Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NYC 2016 is hardly NYC 1926

I'd never go on a walk or a run just for the sake of running and walking, but I will walk anywhere in any weather, if walking gets me to something I want to go to.

(I am also very cheap and hate to pay for taxis and its almost the same when it comes to spending money on our  quite cheap local transit service.)

So I didn't take any special trips to Pictou, Truro, Montreal,Vancouver, Detroit, the UK, New Jersey and New York City, etc, to research the life and times of Martin Henry Dawson.

Oh yes, I have been to almost all the places of great significance in Dr Dawson's short life, but only in passing, while attending to other affairs.

But if my brother hadn't got serious ill, I doubt I would have ever travelled to NYC, en route to his home in Belfast Northern Ireland, for example.

I guess I don't want to get into the bad journalistic habit of over-selling the claim that viewing the exteriors of the buildings of 2016 Truro will tell you a great deal about the interior lives of the residents of 1896 Truro...

WWII : none knew that Dawson Project a dog

Dawson's 'other Manhattan Project' might not have been hurt as much as one might think by being both (a) before the age of the internet and (b) having tight wartime censorship keeping its successes out of the scientific and popular media.

In times of little real (uncensored) news and with the official version too upbeat to be trusted, person-to-person gossip is often reviewed as perhaps most reliable source of information around.

Gossip has no airs.

The gossip of the poor sounds the same as the gossip of the rich : it removes money and power from the conversation, it is the true 'Great Leveler' rather like today's internet.

Doctors don't gossip, of course : too unprofessional - and in times of war - too un-patriotic as well.

But as every patient knows, they sure do consult each other a lot - and thank God for that !

So it all comes down to the same thing really.

News of Dawson's penicillin success in beating the unbeatable SBE did indeed spread, by doc-to-doc 'consults', rather like wildfire through dry grass, all over the very large medical fishbowl in tri-state NYC, in the Spring and Summer of 1943.

When one well browned off young medical professional went to Citizen Hearst's largest paper to plead for some of this miracle cure, an evening paper that was the largest in North America and syndicated all over, the rest was history.

In 2015, it is clearly not wartime and so equal-to-rich-and-poor-gossip will never elect Canada's federal Green Party.

But the internet could - because on it, no one knows you are a dog or a barely above the fringe party.

But no, the Greens head out, every election, deliberately looking for walls to bloody their head against.

Local candidate signs is probably the biggest single election expense in Canada, bar none.

The Greens don't have enough money to buy enough, big enough, slick enough, signs or enough volunteers to put them up quickly or enough supporters who can find their website quick enough to request the 'tipping point number of signs early on' to really move votes to the party locally.

Leaflets ? Ditto. Too few, too unslick, too few volunteers, too slow to get them printed.

The same with all printed material - the media only wants slick PDFs of your party platform and a dead cow can bang those out as good as the fifty million dollar conservative party machine.

Matching the big guys big and busy local campaign HQs - ditto.

Matching the big parties' constant national leaders' tour requires your own jet and a huge advance organization and enough supporters to provide the constant rent a crowds.

The Greens can't do it, so shouldn't do it.

But what the official party can do and the unofficial supporters should also do - in spades - is create those short snappy, hard hitting, funny, posters, ads, testimonials, streeters, rants, songs, etc etc that go viral, cost nothing but brains and sweaty hard work.

You know the ones that never seem better or worse - when viewing online or by mobile - that the best the slick Toronto ad boys do for the two big parties.

Free - did I also mention they are free to make and free to post online ?

Who will this hurt?

Well the majority of the people in every party spend the majority of their working days pleading for enough money to pay their salary and a minority actually doing something to increase thir party vote.

Parties mostly operated by amateurs of good will will mean these people will have to get a real world job.

Even Stephen Harper had a real job - in a mailroom, once.

For a few months.

Turning him back into an amateur might unleash his well developed sense of humour which he now keeps well hidden.

I'd love to see him in the Youtube mode, of course along side 50,000 Green activists...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dawson asked why move to WWII not stopped

In the 1930s, Germany and Japan had big appetites and the means to war, at least upon smaller others near-by, to satisfy them.

Italy merely had a big appetite.

This we are all taught in school --- 'the causes of WWII'.

But is this a truly complete explanation for all of WWII - above all for its extraordinary long length and the almost surprising defeat of the victorious Axis ?

If 'the-rest-of-the-world-combined' had been seriously willing to war with 1930s Japan, Italy and Germany to stop their aggression, even 1940s Japan, Italy and Germany, the Axis would have been quickly defeated.

The Axis simply had far too little manpower and far too little strategic resources , even far too little capital resources such as existing factories, science labs, locomotives and merchant vessels - let alone enough tanks, planes and battleships.

What these three nations did have, along with their fellow travellers around the world, was boundless will power and self confidence produced by the conviction that Science and Nature was on the side of their aggression.

That ------ and the fact that their very large (but also very reluctant) opponents basically agreed with them on the science of the matter.

Martin Henry Dawson's 'other Manhattan Project' had nothing really new to say as to why WWII was started.

But by successfully challenging the science that united Allied and Axis, it had plenty to say as to why it wasn't stopped ....

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dawson's Smalls

A small team of just four, working with small penicillium fungoid growths helpers, all to heal some small patients, working class SBE youths, the very "4Fs of the 4Fs".

Dr Henry Dawson seemed to have kept his team deliberately small, not just to maximize his freedom from the people and institutions who wanted to financially shut him down, but also to make a point of the continuing abilities of small science and small science teams to still do major work.

Again, he deliberately chose to rub the fur of Allied medical science the wrong way when he decided to break a worldwide medical taboo, and after only all five weeks into his project, inject the raw penicillin made from the dismissed-as-too-primitive penicillium mold into his patients' blood stream.

This, rather than wait years or decades for Big Pharma and Big Medicine to painstakingly and slowly bring mass clinically tested synthetic penicillin to market.

Finally of course, Dawson seemed to doom his 'penicillin project' to years of failure by picking by far the hardest disease on the books to try and cure with the limited amounts he could make or obtain.

But of course his project was never about penicillin and he deliberately picked the SBEs because they were 'the least of these' on everyone else's medical priority list, if a shooting war broke out.

Dawson's small team picked the small penicillium mold and the small SBEs out of the dustbin of history, where they had been both dismissively tossed, and then made out of them something truly wondrous and globe-changing to behold....

Apple a day won't keep the biochemist at bay

Patents and profits (but not patients) need pure penicillin.

Patients and people never ever need to see life-sustaining vitamins, minerals, nutrients, medicines as 100% pure.

Consider that when we eat a big apple, if we are lucky its 100 grams will yield up 10 mg of pure Vitamin C, but the body will have no problem using that one part in ten thousand out of all the mushed apple and acid inside our stomachs.

Similarly when Dr Vincent Duhig injected penicillium liquids straight into his patients' blood stream, the pure penicillin went straight to work killing their life-threatening infection, untroubled it was only a few parts per million of those penicillium liquids.

But biochemists in the 1940s attempting to determine the structure of a biological molecule had only crude tools and they needed both basically pure biological materials and lots of them for it to be destroyed by their brute force techniques.

One can not describe the moral disaster this caused the whole wartime penicillin situation better than the fact that in the Spring of 1943 Glaxo was the world's biggest producing of penicillin and yet no one drop went into a patient's bloodstream to save their life.

All that wonderful mass of Glaxo penicillin was destroyed by their biochemists trying (but failing) to make fat profits for Glaxo, in the middle of a total war, by synthesizing patentable penicillin.

And that meant the whole lot being destroyed in destructive analysis efforts.

Dawson (unwillingly) and Florey (willingly) had to ride our two horses and divide their raw penicillium juice two ways - at best or worst, that meant one half to the biochemists and one half to the patients.

On record are single destructive analysis experiments of 1.5 million pure units of penicillin - probably extracted (over and over and over, to up its purity) from ten million units (or more) of the raw stuff.

That raw penicillium juice would have saved hundreds of non-SBE type patients by Duhig's methods , and a handful of SBE patients by Dawson's methods.

Patients died by the millions worldwide, needlessly, during the twenty year multi-nation rush to produce patentable, profitable, pure synthetic penicillin - of course I (and Dr Dawson) are still morally outraged.

I'd hope I'd have said, let save lives - now ! - with the crude natural stuff and if and when Big Pharma makes it cheaper, better and easier via patented synthetic methods then I'll switch in a Manhattan Moment, but not until then...

Bringing 4Fs into DAWSON'S BIG TENT

Henry Dawson's Manhattan project sought to bring the world's metaphorical 4Fs into the Big Tent : but as helpers, as well as the helped.

Imagine the liberation of Belgium in the Fall of 1942, rather than in the Fall of 1944, a wonderfully early liberation made possible because the Allies chose to take advantage of their huge demographic advantage over the Axis.

