Archive for the ‘Legal Affairs’ Category

A decision fraught with dangers

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Department of Defence has decided to change policy in order to allow women to serve on submarine crews. Unless stopped by legislation, it goes into effect in 30 days.

This is not, to my mind, a good idea. I served on a missile sub back in the 1970s, and I doubt that too many things have changed all that much. Most commentary on the issue has dealt with the close quarters and lack of privacy. I agree with those concerns – as a junior officer, I shared a stateroom with two other JOs. Most of the crew had only a curtain on their bunk to provide privacy. Those aren’t the only concerns, though, and I’d like to address some others.

Let’s start with health issues. The big one is, of course, pregnancy. Pregnant women may not serve in shipboard billets; they have to be assigned to shore duty. This causes resentment in men, because they end up serving longer tours at sea because shore billets are filled with pregnant women. It causes problems on shore, because up to 34% of the billets are filled with pregnant women who are unable to handle necessary duties.

Ship movements can be affected – women who become pregnant prior to a deployment must be replaced, and submarines aren’t assigned superfluous crew who can take over as last-minute replacements. When I injured my knee while we were tied up to the tender prior to a patrol, I was told by the doctor that if I weren’t on a submarine crew, he’d have put me into the hospital. He didn’t, because there was nobody to take my place on the patrol. The latest information I was able to find showed that in 2005, 14% of all women in the Navy were single mothers, and almost two-thirds of the pregnancies were unplanned. It seems obvious that single mothers aren’t easy to assign to sea duty, and single women aren’t easy to keep on sea duty.

Operational security can also be affected. Particularly with missile subs, the idea is to head out alone and hide as much as possible. Missiles are less effective as a deterrent if the sub that carries them can be found and sunk before it can launch them. Normally, it takes a severe medical emergency to get someone medevac’d from a missile sub. Would a woman whose pregnancy was discovered during a deployment be eligible for a medical evacuation?

This brings up legal issues related to health. The atmosphere on a submarine does not match the normal atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has a significant effect on blood chemistry; when I was on the sub, the CO2 scrubbers couldn’t keep the CO2 level anywhere near as low as it is in the general atmosphere. The excess CO2 went into solution in the bloodstream and formed carbolic acid, dropping blood pH like a rock. The Navy was just starting investigations of long-term health effects when I was serving, and I don’t know what, if anything, has been determined about them. I would not take odds against someone bringing suit against the Navy and citing these issues if her child was born with problems. Or claiming that exposure to radiation was the problem – everyone on a nuclear submarine is considered a radiation worker.

Women on submarines is an issue that’s come up before – this comment on a Metafilter thread brings up several issues. There are others that come to mind – in the Naval Aviation community, it’s generally considered that you can’t make flag rank without having served in a command billet at sea. One of the original reasons for women being assigned to sea duty was the difficulty in advancement to high rank without having served at sea. I’m unaware of any similar requirement to serve on a submarine, though, unless it’s to command a submarine group, so that shouldn’t be an issue here.

Even without considering submarine duty, women in the Navy recognize that there are problems with women in the Navy. Not with all women, but there are both good and bad performers of both sexes, and the accommodations that are made for women provide opportunities that some women will take advantage of to the detriment of others.

I think allowing women to serve on submarines is a bad idea, for several reasons. But what do I know? I’m a guy who felt that it was a mistake to let women into the Naval Academy. Just because at that time women weren’t allowed on sea duty at all (except on hospital ships) was surely no reason to prevent them from taking one of the limited slots available, was it?

Hoist by their own petard (I hope)

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The recording industry has long been pushing for incredibly punitive awards against people who download music. Well, now there is a lawsuit by the artists against the music companies that has the potential to damage their earnings severely. How severely? Try between $50 million and $6 billion severely.

Janis Ian wrote a widely-read article about song downloads in 2002. She was, and is, in favor of them. You should read the whole article; it’s very informative and insightful. Her comments with respect to her personal experiences with the record companies are pertinent to the lawsuit’s claims, to wit:

Again, from personal experience: in 37 years as a recording artist, I’ve created 25+ albums for major labels, and I’ve never once received a royalty check that didn’t show I owed them money.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Via The Devil’s Kitchen.

But will she be faithful?

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Life imitates art.

Miscellany 4

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Lots of miscellaneous stuff here today. I actually started the post yesterday, but my browser crashed. Good thing I’d saved a copy of the article-in-progress before that happened.

