Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bubblehead: First Amendment Defender Or Total Ass?

Hoping to continue my occasional forays into the world of the citizen journalist (my earlier efforts are here and here), I went to my first state legislative hearing yesterday. Originally, I was going to go see the Health Care Bill Nullification hearing, but really, who wants to head downtown at 8 am on their day off? So, since my wife wanted to testify at the Education Reform hearing anyway, I decided to cover that one as a citizen-journalist.

I was off to a bad start when I forgot to bring my camera, but we got there in time to stand in line to sign up to testify. I wasn't planning on testifying, but stood in line to sign up for my son, who had seen some young women he knew already in the committee room and went in to talk to them. Someone came up to the line with a box of papers and passed them out to the people standing in line. After a few minutes, my wife was talking to some of the other people in line, so I started reading the handout. It turned out to be a not-very-clever satire of the handout the committee gave out of guidelines for testifying to the committee. At this point, it got interesting.

A young woman with an official nametag came up to me, said "This is not authorized", and literally ripped the sheet out of my hand. She tried to do the same thing with my wife's written testimony, repeating "This is not authorized". My wife said, "Hey, this is my testimony. You can't have it". The young woman continued moving down the line, ripping papers from people's hands, then found a large pile of the papers on a bench and started collecting them.

At this point, I had my wits back together (this had pretty much just come out of the blue) so I mentioned to the young lady that it seemed like these papers were probably protected by the First Amendment. She collected all the papers and left. We were talking about this weird event when my wife noticed the young lady walking down the hall again. I started speaking a little more loudly about the First Amendment to the people behind me, and she turned around and said "Yes?". I complained, in what I thought was a reasonable tone of voice, that such satire was protected by the First Amendment; she agreed that it was. She also apologized for trying to rip my wife's testimony from her hand. She then almost started crying, complaining that the people at yesterday's hearing had been so rude, and why did she even get assigned to this committee? (She is the Senate Education committee secretary.) It was kind of pathetic. I did make a point of reading her nametag and mentioning that I wanted to get her name right when I reported it on social media and "my popular blog". (As it turned out, I didn't get her name right when I posted it on Facebook; I only saw the last three letters of her first name, and extrapolated incorrectly.)

At this point, I'm thinking this is more funny than anything else -- the young lady's near breakdown about how hard her job was made it much less sinister. What happened next, however, wasn't so funny. After we signed up on the sheet to testify, a Capitol policeman came up to me and asked me to follow him. He brought be outside the door, I offered my ID (my retired military ID; I could see where this was heading). He came off as a real tough guy, saying a lobbyist had reported that I was being "an ass" to the young lady. I told him what happened, and mentioned that the pamphlets were clearly protected by the First Amendment, and no, I didn't appreciate my First Amendment rights being violated. I didn't mention the word "theft", although I'm pretty sure that the law would say that a piece of paper given freely to me was now mine. Even after I mentioned the First Amendment, the Capitol policeman continued to try to intimidate me, to what end I can't figure out -- it was fairly obvious I wasn't going to back down. He ended up saying that maybe "mutual apologies" were in order. Sure, I said, I'd apologize that the young lady was upset that I was defending my First Amendment rights. [During this exchange, I did get a little obnoxious in continually mentioning my 21 years on active duty, and asking him how many years on active duty he had.]

At this point, I immediately posted what happened in Facebook, and got some suggestions. One person suggested I file charges, and offered to help collect witness statements. (He was also at the meeting.) Another suggested I should have broken out lines from this classic clip:

So, what do you think? Was I being a jerk to a poor young lady just trying to do her job? Or, given that the state establishment is very much behind this bill while the majority of the public opposes it, some quite vocally, and that it's unlikely that this young woman would have come up with the idea to steal these pamphlets on her own, should I have stood up even more against what was clearly a violation of my First Amendment rights, let alone my property rights?


Blogger Jill Kuraitis said...

You were not being a jerk. Women don't need to be afforded any special "gentle" treatment when we are being jerks. Otherwise what's the point of equality? Only when it's "nice"?

Joel, your report is truly disturbing. Thanks for posting this. I will be passing it along.

2/11/2011 9:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. They don't send 300 pound gorillas around to yank papers away that they disagree with becasue it looks worse if you fight back against a young woman.
2. Doesn't it bother you that you spent all those years defending a society like this? It bothers me to think about where we are headed.

