Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Allies gave penicillin only to 1A soldiers for same reason they gave Czechoslovakia only to Hitler

The Allies weaponizing penicillin was as morally wrong as appeasing Hitler by giving him Czechoslovakia on a platter , and for exactly the same reasons.

The Allies totally failed to see that giving everything to the mighty and nothing to the weak was exactly what caused the war in the first place: weaponizing penicillin was not going to win the war but rather cause Allies to lose the moral peace.

'Eugenicide with an English accent' was not a moral counterweight to Hitler's values, but merely an Anglo-Saxon cousin of his.

Henry Dawson realized, very early on in the Fall of 1940, that any cause willing to save the lives of its very weakest, such as the SBEs, even during a Total War, would be a cause worthy of dying for.

By contrast, any cause that was only a weak 'me too' of its enemy's morality wasn't going to get 20 year old infantrymen up and out of their foxholes with any alacrity when the whistle blew.

Justice is only truly just when it is as fair to the weak as it is to the mighty, as fair to the foolish as it is to the wise : but God knows it isn't easy to make each new generation of humanity realize this.

The Germans, Japanese, Soviets did have a cause they believed was worthy of dying for, perverted as it was ---- one reason why as individuals and in small groups, they were usually much better troops than any of their opposing Allied troops.

Interestingly, the free Polish troops were also considered to be braver than the other Allied troops : they knew they were going to have to fight very hard to secure the postwar fate of Poland - to keep it out of Allied Russian as well as Axis German hands.

They lost, thanks to FDR - but Dawson didn't.

Penicillin was de-weaponized , albeit only by loud public demand and against government wishes,  and the Allies narrowly escaped being accused, postwar, having having caused a war crime of omission....

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Frank Vertosick : the genius within even the smallest and weakest

I would like to highly recommend you read a book by the neuro-surgeon and author Frank Vertosick, The Genius Within, which makes it clear that while the mighty might indeed be wise, the weak are by no means always foolish.

Individually, nothing and nobody, from sub-atomic particles, human brain cells to bacteria and ants are particularly noteworthy in the area of intelligence.

Doubt me in the case of humans ? Then why not throw your newborn baby out in the woods and let it fend for itself from birth.....

But as bundles of information gathering linkages in all directions,  networks frequently react intelligently to the external environment in ways that enhance their continued survival and success.

Put in other words, their reaction to external threats and potentialities is more successful than mere dumb luck averages should allow.

Sounds like intelligent responses to me......

A hybrid between a billiard ball and a bowl of jelly : Modernity's 'the horror, the horror'

Hard to imagine Modernity ever being really comfortable at the Seaside : hard to ever imagine it capable of being relaxed and comfortable that close to such an un-modernist miscegenation of land and water.

This is because, starting with Newton, then Dalton and onto Darwin , Modernity's chief metaphor to describe Reality (both physical and mental) was as something built-up upon a collection of a few dozen different-sized and different-weighted hard, indestructible, impenetrable billiard-ball-like atoms.

So, too, Truth was one billiard ball and the non-truth another, life worthy of life was one billiard ball, life unworthy of life another and so on for ever more.

Living things (once formed into species) did not mix their genes ever again with members from other species said Darwin, adapting Newton's and Dalton's metaphor fruitfully to his re-casting of Biology.

By the 1930s, Modernity Science was under attack from people like Dirac and Pauling ,but only in the pages of Public  (scientifically published) Science .

They had demonstrated that that those supposedly so hard, so dense and so impenetrable billiard ball atoms of classical physics and chemistry were actually mere flashing smears of probability roaming around a lot of wasted space.

Molecules, the real basis of differentiated physical reality,  were formed of wildly shaped, ever-changing, ever-moving three dimensional collections of these smears of probability.

In biology, Martin Henry Dawson and others were demonstrating that species were also not billiard ball like but that gene material could freely cross the barriers supposedly separating species via activities like bacterial transformation.

Again, this was in the Public (scientifically peer-reviewed /published) Science media.

By contrast, in Popular Science, the science of High School and undergraduate courses, reality was still all about little billiard balls.

And more than a century later, still is.

In the last 80 pages of most current 900 page science textbooks, quantum reality is introduced furtively like the Church teaching 'sex for mature catholics' .

Over a century after quantum theory dislodged Newton from academic science HE (sic) still reigns supreme, whenever underpaid adjunct professors must teach massive undergraduate intro courses while the tenured mighty & wise ponder the Higgs particle.

Modernity long ago died away in mainstream culture and in academic science.

 But as long as it reigns unchallenged in Popular Science and in applied science, engineering and technology departments, we will continue to have these supposedly ' educated ' people out there blithely denying any limits on Man's ability to control the few billiard balls they see as lying at the base of all Reality.

Blithely denying the possibility of uncontrollable man-made climate change .....

Modernity : "Might is Correct"

Modernity's claim that "Might was Right" (and correct) is a significant expansion from the Bible's mere temporary linking together of the two separate entities, the Mighty and the Wise, for the purpose of  warning of hubris.

Now, under Modernity, the Mighty were (and invariably were) the Wise, by definition, simply for being mighty.

"Hubris will write the definitions from here on in, thank you very much."  (!!!)

To be wise is not to be the truth, but to be able to seek it out and successfully separate it out from the non-truth and thus to be worthy.

The wise could triage truth from non-truth, could put truth and non-truth in a clearcut, eternal and universal vertical hierarchy of worthiness.

In addition, by definition, to be weak and small (beings) was to be foolish, unwise , unable to discern truth from non-truth, unworthy.

Under Modernity, big nations would indeed have more Nobel price winners, per capita, than small nations.

But for Modernity, small physical nonliving objects like atoms were the core of The Truth, seen as something able to be reduced to a few simple explanations about the motions of a very small number of very small, very simple, very stable, objects.

Truth was seen as eventually being contained in a short simple all-encompassing "Theory of Everything" : a few laws of physics would explain and predict everything in the past, present and future Universe, up to and including the workings of the human mind.

Modernity's Universe of Worthiness saw a tiny number of very big objects (the Great Powers nations : perhaps only Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia) and a tiny number of very small objects (perhaps only the atoms of the most usually elements : oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and iron, because the others could be atomically transmutated upon request.)

First those humans and nations unworthy of life were dispatched, then plants, animals and microbes regarded as weeds and pathogens.

Finally all plants, animals and microorganisms were dispatched, defined as useless competitors, competing over limited space and valuable atoms.

Now, working on a surface as sterile and as wide-open as the surface of Mars, Modernity could really start with a clean slate.....

Commensal thoughts were parents to the Humanitarian penicillin deed ...

Before 1945 and the rise of post-Modernity, it was rare for scientific doubts to turn into humanitarian actions, but Martin Henry Dawson's wartime efforts against the weaponizing of penicillin was an important exception.