A huge army made of soldiers from all segments of the Allied cause, including millions of frontline Indian and African troops.

That would be an excellent example of a Big Tent effort that included the small as both people to be helped (Belgium) and among those helping them (the frontline Indian and black soldiers).

It never happened .

Seemingly many people like Winston Churchill would rather lose to fellow whites from Nazi Germany than see white Europe liberated by a land army made up of mostly coloured recruits from the British, French, Dutch,Belgian and American colonies.

It was just this sort of thinking that Dr Henry Dawson sought to combat when he got 4F fungoid growths and 4F human patients inside his Big Tent effort, the other Manhattan Project, to do something earthshakingly good for us all ...

Watching THE THIRD MAN as a small child

I actually think I was thirteen going on fourteen when I first saw THE THIRD MAN, as part of Halifax CJCH-TV's nightly series of movies in the early evening.

I had read plenty of media account of the horrors of the Holocaust by then but hadn't really see anything cinematic about it, nothing to hit me really hard emotionally.

But THE THIRD MAN, centred on the morality of mis-used penicillin, did indeed hit me really hard.

No wonder, for it was a film that remains (65 years later) on many critics' lists of the top ten movies of all time.

As a small child, I had always found the events of WWII and the ten years thereafter very exciting and had always regretted never been being there mentally at firsthand (I was born in late 1951).

And in particular, I became an aware young person too late in the antibiotics revolution to be able to imagine the intense impact of this first miracle medicine upon human thought.

But the events in this film set in postwar Vienna changed all that : I could now feel, in my bones, for the first time how it was for people of that period.

How, for moviegoers back then, the ultimate good must be in providing penicillin to dying little ones and so the ultimate evil was not yet Auschwitz but rather those who would deny lifesaving penicillin to dying little ones.

I think the emotional wallop of that old B&W movie set my current penicillin project in motion --- only this time substituting Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey, Newton Richards and Winston Churchill for Harry Lime in the denying penicillin to dying children department ....

Dawson did it all for 'the little ones'

Henry Dawson's other Manhattan Project wasn't really to advance the cause of penicillin, to aid the Allied military effort or even to save the SBEs : rather he did it all for 'the little ones', to persuade Humanity to build a "Big Tent" that included everyone.

For with rare exceptions (perhaps the early days of the Communist revolutions in some countries) a Big Tent doesn't need to invite the big and the powerful inside - for they are already there.

Instead a Big Tent always newly invites in the small, the weak, those traditionally judged unworthy and unfit.

Their ideas, emotions, fears, feelings, efforts are now considered to be as worthy as those of any other --- and worthy to be judged for their suitability to the collective task at hand.

Dawson felt his earlier scientific studies had revealed that a Big Tent approach (aka a tolerance for 'unfit' mutations and a global HGT system) had helped keep the microbes alive for four billion years.

Now it might just do the same for humanity : help keep human civilization alive for another four thousand years, if only given a chance to prove itself.

From tiny beginnings, his Big Tent Penicillin, produced by an unlikely 'coalition of all the talents' and given freely to all in need in a war-torn world, has since indirectly benefited ten billion of us (and counting) since 1940.

All through a form of herd immunity to formerly endemic deadly infectious diseases.

In doing so, I think he has successfully scaled up (and proven up) that this Big Tent concept also works for humanity !

Survival of the Fit over the Unfit ?

Particularly after the whirlwind defeat of the effete French by the German Blitzkrieg in May-June 1940, it seemed obvious to most middle class people in the world that the fit 1As were bound to win , every time, over the unfit 4Fs.

Survival of the fit over the unfit : bigger is better/might is right : Q.E.D.

A Fact of Nature : the classic 'Appeal to Nature'.

But Dr Martin Henry Dawson strongly and fundamentally disagreed with this particular Appeal to Nature, or at the very least, he wished to make another and stronger scientific appeal to the Facts of Nature.

For he felt he had found another (and statistically much better) method for assuring long term survival, as revealed by his study of Nature.

Young Dawson had made his scientific mark, initially, by studying the pneumococcus "R"s.

Even though these "R" type was considered by most others to be unworthy of serious scientific study.

They were the deviants, the unfits, the 4Fs, the non-virulent and non-virile members, of what even human scientists had to admit were Life's most successful survivors, the microbes.

Exit the big and mighty (and very fit) dinosaurs

For almost four billion years, the microbes had survived all that the Cosmos and Nature had thrown at them and lived to see another day while the big creatures, like the dinosaurs, went extinct at the first downturn.

Dawson's study found that almost four billion years of existence had produced no evolutionary pressures to eliminate the 'unfit' among the present day populations of microbes that he had studied.

This despite Social Darwinist claims to see evidence of the same in the mere four thousand year recorded history of human civilization.

Evolutionary pressures of survival, the Social Darwinists claimed, would ensure that humanity's portfolio of genes would be gradually drained and reduced, down to a 'small tent' of just to the most fit 1A types.

But Dawson no doubt had already noted to himself that the microbes had been around a million times longer than human civilizations - surely the slowly grinding wheels of even Darwin's ultra leisurely concept of evolutionary change must have produced something by now.

Because his microbes seemed quite tolerant of what human scientists called the 'unfit' among them.

Indeed Dawson found that the 'fit' and 'unfit' among the pneumococcus microbes were free to be both patrons and authors in the microbes' world wide lending library of potentially useful genes.

In this "Big Tent" concept for a global library, any microbe - whether judged 'fit' or 'unfit' by human scientists, could freely offer up bits of DNA with potentially useful genes for a new crisis situation and any other microbe could take it up and in turn pass it on to another microbe and so on, quickly circling the world.

The miracle of HGT

This use of the unique-to-the-microbe HGT system (horizontal gene transfer), by the way, is how resistance to a brand new antibiotic can spread to the remotest corners of the world in a few years.

It is one of the key ways that microbes have survived for four billion years.

Most microbes would be considered in 1940 to be among the "lower" forms of life because they almost never reproduced sexually - that is by taking bits from the genome of both mom and dad.

Creatures unable to do that were considered to be incredibly primitive.

But Dawson showed that if the microbes could think, they might feel that sexual beings were truly incredibly primitive - for why stop at sharing the genes of just mom and dad when you could share the genes of a trillion times a trillion times a trillion of other microbes ?

In human equivalent terms, when microbes were under attack by a powerful new antibiotic, as powerful as Hitler + Stalin + Mussolini + Tojo combined, they made the biggest possible Big Tent of all the talents, be they female or male microbes, black, red or yellow microbes, fit or unfit.

All hands on deck, without regard to limiting racism or prejudice !

Big Tent Penicillin

Dawson thought the Allied cause should not just rhetorically claim to do the same but actually and concretely do the same.

Not just for the traditional moral reasons, but because he had scientifically demonstrated that it had a proven record of success.

But in fact Dawson's earlier studies had largely been ignored.

This time though, he would combine microbe 4Fs ( in this case ,the lower fungi penicillium) with human 4Fs (the working class SBE patients), all to show just what a "Big Tent" approach could do in a time of grave human crisis...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

'We're doing this all for the little ones'

World powers (or parents) who too stridently claim they're doing it all 'for the little ones' invariably are not.

One case in point, Great Britain and her Allies.

Britain never actually conducted its war in 1914-1918 - or the peace process in 1919 - with a prime objective the protecting of the rights of 'poor little Belgium'.

Ditto for Belgium, and a dozen other small nations, in 1939-1945 and afterwards.

Henry Dawson bought into the propaganda claim in 1914-1918 --- but not again in 1940.

His response was to set "The other Manhattan Project" in motion....

Natural 'Pen' proof small science beautiful

If small science is beautiful and bountiful then no smaller (or better) example exists then the tiny penicillium factories that produced penicillin when the biggest factories of Man could not

In the Fall of 1940, Dr Henry Dawson set out to embarrass the Allies to actually do something concrete to match their high sounding (but actually empty) Atlantic Charter style rhetoric about protecting the rights of the small in the war against Big Evil.

So he deliberately recruited some very small (and very overlooked) individuals into his "Big Tent Coalition of All the Talents" that came to be the other Manhattan Project.
Dawson specifically went out of his way to go to the bottom, not the top, of the hospital patient pecking order when he asked some young Black and Jewish patients dying of SBE if they wished to volunteer to form his pioneering clinical trial of the world's first systemic antibiotic.

Systemic but not synthetic antibiotic.

For on October 16th 1940, he deliberately chose to snub received scientific opinion and instead inject natural raw penicillin into this pair of nobodies.

Penicillin that was also made by nobodies : some of the smallest, most despised but also most sophisticated chemical scientists in the world : individual penicillium 'fungoid growth' cells.

