Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ciphers: People of the Lie

We live in the world of make-believe, a world controlled by ciphers such as Wall Street, Corporate America, the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon.  These ciphers enjoy the enthusiastic support of the media, the academy, and the shamans to whom we entrust the care of body, mind, and soul.  They reside in cipherspace, a euphemism for what French writer Albert Camus called the absurd.

In the parlance of communications intelligence, a cipher is a secret message deliberately encoded to mislead unintended recipients.  International intelligence operatives routinely employ ciphers to communicate classified information and secret messages among themselves via telecommunication networks.  So, too, do those engaged in espionage, counterespionage, terrorism, and anti-terrorism.  More recently, ciphers have been used to protect the confidentiality of e-mail messages, electronic funds transfers, credit card transactions, and cell phone conversations.

Ciphers are often used to disguise messages encoded to mislead virtually everyone, whether they be citizens, consumers, stockholders, employees, voters, viewers, readers, Internet junkies, students, patients, or parishioners.  They are a sophisticated form of lying and deceit—one of the most important instruments of mass manipulation and social control in our culture.  A person, such as a political leader, who transmits misleading messages is also a cipher.

I first learned about ciphers from a Czech political science professor, Vladimir Suchan, who had become disillusioned with communist apparatchiks in Prague and Moscow as well as U.S government officials and viewed them all as ciphers.

To some ciphers are world-class bloodsuckers who exploit our vulnerability and our inability to cope with the human condition.  Ciphers tell us what to believe, how to live, how to raise our kids, how to work, how to play, how to make love, and how to die.  From them we also learn what to buy, how much to pay for it, and when to replace it, as well as where we will work, how much we will be paid, and what working conditions will be like.  We call this “freedom.”

Cipher is also a synonym for zero, indicating a value of naught, symbolizing nothingness and a hint of nihilism.  It can refer to a person or a thing of no importance, a nonentity.  Ciphers stand for nothing.  Thus a person, a place, a thing, an idea, or a message may be a cipher.  But in our culture, some of the most important ciphers are politicians, TV advertisers, the Internet, text messages and money.

In cryptology, the technology of secret communication, the original message is called the plaintext and the secret form of the message intended to mislead is the ciphertext or cipher.  The method for changing one into the other is the cryptosystem.  Without knowledge of the cryptosystem it is impossible to convert the ciphertext back to the real message, the plaintext.  Encrypting is the process of converting plaintext into ciphertext.  Decrypting is changing ciphertext back into plaintext.

In the Broadway musical Evita about the life of Eva Peron, the ciphertext was “You were supposed to have been immortal.”  But the plaintext was “in the end, you could not deliver.”

The plaintext for the BRAVO television series “Dirty Housewives” is, “Always look out for number one,”  while the not so subtle ciphertext is, “You deserve to have it all.”  The subliminal messages communicated by some television advertisements are so carefully sugarcoated and disguised that the unsuspecting viewer may find it virtually impossible to decrypt their real meaning.

Before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the ciphertext embraced by the New Orleans Levee Board was that the “city that care forgot” was surely invincible.  The plaintext understood by everyone but President George W. Bush was that New Orleans was “a catastrophe waiting to happen.”

Many in need of a quick fix to assuage their feelings of powerlessness and fear of nothingness are drawn to technology.  Technology seduces us into believing we can find security and certainty in an otherwise uncertain, meaningless world.  Nothing better illustrates this phenomenon than President Ronald Reagan’s fantasy of an antimissile shield—still supported by our government and most Americans in spite of its failures.  Who could ever forget the affection with which Ronald Reagan held the Peacekeeper missile?  Isn’t the proposed antimissile defense system just code for the militarization of space?

The ciphertext of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was “hope and change.”  The reality (plaintext) has been “business as usual.”  And as we all know, Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureate, soon morphed into Obama, the champion of drones, Navy Seals, and Army Delta Force death squads.  Not only are we still in Iraq, but the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has actually increased.  Furthermore, we are now engaged in wars in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

The ciphertext “war on terrorism” is, in fact, a euphemism for Islamophobia.  The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the proposed Detainee Security Act, and Homeland Security are particularly creative ciphertexts approved by Congress to justify increased government control over the lives of ordinary citizens.  Freedom, democracy, liberty, and American exceptionalism are all clichés used to justify a foreign policy based on full spectrum dominance and imperial overstretch.