First, Everything You Need To Know About Human / Cat Relationships Summed Up In One Picture.

Need a laugh track? Perhaps something more versatile?

Guns are such horrible, evil, nasty things that in England, you can now be convicted and sent to jail for turning in a weapon someone discards on your property.

I can’t say that I listen to girl groups much (Värttinä is the only recent one that comes to mind, and given that they’ve released a 25th anniversary CD, aren’t they a “woman” group rather than a “girl” group?), but there are certainly some girls in girl groups that are really cute (perky brunette alert … yow!). It would have been an attractive dress even if someone hadn’t taken scissors to it.

Frankie Sandford

Worst storm of the year in England. I thought this photo was particularly impressive:

Newhaven lighthouse

I never realized that Charles Dickens based Ebenezer Scrooge on a real person.

You say you know a couple who’ve been together a long time? This long?

I knew there was a reason I didn’t like amusement park rides. Several years back, there was a major hailstorm in Denver (baseball-sized hail in some areas), and at least two employees at Elitch Gardens abandoned their stations, leaving people stuck on the rides. I guess the lesson here is never to get onto any ride that you can’t climb down from unassisted. Think anyone will let you practice?

Sure, deck your lower limbs in pants,
Yours are the legs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance –
Have you seen yourself retreating?
– Ogden Nash

This makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.

An explanation of computation theory for lawyers. I remember courses described as “Physics for Jocks,” but this isn’t the same sort of thing.

This sounds like a fun game, but I imagine, based on the name, that you’re supposed to play quietly.

Who owns you?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Currently in NewScientist, Katrina Voss argues that there is little intrinsic worth in a decoded genome, and that, should you get yours decoded, you should make it publicly available.

She mentions the potential for insurance companies to use this information when screening you, but says little about it. Most of the article relates to privacy issues, which I don’t see as the big problem, really. I think she’s unaware of or ignoring the big issue involved.

What I see as the problem is the fact that genes and gene sequences can be and have been patented. Usually, the patent is granted to the researchers who do the identification of the gene, and assigned to their employer, who may in turn license or sell it to others. The person or persons who provided the gene usually get nothing. Often, they don’t even know that portions of their genome have been patented.

There are several controversial issues involved in gene patents. The first is the question of whether it’s appropriate to even allow patents on them, since they occur in nature. The argument made in favor is that the gene may occur naturally, but the patent is granted for identifying its purpose and how to produce and use it. To me, an analogous situation would be allowing a patent on diamonds or sapphires, since they can be produced artificially and have identifiable uses.

Another issue is whether gene patents promote or inhibit advancements in the field. This is effectively the same argument that’s been going on over open-source software, so I won’t say much about it. Personally, I think the overall effect is inhibition, but it is an area where I doubt there’ll ever be full agreement. Overall, this issue is a matter of philosophy and beliefs.

There is at least one lawsuit currently in progress related to the use of gene patents.

Posting your genome to a publicly-available site may or may not be able to preclude the patenting of your genetic information (remember, the argument is that the patent is for identifying the purpose of the gene). If enough people post theirs, it may help to direct research efforts – the more common a gene sequence is, the more likely it is that a test or treatment based on it will be commercially viable – but it’s unlikely to solve any issues related to already-patented sequences.

This is scary

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Others have already written about problems with the Cash for Clunkers program.

Now The Anchoress points out a problem (video at link) with the website for the program: the click-through agreement to use the site notes that a computer used to access the site becomes the property of the federal government!

The actual language used is, “This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the U.S. Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.”

Is this a violation of the Fifth Amendment? I don’t see what the “public use” would be, and I’m unaware of any compensation. How about the Fourth Amendment?

True, it says, “When logged on,” as opposed to “Once logged on,” which implies that your computer is government property only while you’re on the site. However, is there a persistent state change anyway? Once your computer becomes a Federal computer system, does it automatically become a private computer again when you leave the site, or must you take explicit steps to make it a private system again?

If your computer belongs to the government, even if only for the time you’re using the site, they can install software onto it, can’t they? After all, it’s their computer … right? Keyloggers, spyware, and rootkits, anyone?

I’m not sure if I’m hoping that there is just another wet-behind-the-ears, out-of-control junior lawyer behind this, who will be reversed as soon as a grown-up finds out about it, or if this is actually a planned policy of the Obama administration. If the first is the case, then it’s evil, but more in the sense of “Obama’s people don’t have enough handle on what they’re doing to prevent evil from being done.” If it’s the second, then it’s EVIL – no ifs, ands, or buts.