2/11/2011 9:23 AM

Blogger Buck said...

Doesn't sound jerkish to me. In the spirit of flies and honey, I tend to be ultra-polite to bureaucrats I'm complaining to (Look, I understand you personally didn't order the snow plow to pile it up 9 feet high on the corner, I just want to let someone at the city know it is a hazard.) People being people, bureaucrats hear a lot of complaints and can easily see injury when none was intended.

A right not exercised is no right at all.

2/11/2011 9:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I was just doing my job." Didn't work at Nurnberg, shouldn't work here.

2/11/2011 9:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


2/11/2011 9:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Entschuldigen Sie bitte. Sie haben recht.

2/11/2011 9:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bigger question to ask is WTF the policeman thought he was doing? Is it really his job to enforce politeness? I also question the lobbyist who apparently views the local cops as their personal gendarme force to harass the citizenry...
Did you ask the cop what law you broke?

This is not Kindergarden....running up to the teacher and crying that someone was "mean" to you is not what is supposed to happen in the adult world.

A one word response "NOTED" would have been my response.

2/11/2011 9:52 AM

Anonymous Despiser of Politics said...

My best guess is that you were engaging in some dickheadery in response to her bitchedness. That doesn't make you a dickhead anymore than her actions make her a bitch. You just chose to use the right tool for the right job.

I would report it, most certainly. Someone put her on that task, or...on an outside possibility...she's demented. Either way, it deserves airing out.

2/11/2011 9:56 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Apparently, tempers were running high at the previous days hearing.

2/11/2011 9:59 AM

Blogger fortboise said...

Wow, what a story.

You behaved better than I would have, I think.

You do put the Secretary in both a negative and sympathetic light, which is interesting. What I wish you'd figured out how to do was to persuade her to re-do, and return the material she had inappropriately taken from you, and others.

The issue of "law enforcement" in the people's Capitol deserves the attention your experience can provide.

2/11/2011 10:05 AM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

Hrumph! Hrumph!

Piss on the ball-less lobbyist (ball-less being an androgynous adjective. I didn't see the gender in the story)

To Hell with the grabby chick.

You could try to go back and start snatching papers out of her hands, but I don't think that will end well.

2/11/2011 10:07 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

@Tom, please feel free to share with your readers.

2/11/2011 10:10 AM

Blogger fortboise said...

By the way, thanks for the lovely and well-chosen excerpt from Monty Python. (What's up with the subtitles, though? Those were not authorized.)

"...some farcical aquatic ceremony..."

(And speaking of weird coincidences, the "word verification" for this comment was haingme. Come see the repression!"

2/11/2011 10:14 AM

Anonymous OldCOB said...

I'm with you Joel. To many people in government have lost sight of the fact that they work for us. Not the other way around. I would have jumped in with both feet and held an impromptu personal counseling session.

2/11/2011 11:26 AM

Anonymous 3383 said...

Unless he was investigating a possible disturbance of the peace, that officer had no business "requesting" you to go anywhere. Did you get his name, badge number, etc?

And if one busts out in tears at your job, one is either being manipulative or overwhelmed. Either way, a change of career is advised.

You sound justified in your actions, but I wasn't there- whether you were a total ass, 1st Amendment defender, or in-between is up to you.

2/11/2011 1:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think for your commissioned service you were one of the blessed and noble class and got used to it. I would bet money you saw enlisted getting crapped on every month on political speech issues and didn't do a thing. Ever saw enlisted forced to fill out voting forms with disclosed parties in them? Ever heard about an enlisted being ordered to take off an anti-Bush or Clinton bumper sticker?
Now you are just one of the 'enlisted' scum under the feet of the politcal class, and now it tastes bad to you.

2/11/2011 1:06 PM

Blogger Gforce said...

Agree with fortboise, the clip was classic and probably jibes equally as well with the Egypt situation - "see the repression inherent in the system"!

2/11/2011 1:33 PM

Blogger Gerry said...

@Anon 1306:

Wow, bitter much?

