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“It's time to stand up - not to cheer, but to fight back.”
--Senator Russ Feingold, On Executive Power. (Daily Kos, 2006-02-02)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Economic growth for everyone - is it possible?

No - it is required!

So often I hear that we Progressives do not have real ideas of how to grow an economy so real growth is achieved for all. During the Clinton years the ones who are middle class did extremely well, especially during the "Dot Com" years. But still the unlucky ones at the bottom half of the income ladder were left behind or forgotten both in America and globally. And here I do not even include places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Rwanda.

For purposes of "political capital" both Parties have claimed success on the economic front if the very largest American companies have big success both at home and abroad. This short sighted view has seemed to be a result of the vast amounts of money that is needed to be elected in America and to stay in power. Money that big business or big interests are more than willing to exchange in vast amounts for the right access to the Oval Office or the Halls of Congress. Remember the Banking and S&L scandal of "ages ago"?

I suggest that a true Progressive recipe for economic success is based on the belief that real success for the ones at the lower half of the economic ladder is the only real measure of economic success as a country that believes in the value of people. If you only believe in the value of capital gains or shareholder value then you love the America we all have created. If you believe we ALL can have a direct economic benefit then you have to vote of a real change this November and in 2008 vote for Feingold.

As a country America need to again believe and act on the belief that when one person slips below the poverty line we as a "Human" nation are failing...because we are. The article below is but one idea that will work as well for a single mother or father struggling to feed their kids in Iowa or Texas or Georgia as it would for the small business owner in Slovakia.

The article originally appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia monthly magazine (http://www.amcham.sk/upload/connection/20-21.pdf)


SME's – Slovakia'’s Best Hope for an Accelerated, More Dynamic and Brighter Economic Future for Everyone

The miracle of the Slovak economic turnaround has been a remarkable regional economic success. Large enterprises are coming in and setting up one large factory after another. The economic outlook is particularly bright for the shareholders and management of the many multinational companies that have discovered Slovakia. If this positive economic news is to create a vibrant, dynamic growth engine for all in Slovakia then much more attention must be given to solutions that will incorporate more successfully the domestic and international small and medium sized business community into this remarkable economic success story.

SARIO, Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency, has recently announced that over 300 large investments have created approximately 9,000 new jobs. This great investment success has unfortunately also revealed an increasingly obvious reality - there are not enough qualified managers and factory workers who are able or willing to accept many of these newly created jobs. Currently there are just not the required numbers of qualified middle managers and factory workers available to sustain so many, large diverse factories. Increasingly many of these large investors have been forced to look outside Slovakia to source the necessary workforce. In the long term the low salary cost reasons that drove most of the current investment decisions will prove increasingly difficult to realize if more and more of the required workers have to be sourced from outside Slovakia.

Now that an adequate base of large investment successes has so artfully been developed it is now time to move beyond these first, small economic measures and begin to focus resources and financial incentives on building a strong, dynamic, versatile small and medium sized business community. As the Slovak News Agency recently pointed out "“Ministries which coordinate the social and economic politics of Slovakia like to show people macroeconomic mega-success of our country. But they seem to forget that the successful economy must go along with raising living standards. The living standard rises at a snail's pace. Well, it is better than nothing, but the fact that one fifth of Slovaks live above the poverty threshold is a catastrophe."”

It is no secret that in every single growing, thriving, developed, free market economy economic success is always based on the fortunes and treatment of the small and medium sized business community. By most measures of economic activity such as GDP or new job creation, between 75% to more than 90% of all real growth is directly and indirectly attributed to the contribution of the small and medium sized business community.

In Slovakia there are many inequalities that small business faces as it struggles to compete efficiently. This situation for the small business community is more challenging since many of the laws governing the economy are now just being codified. The range of inequalities touches everything from the privatization process, the granting of service providing licenses, tax laws and the legislative influence process. It now appears to be time for the Slovak business and political communities to explore the possibilities that even greater prosperity and political stability for the citizens of Slovakia resides in the fortunes of the small and medium business community.

