My First Experience at Freedom Fest 2011 (with Photos!)
(There is A LOT here, so take your time. Each day of the conference easily warrants its own separate blog article, but I hate splitting these things up. Each person here is significant and warrants his or her own blog article, so this is actually concise. Consider this a crash course in many of the leading figures of the current liberty movement, with photos and links.)
I’ve never been secretive about my thoughts and outlook. I’ve actively been a part of the pro-liberty movement since high school, when I first discovered Ayn Rand, the world’s most controversial philosopher. Before I got to college I read everything I could find that she ever wrote. My mind was racing then, her material got me thinking about everything in new ways. I started to train my mind to approach every situation by searching for the fundamentals. I tried to find the core of every issue, and I’d consider its philosophical implications. In time this in-depth philosophical background became so damn powerful for me. I could analyze and understand issues with more clarity. I began writing more confidently. I even began making bolder serious life and business decisions much more quickly. The world is more intelligible the better you understand its matrix.
Very few of my friends gave a shit.
I don’t criticize people for not caring about philosophy and politics. That’s how it should be. These abstract issues shouldn’t have to be an important part of everyone’s life. We should be able to just enjoy our relationships and our friends and parties and our cars and smart phones and movies and music and enjoyable tastes in our mouths. We should enjoy as deep or as shallow of a life as we like.
Some of us are just not content with a simple set of 10 commandments handed to us. We’re compelled to sniff around and dig deeper. Yet this powerful deeper understanding turns frustrating when you recognize the ignorance and irresponsibility everywhere. That would be tolerable, until you recognize the ignorant and irresponsible have a gun to your head, and they’re giving you orders, and they’re even charging you for your chains. Now that sucks.
So yeah, I sought out and found others who also don’t like to be constantly fucked with. That’s the pro liberty movement I came to be a part of. They’re all different. Different values. Different cultures. Different philosophies (that’s controversial…). Different academic levels. Different hygienic levels. Different styles.
We did share the same belief that we are not the pawns of others. That we each own our life. That as long as we harm no one, government should only protect us to do as we like, no one should ever be able to use government power as a tool to interfere with our voluntary decisions.
The great terrible Carmageddon was descending on Los Angeles last month. I live smack dead center in the heart of it, just off the 405 freeway. The 405! Sometimes known as Earth’s most congested parking lot. Los Angeles officials made a big scene and screamed at us to get the hell out of LA while the 405 freeway is shut down for a whole weekend! Wait a second? Freedom Fest is in Vegas that same weekend…
Oh hellz yeah! Peace out LA!!
Looking over the all star line up of speakers and attendees, I couldn’t buy my plane ticket fast enough. I mean seriously, they had Peter Schiff (I wrote a whole blog article on him), Senator Rand Paul (dude!!), Peter Thiel (Billionaire founder of PayPal and initial large investor in Facebook), Nick Gillespie (I watch him almost every day on Reason.tv), Judge Andrew Napolitano (the incredible host of Freedom Watch, I’m a huge fan), John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods), and too many other heroes of mine to list.
So I arrive on Wednesday evening to the opening reception, before the conference kicks off in the morning, and the very first person I see and talk to is David Nott, President of the Reason Foundation, which might be my current favorite pro-liberty organization. Besides all the incredible policy research they’ve done to bring awareness and impact policy, their print publication, Reason Magazine, isn’t just my favorite political publication, it’s the only physical magazine that I actually read. The writers are brilliant, the content is always eye opening, the style is clever and engaging. Dare I say it’s an influence on my own writing. What makes Reason Foundation’s print and media content so awesome is that they’ve managed to make their content accessible and engaging without dumbing it down. I could write several articles articulating how incredible these guys are, so yeah I was happy to start off the conference bumping into Reason’s President, David Nott. He knows of me from the recent spate of successful pro-liberty cocktail parties I’ve been throwing at my house over the last year or so. And while we’re chatting, Sharon Harris is getting a plate of food next to us. Sharon Harris!! President of Advocates for Small Government. Those guys who promoted the cream cheese out of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (give it a try, takes a second). I’ve been reading her Liberator Online newsletters for the last 15 years, and I still read them. Of course I took a picture.
Then I saw Rob Kampia walking by. As many of my friends now know, Rob is Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Only a few days before this, I hosted a dinner party for MPP’s largest donors at my house and then opened it up into a cocktail party for about 200+ people as a great way to bring awareness to their cause and have a great time with great people. Marijuana Policy Project is the largest drug legalization political organization in the world, notably getting these various medical marijuana and legalization measures on ballots in all these states around the country. They’ve organized a massive effort to end our current prohibition state by state. And they have demonstrated surprising success in fighting this juggernaut of power. It’s amazing to talk to Rob and hear him talk about which states he’s going to next flip to legalizing medical marijuana and which states he’s going to flip to actual full legalization. No one else I know alive has the ability to talk like that. And he’s kind of a rock star at these conferences. He knows everyone and they’re all eager to chat with him.
