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D: Yes, it does, because I've already had this discussion with him, and I've already been asked to change the signs, and I did. And I looked up all the statutes.
February 16, 2006 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Red State, Meet Police State --take a big anti-Bush bumper sticker, some DHS cops, and an outspoken and educated federal employee. Put them in Boise, Idaho. Mix well. "It's the First Amendment for a reason--not the last, not the middle. The first."
posted by amberglow (251 comments total)

 
This disgusts me - here, a veteran, someone who has risked his life to protect this country's freedom, law and way of life, is attacked for exercising his rights - his own right to free speech is in jeopardy just because he doesn't toe the line and insteads shows his dissent for an illegally-mounted war. How did we get here? I am so saddened.
posted by mctsonic at 7:47 AM on February 16, 2006


Attacked?

Here we go with the over-reactions and exaggerations.
posted by Witty at 7:50 AM on February 16, 2006


Sounds like he was "attacked" to me. This was an assault on his freedom. And yours. And mine.
posted by mds35 at 7:53 AM on February 16, 2006


Ha! Can you imagine what would happen if someone from the state government showed up at a business across from a Planned Parenthood clinic and started hauling people out to remove their "Choose Life" bumper stickers?

High-larious.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:54 AM on February 16, 2006


You know what's an assault on my freedom? The fact that the link won't load for me. I demand justice!
posted by mr_roboto at 7:56 AM on February 16, 2006


Witty: "Come on, now, it's not that big of a deal, let it go, it's not important. *waves hands* look over here! Solar panels! Just ignore those guys in uniform, harrassing people for voicing their opinions. Don't over-react, now."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:56 AM on February 16, 2006


The Homeland Security Dude, aka Homie, cited 41 CFR § 102-74.415

(c) Distributing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills or flyers, unless conducted as part of authorized Government activities. This prohibition does not apply to public areas of the property as defined in §102–71.20 of this chapter. However, any person or organization proposing to distribute materials in a public area under this section must first obtain a permit from the building manager as specified in subpart D of this part. Any such person or organization must distribute materials only in accordance with the provisions of subpart D of this part. Failure to comply with those provisions is a violation of these regulations.

From 41 CFR in §102–71.20

Public area means any area of a building under the control and custody of GSA that is ordinarily open to members of the public, including lobbies, courtyards, auditoriums, meeting rooms, and other such areas not assigned to a lessee or occupant agency.

So Homie, where does it say bumberstickers on private vehicles?
posted by three blind mice at 7:57 AM on February 16, 2006


He knows his rights, good for him! Fight the power, baby.
posted by Scoo at 7:58 AM on February 16, 2006


It is easy to see how we got here...

1. Lack of oversight of the executive branch (of which DHS is) from the legisiative.
2. Fear mongering.
3. A complete lack of recourse for Mr. Scarbrough.

Point three is probably the most salient for me. Him, Cindy Sheehan, etc have no recourse when they are wronged like this. DHS is allowed to come and harass him for whatever and he cant do anthing about it. It is the initimidation of people by the government to bully them into laying down. To browbeat them into submission. And you pick easy targets that the public doesnt have a lot of sympathy for (or aren't famous enough to generate sympathy). Why cant he go to court and the person responsible for this fired from DHS?

Even if the gov't rectifies this one situation, they'll write it off as some BS like "too vague" as opposed to what it really is - an attempt to stifle dissent.
posted by SirOmega at 8:01 AM on February 16, 2006


I would be fired in about 5 seconds by my employer if I in any way made my support of a political party obvious in any way. And it would be 100% legal.

This was not a private citizen harassed in a starbucks parking lot for bumper stickers on his car, he was a federal employee on federal property loudly and obviously criticizing his employer. What exactly did he expect (besides, that is, the very outcome that has transpired)?
posted by loquax at 8:02 AM on February 16, 2006


How does or should an officer enforce the law without being accused of "attacking" or harrassing? Every time there's a story like this, people claim harrassment and so forth. From what I read, the officer calmly asked the man to comply with the law. The man could have taken the citation, gone to court so a judge could interpret the law in more detail, both for the man and the officer. He chose to move his car instead.
posted by Witty at 8:03 AM on February 16, 2006


This is Bushit.
posted by bshort at 8:04 AM on February 16, 2006


This was not a private citizen harassed in a starbucks parking lot for bumper stickers on his car, he was a federal employee on federal property loudly and obviously criticizing his employer. What exactly did he expect (besides, that is, the very outcome that has transpired)?

Except that federal employees do not lose their First Amendment rights. When the speech of a federal employee is the employee's private speech on a matter of public concern, his First Amendment rights protect him. Adverse action in retaliation for that speech can form the basis of a § 1983 claim.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:06 AM on February 16, 2006


He must be doing something right if he got them this pissed off. He is doing this to piss them off and now he knows how well it is working. If these rubes actually arrest him, tow his vehicle or remove his signs they will only make matters worse for themselves. Next time he should show up with cameras and put their faces and identifying information up on the web.
posted by caddis at 8:06 AM on February 16, 2006


This happens every day now, somewhere.

My friend had the FBI show up at his door early one morning -- "You were taking photos of the Holland Tunnel." "Yes, I'm a professional photographer." "I'm afraid that's not allowed." "Why?" (various lies) "I'm sorry, that doesn't apply." (more lies) "I'm sorry, that doesn't trump my Constitutional rights." "If you persist, we'll have to bring you in front of a grand jury." "You do that, but right now I have to go back to bed." Now he's got the case number and is following it up. I admire him!

Oh, and "Witty" -- strongly consider changing your screen name to something accurate like "Boring," would you? Or at least *try* sometimes to be witty, your posting record is pretty wretched.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:08 AM on February 16, 2006


he was a federal employee on federal property loudly and obviously criticizing his employer.

No, he was loudly and obviously criticizing HIS EMPLOYEE. The President works for us.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on February 16, 2006


Brandon brings up a good point that's often forgotten - police officers, politicians and even the President do work for us. Mostly they have forgotten this and act as though we work for them but it isn't true....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:11 AM on February 16, 2006


>i>What exactly did he expect (besides, that is, the very outcome that has transpired)?

He expected the laws of his country to be followed. I don't see how what might or might not happen to you in your country is even remotely relevant.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:13 AM on February 16, 2006


Dammit. Anybody have a non-wanged mirror to this? I want to know what all the hubbub is... bub.
posted by antifuse at 8:15 AM on February 16, 2006


"This was not a private citizen harassed in a starbucks parking lot for bumper stickers on his car, he was a federal employee on federal property loudly and obviously criticizing his employer. What exactly did he expect (besides, that is, the very outcome that has transpired)?"


Yeah, sorry homie. He's Hatched, so he can't go around the office telling everyone that Bush sucks, but that doesn't apply to bumperstickers on his vehicle.

Hatch Act limitations for Federal Employees:

Federal Employees may:

* be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
* register and vote as they choose
* assist in voter registration drives
* express opinions about candidates and issues
* contribute money to political organizations
* attend political fundraising functions
* attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
* join and be an active member of a political party or club
* sign nominating petitions
* campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
* campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
* make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
* distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
* hold office in political clubs or parties

Federal Employees are prohibited via the Hatch Act from:

# se official authority or influence to interfere with an election
# solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
# solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
# be candidates for public office in partisan elections
# engage in political activity while:

* on duty
* in a government office
* wearing an official uniform
* using a government vehicle

# wear partisan political buttons on duty


Don't see anything about no bumperstickers, brah.
posted by stenseng at 8:17 AM on February 16, 2006


Oh, and "Witty" -- strongly consider changing your screen name to something accurate like "Boring," would you? Or at least *try* sometimes to be witty, your posting record is pretty wretched.

What the...? Can't handle my differing opinion, so we insult? Typical for Mefi. And get over my username already, wouldja.
posted by Witty at 8:20 AM on February 16, 2006


Stuff like this bothers me. It was not so long ago on the internet that playing the "Nazi" card was considered the last resort of the losing arguer. But the more often I read of encounters like this, the harder it is for me to find a clear line between the USDHS and the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda.

When you're confronted by uniforms simply because your message does not comply with government spin, you're already there.

What's next -- banning reruns of "American President" simply because of Michael Douglas's "The symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free." message at the end?
posted by Mike D at 8:20 AM on February 16, 2006


How does or should an officer enforce the law without being accused of "attacking" or harrassing?
posted by Witty at 8:03 AM PST on February 16


Maybe DHS employees should be concerned with, you know, HS instead of some fucking bumper stickers.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:22 AM on February 16, 2006


Except that federal employees do not lose their First Amendment rights.

I acknowledge that (though I'm not as familiar with US law as I am with Canadian law), but it would seem to me that this isn't a question of free speech, but the volume and appropriateness of that free speech, as well as the nature of the privacy of the speech when it's being spoken while he's on the job as a federal employee. If he drove a different car to work, but his tricked-out truck everywhere else, would he have had a problem? Certainly not. I think it's fair to ask employees to refrain from having scale model critiques of your organization on your property. If the government were really being heavy handed, they could have simply fired him ages ago. Instead they asked him to tone it down, then asked him to comply with (an arguable) law. Hardly an attack on free speech, if you ask me.

No, he was loudly and obviously criticizing HIS EMPLOYEE

Well, he in particular was criticizing his employer when he was on federal property and no longer a private citizen, but under contract with the government.


Don't see anything about no bumperstickers, brah.


If it doesn't, he's obviously violating the spirit of the law. Is this all a non-issue for everyone involved if they were simply to add bumper stickers to the list of verboten items?
posted by loquax at 8:23 AM on February 16, 2006


Adverse action in retaliation for that speech can form the basis of a § 1983 claim.

Absolutely. And isn't that the proper initial response, rather than taking isolated anecdotes about overzealous cops to conclude we're living in a "police state"?. I mean, I know this was bad for this guy, and he was treated unfairly. That's exactly why the law gives him a remedy.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:23 AM on February 16, 2006


Boy, that's related.
posted by Witty at 8:23 AM on February 16, 2006


Maybe DHS employees should be concerned with, you know, HS instead of some fucking bumper stickers.

I agree with this, by the way, and think it's odd. Is DHS all of a sudden the default bylaw enforcement office? Isn't this more of an HR thing?
posted by loquax at 8:24 AM on February 16, 2006


Insulted?

Here we go with the over-reactions and exaggerations.
posted by badger_flammable at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2006


How did we get here?

We? Wherever those fuckwits are, figuratively, geographically, I don't count myself there with them. One nation indivisible my white ass. I live in the republic of California, thank you very much. I need to see what I can do about this "federal" cabal which is garnishing my wages. Surely that can't be legal.
posted by scarabic at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2006


this isn't a question of free speech, but the volume and appropriateness of that free speech

Stickers are silent. They don't have klaxons and loudspeakers attached.

Appropriateness? Who determines that? Maybe I'm offended by the sea of bullshit yellow ribbons, but I'm not having some overpaid rent-a-federal-cop go harass people about them.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2006


Maybe DHS employees should be concerned with, you know, HS instead of some fucking bumper stickers. - Optimus Chyme

Yeah. It's sort of the Department of Whatever We Wouldn't Fund If We Called It Something Else.

But the more often I read of encounters like this, the harder it is for me to find a clear line between the USDHS and the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda. - Mike D

I know what you're saying. I wouldn't claim that the US is equivalent to a fascist state, but at times it looks like it could be on the road in that direction. So how can concerned Americans ensure that never happens?
posted by raedyn at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2006


badger_flammable - I don't get it.
posted by Witty at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2006


he was a federal employee on federal property loudly and obviously criticizing his employer

And the 1st Amendment is much more binding on Scarborough's employer than it is on a private entity.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:28 AM on February 16, 2006


More brevity. Less wit(ty).
posted by mds35 at 8:29 AM on February 16, 2006


I would be fired in about 5 seconds by my employer if I in any way made my support of a political party obvious in any way. And it would be 100% legal.

loquax lately you've made a couple of comments (last was re: your rules at public school - completely foreign to my experience) which I find very difficult to believe, given that we live in the same country & work in the same city. Who do you work for exactly? Everywhere I've ever worked there have been employees with all kinds of political stickers on their vehicles and on their cubicles. I have teachers & bosses with political affiliations made very obvious in their offices. Everyone who knows me knows I belong to the liberal party and will likely be a rep at the upcoming leadership convention, because I've got stickers & signage all over my locker at school, my binders, & my desk at work and I've talked about it openly. There are many companies in Canada where you can get paid time off to work on a political campaign for any party. You seem to live in a completely different place than I do.
posted by zarah at 8:31 AM on February 16, 2006


Mike D, you don't need to bring up the Nazis if reference to political propaganda and squelching of dissent. Almost every country has a shameful and extensive history with both.
posted by MillMan at 8:32 AM on February 16, 2006


Oh, and "Witty" -- strongly consider changing your screen name to something accurate like "Boring," would you?

You know, even though I've read some variation on that "joke" about 1,000 times, it just never gets old! LOL!!!!1!!
posted by pardonyou? at 8:32 AM on February 16, 2006


I find it noteworthy that in a thread lamenting the suppression of dissenting points of view, ideologues like Lopus cannot tolerate any divergence from his point of view, no matter how politely and reasonably expressed.
posted by mojohand at 8:34 AM on February 16, 2006


I would be fired in about 5 seconds by my employer if I in any way made my support of a political party obvious in any way.

a good reason for you to quit working for the Klan
posted by matteo at 8:37 AM on February 16, 2006


Mike D, you don't need to bring up the Nazis if reference to political propaganda and squelching of dissent.

i think it's important people do bring up Nazi references. remember when the west vowed "never again"... well, looks like it could happen again, easily.

