Friday, November 30, 2007


Which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Are You?

YOU ARE RULE 20(a)!You are Rule 20, an important part of the Federal Rules' policy of permissive joinder. You are designed specifically to allow as many parties in an action as can be tried efficiently, and you'll include someone as long as there is some factual overlap between a claim involving them and the rest of the case at hand. You are popular, out-going, and are never far from friends. However, your overly gregarious nature and magnanimous approach do make things a bit crowded--you're the reason that lawsuits are often cluttered with innumerable parties and even more numberous claims for relief. Still, despite the crowds that you attract, you can't argue with the efficiency of getting everything done at once!
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Ordinary Mass Thoughts

1. Sorry about the ranting below; I'm better now.

2. If a hypothetical person were to find themselves at the folk Mass held in the evening because the hypothetical person overslept, the proper meditation for the service is "This is my own darn fault."

3. And now for something productive: a Latin-to-English cheat sheet for the Ordinary Mass in Latin that I arranged. I don't go to Latin services (although it sounds tempting), but I've got a lot of sacred music and, since I don't speak Latin, the Masses may as well be gibberish to my ears. With the cheat sheet, they make perfect sense. If you like this and find it helpful, let me know; I'm considering doing ones for the Miserere, for the 1928 Anglican version of the English translation, and the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (although I don't know if this has prescribed lyrics or not).

Friday, November 23, 2007

I Don't Know

I think I'll take a break from song-title posts, or at least not make them obligatory.

Anyway, I've come to realize that I've been very angry lately. I don't know how to describe it, except to say that I know it dates back to the Virginia Tech shootings last April.

Those shootings weren't actually the first case of a killer being on the loose in Blacksburg that academic year: on the first day of classes a prisoner had managed to take an officer's weapon and kill two police officers before being apprehended that afternoon. I didn't have work that day and so I took a pistol over to my then-girlfriend's apartment and waited with her. She had work early that afternoon; I parked out front of her store with the gun on the seat next to me, keeping my eyes peeled in case the killer (who had been described in detail on TV) showed up. After he was caught I put the pistol back in my closet and didn't really give the matter a second thought. As far as I'm concerned, it was a basic precaution that, while perhaps ultimately unnecessary, was a good thing to do.

In April, the killer (whose name doesn't deserve to be remembered) first killed two people in a dormitory (the same building where I had lived as an undergrad) and then thirty more in Norris Hall (where I'd had classes as an undergrad), plus many more wounded. Before the second part of his mass murder, he chained the doors shut so cops couldn't get in and people couldn't get out. Campus security isn't armed and much of the Virginia Tech police department is a joke, so this may have been unnecessary on his part.

I only knew one of the victims even slightly; Ryan "Stack" Clark was a member of the Marching Virginians while I was there, albeit in a different section of the 330-strong organization and I can't have talked to him more than twice in my life. The closest to a "direct" tie I had to anyone were some people who were on campus at the time.

At the same time, they're "my people" in that they're Hokies. If that doesn't make sense, don't worry; very few people who aren't Hokies (or family of Hokies) seem to understand it, while all the Hokies I know seem to understand it completely. It hurt me that "my people" were targeted. If it had been at nearby Radford University or in the Town of Blacksburg I'd be upset, but not to the same extent.

I believe many people have blood on their hands as a result of what happened. While his handling of events that day was okay, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger has blood on his hands for supporting the academic ban of legal firearms on campus. The Board of Visitors and all members of the Tech administration share in this guilt. I hope every single one of them loses their job. The Virginia Tech police and security departments are worthless jokes perpetuating a myth of safety while hassling students over ticky-tack offenses. One person I read put it well: "Remember, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away."