The rest of the first day I walk around with Rob and he just kept introducing me to all these incredible people, many are heroes of mine, and he’s speaking so well of me to them. Man, I can’t even begin to tell him how much I appreciated that. I particularly loved meeting Wayne Allyn Root. He was the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential Nominee in the 2008 election. Wayne is just so fucking badass. He’s a large powerful burst of warm intensity and one of my favorite commentators to watch on TV. I asked him how he has all this energy and he told me he takes like a million of these natural vitamins every morning. I told him I’m sold. I want was he’s having!
The biggest draw for me to come to Freedom Fest was Peter Schiff. I am in awe of him. He is fucking amazing. The guy is a brilliant thinker, a powerful speaker, and such a fucking bastard on national TV. I always immediately feel bad for other commentators that challenge him on these news shows, they don’t know what they’re getting into, they don’t know what they’re up against. Peter Schiff is operating on another level. His book Crash Proof is probably the most insightful thing I’ve read in over a decade. He’s had such an impact on me, altering my understanding and outlook of the economy so severely that I can no longer, in good conscience, sell Commercial Real Estate to my clients. I just can’t do it, especially after all the devastation I’ve personally seen from Real Estate in the last few years; witnessing just one of my best developer clients lose over $80 Million of net worth in one year. Peter Schiff’s commentary is truly exceptional, incredibly insightful and hilarious. Here, listen to this clip from his radio show the other day where he takes down the widely respected Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who just suggested a fake alien invasion would get us completely out of a recession. Or this clip from a week ago where he takes on Alan Greenspan’s suggestion that our credit is sound because we can print money. His response to both of them literally had me laughing out loud. Hell, just read my whole blog article on him, there’s so many gems there. No media personality has a record of being anywhere near as insightful, articulate and spot on as Peter Schiff. That’s why he’s amassed such a massive loyal following which I’m certainly a part of. I couldn’t wait to see him at the conference and meet the guy. Though I did hear he can be a bit difficult to deal with in person…
So I see Peter Schiff walking through the hotel lobby Wednesday night with a posse from his brokerage firm. A friend and I don’t hesitate, we go up to say hi. My friend reaches out his hand, “Hi Peter, how are you?” Peter doesn’t extend his hand in return, “Not Good” he blurts. I ask what’s wrong, his brother Andrew Schiff explains that Peter was marketed on the main page of the Freedom Fest site but doesn’t have a slot all to himself on the main stage to address nearly 3000 attendees. Peter is upset, ranting something about Skousen (the organizer) not honoring his word to him, and threatening to leave the whole conference over this. Ok, he is a bit difficult. Some people might say that Peter Schiff is acting like a prima donna, and they might be right, but the truth is he’s right to be upset here. He has a lot of fans at the conference, he certainly helped fill seats, and he seems to be the only speaker heavily marketed with the event who doesn’t have his own slot speaking to the general audience. I calm him down by telling him “There’s nothing we can do right now. It’s almost 10pm, and I’m sure Skousen is already getting some sleep for his big opening day tomorrow. I’ll get up early at 6am tomorrow and talk to him about finding a speaking slot for you on the main stage in front of everyone. You’re right Peter, you’ve got a lot of fans here and you give great talks, it would be foolish of him not to make room for you on the main stage. After I talk to Skousen in the morning, I’ll call your brother to let him know how it goes.”
Maybe I’m crazy. Mark Skousen is the organizer of this huge Freedom Fest event. I don’t know him. In fact I didn’t even know he was the event organizer before that moment. And I have no idea where he’ll be in the morning. What have I gotten myself into? Well, what the fuck, let’s see if there’s anything I can do about this. As the saying goes… when there’s a will, there’s a way. Or as I like to say… anything is possible if you’re crazy enough!
I’m not a morning person, I’m an insomniac. Sometimes it happens that I go to sleep at 6am. Thursday morning I wake up at 6am. And I’m on a mission. Find Mark Skousen, get Peter Schiff an extra speaking slot in a packed established schedule of all star speakers. No big deal. I start asking people if they know where Mark Skousen is. “Oh he was just here, check the exhibit hall.” I feel kind of stupid as I realize I don’t actually know what he looks like. It’s after 7am, the first talk is at 8am, and the exhibit hall is packed with people checking out the different exhibit booths and grabbing a few bites to eat. How am I gonna find this guy? What the fuck am I doing right now?? Bingo, someone points him out for me half way across the room. I beam over to him, while he’s beaming out in a hurry to get to the main large conference room to be ready for the opening talk.