I too was an enlisted, and on occasion got rode roughshod by an O-ganger or two, but by and large, the officers *I* served with were honorable men trying to do the best they could.
I've been reading Joel's blog for years now, and he has always struck me as the type of guy I would have loved to work for; he has integrity and honesty.
Oh, and unless I am grossly mistaken, I believe Joel was an enlisted before he got commissioned. Hardly an elitist.
In case you missed the point, the rights Joel was standing up for are YOUR rights too.

On topic, good on you, Joel! The Secretary's inability to cope with rude people is no excuse for violating constitutionally protected rights. You police associate was also violating your rights; by being in uniform and armed, and directing you to follow him, you were being unlawfully detained or coerced. Since you broke no law, statute, or ordinance, he had no legitimate reason to even speak to you.

Anyway... keep up your citizen journalism. Too much of this sort of thing happens and no one makes a fuss.. so it becomes the new norm. We need to protect our rights, if we dont, we shall assuredly lose them over time.

2/11/2011 2:17 PM

Anonymous Geoff said...

"...a lobbyist had reported that I was being "an ass" to the young lady."
Any bets on who "a lobbyist" was? I bet his name rhymes with "Boffman"

2/11/2011 2:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It hardly appears, based on your account, that you were being an ass or "in the wrong" in any way.

I'm curious - was it a local police officer, an Idaho State Police trooper, or one of the capitol mall security folks (usually white shirt).

If Capitol Mall security, they are not sworn peace officers, and accordingly do not have arrest authority, so you can ignore them.

2/11/2011 2:54 PM

Blogger Kurt said...

Well, if the voters of Idaho don't like the new laws, maybe they should try voting in a new Govenor, et al. Personally,I didn't vote for a single person currently making decisions for our great red state...except Mike Simpson. I am growing tired of living in a state that puts big business first; Simplot, Monsanto, and now Dell computers. Too bad for us.

2/11/2011 3:17 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I'm pretty sure he was Idaho State Patrol; I know he was a Corporal.

2/11/2011 3:18 PM

Anonymous Diogenes N. Jessup said...

So B., do you really think that only American citizens with "21 years of active duty" have the right to speak their minds in this country? In a banana republic, maybe, sure. If you do not feel that way, then why the need to keep mentioning it to the cop? Trying to pull rank? Sincerely curious as to why that would became the centerpiece of your interaction with this cop.

2/11/2011 3:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Military and police are effectively peers. One protects the public from international threats, the other from internal threats. Joel was pointing out that he was one of the good guys, too, but also one with a lot more seniority.

Since the cop was basically demonstrating a show of official force, Joel was well within his rights to push right back.

2/11/2011 4:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know if 'total ass' is appropriate but I can assure you that the individuals you attempted to intimidate or influence with the. I'm a popular blogger/military veteran' schtick certainly think so.

2/11/2011 6:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a submariner, you should have whipped out your johnson, told her you have the Declaration of Independence tatooed on it and politely asked if she would like to grab that?

2/11/2011 6:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever saw enlisted forced to fill out voting forms with disclosed parties in them? Ever heard about an enlisted being ordered to take off an anti-Bush or Clinton bumper sticker?

As a former E6 out at six, I can say I never saw anything even remotely close. I can also saw without a doubt that the guys I served with would have told ANYONE making such demands where to stick it. If this happened to you or you saw it happen to someone and did nothing about it, you are the quintessential pussy.

2/11/2011 8:34 PM

Anonymous T said...

This country has gone to shit. Anybody who follows the news can see that. We're barely a democracy anymore. The government doesn't barely serve the people anymore, they serve the people "with money".

It used to be that we supported democratic rights around the world, decried the use of torture around the world, unlawful confinement, and suppression of free speech. Now we just give wordplay to the same and seek legal loopholes to do the same things we decry.

Both parties are equally culpable... I hope, as a country, we pull our collective heads out of our asses and regain our sense of honor and doing what's right, even when it's the hard thing to do.

2/11/2011 9:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

This aggression will not stand... man

2/11/2011 11:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now is the season of evil.
What was will be.
what is will be no more.

2/12/2011 1:08 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

1. Welcome to Idaho.

2. Welcome to state government.

3. Politics is the exercise of power in the public sphere.

4. If you can't manage to schedule the time for live viewing of a train wreck or an airplane crash, do try to get to your state's capitol while the legislature is in session.

