since political statements were newsworthy, the sites would rarely take down posts from politicians, even if the posts broke the rules.

“At every turn, at every conceivable opportunity, despite how loud the chorus might get, these technology companies made a choice to protect their bottom line over protecting the democratic process,” Phillips says.

Facebook’s motto for its developers was “move fast and break things.” Phillips thinks they were successful.

“Yeah, they’ve broken democracy,” Phillips says. “There’s no more simple way to describe it.”

TOO MUCH INFORMATION

Phillips wants to make it clear that it’s not just Facebook or Twitter’s fault. It’s not just the fault of Alex Jones or Donald Trump or 4chan. It’s your fault, too.

“A lot of the misinformation being spread is not the result of bad actors,” Phillips says. “It’s everyday people doing everyday things.”

She thinks of it in terms of an ecological metaphor, where pollution is the accumulation of a billion little actions from individuals. All of the tweeting, retweeting and Facebook posting adds up.

“We’re sort of at the whims of everyday folks, disinformation agents, algorithms, white supremacists, all jockeying to win the attention economy,” Phillips says. “The result is an air that is so clogged that we can barely breathe.”

In that environment, with so many different competing and contradictory claims, people “don’t even necessarily trust there is such a thing as truth.”

But Phillips doesn’t necessarily agree that more information is the answer. Journalists like to say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But Phillips argues that sometimes the sunlight simply heats up the petri dish and spreads the disease — especially when people are liable to believe a hoax is true because a journalist says it isn’t.

“The truth can contribute to pollution as much as falsehood can,” Phillips says. “It is easy to feel like you are pushing back against a story when you are saying, ‘This story’s terrible.’ But the algorithm doesn’t care about your righteous indignation. The algorithm cares that you’re engaging with content.”

She urges journalists and everyday people to shift the lens, focusing less on the liars and more on how lies and ideologies have impacted communities.

Warzel, meanwhile, also urges social media users to slow down. Be wary about clicking that retweet button. If a story seems too perfect, doubt it. If a crazy news story doesn’t come from an established media outlet, wait until at least one outlet covers it — ideally two.

Marantz, the expert on online trolls, says the long-term solution to the disinformation crisis is a deep and philosophical one that he’d explain at length with phrases like “reaffirming our commitment to epistemic depth.” But for now, the simpler way to react to disinformation is to rely a little bit more on the old gatekeepers.

“If you read the New York Times or the BBC or the alt-weekly in your town or the New Yorker, you’re going to be better informed than if you read Facebook,” Marantz says.

Not because they’re perfect — there’s a billion reasons to complain about mainstream journalists, he says — but because, for all their flaws, right now they’re the best we’ve got.

“It’s the best short-term solution,” he says, “as opposed to just living a world where no one knows anything.” ♦

HOW TO AVOID SPREADING MISINFORMATION

Wait before reposting. You won’t need to apologize for forwarding untrue information if you never share it to begin with.

Don’t share something just because it comes from a friend. Double check the source to make sure the reporting is from a respectable publication and that they’re not just summarizing the reaction on social media. Better yet, wait until a second publication independently confirms the reports.

Read the actual story first. Follow links to make sure the links actually back up the news stories. Biased news sources are infamous for making sensational claims in their headlines that the underlying material doesn’t support.

Be cautious about sharing bogus stories just to point how stupid or wrong they are. That’s an easy way to inadvertently spread a falsehood. <<

[1] I first read the article “The Disinformation Nation” excerpted here in the Boulder, Colorado Weekly (https://www.boulderweekly.com/ne…/the-disinformation-nation/ ). It originated in The Inlander of  Spokane, Washington.(https://www.inlander.com/spokane/trolls-conspiracy-theorists-hoaxers-and-trump-have-twisted-facebook-youtube-and-the-news-to-toxic-levels-and-its-only-getting-worse/Content?oid=18415723&fbclid=IwAR2SLoUzigEW4daIrkiQWtObIRHtCtAlkduT_YvFOveXrY1c75FUF7NZdR4 ).

[2] The author, Daniel Walters, was born and raised in Spokane. He has been writing for the Inlander since 2008. In that time, he’s written about investor fraud, online bullying and how Facebook is destroying the news business.

November 27, 2019

WE WATCHED AND DID NOTHING

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 1:49 pm

[This was written and posted on Facebook by Gary Pecorella, whom I do not know personally, but have come to admire as a valiant and patriotic American musician who lives in Charleston, S.C. He is also the author of the lyrics of the song Save America included at the end of this important and sad message.]

WE WATCHED AND DID NOTHING… I awoke from a long unintended sleep and was HORRIFIED to find… THAT the American Flag we once saluted and pledged our allegiance to was being desecrated, stomped on and burned in the streets… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the beautifully decorated lighted trees & nativity scenes on public display at Christmas time that we enjoyed & cherished with our families & dear friends were ALL GONE, all for the fear of offending NON CHRISTIANS… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the words of one of our most beloved presidents, John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”, are now long forgotten, and have been replaced by sentiments of entitlement, of hate and disdain for patriotism, for nationalism, for Americanism… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the United States Military, once the greatest force for good in the free world, had become greatly weakened & reduced in size, almost completely defunded, our soldiers put into harm’s way, not allowed to retaliate enemy fire, and EVEN left to die… and those lucky enough to survive & return home, instead of being hailed as saviors, as victors, are instead shamed, treated worse than scum, and die homeless in the streets… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the principles on which our forefathers built this great nation and carefully structured its governance through checks & balances to assure it would forever be BY and FOR the People… THESE principles have now given way to BIG government, to The Ultimate POWER, BIG BROTHER, that oversees and regulates EVERY single facet of our lives, each day draining more and more of our earnings and our freedoms… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the People who once were granted authority by the Second Amendment of our Constitution, the right to bear arms to protect oneself and family, was no longer a right, but now a THREAT, because people should not be allowed to protect themselves, so that a tyrannical government may completely control its society by confiscating its weapons, by eliminating all opposition, like the Germans, who exterminated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust (some people will go so far as to claim it never even happened), and Stalin, who slaughtered many many more millions of Russians… now it is happening again, but this time right here in America… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT our country’s borders have all but been erased, and people are coming into the USA by the millions, encouraged by our very own government, in cooperation with foreign governments, to take advantage of our resources, our jobs, our economy, our medical system, our schools, our religion, our sexual identity, to infiltrate every facet of our lives, never intending all the while to assimilate to ANY of our beliefs & culture… ALL of them coming here without a vetting or screening process… WE REALLY DON’T KNOW WHO THEY ARE – Drug dealers? Rapists? Murderers? Radical Islamic terrorists? (if one is allowed to call the Enemy by their real name) … and they are given AMNESTY! Instant citizenship!… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the Policemen, Firemen, and local authorities who put their lives in danger every day to protect us & our communities… somehow THEIR LIVES NO LONGER MATTER, rather they are ridiculed in our Courts of Law and in the media, and are assaulted and hunted down, like criminals, by mobs & hit squads roaming the streets… AMBUSHED & murdered IN COLD BLOOD by BLM terrorists… and we watched and did NOTHING

