BREAKING: City Approves Pho Keene Great Sign!

City Approves Pho Keene Great Sign!

City Approves Pho Keene Great Sign!

After the story Free Keene helped break about soon-to-open Vietnamese restaurant “Pho Keene Great” went viral, there’s a surprising development now three weeks later: Pho Keene Great’s sign has been approved – with the logo and name unaltered!

According to Isabelle Rose, Pho Keene Great’s part-owner, not only has the sign been approved, but it happened without them having the meeting that was scheduled with the city manager to discuss the manager’s concerns over the supposedly “offensive and not appropriate” name of the business.

It’s unfortunate that the new city manager, Elizabeth A. Dragon created the ridiculous situation in the first place, but apparently cooler heads at the city gang prevailed and Dragon has backed down. Good choice, considering the “City of Keene” would only continue to be ridiculed by people and headlines around the world if they continued to push all the way to court, where they would likely lose, just like they did when they tried to crush Robin Hood of Keene’s free speech.

The City of Keene happens to own the building in which Pho Keene Great will be opening, but that shouldn’t give them any further rights to control the name of a business. Especially after that same city manager had signed a lease agreement back in April of 2018 knowing full well what its name would be. They then collected rent from Pho Keene Great for the rest of the year before Dragon called Rose on Christmas Eve to object to the name and demand her temporary sign be taken down.

Pho Keene Great - T-Shirts Available at Rt 101 Local Goods!

Pho Keene Great – T-Shirts Available at Rt 101 Local Goods!

I spoke with Rose today about the good news and she confirmed the sign will look as it does in the mock-up photo posted to Pho Keene Great’s facebook page, minus the street address. What a win! Further, Rose told me in an email:

“We stood our ground regarding our business name. And, on the basis of the First Amendment, we defended it. The City cannot regulate content. Further, no where in the contract did it stipulate we could not use that business name. The government cannot demand or require us to do anything that supersedes our baseline rights. We are deeply grateful to everyone that offered and gave their support and appreciate all opinions and input, even with those that were offended by our business name. Thank you.”

That’s not the only win for Pho Keene Great, however. The city’s predictable stupidity led to a media explosion with coverage coming from countless major media from all over. You can’t buy advertising that good and as a result of the publicity, the Pho Keene Great official t-shirts have been flying off the shelves at Route 101 Local Goods.

The little local shop was slammed with orders both in real life and on the internet from as far away as Australia and Afghanistan. Route 101’s owner Chris Rietmann says his shop has never been so busy and he’s shipped out well over 1,000 shirts so far. The story went so big, there were even people trying to sell knock-off shirts on other websites. However, only the official shirt sold at Route 101 Local Goods is the one where profits benefit Pho Keene Great, so get yours here online or stop in at 661 Marlboro St. in Keene!

Isabelle Rose, at her food truck in 2016.

Isabelle Rose, at her food truck in 2016.

Route 101 Local Goods was the location of Rose’s original bitcoin-accepting Vietnamese food truck, which is where she got her start serving delicious Pho noodle soup to people in the area and led to her teaming up with another local business owner to upgrade to a full sit-down restaurant – Pho Keene Great. Though NHPR ran a story this week suggesting some kind of conspiracy between me and Rose, the fact is that I’m merely the property manager for Route 101 Local Goods and I had nothing to do with the naming of her new restaurant. Though, I do love the name and when I heard about it last year, I predicted the city might step into the trap. And they did.

Now rather than gearing up for a protracted legal fight that would only hurt the taxpayers of Keene, Pho Keene Great’s owners can focus on opening their doors in the heart of downtown Keene’s Central Square, next to the City offices this March as planned, with an awesome logo and name intact. Hooray!

Chris Cantwell has become what he once hated – a total statist.

Chris in Simpler Times, Acting as Security for the Hallowkeene Dance Party in 2014.

While Christopher Cantwell still looks like himself on the outside, his beliefs have completely changed in the last few years and become even worse than they previously were. Tuesday night, Johnson Rice, Aria DiMezzo and I had Chris in the LRN.FM studio for a special internet-only, in-depth conversation that exclusively aired on the LRN.FM Twitch channel. If you can stomach the watch, it’s fascinating in a train-wreck sort of way.

In my last article about him, written shortly after his arrest in Charlottesville at a white nationalist hate rally, I explained that despite Chris’ libertarian activism being covered by this blog in the past, he had never been a blogger at Free Keene, nor was he ever invited to be. When he came to Keene in the early part of this decade, he was just crass libertarian comedian Chris Cantwell from Long Island. He wasn’t a racist, but still caused much controversy for his hatred for the police.

