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Stolen Valor

The Stolen Valor act, passed into law in 2005, had a noble goal. The point was to criminalize the making certain false claims about one’s military service, mostly with regard to military awards, but there are some problems that are obvious. (I don’t mean the goal of criminalization was noble, just the underlying intent, presumably it was to protect the integrity of awards that symbolize our nations gratitude for sacrifice and bravery. Good intentions is dangerous.)

1. It is already illegal for persons subject to the UCMJ to do this. This includes current service members and certain former ones. (article 92 UCMJ)

2. It is already illegal for civilians to do this in certain circumstances. I am no longer subject to the UMCJ, but if I were to make such a false claim on an employment application or to receive benefits of some kind, etc, that my friends is simply fraud.

3. The law criminalizes simple speech. While it might be disgusting for a person to claim they were awarded the Medal of Honor when that isn’t true (extra stupid because of how few recipients are alive, it’s most often awarded posthumously) I find it hard to call it criminal.

4. Impersonating a member of the military is also illegal in many circumstances, and rightfully so. Just as it is unlawful to impersonate a police officer, judge or other government officials, maintaining the integrity of those institutions is important. However, impersonating a former member of the military, regardless  of what other accolades one might be lying about, is no worse or more dangerous to our basic security than impersonating a former police officer is. Essentially no danger at all.If you disagree with me on this, look at here at this example of the dangers of illegal impersonation. Keep in mind also that military members are required to obey the lawful orders of their superiors, a fake “superior” could in theory snatch up some actual soldiers to do their possibly malevolent, or at least nefarious, bidding, at least for a while.

(even that law goes a bit too far, but it’s really not a bad balance between freedom issues, again, as with police, judges, etc. Title 18, USC, Section 702)

The military can criminalize the speech of it’s members, few dispute that. The Constitution gives Congress the power to raise and support Army’s and Navy’s and that has been interpreted as raising them how they see fit with only some regard to the Bill of Rights. I think that is a huge plate full of authority, I think it is appropriate. The business of war, or even natural disasters where the military is used, are not places where the rights of one should be put over the welfare of others. That is kind of the whole point of a standing, “new model” army, the populace hires a few, to defend the many and fight on their behalf if need be.

When it comes to civilians, the stolen valor act would be fine if it weren’t for one thing… We are not under martial law, and so we retain all rights we were given by our divine or figurative creator, according to which flavor you prefer.

(as far as the suspension of Habeas Corpus goes, I would amend the Constitution to require the consent of the State in question unless it is a federal enclave or dependency. That is really one of only two parts of the Constitution I despise, the other being the direct election of senators, that is another subject.)

If this disgusting beast wishes to claim he has been awarded medals and honors he has not been, I don’t see any reason he should be stopped from doing so. That doesn’t mean I would be against a national registry of military awards to permit easy checking of credentials for employers, but on the other hand, if an employer doesn’t demand discharge paperwork (DD 214 or NGB 22) than it is their own damn fault. Businesses or agencies that don’t require such proof are being just as dishonorable and detestable as the false claimant is, if not even more so.

But being a asshole isn’t illegal (good news for me), or at least it shouldn’t be, even in these cases. I would like to also mention that Bush signed this into law, but it it was introduced by democrats in both houses. The Senate unanimously signed off and the house passed it by voice vote, which means there was such a high level of support, it would be a waste of time to carry out a roll call vote. Both parties do stupid things, but neither party is as effective at stupid than when they get together.

As they say, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session”.

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