February 23, 2011

An Open Letter to Randy

My cousin Randy is a guy that has had a hard life. Things have seldomly gone his way until recent years, when things turned around. He got a good job driving trucks from coast to coast. Sometimes I have trouble understanding him. I often feel that the conservative talk radio broadcasters have affected his thinking. Of course, these broadcasters have affected the thinking of most Americans turning them against their own best interests. I would really like to see Randy begin to change his mind set by answering two excellent questions he posed in a recent facebook post.
To that end I offer him this open letter.

Dear Randy,

Recently I posted on facebook the following:
"Looks like the people of Wisconsin need an immediate change of regime. Can the governor of Wisconsin be recalled by the people?" There were 39 comments that friends and relatives added to this post; more than I had to any previous post. The discussion was good and interesting.

You kindly added a couple of comments. The most meaningful were two important questions for which I thank you. What you wrote follows "So public employes who work for the pubic need protection from the people who they serve? So, those who are non public employed are having a hard time creating revenue they need to sacrifice more so that the government employes can continue on with his life unchanged?"

I hope to answer your questions. But before doing that I think it is important to understand what Governor Scott Walker is really trying to do and some speculation on his motivations.

Gov. Walker is out to destroy public employee unions and weaken the the entire trade union movement. Governor Walker has a history of attacking public trade unions. When he was the Executive of Milwaukee County, he tried to replace unionized security guards at the county courthouse and replace them with contractors, which he promised would save the county money. The county board refused to replace them. But Walker took executive action on his own. The county was sued and lost, costing the people of Milwaukee half-a-million dollars. All the Wisconsin public unions have said that they would accept concessions to wages and benefits. Gov. Walker was notified of this concession and he was asked if he would drop the legislation. His answer was "NO!" His history is that of a union buster. Now that he refuses to negotiate with these unions it is clear that his agenda is not to protect Wisconsinites, rather it is to destroy public and private unions in Wisconsin and the rest of the US.

American workers fought long and hard for the right to have unions. They made this a great country for the common man. What Walker is really trying to do is make the US like every other poor country where his super rich, blood sucking friends make billions on the backs of a beaten-down and impoverished people. Randy is that really what you want for America? I doubt it. It is undemocratic to take away rights of workers, it is anti-American. I certainly do not want that. I hope that you and I can agree on stopping these blood suckers from ruining our way of life.

Randy, ask yourself why Gov. Walker wants to bust these unions, after all the state, county and municipal workers do not work for profit making organizations. He cannot be just acting to save the people of Wisconsin a few dollars. There are, in fact, several reasons. The most important are MONEY and POWER, money to influence elections and public opinion and the power to run the state with no checks on his power. Recently, corporations were granted the ability to give anonymously billions of dollars to candidates, most often but not exclusively to Republicans. Scott Walker and his party have greatly benefitted from this change. Unfortunately for Walker, trade unions give money to candidates too, primarily Democrats. Of course, they do not come anywhere close to the resources of large corporations, but their money means a lot and it can affect elections. If unions are weakened or eliminated, then there will be less money for Democrats. Further, Gov. Walker and all Republicans would find it easy to take POWER in the future. To be clear, Democrats are not are saviors, but they will not try to destroy our way of life like the Republicans are only too glad to do, as witnessed in Wisconsin.

Clearly, Walker wants to destroy the American way of life and ensure that his blood sucking friends will be able live higher and better for years to come, while we middle-class Americans are pushed into poverty. That is not what I want and I am sure that you do not want that either. After all, our personal well-being, our families' well-being, and the well-being of our communities are at stake. We have to be brave and stand-up to these attacks.

Comparison of Wisconsin
Public and Private Sector Annual Wages


Now, lets take a look at the excuses Walker presented to justify his demand to end public unions. He says that there is a huge state deficit. First one should ask, is that even true? The answer depends on your definition of huge, because the deficit is completely manageable and is not worse than the last deficit. So, Walker's excuse is a big fat lie. Second, he states that the unions have made and will continue to make unreasonable demands. Yet Wisconsin unions have already agreed to reduced wages and benefits. So, this too is a big fat lie. But it does not matter because he and his friends have already convinced thousands of others that unions are bad, evil groups out to enrich themselves and bankrupt America. I worked for 30 years for the City of Minneapolis and I always earned significantly less than people doing the same thing in the private sector. The chart on the right show how much less Wisconsin state employees make when compared to the private sector. The numbers are simply shocking. Clearly, public employees are motivated to work for something other than money. My own experience tells me that public employees mostly work out of a desire to serve the public good. Yes, my pension is a good one. During my last ten years working for the city, the only thing that kept me working there was the promise of a half-way decent pension. The promise of the pension and my desire to serve kept me from going to the private sector where I knew I could earn twice a much money. It was the promise of a future benefit that kept me there. I considered the promise of the pension as part of my compensation. And I contributed much more to my pension fund than what you pay for social security. Gov. Walker wants to steal that from the workers of Wisconsin, because he says that it is too much. I will come back to this theft below. It is immoral to promise to pay someone for something they have done and they NOT pay them. You are moral man, so I doubt that you would want to do that - but Gov. Walker does. He is thief, a thief of our livelihood, our dreams and the American way of life.
I say, DAMN Governor Walker - a liar and a thief.