Many of those who were shot that day were graduate students and professors, with at least one professor being a veteran (of the Israeli army). One student with a concealed weapon could have changed things. Let me explain: at Virginia Tech (and at William & Mary) it is legal for those with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns on campus. The law doesn't touch that. However, if discovered, they can face academic discipline (expulsion). It's an end-run around a basic right. At Appalachian School of Law the shooter was stopped by two students who had retrieved their guns from their cars, although not before he'd killed six people. I recently heard that during the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas several students retrieved their rifles from their cars and shot back, causing the shooter to have to take cover and significantly disrupting his ability to kill.

The way I see it, the past decade has seen a shooting at a law school in Virginia and a shooting at a public university in Virginia (plus the "Beltway Snipers" in Northern Virginia). I happen to go to a public university law school in Virginia. However, the W&M administration has made it clear that their policy is the same as Virginia Tech's: it's okay for students to get shot up so long as no one has to think too hard and shatter their fairy-tale kumbaya world.

This side of heaven there are people who will do evil things. They will shoot up schools, assault and rape women, mug the unsuspecting, and more. My life and the lives of those I care about are apparently not worth any real protection.

It's really hard not to swear at this point (only years of self-discipline keep me from doing so). I'm not allowed to protect myself and neither is anyone else. There sure seems to be a threat out there. I don't even know how to end this. I'm just angry, frustrated, and can't understand why the good people must be left at the mercy of those who seek to do them harm.

Friday, November 16, 2007


It's important to do the right thing. Even when it sucks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Old Rugged Cross

For those who have seen nothing but gloom and doom for Iraq's Christians, let me direct you here.

[If you're any kind of Evangelical you've heard this song many, many times. Here's the Statler Brothers' version]

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Under Over

Apparently I can't win. Over at Mark Shea's I got reamed for saying that not every form of coercion is necessarily torture. A lot of people were very angry with me. Over the last two days, I've gotten yelled and screamed at over at Dean Esmay's for saying that if waterboarding is torture then we shouldn't do it. It doesn't matter whether we do it to one or three or however many people, whether we do it to our own troops with their consent, or whether it leaves a physical mark.

As far as I can tell I'm not arguing two contrary positions. I'm saying that not all coercion is torture and that if something is torture (and I'm inclined to think that waterboarding is) then we shouldn't do it. Torture is wrong, but not everything that seems like torture necessarily is. When it comes to something like torture, I'm sympathetic to what Jimmy Akin calls (in the last line of his post) the Deerhunter Principle: unless you know it's right then don't do it.

My thinking is that we shouldn't do evil, even when our goal is to prevent a greater evil. Any evil, great or small, has a way of coming back to bite those who do it (good does this, too). Kind of like karma, which although a Hindu term is more-or-less present in Christianity as well. It's my belief that the end result of our doing evil to prevent what we see as a greater evil will be worse than if we declined to use wrong means; in other words, that the short-term benefit is outweighed by the long-term loss. We're the United States. We have two very big things going for us: our science and technological superiority on one hand and that we're generally the "good guys" on the other. We can't afford to sacrifice either one, but we especially can't afford to lose the latter quality. It's what separates us from mere bullies, such as (most of) the empires that flourished in centuries past. We abandon the high ground at our peril, and we do it for something as questionably useful as waterboarding at our own stupidity. Can't those who think we should sell ourselves find a better price?

UPDATE: The equivalent of the "chickenhawk" argument has been leveled against me: namely, that I've never been to SERE school and been waterboarded. True. As always, I thank those who serve and have served our country by volunteering to be put in harm's way. However, I have to believe that there's still a difference between super-intense training done by your countrymen and the same acts done by your enemy. John McCain, who actually was tortured, says that waterboarding is torture. There are many things on which McCain and I disagree, but I'm pretty sure he has as good or better of an understanding of torture as just about anyone else out there.

