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Florida Maritime Accident Lawyer

editor photo

Editor: Gabrielle D'Alemberte
Profession: Florida Maritime Attorney

August 31, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Proposed "Gainful Employment" Rules Would Threatend For Profit Law Schools

Category: Politics and Government

As some of you know, the federal government has had a problem with vocational schools which lure in students, get them to take on high levels of student loan debt, and then turn them out into the job market with few prospects for employment.

The Department of Education has proposed rules which it calls "Gainful Employment" Rules which are meant to curb this process, but which, because of their mechanical application, threaten for profit law schools as well. As most lawyers and doctors know, young lawyers and doctors don't make a lot of money their first few years out of law school or medical school. During those years they are serving their "apprenticeships." The financial rewards don't become apparent until later.

The DOE rules require virtually immediate success, just as one might attain graduating from welding school, truck driving school, or computer/IT school. Applying the same rules to law schools and medical schools demonstrates the "one-size-fits-all" mentality of many governmental approaches to problem solving. It is one of the inherent problems which centralized governments---they are insensitive to local or in this case special case needs.

For those of you interested, here is a summary of the proposed rules:

Continue reading "Proposed "Gainful Employment" Rules Would Threatend For Profit Law Schools "

August 10, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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FINREG: Boob Bait for Bubbas

Category: Politics and Government

The Democrats in Congress recently passed a financial regulation bill which they call "FINREG" which they say was designed to prevent another mortgage meltdown of the type that devastated the nation's retiree plans and collapsed the real estate market, plunging the nation into recession. The plan is reminiscent of Bill Clinton's 1992 pledge to "reform welfare as we know it." Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called Clinton's pledge "Boob Bait for Bubbas." FINREG is more of the same.


Continue reading "FINREG: Boob Bait for Bubbas"

August 07, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Should Hillary Run? Be Careful What You Wish For.

Category: Politics and Government

I've heard it over and over again: "If Hillary runs against Obama, I'll vote for her in a heartbeat." We all need to think about that for a moment.

The Supreme Court is now balanced with four conservatives, four liberals, and a swing vote, Justice Kennedy. With Justice Stevens retiring, the oldest sitting justice is Justice Scalia. He was born in 1936, which now makes him 74 years old. In 2004 he will be 76. Just as importantly, he was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He has been on the Supreme Court for 24 years, almost as long as I've been a lawyer.

Everyone is entitled to retire and spend some time with their loved ones. Justice Scalia is no different. He can probably hold out another 2 1/2 years until Obama's first term is over before retiring. If a Republican defeats Obama, then he can do so and another conservative will be appointed to fill his seat. But if Hillary defeats Obama in a contested Democrat primary for President, and then wins the Presidency, which she could, the calculus changes.

Continue reading "Should Hillary Run? Be Careful What You Wish For."

August 04, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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What Do the Words "and Subject to the Jurisdiction Thereof" Mean?

Category: Politics and Government

After the Civil War Congress sort-of passed the 14th Amendment. The reason I say "sort-of" is explained by the Utah Supreme Court in Dyett vs. Turner, 439 Pacific 266 (1968). However, let's put that question aside for now, accept that the 14th Amendment, regardless of the flaws in its enactment, is the law of the land. Let's focus for a minute on the first sentence which says:

"all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

It is a fundamental principle of statutory and constitutional construction that all of the words in a statute have meaning. Therefore, the words "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" must have been inserted for some purpose. Some commentators have said that "everyone on U.S. soil is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and therefor everyone born in the United States is a U.S. citizen." If that were true, then the word "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" would be meaningless surplus language.

Continue reading "What Do the Words "and Subject to the Jurisdiction Thereof" Mean?"

August 03, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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How Do You Shop for a Judge?

Category: Politics and Government

If you were in the Department of Justice, and were assigned to a controversial case with national implications, you would want a friendly judge, wouldn't you? If you were, for example, Eric Holder, you'd want to make sure that your judge was "on the team." What if you were the ACLU, or another alleged "civil rights" group. You wouldn't want to risk getting some Republican judge who might rule against you, but how do you do it? Judge shopping is unethical. Every lawyer knows that. Cases must be assigned randomly, and you're not permitted to pick the judge who hears your case---theoretically, at least. But is there a way around that rule?

Let me just run this by you. What if you got a straw-man to file the exact same case before you filed the DOJ case? If you liked the judge, the DOJ could simply file its case and ask to be transferred to the judge who is handling the straw-man's case, and no one would ever have to know.

