Friday, June 22, 2007

Second Vermont Republic's Continuing Downward Spiral to Political Irrevelance in Vermont

Earlier this month I posted about an article written by Vermont freelance political writer Jon Margolis.   Margolis' piece was about whiners in Vermont and it led off by alluding to the Second Vermont Republic and its supporters.   Margolis concludes that the group is not only "racially tinged" and "intellectually unimpressive," but that it is also "politically impotent."   This recent press release from SVR, the self-appointed leader of the Vermont scession movement, underscores the point about the political impotence:
SVR Legislative Team

Fairfax political activist and SVR supporter Peter Moss has agreed to assume the responsibility of recruiting candidates for the Vermont Legislature who are committed to Vermont independence.

His objective is to recruit, support, and eventually elect enough secessionists to call a statewide convention to consider and adopt articles of secession calling for the return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic as it was between 1777 and 1791.

Peter is currently a 2008 candidate for the Vermont House of Representatives.

If you are a secessionist and are interested in running for the Legislature, please contact Peter Moss at   [1]
For those who have never heard of him, Moss has been a frequent, unsuccessful candidate for statewide office.   In 2004 he ran unsuccessfully in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.  
[2]   In 2006 he ran, again unsuccessfully, against Bernie Sanders, and in some ways against the Democratic party, in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary.   [3]   In addition to being a candidate for the Vermont legislature next year, as noted in the SVR press release above, he is also a self-described "Peace Party" candidate for the Vermont seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2008 election cycle.   [4]

By some accounts Moss is an affable and humorous man who campaigns promoting unusual proposals that are laced with odd word creations and rather sophomoric acronyms.   This from a recent campaign of his:
"I have proposed a new U.S. DUD (Department of Un-Do) to retroactively reverse tax cuts for the rich, re-establish the inheritance tax, not privatize Social Security, un-do excessive national debt and budget imbalance, not use religion as a political weapon, stop senseless wars, and every other anti-social act and action. This will stall the bushists‚ 2 remaining years; impeachment would do nothing and recall would install Cheney. The new DUD must report directly to the voters, and should be staffed by Goldstar Mother Cindy Sheehan and GM critic Michael Moore, and their supporters."   [5]
As well as:
"I have proposed an Environment and Energy Emergency Act [ENEMA] to replace oil with liquid hydrogen in an 18-month all-out crash program, supplemented by solar and hydroelectric power, to address environmental degradation, global warming, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, excessive oil and gasoline prices, peak oil, and the hatred fueling Islamic terrorism. ENEMA will create a wind turbine, water electrolysis, and hydrogen liquefaction ("hyliq") industry for cars and home heating, and store hyliq for low wind periods. Oil tankers would disappear and sailing ships would return for passengers and freight. Service stations would add hydrogen pumps, and the nation‚s 100-million car park retrofitted for dual fuel. All this would create economic prosperity as did World War Two. ENEMA would end most pollution and global warming, oil wars, and terrorism. Oil prices would drop from $70 a barrel to $3 and production would stop. The $67 spread finances global terrorism, I believe, so we are financing terrorism. Without oil, oil company shares would drop to penny stocks, and we could de-privatize for one dollar per 100 shares. Raze the refineries and replace with hyliq plants."   [5]
And my own personal favorite, Moss' endorsement of telescreen-like apparatuses for Vermonters (and probably the next best reason to then shoot your TV):
"Televoters Act to convert all TVS to 2-way communication, to conduct nationwide non-binding same-day opinion surveys, to replace manipulated and manipulative small-sample surveys."   [5]

Just as I thought that this couldn't get any funnier I learned that Moss also calls himself a "Lincoln Republican."   [6]   Given the SVR leadership's tendency to foam at the mouth at the mere mention of Lincoln, this alliance has tremendous potential for future ironies and conflicts in agendas.   [7]

To underscore SVR's downward spiral to political irrelevancy, I can confirm the Vermont's Dan DeWalt has been been dismissed from the SVR Advisory Board.   After having heard from a number of sources that DeWalt was dismissed, I did some checking and learned that DeWalt never really did anything while on the board.   When he offered unsolicited advice to SVR's Thomas Naylor, he found himself in conflict with the early SVR responses to the revelations here and on other blogs.   In short, Naylor found that DeWalt wasn't of the right "mindset" to remain on the board so DeWalt, like Robert Riversong   [8], is now gone.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


After reading the recent Thomas Naylor and/or Rob Williams post at the Second Vermont Republic website, titled "BILL O'REILLY SUPPORTS VERMONT INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT," which was about Naylor's performance on the O'Reilly Factor and O'Reilly's alleged support for secession, one needs to ask, "Are these people wildly delusion or just pathologically dishonest?"

