Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Last Lion

I have completed both volumes of the two volume biography Winston Churchill titled “The Last Lion”. Overall this work confirms the old adage that within every fat book there is a thin book struggling to get out. While this is a very complete and detailed biography it is filled with minutiae and asides that are not all that interesting, contribute little to the forward motion of the book, and generally break the flow of the story. Nevertheless, for all of its flaws this is an excellent book and one well worth reading, because it reveals the man as he must have truly been, brilliant but flawed.

There is no doubt and this book confirms the assessment that Churchill was a brilliant and gifted man. However, it also shows his flaws and they were many. He was a man with one foot solidly planted in the 19th Century and one in the 20th Century but clearly he was never comfortable in the 20th. Ironically, he was one of the few – and maybe only – British leaders who actually looked into the future, while most of them couldn’t come to terms with what was obviously the future. Yet Churchill himself maintained many of the same values that characterized his colleagues and 19th Century Britain – the Britain of Empire, pomp, glory, and most of all power.

Churchill was an aristocrat and personified everything that most Americans find distasteful with the aristocracy. He lived his entire life with servants, other aristocrats, and the royal family. He was a “gentleman” and felt that only other ‘gentlemen” were suited to lead. By gentlemen he of course meant other aristocrats or the upper classes, but he didn’t equate upper class to money (he himself always struggled for money) but to birth – either you were born a gentleman or you weren’t and if you weren’t you could never become one. He pulled every string and used every connection to further his own ambitions which were generally to benefit the country but always seemed to benefit him as well. He was soundly disliked by almost everyone who came into contact with him. Some – like General Lord Kitchener—came to respect and admire his abilities and to tolerate him but could not be construed as friends.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about Churchill was the way he conducted himself as a junior officer. He was a subaltern – equivalent to a 2nd Lieutenant – but he regularly went off on his own, ignoring orders from superior officers, pulling strings in London to get different assignments, and simply moving on to other countries and conflicts as it suited him. Had any other junior officer attempted this they would have been court-martialed or at least called on the carpet. He simply had his mother see the King or one of her many connections and got his way. This was the root of the dislike Lord Kitchener had of Churchill. Furthermore, all of his life – including his tenure in the service – he traveled with an entourage. He always had servants and baggage – mountains of baggage that included fine wines and foods – even in the service. Unior officers do not – as a rule – have an entourage and certainly do not travel with mountains of baggage filled with luxuries. So there is no wonder in that he was heartily disliked by virtually all of his superior officers and most of his colleagues.

He was always for the country and could never really accept the loss of empire. He almost single handedly prolonged the First World War by insulting the Turks. When the Turks who were clinging to the tottering Ottoman Empire contacted him to establish an alliance prior to the war—he rejected them because they ‘weren’t gentlemen”. He then added insult to injury by confiscating three battleships built by Britain for the Turks without even offering to pay for them. He needed them – Britain needed them – the Turks were not British and therefore inferior so they had no right to them. This arrogance characterized him his entire life.

He never considered anyone except himself and what he wanted was important and necessary and what anyone else wanted or needed was unreasonable, irrelevant, or unnecessary. Opinions and needs of those not of the aristocracy or ruling class were simply ignored unless he was running for office and in that case he was willing to address their collective needs and desires – as long as it suited him.

His arrogance was monumental and was the root cause of almost all of his problems. His colleagues in Parliament detested him and conspired to keep him out of office. While this was understandable – given his personality – it cost Britain and the world dearly because he had the best grasp on the world situation and a private intelligence network that was probably superior to the governments. The result was he was a voice crying in the wilderness – ignored and vilified until the incompetence of the administration and the inevitability of war became obvious. Of course the result was he was name Prime Minister and led Britain throughout WW II. However, at the conclusion of that conflict he was turned out of office and remained for the rest of his life a man admired but not liked.

