Welcome to New Hampshire. Land of those who “Live Free or Die”. A place where some government owned roads have potholes deep enough to nearly flatten my car’s tires during a night drive. But what are the free people of New Hampshire like?
I browsed the Internet and filed away stories of nanobreweries and porcupine quill crowns, and stumbled into a Facebook group dedicated to the Liberty Forum. The most noticeable pattern in the Facebook posts was the amount of people driving in from out of town. Several conference attendees were driving in from South Carolina, Michigan and other locations outside of New Hampshire. Others were members of the press, with requests being posted for Ben Swann’s journalists who would need a ride from Logan Airport.
Several folks made reservations to sleep on the floor of those who booked hotel rooms at the Crowne Plaza where the Liberty Forum was held.
I personally dislike bowties. But Jeffrey Tucker has a way of beating any haters of liberty (and bowties) down with elegance and charm. His first talk was concise and went through a talk called 10 Steps to Hack the Leviathan.
Notes from 10 Steps to Hack The Leviathan
Jeffrey talked about the softer subversive ways to Hack the Leviathan. He claimed centuries of work done by the government and lobbyists to limit choice and free markets can be undone in one Saturday afternoon.
1. Hack the House
Use TSP (trisodium phosphate) instead of bleach for laundry, dishes, and cleaning around the house.
2. Hack Education
Don’t bother with school
Use the Khan Academy
Use tablets to download millions of free books online available via the Gutenburg project and Laissez Faire Books (lfb.org)
Americans don’t travel enough
Travel to countries freer than America
America isn’t the most perfect nation on earth
Get a passport
4. Build an Online Network
5. Leave Your Job
People are afraid of leaving a bad job
Fear of losing health care
Fear of uncertainty
Human beings are anti-fragile
The State wants us to stay in 1 job forever
6. Take Charge of Your Health
Use online pharmacies
7. Peer to Peer Lending
Banking system is broken
Loan system is f’d up
8. Learn New Technology
We can all learn new things
Read Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper on a peer-to-peer cash transaction system (Bitcoin).
Over 400 cryptocurrencies in circulation
10. Have Hope
Don’t be afraid
Future can be brighter than the present
Satoshi didn’t approach a central planner and didn’t ask for permission. He just served others.
States are cruel and stupid. Markets are smart
The audience laughed and cheered through each of these points and Jeffrey’s enthusiasm helped the talk fly by and made most people feel like the talk should have extended past the designated time slot.
One of the attendees asked Jeffrey if we were more free than 10 or 20 years ago. Mr. Tucker said, “We have more choices, but are less free.”
I was very familiar with the Living 1 Week on Bitcoin series Kashmir published and I loved the story. I almost decided not to sit in on the talk, but as she began I realized it was much better to hear the story directly from the source, than to read online.
Here are a list of facts that I didn’t remember reading in the online story:
- The first two food items she could purchase when she started her story was cupcakes and sushi.
- Buyers Best Friend began accepting Bitcoins (in store only) just because Kashmir Hill was living on Bitcoins.
- Jared Kenna provided her with shelter and his hostel was the only living space that accepted Kashmir’s Bitcoins.
Finding a reliable means of transportation that would accept Bitcoin was a constant struggle the entire week. She paid her friend some Bitcoin for an old used bike.
She shared that she would be repeating the experiment on the anniversary of her first experiment to see if it was easier to live off Bitcoins in San Francisco one year later.
One of the first 3d printer users to download Cody’s liberator raised his gun as a packed room and the crowd cheered him on for exercising his freedom to print.
I also own a 3D printer and I looked forward to hearing the specifics on how the Liberator was designed and released. It is modeled after a .380 caliber gun and designed by an Electrical Engineer. Cody didn’t have a Mechanical Engineer on hand, but this gentleman named John was available and determined to design the first 3D printed gun.
Initial test shots resulted in shredded the plastic gun due to several misfires and gave Cody and his team a bit of apprehension before calling the media (Andy Greenberg of Forbes and others) down to witness a successful test fire, but after choosing the right gun to model their gun after, finding a strong reliable spring design on thingiverse, and getting a second hand Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer off ebay they had all they needed to finish the project.
ABS vs. PLA
When I first did research on 3D printers, choosing ABS or PLA was a big question. ABS plastic was stronger, but was oil based and released hazardous fumes as it cooled. PLA plastic was corn based, but fragile and couldn’t withstand high temperatures. I personally only use PLA since I have children in my home, but it is very common for ABS to be used for high force applications.
Knowing the difference between the two types of plastics Cody had available is important, because to make a usable gun it is clear ABS is the only plastic that would be able to make strong enough springs and barrel to allow the gun to be fired multiple times. Cody was able to, with ABS, fire the Liberator 10 times before the barrel cracked. He taped it together and was then able to fire it one more time.
