Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Montpelier Manifesto

Petition of Grievances

We, citizens of this American land, haunted by the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness, and powerlessness, subsumed by political elites who use corporate, state, and military power to manipulate our lives, pawns of a global system of dominance and deceit in which transnational megacompanies and big government control us through money, markets, and media, sapping our political will, civil liberties, collective memory, traditional cultures, sustainability, and independence, and as victims of affluenza, technomania, cybermania, globalism, and imperialism, do issue and proclaim this

Document of Grievances and Abuses

Governance

  1. A government too big, too centralized, too undemocratic, too unjust, too powerful, too intrusive, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and small communities.
  2. One that is too big and corrupt to be fixed or reformed, certainly not by such fantasies as campaign finance reform or corporate-personhood amendments.
  3. One that has lost its moral authority, is corrupt to the core, and is owned, operated and controlled by Wall Street, Corporate America, and their political lackeys.
  4. One run by a single brain-dead national political party on life-support systems, sustained by national and Congressional elections that are sold to the highest bidder, disguised as a genuine two-party system.
  5. One that relies on and fosters the illusion that only the U.S. government can solve all or our problems all of the time, in the face of the fact that it is the U.S. government that is the problem.

Economy

  1. A collapsing economy, with a moribund housing market and a staggering number of mortgage foreclosures, and high unemployment because of jobs lost to China, India, and elsewhere over the past three decades of globalism.
  2. Stagnant real incomes for all but the super-rich, resulting in an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor and an increasing rate of poverty, homelessness, and inadequate insurance.
  3. A $15-plus trillion national debt and unfunded mandate obligations of $43 trillion, a staggering burden only added to by stimulus spending, tax cuts, and “quantitative easing” (printing money), none of which is restoring economic growth but does make us increasingly and dangerously dependent on China, Japan, and other foreign countries buying our treasury bonds.
  4. A central bank which has, by monetizing the growing national debt and providing cheap credit to bail out banks, increased the money supply to the point where the future value of the dollar and the rate of inflation are highly uncertain.
  5. A financial system based on “tricks and traps” rather than customer service and a financial regulatory system which favors predatory and ruthless Wall Street mega-banks at the expense of ordinary citizens.
  6. An economic system absolutely dependent for survival on consumption and affluenza (the illusion that the accumulation of more stuff, provided by big-box stores fostered by government globalization policies, can provide meaning to life), despite the knowledge that unrestrained growth in a world of finite resources is unsustainable and unworthy of pursuit.
  7. Public and private sector labor unions which have been under open attack by the government since the Reagan administration, by hostile anti-union private employers such as Wal-Mart, and more recently by some Republican governors.
  8. Corporate-owned, government-subsidized agriculture with its use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, anti-biotics, genetically-engineered seeds, systematic animal cruelty, and virtual absence of food safety regulations creating a menace to public health, the environment, and small farmers.

Foreign Policy

  1. An immoral, often clandestine and illegal, imperial system based on full-spectrum dominance, military overstretch, might-makes-right, and the proposition that the world wants to be just like us, leading us to provide support to dictators and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere in the world.
  2. A dependence on military might, based on a multi-trillion dollar budget, 1.6 million American troops stationed at over 1,000 bases in 153 countries (including 80,000 in Europe, 36,000 in Japan, and 30,000 in Korea), Special Operations strike forces (Seals, Delta Forces, Rangers, Green Berets) deployed in 120 countries, and a proliferation of pilotless drone aircraft worldwide for reconnaissance and stealth attacks, sometimes killing civilians, including Americans.
  3. Immoral, illegal, undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and (via Israel) Palestine, the threat of war with Iran based on our deliberate acts of provocation, and the endless “war” on terror largely aimed with racial overtones at Muslims.
  4. The hammerlock hold of the Israeli Lobby over American foreign policy that forces us to support an Israeli-inspired war on terror against Muslims and keeps us from any real commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
  5. The Cuban embargo.

Civil Liberties

  1. The highly intrusive, inept, ever-growing, money-guzzling Department of Homeland Security, together with other intelligence agencies, using the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the Detainee Security Provision of the National Defense Administration Act of 2011, and other covers for citizen surveillance and suppression of civil liberties.
  2. The disgraceful (and expensive and useless) Guantanamo Prison, prisoner abuse and torture, and the illegal rendition of terrorist suspects.
  3. A president who can order the assassination of anyone, anywhere, anytime (including U.S. citizens) whose name happens to appear on the White House “kill list.”

Criminal Justice

  1. Six million people under “correctional supervision” (more than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin), including more black men than were in slavery in 1860 and 50,000 men in solitary confinement in “supermax” prisons.
  2. A failed international war on drugs that costs billions, ruins more lives than it saves, has spawned corruption and violence, an entrenched bureaucracy, and which has had no impact on drug use in the United States.