Today, Chris has embraced the police as his potential tool of oppression, even though they recently threw him into a jail cell for months in Virginia. As he revealed in our conversation Tuesday night, he literally wants to become the state. Shortly after 2 hours, 22 minutes in he actually says he wants to force his beliefs on others, and then moments later says, “I want to be the government, yeah.”

His dramatic shift to statism isn’t a first for the Free State Project libertarian migration, which was the original reason Chris chose to move to New Hampshire. Early mover to Manchester Amanda Bouldin went from being an anarchist to a hostile-to-libertarians leftist. Conversely, Chris has gone from being an anarchist to a actual NAZI. There’s not a shred of a libertarian left in him. Libertarians, voluntarists, and liberty-loving anarchists believe people should be judged as individuals, by their words and actions. Chris is obsessed with race and admits in the conversation that it’s lazy to judge people based on the group into which they are born, but nonetheless runs with the idea anyway, as he considers the laziness of racism to be an efficient filter for his ideal society.

Previously a libertarian against the war on drugs, he's now for prohibition.

Previously a libertarian against the war on drugs, he’s now for prohibition.

Further, Chris actually seems to believe he has some chance of becoming the state, by leading some kind of white nationalist takeover of the government. About the only thing we agree on is his support of secession. Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. Of course if NH were ever to secede, we’d be at odds again as I support open borders and he supports a closed-border police state.

The conversation we had on the Twitch-only show (though I’ve since exported it to Youtube here) had some particularly bizarre moments including Chris holding the confusing position of having used cannabis while supporting continuing prohibition against it. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth by acknowledging the benefits of harm reduction and decriminalization but refusing to advocate for policy changes in that direction. It’s a perplexing perspective. Despite his own personal knowledge of the ineffectiveness of prohibition and the various studies proving it is an abject failure that creates the opposite of its intended results, he rejects all that on the near-religious belief that outlawing something reduces its use. It’s a belief wholly at odds with how he used to think on the issue.

At one point in the conversation he actually refers to himself as a caricature. What does he really believe? Outside of another total personality shift to a communist, that which he currently hates, or perhaps maybe going transgender, it’s hard to imagine where Chris will go from here.

Speaking of transgender, Chris also had a segment with the Anarchist Shemale, Aria DiMezzo. Aria wrote about it on her blog, and was disappointed she didn’t get more time on-air to fight with Chris. I’d invited her there with the expectation that Johnson wasn’t going to stay through the whole show and that Aria could take his chair later. Turns out, Johnson stayed the whole time. She was also upset that we didn’t go toe-to-toe with Chris on trans issues, which I honestly know next-to-nothing about.

Only advocates of peace are allowed to blog at FreeKeene.com

Only advocates of peace are allowed to blog at FreeKeene.com

Others, Aria included, wanted to see more challenges from Johnson and I, and were upset that I laughed at Chris’ sick jokes. I’m the first to admit, I laugh at inappropriate things and I’ve always enjoyed Chris’ sense of humor. But Johnson and I definitely challenged his racist and insane statist beliefs. People will hear what they want to hear, of course, and people are highly emotional when it comes to Chris. They give him way more power and weight than he actually has. Some say we shouldn’t give him a platform, but then widely share the very video they say we shouldn’t have made.

Others, like me, can see the value in giving enough rope to Chris to verbally hang himself. We don’t think that bad ideas should be shut down, but instead they ought to be countered publicly. The answer to ugly speech is more speech, not de-platforming or censorship. If you don’t think I was the best person to counter Chris’ ideas, that’s fine. If you hate me because I’m kind to Chris, that’s fine too. Hate only hurts the hater. That’s ultimately the true irony here, that hating Chris only makes you more like him.

Chris has become what he once hated – an arch statist. He has rejected the libertarian principle of non-aggression and instead embraced coercive, institutionalized violence as his tool. Of course, violence begets violence and he will reap as he sows.

Though Chris is certainly responsible for his horrible beliefs, he’s ultimately a creation of a society that has long embraced the aggression of government as a tool to control their neighbor. If you hate Chris but you support the coercive state, you ought to look in the mirror. People cover their support for state violence by believing in nonsense like the “social contract” and refusing to see the threats of violence that back all government programs. They hold conflicting positions, like supporting the state while believing they themselves support peace. To his credit, at least Chris is honest about his reasons for supporting the state. He knows it’s a tool for the violent to control others and is eager to use it for his purposes. If you support the state, you helped make Chris into a monster.

