Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Thursday, October 25, 2007

2007-10-25 "Notes on the October Rebellion"

Tactical Feedback from the Streets of Georgetown, October 19, 2007
Friday, October 19, over two hundred people staged an unpermitted march in one of the expensive shopping districts of Washington, D.C. to manifest opposition to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. To our knowledge, this was probably the most—if not only—effective use of the black bloc tactic in Washington, D.C. since the Presidential Inauguration in 2005. This is promising, given the opportunities for mass action coming up in 2008. At the same time, there were some things that could have been improved, which we chalk up to inexperience and the usual internal dissension; in the interests of constructive criticism, we’ll chiefly be reviewing those here.
To disclose the limitations of this analysis at the outset, none of us were involved in the organization leading up to the march, only in the action itself. We’ll leave it to others to derive and share specific lessons from the organizing process.
For more background: www.octoberrebellion.org -:- youtube footage

There were several other events in the course of the weekend; focusing on this one here is not intended the undercut the significance of the others. At the same time, it strikes us as a tremendous missed opportunity that so many “national mobilizations” in D.C. were scheduled for different days in October. Earlier in the month there had been an anti-war march, and the following Monday there was civil disobedience on the theme “no war, no warming”—and to make matters worse, an hour away in Baltimore there was a radical bookfair running the entire weekend. One of the lessons of the so-called “Anti-Globalization” movement was that the more events coincide with each other, the more effective each can be. The “no war, no warming” blockades on Monday morning—basically just lines of people with their arms linked together—could only have lasted longer than the few minutes they did if the police had been busy dealing with a militant march like the one that took place Friday night. Whether this was a failure of communication, diplomacy, or imagination, let’s hope that next time organizers will coordinate their efforts.

Anyone who misses the connection between playgrounds of the wealthy such as Georgetown (the D.C. neighborhood in which the march took place) and the destructive policies of the IMF and World Bank needs to take Capitalism 101 over again.
Georgetown was an excellent location for this march. Some unpermitted marches in D.C. have passed through essentially empty streets, framing the anticapitalist struggle as a private grudge match between anarchists and police. It made a lot more sense to be in a space full of witnesses—this not only increases the visibility of our resistance, but also ties the hands of police, who prefer not to use chemical agents in spaces crowded with civilians or brutalize protesters in full view of the liberal bourgeoisie. A busy street also offers more crowd cover for safe dispersal and escape.

Wealthy liberal bystanders or no, the police had their hands tied by stronger cords—the consequences of the various lawsuits brought against them following their outrageous conduct at earlier demonstrations, including the “People’s Strike” protests at the IMF/World Bank meetings five years previous. This was a real boon to Friday’s march: though several hundred police accompanied the protest, attempting to line it on both sides with motorcycle cops and trailing it with an entourage several blocks long, the police stayed away from the front of the march and did not try to penetrate its lines even when participants began throwing bricks and tearing up trash cans. Years ago, such a march would almost certainly have ended in an attempted mass arrest; this time, when the police finally moved in to cordon off the march after a full hour in the streets, they didn’t even search people, instead allowing them to leave in small groups.
This hesitancy on the part of the police is a priceless gift from the ghosts of IMF protests past. It is up to current protesters to take maximum advantage of it, while not forgetting how to stage unpermitted marches without such restraint on the part of the police. If we ever become as effective as we were in 2000-2002, the police will return to their old methods no matter how much it costs them.
Many of the participants in the march were not familiar with the recent history of anarchist and police activity in D.C., and so were not equipped to predict probable police tactics. It is extremely important that people study the precedents before participating in an action—asking what has happened when people have tried similar tactics in the same place, and how things have changed since then. The October Rebellion march had a lot in common with the “Smash the State of the Union” march of 2003—and in fact the authorities used the same strategy to police both, right down to the line of motorcycles around the march, although this time they were more restrained.
The organizers of the October Rebellion would have done well to have distributed more information about the precedents for Friday’s action—presuming they’ve been around long enough to be familiar with them. At the convergence point Friday night, around the time the march should have been getting started, many people were still milling around the periphery in small groups, afraid that they would be mass-arrested if they dared venture across the street. Can you imagine how much safer it would be for everyone if we showed up all at once at exactly the time called for and set out right then—instead of walking around for an hour, passing the same police and cameras over and over without masks on, waiting for someone else to go first?