They state unequivocally that O'Reilly supports secession and they quote O'Reilly as follows:
In an interview with SVR founder Thomas H. Naylor, O’Reilly said “How can we help you? I want to help you secede.” Naylor responded, “You already have by having me as a guest on your show.” O’Reilly followed up with, “Can we raise some money for you?” Naylor said, “Yes, we need all the help we can get.”   [1]
SVR left an awful lot out of their spin of that interview, which probably accounts for why they provided no link to the Fox video of the interview.   Were they not plagued by a fundamental dishonesty that forces them to misrepresent so much, the SVR post would have included the following:
O'REILLY: "Doctor, how can we help you? I wanna help you (to) secede... I, I, ya know, I... Can we raise some money for you or can we provide transportation to Canada or somethin'? How can we help?"


"Look, Canada is just a few miles away from Burlington, just right over Lake Champlain. Why don't you guys just go there? I can raise money to get you guys over there. Canada's a pretty liberal country. Wouldn't you be happy there?"

NAYLOR: Well, that's... It's interesting that you propose that. One of my fantasies, Bill, is that possibly Vermont secedes from the United States, teams up with New Hampshire, Maine and the four Atlantic provinces, and we create a little country the size of Denmark and call it New Acadia. (Unintelligible as O'Reilly/Naylor talk over each other) Would you be willing to support that?

O'REILLY: New Hampshire and Maine don't want anything to do with you guys, because... (laughing) Particularly New Hampshire... New Hampshire's live free or die; low taxes...

[snip - useless argument over whether terrorists might or might not attack an independent Vermont, at the end of which Naylor diverges in a complete non sequitur to O'Reilly's point about the need for mutual defense]

NAYLOR: Yeah, well, I agree Bill. (?) In a sense your point is, what could be more absurd then, uh, tiny Vermont, with 620,000 people, standing up to the greatest empire of all time, with 300,000,000 people. I mean that's truly absurd but, see, therein lies the power, the energy of our movement... It's classic David and Goliath...

[snip - again O'Reilly and Naylor talk over one another]

O'REILLY (after some difficulty keeping his legendary biblical characters straight): Goliath's gonna say, "Look Doctor, if you don't like it here, Canada is beckoning (?), you've got all your socialized programs, very liberal government and media, just go up there and have a good time. I mean, well, why not? It's just a few miles across the lake.

NAYLOR: That, that sounds good to me.
O'REILLY: Okay! All right! Now, now we're getting some place! We're going to get you a real estate agent, you're gonna sell your house in Burlington, Vermont and we'll move you right up to, ah, Canada. We'll do it for ya!

NAYLOR: No, no, we might do... we might just join them. We may, I don't know, I'm not going... I don't want to leave Vermont.

(unintelligible again)

O'REILLY: No, no, no, Vermont's part of the USA. You think it's a terrible country.

NAYLOR: I want to leave the United States, not Vermont. No but I love Vermont. I don't love the United States.

O'REILLY: Yes but, see, Vermont's part of (the United States) Doctor... and you can, you can get the whole thing...

NAYLOR: I don't want to leave Vermont, I don't want to move.

[snip - O'Reilly wants Naylor to comment on Jessica'a Law]

O'REILLY: I'm gonna get you a real estate agent. I'm gonna, I'm gonna get you outa here. Finally, you wrote that, um, "anybody with the stupidity to appear on the O'Reilly program," um, blah, blah, blah. You remember writing that? (O'Reilly holds up page with yellow highlighting on it)

NAYLOR: Oh, but it's been great fun.

O'REILLY: Yeah. You're welcome but, you know... (smiling and pointing to page containing the quote of Naylor's about only stupid people appearing on the O'Reilly program) There you go.   [2]
Oh, and Tom, the area of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and the four Atlantic provinces is 15 times that of Denmark.   This may seem like a small point to correct but, as is so often the case with your comparisons of Vermont to other countries, your "fact," too, is way off the mark.   At least Naylor's being consistent.

It appears that Bill and Tom could both use some help reading a map.

