Summer Olympians of a Different Kind

There were quite a few things going on besides the Olympics this summer that deserve the equivalent of a gold medal for continuing to fight the good fight. Just to name a few: first, Veterans for Peace (VFP) held their national convention around the theme “Liberating the Americas.” David Swanson writes in his ZNet column about “Soldiers Who Refuse to Kill,” and that one of the most inspiring events at the August Veterans Convention in Miami included a presentation by several veterans who had refused to participate in war. “Typically, they had done this at the risk of significant time in prison, or worse. In most cases these resisters avoided doing any time. Even when they went behind bars, they did so with a feeling of liberation.


“Gerry Condon refused to deploy to Vietnam and was sentenced to ten years in prison, escaped from Fort Bragg, left the country, and came back campaigning for amnesty. Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist refused to fly to Iraq, choosing instead to sit down on the tarmac.


“Mike Prysner of March Forward and Camilo Mejia of VFP described their acts of resistance. Mejia did us all the enormous favor some years back of putting his story down in a book, Road From Ar Ramadi. In October 2003, Mejia was the first U.S. soldier to publicly refuse to fight in Iraq. At that time only 22 members of the U.S. military had gone AWOL from that war, a number that would quickly climb into the thousands.”


Janitors Ready to Strike


Another gold medal goes to janitors in San Francisco and elsewhere who this August confronted some of the world’s richest property owners. Over 2,000 building cleaners shut down the city’s main artery, Market Street, in a huge march. Later, 27 workers and supporters were arrested in a financial district intersection as they blocked it in an act of civil disobedience. Among the many banners carried by the marchers, by far the most common was one that said, “We Are Ready to Strike the 1%.” 


If San Francisco’s 3,000 union janitors go on strike, it will be the first time since 1996 and the largest janitorial strike since the huge Los Angeles walkout of 2000.


Rallying in Philadelphia


They marched for gold in Philadelphia this summer. They came in buses proudly wearing the T-shirts of their unions. Organizers of this national AFL-CIO rally claimed more than 35,000 attended, exceeding expectations. The rally’s centerpiece, America’s Second Bill of Rights, will be part of an organizing campaign to ask politicians to sign a five-point bill, calling for the right to obtain full employment, participate in the voting process, form unions, receive a quality education, and be able to count on retirement and health care benefits.


Exposing Ryan


A gold medal goes to Joan Hanford for putting together the following information on Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate. Here are some things you should know about Ryan and his policies:


1. In 2011, Ryan joined all House Republicans and 13 Democrats in his vote to keep Big Oil tax loopholes as part of the FY 2011 spending bill. His budget would retain a decade’s worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while cutting “billions of dollars from investments to develop alternative fuels and clean energy technologies that would serve as substitutes for oil.”


2. Ryan wants to raises taxes on the middle class, but cut them for millionaires. Paul Ryan’s infamous budget replaces the current tax structure with two brackets—25 percent and 10 percent—and cuts the top rate from 35 percent. Federal tax collections would fall by about $4.5 trillion over the next decade as a result. To avoid increasing the national debt, the budget proposes massive cuts in social programs that benefit the lower- and middle-classes, who would also experience a tax increase. Households “earning more than $1 million a year, meanwhile, could see a net tax cut of about $300,000 annually.”


3. Ryan joined 62 other Republicans in co-sponsoring the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which declares that a fertilized egg “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” This would outlaw abortion, some forms of contraception, and in vitro fertilization.


4. Ryan agrees with Rick Perry’s characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and has advocated for privatizing the retirement benefit and investing it in stocks and bonds.


5. Ryan wants to end Medicare, replacing it with a voucher system. All future retirees would receive a government contribution to purchase insurance from an exchange of private plans or traditional fee-for-service Medicare. Since the premium support voucher does not keep up with increasing healthcare costs, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that new beneficiaries could pay up to $1,200 more by 2030 and more than $5,900 more by 2050. Ryan would also raise Medicare’s age of eligibility to 67.


6. Ryan wants to cut the Pell Grant program by $200 billion, which could “ultimately knock more than one million students off” the program over the next 10 years.  


Photo Credit Correction: In the July/August issue, the photo caption on page 16 identifies the person testifying as "Superweed" but the photo is of Scott Koepke, who is not "Superweed."