The comparisons with Nazi Germany are very justified. The Weimar republic was a great democracy, undermined by a bunch of rightwingers who decieved the public, got into office legitimately and then royally screwed that democracy, and while doing that commited some of the greatest atrocities of the last century.
posted by twistedonion at 8:37 AM on February 16, 2006


From what I read, the officer calmly asked the man to comply with the law.

Did you read a different story than the rest of us? The man broke no law. He was being harassed.

You're simply wrong, as usual. How does it feel to be wrong?
posted by wakko at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2006


...in a thread lamenting the suppression of dissenting points of view...

By all means, let the idiots speak, lest they remain hidden from us.
posted by mds35 at 8:43 AM on February 16, 2006


I was put off as soon as I read,"[...] the same as Ghandi." Why can't the DHS do something useful? Like spellcheck local newspapers?
posted by pantsrobot at 8:45 AM on February 16, 2006


Working Coral mirror here btw.
posted by skallas at 8:48 AM on February 16, 2006


The man broke no law. He was being harassed. - wakko

Well, the officers claimed he was breaking a law. They even quoted the exact bit they believed he was breaking. My laymans reading of the statute suggests he was not breaking the letter of the law, but I'm fully aware that mine is not an educated reading of it. I don't automatically assume my reading is correct, even if several other laymen read it and come to same conclusion.

But if they really did believe he's breaking a law, they should have taken action - cited him or whatever is appropriate under the statute they claim he's contravening. Then it could have gone to a court and we could have heard a legal intrepretation.

If they never did intend to take official action, just quote legislation to try and intimidate him into compliance, then that is inappropriate and Big Brother-ish.
posted by raedyn at 8:50 AM on February 16, 2006


From what I read, the officer calmly asked the man to comply with the law. The man could have taken the citation, gone to court so a judge could interpret the law in more detail, both for the man and the officer. He chose to move his car instead.

It seemed to me, from the transcript, that the officer wanted Scarbrough to take his signs down immediately. Scarbrough could not have just taken a citation and gone to court later. It was pretty obvious that Scarbrough was waiting for something like this to happen, having a tape recorder on him and all, and if I were him I probably wouldn't have gone with the "harrasment" argument. Violation of first ammendment rights seems like the best argument to me. Then again, IANAL. Are you?
posted by anomie at 8:54 AM on February 16, 2006


zarah, about the other thread, I went to private school in Toronto, the rules may well have been different and more strict. About this, Canada's charter of rights and freedoms, as well as any employment law, does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of political affiliation, or in fact any acquaintance one keeps. In my job specifically, I deal with elements of the provincial and federal government, as well as the courts, and it would be detrimental to the company for me to make my position on any political issue known, let alone wearing buttons. And if my company chose to fire me for it, I would have no recourse, as they are well within their rights in Canada to do so. Not the same situation as this gentleman, I was just trying to say that constitutional rights and employment law and standards don't always mesh well.

a good reason for you to quit working for the Klan

Actually, it's Hamas.
posted by loquax at 8:55 AM on February 16, 2006


undermined by a bunch of rightwingers who decieved the public

Actually, didn't Hitler get in on the explicit promise to do away with democracy?
posted by slatternus at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2006


The man broke no law.

It was the opinion of the officer that he had. One time, I was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding. I told him that I thought he was mistaken (since the car I was in was loaded to the gills with "stuff", wasn't very fast anyway, and couldn't possibly reach the speed he was suggesting). He basically told me to "tell it to the judge". We went back and forth for a couple of minutes, to no avail. So I took the ticket, went to court, contested it and found out that the officer's equipment was faulty. I certainly didn't start barking about harrassment.
posted by Witty at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2006



"If it doesn't, he's obviously violating the spirit of the law."


Good thing in America, the letter of the law, and not the "spirit," whatever the shit that is, is the metric by which we determine the legality of a circumstance.

He's not in violation of Hatch, and his signage is not on Federal Property, but on personal property (his vehicle,) hence he is not in violation of any statute, and is well within his first amendment constitutional rights. End of story.

Reichstag Security can suck it.
posted by stenseng at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2006


From TFA:

Scarbrough gets his share of negative attention--including plenty of people "flying the bald eagle," as he likes to call it--but he savors such attention. He likes to call his truck a "sociological experiment on wheels," and whether you like the message of that experiment or not, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Scarbrough is the type of extreme voice that the First Amendment--that one about free speech--is intended to protect.


So he's anti-war and anti-Bush. His protests involve bumper stickers on his car. That makes him an extremist in Idaho?
posted by salmacis at 9:02 AM on February 16, 2006


but it would seem to me that this isn't a question of free speech, but the volume and appropriateness of that free speech, as well as the nature of the privacy of the speech when it's being spoken while he's on the job as a federal employee.

It isn't a question of free speech, but of volume and appropriateness? Give us a break.

Don't hide your true meaning behind weasel language. Come right out and say what you mean.

By the way, if you are a Canadian living in Canada, I resent the fact that you would dare to redefine free speech in my country. Maybe you are an American living in Toronto, I don't know, but if you are a foreign citizen, you are waaaay out of line.
posted by edverb at 9:02 AM on February 16, 2006


I wouldn't claim that the US is equivalent to a fascist state, but at times it looks like it could be on the road in that direction. So how can concerned Americans ensure that never happens?

They can't, because each step will be incremental, so incremental that the likes of loquax will say, "What's the big deal?"

And taken separately, they might not seem like such a huge deal. Taken together, then constitute one very big deal, indeed.

The question I've got in this particular case is - was the initial DHS officer acting on orders from above, or was he just some ultrarigid asshole (not like there aren't a whole lot of those in law enforcement, eh?) who, of his own volition, decided he was offended and would do something about it.

The latter is execrable but you're always going to have cops who do it. The former is the bigger concern by far.
posted by kgasmart at 9:03 AM on February 16, 2006


And it would be 100% legal.

Really? Man, if I did that, I could only manage 82% legal.

Of course, I had a habit of getting girls only 73% pregnant before I got married, so I have trouble with that whole 100% thing.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2006


Actually anomie, the officer said "if you don't take them off right now, you understand that I have to cite you?" to which he replied "I'll just move my car. But this is harrassment! Harrassment! I'm being harrassed! Get my supervisor so he can see this harrassment!" Every time the officer tried to say "you need to get those signs off government property" he went off into a rage about being harrassed. I would pretty clearly describe what was on that dude's truck as a "sign," despite his protestations to the contrary.
posted by antifuse at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2006


Without the the first ammendment this country is no different than China, Stalin's Russia, or Mein Kampf's Germany.

Don't see anything about no bumperstickers, brah.

If it doesn't, he's obviously violating the spirit of the law. Is this all a non-issue for everyone involved if they were simply to add bumper stickers to the list of verboten items?


loquax, 'the spirit of the law' is a bit broad for defining how to behave, spirit could be solidarity, could be blind following of the dictator. Just because we work for someone it doesn't mean we have to follow their lead in non-work activities, which politics is definitely one of!
posted by uni verse at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2006


One time, I was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding. ...

That analogy is only relevant if you do not believe Scarbrough was singled out because of the content of his stickers.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2006


He's not in violation of Hatch, and his signage is not on Federal Property, but on personal property (his vehicle,) hence he is not in violation of any statute, and is well within his first amendment constitutional rights. End of story.

Umm. His VEHICLE is on federal property. If you want to be this pedantic about it, you could post a sign on a stick on government property, and say "Well technically that sign is on my private property (the stick) so it's not actually on federal property."
posted by antifuse at 9:07 AM on February 16, 2006


I think it's fair to ask employees to refrain from having scale model critiques of your organization on your property.

I don't see any ciritiques on the back of his truck:

On the back, he tapes weekly updates of the number of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq. Beneath that, on a large, white (and also taped-on) placard: "Support our returning troops and their families when they need help: Give them this number: GI RIGHTS HOTLINE: 1-800-394-9544." On both doors, in bold capital letters: "DEATH IN IRAQ IS NOT A CAREER OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS." Taking up nearly half of the back window: "Veterans for Peace Chapter 117, Idaho." On the driver's side wheel well, also in all caps: "PERHAPS GOD BLESSES EVERY NATION, NOT JUST THE USA." And interspersed between them all, he places a variety of purchased bumper stickers and magnetic ribbons reading, among other sentiments, "Support our Troops: Bring them Home Now," "Support Diversity" and "Honor Vets, Wage Peace."

The closest to a critique is perhaps the line DEATH IN IRAQ IS NOT A CAREER OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS, but that doesn't say anything about the US gov't. Death in anything is not a career opportunity for anyone.
posted by furtive at 9:08 AM on February 16, 2006


volume and appropriateness of that free speech

THERE IS NO VOLUME OR APPROPRIATENESS FOR FREE SPEECH. IT ISN'T FUCKING FREE OTHERWISE, IS IT?

idiots
posted by twistedonion at 9:08 AM on February 16, 2006


Reffernce:



FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY
41 C.F.R. § 102-74.415

Code of Federal Regulations Currentness
Title 41. Public Contracts and Property Management
Subtitle C. Federal Property Management Regulations System
Chapter 102. Federal Management Regulation (Refs & Annos)
Subchapter C. Real Property (Refs & Annos)
Part 102-74. Facility Management (Refs & Annos)
+ Subpart C. Conduct on Federal Property
+ Posting and Distributing Materials
>>§ 102-74.415 What is the policy for posting and distributing materials?

All persons entering in or on Federal property are prohibited from--

(a) Distributing free samples of tobacco products in or around Federal buildings, as mandated by Section 636 of Public Law 104-52;

(b) Posting or affixing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills, or flyers, on bulletin boards or elsewhere on GSA-controlled property, except as authorized in § 102-74.410, or when these displays are conducted as part of authorized Government activities; and

(c) Distributing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills or flyers, unless conducted as part of authorized Government activities. This prohibition does not apply to public areas of the property as defined in § 102-71.20 of this chapter. However, any person or organization proposing to distribute materials in a public area under this section must first obtain a permit from the building manager as specified in subpart D of this part. Any such person or organization must distribute materials only in accordance with the provisions of subpart D of this part. Failure to comply with those provisions is a violation of these regulations.


SOURCE: 64 FR 39084, July 21, 1999; 65 FR 10027, Feb. 25, 2000; 67 FR 76830, Dec. 13, 2002, unless otherwise noted.

AUTHORITY: 40 U.S.C. 486(c); E.O. 12191, 45 FR 7997, 3 CFR, 1980 Comp., p 138.
posted by BeerGrin at 9:09 AM on February 16, 2006


loquax writes "I think it's fair to ask employees to refrain from having scale model critiques of your organization on your property. If the government were really being heavy handed, they could have simply fired him ages ago."

Do you see it as at all threatening to a democracy if all government employees are required to hold the opinions of the party currently in power?


"Well, he in particular was criticizing his employer when he was on federal property and no longer a private citizen, but under contract with the government."

In a republic (from the Latin res publica, "the public thing"), in which each citizen partakes in "ownership" of the government, is employment (or a contract) sufficient to make someone "no longer a private citizen"? doesn't a citizen of a republic have a duty -- similar to due diligence in an employee -- to maintain a critical independence of the government he is a partial owner of, regardless of how he earns his daily bread?


Do you see any problem with requiring that a man's private conscience can no longer be free if he is a government employee? If the government can limit political speech by its employees, can it limit religious speech by its employees?

That's not so farfetched: do you recall the various civil disabilities and Test Acts that, in Britain, precluded Catholics and dissenters form government service? Why do you think the Test Acts were ultimately repealed in Britain? Do you think it was a mistake to allow Catholics and dissenters to participate in government?
posted by orthogonality at 9:10 AM on February 16, 2006


To make a statement, he should have peacefully refused
to move his vehicle, and allowed himself to be peacefully
arrested, or to make them tow his vehicle.

I don't want to live in Loquax and Witty's America.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:13 AM on February 16, 2006


"I wouldn't claim that the US is equivalent to a fascist state, but at times it looks like it could be on the road in that direction. So how can concerned Americans ensure that never happens?" - moi

They can't, because each step will be incremental, so incremental that the likes of loquax will say, "What's the big deal?"

And taken separately, they might not seem like such a huge deal. Taken together, then constitute one very big deal, indeed.
- kgasmart

So that's it. There's nothing you or I can do, if They want to take away our rights, They can do it, there's no recourse, and democracy is already dead in America?
posted by raedyn at 9:14 AM on February 16, 2006


Maybe he should only be able to display bumper stickers on a car parked in the "Free Speech Parking Garage", upon exiting which he could enter the barbwired "Free Speech Zone" and discuss these matters there in "the correct volume and spirit". Yeah, that's the ticket.
posted by prostyle at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2006


I would be fired in about 5 seconds by my employer if I in any way made my support of a political party obvious in any way. And it would be 100% legal.

This was not a private citizen harassed in a starbucks parking lot for bumper stickers on his car, he was a federal employee on federal property loudly and obviously criticizing his employer. What exactly did he expect (besides, that is, the very outcome that has transpired)?


I'm pretty sure the rules for the federal government are diffrent then those for private employers.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2006


It really is sobering reading how many MeFites are willing to give up our First Amendment rights. Especially since they love to exercise them every day on a website.
posted by NationalKato at 9:20 AM on February 16, 2006


Would those of you calling these signs:

Not a bumper sticker

"Bumpers stickers" please stop?? It's driving me crazy.
posted by antifuse at 9:21 AM on February 16, 2006


I like this man Dwight Scarbrough. Thank god for people that are willing to stand up against the bullshit.

Whenever I find myself staring directly into the face of the state over some perceived injustice I always end up backing down. I'm such a coward.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2006


It really is sobering reading how many MeFites are willing to give up our First Amendment rights.

or worse still, foreigners willing to give them up for us. Not sure, but that seems to be what's going on with loquax above.