What if the straw-man drew a Republican judge? Well, the straw-man could simply dismiss his case. Whoever filed next, the next straw-man for example, could re-file and a new lottery would be held for a new judge (unless someone cried "foul" of course).

Using successive straw-men, the DOJ could effectively choose which judge would hear their case. Do they ever do that? Well, let me let you decide.

Continue reading "How Do You Shop for a Judge?"

August 01, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Preemption of Arizona Immigration Act

Category: Politics and Government

On July 28, 2010 District Judge Susan Bolton, a Clinton appointee to the federal bench, entered an order enjoining the State of Arizona from enforcing portions of its state law requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people who they investigate or arrest for other crimes. The basis for the order was the federal doctrine of preemption.

The Arizona Legislature based its statute upon a DOJ memo by Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Att'y Gen entitled "Non-preemption of the authority of state and local law enforcement officials to arrest aliens for immigration violations..." Based upon that memo, the legislature felt that it had a good basis for passing the Act.

Continue reading "Preemption of Arizona Immigration Act"

July 28, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Terrorists Hit Japanese Tanker In Straits of Hormuz

Category: Safety at Sea

Authorities in the Persian Gulf are playing down the fact that the Japanese oil tanker M. Star was struck in its starboard quarter by some type of explosive device on July 28th. They have attempted to attribute the blast to a "rogue wave" or "earthquake damage" but the evidence from the photos of the vessel suggest that the damage was caused by a blast from an explosive device.

The uniform rectangular indentation, more severe at the waterline and decreasing in severity as the indentation gets higher, conforms to a blast pattern with the center of the explosive at the waterline, as if in a small boat. The damage is limited to the area between three frames. Both forward and aft of those three frames there is no deformation of the shell plating. There are no rogue waves which are so narrow.

In the bombing of the USS Cole the force of the explosion actually blasted through the shell plating, which provided a release for the blast pattern, into the hull. Considering the thickness of the hull of the USS Cole, the explosive used in that case may have been a shaped charge developed by an expert.

The blast pattern on the M. Star is diffuse, suggesting that this was a lower yield explosion and a unshaped charge, most likely produced by a more amateur bomber, and potentially one bent on suicide.

See photos at The Washington Post.

July 28, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Destin Man Faces 45 Years in Prison on BUI Charges

Category: Boating Accidents

A jury in the Florida Panhandle has found Augusta Frederick Kennedy guilty of 3 counts of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) manslaughter. He also faces 5 misdemeanor charges related to the crash. At sentencing he could face up to 45 years in prison.

The accident occurred on September 4, 2009 in the Intracoastal Waterway near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The USCG said Kennedy's blood-alcohol level was 0.19%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08%, and that he was doing 22 knots at the time that his vessel collided with another. That boat was carrying 4 people, 3 of whom were killed. The three people killed were the mother, father, and aunt of the operator of the boat.

July 23, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Seaman Falls, Employer Denies Medical Care because he is HIV+

Category: Marine Construction & Dredging

In one of the more bizarre cases concerning the denial of maintenance and cure, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has increased a seaman's award against Weeks Marine and Atlantic Soundings after those companies refused to provide the seaman with medical care because he was HIV positive.

"Weeks and Atlantic.....argue that Everett's [the seaman] failure to disclose his status as HIV positive should bar any award." The Court found that the argument was so silly that "...we find that it would waste judicial resources to write a lengthy opinion." The court went on to find that "the [district] court erred in reducing Everett's cure award for his contributory negligence, since "a seaman's negligence does not negate a shipowner's duty to pay maintenance and cure.....Consequently, the district court's limitation of its cure award to $5,437.40 was erroneous; instead, Everett is entitled to cure award of $6,796.75, without reduction for his contributory negligence.

In my opinion the courts should have awarded Everett punitive damages.

The full opinion is at EVERETT v. ATLANTIC SOUNDING COMPANY, INC., No. 09-30622 (5th Cir. 2010)

July 14, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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It's Time to Remove the Word "Indivisible" from the Pledge of Allegiance

Category: Politics and Government

Each day millions of American school children robotically repeat the words:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Indivisibility is an aspiration, it is not principle of law. The nation can be divided.

The pledge opens the sessions of Congress, city councils, and other government bodies throughout the country. Because the pledge is so common, many believe that the United States are truly "indivisible" and that as a matter of law, the country cannot split off a State from itself, and a State cannot secede from the union without provoking a war. Some historians even say that the lesson of the Civil War was that the country can never be divided. Constitutionally, that is untrue.

