Hi there. I recently attended the 2nd annual Keenevention, a weekend of panels and speeches, all of which focused on different angles of libertarian activism. I thought you might want to hear about it. Thanks for putting up with my terrible photos and misquotes. Go to Keenevention.info if you want to read more or watch the videos as they are released.

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KEENEVENTION

All of the speakers were from New Hampshire, and much of the material covered was as radical as it gets. Keene, NH has a reputation as being the activist capital of the Free State Project. As one of the keynote speakers James Cleaveland put it, the secret of Keene and the FSP is that they are all “risk takers and pioneers.” They are DOERS, he insisted.

Keenevention was definitely the place to be if you have any interest in discussing productive ways to protest, work around, or blatantly disregard the State.

The event happened October 31 through November 2, but I couldn’t get there until after lunch on day 2. I like to be fashionably late — about a day-and-a-half late…

I loop-de-looped around the Keene traffic circle and looked for the place Keenevention was at — the Sovereign Hotel (yes, it’s really called that). I knew I had found it when I saw the unmistakeable white fedora of one of NH’s most well-known activists/radio show hosts, Derrick J Freeman, who had just finished up a panel that I missed. Now that I knew where the event was, I decided to check out Keene and kill an hour before the next panel began.

***

What is Keene like? I’d never been here before. It is two hours west of where I live and even farther away from everywhere else in New Hampshire. The road that led to Keene is one of the most beautiful, winding, forested, hilly backroads I’ve ever driven, particularly in the late Fall. In fact, it rivaled my favorite piece of road up in the White Mountains, known as the Kancamagus Highway. I nicknamed this road the Keene-kamagus. Keene is lorded over by Mt. Monadnock, and boasts a picturesque college campus, brick sidewalks, old buildings, and charming little boutiques and cafés — everything a perfect little New England town needs to fall in love with. Contrasted with all the “colorful local character” — the dirty hipster college kids and interesting homeless people, I felt right at home.

I settled in at a tiny table in the window of a café called Brewbakers. One of those dingy divebar coffee shops where all the girls are super skinny and have nose rings and tattoos. There are college students on their laptops and rich older couples sipping espresso mingled with old hippie-types drawing in sketchpads. To my left sat an old bearded man in a ski cap and a flower dress, staring out the window contemplating life. I sat and wrote a while, drinking a hearty organic coffee that was surprisingly cheap. The old man in the dress waved to a woman walking by, but she either didn’t notice or didn’t react to him. “The more you know someone, the more they ignore you. You ever notice that?” he asked the gang of regulars around him — the hippie artists, primarily. I sat back for a moment and listened to their round of a’yups and other forms of agreement. I noticed the place was playing Muzak, which is a sign of the times, I guess. I decided to scoot over for another weary soul to rest his ripped jeans and torn sneakers in this tiny wooden chair. Off I went into the rain, and back to Keenevention.

***

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I parked in the hotel lot next to a car with a vanity plate: BITCOIN. Brilliant!

***

I walked into the ballroom at the Sovereign Hotel and straight to the registration table. The first person I noticed in the lobby was also wearing a stand-out hat. This fellow was Hunter S. Thompson — he had the cigarette, the Hawaiian shirt, the glasses, you name it. Oh, this was going to be a fun weekend…

***

I stood in line for a few minutes while the event’s organizer, Ian Freeman, helped a woman buy some Bitcoin on a Lamassu ATM. After she was finished, I met Ian and got my nametag. Freeman is the host of Free Talk Live, a libertarian radio show that has been on the air for over twelve years and is syndicated on over twenty radio stations across the country, as well as on The Liberty Radio Network (LRN.fm), which Freeman also runs. Upon shaking his hand, I realized that this convention was going to be as intimate and important as it was marketed. Not just a sales pitch for the FSP, but a gathering place for those already involved to connect, share ideas, and inspire each other to work harder for liberty in our lifetime.

***

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MEDIA PANEL

All jittered up and ready to take notes, I sat down to my first and favorite panel — the media panel. It was moderated by Free Talk Live’s Mark Edge.

“New Hampshire is the Mecca — it is the ground zero for media in the liberty movement,” Edge began confidently. In fact, putting a panel like this one is impossible anywhere else in the country. The number of liberty-themed podcasts, shows, and videos are dominant per capita in NH than in any other part of the country, hands down. “If you believe in a media outlet as a voice of liberty,” added Edge, “these are the best ways to get the word out. It’s liberty media that gets the word out.” He has a point. Podcasts and videos on youtube have done more for liberty than any politician since Ron Paul.