Bitcoin Public Addresses Over Ham Radio
After a brief nap, I drove back to the Liberty Forum where I was expected to hear Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, talk about his recent successes with Bitcoin, but he was unavailable due to health reasons, and the talk was delayed. Instead a stellar panel including Daniel Krawisz, Cody Wilson, and Chris Case talked about Bitcoin.
After the talk, I sat down with a lady who had several solar chargers and enough devices in her backpack to survive through an apocalypse. Her main concern with Bitcoins was, if the power grid went down in a region, how would people continue to transfer Bitcoins?
I didn’t have a good answer, but the gentleman who sat with us showed us his ham radio he was selling for $100. He also had an iPhone app called PSKer. The app was a less powerful audio receiver and unlike like the chirp app, could decipher data encoded over specific frequencies designated spectrum.
We ran a test using a public Bitcoin Address, and it worked perfectly. I then turned to the survivalist lady and said, “If some region did run out of power, they could use their ham radio to communicate their public address.” The ham radio operator on the other end would have to be a trusted source.
According the FCC, ham radios can not be used for commerce; whether a Bitcoin public address could be seen as commerce is questionable. Someone could use it to confirm a balance for off-chain manually entered transactions in a rural region that has lost power.
Tom Drake and The Whistleblowers
I had never heard of many of the other whistleblowers besides Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, but of the modern whistleblowers, Thomas Drake was the first to draw media attention to the wasteful spending going on in the NSA and prove that this government organization had the resources to prevent the 9/11 attack.
He went to court and suffered for informing the public of this intel and he admitted some of his friends had suffered for his revelation. His lawyer is Jesselyn Radack who is also Edward Snowden’s lawyer, and is also a whistleblower about the government’s interrogation of John Walker Lindh without a lawyer present.
Thomas spoke of the first whistleblower in American history, Benjamin Franklin, and how he was penalized for intercepting letters to the Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson who called for an “abridgement of English liberties” and had been assisted by his brother-in-law General George Oliver in restricting the freedoms of British citizens living in Massachusetts.
Thomas referred to Ben Franklin because the letters which served as evidence were dismissed from Ben Franklin’s trial. He was fired as the Postmaster and permanently sent back to the US. Thomas said that under this government all whistleblowers have suffered losses, whether it’s having a spouse fired and forcing a family to live on food stamps or threatening someone with jail time as the threat pushes someone to commit suicide. Releasing government secrets to assist the public in knowing the truth always has negative personal consequences.
Jesselyn Radack was also the lawyer for John Kiriakou, who became a whistleblower after announcing to the press the methods which the CIA used to institutionalize torture. John’s sister was in the audience and confirmed he was still in jail serving his 2.5 year sentence and misses being with his wife and 5 children.
All Liberty Forum attendees were invited to a second party in Manchester at a location called Area 23. This place was larger and thus more visible from the street, although someone told me I was entering through the wrong door. Again I followed the crowd to my destination, and this space seemed like more of a hangout, even though it was still under construction. To be honest, the unfinished rooms were quite appealing as most people chose to spend their time in areas with construction equipment and bare walls. The other rooms included Free State Project’s office, a map room, an open black room, and an area with a pool table.
Near the food there was a dance floor where a few brave souls donning neon apparel danced to a playlist I heard even as I was pulling up into the parking lot.
The map room had a world map that covered one entire wall. It was close to 10 feet high and about 14-15 feet wide. I spoke to Zach and Josh Harvey, the developers of the Lamassu Bitcoin ATM and they talked about all the places in the world they were shipping their ATMs. I asked Josh how they tested different fiat currencies, and they told me they obtained the customers’ target currency and tested the ATM against a country specific firmware is installed to handle any currency. They pointed to all the places on the map where they had sent their ATMs.
The software used on the Lamassu is open source, and it could technically be configured to use software from the Dark Wallet or add support for other cryptocurrencies like AuroraCoin or Dogecoin.
We started talking about where we would go if we had to leave the US. At such a large scale, all the small islands around the larger continents were visible and we shared what we knew about these islands and how difficult it would be to migrate there.
While I was in the room, a gentleman approached me and pulled a slender shiny 10 ounce bar of silver out of his pocket. He wanted to exchange his silver for Bitcoin. This was my first ever informal silver offer, but I declined because I had just used Bitcoin to buy several silver coins from Amagi Metals hours earlier at the Liberty Forum.
A Chat with The Quill Queen a.k.a. Carla Gericke
A large part of the Liberty Forum attendees were early Free State movers, and a lot of the buzz about the Free State project is due to Carla Gericke’s leadership. I use the term leadership very liberally and I would say the Free State Project is full of a lot of leaders. Carla took some time to share some of the details of the Free State Project and talk about PorcFest.
