Libertarian History/Philosophy

Barr: Let Them Lie

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If you're one of those people who thought Bob Barr was just pretending to be a libertarian to win the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 2008, here's one for ya: Barr defending people's First Amendment right to lie about winning military medals. Excerpt:

In late 2006…former President Bush signed into law piece of legislation that goes far beyond even the extremely broad reach of the federal fraud statutes.  Under this 2006 law, a person in the United States can now be indicted, convicted and sent to jail for simply lying about something — not benefitting from it, not using a lie to take something from someone, but simply for telling a falsehood.  This law has in fact been used dozens of times since Bush signed it into law, despite its obvious First Amendment deficiencies.

Because he'd been mute for so long!

The law carries the misnomer, the "Stolen Valor Act."  Why "stolen valor?"  Because the law criminalizes the mere act of telling someone else that you had been awarded some sort of military medal when in fact you hadn't.  As a zealous federal prosecutor in California opined recently, because the Congress has the authority under the Constitution to raise and support our millitary and to establish regulations for the organization and conduct of our armed forces, Congress can enact criminal laws to protect the "worth and value" of military medals that are authorized by Act of Congress.  Such elitist, overly-broad justification for ever-expanding federal criminal laws, is symptomatic of the over-criminalization of American society that is part and parcel of both the Republican and Democratic parties' agendas (the "Stolen Valor Act" was passed unanimously by the Senate prior to going to Mr. Bush for his signature).

If a person were to engage in a scheme to defraud people out of their money by claiming falsely to be the recipient of a military award, then that person can — and probably should — be prosecuted under existing fraud laws.  But to remove those other important elements of such an offense, and prosecute someone for simply bragging about being a military hero when they in fact aren't, is substituting morality and pique for legitimate exercise of the law to protect against fraud-induced thievery.

Whole thing here. Our cover Q&A with Barr here.

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  1. Barr is a damn fool. Most military awards are won with the blood of the recepient. Anyone claiming valor not earned should be horse whipped.

    1. wrong. Some military awards are won with the blood of the recipient. Damned if my dad didn’t win a bunch of ribbons, and all he got out the military was diabetes.

      Of course, he did save the military billions of dollars, but that’s a story for another day.

    2. Perhaps they should be privately horsewhipped, but I agree with Barr that it shouldn’t be a crime, unless the person committed fraud. If I claim to be a MOH recipient and make a bunch of money giving speeches, I have committed fraud and should be prosecuted. But if I don’t get any money and just lie to the media or to private parties for no monetary gain, then I am just a dirtbag and not a criminal.

    3. Shouldn’t be a crime unless used to defraud or for perjury.

    4. Most military awards are won with the blood of the recepient.

      Are you fucking kidding me? Have you ever seen the broadsheet of medals that generals display when they go up to testify to Congress where three out of five of those rows are entirely meaningless? Where many of those same men have to wear shades inside the open air Capital rotunda because they haven’t been outside of the Pentagon basement in thirty years?

      1. My point being, if anyone is making a mockery of the medals earned by soldiers on the field, it is the overcompensation of medals for the careerist. If your name isn’t Sergent York, you did not earn that third, forth and fifth row.

        Even the minor fraud of some guy trying to con rubes out of beers at the local bar does not deserve punishment compared to the fraud that goes on in the higher ranks where political acumen is more important than competence in a careerist personal success.

      2. They are not meaningless, each one does stand for something, be it good conduct, or participation in a campaign. But most do not require an act of valor.

        Getting a good conduct ribbon does not make a mockery of any other.

        1. As far as I can tell, the Army rotates its career officers pretty well. And all those higher echelon guys were combat arms anyway.

          1. In any service, it’s pretty difficult to get that first star without any combat experience. It happens, but they’re a small minority. I’ve always said, that’s why we always manage to have a hot war at least once in every generation. Can’t take the risk of running out of Generals and Admirals.

    5. As the man who slayed the Kaiser in single combat, I wholeheartedly agree.

      1. A round of beers for Marc!

      2. No you didn’t.

        ‘Cause I won the Victoria Cross for that before you Americans were ever in WW1. And I nailed Hindenberg to boot!

        1. Pretender.

          If you had really won the VC you’d have said “…before you Yanks were even in the Great War.”

          No beer for Aresen, throw the blighter out!

    6. Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it should be criminalized.

      Most vets I know (including my father) really don’t care enough to horse whip them. They can tell who is lying and who is not. They seem to consider the liars fools that are not worth bothering over.

