Archive for November, 2010

Physiognomy and the preservation of the flesh

A little while back, I discussed that you can often see a person’s wickedness by examining his appearance:

Wickedness corrupts and destroys, and frequently that destruction involves the body itself. . . .Righteousness exalts a man. However good-looking or bad-looking a person may be, he will look even better if he embraces righteousness — because he will be better.

Of course, I should probably have also clarified that such a principle would operate most significantly in cases of long-term wickedness. Just as you can see smile lines on people who are happy all the time, you can often tell mean people by the expressions permanently etched on their faces. Looking at demeanor and physical vibrance, you can see the wimpiness of men who live their lives like women and the ugliness of women who live like men. And then of course, the wear and tear on the body and mind produced by the abuse of drugs, alcohol, or promiscuous sex is not usually all that difficult to spot.

But anyway, what brought this subject back to my attention was a post at another blog that advocated essentially the same point:

Face and body are witnesses of character–a fact of the human scene that people once readily acknowledged. There was even a science called physiognomic that attempted to catalogue and interpret facial and bodily expression and to draw moral conclusions from close observation of aspectual (having to do with the face) traits and bodily dispositions.

So when I wrote my post attacking the hideousness of many Democrats, I guess I was just ahead of my time! Or behind my time. Or something. But I do think that there is something to this “physiognomy.” The whole book The Portrait of Dorian Gray was about this principle that evil corrupts the flesh. Even the Bible states,

Psalm 91
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 . . . .
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling, 
no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”

Modern Christians do not really teach this point much. But maybe they should.

While it is true that no one perfectly loves God in this life and that God therefore does not perfectly preserve us from serpents and stones in this life, such a blessed status is of course something positive to pursue. And when we make no effort to pursue a righteous lifestyle, it usually is reflected in our faces and demeanor.


Speed limits are corrupt

Glenn Chatfield at Sanity in an Upside Down World recently discussed and supported the government’s use of speed limit cameras to catch speeding motorists:

The thing is, if you don’t speed, you won’t get a ticket. If I remember correctly, the cameras do not get you unless you are going more than 5mph over the limit; they wanted to account for variables in speedometers.
. . . .
Well, in this upside-down world where people think they can violate speeding laws, there are complaints by those who have been caught.
. . . .
Only in this upside-down world do people whine about getting caught breaking the law rather than just obeying it. As for me, I find it a lot more relaxing driving through town now without having my doors blown off by the rocket flashing by!
I find this position absolutely abhorrent, and I will explain why. The speeding laws are generally corrupt. They aren’t about safety. If speeds limits were about safety, they would be based on scientific engineering surveys (which, technically, is required by federal law if the state or county has received any federal highway funds). But speed limits almost never are based on such studies. As a result, speed limits generally are arbitrarily low.

The purpose of these arbitrarily low limits is to collect taxes from random motorists. Weak societies always complain about the need for more police officers (instead of having people man up a bit and buy guns to protect themselves). As a result, governments hire more officers. But then to make up for the increased number of officers, taxes must be collected. One way of collecting these taxes is to pull people over for breaking arbitrarily low speed limits.

It is analogous to what Roman soldiers used to do with the Jews, where a soldier would select a random Jew off the street and force him to carry the soldier’s equipment for one mile. Because the duty fell only on random people at random times (and because it was only a mile), people just angrily tolerated the imposition instead of revolting. Just like the Romans, we feel the need to have armed guards patrolling everywhere at all times. And just like the Romans, we must raise money to support these officers. It is easier to randomly tax some random citizens at unpredictable times than to tax everyone all at once and thereby risk a revolt. You can pacify the population even more if you do a halfway decent job of pretending that the tax is for the taxee’s own good, and that he deserves to be taxed due to his “dangerous” violation of the arbitrarily low speed limit.