The vast majority of the members of Congress are ciphers.  Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are among the few exceptions to the rule.

At no place are ciphers more widely used than on Wall Street where economists, financial analysts, and corporate CEOs hype the prices of common stocks on CNBC and Fox News and in The Wall Street Journal.

Underlying globalization is a ciphertext called the Theory of Comparative Advantage developed by English economist David Ricardo two hundred years ago:  If every country concentrates on the production of those goods it can make most efficiently and buys from other countries those goods which it cannot manufacture as efficiently, consumers will get more goods at lower cost than if each country tried to be self-sufficient. But the plaintext is that globalization works best if we are all the same and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Inspired by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman and his disciples who have all sold out to Wall Street, politicians vigorously promote globalization.  The worldwide network of markets, transnational companies, and information technologies has effectively eliminated the need for national political borders.  Political and economic power have been transferred from nation-states to transnational megacompanies accountable only to their shareholders.  Wall Street is in charge.  It is all about unfettered, free-market capitalism—deregulation, privatization, and the emasculation of labor worldwide.  Globalization is the modern equivalent of the Tower of Babel.  A hiccup in China reverberates around the world at the speed of light.  And Wall Street has declared that this is very good.

Yet another important cipher is the Internet.  The plaintext of the Internet is firmly grounded in speed, greed, and instant gratification.  However, some view the Internet as one of the greatest con jobs ever perpetrated on the human race.  They perceive the Internet to be anti-intellectual, anti-education, anti-creative and anti-social—capable of destroying community, undermining democracy, creating a spiritual vacuum, inducing emotional instability, and downloading the human mind.

My own view of the Internet is similar to Henry David Thoreau’s view of the magnetic telegraph.  “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas, but Maine and Texas may have nothing important to communicate.  We are eager to tunnel the Atlantic and bring the Old World nearer the New, but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”

High on any list of ciphers is the Roman Catholic Church.  According to New York Times editor, Bill Keller, like the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union, “the Vatican exists first and foremost to preserve its own powers.” The late anti-communist, Polish Pope John Paul II, “replicated something very like the old Communist Party in his church.”  He “shaped a hierarchy that [was] intolerant of dissent, unaccountable to its members, secretive in the extreme and willfully clueless about how people live.”  And there is every indication that Pope Benedict XVI was cast from the same mold as his rigid predecessor.  In response to criticism of Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued the following press release which gave new meaning to the word arrogance, “The Holy See cannot take lessons or instructions from any other authority on the tone and content of its own statements.”

Before the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Russian workers cynically used to say, “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”  The counterpart for American Catholics says Bill Keller is, “They pretend to lead, and we pretend to follow.”

Among the high priests of cipherspace not already mentioned are Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and Wal-Mart Chairman Robson Walton.

And who are all of these ciphers?  They are the people who psychiatrist M. Scott Peck called People of the Lie in his disturbing book bearing that title.

Thomas H. Naylor

August 29, 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 Meaningwww.vermontrepublic.org.

Pax Obama: Drones, Seals, and Delta Force Death Squads

Could it be that when Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama leaves office that the defining image of his presidency will have been his use of unmanned drone aircraft and military death squads to achieve the will of the Empire?

Hardly a week goes by in which we do not learn of the deaths of innocent civilians in Afghanistan or Pakistan resulting from attacks by U.S. drones.  Attack drones have also been deployed in Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.  This form of pilotless aircraft can be used to inflict death and destruction anywhere in the world.  Drones are controlled by well-trained, high-tech, gutless assassins seated in air conditioned comfort in front of sophisticated instrument panels thousands of miles away from their intended targets.  The beauty of desktop, drone warfare is that it is neat, clean, precise, risk-free, sanitized, and bloodless and can be waged by those who have never set foot on a battlefield or smelled the stench of death.  It’s almost like playing a video game.