Here’s the full, unedited, over three-hour show:

Keene’s “Anarchist Shemale” Banned from Facebook for “Hate Speech” Gamestop Parody Video

The transsexual Libertarian candidate for Cheshire County Sheriff for 2018 has been put in “Facebook Jail” with a seven-day ban for “hate speech”. Aria DiMezzo, the “Anarchist Shemale”, had video recorded of her in the Keene, NH Gamestop where she tore off her jacket in parody of a recent viral video.

The video DiMezzo was parodying involved a hulking trans person who made an outrageous scene at an Albuqueque, NM Gamestop over being called “sir”. In that video, the brutish Tiffany Michelle bellows at the poor Gamestop employee and kicks over a display while storming around and shouting profanities. As the original, now-viral video begins, Michelle was upset with the Gamestop returns process then flips out on another customer for using “sir” when referring to Michelle and turns and targets the Gamestop employee when he referred to both customers as “guys”.

Aria DiMezzo files for Cheshire County Sheriff as a Libertarian

Aria DiMezzo files for Cheshire County Sheriff as a Libertarian

DiMezzo made her parody video to counter the perception that all trans people are as easily offended as the ridiculous Michelle. She told me in an interview for Free Keene, “It was to show that not all trans people behave that way and that her behavior was more a reflection of her character than her being trans. Because the stereotype has grains of truth in it, I’m now in facebook jail because said people don’t know how to take a joke.” Keene’s Gamestop staff appreciated the humor and the DiMezzo’s video ends with a handshake with the clerk.

After DiMezzo posted the video to her Facebook page, she was given a seven day ban within 24 hours for “hate speech” and the video was pulled down by Facebook. DiMezzo appealed the decision and Facebook admitted they were wrong to consider the video as “hate speech” and restored the video, while bizarrely leaving her account banned.

If you’re looking to escape Facebook, you can follow DiMezzo’s account over on the decentralized Mastodon social media network. Also, check out our previous article showing multiple alternatives far more useful for communication than Facebook.

Humorless City of Keene Targets New Vietnamese Restaurant Over “Offensive” Name & Sign

Pho Keene Great - Offensive According to City Gang

Pho Keene Great – Offensive According to City Gang

Longtime readers of Free Keene will remember Isabelle Rose who made headlines when her Vietnamese food truck began accepting cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. For more than a year, Rose has been working hard on transitioning from food truck to full-service restaurant in downtown Keene! Unfortunately, the people calling themselves the “City of Keene” have decided to make Rose’s life much more difficult.

On Christmas Eve, Rose received a call from the new city manager, Elizabeth Dragon, who in a bid to apparently look more ridiculous than her predecessors, demanded Rose take down the recently-placed sign in the windows of her new location announcing her restaurant was coming soon… right next to city hall.

Why did Rose have to take down the sign? The city manager cited the city’s ridiculously restrictive and anti-business sign codes, but secondly the entire name of the business is now being targeted by the city gang. Rose had chosen the name “Pho Keene Great”, as her place will be serving the delicious pho noodle soups that made her food truck a hit with customers and brought much-needed ethnic flavor to Keene.

Pho Keene Great - T-Shirts Available at Rt 101 Local Goods!

Pho Keene Great – T-Shirts Available at Rt 101 Local Goods!

Rose says that Dragon told her the name of the business is “offensive and not appropriate” and wants to meet to discuss potential changes. Strange timing, considering the city manager was aware of the name back in February of 2018, since the city owns the property that Rose is renting and Rose sent Dragon an email with her business name in February and then signed a lease including the name of the restaurant in April.

Now all of a sudden “Pho Keene Great” is a problem? After the city has been paid rent for most of a year? After Rose has paid thousands of dollars renovating the space, working up signage and even t-shirts featuring her new logo? The shirts were already cool but now with the extra publicity thanks to the city’s stupidity, they are likely going to be a collector’s item! The good news is that as of this article’s writing, there are all sizes available, including ladies tees, exclusively at Route 101 Local Goods at 661 Marlboro St. in Keene! Get over there and get yours while you still can! Yes, you can also order them online. (more…)

Keene Police Send SWAT Team to Apprehend Non-Violent Man Having Mental Breakdown in Own Home

Man takes highly dangerous selfie in front of SWAT team.

Man takes highly dangerous selfie in front of SWAT team – the mask was added later to protect his identity.