It also sounds as if Naylor has been taken in by his own phony poll and now believes that he'll snooker 100% of Vermont, all 620,000 of them, with his secessionist pipering.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Now Comes Jon Margolis

Last month the proponents of Vermont's self-appointed vessel of secession, the Second Vermont Republic, struck yet another significant mine in their odyssey, that time in the form of Vermont's State Archivist, Gregory Sanford (see the previous post below).   Sanford directly challenged the historical accuracy of the SVR leadership's assertions about Vermont's past - a challenge they have not responded to in any meaningful way.

Today, in a piece published today in the Sunday Rutand Herald/Times Argus', Vermont Sunday Magazine on "whiners," Jon Margolis, a freelance writer from Barton and former national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, writes without naming them directly that SVR is "polically impotent," "racially tinge(d)" and "intellectually unimpressive." One need look no further than Thomas Naylor's own rambling writings, Rob Williams clumsy handling of his group's making nice with racists, as well as their educational website, "Vermont Commons", to find comfirmation of Margolis' thoughts:
In This State of Whiners
by Jon Margolis

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the feeble go away.

Well, they threaten to go away. Being feeble, they don't actually go anywhere.

Such was the threat by the town of Vernon to secede from Vermont should the state increase taxes on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Forget for a moment the absurdity of what passed for Vernon's logic — a fear that Vermont Yankee might leave town. How? By loading the reactor onto a wheelbarrow and carting it away?

More important is that the initial response of town officials was to mumble about secession, following the model of Killington, where town bigwigs started talking about seceding a few years ago because homeowners there must now pay the same statewide school tax rate as the rest of us. The poor itty-bitty babies.

All this is disturbing, but not because anybody will secede. They will not. In America nobody ever has, successfully, except the 25 northwestern counties of Virginia which became West Virginia in 1862. But that wasn't secession; it was counter-secession.

No, what is disturbing is that only in Vermont is there much talk of secession. There are even a few people who want the whole state to secede. They need not be taken seriously. Their movement is politically impotent, and — even without its racist tinge — intellectually unimpressive.

(Read the rest of Margolis' article here)
I'll have more on SVR's self-inflicted political impotence later this week.

UPDATE:   Rob Williams offers testy commentary on Margolis' article and incorrectly tries to characterize the article as an editorial here.   And then he, as well, slams this blog without showing the courage to name it.   Oh, well.   I'd say, Rob (or is it Maul Man that you now like to be called?), that since you've now started to drop your strategy of completely ignoring this blog:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
Don't forget to stop back to see my upcoming post on SVR's "political impotence" later this week, Rob.   Oh, and there's a post going up soon that'll show the parts you and/or Naylor left out of the O'Reilly interview.   I can understand why you'd not want to include that in your "transcript" that professes O'Reilly's support for secession - it'd make you guys look like liars.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

You Know You're In Trouble...

... when The Onion's got your number.

The Second Vermont Republic and "Vermont Commons", as a movement leadership model, seems to be at an end of any meaningful contribution to the secession discussion or to Vermont seceding but refuses to admit any error or even the obvious.   It's an awful lot like the Bush leadership model.

UPDATE:   And you know that you're really in trouble if you're from Vermont and are invited to appear on The O'Reilly Factor.   Green Mountain Daily has the link to the video of Thomas Naylor's appearance on the show last night here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Good News, Bad News and No News

Good News

Last month's Opinions column on the Vermont Secretary of State's website, Voice from the Vault by Vermont's award winning State Achivist, Gregory Sanford, introduces historical accuracy to the discussion generated by Second Vermont Republic's own historical revisionism.

Sanford aptly raises the spectre of George Orwell's 1984 in commenting on an SVR founder's attempt and the Vermont Commons' publisher's efforts to spin Vermont history.   I wonder if they will be taking him to task soon for not approaching them first before writing his piece, that strategy having worked so well for them in the past.

Here's Sanford's piece in its entirety:
Voice From the Vault

by Gregory Sanford

Myths and Documents

One of the enduring lines from George Orwell's 1984 is: "He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."

I often think of this line when I encounter folks attempting to achieve a future outcome by manipulating Vermont’s past. When done often enough we come to accept such manipulations as historic realities and incorporate them into our own rhetoric.

