Endless Research

I’ve been a bit scarce of late, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. The creative juices have really started to flow with my novel and I have been spending every available moment doing research. I even have the tentative first couple pages drafted.

Do you know how difficult is it to find out the price of a train ticket from Nashville to Algood, Tennessee in 1912?

And what about the statutory interpretation of a 1881 Jim Crow law that railroad companies were “required to furnish separate cars for colored passengers who pay first-class rates”. If a white person and a black person were to both buy second-class tickets, could they then ride in the same car? And before you think that there wouldn’t be provision for black people to go first-class, the law was amended in 1882 so that railroads were “required to supply first-class passenger cars to all persons paying first-class rates.” It’s not the sort of thing a lot of people need to know.

And what was travel like in a day car? Photo archives that I’ve seen only show the inside of first-class carriages. I have a fight to stage and I need to know what I’m working with here.

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No First or Second Amendment at UVa-Wise, or Writers Who Own Guns Must Be Crazy

Steve Barber was a student at the University of Virginia – Wise. I say “was” because he has been expelled for a paper he wrote for a creative writing class. In his paper, the protagonist thinks about violence against his professor. Apparently there are certain things you just can’t write about.

However, if you are also a licensed gun owner with a carry-and-conceal permit, and you have guns in your car – then you are mentally ill and can be involunarily committed for evaluation. Only crazy people own guns and enroll in creative writing – at least in Virginia.

There is no doubt that officials at UVa-Wise acted in an unjust manner, way outside their authority. They even have a rule that says no guns can be in cars on campus. Unfortunately for them, that’s an attempt to supercede a state law that says the opposite. Based on the involuntary committment, they then got the Commonwealth Attorney to convince a judge to revoke Barber’s gun permit. That’s right. His gun permit was revoked for possessing a gun – not even on his person, which he was entitle to do – but in his car. It doesn’t matter that the evaluation showed that he wasn’t crazy or a threat.

And it doesn’t matter that the actions of the university have a dramatic negative impact on Barber. He will now have to immediately begin to repay his student loans. If he can’t pay them, then they go after him with their Mafia-style tactics. So he has to abandon his plans for a college degree and the only thing he can do is immediately re-join the military. So auch for his plans of going back into the service of his country as a officer.

Don’t expect that he will get any support from the press. No, they have found a great opportunity to trash him – all in the name of “better safe than sorry”. Can’t have another Virginia Tech. But as law professor Eugene Volokh notes, “expulsion would still strike me an excessive remedy; nor would protecting the university from the possibility that he would turn into a Virginia-Tech-style mass killer justify this: If he really does plan to commit mass murder, he could do that as an expelled student pretty much as easily as an enrolled student (since the school doubtless doesn’t have guards at each possible entrance to keep him off campus).”

Yes, a little paranoia goes a long way.

Steve Barber has his own blog now. H/T to Abhishek Saha at Muse Free where I first saw this story.