Monthly Archives: March 2011

Vermont Progressives Morph Into Prowar Party

As evidence of Vermont’s strong anti-war stance, back in 2003 the entire Vermont Congressional Delegation voted against the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq.  Nearly eight years later, it’s hard to believe that Senator Bernie Sanders, the darling of the Left, Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch, and Progressive Party Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss are all palling around with Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor.

Sanders, Kiss, and University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel are actively encouraging the U.S. government-owned Sandia National Laboratories to open a satellite laboratory in Vermont.  Sandia, whose historical origins can be traced back to the Manhattan Project in World War II, designs, builds, and tests weapons of mass destruction.  The Vermont laboratory envisaged by Sanders and Fogel would not be involved with nuclear weapons but rather would be engaged in projects related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric grids.  Sandia, interestingly enough, is operated under contract by Lockheed Martin.  UVM has already been awarded a $1 million contract by the U.S. Energy Department as a down payment towards the “research partnership” between the University and Sandia.

Without any sense of irony whatsoever, Sanders now refers to himself as “the most progressive member of the U.S. Senate.”  If that is actually true, then we are all in dire straits.  Sanders’s Vermont constituents have shown little or no concern for the hypocrisy underlying his support for the Sandia project.  It’s all about jobs.

Although Sanders, Leahy, and Welch pretend to be political liberals, they are, in fact, mindless pawns of the military-industrial-Congressional complex marching to the beat of the war drums of Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the Israeli military machine.  They support: (1) all funding for the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, (2) the highly racist war on terror, (3) military aid for Israeli genocide against the Palestinians, (4) the deployment of Vermont National Guard troops abroad, and (5) the replacement of the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16 fighter jets with Lockheed Martin F-35s which cost $115 million a pop.

The local news media has tried to cast the debate over the F-35s as an environmental issue stemming from the expectation that the F-35s are likely to produce higher noise levels than the F-16s. But the real issue surrounding the F-35s is neither an environmental issue nor an economic issue but rather a moral issue.  On a moment’s notice Vermont trained killers, euphemistically referred to as pilots, can be deployed to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Russia, Venezuela, or any other country Uncle Sam has decided to demonize and begin annihilating innocent citizens including women and children.  Do peace loving Vermonters want to be a part of something this grotesque?

Every new military contract awarded to a Vermont firm is announced by Senator Patrick Leahy.  With each such announcement Leahy always hypes the number of new jobs which will be created.  No mention is ever made of the number of people who will be killed by Vermont made instruments of death.

Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie has expressed the hope that the Vermont National Guard might evolve into a center for unmanned aircraft, otherwise known as drones.  This would mean that Vermonters could become directly involved in killing civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran through the use of pilotless drones controlled by well-trained, high-tech, gutless assassins seated in air conditioned comfort in front of sophisticated instrument panels at the Burlington International Airport.  This form of neat, clean, precise, risk-free, sanitized, bloodless, desktop warfare could be waged by Vermonters who have never set foot on a battlefield or smelled the stench of death.  Lockheed Martin is a major player in the drone aircraft market.   Neither Senator Sanders nor any of the other leaders of the Vermont Progressive Party have ever expressed any objections whatsoever to Vermont becoming a drone aircraft center.

One of the most puzzling aspects of Vermont’s willingness to play along with the Pentagon’s insidious game has been the behavior of Mayor Bob Kiss.  Kiss is a longstanding, anti-war liberal.  Yet he recently signed a letter of agreement with Lockheed Martin calling for the development of a so-called “Carbon War Room” in Burlington to create market based solutions for climate change problems.  Why would Kiss get in bed with such a notorious war monger?  Was it to pave the way for the proposed Sandia Laboratory?  Or was it something else?  Was it possibly to save Burlington’s embattled telecommunications company, Burlington Telecom, from bankruptcy?

And in the midst of all of this the University of Vermont has seen fit to confer an honorary doctorate upon Major General Michael Dubie, an enthusiastic supporter of the F-35s as well as drone aircraft.

What’s really going on in the Green Mountain State?  Why is so much attention being directed towards tiny Vermont by Lockheed Martin?  Clues as to the answer to this question may lie in Chicago and Ottawa.

Several years ago the giant aircraft manufacturer Boeing moved its corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.  It soon developed close ties to then U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Congressman Rahm Emanuel.  When Obama was elected President, Emanuel was named White House Chief of Staff.  Emanuel recently left the White House to become Mayor of Chicago.  He was replaced by William Daley, brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.  Most importantly of all, William Daley was a member of the board of directors of Boeing.

To the surprise of many insiders, a few weeks after Daley became Chief of Staff, the Pentagon awarded Boeing a $35 billion contract to produce 179 aerial refueling tankers.  Most pundits had expected the contract to be awarded to the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, the maker of Airbus commercial jets, which was thought to have the superior proposal.  Few would question the assertion that by moving to Chicago, Boeing bought itself a lot of political influence both on the local and national scene.  Could this be what Lockheed Martin has in mind for Vermont?  If Vermont is willing to sell its soul to the Empire, maybe other liberal states will follow suit.

Now let’s turn the clock back to the 1995 referendum in Canada where the issue of Quebec separatism was narrowly defeated.  Since that time Ottawa has poured countless millions of loonies into Quebec effectively buying off Quebec separatists.

