Friday, June 28, 2013

The "Absolute Destruction" .... of germs and insects

I don't mean germs and insects as metaphors for 'Hebs, Commies or Japs' --- I mean real life insects and germs in relationship to the modernists' much anticipated day when these tiny pests were no longer are around to bother mighty Man.

No longer around, period : their absolute destruction ensured.

Isabel Hull's multi prize winning book "ABSOLUTE DESTRUCTION" works best when it gets down to her thesis as to just why the Imperial Military of Germany was so particularly brutal, particularly against innocent civilians, in its heyday from 1860s to 1920s.

We always knew the Huns were brutes, we just never knew why.

 She shows that the German military elite was relatively unrestrained by German parliamentary opinion or general German public opinion - unlike the case with the equally bloody-minded British military, which was sharply restrained by critics back home, particularly during the Boer War.

I like her thesis , crassly enough because it fits my own thesis so well.

My thesis is that all the ideologies of the early 20th century, seemingly so different from each other at the time, a century on all look like subtle variants of one overarching modernist world view.

'Bigger is better' and 'Might is right' were the flavours of the day.

But just how all these (very hasty) ideologies actually played out in real time very much depended on how strong the opposing pre-modernist thought patterns (Christianity, basically) still were --- in different societies and in different decades.

As is well known, Imperial Germany exalted the reified State over the individual enormously and its constitution ensured almost that there be almost no civilian oversight of the military.

The same idea was slavishly taken up by the German Army worshipping Japanese militarists 50 years later.

The military in both nations thought only of winning wars by the total destruction of the enemy (every single last member of the enemy society if need be) ---- never thinking how to handle the resulting peace.

Or reflecting upon whether anyone could ever ensure the total destruction of anything but a tiny opponent.

To the Japan and Germany empires, it mattered little that their opponents, consisting of the British, French, American, Chinese and Russian empires, are all empires that were vastly bigger than their own empire.

Bigger, each in isolation, let alone all banded together.

But the Japanese and German elites felt that human brainpower and sheer willpower would surmount any material or spatial deficits.

When it came to thinking of their human opponents, let us quickly say that the the other empires were not anywhere as stupid as the Japanese and Germans, not by any means.

The Soviets and Americans had no plans to wipe out every last member of other nations.

(Other political parties' entire membership - yes, maybe !)

But when it came to viewing the total destruction of bugs and microbes as do-able, all the modernist ideologies proved just as naft-headed as the Axis.

After all, it was the 1930s head of the British MRC , an equivalent of today's American NIH, Edward Mellanby, who looked briefly at the new Sulfa drug and opined expansively he could see a day soon when there would be no more infections or hospital beds assigned to them.

(Just as bacterial resistance to the new Sulfa was proving him wrong wrong wrong.)

Equally daft was the American Surgeon General ,  circa 1967, claiming we can close the books on infection thanks to antibiotics ----- just as bacteria began resisting them wholesale.

And how many experts saw DDT as the way to get permanently rid of endless bugs and insects that caused diseases and ate crops ?

Like the collectivity of individuals that was the Russian Empire, bacteria and insects as a vast collectivity are just too big a target for us humans to ever permanently beat.

Like the rich and the poor and the big and the small, they will always be with us, in eternal commensality.....

UK made sure others died in WWII, rather than her own citizens

More people died in WII than in WWI, but not every combatant nation of WWII suffered worse (or even as badly) as they had in WWI.

The UK was the first in and last out of WWII, the only nation at war continuously the whole world war.

It was a far more deadly war and lasted for the UK, six years rather than four.

Its population during the last war was slightly larger than it was in WWI.

Yet, surprisingly, only about one third as many people died.

Dividing the total number of deaths (divided by the total number of war years) into the total wartime population , I get a figure for what I call the intensity of war deaths, one that is about one fifth as great for WWII as it was for WWI.

(Producing the percentage of total population who died in the war each year ---- admitably a very crude indice ---indicating one person in 200 died each year of WWI, versus one person in 1000 died per year in WWII.)

Put another way, in WWI the UK experienced a lot more total deaths over a slightly smaller population over only two thirds as many years of war.

Put yet another way, I am saying that 60,000 deaths spread over 10 years of war in a population of 250 million people (USA/Vietnam War) feels much less bad than to have a population of 2.5 million experience 800 deaths over a one week period (Israeli Jews/Six Day War).

The number of dead the UK experienced in head to head clashes between the Germany Army and the British Army in North West Europe for one month in 1940 and again for 11 months in 1944-1945, was very tiny set against the total of people dead as result of WWII.

Yet in a way, it was the key death-toll event of the entire war.

Because defeating the German Army upon German soil was the only way to end WWII quickly and at a minimum loss of life upon all sides.

It took six years for the UK to do to the German Army what it should have done in six weeks in 1939.

With Germany out of the war in 1939, Italy and Japan would never have gone on their quests for world wide conquest.

The French and British empires in combination in 1939 had a far far far far larger manpower pool to draw upon that the Germans so any land army war would have gone to the Allies in the end.

