The Execution of Maximilien de Robespierre, July 28, 1794

Click to enlarge:
This painting is by an unknown artist and hangs today (more likely it’s in a drawer) in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France) in Paris. The beheaded man whose head is held up to the soldiers standing in formation is not Robespierre, but Couthon, Robespierre’s ally on the oddly-named “Committee of Public Safety.” No greater danger to the French public existed than this “committee.”

Robespierre is shown sitting in the cart, dressed in brown, wearing a hat, and holding a handkerchief to his mouth. He had tried to commit suicide with a pistol earlier that morning but succeeded only in shooting his jaw nearly off. Robespierre’s younger brother Augustin is being led up the steps to the scaffold of the Guillotine, and it appears Robespierre is be executed next.

Note the line of carts behind Robespierre containing about a dozen others on their way to the Guillotine.  Once an arrest warrant was issued by the 9-member “Committee of Public Safety” and the person named was captured the execution was carried out in 24 hours without trial. It appears the headless bodies were thrown off the scaffold to collect on the ground until carts had been emptied into the Guillotine.  Then, I suppose the bodies were piled into the carts and hauled off to be buried in mass graves.

I’ve been reading about Robespierre and especially wanted to find out why his fellow Jacobins Guillotined him. I think I found a lot of balderdash and convoluted nonsense without any clear answer to that question. Historians should never be accused of writing with clarity. I conclude that what I’ve always thought is the correct answer. It’s quite simple: the Jacobins Guillotined Robespierre to keep him from Guillotining them.

That’s the problem when you ride with the devil. The devil may turn round on you.

Roughly 17,000 were Guillotined during the Terror of 1792-1794.  Most of the executions were carried out in Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Muscle Mass, BMI, and Longevity

A study published last February in the American Journal of Medicine, Muscle Mass as a Predictor of Longevity in Older Adults, finds that muscle mass is a more important positive predictor to longevity in older adults than obesity is a negative predictor, as determined by Body Mass Index (BMI). Of course, it’s obesity at the lower end of the bathroom scale that seems not to matter so much.  If being a little overweight matters at all, it’s on the positive side.  While the morbidly obese are still goners sooner than later, being skinny when you’re old has been shown to be a detriment to long life.

As you can imagine, muscle mass is easier to acquire when young than when you’re old. When we’re old it’s easier to keep what we built up years earlier than to get it anew at an advanced age. But all is not lost. While muscle declines and fat increases as we get old, the process can be slowed down or even reversed to some extent with resistance training, i.e. weight lifting with barbells.

Running, walking and bicycling are not the sort of weight-bearing exercises that increase muscle mass, except in the legs. Total skeletal muscle mass depends upon the sort of training outlined in Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, 3rd Edition. A 4th edition may be coming soon, but I see no need to wait for it.

Muscle mass seems to almost be an elixir for the ill effects of aging, if you follow the research that’s being done on it these days.  It promotes glucose metabolism to prevent insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes.  It speeds recovery from prolonged illness in older adults. It improves balance and makes life more fun. It makes life easier so that one is not so dependent on others for heavy lifting like moving furniture or getting the lawn mower into the trunk of the car.

None of this means you should give up the cardiovascular workouts. You still need that, but apparently it’s a mistake to rely solely on it for living longer.

The American Journal of Medicine Srikanthan-Karlamangla study is available at the link above, and here is another interesting piece: Muscle Mass Predicts Longevity Better Than BMI.

Check out this mp3 audio at Scientific American.

I might be too old for this:

Let the Mystery Be

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 3.20.27 PM David Limbaugh, brother of Rush Limbaugh, believes he has discovered factual proof of the inerrant truth of
God’s word in the Christian gospel. He says he has “evidence.” Since Mr. Limbaugh is a lawyer I take it he means the sort that could be introduced in court. The Christian Gospel itself was the most compelling evidence upon which he relies, according to the book.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not available for cross examination.