The march divided into two groups, apparently following conflicts over tactics in the organizing process. Whatever factors led to this—and we are not situated to comment on them—let us note that historically, the organizers of black bloc actions have rarely displayed excellent social skills. This is a black eye for anarchists, in that it gives the erroneous impression that we engage in violent tactics because we are jerks. Ideally, those who organize the most militant actions would be the gentlest and most sensitive, so as to be best prepared to deal with the intense stress involved in such organizing and to avoid making hotheaded decisions. The better our social skills are, the more broad-based our mobilizations can be and the more effective our efforts will prove.
While some have complained that it was unfortunate that the march was split in two, this division could conceivably be regarded as a clever strategic move. Not only did it create space for participants who had different needs, it also stretched the police out over a space of several blocks, which must have further limited their capabilities. In the future it might be a good idea to plan for two contingents from the outset: this could enable a wider range of people to participate, and avoid needless conflicts over tactics.
A rumor has reached our ears that the non-violent section of the march was identified as the “anarchafeminist” contingent. If this was intended to differentiate it from the more militant bloc, it was in markedly poor taste. The militant contingent included people of a variety of genders, and the anarchafeminist tradition has included a wide range of orientations towards violence. If a sub-group in the march organized as an explicitly anarchafeminist cluster and then decided to march separately from the rest of the group, it makes perfectly good sense that they called themselves the anarchafeminist contingent. But if a group deciding to avoid potentially violent confrontation then dubbed themselves the “anarchafeminist” group in order to make a gendered moral stance out of their decision, or others subsequently identified them as anarchafeminist on account of that decision, that is either grossly manipulative or grossly sexist. Anyway, we don’t know enough to say more than this.

 The energy and enthusiasm of the participants was inspiring. Several dozen came equipped with helmets; there were enough people with shields to comprise at least one full shield wall spanning the width of the march, though it wasn’t always at the very front where it should have been. The majority of the participants seemed to be organized in affinity groups, which is essential for any militant march; most of the crowd behind the shield wall walked in lines with arms linked, like the black blocs in Germany during this past summer’s anti-G8 protests. There was a palpable difference between Friday night’s passionate chanting and the tame chants heard Monday morning during the No War, No Warming blockades: it’s one thing to mumble “Whose streets?” from the sidewalk as you watch the police drag off arrestees, another thing entirely to roar “Our streets!” from the pavement when you’re prepared to defend them.
We can’t draw conclusions about the police response described above without taking these factors into account. Rather than drawing police repression, militant preparation often discourages it—police will generally push a crowd as far as they think they can, civil liberties or no. Readiness to stand your ground will usually get you a lot further than a paper permit.
There was a little property destruction, too—the odd rock hitting a corporate window, including one belonging to Starbucks. It was nothing compared to the damage that occurred the night of the last Presidential Inauguration—but there were no police around the march that night. This time they lined the march on all sides, so it was impressive anything took place at all.
That’s the good news. But it must be said that this seemed to be a fairly new crowd—most of the participants were probably just getting involved in things like this around the time of the last Inauguration, and that’s not a lot of time to build a skill base, especially in a relatively quiet era. If the police had forcefully attacked the march rather than simply accompanying it, who knows whether the kids holding shields would have stood their ground or broken ranks and fled? Hopefully those who participated have gained enough experience and morale to be more prepared for such a situation next time. It’s one thing to look militant, but another thing entirely to deal with the terrifying situation of actual street fighting. Looking at pictures from the G8 demo on the internet is not enough to prepare you for that.
As for preparation, all the shields looked impressive, but hard banners—long, solid banners made out of wood or insulation board, such that police cannot smash them or snatch people through them—have proved more effective in practice. [Let it be said once again here that PVC pipe is NOT useful for defense, as was demonstrated most recently at the daytime march during the last Presidential Inauguration!] Police can pierce a line of kids with shields easily enough, but a solid wall of full-height hard banners is hard to penetrate, and you can’t get an assault charge for holding one; several hard banners can be linked together into a jointed mobile wall to safeguard an entire crowd. Perhaps people feared it would be difficult to get such massive items past police to the departure point, but they could have been stashed early along the march route and brought into it as the crowd passed.
The lack of banners of any kind—or any kind of coherent messaging whatsoever—in the militant contingent was a real missed opportunity. A big, artfully painted banner across the front of the march would have made all the difference. We want it to be clear to everyone exactly why we’re doing this, don’t we? When the crowd was first gathering, lots of locals were asking what the march was about, and few people took the time to explain in detail. A couple skaters who did receive a satisfactory explanation chose to come along—let’s never underestimate the importance of articulating what we’re doing and why.
Finally, though the chanting was refreshingly passionate, why was there no drum corps? There was barely a five gallon drum to be seen, and only one whistle. Music helps maintain the spirits of a moving crowd; if we can’t follow the Europeans in accompanying our marches with techno-blasting sound trucks, the least we can do is pull together a few percussion instruments.

