Monthly Archives: July 2010

Vermont: The Closed Society


Mississippi

I grew up in the 1950s in what author James W. Silver correctly called Mississippi: The Closed Society. Anyone who had the courage to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of white supremacy and state enforced racial segregation was at risk of being labeled a “nigger-lover” which could lead to ridicule, harassment, loss of employment, violence, and even death.  It was not a pretty sight.

The entire state was consumed by a racist ideology which adhered to a policy of zero tolerance for dissent whether it be in public schools, colleges, churches, or political organizations.  To enforce racial segregation the State relied on demagogic governors such as Ross Barnett and “Little” Paul Johnson, not to mention the State Sovereignty Commission and The White Citizen Council.

Between 1969 and 1974 I was involved in launching the L.Q.C. Lamar Society, an organization committed to helping open the doors of the closed society in Mississippi and the rest of the South.  The underlying premise of the Lamar Society was that it was high time for the South to get off of the race kick, come back into the Union, and start solving its own problems.  Among its members were Jimmy Carter, six other liberal Southern governors, and prominent black politicians such as Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson, Vernon Jordan, John Lewis, and Andrew Young. Forty years later the South is a much more open society than it once was.

Soviet Union

Between 1982 and 1991 I frequently visited the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, once considered to be the most closed societies of all-time.  The visits were the result of the Soviets having illegally translated one of my books on computer based planning models into Russian in 1975.

Notwithstanding its reputation for political indoctrination, the dissemination of Communist propaganda, state controlled schools, a rigid planned economy, an inflexible government bureaucracy, a ruthless military tradition, and an oppressive police state mentality, I found the Soviet Union to be much more open and receptive to change than I could have ever imagined.  Much more so than Mississippi was in the 50s.

In May 1982 I visited ten major Soviet research institutes in Moscow and interacted with over 250 Soviet economists, management scientists, and computer scientists.  Most of them were using my book and state-of-the-art management science modeling techniques to evaluate the effects on the Soviet economy of introducing decentralized planning and marketing, flexible prices and wages, profits and incentives, and credit and banking.  All of this, three years before Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power.

Inspired by this experience and Gorbachev’s attempt to “open the closed society,” I became a self-appointed, nonpaid cheerleader for Gorbachev encouraging the Soviets to move towards a more open political system and a free market.

Vermont

If one were to believe University of Vermont town meeting aficionado Frank Bryan, one would conclude that Vermont is an idyllic, democratic, independent-minded, tolerant, live-and-let-live sort of place with a strong sense of community.  Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Vermont is considered by many to be the most left-wing state in America with two-thirds of its voters having supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election.  The remaining one-third are staunchly neoconservative in their political outlook.  Although Vermont neoliberals are less bellicose in their rhetoric than their neoconservative counterparts, they passively acquiesce to the neocon foreign policy agenda which includes full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, nuclear primacy, the right of pre-emptive first strike, and unconditional support for Israel.

Both neolibs and neocons are apologists for globalization and are steeped in the ideology that bigger, faster, and more high-tech make better.  In their heart of hearts neolibs and neocons know that only the federal government can solve all of our problems, failing to realize that the federal government is the problem.  They each embrace corporate socialism, socialism for the rich, and the social welfare state.

Both neolibs and neocons are authoritarian statists each with their own definition of political correctness.  Politically correct neolibs are expected to be pro-abortion, pro-gay-lesbian, pro-affirmative action, pro-Israel, pro-gun control, anti-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-American Empire.  Anyone who does not conform to this litany or who associates with those who do not, is at risk of being attacked by a left wing truth squad such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and accused of the likes of homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, religious fundamentalism, or even hate crimes.  Politically correct neocons are more likely to be pro-life, anti-gay-lesbian, anti-affirmative action, pro-Israel, anti-gun control, pro-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-Empire.  Both are vehemently opposed to secession.

Any mention of secession immediately invokes images of the Civil War, slavery, and charges of racism.  Most Vermonters seem to be oblivious to the fact that the United States was born out of a secession from England in 1776.  Just as white Southerners back in the 1950s were eager to refight the Civil War at the drop of a hat, so too are intolerant Vermonters sixty years later.  Their level of ignorance about secession is almost beyond belief.  Vermont neoliberals are even more rigid and inflexible in their thinking than their right wing neoconservative counterparts.  Both sides are equally intolerant of criticisms of the American Empire – the largest, most powerful, most materialistic, most environmentally destructive, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire of all-time.

