First, concussions and football. (See some our earlier coverage here, here.) The New York Times has a frightening front page story today about how the NFL seems to care more about “how much white can show on a player’s socks” than whether its players’ brains are being protected by adequate helmets. Not that we’re sure whether any helmet can do that. But clearly, more can be done.
Yet there’s some corrupting influences at play. First, NFL rules say only that helmets must be certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or Nocsae, whose “standards do not necessarily align with testing designed to simulate the collisions associated with concussions. This discrepancy, some observers say, could be likened to someone judging a modern car’s safety based only on its seat belts, with no extra credit given for models that also have air bags.” Not surprising given that Nocsae’s governing body is dominated by helmet manufacturers. Plus, there’s also the corrupting influence of the NFL’s deal with one of those manufacturers - Riddell - which makes the official NFL helmet at least until 2014.
Moving on to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and accompanying environmental disaster, which we have covered for a bit, we continue to ask this question: As bad as BP’s conduct has been, is there a more despicable creature in all this than Transocean – the oil rig owner?
We told you in 2010,
In an legal maneuver the U.S. Justice Department yesterday called simply unconscionable,” Transocean has asked a federal judge to apply a 159-year-old law to cap its liability at $27 million – essentially the costs of the sunken rig. AP reports, “If successful, Transocean Ltd. would be left with as much as $533 million in insurance money [which is] almost enough to cover the revenue the company was expecting from a three-year contract with BP PLC.”
Moving forward to now, the company recently won a federal court ruling that the company “is not liable for oil discharged below the surface of the water, effectively shielding it from billions of dollars of fines for environmental and economic damage to the Gulf Coast.” On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department and BP filed an appeal. Writes the Houston Chronicle,
While the filings with the 5th Circuit this week don't detail the legal issues, the Justice Department argued in the past that Transocean should be held liable for oil spilled under the water because it was an owner and operator of the drilling rig involved in the accident.
Finally, one of the most important civil justice issues today is the need to protect the independence of state judiciaries. Many state judges are elected, and national groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been dumping huge amounts of money into otherwise obscure judicial races, seeking to throw off the bench consumer-friendly judges, replacing them with judges who will answer to these corporate groups. In many states, these elections are non-partisan but voters often do not notice these races on otherwise partisan ballots. So here’s a wonderful Public Service Announcement about how voters can find these judicial races in non-partisan elections, and vote – courtesy of the West Wing!