I welcome a correction if my assumption is wrong
posted by edverb at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2006


Not sure, but that seems to be what's going on with loquax above.

Yes, loquax lives in Canada and likes to frequently remind us of a few things: 1) these issues are nothing to worry about and 2) he's scared shitless of terrorists.
posted by prostyle at 9:26 AM on February 16, 2006


please stop?? It's driving me crazy.
posted by antifuse at 9:21 AM PST on February 16


Okay they're not bumper stickers; what happened is still grade-A bullshit.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:28 AM on February 16, 2006


MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate. And that's why -- there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party -- they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:31 AM on February 16, 2006


Loquax, reading more of these comments its clear you have no clue what you're talking about. This isn't Canada with a pussy-ass charter of rights that we can override whenever we feel like it. This is America, land of the free, and home of the brave!

What the government can and can't do about its employees speech is regulated by law, much more so then what can and can't be done by private employers. If you're a government employee, you can criticize the government as much as you want, even though you couldn't do that if you worked for Microsoft, because it is the Government.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 AM on February 16, 2006


About this, Canada's charter of rights and freedoms, as well as any employment law, does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of political affiliation, or in fact any acquaintance one keeps. - loquax

You're wrong. From the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
There have been some concerns raised regarding enforcement and erosion of part (d), yes. But you can't say there's no protection in Canadian law, as it's right there at the top of our Constitution.
posted by raedyn at 9:35 AM on February 16, 2006


By the way, if you are a Canadian living in Canada, I resent the fact that you would dare to redefine free speech in my country. Maybe you are an American living in Toronto, I don't know, but if you are a foreign citizen, you are waaaay out of line.

Edverb, I'm not sure where to begin asserting the invalidity of your statement. Given your government's behavior over the last few years, I think it would behoove you to take advantage of some advice coming from foreigners. I don't agree with the sentiment you oppose in your statement, but I do vehemently believe that you are trying to stifle speech on authoritarian grounds.

So, please, don't redefine free speech for your country. Thanks.
posted by jon_kill at 9:36 AM on February 16, 2006


Please don't assume that loquax speaks for Canadians.
posted by raedyn at 9:37 AM on February 16, 2006


I think the biggest issue here is that it is the DHS making the beef, rather than his supervisor.

If there have been complaints, his supervisor should deal with the issue.

If the DHS is suddenly in the business of enforcing these kinds of regulations, why did they not first contact his supervisors and inform them of the new initiative?

Don't they have more important jobs, like looking for Canadian pot and Mexican immigrants?
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:38 AM on February 16, 2006


I don't agree with the sentiment you oppose in your statement, but I do vehemently believe that you are trying to stifle speech on authoritarian grounds.

No one's saying "stop talking or we'll physically punish you or have you arrested"; we're saying "don't encourage the supression of free speech because you're so irrationally afraid of terrorists, you fuckin' weenie."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:39 AM on February 16, 2006


I'm pretty sure the rules for the federal government are diffrent then those for private employers.
Would you agree a person working in a department not directly related to security may be allowed to voice his political opinions? Can a man have a pro-war sticker? If so then can he have a ant-war sticker?
posted by uni verse at 9:39 AM on February 16, 2006


If I remember correctly, the courts have pretty much agreed that the fourth amendment (there's one of those pesky constitutional rights again) covers your automobile, much as it would cover your home or other private property. That's why police can't search your vehicle without probable cause or your consent. It's your private property. You can put any damned sign/sticker/etc. you want on it, and unless you venture into public indecency/fire in a building type limitations, you're covered under the first and fourth amendments to the United States Constitution. Which is, let me remind my fuzzy headed friends, the Supreme law of this land. Buck. Stops. Heah.
posted by stenseng at 9:40 AM on February 16, 2006


And as a fellow loudmouthed liberal Idahoan, with family members who are Federal employees and regularly park their vehicles with "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home" stickers on them at Federal facilities, I'm proud to say "Way to go, Dwight!"

Now I may have to cut a check to the Boise ACLU chapter on payday.
posted by stenseng at 9:42 AM on February 16, 2006


So I took the ticket, went to court, contested it and found out that the officer's equipment was faulty. I certainly didn't start barking about harrassment.

Presumeably the officer in your case was pulling over any car that his equipment said was speeding.

Scarbrough was told that no signs were allowed. But do you really imagine that these DHS guys levelled the same FR charges at the owners of every single car in the lot that had any sort of bumper sticker? What about lettered license plate frames? Car names? Manufacturer logos? Those are all signs. That would basically mean (as Scarbrough pointed out) that virtually no vehicle at all could ever be allowed on Federal property.

I say it counts as harrassment because the officers in this case not only made false charges, they clearly did so in a discriminatory way.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:44 AM on February 16, 2006


I think it would behoove you to take advantage of some advice coming from foreigners.

Even bad advice?

I don't agree with the sentiment you oppose in your statement, but I do vehemently believe that you are trying to stifle speech on authoritarian grounds.

If/when Loquax can vote here, if/when Loquax pays taxes here, then Loquax can make his voice heard on the volume and appropriateness of free speech in America. And, in a courtesy I would expect in return...I may disagree with what he's saying, but would defend his right to say it.

But for a foregner (any foreigner, even a Canadian) to define freedom downwards for Americans? Hell no. That's not received wisdom, it's an incursion on dearly held principles which are not weaknesses, but strengths.

FWIW, I love Canada. Nothing personal, strictly policy. Foreign wisdom is welcome, foreign support for repression is quite unwelcome.
posted by edverb at 9:46 AM on February 16, 2006


I'm still trying to understand how "signs on a truck" equals "Posting or affixing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills, or flyers, on bulletin boards or elsewhere on GSA-controlled property," OR "Distributing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills or flyers" -- clearly, the statute is vague and poorly written. The officer was confused by this language, and he made a mistake. Otherwise, these consequences will have to apply to everyone else.

If this means that any stickers and signs are prohibited on any vehicle parked in a government lot, then ALL stickers and signs must be removed from ALL vehicles. Enforcement can't come down to personal preference. That is the whole problem, and the entire point of the First Amendment.

So which is it to be? It's really pretty simple and clear cut. This rule needs to be modified to clearly mention "political speech" or else get out the razor blades and scrapers, federal employees, and start removing all stickers from your vehicles. This includes "Pro-Life" signs, "My kid is an honor student" and everything else. Including park registration stickers, yellow ribbon magnets, and whatever else is on your vehicle.

Free speech is a bitch, no?
posted by mooncrow at 9:48 AM on February 16, 2006



IMO, whether you're pro-war or anti-war or pro-life or anti-life, or pro-anything or con-anything, posting your opinion SO MUCH LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE is intimidating to others and not conducive to a professional environment.

This wasn't a bumper sticker - it was a huge billboard on the side of his car. He put it there because he wants attention, and now he's bitching because he got it? He may innocent in terms of the law, but he's guilty of being a jackass.
posted by b_thinky at 9:50 AM on February 16, 2006


Even bad advice?

You can't dismiss bad advice on authoritarian grounds alone.
posted by jon_kill at 9:52 AM on February 16, 2006


Slarty Bartfast: Whenever I find myself staring directly into the face of the state over some perceived injustice I always end up backing down. I'm such a coward.

Don't feel too bad -- they have bigger guns than you.
posted by LordSludge at 9:53 AM on February 16, 2006


He put it there because he wants attention, and now he's bitching because he got it?

In other b_thinky news, women dress provocatively because they want to be raped.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:56 AM on February 16, 2006


So that's it. There's nothing you or I can do, if They want to take away our rights, They can do it, there's no recourse, and democracy is already dead in America?

He could have taken the citation and fought it in court. I agree that there's a lot more gray area in this country where there probably shouldn't be... free speech being one of them. But just because you were approached by an officer and asked to comply with a law, when you think you're in the right, doesn't mean you're being harrassed. Either fight it in court or accept the officer's opinion. This guy moved his car, then cried harrassment and posted it on the web. My sympathy dissolves at that point.

In other b_thinky news, women dress provocatively because they want to be raped.

If his co-workers burned his truck to the ground because of his stickers/signs, then you would have a point.
posted by Witty at 9:58 AM on February 16, 2006


b_thinky writes "posting your opinion SO MUCH LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE is intimidating to others and not conducive to a professional environment. "


So, uh, b_thinky, are you intimidated by these ? Or this: ? Or this ?


I admit, the last one scares me, but because of the content. Content the First Amendment is supposed to be, you know, neutral to.
posted by orthogonality at 9:58 AM on February 16, 2006


You can't dismiss bad advice on authoritarian grounds alone.

Oh no? Watch me. ;-)

If so, I'm using an authoritarian argument to challenge the authoritarian's argument.
posted by edverb at 10:03 AM on February 16, 2006


mooncrow is right on the mark. As the article also pointed out there are "dozens of people parked in the Natural Resource Complex with bumper stickers reading, among other sentiments, 'My Dad is a Marine,' 'Create Peace,' 'POW/ MIA,' and others of both the pro-choice and pro-life variety." By the letter (not the "spirit") of the law, no law was broken. INO this was a clear case of selective "harassment" (not "enforcement"), singling out the "content" of the sticker/sign affixed to a private vehicle. If such is to be prohibited, no private vehicle should/would be permitted to drive on federal land displaying any sign, logo, content -- from FedEx delivery trucks to a spouse of a federal working, driving a family van with a bumper sticker saying 'Give Peace A Chance' or 'Pro-life Faimly Onboard.'
posted by ericb at 10:04 AM on February 16, 2006


Yes, Scarbrough seemed too quick to overreact, but then again, I've never been confronted by a DHS officer (yet) and the transcript doesn't convey the officer's tone of voice or his posture, so I can't really judge. I think Witty brings up a salient point, especially since Scarbrough had complied with the officer's request in the end by moving his truck. He could've complied and challenged the citation and possibly taken up a harassment suit against the officer and the DHS. I tend to agree with antifuse that defining his vehicular decorations as bumper stickers as opposed to signage is dubious. And nitpicking that the arguable signage is on his privately owned truck parked on fed property but not necessarily on fed property is equally dubious (given what I know in both cases). The law is vague. It could be seen that Scarbrough had affixed flyers onto his truck which is on GSA controlled property. The Hatch Act does specify that bumper stickers are okay and size doesn't matter but does paper board affixed via duct tape equal a bumper sticker? I honestly don't know. If he had discussed this with his supervisor and they had determined that it is such and it was permissible, then Scarbrough was right to request that his supervisor be called to the scene. And regardless of this, the DHS officer was incorrect to insist that such an action was unnecessary and inappropriate.

I in no way condone the conduct of the DHS officer or what it might portend in regard to free speech. And I commend Scarbrough for standing up for his rights. I think if his arguable signage were commercial advertising of some sort, I might be more inclined to allow his superiors to protest his decorations, but still, not a DHS officer. I think this particular Homie's supervisor should have a discussion with him as to what his duties entail. And if parking lot policing of minor offenses to federal law is within the purview of DHS officers, then I think we should take issue with that with our representatives. The officer obviously knew it was an employee, if he should've done anything, he should've had a discussion with the employee's supervisor and perhaps the property manager.

And I think the comparison between free and potentially offensive speech of an individual as it applies to their relationship to a commercial employer and free political speech of a government employee is improper.

Overall, I think the law needs to be further clarified to allow this sort of expression and this circumstance is very unfortunate. I'm glad it didn't escalate.
posted by effwerd at 10:05 AM on February 16, 2006


*of a federal worker*
posted by ericb at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2006


It is rather striking that even though the article is fully sympathetic with this man they have to describe him as an "extreme voice".

antifuse: Umm. His VEHICLE is on federal property.

Well, then, I'm just wondering, isn't everything federal (or state?) property, unless it's privately owned? What about the roads? How does that work?

If you take the view that private vehicles are no longer private when they're in public property, wouldn't that mean you are only allowed to display signs on your vehicle... as long as it's kept in the garage?

Besides, the article says there's political stickers of all kinds on other vehicles parked in government-related property, so, if they haven't raised this issue with anyone else, it would seem rather hard to deny it's got to do with the kind of message in these signs, rather than laws.
posted by funambulist at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2006


IMO, whether you're pro-war or anti-war or pro-life or anti-life, or pro-anything or con-anything, posting your opinion SO MUCH LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE is intimidating to others and not conducive to a professional environment.

That's about the silliest argument I've ever heard.
posted by delmoi at 10:07 AM on February 16, 2006


Does anyone else get the sense that some Bush-freak at the building Scarborough works in got a hair up their ass over his bumper stickers and phoned Teh Authoritay?

Also, on behalf of Canadians everywhere, I'd like to point out that we're not all rowing the same boat loquax is.
posted by illiad at 10:08 AM on February 16, 2006


b_thinky is intimidating to others and not conducive to a professional environment. (my opinion)

Witty is over-reacting and exaggerating. (my opinion)

Dwight Scarbrough feels harrassed. (his own opinion)

Nobody asked you to be sympathetic or like the "jackass".
posted by badger_flammable at 10:09 AM on February 16, 2006


Well, then, I'm just wondering, isn't everything federal (or state?) property, unless it's privately owned? What about the roads? How does that work?

Good point. Should Scarborough be prohibited from driving on a federal highway with his stickers/signs affixed?
posted by ericb at 10:09 AM on February 16, 2006


As we all know the Integrity of The Parking Lot must be maintained at all times. Otherwise you can kiss your professional environment goodbye!
Fin.
posted by prostyle at 10:09 AM on February 16, 2006


Excerpt from pages 166-73 of "They Thought They Were Free" First published in 1955

"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security"...