      It’s like us who have never served getting all oversensitive, when the veterans who have seen far worse, don’t get worked up. After all when someone has tried to kill you and you had to kill them, some jackass back home bragging and lying doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

      1. Plutosdad is on the money when it comes to most of us vets.

        Most of us don’t really care if a liar is b.s.ing about being awarded a medal or two. We will figure it out soon enough, and when we do we’ll happily inform all of those who know the liar.

        Ironically the liars are safer from veterans and active duty service members, than they are from the civilians. This is especially true if the liar spins a really entertaining line of bullshit. After all, “bullshitting” is one of the most highly regarded forms of communication in any military.

        So long as the bullshitter isn’t attempting to collect benefits, using stories to defame members of the military, or using them in pursuit of a political goal, they’re typically safe from anything more than a disdainful chuckle or a shaken head.

        However goat-smelling shitheels like Jesse MacBeth, and the disease ridden vermin who knowingly disseminated his lies, deserve to be introduced to the FM 22-102 style of counseling by the meanest gaggle of NCO’s available.

    7. I agree with John. Many of you may not know this, but I am, in fact, a Medal of Honor recipient. As I added it to my collection of medals, I remember thinking, “I got this through incredible valor, and if someone claims to have earned one of these falsely, I’m likely to have retroactively died on the battlefield!” Which in fact I did… I had to play through that level of Medal of Honor I don’t know how many times before I survived it.

      “Rennt f?r ihre leben! Er hat ein Panzerfaust!”

      But seriously… stupid, stupid law, and John is, as per usual, breathtakingly wrong. Has the constitutionality of this law been tested in court yet?

      1. Re: Jake Boone,

        I raked my well-deserved medals during my Call of Duty, when the World was At War.

        I still have nightmares . . .

  2. Nobel awards, OTOH …

  3. Anyone claiming valor not earned should be horse whipped.

    Sure, ’cause that’s a dick move. But being a dick is not — and shouldn’t be — a crime.

  4. I don’t see a problem with the Stolen Valor Act’s broad reaching anti-fraud measures as long as it is also applied to campaign promises.

  5. Bobbarrbobbarrbobbarr

    1. argh Wicca is bad

      http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-…..e-academy/

  6. Given that the fakers are revealed to the world as the worthless limpdicks that they are, criminal sanctions are unnecessary. Besides, the Congress simply doesn’t have the authority to do this. If we’re going to talk about principles we’re obliged to stick with it wherever it goes.

  7. Bob Barr was just pretending to be a libertarian

    Everybody is pretending except Mary Ruwart and the blue colloidal silver drinking guy.

  8. Such elitist, overly-broad justification for ever-expanding federal criminal laws…

    Can we stop calling everything we don’t like “elitist” now?

    1. No, you elitist.

  9. “Stolen Valor Act”

    Who exactly has their Valor stolen when someone else lies about getting a medal?

    1. It’s the equivalent of the “devaluing marriage” argument against gay marriage.

    2. It’s not really stealing, but if you want to make this a crime then it sounds a lot better when framed in the terminology of traditionally accepted crimes. It’s like people who say copyright infringement is “piracy”. I mean, who could possibly vote against criminalizing the outright THEFT of our nation’s valor?

    3. Valor isn’t something anyone can take away from you.

      The real point of military medals is NOT to honor the recipients, though that is a side benefit, but rather to encourage everyone else in the military to act a bit braver when it’s their turn to perform under fire.

      It’s an incentive for FUTURE acts of valor.

  10. Say, “Operation Stolen Valor” would be a cool name for our next military action. Beats New Dawn, for sure.

  11. As a zealous federal prosecutor in California opined recently, because the Congress has the authority under the Constitution to raise and support our millitary and to establish regulations for the organization and conduct of our armed forces, Congress can enact criminal laws to protect the “worth and value” of military medals that are authorized by Act of Congress.

    WTF? Unless the person is defrauding the government by collecting an undeservedly large pension*, this is an utterly ridiculous “crime”.

    *Something tells me there were laws already in existence which covered this.

  12. People lie about all sorts of shit. Not me though.
    I was the star of my high school football team (quarterback of course), once screwed Pat Benatar, got a doctorate in nuclear chemistry at M.I.T. at age 21, and won the Navy Cross during Desert Storm. Security regulations prohibit my talking about my work in the CIA (do you think the Berlin Wall came down all by itself?) and my important contributions in developing an effective ICBM defense for North America.

    Aside from the dubious constitutionality of this piece of shit legislation, it gives lie to claims of limited government beliefs that the GOP trots out whenever they are out of power.

    1. J Sub D, you are the man. Why you never bragged about these stunning achievements before, I’ll never know.

  13. Next up: People who lie about the varsity football letter they didn’t actually get in High School.

    1. George O’Leary got fired from ND for his lies but he didnt go to jail for it.

  14. What if you lie about winning medals for sex?

    Wasn’t there a case a few years back where a guy got prosecuted for impersonating a police officer, after he told a woman at a bar that he was one as a pick-up line. That’s at least as innocuous as claiming you won a service medal.

    1. You can win medals for sex? Applause and cookies from the whole girl’s epee team I knew about, but medals?!? 😉

    2. What if you lie about your Johnson dimensions? Of course, with my ginormous member, I often have to lie, saying it is only of huge proportions, but I only do it for altruistic reasons, to provide joy amidst the females

  15. By extension, this law criminalizes 95% of all barroom pickup lines.

    1. Damn you, Tulpa.

      1. That sounds like the response to most of my pickup lines.

        1. “Nine times out of ten, yes.”

  16. I agree that lying like that makes you a complete douchenozzle, but it does not make you a criminal. (fraud, perjury etc aside and there are already LAWS for that)

    At MOST the ‘Stolen Valor’ Act should allow the nearest actual Vet to kick said jerk in the balls.. as hard as he wants.. ONCE. After that it’s a wash. Vets only. NO civilians. They have no dog in that fight.

    (and yes I’m kidding.. mostly).

    This reminds me of the Lazarus Long line about the lizard who claimed he was part brontosaurus on his mother’s side. Pathetic, but not actionable.

    1. I think that is a really good idea.

    2. More of a Jubal Hershaw man myself.

  17. Good to see Barr concentrating on the most pressing of civil liberties issues.

    1. His priorities are better than CATO, which seems to see gay marriage as the most fundamental libertarian issue.

    2. Overcriminalization is one of the most pressing civil liberties issues. This is just another example of it.

      1. I couldn’t agree more.

  18. If your name isn’t Sergent York, you did not earn that third, forth and fifth row.

    Define “earned”. Not to get tautological, but if you filled the criteria set down for that award, then you earned it. Now, if you would like to name some awards that are superfluous, go ahead, however, just keep in mind that military folks all know which ones are “Thanks For Showing Up” Awards, so it’s a wash.

    1. Agreed. I have a unit medal that was earned while I was throwing up in a bucket.

      1. My bucket had a flying “V”.

    2. Dunno if it’s still true, but you used to get into the San Diego Zoo for free if you were in uniform.

      While waiting in a concession line, a little boy asked me what all the ribbons were for (most of them awarded for showing up). I responded “If you were a pretty woman,I’d have all sorts of stories to tell you”. His father thought that was funny as hell.

    3. Even the non thanks for showing up medals don’t always mean what they say. If you are a staff officer with a higher headquarters and don’t fuck up, you get a bronze star, because such an award has to be signed off by a general and you conveniently work for one. And you get one even if you never hear a shot fired in anger. If you are down at a brigade or battalion or are not an officer you won’t be getting a bronze star (unless you really do do something wildly heroic) even if you hear and fire lots of shots in anger.

      Right after I got back from Iraq they started giving the Combat Action Badge to non-infantry people who were shot at and such. If I had gone a year later, I would have gotten one. And still could get one if I bothered to go back and get written statements from the people I served with. But what would be the point? Lots of people who did a hell of a lot more than I ever did got a lot less in the way of medals that I got. So why pile on?

  19. The only one of my medals that means anything to me is my purple heart. This said, I still don’t understand why we criminalize liars and fools.

    Put another way, I’ll be happy to smack a liar in the mouth if he lies about his service, but to prosecute him for that same lie is stupid

    1. This seems to me the best approach. And if such a case of assault came before a jury I was serving on, I would find enough doubt somewhere to send the chump packing.

  20. Valor inflation? It seems that every other obit for a dead veteran says he won the Bronze Star during WWII. I don’t think they gave them out like chocolate bars (though anyone who endured combat probably deserves one.)

    1. They give them out like chocolate bars to staff officers at division and above headquarters. It is disgraceful. Really, the Bonze Star is just a thanks for showing up medal now unless it has a “V” device. Then it is the real deal. I didn’t work for a higher HQ and thus didn’t get one. And frankly I am kind of glad. I would feel really weird wearing it in front of some Vietnam or World War II or Korea Vet who did God knows what and didn’t get so much as a coin.

      1. As someone on active duty, I would like to give my wholehearted support to the creation of the Bonze Star for just showing up.

        1. I know lots of people who got them in Iraq who were there for less than two months and never heard a shot fired in anger. I know one person who has one who never left Kuwait and another who was at CENTCOM in Quatar. I am sorry but I don’t see how that is not a “just showing up” medal. Nothing against those guys’ service. But I really don’t see how what they did is what they had in mind when they created the medal.