The panel consisted of Garret Ean, who has a podcast and works on Cheshire TV, the local Keene channel. There was Stephanie Murphy, known for a slew of shows, including Let’s Talk Bitcoin, and The Sex & Science Hour. Brett Veinotte of School Sucks and Chris Cantwell of Some Garbage Podcast rounded out the panel.

There are so many NH media people: the Free Talk Live crowd, Derrick J Freeman, Darryl W. Perry, Objectivist Girl, Josie the Outlaw, Carlos Morales, Brian Sovryn, and a slew of others.

Mark Edge asked some smart questions, not so much about the shows themselves, but how they monetize, market, and plan their shows, as well as how they learned the process. Audience questions got specific, with equipment recommendations as well as the panel’s opinions on what sorts of media are lacking in the liberty movement. So, what did they all have to say?

All of the panelists agreed that learning the process takes some practice. It’s “trial and error,” said Garrett, his fingers laced in a scholarly manner, his incredibly large explosion of hair scrunched up. Stephanie added that “the barrier of entry is so low that anybody can do it.” Brett told a story about how he emailed Stephanie for her equipment suggestions, and she sent him a spreadsheet with exact specs. He then went out and bought what she owned. Brett’s advice for starting a podcast is to do three “secret shows.” He added, “Then sign up for my email list and hear my three shittiest shows.”

Chris Cantwell, however, owned the room. He told us about his early days “drunk blackout Myspace blog.” He’d get trashed, write a bunch of “shit”, then post it and not even remember doing it — but it gained popularity. Then he started making youtube video rants, but people would criticize him for reading from the screen, or a teleprompter, so he tried wearing sunglasses and people made fun of him for that. “I’m never happy with anything that I put out,” he told us, but added to just keep working on it over time. He tossed in a little jab at the FSP, which refuses to officially recognize him as a member due to controversial remarks he has made, by adding that he likes controversy and debate, and finds it good for his show and work. “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member anyway,” he said. Sitting at the edge of the table like the outcast, he puffed his Vape and eyed the room. I like him.

As for marketing, Stephanie Murphy admitted that she doesn’t like to promote with Facebook or other forms of social media. Her shows have catchy titles and do well on their own, with 5,000 and 10,000-plus downloads for each episode. “Do a show that people want to hear,” she said. Brett’s advice was to get on bigger shows as a guest. School Sucks gets bumps every time he manages to do such a thing. It’s also “really important to have a niche. A general liberty show is less likely to draw a devoted crowd. Cantwell again touched on controversy. “Hate is the best part of my life. The more people talk shit about me, the more people read my stuff.” At first this sounds contrived, but he continues, “Let libertarians argue with each other and let that frame the discussion.” This is what the mainstream media does, and it’s wildly successful. Cantwell ended his rant by adding, “Some people take it personally. Fuck ’em. Infighting helps further discussion, drives traffic and ultimately make money.” He may be brash, but he makes a point. Ean agreed in a quieter way, as he strives to ask hard questions to the general viewer on Cheshire TV: “Someone who is critical of your program is what’s going to draw attention to it.”

On the topic of whether to focus on a general audience or a specific audience, Brett told us that he originally focused on using “the sucking of school” to get kids into issues surrounding anarchy, but he soon found his audience growing to college kids, homeschoolers, and the general libertarian. Cantwell used to focus on his fiery political/philosophical rants, but has decided to broaden out. He recently published a piece titled “Fitness Advice From A Fat Alcoholic.”

“People are actually clicking on this,” he insisted.

Ean used to focus on just the activist crowd, but has found success in targeting the older demographic — those that tend to watch local TV. Plus, he added, “there’s a very strange, reactionary group called Stop Free Keene.” SFK is real, and they protest the Keene activist movement. Ean is brilliant in that he knows they are watching Cheshire TV. He will continue to get them to question their beliefs. Stephanie Murphy brought up her show Sex & Science Hour. It isn’t particularly liberty-oriented, but much like how a cookbook sneaks spinach into the recipe, they find ways to sneak liberty in.

Lauren Rumpler — aka “Objectivist Girl” — got up to ask the panelists what recording softwares they use, and almost all of them agree Audacity is the best freeware to download. Stephanie Murphy is preparing video tutorials for Audacity, as no one has done a thorough guide to the software yet. Brett admitted that every episode of School Sucks was recorded with Audacity. Darryl Perry got up and showed everyone his tiny recording studio in a bag and asked what hardware they all use. Stephanie lists everything she uses at SMVoice.info. Brett showed us his portable microphone, the Zoom H4, which also works as a mixer. “It’s good enough to set on a table and do an interview.” Stephanie joked that it looks like a taser.