Now, allow me to answer your first question. Historically, governments have acted in horrid ways. They have attacked and murdered people for demanding for basic human rights. In the last 150 years governments in USA have acted time and time again to oppress working people and people of color. Organizing public unions is not needed to protect workers from the people, but from oppressive government. The most important right for workers is the right to organize themselves and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. The people of the United States battled government and corporations from the late 1800's to the mid 1900's for the right to bargain collectively. In fact, the US has the bloodiest labor history in the world, because the US had the most powerful corporate owners in the world. Scott Walker is a modern-day shill for this same class of tyrants. They want to turn the clock back to the bad old days when workers had NO control over their lives.
What Wisconsin workers will never concede is their right to collectively bargain.
Randy, who will you stand with? Your working friends and neighbor or the the rich, blood sucking patrons of Gov. Scott Walker?

I believe that I have already answered your second question about the willingness of the Wisconsin public employees to make concessions in these difficult times. But Walker just will not take YES for an answer.

Finally, I want to add a small ironic aside. How is it that so many pension plans are underfunded today? Not ALL of them are in trouble but many are. The primary reason was the financial collapse in 2008. Pension funds hired respectable Wall Street investment firms. In a diabolic scheme, these firms invested retirement money in risky hedge funds. When the bottom fell out, the retirement funds were left holding the bag. The government, through TARP, bailed out the banks but did nothing for the retirement funds. They stole billions from US workers in the greatest scam of all times. Worse yet them seem to have gotten away with it, as none have been jailed, just more government corruption and collusion with the super rich. The IRONY is that now these same blood suckers want to use the excuse of depleted pension funds to attack and destroy their last contingent of their mortal enemy, American trade unions.

Randy, your a workingman as your father was and your children will be. Trade unions have made your life much better. They fought for and won the 40-hour week, health care and workplace safety. If allowed to, unions will continue to serve and protect all American workers.
The time has come to stop disparaging the very people that brought you and your family a better life,
because it is time to praise and protect them.
That is the RIGHT and MORAL thing to do.

The next time we find ourselves in the same city, I hope that we can sit down and talk about all these things.

   Your loving cousin,


Posted by bill at 05:21 PM | Comments (4)

February 08, 2011

Off to Texas

Biloxi Bay Bridge Mosaics
IMG_2593: Biloxi Bay Bridge Mosaics

To view a very short video of all four mosaic panels, press HERE..


Katherine, Daniel, Rachel, Nanette and Terry Shamsie
IMG_2595: Katherine, Daniel, Rachel, Nanette and Terry

Our new car was shipped from Sweden after we dropped it off in December. We picked it up in Golden Valley on the 15th of January. Then we wrapped up our preparations to leave the cold, cold North.

The Twin Cities was cold as a snowman's nose on Wednesday, January 26th, being well below zero - that's colder than -20 celsius. Betty and I headed a couple of hours south to La Crosse, Wisconsin. We had come to visit Steve and Ellen, my brother and his wife. We had not seen them since last summer. It was great to visit. Steve is a wonderful cook and he made a great dinner. We had Martinis before dinner and lots of red wine during and after our supper. Betty was feeling awfully good by the end of the evening, which led to an annoying headache the next morning.

We left La Crosse early Thursday morning. We drove all day and finally stopped in Blytheville, Arkansas. The next day we drove the rest of the way to my father's house in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

We spent several days with my dad. We were able to take several long walks. One day we hiked the beach from the bay bridge to the harbor club. We really enjoyed visiting with my dad; we talked and talked and talked. On Sunday we were treated to a dinner with dad and Paul. We really enjoy our stays with him.

On Wednesday, February 2nd, we drove all day long to Corpus Christi. We spent the next five days visiting with Terry and Nanette. They have three wonderful teen-aged children: Daniel, Katherine and Rachel. They were so kind. The thing I like best about Terry was his politics and his critical thinking skills. How such a liberal was ever able to survive and thrive for all these years in this very conservative county in beyond me, but it is surely a testament to his strong and intelligent character. His wonderful wife was just as bright and had a grand warm soul. The children are hard-working and very bright. They each speak multiple languages, from Chinese to Arabic to Italian. As many as seven! We loved the long discussions with the family about life and politics. Everyday was great, except for the weather, which had turned cold. On Friday night ice coated the houses, trees and roads, not inches of ice but maybe a quarter inch. Crazy as it sounds, they closed the freeways for nearly two days.

We spent our days looking for a place to rent or buy. I really did not want to buy before I knew how much I really liked the place. Terry had provided us the name of an excellent real estate agent. She found us a good but pricey rental on North Padre Island.

We moved in yesterday. While it is only a one-bedroom unit, there are four beds and it could sleep eight. We are looking for Birgitta and the girls to visit before we head north again.

The View from Our Balcony of Laguna Madre
IMG_2601: Laguna Madre

Posted by bill at 05:32 PM | Comments (1)