From 1926 till 1940 , Dr Dawson had intensely studied how Nature's smallest beings ( the bacteria) managed to survive upon and co-exist with the smartest and most successful of Nature's largest beings (Man) .

His fourteen years of intense research in Commensality was dismissed by most of his colleagues as a sad mis-directed use of his considerable talents.

As with his colleagues, no one today really doubts that humanity is  a large being and very intelligent( ie is wise as well as mighty) while most of us still regard bacteria as barely living, incredibly small, blobs of jelly : as dumb as they are weak.

But as Dawson discovered, as fast as Man's sophisticated internal immune system and his equally sophisticated external medical system came up with ways to remove these commensal bacteria, the bacteria equally found ways to claw their way back.

Just as he knew that any forthright and honest look at the current and past workings of Nature would show that the tiny and the big are co-existing today and have been doing so for a very long time -----with no sign at all that the small were on their way out.

If anything, the fossil record showed how vulnerable the big could be to mass extinction in times of trouble.

Despite this rather bleak record for the bigger beings of  Nature, it was precisely to Nature ( rather than to the traditional arbiter, God) that Dawson's Era of Modernity appealed to.

All to back its central claim that 'only the strong survive', 'might is right' , 'law of the jungle', 'survival of the fit', 'Nature is on the side of the bigger battalions' and many other similar phrases.

Dawson was a dutiful fully paid-up member of Modernity.

But the more he investigated the many varied and ingenious ways his oral commensal strep bacteria hung in against Man's best efforts, the less willing he was to endure this constant claim of Nature's support for the self-centred and ruthless actions of the world's biggest human societies.

Once, (younger, unmarried, childless and without any old war wounds), he had been able to show his support for the smaller human societies by enlisting in WWI to fight for poor, pitiful Belgium and for the memory of Edith Carvell.

Now in October 1940, as an even more squalid WWII slid into its second year, he still hadn't found an equivalent way to do something in support of the small and the weak in this war.

Then echoes of the Nazi war on the weak reached his own American medical school and gave him the emotional opening he needed.

Suddenly "Social" medicine (the 1930s efforts to reduce sickness among the poorest and most vulnerable) , something he had much a part of through his advocacy on behalf of the neglected chronically ill poor, was to be downplayed in the school's curriculum.

Instead now all possible attention was to be directed to teaching "War" medicine and maximizing the health of America's most fit young men.

So the majority of his colleagues cheerfully clumped off , on the first day of America's first ever peacetime draft registration, (October 16th 1940), to help with medical examinations.

But while America's doctors attended to seeking out the most 1A men possible among America's youth, Dawson heard the beat of a different drummer.

He instead deliberately sought out the 4Fs of the 4Fs, young men dying of SBE (subacute bacterial endocarditis), an invariably fatal progressive disease that mostly afflicted the poor, immigrants and minorities.

His team hadn't planned to start their first clinical trials till next year, 1941, but he changed all that with one sudden decision.

He chose to make Draft Day, October 16th 1940, the first day of his new Age of Humanitarian Antibiotics, picking that day to give History's first ever shots of penicillin.

 Two young men (black man Aaron Alston and a young Jewish boy named Charles Aronson) couldn't be part of that historical first day of peacetime draft registration because, as clearly terminal patients, it didn't seem worth the bother of the draft officials.

 But as the first ever patients of the Age of Antibiotics, they still ended up living on forever in the memory of anyone ever saved by this overdue (humanitarian-driven) advent of antibiotics....

WWII : was Nature REALLY on the side of the bigger battalions ?

The distinguishing claim of the Age of Modernity was that Nature was on the side of the bigger battalions : a claim that finally received a definitive physical (rather than verbal) response from Nature, in the years between 1939 and 1945.

This is why we mark 1945 as the start of the new Age of post-Modernity, because unlike Chesterton's Christianity, Modernity has been tried - and failed.....

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Failure to stop Famines invariably dooms Dynasties" say Chinese-influenced cultures

If so - and I happen to agree with the Chinese - than nothing doomed the British, French and Nationalist Chinese Empires like their failure to prevent or solve the man-made famines of 1943-1945 in Bengal, Tonkin and Honan.

Most educated people are starting to know of the famine in Bengal of 1943-1944 , just as others learn more of the Hunger Winter famine in 1944-1945 in the west of the Netherlands.

We have long known hunger was widespread in the Axis world from all the 1945 photographs of skin and bone prisoners released from hundreds of  POW and concentration camps around the world.

We've heard about starving Jews in ghettos and the starvation death of most of the enormous city of Leningrad.

But few know of the huge famine in Greece in 1940-1941 , with blame starting with the Axis and ending with Britain's coalition cabinet (the other Allies didn't really deserve much if any of the blame).

Even less is known about the huge famine in Vietnam (Tonkin) in 1944-1945 under the French and Japanese watch.

A few, older, people know of the horrible famine in Honan Province, under Nationalist Chinese control  in 1943-1944 because an eyewitness, American writer Theodore White, wrote about it at the time.

But because the mechanized battles of tanks and guns and bombs seem so exciting to read about from a comfy armchair (rather than to actually live and die through), few writers write best sellers on the biggest human battle of WWII : just getting enough to eat to go on living .

Modernity's horde of tame writers do up Modernity's mechanical successes a real treat : but they avoid its biggest failure : its inability to do something as basic as keeping granddaughter feed and grandmother warm.

Maybe post-modernist writers can handle that WWII story much better.....

The promise of Penicillin : the only good news to ever come out of The Bad News War

Six long years later and in a very different world from what they had so confidently predicted they'd be in, back in 1939, the Allied world celebrated that they had won.

(Those of the world - the majority - who had remained neutral during some or all of the moral battle against Hitler's evil chimed in that they had helped, too, by killing this latter day Kaiser with their mouths.)

More accurately, the Allies had survived : calling it 'winning' was going more than a bit too far.

The Soviet Empire was in ruins, with its population base and physical superstructure permanently damaged.

Its 1939 belief that the capitalist nations would fight it out during WWII, while the Soviets stayed neutral awaiting the inevitable triumph of a wonderful world of Communism was revealed to be hopelessly wrong.

Its buoyant pre-war self confidence in the rightness of the Soviet cause was pretty well gone by 1947.

Over the next 45 years, it slowly, slowly, slowly slip down into third world conditions by the time the empire formally imploded in 1992.

The British Empire of 1939 - holding 25% of the world - the biggest and richest ever seen - began formally collapsing much earlier, in fact the day Labour was elected in July 1945.

But for many Britons and their world-wide admirers, the bounce had gone out of the Anglo strut around the time of the Fall of Singapore.

America in 1939 had said it had no Empire and wished only to live apart and above the worldly fray.

It instead ended up as the world's policeman - at such a high cost in terms of money and moral certitudes - that is still dragging itself ever downwards today.

But let's rehearse all the good things that came out of of WWII , at least as 1945 saw it.