One important piece of advice that Brett offered on doing work you love vs. doing what the market wants: “As long as you bring enthusiasm to your work, people will come.”

The best question of the panel: “What do you think is a niche in liberty media that doesn’t exist?” Ean wants to see more animation/cartoons. Much like South Park, he said, it has “mass appeal across cultures and has a social/political message but doesn’t come across as a political show.” You can get away with a lot more with animation. It could be the best chance the liberty message has to spread in mainstream media. Cantwell would like to see more fiction. “If there’s anything missing, it’s fiction.” Brett half-joked that he wishes more people would take alternative education (his niche) more seriously. Mark Edge chimed in that a 30-minute daily show produced by liberty-oriented people would be big, but Stephanie Murphy suggested that the liberty media “show” market is saturated. Mark also thinks meme production is important. “Good memes really get a lot of views.”

One last piece of advice from Brett on the topic of goals for liberty media: “Being free should look enjoyable.”

As the audience applauded the panel, Mark Edge jokingly sniped, “Cantwell, get off the stage.”

***

I stood up to stretch and before I had a chance to do anything, someone approached me. It was Bob Vacanti, Liberty.me’s very own beloved friend. He flew out all the way from Omaha just to hangout and meet everyone in the Free State! He knew more people at Keenevention than I did, and I live here. The night before, there was a big social bonfire at someone’s house in Keene. I missed a lot, apparently.

On the first day of Keenevention, there were panels on legislative action, ladies in NH (moderated by Lauren Rumpler), cop activism (the “Cop Block” panel), and a panel on the topic of getting people to move to New Hampshire. Carla Gericke, the FSP’s beloved president, gave a keynote speech. I missed the film presentation at Keene Cinemas, also. It was a double feature: Victimless Crime Spree and a preview version of an upcoming film: 101 Reasons, which is about the FSP. Also on the schedule were the classic activities of Keeners — Cop Blocking and Robin Hooding. Weather was an issue, and I’m not sure what sort of action went down, but only at Keenevention, do I suspect that panels about activism coincide with actual activism.

***

I went out for a cigarette and met Rich Paul, the Keene activist who had just spent a year in jail for refusing to accept a plea deal after being arrested for possession of marijuana. He would keynote the next evening. He was wearing a leather jacket, jeans, boots, and a FREEDOM! t-shirt. I shared some cigarettes with him and asked him about the interesting homeless people of Keene, whom he recognized from description. He quoted Jung: “It is not a sign of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.”

***

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CHARITY PANEL

Meanwhile, the next panel discussed how to help the homeless and needy without the State. All the government ever does is muck things up! Stephanie Murphy returned to this panel as a member of FR33 AID, a charitable organization that is based in New Hampshire. She told us that the biggest obstacle the state provides for charities is its red tape surrounding financial business, such as cashing donation checks. FR33 AID accepted donations through Pay Pal, but Pay Pal closed FR33 AID’s account because of their “political affiliation,” like they were “terrorists or something.” Dealing with Pay Pal as a charitable organization consists of the “typical rigamarole you get from a bank.” As voluntaryists, the members of FR33 AID made a difficult decision in asking the IRS for permission to become a 501c3. They were denied.

“Screw it,” Murphy said, “We’re going to become a Bitcoin-only charity.” The room erupted in applause. They still accept cash and precious metals, though they convert the cash to Bitcoin and back again as needed. FR33 AID has a strict “Don’t know your customer” policy, she added, to some chuckles in the room. If the State is going to hamper fundraising and stifle charities that want to help their communities, the charities have to find ways around the financial system.

The rest of the panel chimed in on the various government interferences with charities. Theresa Eudaimonia of Occupy NH noted that if you make more than a certain amount, your welfare check and other services are turned off, even if you need them more than someone else. If you don’t have an address, the State can’t work with you — so if you’re homeless, you’re at their mercy. Lastly, people aren’t inclined to donate because they already pay taxes and expect their taxes to cover the expenses to “help” people. Dale Everett of Flaming Freedom shared a story of how the city mandated his shelter to install a $20,000 sprinkler system. “Red tape is not allowed to have any common sense to it,” he said. The bureaucrat always replies, “It’s just a code,” whether or not it is beneficial in the long run. The State also doesn’t allow — in most circumstances — people staying in homeless shelters to have any drugs or alcohol in their system. It makes sense — and many private charities do this as well — but it can be heartless to force someone into the cold and refuse him help with the excuse of “the law” when he might need it most at that moment.