Social Services

  1. The most expensive health care system in the world, driven by fear of death on the demand side and greed on the supply side, that ranks 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization, now tied to Obamacare, which remains fatally attached to a private health care system that is in a death-spiral of rising costs and declining health outcomes.
  2. An education system dominated by the Federal government, committed to a one-size-fits-all corporate model, to the dumbing-down of America, and to a race to the bottom, which is why it ranks 18th in the industrial world, according to the OECD.
  3. A higher education system that is becoming so expensive that only the rich will be able to attend college; all others look forward to debt slavery.
  4. A social-welfare net that, despite being enormously expensive, is woefully inadequate to those it serves and has proven incapable of serious reform.

Infrastructure

  1. A widespread aging and collapsing infrastructure, including highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, dams, levees, and public water systems, now costing America $129 billion a year, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, and will take an expenditure of $206 billion a year for the next 20 years to fix, sums which are simply unavailable.
  2. Transportation crises, including the obsolete and inadequate air-traffic-control systems and railroad passenger train systems, and a Federal highway system now 60 years old falling into disrepair across the country.

Redress of Grievances

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive… it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government… as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,” says the Declaration of Independence. Alteration and abolishment include the right to disband, or subdivide, or withdraw, or create a new government.

Let us therefore consider ways peaceably to withdraw from the American Empire by (1) regaining control of our lives from big government, big business, big cities, big schools, and big computer networks; (2) relearning how to take care of ourselves by decentralizing, downsizing, localizing, demilitarizing, simplifying, and humanizing our lives; and (3) providing democratic and human-scale self-government at those local and regional levels most likely to effect our safety and happiness.

Citizens, lend your name to this manifesto and join in the honorable task of rejecting the immoral, corrupt, decaying, dying, failing American Empire and seeking its rapid and peaceful dissolution before it takes us all down with it.

  • Thomas H. Naylor
  • Kirkpatrick Sale
  • James Starkey
  • Chellis Glendinning
  • Carolyn Chute
  • Charles Keil

To be presented at the Third Statewide Convention on Vermont Self-Determination on September 14, 2012 to be held in the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

Thomas H. Naylor is Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University.

Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of Human Scale and eleven other books and is Director of the Middlebury Institute.

James Starkey is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Rhode Island.

Chellis Glendinning is the author of five books including When Technology Wounds, an advisor to SVR, and lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Carolyn Chute is an award-winning Maine novelist, political activist, and author of the best-seller The Beans of Egypt, Maine.

Charles Keil is Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and the author of Urban Blues.

Only in Vermont

The Third Statewide Convention on
Vermont Self-Determination

September 14, 2012

Vermont State House
Montpelier, Vermont

Only in Vermont would it be possible to hold a statewide convention on political independence in the House Chamber of the State House, where the Governor, the Lt. Governor, Council of State, Congressional Delegation, and the vast majority of the members of the State Legislature are all unconditional apologists for the American Empire and vehemently opposed to Vermont separatism. Yet that is precisely what is about to happen in Montpelier, Vermont on September 14th. Not only that, it is the third such convention, the other two having been held in 2005 and 2008. There is no charge for the use of the most prestigious venue in the entire Green Mountain State, because it happens to be the People’s House.

The 2012 convention will take the form of a “Vermont Independence Party” which begins at 9:00 a.m. and concludes at 4:00 p.m.

Keynote speakers will be Morris Berman, author of the provocative book about the demise of the American Empire entitled Why America Failed, and Lierre Keith, co-author of the equally radical Deep Green Resistance, which unabashedly calls for the end of civilization in its present destructive form. The convention will also include a series of Pecha Kucha presentations on finance, fuel, and food by cutting edge Vermonters.

There will be performances by Bread and Puppet Theater and Vermont musicians.

The convention is sponsored by the Vermont Commons Co-op and the Second Vermont Republic. It will be co-chaired by Vermont Commons publisher and editor Rob Williams and Vermont Commons website editor Juliet Buck.

At the end of the meeting convention delegates will be invited to consider endorsing The Montpelier Manifesto calling for the rejection of the immoral, corrupt, decaying, dying, failing American Empire as well as its rapid and peaceful dissolution. Not unlike the 1963 Port Huron Statement issued by the Students for a Democratic Society, The Montpelier Manifesto is aimed at all citizens of the United States, not just those living in Vermont.

Please help us extricate tiny Vermont from the American Empire so it can join the community of small, self-determined, democratic, nonviolent, affluent, socially responsible, cooperative, egalitarian, sustainable, ecofriendly nations such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland. Become a part of the most politically sophisticated self-determination movement in North America.

Join us in Montpelier, the only state capital in the United States without a McDonald’s (population 9,500). Free and open to all members of the public.

For additional information contact Rob Williams at editor@vtcommons.org or 802-279-3364 or Thomas H. Naylor at 802-425-4133.

Tom Morello – Rolling Stone

By Tom Morello

August 16, 2012 6:44 PM ET

Last week, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, the Republican architect of Congress’s radical right-wing budget plan, as his running mate. Ryan has previously cited Rage Against the Machine as one of his favorite bands. Rage guitarist Tom Morello responds in this exclusive op-ed.

Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn’t understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.