A few examples of these inequalities may help to illustrate the depth of the current imbalance in the system. As the first example let’s look at the tax rate. The large domestic and foreign business community usually disburses income from the business via some sort of a dividend that is exempt from taxation in Slovakia. For the small business owner they are usually forced to pay 19% tax on income they take from the business. Additional when they spend this income on other purchases they are required to pay the 19% VAT. Another inequality is in the money the government provides to large investors in order to assist them take advantage of the many benefits of conducting business here in Slovakia. SARIO is an example of a government-funded entity that is established to assist only large foreign companies locate and set up business in Slovakia.

As with other issues that have arisen in Slovakia over the years, the debate over the business direction for Slovakia has always centered on discovering a Slovak way to get the job done. The domestic and international small business community is primarily interested in developing a level playing field between large and small business. If incentives are offered to the very largest multinational companies to create jobs then it only makes good business sense to offer incentives at the same level to the small and medium sized business community that has demonstrated how much better it is at creating more long lasting jobs and growth than the large companies. If the small and medium business community would be given a real voice in developing solutions of economic policy there is a chance the benefits of an economic turnaround would benefit a far greater portion of the Slovak population. As we have seen over the last few years that Slovakia has relied on large business advisors to develop solutions for the large business community it now also makes wise economic sense to develop a method for the small and medium business community to have a voice in how to improve, expand and grow a more broad based economic recovery in Slovakia.

One possible solution would be to create a strategic economic partnership similar to the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the US. The SBA is the "“The voice for small business in the Federal Government"”. The SBA has a fairly good record at ensuring the special requirement of the small and medium business community is considered in all areas of American business life. The laws governing business including taxes, public procurements and privatizations should not be dominated by only one segment of the business community. Totally new Slovak small and medium sized business models must be developed from the viewpoint of a large and small business partnership if continued widespread job creation and living standards is the desired outcome.

The government and large business needs to view SME'’s as equal partners with valuable insights into how to economic activity over a wide segment of the Slovakia business community. Large companies must be willing to actively encourage matchmaking activities where SME'’s can take an active part in subcontracting possibilities for tenders or other business activities. Tax law needs to be changed to take away the small and medium sized business double taxation burden. The government must actively look for ways to provide education, access and infrastructure development incentives on an equal footing as what they provide the large investor. If the small business community is to flourish and expand then a government or NGO entity similar to the American SBA must be established to foster a public-private partnership to effectively assist a much greater number of Slovak and international small business community member also say with conviction "“Slovak is a great place to live and succeed in business"”.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Straw Polls of interest at Daily Kos

Please take a minute to vote for Sen. Feingold in the DailyKos May/June Straw Poll. Russ has done very well, winning the last straw poll with 48%. His support has increased from just 10% last June.

There is also a 2008 Fantasy Straw Poll, which is pretty much the same except it has Al Gore in it. Russ is in a strong 2nd and could use your help there too.

Russ is standing up for US!
"It's time to stand up - not to cheer, but to fight back." - Russ Feingold

Thanks for the research and information from Iowa for Feingold

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Equality in marriage

Today there was yet another attempt to use our constitution against "We the people". I wrote this short message to Sen. Feingold.
=========================
As you have consistantly done in the past; today you stood up to the "status quo" and let your opinion be know when the rights of other are in danger.

We all need to let people live their lives and begin to address the real problems that face our country. With you help we can try. We stand with you Russ!

Thank you
=========================

Here is part of the statement the Senator released:

"The Constitution of the United States is an historic guarantee of individual freedom. It has served as a beacon of hope, an example to people around the world who yearn to be free and to live their lives without government interference in their most basic human decisions. I took an oath when I joined this body to support and defend the Constitution. I will continue to fight this mean-spirited, divisive, poorly drafted, and misguided amendment when it comes to the Senate floor.”

========================

In reality what does it matter how people live? It seems to me there are some who object to same sex marriage much as the old segregationists or "slavers" tried to use the Bible and questionable science to justify keeping the African Americans enslaved and apart for so many years. In fact I still hear Americans tell me they get physically sick inside when they see a white woman with a black man or two men kissing. And they ask "Am I prejudice?" We in America have grown too comfortable with our prejudice. We still have to ask. We have moved so far away from being human that we think it is ok to "pre-emptively" attack another country and in the process proactively kill other human beings and feel we are well within our rights because in war a certain amount of "Collateral Damage" is to be expected . But if two men or two women want to be afforded the same civil rights as a man and a woman have in marriage we waste untold millions of tax dollars in a misguided attempt to change the constitution.

We Americans, who say we want freedom, seem of late to have elected Presidents, Senators, other Members of Congress and local representatives who are more concerned about tax relief for the most wealthy Americans than they are in solving the real issue we face as a nation today.

My hope is that the voters in November will pause and reflect on what it means to be free from prejudice and vote for real leaders who will lead them in that direction. We may not want a gay marriage ourselves but what does "equal protection" mean anyway? We need to stand with Russ and other leaders who want to give us a world where all of us can be free - "free at last".

Monday, May 08, 2006

My deep concern about the recent nomination of General Michael Hayden to the post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Dear Senator Feingold,

I am writing to you to voice my deep concern about the recent nomination of General Michael Hayden to the post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. My objection is not directed at the many qualifications General Hayden brings to the position about the technical aspects of the intelligence gathering structure of the United States. My deep concern and reservation has its roots in the “cultural” training the General has received over the years in his various positions in the Air Force. With all the problems our country has within the intelligence gathering community can we afford to nominate someone who has been trained and indoctrinated not to question any order from a superior especially from the President himself?

The same year the General started his distinguished career I too started my shorter career with the Air Force. I was selected to become a member of the Air Force Security Service as a Vietnamese linguist. I had a Top Secret clearance until I voluntarily chose to withdraw from handling classified materials due to my opposition to the war in Vietnam. Some months later I was given an Honorable discharge from the Air Force after the intervention of the Federal Court system in the West District of Texas.

In light of the politicalization and failures of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war I am not sure the culture within the intelligence gathering community has substantially changed form those days so many years ago. Allow me to relay two short stories to let you know why I have come to this conclusion.

After completing a 47-week Vietnamese language instruction course at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California in 1970 I was sent to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas. Before our Radio Intercept training class approximately 30 of us were requested to sign a voluntary statement not to divulge classified information for 10 years. At first approximately 25 of us refused to comply. The Base Commander at the time a Col. Grover O. Reat ordered all of us into a secure room and then issued orders for all of us to sign this voluntary statement. One of the more brave individuals asked if we could take this to mean that we were ordered to sign. His words still resound deep inside my mind to this day. He said “Son, you can take it any damn well way you please, but you are not leaving this room until you sign the paper!” The speech worked as all but one of us signed the paper.

The next event occurred a few weeks later when I was at Clark Air Base in the Philippines when another Colonel again attempted to intimidate me into signing the same statement this time under a stated threat of being sent to Vietnam if I did not sign the paper. He used these words during his 45-minute speech to me – “The senior military officers in our country are the only ones who are holding our country together!” Keep in mind the tenor of the times and the many protest in Washington and other cities across the country. We all realize how our country works best when we have strong and objective checks and balances.

With these stories and due to the current disintegration we are witnessing within our intelligence gathering community we need strong objective leadership at the helm of the CIA. With the current state of our country’s inability to rebuild our vital intelligence community, I believe that we do not need a person who has been trained all his adult life never to question authority. We have sadly witnessed that the current “order giver”, our very own President, is a man who has demonstrated over and over again that he will use classified intelligence for his own political and war justifications purposes, no matter what the intelligence objectively tells him. We need to get on the road toward becoming a strong nation again – we need strong leadership at many different levels within our governmental institutions to make our nation secure once again. I encourage you to demonstrate the same strong leadership you recently displayed and ask for a real independent, objective leader for this vital American institution we call the CIA.

Please feel free to use this letter in any way you see fit to ensure we Americans receive a Director of the CIA that will assist in making us really secure.

Thank you very much for your consideration,

Bill Quam

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Vote from Abroad at this great site

Be sure if you have not registered to vote yet for mid-terms that you do so now. Follow the link below and do it seamlessly - at least as seamlessly as possible.

http://www.votefromabroad.org/

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Jewish senator bids for US presidency" JPOST

The Jerusalem Post recently ran an article on Sen Feingolds run for the Presidency. (link http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=1&cid=1139395645972&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Here is the comment I made about Sen Feingold:

37. Sen Feingold
Bill Quam - Slovakia
04/28/2006 16:38

My feeling about Sen. Feingold is that he is exactly what our country needs. Those of us who live outside America know all too well that we need a strong leader who will challenge the status quo and who will offer real solutions that we all develop together. We have enough of Presidents, Senators (who would fight the same war in Iraq but fight it differently) and business interests who will sell out the security of the world for a few dollars more. Unless we are all willing to move forward in new directions then Iraq is only the beginning of the problems we will bring upon ourselves no matter what country we call home.