But a vast conscripted infantry/artillery-based army of British and Dominion working class enlisted men, in combination with millions of conscripted darkie soldiers from the colonies, all demanding benefits for having saved the Empire, was totally unacceptable to the British elite.

They wanted a war won by a few big very expensive machines, driven by a few well educated middle class very white British men : bombers, battleships and tanks.

In the event, they got their 'middle class war' and lost the support of their Dominions and Colonies in the process : hoisted on their own high tech petards in the end......

Kathy Kelly : an enduring voice in the wilderness against the weaponization of medicine

Kathy Kelly ,an American woman about my age, has packed about two dozen lives into her life when I have barely managed to have one.

She should have a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bravely confound the reality of the continuing weaponization of medicine in the case of Iraq.

Yeah, I know : you totally believed the Tooth Fairy when it swore that the UN specifically exempted medicine from its near-total embargo of goods in and out of Iraq.

Which is why, no doubt, an excess of a half million kids in that country died premature deaths - just from the sheer joy at hearing that news.

A country with a good record at rapidly improving child mortality rates suddenly nosedived the other way : and let us not forget the echo effect upon Iraq children of future generations whose parents were under-fed during their crucial early growth years under the sanctions.

For famine is the gift that goes on giving.

Food and pure water are always the best medicine.

But when they are in short supply, drugs and medical machinery needs to step in.

 When, however, these also are either in very short supply or in the case of medical machinery , broken down from lack of parts - even a nominally less severe famine, in terms of calories, kills far too many by indirect means.

Food, pure drinking water chemicals,  winter clothing and home heating fuel, non-damaged shelters : all are forms of natural medicines, as effective or even more so than antibiotics in keeping kids alive.

Weaponize them and you kill all ultimately --- but the poor, the weak, the elderly and the youngest and nursing mothers - they usually die first.

Government leaders and combat soldiers get their rations and clothing allowance right up to the last.

And let us not forget governments reacting to embargoes by rationing their remaining scarce chemicals and fuel and steel to go to tanks and explosives and aviation fuel instead of to tractors pulling steel plows for food.

All governments respond to embargoes by cutting their weakest citizens off first, and keeping the elite and the military going to the bitter end.

Always have ; always will.

And that bitter end is almost always the destruction of that armed forces and government - not the death of all the state's weakest citizens.

Killing the weakest is immoral - and since it is so ineffective in ending any war, doubly immoral because it is both bloody and bloody inefficient.....

Killing non-enemy civilians rather than enemy soldiers is ALWAYS a war crime

From the Napoleonic Wars in the 18th century to the Sanctions against Iraq in the 21st century the Anglophone countries (led by the English) have shown a consistent preference for killing non-enemy civilians from a safe distance over risking their own precious necks killing enemy soldiers in face to face combat.

Clearly this is cowardly behavior,  but is it also immoral ?

Whether or not targeting non-enemy civilians over enemy soldiers  is illegal under international law is pretty irrelevant : if the voters in the erring nation and general world opinion don't hold strong views on this breach in international law, there will be no real consequences for that nation's leadership.

By the way, I am avoiding the highly vexing question of the morality of killing members of an enemy nation who have been forcibly conscripted to work in war-related activities versus those who have been forcibly conscripted to actually fight as soldiers.

Because one has only to think of WWII  Japan, forcing all of its  young children and elderly grandparents to gather pine roots to make aviation fuel for fighter bombers attacking American troop ships, to realize that there is no absolute division between totally innocent civilian and totally guilty soldier in a Total War, only a long grey continuum.

Just who are these "non-enemy civilians" who are killed ?

 (And let us not be evasive and just claim that they died of hunger and stress related disease or from bombing, as mere byproducts of an action aimed at the enemy ---- as if their deaths came as a total surprise.)

They are the citizens of neutral countries, occupied countries, your side's colonies and perhaps even citizens of your own country.

I say citizens because sometimes the military of all these countries also die as byproducts of actions aimed at enemy countries - yes their job is military but they die, in a very real sense off-duty, as if civilians.

Very few if any nation on Earth for the last 100 years or so actually routinely feeds itself entirely on the food grown on its own soil.

Most trade food they grow too much of , in exchange for food they can't grow at all or only grow seasonally.

Even America sells grains and meat to buy bananas and coffee and the rest of the world must do far more than that to feed their people.

A blockade of  even just one small enemy country never just stops there.

This is because they usually can still hope to get their imports in and exports out by buying and selling with a nearby intermediate neutral country (or whole variety of neutral countries) who act as a mere transit point and middleman between that enemy country and all the rest of the neutral countries in the world.

Meanwhile even the companies in the country at war with that enemy country feel they should still be able to sell to neutral countries.

But their government frets that their neutral-bound goods will actually and ultimately end up, via a series of neutral intermediaries, in the hands of the enemy !

At the very beginning of  September 1939 only three relatively small countries were in direct total war : Germany versus France/England. Poland was being swallowed up and the rest of the world was neutral or quite distant from direct combat.

