Stolen Valor: Not A Victimless Crime

Over to my other hangout “This Ain’t Hell”, my buddy TSO (Mothax) has an excellent roundup about the Stolen Valor Act which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. He’ll be there, since he has a press pass to attend, and his insights as an attorney and veteran are always worth the time to read and consider.

Two points of his:

As I have said, this isn’t about an opinion or some material fact that the government has no interest in.  The most obvious thing that keeps the Government from outlawing lies on Facebook about your marital status etc is that the people should vote out anyone that would go that far in office.  This is about a verifiable statement of fact.  One either has the medals, or does not.  And the Government should be interested in this, since it directly impacts something under their purview, the awarding of medals to the military.  The rules for governing the military, and the awarding of medals is right there in the Constitution.

Article I, Section 8:

Absolutely agree

 This isn’t some slippery slope down a route where the Government can prosecute willy-nilly.   What this is is an attempt to preserve to those who actually earned the medals the rightful honor they have returned.

Go and read the article, and bookmark TAH on your blogroll. It’s always worth a few minutes to read.

As for myself,

Broadly, this also goes to the heart of protecting the honorable service, and thus reputation, of every veteran.

I would have no problems with locking up anyone who falsely claimed to be a veteran. I would not be surprised to find that 90% of those folks we see panhandling, living on the streets, claiming to be a veteran have never served.

It’s just so damned easy to roll into a surplus store, grab a boonie hat, a blouse and some trinkets/patches and invent a new persona as a “homeless vet”. I personally know two who used to pull this scam until they were outed and had to leave the area.

These guys end up diverting funds to help them when those same funds could be used to help actual veterans in need, or to reduce our tax bills.

My simple solution, to go hand-in-hand with the Stolen Valor Act, is a National Veteran’s ID card, given to every veteran upon discharge. It could be like the VA Patient card, and have the Veteran’s DD-214 data on a swipe strip on the back, with an national data-base number to call, along with an image of the veteran on the front, and his branch of service and date of service on the front.

Having such a card would, to my mind, solve an awful lot of problems right off the top.

Regardless, I am hoping for a positive outcome that reinforces the SVA, but I’m not counting on it.

Seems to me we are all Tommy now, as the new variants attest:

O then we’re just like ‘eroes from the army’s glorious past.
Yes, it’s “God go with you, Tommy,” when the trip might be your last.
They pays us skivvy wages, never mind we’re sitting ducks,
When clerks what’s pushing pens at ‘ome don’t know their flippin’ luck.
“Ah, yes” sez they “but think of all the travel to be ‘ad.”
Pull the other one. Does Cooks do ‘olidays in Baghdad?
It’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, know your place,”
But it’s “Tommy, take the front seat,” when there’s terrorists to chase

. An’ the town is full of maniacs who’d like you dead toot sweet.
Yes, it’s “Thank you, Mr Atkins,” when they find you in the street.
There’s s’pposed to be a covenant to treat us fair an’ square
But I ‘ad to buy me army boots, an’ me combats is threadbare.
An’ ‘alf the bloody ‘elicopters can’t get in the air,
An’ me pistol jammed when snipers fired. That’s why I’m laid up ‘ere.
Yes, it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, “We ‘ave to watch the pence”;
Bold as brass the P.M. sez, “We spare them no expense.

But I’ll tell you when they do us proud an’ pull out all the stops,
It’s when Tommy lands at Lyneham in a bloomin’ wooden box!.

Yeah, lying about military service and awards doesn’t cheapen the real veteran’s service now does it… bastards.

3 Responses to “Stolen Valor: Not A Victimless Crime”

  1. 1 EagleII
    February 21, 2012 at 06:15

    Every one of these liberal legal authors who takes Medals like the CMOH lightly
    needs to see the SF MSGT Roy Benavidez Story. We have the President’s Speech & then
    Roy’s speech live here: http://wepatriots.com scroll down to various video’s – his is the
    first in the line up. Also have a Korean War PoW’s story live ( he could have went
    home via a Chinese offer.. – but chose to stay with his brothers in arms as PoW)

    Lies to get money (consumer fraud, etc.) are generally punishable. Are lies to get votes substantially less harmful and, therefore, less deserving of punishment? Isn’t this exactly what Alvarez did? Lying on resumes, regardless of your status, just does not cut it! The cout had their head up their an*s ( now thats FREE SPEECH or is the court above it’s own dictum) ?