Victory ( see above) .

Jet planes - jet fighter planes with radar , atomic bombs, proximity fused shells  and napalm.

Rockets - with atomic bombs.

Nuclear powered submarines - armed with atomic missiles.

Cheap ,clean power from atomic power plants. Energy too cheap to meter, with radiation levels too low to monitor.

Plastics, lots of plastics and other synthetic chemicals.

Chemical insecticides - based on nerve gas and the gases used at Auschwitz.

The United Nations for peace - with an absolute veto over any possible action for peace  handed over to the only nations powerful enough to cause a serious war.

And penicillin.

Penicillin and other life-saving antibiotics.

That's my case .

Please add your choices for the best news out of WWII in the comment section below.....

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Genes-o-cide only covers some of the crimes of Hitler,Stalin and Tojo : Triage-cide instead ?

It was Stalin who got the West to agree that the UN definition of genocide shouldn't including killing everyone belonging to a political, economic or social group.

(Clever - because that was exactly the sort of mass killing that Communists, rather than Fascists, much preferred ---- not that Communists didn't kill ethnic groups like the Poles as readily as Hitler killed economic groups like German trade unionists.)

Gene-o-cide or Genetic-cide betrays its dusty old Modernity roots : the focus on the "fact" that people are fixed forever by their forebearers' genes, so as to remain your enemy even into future unborn generations.

Hitler acted upon those ideas - insisting that killing Jewish and Roma babies would prevent them coming back as adult destroyers of the Aryan race.

Stalin, too, often killing the children of those he deemed traitors claiming they were tarred by their erring parents' brush.

The Soviets definitely won this dictionary war ---- today most of us limit genocide to killing people related genetically, rather than seeing it extends to masses of murdered people only related by all holding the same party or trade union or football team card.

Raphael Lemkin the Jewish Polish lawyer who first coined the term genocide more than 75 years ago, wanted it to encompass the mass killing of any group that had something in common - in both their eyes and in the eyes of their killers.

His occupation - he was a Polish lawyer - was a favorite group to kill, much sought out by both Germans and Russians : for being ethnically Polish and for being economically upper middle class and for being intellectuals and for being potential leaders.

Thrown in being Jewish as well and presto : you have five good reasons to want him dead.

Unfortunately for academics doing head counts, you can only kill someone once - so what column of dead exactly would you have placed Mr Lemkin, if he had been killed in Timothy Synder's Bloodlands during WWII ?

Triage-cide  rather than genetic-cide ?

He would have been, above all else, yet another individual killed by global Modernity's craving to mass triage its way into a permanently perfectly frozen Utopia.

Triage-cide might well be a more accurate word to describe the intent behind all of these highly varied killings done by all these highly varied killers, all of whom saw themselves as modernists .....

Hitler and his strongest critics agree: Holocaust unique because it sought to kill an entire ethnic group

I don't agree.

 I believe Hitler and his killing crews sought to make it easy on themselves while killing ten million Jews in cold blood, by not regarding them as ten million different individuals but merely as one great big reified lump, an ethnicity.

I don't believe that Hitler and his crew could have killed more than a few dozen a day, and even then only once in a while, if they had to sit behind a desk and look at the photos in hundreds of dossiers, devoid of ethnicity/religion /politics and decide which ones of those individual faces lived and which ones died.

Even Stalin, a very hands on guy when it came to the execution of the elite of the USSR, found it tough to do this sort of work all the time.

He often avoid all that hard thinking and deciding by simply issuing an order to the NRVD directing that all POWs with the simple label, "Polish", must be killed by next week.

Then he went off ,with a bottle in hand, to relax by watching a Hollywood comedy.

Sixty million individuals were killed in WWII ,including six million Jews - smoothly and easily - by deliberately not regarding them as  sixty million highly different individuals.

We must not let WWII like thinking slip in sideways by letting historians reifying Hitler's victims into a few big lumps.

We must always seek to unbundle their lives and the lives of those 'much like them' who did not die,  back into individual stories.

We must always remember that individual killers killed individual victims and overcome the easy (bottle in hand/Hollywood comedy) solution of simply assigning collective guilt to account for collective horrors and calling it an academic day.

Only in Hitler's mind, did one reified lump called "all Aryans" want to kill another reified lump called "all Jews"......

WWII: the horrific medical 'Triaging' of New York Jews and Blacks

Here is a challenge I throw out to New York City's many amateur historians and genealogical detectives : find out more about the young New Yorker who was the first person ever in the world to be treated - successfully - with penicillin-the-antibiotic.

Particularly if you interested in uncovering more about the harsh wartime treatment afforded many first generation inner city New York Blacks and  Jews.

So, again, a challenge : find out more about PATIENT ONE , the young New Yorker(s)  who first introduced the Age of Antibiotics against fierce resistance from the medical establishment.

Here's a little what we already know for certain (past and future posts on this blog will add more details : the keywords to search are Charles Aronson , Aaron Alston and (Martin) Henry Dawson.)

Patient One , A and B

Actually, two young New Yorkers were given a needle of penicillin by Doctor Martin Henry Dawson on that same history-making day (October 16th 1940) at the famed Columbia Prebyterian Medical Centre : a young Black and a young  Jew, both probably poor.

Its quite a story from how these two young ,poor, men from these ethnicities, traditionally regarded as 'last' , came to be 'first' ever in the world to receive the miracle of antibiotics.

Both young men were dying of then common dreaded and 99% invariably fatal SBE (Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis), a disease that hits the heart valves.

Heart valves damaged earlier by RF (Rheumatic Fever).

Working in tandem, these two related diseases were the most common way for school age children to die in the 20th Century , until about 1960.

The Polio of the Poor

RF was "The Polio of the Poor", because just as the much less common Polio was highly selective and tended to hit the children of well to do WASPs in the leafy suburbs, RF tended to hit  hardest among the poor children of inner city immigrants and minorities.

Unless you are wilfully naive , you probably have guessed by now why you have heard so very much more about relatively uncommon serious cases of Polio than about the much more common - and commonly fatal - RF & SBE !

There is no doubt at all that first patient to be selected for this experimental treatment was a young black man, Aaron Alston.

Penicillin had been discovered exactly 12 years earlier and a little ( very primitive work) had been even been published on growing it , but it remained basically unknown and unused in 1940.

So Dawson and his co-workers ( Meyer, Hobby and Chaffee) were still at the square one of square one, a few weeks into their first attempt to try and grow the mold in their hospital lab,  when a seriously ill Aaron Alston arrived on a ward that Dawson 'attended' (had some limited medical authority over).

It had not been expected that they would have enough penicillin made, purified and tested for clinical trials for another four months.

But Dawson's heart went out to Alston, because Dawson reasoned, based on what little he knew of penicillin, that  penicillin might finally conquer SBE.