A stray brick, thrown apparently without careful aim or consideration, hit a spectator in the head. She wasn’t a police officer or even a heckler, just a person passing by.
This is totally unacceptable. If anything separates us from police and other terrorists, it is that we do not countenance so-called “collateral damages.” People are bound to get hurt in a revolutionary struggle, but this was utterly pointless: the fact that so few bystanders have been injured at black bloc actions in the past decade attests to this. We may throw rocks at police, but they know exactly what they are getting into—and we do so not because they deserve to be injured, but because it is necessary to defend ourselves and the freedoms for which we struggle. From a purely tactical perspective, a person who wishes to throw a brick at a corporate window should wait for an absolutely clear shot, or send a friend to clear the sidewalk (just as well-organized black blocs used to be accompanied by a person whose task was to dissuade photographers), or else aim at the endless line of police windshields behind the crowd.
Head trauma can cause long term effects that drastically impact a person’s life. Let’s all hope that this woman recovers completely, and that no bystanders are ever injured by projectiles from our marches again. A personal apology is in order from whomever threw that thoughtless brick; it will have to be anonymous, seeing as how we can’t trust the “justice” of the state, but if accountability means anything in our circles, he or she should assume responsibility for the consequences of that poor decision.

The mistake most frequently made in organizing unpermitted marches and similar actions is that insufficient attention is given to how the affair will end. Perhaps this issue was discussed in the organizing for this march, but it was impossible to tell by the results: the police eventually trapped everyone and let people out in small groups, on the condition that all disturbances cease. If we plan realistically for how our actions will end, we can conclude them on our own terms; this is safer for us, and usually avoids needless arrests. It’s always better to quit while we’re ahead, retaining the initiative and the sense that we control our own destiny, than to continue aimlessly until the police figure out how to shut us down. Really tight black bloc planning involves getting into the area, going through the target zone, and getting the entire group to a place where everyone can disperse safely.
After the march disbanded, it was distressing to see many people nonchalantly walking down the street blocks away with their masks and gear still on. This may be safe enough in D.C. right now, but in just about every other time and place the rule is that masked individuals away from the main bloc are ruthlessly targeted by police. Those who cut their black bloc teeth in D.C. last Friday should not expect things to be so easy ever again. One of the essential challenges of participating in a black bloc is transitioning in and out of your gear quickly, out of sight of police and cameras, without spending any more time than necessary running around by yourself in a sketchy outfit.