Continue reading "It's Time to Remove the Word "Indivisible" from the Pledge of Allegiance"

July 12, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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"Professor Sullivan, since I think global warming is a hoax, it wont hurt me, will it?"

Category: Global Climate Change

Let's put aside for a moment the question of whether or not climate change is real or it is a hoax. (For the record, I have drunk the Kool-Aid. I believe in global climate change and I think it's going to be serious.).

Whether you believe in GCC or not, you should believe in cap and trade, which is coming.

Continue reading ""Professor Sullivan, since I think global warming is a hoax, it wont hurt me, will it?""

July 10, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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United States of America v Arizona

Category: Politics and Government

The Department of Justice has finally sued the State of Arizona seeking to strike down Arizona SB1070 also known as the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act." The DOJ has stated three primary clauses of the Constitution which it asserts supports its position: The Supremacy Clause, The Commerce Clause, and the Doctrine of Federal Preemption.

The Position of the United States is that SB0170 is unconstitutional because it restricts the right of undocumented aliens to move freely around the county: [SB0170] restricts the interstate movement of aliens in a manner that is prohibited by Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution.

The Act basically provides:

A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY MAY SECURELY TRANSPORT AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES AND WHO IS IN THE AGENCY'S CUSTODY TO A FEDERAL FACILITY IN THIS STATE OR TO ANY OTHER POINT OF TRANSFER INTO FEDERAL CUSTODY THAT IS OUTSIDE THE
JURISDICTION OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.

Continue reading "United States of America v Arizona"

July 07, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Solar Powered Schools

Category: Global Climate Change

A letter writer to the Florida Times Union recently suggested that all schools be electrified with solar power. That letter caused me to calculate whether it made good sense.

Let's assume that the average school has a monthly electrical usage of 400,000 KWh and that its peak power demand at noon on a hot day is about 500 KW. In order to supply that peak power, the school would need solar panels costing about $235,000.


Continue reading "Solar Powered Schools"

July 05, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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July 4th Boating Incident at New Smyrna Beach Kills 2 adults

Continue reading "July 4th Boating Incident at New Smyrna Beach Kills 2 adults"

July 05, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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It's time to Reconsider Lengthy Prison Sentences

Category: Politics and Government

Last week two African-American teenagers in Jacksonville, Florida were sentenced to prison for robbing, stabbing and killing Grady Williamson, a 49 year old African-American man who, as it turns out, had only $3 in his pockets. I am glad they were caught, prosecuted and sentenced to prison, but in my opinion, the 25 and 30 year prison terms given the two young men is too severe. Fifteen years would have been a sufficiently long prison term.

Continue reading "It's time to Reconsider Lengthy Prison Sentences"

July 04, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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"Professor Sullivan, I just shot an intruder. What should I do?" Rule #1.

Category: Politics and Government

With the Supreme Court's decision in MacDonald v City of Chicago, many people will go out and purchase their first gun, and lets face it, many criminals who previously burglarized homes with impunity will now be getting shot.
Here are some unproven, untested, and probably unreliable suggestions on how to protect yourself in the new age of guns. Consider the last sentence a disclaimer. I've never shot an intruder and I've never taken a course on how to safely shoot an intruder, so if these suggestions don't work out, don't sue me.

Rule #1: Don't shoot until you know your target

Continue reading ""Professor Sullivan, I just shot an intruder. What should I do?" Rule #1."

July 04, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Coast Guard Takes Control of Images of Gulf Oil Spill

Category: Politics and Government

Having erected a no-fly zone over the Gulf Oil Spill so that no reporter can get closer than 3000 feet (over half a mile) from the surface, the Coast Guard has begun its own control over the images of the Gulf Oil Spill. "It takes the human eye to get the true resolution that you cannot get from satellite imaging" says Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft as he flies over the Chandeleur Islands area of Louisiana. Unfortunately, no human eye, other than those of the Coast Guard is able to see the oil spill from the air, so the Coast Guard has begun sending up its own photographers. Those photographers only take photos which show the Coast Guard and its officers in flattering portrayals.

"The good news is that we say only light oil and there were hundreds of boats working in the area resetting boom and skimming," said Zukunft. Of course, no independent third party is able to go aloft and confirm what the Admiral says that he saw. The Admiral said that he "was relieved that heavy amounts of oil were not visible in the area." We will have to take his word for it.