    So Congress cannot make any law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. Simple enough, right? The only trouble is that the First Amendment does not actually mean what is says. The First Amendment talks in broad, sweeping terms, but there are a plethora of instances where there are laws that affect the freedom of speech, and the freedom of the press. For example, defamation law has always been considered to be consistent with the First Amendment despite the fact that individuals that engage in libel or slander are held to account for the false or misleading things that they say. Even those who publish things that are found to be defamatory are held to account, so obviously that is one instance where laws are allowed to abridge the freedom to lie and/or misrepresent, as well as the right to publish lies and/or misrepresentations.

    There are other examples as well. The Federal Trade Commission describes its mission as preventing “business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process…” This mission is achieved, at least in part, by going after those who commit fraud or engage in misrepresentations.

    The Securities and Exchange Commission similarly goes after publicly traded companies for making false or misleading statements.

    Further google these:
    37 CFR 240.14A-9
    15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1)(B)

    So to anyone paying attention to the law in general it would be obvious that there are a whole host of areas where laws prohibit false and misleading statements and none of these statutes or rules has ever been declared unconstitutional as violating the First Amendment, despite these laws frequently being at issue in cases before the Supreme Court.

    those who want to believe that the First Amendment protects any and all false or misrepresenting speech ARE wrong.

    The law prohibits false and misleading speech consistent with the First Amendment when damage is done and people are injured as the result of false or misleading speech.

  2. 2 EagleII
    February 21, 2012 at 06:17

    Some people will never understand HONOR & VALOR … sadly many who will not work inside the legal profession. They will never understand the price of their freedom ( till it has vanished ) nor why the later PoW did what he did.

    Colonel Theodore Wilson Guy, United States Air Force, (Ret) Ted Guy, nicknamed “The Hawk” by those who knew him best, Former PoW NVN once said:

    Ted once said “honor is something that once you lose it you become like an insect in the jungle. You prey upon others and others prey upon you until there is nothing left. Once you lose your honor, all the gold in the world is useless in your attempt to regain it.”

    “The combative Guy had been [shot down] in Laos…was captured after shooting it out with some North Vietnamese soldiers, killing at least two of them. After capture he had been subjected to all the tortures which by this time the Vietnamese were routinely inflicting on their American prisoners. ( Being CHEERED on by the left & Libs ) He had spent the next thirty-seven months in solitary confinement – first at the Plantation, then in Vegas, on to D-1, and back to the Plantation on November 25, 1970.” In fact, Paul Galanti, PoW once said Ted Guy was one of the toughest in Hanoi.”

    Ted Guy was transferred to the reopened Plantation on 25 November 1970. [There] torture remained much in vogue [from the time it reopened in 1970 through early 1972, the year before the POWs returned home]. [Guy] remained isolated, but was now in a cell from which he was able to at least see other Americans…SRO Guy found that the bulk of the prisoner population was enlisted men and that they wanted nothing so much as strong leadership. He promulgated policies virtually identical to the BACK US policy Jim Stockdale had established at Hoa Lo years earlier, but urged a gradual buildup of the resistance campaign in order to soften the Vietnamese reaction.”

    Ted Guy was tortured during January/February 1972 [only 14 months before all of our POWs were returned home]. The torture chamber was filthy. For the first three days and nights Guy was allowed no sleep. He was stripped naked, locked in leg irons, and made to lie on his stomach. A guard stood on the backs of his legs, Cheese kept a foot on his neck, pinning his head to the floor, and another guard flogged him with a rubber hose.

    The beating lasted a long time. ( the price of Freedom “in part” mind you some times it’s ones life )

    Guy lost control of his bodily functions, he vomited, and when the pain became more than he could bear, he screamed. Rags were crammed into his mouth and the flogging continued.” “In the long days and nights that followed, torture guards who enjoyed their work took turns inflicting long beatings with their fists … During one stretch Guy was kept kneeling for approximately eighteen hours. His knees were swollen to the extent that he could not pull his trouser legs over them. When he refused to author a confession of crimes, he was made to kneel again, this time atop an iron bar.

    Please see Roy’s commendation for the CMOH and listen to his story.. Rest in Peace Roy & Col. Guy… SF MSGT Roy Benavidez — http://we-patriots.com Not Dead as he is not Forgotten

    –Robert Orr

  3. 3 EagleII
    February 21, 2012 at 06:20

    A Look at The SCt. and the Issue At Hand from a plus/minus perspective.

    Stolen Valor Act case: a checklist of things to watch

    Tony Mauro
    First Amendment Center Legal Correspondent
    Monday, February 20, 2012

    WASHINGTON — Unlike some other recent First Amendment cases the Supreme Court has handled, United States v. Alvarez is a tough one to call.