But it still felt like a globe-encompassing war, right from day one, to the whole world.

Why ?

Let's not overdo the Phoney War versus Blitzkreig War comparisons in the Fall of 1939.

Because even before their ultimatums expired, the French and English had in place a highly efficient world-wide blockade system while the Germans were caught red-faced with their scarce civilian shipping mostly stuck in enemy or neutral ports.

Worse, many of the elements of their own blockade system not yet even manufactured, let alone be up and working.

Shipping on the High Seas, all over the world, from a hundred countries and colonies, was already being stopped by France/England and sometimes by Germany and questioned about their cargoes and their destinations.

World Trade (trade essential for virtually every country's mere national survival) was totally disrupted and this immediately meant hunger for many.

Poorer people in all the world's countries are quickly vulnerable when they are thrown out of work because their country's export trade, in which they work or depend upon, is no longer there.

Perhaps in time alternatives are found for all and in the mean time middle class people can live off their savings, but the very poorest feel hunger within weeks.

As happened after the declaration of WWII : even in English and French colonies, as well as in the poorer neutral countries in Europe.

In practise everything is embargoed , in and out : everything is seen as a war-related  material, even things like food and wool and leather.

Just before WWI , Germany produced almost all of the world's surgical instruments and life-saving medicines : the Allied embargoes their sale abroad so that even their own military and civilians suffered, let alone the rest of the world.

In WWII, the Allies held a monopoly on penicillin and intended to kept it from everyone but their least-injured of frontline troops.

In Iraq, they kept all medicines and medical supplies from that country - from insulin to antibiotics to surgery instruments.

Iraq soldiers died as a result - but even more so, so did poor children and the poor elderly because whatever supplies did slip in, always and per usual went first to high government officials and the moderately afflicted frontline troops and then a little trickled down to the well off and well connected.

The civilian death toll from the Iraq sanctions equalled that of WWI's blockade and approached that of WWII's blockade.

Invading Iraq, getting rid of the government and then getting out, would have been the most moral thing to do.

As it would have, vis vis Hitler, in WWII.

But the English keep on getting away with imposing immoral (and perhaps even worse ineffective, so additionally immoral) blockades rather than having an army big enough to directly and quickly engage and defeat the enemy.

It just has to stop......

Thursday, June 27, 2013

WWII's Opium Wars : Britain's efforts to weaponize life-saving penicillin

The shabby ways in which the Churchill Conservatives, coupled loosely with Republican friends in the American OSRD, conspired to weaponize life-saving wartime penicillin should not surprise anyone with any historical knowledge.

Britain was a past-master at using life-strangling blockades of someone else's civilian population to substitute for the possible combat deaths of the officer sons of the British elite.

Napoleon had been defeated by just such a blockade policy and the Opium Wars against China had shown just how effective covert drug warfare can be in de-stabilizing a nation's populace.

(A lesson hardly lost on the OSRD's successors in the CIA et al.)

But Churchill and Britain were playing with fire when they attempted to severely limit the production of penicillin and restrict its use to only those frontline Allied sick combatants deemed recoverable for further combat.

Because in the 1940s we did not have the arsenal of about 100 viable antibiotics that we have today.

We had only a half dozen members of the Sulfa drug family and they were all rapidly failing --- due to overuse bringing on rapid bacterial resistance.

Wars bring on sudden pandemics - like WWI's horrific Spanish Flu.

One wonders what would the world response had been to Sir Winston Churchill (the Harry Lime of British politics) if tens of millions of people had needlessly died, before penicillin production was brought up to speed ?

The world was very lucky indeed that Henry Dawson was not so callous as Churchill and the Allied scientific establishment on the turning a precious lifesaver into a weapon of war...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

the long AND the short AND the tall : the eternal commensality of the big and the small (and God blesses 'em all)

It is typical of the hubris of us individual humans and our individual human societies to always imagine that we alone are big and mighty and wise and that all other beings are small, weak and foolish.

A further human hubris of ours is to imagine how better our imagined Utopia would be when all the other, lesser/weaker/smaller forms of life have been liquidated, if need be with with extreme prejudice.

But germicides won't ever remove all the germs anymore than insecticides will ever remove all insects or eugenicides will ever remove all the weak, frail and elderly.

The various forces of Nature combine to interact upon all beings in various ways depending on scale, because each individual scale works over a particular - limited - spatial and energy scale.

Reality , the Reality of matter and energy , is thus permanently stratified into different layers or scale levels.

From the point of view of possible lifeforms, that means a variety of scale-defined niches that are permanently ("eternally") available for the lifeform best sized to excel in them.

Translation : kill off all bacteria sized life and some new life the same size will emerge to fill in that hole of opportunity.

Humans are currently the "fittest" for our big niche but we are not "fit" for all niches, though we continue to delude ourselves into thinking so.

Niches change constantly at the margins so all successful lifeforms display a variety of members, some who appear to be weak and useless, but in fact this merely an evolutionary way to ensure enough variety in the lifeform's generic material to surmount unexpected changes in their chosen niche.