In business I use the green light, yellow light, red light system when I’m about to pitch an idea. I only pitch the idea if I see a green light (i.e. he’s not busy and has a couple anxiety free minutes to play with the idea). I never speak with someone when I see a yellow light, unless I absolutely have to. Mark Skousen was in a rush and moving fast, he was about to kick off the opening talk to his nearly 3000 person event he’s been planning all year. When I caught up with him the light was clearly red.
“Mark, Hi, my name is Judd. This is amazing what you’re doing, I’ve already met many incredible people. I talked to Peter Schiff last night and frankly he seems upset that he doesn’t have his own speaking slot in the main auditorium addressing the whole conference.” Mark interrupts me, “Peter is on a panel discussion in the main auditorium, is he aware of that?” “Yes, but he also wants his own time slot. And I honestly think he should have it. I’m a huge fan, many who are here are huge fans, he always gives powerful memorable speeches, it will make your conference that much more powerful and memorable. After all, you did market him on the front page of the web site. Could you find 10-20 minutes in the schedule to squeeze him in somewhere?”
Peter Schiff got 15 minutes to speak right before Rand Paul addressed the whole conference. I certainly cannot take credit for it. Peter legitimately was ready to leave the conference over this and his brother was on the phone trying to resolve it. But it certainly didn’t hurt that attendees were accosting the organizer, persuasively encouraging some speaking time for Peter Schiff. This definitely ingratiated me with Peter Schiff’s crew and I got to know them a bit better. In fact, this is kinda hush hush, but I’ll very likely be doing an event with Peter Schiff in the Fall. That is a big deal for me.
Thursday’s kickoff speech by Wayne Allyn Root was awesome. The guy is such a fun, powerful, and edgy speaker. The other talks were cool, but I couldn’t wait for the luncheon with Judge Andrew Napolitano. That guy is fantastic. His show Freedom Watch is hands down the best program with the Fox brand name attached. Listen to any one of his episodes to hear how principled, articulate, strong, and convincing he is. On my way up the elevator to Napolitano’s luncheon, David Boaz is in the elevator with me. David Boaz!! He’s pretty much the face of the CATO Institute, one of the most prominent Libertarian think tanks. They are so exceptional that I actually contribute a small amount of money to them. I even use their info and reports when I put together articles. We are all wearing nametags and David Boaz recognizes me, presumably from my events, and he asks “What do you do besides throwing parties all the time?” Pretty cool that he knew that! We chat for a bit as we exit the elevator and walk to the luncheon, where he is then seated at the reserved table right next to Judge Napolitano. Of course I took a picture.
After everyone is seated at the luncheon, and right before Judge Napolitano is about to talk, John Stagliano runs into the room, searching for an open seat. John Stagliano is awesome! He is one of the worlds largest pornographers (with his Evil Angel empire [TOTALLY NSFW]) and is a hardcore libertarian, and a massive contributor to the cause. I’ve known him for several months, initially at events I had at my house. We had an empty seat at our table so I waive him down and he joins us. Judge Napolitano gives an incredible talk. Truly a rarity among Judges and media personalities. Each of us in attendance received a signed copy of his book “Lies the Government Told You“; I love seeing books like that written by a Judge. Man, what a fantastic speaker he is. Judge Napolitano just might be the most articulate speaker I have ever seen ever. He has a powerful ability to take complex ideas and communicate them simply, clearly, and convincingly. Full of energy and power, he always sounds like he’s shouting at you when he speaks, but somehow it never comes off as overbearing. When Judge Napolitano is about to speak, his brand name leaves you certain that it will be clear, powerful, entertaining, and always enlightening. Following his luncheon he gave a speech to the whole conference in the main auditorium and it was probably one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. 3000 people erupted into thunderous applause. Judge Napolitano is on the path to legend status.
One interesting thing was that at the talk given by John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) he said that we will no longer publicly broadcast his opinions on current events. Apparently his article against Obama’s Health Care act caused his company a lot of problems 2 years ago, especially as his target market often is Obama supporters, and he can’t afford to put his company through that sort of public outcry again. Amazing how in some ways, the more powerful you get, the less power you have.