Ashley Bouldin from Shire Society was the firecracker on stage. There’s nothing wrong with dumpster diving! she told us. This well-dressed, professional middle-aged woman gave us a food review: “I had a $35 piece of lamb once from a dumpster — it was great!” In fact, “Dumpster diving in New Hampshire in the winter. It’s refigerated. It’s perfect!”

Another idea she pitched to the crowd was to change the world through entrepeneurship, even if it’s the smallest little idea. For example, she sold ice cream at PorcFest last summer and people ate it up! Murphy joked that instead of yelling out your window to “Get a job!” at someone, you can yell, “Start a business!” This idea is profound, and someone suggested a program could be founded to inspire people that they do indeed have the opportunity to create such endeavors — they just might not see it yet.

I was stoked to hear that suggestion, as not even I had ever thought it in this context. If you can’t find a job because you’re homeless, create one!

***

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KEYNOTE: JAMES CLEAVELAND

James Cleaveland — also known as the “Robin Hood of Keene” — took the stage. Tall and lanky, even a little nerdy, wearing a bright orange Bitcoin Not Bombs hoodie, Cleaveland doesn’t look like someone who is known for sticking a camera in a cop’s face or doing anything activist-related, really. But this guy took charge in an innovative form of activism and has garnered the most publicity the Free State Project has seen yet, including interviews with national media outlets such as CNN and FOX.

What exactly IS Robin Hooding? A group of activists puts change in expired parking meters before the parking officer can write a ticket for the car. That’s it. But controversy brewed when the city of Keene decided to sue “Robin Hood and his Merry Men” — that is Cleaveland, and a few other participants of the group — for harassing the city’s parking officers.

Cleaveland told us that sometimes people ask him, “Aren’t there more important things to you than parking?” He quipped, “Yeah! Tell the city that. I didn’t file the lawsuit!” The Robin Hooders won their court case, but the city is taking it to the Supreme Court.

Puffs of Vape and mixed laughs filled the room as Cleaveland continued, “I’ve done some stupid things in activism.” He’s been arrested for “disobeying” a police officer. He’s run for state house. Every interaction of his with a member of the government has a camera involved. After he got his first taste of Robin Hooding, he became “addicted” to activism.

“Life is a journey and I don’t want to have any regrets,” he said. “I want to end my life on E — my tank on Empty.” Having a great idea is only 1% — the action and effort is the other 99%. Without the action, one might as well have never had the idea. “At the end of the day, you’re never going to remember the ten hours a day you put into video games.”

When Cleaveland ran for state representative, he handed out 3,000 flyers to college students all over Keene. He got 30 votes. Of course, Cleaveland also jokingly suggested a more productive way to win the seat, in reference to the recent Pumpkin Festival Riot: “I should have caused a riot at the polling station and all the college kids would have come out to vote!”

Simply put, if we want to live more free lives, we have to do something — anything — to achieve it. The State and its cronies want you to sit down and shut up. There is pressure from every corner of society to conform. Cleaveland is tired of that. “All my life I’ve been afraid. The people here [FSP] inspire me. You know what, it’s okay. I’m going to bust the system. If I don’t achieve liberty in my lifetime, I’m gonna TRY.”

The only way to spread liberty ideas is to “Just DO something.” It’s that simple.

***

There was a ten-year-old kid in the front row playing with a smart phone, taking pictures and video-taping Cleaveland’s speech. Throughout the entire weekend, I also noticed this kid reading a four-hundred page book while hiding under a chair, playing video games on the same phone, writing stuff down, watching lectures in awe, and playing with Ian Freeman’s dog. Liberty is the future.

***

James Cleaveland closed out his talk by answering some questions. One person asked him to share some of the gruff he has about starting a business — well, the parts that involve the government. “We have to delay opening our business because the government has decided to step in to ‘help’ us,” he replied, referring to an unwanted email from the Keene Fire Department that thanked him for working with them.

It is illegal to remove the tag from a fire extinguisher, for example, he said. As if it is magically NOT a fire extinguisher once the piece of sticky paper is removed. I don’t remember if Cleaveland said he has pulled the tag off the extinguisher, or if he planned to, of if he just joked about it, but something tells me there’s an “illegal” fire extinguisher in his business somewhere.

Cleaveland shared his first experiences with the Free State Project. Originally from Georgia, he struggled to get more than a few libertarians together in a room at the same time. After moving to New Hampshire, he realized, “I don’t have to explain basic things to people.” The libertarian group back home, he found out, disbanded without his constant planning.

New Hampshire activism is important because it makes news. And somewhere, some lonely libertarian is going to hear about the Free State Project for the first time and consider moving to New Hampshire, where things are getting done [note: how many libertarians won seats in YOUR state’s elections this November 4th? At least 15 took seats in NH].