Each one a complete chemical plant but each also so tiny that they are best seen with electron microscopes.

Millions and ultimately billions of us in the biggest, richest and most sophisticated civilizations have benefitted greatly ever since from these efforts of the small individuals who were so despised and overlooked by the Big back then.

I can't help but feel that that was the ironic point intended by Dr Dawson...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"4Fs, Slime and a Cracked Pot"

Re-reading Hotchkiss and Dubos's various 1940 era papers on their quick "small science" success at extracting, crystallizing and analyzing high yields of gramicidin, an early (unfortunately deadly) antibiotic exuded by microbes, one is struck by the apparent ease of the whole project.

By contrast, penicillin, another antibiotic exuded by another microbe, was extremely difficult to successfully handle - in every single aspect of it --- from growing the microbe to the ultimate failure to commercially synthesize penicillin itself.

This despite a multi-nation effort that eventually rivalled the Manhattan atomic Project for "Big Science" funding and skilled manpower levels.

But biochemist Dr Karl Meyer was not to know this in September 1940 when he recruited his co-worker, bacteriologist Dr Martin Henry Dawson, to "just" grow a little bit of the fungus microbe, for a "little while".

A seemingly small request, for a short period of time, that cost Dawson his life but also ended up changing our entire world, for the better, forever.

Dawson then only needed to test tiny amounts of its raw penicillin (and the breakdown products and synthesis attempts from Dr Meyer) for their anti-bacterial effects on a few bacteria isolated upon small microscope slides.

A Piece of Cake, I promise !

Like all other would be penicillin synthesizers, Meyer had absolutely no plans to develop a simultaneous clinical program of treating patients with his naturally grown penicillin.

Not only would that would require producing vastly bigger amounts of penicillin and delivered on a reliable timetable, it would also absorb scarce penicillin that he really needed to destroy, as part of his destructive analysis process.

Meyer had a long and close relationship with Schering, a big (chemically sophisticated) drug company, and if he had any success at all in penicillin synthesis, they would quickly take over the process.

Schering would then mass synthesis the drug from off the shelf standard chemical reagents, in quantities at least large enough for a large collective clinical effort to test it out on first animals and then various human patients suffering different diseases.

I hope the impression I have given you of Meyer's initial project was how small it was and how leisurely it could proceed.

This is perhaps the total opposite to the set of conditions that Dawson's fellow Canadian Dr Banting imposed upon himself.

Banting's small team are busy trying to learn how to extract large amounts of fairly pure (natural) insulin consistently, while scores of dying children awaited that insulin in the hospital next door as the eyes of the entire world are rapt upon their heroic efforts.

No pressure !

I have written many times before how Dawson decided to aid the war effort not by attacking the bully Hitler but rather to attack Allied bystander hypocrisy, in the difference between the Allies' public war aims of helping the small and their actual inactions (or worse) on that front.

So he decided, in late September, to irk the Allied medical authorities the most offensive way he could think of, by deliberating inviting two of the Allied cultures' most worthless beings into his wartime Big Tent of all possible talents.

Patients with invariably fatal SBE had already been written off as "life unworthy of scarce wartime medicine" and were 'the 4Fs of the 4Fs' on the bottom scale of wartime medical priority.

That the first two patients invited to introduce the new Age of Antibiotic were a working class Black and a Jew added an extra frisson to his lateral move.

Next, he decided to buck a twelve year long world wide medical taboo against injecting fungoid growth metabolical waste (aka natural penicillin) directly into the temple of the human blood stream.

The medical consensus was that it was better to let patients die than inject patients with this highly effective and totally non-toxic lifesaver, before 'the chemists' synthesized it as totally artificial and totally pure, to paraphrase Alexander Fleming.

Along with all the doctors, many others among the educated, among them A Hitler and HP Lovecraft, shared this characteristically Modern irrational fear of fungoid growths.

Dawson would attempt to save the lives of the worthless '4Fs of the 4Fs' with the yellow poop/pee of the worthless fungoid slime !

Immediately, Dawson was into 'Doing a Banting', hijacking Meyer's tiny leisurely project, but doing a worse Banting, if that could be possible.

It was.

Few places feared fungus molds more than 1940s hospitals, home to the excessively house proud nursing fraternity, in an age when their excessive cleanliness was almost the only defence against hospital-spread infection.

Dawson would have to grow his penicillium in a very busy hospital itself, unlike Hotchkiss or Banting and resistance to his efforts from his bosses could be expected to be fierce.

Particularly as he would be growing 700 two litre flasks of the stuff on a regular two week turn cycle !

That amount, 50 US gallons of extraction liquid every two weeks, was the amount engineers mean when they talk about industrial 'pilot plant' levels.

This would have been a big undertaking for any drug company in 1940, let alone for a tiny team of four part time staffers, working in a hostile hospital, trying to keep up with their busy fulltime day jobs.

This was because the yield of penicillin, in 1940, from penicillium was incredibly low - one part in a million extracted as final 'medicine' output from one million parts of 'food' input.

And even in treating ordinary patients, penicillin presented unique difficulties that made its clinical use require larger than expected amounts of this miracle drug.

This despite the fact that tiny amounts of penicillin were highly effective bacteria killers - that is worked in tiny amounts was one of the many reasons why penicillin was so extraordinarily non toxic in the human body.

Just as well - because another reason it was so non-toxic was that it didn't get to hang about inside us - the kidneys excreted it all in a very rapid manner - as fast as in one half hour.

Frequent new injections were needed to maintain it at an effective germ killing level in the blood serum.

Wait !

it gets worse, much much worse.

SBE was - and is - considered the Mount Everest of all infectious diseases for any number of reasons.

This disease of the vital and very delicate heart valves is one that usually returns again and again, each time further weakening the valve while also providing a better place (a sturdy biofilm then know as vegetations) for the infectious bacteria to hide and survive drug attacks, until the patient dies.

But the real difficulty is the fact that the valves are literally a case of "blood, blood everywhere but not a drop to drink" - though all of the blood inside us flows through them repeatedly, ironically they themselves are basically not supplied with any tiny blood capillaries and hence no blood.

Drugs that arrive via the traditional capillary route trickle in slowly and leave slowly, making a little drug go a long way.

Instead the drug that could impact heart valves had to fill the entire blood system at a clinically effective level and yet only brush by the valves for a fraction of a second as the blood supply is at its very fastest being pumped through the valves.

Dawson's history-making first ever injections of an antibiotic into a patient, technically were fully internal systemic in nature but then acted rather like an internal antiseptic being dabbed on the outside of a cut !

The only good news was that penicillin readily killed the particular bacteria of SBE infections and because it was so non-toxic, the entire body could be safely filled with the drug to kill an infection in only a tiny part of the body.

In addition, Dawson noted that the drug seemed readily diffusible - meaning it could better penetrate deep into the SBE vegetations than most other drugs.

The problem for the highly moral upright Dawson, was that once he committed to trying to save SBEs when they came forth in the new admissions mix to the single ward he effectively controlled, he would have to keep producing the penicillin until the current patient died or was cured.

And then the same for the next SBE patient and so on.

Until penicillin was (a) mass produced and (b) authorized to be given to the written-off SBEs.

This didn't happen for four more years.

Dawson created for himself a moral and physical treadmill he couldn't climb off of.

The initial stress quickly gave him a case of MG, a dangerous auto immune disease, and the continuing stress finally made it fatal four years later.

No wonder that most in the medical world considered him a crackpot.

But I consider him a cracked pot ---- in the full biblical sense of that term....

Rachel Harper : Niqab in Riyadh but in not QC ?

Was Harper willing to pimp out Rachel in Niqab in Riyadh, to hustle arms deal for General Dynamics , while refusing to let her wear Niqab in Quebec City ?

The Economist Magazine says Canada has been revealed to the world as exhibiting an unexpected mean streak in the current election.

This election has indeed been unusual but not because Canada has a new mean streak.

During WWII, Canada, the country of birth of my biographic subject Dr Martin Henry Dawson, had a secret internal plan than "No (Jews) Is Too Many" --- while publicly proclaiming itself as the Peaceable Kingdom.

Infrequently admitted by Canada-boosters, the country ended up with the worst record in the entire world when it came to accepting Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

What is really new is that Canadians are suddenly reversing this hundred and fifty year old policy and being mean in public.

Given that traditionally Canadians have been secretly mean to outsiders all the while being publicly hypocritically proud of their exalted human rights record, Canadians being forthrightly mean in public might even be seen as a moral step forward !

The elevation of a forthright Australian gun-for-hire named Lynton Crosby to run the Canadian Conservative Party's electoral campaign begins then to make sense.

Crosby has orders to re-elect PM Stephen Harper by creating some of his infamous 'dog whistle' wedge issues: in this election, in this country, by suddenly turning the election ballot question onto the mostly ignored but very divisive minor issue over whether women should be allowed to wear Niqabs at government offices.