For example , people with a moderate form of the disease of sickle cell anemia survive some insect-vectored diseases better than supposedly healthier people, at least in the many large regions of the world where these insects and diseases are endemic.

The big and the small lifeforms may never grow to like each other or cooperate with each other, but they might as well resign themselves that the big and the small, like the rich and the poor, will always be with us.

Henry Dawson grew to understand the profoundness of the concept of "eternal commensality of the big and the small" in his studies of human-oral commensal strep bacteria interactions.

That is why he was so damn adamant that even winning WWII couldn't come at the cost of tromping all over the weak and the small....

Allied war crimes of attrition vs Axis war crimes of aggression

Let us first always remember that it was the Germans, together with the Italians and the Japanese, who started WWII and created its spiral of ever increasing tit for tat violence.

Without the aggressive invasions of this Axis trio, the western Allies would never have done to Europe .... what they routinely did to the dark people of smaller, hotter nations and colonies.

That is to say, imposing total blockades of food, fuel and life-saving medicine upon the civilians of occupied Europe---- and then bombing and shelling them as well, killing many and "de-housing" many others.

The Allies committed these war crimes of attrition reluctantly and carefully, but they did it from 1939 to 1945: causing the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians from occupied lands in the process.

And it was all legal, strictly legal, at least under the international law in place during WWII.

But perhaps partly as result of the brave wartime disobedience of William Douglas Home (brother of the later British (Tory) Prime Minister) at the siege of Le Havre, postwar conferences made the starving of civilians in siege situations illegal.

One classic example of Allied war crimes of attrition were the mass starvation of newly-occupied Greece in 1940-1941 --- a starvation deliberately not relieved by Churchill , against the wishes of most of his Allies and of American elite public opinion.

Another was the extensive aerial and naval bombing of factories and transport facilities in occupied cities from 1940 to 1945 , despite the widely known knowledge that it was always wildly inaccurate - killing outright hundreds of thousands of occupied civilians.

I have already mentioned the siege of German-occupied Le Havre in 1944, where the British refused the German request to evacuate the civilians : the British hoped the slow starvation of the French civilians beside them might convince the hardened SS troops to surrender quicker !

But denying the knowledge of new life-saving medications and disease-reducing insecticides to the civilians of occupied lands is a entirely unknown example of Allied war crimes of attrition, but that doesn't make it any less true.

It is why I consistently refer to the high level Allied efforts to keep penicillin and DDT secret and restricted to frontline Allied troop use as their weaponizing , despite my listening audience's doubting stares.

Out of their homes thanks to Allied bombing, denied food and fuel by the Allied blockade, stressed by Nazi atrocities and oppression ,many Europeans were increasingly vulnerable to classic war diseases like typhus, which alone killed more than combat did, through all the big wars up to WWII.

The traditional insecticides used to try and stop typhus were much less effective a method than the new DDT and while the Sulfa family have worked well to prevent most killer infections between 1937-1942, there were to be no new Sulfa drugs coming along, and this at a time when bacteria was becoming rapidly resistant to Sulfa.

Thus a potential medical catastrophe was looming , bigger even than the double whammy of the Western Spanish Flu and Eastern Typhus that killed more at the end of WWI than did war combat itself.

Denying knowledge of the possible cure to occupied Europe would only make the catastrophe worse.

The wartime weaponizing of atomic fission to make bombs rather than electricity was opposed by a large number of very prominent scientists , yet failed totally.

The wartime weaponizing of penicillin was opposed by one - dying - middle rank medical scientist and yet was successful beyond his wildest dreams.

How successful ?

Take the example of 1949's THE THIRD MAN, recently voted the best British movie of all time.

In it, 'cheap, safe, abundant penicillin for all' is regarded  as the mark of every civilized society and "the man who dared water the workers' penicillin" becomes the epitome of ultimate evil.

And thus we get an explanation as to why war hero Winston Churchill (the Harry Lime of wartime penicillin) so badly lost the 1945 British General Election.

For Churchill, the architect of the Allied war of attrition, simply could never understand the public's objection to his weaponizing of penicillin.

Why did the dying, modest Dr Henry Dawson succeed in confounding the weaponizing of penicillin when the very energetic Leo Szilard and others failed to do the same with atomic fission ?

I suggest the reason was not in their differing moral values, though this is part of the answer.

Instead, I argue that it was Dawson's greater scientific conviction of the rightness of his actions, based upon his theory of "the eternal commensality of the big and the small", that made his opposition much earlier, much more consistent and and much more unyielding.....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The "3 Rs" of Modernist Science : Reductionism, Reification ...and Reality

Reality, in the common sense cum positivist meaning of that word, is what was usually missing from modernist science and the modernist era : its vast missing middle.

At the top, Reification and Biology had created something called "The Jewish Race" but you couldn't actually touch or taste it or definitely define it.

But if it did exist, at the bottom all its members could certainly be reduced to nothing more than the multiples of then tiniest known bits of mass and energy : protons, electrons and neutrons.

Chemistry and Physics told us so.