I mean no criticism of Mr. Limbaugh and his effort. It clearly enabled him to deal with his previous doubt and I guess every believer does that in his or her own way. Many will find solace in Mr. Limbaugh’s book and if so I think that’s a good thing.

In my philosophy of religion class in college we studied all the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, ontological, teleological, and others I don’t remember the names of. I think there were five in all. They were compelling arguments, but it was all philosophy, or perhaps theology. None of it was evidence.

I’m with Iris Dement on the ineffable existence of God, so I’ll just “let the mystery be:”

Man’s Search for Meaning

D.C. McAllister, from The Harry Potter Generation:

Knowledge of self is essential to human flourishing. In fact, it is lack of knowing one’s self that causes us to act out and seek identity through external means in a desperate effort to define who we are. Aside from merely modeling bad behavior, children engage in deviant behavior because they are searching for significance or meaning.

A girl looking for love through sex and getting pregnant outside of marriage is the behavior of someone not fully aware of who she is. She is searching for meaning and identity in the arms of someone who claims to love her. She is looking for someone to fill the emptiness left by her absent father—emptiness defined by lack of love and self-understanding.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) believed that at the center of every man’s life is the search for meaning. Not the meaning of life, but the meaning of my life. This is a arduous search, a long desire. Without a sense of self one’s search for meaning can lead to trouble. An inner city gang banger is searching for meaning in all the wrong places and will do much damage to himself and others along the way. In the end he will find nothing to satisfy his long desire. He will, in fact, render his desire impossible to attain until he gets wisdom, if that day ever comes at all. But if at his core he is decent there may be hope. Frankl declared there are only two races of men, the decent and the unprincipled. These two categories trancend all other pretensions to race, color, creed, religion or ethnicity.

If the gang banger is one of the decent and not one of the unprincipled he will quickly be repelled by what the others in his gang expect of him. He will come to realize that his greatest freedom is his freedom to choose good over evil.

For Frankl, meaning came from three possible sources: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty. The latter is akin to Hemingway’s concept of grace under pressure. Frankl saw it as the one freedom that can never be taken from a decent man; the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance. Of course, the ease with which one can say it belies how difficult it may be to live it. The search for meaning is fulfilled down a hard road. Suffering is an essential part of a meaningful life.

The Statue of Responsibility

Viktor Frankl once recommended that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast of the United States be complemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast:

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

Hmmm, Washington, Oregon and California don’t seem to be places where anyone cares much about responsibility, a least in the coastal regions. Of course, judging by how they vote, the people in New York don’t think much of liberty either. How about moving the Statue of Liberty to New Hampshire, the “live free or die” state?

Where to erect the Statue of Responsibility is a tough question.  How about say, Texas. Or Oklahoma.  Kansas perhaps.  Some place liberals hate, that’s where responsibility resides.  I shouldn’t leave out North Dakota.  That might be the ideal place for the Statue of Responsibility.

Trouble is, taking either statue off the East and West Coast means neither would be an appropriate beacon for the whole country.  That’s all right, though.  It would give the United States something to strive for, to bring back the day when it will again be proper, when it will make sense to have these statues on the East and West Coast.

NYT admits the phony term “assault weapon” was made up to capitalize on public’s confusion

The term “assault weapon” or “assault rifle” is a phony and inaccurate term used dishonestly to describe a semi-automatic modern sporting rifle. The term was invented in 1988 by Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center to cash in on the confusion in much of the public over the difference between a semi-automatic rifle that fires one bullet per each pull of the trigger and a full-automatic machine gun firing multiple rounds by holding back the trigger. Sugarmann explained his intentions at the time:

“The public’s confusion over fully-automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is presumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”

Full-auto machine guns had to be registered with the AFT under the Federal Firearms Act of 1934, and as of July 31, 1986 all machine guns not already registered on that date are banned completely for possession by citizens. Thus, the stock of machine guns that can be legally owned by citizens was frozen on that date (believed to be about 200,000) and cannot be transferred to a new owner without local law enforcement approval and the filing of extensive paperwork with the ATF, and paying a $200 tax. As a result of this 1986 limiting lawful ownership to only those machine guns already owned, a machine gun legal to own by a citizen today will cost upwards of $20.000 to $30,000. An identical one manufactured after 1986 routinely sells for less that $1,000. Only law enforcement and governments agencies can buy them.