(A disease by the way he had never published even one word on - he was in fact hired to work in an area that was very neglected and directed to leave a well researched disease like SBE to the time- proven experts.)

The disease then (and perhaps still now) was regarded as the Mount Everest of all infectious disease, the Gold Standard test of any new anti-bacterial medication.

Delay meant Death

He decided to ignore laborious hospital protocols for pre-testing new drug treatments : Alston would die before he got this one last shot at life , if they choose to wait four further months  down the road.

Dawson would first test penicillin's potential toxicity (of which there was , to put it extremely mildly, absolutely no evidence of, judging by lots of  previously published work on small animals and human blood cells) on himself.

Then he'd give a little at a time to Alston, slowly and cautiously.

The team was only making very little amounts of a very weak penicillin at that time, so this was really just making a virtue of necessity !

How did Dawson know that Alston was so rapidly dying, that haste was imperative ?

There is no direct evidence but the indirect evidence is compelling, I believe, that Alston had already received the conventional treatment for SBE in 1940, prolonged and massive treatments by the new miracle drugs, the sulfas.

Most SBE patients in 1940 got at least a brief improvement with sulfa drugs.

 But the bacteria fought back and the same miserable one percent survived with sulfa treatments (only to die when the disease returned a year or two later)...... as with those receiving no treatment what so ever.

However some patients got no relief from sulfa - the number of bacteria colonies in the blood went up (and not down) after treatment and the doctors then knew these patients' particular strain of oral strep bacteria in their heart valves were particularly resistant to the sulfa drugs and that death would be swift and certain.

 I believe Alston was one of these patients and this is why Dawson decided to go to clinical trial four months early, and after only five weeks from first even learning of what very little was known about penicillin.

And why the other more senior doctors let him try his penicillin on the clearly dying Alston.

Since massive and prolonged amounts of sulfa had failed to kill off all the heart valve bacteria, it seemed pointless to hope that a very little bit of very weak penicillin would do the trick.

But it was worth the effort to Dawson and the others doctors really couldn't see why he couldn't at least try, this once - but only in his own spare time, when he won't be neglecting his own proper duties.

 Dawson's ideas on the immense worth of penicillin were regarded as madness by his hospital colleagues and he really needed to show even a small , if temporary, reduction in the number of bloodstream bacterial colonies if he hoped to receive further help, not further hinderance, from his hospital chiefs.

In fact, it took three more years before any more than a few dozen doctors in the whole world thought that penicillin was worth bothering about.

 Need I add, three more war years, filled with additional millions  of patients dying from war-related bacterial infections ?

For the fact is that for the first fifteen long years, penicillin's worst enemy wasn't bacteria but rather doctors themselves.

Antibiotics arrives, despite doctors' best efforts

By and large, the Age of Antibiotics arrived in this world despite the best efforts of doctors, not because of their efforts.

Hence Dawson's decision to use all of a tiny amount of a weak solution, pushed into just one patient, in hopes of seeing even a hint of successful, if temporary, results.

 A chance to keep his hospital bosses off his back and a chance they'd let him continue his massive mold-growing efforts inside their precious neat and tidy ultra-modern medical centre.

That first needle offered up a potential lifeline to a young dying black man.... and a potential lifeline to billions of future patients.

Enter Charles Aronson

But then Dawson deliberately chose to blow it - or so it seemed.

Another dying young man, a  twenty seven year old Jewish boy named Charles Aronson, arrived on the ward, days before Alston was to get all the meagre penicillin that had been hand-grown so far.

Spontaneously, Dawson added him to this first clinical trial, dividing the meagre lifeline into two thinner lifelines, like a latter day Solomon.

Why ? Why when this further weakened any slim hopes of observing a clinical response?

Several reasons.

Firstly, lots of test tube results had confirmed that penicillin, by weight, was thousands as times potent as the sulfas.

This, despite the fact that their 1940 homegrown 'penicillin' was actually 99.5% dross -- but luckily they'd didn't know this .

Ordinarily, even their small amounts of weak penicillin, even divided in two, would have given clear signs of response, in almost any other bacterial disease.

Except SBE : its unique combo of 'gotchas' rightly made it the Mount Everest of infection, and thought Dawson ultimately did cure SBE with penicillin, he did so only after rolling many massive stones of Sisyphus  penicillin up that Mount.

But again they didn't know this at the time.

Secondly, Aronson had an uniquely complicated, and sad, medical history revolving around repeated attacks from all kinds of seemingly different strep bacteria diseases.

To Dawson, 'seeming different' was the key phrase.

For Dawson's personal/private research interest was in relating all the varied survival techniques he saw as shared by the strep bacteria that co-exist with us.

They live in our mouths, throats and nose much of the time and very occasionally causing serious disease by the ways some of our bodies choose to respond to those sophisticated survival techniques.

But I think this was a minor part of what got Dawson to add Aronson to that first clinical trial.

Dawson hated Triage

Because one of the abiding qualities of Dawson was his lifelong hatred of Triage , which unfortunately happened to be the chief and defining characteristic of the era he lived in, The Era of Modernity.

Modernity was all about, always, the dividing the world into two piles ---- those humans, beings and places worthy of continued life and succour and those unworthy of further life and support : in a word, Triage.

Think of all those medical doctors in jack boots, standing at the railway siding in places like Auschwitz, deciding in an instant if you were to die quickly in a shower or die slowly working too hard for too little food : Triage.

Triage had hit Dawson's hospital that Fall of 1940 : orders had gone out to focus resources on the diseases that affect front line 1A troops and to downplay devoting resources on diseases that only affect the useless 4Fs.

A wonderful time for medical political conservatives to gleefully call for a massive rollback of 1930s efforts to reduce the death rates among the poor, the minorities and the immigrants ("Social" Medicine) , under the guise that all resources were needed to keep our "boys" alive at the up-coming frontline : "War" Medicine.

Now if there ever was a Poster Child of a disease the war medicine hawks didn't want to treat, it was SBE and here is why.

Unlike Polio ( whose research efforts expanded during the war years) , the conservatives' own kids weren't likely to get RF and SBE.

And unfortunately both diseases were different from many other potentially fatal diseases like smallpox where if you got it once and survived, it would never hit you again.

Even 'curing' a bout of RF and SBE left behind permanent damage which made it not just likely you'd be hit again with new bouts, but hit harder each time as your delicate heart valves further weakened.

These were progressive, re-occuring, infectious diseases with a strong component of deadly auto-immunity to add to the mix.

Any success with SBE was going to be long and expensive in hospital resources, leave the cured patient still unable to serve in the military and do anything very arduous in a war plant - and a year later they be back in hospital again with another potentially fatal bout.

Neglect them and let them die quickly and quietly at home, at least until this war is over,  was the Allied medical establishment's decision worldwide.

Since this also was the Nazis' line, Dawson doubted we would really 'win' a war against them by taking up their horrific tactics.