... "Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head."
posted by tvjunkie at 10:10 AM on February 16, 2006


Well, then, I'm just wondering, isn't everything federal (or state?) property, unless it's privately owned? What about the roads? How does that work?

Good point. Should Scarborough be prohibited from driving on a federal highway with his stickers/signs affixed?


I think the matter at hand involves GSA controlled property. Calling it fed property in this case would be considered shorthand for that.
posted by effwerd at 10:14 AM on February 16, 2006


Does anyone else get the sense that some Bush-freak at the building Scarborough works in got a hair up their ass over his bumper stickers and phoned Teh Authoritay?

Yes.
posted by effwerd at 10:14 AM on February 16, 2006


effwerd: the law is vague
the law is not vague: it has been posted on this page more than once. It prohibits distributing fliers. Stickers are not fliers, no? Be careful of generalizing where generalizing relocates people off the fence and into the fray.
posted by uni verse at 10:16 AM on February 16, 2006


The statute reads: "Posting or affixing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills, or flyers, on bulletin boards or elsewhere on GSA-controlled property,"

Dwight Scarborough's Truck != GSA-controlled property.

End of story.

"IMO, whether you're pro-war or anti-war or pro-life or anti-life, or pro-anything or con-anything, posting your opinion SO MUCH LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE is intimidating to others and not conducive to a professional environment. "


IMO, that's a stupid opinion, and totally irrelevant to the question of legality.


"This wasn't a bumper sticker - it was a huge billboard on the side of his car. He put it there because he wants attention, and now he's bitching because he got it? He may innocent in terms of the law, but he's guilty of being a jackass."

He is innocent in terms of the law, and is well within his constitutional rights to speech. Meanwhile, you are clearly innocent of understanding the inalienable rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and are clearly guilty of being a muddleheaded enabler of neo-fascist thuggery.
posted by stenseng at 10:17 AM on February 16, 2006




You will respect my AUTHORITAY!
posted by orthogonality at 10:19 AM on February 16, 2006


the Real Dan writes "To make a statement, he should have peacefully refused to move his vehicle, and allowed himself to be peacefully arrested, or to make them tow his vehicle.

"I don't want to live in Loquax and Witty's America."


You do realize you're in agreement with Witty in this instance, right? He's stated, multiple times in this thread, that instead of arguing with the officer, Scarbrough should have "taken the citation, gone to court so a judge could interpret the law in more detail, both for the man and the officer." Which is pretty much exactly what you're advocating. Where's the disagreement?

Also, it's Loquax's North America.

uni verse writes "the law is not vague: it has been posted on this page more than once. It prohibits distributing fliers."

Distributing or posting, actually.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:20 AM on February 16, 2006


"posting your opinion SO MUCH LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE is intimidating to others and not conducive to a professional environment. "
Federal Statute 181.32.554 requires that bumperstickers affixed to automobiles in the U.S. must be rectangular in shape with dimensions no larger than 2.5"(h) x 7"(l) with typefaces restricted to no bold and only Courier New or Times Roman -- no larger than 48 pts. in size.

Print may by black-on-white background or white-on-black backgroud. No "loud" colors may be employed, so as to insure that no message is considered "louder" or "intimidating" to others who may not hold the same belief, viewpoint or weltanschauung as you.

All text must be in proper English; foreign languages are prohibited (except for the use of the German word weltanschauung).
posted by ericb at 10:21 AM on February 16, 2006


orthogonality: do you really not see the difference in non-inspirational corporate logos and controversial, divisive political rhetoric?

When you see a FedEx logo, you think... nothing.

When you see a "Bushit" sticker you think "hell yeah! Right on!" or "fuck you moron!" depending on your perspective.

Professionals typically leave their controversial opinions at home in order to prevent isolating himself and intimidating others. This is akin to an employee stating "Betty in accounting has nice tits" or something like that. It's rude and intimidating.
posted by b_thinky at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2006


"(you) are clearly guilty of being a muddleheaded enabler of neo-fascist thuggery."

I like that line. I'm gonna get it tattoo'ed on the palm of my hand and whenever anyone pisses me off by being a neo-con apologist I need to have the "talk to the hand". Yes, it's judgemental, yes, it is it's own form of partisan discrimination, but it also can be applied to the politically correct "we must think of the children" Democrats as well.

Now if only I got fit that on a branding iron...
posted by daq at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2006


b_thinky writes "He put it there because he wants attention, and now he's bitching because he got it? He may innocent in terms of the law, but he's guilty of being a jackass."

Ohhhh, irony, you are my friend today. AskMefis by b_thinky include:
Some friends arrived from overseas yesterday, but didn't clear customs and are being deported tomorrow. Do we have any rights or options in this situation?
posted on Feb-4-06 at 8:18 AM EST

I want to start a "hate" site dedicated to my crappy dealings with a major corporation. What do I need to be wary of?
posted on Aug-2-05 at 8:21 PM EST
posted by orthogonality at 10:24 AM on February 16, 2006


effwerd: the law is vague
the law is not vague: it has been posted on this page more than once. It prohibits distributing fliers. Stickers are not fliers, no?


Well, I thought I read the words "affix" and "flyers" which I read as potentially including duct taping paper board to a car on GSA controlled property. I don't mean to sound as if I'm an authority pronouncing the truth. I'm just giving my take on the situation. I just don't like always qualifying all my statements with "I think" "It seems to me" and "IMO", though I still manage to get them in there often.
posted by effwerd at 10:24 AM on February 16, 2006


On a tangent, you know you're reading some quality journalism when you come across "(VERIFY)" in the middle of the article.
posted by scottreynen at 10:25 AM on February 16, 2006


He is innocent in terms of the law, and is well within his constitutional rights to speech.

Then why did he move his truck? If I built a tool shed behind my house and some county worker came by and told me that I couldn't have it, even though I had every reason to believe I could, I certainly would tear it down before taking to issue to court.

You're saying he's innocent. Great! That's your opinion. What did the judge have to say? We'll never know. Had this story ended with a judge siding with the officer 100%, then my opinion might be different.
posted by Witty at 10:25 AM on February 16, 2006


"Professionals typically leave their controversial opinions at home in order to prevent isolating himself and intimidating others. This is akin to an employee stating "Betty in accounting has nice tits" or something like that. It's rude and intimidating."

That's one hell of a strawman you're kicking the shit out of there b_thinky.

Meanwhile, Dwight Scarbrough is well within his constitutionally protected rights to speech and security of his property. Which is what this thread is about.

So. What's your point?
posted by stenseng at 10:25 AM on February 16, 2006


ooops... wouldn't tear it down.
posted by Witty at 10:28 AM on February 16, 2006


b_thinky writes "Professionals typically leave their controversial opinions at home in order to prevent isolating himself and intimidating others. "

Well, b, when I see the "Domino's Pizza" sign I think about how Domino's owner, Tom Monaghan, contributes lots of money to anti-abortion groups. But be that as it may.

Do you think that "professionals" should not discuss their religious beliefs at work? Should they refrain from mentioning that they are Jews or Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses?
posted by orthogonality at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2006


Orthogonality is owning them today.
posted by uni verse at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2006



"Then why did he move his truck? If I built a tool shed behind my house and some county worker came by and told me that I couldn't have it, even though I had every reason to believe I could, I certainly would tear it down before taking to issue to court.

You're saying he's innocent. Great! That's your opinion. What did the judge have to say? We'll never know. Had this story ended with a judge siding with the officer 100%, then my opinion might be different."

Well... like, the constitution is really vague man, and like, that's just your opinion...

Had this story ended with the judge siding with the HS goon, then the Judge would be as dense and ignorant of the constitutional protections we enjoy as Americans as you seem to be.
posted by stenseng at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2006


When you see a FedEx logo, you think... nothing.

When you see a "Bushit" sticker you think "hell yeah! Right on!" or "fuck you moron!" depending on your perspective.


I get it. You're saying we should restrict speech based on its content. Okay. Yes, that is a capital idea.

This is akin to an employee stating "Betty in accounting has nice tits" or something like that.
posted by b_thinky at 10:22 AM PST on February 16


Mm, no, it's actually nothing like that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2006


Woah. A few things:

1 - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not prevent discrimination on the basis of group (including political) affiliation. You're free to do whatever you want, just as your employer is free to fire you for it. The ESA 2000 in Ontario specifically leaves out political affiliation as a prohibited ground for dismissal. If US law is different, fine, great, wonderful, I already said I wasn't familiar with it. In any case, this guy wasn't fired or otherwise reprimanded at all, so this thread isn't about that - I was trying to indicate that such a situation is hardly unique to the US, much to the shock of some, apparantly.

2 - Sorry folks, but "freedom of speech" is not absolute. It's not good enough to cite that rite as an absolute defense to any charge. I wholeheartedly believe that this guy in general has the right to believe and say whatever he wants whenever he wants. On the other hand, I think it's reasonable that his employer, the federal government, would think his actions on their property would be inappropriate (regardless of the law, for a moment), not just because of his political beliefs, but because of the disruption in the workplace and potential for conflict. Being outspoken and loud about your beliefs is an honourable tradition and right in both Canada and the States. Perhaps, however, the workplace (especially a government workplace) is not the best location to choose to exercise that right. Or at least, if you're going to do it, expect problems. I still haven't read of anyone attacking his right to free speech on the street, in his home, or ANYWHERE BUT THE FEDERAL PROPERTY WHICH IS HIS PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT. I don't see how this translates into Nazi Germany Redux. Maybe I'm crazy! I've already been accused of being a klansman in this thread.

3 - My point about the "spirit" of the law referred to the arguments in this thread that were making technical legal points about what was or wasn't allowed under the regulations cited. I asked if the law specifically said bumper stickers (or whatever) on cars in federal parking lots were not allowed, would there be an issue? If you say no, then we are arguing about a legal technicality, not a constitutional issue. If you say yes, then who cares what the law says, because you should believe the whole thing is unconstitutional.

4 - I never claimed to speak for Canada, or Canadians, and I find it amusing that so many here are rushing to distance themselves from their fantasies regarding how I would run the continent (believe me, it would include an invisible mental shield created by yogic flying). What exactly did I say that would frighten you all so? That you shouldn't have the right to brazenly and openly criticize your employer while acting in their employ? That this is really a discussion about a legal technicality? That freedom of speech is not an absolute right in all circumstances? Are these really the words of a Canadian Goebbels?
posted by loquax at 10:32 AM on February 16, 2006


Had this story ended with the judge siding with the HS goon, then the Judge would be as dense and ignorant of the constitutional protections we enjoy as Americans as you seem to be.

Well, like I said, we'll never know.
posted by Witty at 10:34 AM on February 16, 2006


I think it's reasonable that his employer, the federal government, would think his actions on their property would be inappropriate (regardless of the law, for a moment), not just because of his political beliefs, but because of the disruption in the workplace and potential for conflict.

If that's the case everyone in the parking lot should be asked to remove their "signs," bumper stickers, etc. from their automobiles parked in the same lot. As the article also pointed out there are "dozens of people parked in the Natural Resource Complex with bumper stickers reading, among other sentiments, 'My Dad is a Marine,' 'Create Peace,' 'POW/ MIA,' and others of both the pro-choice and pro-life variety."
posted by ericb at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2006


Mm, no, it's actually nothing like that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:29 AM PST on February 16 [!]


It's exactly the same. The comment divides, intimidates and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere - generally not positives for the workplace.

This stuff is fine for driving down the highway or hanging out at a bar, but not the office.
posted by b_thinky at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2006


Good call, tvjunkie. But of course it couldn't happen here because this is, you know, America.

So that's it. There's nothing you or I can do, if They want to take away our rights, They can do it, there's no recourse, and democracy is already dead in America?

Pretty much. Because only fringe types worry about inconsequential things such as "rights" when we're in the middle of the War on Terror (tm) which is, by the way, going to last forever. So buckle up, shut your piehole and support the president - so long as he's a Republican.
posted by kgasmart at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2006


It's exactly the same. The comment divides, intimidates and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere - generally not positives for the workplace.

It's exactly the same if the only criteria used to discern between them are the bullshit criteria you just made up.

Give it up.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:38 AM on February 16, 2006


The comment divides, intimidates and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere - generally not positives for the workplace.
posted by b_thinky at 10:36 AM PST on February 16


Should we cite people with "it's a choice, not a child" signs on their cars then, as well? I mean, if trash talking the President is so bad, then accusing certain co-workers of murder must be even worse.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:40 AM on February 16, 2006


It's all semantics and is subject to interpretation - the definition of "sign," the definition of "political expression" (for example, isn't driving a car that says TOYOTA a sign of political expression for support for murderous vehicles?)...

Every law is always enforced on interpretation, and it's impossible to have strictly 100% objectivity. But when that interpretation sways a particular direction, that should be indicative of SOMETHING.
posted by iamck at 10:40 AM on February 16, 2006


"Professionals typically leave their controversial opinions at home..."

Um. No they don't. They just prevent thier mouths from instantly spewing every thought that comes to thier heads. It does not mean they don't look at someone with long hair and a clean and pressed polo t-shirt walking in as a consultant and judging them as some little "hippy Democrat tree-hugger" and acting like they are so much better than them, being dismissive of thier abilities or skills and trying to push thier own agendo over that of someone who just might be smarter, have more information, or just plain old not be quite as rich as them and can't afford to wear a suit and tie every day of the week. They may still be professional, but the certainly don't leave thier opinions or preconceived notions in their foyer before they step out into the sun every morning. And that's the way it's supposed to be. Because you cannot control another persons thoughts. You can prove them wrong and get the fired (from 2 different jobs), but you can't force them to not have opinions (controversial or not).

However, it is polite to not bring up non-relavent topics in a professional enviornment.