The Pentagon recently ordered 55 Global Hawk drones for a cool $23 billion.  There is even talk of converting the Burlington International Airport in Vermont into a drone base.

Drones represent the perfect instruments of war for a risk averse president who shies away from hand-to-hand political combat.  With drones are associated feelings of power and control.  We are in charge.  There is no face-to-face conflict whatsoever.

Drones also offer endless possibilities as surveillance aircraft for high-tech spying, a practice with which the Obama administration seems to feel quite comfortable.

Under the leadership of former CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Pentagon will have U.S. Special Operations forces deployed in no less than 120 countries around the world by year-end.  These instant strike forces include Navy Seals, Army Delta Forces, Rangers, and Green Berets.  Special Operations forces have been used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Navy Seals garnered international attention recently with their successful assassination attack on Osama bin Laden.  Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi surely would be next!

One can imagine a scenario in the not too distant future in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez receive phone calls from the White House saying, “Cease and desist, or be prepared to die.”  With high-tech, American death squads spread around the world, such a threat becomes increasingly credible.  Will this soon become the preferred way to deal with any nation which has the audacity to challenge the American way?  China and Russia might still be viewed as exceptions to the rule by the Pentagon.

By far, the most prescient line in President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech was, “There will be times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”  Is it possible that what Obama really had in mind with his “hope and change” mantra was replacing old fashioned, conventional warfare with a more sophisticated, high-tech, stealthy, cowardly form of warfare involving drones and kinetic strike death squads?

“Meaningless!  Meaningless!” said the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes.  “Everything is meaningless!”

Thomas H. Naylor

August 23, 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 Meaningwww.vermontrepublic.org.

Robots of the World Unite

A specter is haunting America – the specter of technofascism.  We are enmeshed in a global system of conquest and destruction, dominance and deceit in which Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, the U.S. Government, and the Israeli lobby manipulate and control our lives through money, political power, markets, media, and technology resulting in the loss of political will, civil liberties, collective memory, and traditional culture.

Robots of the world unite against affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism:

Affluenza Overconsumption of more and more stuff

Technomania God-like worship of technology which we equate with progress

Cybermania Obsession with some of the most anti-intellectual, anti-educational, anti-creativity, and anti-social devices ever conceived which have the potential to destroy community, undermine democracy, dehumanize society, and induce emotional instability.

Megalomania Mental condition characterized by delusions of great personal power, influence, grandeur, and wealth and the obsessive-compulsive worship of anything that is big.

Robotism Condition of those who behave as if they were perfectly cloned, mindless automatons, who think the same, vote the same, watch the same TV programs, visit the same Web sites, and buy the same consumer goods.

Globalization International system of mass production, mass marketing, mass distribution, mass consumption, mega financial institutions, and global telecommunications, which works best if we are all the same.

Imperialism Foreign policy based on the concepts of full spectrum dominance and imperial overstretch.

Thomas H. Naylor

August 20, 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.  www.vermontrepublic.org.

The Debt Debacle Debate and the Demise of the Empire

Underlying the endless posturing, bickering, and mean-spirited name-calling associated with the recent Congressional debt ceiling debacle were three important unstated issues – size, excessive globalization, and imperial overstretch, issues which were never even mentioned during the heated Congressional debate.

First, the United States has simply become too big to govern. Second, it has exported too many jobs over the past three decades to China, India, and the rest of the world. Third, it is engaged in too many wars and has too many military bases (over 1,000) in too many countries (153).

Just as the Kremlin found it impossible to manage 280 million people in the former Soviet Union from one central bureau in Moscow, so too are the White House and the Congress finding it increasingly difficult to control 310 million Americans from Washington, D.C. Also, not unlike the former Soviet Union, the United States has a single political party, the Republican Party, disguised as a two-party system. The Democratic Party is effectively brain dead, having had no new ideas since the 1960s.