Cleaveland closed his talk with my favorite line of Keenevention: “I care about liberty, dammit! I’m not going to apologize for that.”

***

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Ah, the formal part of the day was complete and the fun was about to begin. Before breaking for dinner, there was the raffle to attend to. Darryl Perry was hosting the raffle to raise funds for his upcoming epic tour of the country, in order to visit with and speak with numerous liberty groups and organizations. I had purchased six raffle tickets, myself, mostly in hopes of winning the meaty holiday hind leg of a pig named Huey. But that wasn’t tonight’s prize. After a few small prizes — such as a free book from Free Press Publications — the grand prize was announced: Win a Date With Objectivist Girl. The certificate promises: “You will be able to accompany Lauren Rumpler to the Hallowkeene costume party and enjoy a night of dancing.” Darryl read the hilarious disclaimer that promises no hugging, kissing, or touching, etc., but unfortunately I didn’t get it down.

He drew a ticket… the room drew a breath… he announced the name! The winner wasn’t in the room. A messenger ran out into the lobby to find him. “Give it to one of the straight guys!” was his reply. Ha ha ha.

Darryl asked Lauren what it felt like to be rejected. “I’m an objectivist,” she replied. “People object.”

It only got funnier. Darryl drew the winner’s ticket. He read the name aloud: “Primrose Everdeen.”

Before anyone could register what they heard, someone right behind me yelled “I volunteer as tribute!” The sly bastard was Hunter S. Thompson, himself! Off he went with his date!

The energy in the room was fantastic!

Ian Freeman — our humble MC — took the stage. One last announcement before we break, he said. Don’t forget about the Hallowkeene Costume Party tonight! Oh, and “Yes, there will be alcohol for sale at the party.” The room erupted with cheers.

The night was young…

***

Bob and I talked about writing and Liberty.me for almost an hour in the lobby after the group broke. He went off to have dinner in the hotel’s Irish Pub. I drove to the Keene Wal-Mart to buy a six-pack, a dinner of sliced turkey and pepperjack and trail mix, a clean t-shirt, and a chocolate bar.

***

I had second thoughts about a costume. This is a COSTUME party, after all, and I showed up with ideas, but no guts. Like Cleaveland said, if you don’t act, your idea is useless. For the entire week before Keenevention, I had a big moustache and unkept, wild hair. I got my hair cut the night before and shaved up a bit. I would have been a dead ringer for Kurt Vonnegut — some grey hairdye, a sweater, wool socks, and a cat! All I needed was a clown nose and some floaties to stick on some unsuspecting female — Hello, Harry Bergeron. But just like I can’t dance, I can’t man up and act like a kid once in a while.

***

I spent a good hour trying to get wifi to work on my phone and laptop — goddamned google chrome blocking everything — then trying to e-mail photos from my phone to my computer. My plan was to write something, drink something, go downstairs to the party, then repeat. At step six (that is, the second round of going downstairs), I stayed. My costume was “undercover investigative journalist with a plastic cup filled with Jack Daniel’s.” No, I didn’t tell anyone that. I was just a wallflower. But put a few drinks in me and I will chat with anybody. And chat, I did!

***

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HALLOKEENE COSTUME PARTY

The ballroom had been transformed into the Hallokeene Costume Party! Club-techno-remix-whatever-you-call-it music blasted; lasers shot all over the room, drawing animals and spelling KEENEVENTION over and over on the pull-out wall that split the ballroom in half; the teeny bar was crowded; cows and mermaids and zombie punx and devils and Hunter S. Thompsons and SWAT team pigs danced and mingled and staggered and wandered and wondered. Well, I mostly wondered. What if….I had fun instead of was a wallflower?

Yes, there were TWO HSTs! The young HST who had been catching my attention all day, and an older, balder, visor-wearing HST. Man! The real HST came up to NH to write about the Hell’s Angels. I coulda been the uber-hipster writer wannabe. Instead, I tried to have great conversations with random people. God damned if I can remember half of them…

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I could have entered the Hallokeene Parrty for free, but I chose to donate ten FRN’s to help an important cause in American history: FREEROSS.ORG. Chris Cantwell was running the door, dressed up as a snazzy cop….with a bullet in his forehead, blood and everything… Perfect doorman. He was so polite! Maybe when cops die, they go to heaven…

 

Curmudgeonly Rich proceeded to people watch. I met an Ape, whom I told to keep his damned dirty ape hands off me. He showed me his hands and mumbled. I continued to avoid touching. I couldn’t help but admire his ape form as he crossed the room, however.