5. "Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
Sir Winston Churchill, November 11, 1947

2/12/2011 3:31 AM

Anonymous James said...

Sir- I'm from DC and I'm a Democrat, but that is unacceptable behavior on her part, especially considering you were just a citizen.

What you should do is call the offices of your two Senators and directly ask for the Chief of Staff to talk about how you were rudely treated by this woman. They should be able to take it from there.

2/12/2011 10:35 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Anonymous@6:24pm: You're probably right. I should have stuck with the "I'm a citizen", since they shouldn't have done this to anyone. It's just that Idaho Republicans all assume that military veterans support them without issue, and I like throwing in their face that it's not always the case.

2/12/2011 12:22 PM

Blogger slfisher said...

I think you were hard on her, dude. Yes, it's her job and all that. At the same time, I think a lot of people have been rude to the staffers all week -- and yes, I know, people are stressed, I have my issues with the way the hearings were handled, etc., but the staffers don't typically have to deal with hundreds of members of angry public. I doubt that she had any intention of denying anyone's First Amendment rights.

Look at it from her perspective: She's trying to manage the three-ring circus that's going on there(I wasn't there for last week's hearings, but I was there for the JFAC ones, and it was a zoo, and the staffers were unfailingly polite and courteous), and she suddenly finds out that there's a pile of papers -- and I don't know what they said -- that people might have been picking up thinking they were official, and it would have been *her* ass.

I think what the Statehouse needs right now is a good dose of compassion. I know we're all upset about what's going on with the Legislature, but let's save our ire for the people who deserve it.

2/12/2011 8:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are darned few Democrats who support the military, much less serve in it as officers. I can understand why one of the few Democrats who did would want to announce it ... loudly. Makes perfect sense to me.

2/13/2011 7:45 AM

Anonymous Subbasket said...

@slfisher: My problem with this whole thing with the "Witch on Wheels at the Statehouse" is that in her attempt to claim the papers back she nearly took my testimony in the same RUDE manor and only when I spoke up that she had her dirty witchy fingers on my testimony did she move on with NO apologizes until Bubbles spoke up. So what right did she have in her job that takes my simple words away from me.

2/13/2011 7:53 AM

Blogger slfisher said...

In reading the description, it sounds like she stopped when you told her it was your testimony. And "dirty witchy fingers"? Really?

2/13/2011 8:09 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"There are darned few Democrats who support the military, much less serve in it as officers."

Hmmm... Historically, defense budgets have tended up under Democratic presidents and down under Rs. Carter? Every one of his budgets raised defense spending over the previous year. Reagan? Up, then down. Clinton? End of Cold War. Obama? Paying off 8 years of profligate spend-thrift governance by his predecessor but overall projection of defense-related spending consistently up through 2014.

Bush 43? Two unfunded wars and a deteriorated military with huge force-structure and personnel issues, the Guard and Reserve shattered for a generation, and the vaunted AVF an utter failure.

Better now with the Rs controlling the House? Running on a CR with no Appropriations Bill has cut the notice for PCS transfers to 2 months, ship availabilities are being canceled piecemeal, and the CNO is giving interviews to get the word out on the harm to our Navy from the House Rs' unwillingness to do their job and pass a Defense Bill.

Served as officers? Hmmm... Truman. Kennedy. Johnson. Carter. Also Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush 41. No: Clinton, Obama. No also: Reagan; Bush 43 only if you count his draft-dodging service in the National Guard, such as it was.

So press on with your beliefs if you wish ... but know they are fact-free.

2/13/2011 9:01 AM

Anonymous Subbasket said...

@slfisher: Yes really. I could lower my words a little bit to fit your needs if you would like me to but really do I need to and do you want to be a dictator of what someone else should say. Is this what I should reading from what you are asking?

2/13/2011 9:03 AM

Anonymous T said...

For me, honestly, I was as R as R gets when I joined the military. Voted for Bush twice. Was in support of Iraq War and Afghanistan.

8 years of being a military officer made me a Democrat. The only Republican I could imagine myself voting for in 2012 is Ron Paul. Despite the fact that his economic policies would most likely cause worldwide economic chaos, I appreciate the fact that he actually believes in the USA living up to the ideals on which were founded, and stop the extraordinary extradition programs, attacks on free speech, unlawful search and seizures, and targeting of American citizens for assassination. In this respect, Obama is as bad or worse than Bush was.