This is why he deliberately choose to begin the new Age of Antibiotics on October 16 1940,  the first registration day for the
first ever peacetime draft, a day devoted to seeking out and celebrating the 1A youth of America.

He would mark that historical date by instead seeking out and celebrating the 4Fs of the 4Fs of America, celebrating the worthiness of  the least of these.

Cynical, clinical, trials

Conventionally having two (or more) patients suffering from the same disease under your medical wing at the moment when you are about to begin a new form of medical treatment was considered a godsend.

One half would get the old treatment and the other half the new treatment.

Officially and publicly the doctor(s) claimed to agnostic between the virtues of both treatments but that was rarely really true for the first pioneering medical teams.

Inside the privacy of their mind and conscience, they really didn't think the older treatment worked or at least didn't work very well.

This is because a strong belief in the likely success of a new drug was needed before any doctor is willing to do the extremely arduous work of being the first to try out a totally new treatment.

If the disease being treated was acute and had a high fatality rate, the trial would mean some would die who could have been saved , by the time good results came in.

The discussion of the early mass clinical trials of sulfa for dangerous diseases like pneumonia make extremely disturbing reading 75 years later.

Blithely it is - briefly - noted that hundreds died in these various trials.

Hundreds who could have lived if these pioneering true believers in the virtues of sulfa had consistently given their (abundant) supplies to everyone they felt might be saved by it.

The tiny amounts moral dilemma

The worst moral dilemma for many initial trials is that only a tiny amount of a potentially life-saving drug for an acute (rapid) disease has been made - because making this new drug is still hard and expensive and the pharma firm is unwilling to scale up production before there are good signs it might work.

(One drug in a thousand survives the normally long, long expensive trek from the first look at it, to mass production and mass use.)

Such new life-saving drugs tend to go to specialists in the disease it is judged best suited for and these doctors frequently have many
rapidly dying patients at hand who might live if they get it.

The only moral, ethical, solution is to grit one's teeth, stop up your tears and resolve to divide the limited supply among the healthiest/youngest/smallest patients, hoping in this way to get a few successes that will spur on greater production of the drug.

A dozen small children might use the same weight of limited drug as one elderly , weak, fat, adult ---- and get better results.

But with this very biased success could come more of the drug, to then humanely treat all the dying without selecting one over another.

Carefully applied, triage can be highly moral.

But there didn't seem any reason, in advance, to pick one of these young men over the other for the initial clinical trial.

The war medicine hawks had already put the 1As in one worthy pile and the 4Fs in another unworthy pile and Dawson did not want to divide 4Fs into further piles based on no morally fit grounds.

Dawson refused to pick and choose between Alston and Aronson : both got a few days treatment until the supply ran out.

As it turned out, Alston later got a more extensive penicillin treatment but still died. Aronson got no further penicillin but lived - because his particular strain turned out to respond well to massive sulfa doses given for months at a time.

He didn't get another bout of SBE for about three and a half years - a true cure by even exacting standards.

This is why I believe, despite the fact that both men both penicillin within minutes of each other, Aronson got the first needle.

Alston , I  feel certain, had been getting sulfa for weeks but it is known that Aronson didn't get any sulfa until a few more weeks after his first penicillin treatment.

If Alston was in fact the very first patient ever treated by penicillin , any success with penicillin would be quickly and loudly explained away by the many, many pioneers of sulfa --- all claiming it was really due to the use of their drug.

But if the first ever patient was Aronson, any success penicillin had with him would be due to penicillin alone and hard to refute.

Convincing scientists - and their egos - is harder than making major scientific discoveries

The sad fact is that success in science is based on facts and evidence and is relatively easy to achieve.

But convincing other scientists of that success in science really means reminding a lot of awfully big egos that their particular hobby horse isn't the right path to success after all - an extremely difficult process.

Rhetoric, not facts, is key here ----- it might seem ridiculous to highlight the success of one patient given a medication just moments before another , but to truthfully claim that my medicine cured the very first patient it treated was (and is) a potent bragging point.

Dawson's ego was small but he was not naive : I believe he did treat Aronson first, if only by mere moments, to help him win his rhetorical battle with his doubting bosses.

Dawson was extremely modest and truthful : he only ever claimed that Aronson lived through this first bout of SBE due to sulfa, not his penicillin.

 (Though Dawson later did cure him of a second bout in 1944 with enough penicillin to make a real difference.)

William Osler's take on the whole affair ?

But perhaps you believe, along with the world famous Dr William Osler and a boatload of distinguished clinicians ever since, that bedside moral support is at least as important as drugs in helping a body fight off an infection.

Then you might be forgiven in thinking that the compassion Dawson displayed to Charles Aronson, in not 'triaging' him out of the penicillin trial, was at least as important as the tiny amount of penicillin he did receive, in allowing him to live.

One way to look at Dawson's early penicillin was regard it as only .56 of one percent pure.

But alternatively - particularly if, like me,  you are a big fan of New York born  Eddie Rabbit - you could regard it as being made of "nighty nine and forty four one hundreds percent pure love".

Then you can rationally believe that Dawson's penicillin did at least help cure an invariably fatal disease in the very first person in history ever to be treated by an antibiotic ....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1939-1945 : Nesvizh Jews fight for life, at home and abroad

While Jews in the democratic West during WWII were unwilling  to do something even as minor as chaining themselves to government fences ( a la the suffragettes) to protest the mass killing of their counterparts in Europe, this did not mean that other Jews were not fighting for their right to life in those years.

Consider the brave Jews of Nesvizh.

Ninety percent of the Jews of that small city, 60 miles south west of Minsk (today part of Belarus, then part of Poland), were killed by the Germans, in one day, in October 1941.

The remaining 600, locked in a tiny ghetto, resolved to try an armed breakout, rather than die quietly.

The forests were right next to the city and the ghetto and once the Jews were in the woods, filled with lethal partisans hidden behind dark trees, the Germans and their helpers quickly lost their dutch courage and gave up the chase.

On July 21 1942, hearing a police company of Nazi collaborators was coming to kill the remaining 600, the Jews started their break out.

Yes, most got killed in the process, but perhaps 10% of the 10% got away to try and survive the grim and short lives of forest partisans.

Maybe a handful of the original 6000 survived to the end of the war.

Nevertheless, this tiny ghetto was the first, or one of the very first, groups of Eastern European Jews to fight to the death in an effort to stay alive.... and is widely honored worldwide today for doing so.

Particularly by those children of Western Jews who know their own parents and grandparents, under far more safe circumstances, did basically nothing, certainly nothing so bold and courageous, during WWI to hinder the Nazi efforts to kill all of the world's Jews.

Most of the Jewish people of  Nesvizh survive today as the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the people of that shtetl who emigrated to places like New York in the brief window of opportunity between the 1890s and the start of WWI.