Harper has always said he'd never put the almighty dollar above defending human rights when it comes to personally hustling massive Canadian weapon sales abroad.

Campaigning in Quebec City, Harper insists he is totally opposed to forcing women to wear Niqabs - a form of face covering most often seen in ultra traditional Moslem countries like Saudi Arabia, where this is hardly the Saudis' worst violation of individual rights - the country executes almost as many people each year as North Korea, China or even America.

Daughters for Dollars

But Harper would hardly be the first world leader (or monarch !) who has been willing to meet the Saudis' strict social customs more than half way, at least while in Riyadh and at least long enough to successfully hustle a few billion more dollars in arms contracts.

I believe Stephen Leacock's once highly popular "Arcadian Adventures among the Idle Rich" may hold the key to the Canadian character.

For Dr Dawson was an young man when this searing attack on Canadian hypocrisy by a professor at his university came out.

Perhaps partially as the result of this famous book, Dawson, born into an atmosphere of traditional Canadian hypocrisy but raised with a pronounced moral conscience, was always particularly sensitive to the contrast between high blown public sentiments and low blown private government inactions.

For example, the very public Atlantic Charter versus the very private reality that all Allied governments sharply restricted volunteer colored recruitment in the Allied invasion armies, even if it meant Hitler had a military advantage as a result.

Combatting (Allied) bystander hypocrisy rather than bully (Axis) meanness was what Dawson chose to focus on in 1940 -1945.

In 1984-1993, I chose to do exactly the same here in Nova Scotia when I found people laughing about an open secret, a powerful politician's serial sex crimes, yet were unwilling to stop him, so more young girls wouldn't assaulted.

Sexual assaults and then the brutal murders of hundreds of women, aboriginal women in particular, is the issue Canada and PM Harper should really be discussing in this election - not a handful of women choosing, of their own free will, to wear niqabs, at a public ceremony in a supposedly free country.....

Friday, September 25, 2015

George Pal's Penicillin film : Sci Fi?

George Pal's pioneering sci fi films tended to exalt Big Science - so I have to wonder how he would have dealt with the classic example of small science - the DIY, tabletop,homegrown, artisan making of primitive penicillin.

For after all, this was the bigger and (dramatically as well as morally) better half of the wartime penicillin drama.

The side of the race to produce wartime penicillin that actually beat the long odds and won...

Blogs: intellectual public in conversation

Most ordinary people clearly prefer to write a few words on Twitter, Facetime, Instagram, Snap, etc or in the anonymous "Comments" sections of mainstream media, rather than write a nice long blog post, when it comes to taking part in the global conversation on the issues facing the world.

I am a very ordinary person, but unfortunately I tend to be far too longwinded to ever take the tweeters' approach.

I don't mean I am at the academic and public intellectual deep end of longwindedness.

I just feel I am more at the level of millions of other members of the public, all around the world, who tend to think, talk and write with somewhat of the complexity of academics and intellectuals, when it comes to discussing the issues of the day.

We blog, mostly, to each other - a thin but long web of the 'intellectual public' , woven from blog posts all over the globe.

We basically different from the media-savvy academic or traditional book-published "public intellectual" author in that we don't need to see a paycheque from a university or a publisher, before we speak up.

Some others may see this 'blockheaded' willingness to write without pay as our biggest weakness --- Samuel Johnson certainly did.

By way of contrast, I think it is our greatest strength - for we are free to speak from our heart and mind, without one eye always on our wallet, or on the opinions of a future grant committee ....

Big Tent diversity, small tent reductionism

Postmodernity/little science's Big Tent diversification stands opposed to Modernity/BigScience's little tent reductionism.

As I have said before, the key ideology of the Era of Modernity, 1870s to the 1960s, was popular or vulgar Uniformitarianism, lying never far beneath western liberal capitalism democracy and fascism/nazism and socialism/communism.

In its popularly understood form, uniformitarianism claimed tomorrow would be like yesterday and yesterday was like today : and you know what today is like here in the earthquake/famine free western world.

Life and Nature today, here, is calm, peaceful, predictable and basically open to anything humanity might throw at it.

Controllable by humanity to such an extent that one could pick future winners (ideas, nations, technologies) with quiet confidence because in the unlikely evident one winner proved a dud, humanity could quickly make a mid-course adjustment.

Nature won't bite, indeed couldn't bite.

Reductionism of gene and idea pools (and hence of possible alternative visions) quickly followed : pick the scientifically determined winners and bin the rest, with Zyklon B if need be.

The Science of Certainty : freely reduce the gene pool 

The very massive and yet very secretive Manhattan atomic Project was the apogee of such thinking.

It was 'Big Science' in terms of the number employed by it, but 'little tent' in the number of those employees, let alone the general public, who were informed of its ultimate purpose.

Speaking of Zyklon B, after the revelations of Auschwitz and the perfecting of global death via V2 rockets and atomic bombs, human catastrophe caused by the most sophisticated civilizations seemed to not just be possible, but inevitable.

Then, in 1954, there was news that airborne radioactive fallout from one thermonuclear bomb (Castle Bravo) in the remotest part of the South Pacific could bring death to human and animal babies all over the entire world.

This raised the stakes even further.

For now human-originated catastrophism could affect the entire biosphere, which clearly was interconnected as all Life was shown to dine at a common table, now covered in radioactive dust.

Enter stage left : Catastrophism

Lyell's ancient intellectual rival, popular Catastrophism, (the idea that some catastrophe can affect the whole world and humanity can't stop or control it) was suddenly back in discussion, at least in terms of catastrophes of a human-originated form.

But if one globe-wide catastrophe existed that humanity couldn't stop or control (in the form of all-out thermonuclear war/nuclear winter/global fallout's triple combo) then why not others of human, natural or even cosmic in origin ?

Some young scientists suddenly dared to look at the effects of past Ice Ages, beyond just their obviously mobile massive ice caps.

For the evidence of a North American continent wide massive flood of truly biblical proportions, caused by by a break in an ice dam and possibly affecting global temperatures even in areas beyond that covered by ice caps, had been known for a half century but had been strongly denied by the scientific community.

Scientists, en masse, back in the era of Modernity all saw the financial virtues of backing uniformitarianism.

It was essential to maintain a united front about uniformitarianism if they were to advance the then new claim that scientists should be paid big salaries, given lots of grants and treated with god-like status.

All on the basis that uniformitarianism proved that the future was predictable and was controllable and that they were just the boys to do it.

Admitting that there were global-wide disastrous catastrophes that scientists couldn't see coming or stop once recognized (popular catastrophism) was simply not good for their careers and pensions.

But the younger, postwar, scientists were much influenced by the fact that paying scientists good salaries and granting them high status and public money for research was now an established fact, so at long last they could be more honest about studying things they couldn't actually prevent or control.

There is my army, I must run hard to lead it...

In fact, they recognized that today's scientists had to be more upfront than their scientific elders had been about the possibility of scientist-caused global catastrophes like nuclear war --- or risk losing all that hard earned status with the public.

Because the least sophisticated of the general public was well ahead of them on this score : the sudden rise in popularity of global disaster-oriented science fiction films in the early 1950s was proof of that.

Some still think the films' radiation mutated giant bugs were really Russian communists in disguise : I think they were simply seen as giant city eating bugs and the result of mutations caused by nuclear tests.

Human global pollution effects (such as acid rain), human climate change, overfishing and species loss, on and on were soon added to the score.

Global pandemics like 1918's Spanish Flu were now re-cast as global catastrophes, capable of - on the actual record - of reaching into even the remotest of isolated islands to kill and maim.

And man's overuse of antibiotics was spurring on bacterial resistance that, coupled with global air travel, could see old and new pandemics arriving at the speed of sound and yet be unstoppable by the best in medical science.

Even the continents no longer bobbed up and down placidly in place but trashed around and smashed into each other as tectonic plates - yet another old set of evidence denied at the time as a threat to uniformitarianism but now accepted as scientists struggled to stay intellectually ahead of the young drive-in movie set.

And why stop at natural and human sources of global catastrophes ?

What if a giant rock from space - the sort that scientists were finally (at long last !) admitting they couldn't see coming with present technology, let alone stop, caused all the various mass extinctions of species.

Soon it appeared that indeed one such rock did kill off all the dinosaurs and much else besides.

Diversification of our gene and idea pools : the Science of Uncertainty

If Modernity and Big Science was about plumping all your money on just one high yielding blue stock, on a company selling something you sure would be popular long into the future (say newspapers for example - at their peak in the early 1950s), the post-modern, born after 1940, drive-in set wanted to hedge their bets.