Three years after the onset of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, the battle rages on as to whether the government should raise or lower taxes, increase or decrease spending, or print even more money. In case you haven’t noticed, the government has been reducing taxes, increasing spending, and printing money as though it were going out of style, and it doesn’t seem to have made any difference. The economic recovery remains anemic, job growth is pathetic, and the tepid housing market shows few signs of life. Only the highly manipulated stock market temporarily responded positively to government policy.

Neither President George W. Bush’s 2001, 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut nor its 2003, $350 billion follow on could keep the U.S. economy out of recession. But that did not prevent the Obama administration from pushing through Congress a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts in December 2010.

Keynesian economics supporters rallied behind President Obama early in 2009 to gain Congressional approval for an $800 billion economic stimulus package. Although it may have helped prevent the loss of even more jobs, the stimulus package does not appear to have increased the number of new jobs significantly. The President’s $3.73 trillion budget request and projected $1.5 trillion deficit are more of the same. The spending cuts mandated by Congress recently as part of the deficit reduction bill are likely to result in even more job losses. However, they were insufficient to forestall a U.S. credit rating downgrade by S&P.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has kept the U.S. economy, and indeed the global economy, awash with money freshly printed by the government’s high-speed printing presses. He has primed the monetary pump with near-zero interest rates, loans to poorly managed mega financial institutions worldwide, and government bond purchases worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Unfortunately the impact of all of this intense monetary policy activity on the housing market and the job market has been virtually nil.

What Bush, Bernanke, and Obama have failed to realize is that they have been engaged in a myth of Sisyphus struggle with Wall Street, which has presided over a thirty-year strategy of exporting real American jobs to Asia and elsewhere, all in the name of maximizing shareholder wealth. So many high-paying manufacturing and professional service jobs have been offshored that there are not enough people left who can afford to buy all of the Chinese plastic yuck that must be sold to sustain the American economy.

The neocons scream for more tax cuts, the liberal Democrats demand more government spending, and the monetarists call for even greater increases in the money supply, and it’s not going to make one whit of a difference. Sometimes when you make your bed, you actually have to lie in it. The effects of a thirty-year exodus of American jobs to the rest of the world cannot be reversed overnight.

It’s as though our national economic policy for the past decade has been under the control of three blind mice – Bush, Bernanke, and Obama. “See how they run. Did you ever see such a sight in your life?”

Driving the nation’s trillion-dollar plus military and national security budget is a foreign policy based on full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, might makes right, and the proposition, just be like us. One result flowing from this insidious foreign policy is the never ending, highly racist war on terror (Islam) which has given rise to immoral, illegal, undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine (via Israel), Somalia, and Yemen. Weapons of mass destruction, the strategic missile defense system, the Cold War relic NATO, pilotless drone aircraft, outrageously expensive F-35 fighter jets, and 1.6 million American troops are all part of the program.

Size, a moribund economy, and excessive militarization were three of the major forces contributing to the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. But the United States may be well on its way to replicating Soviet mistakes in an American setting. We have spent so much time, energy, and other valuable resources fighting the threat of terrorism that we have diverted our attention, our energy, and our resources from fixing our severely broken economy.

One major unstated conclusion of the debt ceiling debate must surely be that we can no longer afford a continuation of the military madness. It is not in our self-interest to keep perpetuating the myths, half-truths, and out-right lies that have fueled the war on terror since it was launched by President George W. Bush in 2001.

If we were to look back into the eyes of our old adversary, the Soviet Union, we just might see a mirror image of ourselves. We have become much more nearly alike than most Americans would care to admit.

In the meantime, buy gold and prepare to secede.

Thomas H. Naylor
August 12, 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. www.vermontrepublic.org.

History of the Second Vermont Republic

Nearly three years before I moved to Vermont, on October 9, 1990, the Bennington Banner published my article entitled “Should the U.S. Be Downsized?”  Four years later in Challenge (Nov.-Dec. 1994) I wrote “The time has come both for the individual states and the federal government to begin planning the rational downsizing of America.”  Continuing I suggested that Vermont might lead the way by helping “save our nation from the debilitating effects of big government and big business” and by “providing an independent role model for the other states to follow.”