Last any of us checked, the side of a personal vehicle was not mandated as leased property of the GSA or managed property of any federal agency. Plus the matter of equal application of the law. If a cardboard sign afixed to the side of a private vehicle is deemed illegal, then all signage afixed (or painted) to a vehicle (as has been absurdly pointed out above) would fall under this statute.

Side note. The theory that someone complained which prompted the DHS security guard to approach the guy about it may be a very valid reason why this incident occured in the first place. Similar to the FCC, most statutes are only enforced if someone makes a complaint. I'm sure no one bothered to complain about any other bumperstickers or displays of "signs" on other vehicles, so other vehicle owners were not asked to remove them. Thus, this is not a form of harassment (see definition here), but more likely a form of stiffling of free speech (as, most everyone above has said). Most definitely a violation of the First Amendment. Especially if enforced and executed by a federal employee (the DHS security guard). There might have been a case had any of the signs or bumperstickers contained foul or profane language (as defined by the community standards, not as defined by any federal agency), but that was not the case.

It is reasonable to believe that he was looking to be harrassed. But it is also reasonable to have someone do this from time to time to test the status of the law. Stirring the pot as it were. Throwing out a test line to see if the fish are biting. Gauge the current state of our republic.

I'm gonna go eat a sammich now.
posted by daq at 10:41 AM on February 16, 2006


"Perhaps, however, the workplace (especially a government workplace) is not the best location to choose to exercise that right."

Uh. Unless the federal government employs valets, his workplace is inside the building. Not the parkinglot.

If he were wearing those messages inside the building, then he would be in violation of the Hatch act, and I could *understand* him getting in trouble with his employer, while not agreeing.



"Well, like I said, we'll never know."

Well, maybe you won't. But I do. I don't need an "authority figure" to tell me what my rights as an American citizen are. They aren't granted by the government. The constitution doesn't give us those rights, it exists to limit government in defense of those "inalienable rights."

As an informed and active citizen of the United States of America, I know good and goddamned well what my constitutionally protected rights are, without and judge telling me so.
posted by stenseng at 10:42 AM on February 16, 2006


Scarborough shouldn't have backed down by moving his vehicle when confronted. He should have just told them to ticket him and then fought the ticket in court. I would have told the officers if they thought the court would back them up, they should feel free to write any ticket that they want. I don't think the law gives them any more authority than to ticket him. He can't be arrested or have his truck towed. Generally most misdemeanors are subject to a simple fine.

Maybe in their opinion, the officers viewed it as a breach of the law, but ultimately the courts would decide. If Scarborough wanted to exercise his rights then he should have taken the opportunity for that challenge. Griping to a newspaper will not solve the problem.
posted by JJ86 at 10:44 AM on February 16, 2006


Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young (who is a U.S. Representative) were each wearing t-shirts with "political messages" at the recent State of the Union address. They were both removed from the chambers (with Sheehan also being wrongly arrested) -- and later were found to not be violating any rules or laws. The "letter of the law" applied to them.

IMO a "letter of the law" applies in this instance, allowing Scarborough and his co-workers to park their private automobiles with stickers/signs attached on federal property, just as much as they are allowed to drive those vehicles on city, state and federal roads.

We've known witnessed Bush's War On T-Shirts. Are we seeing a new one focused on bumper stickers and signs?
posted by ericb at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2006


Hey, at least he didn't get fired, like this FEMA employee or this graphic designer.

T-shirts, buttons, whatever form the speech takes, it's increasingly clear that any form of dissent is unpatriotic, criminal or even treasonous. Just one more step in the march to despotism.

But, I don't know. Maybe we should just sit back, have a beer, and wonder what all the fuss is about.
posted by Otis at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2006



"This stuff is fine for driving down the highway or hanging out at a bar, but not the office."

That, is your opinion, and you're welcome to it. It is however, irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
posted by stenseng at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2006


If that's the case everyone in the parking lot should be asked to remove their "signs," bumper stickers, etc. from their automobiles parked in the same lot.

My understanding is that he was asked to tone down his message, not remove everything entirely (at least initially) and not fired or arrested. This was my point regarding the volume (not the literal volume, for those that didn't understand my use of the word the first time around) of his expression. I would be making (mostly) the same points were his message pro-war. If there are other cars on the property plastered with pro-US government or anti-Kerry messages the way his car is, it would seem to be just as inappropriate (though not, as his is, directly criticizing his employer). Better example, I would have had the exact same problem in the 1990's with a dittohead plastering his car in Clinton blowjob jokes and parking in the White House parking lot for his federal job.
posted by loquax at 10:47 AM on February 16, 2006


One time, I was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding. I told him that I thought he was mistaken (since the car I was in was loaded to the gills with "stuff", wasn't very fast anyway, and couldn't possibly reach the speed he was suggesting). He basically told me to "tell it to the judge". We went back and forth for a couple of minutes, to no avail. So I took the ticket, went to court, contested it and found out that the officer's equipment was faulty. I certainly didn't start barking about harrassment.

And if you were black? If a white cop singled out your car for speeding because you're black, you wouldn't start barking about harrassment?

Same thing here witty. Except in this case, we can reasonably expect this guy is looking for a fight - like a black man driving through the white cops territory to taunt him. You put provocative stuff on your car, you're doing it to get a response. It's not illegal, but it's not wholly innocent either.
posted by three blind mice at 10:47 AM on February 16, 2006


b_thinky writes "The comment divides, intimidates and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere - generally not positives for the workplace. "


How? How do other employees even know whose car it is, unless they sit around watching the parking lot for "evil doers"? The only times I've even known what cars my colleagues drove was when I'd get a ride from that colleague -- and I wasn't about to criticize their bumper stackers.


I've even been able to hold civil, respectful discussion with colleagues -- and bosses, and clients -- with very different political and religious beliefs than my own. How was that possible? Because everyone in the discussion kept in mind that we were all Americans, and that all we had the right to hold our own political views, and we respected each others' rights even if we disagreed with their beliefs. I had plenty of political discussions with a devout Christian, gun-owning, Republican boss, and while we agreed on little, no one was intimidated or made uncomfortable -- not even a liberal atheist like me.

Being American is all about believing the other guy has a right to believe what he wants and can say what he wants -- without fear of a cop arresting him.
posted by orthogonality at 10:48 AM on February 16, 2006


*Beverly Young (who is a wife of a U.S. Representative)*
posted by ericb at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2006


b) Posting or affixing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills, or flyers, on bulletin boards or elsewhere on GSA-controlled property, except as authorized in § 102-74.410, or when these displays are conducted as part of authorized Government activities; and

As I read this, I have no right to post a sign on GSA-controlled property. Just because this guy works there and is allowed to park on that property, should not give him more rights than I do.

If it had been a bumper sticker, I am sure it would have been ignored, under Hatch.

This is very similar to retailers trying to circumvent local rules on signage by parking trucks with signs affixed to them in the parking lot. Just because it is affixed to a vehicle doesn't change it's character as a sign.

In other words, size mattered.

Also, I agree he should have challenged this. It's always good for Democracy to push back in areas like this.
posted by probablysteve at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2006


yea, but who locked that bald guy in the elevator on Amerikan Id(iot)l last night? The guy who finally opened the elevator had on a uniform, and it made the judges have to wait! Hmmmmm!
posted by GreyFoxVT at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2006


I think the matter at hand involves GSA controlled property. Calling it fed property in this case would be considered shorthand for that.

Ok, I get this, I think... but the vehicle is still private, right?

He's not distributing materials; he's not using a government vehicle; he's not wearing partisan political buttons on duty (unless you stretch the meaning of "wearing" to "having stuff on your car parked outside while you're in the office").

Where is the precise rule that says a private vehicle with political signs cannot be parked on "GSA controlled" property?

I have no knowledge of this stuff, just wondering how it works in terms of the law.
posted by funambulist at 10:51 AM on February 16, 2006


I can't wait until DHS shows up at every GSA controlled property in the US and starts telling UPS and FedEx they are violating the law with the signs on those trucks!
We'll be safe from Osama then!
War on terra over dude!

Anyone wanna bet there were hundreds of magnetic "signs" on other vehicles in that parking lot that would, according to those goons interpretation of the law, be illegal?
posted by nofundy at 10:52 AM on February 16, 2006


Loquax i was thinking perhaps its just the size of his signs and its affect on the environment, if he had normal size stickers, it would be ok? But then, thats more technicalities, broadening the rules, which is a part of why this is so suspicious of a political bias attack.
posted by uni verse at 10:57 AM on February 16, 2006


My understanding is that he was asked to tone down his message

Better example, I would have had the exact same problem in the 1990's with a dittohead plastering his car in Clinton blowjob jokes and parking in the White House parking lot for his federal job.

He shouldn't have to. Only a fucking loser would care enough to get pissy about a goddamn sign on somone's car.

Oh: I just realized that you are the exact type of person to actually call an entity like DHS and waste taxpayer money because you got butthurt over a sign on someone's car. Christ.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:57 AM on February 16, 2006


"I would have had the exact same problem in the 1990's with a dittohead plastering his car in Clinton blowjob jokes and parking in the White House parking lot for his federal job."

Again, your opinion, irrelevant to the law.

"This is very similar to retailers trying to circumvent local rules on signage by parking trucks with signs affixed to them in the parking lot. Just because it is affixed to a vehicle doesn't change it's character as a sign."

Actually, it absolutely does. In fact, that's how various political organizations get around city ordinances regarding signage. They put a big fuckoff A-board in the back of a pickup and park it.
posted by stenseng at 10:57 AM on February 16, 2006


This is very similar to retailers trying to circumvent local rules on signage by parking trucks with signs affixed to them in the parking lot. Just because it is affixed to a vehicle doesn't change it's character as a sign.

Is that actually so for the law too? Are those retailers fined for using signs on trucks? If you say it's a trick to circumvent local rules, then I assume it means they get away with it, right?

Again, just wondering, it sounds a bit confusing...
posted by funambulist at 10:58 AM on February 16, 2006


three blind mice writes: like a black man driving through the white cops territory to taunt him

What an ignorant statement. Cops don't have "territory," they have jurisdictions. How is driving as a minority ever "taunting" a cop? That's an f'ed up way of looking at things.
posted by bardic at 10:59 AM on February 16, 2006


Also on scottreynen's tangent: I caught that too, but I believe it signified that the journalist or the editor is concerned with making sure the facts are correct. He (or she) was even concerned the building description was correct.

As far as someone missing it...I've even seen this happen in major metropolitian daily papers. Sometimes it's the software that hides editing notes or simply human error. I'm amazed it doesn't happen more often.
posted by ?! at 10:59 AM on February 16, 2006


Betty in accounting actually has nice tits. They're stunning, really.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on February 16, 2006


Orthogonality - Domino's apparently do not support pro-life groups - at least according to snopes at any rate. Just thought I'd mention that since it's always repeated as god's own truth.
posted by longbaugh at 11:01 AM on February 16, 2006


"Also on scottreynen's tangent: I caught that too, but I believe it signified that the journalist or the editor is concerned with making sure the facts are correct. He (or she) was even concerned the building description was correct.

As far as someone missing it...I've even seen this happen in major metropolitian daily papers. Sometimes it's the software that hides editing notes or simply human error. I'm amazed it doesn't happen more often."


The folks at the Boise weekly are good eggs. I can speak from experience that that's a rare goof for them.
posted by stenseng at 11:01 AM on February 16, 2006


Better example, I would have had the exact same problem in the 1990's with a dittohead plastering his car in Clinton blowjob jokes and parking in the White House parking lot for his federal job.

Two things about that.

One...you are on solid ground having a "problem" with that. It's when that problem extends to getting Johnny Law involved that your "problem" crosses the boundaries of free speech and enters the realm of repression.

He has the right to say it, you have the right to disagree -- neither of you has the right to advocate charging the other with any sort of crime for the content of your speech. The government (with certain exceptions mostly involving public safety) is prohibited from prosecuting either of them for the content of their speech. Get it?

Secondly...if your scenario (anti-Clinton stickers or anything else) involved getting DHS involved, you'd be just as wrong.

But I don't think the nuances and principles of free speech really need to be explained to you. I think you understand it just fine, you just aren't saying what you really mean. Instead of just coming out and saying it, you're looking for some tenuous loophole in the regulations, some specious distinction which allow them to suppress a message you don't like.
posted by edverb at 11:02 AM on February 16, 2006


longbaugh, ortho didn't say Domino's supported pro-life groups, he said that the owner did, which, if you read the snopes entry you linked to, is true.
posted by stenseng at 11:03 AM on February 16, 2006


bardic writes "three blind mice writes: like a black man driving through the white cops territory to taunt him

"What an ignorant statement. Cops don't have 'territory,' they have jurisdictions. How is driving as a minority ever 'taunting' a cop? That's an f'ed up way of looking at things."


three blind mice was using a very effective sarcasm. and he meant territory, because to a cop who pulls blacks for DWB, that's exactly what the cop thinks of it as: his whitey territory.
posted by orthogonality at 11:05 AM on February 16, 2006


b_thinky is okay with free speech as long as it doesn't provoke thinking.
posted by jon_kill at 11:07 AM on February 16, 2006


Orthogonality - Domino's apparently do not support pro-life groups - at least according to snopes at any rate.

Cursed facts!
posted by Dennis Murphy at 11:12 AM on February 16, 2006


I would be fired in about 5 seconds by my employer if I in any way made my support of a political party obvious in any way. And it would be 100% legal.

I am very confident that Loquax is 100% wrong on this point.