Better to spread your investment widely, better to diversify your portfolio - maybe homos, cripples, women, negroes and darkies in general might have usefully talents and ideas as we faced a series of upcoming global catastrophe.

Better then lots of different little (DIY even) sciences and seeking a Big Tent of all possible talents.....

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Too human-centric, response to Castle Bravo ?

The idea that certain natural disasters could totally overwhelm Humanity and the Earth (catastrophism) was not yet back in popular and scientific fashion in 1954 and hadn't been in fashion for a hundred and thirty years.

Proof can be found in virtually all accounts of WWII.

The leaders of the six biggest imperial powers in the war (Churchill, Hitler,FDR,Stalin,Mussolini,Tojo) were indeed larger than life figures, stagey and theatrical in manner in their every public appearance.

The type of actors who would even eat the (supposedly bland) (supposedly inert) scenery to steal a scene.

So writers played WWII as a human drama exclusively and wrote natural forces out of their accounts of the war's progress.

But one could argue (as some historians belatedly do today, seventy five years too late) that there was plenty visible evidence at the time that natural forces - the climate above all - moved this particular global human drama all over the map.

And the humans (even these six extremely strong willed men) meekly went alone.

In perhaps the first important example, before the actual firing war, in the 1930s, the state of the crucial annual German harvest (regardless whether inputs of labour,machinery and fertilizer were increased or decreased) still mostly hung on the state of the weather.

And Hitler was always more likely to take desperate and violent action after a bad harvest, fearful that a hungry German population would turf him like they did the Kaiser.

Yes, even Hitler meekly danced the rythmn of the rain and the sun and the wind.

It turns out the scenery ended up eating the actors, not the other way around....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seeing us interconnected : why Castle Bravo ?

Why did 1954's Castle Bravo fallout cloud, rather than 1918's Spanish Flu or 1883's Krakatoa, finally convince humans of our interconnected biosphere?

Perhaps natural things don't really matter to us hubris-driven humans.

Because even huge natural catastrophes like Spanish Flu (and earlier global pandemics) and the volcano Krakatoa's volcanic winter didn't seem to count as much in the human mind as did a relatively small disaster that humans themselves were causing.

The unexpectedly large yield from the American thermonuclear test Castle Bravo in 1954 led to a strong plume of radioactive dust to fall on a Japanese fishing boat thousands of miles away, quickly killing one crewman.

It also added a relatively small amount of a much longer term radiation killer, strontium 90, to go high up into the atmosphere and then slowly fall all over the world, onto grass and then into cow's milk and eventually into the growing bones of babies.

There its high energy level of radiation output, plus its long life, would slightly increase a young child's chances of getting fatal childhood leukemia and bone cancer.

But recall, this fallout hit every child in the world - and now spread over hundreds of millions of kids per decade that relatively small increase in the individual death rate was poised to kill many thousands of them.

And the number of deaths per million of children was only going to go up with each new thermonuclear test adding more and more strontium 90 into the biosphere.

Traditionally the South Seas of the Pacific ocean was where people fled to get away from the rest of us ---- now nuclear tests there were bringing death to children in every other part of the world.

We could no longer run , we could no longer hide.

Just as we couldn't with Krakatoa or the Spanish Flu.

So I really don't have a good idea why we felt so different in 1954.

And don't give me the old chestnut about the new TV media of the 1950s --- for we had an equally good global media in 1883 and 1918 and it was called the wire services' telegraph.

Still, for whatever reason it did so, the Manhattan atomic Project probably did as much as the Manhattan penicillin Project to usher in our present environmental, small is beautiful, movement.

Ironic, that....

Penicillin Los Alamos would have killed millions

Thank God, thank God, thank God ----- for unanswered prayers.

Thank God that all penicillin research was not as centralized as the atomic bomb research effort was.

Because the overwhelming consensus of the loudest, most aggressive, most powerful voices in science held a rigid dogma that synthesis was the only way forward for wartime penicillin.

But wartime (& postwar) penicillin synthesis efforts proved a total failure.

A total waste.

Thank God , not so much in money lost, but a total waste of lots and lots of lost precious time.

(Pause here to say a prayer for all the poor mommies that needn't have died and to all the daddies and kiddies that grieved their loss).

"Big (Tents) are always Better"

But among the many small, diverse, de-centralized, home-made,amateur, DIY, stones that these bull-headed builders rejected (the humble people who actually gave us our precious age of antibiotics) let me cite but one example.

His name is Milislav Demerec, wartime head of the Cold Spring Harbour Institute which until then was known mostly as the Eugenics Movement's main research centre.

Early in the war, Demerec, acting as a patriotic individual and not as representing his Institution's collective opinion, suggested that a mini radiation attack (from a suntan lamp) on the growing penicillium spores.

He reasoned the radiation might kill most of them but might also throw up mutations with extraordinary penicillin producing qualities.

("What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger" ?)

He was totally ignored by Penicillin Central (Vannevar Bush's OSRD) but Bush's much smaller rival in Washington's bureaucratic conflicts (always America's real war), the WPB's OPRD, took up his idea.

His idea worked so well that today the best in the little penicilliums produce 50,000 times as much as they did back in 1940 !

So even if it had been possible to commercially synthesize penicillin , it would only be so at a cost level thousands of times above the little ones' efforts.

It took a 'coalition of all possible talents', small as well as big, a Big Big Tent, to bring wartime penicillin forth.

So, truly, FP Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful" might have just as accurately labelled "Big (Tents) are always Better".

But he didn't --------- and I just did.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A deliberately poetically inchoate protest

Dr Martin Henry Dawson clearly was not always a cautious person but he was always highly cautious in his public print and speech - a man more of concrete deeds than hollow words.

He didn't live into middle age, let alone live long enough to be safely retired (and with most of his senior colleagues safely dead) so he could at last write a rather frank account of the amazing events of forty years before.

One is left, therefore, to tease out for oneself what really lay behind Dawson's rather quixotic little alternative to the much bigger Manhattan Project.

And yet it may be all summed up right there - yes, there - did you not see it ? - there in that previous sentence.

Little versus Big.

It was an age, recall, of exalting all things Big - nothing more exciting for most people than to admire a new newspaper photo of a yet bigger or faster or heavier bridge, dam, warship, airplane, factory or what have you.

Big decisions (and total war decisions are always big decisions) were seen as best left to the Big people, in the Big Nations, who had the Big Corporations, the Big Universities and the Big Governments to best build the Big Factories needed to make the Big Machines that would win the war.

The rather better known Manhattan atomic Project is the perfect example, the example in spades.

But before the war, Dawson's entire career was all about exalting the small microbe's unexpectedly sophisticated abilities and all about exalting the worth of the much neglected institutionalized chronically ill.

So almost certainly in pointed contrast to the greater culture around him, Dawson's team was deliberately tiny,tiny,tiny.

Perhaps partly because he rightly feared the restraining strings that would come with any money, he never seemed to have sought out private foundation financial support, let alone government support.

(That kind of external 'institutional backstopping' would have meant his university and hospital would have had to match up with proper room for the cultured climate growing of 700 penicillium flasks.But then his school and hospital would also have the power to throttle his project at birth.)

Because he had not just one but two kinds of tenure, professor cum attending physician Dawson could remain small (but big enough to get the job done) while remaining fully independent.

But he could also make a subtle point - that great deeds could also come from the small, the poorly funded, the amateur, the DIY, the homemade and the artisan, the overlooked and the forgotten.

"4Fs, Women and the Grace of God"

His team was only four (very busy) people in size - they alone grew the industrial pilot plant amounts of penicillium, extracted and semi-processed the penicillin, confirmed its potency and then injected it into Dawson's patients.

His proving up of this drug was a very far cry from the huge elaborate process, so dependent on the okays from many Big People, that even in 1940 shepherded a new drug from lab experiments into general clinical use.

And what a despicable drug too - the metabolical excrement from the much despised little fungoid growths so hated by everybody from Adolf Hitler to HP Lovecraft - a drug with a worldwide cultural taboo against it ever being injected into the holy temple of the human body.

Dawson's little team was about to inject this excrement from a little microbes into (wait for it !) some much despised little people - a Jew and a Black dying from SBE, a condition that was already on the Death Panel list of diseases to be denied scarce medicine in the event of a war.

Small,small,small -- tiny,tiny,tiny, tiny -- worthless,worthless,worthless -- dismissed,dismissed,dismissed.

It was as if Dawson lined up all the Big People and Big Institutions in the world, like they were puppies.

And then slowly and deliberately rubbed their noses in the tiny slimy worthlessness of his scheme....

Trying to survive ---- after a nuclear war

Most of the world's biggest, best known and best regarded writers and pundits live in big cities like New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Moscow and they consider it pure nonsense that anyone would survive the direct effects of an all-out nuclear war.

For residents of such global cities, such as themselves, this is undoubtedly so.