(Not that you could see those sub atomic objects either.)

But what was missing was something or someone you could actually see and touch.

The missing bits in the middle , in the day to day reality where we humans touch see hear and taste things.

Missing from all of modernist science was a someone you could accurately define the concrete limits of.

Say an actual individual "Jew" , as vaguely defined within the nebulous concept of "The Jewish Race".

Someone like the real Erin Green : born Aaron Green in East London, named after his father who was raised as an active member of the Jewish religious faith back in his native Poland.

But as an adult, Aaron senior became non-religious, particularly after he met an Irish-born woman raised as a church-going Catholic. She too became non-religious after she married Aaron senior.

Their son, Aaron junior changed his name, as an adult, to Erin as a sort of oral pun honouring both his mother's and father's heritage.

Now he is living in occupied France in 1941, after having met and married a French woman, of traditional French atheist background, while on holiday in Nice.

Suddenly the Germans arrest him, his wife and their children as being "members of the Jewish Race" and start sending them forward on a trip to the fatal showers.

The Nazis at least agreed with many legislatures of the American South in not knowing any arithmetic.

They lined up to defy reality and realism by claiming that far less than 1% of your genome was more potent than the other 99.99% of your genome in defining your origins.

In other words, that tails wag dogs, not the other way around.

"Just one drop of black or jewish blood defines you forever as Negro or Jewish".

Whatever if any 'race' that Erin's children belonged to,  it was the mixed up, muddled up human race : but then Reality is like that.

Modernist science is simple ;  Modernist reality is not...

Monday, June 24, 2013

If you could only pick one Manhattan Project ...

One Manhattan Project, procuring the weaponization of atomic fission, was the biggest project of the War. The other Manhattan Project,confounding the weaponization of penicillin, was the smallest. But if you had to choose just one , which one would it be ?

If we seek hints from High Culture, it is noteworthy there have been no highly regarded movies,plays or novels about the project to divert the originally planned use of uranium fission , as a sort of superboiler, into becoming a super weapon instead.

But many non-fiction books have been written about the atomic project's supposedly 'dramatic' events.

All evade the awkward truth that without a genuine moral dilemma experienced by any key actors, there can be no real drama.

By contrast, immediately after the war, a very good movie came out about an effort to 'maximum profitize'  penicillin, probably the closest peacetime and civilian equivalent of the Allied wartime effort to weaponize penicillin.

Clearly this 'crime' was regarded by the filmmakers (and more crucially by viewing audiences world wide as well) as almost the post war equivalent of the Holocaust and as the very symbol of the maximum evil possible.

For THE THIRD MAN was universally regarded as a classic on the day of its release and has stood the test of time, recently being voted the best British movie of all time - not bad for a black and white movie old enough to receive its Old Age Pension.

So its claim that any attempt to de-sanctifying 'the sacred penicillin' is the ultimate in evilness still seems to hold up as credible to modern audiences.

Just imagine then how that public would feel if they knew that the original narrow Allied plans for penicillin (and DDT), if unaltered, could have resulted in a greater loss of human life than even the Holocaust ?

Course unaltered, the far longer and far bigger and far more savage WWII should have seen even deaths due to misery,hunger and disease at war's end than even WWI.

As it was, the shorter, smaller WWI still lost millions at war's end to the Spanish Flu in the West and Typhus in the East.

Many millions did die at the end of WWII : but tens of millions of deaths could have been in the cards, if penicillin and DDT hadn't been available in sufficient amounts to serve all the world, not just Allied frontline troops as originally planned.

Thus Henry Dawson's lonely but ultimately successful effort  to keep penicillin de-weaponized did help to reduce the possible high death toll at the war's end.

And we all should be grateful for that....

Sunday, June 16, 2013

WWII : began and ended September 2nd 1939, at 11 pm ....

Is it not a good general rule that Great Powers, once they had finally and formally declared war on another Great Power (as opposed to simply invading and gobbling up various small powers ) do not withdrawn from that fight until they themselves were either defeated or successful ?

Recall how WWII almost never began:

After an extremely hostile reception in the British parliament to his last minute attempts to avoid fulfilling his promise to go to war with whoever invaded Poland, Neville Chamberlain and his cabinet met in a mood of grim determination , abetted by an ominous thunderstorm from Mother Nature.

They finally voted, late on that evening of September 2nd 1939, to send Hitler a blunt ultimatum --- one with a very short response time, after which they would immediately declare war on Germany.

This turned a local war between a Great Power and a small power, one not greatly different from Hitler's smoothly successful earlier invasion of the rump of Czechoslovakia on March 15th 1939, into a full blown global war.

The UK actually declared war on September 3rd, but almost all historians agree that it was this cabinet decision the evening earlier that really launched WWII.

WWII, they say, certainly didn't begin with the Japanese invasion of China in 1931, or the invasion of Eithopia by Italy in 1935.

A world war needs formal war declarations between at least two Great Powers to truly make it so.

A formal war declaration between two fairly equally sized Great Powers ensures that the resulting conflict would be long, fiercely fought and a global fight.