    Set for argument on Feb. 22, the case asks whether the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime falsely to claim having won a military honor, violates freedom of speech.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional in the case of Xavier Alvarez, a local politician in Pomona, Calif., who was convicted for claiming in a public speech that he had won the Congressional Medal of Honor, when in fact he had never even served in the military.

    On one hand, the Court has often said, at least in passing, that false speech deserves little or no First Amendment protection. And lying about a military honor could pull at the justices’ patriotic heart strings. On the other hand, do justices really want the government criminalizing seemingly inconsequential lies, when politicians, spouses, teenagers and dentists (“It won’t hurt a bit”) lie more or less daily? As 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski wrote at an earlier stage of the case, “living means lying.”

    The hourlong argument will pit Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. against California federal public defender Jonathan Libby. Here are some points to watch for that could signal the outcome:

    Roberts’ mood: Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has authored some of the Court’s most ringing endorsements in favor of protecting offensive speech in recent years (Snyder v. Phelps, United States v. Stevens). In a 2007 case he wrote, “Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.” As chief justice, he gets to decide who writes the Court’s opinion when he is in the majority. “He is almost twice as likely to keep the opinion for himself in a free-speech case,” notes Florida International University College of Law professor Thomas Baker. If, in his questioning, Roberts seems to view the Stolen Valor Act as a narrow and reasonable restriction on speech, then the law may survive.

    Citizens United: The controversial 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission could make a cameo appearance in the Alvarez arguments. Almost as an afterthought, lawyers for Alvarez argued in their brief that even if the Court finds that the Stolen Valor Act is constitutional on its face, it is unconstitutional when applied to Alvarez. That’s because Alvarez, when he was misrepresenting his record, was an elected official engaging in “core political speech” about his background — the type of speech that is most immune from government restriction. In Citizens United, the Court said that “political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it,” and even said it was possible that “political speech cannot be banned or restricted as a categorical matter.” If Alvarez’s lawyer makes this argument before the Court, it could be a sign of trouble — but it could also be a winning argument.

    Power of the press: Several justices, including Antonin Scalia, can be persuaded to vote against government restrictions on speech by the argument that “the remedy for bad speech is more speech.” In this context, Alvarez and several amicus briefs are making that argument by asserting that the news media are solving the problem the Stolen Valor Act was intended to cure. Alvarez himself was pilloried in the local press before and during the FBI investigation that led to his indictment. Numerous media investigations have outed others who have falsely claimed to have won military honors. The Chicago Tribune in 2008 published articles revealing that hundreds of people in the Who’s Who directory had misrepresented military awards. Military Times has assembled an online database listing thousands of people who have legitimately won honors. “The honor symbolized by military decorations is not preserved by imprisoning those who lie about having won them, but by shining a light on their deceit,” a brief filed on behalf of several news organizations asserts.

    Breathing space: The government bases its defense of the law on the claim that it is drafted narrowly enough that it gives adequate “breathing space” for speech that should be protected and does not chill speakers who might censor themselves for fear of violating the law. How much respect that defense garners during oral argument will be telling. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that false statements are “protected in their own right,” not limited by a breathing-space analysis. Upholding the law, the ACLU says, would allow the government to punish everyone from a blogger who claims President Barack Obama was not born in the United States to a job applicant who claims he can type 60 words a minute. But University of Virginia School of Law professor Leslie Kendrick says such fears are overstated. Precedents such as R.A.V. v. St. Paul would not allow the government to regulate speech just because it is unpopular, she says. Kendrick adds that the Court has articulated the breathing space/chilling effect test since 1974, “and in that amount of time, I don’t think we’ve seen the floodgates open.”

    Compelling interest: The government argues that the Stolen Valor Act serves its “compelling” interest in preserving the integrity of its military honors system and “conveying to the public the government’s gratitude towards those who have sacrificed for the country and fostering morale and valorous conduct within the military.” A brief by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation likens the harm of false claims of military honors to counterfeit money. “Every real bill is worth a little less for the existence of a fake.” But a brief by a coalition of veterans’ groups argues that false claims don’t devalue the awards given to genuine winners: “This case is not about protecting the reputations of heroes … there is nothing that charlatans such as Xavier Alvarez can do to stain their honor.” If the justices seem skeptical of the “compelling interest” claim, the law may be in trouble.

    The Kagan factor: In a 1996 law review article, Elena Kagan, then a University of Chicago law professor, analyzed First Amendment issues from the perspective of legislative motives in passing laws that restrict speech. She voiced skepticism about “the near absolute protection given to false but non-defamatory statements of fact outside the commercial realm” and “sweeping protection of speech that disserves understanding.” Now that she is a justice, will she express the same concerns?

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