WILLIAMSTOWN — The airwaves, particularly those ridden by advertising, seem to be especially busy this fall.
It’s not surprising: Midterm congressional and state elections are Nov. 8, and slings and arrows have been swinging and flying for months with steadily increasing frequency and rhetorical toxicity.
The tone of most of the political ads — regardless of the partisan affiliations of their sponsors — ranges from mildly snarky to thoroughly nasty. They’re certainly attention-getters.
No complaints about these daily doses of vivid verbiage will be heard from this department for two reasons: First, they depict the First Amendment at work; they may be viewed as an ingredient of democracy’s energy drink. Second, ad revenue supports news gathering and reporting, which are tools essential to the full exercise of the First Amendment. (It also pays some bills around here.)
This year, it’s especially important for voters to shut out all the noise for long enough to consider whether promises of lower crime rates, prices and taxes, for example, should be — never mind could be — fulfilled at the cost of diluting freedom.
Benjamin Franklin, as usual, had it right: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Another vocal tenant of advertising’s Hall of Wonders is the insurance industry, which shouts out the annual “window” for Medicare enrollment by incessantly hawking Medicare Advantage plans with the help of the usual suspects. One such, the mule-stubborn tough customer “Martha,” is back again this year, sporting her trademark outsized eyewear.
Again, for the reasons stated above, no complaints. Besides, there’s always the “mute” button.
Then there’s Camp Lejeune.
A visitor, after viewing a TV ad about the filing of claims for compensation for human exposure to carcinogenic substances at the North Carolina Marine base from 1953 to 1987, wondered aloud about the details.
To him, the ads seemed to be making much more ado about personal injury compensation than he was used to witnessing and he wondered why. Full disclosure: He wasn’t alone.
Last August, President Joe Biden signed into law the “Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.” A summary from The Federalist Society states that “the law permits military veterans to bring civil lawsuits against the U.S. government for harm caused by at least 30 days of exposure (including in-utero exposure) to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune from Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987.”
The new law prohibits the government from asserting immunity that would be available otherwise. It also overrides North Carolina’s “statute of repose,” which bars civil claims after 10 years. Representation by a lawyer is not required to file a claim.
“Punitive damages are not available for claims brought under the Act, and awards will be offset by the amount of any disability award, payment or benefit received by the claimant from any program administered by [government], including Medicare or Medicaid,” reads the society’s summary.
The contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune has been termed by some scientists as the “worst” such occurrence in American history, reads William R. Levesque’s report in The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times of Oct. 18, 2009.
The EPA began investigating the case in the 1980s, work that resulted in the declaration of the camp as a Superfund site in 1989.
“The Corps says it disposed of wastes in those early years (the 1970s) in ways consistent with the common practices at the time,” Levesque’s report states. “Records show the Marines dumped oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains. Potentially radioactive materials were buried, including carcasses of dogs used in testing. The camp even maintained a day care in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were mixed and stored.”
Other “significant” sources of contamination included a nearby dry-cleaning business that for years dumped into drains wastewater laden with chemicals used in dry-cleaning, Levesque wrote. “Those included tetrachloroethylene (“perc”) or PCE, a suspected carcinogen.”
Prolonged exposure to the wastes increases the risk of development of more than a dozen cancers. One estimate placed the anticipated value of a single award for moderately severe results of exposure at $500,000. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the cost of paying benefits from 2022 to 2031 will be $6.1 billion.