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But most importantly, I met Nurse Cantwell. There happened to be a sociable woman behind-the-mask! and I met a few wonderful people because of her silly mask! but that’s my point! Even the wallflower at the libertarian party makes new friends.

***

I was outside smoking a cigarette in the Keene ice-winds. I gave Rich Paul a cig. One of my pals from inside came out. Some other people were out to smoke. I joined them. “Hi, I’m Brett,” one of them said to me. I shook his hand and thought nothing of it. Later, I realized it was Brett Veinotte of School Sucks. Fortunately, I was already inside my hotel room when my fanboy-mode kicked in. He was dressed up as a local judge. Keene humor — I didn’t even get it, but in retrospect, it’s funny.

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***

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Bob told me he wanted to give his costume away to someone at the end of the night. Right then, I saw Derrick J — err, Marilyn Monroe — passing by, so I flagged him down. I told him Bob’s idea and he consented, but with one caveat — he wasn’t the King of Keenevention…he was the Queen. Bob drew up the robe and placed the crown on Derrick. Derrick took it to the dance floor — stat! — and the party seemed to reach its climax from there. In fact, the crowd on the dance floor managed to form a circle and various costumed hooligans jumped in to perform solo moves. I noticed a second judge in the room, with a black robe and curly white wig, jumping around the dance floor — that was Ian Freeman, of course. Perfect costume for him.

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Unfortunately at midnight, the lights came on and the party ended. I wandered back up to my room and managed to find the bed. I would spend the next ten hours there.

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***

I slept until 11:20! Hotel beds will do that to you. My clock read 12:20, but that was because of the Daylight Whatever Statist Time. Nonetheless, I was supposed to be out of my hotel room by 11:00. I threw all my shit into my bag and bolted.

I missed the Secession Panel. I even had some questions to ask. Rats.

I wandered down for the Direct Action Panel, but only passively listened while I mostly people watched and wrote in my moleskine. There was one scrappy, bearded fellow at the end of the table who was quite lively. He talked about how it’s important to focus on what you’re good at and stick to it. For him, that’s public speaking, not organizing. He also told us he is full of adrenaline and he specializes in rushing the barricade! I thought that was pretty cool.

***

The sun was out in Keene, but I heard it was snowing in the northeast somewhere. The wind in Keene was harsh. The clouds weren’t moving — the sun was. I watched a cigarette pole blow out of the Sovereign Hotel’s parking lot into the street. The wind felt better than a shower. Woke me right up.

I took a walk down Winchester Street in search of food, but once I reached the horde of college students, I turned around and helped myself to more Wal-Mart fare. It was a smart decision, as time was an issue. The Bitcoin Panel was about to begin.

***

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BITCOIN PANEL

The Bitcoin panel was unique in that it wasn’t about the cryptocurrency, per say, but practical ways to USE the cryptocurrency to disregard regulations and live more free. Instead of partaking in the panel for once, Stephanie Murphy moderated this one. As the host of Let’s Talk Bitcoin, this was her second year in a row hosting the Bitcoin Panel. She was aware that the video would be online, and wasn’t shy about looking or speaking to the camera. Her guests included Darryl Perry, representing his publishing company, Free Press Publications; Brian Sovryn, the host of Sovryn Tech; Riaz Kahan, the “agorist cabbie”; and the Harvey brothers Zach and Josh, founders of Lamassu, the Bitcoin ATM.

I’ve had my skepticism about Bitcoin, but recently I’ve geeked out big time with it. Maybe it was because someone bought me an ice cream sandwich with BTC, or maybe it was because I was able to buy my ticket to Keenevention with Bitcoin — maybe it was just the love in the room. Regardless, I was enamoured with this panel, and it has only strengthened my newfound love for Bitcoin.

“Bitcoin in New Hampshire has been so exciting,” Murphy began. There are probably more Bitcoin users in New Hampshire than any other state, at least per capita. The theme of the day’s panels seemed to be, “Could NH be the next Silicon Valley?” Heck, the Lamassu machine, with no internet connection, was serving up Bitcoin 24/7 in the White Mountains during PorcFest. That’s amazing. NH doesn’t even need the internet to be revolutionary.

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The Lamassu machine was built as a project that inevitably turned into a business. The Harvey brothers took turns telling the story of how they were putting it together in a hotel room in DC the night before a Students For Liberty conference. It worked! The next week, they brought it back home to the FSP’s Liberty Forum, and it blew up from there. A prototype with nuts and bolts sticking out of it, the Lamassu machine became famous. Now it is a sleek little box that hardly takes up any space, and is incredibly easy to use, converting cash to BTC in under two minutes. All the other processes out there can take up to 24 hours, if not longer.