At the Archives, for example, we regularly receive requests for copies of the "escape clause" in the Vermont Constitution. This purported clause allows Vermont to withdraw from the United States. A variation, which we call the Brigadoon theory, is that this escape clause opens up every hundred years, presumably starting in 1791. After all, would Vermonters, after 14 years of independence (1777-1791), simply embrace statehood without leaving a way out? The requests come from across the political spectrum: those who do not like a national administration; oppose national foreign or economic policies; loath the federal income tax; or fear gun control or other potential restraints on individual freedom.

The truth, drawn from documents, is less satisfying; there is no, nor has there ever been, such an escape clause.

These thoughts emerged while reading news stories on current efforts to withdraw Vermont from the union. I have before me a news release by two Vermont supporters of secession. Part of their argument is based on historical facts of dubious reputation. Let me illustrate by juxtaposing italicized quotes from the press release with quotes from historical documents.

"Vermont did not join the Union to become part of an empire." At the January 1791 convention on whether Vermont should ratify the U.S. Constitution and join the union Nathaniel Chipman argued, "But received into the bosom of the union, we at once become brethren and fellow-citizens with more than three millions of people; instead of being confined to the narrow limits of Vermont, we become members of an extensive empire…" Chipman goes on to enumerate the advantages of joining this empire, the United States. His arguments carried the day and the convention voted for ratification 105 to 4.

"Vermont more or less sat out the War of 1812, and its governor ordered troops fighting the British to come home." Yes, Governor Martin Chittenden did order Vermont troops home from Plattsburgh, but they refused to return, explaining "that when we are ordered into the service of the United States, it becomes our duty, when required, to march to the defence of any section of the Union. We are not of that class who believe that our duties as citizens or soldiers are circumscribed within the narrow limits of the Town or State in which we reside, but that we are under a paramount obligation to our common country, to the great confederation of States."

"Vermont fought the Civil War primarily to end slavery." And yet in 1861 when Governor Erastus Fairbanks convened the special war session of the Vermont legislature he warned not about slavery but that, "The Federal capital is menaced by an imposing and well armed military force, and the Government itself, and the national archives, are in imminent peril." Jeffrey Marshall, the head of Special Collections at UVM, has read thousands of Civil War letters from hundreds of Vermonters. He reports that only a "handful" of the Vermont soldiers cited slavery as the reason they were fighting; they instead directed their ire at the secessionists, who they characterized as treasonous.

"After the Great Flood of 1927, the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, President Calvin Coolidge (a Vermonter) offered help. Vermont’s governor replied, ‘Vermont will take care of its own’." Whatever Governor Weeks might have actually said, the reality is that Vermont’s congressional delegation successfully lobbied for $2.6 million in federal flood relief. In addition Governor Weeks accepted a check for $600,000 from the Red Cross to help with flood recovery.

And so on. My point is neither to argue with our current secessionists nor denigrate the beliefs of the authors of the press release. Heck, most of us have, at one time or other, probably cited some of the historical "facts" the authors used. I am simply arguing the importance of having accessible public records to evaluate the rhetoric of public figures.

Locating, understanding and interpreting public records will never be as much fun as mouthing our cherished myths. Public records are, however, evidence of the actions we actually took as a State. They too can be pulled out of context or selectively (mis)used to prove a belief. And yet, I would argue, the stories they hold are as dramatic, and instructive, as those found in Vermont mythology.

That is why I think it so important that we pay more attention to teaching Vermont history and civics in our schools. It is why using Vermont’s historical records is so important to learning to become engaged citizens. To learn how to identify and interpret those records creates an intellectual skill that is essential to navigating through our "information age." If we do not learn how to effectively evaluate information in all its myriad forms we will never be able to perform our responsibilities as citizens. To paraphrase Mr. Orwell, "Whoever understands the past, understands the present; whoever understands the present can plan for the future."

Bad News

When the story of SVR and its founder's, Thomas Naylor, ties to white supremacists and their organizations first broke here this winter, one SVR supporter was quick to dismiss the possibility of a real racist connection in Vermont by citing the Southern Poverty Law Center's own list of Active U.S. Hate Groups in 2005 as reason to not worry, since there were no hate groups listed in Vermont.   That all changed when the SPLC published its new Active U.S. Hate Groups in 2006 this Spring.   It contains this sad and troubling addition:

Hardwick · Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

Rutland · Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
With Thomas Naylor and his supporters inviting known racist ideologues and groups to our state for his "conventions," I guess we shouldn't be too surprized that something like this has finally occurred.