In 1997 William H. Willimon and I published Downsizing the U.S.A., which not only called for Vermont independence, but the peaceful dissolution of the American Empire.  We argued that the U.S. government had become too big, too centralized, too powerful, too undemocratic, too militaristic, too imperialistic, too materialistic, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and small communities.  However, since we were in the midst of the greatest economic boom in history, few Americans were interested in downsizing anything.  The name of the game was “up, up, and away.”  Only bigger and faster were thought to be better.

A year or so later I joined an organization called the New England Confederation whose objective was to have New England split away from the United States and establish itself as an independent nation-state.  Unfortunately, the Confederation turned out to be mostly an Internet website rather than a real political organization.  However, its website survived several years after the demise of the Confederation itself under the leadership of Bristol, Vermont resident Michael Patno.

For the most part, before September 11, 2001, my call for Vermont independence and the dissolution of the Empire fell on deaf ears.  It was as though I were speaking to an audience of one, namely myself.  But a year or so after 9/11 that gradually began to change.  On March 4, 2003, two weeks before the second war with Iraq began, Michael Patno and I met for lunch in Burlington to discuss the possibility of organizing a serious, nonviolent independence movement in Vermont opposed to the tyranny of the U.S. government, Corporate America, and globalization and committed to the return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic as it was between 1777 and 1791.  The following day I spoke at an anti-war rally at Johnson State College and decided to test-market the idea of an independent Vermont.

Basically my pitch to the students was, “If you want to prevent future wars in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, we have no choice but to break up the United States into smaller regions, and that process should begin with Vermont declaring its independence from the United States.”  They were stunned, but they got it.  Their positive response literally provided the energy for Michael Patno and I to launch the Second Vermont Republic.

Ten days after the bombing began in Baghdad on March 19, 2003, we held the first of four monthly meetings at the Village Cup in Jericho to discuss how such a movement might evolve.  These meetings were attended by only a handful of people.  Early on we decided not to become a political party but rather a civic club.  The name “Second Vermont Republic” was proposed by Jeffersonville high school student Walker Brook and registered with the Secretary of State on June 19, 2003.

Over lunch in the backyard of the Bread & Puppet Theater Museum in Glover, Vermont on July 18, 2003, the puppeteers, under the leadership of Peter Schumann, agreed to cooperate with the Second Vermont Republic to promote Vermont independence.  Since the outset, the Lake Parker Country Store in West Glover has been a focal point of SVR activity.

In conjunction with the release of my book The Vermont Manifesto on October 11, 2003, the first statewide meeting of the Second Vermont Republic was held in the New Building of Bread & Puppet Theater in Glover.  The daylong meeting was attended by around fifty people.  Wes Hamilton served as facilitator.

About the idea of Vermont independence, Ambassador George F. Kennan said, “I see nothing fanciful, and nothing towards the realization of which the efforts of enlightened people might not be usefully directed.”  Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith added, “I must assure you of my pleasure in, and approval of, your views of the Second Vermont Republic.”  “From the standpoint of puppeteers and their subversive papier-mâché, the Second Vermont Republic sounds like a very good idea to fight the megalomania of the globalizers,” echoed Peter Schumann.

On November 16, 2003, the Times-Argus published the first major article on the Second Vermont Republic.  This was followed by Jay Walljasper’s piece in Utne on the Vermont independence movement.  Chicago based economist and SVR member David Hale proposed in The Burlington Free Press on January 6, 2004 that Vermont should secede from the United States and join the British Commonwealth.

On January 4, 2004, SVR’s website www.vermontrepublic.org came on stream with Sam Young of West Glover as webmaster.  In 2005 the website received an average of 3,000 unique visitors per month.  It was substantially revised by Rob Williams in July 2006.  Since August 2007 it has been managed by NEK Information Associates based in Glover, Vt.

Throughout the spring of 2004, we held monthly planning meetings at the Institute of Social Ecology in Plainfield.  Then on June 19th SVR and Bread & Puppet Theater held a parade in downtown Montpelier which originated in front of the Firehouse and proceeded six blocks to the steps of the State House.  Nearly 350 people attended the rally which followed in front of the State House.  It included a performance by Bread & Puppet, live music, and a dozen or so speakers calling for Vermont independence.  John Remington Graham, author of A Constitutional History of Secession, was the keynote speaker.  The rally ended with the reading of the Vermont Declaration of Independence.  Copies of the new 32-page, glossy Journal of Vermont Independence edited by David White were also distributed.  Nearly a year later, this journal evolved into Vermont Commons.

Two events which took place in November of 2004 put the Second Vermont Republic on the map, so to speak – statewide, nationally, and internationally.  They were the November 2nd re-election of George W. Bush and a conference sponsored by SVR in Middlebury, Vermont three days after the election.

On November 5-7 forty people from eleven states and England attended a conference at the Middlebury Inn co-sponsored by SVR and the Fourth World of Wessex, England entitled “After the Fall of America, Then What?”  The Fourth World, which published The Fourth World Review, a periodical inspired by Leopold Kohr and Fritz Schumacher, was committed to small nations, small communities, small farms, small shops, the human scale, and the inalienable sovereignty of the human spirit.  Speakers included Kirkpatrick Sale, Donald Livingston, Rober Allio, Frank Bryan, and Thomas H. Naylor.

The underlying premise of the conference was that the United States had become unsustainable, ungovernable, and unfixable.  If that were indeed the case, then do we go down with the Titanic or seek other alternatives?  Among the options discussed at Middlebury were denial, compliance, and political reform, proven to be deadends; revolution, rebellion, and implosion, equally problematic; and decentralization, devolution, and peaceful dissolution.  The conference also included a mock town meeting open to the public with guest appearances by Ethan Allen (Jim Hogue) and Thomas Jefferson (Gus Jaccaci).

At the close of the meeting over half of the delegates including Kirkpatrick Sale, Donald Livingston, and Thomas H. Naylor signed The Middlebury Declaration which called for the creation of a movement that would “place secession on the national agenda, encourage secessionist organizations, develop communication among existing and future secessionist groups, and create a body of scholarship to examine and promote the ideas and principles of secessionism.”  The Middlebury Institute headed by SVR member Kirkpatrick Sale is now engaged in the pursuit of these goals.

The combined effect of Bush’s re-election and the Middlebury Conference resulted in a significant increase in SVR’s membership, over 5,000 unique visits to our website in November, and an enormous amount of state, national, and international media attention. The Quebec newspaper Le Devoir published a front-page article on the conference.

As a follow-up to the Middlebury Conference, SVR held several meetings in Montpelier at the Langdon Street Café, a worker-owned collective which supports creative dialogue, sustainability, local products, and community.  Such a meeting was held on January 15, 2005 to commemorate the day in 1777 when Vermont declared its independence and became a separate republic for fourteen years.  Ethan Allen (Jim Hogue) again made a guest appearance.  One of the aims of the meeting was to promote the Vermont Independence Day Resolution being considered by the Vermont Legislature.  During the previous September SVR members Linda and John Whitney launched a statewide campaign calling for the Legislature to make January 15, 1777 Vermont Independence Day.

The resolution endorsed by Senator Jim Jeffords, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, Lt. Governor Brian Dubie, and most members of the Vermont House and Senate was approved in an amended form in April.  By then it had become a resolution naming January as Vermont history and independence month.

Then on March 4, 2005, a memorial service was held at the Langdon Street Café led by Rev. Ben Matchstick of Bread & Puppet Theater and General Ethan Allen (Jim Hogue) commemorating the day in 1791 when Vermont joined the Union.  The service included a reading from Ecclesiastes with Chopin’s “Funeral March” playing in the background.  A funeral procession with a New Orleans-style funeral band carried the flag-draped coffin containing the deceased First Vermont Republic to the State House where it was placed at the foot of the statue of Ethan Allen.  The funeral received extensive statewide media coverage.