Please move to the USA, loquax. I don't need people like you fucking up my country.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 AM on February 16, 2006


b) Posting or affixing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills, or flyers, on bulletin boards or elsewhere on GSA-controlled property, except as authorized in § 102-74.410, or when these displays are conducted as part of authorized Government activities; and

As I read this, I have no right to post a sign on GSA-controlled property. Just because this guy works there and is allowed to park on that property, should not give him more rights than I do.


Now that I read it again, I'm thinking the law could be read to mean that one must affix something while on GSA controlled property (without a license) in order to be in violation. Since these signs (if it were concluded that's what they are) were already affixed, he still might be immune from the statute.

Also, to note, I've asked a few people here whether paper board duct taped to the side of a car could be considered a bumper sticker (without the context of this story) and none of them said yes. (We're printers and though we aren't sign printers, three of us have had experience in sign work.) It's just anecdotal, we aren't lawyers, and I have no idea how this would shake down if challenged in court; I'm just sayin'...
posted by effwerd at 11:15 AM on February 16, 2006


As I read this, I have no right to post a sign on GSA-controlled property. Just because this guy works there and is allowed to park on that property, should not give him more rights than I do.

In that case, I want every stinking fish magnet or WWJD sticker torn off every car in every single federal parking lot, because I'm sick to death of those Christian Fundies displaying their pro-Bush signs.

And as for those of you who suggest that it's OK because the pro-Bush message might not be explicit, well that's just because they're seeking to get around this by violating the spirit rather than the letter of the law.

I expect to see them all down by this time tomorrow.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:19 AM on February 16, 2006


Sorry for the delay in responding to "Witty"'s "rebuttal": it's not your differing opinion I was complaining about -- it's that not one of your posts is in fact "Witty" and mostly they are "Boring" and "Hostile".

Feel free to disprove my claims, by either being witty, or posting a link to any of your previous witty posts.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:21 AM on February 16, 2006


How? How do other employees even know whose car it is, unless they sit around watching the parking lot for "evil doers"?

It's Idaho.
posted by Witty at 11:24 AM on February 16, 2006


In other b_thinky news, women dress provocatively because they want to be raped.

If his co-workers burned his truck to the ground because of his stickers/signs, then you would have a point.


Ah, but the point wasn't about the level of harm, which is what you seem to think here (dress provocatively is to rape as put controvertial materials on your car is to having your car burned to the ground); the point was twofold:

1. In both this circumstance and the theoretical rape circumstance, someone is blaming the victim for inciting the actions of the aggressor, as if the aggressor was helpless to prevent themselves from responding to the victim;

2. In both this circumstance and the theoretical rape circumstance, someone is suggesting that the reason behind the victim's behavior is to explicitly catalyse the behavior of the aggressor, as if the victim truly wanted the aggressor to commit a hostile act towards them.

Saying "victim wanted and encouraged the aggressor's behavior" (which is a fancy way of saying "s/he asked for it") is just a complex way of saying "the victim is not a victim", and so absolving the aggressor for their behavior.

So I say the point was a good one.
posted by davejay at 11:32 AM on February 16, 2006


Oh: I just realized that you are the exact type of person to actually call an entity like DHS and waste taxpayer money because you got butthurt over a sign on someone's car. Christ.

Seriously? That's your response to me? Fine then. I think you're silly. Mohammed.

Again, your opinion, irrelevant to the law.

Agreed, but are we only talking about this specific law or broader questions of what freedom of speech should be allowed for federal employees concerning the federal government? My question stands, if there was a specific provision in the law that said that what this guy did was illegal, would you have a problem with DHS, or the local sheriff, or whoever, issuing a ticket? Or him being fired? Neither of which even happened in this case.

Secondly...if your scenario (anti-Clinton stickers or anything else) involved getting DHS involved, you'd be just as wrong.


I already said that I was confused as to why DHS got involved, as opposed to another agency. If that's your point.

Instead of just coming out and saying it, you're looking for some tenuous loophole in the regulations, some specious distinction which allow them to suppress a message you don't like.

The message was suppressed in a very limited way in very limited circumstances. In general, I disagree with any suppression of free speech, whether or not I agree with the message. At the same time, I think it's fair to question just how far this "suppression" goes, whether or not it's appropriate given the circumstances, and to throw water all over the idiotic Nazi and brownshirt references made upthread. Also, accusing me of being disingenuous may feel really really good, but it's beneath you.

I am very confident that Loquax is 100% wrong on this point.

Read it yourself then:

Employment

5. (1) Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 5 (1); 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (5); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (5).

I don't see political affiliation or other association in there. I would be fired if I announced my support for any political party. And it would be legal in Ontario, and anywhere else in Canada, to the best of my knowledge. I'm sorry that doesn't fit in your US/Canada paradigm. Another misconception - our Anti-Terror Act is way more oppressive and wide-reaching than the PATRIOT Act. Me leaving will do nothing to change it.

For people who claim to champion free speech, many comments seem to be designed to curse out anyone who disagrees with your points, put words in their mouth, and tell them to get out of the country. Not very nice if you ask me.
posted by loquax at 11:32 AM on February 16, 2006


However, it is polite to not bring up non-relavent topics in a professional environment.

This perfectly sums up how Americans with few exceptions commit self-censorship and limit their own freedom. It's amazing how unaware people in this country are of what the above statement really means.
posted by MillMan at 11:34 AM on February 16, 2006


He was never threatened with any citation nor arrest nor was anything like that even possible--they just wanted those signs gone. What is the DHS's power in a case like this? They're not cops and i don't think they can haul people away for things. This was pure intimidation, aimed at shutting up this guy---it was not about a violation. If this had been a regular cop, the cop would have probably hauled the guy away for resisting an officer or something--the DHS didn't, and i don't think they actually can, can they?
posted by amberglow at 11:34 AM on February 16, 2006


it's not your differing opinion I was complaining about -- it's that not one of your posts is in fact "Witty" and mostly they are "Boring" and "Hostile".

Great, don't read them then... and shut the fuck up about it. I see no hostility in any of my posts in this thread, 'cept for this one perhaps. Your opinion of my comment history or how my posts should be crafted matters not a lick, Tom.
posted by Witty at 11:36 AM on February 16, 2006


For people who claim to champion free speech, many comments seem to be designed to curse out anyone who disagrees with your points, put words in their mouth, and tell them to get out of the country. Not very nice if you ask me.

We're not trying to fine you or throw you in jail or even prevent you from speaking your mind. Free speech does not mean "free from criticism."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:37 AM on February 16, 2006


He should've just ignored them and gone back inside. If they tried towing his truck because he didn't comply with their orders, he should then have called the police. I would've made a bigger deal out of it, and been less cooperative, but that's just me.
posted by wakko at 11:37 AM on February 16, 2006


And i really would love for someone to take pics of every car in that lot, and of all the assorted stickers and ribbons and fish and stuff.
posted by amberglow at 11:40 AM on February 16, 2006


Re: Domino's

From the Snopes article: "While it is untrue that Domino's Pizza itself has ever supported anti-abortion groups, its founder certainly has. Out of his personal wealth, founder Tom Monaghan has supported a number of causes over the years, including some in the pro-life camp, and his wealth came as a result of the success of the chain. "


Which is exactly what Orthogonality said.
posted by stenseng at 11:41 AM on February 16, 2006


He was never threatened with any citation nor arrest nor was anything like that even possible--they just wanted those signs gone.

Not true.

O: If you do not comply with my order to remove the signs from the property, I will cite you for it, OK? Do you understand that?
posted by Witty at 11:42 AM on February 16, 2006


Except in this case, we can reasonably expect this guy is looking for a fight - like a black man driving through the white cops territory to taunt him.

To the first half of that: before the days of the internet, unless you were a newspaper/media mogul, your options for getting your opinion out to large groups of other people were limited to posting signs or distributing materials. In this case the law disallows all of those options, including wearing a button that says "I like Ike", except for posting signs on personal property.

I think we can reasonably expect this guy is either looking for a fight -- OR this guy feels this is a very important message to share, and believes that this country is still a safe enough place that he can communicate to a mass audience using the only legal means open to him without much concern over harassment.

Or do you believe that Jehovah's Witnesses are going from door to door looking for a fight?

After all, they're wandering around strange neighborhoods, intruding on people's land, interrupting their privacy, all so that they can tell you a story that you don't want to hear. If a Jehovah's Witness tells you that you're going to hell unless you accept the teachings they believe in, are they doing it because they want you to beat them up, or because they truly believe you're going to go to hell, and they would prefer that you do not?

Or perhaps people who block access to abortion clinics are doing so in order to get beaten up. Or perhaps they're doing it because they truly believe that abortion is murder, and they will go to great length and personal risk to stop it. How can you tell?

Sometimes people do things to stir up trouble. Sometimes people do things because they feel it is important to get a message across or keep something bad from happening. Sometimes people do things because they feel it is important to stir up trouble in order to get a message across or keep something bad from happening.

How can you be so sure this is the first case, and not the second or third?
posted by davejay at 11:43 AM on February 16, 2006


Oh, yeah, and to the second half of that: I'm gonna say there is a 0.01% chance that a black man has EVER driven through a white neighborhood with the specific intent of pissing off the policemen in the area. Believe me, if you are a black man, you manage to piss off white policemen on a regular basis just by getting up in the morning; why drive out of your way?
posted by davejay at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2006


To those mocking Witty's username, I'm pretty sure it's his surname. (I attempted to call him on it years ago). I rarely agree with him, but he's got a right to be a pedantic little jerk, just like the rest of us.
posted by notsnot at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2006


I'm pretty sure it's his surname.

That is correct suh. I just don't bother pointing that out anymore. It would rob everyone of all the "you're not very witty" fun.
posted by Witty at 11:53 AM on February 16, 2006


So it's sort of like Barry White's surname in that way.
posted by wakko at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2006


wakko writes "So it's sort of like Barry White's surname in that way."

Ouch!
posted by orthogonality at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2006


The statute reads: "Posting or affixing materials, such as pamphlets, handbills, or flyers, on bulletin boards or elsewhere on GSA-controlled property,"

Dwight Scarborough's Truck != GSA-controlled property.


Well, if you erect a large portable shed in the parking lot that's painted with political slogans, you could argue that it's not a sign, either. Or, you can simply put your sign on your privately owned stand. Either way, the sign (defined in this case as the portion with the message) is not itself on GSA property.

I think that there is a good argument for considering a car itself a sign. What about those huge sign trucks? What about city buses covered in shrinkwrap ads? What about a junker that you painted up and tow in every day?

I do not condone the behavior of the officers, but I do not know where the line can be fairly drawn.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2006


three blind mice was using a very effective sarcasm. and he meant territory, because to a cop who pulls blacks for DWB, that's exactly what the cop thinks of it as: his whitey territory.

Thanks orthogonality. I did mean territory. Jurisdiction would imply a legal boundary and there's nothing legal about it. Maybe I should have said turf.

DHS treats government property as their pro-Bush turf. Surely if a truck was parked next to this one with signs saying (literally) support the troops DHS would not have made an issue of it. As has been pointed out in this thread 100 times, it was apparently the nature of the sign and not the sign itself that was the problem.
posted by three blind mice at 12:01 PM on February 16, 2006


Witty said: So I took the ticket, went to court, contested it and found out that the officer's equipment was faulty.

On what equipment can the DHS officer in this case blame the mistake?

You're ignoring the real issue: the officer in question wanted the sign down, regardless of what the law said. It was offensive to him (or his superiors), and he wasn't going to take "no" for an answer. The quoted regulations were bullshit and the officer knew it. This is SOP for law enforcement.
posted by e40 at 12:02 PM on February 16, 2006


Witty? More like fuckwit, am I right?
posted by keswick at 12:02 PM on February 16, 2006


So it's sort of like Barry White's surname in that way.

Shazam. Score one for wakko. That was funny!
posted by three blind mice at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2006


The one and only reason we put limits on government employee proselytizing is in order to protect the First Amendment by insuring that there is no perception of an Official Government Religion or an Official Government Political Party that might cause a chilling effect on free speech and free religion.

I think it's pretty clear to just about everyone that this is a private vehicle in a parking lot that just happens to be government owned. There is zero chance of any reasonable person reading his signs and believing that they are State sponsored. That is why bumper stickers and automobile signs are not prohibited, because everyone understands that signs on private vehicles are not State endorsements. The reason that the "sign on a privately owned stick" analogy fails is that no employee has permission to store a stick in the ground, but they all have permission to store their cars in the lot. It also fails because we all understand that these cars are privately owned by individuals, but a stick in the ground or a note on a bulletin board could easily be official.
posted by Skwirl at 12:05 PM on February 16, 2006


Yes, Scarbrough seemed too quick to overreact,

That was my immediate reaction, as was "man does he sound like kind of a goof in this transcript." Then I thought about it and two things come to mind. One, we're all calmer in the face of adversity when we're monday morning quarterbacking (as well as more articulate, taller, and better looking). Two, he was approached about this stuff at his place of work, which could make anyone freak out a little. So he may sound like kind of a tool bleating 'harassment!' but he was probably feeling threatened, scared and offended. And really, if you're a scientist working for the Fed, don't you think you're predisposed to be a little nervous about your job at the best of times?

As I read this, I have no right to post a sign on GSA-controlled property. Just because this guy works there and is allowed to park on that property, should not give him more rights than I do.

I agree, you should have the exact same amount of rights. So if you'd driven up there to have a meeting of some sort, as a private citizen, in your similarly festooned car... should you have to park down the street? Remove your signage, no matter how tacky?

This is very similar to retailers trying to circumvent local rules on signage by parking trucks with signs affixed to them in the parking lot. Just because it is affixed to a vehicle doesn't change it's character as a sign.

