DEFEND THE POST OFFICE: The austerity agenda does not begin or end with Paul Ryan’s threats to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It extends in every direction: from assaults on food stamps to education cuts to the squeezing of transportation funds. And the current front line of the austerity agenda is the attack on the post office, a vital public service that is older than the country itself.
On February 6, the US Postal Service announced that Saturday first-class mail delivery will be eliminated this August— the latest and deepest in a series of cuts that threaten to undermine the service to the point where it will be ripe for bartering off to private delivery corporations.
“USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart,” says American Postal Workers Union president Cliff Guffey. “These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization.” Senator Bernie Sanders called Saturday delivery one of the post office’s “major competitive advantages,” warning that cutting it “will lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service.”
Guffey and Sanders are right. Congress should block the order and then remove the crushing mandate it imposed in 2006, which forces the USPS to divert $5 billion annually to prepay the health benefits of retirees who have not even been hired yet. Reforms allowing the service to be more, rather than less, competitive will ease the burden further. Don’t just save the Postal Service. Make it stronger. JOHN NICHOLS
TEACHERS REVOLT! One of Seattle’s top secondary institutions, Garfield High School—home to one of the country’s premier youth jazz bands, and the alma mater of Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones and activist rapper Macklemore—has a mutiny on its hands. Students are refusing to sit for exams, or else completing their tests in just nine seconds. But if you’re picturing unruly classrooms filled with delinquents, think again.
In fact, it’s the teachers who, in a unanimous vote in January, have rebelled against Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), the mandated standardized tests that, they argue, cut into classroom hours, negatively affect minority and low-income students with less access to technology at home, and ultimately provide poor measures of student performance. Despite threats of suspension without pay, the teachers have not backed down.
Following their lead, the students have played a part in the effort, distributing flyers that announce the ability of parents and guardians to opt their kids out of MAP. On February 5, the first day of a three-week period designated for testing, less than a quarter of the 400 scheduled to take the exam did so. Of those who sat for the test, many sabotaged the process. The next day, the Seattle NAACP sponsored a rally in support of eliminating MAP.
Superintendent José Banda blames the boycott for making people forget that “this really is about students.” But the students’ support for their teachers, in words and action, suggests otherwise. ELANA LEOPOLD
A MOVEMENT GROWS IN THE BRONX: February 2 marked the first anniversary of the death of Ramarley Graham, a teenager fatally shot by NYPD Officer Richard Haste. According to the Stolen Lives Project, which spotlights incidents of police brutality nationwide, the NYPD killed twenty-one people in 2012. That night, Laverne Dobbinson—the mother of Tamon Robinson, who was struck and killed by a city police car last April—read their names aloud at Crawford Memorial Church in the Bronx.
Friends, family members and supporters had earlier gathered outside the house on East 229th Street where Ramarley was killed. His parents, Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham, tearfully thanked the crowd for braving the cold and spoke of the need to vote in the upcoming mayoral election. Through weekly vigils commemorating each year of Ramarley’s life, Malcolm and Graham have reached out to the community and other families with stories of police brutality, forming a network that joins them in their struggle for justice.
In attendance were members of FAITH (Fathers Alive in the Hood), the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Picture the Homeless, Stop Stop and Frisk and the International Socialist Organization. Speakers included City Comptroller John Liu, Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five, along with Oumou Bah, Margarita Rosario, Danette Chavis, Juanita Young and Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., all of whom lost family members to police brutality. A candlelight vigil was followed by a march to the 47th Precinct and then to the church.
Charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter, Haste is the first and only NYPD officer to be indicted since the 2007 indictment of the officers who killed Sean Bell. Ramarley’s family has also sued the NYPD, accusing the force of improper training, targeting youth of color through stop-and-frisk, and concealing information surrounding Ramarley’s death.
In the meantime, the Community Safety Act, which contains four police reform bills, has been introduced by Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams. It aims to impose a meaningful ban on racial profiling, end unlawful stops and searches, establish an inspector general for the NYPD and more. LUCY McKEON
A CITY SAYS NO TO DRONES: On February 4, the city of Charlottesville became the first in the country to pass a resolution against the domestic use of drones. “The rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people,” the resolution states, calling for a two-year moratorium on the technology. It also calls for “Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed- energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.”
As antiwar activist David Swanson points out, “The same City Council passed a resolution on January 17, 2012, calling for an end to drone wars, as well as ground wars, excessive military spending and any possible attack on Iran.” THE EDITORS