In April 2005 publisher Ian Baldwin, editor Rowan Jacobsen, and webmaster Dr. Rob Williams introduced an exciting print and online forum for exploring the idea of Vermont independence called Vermont Commons.  The print version is a twenty-four-page bi-monthly newspaper distributed to paid subscribers and 200 venues through Vermont.  Contributors to Vermont Commons have included Wendell Berry, Peter Clavelle, Kirkpatrick Sale, Bill McKibben, and James Howard Kunstler.  Utne Magazine named Vermont Commons the “Best New Publication in 2005.”  Rob Williams is now editor and publisher of Vermont Commons.

Thomas H. Naylor and Jim Hogue, who speaks French, participated in the fifteenth national Congress of the Parti Québécois in Quebec City on June 3-5 at the invitation of Vice Premiere Marie Malavoy. The invitation to the PQ Congress represented a form of political recognition of the Second Vermont Republic by a major political party in a neighboring country.

In 2005 SVR supporters participated in Fourth of July parades in Barton, Cabot, and Warren.  The politically radical, funky, grassroots, seat-of-the-pants Warren parade attracts as many as 20,000 people each year to the Mad River Valley.  The parade, whose homemade floats are held together by duct tape and baling twine, has no marching bands, only bands that march.  It combines New England Americana with vintage Vermont culture and the residual effects of 1960s hippie culture.  In the 2006 Warren parade, SVR had its own float.  The Warren parade has become an annual event in which to promote Vermont independence.

To celebrate the signing of the Vermont Constitution in 1777, SVR held a mock town meeting on the Constitution House lawn in Windsor, Vermont on July 9, 2005.  The meeting was led by Ben Matchstick and Rick Foley.  Participants received their own personal Vermont passport.  SVR appeared at this event again in 2006, which was covered by the Los Angeles Times.

On October 28, 2005, SVR held the first statewide convention on secession in the United States since North Carolina voted to secede from the Union on May 20, 1861.  The daylong event took place in the House Chamber of the State House in Montpelier.  Only in Vermont would such a meeting be possible.

Over 300 people heard keynote speaker James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, warn that “the end of the cheap fossil fuel era will lead to the most serious challenge to our collective identity, economy, culture, and security since the Civil War.”  He further warned that “turbulence will be the rule” and that “all bets will be off for politics, economics, and social cohesion.”  Continuing he said, “the Federal government will be impotent and ineffectual – just as they were after Hurricane Katrina.”

He predicted that (1) American life will become intensely and profoundly local, (2) We will have to grow a lot more of our food in the regions where we live, and (3) We are going to have to reconstruct local economies, local networks of interdependency.  He also took note of the fact that Vermont is uniquely situated to meet the challenge of the cheap oil endgame because of its small towns, small businesses, small farms, and strong sense of community.

The objectives of the convention were twofold.  First, to raise the level of awareness of Vermonters of the feasibility of independence as a viable alternative to a nation which has lost its moral authority and is unsustainable.  Second, to provide an example and a process for other states and nations which may be seriously considering separatism, secession, independence, and similar devolutionary strategies.

Other convention speakers included Kirkpatrick Sale, author of Human Scale; Professor Frank Bryan, University of Vermont;  J. Kevin Graffagnino, Executive Director, Vermont Historical Society;  G. Roderick Lawrence, CEO, Stevenson Kellogg (Toronto); (Rev.) Ben T. Matchstick; and General Ethan Allen (aka Jim Hogue).  The meeting began after General Allen arrived at the State House on a black stallion named “Duke.”

Two resolutions were approved by the convention delegates in the concluding session.  One called for Vermont to return to its status as an independent republic as it had between January 15, 1777 and March 4, 1791.  The other called for the Second Vermont Republic to seek membership in the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

The convention attracted extensive statewide and national media attention.  It was covered by Burlington Free Press, Times Argus, Brattleboro Reformer, Seven Days, Vermont Guardian, Associated Press (state/national), Channel 3 News, WDEV, Vermont Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor, American Conservative, Boston Globe, and the Alex Jones Show.  The SVR website received nearly 10,000 unique visits during October.  The meeting was attended by a major gubernatorial candidate and several legislators.