Except that it's not similar. If that rule is contractual between the property owner and the tenant it's not the government enforcing speech standards and not a free speech issue. If it's a local government rule it's presumably applied evenly there, down the street or across the railroad tracks. Nobody is asking those folks to check their rights to an opinion at the gate when they come to work.
posted by phearlez at 12:08 PM on February 16, 2006


Around 2:15 p.m., Scarbrough says, he answered his office phone and found himself talking to a man who identified himself as Officer R. of the Department of Homeland Security. (I'm withholding the officer's name; you know, what with Plamegate and all.)

What the fuck is wrong with this country? The guy gets a phone call, and the press is afraid to say who called him?
posted by odinsdream at 12:09 PM on February 16, 2006


"The reason that the "sign on a privately owned stick" analogy fails is that no employee has permission to store a stick in the ground, but they all have permission to store their cars in the lot. It also fails because we all understand that these cars are privately owned by individuals, but a stick in the ground or a note on a bulletin board could easily be official."

Ding! Winnar!!!
posted by stenseng at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2006


WWJD sticker

We have the fish up here, but not those. What are they?
posted by slatternus at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2006


What Would Jerry (Springer) Do.

Or maybe Jesus. Something like that.
posted by phearlez at 12:12 PM on February 16, 2006


Ahhh. Thanks.

Ewww. Creepy.
posted by slatternus at 12:13 PM on February 16, 2006


I like his beard.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:22 PM on February 16, 2006


Whose beard? Jesus? Yeah, he's kind of hot, in a tree-planter sort of way.
posted by slatternus at 12:25 PM on February 16, 2006


Skwirl -- well said!
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2006


On what equipment can the DHS officer in this case blame the mistake?

The point is, in court, the officer was proved wrong. The court was never given a chance in this case.

keswick - Was that necessary? You don't like me, fine. But I've done nothing in this thread to deserve what some of you keeping dishing out.
posted by Witty at 12:40 PM on February 16, 2006


All I'm saying is there should be limits to free speech, ok. So shut the fuck up Witty.
posted by iamck at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2006


Witty? More like fuckwit, am I right?

And what's the deal with airline food, anyway? Take my wife. Please. Thank you, I'll be here all week! Enjoy the veal!
posted by pardonyou? at 1:34 PM on February 16, 2006


So it's sort of like Barry White's surname in that way.

"I'm not black like Barry White, no I am white like Frank Black is." -- Bloodhound Gang
posted by kirkaracha at 1:37 PM on February 16, 2006


And what's the deal with airline food, anyway? Take my wife. Please. Thank you, I'll be here all week! Enjoy the veal!

Don't forget to tip your waiter.
posted by keswick at 1:38 PM on February 16, 2006


So it's sort of like Barry White's surname in that way.

Exactly. If you didn't know what Barry White looked like before hearing his name, you might think he was a white guy, when he is actually a six-armed Eskimo with bones of the finest crystal.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2006


Boy, most of the bullshit in this thread has already been responded to. But for Loquax, wondering where the freedom of association is protected, that'd be our first ammendment again. It's not just for speech and religion! It also covers association and petition for redress!

(An aside to Five Fresh Fish: Fuck you, man, we have enough people willing to trade liberty for momentary security.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on February 16, 2006


For illusory security.

For the warm milk of the notion, while the fact on which the notion is based rots, curdles, poisons.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:53 PM on February 16, 2006


I say it counts as harrassment because the officers in this case not only made false charges, they clearly did so in a discriminatory way. - Western Infidels

He wasn't charged with anything.

in this case, we can reasonably expect this guy is looking for a fight - like a black man driving through the white cops territory to taunt him. You put provocative stuff on your car, you're doing it to get a response. It's not illegal, but it's not wholly innocent either. - three blind mice

The whole issue here is that the DHS people told him that it was illegal. I'm sure he expects his signs to start people talking, but there's a difference between "people talking" and being threaten with action against him for supposedly contravening a law.
posted by raedyn at 2:13 PM on February 16, 2006


Much like sex is only dirty if it's done right. Free speech is only ultimately worthwhile if it is provocative.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:19 PM on February 16, 2006


slatternus - you got a problem with Jesus' beard?

No, I like Scarbrough's beard.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on February 16, 2006


klangklangston: I am saying that this person has two different relationships with his government - one as a private citizen, covered by the first amendment of the constitution, and another as a contracted employee of said government. I don't know that his first amendment rights as a private citizen apply when it comes to his interaction with the government as an employer. I don't think they do (given the Hatch Act, which limits many constitutional freedoms), but I don't know enough about Federal or Idaho human rights or employment law. In Canada, Charter rights to freedom of speech and association are not absolute or even really relevant when talking about private sector employees, and I am almost certain (though I am not a labour lawyer), when talking about civil servants either. If the same is true in the US, this gentleman has no right to free speech or association in his workplace (again, given Hatch). Whether or not the DHS is picking on him is a different story, as are the particular interpretations of the law (and "bumper stickers") being cited. But I don't think most people here are really discussing the technicalities of the Hatch Act when referencing Soviet Russia or China and yelling at the top of their voices about Freedom of Speech. I am saying this is a big fat grey area, and like others, it would be interesting to see how a judge would interpret the application of Hatch Act in this case. Again, this is not a first amendment case, but a jurisdiction and application of law case.
posted by loquax at 2:45 PM on February 16, 2006


How? How do other employees even know whose car it is, unless they sit around watching the parking lot for "evil doers"?

It's Idaho.


I am a federal employee, and twice in the last couple years management has contacted me about my car, and I don't even have bumper stickers on it. It's not that hard to find out.
Once maintenance needed me to move the car. The other time I had a huge fucking bolt sticking out of the tire and it was going flat.
posted by faceonmars at 3:11 PM on February 16, 2006


Pointing out that DHS personnel really, really, fuckin' really should have something better to do than this would also be useless, I guess?

WHY are they doing this? Well, in Idaho, what else would Homeland Security be up to? Certainly not policing the militias, the neo-nazis, or any of the other homegrown terrorists which may or may not be fermenting in the Idaho scrublands. Heaven forbid. Those guys are patriots. Just like Timmy McVeigh down in Oklahoma City, or the dudes in Waco, or Michigan or ANY other Bumfuck County in the ol' U S of A where the Posse or the Klan or the brwonshirts are rebuilding.

If this is what DHS calls "protecting the Homeland", may the godess help us all.
posted by mooncrow at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2006


Feel free to disprove my claims, by either being witty, or posting a link to any of your previous witty posts.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:21 AM PST on February 16 [!]


How? How do other employees even know whose car it is, unless they sit around watching the parking lot for "evil doers"?

It's Idaho.
posted by Witty at 11:24 AM PST on February 16 [!]


Damn, he did it, too! :-)

Now you can please hush about the name, lupus. It's old.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:23 PM on February 16, 2006


"but I don't know enough about Federal or Idaho human rights or employment law."

You could have stopped there.
posted by klangklangston at 3:26 PM on February 16, 2006


<5 . (1) every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability. r.s.o. 1990, c. h.19, s. 5 (1); 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (5); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (5)./i>

And I remain confident that if taken to the court system, being fired for a political bumpersticker would result in judgement against the employer, provided that the vehicle was for personal and not business use.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:27 PM on February 16, 2006


Dagnabbit, them hinky > marks got me!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:27 PM on February 16, 2006


Don't tread on me.
posted by chaz at 3:30 PM on February 16, 2006


Again, this is not a first amendment case, but a jurisdiction and application of law case.

...simply put, it's a case of the Department of Homeland Security stopping a man from harmless protest. Or did I misread - was the sign really a bomb?
posted by iamck at 3:58 PM on February 16, 2006


And this is really the point - it's not about law, or about interpertation of the law - it's about strong arming somebody to do what you want because what they're doing doesn't agree with you. It's an abuse of power, period. The fact that this was addressed by this Department, rather then, say, his manager, proves this.
posted by iamck at 4:01 PM on February 16, 2006


Actually, in Idaho, it might not. Idaho is an at-will firing state, meaning that your employer can terminate your employment without cause at any time. Not that that has any bearing on this case, as it was DHS that has a beef with dude, and dude doesn't work for DHS.
posted by stenseng at 4:07 PM on February 16, 2006


oops - re
"And I remain confident that if taken to the court system, being fired for a political bumpersticker would result in judgement against the employer, provided that the vehicle was for personal and not business use"
posted by stenseng at 4:07 PM on February 16, 2006


As others have said, if signs on his truck are a violation of any laws or rules then they have to take each every individual aside at this particular property and the entire country and have them remove any "signs" on their private vehicle in government spaces.

That they haven't, and won't, makes it entirely obvious why they isolated this individual. Disgusting.

keswick - Was that necessary? You don't like me, fine. But I've done nothing in this thread to deserve what some of you keeping dishing out.
posted by Witty at 3:40 PM EST on February 16 [!]


And yet you open with:

Here we go with the over-reactions and exaggerations.
posted by Witty at 10:50 AM EST on February 16 [!]


It's nice to be generalized and insulted right away. Thanks mate!
posted by juiceCake at 5:01 PM on February 16, 2006


That reminds me---those schools that cancelled every single afterschool program rather than let a gay/straight alliance meet.

I'd love to see them try and make every single parker there strip everything from their cars---even stuff like "My son is a honor student at Kennedy Jr. High". It actually would show how what they're doing is completely un-American, and maybe wake people up to the loss of their speech rights.
posted by amberglow at 7:55 PM on February 16, 2006


There is only one MeFi user that can make this statement:

"Your comments may sometimes be clever, but I will always be Witty."

:-)
posted by jaronson at 8:08 PM on February 16, 2006


No one has pointed out the difference between, say, FedEx and this guy's truck. FedEx's signs are commercial in nature. Mr. Scarbrough's is political in nature. The SCOTUS has ruled, political speech is more protected than commercial speech.
posted by Goofyy at 8:23 PM on February 16, 2006


Goofyy, I think the law is intended to avoid the appearance of government endorsement and pamphleteering. A FedEx truck wouldn't be construed as either. That's my guess.

It would be interesting to know the result of this encounter. I imagine if the property manager has confirmed DS's expression in compliance with the law, nothing will come of it. It would also be good to know if the DHS officer and dispatcher get some training on what kind of calls to respond to and what to do when confronted by a possible minor violation of the law but no real threat to the peace.
posted by effwerd at 9:41 PM on February 16, 2006


Just a quick recap;

On the back, he tapes weekly updates of the number of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq. Beneath that, on a large, white (and also taped-on) placard: "Support our returning troops and their families when they need help: Give them this number: GI RIGHTS HOTLINE: 1-800-394-9544." On both doors, in bold capital letters: "DEATH IN IRAQ IS NOT A CAREER OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS." Taking up nearly half of the back window: "Veterans for Peace Chapter 117, Idaho." On the driver's side wheel well, also in all caps: "PERHAPS GOD BLESSES EVERY NATION, NOT JUST THE USA." And interspersed between them all, he places a variety of purchased bumper stickers and magnetic ribbons reading, among other sentiments, "Support our Troops: Bring them Home Now," "Support Diversity" and "Honor Vets, Wage Peace."

The closest to a critique is perhaps the line DEATH IN IRAQ IS NOT A CAREER OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS, but that doesn't say anything about the US gov't. Death in anything is not a career opportunity for anyone.
posted by asok at 6:42 AM on February 17, 2006


Here we go with the over-reactions and exaggerations.

juiceCake - You call that insulting? Gimme a break. The first poster said the guy was "attacked". That's an exaggeration at the every least. So stop being such a pussy (there's your insult for ya, prick).
posted by Witty at 6:46 AM on February 17, 2006


That's right Witty. Without you, we'd forget that the "attack" was only metonymy, and that it was his rights that were attacked, not his person. Good job, Witty. We're all proud of you.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 AM on February 17, 2006


It seems the DHS guys think they're morality police too: Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography....

posted by amberglow at 7:19 AM on February 17, 2006


anyone got more examples of our new Thought Police in action?
posted by amberglow at 7:22 AM on February 17, 2006


loquax, for someone who admittedly knows little about U.S. labor law, constitutional law, or the provisions of the Hatch Act, you're awfully certain that your opinions are correct -- definitely more correct than contrary opinons.

Any chance you're mistaking your uninformed speculation for authoritative analysis? Maybe overvaluing the worth of your "because I say so"?
posted by vetiver at 7:28 AM on February 17, 2006


(i wish you guys would lay off loquax--we all speak of other countries the way he speaks of ours)

Anyone here know exactly how much or how little power DHS actually has? How much the Govt. endowed it with? What it's not allowed to do?
posted by amberglow at 7:36 AM on February 17, 2006


amberglow: It seems the DHS guys think they're morality police too: Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography....


That sounds awfully bizarre like in a mentally ill sort of way. I'm really curious as to what is in the job description of these workers? Do they sit in their office every day trying to dream up things to do to "protect the American people"? And then when they brainstorm a "great idea" like, "hey, let's go the library and warn the people there not to look at porn...", they actually can go and do that without any restrictions or based on a real need? How would these two guys have the means to enforce something as vague as this?
posted by JJ86 at 8:29 AM on February 17, 2006


I have to get me one of them hats!
posted by Otis at 8:36 AM on February 17, 2006


loquax, for someone who admittedly knows little about U.S. labor law, constitutional law, or the provisions of the Hatch Act, you're awfully certain that your opinions are correct -- definitely more correct than contrary opinions.