Along with the release of the Admiral's description, the Coast Guard released photos taken by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathon Lally, showing Admiral Zukunft looking out of the helicopter door. The Coast Guard admits that it has "more than 100 aircraft deployed to provide critical surveillance and guidance for the largest oil spill response operation in U.S. history" but apparently it has no room for reporters with cameras in any of those aircraft.

July 03, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Obama Administration Further Clamps Down on Freedom of the Press

Category: Politics and Government

First it was the FAA no-fly zone over the Gulf of Mexico, then it was the fire wall blocking previously public geographic information services (GIS) data, next it was the FCC shutting down of public access to weather satellites, now the Obama Administration is shutting down the news media. Under a newly established Coast Guard rule any reporter who gets within 65 feet of the oil from the spill, or any marsh, bird, worker, vessel, or boom will be guilty of a Class D Felony punishable by from 1 to 5 years in prison and fines up to $40,000.

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper says:

"A new law passed today, and back by the force of law and the threat of fines and felony charges, ... will prevent reporters and photographers from getting anywhere close to booms and oil-soaked wildlife just about any place we need to be. By now you're probably familiar with cleanup crews stiff-arming the media, private security blocking cameras, ordinary workers clamming up, some not even saying who they're working for because they're afraid of losing their jobs."

Continue reading "Obama Administration Further Clamps Down on Freedom of the Press"

July 02, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Fishing Tournament Decision Goes To the Courts!

Category: Politics and Government

Two weeks ago this website posted a story about the blue marlin caught from the Motor Yacht Citation which was disqualified from winning the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament on June 14, 2010 because the hired mate had lied about having a North Carolina fishing license. The size of the prize that was lost was $912,825. Well, now the parties are in court.

Continue reading "Fishing Tournament Decision Goes To the Courts!"

July 01, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Cause of Crisis is Simple to Understand

Category: Politics and Government

I've been watching the hearings of the FCIC on C-SPAN3 and I've figured this out --- the financial crisis is just not that hard to understand.

The commission has ten members, 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Some are very smart (Keith Hennessey-R, Byron Georgiou--D) some are okay (Senator Bob Graham-d and Bill Thomas-R), and a least one, who will remain unnamed, is fairly dumb. It takes all kinds. They will issue a report on December 15. Today they had Goldman Sachs, AIG, the Office of Thrift Regulation, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on the stand. So lets take the Goldman Sachs situation as an example.

Continue reading "Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Cause of Crisis is Simple to Understand"

June 30, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Rolling Stone: What Did General McCrystal Really Say That Got Him Fired?

Category: Politics and Government

If I have ever before purchased a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine, I don't remember it so I went to Barnes and Noble to find one. I needed help from the staff to even find it. Then, I plopped down my $5.99, got a venti Frappachino and sat down and read the article entitled "Runaway General" and do you know what I found?

Nothing.

That's right, nothing. I couldn't find a single statement by General McCrystal or his staff which was critical of President Obama.

Convinced that I must have missed something, I pulled an old editor's trick (I was the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, an accomplishment I am very proud of) and read the article paragraph by paragraph backwards. You know what I found on my second reading? Nothing.

Now, I had heard it said so many times by the news media that he had been fired for making inflammatory comments in the presence of the Rolling Stone reporter I knew I must have made a mistake so I read it a third time, this time with a highlighter in my hand. Everywhere the name "Obama" appeared, I highlighted it and do you know what I found? Nothing, again.

In short, neither General Stanley McCrystal nor his staff said anything about President Obama in Rolling Stone Magazine that would support his getting fired.

What did I learn by reading the article?

First, it is a fine piece of wartime journalism ---- the type we see too little of today.

Second, Stan McCrystal is 55, eats one meal a day, runs 7 miles every morning, and sleeps only 4 hours a night. He got 100 demerits while in West Point, making him a rabble-rouser who doesn't abide by the rules. He freely goes into combat with his troops --- real combat, not the photo-op type. Finally, he hunts and kills terrorists.

Third, the war in Afghanistan has toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president, and caused Canada and the Netherlands to withdraw their troops. We are there virtually on our own.

Fourth, our counterinsurgency policy there is doomed to failure. We are trying to rebuild a nation on a time-line. Americans measure life in 24 hour news cycles, football seasons, two and four year election cycles, and maybe even in Presidencies. The Afghans measure time in generations, centuries, and thousands of years. The British failed. The Russians killed 1 million Afghans and failed, and we think we are going to succeed by next July with 150,000 men and $90 million in foreign aid. It ain't happening folks.