How long before this language spreads to other government websites? Raise your hands, everybody who can guarantee that their computer has nothing on it that violates any regulation pertaining to use of government computers. And, given that information may be provided to officials of foreign agencies, guarantee that you won’t run afoul of laws in some other country.

You know, if we had actual journalists in the mainstream media, they’d be all over this like white on rice.

On the killing of politicians

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

I’ve been remiss in keeping my blogroll cleaned and updated, so I’ll be taking care of that soon. One of the sites going onto the list is summer patriot, winter soldier. I’m intrigued by his idea to bring civility back to politics by reinstating dueling. I think it might have the salutary effect he expects, which is why I don’t expect it to occur.

Another possibility, which I also don’t expect to occur, was postulated in the science fiction novel Lone Star Planet. The planet in question in this book has a justice system which has to answer the following questions when a politician is killed by a citizen: was the deceased a practicing politician, and if so, was the killing justified?

Just think how many fewer laws we’d have on the books if the Congressmen or Senators who introduced questionable bills had to worry about how strongly any citizen felt about their performance in office. In the book, politicians were allowed to arm and defend themselves; if you died while attempting to strike a blow for Liberty, well … too bad for you.

I think both measures together would be more effective than either would be, alone, but there are drawbacks that would have to be dealt with, somehow. The first measure would make people temper their language, but you’d have some people who would take unreasonable umbrage in an attempt to stifle speech. Currently, they use the courts.

The second measure would tend to keep politicians true to their oath of office. Well, it would if we still had a strong tradition of individualism in this country. What would happen now is bulletproof cars, underground parking, and legislative buildings closed to the public.

Not much difference from what it currently is, really. Ah, well. I can dream.

Long, but worth it

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Over at The Smallest Minority, Kevin has posted another of his überposts. This one is on the subject of culture – specifically, the differences in culture between the US and the UK as it relates to the concepts of acceptable self-defense, gun control, and crime. I won’t excerpt any of it here, but it’s definitely worth reading – he has numbers and quotes from pertinent studies to support his position.

I am woman, hear me … squeak?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

The feminist establishment has long been waging a war against men (after all, you have to work against an oppressor to become liberated, so men must oppressors if women need liberation), but it has now become absurd: Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred note the University of Connecticut police investigating an incident in which a man passed near a woman while walking down the street.

First of all, they were both walking on a public street. He passed within a few feet of her, but did not talk to her or make physical contact. What about the incident merits a police report? How does this woman expect to function if mere proximity to a male makes her call for the authorities?

Second, why wasn’t she laughed off by the authorities? He didn’t attack her, he didn’t follow her, he was just another pedestrian on the street. I’ve read about Driving While Black; this is Walking While Male, or maybe just Being Male.

She may have been afraid, but it sure doesn’t sound like he did anything illegal.

I don’t often do political posts, but …

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

… things that have been bothering me have been piling up:

What’s Obama’s political connection to Kenya and Raila Odinga?

Were you aware that besides being the most liberal member of the Senate, Obama originally reached office in Illinois as a socialist? That makes sense, given his answer to Joe the Plumber. Most people whose comments I’ve seen key on the “spread the wealth” portion of the answer, which definitely shows a socialist viewpoint, but the more telling portion, to me, is the first part, “I don’t want to punish your success, but …” Phrased in that manner, it means to me that Barack Obama recognizes and acknowledges that he is, indeed, planning to punish success.

And the incomparable Bill Whittle talks about Obama’s statement in the second debate that he believes that health care is a right (I’ve linked to Bill’s site, rather than directly to the video – he has many other things worth your time).

By the way, Joe the Plumber (the real one, not the archetype) is now the subject of attacks from Obama supporters. There’s a good roundup of this at Instapundit. And he’s not the only one running afoul of Obama supporters.

Vote fraud is a significant problem in this election. And Democrats in office are doing their part to abet the fraud, even to the extent of appealing to the Supreme Court to be allowed to continue to compromise the election.

I’ll let a lawyer speak to the validity of the recent ethics charges against Sarah Palin.

That’s probably more than enough for now. I know I’ve worked off my irritation to the point that I’m not going to look up any more things to add at this time. And I haven’t even started on Obama’s campaign finance shenanigans!