May Contain Blueberries

the sometimes journal of Jeremy Beker

People were starting to crash by friday. I know I was worn out and I was starting to loose my voice. 8:00 am - Continental breakfast

The food at this conference has been wonderful. I haven’t mentioned it before, but it was. Thursday night’s dinner was a wonderfully marinated salmon. I can’t imaging what it must be to cook salmon perfectly for 1500 people at a time.

We had a very in depth discussion over breakfast on why the message of the ACLU is often difficult to sell to the average american. I took the posistion that the messages of the republicans was a much simpler message that centered around simple, immediate personal issues (like a tax cut) that cause instant gratification. The ACLU’s issues are more abstract and focus more on long term or at least not immediate advantages. And that in order to get a larger base of support we need to bring the issues down to simple concrete ideas that can be presented.

I think that the messages that Anthony Remoro has been giving is just right as I mentioned a few days ago, short and too the point.

We got so involved in our conversation that we almost missed our next sessions. Those are great conversations to have.

9:00 - Online Strategies: Activism Gone Digital

This was a panel discussion talking about issues that relate to building online activism websites and using the internet to lobby. I found it very interetsing and suprising that studies have shown that Legislative offices pay as much attention to emails from people who identify themselves as constiuents as they do paper letters.

11:00 am - Church and State/Government-Funded Religion

This was a depressing seminar. I went to it because it was one I knew very little about, and I am not sure if it was a good plan. The speakers talked primarily about the growth of Bush’s Faith Based Initiatives. These programs are quite scary.

One of the big issues is that not only do they allow government (aka our) money go to religious programs, but in addition, those religious organizations are exempted from anti-discrimintation laws related to religion. As an example, with the new rules, a protestant head-start program can fire a teacher for not being a protestant. Scary, eh?

In addition, the government is spending nearly $100 million to support abstinence-only sex ed classes. (That is more money than is being spent to rebuild Afgahnistan, btw.) And they removed language from the bills that indicated that in order for a program to be funded, it must be shown that it actually is effective.

12:30 - Political Satire - Lunch

This event was given by Jim Morris. He was scary. His impressions of Bush (both of them), Reagon, Clinton, and Nixon were dead on. This was quite a lively event.

3:30 - The New FBI

This was the big show for the day. We were required to vacate the event hall prior to his talk so the FBI could sweep the room.

Robert Mueller’s speach was suprisingly good, especially given the audience he had. I was impressed that he was able to give a speach that was well accepted and even funny in places to what most people would consider a hostile crowd. He even took credit for the large increases in the ACLU membership (although I would guess Ashcroft has a better claim to that).

We obviously didn’t agree on a number of issues, and some of them were even rebutted the next morning, but I give him credit for havinmg the courage to come speak with us.


I joined the group from Idaho for the FBI Director’s speach and afterwords there were a few sessions that neither myself, nor Monique and Ridley wanted to attend. We wanted to get out of the conference for a while. So we decided to forgo the dinner and reception and go out on the town for dinner.

As an aside, I was really impressed with Monique and Ridley. This was not exactely a place were one would expect two 17 year old girls to be interested and excited, but they were both very mature and intelligent. I kept forgetting that they were underage; a good sign for their future.

So we went out to Fuddruckers and had a really good and silly dinner. After dinner, Ridley wanted to head back to her hotel room and rest, so Monique and I took the Metro down to Georgetown and wandered around some very expensive and very odd stores. $114 jeans are just too much; and when a store has enough money to hire a DJ to play inside, there is just something wrong.

After killing a few hours and getting steadily more wet in the rain, we headed back to the conference for the event I was looking forward to.

9:30 - Stand up Comics for Freedom

This was great. This was crying and trying not to pee on yourself funny. I was thrilled when I saw on the agenda that Paula Poundstone would be one of the comics at this event. I hear her regularly on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR, but her routine at lunch was beyond anything I had heard her on before. I wish there was a webcast of her act as there is no way I can describe it.

The other comics were good, but nothing in comparison.