Although its political impact within Vermont has been marginal, the Vermont independence movement is arguably the most high-profile secessionist movement in America.  Its influence outside of Vermont has been much greater than has been the case within the state.  For reasons which are still unclear to me, Second Vermont Republic candidates were subject to vicious CIA-like attacks by no less than four websites during the final six weeks of the 2010 political campaign.  Small though it might be, someone apparently perceived the Vermont independence movement to be a threat.

Is it possible that what the Lockheed Martin strategy is all about is little short of an attempt to buy off a state which was once considered to be the most left-wing state in the Union, a state unconditionally committed to peace?  By pouring millions of dollars into Vermont for defense related projects, do the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin hope to put the quietus to the Vermont peace movement?  If so, there is considerable evidence to suggest they have been successful.

The peace movement in Vermont is dead in the water.  The Progressive Party is morally, intellectually, and spiritually bankrupt.  It has not uttered a peep in response to the Lockheed Martin affair.

It’s as though the Progressive Party in Vermont has morphed into the Vermont Prowar Party, a party which welcomes both Democrats and Republicans who are sold on war.

Rebél

Thomas H. Naylor

March 15, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.

Vermont Has Lost Its Soul

When my family moved to Vermont in 1993, it was due in no small part to the fact that we thought the Green Mountain state was different from most states, very different.  We perceived Vermont to be smaller, more rural, more democratic, less violent, less commercial, more egalitarian, more humane, more independent, and more radical than most other states.  It seemed as though Vermont might provide a communitarian alternative to the dehumanized, mass-production, mass-consumption, narcissistic lifestyle which pervades most of America – an alternative to a nation obsessed with money, power, size, speed, greed and fear of terrorism.

Unfortunately, we were mistaken.  Vermont has lost its soul.  Not unlike every other state, Vermont has succumbed to all of the tenets of technofascism including affluenza, technomania, e-mania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.  All too many Vermonters have embraced an empire which is too big, too intrusive, too materialistic, too environmentally irresponsible, too militarized, too imperialistic, too violent, too greedy, too undemocratic, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and local communities.  Notwithstanding overwhelming evidence to the contrary, most Vermonters still believe that only the federal government can solve all of our problems all of the time.

This myth has its historical origins in the fact that throughout the twentieth century four threats provided the glue which held our nation together – World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.  Ten years after the Soviet Union imploded President George W. Bush introduced us to a new threat, one of our own making, Islamic terrorism.  The Vermont Congressional delegation has done everything within its power to keep the myth of terrorism alive.  Its members support the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israeli genocide, the deployment of Vermont National Guard troops abroad, F-35 fighter jets at $115 million a pop, a Vermont based drone aircraft center, and recruitment to Vermont of a firm which designs, manufactures, and tests weapons of mass destruction – all to prevent Vermont from being attacked by Islamic terrorists.

The inescapable conclusion from all of this is that Vermont has been palling around with the wrong crowd.  Some of the people who hang out at the White House, the Congress, the Pentagon, Corporate America, Wall Street, and the Israeli government are not good folks.  Vermonters have little in common with those who control the Empire.  They are into nihilism.  Vermont needs to find some new friends with whom to hang out.

Maybe it’s high time Vermont began to distance itself from the money, power, greed, and violence of the Empire and seek out friends who share some of the values for which Vermont was once known such as human scale, democracy, sustainability, economic solidarity, power sharing, egalitarianism, and community.  Five small countries which might be receptive to overtures of friendship from Vermont include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

What these five European nations have in common is that they are tiny, very affluent, nonviolent, democratic, and socially responsible.  They also have a high degree of environmental integrity and a strong sense of community.  Although Denmark and Norway are members of NATO, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland are neutral.  Once considered classical European democratic socialist states, the four Nordic states in the group have become much more market-oriented in recent years.  Not only is Switzerland the wealthiest of the lot, but it is the most market-oriented country in the world, with the weakest central government, and the most decentralized social welfare system.  Not unlike Vermont, Switzerland has a long tradition of direct democracy.  What’s more, all of these countries work, and they work very well.  Compared to the United States they have fewer big cities, less traffic congestion, less pollution, less poverty, less crime, less drug abuse, and fewer social welfare problems.

Two other small countries with whom Vermont might try to develop a relationship are environmentally friendly Costa Rica, which has no army, and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.  Since 1972 the king of Bhutan has been trying to make gross national happiness the national priority rather than gross national product.  Although still a work-in-progress, policies instituted by the king are aimed at ensuring that prosperity is shared across society and that it is balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment, and maintaining a responsive government.

How might Vermont go about reaching out to some of these countries so as to learn from their rich experiences?  First, Vermont, particularly Burlington, has a long history of sister city relationships with a number of countries throughout the world.  This list might be expanded to include relationships with some of the aforementioned nations.  Second, the University of Vermont might set aside a few scholarships each year for students from some of these countries.  Vermont college students who study abroad might be encouraged to study in these countries as well.  Third, both state government and civic organizations might sponsor exchange programs with these potential Vermont role models.  These are inexpensive ways in which Vermonters might broaden their horizons and connect with others who share many of their core values.

This is a call for Vermont to reclaim its soul by extending the hand of friendship to a handful of small countries from whom we can learn how to decentralize, downsize, localize, demilitarize, simplify, and humanize our lives, so that one day we might live without the Empire.

Rebél

Thomas H. Naylor

March 15, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.