THAT the statues & monuments of our Forefathers, molded in the likeness of those Great Americans who came before us, the original ‘Right Wing Extremists’, PATRIOTS, who guided us with their wisdom and unrelenting courage against GREAT odds to create an Iron-Clad Constitution empowering WE the PEOPLE… and also the beautiful Memorials & Places of Honor built to immortalize the deeds of Great Military leaders and their loyal armies of soldiers who died in battle in some lonely God forsaken place somewhere in this Great Land, FROM fighting the British Red Coats and the foreign power that had unjustly enslaved us, TO the Place where tens of thousands of Americans lost their lives on the blood stained sacred grounds of Gettysburg, where North & South both MET and where EACH in their own RIGHT fought bravely & met their fateful end…. ALL of THESE MONUMENTS, ALL of THESE MEMORIALS, were being Desecrated, TAKEN down, TORN down, at first in the dead of night in secrecy, and then in broad daylight during violent anti-American riots. OUR HISTORY, OUR HERITAGE, is being purposefully & systematically ERASED by these destroyers, the REAL RACISTS, the TRUE Neo-Nazis, who are employed by none other than George Soros, the Liberal ALT LEFT & the NWO, ALL of whom have placed judgement on our ORIGINS and find them to be OFFENSIVE… and once again we watched and did NOTHING

AND THAT the face of EVIL, which had always been so very obvious to us before, had somehow become distorted, is no longer recognizable, identifiable, because the government has turned & twisted everything around, upside-down… to make it seem as though WE, the ones who still love America and still cherish the values we held growing up, WE are now the racists, the bigots, the haters… AND the perpetrators, the desecraters, the takers, the invaders, they are now the victims… and we still watched and did NOTHING…

                                                SAVE AMERICA LYRICS

I’m praying for this land I love
America, America 
The home of the free
But there are people making plans
To change America
They’ve no respect for Her 
Or what matters most to me

CHORUS 1:
That’s why I Stand for the flag
And I kneel at the cross
Mourn for the friends I have loved and lost 
And I still believe ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’
And the freedom our Forefathers granted us 
I hope it’s not too late…
To save America

Do you hear our battle cry
Across America?
We’ve got to rescue Her
You know It’s up to me and you

To see the truth behind their lies
Don’t change America!
God bless America
And the ‘Red, White and Blue’

Repeat CHORUS 1… 
(Break)