Ryan claims that he likes Rage’s sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don’t care for Paul Ryan’s sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.

I wonder what Ryan’s favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of “Fuck the Police”? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!

Don’t mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta “rage” in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he’s not raging against is the privileged elite he’s groveling in front of for campaign contributions.

You see, the super rich must rationalize having more than they could ever spend while millions of children in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night. So, when they look themselves in the mirror, they convince themselves that “Those people are undeserving. They’re . . . lesser.” Some of these guys on the extreme right are more cynical than Paul Ryan, but he seems to really believe in this stuff. This unbridled rage against those who have the least is a cornerstone of the Romney-Ryan ticket.

But Rage’s music affects people in different ways. Some tune out what the band stands for and concentrate on the moshing and throwing elbows in the pit. For others, Rage has changed their minds and their lives. Many activists around the world, including organizers of the global occupy movement, were radicalized by Rage Against the Machine and work tirelessly for a more humane and just planet. Perhaps Paul Ryan was moshing when he should have been listening.

My hope is that maybe Paul Ryan is a mole. Maybe Rage did plant some sensible ideas in this extreme fringe right wing nut job. Maybe if elected, he’ll pardon Leonard Peltier. Maybe he’ll throw U.S. military support behind the Zapatistas. Maybe he’ll fill Guantanamo Bay with the corporate criminals that are funding his campaign – and then torture them with Rage music 24/7. That’s one possibility. But I’m not betting on it.

Editorial that appeared in Rolling Stone on August 16 written by Tom Morello

Vermont Independence Party Schedule

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vermont Statehouse – House Chamber

9:00     Welcome – Juliet Buck and Rob Williams

9:15 KEYNOTE: Morris Berman – Why the US Failed

10:00   Arts Interlude – Ethan Allen, remarks

10:15 Pecha Kucha #1 – Financing Vermont Independence

(Gwen Halsmith, Amy Kirschner, Gary Flomenhoft, Matt Cropp)

11:00   Arts Interlude (Ralph Meima – “Interstates”)

11:15 Pecha Kucha #2 – Fueling Vermont Independence

(Jessica Edgerly, Gaelan Brown, Ben Luce. Ben Graham)

12:00   Lunch break – visit our local eateries in town.

1:30 KEYNOTE: Lierre Keith – Resisting the Empire

2:15   Arts Interlude (Dylan Kelley – Occupy photos)

2:30 Pecha Kucha #3 – Feeding Vermont Independence

(Ben Falk, Jessica Bernier, Kevin Lehman)

3:15 Pecha Kucha #4 – Standing for Vermont Independence

(Pete Garritano, Rob Wagner, Steven Howard)

3:45 The Montpelier Manifesto: Thomas H. Naylor and Charles Keil

4:15 “Free Vermont” Guy Fawkes photo-statehouse steps

5:00   Fall Vermont Commons COOP meeting

“Three Penny Taproom” – downtown Montpelier.

The Principality of Liechtenstein: A Model of Self-Determination for a World Filled with Chaos

Why should a tiny alpine nation nestled between the Swiss and Austrian Alps with a population of only 35,000 spread over 62 square miles, no airport, one hospital, 155 miles of paved roadway, and only irregular local train service be taken seriously by anyone?  Because it has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity (over $140,000 per capita), the world’s lowest external debt, and the second lowest unemployment rate in the world (recently as low as 1.5 percent).  But the Principality of Liechtenstein happens to be just such a place.

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy organized as a unitary parliamentary democracy with an enlightened Reigning Prince by the name of Hans-Adam II.  Since the constitutional reform of 2003 was implemented by the Prince, the citizens of Liechtenstein actually have the right to abolish the monarchy altogether.  Hans-Adam has a quite unique philosophy of government for a reigning monarch.  In his view citizens should not be seen as servants of the state, but rather as customers of a benevolent service company, otherwise known as the state, whose aim is to serve its customers.  If the customers don’t like the service, they can replace the service company, namely, the monarchy.  “Ask not what a citizen can do for the state, but rather what the state can do better for the citizen than any other organization,” says the Prince.

Under the leadership of Hans-Adam Liechtenstein acceded to the United Nations in 1990 and the European Economic Area in 1995.  It is neither a member of the European Union nor NATO.

Even though Liechtenstein remained neutral during both world wars, it was practically an economic basket case after World War II.  Much of the credit for turning it around economically lies with the Prince.  Liechtenstein is best known for its financial sector which is a tax haven and home to 73,700 corporations worldwide.  It has 16 banks.  However, its high-quality, high-tech industrial sector which manufactures a variety of products including machine tools and precision instruments accounts for 36 percent of GDP.

The Prince of Liechtenstein is not paid for his duties as head of state by either the state or the taxpayers.  Unlike most other monarchies, the total cost of the Liechtenstein monarchy is covered by either the Prince’s or the so-called Princely House’s private funds.  The country’s LGT Bank, for example, is owned by the royal family. The Prince’s personal fortune is thought to be in excess of $5 billion.