It was also cool to get to know Tad Lumpkin a little better. I met him at an event I threw for Gary Johnson at my house a couple months ago. He created an excellent animated video called “The American Dream” that explains the financial crises and influence of the Federal Reserve. It went viral! Achieving millions of combined youtube views. When you have 30 minutes, it’s definitely thought provoking and worth checking out:
One of the coolest things about the conference is all of the Students for Liberty crew. Students for Liberty is one of the most exciting things in the pro-liberty movement. That organization has their shit together. These kids know their stuff! They’ve got 10s of thousands of students in campus groups in over 500 colleges, all discussing and learning the ideas of liberty. I’m even more impressed with the group after chatting with their president Alexander McCobin (watch Alexander’s historical moment defending social tolerance against a bigot at CPAC 2010). The conference was big, there were more awesome people to meet and talk to than I was physically capable of meeting. But more than half the conference was old people. That’s not necessarily bad, but it would have felt like a big geriatric society if it wasn’t for all these Students for Liberty everywhere. Seeing all of these smart attractive cool younger people made the whole event feel so much more positive and hopeful. I hope they’re sponsored to come to more liberty themed events. They’re young and excited about this stuff, it’s cool to have them around. Reminds me of when I was 19 and flying on my own across the country for the first time to attend conferences like this.
One of the Students for Liberty is my friends Michelle Fields. I’ve met her several months back when I hosted one of the events for Gary Johnson at my place. Michelle has hosted some fantastic videos for liberty causes, and she just recently blew up all over the internet when her confrontation with Matt Damon went viral, leading to some great media appearances. You’ve gotta check out that Matt Damon scuffle:
So after all the talks were finished for the day, I was invited to join the whole crew of Reason Foundation for a nice dinner at a table of 18. Dude!! I got to hang out with Matt Welch (Editor in Chief at Reason Magazine and co-author the new book Declaration of Independents), David Nott (President of Reason Foundation), John Stagliano (badass guy mentioned earlier, more on him later), and of course Melissa Palmer (really cool chick at Reason), among other great people. I already told you how much I love the Reason Foundation, so yeah I’m seriously honored.
After dinner I head over to a party at a room at the Cosmopolitan hotel across the street. My friends Dana, Flavio and Carlos, from the Libertarian Party of California, rented a suite and invited a whole bunch of people, including all of the Students for Liberty crew. Must have been about 50 people packed in a hotel room suite. A lot of fun, but it was HOT in there. I took A LOT of pictures.
At one point one of “students” got a text about some other party and the whole Students For Liberty crew decided to go to that one; so like 30 people suddenly emptied out of the room and they told me to come along. But as we got down the elevator to the lobby it became clear that no one really knew what was going on. Everyone started scattering around aimlessly as everyone was trying to figure who knew what was happening, which was apparently not actually happening. Fucking kids… It’s obvious that these young libertarians needed some more central planning…
Among all the confusion the crowd kept splintering off. Everyone lost track of each other and we walked around Vegas a bit with a dwindling group. Eh, it was fun anyway and I took even more pictures :)
The big thing I was looking forward to on Friday was the luncheon with Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who founded Paypal, and helped launch Facebook into the big time. No one can deny that the guy is a visionary. Peter Thiel is no stranger to controversy, encouraging hyper achievers to leave college for the better opportunities and education of the real world, and supporting Patri Friedman‘s vision for the Seasteading Institute, which aims to build floating cities (plural) in the ocean as alternatives to the less than desirable governance options we have today. I took a seat near the front. As I sat down, Senator Rand Paul comes in and sits down at a seat 2 feet from me.
Of course I took a picture.
Peter Thiel’s talk focused on why our technologies are at the state they’re at today and where he sees things going in the future. Really fascinating stuff, especially as he explained how other sectors such as transportation and energy are not improving anywhere near the rate that computing is, primarily because computing and the internet are mostly free markets while most other sectors are bogged down in crippling union and environmental regulations, which cannot be understated.
I mentioned before that I grew up during my high school years on Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. Which is why it was so awesome to keep bumping into David Kelley, executive director and founder of the Atlas Society (the other Objectivist organization that represents the ‘tolerant’ side of the movement) [the picture of us to the right was actually taken a few days before Freedom Fest at a beach in California]. Seriously, I read David Kelley’s books in highschool. At 19, my very first flight on my own across the country was to attend my first of several of his organization’s yearly summer conference. Not only did I learn so much every year I went, but I made so many brilliant friends that are still close friends to this day, 12 years later. David Kelley is brilliant, insightful, and just a really good person. I love to walk among giants, and as leader of a prominent organization aimed at bringing reason, rights, responsibility, tolerance, peace, and voluntary cooperation back to this planet… yeah, David Kelley is a giant, with giant mountains to climb before him.