New Hampshire is also the home of the longest running Bitcoin Meetup group. These meetups have been going on for a few years at Strange Brew Tavern in Manchester. There is “so much tech knowledge going around the room that it can be convoluted or esoteric to people in the room not in the group,” shared Riaz. And the best part? You can trade for Bitcoin at spot, avoiding the mark-ups and wait-time from exchanges online.

***

I actually saw a funny post on Facebook last week before a meetup. Someone asked if anyone was in the market for FRNs. He was prepared to take your BTC in exchange. A clever way to put it!

***

Riaz sort of stumbled into his agorist cabbie business by offering rides to people. One person decided to offer him some Bitcoin as a thanks and from there, he realized he could make a tidy little profit by expanding his market. He mostly caters to “Porcs” — the fun word for FSP people — so he doesn’t have much trouble dealing with regulations or police. He claimed to have around 100 customers and is more than happy to compete with Uber if it ever comes into the area. Uber doesn’t accept cash or Bitcoin and they have to report their income to the IRS. There was a hearty round of boos in the room, to everyone’s delight.

Speaking of regulations, that has been a touchy subject in the Bitcoin community as of late, with the state of New York trying to profit off BTC users within its magic lines. Darryl decided to whip out his Intergalactic Bitcoin License and read it off for everyone to prove he is, indeed, a licensed Bitcoin user. “The bearer of this card has a natural and inalienable right to financial freedom and privacy. This includes, but is not limited to, possession, transfer, transmission, uttering, passing, laundering, mining, hoarding, sending, receiving and earning of Bitcoin.” The “licenses” are available at Bitcoin Not Bombs.

Darryl and Sovryn commented on the future of cryptocurrency and altcoins. “Bitcoin is the roman chariot of currencies,” Darryl reiterated. In the future, there will be something LIKE Bitcoin, but it will be better. New altcoins like NXT have features such as Proof of Stake that might be much more secure than Bitcoin’s current foundation. Sovryn concurred: NXT has a the first decentralized online free market exchange that the world has ever seen. It exists RIGHT NOW. That’s amazing. Sovryn also is keen on the idea of numerous altcoins to service various regions. “There should be an FSP coin,” he ruminated. There is no internet in the White Mountains — surely, there is a market for something to become popular.

Someone got up and asked what the panelists thought of crypto-voting and passports via the blockchain. Sovryn nipped it real quick. “If it’s a bad idea without a blockchain, it’s a bad idea WITH a blockchain.”

Darryl chimed in with my favorite line from the panel, and a reverbation of the anarchism that owned the Sovereign Hotel this weekend: “We’re trying to find ways around the regulations and I don’t care what those regulations are.”

Amen!

***

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TECHNOLOGY PANEL

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty weak on technology, and I planned to passively listen to this panel. I was surprised, however, at how much I found to be of interest over this hour-long discussion with Brian Sovryn and his three guests. I’ve never heard of any of these guys, but they had a lot to say. All anarchists — a biologist, a computer guy, and a fellow in a black suit with a yellow tie who had notes and wasn’t scared to use them.

The potential for tech startups in New Hampshire is exciting! The guy in the suit with the notes shared some stats. It costs $50 per square foot for office space in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That same office in Manchester, NH costs a mere $11 per square foot. Manchester is maybe…forty minutes down the highway from Boston, so this is super crucial to realize. Sovryn shared the story about Trader Joe’s closing a store in Massachusetts and moving it five minutes away into Nashua, NH, just to cut out some taxes and regulations.

New Hampshire can be (and very well might be!) the next Silicon Valley. Carla Gericke has already called NH the “Hong Kong” of the USA. This is some exciting stuff.

New Hampshire is one of the states that residents want to move out of the least, according to the computer guy, Steve Zemanek. He had a laptop on the table with him. All these guys had done their research and brought their notes to class. It was awesome to geek out for an hour or so. Meanwhile, people in Massachusetts and California WANT to move out. This makes NH very appealing to tech startups.

The biology guy, Max Peto, told us how he looked into various towns in NH to start his business. Some of these towns had little-to-no zoning laws and even approached him to get him to settle for their town. The town of Grafton has NO zoning laws. That’s mind-blowing to some people.

One of the reasons Sovryn brought a biologist into the technology panel is because it is important to be “insanely healthy.”

“One of the keys to beating the state is to outlive it,” he told us. I noticed that for the host of a anarchist-themed technology show, he’s pretty buff. Being in shape is a form of activism, itself, these days. Meanwhile, Sovryn is developing a video game with voluntaryist themes. That will be exciting. And it reminded me of Cleaveland’s comment that sitting around playing video games might not be the best use of one’s time — perhaps those guys should get to creating the games, themselves. I don’t play video games, really, but I took it to heart.