Contrary to post-9/11 alarmism, it’s still possible to pull off militant unpermitted marches. In fact, as the effects of police misconduct during the last round of mass actions set in and the pendulum swings back to the Left in parts of the US, it may be more possible than ever.
SDS, whatever some say about it, offers a concrete convergence point for young people to get involved in revolutionary struggle; the networks it offers appear to be catalyzing new organizing efforts. This bodes well for 2008. Hopefully the SDS groups scattered across the nation will inspire non-affiliated anarchists to form their own affinity groups, so organizational structures will already be in place when radicals come together next summer for direct action at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
Finally, it was notable that very few of the participants in this march were involved in the black blocs that took place around the turn of the century. That’s bad news in that it suggests either a high turnover rate in participants or a poor rapport between longtime activists and this new generation… but we could look at it as good news, as well. Imagine if all the people on the East coast who were involved in black blocs seven or even three years ago had turned out for this one—it would have been huge, and the results would have been truly unpredictable! If the latest wave of radicals can establish bonds with the alumni of earlier generations, the results will be historic. That’s a big challenge, and a big opportunity, for this coming year.

November 11, 2007 @ 9:44 am
notafed said,
I’ve been really pushing for De-Arrest workshops in the aftermath of the October rebellion.
This is why.
A cop speared me from one side of the bloc and pushed me all the way to the opposite side of the bloc. So, 2 pigs pushed 1 person through 200 people in black watched and the ones in black seemingly were unwilling to take the small risk of grabbing on to me and keeping me from being arrested.
There was one person that grabbed onto me in attempts to de-arrest me, she was also arrested.
On a good note though, after my release I talked to some people and 3 out of 4 people said that after that people woke up and even chanted things like, “if someone grabs you, grab them back!”.
So, although I feel sort of like a guinea pig, I’m glad that something was learned (there was apparently a lot of talk of de-arresting in the de-briefing too).
I feel that the same goes for every other topic that came up about the march. The bottom line is that shit was learned and they’ll be ready next time.
But through this entire happening the image of police being an insurmountable force with super humyn strength completely shattered.
 This cop was big and fat just like the rest but was hardly stronger then me. It was only when another cop latched on that I felt like I wasn’t in control.
As far as the organizers go, I had the opportunity to speak with them and find out the reasons why they didn’t cooperate with no war, no warming. It was because of their top down organizing and the fact that they have no connection (or will to connect) with the lower class that founds this movement.
 They’ve tried organizing with them in the past and I guess the October rebellion group just got shit on by these dudes.
I feel like they could have done better on a lot of different fronts, but this one is one I can kind of feel for them on.
But fuck, I would say it was one hell of a night.
 I feel like we’ve definitely set the stage for the DNC and RNC.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Bush's Family Profits from 'No Child' Act"

2007-10-22 by Walter F. Roche Jr. from "Los Angeles Times" [http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-ignite22oct22,0,1996210.story]:
NEIL BUSH: He says Ignite's growth is not due to political influence. (David Kohl / AP)

A company headed by President Bush's brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.
With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.
At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president's signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite's portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.
The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.
But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year.
The federal Department of Education does not monitor individual school district expenditures under the No Child program, but sets guidelines that the states are expected to enforce, spokesman Chad Colby said.
Ignite executive Tom Deliganis said that "some districts seem to feel OK" about using No Child money for the Ignite purchases, "and others do not."
Neil Bush said in an e-mail to The Times that Ignite's program had demonstrated success in improving the test scores of economically disadvantaged children. He also said political influence had not played a role in Ignite's rapid growth.
"As our business matures in the USA we have plans to expand overseas and to work with many distinguished individuals in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa," he wrote. "Not one of these associates by the way has ever asked for any access to either of my political brothers, not one White House tour, not one autographed photo, and not one Lincoln bedroom overnight stay."