I learned a lot more, but I became convinced of this. Pull out now. Don't wait for July 2011. Don't declare victory or defeat, just pull out. Claim that we had a flash of brilliance. Claim that we listened to our allies who pulled out before us. Claim whatever you want to claim, but get out and get out quick.

June 29, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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The Adminitrative State Chokes Off Success in Fighting Gulf Oil Spill

Category: Politics and Government

If there is a lesson to be learned from the Gulf Oil Spill, which we should have learned after Katrina, it is that the federal government is inept at responding to emergencies. We need to get the Feds out of the emergency response business, and return that job to the States. Here are some reasons why:

Customs and Border Patrol

It was the CBP which turned away offers of assistance from foreign governments and companies to supply oil skimming recovery vessels (OSRVs) which could have cleaned up million more gallons of oil than hve been cleaned up to date. BP committed $260 million to the use of skimmers. CBP made a determination that 1) there were adequate OSRVs in the United States to respond; 2) that foreign flagged OSRVs could operate in international waters but had to stop skimming when they reached the 3 miles limit; 3) that any OSRVs which skimmed up oil within 3 miles of the U.S. coast would be in violation of the Jones Act and would be seized (arrested) because skimming oil within 3 miles constituted "transportation of cargo" which had to be reserved for U.S. flag skimmers.

Then, the Obama Administration determined that U.S. skimmers from other parts of the country couldn't be moved to the Gulf of Mexico because they might be needed in their home ports. There are two thousand skimmers in the United States and only twenty are now deployed in the Gulf of Mexico because, as Obama said "the other skimmers may be needed for other oil spills."

Fish and Wildlife Administration

Alabama decided to buy snare booms to catch oil as it began to wash up on the beaches. The Fish and Wildlife Administration vetoed the plan saying it would endanger sea turtles that nest on the beaches. It would rather have the turtles nesting in oil soaked sand.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration

Alabama decided to hire 400 workers to patrol the beaches and scoop up oil that had washed ashore. OSHA refused to allow workers to patrol the beaches for more than twenty minutes out of every hour. Then it required the State to give the workers an hour long break after every forty minutes of work so that the State of Alabama actually got 2 hours of labor for each 9 hours of pay..

Army Corps of Engineers

The State of Louisiana came up with a plan to build a sand berm to prevent oil from coming ashore and polluting the grasses and estuaries of the Louisiana bayou country. Unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn't act on the marine construction permit application because the State hadn't done an environmental impact statement, a process which takes a number of months to complete.

Federal Aviation Administration

Aerial photographs of the spreading oil spill were showing up on the evening news every night. To fix that problem the FAA issued a no-fly order preventing airplanes from flying over the Gulf of Mexico, thereby keeping the spill from the public view.

Environmental Protection Agency

A six-month old, Taiwanese-owned, Liberian-flagged oil skimmer named the "A-Whale" was prevented from skimming because its equipment only takes 98% of the oil out of the water which it skims up, and returns the remaining water, along with 2% of the oil, back into the water. According to the EPA, unless the water being returned is completely clean, then it wont permit the skimmer to be used to pick up 98% of the oil. The A-Whale allows the oily water mixture to separate in its tanks and then pumps off the water from the bottom. Not good enough for the EPA. Let is wash up on the beaches instead.


Our Founding Fathers were right all along. Local and State governments are better at solving local and State problems than the federal government ever will be. We can keep learning this lesson over and over again, or we can learn from it, and exclude the federal government from responding to local crises.

June 28, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Senator McCain Files Bill to Amend the Jones Act

Category: Politics and Government

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) has filed a bill which he has named the Open America's Waters Act which would amend the anachronistic 1920 Jones Act.

The bill would speed up the ability of foreign flag oil skimming response vessels to respond to the Gulf OIl Spill.

So far, the position of the Obama Administration has been to require nations offering to help the U.S. respond to this emergency to waive their own laws and permit U.S. vessels to operate in their waters. Naturally, to someone offering to help the position of the Obama Adminstration is a slap in the face, and so far no requests for waivers have been submitted.

Fifteen foreign flag oil skimming response vessels (OSRV's) have been operating more than three miles from the coast because Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the agency charged with enforcing the Jones Act, has determined that skimming operations within three miles constitutes coastwise transportation under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act has two parts to it. The first provides personal injury protection for seamen injured in the course of their employment. The second was a protectionist measure enacted after World War I when the United States had surplus ships and seamen. The second part of the Act is the part that McCain seeks to amend.

The Open America's Waters Act would permit foreign flag vessels which are constructed and equipped to U.S. standards to obtain a coastwise endorsement, permitting them to operate in U.S. waters.