Gary Johnson showed up on Friday. I’ve kinda sorta gotten to know him a bit since I’ve organized a couple surprisingly awesome events for his presidential campaign at my house and seen him out on a number of other occasions. In my opinion, compared to Ron Paul, the biggest difference is that he tries to keep the libertarian message simpler and easier to understand. But don’t think he has a simplistic understanding of these matters. I’ve personally grilled him on economics and he knows his stuff! It’s good to know presidential candidates, but even if he wasn’t running for president, he’s a really cool guy who is very genuine and passionate in life. I don’t always like to brag, but… that picture to the left that appears on his campaign website, yeah I took that photo at my house. Ok enough bragging…
After all the talks were through that day, a friend and I went to an event rather far from the Hotel that promoted an all star lineup of speakers. We’re talking Peter Schiff, Governor Gary Johnson, Wayne Allyn Root, Rob Kampia, and several more. Well, there was supposed to be like 200 people there. But it didn’t quite work out that way. Only the speakers showed up. It was literally the speakers speaking to an empty room with a handful of the other speakers. The speakers were… pissed! I was… stoked! Damn man that was some awesome one on one time with some prominent people! I didn’t have to wait in the pile of animals that usually circle these guys just for a second to say something. They were actually kind of bored and happy to talk. I’ve thrown many events before, this one was actually coordinated really well, they had large shuttles, a whole restaurant reserved with awesome appetizers, and a fantastic lineup of speakers, but there was NO PUBLICITY. I guess they only publicized the event by putting flyers down at booths and expected 200 people to show up. Well that didn’t work, and thank god for me; I was loving it! I already know Gary Johnson pretty well, but it was great to get to know the other speakers better. I particularly loved getting to know the guys from Peter Schiff’s company, Euro Pacific Capital.
After his talk, Rob wanted to bail, so we took a taxi to a casino hotel way out in the middle of nowhere to go to some party that Penn Jillette was throwing. Penn Jillette is the vocal half of the famous Vegas comedy magic duo, Penn and Teller, they host a show called “Bullshit” on Showtime; and now Penn is also the author of a new book on Atheism called “God, No!“. He’s an outspoken Libertarian and an Atheist; and a couple days ago he published a fantastic piece on CNN.com called “I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian“. I highly recommend everyone save that article to read later. Bullshit is a great show; Penn is always funny and informative. Through his show, he exposes many of the popular beliefs and myths we often take for granted without looking into or thinking about too much. I am a fan of Penn Jillette, and I was excited that I was about to meet him.
Penn and I have communicated before, but it wasn’t necessarily on good terms. Last year he ran an episode of Bullshit focused on the Self Esteem movement. In it he interviewed Nathaniel Branden, a very prominent psychologist and philosopher, who among other things is known as the Father of Self Esteem. Nathaniel is a very close friend of mine. Before I met him personally he was one of the biggest influences on me growing up; so much so that I’ve told him that his books were a bigger influence on me growing up than my own parents. I also told him that being on the “Bullshit” show was a good idea. Nathaniel has been railing against the nonsense in the Self Esteem movement for decades. I figured the show was a great opportunity for Penn to expose the bullshit in his special style, while treating Nathaniel and his material very sympathetically, probably as the antidote to all the silliness in the current self esteem movement. It didn’t exactly happen that way. I was at Nathaniel’s place for the whole interview. The truth is he isn’t doing so well lately; he’s in his 80s and he’s much weaker and slower than he used to be. When the show finally aired I watched in horror as Nathaniel was trashed and lumped in with the worst of the other crackpots in the field. I was pissed! I felt bad for Nathaniel, and for encouraging him to do the show. I wrote Penn an email telling him how off base he was for tearing the guy down over things he never said or claimed. Especially a writer and thinker as prominent as Nathaniel Branden who has actually contributed something genuine and important, influencing a legion of legitimate prominent figures. Penn replied with this (his actual words):
I’m very sorry. I don’t do all the research myself. We didn’t really know how to play that. We went back and forth with a few different takes on it and angles, and I guess didn’t get it right. I’m sorry.
Ok cool, so he apologized. I just wish he did it more publicly (well, it is now!). In any case I was looking forward to an opportunity to chat with him at this party he was throwing. Apparently he was throwing some party for his “No God Band” and it was called a “Bacon and Donut Party”. I didn’t know what to expect. Was this a small thing with like 30 or 100 people, and what the fuck is a bacon and donut party??
I was shocked, SHOCKED, at what I soon discovered.