Not unlike Switzerland, Liechtenstein bankers have not escaped criticism from Wall Street and European bankers, the EU, and the U.S. Congress for the use of secret bank accounts which can be used to evade foreign taxes, dodge creditors, and defy court orders.  In February 2008 the LGT Bank was implicated in a tax-fraud scandal in Germany which strained the monarchy’s relationship with the German government.  International bankers don‘t like the fact that Swiss and Liechtenstein bankers don’t always play by their rules.

In an attempt to clean up its image abroad Liechtenstein has signed a number of treaties related to money laundering and fraud with the United States and the European Union including the Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the U.S. and the Anti-Fraud Agreement with the EU.  On June 27, 2012 Liechtenstein and the U.S. signed an Agreement on Exchange Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Serious Crime.

Prince Hans-Adam has always maintained a strong interest in the right to self-determination, so much so that in 2000 he founded the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University.  The Institute supports teaching, research, and publication about issues related to and emerging from self-determination, especially pertaining to the state, self-governance, sovereignty, security, and boundaries with particular consideration of socio-cultural, ethnic, and religious issues involving state and non-state actors.

On August 15, 2004 Prince Hans-Adam II appointed his elder son, Hereditary Prince Alois, his permanent deputy, in preparation for his succession to the throne.  He now devotes more of his time to managing the assets of the Princely House, writing, and participating in international projects.

In 2009 Prince Hans-Adam II published an extremely interesting book entitled The State in the Third Millennium spelling out his unique and personal vision of the state at the beginning of the twenty-first century as well as strategies by which it might be achieved.  His perspective as the reigning head of state of a monarchy which is also an oligarchy and a democracy, a direct democracy, is truly remarkable.

Although I do not agree with all of the Prince’s ideas, and indeed strongly disagree with some of them, I find most of them to be quite insightful.  Unlike myself, Hans-Adam is very libertarian, very free-market oriented, and very Roman Catholic, but he is very smart.

His understanding of geopolitics and global economics is highly sophisticated, not to mention his psychological sophistication as well.  He seems to know exactly who he is and what it means to be the reigning monarch of a tiny European country.  His lack of hubris is indeed refreshing.

As a card-carrying libertarian, there are no big surprises in the Prince’s portfolio of economic policy prescriptions for his third millennium state.  Essentially what he has in mind is a libertarian state, if that is not an oxymoron.  He calls for the privatization of social welfare, the elimination of government subsidies, an educational voucher system, a value added tax, little or no national debt, private ownership of mineral rights, and a sophisticated precious metal based currency.

Since the constitutional reform of 2003, the Principality’s eleven municipalities have all had the right of self-determination. The Prince correctly points out that the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union also theoretically possessed that right, even though it was never exercised.

Hans-Adam’s book concludes with a draft constitution for a prototype third millennium state whether it be a monarchy (kingdom X) or a republic (republic Y).  Although I have never been a great fan of monarchies, the thought has passed through my mind, “Is the difference between a republic and a monarchy as great as we try to make it appear to be?”  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The opening of the Liechtenstein Embassy in Washington, D.C. in 2002 is but one example of how Hans-Adam has attempted to foster closer ties with the United Sates.  The Embassy website contains numerous photographs of Washington dignitaries such as the Obamas and Hillary Clinton appearing at the Embassy.  In a 2010 interview Hans-Adam is reported to have said, “The Americans saved us during World War II and during the Cold War?”  But does that, therefore, mean that Liechtenstein owes its soul to them?  Apparently so.

But in a surprising turn of events for a country which disbanded its military in 1868 for financial reasons and is ruled by a live-and-let-live libertarian committed to the right of self-determination, Hans-Adam embraces the notion of the United States serving as the world’s global policeman.  That is, if a particular country such as Iraq, Libya, North Korea, or Syria has an authoritarian regime which is not playing by the rules set forth by the United Sates, the U.S. would have the right to intervene in that country forcing it to agree to the establishment of a functioning democratic state.  Although the Prince gives high marks to the U.S. for its 2003 invasion of Iraq, he would have the U.S. partner with the EU to rebuild a rogue state brought down by the Empire by establishing a functioning democratic constitutional state to replace the original one.

But isn’t this tantamount to getting in bed with the American Empire and supporting its imperialist foreign policy which is based on the concepts of full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, and might makes right.  Would the Prince also endorse attacks by drones, Navy Seals, and Delta Force Death Squads aimed at those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the White House kill list?  All of this from an enlightened, well-educated monarch who is a staunch defender of the right of self-determination.  How can this be?

Of what is the Prince so afraid?  Who would ever invade Liechtenstein?  If so, what would they do with it?

Prince Hans-Adam II is uniquely qualified and extremely well positioned to be the foremost advocate for self-determination worldwide.  Indeed the small nations of the world such as Bhutan, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Senegal, Sweden, and Switzerland and the aspiring nations of the world such as the Basque Country, Kurdistan, Quebec, Scotland, South Ossetia, Tibet, Vermont, and Western Sahara desperately need his support to enable them to stand up to meganations such as the United States, China, Russia, India, Japan, and Brazil.