I remember that in Knoxville, most of the speed limits on regular roads were actually pretty reasonable. But what the government would do to collect its take in support of the police was to lower the speed limit only on the interstates. That way, the police pulled over most of their speeders on the interstates, and they could effectively collect a tax only from foreigners who were merely traveling through the city but did not live there.  The people who actually lived in the city remained safe from the stops.  The voters wouldn’t get as upset, the government got its money, and almost everyone was happy.

A law by itself means nothing. Morally speaking, if someone wants to forcefully pull you over to the side of the road and ultimately take money from you by force, that person must have a moral justification for doing so. The mere fact that a government official writes a law is not a moral justification. A moral justification would be something along the lines of working to prevent murder or other immorality. By contrast, the desire to collect revenue is not a moral justification for robbing random citizens.

In the comments to his post, Glenn Chatfield writes:

I wouldn’t care if the purpose WAS to increase revenue, which it wasn’t, because it still gets people to slow down and obey the law.
But getting people to slow down is not a virtue in itself. That much is common sense. It should be undebatable that sometimes people drive too slowly and need to speed up.

Not just in Knoxville but actually practically everywhere, you’ll often find low speed limits along the interstates of large cities. What happens is that the government is not only trying to collect taxes from foreign motorists, but they are also lowering the speed limit way down for environmentalist purposes. The speed limit is 70 in Franklin and 55 near the middle of Nashville. Are the roads just built substantially more safely in Franklin? Of course not. Rather, the big city (not to mention Leftist city) just wants to enforce an environmental policy under the guise of “safety.” And they have basically re-enacted the Jimmy Carter national speed limit, but instead of requiring it nationwide, they only do it in their tiny little jurisdictions.

And no, the fact that cities can become crowded during rush hour gives absolutely no logical justification for lowering a speed limit. You are not legally required to drive 70 mph if the speed limit is 70. And besides, Franklin gets about as much traffic as Nashville, anyway.

Lest any of you tree huggers come back with the argument that low speed limits are good because they reduce smog or global warming or whatever, even if that were true it should be a completely separate debate. We should be handing out “environmental violation tickets” instead of speeding tickets. But instead, we have these “law and order” politicians who whine about how speeding motorists are a safety hazard, when the laws aren’t even based on safety! It is intellectual dishonesty of the gravest variety. And then they turn over your driving record to the liability insurance company — which they legally require you to do business with — so that the insurance company can jack up your insurance rates based on your “safety” violations. I’ve even heard that the insurance companies will often donate radar guns to police officers, like they are partners in the great scam.

And moreover, under both Tennessee and federal law, environmental concerns are not actually a legitimate reason for lowering a speed limit. So the law-and-order politicians and municipal judges can throw the book at you for violating these “safety” laws, and yet they violate the law themselves.

We don’t have any speed limit cameras near where I live, but if they ever bring them here, I will renew my offer to represent pro bono anyone who gets accused of vandalizing such a camera. Not that I would want to encourage such action, or anything.

Purifying the souls of Congress

The Republicans have pledged to end all support for earmarks, at least for the time being. Various analysts, particularly among the Left, have criticized this strategy by pointing out that earmarks only consume a tiny fraction of the overall budget. Supporters, meanwhile, have referred to the gesture as symbolically important, and at least a small step in the right direction.

But in my opinion, the term “symbolic” seems like too superficial a description for this positive development. Yes, there is symbolism, but taking (or choosing not to take) money that does not belong to you is about more than symbolism. There is a psychological and even a spiritual component to engaging in wrongdoing or pursuing righteousness. When you give out earmarks to your constituents at the expense of the country as a whole, you are actually degrading your own soul — as well as the souls of your faithful followers. When you do enough of that garbage, it is little wonder that you ultimately wind up voting for grossly idiotic or immoral policies, such as socialized medicine. If you put out the Holy Spirit’s fire by actively mocking righteousness, you make yourself into fool or a wild animal. It is hard to see the light when you yourself are actively walking in darkness.

This is about the spending, certainly.  But it’s also about redefining the actual responsibilities of the federal government.  If we stop asking the federal government to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves, then we can also demand that they stop charging us to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves.