LAST CHORUS:
That’s why we Stand for the flag
And we kneel at the cross
Mourn for the friends we have loved and lost 
And we still believe ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’
And the freedom our forefathers granted us 
We know it’s not too late…
To save America
Save America 
Let’s Save America 
Together… we can save America
??
~~~

November 22, 2019

When John F. Kennedy was Assassinated

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 6:05 pm

It is hard to believe that 56 years have passed since that shocking day when the President was killed in Dallas. I was 29 years of age and had been a Georgia State Senator for eleven months. It was a time when youth in politics was flourishing led by President Kennedy. My future looked great.  I had read of Kennedy’s new White House Fellows Program and was thinking about applying for it since as a teenager I had worked for three years as a Page in the House of Representatives. I was on top of the world at that time, heading my own CPA firm with five offices in Georgia and serving as National Treasurer of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Suddenly for me the political world ceased to revolve.

Many folks look back to remember what they were doing on that sad afternoon. I was alone in a very tiny office of my biggest client, DeKalb County, Georgia, a major suburb of Atlanta.  Our firm had been provided the office, a desk, chair and secure filing cabinet during the time we conducted the annual audit. One of our guys had placed a small radio there and I was working and listening to music until the news broke.

As an auditor I had learned never to believe unlikely surprises until proven. Nevertheless I did not want to believe it and could not concentrate on working as I sat transfixed by the ever certainty of the piecemeal news coming forth from the radio about the President’s condition.  It took a while for his death to be confirmed. I just sat there alone. Nobody called or came to the door. My staff, working in different county offices may not have even known I was there. I just sat there and sat there and sat there thinking alone, praying, hoping it was not so, but knowing by now that it was.

I didn’t try to communicate with anyone and no one communicated with me, I just sat there for two or three hours unable to think clearly or work. Finally I decided to go home. It wasn’t yet 5:00 PM but I was useless there and could not charge the county for my time. Strangely, as I left the building I saw no one. I crossed paths with no one. I just went to my car and drove home. Once there I just sat in front of the TV and hardly spoke to the family. The shock was mortifying. It was unbelievable. It was totally demoralizing. 

The next few days were likewise unproductive. Finally the depression wore itself off and things began to normalize…but they were never again the same.

I have often wondered if that day was the real beginning of the end of my political career.

My father was a great comfort and inspiration to me and many others during those days. His dynamic charisma never faded.  Here is the sermon he gave at a memorial service two days after the tragedy:

UNITED STATES SENATE
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1963, Page 23230
>>> MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY <<<
Mr. TALMADGE. Mr. President, on November 24, on the eve of the late President John F. Kennedy’s funeral, Dr. James P. Wesberry, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Atlanta, delivered a heart-warming television message dedicated to the memory of our slain President. I ask unanimous consent that Dr. Wesberry’s message be printed in the RECORD. There being no objection, the message was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

MESSAGE DELIVERED BY DR. JAMES P. WESBERRY, PASTOR, MORNINGSIDE BAPTIST CHURCH, ATLANTA, IN MEMORIAL SERVICE ON EVE OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S. FUNERAL, SUNDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER 24, 1963.

The heart of our great Nation has been broken by a deep sorrow. The body of our great President, John F. Kennedy, lies in state under the dome of our Nation’s Capitol. Multiplied thousands of people have already passed in review and will, and tomorrow, the day of President Kennedy’s funeral, has been declared a day of national mourning.

How quickly and shockingly momentous world events take place. Little did any of us think that we would come to this Thanksgiving Sunday bowed in grief over the untimely and tragic death of our brilliant and gifted leader.  Full of life and completely dedicated to the service of the Nation and to the freedom and peace of the entire world, the President of the United States was cruelly and brutally shot and killed by an assassin in Dallas, Texas last Friday, and now the assassin is dead. It is as unbelievable as it is shocking and yet we know it is true.

How hard it is for us to believe that such a thing could happen in so-called Christian America. We find it so difficult to believe that we are living in a land where such a thing as burning churches, bombing a synagogue or church, and murdering a President could happen. To think that he who gave his life so freely and who carried within his office the greatest power on earth could have his life snuffed out in such an atrocious way.

This sadly reminds us that the awful sins that helped to crucify the Lord of glory on Calvary over 1900 years ago still lurk in the human heart, and there are yet evil forces that would tear down and destroy everything, for which Christ stands and upon which America was built.

President Kennedy commanded the respect, love and admiration of the world. His was a great faith a true profile of courage. His sacrificial death has a sobering effect upon our Nation and our world. America can never be the same after such a tragic, staggering blow. Whatever comfort there may be in it, God is great enough to make the wrath of man to praise him–out of evil good can come. As great as President Kennedy was in life, he is many times greater in death. This is a better world today because of his life and death and America has been brought closer to God.

Senator Wayne Morse was right when he said just before the Senate was recessed Friday: “If ever there was an hour when Americans should pray, this is the hour.” This sort of thing humbles us all and causes us to hear again God say, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Only time will reveal Mr. Kennedy’s contribution to the unity of our world, of the nations, of religious denominations, to brotherhood, justice and peace. The universe is full of vicarious suffering. One thing lays down its life for another. This is true in the vegetable world as well as the animal world. Everything is bought with a price.

Men lay down their lives sometimes in single heroic acts of martyrdom, sometimes by years of patient, sell-denying service–the physician, the school teacher, the engineer, the statesman. Only God knows the price many pay to serve–mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. Oh, what a price they pay as they suffer and sacrifice for the well-being of their children. This is the nature of atonement, and in every corner of the world it is spelled out like a dim and broken inscription on the fragments of human life.

Everywhere this vicarious principle is at work. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” We find this at the very summit of all being. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” We do not expect our great Creator to ignore this vicarious principle with which He has filled the world. He, too, suffers and sacrifices for his children.The throne of God is one of self-sacrificing love. “The Lamb is in the midst of the throne” is a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” There is the blood of the Cross. There is a voice saying, “Father, forgive them.”