So they see WWII as growing by a few key dates :

In 1939 the French empire joins the British empire in declaring war on the German empire.

In 1940, the Italian empire declares war on the British and French empires.

In 1941, the German empire declares war on the Russian and American empires, and Japan declares war on the American, British and French empires.

The Russian empire declares war on the Japanese empire in the dying moments of WWII, in August 1945.

But I will argue that there was in fact only one key date : September 2nd 1939.

If Great Powers don't seek a compromise peace after formally going to war with another Great Power - and WWI and WWII certainly suggests this to be the case - then WWII began with this formal war declaration of the UK to Germany which had to end with the defeat of one or the other side.

But could we predict which one would win on September 2nd 1939 ?

I say yes : the UK.

In 1939, the UK's global strength was not really its Empire.

Instead it was really anchored by several - distantly remote  from Western Europe - clusters of British-oriented but nominally independent Dominions.

 In the White Dominions, most of the population in control were fairly recent immigrants from the UK : think of them as the UK abroad rather than as reluctant colonies ever willing to change sides to go with the new winner.

India, for example, might have abandoned Britain if she was really on her uppers.

The white Dominions really being (at least in 1939) extensions of Britain itself, would not give up so readily.

So Germany would first have to defeat all of the British Isles and Eire --- perhaps a fairly do-able task in 1940.

But then they would soon have to take on all of Canada and Newfoundland, filled with fleeing diehards from the UK, if they wanted to feel permanently secure.

(And probably America  too, if at some point it seemed Germany might defeat Canada.)

And then South Africa and the nearby White dominated British African colonies.

And then Australia and New Zealand and their mandate territories.

It was as if Napoleon thought he could defeat four (4) different Russias in succession.

Churchill or Britons of his ilk (and there were many of them) if they did lose the UK to Germany, would not just give up.

Instead they would fight a slow delaying rear guard action from Dominion to Dominion confident that Hitler's racist policies would wear out his welcome fairly quickly, no matter how much of the world he held by force of German arms.

But if Hitler had attacked only the French empire and Britain for some reason had remained neutral, would the French overseas territories have fought on and on after the Fall of France?

Not in 1940 , they won't have had.

But those three Dominion clusters, each the size of Western Europe, were the anchors that would have ensured that some British-led coalition would have ultimately defeated Hitler regardless of how luck and his decisions had worked out.

He lost his war the day it began : it just took six years to make it official ....

Friday, June 14, 2013

Henry Dawson, Leo Durochers and The Virile Age

In 1939, the fiery new manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers set the tone for his famous tenure at the beleaguered team.

The Dodgers, Leo Durochers thought, were nice guys.

However, the Thirties were a Virile Age, with no time for tortoises or 97 pound weaklings.

Hares beat tortoises every time and Goliaths defeat Davids : yes, nice guys are nice and a joy to be around, but nevertheless they finish last every time.

If terminal diffidence is a form of niceness, then Henry Dawson was definitely nice.

Far far too nice nice to be a successful scientist in an age of virile men, what we would today probably call Type A personalities and Alpha Males.

Fortunately for humanity, Dawson combined his extreme diffidence with a stubborn intellectual courage.

Point of fact, most Alpha Males have never expressed an unconventional thought in their lives.

True they make a point of being offensive to nice people and 'ladies' , offensive to conventional niceness.

But alongside of conventional public niceness is an equally large body of semi-public locker room sentiments.

Alpha males merely express publicly what a lot of people say and think in private.

One thinks of General Secretary Henry Dawson's much better known counterpart at the Third International Congress on Microbiology, President Thomas "Tom" Rivers., a favorite among the media.

Old fashioned Southerner Tom was always brutally and colourfully frank about preferring his "boys" , those on his teams of researchers who were within his favoured circle, his "good ole boys".

This in pointed contrast to his other researchers on the team ,left outside looking in : the colored boys, the Jew boys and the gals.

Dawson kept his mouth politely shut about his critics  - not just in public but apparently in private as well.

But he was intellectually stubborn, literally onto death.

If he didn't have tenure, he'd give up his career to see his weekend and holiday research completed over the resistance of his boss (Avery).

When he did have tenure, he bucked his critics by not requesting grants and extra facilities.

He knew of the snares in the strings that would come attached to those grants and extra facilities .

He stayed small and on the cheap, but he stayed free.

And if you like semi-happy endings and tortoises, yes he finished first, well ahead of his hare competitors . And then he died.

Died of the disease that crippled him all the time he was proving up the immediate use of wartime life-saving natural penicillin.

If he hadn't remained stubbornly in the race, we'd probably would not have had abundant natural penicillin for WWII's wounded and all those rendered sick in the hunger and dislocation of the war's end.

It turns out that even in The Virile Age, nice guys and 97 pound weaklings finish first....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What would the Commensal Story of WWII look like ?

Can the entire story of WWII ever be accurately and exhaustingly told, except from the point of view of the winning Great Powers like the USA, the UK and the USSR ?