Funding laws unclear -
Interviews and a review of school district documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act found that educators and legal experts were sharply divided over whether Ignite's products were worth their cost or qualified under the No Child law.
The federal law requires schools to show they are meeting educational standards, or risk losing critical funding. If students fail to meet annual performance goals in reading and math tests, schools must supplement their educational offerings with tutoring and other special programs.
Leigh Manasevit, a Washington attorney who specializes in federal education funding, said that districts using the No Child funds to buy products like Ignite's would have to meet "very strict" student eligibility requirements and ensure that the Ignite services were supplemental to existing programs.
Known as COW, for Curriculum on Wheels (the portable learning centers resemble cows on wheels), Ignite's product line is geared toward middle school social studies, history and science. The company says it has developed a social studies program that meets curriculum requirements in seven states. Its science program meets requirements in six states.
Most of Ignite's business has been obtained through sole-source contracts without competitive bidding. Neil Bush has been directly involved in marketing the product.
In addition to federal or state funds, foundations and corporations have helped buy Ignite products. The Washington Times Foundation, backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the South Korea-based Unification Church, has peppered classrooms throughout Virginia with Ignite's COWs under a $1-million grant.
Oil companies and Middle East interests with long political ties to the Bush family have made similar bequests. Aramco Services Co., an arm of the Saudi-owned oil company, has donated COWs to schools, as have Apache Corp., BP and Shell Oil Co.
Neil Bush said he is a businessman who does not attempt to exert political influence, and he called The Times' inquiries about his venture — made just before the election — "entirely political."

Big supporters -
Bush's parents joined Neil as Ignite investors in 1999, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents. By 2003, the records show, Neil Bush had raised about $23 million from more than a dozen outside investors, including Mohammed Al Saddah, the head of a Kuwaiti company, and Winston Wong, the head of a Chinese computer firm.
Most recently he signed up Russian fugitive business tycoon Boris A. Berezovsky and Berezovsky's partner Badri Patarkatsishvili.
Barbara Bush has enthusiastically supported Ignite. In January 2004, she and Neil Bush were guests of honor at a $1,000-atable fundraiser in Oklahoma City organized by a foundation supporting the Western Heights School District. Proceeds were earmarked for the purchase of Ignite products.
Organizer Mary Blankenship Pointer said she planned the event because district students were "utilizing Ignite courseware and experiencing great results. Our students were thriving."
However, Western Heights school Supt. Joe Kitchens said the district eventually dropped its use of Ignite because it disagreed with changes Ignite had made in its products. "Our interest waned in it," he said.
The former first lady spurred controversy recently when she contributed to a Hurricane Katrina relief foundation for storm victims who had relocated to Texas. Her donation carried one stipulation: It had to be used by local schools for purchases of COWs.
Texas accounts for 75% of Ignite's business, which is expanding rapidly in other states, Deliganis said.
The company also has COWs deployed in North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia and Florida, he said.
COWs recently showed up at Hill Classical Middle School in California's Long Beach Unified School District. A San Jose middle school also bought Ignite's products but has since closed.
Neil Bush said Ignite has more than 1,700 COWs in classrooms.