Father Damien, at the age of 18, joined the Society of the Sacred Heart. When he finished training he asked to go as a missionary to the Hawaiian Islands. Deeply moved by the sad condition of lepers on the Island of Molakai he went to live among and minister to them. “No matter,” he said to those who opposed his going, “it ‘is the call of God and of human need, and I am going.” He lived with those unhappy people the rest of his life, contracted the dread disease and died from it, disfigured almost beyond recognition, after 26 years or devoted service. Like his Master, whose spirit he had caught, he gave himself for lepers through long years of faithful and loving ministry. So it has been with many others, such as, David Livingston, giving his life to Africa; Wilfred Grenfell, of Labrador; Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and now John F. Kennedy.

Nothing short of this experience of earnest service and unflinching sacrifice for the triumph of God’s will can interpret to us today the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ on His cross. Every man or woman who has ever tried to do these things in any measure knows only too well that there can be no salvation, either from sin or from the misery sin entails on guilty and innocent alike save by the vicarious sacrifice of some brave, generous servant of righteousness and benefactor of his fellows. This great doctrine of vicarious suffering is self-evident to every man who ever fought entrenched and powerful evil or sought to rescue the wicked from wickedness. To those who know nothing of giving themselves for others this doctrine, like all deeper spiritual truths, remains an unintelligible and impenetrable mystery.

The first man I talked to after the tragic news that our President had been shot said, “I feel guilty myself, as if I had a part in it.” Don’t we all? For we are all responsible citizens or should be.

This is not the only crisis our Nation ever faced. There have been many others. It was a sad day in America over a hundred years ago when a troubled minister wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States and suggested that the recognition of our undying faith should be printed in some form on the coins of our Nation. “This,” he wrote, “would relieve us from the Ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.” Upon receipt of this eloquent plea the Treasurer wrote the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia saying, “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in his defense. The trust of our people should be declared in our national coins.” The Director of the Mint ordered that a motto be prepared expressing in the fewest words this national recognition. Several mottoes were tried, but in 1864 there first appeared on a O.S. coin, a 2-cent piece, the words, “In God We Trust.” These immortal words symbolize the faith and righteousness that exalts a nation, and have a ring of timelessness as though they had been given to our Founding Fathers upon tablets of stone. Blind indeed are they who would pull this standard down. It must be maintained at all costs.

The ancient landmarks for which we are most grateful, and for which our Nation stands and which have made America great, must never be removed: The Bible, church, home, Christian schools, the Lord’s day Sabbath, prayer.

No people ever suffered greater hardships than our pilgrim fathers. Of 102 immigrants who landed on that bleak, rocky, storm tossed shore of Cape Cod in the winter of 1620, almost half of them died during the first year. They built seven times more graves than they did homes. Only God knows what they suffered during that cold, hard winter. There was sickness, hunger, depression, death, bitterness, sorrow, loneliness, and separation from native land. But of all that history records regarding them, there is nothing written more indelibly than their faith in Almighty God.

For many this may seem like a midnight hour, but let us, like the Psalmist say, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of Thy righteous judgments.” And remember, as long as our trust is really in God, all things work together for good and as He has blessed our Nation in times past, so will He go with us as we face the future, for it is He who says, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31: 8).

November 11, 2019

Deep Hate

Filed under: hate, politics, Uncategorized — jimwes @ 9:34 pm

“Few people can be happy unless they hate

      some other

         person,

            nation, or

               creed.” ~                                                                                                                                                 ~ Bertrand Russell

Hate is the venom that poisons the soul. Yet, all too often, to hate is human. Why do humans hate? Why does hatred grow as a geometric progression once started? One dictionary defines hate as “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury”

We are experiencing today a worldwide acceleration in the expression of hate. No nation…no human seems to be exonerated from these phenomena. In the Southern United States there is a weed called kudzu originally introduced from Japan in 1876 as an ornamental plant. Its nickname is “the vine that ate the South” because it grows faster than all other plants, covers them completely and causes them to wither and die. Today, kudzu is estimated to cover 3,000,000 hectares (7,400,000 acres). Hate appears to be a kudzu-like human feeling that grows faster than all other feelings, covers them over with distrust and vengefulness and causes feelings like kindness, charitableness and love to wither away and eventually disappear.

Hate starts out as an emotion. Then it becomes a belief. It may stop there or it may grow into a cause. Finally it may take the form of an action against its object or its supporters. Because humans are now more interconnected than ever before, the hate prevalent across the world is readily transmitted instantaneously digitally and visually, thus it can augment itself spectacularly across lands, seas and continents.

We now have progressed to the point that we have hate speech, hate crimes, hate groups and just about all we do falls into some possible category of hate. According to the FBI, hate groups are groups whose “primary (italics added) purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.”  Hate often becomes concentrated upon a single individual or a number of individuals with similar beliefs, dress, accents, traditions, customs or conduct.

Since there are many forms of hate it is obvious that there must be a great variety of initiatives that cause it to grow and expand its vile coverage from one human to another, one group to another, one class to another, one nationality to another, one ethnicity to another, one religion to another or almost any other type of associated interest.  Hate thrives on increased feeling of self or others having been wronged, hurt or insulted and grows into more and more animosity, anger and resentment. There is something mysterious that is extremely attractive about having a favorite person, thing, object or class of things upon which to concentrate one’s hate. Today it seems like everyone hates something and some individuals hate many things. Has it always been so?

Deep hate goes even further than a covering and penetrates the full corpus of civilization be it the family, the neighborhood, the city, the region or the state/nation itself. Deep hate knows no limit. It results is overt betrayal of beliefs, friendships, family ties, and the linkages of community, civic and governmental bonds and duties. Deep hate is the hate of the hypocrite, the betrayer, the traitor, the conspirator, the informer, the insider who breaks all bonds of duty, loyalty, decency, and love of persons, communities, cities, bonded groups, and even state/nations. Deep hate degenerates into detestation, hostility, revenge, loathing, abomination and abhorrence. It then is able to justify even more extremely hateful words and deeds. Deep hate seems to be more pervasive than ever as civilization becomes more complicated and frustrating than ever and as organizations in the private, governmental and non-profit sectors evolve into great bureaucracies.