Must Estonian historians be forever limited to writing only of WWII's localized impact on Estonia ?

Must we have authors from "BIG-LAND" only talk of the the BIG and writers from "small-land" only talk of the small ?

Or is there a theory that allows anyone (and everyone) to write insightfully about the interactions between the BIG and the small in WWII, interactions that did not ,in fact, all go the way the BIG would have wanted ?

I believe the theory of "involuntary commensality" , the claim that all Life must dine involuntarily at the common table that is Lifeboat Earth,  is just that window ....

Monday, June 10, 2013

It was the very ORTHODOXY of their economic theories that doomed Hitler,Tojo and Mussolini

Devotedly orthodox economist Robert Solow won the 1987 Nobel Prize basically for just one very famous 1974 quote, taken a bit out of context:

"If it is very easy to substitute other things for natural resources, then there is, in principle, no problem. The world, in effect, can get along without natural resources."

But since he was born in 1924 and was only nine when Hitler came to power, he can hardly be blamed for acting as Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo's unofficial economic advisor.

However, someone had to do that job and so it was done by virtually all of the 1930s' economists, almost all orthodox to the man or woman.

In the 1930s, as in the 1830s and the 2030s, their theories basically claimed the same thing as Solow's quote, albeit in less frank language.

But you protest that Hitler, Tojo and Musso went to war precisely to obtain the natural resources they didn't have at home.

So surely my claim looks highly incredible on the face of it: they obviously took natural resources very seriously indeed.

But remember that these three planned to steal all those natural resources they didn't have, and steal them away from heavily armed neighbours who didn't want to give them up without a big fight.

Relatively 'natural-resource-less' at the moment their military machine planned to do all the stealing, the three still felt confident they could substitute something else for those missing natural resources like copper, oil and rubber : sheer aggressive military willpower.

Their failure to substitute patriotic energy for petroleum energy should be a lesson to even the dimmest of economic light bulbs, but no.

Acting as if it is still mentally wowing the crowds in some stadium in Nuremberg,  orthodox economics still daily  proclaims 'the triumph of the human will' over mere material limitations.

So who exactly started the bloodbath of WWII ?

May I suggest you look no further than your local university economics department .

Pity then their ilk never faced a war crimes trial , instead of just their most earnest lay students at the top of Japan, Italy and Germany .....

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dawson's commensality supplies Modernity's "Missing Middle"

Seventy five years on, WWII (conventionally 1939-1945 but actually lasting much longer) looks like nothing more than two great grist stones, Reification and Reductionism, relentlessly grinding up all humanity between them .

For example, the Axis reified a scientific claim that humanity could be accurately divided into being either members or non-members of a concretely actual Aryan Race --- and then set out to eliminate all the non members.

The Allies, equally guilty, chose to worship at a scientific temple that claimed the reduction of all human complexity to the view we are but simple aggregates of tiny indivisible protons and electrons.

Neither claim can stand up to a probing examination - then or now.

But in fact, those claims weren't generally contested seventy five years ago.

However one scientist, Henry Dawson, while paddling in his quiet backwater of the study of human-bacterial commensality, implicitly seemed to offer up an extremely muted scientific critique of these two complementary explanations of Reality.

No wonder his view was ignored.

However he persisted because it did seem that these two complementary explanations - one encompassing the very biggest things in reality and the other covering the very small entities in reality - left out the vast middle of reality.

And that is the very place where all life (and most matter and energy) actually 'lives' .

The key concept in commensality ("the dining together of all life, big and small, at a common table") is that tiny but vital connector :  AND  .

Commensality re-unites what reductionism and reification divides.

Commensal Penicillin : the saving of the lives of 1A soldiers AND  4F civilians , on both sides of the war

But it was not until he put his ideas on commensality into practise, as he confounded the Allied plan to weaponize wartime penicillin, that commensality began to have an actual impact on the thoughts of scientists and the general population.

For in science, as in life generally, words - even peer-reviewed published words - don't always speak louder than actions....

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Between PROGRESS and PROTONS : "The Missing Middle" , where we actually live

Thirties Reductionism said that once scientists knew the behavior of one of the Protons that made up Winston Churchill's body (and multiplied it by a trillion trillion trillion identical protons), they could then predict Churchill's behavior over the 1936 Abdication Crisis.

Thirties Reification said that Human Progress is real and concrete and since it was so clearly evident that Human Progress 'wants to get ever bigger and bigger',then dividing Human Progress up into the two billion individual people that existed in the world in 1939, would allow us to predict that particular individual Scott Nearing would also approve of things getting ever bigger.

But in fact he became famous for disagreeing bigger is better.

The average behavior of heterogeneous aggregates does not let us predict the behavior of an individual human being , anymore than than the behavior of  individual proton helps us predict the average behavior of  a heterogeneous aggregate.

Heterogeneous , because Churchill was not a vast crystal of trillions upon trillions of undifferentiated protons but rather a very  stratified collection of protons in a great variety of differently-sized and differently-arranged components that led each component to very unexpectedly different behavior.