Shift in strategy -
But Ignite's educational strategy has changed dramatically, and some are critical of its new approach. Shortly after Ignite was formed in Austin, Texas, in 1999, it bought the software developed by another small Austin firm, Adaptive Learning Technology.
Adaptive Learning founder Mary Schenck-Ross said the software's interactive lessons allowed teachers "to get away from the mass-treatment approach" to education. When a student typed in a response to a question, the software was designed to react and provide a customized learning path.
"The original concept was to avoid 'one size fits all.' That was the point," said Catherine Malloy, who worked on the software development.
Two years ago, however, Ignite dropped the individualized learning approach. Working with artists and illustrators, it created a large purple COW that could be wheeled from classroom to classroom and plugged in, offering lessons that could be played to a roomful of students.
The COWs enticed students with catchy jingles and videos featuring cartoon characters like Mr. Bighead and Norman Einstein. On Ignite's website, a collection of teachers endorsed the COW, saying that it eliminated the need for lesson planning. The COW does it for them.
The developers of Adaptive Learning's software complain that Ignite replaced individualized instruction with a gimmick.
"It breaks my heart what they have done. The concept was totally perverted," Schenck-Ross said.
Nevertheless, Ignite found many receptive school districts. In Texas, 30 districts use COWs.
In Houston, where Neil Bush and his parents live, the district has used various funding sources to acquire $400,000 in Ignite products. An additional $240,000 in purchases has been authorized in the last six months.
Correspondence obtained by The Times shows that Neil Bush met with top Houston officials, sent e-mails and left voice mail messages urging bigger and faster allocations. An e-mail from a school procurement official to colleagues said Bush had made it clear that he had a "good working relationship" with a school board member.
Another Ignite official asked a Texas state education official to endorse the company. In an e-mail, Neil Bush's partner Ken Leonard asked Michelle Ungurait, state director of social studies programs, to tell Houston officials her "positive impressions of our content, system and approach."
Ungurait, identified in another Leonard e-mail as "our good friend" at the state office, told her superiors in response to The Times' inquiry that she never acted on Leonard's request.
Leonard said he did not ask Ungurait to do anything that would be improper.
Houston school officials gave Ignite's products "high" ratings in eight categories and recommended approval.
Some in Houston's schools question the expenditures, however. Jon Dansby was teaching at Houston's Fleming Middle School when Ignite products arrived.
"You can't even get basics like paper and scissors, and we went out and bought them. I just see red," he said.
In Las Vegas, the schools have approved more than $300,000 in Ignite purchases. Records show the board recommended spending $150,000 in No Child funding on Ignite products.
Sources familiar with the Las Vegas purchases said pressure to buy Ignite products came from Sig Rogich, an influential local figure and prominent Republican whose fundraising of more than $200,000 for President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign qualified him as a "Bush Ranger."
Rogich, who chairs a foundation that supports local schools, said he applied no pressure but became interested in COWs after Neil Bush contacted him. Rogich donated $6,000 to purchase two COWs for a middle school named after him.
Christy Falba, the former Clark County school official who oversaw the contracts, said she and her husband attended a dinner with Neil Bush to discuss the products. She said Rogich encouraged the district "to look at the Ignite program" but applied no pressure.

Mixed reviews -
Few independent studies have been done to assess the effectiveness of Ignite's teaching strategies. Neil Bush said the company had gotten "great feedback" from educators and planned to conduct a "major scientifically valid study" to assess the COW's impact. The results should be in by next summer, he said.
Though Ignite's products get generally rave reviews from Texas educators, the opinion is not universal.
The Tornillo, Texas, Independent School District no longer uses the Ignite programs it purchased several years ago for $43,000.
"I wouldn't advise anyone else to use it," said Supt. Paul Vranish. "Nobody wanted to use it, and the principal who bought it is no longer here."
Ignite's website features glowing videotaped testimonials from teachers, administrators, students and parents.
Many of the videos were shot at Del Valle Junior High School near Austin, where school district officials allowed Ignite to film facilities and students.
In the video, a student named India says: "I was feeling bad about my grades. I didn't know what my teacher was talking about." The COW changed everything, the girl's father says on the video.
Lori, a woman identified as India's teacher, says the child was not paying attention until the COW was brought in.
The woman, however, is not India's teacher, but Lori Anderson, a former teacher and now Ignite's marketing director. Ignite says Anderson was simply role-playing.
In return for use of its students and facilities, a district spokeswoman said Ignite donated a free COW. Five others were purchased with district funds.
District spokeswoman Celina Bley acknowledged that regulations bar school officials from endorsing products. But she said that restriction did not apply to the videos.
"It is illegal for individuals to make an endorsement, but this was a districtwide endorsement," Bley said in an e-mail.