Censored in 2002, Part II

by Tony Palmeri

From the February, 2003 edition of The Valley Scene

Last month, we identified half of the top 10 censored stories in Northeast Wisconsin. To recap: 10) Valley Legislator Obstructs Mental Health Parity, 9) Republican Party Protected From Scrutiny, 8) Mercy Medical Center Workers Try To Organize, 7) Losing Our Manufacturing Base: What Does It Mean? 6) The Buying Of Ken Harwood.

I encourage readers to get Project Censored's Censored 2003 (Seven Stories Press, 2002) for an enlightening examination of stories censored by the national press.

And the top five censored stories of 2002. Drum roll, please.

No. 5: The Experimental Attendance Association. Ask the average Northeast Wisconsin resident how many people visit the annual Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In each year and the response you'll get is "close to a million." The truth is that EAA attendance rarely exceeds 150,000 and is probably not even that high.

The inflated attendance figures released by EAA are the result of Enron-like calculation methods. If a Fly-In attendee buys four event passes, EAA counts him as four individuals. Clever, eh?

Mainstream media have enabled the EAA attendance charade for many years. Oshkosh writer Lee Baxandall tells the sad truth: "Making up attendance and income fantasies on this scale is deliberate, shameful and surely harmful. The voters and county and city officials were convinced that our tax dollars and merchants' funds can appropriately and wisely be put at the service of the touted, one-week-a-year miracle phenomenon, while the work of developing a viable county airport and economic and cultural plan could be downgraded. And Oshkosh became a backwater."

No. 4: Tax Incremental Finance Flimflam. In the mid-1970s, the state Legislature gave municipal governments the power to create tax incremental finance districts as a means of promoting redevelopment of blighted areas. The result has been a corporate welfare boondoggle that across the state has subsidized sprawl development and other projects never contemplated by the original TIF law.

Northeast Wisconsin media are incapable of producing an objective assessment of the success or failure of TIFs. What's needed is a comprehensive tax incidence study to determine the extent to which such schemes harm average taxpayers.

No. 3: Health Effects of PCBs. For many years cigarette manufacturers deflected criticism by obfuscating the effects of smoking. The industry still literally gets away with murder, but at least mass media have become better at presenting research on the effects of smoking.

Seven major paper companies are responsible for dumping polychlorinated biphenyls into the Fox River. As the tobacco companies minimized the impact of smoking, the paper industry does the same with PCBs, aided and abetted by media that do not provide complete and persistent coverage of a growing body of research demonstrating the health hazards associated with the toxin.

Recent peer-reviewed studies demonstrate links between PCBs and children's behavior, various types of cancers, infant brain development, and memory loss in adults. Summaries of these and other studies can be found on the Fox River Watch Web site (www.foxriverwatch.com).

No. 2: Who Owns The 8th Congressional District? According to the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org), U.S. Rep. Mark Green received almost $40,000 from Fox River PCB polluters for his 1998, 2000, and 2002 campaigns. During the same cycle, Green received more than $125,000 from insurance companies, some of which may be asked to cover portions of the PCB cleanup.

Green has also received major donations from investment firms tied to Fox River industries. The result? The Clean Water Action Council says, "Rep. Green has consistently defended the Fox River paper industry against enforcement of Superfund and Natural Resources Damage Assessment laws."

Remember Toby Roth? He represented the 8th CD for 18 years. Now a Washington lobbyist, Roth was recently paid almost $300,000 to lobby for Appleton Papers Inc. and the NCR Corp. on Superfund and Fox River Issues. The CRP says that Roth "sensitized" members of Congress on the "impact of federal and state plans to clean PCBs" from the Fox River.

No. 1: Governor's Race? What Governor's Race? With Wisconsin a national model of backroom politics, special interest budget-busting, and petty bipartisan bickering, the 2002 governor's race was the most important in the state's history. But for Northeast Wisconsin media, the race was business as usual.

By the time the primary season got into high gear, Republican Scott McCallum had managed to insult and divide local officials, sign on to a fraudulent campaign finance reform proposal, and advocate a shared revenue plan that would have devastated the Fox Valley. Does this sound like a candidate who should have received a primary-season free ride from the media? Nope, yet his Republican opponents Bill Lorge and George Pobuda were invisible.

In the case of Lorge this was especially obscene as not only did he have a respectable 10-year maverick voting record as a member of the Assembly, but also during those years had direct experience with battling Scott Jensen controlled caucus workers.

More tragically, even though Northeast Wisconsin was considered to be the election's "swing" region, mainstream media allowed all the major candidates to escape without facing any serious questions about our unique problems. Our region faces the prospect of a dramatic economic depression as we continue to lose our manufacturing base, yet not one candidate was forced to develop specific positions on the matter.

If you feel important stories are being censored by the mainstream press, write to the editor(s) and/or news director(s) and let them know!

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