Charlie Aronson 

We still know very little about this man, the very first person to receive lifesaving penicillin-the-antibiotic (systemic penicillin) and who did so on October 16 1940 in New York.

We do know a fair bit of his medical history, but as to Charles Aronson himself, we only know he was born about 1913.

We are very lucky that in 1944 much of his complicated medical history was abstracted by his doctor in a published article because today's America would let us know nothing of this man born a 100 years ago.

America is a country where it is much easier to buy an assault rifle then it is for a historian to get any personal information about historical figures.

But importantly we do know a fair bit of the career of his doctor (Dr Henry Dawson) , particularly with regard to the disease that Charlie Aronson was being treated for (subacute bacterial endocarditis) (SBE).

Prior to Charlie, Dawson had never treated SBE and obviously , at that point, no one had treated anyone anywhere with systemic penicillin.

From these few scant facts, we can make a few educated , aka statistical, guesses about the identity of Charlie.

Because some academics have studied the matter thoroughly, we have a pretty good idea of how ordinary (non well-to-do) New Yorkers picked the solutions to their medical problems in 1940.

The densely populated centre of New York City is also home to one of the world's largest arrays of hospitals and doctors in the world.

A short bus ride in any direction in the three mile circle around your home threw up lots of possible healers.

Even the poorest weren't short of choices - many NYC hospitals and doctors were also research oriented and if you submitted to their new therapy trials, you got (hopefully) cutting edge treatment for little or no cost.

Generally, distance was a big factor : since so many good hospitals lay close at hand in every direction, so why go further only to find your family and friends can't easily visit you daily ?

The exception was if a doctor or hospital was very famous for its special advanced treatment of a particular fatal disease : then people would come from all over the continent or the world, desperate for a possible lifeline.

Dr Henry Dawson ,and systemic penicillin, in October 1940, were the furthest possible from that sort of fame in the case of SBE.

In October 1940, nobody had a cure for SBE : when you got very sick with it, you went to any old hospital and patiently waited to die from this 99% invariable fatal disease.

So in looking for a patient named Charles Aronson, born around 1913, who attended Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in upper Manhattan in October 1940, the first place to look is in the recent release of the 1940 federal US census, seeking a man of that name and age living pretty close to the hospital.

As it happens, the only man having that name and age in the 1940 census living within a few miles of Columbia- Presbyterian lived very close indeed: two miles away at 1202 Vyse Avenue in the (South) Bronx.

(The handwritten census indication of the street is often misread as Nyse Avenue (sic!).

Most - but not all - of the people in New York City in 1940 named Aronson were recent Jewish immigrant families from The Pale of Russia , places like today's Poland, Ukraine and Belarus.

Places like Nesvizh.

The Charles Aronson born around 1913 living at 1202 Vyse Avenue, has a brother Samuel, a sister Lillian, a mother Olga and a father Alex.

Vyse Avenue, in 1940, was home to a closely knit community from the Minsk and Nesvizh areas and so when we see an Alex Aronson from the Bronx on two lists of members of a Nesvizh landsmanshaften, we may well have something.

(Landsmanshafts were Jewish fraternal organizations based on all members being former residents of a very small part of the Old World. Think of it as a big neighbourhood emigrating en masse and re-constituting itself in another country. It functioned as a hometown collective self-help, burial and social organization.)

The 1940 census says that Alex and Olga were born in the former Russian Empire in the late 1880s (and Minsk/Nesvizh was certainly part of that Empire back then.)

Charlie and his siblings were all born in New York and I feel we can safely speculate that Olga and Alex migrated to New York as twenty year olds just before WWI and started their family there.

The 1940 census tells us not just ages and birthplaces and current residence, it tells us of the education, occupations and incomes of all on the census.

Luckily the youngest Aronson of this family , Samuel, was asked a few more questions - in particular he said his childhood home language was Jewish (Yiddish), indicating this family was in fact Jewish.

Alex had 3 years of school, worked as a machine operator making ladies cloaks, earning $1400 a year ( a typical skilled working class wage in that year.) Olga had no formal education and worked at home as a homemaker.

Samuel had one year of college and was looking for work as a machine operator making ladies belts.

Lillian had 4 years of High School and made $900 a year as a machine operator making ladies belts.

Charles also had 4 years of High School and was making $950 a year working as a teletype operator at a newspaper.

Perhaps at a gentile newspaper but far more likely at a Jewish newspaper.

If this Charles Aronson was the same one who received history's first ever shot of antibiotic and went on to recover from invariable fatal SBE not just once but twice, it was remarkable he had so much education and had a skilled job.

Because the SBE Charlie had had many close calls with death and permanent disability.

When he was eight,in the early 1920s, Charlie had gotten Rheumatic Fever (RF) , which until 1960, the leading case of death in school age children.

His was an unusually severe version, as it hit the cells of his joints, the cells of his heart and the cells of his nerves.

He was lucky not to die - most poor kids at that time did die outright from this severe an attack.

Then he went right on to get a severe attack of the post WWI worldwide epidemic of a mysterious sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica, not at all to be confused with the disease caused by the tropical tsetse fly.

Today the evidence points away from what was originally seen as the cause, flu, and towards an auto immune response to particular strains of strep bacteria causing a case of strep throat weeks or months before the onset of this particular disease.

Rheumatic Fever is another in a whole series of auto-immune diseases caused by some people's particular gene set over-reacting to certain strains of strep throat bacteria.

Thanks to Oliver Sacks, most people today know far more about sleeping sickness than do they of Rheumatic Fever, and most know that while many died of the initial attack, others survived it only to become victims of permanent post-infection parkinsonism.

Such was SBE Charlie's unlucky fate.

Still he survived two should-be fatal attacks by strep before 1940 and remarkably he would survive two more should-be fatal attacks by different strep bacteria between 1940 and 1944.

And a life-threatening stroke : a cat of more than just nine lives !

These latter strep were the normally harmless mouth strep bacteria than can invade damaged heart valves caused by Rheumatic Fever and almost always (before systemic penicillin) kill the patient : the dreaded SBE.

Attacks to your nerve cells  such as hit Charlie twice, can give a person temporary or semi-permanent mental, emotional and behavioral issues.

The Nazis in particular feared those with this form of sleeping sickness and their Aktion T4  murder teams usually sought out and killed such people, even when the person generally functioned as a hard working tax paying citizen.

Such as poor Martin Bader, who was murdered by German doctors in late June 1940.

This was the very same time as two American doctors, Dawson along with Dr Karl Meyer, were first learning of penicillin's unknown systemic potential from unpublished verbal reports from an American student forced to leave Oxford University after the Fall of France.

Already the two were thinking of it for a new use as a life-saving therapy.

Dawson was a humanitarian doctor but in addition his particular private research interest was oral strep diseases.

Charlie may have been a last minute attention to the initial SBE penicillin trial (despite Dawson not having enough penicillin for one, let alone two SBE patients) because he had survived both RF and sleeping sickness and now was under attack from strep bacteria for a third time.

Charlie never faced direct assault from Nazis as did his remaining relatives in Nesvizh, if that is where indeed his dad came from.

But Charlie's life was threatened by Nazi-like thinking by the American medical elite, who felt, like Himmler and Hitler, that SBE patients, particularly if they also suffering from parkinsonism, were just useless mouths to feed in an all-out total war, and so should be left to die---- in this case, by deliberate neglect.

They ordered doctors not to waste penicillin on SBE patients.

Charlie and Doctor Dawson fought back - not with guns - but Dawson did break the wartime laws and did steal scarce government controlled penicillin, all to keep SBE patients alive.

His "ACTING UP" finally provoked a national and then international public reaction against the Allies' Nazi-like attitude to SBE patients and penicillin.

The character of Allied penicillin also changed at that moment - from a secret weapon of war, to a public and universal life-saver.

Dawson himself was dying of an auto-immune disease from 1940-1945 and did not live to see the end of the Nazis, but Charlie did.

To the Polish government at the beginning of the war, Charlie was a Polish citizen living overseas.

No country in the world had a worse war than the Poland of the 1939 boundaries.

The Allies with great consistency treated it as badly in 1945 as they did in 1939, matching the Nazis stroke for stroke.

It is satisfying to know that at least one citizen of Poland was treated fairly during WWII, treated as fairly as every individual should be treated all the time,  and that the result of his being treated with compassion, penicillin became about the only good news story that ever did come out of that bad news war ....

Friday, April 19, 2013

1943 : UK overheats the heavens.... while Bengal starves

Churchill always claimed that the UK just couldn't spare the shipping needed to help feed the starving millions in British Bengal in 1943.

But it turns out that what Bengal's would-be rescue ships were really needed for was to bring the millions and millions of gallons of overseas petroleum to the UK, to feed the FIDO systems set up around British airfields beginning in 1943.

Burning petroleum at a rate as high as one to two hundred thousand gallons of fuel per hour, per airfield, was used to create an artificial climate above the airfields - literally burning off the ever-present British fog so bombers could take off and land in all kinds of weather, night or day.

Climate Change and Global Warming, RAF-style.

For those lanky, metallic, mechanized citizens of the British Empire must be feed at all costs, even if the darker human citizens of the Empire must starve to make it so.

The relentless logic of Modernity ....

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mass Extinctions : most of the mighty are crushed while most of the weak survive

The geological record certainly doesn't support the idea that Might is Right and that the mighty and the wise species will inevitably replace the weak and the foolish species : far from it.

The Earth has had enough episodes of Mass Extinctions to suggest a consistent pattern : in tough times, the mighty (and the mighty consumers of resources) starve and the weak and tiny hang on, surviving on scraps.

Stephen Jay Gould noted this geological confounding of dogmatic Darwinism, as presumably did another author writing some 1900 years before Gould, in a letter to some people in Corinth ....

Tortoise vs Hare : predicting our world in 1945....

On September 2nd 1939, when the British Empire declared war on the German Empire (thus ensuring we would have another world war), there were two main scientific theories predicting the shape of our world at the war's end.

The far more popular theory at the time was called Modernity, Social Darwinism or simply 'Might is Right'.

 It said Evolution was a vertical affair, with wiser and more mighty entities inevitably and naturally replacing entities that were weaker and more foolish.

The other, far less popular theory, saw Evolution as a horizontal activity, with the weaker and simple-minded entities continuing to co-exist for ever and ever, in global commensality, with the bigger and more complex entities.

It even went further than that.

It claimed that on not-infrequent occasion, the smaller and more simple would even triumph over the larger, more complex and more sophisticated entities in the fundamental effort to survive.

Now it is obviously that these diametrically opposed theories could not both be right.

"the hyssop and The Cedars" will look closely at the course of  WWII to see how accurate each scientific theory was in predicting the twisting course of that awful - and unexpectedly awfully long - war.....

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Modernity: the 500 Year Reich

In retrospect, all of the promise of the New York's World Fair (1939-1940) turned out to be just the sad brief apogee of Late Modernity, indeed of all Modernity itself.

It hardly started out that way.

Five Hundred Years of Modernity was to be celebrated as part of the Fair's second year , marking the 500 years supposedly since Gutenberg invented the printing press --- and began the onset of cheap, mass produced, printed knowledge.

Talk of a 1000 Year Reich in places like Hitler's Germany, at this point, was just that : talk .

But Modernity's first 500 years was already safely in the record books and tangibly real, real for all to see and applaud.

In 1939, there seemed no reason why there shouldn't be at least another 500 years of triumph ahead for Modernity.

Yet it is now generally agreed that by the post-Auschwitz, post-Hiroshima, post-Katyn autumn of 1945 , Granddad's Modernity was well and truly broken.

And out of that wreckage gradually crawled a very different and very new era, our own Era of Post-Modernity.

What could have gone so terribly wrong, for Modernity to soar way to its apogee and then plunge way down to its nadir, in just six short years ?

Clearly it was World War Two (Modernity's own war, Modernity with its thrusters fully engaged) that was what had gone so badly wrong ....

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Atheistic Nature's inordinate fondness for beetles...

The genetically-minded Moderns of the 1930s felt they were facing a grave demographic crisis : why where there so few Ubermensch and so many undermensch: why so few Cedars and so much hyssop ?

In other words, why on earth were there so many beetles, defectives and useless mouths ?

Not believing in a Supreme Being,  at least not believing in any Being Superior to themselves, they had to blame the Iron Laws of Nature and Evolution for this un-natural natural fondness for things weak and foolish.

If in ancient times , the Cedars of Lebanon were the biggest, tallest living beings known, the hyssop growing through the cracks in Beth Nielsen Chapman's concrete were 'the lowest of the low', the plant kingdom's equivalent of being the 4Fs of the 4Fs.

Seemingly the useless hyssop's only purpose for being put on this earth was to form a home for an equally purposeless mold.

But then, of course, when Fleming found that mold stopped bacteria cold and Dawson stuck it into a patient's arm to save a life, the lowly hyssop was revealed to have had a supreme purpose after all ....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a frank Polk in the eye of American media : award for truth-telling named after a serial liar...

There is no higher award for professional journalistic truth-telling than the annual GEORGE POLK AWARDS, named after an American reporter who was murdered under mysterious circumstances in civil war torn post-war Greece.

Awkward then that an amateur historian, Richard B Frank, has uncovered that George Polk totally faked his heroic war record as a pilot , created a long trail of mendacity that got him this prized overseas truth-telling job in the first place !

Hundreds of mainstream media that know of Frank's extensive investigative work on Polk have declined to report upon it.

What they have done instead is highly praise Frank's prize winning book on Guadalcanal, a book where Polk is a featured participant : as a ground crew officer.

