Copyright 2013 John T. Reed
I attended and was a speaker at the 2013 Freedomfest (freedomfest.com) at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas from July 10th to the 13th. I did that before in 2010. Both were fun, uplifting experiences.
I am told the opening festivities on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 were electric and a great experience. Unfortunately, I came from Calgary, Canada. My wife and I woke up in Lake Louise, Canada that day after a 2-day vacation there. It is a 2-hour drive from Lake Louise to Calgary Airport and we had to gas up and turn in our rental car. Given that, the only non-stop flight I could take was around 6:30 PM. So I missed the Wednesday activities.
I hit the exhibit booths and speakers on Thursday. That was Stossel Day. Fox Business star John Stossel was there to tape a show. It will air on Thursday July 18th. I was one of the thousand in the audience in the fourth row back on John’s left. If a camera on his left ever panned the audience, I would be relatively easy to spot. I always have the blondest hair in any large groups of hatless people, e.g., Jersey Boys State in 1963, my West Point class of 706, etc. Or so my relatives told me at the time.
There was no opportunity for me to speak to John and I did not see him other than during the taping of his show. Being present for a taping was interesting because you see the behind-the-scenes stuff and the during-commercials stuff. Also, we could not see graphics and video clips that he was going to use during the show, so he would occasionally do voice-over for graphics or videos that we could not see. I guess he could see them on a monitor so his comments during clips would time up with the clip as it played.
He was a bit of a smart ass for this particular show, describing the audience as composed primarily of “poorly dressed old white men.” I could not really argue with that although I must add that I wore khakis and a yellow polo shirt for the taping and a navy blazer, dress slacks, dress shirt, and silk tie on Friday when I spoke twice and on Saturday when the day ended with a formal dinner.
I stood out. One guy thought I was a casino executive when I walked through the casino. Why was I walking through a casino? The conference was at the Planet Hollywood Resort and at a Las Vegas hotel you cannot go anywhere in the building without walking through the casino. They are all diabolically designed to make you get lost in the casino.
I was surprised and a bit disappointed to note that the very large Ayn Rand presence of 2010 was not there in 2013. This year, Yaron Brook made a speech, which was apparently funny as hell because I was sitting in the hall outside eating lunch and could hear the laughter. He is a regular Stossel guest and head of the Ayn Rand Institute.
On Friday morning, I was reconning my speech room trying to see if I could connect my Mac iBook laptop to the projector. I could not. Wrong connector. Anyway, I saw Mark Skousen, the head of Freedomfest, and went over to say hi. After a bunch of kidding around, he asked what I was doing that night. Nothing. He invited me to a steak and lobster dinner hosted by Don Smith, a highly successful investor, at the Gordon Ramsey Steakhouse in the nearby Paris Resort. I asked if it was one of the various many-dollars-per-seat paid lunches or dinners at Freedomfest. No. Smith was buying. It was a meet-and-greet for Rand Paul who attended and spoke at the Freedomfest. I accepted the invite.
I arrived early after getting some exercise walking around the Paris and Bally’s casinos. Dinesh D'Souza and his wife walked by in the direction of the steakhouse. I figured it was no longer too early if Dinesh was there. I was as told that the private room was not yet ready and invited to wait in the lounge. The only seat was next to Dinesh. He saw my Freedomfest name badge, greeted me warmly as a fellow Freedomfester and asked if I was going to the Rand Paul dinner.
About then, we were told the room was actually ready and many attendees were already there. On the way, I told Dinesh my wife and I had seen his movie 2016: Obama’s America in the theater and that the audience applauded at the end. He said they had many reports of that type of audience reaction. I said I had only previously seen movie audiences applaud at the end of the Sting and when Liza Minelli finished her singing of Cabaret in that movie. He said that was “august company” and appreciated the comment.
As we sat down to dinner, Mark invited me to sit at his table. At that moment, I thought Rand Paul’s table would have been more interesting, but seats there all seemed to be taken, not least by Mrs. Paul, our host, and his family.
But it turned out I ended up at the better table. Grover Norquist arrived later and sat with us. He is sharp as a tack, funny, quick on his feet, and had a million stories about Bill Maher, Colbert, Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose, etc.
Rand, based on my limited observation, is bland. He may not have been bland before he got into politics. And he may not be bland with close family and friends. But at the dinner and on the podium at the conference, he came across as the typical politician in that he ran everything he said through six filters to make sure it would not hurt him politically. He answers the question he wants to answer, not the one you asked if he does not want to answer it. His positions are boldly libertarian for a Republican, but not his personality or his way of dealing with any public statements he makes.
I asked if, since entering politics,” he had ever been urged to dial back his principles and told to “play the game” more. I did not mention it, but that is what happened to me in the Army officer corps. He answered as if I had asked if he had ever compromised his principles for political purposes. No. I suspect he refused to answer my question because he feared that I or someone else might follow up by asking WHO urged him to compromise his principles.
He also refused to participate in the mock trial that asked whether the Republican Party should be put to death (for insufficient fealty to its principles). He was scheduled to be a “witness” in the “trial.” He also did not show up for at least one other Freedomfest event he was scheduled to speak at: the closing ceremonies.