Hate is usually obvious and apparent. It is easily recognized, quickly identified, readily expressed. Deep hate, to the contrary, is characterized by its innate obscurity. It is hidden deeply within. It is anonymous. It is careful. It is quiet. It awaits its proper turn to be unleashed. Then it may surprise its target, embarrass it, humiliate it, and most certainly betray it.

Deep hate is fertilized by contact and communication with other deep haters who form a bond of agreement upon what is to be hated. This bond augments the feeling that something must be done and justifies an act that might not be considered without the feeling of unity of cause. Deep hate is strengthened by the number of deep haters within an organization or group…persons who agree that there is something that must be strongly resisted. Deep hate is very often directed upward toward those in higher authority who may be initially disliked but eventually become despised for reasons that may differ from person to person. The common bond is the excessive growth of the hate impulse among the deep haters who consider their cause just and needed.

Deep hate becomes manifest when someone finally takes action felt to be supported by others as right, correct, just and badly needed. This person relies upon at least tacit support from those who likewise harbor similar hate thus providing a sense of bravado and hopeful security against reprisals.

Deep hate may simply be an action of rejection or opposition to higher authority or it may become an attempt to overthrow it. The more individuals that share the same deep hate, the more likely overthrow or severe embarrassment to higher ups. Needless to say, the greater the bureaucracy involved, the greater likelihood of a wide acceptance of similar deep hate. As a result we see the most glaring cases of deep hate involving labor/management issues and political issues.

Hate is somewhat ethical. It is usually open. It does not deceive nor hide. It opposes but does not betray. Deep hate takes unethical advantage of the trust with which it has been endowed. It opposes by unexpected betrayal.

Once unleashed, how can deep hate be eliminated, minimized or changed into more positive efforts and results?

That is a problem yet to be addressed subtly, carefully and gently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2019

I Won’t Sell My Soul

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 12:00 am

I am now at the midpoint of the ninth decade of my life so it is time to reflect upon the past and think about the future in which I will not participate. Here is a look back at my career when I was a young CPA in Atlanta. This is the chapter on Jim Wesberry from the book LEGENDS: Georgians Who Lived Impossible Dreams by Gene Asher published by Mercer University Press in 2005.
_____________________

In 1965, James P. “Jim” Wesberry Jr., son of the then renowned pastor of the Morningside Baptist Church, was on a political shooting star.

A member of the Georgia State Senate, he was chairman of the Fulton County Senate Delegation, a vital part of leadership Atlanta and respected by people like Cari Sanders, Ivan Alien, George Berry, and the late Dan Sweat.

He was the principal plaintiff in Wesberry v. Sanders, which laid down for the first time in writing the maxim that congressional districts had to be apportioned according to the ideal of “one man, one vote.” In this landmark decisión, the US Supreme Court mandated the reapportionment of the US House of Representatives.

Said Bill Shipp, then political editor of the Atlanta Constitution, “Wesberry was on his way to becoming mayor of Atlanta or governor of the state of Georgia.”

One year later, at the age of thirty-two, Wesberry quit the Senate and left the state of Georgia, decisions he never has regretted.

“I decided to be honest. That is why I quit. My brilliant decisions so far have been quitting politics and marrying my second wife. I would have become corrupt had I stayed and run for higher office. There was no cholee. I was not prepared to sell my soul.”

Today, Wesberry lives in northern Virginia and works for the World Bank in the Caribbean as the principal adviser in Accounting and Auditing for Latin America and the Caribbean. In plain, simple language, Wesberry’s Job is to uncover fraud and corruption, which he says there is plenty of both, and to pinpoint government accountability. “This work is a calling from God,” he said. “Eliminating corruption is my mission in life.”

It was following his second re-election to the Georgia State Senate that Wesberry realized that he would have to “give up my principies to stay in politics. You cannot raise money without compromising yourself. I did not want to sell my integrity. I hated humbling myself before friends and strangers. If someone gave me fifty dollars, I felt indebted to him. It was a compromising position. The guy who gave me money would come back to see me when he had a bill he wanted passed. Nobody gives you money because they believe in you. They give it to you because they want to own you. I couldn’t stomach it.”

To stay free of promised favors, Wesberry said he tried to pay political campaign bilis himself. “They cost me enough to send three children through college twice. My Senate career cost me $15,000 per year in lost potential income I could have earned as an accountant. Meanwhile, my personal net worth nose-dived. I was unable to pay creditors, people were threatening to sue me. I concluded that if I was going to stay honest and solvent, I would have to get out of politics.”

And what advice would Wesberry give today’s political aspirants?

“Stay out of politics. It is rotten. Political parties are rotten. Someone needs to come up with a better system. No matter how you look at it, votes are bought. There is no free lunch. One day the bottom will fall out. We are the most financially irresponsible country in the world. Miami looks like the forerunner of a series of bankrupt cities. Atlanta could well be next.”

For the state of Georgia, Wesberry predicts disaster due to the lottery.

The lottery is the greatest tragedy in Georgia’s history. It is run by criminals so the state is in bed with criminals. The lottery is a corrupt system which corrupts human beings. People embezzle from employers to pay off lottery losses. The lottery is nothing but a tax on the stupid. Only foolish people play the lottery. The state is supposed to protect the foolish and widows and orphans. Instead, with a lottery, it fools the foolish into paying a tax they cannot afford. The lottery is an addiction, just like alcohol, tobáceo and drugs. I cannot think of a worse idea for Georgia than a state lottery.

Wesberry fears no one but God. In his Georgia Senate days, he was called “the most controversial politician since Gene Talmadge.” Critics said he gave up effectiveness as a legislator for the luxury of saying what he thought. He often was called a “maverick, an independent and an original thinker.”

When Senator Wesberry resigned, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial commented, “The state will miss him. We shall think of him whenever the public needs a champion at the Capítol and nobody volunteers for the job.”

James Pickett Wesberry Jr. was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1934. Al the age of nine, he moved to A t l a n t a where his father became pastor of the Morningside Baptist Church. He attended old Bass Junior High School in Little Five Points, and Grady High School in midtown, before moving to Washington DC and spending three years in the Capítol as a House of Representatives page.

Returning to Atlanta, he spent three years at Georgia Tech before transferring to Georgia State University where he earned his accounting degree. At the age of twenty-one, he earned his CPA designation.

