The Argument For Bigger Government Control Of Our Lives: Chapter 2

In my continuing quest to bring you proof as to why we should let the government control our lives in every way–I present Chapter 2: “Earmarks, Also Known as Kickbacks” 

 Here is another example of how the government works just like a typical Free Enterprise market.  The Seattle Times reports the following in a headline entitled, “$4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted:”  (link is: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003948586_favorfactory14m.html )

 Earmarks are federal dollars that members of Congress dole out to favor seekers — often campaign donors. In the process, lawmakers advocate for the companies, helping them bypass the normal system of evaluation and competition.  This can result in earmarks that are wasteful or potentially harmful….

 In June 2005, Rep. Wu of Oregon arrived in Iraq and handed out free T-shirts to Marines. He was promoting the wares of InSport, a Portland-area company that makes fast-drying polyester shirts.  Earlier that year, Wu and other Northwest lawmakers got a $2 million earmark in the defense bill to sell T-shirts to the Marines. Wu said the shirts would be far more comfortable than the cotton ones the Marines wore under body armor.  But there was a big problem with these T-shirts, a problem encountered in the deserts of Iraq and in 1982 during the Falklands invasion.

Polyester clothing melts in intense heat, adhering to the skin. “This essentially creates a second skin and can lead to horrific, disfiguring burns,” said Capt. Lynn E. Welling, the 1st Marine Logistics Group head surgeon, who conducted research in Iraq in early 2006.

Months after Wu’s visit, a Marine wearing a polyester T-shirt was riding in an armored vehicle in Iraq when a bomb hidden on the road exploded. Even though the Marine wore a protective vest, the shirt melted in the explosion, contributing to severe burns over 70 percent of his body. Doctors had to extract the shirt’s remains from the Marine’s torso.

In April 2006, the Marines banned polyester T-shirts for use in combat or anywhere outside the protected “Green Zone” bases.  But in July, because of Wu’s earmark, the Marines announced the purchase of 87,000 of the banned polyester T-shirts, along with 11,000 T-shirts with fire-resistant sleeves. None was allowed in battle, the Marines said.

David Costello, a lobbyist for InSport, said that when InSport and Wu sought the earmark, the company thought the troops’ body armor would prevent the shirts from melting. Once the Marines banned these kinds of shirts, they were instead used for training.

Wu’s spokeswoman said the Marines were happy to have funds for the shirts, citing a thank-you letter from the Secretary of the Navy that came a month before the ban.  Even after the ban, Wu inserted another $1 million earmark in the next defense bill to make the Marines buy the InSport shirts again, noting that the company was working to develop a heat-resistant shirt for combat use.  The Marines instead used that money to buy flame-resistant fleece garments from InSport.  Executives of InSport and its owner, Vital Apparel, donated $6,100 to Wu’s campaign in a single day at the end of the earmark “season.”

The day after the bill passed on Sept. 29, 2006, one executive gave another $750 to Wu. Two others followed with identical donations within three weeks.  But by then, the Marine Corps had done months of testing to find the best fire-resistant T-shirts. It selected two shirts, one made by Potomac Field Gear, the other by Danskin, according to the Marines.  InSport’s T-shirt — even its new fire-resistant version — still can’t be used in combat, said 1st Lt. Geraldine Carey of the Marine Corps Systems Command.

 So…a Portland Company got one of Oregon’s State Representatives to promote the use and purchase of their T-shirts for the military in Iraq and the Representative received some hefty donations to his campaign.  Well, I’m sorry, I just don’t see the connection.  What is really at work here is a diabolical plan to bring the troops home by the Democratic Representative.  If the troops wear the T-Shirts and then get burned from the melted fabric, they will have to come home due to injury.  Brilliant!

I shouldn’t be so hard on Rep. Wu, after all, what he is doing is no different that what I do here in Houston.  I have some local businesses here that like to use my services to ensure that they don’t get bothered by crime or lawsuits or other such silliness.  So for a fee (say 30-40% of their profits each month) I make sure that they are well protected.  My name is Tony Soprano-Wu.

 -Murphy

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