So we’re at this casino far away from the strip in the middle of nowhere. When you walk in you realize no one here cares about any of the glamour of Vegas, these are a bunch a rednecks with gambling sickness. Whatever, the party is upstairs, and what I saw when I walked in cannot be unseen, no matter how hard I try. I know Penn has a twisted sense of humor, but I didn’t know he’s this fucked up. This wasn’t a small gathering, there must have been about 2000 people covering the whole top floor of the casino, and they were all… OBESE. None of these gorillas was under 350 pounds. Bacon and Donut party was exactly what that sounds like. There were huge lines of fat people waiting for all you can eat piles of greasy bacon and donuts. Everywhere I looked they were holding greasy handfuls of bacon in one hand and donuts in the other. And they were devouring this shit together. I couldn’t have constructed a more revolting nightmare if I tried. One of my friends called me and told me he’s on his way and asked me if there’s any cute girls. I asked him “Have you ever seen the movie King Kong? Imagine a room with 2000 of them, and add a lot of bacon and donuts. Unless you want to play bumper cars with these hippos in a pile of fat, bacon, and donuts, don’t fucking come!” We got there at 11:00pm and we left at 11:02pm. We checked our limbs and bodies for any bite marks and fortunately we escaped without any mauling attacks from those beasts. To Penn’s credit, he did give fair warning. I really wanted to meet Penn, but I’ll have to meet him another time.
Sleep deprivation was really starting to affect me by Saturday, the last day of the conference. Hard to wake up early when you go to bed late, but there’s no way I was gonna miss the talk by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch from Reason about their new book they wrote called the Declaration of Independents. Nick Gillespie is a hero of mine. I’ve learned a lot from him. It is amazing how well he handles himself on TV (dude, seriously, watch him here on the Bill Maher show. Fan… tastic!). I love how he presents Libertarian ideas. So much of the libertarian movement is a bunch of nerds lecturing (or screaming) at people to WAKE UP. Nick Gillespie takes a very different approach. He makes the material entertaining, keeps it relevant, and simplifies the subject without dumbing it down. That’s not easy to do with abstract issues of philosophy and politics. Check out any single video on the Reason.tv Youtube channel. I don’t drink coffee everyday, but watching a new Reason.tv youtube video is a part of my daily routine. With all of their humorous yet informative videos and graphics, their Freedom Fest talk shook up the vibe of the conference with a lot more edge.
I was looking forward to seeing Robert Murphy’s talk soon after. Robert Murphy earned some cool points with me when he publicly and loudly challenged noble prize winning economist Paul Krugman to a public debate. He’s currently raised over $67,000 for the cause (including a small contribution from me), but it looks like Krugman is scared of debating an articulate free market economist. On Saturday, by the time Bob Murphy started speaking to the packed small room, I could barely hold my eyes open. I have no idea what he was talking about, I think it was actually something about taking out a life insurance policy and then borrowing against it. I was drifting in and out of sleep while he was speaking. Struggling to keep my eyes open, but I just couldn’t concentrate on what he was talking about and I’d fall back asleep. I’ve got a terrible consistent case of insomnia. This may be the cure I’ve been looking for! I need to package Robert Murphy into a product I can keep by my bed to put me to sleep every night.
The big thing for me on Saturday was Peter Schiff’s private luncheon. Whenever he speaks his words are dripping with insight and attitude. I told John Stagliano that he HAS to check out Peter Schiff and see what this guy is all about. After Peter Schiff ended his talk and all the applause died down, the first thing John Stagliano had to say was “I owe you. Thank you for this.” (you can hear it at the end of the video below). I told him “there’s too many fans around right now wanting their books signed, but I’ll introduce you to Peter Schiff later, I’m sure he’d love to meet you”. The speech was indeed epic. I recorded it, you can see it below:
Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks, one of the largest Tea Party organizations, also gave a presentation that day on their Freedom Connector social networking site. Really cool to meet him and see his famous sideburns in person. I like him, he’s a cool guy. I asked him privately why in most media appearances on TV when discussing presidential candidates, why he doesn’t seem to ever discuss Ron Paul or Gary Johnson among the others, especially as they seem to line up better with the Tea Party’s fiscal values better than any of the other candidates. He flatly said that he doesn’t think they have a credible chance of winning. Personally I think they’d have a better chance if a figure of his standing in the Tea Party would at least discuss them publicly. Personally I love Michelle Bachman’s stance on many economic matters, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable voting for her if that’s packaged together with gay hating and Patriot Act support. I think it would go a long way to help FreedomWorks come off as more principled for free markets if they at least acknowledged the most principled free market candidates in the race. But no one can deny the good that Matt Kibbe is doing and how much energy he has put towards his valuable accomplishments of educating and pushing for the Tea Party core values of lower taxes, smaller government, freer markets, and reduced government spending.
The conference ended with a formal dinner banquet, and the guys from Reason offered a seat for me and my friend at their table. Damn man, I love Reason, I’ve looked up to them for a while, and they’re being so damn cool to me. This is awesome, and I’m really grateful, especially since they are my favorite group at the conference.
