Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Now What?

In yet another of the series of strange developments at Second Vermont Republic and its websites, the Press Release issued by SVR yesterday morning regarding the departure of Rob Williams as co-chair of SVR has now been deleted from the SVR website.   Since the link to the Press Release in the previous post now shows "Page Not Found," here's the complete text as it originally appeared in yesterday's SVR post:
PRESS RELEASE: Rob Williams Leaves
Second Vermont Republic (SVR) Think Tank

Monday, March 5, 2007

Rob Williams Leaves Second Vermont Republic (SVR) Think Tank
SVR Co-Founder Thomas Naylor to Continue as SVR Chair and Chief Spokesperson

Rob Williams publicly announced today that he has stepped down as co-chair of the Second Vermont Republic (SVR) think tank to focus exclusively on nurturing Vermont Commons multimedia quarterly newspaper.

"I communicated my intention to leave SVR by private letter to Thomas Naylor on Saturday, February 24, before leaving for one week of travel and family time," Williams stated. "Last fall of 2006 when SVR lost its executive director, the organization was at a crossroads and had a number of unfinished initiatives that needed attending to," Williams explained. "During the past 7 months, I volunteered my time to help re-organize SVR as a think tank and voluntary association, redesign the SVR web site, develop an online SVR store, and assemble an SVR speaker’s bureau, as well as working to gain more visibility for the idea of an independent Vermont republic. Now that our list of unfinished projects is complete," concluded Williams, "I am returning to my exclusive role within the Vermont independence community as editor for Vermont Commons newspaper."

SVR Co-Founder Thomas Naylor will continue to serve as SVR Chair and chief spokesperson, as well as managing the affairs of the Second Vermont Republic think tank, which maintains, through SVR sister organization the Middlebury Institute, a global dialogue about peaceable secession with more than thirty other secession-minded organizations around the world.Williams will continue to serve as editor of the quarterly multimedia Vermont Commons newspaper, a journal for the independent Vermonter devoted to exploring issues of sustainability, sovereignty, and independence, broadly defined.

Free Vermont!
Disappearing press releases?   Disappearing articles from Vermont Commons?   Disappearing polls?   Disappearing members and supporters?   I guess that we'll all need to "stay tuned," as they like to tell Vermonters at SVR, to find out what's next.

Developing... ?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Rob Williams Out At SVR

After having heard numerous reports of divisions and dissatisfaction among early Second Vermont Republic members, founders and organizers over the past ten days, I can confirm that Rob Williams has quit his leadership role at SVR.
"I communicated my intention to leave SVR by private letter to Thomas Naylor on Saturday, February 24, before leaving for one week of travel and family time...   During the past 7 months, I volunteered my time to help re-organize SVR as a think tank and voluntary association, redesign the SVR web site, develop an online SVR store, and assemble an SVR speaker’s bureau, as well as working to gain more visibility for the idea of an independent Vermont republic.   Now that our list of unfinished projects is complete, I am returning to my exclusive role within the Vermont independence community as editor for Vermont Commons newspaper." [1]
If you gloss through the bureaucratise about "volunteering" and "accomplished goals," you get the message loud and clear.   Naylor's in charge and listening to no one, not even the last faithful followers like Williams.   No doubt that this will not be the last of the changes to come at SVR and VTCommons.   Rumors abound, such as a possible name change for the publication.


UPDATE:   I've been combing through VTCommons for changes since Williams' departure from a leadership role at SVR, and I can now report that Bill McKibben's articles from past issues of VTCommons are now missing.   Withdrawn?   Expunged?   Disappeared?   No one's talking...   yet. [2]
[Walking the WALC: Street Heat For A Clean Energy Future (Issue 16) [3] Walk the Walk (Issue 15) [4] Can Vermont Feed Itself? (Issue 6) [5] Wal-Mart - What's A Bargain Worth? (Issue 1) [6]]

Missing now, as well, is McKibben's piece, Green Mountain Gourmet - Eating Locally All Winter Long, from the current Winter issue of VTCommons. [7] [8]   Will Williams be offering an explanation to readers?   I guess that we'll just need to "stay tuned," as they're fond of advising us at SVR and VTCommons.  

In the meantime, those interested in the lastest, breaking developments on Vermont's semi-organized secessionistas need only check back here or at fivebeforechaos for what's not likely to be disclosed at SVR or VTCommons.