Would we call it merely symbolic of evil, if all the congressmen were actually walking over to the Federal Reserve, picking up truckloads of cash, and then just handing it out to voters on the streets during Election Day? Admittedly, it would probably not increase the National Debt or inflation very significantly. Nonetheless, bribery is not a matter of symbolism. It is a matter of the soul.

Senate schmenate

Like many Americans, I was sickened last week to find out that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada will remain a senator for six more years. Once these creeps win just one lousy election, it’s impossible to be rid of them. And for that matter, I wasn’t real thrilled that John McCain will remain in the Senate, either.

I just think it is absurd that senators get to remain in office for so ridiculously long. Who else that you vote for gets to stay in office for six years? The president gets a maximum of two four-year terms. As far as I’m aware, most governors are the same way. Congressmen have to run every two years, for crying out loud! But unlike these other offices, senators get a potentially unlimited number of six-year terms in office.

Most intelligent voters can have at least some inkling of what the President has done in his past four-year term. How many people can recall more than a single vote that their senator has cast? The president is on television all the time, after all. People in the media discuss the president’s actions. When the president runs for re-election, presumably the smartest, most articulate, most charismatic opponent from out of all 300 million Amercans can run against him and open up public debate. Which of these statements can be said of a senator?

And not only do people know very little about the way their senators vote, but senators can also hide their nay votes by merely “filibustering” items that they hope to avoid actively voting against. That way, no voter is ever the wiser.

Basically, people know nothing about their senators, yet we trust all the fools in this country so much that we let them put these people in place for six years at a time. It is absurd. When we started this country, the state legislatures got to choose senators, and that’s the way we should make things again. At least the legislatures got paid to analyze the senator’s actions and votes before deciding whether to send him back to Washington.

And if we’re not going to give power back to the state legislatures, then I hereby call for two-year terms for all United States senators.

My indecision regarding hope

Lately everyone has been talking about the upcoming congressional elections which are occurring tomorrow. From what I hear, pollsters are widely predicting that Republicans will retake the House of Representatives, and the only realistic question is by how much. For the Senate, a Republican victory is a good bit less likely, but who knows for sure.

Laura Curtis, who is not overly fond of Republicans due to their lukewarm dedication to principle, nonetheless voices the fairly popular sentiment of hope for a GOP victory:

Oh, I want them to win.  I want some roadblocks thrown onto the progressive freeway.  I want it bad.  I hope the GOP will actually do that, rather than just drive in the slow lane.  And that’s it.  I’m going to continue to hope.

But even though I like the Republican Christine O’Donnell and would like to see her win the (supposedly unlikely to win) Senate race in Delaware, I am not sure how much I really want the Republicans to win a majority in the Senate. Even if the Republicans did take a majority, we would still have several lame Republicans-In-Name-Only (RINOs) such as Lindsay Graham making up part of that majority and probably throwing wrenches into conservative progress. Even more importantly, the Democrats would still have the idiotic Senate filibuster rules to block any positive bills from Republicans. And of course, most certainly and concretely of all, the country would still have to suffer through the vetoes of our glorious leader, President Barack Obama.

Then in 2012, when the voters finally got a chance to rid the country of Barack Obama, the media and all the talkers would have used up almost two years reminding the country that “Well, Obama may be President, but the Republicans are running the Congress, so…blame them for your woes.” I really cannot stand the fake democracy that this country has — where even when Republicans win elections, the leftist judges or leftist filibusterers or leftist bureaucrats or leftist presidents or leftist RINOs or leftist government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) are nonetheless constantly able to exert destructive, powerful influence — and then are able to shift the blame for their leftist failures onto the Republican Party and the free market.

So given these potential problems, I do not even particularly care if the Republicans win back the Senate. In fact, I sort of hope that the Republicans wipe the floor with the House Democrats but fail to retake the Senate. But of course, I don’t have a huge amount of say in what happens, anyway. Things are in the hands of the voters tomorrow, and probably the active hands of God as well. I will mostly just have to wait and see what happens.