And Human Progress had no protons, or even human individuals, within it, because it was simply an abstract idea rather a concrete physical object.

What most Thirties intellectual thought was desperately missing was in giving adequate attention to the vast "Missing Middle" between Protons and Progress, because inside that "Missing Middle" lies the life we actually live, including our twin delusions of reductionism and reification.

However, I believe that the prism of Commensality does allow us to re-capture that "Missing Middle" , and thus allows us to better understand Thirties intellectual thought's sad grandchild, WWII .....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Modernity : CONCRETE Dams vs ABSTRACT Delusions ...

When was Chopin born, when did he die, where did Chopin end and his brother begin ?

All concrete questions we can definitively answer.

That's the terrible thing about individuals, the thing that made modernists from all camps hate them so : if forces one to take the coke out of one's nose and actually deal with hard facts and numbers and dates.

But imagined communities - those hallucinations shared by tenured professors and certified lunatics in the 1930s , now that was their preferred cup of tea.

One man justifies murdering foreigners because he was told to by voices coming out of the radio, the other justifies because he hears voices coming out of the national volk.

What volk ? - all of them ? - did you ask all of them ?

And what nation ? - what are its boundaries ? and when was it born exactly ?

Part of the disadvantages of a free public education is that you can now think ( supposedly) in abstractions.

Before that, country people called a cape "Burnt Head" because , well, it looked like a burnt head.

Obviously too bloody concrete-minded by half.

Instead,  middle class chatterers flocked to hundreds of housing estates that were prettily named "Forest Hills" but were neither forested or hilled and these modernists don't even see the incongruity of it all.

In the 1930s these chatterers resented party politics and all its arguing over what government projects went to what specific classes and specific areas and specific industries.

"Let us have a single strong man , well supplied with  scientific experts, who will supply us with the one scientifically correct answer that will serve the 'national interest' ", they cried.

It would be nice to interview this national interest, in the way one can interview an individual person or key members of an individual industry, but one can't.

It's a virtual bogus reality, like bad acid, it doesn't exist and can't exist : a distracting abstraction.

My family can rarely agree, any more than your family can : and an entire nation of 75 million Germans are even less likely to all agree about something of supposedly common interest.

But abstract groups of differing individuals into vapourous reifications* and their Holocaust is practically done for.

* To reify is to take a bunch of heatedly bickering individuals ( all the people in the world who are in some way seen by others and themselves as Jewish or part Jewish or formerly Jewish or newly Jewish for example) , turn them into an abstraction, "The Jew", and then turn that abstraction into a solid lump of concrete "all Jews in Europe are EVIL and all must DIE this year".

All moderns didn't plan Holocausts but almost all moderns mentally divided people into abstract lumps, with such thinking  as 'The French Canadian' isn't fundamentally capable of handling modern machinery" etc, etc.

Remind yourself of that 'fact' as you board your next Bombardier-built jet or train in perfect expectation you will arrive in one piece.

Because an individual French Canadian called Joseph-Armand Bombardier set out to refute that abstract claim in 1941, at the height of the Modernists' war.

I think he has succeeded, don't you ?

Not from our war : "Second Front in the Soviet Far East , NOW !"

Dream on.

Shamefully, there was no public Western pressure put on Stalin to open any sort of Second Front on Japan from the North, during the desperate days of mid 1942 or ever after.

Ever after,  as in : no major postwar historical school has ever focused on this baneful fact.

Instead Japan and Germany successfully held back, retreating very slowly, while being attacked on only two major fronts at a time.

(They themselves succeeded best when they only attacked on one major front at a time.)

Yet Germany and Japan rapidly fell apart when they were under attack on three major fronts all at once.

In 1944, Germany fell apart the moment it had to supply artillery shells to three major battle zones : in the East, in the West after D-Day in France and in the South as the twenty nation Allied army continued its push into Vienna and Munich via Italy.

In August 1945,  Japan also suddenly fell apart when it was under attack on three fronts : in the Pacific from the USA, in the East by the Chinese and British Burmese Army, and now in the North from the USSR.

The Russians only fought Germans and were so carefully neutral towards Japan they won't allow US flights over Soviet airspace en route to Japan ---- even the Swedes and Swiss were far far less neutral than that, to the German war machine.

The British basically only fought Germany and Italy, on land.

The USA fought Japan, Germany and Italy full out, on land, from the Fall of 1942 --- but not decisively, until late 1944, because they lacked support from their other major allies and faced a divided American military brass and public.

Churchill (Italy) and MacArthur (Philippines) share the blame with Stalin

Both Germany and Japan needed to face three major land battles at a time to lose, though one major battle front and two minor battle fronts all at the same time might also have spelt a faster doom.

Interesting to imagine the combined effect of a major American landing in the South of France at the same time as a minor British Commonwealth landing in Sicily and a huge Russian offensive against Germany, if tied simultaneously to a major Burmese Army/Chinese offensive and a small Russian advance into Manchuria via Mongolia, coupled with an American bomber campaign from the Aleutians and a land attack on an Japanese island very near to the Japanese main islands.......