Ruben Alexander: What did you enjoy the most about the 2014 Liberty Forum? What do you think you won’t repeat again?
Carla Gericke: Enjoyed the most? Definitely our keynote speakers. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, who represented Drake and is now representing Snowden, were amazing!
I was also excited by our Friday night keynote, Naomi Wolf, whom I personally recruited. I’m thrilled that she joined us, and that she was totally enamoured with what we are achieving in New Hampshire. She called it “ground zero for grassroots activism,” and she’s right. I wanted to bring Naomi out because part of this journey to freedom rests on us finding common ground with others. I believe progressives, or at least the ones asking the right questions, can be allies. This is no longer a left vs. right paradigm, it’s an issue of liberty vs. tyranny. When Naomi spoke about being wrong on gun rights and the Second Amendment, and acknowledged that we need guns to protect individuals’ rights against the strong arm of the state, I knew we could continue the dialogue. I’m excited to see where her next book takes her, and her new documentary, which is an update on her book “The End of America.”
I also really enjoyed the Ignite talks, which was a first for us. The format–sticking to 5 minutes with 20 slides that auto-progress every 15 seconds–forced speakers to be succinct and on point. It was great to see what other activists are passionate about, with topics ranging from my own “Art as Activism (Or How Not to Do an Ignite Talk),” to “How to Hitchhike in New Hampshire.”
As to what not to repeat again, nothing really jumps out. The conference was well balanced, with topics covering economics, food freedom, legislature, moving to New Hampshire, philosophy, police state, secession, surveillance and privacy, social justice, technology, whistleblowing, and of course, Bitcoin. I’m already thinking about 2015, and am, frankly, a little worried about how to top this one!
RA: I didn’t see a dry eye when Thomas Drake and the other whistleblower’s sister talked about the illusion of freedom in America and punishment for speaking the truth. Have there been any whistleblowers for matters local to the New Hampshire law enforcement or government? What protection do freestaters have in this circumstance?
CG: You’re right about not a dry eye–I cried too! It’s very emotional to see the consequences of taking the moral high ground so personally, as human beings who are trying to protect and alert others to the emerging police state. Drake really impressed me with his unapologetic, forthright testimony against the national surveillance state, at great cost to himself.
There have been examples of local liberty lovers blowing the whistle. One of our speakers, Peter Martino, who spoke out at the Concord BEARCAT hearing about the federal government building a domestic army, whistleblew on waste and fraud in a warzone overseas. I believe he is under a gag order, and not a “free stater” per se, but he’s one of us, a “pre-stater,” if you will. One of the many reasons we chose New Hampshire–no sales tax, no income tax–is because a desire for liberty still exists here.
We have had situations where activists’ actions have led to more transparency and accountability in law enforcement. Personally, I was arrested in 2010 for filming police officers in public, and my subsequent lawsuit against them is currently in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The police chief of the town of Weare resigned, and two officers have been fired. It’s hard to say definitively that my suit was the cause, but the new police chief did reach out through my attorney to acknowledge there are problems in the Weare police department.
During the Concord BEARCAT hearings last fall, it came to light that the then Concord police chief Duval had lied on a federal grant application for the acquisition of BEARCAT, calling Free Staters “a domestic terrorist threat.” Although the city ultimately voted to accept the BEARCAT, despite the will of more than 1,500 petition signers against it, Chief Duval quietly retired a few months later, and now works security for the Concord Hospital.
You can read more about the BEARCAT on www.freestateproject.org and here are some choice links:
RA: I heard the free state movement has 15,000 pledges. From what I saw the community is strong even though most folks who have signed the pledge haven’t arrived. Do you know what locations are growing the most due to early movers? Do you have any insight into what town has the most free staters?
CG: The FSP is now more than 75% to our goal of getting 20,000 activists to pledge to move to New Hampshire. Early movers have been coming to the state since the FSP started more than a decade ago, but there’s definitely an acceleration happening, and even though no one is even obligated to move yet (you have 5 years after we reach the 20,000 mark), more than 1,500 people already have! With the successes we’ve seen with this relatively small number of activists, imagine what is going to happen when we Trigger the Move!
Movers settle all across the state, but the largest concentration is in Manchester, NH’s biggest city (pop. 110,000). The largest per capita concentration of Free Staters is in Grafton, which is a small, rural town with no zoning laws. There are also pockets in Nashua, which is close to the Massachusetts border and supplies FSP techies to the Boston area, and in Keene, which is a liberal college town.
RA:Have Bitcoin donations helped with the expenses related to running the Free State Project?