Vermont’s political intolerance is epitomized by what happened to Vermont independence candidate Dennis Steele when he tried to ask a question at the gubernatorial debate in the Barre Labor Hall on April 1.  For trying to ask how an independent Vermont might deal with the state’s $150 million deficit, Steele was dragged out of the Labor Hall by two policemen, handcuffed, arrested, taken to the police station, finger printed, photographed, and charged with disorderly conduct.  All of this for suggesting that if Vermont were to become an independent republic, it would be relieved of its obligation to pay the federal government $1.5 billion per year for its prorata share of the defense budget.  Just like back in the USSR or perhaps Mississippi in the 50s.  A few weeks later local television anchor Gus Rosendale tried to smear Steele by linking him to a convicted sex offender and two unsavory political groups.

As further evidence that Vermont has become a closed society, political gadflies such as Sam Hemingway, Jane Lindholm, Bill McKibben, Shay Totten, and John Odum, routinely hurl frivolous charges of racism against the Second Vermont Republic.  These undocumented charges are based on lies, half truths, and guilt by association.  The smear tactics used by Vermont leftists to undermine the credibility of secessionists are virtually identical to those used by the White Citizen Council to smear integrationists in Mississippi in the 60s and by the KGB to discredit Russian dissidents in the 80s.

Even though the Second Vermont Republic has received an enormous amount of statewide, national, and international media attention over the past seven years, not one person from SVR has ever received an official invitation to speak at Middlebury College, UVM, or any of the Vermont State Colleges.  Nowhere to be found in Vermont are any courses, seminars, or workshops on the possibility of Vermont independence.  It’s as though the concept does not even exist.  This is in stark contrast to colleges and universities in Mississippi back in the 50s and 60s where there would be an occasional lecture or discussion group on integration.  Not so in Vermont.  Secession is absolutely taboo in the academy.  Vermont colleges and universities are totally committed to the American Empire and to the federal grants which are bestowed upon them.

No group is more loyal to the American Empire than are the Vermont clergy.  Not one rabbi, priest, or minister has ever expressed any interest whatsoever in Vermont independence since SVR’s inception in 2003.  Many a Vermont church still has an American flag in the sanctuary.  There was a time when Vermont churches were among the most vocal and most active anti-war activists.  Not so anymore.  Today all of the so-called liberal churches have turned a blind eye towards the death and destruction wrought by the Empire.  It’s as though the Empire itself has become their God.

And then there are Vermont attorneys.  So afraid are they of losing a dollar of billable income that they won’t touch secession with a ten foot pole.

How much worse will our problems have to become before thoughtful Vermonters realize that our government has lost its moral authority and that our nation is unsustainable, ungovernable, and unfixable?  Only then will they be open to the idea that secession is the only morally defensible option available to us.

Imagine…Free Vermont

Thomas H. Naylor

July 21, 2010

Technofascist Drones


Hardly a week goes by in which we do not learn of yet another attack by an American drone (a pilotless remote controlled aircraft) on either Afghan or Pakistani civilians.  These sinister instruments of death are controlled by well-trained, high-tech killers seated in air conditioned comfort in front of sophisticated instrument panels thousands of miles away.  This form of neat, clean, precise, risk-free, bloodless, desktop warfare is waged by gutless technofascists who have never set foot on a battlefield or smelled the stench of death.  Only cowards may apply for this type of work.

Drones do only what they have been programmed to do by their malevolent masters.  But aren’t we all drones?  We do only what our corporate and government handlers tell us to do.

Take President Barack Obama, for example, or any of his recent predecessors.  They have all marched to the beat of the drums of Wall Street, Corporate America, and the Israeli Lobby.  So too is the case with the U.S. Congress as well.  They are all drones.

Shortly after the liberation of Paris in 1944, French writer Albert Camus said, “The people of Germany are sleeping.  They remain stolid, stubborn, and silent as to the crimes committed in their names, as if the entire world and its destiny had become alien to them.” Camus’s insightful description of life in Nazi Germany applies equally well to life in the United States today.  Although we are indeed awake, we behave as though we were drones.

While claiming to be world-class individualists, millions of Americans behave like robots—remote controlled, automatic devices which perform repetitive tasks in a seemingly human way.  We pretend to be “the captain of our ship and the master of our soul,” even though we all march to the beat of the same drummers.  Not only do we appear to be content with our plight, but we consistently try to convince others that they should be just like us.

Even though we all have different genetic maps, most of us think the same, vote the same, watch the same TV programs, visit the same Web sites, and buy the same consumer goods.  While subscribing to an ideology that raises individualism to godlike status, most Americans are conformists.

We live in a one-size-fits-all world in which the U.S. government, Corporate America, Urban America, the media, Internet service providers, public schools, colleges and universities, health care providers, social service providers, and religious institutions want all of to be the same, just like they are.

Most influential American newspapers and the five major television networks are owned by huge conglomerates.  Nothing better illustrates the enormous influence of television than the overwhelming political support which American TV networks afforded Presidents Bush I and Bush II in their respective high-tech invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003.  It was the Middle East equivalent of “cowboys and Indians.”  Americans were mesmerized by the one-sided patriotic hype and the apparent precision of the bloodless missile strikes.  Iraqi casualties were treated as non-events by the media.

Although there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Microsoft’s Bill Gates claims that the Internet leads to empowerment and enhanced democracy.  But who is being empowered by whom?  As e-mania has exploded, voter turnout has declined, as well as every other form of civic participation including involvement in religious groups, town meetings, local school activities, civic clubs, union meetings, and political organizations.  People transfixed by PCs have little time to participate in anything and are a threat to no one.

If one surfs the Internet one can find thousands of Web sites espousing every conceivable political philosophy.  There are endless blogs and chat rooms devoted to the discussion of politics.  But is anyone really listening to all of this electronic chatter?  Above all, what the Net does extremely well is keep us busy – distracted from noticing what our drone masters are doing to us in the name of freedom and democracy.

While individual Internet junkies pretend to be doing their own thing, in reality they are insignificant pawns in a vast global experiment in commercially controlled anarchy.  They are, in fact doing precisely what their corporate and government masters would have them do.

Just to make certain that those Americans who have not yet become drones have the opportunity to do so, President Obama has proposed to introduce required civilian service in America.  “We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that is just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded as the military.”

Not even independent-minded Vermont has been able to escape the drone syndrome.  All of our politicians are drones—Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch, Governor Jim Douglas, Lt. Governor Brian Dubie, and the Democratic candidates for Governor.  They march in lockstep with the Empire.  Neoliberal Vermonters are still so mesmerized by Obama that they utter hardly a whimper when 1,500 Vermont National Guard troops are deployed to Afghanistan or when another Vermonter is killed in either of the two illegal wars in which we are engaged.  Few question the immorality of the lies on which the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are based.  Vermonters behave as though they were experimental mice on an electric floor after experiencing learned helplessness—never challenging what they are told by Washington, New York, or Tel Aviv.

No longer the land of the free and the home of the brave, America has become a giant electronic meganetwork of remote controlled robots and drones which do exactly what their technofascist masters want them to do.  Have a good day!

Imagine…Free Vermont

Thomas H. Naylor

July 9, 2010

Secession And The Politics Of Radical Nonviolent Confrontation

Critics of secession in the United States often summarily dismiss it with the following reference to the Civil War.  “We’ve been there, done that, and it didn’t work out so well.”  What that myopic view overlooks is the possible relevance of five highly successful, nonviolent political movements in the second half of the twentieth century, two of which were outright secessions and the other three possessing secession-like characteristics.  These radical political movements include:  (1) the American Civil Rights Movement, (2) the Vietnam War Protest Movement, (3) the Eastern European Anti-Communist Movement, (4) the Soviet Union Anti-Communist Movement, and (5) the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement.  Although there were isolated pockets of violence in each of these political movements, they were, for the most part, nonviolent.

Without exception each of the five political movements adhered to the following five-step paradigm:  (1) Identification of the principal opposition political leaders to be targeted.  (2) Challenging their legitimacy and moral authority.  (3)  Ridiculing them and their supporters.  (4)  Publicizing their improprieties.  (5)  Completely discrediting them.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1954 outlawing racial segregation in the public schools was perceived by many as a declaration of war against Southern segregationists, the Civil Rights Movement did not really get underway until the early 1960s after a series of high-profile acts of violence against black children and civil rights workers in the South.  Civil rights activists, the clergy, and liberal Northern political leaders began challenging the moral authority of well-known Southern segregationists such as Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi, George W. Wallace of Alabama, and Lester Maddox of Georgia.  Although The Movement was never very unified, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of nonviolent confrontation soon became the paradigm of choice.  With the death of President John F. Kennedy and the ascendancy of Lyndon B. Johnson to the Presidency, the credibility of racial segregation plunged, paving the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, the metaphorical trophies of the Civil Rights Movement.

Almost from the outset the Anti-War Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was far more militant than its predecessor, the Civil Rights Movement.  The marches and demonstrations were larger, more frequent, and more intense.  The lives of many of the college age demonstrators were on the line, since they faced compulsory military service and the possibility of being shipped off to Vietnam.  The targets were President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Pentagon, and the military-industrial complex.  This was not kid’s stuff.  It was not about sweetness and light.  It was hardball!  Anyone supporting the war in Vietnam was subject to ridicule.  Apologists for the war were called “mother-fucking , fascist pigs.”  The Anti-War Movement was energized by images of body bags and flag-draped coffins each night on the evening news, innocent civilians being torched by napalm in Vietnam, and college kids fleeing to Canada.  By the time President Richard Nixon called an end to the war in 1973, the moral authority of the U.S. Government was at an all-time low.  The White House, the Congress, General William Westmoreland, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the entire military-industrial complex had been thoroughly discredited.

The six Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were all brought down by effectively discrediting the leaders of these regimes—by demonstrating unequivocally that they had lost their moral authority.  The Communist government of Poland was not toppled in 1989 by Solidarity Leader Lech Walesa politely suggesting that President Wojciech Jaruzelski should step down.  Rather it, as well as the five other Eastern European Communist governments, was brought down by a sophisticated mixture of confrontation, negotiation, and testing of limits spread out over several years.  Ultimately it was a question of political will.  The political will of the people trumped the will of the government to stay in power.  The emperor was found to have no clothes both in the Soviet Union as well as in its Eastern European satellites.  The Soviet Union nonviolently imploded in 1991.  Earlier that year tiny Slovenia seceded from Serbia employing a similar strategy with a minimum loss of life.

South Africa followed much the same paradigm to rid itself of its apartheid government and replace it with a democracy.  Both South Africa and Poland attracted huge international political support for their respective independence movements.  There can be little doubt that the international boycott of companies doing business in South Africa helped bring down the racist regime.

If an American state is to be successful in its attempt to secede from the Union, its Congressional Delegation, its Governor, its Council of State, and its other major political opinion leaders must be thoroughly discredited to the point of ridicule.  They and the people in the state who support them with their votes must personally be held morally responsible for:

  1. The illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. The acts of genocide perpetrated by our ally Israel against the Palestinians with our unconditional support.
  3. The presence of 1,000 American military bases in 153 countries.
  4. Our continued development of weapons of mass destruction and the so-called missile defense system.
  5. The Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act.
  6. The illegal practices of rendition of terrorist suspects, prisoner abuse and torture, and citizen surveillance.
  7. The highly racist war on terror.
  8. Multi-trillion dollar deficits.
  9. A failing health care system whose costs are totally out of control.
  10. A one size fits all immigration policy.
  11. A government which is owned, operated, and controlled by Wall Street, Corporate America, and the Israeli Lobby.
  12. A government which panders to the rich and powerful.
  13. A government which has lost its moral authority, is unsustainable, and unfixable.

Secession is not for the faint of heart.  If you are into wanting to make everyone happy, then secession is not for you.  But secession just may be the only morally defensible game in town!

Imagine…Free Vermont

Thomas H. Naylor

June 30, 2010