His first marriage, which lasted twenty-three years and produced four children, ended in divorce. “The lowest part of my life was telling my father of the breakup, ” he said, “but I would not have survived had it not been for his understanding along with a good psychiatrist and an anti-depressant. My dad looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You can’t let this end your life. Why, if I looked at my congregants, 50 percent of them would be divorced. Now, get on with your life.'”

He joined the World Bank and moved to Perú where he met his present wife, Lea Esdras Castenada. “We have been on a honeymoon for twenty-two years. Lea is the most wonderful, compassionate person I have known. The Lord placed an ángel with me. We are like one person. Marrying Lea was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Jim and Lea have three children: Jonathan, nineteen, a student at Northern Virginia Júnior College; Perry, fourteen, who is deaf and a football player in his northern Virginia high school; and twelve-year-old Ruby Lea, who attends middle school in northern Virginia.

Jim’s four children by his first marriage are, James III, forty-seven, a stock broker; Elisa, forty-nine, a home health care nurse in Atlanta; Susy, thirty-nine, the wife of a musician in Atlanta; and Paul, twenty-eight, in the computer business in Las Vegas. There are five grandchildren.

Financially, Wesberry has come a long way since his early days in the State Senate where he made $2,000 annually. “I won’t say how much I earn but it is at least eighty times more than what I was earning when I left the State Senate.”

Four years ago, Wesberry received the US Agency for International Development’s coveted “Career Achievement Award” for “invaluable and lifetime contributions to the improvements of Financial management systems and the fight against corruption in Latín America.” He has been listed in Who’s Who in America since 1990 and Who’s Who in the World since 1976.

About his work, uncovering fraud and corruption, Wesberry says that white-collar crime is the fastest growing economic phenomenon on the planet. Prosecutors must divide resources between drug cartels, the Mafia, street crime, and business fraud.

“The shortages of jail cells has become the number one problem in American public administration,” he said.

“A Brazilian congressman is alleged to have processed $51 million through his personal bank accounts in less than five years. Cocaine-financed bribes give public officials in South and North America a choice between receiving more money than they could earn in 100 years or tortuous death for themselves or their loved ones. That is what we are up against.”

September 17, 2019

The End of Democracy by Christophe Buffin de Chosal

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 1:42 pm

(more…)

September 12, 2019

The Hardest Day of My Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 2:30 pm

It was a bright Spring morning in Atlanta in 1967. I left home a little later than usual that morning. Upon arriving at the Georgia State Capitol Plaza, I parked my car in the reserved area to which my official “SS 37” auto tag entitled me. I crossed the plaza to the Capitol Building and took the elevator to the governor’s office. His staff was expecting me and immediately showed me into the office of Governor Lester Maddox. He was sitting at his desk but immediately stood up. We  greeted and I  handed him a single sheet of paper, a letter,  written on my official stationary, the last one I ever wrote. On it was the following:

“I hereby submit my resignation as Georgia State Senator from the 37th District, Fulton County.  This is been the greatest privilege of my life.

              Yours truly,  James P. Wesberry, Jr.”

 Lester Maddox, who became governor after hotly contested Democratic primaries and an inconclusive general election that ended up with a special Constitutionally established joint legislative gubernatorial election session had been my worst political enemy during the entire time I served as Senator. He was the epitome of the term “segregationist” in Georgia at that time. I was then known as the most “liberal” State Senator due to my Atlanta constituency and my views on racial equality. Though I had been a lifelong Democrat, when my name was called I had shouted out my vote for his Republican opponent in the joint legislative session that elected him by an extremely wide margin.

 But Lester Maddox was a gentleman and he spoke kindly accompanying me all the way to the door of his outer office. I’ll never forget the last words he spoke to me. “Where was it you said you were going Jim?” “Peru,” I answered. “Boy! you must have a good job there,” he replied.

I went back to my car and drove to the Atlanta airport with tears streaming down my face all the way.  I had thus ended the greatest dream of my life.

My father has prepared me for public service. As a boy I had served as a Page on the floor of the US House of Representatives for three years. I had studied business and public administration, become a CPA and specialized in governmental financial management, accounting and auditing. I had audited many local governments, had served as a criminal investigator of corruption in state government, had been hyper active in civic and community affairs, had been elected three times to the Senate, chaired its largest delegation and was expected to run for higher office. I was 32 years of age.

At the airport my parents met me with my luggage and took my automobile back to sell it for me.  I boarded an airplane headed for Lima Peru.

So began a vastly different, but excitingly interesting phase of my life.

[For more see Why I Quit the Georgia Senate at http://jimwes.com/id14.html ]

September 11, 2019

Never Forget….Forgotten

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 3:56 pm

I had been in a Mexico City hotel for several days prior to the 9/11/01 attacks preparing to launch a new USAID-financed anti-corruption project in collaboration with the new Fox government. We anticipated much emphasis upon Mexico due to President Bush’s interest due to having been governor of neighboring Texas. The two presidents were to meet quite soon. Suddenly everything changed and the US President pretty well forgot about Mexico due to the pressing world crisis.

I was overwhelmed doubly with sorrow as we tried to salvage our anti-corruption plans amid little interest from Washington but I really had little contact with what was going on in the US until I returned many months later.

When I did return to the US I was absolutely stunned to see waves of patriotism everywhere. Flags, automobile stickers, patriotic symbols and acts abounded. I was immediately happily reminded of the similarity to the US I grew up in during and after World War II. Gone were the negative references to Vietnam, the criticisms of partisan politics and the undercurrent of anti-Americanism that had been prevalent especially since the Nixon administration.

It was truly delightful to see Americans young and old praising their country and participating in patriotic activities.

I returned to Mexico recharged with my own love of the US expecting a great change in the outlook of the citizenry.  Sadly that did not happen. By the time of my next trip home all the patriotic fervor had disappeared. Political hatred had resumed its growth and since then has gotten far, far worse than ever.

We did forget!

And as I see the numerous “one day” remembrances today on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, I am even more saddened than ever because our memory has faded and we have practically forgotten what we pledged to remember and only have cognizance of it once a year.

December 1, 2018

Supporting a Grief Stricken Friend

Filed under: Love — jimwes @ 6:08 pm

Today a friend posted a video on Facebook that brought back a very old memory of one of the most troubling episodes of my entire life. Through it I learned one of life’s most important lessons.

