I went to Pub Key last Wednesday for a late afternoon "fireside chat" with Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation and Vice President of the Oslo Freedom Forum. He is also one of the most articulate bitcoin advocates. If you haven’t read any of his books, you should. I looked forward to this event all week.
I got there early to get something to eat and have a few beers. When I arrived the place was almost empty. The owner, Tom Pacchia, was getting ready to broadcast a live Twitter Spaces with Alex, who was sitting at the end of the bar.
I ordered a beer and told the bartender that I would be paying with bitcoin. Last time I showed up without sats, but this time I had the Phoenix wallet on my Graphene Pixel locked and loaded. For dinner I had a chopped cheese. Now I’m sure many of you have never heard of a chopped cheese. Here’s how wikipedia describes it:
Chopped Cheese is a type of sandwich originating from New York City. Found in bodegas throughout Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens,it is made on a grill with ground beef (typically pre-formed ground beef patties), onions,adobo or other seasonings, and cheese, all of which are chopped together on the grill as the meat and onions cook and the cheese melts. It is served with lettuce, tomatoes, and condiments on a hero roll.
I don’t profess to be a chopped cheese expert, but the sandwich was damned good.
The place began to fill up. This was a different crowd than my last visit, which seemed to be mostly Galaxy Digital employees. Today there was just a bunch of very friendly bitcoiners. I heard no shitcoin talk. The two guys sitting next to me were from New Jersey. They were meeting for the first time since discovering each other on the Orange Pill app. One of them was telling me about his plans to start a Jersey City meetup. I met someone who identified himself as Kenobi Nakamoto, from Barcelona, Spain. He was visiting New York and stopped in to hear the presentation. I met a retired Rutgers University Economics professor. I met more bitcoiners in twenty minutes than I knew before I walked in the bar, by a long shot. I had heard that face to face conversations with fellow plebs was much better than online interactions. Still, I didn’t expect to have such a great time. I wish I had discovered this place sooner.
Based on prior experience, I thought I would be the only person paying with bitcoin. I was seriously mistaken. Bar codes were getting scanned left and right. It was like I had time traveled to Bitcoinland, circa 2050. Pub Key uses a Zeus wallet hooked up to a Square terminal. Evan Kaloudis helped set it up. He also frequently shows up at the bar, which must come in handy if they need any tech support. The transaction was flawless. Since Jason the bartender is not into bitcoin (yet), I wanted to tip him in cash, but the system adds a twenty percent tip to each lightning tab. By the way, Jason is a fantastic bartender, competently serving up drinks while shooting the shit with the customers.
Soon it was time to head to the meetup room in the back.
“In Zimbabwe our biggest note became an astonishing but useless one hundred trillion dollar note. We lost everything because of a brutal and corrupt government took it all. Alex Gladstein reveals what Bitcoin can and is doing for people who are at the mercy of political looting gangs in designer suits backed by the military. He shows how Bitcoin is a genuine chance at freedom for billions of people trapped in financial oppression.”
Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwean Pastor and Pro-Democracy Advocate
The presentation started right on time. Tom set the ground rules. This was to be an informal discussion, not a lecture. The room was packed with Alex Gladstein fans. In my opinion there wasn’t as much back and forth as planned, because nobody wants to interrupt Alex when he’s on a roll. For those familiar with his work, he elaborated on much of the material he discussed in his recent books: The role the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and BIS (Bank For International Settlements) play in draining the global south of resources to benefit the United States and its chosen allies. As he has written elsewhere:
The reality is that these organizations have impoverished and endangered millions of people; enriched dictators and kleptocrats; and cast human rights aside to generate a multi-trillion-dollar flow of food, natural resources and cheap labor from poor countries to rich ones.
Gladstein talked about African bitcoiners he knows and their low opinion of the United States. To Africans, the United States is a colonizer. Revolts against colonizers have typically been Marxist. This is the environment that organizations like the HRF are faced with when trying to orange pill these societies.
He also described how criticism of the IMF in the US traditionally differed depending on where you stood politically . Conservatives saw it as a waste of money. Libertarians recognized the harm it was doing to underdeveloped nations by saddling them with debt. It was the political left, however, that recognized both the harm its policies caused, and the tremendous financial benefits enjoyed by the United States. Every dollar spent on these loans reaps substantial profit.
There was more give and take towards the end of the discussion. A Nicaraguan man whose relatives were former Sandinistas described how difficult it was to get them to see bitcoin as anything but a scam. Gladstein didn’t have any simple solutions. He made clear that he can only help those who are already interested in bitcoin.
He closed by mentioning the Oslo Freedom Forum NYC that will be held in late September. I plan to attend. Then he signed copies of his last two books, Check Your Financial Privilege and Hidden Repression: How The IMF And World Bank Sell Exploitation As Development. Since I had already read the former, I got a signed copy of Hidden Repression.
I Shall Return (again and again)
On my way out I noticed that the bar area was more or less empty. Everyone had been crammed into the back room to listen to Alex Gladstein. He was the star of the show tonight.
Once again I had a great time at Pub Key. I know I’m getting repetitive, but this bar is Hodler Heaven. It is the perfect place to socialize in a very comfortable setting. You also get to listen to, learn from, and interact with some of the best minds in bitcoin, at no extra charge. Pub Key is a must visit. You won’t be disappointed. If I didn’t live an hour and a half away I’d be there every night.