Arrests at December 5th Civil Rights Protest in Durham, NC

Here you can watch as police order protesters to disperse, but then refuse to allow them to disperse so they can arrest them.

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Some Thoughts on the Value of Education

I was thinking recently, as I always do, about the value of education in American society. I had recently read the ten millionth hackneyed article talking about how worthless a college education is. Although I’m certain the author of that article, and the ten million others, would have even less respect for the work of someone who ended their education after finishing high school. In recent years there has been an ongoing effort by pundits, talking heads, and politicians to devalue education and delegitimize the knowledge and skills of the educated. By doing this, they have attacked and devalued intelligence itself.

They started off by demonizing public school teachers as part of a larger quest to privatize public schools. They said they didn’t do real work, they said they were paid too much, they said they were corrupt. You’ve heard it all before. I have trouble believing that considering my teachers were always telling me how they would have to take their work home with them and would stay up late into the night grading papers. Two of my old middle school teachers have since moved on to other careers so they could make better money. I have an acquaintance who is an elementary school teacher here in Richmond. She told me that there are plenty of summer school classes each year for those teachers who want to make money over the summer. She explained to me that, while she does need money badly, she was too exhausted from the events of the school year to teach summer school.  So clearly teaching isn’t easy money, nor is it nearly enough money for the amount of work involved. While, yes, I do believe our current school system treats children like criminals and animals rather than people, and needs to be changed entirely, education is still important. There are still thousands of teachers in this country that genuinely care about children and teenagers.

Once the school teachers were thoroughly slandered, they went after the children themselves. Now the right-wing, and many liberal, writers and talking heads will have you believe that students never earned a grade in their life. It was all handed to them because the school system is crooked. Something like that. This is news to me. I graduated high school in 2009 and clearly remember having to work for my grades. I also failed Algebra II, but I took it again in summer school and passed. Delegitimizing the accomplishments and work of today’s youth is the path to devaluing the workers of tomorrow.

It has been many years, but they are still running hit pieces on school kids. They have also moved on to demonizing college students, graduates, and college education itself. It was ridiculous at first. You would have laughable crap like Glenn Beck calling universities “communist indoctrination camps.” Then they applied the same slander to college students that they do to high school students. They said they didn’t earn their grades. It’s strange to think about, considering over half of the college students in America don’t graduate on time. If it was all handed to them, those numbers would be different. Then they dreamed up the myth of the “skills gap” in order to further demonize those who completed college, as well as the unemployed in general. By delegitimizing the accomplishments of the younger generation, and thereby devaluing them as people, they are working to undermine the wages of the next generation of workers.

Of course, it isn’t just about ensuring the younger generations make less peanuts than their parents and grandparents. It isn’t just about dismantling public education and handing it over to private companies. It’s also about power. The ruling class loves to throw around the term “democracy,” but they are actually terrified of real democracy. In order for democracy to work, people need to be educated.

Think about it. Right now in city halls, state capitals, and in Washington DC, there are politicians using some really funky math to put together budgets. These are budgets that affect you and I, mind you. Right now these same politicians are making laws governing, or at least relevant to, science, medicine, and primary and secondary education. However, none of these politicians are scientists, doctors, or pharmacists. The vast majority of them have zero classroom experience. They don’t need any of this knowledge or experience though. Their corporate masters tell them how to draft their legislation and how to vote. Us regular people, on the other hand, do have such knowledge and experience, and the rulers hate that. They are undermining, devaluing, and delegitimizing education and intelligence itself because they don’t want us to call them out on their bullshit. They don’t want regular people to speak out when their funky math doesn’t add up. They don’t want us to know better when it comes to science, medicine, schools, and a multitude of other topics. They’re afraid we may take away their power and their wealth if we are educated enough to see through their lies.

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New Haven Police Target Youth

Police in New Haven, Connecticut have adopted a new policy called the “Surge.” This shock-and-awe tactic was invented by police in New York City. It involves an unannounced surge in police presence in areas with a recent increase in complaints. It is intended as a show of force.

New Haven’s “Surge” has taken the form of police harassing young people, including those who are adults, for simply being in public at night. A group of college students were detained and ticketed for simply sitting in a parked car while they waited for their friend to return from the store.

Other young people were told to “go home” while walking through a public park.

If you doubt that young people are marginalized, if you doubt systematic ageism is real, then here is your proof. The police are hoping to arrest more people, including youth, so their buddies in the prison industry and the government bureaucrats can make money off of them. That is the true face of class society, a society where young people are held hostage for money.

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Richmond Halloween Parade Mourns Death of Grace Street

Pig puppet representing corporate America.

Pig puppet representing corporate America.

Richmond, Virginia’s 9th annual Halloween parade took to the streets last night, not only to celebrate Halloween, but also to mourn the death of a city so many people once loved. Billed as “a funeral for Grace Street,” residents from across the city and metro area gathered in Monroe Park on Halloween night to speak out against the ongoing sale of their city, and especially Grace Street, to corporate America.

Over a hundred people showed up, most of them in typical Halloween costumes. Giant puppets representing Mother Earth, Grace Street, and Corporate America were marched through Monroe Park and Oregon Hill. Fittingly, a hearse was also part of the parade alongside a float resembling a pirate ship. The puppets were used to represent the marriage of Virginia Commonwealth University and corporate America, resulting in the birth of “Cap’n Greed” and the “$$ Blahmart.”

A banner was displayed in route reading “We sold this city. VCU,” in reference to VCU’s claim that they “built this city.” They didn’t. Working-class people from all races, nationalities, and genders built this city in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Slaves built the “old Richmond” in the 19th Century. Now the accomplishments, history, and even livelihoods of so many workers and families are being forgotten, paved over, and sold to mega-corporations.

This year’s parade was dedicated to the memory of Ian Graham, a local photographer, journalist, and activist who passed away in September.

Grace Street (and surrounding streets) was once home to many local shops and bars. Its apartments were also home to locals and students alike (not that they are mutually exclusive). Now VCU, the largest college in town, is working to completely take over  Grace Street and bring in big-box stores like Walmart. That isn’t the worst of it. Earlier this year, nearby Monroe Park (a public park) was basically handed over to VCU and representatives of big businesses. And Mayor Jones and City Council have barely tried to cover up their corruption. They have invested taxpayers’ money and resources into private businesses at the expense of public schools and emergency services.

If you ever want to meet the bastard child of corruption, betrayal, and crony capitalism, then come to Richmond. Sadly, Richmond’s story is common in the modern world.  Public spaces are rapidly disappearing as once local businesses turn into evil giants or get gobbled up by monsters like Walmart and Altria.

Working people should make all of the decisions in their communities, not rich people, not politicians, and not businesses of any size. Corporations, the wealthy, the political parties, and politicians will all be sent back to Hell with the rest of the ghouls, goblins, and demons. This will happen not by the grace of City Council or the Virginia General Assembly, but by the actions and fighting spirit of workers’ councils and people’s assemblies in the streets and workplaces. Workers built this city, workers make it run, and workers fund it through taxes and bailouts. Richmond, America, and the rest of the world rightfully belongs to regular people, the working-class.

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Lay Offs Rock Virginia

Colonial Downs workers protest lay offs. Taken from CBS 6.

Despite false claims that the unemployment rate is shrinking, Governor McAuliffe of Virginia recently announced that he would lay off 565 state employees in order to close Virginia’s $2.4 billion budget gap. He also said the government would not hire as many new state police as intended. Not hiring more police is a good thing for the working people who have routinely been turned into targets and scapegoats by authority figures, but the fact that they are even cutting back police is telling.

Cut backs on federal spending have also lead to job losses for Virginians who work for, or are contractors for, the federal government, especially in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

In the private sector, Colonial Downs, the state’s only horse racing track, will soon be closed. Management was unable to come to an agreement with its horsemen’s association, resulting in the owners giving up their racing license. All workers will lose their jobs on November 1st.

The unemployment rate for the whole country may be going down on paper, but in reality it is unchanged. Less people are considered unemployed because their benefits ran out, not because they were able to find work. At least half of the available jobs are only part-time, making it hard for working-class people to get enough hours to support themselves. Given that it is the end of the year, many of the new jobs are only seasonal and will end in lay offs by February at the latest. The real unemployment rate is 12.6 percent.

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Richmond Landlord Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

A local slumlord in Richmond, Virginia was sentenced to twenty years in federal prison earlier this week. Landlord Billy G. Jefferson Jr. took advantage of historic tax credits in order to commit multi-million dollar acts of fraud.

Jefferson was originally arrested on state charges for his tax credit scam, and the investigation lead to federal charges. Not only did he lie and say he was going to renovate historic sites in order to gain tax credits, he attempted to hide the money he owed to the government. His methods included hiding the money in a camouflaged PVC pipe, gambling it away in Las Vegas, and an aborted attempt to flee the country for the United Kingdom.

What the media isn’t covering, however, is the way he treated his tenants. Many former renters have come forth on social media to criticize Jefferson. He is accused of doing things like not returning security deposits after being ordered to by a judge, leaving his apartments in disrepair, intimidating tenants, falsely accusing them of writing bad checks, and trying to force his tenants to switch to a specific cable and internet provider. Of course, these are not the crimes that landed him in prison. When you lie and cheat the government or a large corporation, you get in trouble. When you do the same to regular people, such as your tenants or customers, it is overlooked.

Capitalism is a system where the big thieves jail the smaller thieves, and the best honest, working-class people can hope for is to be ignored instead of preyed on like field mice.

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Our Streets Bucket of Junk Mail Challenge!

Guess what, all of my WordPress and Facebook followers have been challenged. You have 24 hours to make a video of yourself dumping a bucket of junk mail on your head. If can’t do it, you have to share something from Our Streets. If you take the challenge, you can challenge three other people yourself.

To highlight the wasteful nature of capitalism, I decided to dump a bucket of junk mail on my head. Over 100 million trees are cut down annually to create junk mail, and over 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gases are created by junk mail production.

Here is a video of me explaining this concept, then dumping some junk mail on myself.

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