But for the rest of us, the peons living outside these cities' various Beltways, we are more likely to die slow lingering painful deaths.

Not from radiation fallout, at least not in the medium short term.

And maybe not from nuclear winter.

But certainly from the massive disruption that an all-out nuclear war would cause to a world grown so dependent upon interconnected networks of huge, highly complicated, machines and the factories that make them.

The energy equipment inside electrical power plants and oil refineries in particular.

Those machines are only made in a few huge factories worldwide, mostly in the metropolitan areas of global cities, of the sort most likely to be bombed in an all-out nuclear war.

So many of these huge machines and many of the huge factories that make them will be destroyed in the nuclear war and the network grids of interconnectedness that sustains our modern global civilization will be totally disrupted until their damage is repaired.

And therein lies the rub.

(And let us not forget that the manufacture and transport to their site of use of these huge machines is also dependent on inputs from other huge machines/huge factories that are also likely to be largely destroyed or left without any fuel.)

Because the manufacture and transport and assemble of all these various machines depends upon electricity and petroleum products made by the very machines we are trying to re-build !

Such is the deadly Catch 22 situation arising from an unquestioning belief in the mantra that "bigger is ever better" bleated out daily by such as The Economist magazine.

Meanwhile, blast and radiation injuries and disruptions in food, heat and sanitation systems would be giving us a huge new burden of seriously infected patients.

But the production of antibiotics is even more centralized than the manufacture of power plant turbines and oil refinery cat converters.

A few big plants in India and China make all the basic (and natural) penicillin G from which most of the other beta-lactam antibiotics are semi-synthesized.

During almost all of WWII, the world's penicillin was basically made home-made or artisan style in extremely low tech ad hoc factories using molds in small flat bottles, growing on the surface of shallow pools of water infused with fungus food.

Only Pfizer (from mid 1944) and a few other drug companies in America (1945 onwards) began making it with yeast penicillium fungus inside the "deep tank" machines much like those seen today - a process close to how we make beer.

But research efforts on improving the natural output of penicillin from the mold style penicillium fungus used in the low tech set-ups had already been dropped by 1944 and instead was turned exclusively to increasing the yield from the yeast style penicillium fungus.

We could easily return to low tech "good enough for a global crisis" artisan penicillin today if we had to, even after a nuclear war and winter - it is basically kitchen table top technology.

However, the best of the surface-growing penicillium types available today (from museums of fungus collections !) would only yield penicillin at about 200 times less than what the deep tank process would yield, from the same amount of now scarce fungus food inputs.

Pandemic diseases, I believe, would kill most in the world, after even an all-out nuclear exchange.

We humans must move beyond simply expanding the diversity of our biological portfolio.

It is very important that we also begin making resilient, more flexible, smaller forms of low tech "good enough" technology.

And then redundantly storing the knowledge gained and new basic tools needed to do so.

All to protect us in the event that we fall into a catch 22 situation from having only a few big city based factories making all the complicated energy equipment that in turn bootstraps all the rest of our economy above it.

Amazingly fast, the world's electric utilities - private and public - accepted evidence that a single extraordinary bolt of strong electricity from the Sun might knock out most of the huge transformers that regulate the global electrical grid, leaving us no power production to make new transformers and hence no way to get electricity flowing again.

They are moving to increase resilience and redundancy.

But it is only half a solution - we need to find small simple natural artisan ways to increase the diversity of technologies needed for continued life on an unpredictable planet....

Monday, September 21, 2015

Homemade Hope

Like H.P. Lovecraft, Adolf Hitler could think of no greater symbol of evil than the fungoid growth, which they both saw as silently and secretively rotting normal healthy life from within.

And as is well known, Hitler considered all the Jews to be fungoid growths.

We must remember he meant it literally, to be taken as a new but fully scientific metaphor, just as the originally exclusively biological term 'fission' became extended to also mean 'nuclear fission'.

How long then would Lovecraft and Hitler have both raged to learn the details of Henry Dawson's other Manhattan Project.

The slimy beginnings of our Age of Antibiotics

For the tiny project took the metabolic excrement of a despised household pest the penicillium fungoid growth, had it extracted by another 'fungoid growth' (the German-born Jewish biochemist Karl Meyer) and finally injected it to try and save the life of yet another 'fungoid growth', American born Jew Charles Aronson !

And thus began, on October 16th 1940 in New York City, our current Age of Antibiotics.

Henry Dawson deliberately set out, I am sure, to put the cat among the Allied medical pigeons.

Because it is clear he ventured deep into two areas of science he knew nothing about, all to better make his point.

First, he chose to ignore the general consensus it was better to wait for crystal pure, patented, synthetic commercial penicillin. Just as well really, since seventy five years on, it still has never come through.

He knew nothing about fungus, let alone making fungus juice in massive pilot plant quantities on the simpliest of equipment under the most awkward of conditions.

Dawson then broke a twelve year world wide medical taboo and injected this excrement of these slimy despised molds (the lowest of the low, the least of these in the natural world) into a human patient's bloodstream.

Next, the patients he selected were working class youths, one Jewish and the other Black, who were dying of SBE - the heart disease that made Rheumatic Fever then the leading killer of school age kids.

SBE patients had already been mentally condemned by the Allied medical elite, to a death by deliberate neglect if war circumstances meant lifesaving medicine had to be rationed.

The SBEs were the lowest of the low, the 4Fs of the 4Fs, the least of these.

They were also, as heart patients, light years away from his day job speciality - the out patient treatment of chronic arthritis sufferers.

But Dawson badly wanted the Allies to change their war aims with regard to the little and disregarded and he correctly guessed that a very public fight over both treating the SBEs and and treating them with natural penicillin might just do it.

Allied war aims - prove them up or go home !

He wanted the Allies to mass produce natural penicillin, with the help of the humble fungus, during the war itself, to help all those in the world dying for lack of it --- for once to render concrete the Allies' high sounding but very hollow war aims claims.

The Allies intended instead to sharply limit penicillin's wartime production and to secretly limit its availability.

It's miracle cures were to be kept as secret as possible, until after D-Day when it use among lightly wounded Allied frontline troops would let them return to combat before the German wounded and hence provide a manpower edge.

The dying doctor Dawson held off his own body and his own government long enough to see the Allies drop their position and take up his - in the end bombers were pulled off missions to bomb and burn little children to deliver penicillin to other little children.

The homemadeness proved more important than the hope ...

However, seventy five years on, we do not really see the discarded people Dawson helped to save.

All we recall now is that the humblest and most despised of God's creatures came forth, in the darkest hours of WWII, to rescue us from the violence that the best in human civilization could devise.

When the finest in European civilizations gassed and burned all our faith in the ovens of Auschwitz, the smallest of beings, in the smallest and humblest of kitchen table settings, produced the homemade hope that restored our faith again.

For it was perhaps the unexpected elevation of the despised penicillium mold, together with the elevation of the then also despised status of the homemade, the amateur, the DIY project, the artisan and the natural that most challenged the certitudes of 'bigger is ever better' Progress.

Even after the war was over and plenty of penicillin was at hand to once again treat the SBEs....

industrial Auschwitz vs artisan Penicillin

Dr Josef Mengele'e wartime efforts, aided by an assist from Dr Robert Oppenheimer, almost immediately knocked human-oriented Progress permanently off its pre-war pedestal, as every account of the birth of our post-war/post-modern Era attests.

But would it be heresy to suggest that in the same period, albeit rolled out at a much slower pace, Dr Henry Dawson offered up an sturdy alternative to pre-war progress ?

That is 'out with the old' was as successful as it was, because there was an 'in with the new' alternative waiting in the wings ?

And I do mean 'Alternative' in just the sense that left wingers and right wingers understand that term : Birkenstocks and whole grain bread and all.

Dawson's successful attempts to get the Allies to reverse their war aims for penicillin, from a "secret weapon of war" to "abundant wartime penicillin for all in need", began small and simple and natural.

Writers Hitler, A. and Lovecraft, H.P. thought the ultimate in evil was a fungoid growth.

But 'the other Manhattan Project' took up the despised little creature.

Eventually it, together with "4Fs,Women and the Grace of God", to use a description from a hostile OSRD critic, changed our whole world for the better, for ever.

Not just in what it did ---- but in how it did it, so very different in an era of Big Everything, particularly Big Science:

Un-patented, public domain, back-to-the-land, back-to-nature, small-is-bountiful penicillin.

Kitchen Tabletop penicillin, Homemade penicillin, DIY penicillin, Artisan penicillin, Crude and Primitive penicillin.

Penicillin you could almost imagine being at farmers' markets, or sold from a table at the back of the hall, after the gig....

Big Tents always welcome in the small - don't they ?