[The title song is by the now-defunct group Doctor Manette; the words are good but the ending is my favorite part, with it being almost-but-not-quite the same thing over and over.]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Invasion of the Gabber Robots

That's right: it's election time. Local elections, to be precise. Officially, I still live it my parents' house; it's easier to get some mail there and better than having to update my driver's license and voting precinct every year when I switch apartments at school. I figure rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin, and thus not only do I have a right to vote but also a responsibility to vote (and to become informed about my choices). Just as importantly, I figure that I forfeit my right to complain about any elected official in my district in whose election I didn't vote. Now, for local elections there's only so much at stake. If someone on the Soil and Water Board is in favor of embryonic stem cell research it's not exactly a deal-breaker for me. Besides, being Fairfax County, my state senator, delegate, county sheriff, and district representative to the school board were all Democrats running unopposed. The Soil and Water Board had three incumbents (two Democrats and one Republican) running unopposed with one Green challenger.

After doing a quick check of each candidate's website or blurb in the newspapers, I came up with my list. At least one Republican, Democrat, and Independent (in a race where party could be listed) candidate received my vote. I generally write in a candidate when someone runs unopposed and continued that trend today. As for the rest, these were my criteria:
-One-party rule is a bad thing; in Fairfax County this means that Republicans get a +1 in my consideration
-If they're a challenged incumbent and seem to have been doing an okay (no positions to which I strongly object) job, they get my vote. The other side of this is that I'll risk a new guy if the incumbent is incompetent or seems to be in it for his own gain (like a certain incumbent who seems to be using his legitimate authority to reclassify objectionable things as nonobjectionable and look better to those who don't look too closely)
-Competency is good; being a busybody is bad
-Being a veteran gives you bonus points in my consideration, as does having a family and being a member of a church

So with all that in mind I went in to vote absentee-in-person at one of the satellite government centers. The hours for doing this are all day at the main government center and at the satellite centers on Saturday, but only 3:30-7:30 on weekdays. I couldn't find the polling station and had the following conversation with the receptionist:

Me: "Um, hi. I was wondering where I could go vote absentee-in-person."
Receptionist: "You can do it here, but not until 3:30."
Me: "Wait, what?"
Receptionist: "The station doesn't open until 3:30 during the week."
Me: "Isn't today Saturday?"
Receptionist: [blinks] "You're joking."
Me: [confused]
Me: "Oh. That's right; I'm usually only here on the weekends."

Now, in my defense, I had originally been planning to be back on Saturday, not Wednesday. Since my 5PM class yesterday had been cancelled it felt like a weekend. In any case, I drove to the main government center in Fairfax and voted there. They gave me a sticker.

I encourage you to take an hour and do a quick once-over of the candidates for any local races you have coming up. Tuesday is election day; you should have the day off. A lot of these races only garner a few thousand votes (if that), and every election you hear of some race that got won by a handful of votes (sometimes even a single vote).

[As for the song, "gabber robots" seems like a decent description of politicians to me (especially Al Gore and Mitt Romney). Okay, that parenthetical remark was kind of a cheap shot. To make up for it, I present an internet fad that occurred during my Freshman year of college: All Your Base Are Belong To Us. The video is the first part of a horribly mistranslated Japanese video game, followed by a lot of photoshopping. The music is called "Invasion of the Gabber Robots" and is actually a pretty good, if sad, song if you like that style. Why sad? It's sad because the good guys lose. This takes some knowledge of both video games and some creativity, but bear with me. The driving pulse is the relentless, monolithic enemy. The high-pitched melodic line is the "good guys." Everything else is "mood" and tells the story. Listening to the melodic line, at around 2:10 you have the good guys doing well. They're not doing anything seriously harmful, but are doing the equivalent of dispatching the ineffective minions of the enemy. At about 2:33, they start doing real damage and you begin to think that they've got a chance. At 2:46, however, it becomes apparent that their efforts are futile; they're doomed no matter what. At 3:10 the good guys are continuing the fight, even though they know there's no hope of victory. After their theme dies out, there's a pause...and now you know that whatever the good guys were defending is now facing the enemy themselves.

Okay, so maybe it's just a song. Still, I like the story. Insert Battlestar Galactica references if you'd like.]