Alex's (from Rip and Read ) recent comment at fivebeforechaos on Naylor's historical revisionism vis à vis the Vermont Republic and Ethan Allen, is a topic I've been hearing about more and more, and it will be receiving further examination here in future posts.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Second Vermont Republic Hid Polling Specs Data

For those of you who are still interested in learning anything more about the nature of the Second Vermont Republic leadership and some of their followers, I give you the 2006 Vermonter Poll questions along with the answers available to respondents:
Vermont Citizens’ Opinions Regarding Secession

Center for Rural Studies
May 2006


The data used in this report were collected by the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont as part of the annual “Vermonter Poll.”

The survey was conducted between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. beginning on February 13, 2006 and ending on March 2, 2006. The telephone polling was conducted from the University of Vermont using computer-aided telephone interviewing (CATI).

The sample for the poll was drawn through random digit dialing and used all of the telephone exchanges in the state of Vermont as the sampling frame. Only Vermont residents over the age of eighteen were interviewed. The poll included questions on a variety of issues related to public policy in the state of Vermont.

There were 611 respondents to the 2006 Vermonter Poll (Version II). The results ased on a group of this size have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent at a confidence interval of 95 percent.

Table 1

"Yes or no; has the federal government become unresponsive to the people of Vermont?"

Yes       360      66.3
No        183      33.7
Total     543     100.0

Table 2

"What should be done [about the federal governments’ unresponsiveness to the people of Vermont]?"

71        20.2%     Don't know, not sure, or no comment
71        20.2%     Regime change: impeach Bush, or replace current administration
57        16.2%     Vote differently: elect different people
36        10.2%     Policy or system changes
34        9.7%     Hold representatives accountable; current representatives need to address it
27        7.7%     Direct Action: Citizen involvement: more protests, letters, etc
21        6.0%     Nothing we can do: VT is too small, or doing everything we can
19        5.4%     State sovereignty: More local control or secession (3.1%)
16        4.5%     Miscellaneous

352      100.0%

Statement of Fact:

From 1777 to 1791 Vermont was an independent republic prior to joining the union as the 14th state.

Table 3

"It would be useful for the Vermont Legislature to investigate the economic impact of restoring Vermont to the status of an independent republic."

Strongly agree                                         37        6.3
Agree                                                     67       11.5
Neither agree nor disagree                      42         7.2
Disagree                                               252       43.2
Strongly disagree                                  186       31.8
Total                                                    584     100.0

Table 4

"Should Vermont secede from the United States and become independent?"

Yes             47           8.0
No            539          92.0

Total        586         100.0
As I said earlier, the first mention that I could find of the poll was one posted April 29, 2006 on Rob Williams' blog. [2]

As a result of this tease from a anonymous post from a SVR member,
"We would be glad to release all the data, but not here. Stay tuned."
I did another more detailed search and was able to locate the questions and available responses.

Perhaps even as interesting is what SVR has done to hide the questions that the anonymous poster has implied weren't hidden. [3]

Originally SVR posted this announcement:
POLL SPECS -8% OF Vermonters Want Out!
Submitted by Rob Williams on Tue, 05/02/2006 - 11:14am.

Greetings friends,

We encourage you to download the POLL SPECS sheet and read about our latest poll for yourself.

And then join us!

Attachment/Size SVRPollData.pdf 63.94 KB [4]
This announcement has been deleted from the SVR site at sometime in the past.  Why?  (Note to SVR:  Don't bother reloading the page to cover your tracks.  The page as it shows today has been preserved.) [5]

The PDF attachment that is referred to in the announcement above was also deleted from the SVR website. (Note to SVR: Same deletion advisory applies hereto.) [6]

I guess the only question that I might have for SVR at this point would be just how deep do they intend to dig this hole that they've gotten themselves into?

NOTE: Just like at SVR, VTCommons has deleted the incriminating poll items that I linked to from their website. Perhaps what they mean when they label themselves as "Vermont's statewide independent news journal" is that when a true fact becomes inconvenient, just disappear it from your archives.

Congrats to Rob Williams, publisher, for achieving a new low for independent journalism ethics.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Questions About The UVM 2006 Vermonter Poll

I've seen a number of references made by the Second Vermont Republic leadership to an annual survey that is conducted by the Center for Rural Studies of the University of Vermont.  The first reference that I could find to the poll conducted for 2006 by the CRS is this one posted April 29, 2006 on Rob Williams' blog.  It's a cut and paste of a piece written by Thomas Naylor:
8% of Vermonters Favor Secession

The 2006 Vermonter Poll recently conducted by the Center for Rural Studies of the University of Vermont indicates that the percentage of eligible Vermont voters who favor secession from the United States of America - 8% of those polled - could very well be the highest in the nation.