The unfortunate truth is that most Americans, even patriotic Americans, are woefully uninformed about all but the most basic political goings-ons. Further, they're blissfully unaware of government abuses or are totalitarian cheerleaders that Rah-Rah the government because the people this is happening to "deserve it". Which is all well and good, until the definition of who "deserves it" expands to include you.

2/13/2011 9:50 AM

Blogger SJV said...

It would have been smarter to not let her take the paper away in the first place. Or to follow her and politely ask that she return it. Had you done that, assuming she refused, you could have then easily been the wounded party. By whining about it behind her back, you made yourself look like an ass.

2/13/2011 11:03 AM

Blogger slfisher said...

Actually, no, subbasket, that's not what you should be reading from what I was saying, but it is of course your prerogative to do so if you wish.

2/13/2011 11:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The police officer was probably thinking "only 21 years? what a quitter".

Seriously, if you have to bust out your military ID for anything other than a discount, you have probably already lost!

2/14/2011 6:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I go back and forth about whether I like the Duck or not. In this case cice try Duck, but the Dems could have spent the lame duck session (and the time since Feb when the budget wa submitted) doing what they should have been doing, passing an appropriations bill (not just defense but an entire budget) but they spent the time doing stupid stuff instead.

So, yes the Republicans are now in charge of one chamber, but the Dems should have been working on it for 10 months (when they owned both chambers) instead of some health care bill that doesn't lower the cost of health care (just spreads it around) and will cause the country to go bankrupt.

2/14/2011 1:37 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

2/14/2011 1:37 PM:

The last vote on the 2011 Defense Appropriations Bill was in September. This is the report from Fox News: "Senate Democrats were unable to corral the 60 votes necessary to overcome Republican objections blocking the package from advancing to the floor. The bill failed in a 56-43 vote."

You can bloviate as you wish about what Congress might oughta have done, but that's what Congress - the Rs in Congress - did do. They killed the fucking bill.

2/14/2011 3:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because they didn't want to spend the political capitol doing something they should have so they could spend it on stupid stuff instead. They put a full court press on several bills and were able to overcome, they didn't put the full court press on the budget. You know it's true. Instead we get government taking over larger and larger sections of the economy. has any been to the DMV? The same government that brings you the DMV is now bringing you vast new EPA regulations, health care, student loans, and on and on. Have you every tried to appeal a car license issue? It's impossible. The same government is now going to determine whether you need that hip replacement or bypass operation.

Plus the bill, like the most recently proposed President's budget fails to grasp reality. Just as some thought, the 'one time' stimulus has become the new baseline. I'm freeing it at current levels, when his current levels include most of the stimulus in the baseline.

Tax, spend, regulate form Washington just won't work.

2/14/2011 8:03 PM

Anonymous T said...

just a minor point of contention, DMV's are ran by the states, so it's not really the same government...

I don't wholly disagree with you, but the DMV is a bad example.

2/14/2011 11:25 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

2/14/2011 8:03 PM: "...they (the Ds) didn't put the full court press on the budget. You know it's true."

No I don't, not unless you send me the tape showing you and the Burning Bush discussing this. What I do know that's true is that the fucking Rs killed the fucking bill and that's the fucking truth.

2/15/2011 4:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That would be one very narrow minded view about the fucking Rs and the fucking Ds and the fucking bill. No there's not a fucking transcript that fucking said that fucking didn't do it, but their lack of fucking action speaks.

Why the need to fucking use the word fucking?

Sounds fucking stupid doesn't it.

2/15/2011 4:58 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...


2/15/2011 6:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did the right thing and she did the wrong.

Advice to all of us: keep duplicate copies of documents and carry a hidden set in a vest pocket in case what you have in hand is ripped off. If you can afford it, notorize the set you have in your hand, so that you can prove it was your property.

I bet they selected a woman to do this dirty work, precisely so youd suffer self doubt.

I think that's playing dirty.

I am a civilian gal and am sad to report that girls and women can be worse and stealthier bullies than men.

2/17/2011 9:35 AM

Anonymous Leona said...

It can't work as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I consider.

9/05/2012 10:20 AM


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