After resigning from his job at Eversource over being sexually harassed and going through a difficult breakup with his girlfriend, a local man was having a mental breakdown in early November inside his own home in Keene, New Hampshire. The man has asked to have his real name protected, so I will refer to him in this story as “NBR”. Running on very little sleep, stressed from losing his job and relationship, and dealing with an undiagnosed mental disorder, NBR was alone in his house and had been throwing his possessions out the window.

According to NBR, when his parents, who love their son dearly, heard about his behavior they were quite concerned for his safety and well-being. They called to have him involuntarily committed so he could get the help and treatment he desperately needed at the time. Or, so they thought.

Unfortunately, then Keene police showed up and took things from bad to worse by responding to the mentally ill man with every cop in the vicinity, plus state police. One neighbor reported counting at least eleven police cruisers on the scene. It was a huge show of force considering NBR has no history of violence, nor had he threatened anybody. In fact, NBR was not charged by the police on the night in question with any crimes whatsoever. The police took him into custody without incident and delivered him to the Cheshire Medical Center to begin his involuntary commitment. There was no legitimate reason for such a large police response.

There was also no reason for several armed men with at least one laser-sighted assault rifle and two full-body shields to break down his front door and terrorize NBR. Though he expressed to the officers that he just wanted to go to sleep, he told me he did not resist their arrest.

The video and photo he took during the break-in by Keene Police, who broke down his front door, is stunning, terrifying, and just sad. In the video, at least one laser-sighted assault rifle is pointed at NBR as police demand he put down the phone in his hand. He makes it clear he is recording, thankfully not being shot to death for holding his phone. People have been killed by police in other jurisdictions when police claimed they thought the phone was a gun. NBR even managed to take an intense picture of the event to share with the world to show how dangerous the police can be and how unnecessary their actions were.

Does anyone actually belive this level of force by the Keene Police Department was appropriate or justified in any way? While it was extremely risky, thankfully NBR recorded the situation so it could be shared with others. It is a terrifying view of the police state on display, in a completely and clearly excessive response to an all-too common situation. Police operating policies and procedures should be changed to prevent this from happening again in the future.

Mental illness is a weak point in the Non Aggression Principle, which is the principle that defines libertarianism.  Clearly in a society with no coercive state, something would need to be done about someone who has lost their mind and has become a danger to himself or others, and that something will usually involve some level of aggression.  However, an involuntary commitment process should not involve men with assault rifles, shields, and overwhelming force unless the person is actually putting people in danger. In this case, NBR was simply having a breakdown in his own home. He was not a danger to himself or others, he did not threaten others, and he did everything the officers ordered him to do without incident.
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Vape Shop Owner Announces Run for Keene Council After Vote to Expand Nicotine Prohibition

City councilor Margaret Rice, one of the few sane voices on this issue, speaks out in favor of self-ownership.

City councilor Margaret Rice, one of the few sane voices on this issue, speaks out in favor of self-ownership.

Just one day after the 85th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition, the Keene City Council voted 10-4 to publicly express their ignorance on the matter and increase nicotine prohibition within the city limits. All of the testimony on the matter given on at least three separate occasions didn’t matter, despite most testifying against the idea.

Reminding the councilors of the lessons of history didn’t work. Though alcohol prohibition was a tragic, predictable failure, apparently they councilors think that banning the sale to and possession of nicotine by those under the age of 21 is going to somehow keep it out of the hands of middle schoolers. The councilors who voted in favor never addressed the fact that middle schoolers are already able to acquire nicotine despite it being illegal for them to do so. They also didn’t explain how increasing the legal age to 21 from 18 would have any effect on underage possession.

That’s because prohibition is an authoritarian fantasy that never works and always has predictable, destructive, unintended consequences. All they are doing is punishing innocent store owners’ bottom line and increasing the likelihood that more college students will be harassed by the police for simply walking down the street with a vaporizer or cigarette and “looking under 21”.

They’ve ramped up the futile, pointless, counterproductive war on drugs in Keene and we’re all going to be worse off for it. The ban has also sparked a political fire in Dan Cavallero, the owner of Monadnock Vapor, who has announced he’s planning to run for Keene city council in 2019 as a result of this stupid move by the council.

Cavallero has been the most active opponent of the measure, having attended every public hearing and testified, even while on crutches from a recent injury. Here’s the last public hearing video from the city’s MSFI committee which features Cavallero, me, and others testifying against the insanity of prohibition. Sadly, it fell on deaf ears: