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January 08, 2006

Credibility And How To Lose It

I'd heard, kind of, about the left's allegation about "defective" body armor being sold by "rightwing warprofiteer defense contractors."

Now, the thing is, if this were a serious allegation, conservatives would be outraged about it. Believe it or not, liberals, we actually do care that our boys are equipped with the best weapons and armor that money can buy.

But I never really pursued this story, because the left has so little credibility at this point that I figured they were making a big deal out of something fairly trivial.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who cried wolf. Perhaps you may have heard of him. There were books and cartoons about him and everything.

Anyway, thanks to a links found in the comments, I can present you with this "scandal," as noted by one of the Daily Kos' "diarists."

From Long Island Business News:

The Army and Marine Corps have recalled about 18,000 bullet-resistant vests produced by DHB Industries' Point Blank Body Armor Inc. subsidiary, according to wire reports.

Reuters said that the Army and Marine Corps announced the recall on Thursday. The Army recalled 8,083 vests out of a total of 873,000 it has used in the field. The Marine Corp recalled 10,342 out of about 191,000 being used.

DHB did not return two calls to its offices seeking comment about this recall. The Marines already recalled 5,000 vests made by Point Blank in May, Reuters said.

The wire service indicated that the military said vests were being recalled because they fell short of specifications set for the equipment.

And from Newsday:

"The recall comes as a result of an operational test and evaluation surveillance study that revealed that some of the lots of outer tactical vests produced may not meet specifications," said Marine Maj. Gabrielle Chapin.

In a statement, Larry Ellis, DHB's president, said that, "To our knowledge, none of the hundreds of thousands of outer tactical vests that Point Blank has manufactured have failed in the field - an extraordinary achievement. All testing procedures for these vests were approved by, and conducted under the close supervision of the U.S. government."

The Army recalled 8,083 vests dating from 1999 to 2001. The Marines recalled 10,342 dating from 2000 and 2001. Military officials said, however, that the recalled vests were a fraction of the approximately 181,000 vests that have been fielded.

The vests were designed to protect against 9 mm pistol rounds and some fragmentation threats, the Pentagon has said. Pentagon officials said that while the vests may have failed to meet specifications in tests, they did not fall short of the requirements for the threat they were designed to repel.

Form your own conclusions. The charge, in short, is that 10% of this company's armor jackets failed to meet the Pentagon's specifications and were recalled -- meaning, presumably, the company in question is not paid for them, but has to produce armor that meets specifications if they want to keep their payment.

Not that the armor failed in combat-- that it failed to meet specification, which is a higher threshhold. Of course, I'd like everything that comes out of a factory to meet specifications, but not even the Japanese manage that, and I imagine it's doubly hard when production gets ramped up for quick manufacture (which I would guess, but do not know for a fact, happened here).

It's not that the left shouldn't point stuff like this out. In fairness, the right generally doesn't highlight stories like this, and we depend, sort of, on the left to bring them to our attention.

But... perhaps the left would get more attention from the right, and the general public, if they were more reasonable in their conclusions, less shrill in their attacks, less conspiratorially-minded in their theses?

It has been noted too many times to bother doing so again, but I'll bother anyway: a correctly functioning politics requires two serious parties. Attack and defense and counterattack are all part of the crucial business of the marketplace of ideas. But when one party is simply not serious, its claims get dismissed, sometimes a little too quickly, and the marketplace of ideas becomes somewhat dysfunctional.

The left will undoubtedly uncover real abuses and real outrages. They already have, of course -- it was the left shouting for months about Jack Abramoff, whereas many on the right are just now getting up to speed on the issue.

But honestly: the left will find the public more receptive to their genuine discoveries of malfeasance, incompetence, and outright criminality if they are more discriminating about what they choose to shout about. Some things are worth shouting about; some things are worth merely noting, perhaps with a bit of snideness, but not with the amps perpetually turned up to 11. And not everything should or can be connected to the left's central complaint that George Walker Bush is the Beast of the Apocalypse.

The Beast of the Apocalypse, incidentaly, isn't George W. Bush. It's Fred "Hunter" Dryer. Trust me on this; I have my sources.

PS: I don't think it really helps to tie this story to the CEO of the company's lavish $10 million Bat Mitzvah for his daughter, either. Yes, it's excessive. Yes, it's tacky. Yes, it's conspicuous consumerism, or perhaps conspicuous congregationalism, at its most egregious.

But the injection of the standard leftist template of "rich imperial plutocrats having too much fun while you slave as trog mindthralls in the ultracobalt mines of Rigellus-7," plus some not-so-stealth anti-semitism, hardly helps non-leftists take the story more seriously.

A strong point, as they say, is not aided by the indiscriminate inclusion of weak points.

The Bat Mitzvah itself was noted on this site as being, well, in bad taste. But I'm not sure I comprehend how this guy's poor judgment in thoroughly spoiling his daughter really has much at all to do with the issue of defective armor.

Yes, he got rich by selling hundreds of thousands of units of expensive, high-tech body armor. What the hell did you expect? Did you think this stuff was chiefly made by independent mom & pop operations who are suffering due to unfair competition with the Walmarts of Weapons Tech?

"Rich defense contractors" needs to be eliminated from the left's active vocabulary. Have you ever heard of a poor defense contractor? When you get a contract with the world's biggest single purchaser -- the US government -- for large numbers of expensive products bought from a small pool of potential of manufacturers (due to both the scale of operations required and security and quality screening), it's not likely you're a pauper. And you certainly won't be a pauper once those crazy Pentagon-money checks start coming in.

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posted by Ace at 11:21 AM

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