Finally, after 30 years of bald faced lying, the New York Times admitted in an op-ed Friday that the term “assault weapon” is a phony made-up term to make it easier to gain public support for restricting them.

The Clinton gun ban of 1994 banned so-called “Assault Rifles” that bore certain “military style” characteristics.  Crime went down but a definitive study cited in the NYT’s op-ed showed it was not because of the ban on these rifles. Most murders and robberies are commented with handguns, not rifles. Only about 2 present of such crimes are committed with rifles of all sorts.  When the Clinton ban expired ten years later crime did not rise, in fact it went down.

Never forget what they did; never forgive

fallingmanRemember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!

— Deuteronomy 25, Verses. 17-19

Amalek is still here, murdering the weak and the defenseless. The Amalekites are the Islamic terrorists. Never forget the evil of 9-11.

Palestinians celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers…

What are we to make of it? Amalek is still here, that’s what we are to make of it.

How Accurate is Cell Phone Location Data?

It depends.  Unless you’re still there all it can do is place you within a wide area of the cell tower location. Even that depends on whoever is trying to locate you having an exact location of the cell tower, i.e., exact GPS coordinates.  They would also need to know the size of the area that the cell tower covers because you could be anywhere within that area.

Elementary plane geometry from the 10th grade is what’s involved in knowing your exact location within that area, and so we know that to pinpoint your exact location it’s necessary for 3 different towers to be accessing your phone.  Then by triangulation it may be possible to determine the exact point where you are.  But only if you sit tight will triangulation produce any relevant data. The minute you start moving a track line may be established by yet more sophisticated data gathering.  If that is not begun before you’re gone from the area, no data will ever show your exact location at any particular time.  It will only be possible to show you were somewhere within a wide area during a particular time period, and the size of the area will depend on how large an area is covered by the cell tower you were hitting on.  If you were hitting on a tower in the middle of the Kansas prairie the area could be hundred’s of square miles.

if you’ve been watching a lot of cop shows where cell tower data is obtained that purports to pinpoint a suspect’s exact location at a particular time of day several days or weeks ago, you’ve been hoodwinked because that’s not possible. This false impression has been used to convict innocent people of crimes, according to the Economist:

SOMEONE strangled a prostitute in Portland, Oregon in 2002. The police arrested Lisa Roberts, the victim’s ex-lover, who spent more than two years in custody awaiting trial. Shortly before the trial the prosecutor told Ms Roberts, via her lawyer, that tower data collected by Verizon, her mobile-telephone network, showed precisely where she was at the time of the murder. As her lawyer recalled, the prosecutor said Ms Roberts could be “pinpointed” in a park shortly before the victim’s naked and sexually assaulted corpse was found there. She was told she faced 25 years to life in prison. She accepted a deal to plead guilty and serve 15 years.

But the high-tech evidence against her was bunk. Routinely collected tower data can place a mobile phone in a broad area, but it cannot “pinpoint” it. That would require a special three-tower “triangulation”, which cannot reveal past locations. It took a decade for Ms Roberts’s guilty plea to be thrown out. On May 28th she left prison, her criminal record clean, after nearly 12 years in custody.

I don’t know why she accepted the plea deal, though.  Doesn’t seem an innocent person would do that.  See also, “Turns Out Cell Phone Location Data Is Not Even Close To Accurate, But Everyone Falls For It,” at techdirt.


What is “net neutrality?”

Net Neutrality sound good to you?  It shouldn’t because when it comes down to it, it’s the government taking over the internet and determining who gets what internet access at what speed and at what cost.  Maybe even what parts of the internet you can access.

You may have seen ads on the internet that say, “Protect internet freedom, support net neutrally.” Government control of the internet will not protect internet freedom, it will destroy internet freedom, or what’s left of it.