Before people were seated, I was talking with John Stagliano about that speech Peter Schiff gave earlier and what it means for the economy going forward… and then Peter Schiff was by himself walking right by us. So I grabbed him by the hand and said “Peter! You’ve got to meet my friend John Stagliano. He’s just discovering your work and he was really impressed with your talk today.” Now, I know that Peter Schiff has a reputation for not being the most socially savvy guy, but I DID NOT expect what was about to happen. Peter Schiff pulls out his cell phone and starts texting. John Stagliano holds out his hand to shake Peter’s and begins congratulating Peter on his fantastic talk at lunch. But Peter doesn’t acknowledge him, he just keeps texting. He doesn’t look up and say “just a sec”. He doesn’t even look up. John is just standing there with his hand out, and asks Peter a related question about something he said in his talk. Peter doesn’t acknowledge John at all, just looks more intensely into his cell phone. Eventually John drops his hand awkwardly and turns to talk to a friend of his. It was awkward man. Really awkward. I put my arm around Peter’s shoulder and spoke into his ear “That was John Stagliano. He’s a prominent figure around here and a MAJOR contributor. You should take the opportunity to meet this guy. He’s really impressed with you.” But Peter kind of mumbled something, looked at his phone again, and walked off. He seemed really uncomfortable with people he doesn’t know well. He’s totally comfortable and in his element on national TV or when speaking to an audience of 3000 people, but he doesn’t seem to handle normal social situations too well. Now, I noticed earlier that he was clearly not the most personable guy at the conference. I could see how he seemed kind of annoyed as people constantly came up to talk to him or take a picture with him while he was busy eating or talking to someone else. But I’ve never met anyone that uncomfortable with a simple friendly introduction.
Let me give you a little background on John Stagliano. Some of you might have watched the film The People vs. Larry Flynt. A fantastic movie starring Woody Harrelson that chronicles the free speech fight to the Supreme Court that defeated the obscenity charges against Hustler Magazine and set a precedent that pornography is protected free speech. Many groups and government officials are upset about this and feel that free speech precedent against obscenity laws only extends to print pornography. These groups and officials are funding and organizing campaigns to pursue obscenity charges against video pornography. John Stagliano famously got caught up in this bullshit and had to spend $1 Million defending himself in court. Like Larry Flynt, John Stagliano put up a strong principled fight for Americans’ rights to free speech. He won. Unfortunately the case was weird, prosecution was sloppy, and the case was dismissed without clearly defined precedents establishing film pornography as protected free speech, let alone the ultimate goal: a precedent to declare any and all obscenity laws as unconstitutional and void. Having these large legal bills and potential real life long jail time stare him in the eye only hardened his liberty activism and increase his significant support for Libertarian causes. All 1000+ people in that banquet hall owed John Stagliano some respect and gratitude for his fight and financial support of the causes they are all working to advocate. Peter Schiff could have at least raised his head to acknowledge the guy.
I felt really uncomfortable about this with John. A little while later I told this to a friend of Peter Schiff, and believe it or not Peter Schiff did come back over and apologize personally to John Stagliano. Peter is an arrogant guy, his shell is thick, he wasn’t really that humble and heartfelt, but you can tell he was trying his best. John was glowing after that. Thank god, what a relief! Peter Schiff is a good guy after all :)
Hanging out at the Reason banquet table was great. I really like these guys and what they’re doing. It was fun to see Rand Paul speak at the banquet. He started running some Jeff Foxworthy (You might be a moron if…) type jokes. “You might be a moron… if you think an 80 year old lady in diapers is going to take down an airplane.” “You might be a moron… if you think invasively touching a 6 year old girl will protect an aircraft.”). The friend who joined me at the table is my buddy Alexander Meyer. He’s an incredibly talented graphic designer and he runs a cool blog. Gary Johnson’s campaign manager, Ron Neilson, came by to say hello to me. Ron is an awesome guy. I introduced him to my friend Alex, and told Ron this guy is an incredible graphic designer, you should have him work on the Gary Johnson campaign. Fortunately Alex had some samples of his work on him. Ron was impressed, and just like that, right then and there, Alex was offered a position as the Gary Johnson Campaign’s graphic designer. He was stoked!! (Alex is genuinely talented. If you need some high quality graphic design, you should contact him)
As the banquet was ending, the guys at Reason were planning to meet up after with a bunch of people at a lounge at the Paris hotel. I told them I’m gonna say a few quick goodbyes and I’ll head over there with them. As I was rushing out to catch up with them, Peter Schiff stopped me, shook my hand, kind of apologized about before, and asked a few questions about me. WOW! This guy is seriously one of my heroes. I wrote an article about Peter Schiff and gave him my blog’s man of the year award. He tells me his group is going to head over to the Cosmopolitan for some drinks. I’m not quite sure if that was an invitation to join him. Man, that would be incredible! But… I’ve got the whole crew from Reason I’m meeting up with in a minute and I’m supposedly on my way. I shake Peter’s hand, tell him I’m really looking forward to when he comes out to LA in a few months, and I run off.
