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October 2010 Archives

Who's responsible for all these "bad" campaign spots on TV?

Several months ago I posted on what I believed to be the certain outcome of the United States Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (see blog posting of May 12, 2010). In that post I did an analysis of the Court's ruling and my opinion of its flawed thinking in extending first amendment rights to campaign financing by corporations. My prediction was that the next election cycle (this one) would unleash the floodgates of unbridled corporate campaign spending. I predicted that campaign television advertising of the past would pale in comparison to the new future created by the Citizens United monster. Well - was I right? The truth is it didn't take rocket science brain power to figure this one out, and I certainly wasn't the first one to say it. But, now is the reality. I counted 6 campaign spots in a row last night. Each one seemed more negative than the other. It wouldn't bother me quite as much if any of them had any real content. Who writes these things? They are all badly scripted and written by angry people who seem to be inciting anger in the viewer.  How is anger productive to the process of finding solutions to our grave problems? I don't' think they have solutions and maybe that's the message. Solutions to most complicated problems often occur as the result of cooperation and team work. If there's one thing I learned from playing sports and being in the military and that is - the team always comes first. Teams that are having losing season can often blame lack of leadership and team attitude to their demise. Sometimes even with good leadership players are hung-up in their own self-interest and make the problem worse. Just an observation.  The money financing these negative campaigns is often difficult to trace. Many of the TV spots are produced and paid for by Political Action Committees (PACs). PACs do not have to report the names of the individuals or corporations that fund their efforts. Many PACs have very innocuous names like, The Club for Growth, which is a conservative Republican based PAC. Non PAC contributors like you and me are limited in how much we can contribute to a particular candidate but not PACs. Candidates must report the names of those who contribute above a certain amount but not the names of the PAC contributors. I like many of colleagues contribute to PACs who support the rights of our clients. PACs are not necessarily a bad thing but without regulation they can be used by special interest groups who are much better financed to promote their own self interest. We need real campaign reform and we need the Supreme Court to recognize that people are not the same as corporations whose resources are far greater than mine and yours. Dennis F Feeley    

football player concussion injury controversy escalates

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the seriousness of the increased incidents of concussions to football players. The topic continues to receive much needed attention by the media. Yesterday, both the New York Times   click here and the Morning Call click here expanded the dialogue with an analysis of the helmet industry and the committee which sets the standards for athletic equipment known as Nocsae.  Joe Paterno also weighed in on the issue this week on a Big Ten coaches telephone conference. You may know that last week there was another serious spinal injury to a Rutgers player and injuries to 4 NFL players including DeSean Jackson of the Eagles.  Nocsae is a volunteer organization largely funded by the helmet industry ( is that a little like the wolf guarding the hen house?). The helmets our kids are wearing bear the Nocsae seal of approval. The only existing test to which helmets are subjected is a crash test of sorts to see if the helmet cracks upon impact. In other words they are concerned only with fractured skulls and not concussions. Everyone would agree fractured skulls are a bad thing but so are concussions.        The design being used by most companies is over 30 years old. Concussion prevention was not - and is not - incorporated into these designs. In fairness to the industry there are limited studies addressing the physical forces which cause concussion during contact in football. Well, why isn't the helmet industry and Nocsae involved in these studies? Don't they want to make helmets safer and reduce the over 100,000 concussions that were reported last year to high school football player? The answer is - No. They are afraid of liability law suits. In other words - they say that if they try and make helmets more protective of concussions but aren't completely successful then lawyers will sue them. Well it doesn't work that way. If you claim that your helmets prevent concussions and market it that way, then yes you may be exposed, but that doesn't mean that research should stop. It doesn't mean that new designs shouldn't be tried as long as we don't go backwards then forward progress should be marked by the numbers of concussions that go down each year. Let's advance the cause. There is no hard and fast life expectancy for a football helmet. Nocsae suggests that after 10 years they should be taken out of service but over a hundred thousand kids are wearing helmets that are "too old to provide adequate protection". Most schools send their helmets to various companies for "reconditioning" every few years.  They shine em up and replace the broken or missing parts and drop them from 60 inches to see if they crack. No analysis is done to see if the helmet is just plain worn out.   Joe Paterno has been advocating the removal of faceguards from helmets for over 15 years. He believes that kids are leading into tackles and blocks with their heads rather than their shoulders. If you remove the faceguard they will be more likely to use their shoulders and body. Better to have a broken jaw or cracked tooth then in a wheel chair for the rest of your life. Maybe JoPa is right - but the truth is, and everyone agrees, that physical training and advanced tackling techniques have not kept pace with the protective gear that football players wear to protect their head. Maybe the car racing industry is a good example. As cars got faster crash protection kept pace. Why can't we do the same with football? Dennis F Feeley

what to do if your child is being bullied in school

Bullying has received a great deal of media coverage in the last couple of weeks. Mostly because of the horrific suicide involving a young junior high school boy who took his own life because he could no longer deal with the abuse he was receiving in school. This, of course, is not a new story and all of us have our own personal memories of being bullied or seeing others bullied when we were in school.  How could this happen in an education system like ours? Those of us with children wonder if they may be the victim of this terrible nightmare - and then the fear that if they are being bullied that they are too fearful to tell even their parents. Why it happens must be the result of deep, underlying fears and insecurities that are developed during the formative child years.  What I know from my own experience in talking with parents of children who have been bullied is the belief that their child's abuse is not being taken seriously by the school or that they just don't believe it's happening. Let's start with a very important premise. Schools in the state of Pennsylvania are protected by a very broad blanket of immunity. That means that even if a teacher or administrator is negligent in their supervisory capacity they are - yes - immune from legal action. There is a very good reason for this immunity protection. We don't want our teachers to be constantly fearful that they may be sued by a disgruntled parent who believes that their child didn't get the grade he/she should have or gets hurt during a school activity. However, the flip side is that they know they are protected by statute and so - well you draw your own conclusions. Lawyers who represent injured people know that accountability is the only effective way to insure diligence and prevent negligent conduct.  It's a hard and true fact that people respond to consequences and one of them is being sued or losing their job. So, how can you get accountability from the teachers, the school board or the superintendent? One thing we know for sure is that school boards are elected and teachers are accountable to them.  First, do not, at the cost of losing your credibility, lose your cool. These people are after all educators and respond much better to "facts". Document and record everything. Dates, times, to whom you spoke and what was said. After each conversation send a confirmation of the discussion to the teacher or principal. Summarize your concerns and their response. As a lawyer, I know that nothing gets people's attention more than a record of events. Always ask for a meeting with the teacher and or the principal. Each time your child reports an incident mark it on a calendar with all of the pertinent information. It should be the school's job to contact the parents of the bully or bullies. If no action is forthcoming then consider contact with the offending child's parent - but this must done in an appropriate way. Tempers can flare and hard lines drawn in the sand. I would suggest using a lawyer or some other representative from the community such as a clergyman. Make no mistake. Bullying can cause permanent and consequential behavior problems which some children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I always recommend counseling and we have many fine psychologists in the Valley who work with children with these emotional issues. Unfortunately, this conduct is much more prevalent they we would like to think.  Fighting back should be done through legal process and not physically. Dennis F Feeley

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