No News

In April, SVR grandly announced that in yet another so-called poll of theirs Vermonters had "dramatically" increased their support for secession based on the new 2007 Vermonters Poll conducted by UVM's Center for Rural Studies. [1]

Those of you who have been regular readers will recall that I was able to determine that the poll questions had, in fact, been commissioned and paid for by SVR, according to CRS's officials.   Moreover, the questions used in the poll were of a type known to create a response bias.   [2]   [3]   Green Mountain Daily covered the matter succinctly.

In a piece by AP picked up and published around the state this weekend we get to observe the sort of uncritical reporting that gets produced by reporters who re-write press releases and call the results "a story."   I'm sure SVR, et al, must've loved it.   Not everyone else does   (NB: The reporter, John Curran, is Chris Graf's replacement at the VT AP).   For a more balanced analysis, consider this from today's Rutland Herald editorial:
In or Out

June 5, 2007

The republic of Vermont was an independent nation from 1777 to 1791. A group of Vermonters is promoting the idea that Vermont ought to declare its independence once again.

Secession from the union is one of those ideas that is far enough beyond the realm of the possible that it is interesting to talk about. If secession were a real possibility, we would get plenty of reminders of 1861, Fort Sumter, and the inviolable Union for which hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many Vermonters, gave their lives.

Maybe there's a constitutional procedure that would allow Congress and the Vermont Legislature to disunite the United States, though Article 4, Paragraph 3, of the Constitution talks about the admission of new states, not the independence of territories that are states already. But the legal specifics are not what the promoters of secession are mainly concerned with. They are concerned with what they view as the corruption of the American empire and the need for Vermont to give republican principles a rebirth.

An article in the Sunday Herald quoted a booster of secession: "The argument for secession is that the U.S. has become an empire that is essentially ungovernable — it's too big, too corrupt, and it no longer serves the needs of its citizens," Rob Williams argued. "Congress and the executive branch are being run by the multinationals. We have electoral fraud, rampant corporate corruption, a culture of militarism and war."

That is a trenchant indictment of the present state of the nation, which ordinarily might be dismissed as the complaints of a radical or the ravings of a crank, except that the conduct of the Bush administration has given the critique unusual relevance. Polls consistently show that a high percentage of Americans believes that the United States is on the wrong track and thinks that the nation has gone astray in Iraq. The military-industrial complex seems to have run amok. Confidence in the electoral process has been shaken by events in Florida and Ohio and by the apparent corruption of the Justice Department. And so the alluring prospect beckons for us to become the Switzerland of North America.

The idea of secession is usually a way of expressing one's political and cultural identity. Many Vermonters cherish the idea that the state is a uniquely effective small republic. We have learned to promote business and industry while protecting the environment. Our political culture values the civil liberties of our citizens. How satisfying it would be to free ourselves from the misadventures and waste of the federal government.

But the secessionist critique of the United States may contain its own refutation. If the American empire is as wicked as all of that, preying on and exploiting small nations, an independent Vermont would be more vulnerable than any to the economic coercion of the United States. The question is whether it is safer to be inside the tent or out. Vermont is not exactly an economic powerhouse, and it reaps many economic benefits from inclusion in the union. Further, because of the anti-democratic constitutional arrangement that gives each state two senators, Vermont has disproportionate power to influence the United States, and check its excesses, if it remains in the union.

The secessionists serve a purpose in emphasizing the independent spirit of Vermonters. For now let's put that spirit to work to help end the abuses that have given the idea of secession renewed currency.

In closing, I should point out that once again the questions used in the 2007 Vermonter Poll have not been published.   I'm not even going to bother to look for them and expose them as I did with the 2006 Vermonter Poll.   [5]   It isn't worth my time since by now we've all got SVR and Naylor's number.   I'd only want to add that no one has seemed to have noticed that Naylor's claim that "Vermonters support for secession increases dramatically," touted as 8% for 2006 and 13% for 2007, falls well within the margin for error when considering both polls together as he does to arrive at his conclusion.   That isn't very "dramatic" when you consider all spin, promotion, push polling and sloppy reporting that's occurred.   In fact, one can just as easily conclude that there may have been some slippage in support when factoring in the margin for error.

JD Ryan at five before chaos has more on a news organization that didn't do its homework here.   He's right.   This has gotten old.   Fortunately, people are taking notice where it counts.   Sanford's piece at the top of this post is more evidence of that.