The Jones Act has been an abject failure at protecting jobs for U.S. seamen. It is time that we recognized that it hasn't worked and try something new. Whether this Act is the right approach I don't know, but at least it is a step at saying to the maritime community that the Jones Act is not the third rail of maritime policy. It can be changed.

My preference would be to postpone action on the bill and to reopen the WTO negotiations on trade in maritime services. Opening our coastwise trade to foreign vessels could be a big carrot to other maritime nations, encouraging them to make concessions to the U.S. in other areas.

The overall goal of our maritime policy should be to maintain sealift capacity without burdening the taxpayers, maintaining maritime employment of U.S. seamen without subsidies, and increasing the efficiency of worldwide vessel operations.

The last goal, increasing efficiency, may be a mystery to some people. Permit me to explain. The Jones Act results in many ships sailing without full cargoes. That is wasteful of fuel, and wasting fuel increasing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with no overall gain to our economy. Puerto Rico and Hawaii pay enormous sums of money to keep the Jones Act in place because ships sale from the U.S. to Puerto Rico full, and generally return empty. Ditto for Hawaii. If it weren't for the Jones Act, shipowners would find ways to bring backhaul cargo, or create trade routes which would operate more efficiently.

June 26, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Feds Shutting Down Direct Access to Oil Spill Data

Category: Politics and Government

In the past few weeks the federal government has been shutting down direct access to information and data used by scientists, educators, and the public to track the Gulf Oil Spill.

First, the FAA imposed a no-fly-zone over the Gulf of Mexico. While the notice to aviators said that the no-fly zone covered just the area over the Deepwater Horizon wreck site, the map shows that the no-fly zone incorporates most of the Gulf of Mexico.

Next, the federal government erected a firewall to government web sites which for years have provided raw data about the Gulf of Mexico used by geographic information systems (GIS) to do mapping and other research.

Then, on June 4, the FCC announced that it was planning to shut down direct, real time public access to meteorological satellites which educational institutions and private meteorologists have used for years to map ocean currents, storms, and other weather information. The FCC "request for information" said that the access was being restricted to make way for satellite broadband, but the timing is suspicious.

NOAA and the USCG have recently opened spill response offices in the Florida Keys. In addition, BP opened a claims office in Miami. Water-and-oil Mixtures (WOMs) are now being reported on the East Coast of Florida.

Why is the government restricting access to data and information which has been open and available to the public for years before the Gulf Oil Spill? What do the feds have to hide?

What's my theory? My theory is that the Obama Administration believes that if it can get the Gulf Oil Spill off the front pages it will help them in the November election. The best way to get it off the front pages is to restrict information that might be construed as news, like charts plotting oil plumes. The Gulf Stream will act like an ocean conveyor, relentlessly transporting oil toward the shores of New York and New Jersey. If they can stop the news, they can stop the bad publicity.

Mind you, this is just a theory.

June 24, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Why Hide GIS Data Regarding Gulf Oil Slick from Map-Makers? Is Firewall a Federal Cover-up of Oil Spill's Real Reach?

Category: Safety at Sea

Before the Gulf Oil Spill the National Incident Management System (NIMS) routinely provided Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to map-makers and other members of the public. Now that data is being hidden from the public by the federal government. The GIS data which map-makers are seeking in this matter is data concerning the progress of the oil slick.

Here's a letter from the GIS Institute's founder, Andrew Stephens, and Devon Humphrey, both of whom are with the GIS Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Stephens is also the one who originally set up the GIS servers and systems:

I've been trying in vain for weeks to get up-to-date data after either BP or the Joint Incident Command center in Houma, LA put all the GIS servers behind a firewall. Those data are supposed to be public record, and they will be critical in documenting response efforts.

All I want to do is post an updated map of the slick on my blog's Deepwater Horizon Timeline, using my own GIS application. But I can't get the slick data.

The level of mismanagement, the attempts to deceive, the quarantining of important data, the incompetence is as colossal as the incident itself.

Why is the federal government hiding this public data from the public? Didn't President Obama promise that by "using cutting-edge technologies" his administration would create "a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America's citizens."

Is the Obama administration is using non-EPA approved dispersants to hide the effect of the Gulf Oil Spill? Are the dispersants are causing the oil to create undersea plumes which are being spread around the world by ocean currents? Is the GIS data being hidden as part of a cover-up? Is the no-fly zone over the Gulf of Mexico part of the federal cover-up? These are the questions which need to be asked anytime the federal government begins hiding information from the press and public.