With admiration and respect, I urge him to reconsider his position.  The future of the planet is at stake.

Thomas H. Naylor

August 13, 2012

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.

Gotham: Metaphor Versus Reality

The storyline of The Dark Knight Rises may be more

relevant than it appears at first glance. Let’s just

say current events metaphors abound throughout

this flick. All superhero themes of good versus

evil aside, the central conflict pits Bane, who seeks

to bring an end to a culture of decadence and

corruption, against Batman and the Gotham Police

Department, whose response is quite simply, “Not

so fast, we’ll keep things just the way they are,

thank you.” One wonders what message Christopher

Nolan is promoting. What message is he concurrently

obscuring from his public? Although the Aurora

shootings of July 20, 2012 were truly tragic, I can’t

help but question the assailant’s motives. What would

drive a person to buy a Smith and Wesson M&P15

assault rifle, 12-guage shotgun, two glock handguns,

and 6,000 rounds of ammo? My guess is that the

selection of The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t the luck of

the draw. This guy may have been the most pissed

off and armed moviegoer to have deeply considered

the inner workings of the Dark Knight’s hometown,

our very own Gotham.

xandernaylor.com

Small Is Beautiful, and It Works

Picture it: a self-governing community of little more than 35,000 people, living amongst “dramatic natural scenery”. For over the past two centuries, the people of this same community have been renowned for their independent spirit and love of freedom. Though originally little more than an agrarian community, today they have a modern economy oriented toward tourism and sport. There is a great “pedestrian main drag” where one can find such diversity as “modern art, hotels and slick office parks.” It is often remarked that even though it is a tiny place when compared to the rest of the world, “the views are big, and hiking (and skiing) possibilities go on and on.”

Sound familiar? A self-governing community of over 35,000 people of independent spirit settled amongst a fulfilling natural landscape. It would not be at all surprising if such a description conjures up visions of our own Queen City, but this would be only partially correct. Such descriptions, though also synonymous with Burlington, VT, actually come from a PBS documentary, “Rick Steve’s Europe”, about the small Western European country of Liechtenstein.

The Principality of Liechtenstein is doubly landlocked between Austria and Switzerland. The historical tract of this often overlooked yet remarkable little nation is in many ways comparable to that of our own Green Mountain community, except that they are reversed. “Ruled” today by a hereditary constitutional monarch, the Principality of Liechtenstein was bought by the reigning prince’s medieval ancestors and in the 18th century became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. However, around the turn of the 19th century when the sovereignty of the Vermont Republic had degenerated into just another member state of another infamous empire, Liechtenstein received independence from an outdated and collapsing political system. By the end of the First World War, Liechtenstein became a fully independent nation, equal in its sovereignty to any of its European neighbors.

And so begs the question: How can this tiny principality of no mean size, a people smaller in number than those inhabiting Burlington and populating an area the size of our country’s capital, last and indeed thrive in this world dominated by “meganations”? Why do so few in this time of megalomania, swept up by the “bigger is better” mentality, never question this postage stamp country while continuing their adversity to the mere concept of a Free Vermont? This is the same Vermont which has almost eighteen times the population and one hundred and fifty-five times the area of this successful little country.

Liechtenstein, though amazingly tiny with only eleven actual villages, has one of the highest standards of living and per capita GDPs in the entire world, not to mention one of the lowest unemployment rates. Not only are the people of Liechtenstein able to draw much revenue from tourism while having few natural resources of which to speak, their country remains highly attractive to businesses from all over the world. This is greatly due to their low tax laws and diplomatic independence on the world stage.

And yet, Liechtenstein has been able to do all of this with no seaport, no airport, and, you guessed it, not even a standing army. Through the strength of this small country’s ideals, they have taken a historically insignificant piece of alpine territory and turned it into the poster child for life and governance on a human scale. “Small” is not only “beautiful”, but it works too.

It appears that in many ways Vermont has forgotten its similar love, and indeed its aptitude, for such independence as espoused by this amazing country. Since tasting its complete independence, Liechtenstein has become ever more mindful of the value of which neutrality in international affairs can inherently bring. It found, therefore, a freedom that many in Vermont can now only imagine in a passing daydream. This freedom has been obtained by abstaining, like close financial partner Switzerland, from such supranational organizations of bureaucratic tyranny as the European Union. Unlike the United States, Liechtenstein is free from foreign entanglements and alliances. They have instead continued to have faith in themselves through implementing devolution and direct-democracy; ideals of power sharing that Vermont also once held dear. If 35,000 Liechtensteiners have responsibly provided for the welfare of their communities and neighbors, then why could more than 626,000 similarly spirited Vermonters not do the same?

Perhaps key to Liechtenstein’s success, for all it is worth, is something which Vermont currently lacks in both name and spirit: a living embodiment of unity, a prince. This is not to say Vermont need throw out its traditional interpretation of the egalitarian principle, but it does mean that Vermont may have even more to learn from the point at which the energy of this principality’s society is focused: the prince himself.