Maybe this next question was a softball, but Sovryn asked the panel what older technologies can be used for activism in New Hampshire. Every anarchist must ask himself what he will do if the grid goes down. The government can (and might) jam cell and internet technolgies. Handheld radios are the solution. The Keene activists are known for carrying these little things around at all times. Always at the ready! Ian Freeman was selling them at $40 each during the Keenevention. Derrick showed his off in his recent Anarchast appearance.

Whether or not it is modern technology or old, Johnson concluded, “The best tool for the job is whatever tool serves that need.”

What are some resources and tools for activists and anarchists to look into? Sovryn brought up one of Darryl Perry’s raffle prizes: a USB harddrive with Tails on it. Tails is an operating system that you can remove from a computer and take with you. It’s completely secure and private. Johnson referred everyone to Lifehacker’s App Packages, and their Night School — free videos on various technology skills. Steve had a funny (but true!) answer: “Everything changes” when you go to PorcFest. Not just your personal opinion of the Free State Project, but the connections you make, the lessons you learn, and the actual experience of living in a stateless society, even if it’s only for a day or two. Max shared a link for health, the Life Extension Foundation, and his personal blog, Longlifelabs.com. I wasn’t the only person who wrote those sites down in my notebook…

Brian Sovryn closed the panel with a provocative question: “When starting a company, you’re going to ask, ‘What problems will I solve?’ But always consider, ‘What problems will you create?'”

Ah, the catch-22 of technology!

***

The schedule was running late! Only a short break after the last panel and Rich Paul’s speech. He should be wrapping up around 4:15, Ian Freeman told everyone. That time was important to remember…

***

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KEYNOTE: RICH PAUL

Ian Freeman introduced one of his heroes, the headliner of Keenevention, Rich Paul. Rich spent the last year in jail for refusing to accept a plea deal concerning his possession of a leaf.

He gave a real short speech, but it was filled with greatness. He was dressed exactly the same as I saw him the night before, and he held the microphone lazily close to his face. It was a fun twenty minutes. Off the cuff, unplanned, and organic.

Keene’s reputation is negative, he began. That’s because the only videos online tend to be negative: cop blocks, Robin Hooding, court cases, pumpkin fest riots… “Well, there’s only one negative experience for every thousand positive, and the positive videos don’t get posted online.” Regardless of the content of the video, it’s important that the FSP gets into the news. Outreach to other libertarians is important.

So the NYT writes an article about the FSP. “As a libertarian I’d read between the lines in a hit piece and think, man! I should check that out!” RIGHTEOUS.

Touching on Cantwell’s love for controversy, Rich Paul agreed: “If I didn’t talk to people who disagreed with me, I’d never change my mind.” He admitted to being a minarchist when he moved here, but of course, the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? “Six months of living in New Hampshire!”

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There will always be some people who want to “chip at only 95% of government.” That’s great, so “grab a pick axe.” But anarchism is the only solution. However, respect is important. “If there’s no respect in the communication, there is no communication.”

Keene has a reputation of wily, anarchist activism. “Oh, you have to get arrested” to be cool in Keene. That’s not true. The biggest thing Keene needs is entrepeneurship. Agorist businesses that reach out to the community and prove we don’t need a government to save us from the problems of life.

Someone asked Rich to share his arrest experience. He explained how he was taken into the police station and asked to wear a wire into the Keene Activist Center. He considered it. He wanted to show up and tell them all, “Guys, you’ll never guess what happened to me today!” while pulling his shirt up to expose the microphone. But he didn’t. He went to jail instead. For a long fucking year.

Someone asked him, for fun, “What is jail food like?”

It was exactly 4:20 pm.

He replied, “Jail food sucks. I’m not fond of it. It is 4:20? Just in hope that someone wants to go smoke a bowl…” I was laughing and lost track of what he was saying, but he quoted someone — it was a great way to end Keenevention, I wish I got it — and the room gave a standing ovation.

***

Some people went to a bar called McCue’s for Social Sundays, a long-running Keene tradition. I decided to ride away from the sunset back to Raymond, NH. I listened to radio. Tom Brady smacked Peyton Manning around. I got lost in Milton, NH. How the heck do I get lost on Rte. 101? I LIVE on Rte. 101. I did see the car with the BITCOIN vanity plate in Milton, though. I felt better after that. We’re all here together.

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I revved up and drove into the darkness.

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New Hampshire is awesome.