It occurred in the early 1970’s when I was working in Peru. It was the most uncomfortable day of my life in many ways. As background my father was a very prominent Baptist minister in Atlanta, Georgia. He had many God-given talents, but the greatest of all, that I saw demonstrated many times as I accompanied him while a boy, was the ability to share grief and comfort those of his church and community in their times of utmost grief.  His comforting presence and words during times of sickness, difficult times and death made him extremely beloved to all who knew him.  Folks he comforted at such times became his everlasting friends and admirers.

Unfortunately for me, among the very many talents of my father that I did not inherit or possess was that ability to comfort others. It seemed to me that I was almost the opposite of my beloved father in that respect. I was embarrassed, tongue-tied, frustrated, and practically speechless at any time I was confronted with the grief of a friend, and especially where there had been loss of life. I tried to avoid contact in such cases, skipped funerals I should have attended, and if I had to speak garbled some pitiful (at least to me) words of sympathy.

Finally in Peru when I was about half my present age I confronted the greatest challenge I could have imagined. A very close friend telephoned me at six o’clock one morning to tell me that his expectant wife had died while giving birth to their first child. The baby had survived and her mother was with him caring for it.  I have no memory of how I replied to him but was horribly embarrassed that I had not found words I believed could help.

I got dressed and went to work but on the way my conscience was tortured by my own grief for my friend. At the office I went straight to the executive, who was the Comptroller General of Peru, and told him the situation asking for the day off. He readily agreed and I drove to my friend’s home to find him.

Again I have no memory of what I may have said to him or his mother-in-law but I knew it was pitifully inadequate. He told me that he had much to do that day including getting the death certificate and many other papers, arranging the funeral (in Latin American countries burial is almost immediate after death), and paying hospital bills, etc.  In practically my only lucid moment I said “I’ll go with you.”

Though I offered mine, he insisted upon driving his own car so I sat at his side throughout the full day. I was totally speechless. I tried to say something comforting but simply could not get anything out of my own mouth. I waited in the car while he ran many errands and handled all his urgent tasks. While he was driving he did all the talking. He told me the story of his love, marriage and hopes, including many personal feelings about his own upbringing, his family and his experiences. I was relieved that he became so loquacious because I was basically stricken dumb by the shame of not having anything comforting to say.

Finally we parted at the end of the day and I shamefully went home to confess that I had been a complete failure in helping my friend in his time of grief.

The next day at the funeral I could not believe the overwhelming words of thankfulness that my friend expressed to me. He said “You were with me all the time. You listened to me. You comforted me more than I can say.”  Again I was speechless. And for the rest of his life whenever we met he profusely thanked me for comforting him. I had done absolutely nothing but listen all day long. Amazingly to me, that evidently was the thing he needed most on the day of his greatest grief.

So I learned a great lesson of life:

In times of severe grief a person needs the quiet support of a listening friend much more than any words that can be expressed.

That is why this video that I saw today reminded me to express my thankfulness to the Lord for helping me be just a tiny little bit like my father.  And that is why I want to share this video with you:  https://youtu.be/zW0-aT7B1XM

November 23, 2018

A 21st Century Declaration of Independence

Filed under: Honor, politics — Tags: , , , — jimwes @ 3:57 pm

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the informational bands which have connected him with the present Current Media and to obtain from among the powers of the earth, a separate and equal source of knowledge to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle him, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created intelligent, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Truthful Information and the pursuit of Honest Knowledge. — That to secure these rights, Instruments of Truthful Unbiased Media are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Readers/Viewers, — That whenever any Form of Media becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to avoid or to ignore it, and to institute new means of obtaining news, data and information, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such a form, as to him shall seem most likely to affect his Integrity, Safety and Happiness. The history of the present Current News and Information Media is a history of repeated lies, distortions, injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the receipt of Truthful News, Data, and Information. To prove this let Facts be submitted to a candid world:

The Current Media has ignored its own time honored principles and practices of Ethics and Honest Reporting.

The Current Media has often published Fake News, Distorted News, Biased News, and Wholly or Partially Untrue News.

The Current Media has ignored and not published, or conveniently and carefully obscured news with which it disagrees.

The Current Media has Viciously Attacked those with whom it disagrees.

The Current Media has spun the news and manipulated data to the benefit of ends that it supports.

The Current Media has united to form a Monopoly of Untruthful and Exaggerated Accusations.

The Current Media has persecuted unmercifully those with which it disagrees and/or hates.

The Current Media has Lied Over and Over relying upon such False Repetition to eventually be accepted as Truth.

The Current Media has lost its credibility by betraying the faith once trustingly placed upon it by myself and others.

I therefore, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of my own human rights, solemnly publish and declare, That my sources of information and news ought to be Free and Independent, that I am hereby Absolved from using all currently biased political and informational media sources and all political and informational use of printed, visual and digital Current Media Sourced Data, News and Information.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge to the public that I will avoid and ignore all Vengeful, Distorted and Untrue Media, upon my own Life, my Fortunes, and my sacred Honor.

     James Pickett Wesberry, Jr.

Citizen of the United States of America

 

November 5, 2018

USA IMMIGRANTS IN MY FAMILY HISTORY

Filed under: Immigration — jimwes @ 9:26 pm

At this time of great interest in the issue of immigration I happened to accidentally find out a bit about my own family’s immigrants of the 18th Century.

John Wolfe (1686-1759) and Ziblilla Witgens (1683-1759) were my great grandparents five generations removed on my mother’s side of the family. They immigrated to the United States from their native country, Switzerland, at the price of becoming bond servants having to work for three years as such in order to pay their passage since they were “too poor to pay passage-money.” They travelled from their home in Berne, Switzerland to a German seaport and endured a long and very trying sea voyage to their new home in America. Once free they were awarded land upon which to settle and farm in what is now Orangeburg County, South Carolina. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of the people who came to the colonies between the 1630s and the American Revolution did so as indentured servants.