During the spring of 2006 SVR launched a campaign to promote Vermont sovereignty.  The “Vermont Sovereignty Declaration” calls for the State of Vermont to reaffirm (1) its right of sovereignty, (2) its right to nullify acts of the central government deemed to be unconstitutional, (3) its right to secede from the Union, and (4) its right to call a statewide convention of the People to decide whether or not it remains in the Union.

On April 27, 2006, SVR held a legislative briefing on Vermont independence in the State House in Montpelier for legislators.  The meeting was well attended and a lively discussion ensued.

In August 2006 SVR ceased being a membership organization and evolved into a think tank and citizens’ network.

On November 3-5, 2006 the Middlebury Institute hosted the first North American Convention on Secession in Burlington, Vermont.  Delegates from eighteen states attended including representatives from Texas, Alaska, Louisiana, Hawaii, California, New Hampshire, and Tennessee to mention only a few.  Kirkpatrick Sale was the keynote speaker.

In April 2007 the Center for Rural Studies of the University of Vermont released the results of its annual “Vermonter Poll” showing that thirteen percent of the eligible voters in Vermont support secession, up from eight percent a year earlier.  An astonishing 74.3 percent of Vermont voters expressed the view that the U.S. government had lost its moral authority.  A year later that percentage had jumped to 77.1.

On June 3, 2007 the Associated Press released a piece entitled “In Vermont, Nascent Secession Movement Gains Traction.”  The article was picked up worldwide by hundreds of newspapers, websites, radio stations, and TV stations.  As a result SVR founder Thomas H. Naylor was interviewed by Fox News three times within two days including an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor.  The SVR website received over 25,000 unique visits that month.

On October 3-4, 2007, the Second North American Secessionist Convention took place in Chattanooga, TN.  The convention attracted delegates representing secessionist organizations in 36 states.  The convention received worldwide media attention as a result of an AP story which described the meeting as bringing “the far left and the far right of American politics together.”

On November 7, 2008 SVR sponsored the Second Statewide Convention on Vermont Independence in the House Chamber of the State House in Montpelier.  The convention took the form of an all-day forum, circus, and medicine show entitled “The Vermont Village Green: Alternative to Empire.”  It consisted of a potpourri of radical music, art, theater, circus, conversation, politics, and community aimed at fomenting a Genteel Revolution against the American Empire.  Participants included trends forecaster Gerald Celente, New Mexico writer Chellis Glendinning, Alaskan Independence Party leader Lynette Clark, Bread & Puppet Theater, folk musician Pete Sutherland, peak oil writer James Howard Kunstler, Rural Vermont leader Amy Shollenberger, UVM student Tyler Wilkinson-Ray, and Kirby businessman Dennis Steele.  A new grass roots Vermont independence group was launched by Mr. Steele.

The following week the Third North American Secessionist Convention took place in Manchester, New Hampshire on November 14-15.

On May 22, 2009, Kirby businessman Dennis Steele launched Radio Free Vermont, an Internet radio station devoted exclusively to playing music produced by Vermont artists.  Today Radio Free Vermont has listeners in over 130 countries.

The Second Vermont Republic issued 500 SVR Scott Nearing 50 clover silver tokens in October of 2009 for those contributing financially to the Vermont independence movement.  The tokens contained one ounce of .999 fine silver.  The limited supply of tokens was sold out within a few months.

On January 15, 2010, Vermont Independence Day, ten secessionists announced their candidacy for the November 2nd election including candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, seven Senate seats, and one House seat.  Dennis Steele and Peter Garritano, our candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor respectively, each ran third in their statewide races.

Time magazine named SVR one of the “Top 10 Aspiring Nations” in the world in January 2011.  Matt Cropp and Dan Murphy launched the Vermont Independence Alliance, a statewide grass roots political organization in July 2011.

Thomas H. Naylor

August 1, 2011