Overall – a brilliant man who foresaw most of the woes of the 20th Century but could do little to stop them primarily because of his lack of tact, sensitivity, and overall arrogance based on class.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Evolution and Science

The latest claim by the Darwinists is that evolution has just been demonstrated as having occurred – not over millions of years but over a very short span of years. The basis of this claim lies in an experiment done with lizards with no natural predators and confined to a small group of islands. On some of the islands these ground hugging lizards were left alone as a control while a predator lizard was introduced on other islands. The forecast was that the prey lizards would either adapt by moving to the trees or die out. Within a short span of years the population of the prey lizards had been dramatically reduced but the surviving lizards had developed longer legs (as predicted) and had moved into the trees. This is now hailed as dramatic proof that evolution can occur over short periods of time and presumably demonstrating that “punctuated equilibrium” is real.

Of course the flaw in this argument is that this does not illustrate evolution at all because the lizards – while changed – remain lizards and that all this does is demonstrate “adaptation”. Adaptation within a species has never been seriously challenged and has been repeatedly demonstrated. Had these lizards actually changed into a separate and distinct species, one that could not interbreed, then THAT would have been proof of evolution, but alas they did not, they simply remained a long legged version of the same species. This is another – and typical – example of how scientists are desperately clinging to their faith in evolution when it seems everywhere they turn there is growing evidence that the Theory of Evolution is either dead wrong or seriously flawed.

There are several other examples that are quoted in text books and generally cited as “evidence” that evolution has occurred. Perhaps the most common and frequently cited example is that of the horse. Museums and textbooks frequently show Eohippus, (now known as Hyracotherium), Mesoshippus, Merychippus, Pliohippus, and Equus. For this majestic march of evolution to be true would require that these animals would be found in a chronological sequence with the oldest in the lower strata and the earliest in the higher strata. Unfortunately this isn’t the case and in some cases the oldest forms are found above the newest forms and commonly these animals are found to coexist in the strata. To make this example even shakier no full set of bones exist and the examples they do have show that these animals gained ribs and then lost them only to regain them later, so even the anatomy of these animals is fails to meet even the minimum standard for evolution.

The usual descriptions and supporting evidence for evolution almost always cites examples of adaptation, for example the Trilobite. The Trilobite made it’s first appearance in the Cambrian and existed through millions of years, spanning the Ordovician, Devonian, and Silurian periods and eventually becoming extinct. These Trilobites are cited as examples of evolution because they are distinctly different in each epoch and demonstrate evolutionary changes – unfortunately they never became anything other than Trilobites so while they adapted to their changing environments they never became fish, or crabs, or donkeys – just different trilobites. What the scientists who look to the Trilobite for evidence of evolution fail to address the origin of the first Trilobite. In fact, the Pre-Cambrian fossil record is very sparse and consists exclusively of algae, mosses, and some simple worm like creatures. However, at the beginning of the Cambrian the fossil record bursts with evidence of Trilobites and other complex organisms complete with eyes, bodies, digestive tracts, and limbs. So the origin of the Trilobite is not explained, just that once the Trilobite came onto the scene it adapted to the environment and existed for millions of years – as a Trilobite.

It is important to understand that a species “is a group of naturally occurring populations that can interbreed and produce offspring that can interbreed.” This is an important fact because Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” doesn’t address how one species turns into another because different species cannot interbreed. The popular position today is to look to “mutation” as the explanation of how one species changes into another. Alas mutations occur in individuals and are not mass events. So even if a spontaneous mutation were to occur it would affect one individual and not groups. Even if that individual were to reproduce there is no evidence that a whole new species would result, even over extended periods of time. If this were the case then the fossil record would show some evidence of transitional life forms but – unfortunately – it does not and most paleontologists think these transitional fossils will never be found because they don’t exist. This failure of the fossil record to support evolution beyond adaptation, has resulted in a new theory called “punctuated equilibrium” meaning that one species will “evolve” into another species over very short periods of time – perhaps thousands of years rather than millions. This new theory is intended to get around the obvious flaws and failures of evolution as taught by the true believers in the scientific community.