===================================

We, Americans, who want to lead our great country though these perious times must not be afraid to stand up and say in thoughtful ways that the way to security is by rediscovering a belief in our ability to find solutions to the most pressing issues people have.

These are no normal time for our country so we do not need the usual empty promises that all the other candidates feed us as the truth. Russ is the onlt candidate who is willing and able to stand up and work with each one of us to develop solutions that not only match but surpass the challenges we face today.



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Is it too early……

to endorse a 2008 Presidential candidate who has not yet even announced if he will run? Iit is still over 900 days until the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 2008.

The answer of course lies in the viewpoint of the listener. If America had a Parliamentary form of government, such as my current country of residence – Slovakia. 60 days is the normal election campaign cycle. Surveys tell me that over 80% of Slovak voters will decide how they vote by the personalities of the particular political party. It is not uncommon for Party’s to split into several different factions that are then forced to form an endless number of coalitions. Party platforms and not read by the electorate and in many cases not even by those who are running for office. In these cases a 60 day election cycle is more than sufficient time to understand who one is going to vote for. An active, oral tradition is the main method of passing down voting solutions through the family and society. With a population of a little more than 5 million or even 50 million this system can be effective and workable.

Many of us in the United States have come to view elections as a necessary evil. Something we endure and give money to so we can go about our “normal” lives of making a living. I suggest we need to develop a vastly different view of the whole election process if we want a more human America. In the 1960’s and 70’s the more conservative American business and political interests declared open warfare on a more human view of America. They defined “humanism” as an enemy of God, the business community and America. To a large extent they have been very good at defining what it means to be a “good” American. After many of us experienced the hippy and Woodstock days we concluded that perhaps a more comfortable life was not all that bad after all. We learned that all we had to do was keep our mouths shut and work to build a less human side of America, something I call the “Corporate American, Endless War and Sweatshop Model”. This modern day “vision” of American mimicked the modern day business model that follows precisely the Zurich axioms “Always take your profit too soon”.

For far too many Progressives, we have never really come to terms with the place business, let alone the Corporate America business model needs to play in our lives. We declare war on Business as an evil that can never be done right. But we do not offer real solutions that offer the voting public hope for real jobs and a more secure live. In effect we are falling into the same trap the conservatives did when they declared war on “humanism”. We become so intent with pointing out the many problems that we have little time left to develop real solutions. One of the main problems for Progressives is that we have not done our homework and tried to understand how to replace the “Corporate American, Endless War and Sweatshop Model” that now defines America with a better model of our own. We need to develop policy that lays out for people in practical terms how a truly “Progressive Corporate America Model” will allow them to enjoy a life of peace, security and prosperity. We in effect have forced people in middle America to choose between their belief in God and enough food on the table or the anarchy of endless protests (that at times turn violent, as the Seattle WTO) with no practical solutions for a better way of life in the mix. We who call ourselves “Progressive” need to do our homework and begin to work NOW to develop solutions that match our name – PROGRESSIVE.

We must organize – absolutely – but each one of us must also contribute to the process of developing our collective vision of a more human America that believes people really do matter more than profits. This time between elections is not the time to take a wait and see view of who will run but to choose a leader now who shares our belief in the America we want to create and then work with them make sure the vision is a real alternative to the “Corporate America Endless War and Sweatshop Model” that we have been offered for far too long. If we do not chose a leader now and get to know them now and offer our policy ideas now then other leaders will give us more “Swift Boat” disaster candidates who will “fight the same war in Iraq but fight it differently”.

When we want a better America then we will offer the ideas and solutions that will in the end work better.

We in the Democratic Party still give business interests and people that contribute more money more access to our leaders. From my many days in the criminal justice system this way of business looks a lot like prostitution – and from my work in Central and Eastern Europe this way of business looks a lot like – corruption. Either way it is wrong because the system is not built on the premise that people really do matter. Money still matters more than people, even for us in the Democratic Party.