I took a lot of cool black and white photos at that lounge at the Paris hotel. The Reason crew and their friends are fun, providing me many great photo opportunities.
I never warn people when I take pictures. I try my best to capture people in their element, as they are naturally when there isn’t a camera around. That’s easier to do as a photographer if you hide in the corner with your big telephoto zoom lens. It’s a totally different experience when you have a pocketable SLR with a wide angle lens and you’re right in their face with it. That takes some social skills, and speed. So I often take some rapid fire shots right in people’s face before they realize there’s a camera around. Often before they even met me or know who I am. One of those guys that night was John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. I actually didn’t recognize him. I did see him speak at the conference, but I was kind of far back and didn’t see him up close. So I’m like “Dude, I got some great shots of you and those two girls, take a look!” I put my camera up to his chest to show him and he likes the pics. “Cool, if you want I’ll send them to you. What’s your name?… John? Nice to meet you, I’m Judd. Do you have a card?… Oh I didn’t realize you’re John Mackey of Whole Foods…” He looks at my card and replies “I didn’t know you’re Judd Weiss of Weiss Investment.” Cute. But fuck man, if I knew that was the CEO of Whole Foods I probably wouldn’t have rapid fired some shots in his face while he was chatting and laughing with 2 girls. But… well they are pretty cool photos:
I also didn’t realize until later that I had been hanging out and snapping some shots of John Papola. Yes that’s right! That guy created that utterly epic Hayek vs. Keynes viral rap video. Probably the highest quality and coolest libertarian production of all time. Hell, it’s probably the highest quality and coolest production presenting economics of all time. Everybody at the conference loves that video. That dude is a rockstar here. For over an hour I had no idea while I was hanging out in his group and snapping shots here and there. When he told me who he was, I was like “DUDE! That’s the best fucking video ever made on the subject of economics!” He said he knows :). While making it, in his head he was thinking that he’s got to create something of such high quality, that if he dies, he will be remembered for it. Mission Accomplished. Watch this video all the way through, pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll see what all the acclaim is about:
It was great to hang out with everyone. As they got tired and the crowd dwindled off, me and Alex decide to check out Vegas a little on our own for the first time this weekend. As we step out onto the strip, the first thing we see is 2 girls in mini skirts pulled out of their car by cops and handcuffed against the squad car. I don’t know what that was about, but what a great first moment into the real world after stepping out of a Liberty conference! And it made for a memorable photo opportunity of cops in action. I’m sure these girls must have posed a legitimate threat to the public.
We walk across the street into the Cosmopolitan Hotel and we meet some girls at the lounge. They were literally the only normal people (not freaks) there, so we all quickly connected, forming some sort of protective shield from all the sketchy people around us. Honestly I would feel bad for them if we didn’t walk by; they would have had to fend for themselves against all those creepers. Alex really hit it off with one of the girls, talking to her for hours. They were cool, it was fun, I took some cool photos. A good way to end our last night in Vegas.
Not a bad first Freedom Fest conference…
It’ll be more intense in the 2012 battle election year. I’ll be there. You coming?
Birth of an Army:
Yeah, it was so much fun, I had one of the most amazing trips of my life, I got to hang out with so many of my past and present heroes, and I met so many other exceptional people. This conference was significant for another reason. It’s the birth of an army.
They’re young. They’re smart. They’re cool. They can think for themselves. And when they’re given orders, they say no.
They don’t want to be pawns in the central planning from others. They don’t want their life to be a series of restrictions and mandates. They don’t want their rights voted away. They don’t want their earnings and property milked and pillaged to support those who demand it without even asking politely.
And they’re willing to respect the same for others.
No one’s trying to take this country back. They’re just trying to take their lives back. Woe be unto those who try to stop them.
Look at the trends, the movement is growing. Information and ideas are spreading more freely than ever. It’s hard to find a political discussion online where the libertarian position isn’t represented and articulated by someone. Mainstream media is only escalating its irrelevance by ignoring it. Large movements are rising up demanding economic liberty. Large movements are rising up demanding personal liberty. Liberty is on a war path to liberate itself.
I’ve seen it. The army is born. And it’s growing. Generic Republicans and Democrats are a dying breed; they won’t be able to stop this wave. It’s coming. Fight us. Or join us.
- Memories from Freedom Fest 2012
- I’m So Relieved, The Atlas Shrugged Movie is Fantastic
- Photos: Libertarian National Convention – May 2012
- An Open Letter to all Republicans to drop Mitt Romney for Gary Johnson
- Judd Weiss interviewed by Jan Helfeld
- How Nathaniel Branden Changed My Life, and Impacted Us All