Praise is all very wonderful, but as an amateur historian myself, I'd rather journalists read my book and damned this account of Polk the ground crew officer, then not read it and still praise it .

Finally a small national alternative media outlet published Frank's account and his supporting documents.

But still nothing from America's mainstream media (and nothing from its ever loyal, ever flaccid, running-lapdog-of-the-north that I could find either) ....

Monday, April 8, 2013

Evolution of tanks - like the Evolution of Life - is all about compromises and niches

Reality is so varied and changing (in ways we humans will never ever be able to totally control or predict) that Evolution continuously throws up many successful ("fittest") evolving life forms to fill its many and evolving niches.

I was reminded, again,  of this while reading of the terrifying battles around the Vistula River in the winter of 1945 between German Tiger II tanks and Soviet T-34 tanks.

The long gun and excellent optical sight of the Tiger II was so good it could accurately destroy the enemy's main battle tanks from distances of up to 2.5 miles ; something today's best tanks would be hard pressed to match.

High speed shells from a long gun barrel leave in a fast straight line,  thus being both accurate and able to punch through thick armour, but normally both these qualities fall off quickly at increasing distances.

Close up, shorter guns firing slower shells can punch through medium thick armour with sort of acceptably accuracy.

To combat this, the Tiger II had very thick armour all around, particularly in the front, making them hard to destroy at even short distances, but also making them very slow and heavy on the ground.

But on cold hard ground they moved quickly enough and turned about quickly enough and so were able to destroy T-34s at a safe distance and get to any new locations where they were needed to stop break throughs dead.

Then the weather got warmer - now man and tank on both sides had a new misery.

They were warmer ,yes, but now their boots or tank tracks got stuck in the mud.

It proved fatal for the Tiger IIs. Fittest in the older - cold weather - niche - they proved to be unfit for the mud niche.

With the Tiger IIs stuck fast in mud due to their heavy weight, the lighter T-34s nimbly moved in behind then and destroyed them at close range through the Tiger II's thinner rear armour.

In a niche of mud, they were - temporarily - the fittest.

Despite the reality of no one size fits all, modernist armies still dreamed of producing all-arounder tanks, the "fit" for all situations instead of the "fittest for particular situations".

It is relatively easy to produce tanks with big long guns, immense armour, high speed, "low to the ground-ness" and great traction off road.

But as a result they consume lots of fuel and so have short range and a high rate of mechanical breakdowns in rough terrain : heavy and fast means pushing the finite metal strength limits of transmissions, tracks and engines.

Their weight and size makes it hard to haul them back to the rear for safe repair over wartime's normally terrible road conditions and impossible for them to cross small bridges , or be put on planes, many trains or most transporter trucks.

And they really don't like mud : their tracks are made as wide as possible to defeat mud issues given their great weight of armour and gun -- but too wide in the tracks department and their speed and fuel usage suffers.

They are ponderously might yes, but nimbly mite they are not.

And like all machines, they just sit there when out of gas - human soldiers can keep on fighting without food, their bodies wasting down to supply the missing energy.

But tanks without fuel can't waste down their armour to provide fuel and just sit there useless.

Before the Vistula battle actually began, some of the German tanks were moved into position, without using any petroleum fuel, to be used "hull down" as pillboxes, hauled there under a layer of hay by teams of Polish horses.

The mite Polish horses ambled their way to the front lines, eating their fuel along the roadside as they went : slowly and neatly confounding the German mighty....

"This key is fit". Bad grammar but good modernity.

This key is 'fit'.

One could, and probably should, write a long learned essay on the wrongs created over the last 150 years under the delusion this sentence makes grammatical and real world sense.

When, however, we modify the sentence so it reads: "The key will fit this lock but not that lock" , most of us agree it now does make grammatical and real world sense.

The entire phrase "will fit this lock but not that lock" can be thought of a one long adjective modifying ,and accurately limiting, the noun key.

The outstanding aspect of that long adjective phrase is its tentative nature -- which, in turn, accounts for its windy lengthiness.

 "Will" could be replaced by words like "used to" ,"once", "may", "no longer" and the words "this lock" and "that lock" replaced by other modifying and limiting nouns.

 But the phrase "the key is fit",  with the word "fit" being totally unmodified and unlimited by adjectives, together with the fact it is set in a tense of eternal and universal is-ness , strikes us as very odd indeed.

Unless we modify the sentence to say "John is fit", then most of us accept this sentence as seemingly making perfect grammatical and real world sense (and tense).

But it does not.

That broad shouldered six foot tall 175 pounds hunk of svelte eye candy might be "fit" in all of our eyes, but is he actually "fit" for being a race jockey or "fit" to crawl into a narrow tube to weld a joint ?

The Darwin of 1859 said that in a real world of 'the survival of the fittest', strong but lithe men would become horse jockeys but not Rugby forwards while huge chunky men would become Rugby forwards but not race jockeys.

In our actual world, the reality we must live with, "Fittest" is always found modified by an adjective phrase , indicating the particular time and space limitations that allows this particular being or object to be temporarily the fittest for that situation.

It accepts that the world is filled with millions of possible niches and that they change all the time.

I don't think there is any possible moral or scientific objection to this Darwin.

But the later Darwin of 1871 seemed to imply that reality is really about the survival of the "fit", an unmodified, absolute and universal/eternal noun : European males being "the fit" and no one else - and nothing else - being in that category.

It sees the world (and eventually the universe) as potentially one great vast niche, with European-origined humans as the only species needed to be able to fill it completely and permanently.

Modernity science fiction saw future human worlds as living under glass bubbles on planets of bare rock, devoid of atmosphere, generating all we need by chemical synthesis, with no need for plant or animal or microbe.

No need for Jew, Gypsy , Slav or 'defective' either.

Those authors and illustrators only said in print and pictures what our grandparents (and the Darwin of 1871) were just thinking.

Until 1939-1945, when they got a chance to play it all out in a world-war sized sandbox ---- and ended up with sand in their Pampers .....

1945 : Triumph of the Weak ; Mite is Right

If the triumph of post-1945 postmodernity over pre-1945 modernity means anything , it means the unexpected triumph of the mite-y over the mighty and the triumph of the weak over the wise.

And yes, the survival of the fittest (to a particular place and point in time) over those all-weather, all-terrain, all-the-time "fit" so beloved by modernists.

Ain't life grand ? And ironic ...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ironic convergent property of Modernity : collectivist thrust from reductionism !

Politically, Modernity (1873-1973 RIP) , had a strong collectivist thrust, exalting the collective nation, race and planet over the individual being.

At the same time, and in a typical reductionist fashion that at least had the virtue of consistency, this collectivist superstructure was fully explained as simply the consequence of many trillions of highly individual actions at the basement fundamental level of Reality.

The harder modernity scientists tried to deny the existence of convergent behavior , the more it poked its ironic little head up, even in their reductionist of moments.......