We now have the time to work with Russ to develop solutions that will really make America work for all of us. We can create a vision for America that is based on peace, security and prosperity for all of us in America and the world. But we can only do it if we declare our support for a participatory, people centered America - NOW and begin the difficult task of merging all of our different ideas into solid policy and issue statements. The voters have told us they want practical solutions. If we don’t act now then there are any number of others who will gladly create a different Democratic variation of the “Corporate America Endless War and Sweatshop Model”.

Given these homework assignments 900 days is not nearly enough time but it will give us a start. Perhaps our axiom should be “It is never to early to create solutions.”

At a minimum take these small steps

A) Sign the Draft Russ for 2008 petition – click here

B) Sign the Support for changing American Business and Foreign Policy Petition – click here

C) Become active at suggesting new policy ideas.

When do we see enough death and dying before we realize the answers and solutions lie within each one of us?

"In a globalized world, we are inevitably drawn into conflicts--either economically or militarily--and the burdens are vast and growing. Unless a better system of conflict prevention is developed, the burden on the United States to respond to instability and conflict will only become progressively greater, both economically and militarily, as could the cost in American lives." - Lee H. Hamilton, President and Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

GENOCIDE FEATURE: Preventing Conflict - Words to Deeds

http://news.yahoo.com/s/oneworld/20060502/wl_oneworld/45361320801146611959

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New on-line petition to Sen. Feingold

Today I posted the following on-line petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/people9/petition.html click or paste the link to sign the petition.

We all have a voice - lets find new ways to put it to use for the good of America and the world.


My firm belief is that if we do not tell our leaders very often what we think and how we feel the world can be different, then some others with with less vision and moral fibre will be right there explaining how great the next war will be for the profits next year.......

Support for changing American Business and Foreign Policy Petition

To: Senator Russell Feingold

We the undersigned are asking your assistance with a matter of security, strategic global business and American Foreign Policy implications. We come to you from all walks of life and from different political, social and business orientations. We feel that since you have positions in the United State Senate on the Foreign Relations, Africa Subcommittee; the Select Committee on Intelligence; the Judiciary; and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe you are well positioned to assist us correct some very heartbreaking wrongs being visited upon people who do not have a voice in American policy development, but who are being affected very directly by faulty American business and Foreign Policy decision making.

There are many examples of American corporate business practices that speak of the very best that America has to offer the world. We are also aware, unfortunately, of the fact that some of the very largest, most successful American corporations continue to exploit workers around the world in the name of increasing “shareholder value” or quarterly profits. Two seemingly different examples demonstrate the depth and severity of the problem.

The first example is the abuse and at times torture of workers by multinational American companies in Saipan. Saipan has been the site of sweatshop business practices that have even been supported by former and current members of Congress. Representative Delay was caught on tape saying of the Saipan sweatshop business model "You are a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we're trying to do in America in leading the world in the free-market system." While it is true that throughout the history of America, different forms of “sweatshop business practices” have been encouraged and supported by governmental and legislative interests tied to business. These sweatshop business practices must not be a part of the America of today or the future. (For more information I refer you to the following information - http://www.alternet.org/story/35458 )

The second example is the ongoing human tragedy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Expert Panel of the UN and several well respected NGO’s have documented that several multinational American corporations have for a number of years been allowed to either directly or indirectly fund different rebel groups in order to engage in business. Information about this continuing tragedy can be found at the Monuc site (www.monuc.org); the International Crisis Group site (http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=2829&l=1) and the International Rescue Committee site (http://www.theirc.org/where/the_irc_in_democratic_republic_of_congo.html) to name but a few.

We the undersigned believe that because of these and other business and political abuses, the basic foundation of security and human rights in America is being compromised and undermined. We can be silent no longer. Edmund Burke said it best with these words -All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good People do nothing. We want an America that is safe AND has a vision of the world that is based on the notion that people really do matter. Exploiting people in order to increase shareholder value or next quarter’s profits is not a quality that any company or any true American can be proud of supporting. The effects of these business practices are to bring terror to many innocent people around the world in the name of good American business and foreign policy practices.

We urge you to help us Americans and other citizens of the global village, develop solutions to address this terror and torture business and foreign policy model – it is not part of our vision of America today nor of the future. We do have solutions for the future that create jobs, are business friendly and give us security, assist us give these solutions a voice.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned


http://www.petitiononline.com/people9/petition.html click on the link to sign the on-line petition.
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