          1. Sometimes a unit is award a medal, so everyone in the unit gets it. I don’t remember if they do that with acts of valor or not.

            1. Sometimes they are. But not the Bronze Star. Entire units will get Presidential Unit Citations, but those are worn on the right not the left. And an entire unit will get a Combat Infantry Badge. What is funny about that is that two Captains can serve in a brigade headquarters doing very similar jobs and one captain will get a CIB (a very prized possession) because he has an infantry MOS and the other will not because he is Intel or supply or something.

              1. I once got an ARCOM. true story.

        2. With ‘Z’ device.

  21. Yeah, at least they weren’t getting blowjobs out of it. (See Barr’s essay on Genarlow Wilson.)

  22. Personally, I could care if somebody is such a pathetic loser they have to make shit up to get people to pay attention to them. Criminalizing it seems a bit much. While there are things you can say about military service that I will (and have) punched people for, lying about some award you never got isn’t on the list.

  23. Can truck nutz be considered stolen valor?

  24. Here’s Barr recently being really, really stupid about religion.

    http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-…..e-academy/

  25. I never thought Barr was lying about being a libertarian (because you get so many sweet perks, who wouldn’t lie about that?) I just though his past as a hideous, harmful Republican meant that I couldn’t reward him with my vote. He’s not an impressive guy in person, and he’s still not libertarian enough NOW.

    1. Good to know that there are still some people enforcing the Libertarian Purity Standard TM.

      1. Not a purity standard. Just a sense that someone whose done so much damage over a lifetime of public office shouldn’t be running for another one. I don’t support hara kiri, but penance by, say, ten years working in a soup kitchen working in a soup kitchen would be appropriate.

        At some point, if you’ve crashed 5 planes, you have to stop applying for pilot jobs, even if you’ve really truly figured out how the controls work this time.

      2. What Pendulum said. And it’s my vote, if it’s so God damn important, why does everybody tell me to compromise it all the time?

      3. What Pendulum said. And it’s my vote, if it’s so God damn important, why does everybody tell me to compromise it all the time?

  26. I don’t think Barr’s ever really been dishonest- he was a ’94 GOP conservative who over the course of the past decade transformed into something of a libertarian, if still decidedly more of a right-libertarian than even Ron Paul. That doesn’t mean he was the right choice for the LP- particularly being paired with that fool (and real “fake Libertarian”) Wayne Root. He’s even backpedaled some from the more libertarian stances he had to take to (barely) win the nomination. For example, just a few days ago he was back to beating up on the idea of Pagans in the military- http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-…..-academy/. Hardly a libertarian position.

  27. I know most of the fans of this site are government minimalists and there’s a need for that, but as a veteran and citizen and a practical person I’d like to point out a few things.

    First, the integrity of the medals system is integral to its value for morale purposes. The world is full of cynics and it provides them will vindication every day, but values such as honor, integrity, loyalty and others have a concrete reality in military life and allowing people to claim they were awarded honors they were not awarded does undermine military effectiveness.

    While theoretically I suppose one could run afoul of the law for claiming you had an Army Commendation Medal instead of an Army Achievement Medal, in reality it never comes to that. The fakers always claim some high medal such as the MOH or Silver Star and usually they keep inflating their medal count until they are caught.

    Yes, existing fraud laws may cover some of the fraud of false medal claims, but I don’t see the beef with taking into account the extra circumstances of false medal claims, especially when it concerns the two medals which often bring extra benefits such as the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart. These medals are among the most popular claimed by fakers.

    And some of the “fraud” involved in false medal claims is not strictly financial, but reputation. People win political office, get special treatment from businesses, earn extra credibility in the market place of ideas through these false claims.

    Why punish the legitimate winners of these accolades by allowing fakers to steal their honor? It’s all fine to be ivory tower idealists about free speech but the real effect of having no consequences for falsely claiming medals will be to taint the legitimate winners. If someone tells me she has a Purple Heart I can believe her. I don’t need to insult her sacrifice by asking her to prove it. Should I have to subject a man’s claim to that he was awarded the Medal of Honor to scrutiny because the government won’t stand behind the integrity of its awards system?

    When a government creates distinctions such as military ranks, awards, professional licenses, police authority, etc. then it has a legitimate interest in protecting the integrity of those distinctions. This interest is not merely the government’s, but its citizens’, as they go about their daily business relying on that information.

    I don’t have a First Amendment right to claim to be a police officer, a medical doctor or a Navy captain, even if I don’t defraud someone in the process. My claim erodes the trust that society needs to operate. When the blue light flashes behind my car I have to stop. I can’t be wondering if that’s a cop. That’s why many localities have laws restricting the lights you can have on your car? Should I have a First Amendment right to blue flashing lights?