Emigrants from Europe like my 5th generation great grandparents were called “redemptioners,” a term that stems from the practice of an apprentice fulfilling his obligation to his master and therefore being “redeemed.”  Similarly, the practice of indenture, bonding, or redemptioners all stem from the much-accepted practice of apprenticeship, where a young man would learn a trade and in return serve a certain number of years in unpaid labor for the master.  The practice was common in England and in Germany.

The following extract indicates that my 5th generation grandparents were sold and located in Saxe-Gotha, Germany to fulfil their servitude and after their legal discharge they obtained the king’s bounty and a tract of land, the same as other settlers,

“Journal of Council, vol. xi, p. 486: ‘Petition of John Wolfe and wife, natives of Berne, Switzerland, too poor to pay passage-money, entered into the service of Anthony Stack, of Saxe-Gotha, Germany for three years, being now discharged from service, prays for his quota of land and bounty-money. Granted, on evidence of his written legal discharge.’ ”[i]

These forebears of mine were erroneously called “redemptionersbecause they could have been “redeemed” by payments made by other relatives who were already in the country, but in actuality they and very few others had such relatives, thus they were obliged to serve basically almost as white slaves, but only for a specified time period. Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to American Colonies by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage. Most paid for their emigration with their own toil, tears, and sometimes their life. In America their labor was considered a good to be lawfully bought and sold until their indentures matured. The big differences between redemptioners and African slaves, were that redemptioners came of their own accord (even if misinformed) and that they had some legal rights and an “out of indentures” date to look forward to.

Unlike my more fortunate forebears, typical redemptioners were at a disadvantage because they were usually forced to negotiate their indentures with their future master at the worst possible time, before they were allowed to leave a stinking, vermin-infested ship at the end of a long voyage with no prospect to return to their homelands. Fortunately my 5th generation grandparents performed their contracted labor in Germany before their voyage. Abuse of redemptioners on board ship is well documented. If a person died after half way across the Atlantic, the surviving family members had to pay the deceased’s fare as well as their own. Their baggage was often pilfered by the crew. Many travelers started their journey with sufficient funds to pay their way but were overcharged so that they arrived with a debt to settle and they also had to be redeemed or work off their debts. If the ship needed to sail before some of the passengers’ indentures had been sold, an agent in the American port kept them confined until a buyer presented himself. In such cases they could be auctioned off just like slaves. The redemptioners who became indentured servants in the US ended up working as farm laborers, household help, in workshops, and even as store clerks. Involuntary servitude, along with slavery in the United States, was finally banned as a part of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865.

Here is a description of the reasons for and conditions of this kind of servitude:

Dr. Bernheim, on p. 131 of his history, writing of the settlement of Redemptioners, says: “Some of our best and most useful settlers in the South were persons, who, too poor to pay their passage-money across the ocean, were sold by the captains of the vessels, that brought them to America, to any one of the settlers who felt inclined to secure their labor. The price for which they were sold in Carolina was usually from five to six pounds, sterling money, and both men and women were thus alike sold to service; and then, by hard labor, which extended over a period of from three to five years, they eventually redeemed themselves from this species of servitude.

“The advantages of such an arrangement to them and to their adopted colony were, upon the whole, important and salutary.

“1. Our infant colonies stood in need of a useful population which would prove a defence [sic] to the country in case of the execution of the continued threatenings [sic] of a Spanish invasion, and the sudden attack of hostile Indians.

“2. Besides, labor was greatly needed for the cultivation of the virgin soil, and these poor Germans-many of them excellent farmers, some of them useful artisans, and all of them hard-working people-furnished this labor, and at very cheap rates.

“3. The country also needed permanent settlers who would become habituated to the soil and climate, who would learn to love their adopted country, by being compelled to remain until they had fully tested all the advantages of the same; these the Redemptioners abundantly supplied in their own persons.

“4. Nor were the advantages to them of slight importance. They had nothing to risk in the shape of property, as they possessed nothing of this world’s goods, and thus they never became a prey to those landsharks which often despoil the less sagacious immigrants of much of the possessions which they brought with them to America.

“5. Besides, they were the poorer class of people at home in Europe, and would always have remained in this condition, had such an arrangement not existed: but now they enjoyed the flattering prospect of receiving competency and wealth at some future day.

“6. Then again, their servitude became their apprenticeship in America; in the meantime they learned the English language, they became acquainted with the laws and customs of the ‘new country, they discovered by silent observation what would in future be to their advantage, and thus in every way did they become qualified by sagacity, industry, and economy, for their new and independent sphere of life.

“Yet it must be confessed that they had to endure many hardships: often were they rigously [sic] treated by their ship captains: ill and insufficiently fed on their voyage across the ocean, and on shore before they were purchased for their services: exposed publicly for sale as the African slave: often treated harshly by their masters who purchased them, and compelled to labor in the broiling sun of a southern climate, and many, by disease and death, frequently closed their short earthly career.

“However, when our country had become sufficiently populated, the government interposed and put an end to this kind of servitude, on account of the severity of the lot of these unfortunate laborers, and thus abandoned this source of colonization.[ii]

[i] The History of Orangeburg County, South Carolina From Its First Settlement to the Close of the Revolutionary Warby A. S. Salley, Jr., 1998  http://www.genealogytrails.com/scar/orangeburg/history1.html#sec2
[ii] Ibid.

 

September 22, 2016

Thoughts at 82

Filed under: Opportunity, Optimism, Uncategorized, Wisdom — jimwes @ 12:27 pm

Today I am 82 years of age. That gives me a lot to think about.

I never planned to get this far in years as few in my family have lived so long. But here I am so I must make the best of it.

At this stage of my life:

  • Every day is Thanksgiving Day

  • Every breath is a new opportunity

  • Every sunrise is a new miracle

  • Every smile is a new sunrise

  • Every friend is a valued treasure

  • Every grandchild is a kingly jewel & every great grandchild a crown of gold

  • Every family contact is an unmeasureable blessing, and 

  • Every new task is a life transfusion

    Mother Theresa is credited with the following observation about life:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

The “extra” days allotted to those who live longer than most provide a renewed opportunity that we should take advantage of.

Here is my theme for the rest of my time:

Look to the future, not the past,
Look forward, not back, 
Look up, not down,

and DO GOOD

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