Prince Hans-Adam II, as the current head of his royal house and nation, is a passionate believer in the ideas of simpler and accountable government. But what he quite possibly sees as even more vital to a free and prosperous society is the ideal of self-determination. His utter faith in such a principle, especially at the local level, is concisely argued in his own political treatise, The State in the Third Millennium. What is truly remarkable is the evidence proving how this monarch is no passive believer and actively advocates his ideas as a way to resolve some of the world’s most pressing issues. In alliance with Princeton University in the year 2000, Hans-Adam set himself up as patron to the “Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination”. In conjunction with experts and leaders from all realms within the private and public spheres, the LISD forms panels, teaches courses, and holds conferences. All discuss self-determinative solutions for conflicts ranging from the former Soviet sphere to the Middle East. Because of his work, Prince Hans-Adam’s Liechtenstein is now a disproportionately bright beacon of freedom, independence, and self-determination. In short, he has taken so-called “radical” ideas, accused of appealing only to the most extreme political theorists, and legitimized their discussion and practice among the world’s most powerful elites. Prince Hans-Adam reigns over a small domain and yet has used his nation as a ladder with which to influence the highest pillars of power. This is by no means a small feat.

So, does Vermont need a modern-day prince to offer similar independence and influence in the wider world? Or do we already have the makings of something equally, if not more powerful? Because of its founder, Thomas H. Naylor, at least SVR exists as one organization proposing such a vision. Perhaps through more discussion between this former Professor and communities of our own small corner of the globe, Vermont could lead by example in pursuit of its own values of freedom, unity, and independence. Then, just as with Liechtenstein, Vermont might engage foreign nations through free association and open partnership, establishing institutes promoting its own values and peaceful conflict resolution. Vermont may not have a prince as a standard bearer for such goals, but we have our own rich history, our own semi-mythical figures of Ethan Allen and the like, and so too may create a vehicle with which to pursue change. Who amongst our wealth of people is ready to lead us on to such a future? Who else is waiting to be inspired with enough courage and hope to do so?

If we only dared to imagine…a Free Vermont.

Ethan Bishop

August 6, 2012

Undergraduate of St. Lawrence University ’13; pursuing B.A. in History, B.A. in Government, and Certification Minor in Education.

*ejbvermont@gmail.com

Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain's History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?

As published in Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, July 6-8, 2012

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Since what is now going is being described as “the greatest financial scandal in the history of Britain”  — the Barclays imbroglio – I have a question to ask. Where are those tents outside St Pauls? Or ones in solidarity this side of the Atlantic? Where are the vibrant reminders that – as has happened in the Barclays case – there is most definitely one law for the 1% (none, in fact) and another for the 99 %?

It was very hard not to be swept away by the Occupy movement which established itself in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September and soon spread to Oakland, Chicago, London and Madrid. And indeed most people didn’t resist its allure.? ?Leninists threw aside their Marxist primers on party organisation and drained the full anarchist cocktail.

The Occupiers , with their “people’s mic”,  were always a little hard to understand. And as with all movements involving consensus, everything took a very long time.? ?Was there perhaps a leader, a small leadership group, sequestered somewhere among the tents and clutter? It was impossible to say and at that point somewhat disloyal to pose the question. Cynicism about Occupy was not a popular commodity.? ?But new movements always need a measure of cynicism dumped on them. Questions of organization were obliterated by the strength of the basic message – we are 99 per cent, they are one per cent. It was probably the most successful slogan since ‘peace, land, bread’.

The Occupy Wall Street assembly in Zuccotti Park soon developed its own cultural mores, drumming included. Like many onlookers, I asked myself, Where the hell’s the plan?

But I held my tongue. I had no particular better idea and for a CounterPuncher of mature years to start laying down the program seemed cocky. But, deep down, I felt that Occupy, with all its fancy talk, all its endless speechifying, was riding for a fall.

Before the fall came there were heroic actions, people battered senseless by the police. These were brave people trying to hold their ground.

There were other features that I think quite a large number of people found annoying: the cult of the internet, the tweeting and so forth, and I definitely didn’t like the enormous arrogance which prompted the Occupiers to claim that they were indeed the most important radical surge in living memory.

Where was the knowledge of, let along the respect for the past?  We had the non-violent resistors of the Forties organising against the war with enormous courage. The Fifties saw leftists took McCarthyism full on the chin. With the Sixties we were making efforts at revolutionary organisation and resistance.? ?Yet when one raised this history with someone from Occupy, I encountered total indifference.

There also seemed to be a serious level of political naivety about the shape of the society they were seeking to change. They definitely thought that it could be reshaped – the notion that the whole system was unfixable did not get much of a hearing.? ?After a while it seemed as though, in Tom Naylor’s question in this site: “Is it possible that the real purpose of Occupy Wall Street has little to do with either the 99 per cent or the one per cent, but rather everything to do with keeping the political left in America decentralised, widely dispersed, very busy, and completely impotent to deal with the collapse of the American empire…

“Occupiers are all occupied doing exactly what their handlers would have them be doing, namely, being fully occupied. In summary, Occupy Wall Street represents a huge distraction.”