After 1945, western democracies couldn't extend civil rights and a greater share of the economic pie to well fed and well educated affluent anglo saxon white men - those lucky guys already had it all and more.

No, it seems prima facie evident that increasing human and biological diversity inside a Big Tent always means inviting the small inside.

Or does it ?

This blog is about a wartime Manhattan-based project, from the small side of life, that aimed to create a Big Tent to fight not just WWII but the causes of WWII, and to invite everybody in - small, big and the in-betweeners ...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Obstetricians to post-Modernity

In Robert Clyde Allen's "Speaking of Soap Opera", he quotes one study of Golden Age radio soap operas that found over one half of all adult males in the shows were medical doctors.

In medical science's own Golden Age, roughly one long generation from the mid 1870s to the mid 1960s (the era of Progress and Modernity), soap operas loved doctors because that single profession was freighted with all the expectations humanity had for its highest civilizations.

This fraternity, and this one alone, was expected to do the impossible : to bridge over the many contradictions inherent in the Modern concept of Progressive civilization.

On one hand, as laboratory medical scientists, they were expected to display an alpha-male sized commitment to "double blind randomized" rationality, objectivity and the pursuit of scientific progression regardless of what dark alleys it might lead humanity into.

On the other hand, as medical frontline clinicians, they were expected to act out a selflessness and empathy for the suffering of others at a level we had traditionally only expected from Saints.

Since double blind randomized objectivity and agape empathy are fundamentally opposed, the bridge was bound to fail, particularly in times of extreme stress.

Such as happened during WWII.

In 1939, Josef Mengele had earned both a PhD and a MD and had started his career as a scientific researcher in genetics.

The son of a wealthy industrialist, he had imbibed the best of German high culture since childhood.

So he greatly enjoyed playing the best of German classical music, a love of visual art and engaging in Nordic sports like skiing, as well as a drive to excel in science.

But then he was called up for wartime military service before the ambitious young scientist had done a large enough piece of research to earn his "Habilitation", the post-PhD certification required before he could be appointed to a prestigious academic research position.

Mengele worried he was not getting any younger as the war unexpectedly dragged on, but then fate intervened.

He was wounded, supposedly too bad an injury for further front line service, and got assigned to Auschwitz.

Most of the SS doctors there did the minimum required.

However, the intensely ambitious Mengele saw that if he ingratiated himself with the camp superiors by his high energy level and his total commitment to its racist brutality, he could then have free rein over any sets of twins among the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews shipped into Auschwitz to either be killed upon arrival or after a short period of brutally hard labour.

No previous student of twins science, a particular obsession with geneticists then as now, had been able to freely kill their subjects before.

This greatly expanded the invasiveness of the scientific questions that could be asked about twins.

What a splendid Habilitation Mengele could produce ! - his intellectual reputation made and a top research position secured --- this in a culture that put "Professor" above even General and only slightly below Fuhrer.

Mengele didn't stop with ingratiating himself with his SS bosses - he ntoably did the same with the young children twins in his study - until he cold-bloodedly disposed of them, like so much scientific rubbish left behind after a successful experiment.

Do anything, say anything, but get the badly-needed scientific evidence : the perpetually wonderful ends justify the short term pain of the means.

Medical scientists in Dawson's America were saying just this during the same period as Mengele was operating - but they always stopped short for directly murdering their charges as he did.

Slow quiet off-stage deaths by deliberate neglect was more their cuppa.

Not to say that Mengele wasn't a hypocrite, but somehow, his hypocrisy seemed at a lower level than their brand.

Nevertheless it was his hyped-up version of the then fully approved normal scientific mindset that has put Mengele (and not his American fellow colleagues in evil) into a very small community of celebrities that remain known all over the world with just a one word name : Beethoven, Hitler, Mengele, Bono, Elvis, Madonna.

Ego, ambition, fame, celebrity : it was these drives that lifted this rather typical example of SS member into the very top Parthenon of all time Evil.

By contrast, all these drives seemed lacking in Dr Henry Dawson.

Diffident, modest, caring, considerate instead.

But also quietly, determinately stubborn in seeing that the small and the overlooked got their propers.

In 1939, he was 15 years older than Mengele, already established as (and probably content to remain) a tenured middle level academic researcher and teaching hospital attending physician.

He had a good national (and even international reputation) in a tiny backwater of mid-century medical research : helping those chronically ill with arthritis.

If it was a backwater in peacetime, all the more in wartime.

A brave, decorated, twice wounded WWI military hero, he yearned to help fight Hitler but realistically what could a middle-aged man do in the frontlines of combat?

If not then in the sphere of military combat against the evil of Nazi values, then perhaps he could fight it in the moral sphere.

For Dawson saw that many medical researchers in the democratic West seemed to have drunk almost as much of the kool-aid of 'seeking scientific advance without moral restraints on the treatment of experiment subjects', as had scientists in Germany.

So Dawson decided to restore the dignity of the small and weak by deliberately contesting such values in America (and by implication in Germany as well).

He did so by (A) ignoring the scientific consensus and deliberately choosing to work with a much despised household pest, the primitive and small penicillium mold, rather than wait for commercial synthetic penicillin (which in fact never did come - not during the war or after.)

And rather than research the use of penicillium juice to cure unfaithful 1A servicemen of overseas-acquired VD, he sought instead to save the lives of a group of small and weak patients, the 4Fs of the 4Fs : working class youths dying of SBE, endocarditis caused by Rheumatic Fever.

The medical establishment were already writing off the poor SBEs as 'not a wartime priority' for scarce medical resources.

In fact, that elite was planning to keep all penicillin successes out of both the scientific and popular media, so it could be later unleashed as a secret military weapon of war, being produced (synthetically) in such small quantities that it could only aid the lightly wounded frontline Allied troops.

Dawson wanted primitive natural (un-patented) penicillin produced right now, in massive amounts, and given to anyone in a war-torn world who would have their lives saved by it.

The terminally ill Doctor Dawson (I did mention he was dying all through his project didn't I ?) successfully held off his own body and his own government just long enough to the Allied governments come around.

Just before he died, they did mass produce wartime natural penicillin and they did deliver it (by diverted-from-war bombers if need be) to save all those dying for lack of it.

This worldwide Penicillin "moral" Diplomacy did much to separate many Neutral nations from their fascination with fascism and thus helped secure and hold together 'the coalition of all the talents' needed to defeat the entrenched Axis powers.

But Dawson died as war's end and the Official Version of the wartime penicillin story (written by the losers who backed synthetic penicillin and restricted production and won the Nobel as a result) was able to keep him out of the re-telling.

But while sophisticated professionals fell then and still do fall for the Official Version, ordinary people (and little children) never did.

Behind all the Official Version's photographs of huge shiny penicillin-making machinery in oil refinery styled factories, the little people still correctly detected that tiny penicillin fungus factories were actually doing all the hard lifting.

And thus while the best in Civilization were busy bombing and burning as many ordinary people and little children as possible, some incredibly small and weak and supposedly 'simple' beings were saving more lives than even WWII could kill.

So it came to be that via popular public opinion rather than by scientific elite fiat, that Penicillin (and not the invisible Dawson,) joined the Parthenon of single-named worldwide celebrities.

And quite rightly, because Dawson's agape selflessness was the very opposite of Mengele's celebrity seeking.

Still, from opposing moral ends, Mengele's evil celebrity science and Dawson's selfless invisible science together put the fatal post into Modernity after 1945 and created our present age of cherishing diversity rather than cherishing eugenics....

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Can't win Total War draining your gene pool

Early to mid September 1940 were undoubtably the darkest weeks of WWII.

Britain awaited an air assault followed by a sea invasion by a all-powerful German war machine that was backed by Russia, Italy and Japan along with a host of quasi fascist fellow travellers among the nominally neutral nations.

There was no Big Tent of all possible talents assembled to help Britain, or any of the dozen or so smaller nations who had already fallen, equally alone and isolated, to the Axis powers.

Britain was as guilty in all of this as any nation - for it too failed to build itself a Big Tent internally, to take advantage of its empire's overwhelming demographic superiority over all the Axis powers combined.

That would have meant a quick successful invasion of Germany by a British army made up mostly of the "inferior" darkies of India and Africa and Asia.

No way was that about to happen : Churchill would rather have lost to Hitler first.

It was same around the world : populations transfixed more over issues of who they shouldn't let into their war efforts against Hitler, than in widening the scope of just who they should invite in.

All of them seemingly more intent on shrinking their gene portfolios of possible new talent and ideas than on diversifying their gene portfolios to include anyone who could possibly help.

In Dr Henry Dawson's own America, he had already had almost a decade of his nation repeatedly rejecting requests to help the small peoples of the world against naked aggression.