Vermont’s idiosyncratic nature came through loud and clear in the 2006 Vermonter Poll. In a statewide random sample of over 600 eligible voters, two-thirds of the respondents expressed the view that the U.S. government has become unresponsive to the needs of individual Vermonters. Nearly twenty percent of those sampled believe that it would be useful for the Vermont legislature to commission a study to evaluate the economic impact of Vermont becoming an independent republic as it was between 1777 and 1791.

How many eligible voters in Vermont actually favor secession from the Union? According to the survey more than eight percent of the eligible voters would opt for secession. If one extrapolates from the survey to the population of the entire state of Vermont, there could be as many as 37,000 voters who are favorably inclined towards secession... [1]
Now I would hate to get into an argument with an economics professor over his figures and method of extrapolation but they really do seem to be flawed.  In polling one can't assume an equal interest among differing groups will be a constant.  People who do not register to vote may have no interest, one way or the other, in the matter; people not old enough to vote may not be able to develope an informed opinion; and, so on.  From the figure provided, and from data available from the VT Secretary of State, one should only extrapolate that among active voters (those not under challenge by local Boards of Civil Authority) 31,619 might favor secession. [2]  Moreover, one unconfirmable report suggests that the stated percentage of support for secession may in fact be lower and could put the possible support level in the area of 25,000.  However Naylor's overstating the number of people who'd favor secession isn't really the point that I'm getting at here, although it is consistent with the kind of inflated sense of importance that we've been witness to in SVR's estimation of its relevance in Vermont.

Naylor's piece seems to suggest that there were at least three questions asked that might have had to with (1) a question asking about the respondents view on the U.S. government's responsiveness to the needs of individual Vermonters; (2) a follow-up or second question having to do with the respondents view on the usefulness of a study by the legislature to evaluate the economic impact of a return to republic status; and then finally (3) a direct question about the respondents view on secession.  The wording of questions, their order and the available responses can produce an effect know as "response bias."  Think of it as a type of reverse "push polling."  The goal, rather than to create a negative impression of an issue or candidate, is to move the repondent to thinking positively of the issue prior to eliciting a response on the issue.  Might that have occurred in this case?   That's impossible to say since the questions and their order, as well as the results, were not published by CRS in their report on the 2006 Vermonter Poll. [3]

According to the National Council On Public Polls there are 20 questions that should be asked about any poll that is conducted.  Number two on that list is:
"2. Who paid for the poll and why was it done?

You must know who paid for the survey, because that tells you – and your audience – who thought these topics are important enough to spend money finding out what people think. "

"Polls are not conducted for the good of the world. They are conducted for a reason – either to gain helpful information or to advance a particular cause."


"Likewise, reporting on a survey by a special-interest group is tricky. For example, an environmental group trumpets a poll saying the American people support strong measures to protect the environment. That may be true, but the poll was conducted for a group with definite views. That may have swayed the question wording, the timing of the poll, the group interviewed and the order of the questions. You should carefully examine the poll to be certain that it accurately reflects public opinion and does not simply push a single viewpoint." [4]

Also discussed in the NCPP article are the subjects of the specifics of the questions asked and question order. [5] [6]

Around two weeks ago I began asking the folks at UVM's Center for Rural Studies about the poll. They were unable to provide the questions or answers about the order of questions since the "data" had been provided to a client, and I was then referred to Tom DeSisto.  This week DeSisto got back to me and said:
"... We did collect data in 2006 for the Second Vermont Republic as part of an annual poll we conduct on a variety of Vermont issues."
So, now we know.  According to the person responsible for UVM's 2006 Vermonter Poll, the data was collected for SVR.  The poll that SVR has repeatedly referred to without ever once providing specific details as to the questions, question order, results or the fact that they were the "client" in the first place, was their poll all along and not, as they have tried to lead the press and the public to believe, a UVM poll.  UVM's CRS merely collected the data for SVR.

Thomas Naylor and the SVR need to come clean on their involvement in the poll. They need to provide the specifics so that Vermonters can judge the results for themselves and SVR should not continue with this spoon feeding of so-called data that seems to have been designed to puff up their "product."