Then the rains of winter came. Zuccotti Park came under repeated assault, the tents were cleared from Zucotti Park and from St Paul’s Cathedral and by early this year it was all over.

People have written complicated pieces trying to prove it’s not over, but if ever I saw a dead movement, it is surely Occupy.

Has it left anything worth remembering? Yes, maybe.  With Bob Diamond squirming before British MPs, and politicians jostling to apportion blame for the Barclays scandal, memories of the 99 per cent and the one per cent are surely at least warm in the coffin.

Everything leftists predicted came true, just as everything hard-eyed analysts predicted about the likely but unwelcome course of ecstatic populism in Tahrir Square also came true. ·I do think it’s incumbent on those veteran radicals who wrote hundreds of articles more or proclaiming a religious conversion to Occupyism,  to give a proper account of themselves, otherwise it will  happen all over again.

Alexander Cockburn died on July 21, 2012.

Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Liberty Forever

The new American flag forever postage stamp series recently released by the U.S. Postal Service represents a degree of hypocrisy heretofore unimaginable.  Below the American flag on each stamp is one of the following four words – freedom, equality, justice, or liberty – followed by the word “forever.”  For example, “freedom forever.”  The not so subtle message of American exceptionalism is that the United States is a country in which freedom, equality, justice, and liberty will surely live forever.  The sheer arrogance underlying this postage stamp series is almost beyond belief.

Freedom. “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,” sang Kris Kristofferson back in 1969, “And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free.”  The land of the free and the home of the brave is no longer what it was once cracked up to be.  With every passing day our once highly touted freedom becomes more illusory and less of a reality.

Since 9/11 our government has created a plethora of new laws and institutions severely restricting our freedom and civil liberties while pretending to protect us from Islamic terrorists.  At the top of the list is the highly intrusive, inept, ever-growing, money-guzzling Department of Homeland Security which together with other intelligence agencies uses the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the Detainee Security Provision of the National Defense Administration Act of 2011, and other covers for citizen surveillance and suppression of civil liberties.  Among the instruments of surveillance currently being used by government authorities are the Internet, cell phones, concealed cameras, drones, and even old fashion moles to infiltrate suspicious groups.

Equality. If nothing else, Occupy Wall Street has brought the issue of extreme disparities in the levels of income and wealth in the United States to the forefront of national political consciousness.  By focusing on the degree of control which the 1 percent have over the 99 percent, OWS has exposed the myth of equality in the United States.  In his book Why America Failed, Morris Berman argues that it was not by chance alone that the United States has become one of the least egalitarian nations in the world.  The U.S., according to Berman, has always been about “hustling, materialism, and the pursuit of personal gain without regard for its effects on others.”  If you are poor, you deserve to be poor because you didn’t hustle enough.

Justice. There are six million people under “correctional supervision” in the United States (more than were in Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago), including more black men than were in slavery in 1860, 50,000 men in solitary confinement in “supermax” prisons, and 3170 on death row, 704 of which are in California, 407 in Florida, and 308 in Texas.

In addition our government has embraced the illegal rendition of terrorist suspects, prisoner abuse and torture, and the obscene Guantanamo Prison.

Our immoral, often clandestine and illegal, foreign policy is based on the principles of full-spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, and might-makes-right.  The White House and the Congress remain unconditionally committed to the technofascist terrorist state of Israel and its policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing aimed at the Palestinians.

Perhaps the most egregious form of injustice practiced by the U.S. Government is epitomized by President Barack Obama’s kill list.  Obama has decided that he has the authority to order the assassination of anyone, anywhere, anytime, with no questions asked, no trial, no due process – just pure law of the jungle.  The frontier spirit of the Old West is alive and well.

Liberty. “Give me liberty or give me death,” proclaimed Patrick Henry in 1775.  Unfortunately, liberty, as we once knew it in this country, is dead in the water.

Today a group of political elites use corporate, state, and military power to manipulate and control most of the population.  What has evolved is a global system of dominance and deceit in which ostensibly free individuals allow Wall Street, transnational megacompanies, big government, and the Israeli Lobby to control their lives through money, markets, media, and technology resulting in the loss of political will, civil liberties, collective memory, and traditional culture.  It resembles a giant international Ponzi scheme whose victims suffer from the effects of affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, robotism, globalism, and imperialism.  It’s all about a government which is too big, too centralized, too undemocratic, too unjust, too powerful, too intrusive, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and small communities.  But liberty it is not!

When I first saw the new forever postage stamps I thought surely the struggling postal system had to be kidding.  Maybe the USPS had lost its marbles?  But maybe not.  The USPS desperately needs a bailout from a dysfunctional Congress which can agree on little other than American exceptionalism.  For the narcissistic patriots who make up the membership of Congress, freedom, equality, justice, and liberty are code for American exceptionalism.  My bet is that the Postal Service will get its bailout.

Thomas H. Naylor

August 4, 2012

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.