Which of my opinions do you take exception with? I certainly could be wrong, but I don't think I am, and I haven't seen anybody refute the points I've been making beyond a simple dismissal by pointing to the first amendment, which at worst is irrelevant, and at best, incomplete. I think that some people have been misreading what I've been writing, or I've not been clear enough. Here is my point:

1 - The US constitution is neither absolute in its assignment of rights, nor does it apply to private relationships or employees of the federal government (at least in part). The Hatch Act makes it clear that rights granted under the constitution are abrogated within the employ of the government; witness:

Federal Employees are prohibited via the Hatch Act from:

# se official authority or influence to interfere with an election
# solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
# solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
# be candidates for public office in partisan elections
# engage in political activity while:
* on duty
* in a government office
* wearing an official uniform
* using a government vehicle
# wear partisan political buttons on duty


These are all rights of every citizen, yet the Hatch Act clearly removes them from federal employees, making the relationship more like a private relationship. Again, since nobody has answered - if the list above specifically included putting political messages on your car that is parked on government property, would you have a problem with the situation described in the post? The law is clearly designed to ensure that federal employees refrain from acting politically or in a partisan way while actively in the process of working for the federal government. It seems clear to me that the spirit of the law, if not the law itself, was violated in this case. Whether or not that's fair, or just, or you like the Hatch Act, that's just the way it is.

If this discussion is about the definitions of "on duty" and "political activity" in the Hatch Act, fine. Judging by the discussion, which mostly centred on the irrelevant (for this situation) matter of the first amendment to the constitution, that is not what most people were discussing. And they were wrong.

2 - I never said that I supported DHS doing anything to this person. I don't know why DHS was involved. If only he is being picked on, I certainly agree that it smells funny. I also certainly agree that it's likely that only people advocating anti-war and anti-government messages will be singled out in this climate, which is wrong. If I were running the show, I would ensure that nobody brought any messages, pro- or anti-war or pro- or anti-government to their job as employees of the state. I think that's only fair.

3 - Klangklangston, if everybody else in this discussion is a labour lawyer or a human rights lawyer, I'll shut up. If not, I'll keep stating my opinions based on my understanding of the law. And thanks for not addressing my response to you and simply telling me to keep quiet. I'll take it under advisement.

4 - FFF - What if I had a KKK bumper sticker on my car? Or a Swastika? What if an employer knew I was a gang member, or a Hell's Angel? You don't think they'd be able to justifiably dismiss me? Granted, it can't be capricious, they would have to show that I belonged in whatever organization, be it a gang or a political party, and that membership negatively affected the company, but given that those conditions are satisfied, they are perfectly within their rights to dismiss me for my associations. In general, you're probably right, a simple bumper sticker will not get someone fired. Except if that person works for a lobbyist, or a union, or some other company that is sensitive to the political affiliation of its employees. But believe me when I say that as an employee (for sure in Ontario, and I believe in the rest of Canada), you have no protection from discrimination on the basis of political beliefs or association, despite whatever the Charter has to say on the issue (which is irrelevant, as the Charter doesn't apply to private relationships). I'm not saying it (or any of this) is right, or good, only that it is, and there are reasons for it being so.

My point in this discussion was to differentiate the the rights that one has as a private citizen with respect to the government from the rights an employee has with respect to their employer, even if that employer is the government. If I didn't make this clear, I apologize, but I think people have read a lot more into what I said than was actually there.
posted by loquax at 8:40 AM on February 17, 2006


From amberglow's link: At most public libraries in the Washington area, an adult can view pornography on a library computer more or less unfettered. Montgomery asks customers to be considerate of others when viewing Web sites. If others are put off, librarians will provide the viewer of the offending material with a "privacy screen."

What tha? I had no idea. No, really, I didn't. Do the libraries keep a jizz bucket in the janitor's closet too?
posted by If I Had An Anus at 8:53 AM on February 17, 2006


Oh the irony of a new government agency needing to justify it's existence and creating bogeymen out of anti-war free speech heroes like Scarborough and library patrons using the internet is too rich. William Burroughs is surely shaking his head (tsk, tsk, tsk, Mr. Bradley and Mr. Martin). Rich, because he was one of the first in the counter culture to point out the symbiotic relationship between, for example, the police and criminals. The Police are reliant on a rich harvest of crime to justify their outlays of money on infrastructure and man power. Crime is their cash crop. For the DHS, their cash crop (Terrorism, in the form of suicidal arabs /Al Queda) has been in short supply, at least on comparison to the outlays of money that's gone into it, so they need to create enemies and perps and justify their existence. So they turn against their own, the American people or risk obsolescence and moribundity (Excuse that word if it isn't). Obviously when there's no real progress to show for BILLIONS of dollars in money you better start scratching for some quantifiable results. DHS (and by the way, what a stupid name for a goddamn agency, no government agency should ever employ the word "Homeland" for the obvious Godwinesque/historical reasons), is a private executive branch army waiting to happen. I say put a sunset provision into the need for DHS that dovetails with the dismantling of Al Queda as envisioned under Osama Bin Laden, and goes out the window with the Patriot Act. Otherwise, this is just the beginning of the end for not only the first amendment but the bill of rights. Unless of course we get hit again, at which point the DHS can breath more easily strangely enough, but we'll be living under martial law as declared by the executive branch "until such an indefinite time as the danger to this great free nation has passed"*.

*How's that for a terrifyingly, possible future quote.
posted by Skygazer at 9:16 AM on February 17, 2006


Maybe they'll let me have a hat if I complete my Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security Leadership. Then I can keep an eye out for offending bumper stickers, buttons and T-shirts from my very own blimp. Those democrats, immigrants and Chinese tourists will have nowhere to hide from me when I'm cruising around in my blimp in my DHS hat!
posted by Otis at 9:21 AM on February 17, 2006


Good job, Witty. We're all proud of you.

Well, klangklangston, I think many of the opinions expressed in this thread are over-reactions... which I have come to expect from this crowd. I knew it would happen and said so. You don't have to agree.
posted by Witty at 9:29 AM on February 17, 2006


You know what we really need is a "Free Speech Day", Wherein all those quiet people just trying to carve out a life and get by without confrontation (I include myself in that for better or worse), can feel comfortable about wearing a t-shirt or displaying a bumper sticker or making a statement. Saying anything the hell they wanted it to say. A mass expression of one of our most dearly held freedoms. I doubted any employer or government agnecy would fouck with it, and if they did, well then we'd know who the real "enemies of freedom", amongst us really are.
posted by Skygazer at 9:35 AM on February 17, 2006


These are all rights of every citizen, yet the Hatch Act clearly removes them from federal employees, making the relationship more like a private relationship. Again, since nobody has answered - if the list above specifically included putting political messages on your car that is parked on government property, would you have a problem with the situation described in the post?

The reason no one answers that is because it's a ridiculous question.

The reason the Hatch Act does not prohibit political messages on one's car is because if it did, it would be obviously unconstitutional and would eventually be overturned.

It's clear to any reasonable person that just because an employee's vehicle has political messages doesn't mean those opinions are those of the federal government. Now, if someone was using their whatever.gov email to forward "Osama loves Kerry" or "FUK BU$H" messages, then yeah, that would be prohibited, and rightly so. The idea is to prevent the appearance of partisanism in bureaucratic offices, not to restrict speech in private life. Sheesh.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:39 AM on February 17, 2006


I think many of the opinions expressed in this thread are over-reactions... which I have come to expect from this crowd. I knew it would happen and said so. You don't have to agree. -Witty

I don't Mr. Witty. The deterioration of freedoms and rights doesn't happen with fanfare and parades or formal announcements (unless it's too late). Do I see a huge conspiracy. No, I don't. I just see a potentially dangerous government agency, with braod powers and a vague mission statement that needs to justify it's existence. If that doesn't give you pause...well then..
posted by Skygazer at 10:03 AM on February 17, 2006


Anyone here know exactly how much or how little power DHS actually has? How much the Govt. endowed it with? What it's not allowed to do?

They have exactly as much power as the citizens allow. It's time for citizens to start taking shit to the courts. Make sure that the country is ruled by law, not by tyranny.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2006


What if I had a KKK bumper sticker ...[snip]... perfectly within their rights to dismiss me for my associations.

Again, I'm not convinced. Our Charter expressly guarantees freedom of association.

Your employer can certainly dismiss you for having a bumper sticker on your personal vehicle. I do not think it would be legal, and I believe that taken to court, there would be a sizeable payout for the dismissed employee.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 AM on February 17, 2006


('cause I'm not sure our courts would actually force the employer to take you back.)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 AM on February 17, 2006


What if I had a KKK bumper sticker on my car? Or a Swastika? What if an employer knew I was a gang member, or a Hell's Angel? You don't think they'd be able to justifiably dismiss me?

loquax, there is something weird about American law that you might not be getting here:

In most states employment is "at will" which pretty much means you can be fired for anything at all. There are restrictions, you aren't supposed to fire for predjudicial reasons, but pragmatically your employer can always find a good excuse to terminate you.

BUT... if you are a federal (or maybe state) employee, the government does not have this at-will firing ability. This is why government jobs are pretty cushy, they don't let people go that often.

This man would be MORE likely to be fired for this at a private business, but this would be that private entities' decision. The feds have all sorts of regulations they have to follow.

If you were talking about Canada, sorry, carry on.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:54 AM on February 17, 2006


The idea is to prevent the appearance of partisanism in bureaucratic offices, not to restrict speech in private life. Sheesh.

Then we're all really just discussing whether or not his car in the parking lot of his place of employ is considered to be part and parcel of his being "on duty", and whether or not the messages on his car constitute "political activity". In other words, whether the Hatch Act has jurisdiction here. I think it would (though I don't know how the Act in general is reconciled with § 1983, as monju_bosatsu said). Others think not. Likely a judge would be required to decide the matter, as others have said. Certainly, this is a far cry from comments like "But the more often I read of encounters like this, the harder it is for me to find a clear line between the USDHS and the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda", and "The comparisons with Nazi Germany are very justified", and that's all I was taking exception to.

Again, I'm not convinced. Our Charter expressly guarantees freedom of association.

The Charter only applies to government action, not to the relationships between private individuals (including corporations). The government could not, say, decide to deny me health insurance because of my membership in the hell's angels or the NDP, but the Rotary Club could refuse me membership for the same reasons.

A company cannot discriminate against me if I were black, or a woman, or disabled because of the Human Rights Codes (different in each province), which do apply to private relationships, and which, in Ontario, does not identify association as a prohibited ground for discrimination.

I tend to agree with you, that the simple presence of a bumper sticker on a private vehicle (not on company grounds) would not meet the burden required to justify dismissal on these grounds (as the company would have to show what damages your unwanted associations cause to the company), but there's generally wide latitude given by the courts, although most companies and people are never affected by this particular situation. I would be because of the nature of my business and company, and the fact that my indication of political affiliation, however slight, has the ability to greatly negatively impact my company's bottom line. Another situation in which this is relevant is the hiring of people in a position of fiduciary trust - it is allowed to discriminate against them on the basis of their friendships, say, with convicted (or suspected) criminals, or gamblers, or other characters who could compromise their position of trust. That is legal discrimination on the basis of association. Again, I'm not saying it's always right, or that it's never abused, only that there are major differences in your rights with respect to government as opposed to any other person or organization in society. Like the way that Matt is not bound by the US constitution in running Metafilter, and can censor or ban anyone he likes at any time for any reason.

(and no, the courts would almost certainly not force any company to hire someone back, but instead force them to pay termination pay in lieu of notice, severance pay, and possible punitive damages)

If you were talking about Canada, sorry, carry on.

Yes sorry, about that stuff, I was only talking about Canada with five fresh fish, sorry that wasn't clear. I know that none of this applies with respect to at will employment in the states, I was only trying to draw the distinctions I mentioned above between the different types of relationships and the ensuing rights.
posted by loquax at 10:59 AM on February 17, 2006


Sad, but true sonofsamiam. American's have very, very few constitutional rights at work. How's that for a neat trick?
posted by Skygazer at 11:02 AM on February 17, 2006


Sad, but true sonofsamiam. American's have very, very few constitutional rights at work. How's that for a neat trick?

It's a balancing act. To provide more rights in a work context would inhibit freedom of association. Look at the trouble we have reconciling things like what restrictions a tax-exempt organization can enforce. Do we want to extend that kind of problem to for-profit organizations and require someone who prints Torahs to employ neo-nazis?
posted by phearlez at 11:24 AM on February 17, 2006


Sad, but true sonofsamiam. American's have very, very few constitutional rights at work.

Well, not to nitpick, but Americans actually have all of their constitutional rights at all times -- at work or otherwise. It's only that those "rights," by definition, only apply vis-a-vis the government. A private person (or other entity) simply cannot violate another person's first (or any other) amendment rights.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:33 AM on February 17, 2006


Here we go with the over-reactions and exaggerations.

juiceCake - You call that insulting? Gimme a break. The first poster said the guy was "attacked". That's an exaggeration at the every least. So stop being such a pussy (there's your insult for ya, prick).
posted by Witty at 9:46 AM EST on February 17 [!]


And yet you didn't simply comment on his opinion, you implied that there would be a flood of like supposed over-reactions and exaggerations. That's insulting.

Further on you do the same thing, and insult the whole of Mefi with a generalization.

Can't handle my differing opinion, so we insult? Typical for Mefi.

I have a different opinion than you and they you attempt to insult me by "prick".

Do you just love to prove everyone right about you? It's somewhat entertaining to see you make an asshole of yourself. You're specatularly good at it.

A standing ovation is in order. Take a bow mate.
posted by juiceCake at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2006


No thanks... mate.
posted by Witty at 12:26 PM on February 17, 2006


No thanks... mate.
posted by Witty at 3:26 PM EST on February 17 [!]


Wonderful. Your modesty is an unconvincing as your argument. Good show.
posted by juiceCake at 11:48 AM on February 18, 2006


You done now?
posted by Witty at 4:13 AM on February 20, 2006


Those are really substantive responses to juiceCake's second-to-last post, Witty. Don't forget to come back in two days and say something shitty in response to this comment.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:45 AM on February 20, 2006


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