    Mr. Barr has provided a much-needed voice for individual liberty, but I’m afraid he’s missing the forest for the trees on this issue.

    1. Re: “While theoretically I suppose one could run afoul of the law for claiming you had an Army Commendation Medal instead of an Army Achievement Medal,…”

      Exactly. And exactly why I agree with Bob Barr on this. Just lying about something (usually) is not, and should not be, a crime unless there’s something “extra” (lying to get a financial or sexual or other benefit for example). If at a cocktail party someone while drunk claims to have been awarded a bronze star with “V” instead of a bronze star (or something more innocuous; I’m a civilian), they have committed a crime. That’s ridiculous. I could see some prosecutors arguing (not sure about exact interpretation of the law) that e.g. even saying “I should have received the CIB” (or whatever) = attempted stolen valor = crime?

      Staying out of prison for merely stupid, not criminal, activity should not depend upon prosecutors “choosing” not to come after us…

      Incidentally, I’m actually not very libertarian, have military friends, etc., but freedom of speech, even when I object to it personally, consider it morally reprehensible, etc., is of paramount importance.

      1. “” should not be, a crime unless there’s something “extra” (lying to get a financial or sexual or other benefit for example). “””

        If we took that to heart, we would build prison walls around Captiol Hill.

      2. Of course, those in government don’t lie, they misspeak.

  28. Barr’s test as a liberatarian is not what he says or does now, it’s what he does when he’s in power.

    Everyone talks a good talk when they are not in office.

  29. If you’re one of those people who thought Bob Barr was just pretending to be a libertarian to win the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 2008, here’s one for ya…

    Let me guess, all the liberaltarians will now use this as an excuse for voting Obama.

  30. Many a time I’ve wanted to prosecute someone under the “Stolen Thunder Act”.

  31. Done and done!

    (no, wait, only done once so far, and that was enough.)

  32. In late 2006…former President Bush signed into law piece of legislation that goes far beyond even the extremely broad reach of the federal fraud statutes. Under this 2006 law, a person in the United States can now be indicted, convicted and sent to jail for simply lying about something ? not benefitting from it, not using a lie to take something from someone, but simply for telling a falsehood.

    This is not the end of it – next, the president (whoever turns out to be or maybe the current Pharaoh) will sign a law against telling the truth, especially if it is about the government.

    1. Bush already did that.

      If you are served with a National Security Letter, you are forbidden to tell anyone, including your lawyer that you received one.

      Judge Napalitano discusses it in this clip.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=7n2m-X7OIuY

  33. I was never a big fan of Barr when he was a congressman, but he has been an impressive former congressman, even if he looks a bit like a dork. Kind of like Jimmy Carter…Barr hit his stride only once he was out of office..his is of course absolutely correct on this one.

  34. Barr is a communist as-h—; it IS and SHOULD be a crime to lie about military service, when so many of our brave men and women have served and sacrificed. Until you can say you have been there, done that, you have no RIGHT (unless you are a piece of trash) to comment either way about it.

  35. The real point of military medals is NOT to honor the recipients, though that is a side benefit, but rather to encourage everyone else in the military to act a bit braver when it’s their turn to perform under fire.

    It’s an incentive for FUTURE acts of valor.

    And a token of official respect for whatever that might be worth.

    The Medal of Honor also confers several odd ball benefits such as the right to wear the uniform after you’ve left the service (under a much broader range of conditions than are allowed to other honorable retirees). Which brings up a situation where pretending to the award might be legitimately criminal: if you try wearing the uniform when you didn’t win the award you might be Impersonating.

  36. Can a lawyer give me tips on how to violate this law, publicly in a way I can get prosecuted? I want to do it for the lulz.

  37. The Honorary Badge of Military Merit

    “Should any who are not entitled these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished.”

    General George Washington, August 7, 1782

    I don’t think that this isn’t a Freedom of Speech issue.

  38. Big difference between “assum[ing] the badges” (i.e. wearing a fake badge/medal) and (merely) claiming to have a particular medal.

    Also, the 1782 speech predates the Bill of Rights, and even if it didn’t, just because a George Washington said it, doesn’t necessarily make it so, legally.

    Lastly, “Tim Elliot” I’m a civilian, and yes, I do have the right (morally and ethically, not just legally) to comment on this or any other issue. If you don’t like it, tough. Better yet, read the very interesting link posted by “Publilius” above…it’s a link to the website of a veteran, and a West Pointer, so you should have no cause to complain…

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