I got a sense that both Stossel and Paul were a little put off by the hardest core segment of the crowd. I myself had three kooks at my speech. They were ranting about the US government giving half a trillion to Swiss banks (What? As part of TARP? What would that have to do with my talk on using foreign countries to protect your life savings from hyperinflation?) Another was complaining about the US bullying all the countries of the world and another of US totalitarianism.
At the end of the Rand dinner, Mark asked me if I was going to the big final dinner of the Freedom the following night, Saturday. “Yep, already bought my ticket.” ($95—I expressed the hope that it was not rubber chicken when I bought it.) Mark asked me to join him at his table for that dinner as well.
“Like at your table in the front middle of the ballroom?” “Yes.” Sure. But afterward I was thinking, “At the final dinner of the Freedomfest!? With 2,000 people and many celebs like D’Souza, Steve Forbes, Rand Paul, Steve Moore, Grover Norquist, Jim Rogers, Donald Smith, Yaron Brook, John Stossel (although he seemed to only be there for his Thursday taping), the C-Span Book TV interviewer, etc.!?
I saw Mark during the next day and reminded him that he had asked me to sit at his table that night. “You weren’t kidding, right? That wasn’t the iced tea talking?” (Mark is a Mormon.) He assured me I was sitting at his table.
I still could not believe it.
I am waiting in the hall outside the big dinner when Grover Norquist walks by. He spots me and comes over to crack a joke about some nearby scantily clad but astonishingly talented, young female violin players. I was enjoying watching them—and listening to their music of course—but a crowd gathered between me and them blocking my view, although not my ability to hear them. So I decided to go see if I really was sitting at the head table for the finale dinner.
Most tables were rapidly filling up, but not so much in the first three rows at the front. The kinds of people sitting at those “reserved” tables were doing a lot of pre-dinner schmoozing. I went to the front, middle table. Sure enough, if was labeled “Reserved Mark Skousen VIP #1.” But no one was there.
While waiting, I noticed There was a name card at each seat. I proceeded around the table reading them. “Mark Skousen” “Steve Forbes” “Jo Ann Skousen” “Jim Rogers” “Grover Norquist” “James Henry” and, I’ll be damned—“Jack Reed” I was at the “foot” of the round 9-person table opposite Mark and Steve, but that made me the closest one in the room to the entertainment—mainly American Idol winner Taylor Hicks.
What did “Little old me” (to use the name of one of the chapters in my Succeeding book) do to be seated there? Damned if I know.
The menu was not rubber chicken. It was filet mignon and shrimp. Grover did not like shrimp and gave me his. The desert was fabulous chocolate. There were Roman columns all around for the theme “Are We Rome?” And there was a dark brown Roman column on the desert plate about nine inches tall. It was made of dark chocolate which my wife loves so I took it home to her in California. A top notch meal.
Couples started dancing later in the dinner. Grover, who has 4 and 5-year old daughters spotted a couple of little girls about that age and invited one of them to dance with him—holding both hands, not cheek to cheek. When he got back, I warned him he was going to destroy his most evil man in the world image by being nice to little girls. He later did it again then left early around 8:30 pm to catch a flight.
Another speaker whom I will not name took Grover’s seat next to me. About that time, the emcee announced that George Zimmerman had been found not guilty of all charges. He said it in a way that suggested we would think that was great. We did. We applauded and roared approval, but not the guy next to me. He complained that a “stalker” had gotten away with killing an “unarmed” man. Zimmerman wasn’t charged with stalking, probably did not violate any stalking law, and was getting the crap beaten out of him by the “unarmed” man. Wasn’t the Boston Strangler an unarmed man?
You can’t waste your time with such people. They are self-loathing, politically-correct whites who think gun-toting “white Hispanics” can do no right and 6’4” black teenagers can do no wrong if their opponent is part white. Unless, of course the white guy is “white black” Barrack Obama. His white mother somehow does not disqualify him from being black the way George Zimmerman’s dad being white disqualified him from being a “minority” in the incident. That would be the same Barrack Obama who said if he had a son he would look like Trayvon Martin. How could anyone know such a thing? And what possible relevance could it have to anything? Obama looks like Curious George. Does that mean he is violating the Curious George’s copyright?
Someone observed that if Zimmerman had gone by the first name “Jorge” instead of “George,” he would never have been tried. I believe it.
If you want to see what I wrote about the Zimmerman case back when it started, type his name into the search box on any of my web pages. My views have not changed and the verdict was consistent with what I said. The anti-Zimmerman crowd made fools of themselves since it began and continue to do so. Let them go on and destroy their credibility even more.
Anyway, Freedomfest was great. Once I made my speech on using foreign countries to protect yourself from hyperinflation and participated in a panel titled “Escape from America,” I kept getting stopped by people who had been in my audiences. They had additional questions and/or wanted to tell me how great my information was. I also got interesting ideas and information from many readers, audience members, and other speakers. Great stuff. Makes me a better writer.
My next talk is at the Money Show on August 16, 2013 in San Francisco at the Marriott Marquis. Looking at that web site today I learned that four of the people at the Freedomfest head table are also speaking there: Me, Skousen, Forbes, and Rogers. If I see Steve Forbes or Jim Rogers there, I need to warn them that if they’re stalking me, I can get a restraining order.
John T. Reed