Unfortunately the historic record goes back thousands of years and the alleged ancestors of man go back a million years but once again there is no evidence of any species turning into another. Canines have remained canines, fishes have remained fishes, and apes have remained apes. To circumvent this linear view – called orthogenesis – the newer view is called “branching phylogeny”. In this view animals change (evolve) in fits and starts while some die out and others prosper eventually becoming something quite different from where they started. In this view a simple organism can – through time – become a worm, a fish, an amphibian, a mammal, and a man. To demonstrate this, the horse is once again held up as an example because the fossil record shows that various forms of horses at various levels of sophistication existed simultaneously. Even if this strained view of evolution were accepted as true, there is still no fossil evidence that explains the sudden appearance of sophisticated animals in the Cambrian or evidence that one species actually became another.

The reality is that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is in fact just that – a theory – and one that is increasingly on shaky ground.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Wealth of Nations

For some people the purpose of government is to redistribute the wealth so that all can share equally. This of course was the foundation of that cornerstone of Marxism “From each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs.” Of course this didn’t work well in practice because very quickly those with ability stopped producing and joined the ranks of those in need. The result was the grinding poverty, hunger, and alcoholism that characterized the Soviet Union. However the failure of Marxism has not deterred those “progressives” who feel it is their moral duty to take the earned wealth of the few and distribute it to the poor. These programs were first introduced by Robin Hood in the 12th Century and not unexpectedly were hugely popular with poor but less popular with those who were being robbed. Since that time the Robin Hoods have abandoned their weapons and become politicians who now use the power of government to legally take the wealth of the industrious and distribute it to the “needy”.

Those individuals who have resisted this governmental robbery have been labeled “filthy capitalists” who exploit the poor for profit. Of course “poor” is a relative term, much like “rich” but those who feel they must provide for the “poor” never actually want to define precisely who is “poor” and who is “rich”. So precisely who is “rich?” In a shocking study conducted by the Helsinki based World Institute for Development Economics Research of United Nations, it was discovered that the world’s wealth is more unequal than the world distribution of income. In this study wealth was viewed as “assets minus debts”. On this basis, assets of $2.200 per adult was enough to place a household in the top half of world wealth and assets of $61,000 would place the household in the top 10%. For those with assets of $500,000 or more, they are in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people, which equates to approximately 37 million people, not exactly an exclusive club.

What is missing from this study is any correlation between the government and the wealth of individuals. The collective wealth of those countries with Socialist Governments amounts to 23%:

Germany == 4%
Italy ==4%
France == 5%
Britain == 6%
Netherlands == 2%
Canada == 2%
Spain == 1%
Switzerland == 1%

However, those countries with a capitalist economy account for 65% of the top 1% of the wealthy:

United States == 37%
Japan == 27%
Taiwan == 1%

It is worth noting that both Japan and Taiwan are small countries with relatively small populations, yet these countries account for more individual wealth than France, Germany, Italy, and Britain combined. Of course the socialists tax profits at confiscatory rates and in general consider it the responsibility of government to redistribute the wealth and to assure all citizens are comfortable. This comfort also translates into lower productivity because the attitude of these socialists is that work is the means to pleasure. The United States and Japan have the highest productivity in the world and control 64% of the total 1% of world wealth and the prevailing attitude is that work is pleasure, yet both countries have considerable tax requirements.

Naturally this opens the argument regarding the “quality” of life. The Europeans are more relaxed, have more fun, and don’t work as hard as the Americans and Japanese. But is that really true? Do Americans work for money like the Europeans or do they work for pleasure? If they work for pleasure then they are having as much fun as the Europeans and are living considerably better. Americans have greater material wealth in the form of assets – which equates to single family homes unlike Europeans who generally live in apartments. The list of course is virtually endless but the end result is that the Europeans have fewer possessions but more vacations. They have high unemployment but the government subsidizes the poor through the high tax burden, which penalizes the industrious and leaves them little money to invest or save – if they are to enjoy their vacations.

It seems that the lesson here is that the capitalist countries have higher productivity, greater wealth, lower unemployment, and a better life in general than those socialist countries who hold themselves up as superior but in reality have considerably less other than vacations.