CG: The FSP was an early adopter of Bitcoin, and we started accepting payments in BTC to our events back in 2011, and BTC donations in 2012. We have a large Bitcoin community in New Hampshire, for example, the founders of Lamassu are Free Staters. We also have a lot of BTC related independent media that originates from here. We have received modest BTC donations in the past, and have had great relationships with BTC vendors as sponsors at our events. We appreciate the support! Of course, I wouldn’t mind if a Bitcoin millionaire wanted to step in and solve our immediate fundraising needs.
RA: I read online you were originally from South Africa. Can you talk more about your background and what shaped your current views on the value in pursuing liberty in your community?
CG: Yes, I was born and raised in South Africa, but also traveled a lot as a child as my father was a diplomat. Being able to see the “free world” while living in a police state formed many of my opinions. I was always a bit of a rebel, and never saw much sense in trying to control others. I won a green card in the mid-Nineties, and decided to immigrate to America. I have a distinct memory of the first time I took an internal business flight–this was probably 1996–and having been subjected to rigorous airport screenings growing up in South Africa–security theater–I arrived a couple of hours early, only to be told you can go through up to half an hour before your flight. This blew my mind! Fast forward to the post 9/11 world we live in, and the same police state scare tactics I saw under the apartheid regime, are now visible everywhere in the USA.
I come from a long lineage of people who don’t take crap, and who moved time and time again for more freedom. My forefathers left Europe for more freedom in Africa. They then left the Cape in the Great Trek to get away from the British. I left South Africa for the promise of a brighter future in America. I left California for New York for more opportunity. I left NYC for New Hampshire to pursue Liberty in Our Lifetime. MY lifetime. Before signing up for the FSP, I researched other options–moving back to South Africa, going to Belize, Uruguay, Argentina, the informed know the drill–but ultimately I decided I wanted to make a stand. I wanted to held build a community of like-minded people to see if we can keep one little slice of America free. We are turning the tide, we picked the right state, and now all we need is more signers and movers. (And the funds to make it happen.)
RA: Talk about the picture with Jason Soren’s daughter handing you her allowance, which was a handful of pennies.
CG: Talk about an evocative, happenstance moment! I was waiting for panelists to get miked, and decided to warm up the crowd and talk about how I was going to talk about our fundraising needs the next day. I was kind of goofing around, and said “Gimme moneeeey! I need money!” The founder of the FSP, Jason Sorens’ daughter, was playing in the back of the room. She heard what I said, dug out coins from her coat pocket, and started down the aisle to the stage. Her mom noticed in time, and stopped her since the panel had by now started, telling her she could talk to me afterwards. When I left the stage, this adorable 3 year old comes up to me, and says: “You said you needed money. Take mine,” and dropped a handful of pennies and dimes in my hand. I almost burst into tears!
RA:Why should people consider attending PorcFest?
CG: PorcFest XI will be even more epic than our tenth anniversary event last year, where we attracted more than 1,700 attendees. The Porcupine Freedom Festival is a week-long camping experience, with nearby motels and hotels, as well as park motels, for those who prefer a little more comfort.
PorcFest is liberty in action, the agora in motion, it is a truly free market. FRNs are the least favorite means of exchange, and people pay in gold, silver, Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. You can walk down Agora Valley and buy some “Lew Rocky Road” ice cream with BTCs.
While we always attract world renowned speakers–I’m delighted to announce that Overstock’s Patrick Byrne will be one of our headline speakers–PorcFest 2014 will be focusing on “DIY,” self-reliance, instructional classes, and skill-building. Free Staters are, by their very natures, doers who like to execute on projects.
Some call PorcFest the “Burning Man for libertarians,” and that’s partly true, but it is also a family-friendly event. All we ask is that attendees take personal responsibility for their actions. It’s a big tent event, drawing gun enthusiasts, religious folks, big and small Ls, politicos, anarchists, voluntaryists, entrepreneurs, the whole gamut participating together in classes, workshops, hikes, cook-offs, shooting expeditions, swimming, singing, etc. The beauty of PorcFest is that it shows that voluntary interactions free of force actually work, and it’s a sight to behold.
Tickets are on sale for only $60 (accommodation at Roger’s Campground in Lancaster, NH, is separate). You can get more information and buy your tickets at: porcfest.com. Porcfest runs from June 22-29, 2014.
I saw Amanda Billyrock after one of the final talks and realized I had Issue 16 (To The Moon) which included her interview. In the interview, I closed the story with her invitation to come to the Liberty Forum. I accepted and realized that more of these sorts of invitation need to be given from us to others – whether it’s an invitation to visit a local Bitcoin meetup, or to come and move to a state full of Anarchists and Libertarians. These invitations allow anyone who may be disillusioned with the world the opportunity to start a new chapter and enter a community that will help them thrive.
So, I invite you to check out the Free State Project and the growing Bitcoin community in New Hampshire by joining me at Porcfest or Liberty Forum in the future.