Empire and the Denial of Death

I was so taken by James Howard Kunstler’s book The Long Emergency back in 2005 that I immediately invited him to be the keynote speaker for the Vermont Independence Convention that year in the Vermont State House in Montpelier.  After reading his compelling novel, World Made By Hand, about life in a post oil world, I invited him to speak at our 2008 convention as well.  In both appearances he made it clear that while he thought the Empire was in deep trouble, a secessionist he was not.

More recently I have been reading his blogpost bearing the quaint title Clusterfuck Nation, which is one of the most vitriolic attacks on America and Americans I have ever read.  Kunstler really does not like Americans.

With that thought in mind I wrote to him in April and asked him if he still believed that the U.S. government was fixable, and if so, how that might happen?  He essentially ducked the question and recommended that I read his forthcoming book Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and The Fate of the Nation.  Having incorrectly surmised that I might find the answer to my question there, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Kunstler’s new book.  I was sadly disappointed.

Too Much Magic is little more than a rehash of the arguments made so effectively by Kunstler in The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere along with several disjointed chapters on such disparate topics as transhumanism, political parties, Wall Street corruption and climate change.  There is absolutely nothing new here.

One of the most disturbing sections of Kunstler’s book is his description of a visit to Disney World in Orlando a few years ago.  His takeaway from the death defying rides, “haunted houses, animatronic corpses, holographic ghosts, screaming mummies, ghouls, skeletons, coffins, and graveyards” was that Americans are obsessed with a yearning for death.  “Shrieking death is a payoff dispensed to Disney World guests as regularly as the reward pellets doled out to rats in experimental psych labs, so one begins to get the feeling that all those overfed Americans waddling so innocently about in their JC Penney casuals do share an intense subliminal yearning for death.”

Lest there be any doubt about Kunstler’s views on Americans, “Everything we do these days, our lust for ever more comfort, pleasure, and distraction, our refusal to engage with the mandates of reality, our fidelity to cults of technology and limitless growth, our narcissistic national exceptionalism – all of this propels us toward the realm where souls abandon all hope.”  It’s all about morbidity says Kunstler.

But anyone who has ever read cultural anthropologist Ernest Beckers’s The Denial of Death (1973) or Escape from Evil (1975) knows that Kunstler has it dead wrong.  The mortality signs prominently displayed at Disney World are not evidence of a yearning for death but rather the denial or fear of death.  He’s off by 180 degrees.

Unfortunately, Disney World is the defining metaphor for the entire book.  The demise of suburbia, the decline of cities, transhumanism, political gridlock, the Wall Street scandals, peak oil, and climate change are all examples of the effects of the denial of death – of our inability to confront our fear of nothingness.

Kunstler, above all, should have known better, since he lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, home of Skidmore College, where experimental psychologist Sheldon Solomon regularly publishes the results of his pioneering research on the behavioral effects of the denial and fear of death.  It’s hard to imagine Kunstler being unaware of this research.

However, I have a much more serious problem with Too Much Magic.  Although this book is essentially a book about the consequences of an empire gone amok, an empire which Kunstler truly despises, the author devotes little or no attention to the Empire itself, its foreign policy, or the fact that the Pentagon is arguably the largest consumer of oil in the world.  How is it possible to write about peak oil and never mention our nation’s 1,000 military bases in 153 countries, the risk of war with Iran, U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, and the competition between China and the United States for natural resources worldwide?  It’s almost as though Kunstler has written 245 pages about the American Empire but never acknowledged that it is indeed an empire.

The most bizarre chapter in the entire book is about American computer scientist, inventor, businessman, and futurist Ray Kurzweil whom Kunstler describes as a techno narcissist.  Kurzweil is one of a new breed of scientists and pseudoscientists who believe that advances in genetics, medicine, robotics, information technology, and nano technology will allow us to improve our bodies, and even become immortal.  This new field of medicine is known as transhumanism.  What transhumanism has to do with anything is not made clear by Kunstler.

Twice Kunstler tells us that he is a registered Democrat, as though he were actually proud of that fact.  He comes dangerously close to being an apologist for Obama about whom he says, “He came along at a very difficult time in our national history.”  Continuing he adds, “I worry about what may happen to the social fabric after Obama, if the voters reject him.”  Kunstler does not comment on drones, Navy Seals, Delta Force death squads, or Obama’s kill list.  If Kunstler is to be believed, does Obama too suffer from a yearning for death?

Happily, Too Much Magic does not end with a happy chapter promising eternal bliss, if we follow the author’s policy prescriptions.  The book essentially has no ending,  it just sort of winds down.  The bottom line seems to be that Americans will gradually adapt to shortages of oil and climate change and by simply muddling through will eventually be better off than they are today.  Kunstler envisages a kind of post oil nirvana in which we will all be “working together with people we know, spending time with friends and loved ones, sharing food with people we love, and enacting the other ceremonies of daily and seasonal life in story and song.”  It sounds almost like magic to me.

Thomas H. Naylor

August 4, 2012

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.