Now, in September, he learned his medical colleagues had a new excuse to reject requests to help the small people at home while other scientific colleagues were rejecting requests to enlist some of the smallest (and most despised) small organisms to aid the Allied medical cause.

We can all fantasize about turning a big ocean liner clean around - and the stated Allied war aims was a very big ocean liner indeed.

Or we can do what we can, with the tools at hand.

This is what Dawson chose to do.

Acting perhaps only semi-consciously, Dr Dawson gradually molded his colleague Karl Meyer's own penicillium juice synthesizing project into becoming Dawson's personal response to the lack of any 'Big Tent' thinking he saw all around him.

I doubted much if Dawson ever had any illusions about what he could achieve.

But then the kindly fates intervened and Dawson's project did indeed ultimately turn the Allied war aims around in some very important areas.

And their consequences live on to this day....

Allied Big tent needed, to defeat Axis quickly

In mid 1940, the Axis's Big Tent still included fellow traveller Joseph Stalin*, along with a whole host of quasi fascist governments in the nominally Neutral nations. (Franco and Petain's governments were among the most prominent).

The British Empire alone, still had a huge demographic advantage over the Axis nations it was formally at war with, if Whitehall choose to include the colored populations of the Far East, Africa and the West indies, along with the French-speaking Canadians.

By and large it did not.

If the army forces placed in Britain as a potential invasion force against Germany's home territory had to be too small to do the job as a price for remaining basically all-white and all Protestant, so be it.

Because if Britain's infantry was boosted by six million Indian "colored" volunteers that then led the successful invasion into Germany (at the cost of the de facto recognition of the postwar independence of India) then Churchill and ninety percent of the English elite wanted no part in it.

The lessons of The Great War for the world's elites : modern all-out war unleashed social changes almost worse than abject military defeat...

Over and over, all the Allied nations (along with the Axis, by the by) chose to be at a military disadvantage, in a total war situation, rather than risk the unleashing of the social consequences of a Big Tent coalition, because it would result in a too wide a sharing of the moral success of victory.

One almost feels that if the elites had believed that the war could have been successfully conducted a small elite force of middle class volunteers in metal machines of submarines, airplanes and tanks, waging war from far above the fray, they would have done so.

Foregoing the conscripting of mass infantry armies of working class men, all demanding postwar pensions and political and moral rights that come from having personally defeated the enemy in old fashioned face to face combat.

It was the united effort to avoid sharing the wartime responsibilities, if it also meant sharing postwar power, that Dr Henry Dawson set out to combat with his personal Manhattan Project ....

 * Who can forget Stalin's northern naval base that he provided for Nazi u-boats - who besides the apologist historians for the Allied cause ?

'expanding diversity' at war against 'reductive eugenics'

'Expanding diversity' was always as much a dog whistle concept to its supporters as 'eugenic reduction' was to its supporters.

Diversity supporters knew exactly what it meant.

It meant fairly sharing society's pie with coloreds, cripples, kikes, queers and gals as well as with the preppy jockie boys from the WASP side of life.

Just as reductionists knew their concept meant keeping almost the whole pie to themselves, with only the crumbs falling ("trickling down") to the small side of life.

Let the war drag on for years, rather than let Indian colonial soldiers win the war by being the bulk of our infantry

As a result, more than the course of the military war per say, the real fear among elites on all sides was that winning and surviving a total war would require a 'coalition of all the talents', fatally exalting expansive diversity for other 'lessers' over their own restrictive eugenics.

As Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Henry Stimson and Charles De Gaulle made abundantly clear, they'd rather lose the war or greatly delay its victory, than see their front lines dominated by those they regarded as genetically unfit.

The French military concept of "blanchiment" is a good start to describe their basic beliefs - though their phobia hardly started and stopped with men of color.

If anything, they feared the possible advance of women much more sharply.

Henry Dawson, in his own small way, decided to contest these views.

First by enlisting the most despised of the small in Nature - the penicillium fungoid growths (to use a term much favoured by A. Hitler and H.P. Lovecraft) - to save the lives of 'the least of these' in humanity.

These were "the 4Fs of the 4Fs", the SBE patients whom 'Republican Death Panels' had condemned to death by deliberately withholding their life-saving medicine.

The payoff for ten billion of us, since 1940, from Henry Dawson's wartime 'coalition of all talents' was a form of herd immunity from the endemic infectious diseases now contested by the vast penicillin (beta lactam) family of antibiotics.

Even more importantly, eugenics' strength is much reduced while embracing diversity is in favour with most of us.

This, rather than his boon of penicillin-for-all (or HGT et al), is the true legacy of Dr Dawson....

What cherishing human and biological diversity isn't

It isn't about post-1945 efforts to extend civil rights to healthy and wealthy, well educated, white Anglo Saxon males - but rather about post-1945 efforts to extend civil rights to visible minorities, immigrants, the poor, women, gays and the handicapped.

It isn't about protecting the seed stock of high yielding patented corn hybrids but rather in protecting the dozens of hardy but low yielding traditional native varieties in the public domain.

biodiversity is on the side of the small battalions

Greed and Privilege may be on the side of the Big Battalions, but biodiversity always is on the side of the small battalions...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

John A MacDonald's Hungerplan West

Canadians mock Americans for their crudeness : for shooting up aboriginals to be rid of them, for example.

So crude, so open honest and public, so un-Canadian.

Much more subtle, much more guilt-free, much more secretive, much more Canadian is to simply withhold and delay and decay most of their publicly promised needed food and shelter supplies.

(Good news : we're publicly announcing we're taking in another 20,000 refugee kids. The bad news ? Our secret plan is actually to build in enough government delays that most little kiddies will have starved - or drowned - by the time their final visa approval arrives.*)

Withheld supplies to such an extent that the aboriginals ever so slowly, ever so quietly died from diseases brought on by lack of food and warm housing coupled with high levels of stress and despair.

That was John A's way, as chronicled by James Daschuk's "Clearing the Plains".

The Canadian "Hungerplan West" quickly and quietly cleared enough of the aboriginals off their lands as to let the railways be built and the now mostly empty lands be handed over to whites.

Later generations of Canadian white experts carried on with not providing adequate food,housing and health care - sometimes to further deadly-for-the-patients medical experiments, as documented by Ian Mosby in "Administrating Colonial Science".

But they also advanced eugenically, upon John A's early scientific racism, by secretly sterilizing aboriginal women, to further reduce the number of native kids being born, as documented by Karen Stote in her "Act of Genocide".

Because the not-dying-fast-enough natives still hung about around potentially valuable lands and because they still required (actually very little) public funds.

Despite all this, many children continued to be born so, the white experts then had to carry off most of them either to residential concentration schools or for white adoptions.

I am very glad to say that that while John A is long gone, the aboriginals are still here and still reproducing very well thank you, despite the wretched conditions they must live in.

"Revanche du Berceau", indeed !

* Barbara Ann Roberts' Whence They Came has some priceless and apparently timeless examples of the oh-so Canadian sin of omission.

In the Dirty Thirties (dirty morally as much as Dust Bowl dirty) Canadians governments were unwilling to shoot suspected communist radicals themselves, in public, in Canada.

So instead they deported them back into the Balkans, but first alerting The Black Hand to their expected time and place of arrival...

'The side of the Big Battalions' : Mushroom cloud death

Also from Manhattan, the side of the small battalions brought us fungus juice. And Life.

Two very different Manhattan Projects indeed ....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Modern progressives : God & Nature on the side of the Big Battalions

But Dr Henry Dawson strongly disagreed.

He felt that God, Nature, Life, what have you, favoured the small as well as the big battalions ---- in fact, upon the evidence, favoured the small much more than the big.

It was only the hubris of civilized man that made him dispute the clear scientific evidence....

Monday, September 14, 2015

In the darkest weeks of the war, a quixotic project is launched in Manhattan, directed not against the wars' bullies, but against its bystanders...

On Saturday September 7th seventy five years ago, church bells rang out all over Eastern England, signalling both the start of both the softening-up Blitz and the expected Nazi sea invasion of Britain.

It was a bit of a false alarm, but everybody in the know realized that the invasion would have to begin in the next few weeks, before the start of the annual (and terrible) English Channel storms of late September.

With the expected fall of the aircraft carrier Britain, now all alone against the might of a loose coalition of Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan, these remain the darkest two weeks of the entire war for the cause of freedom and peace.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson had spent time, during his military service in WWI, hiking along the very short route the German tanks would take from Kent's sandy beaches to the southern suburbs of London.

He knew how it could be all over in a day or two's fighting.

Dawson was now too old to be effective at the fighting end of this war but his fighting spirit still hadn't left him.

Bu what on earth could a middle aged top notch medical researcher, albeit in the non-military area of chronic arthritis, actually do now to help the cause ?

As it happened, he had arrived back at his medical school the previous week to discover that the start of the new school year would see a shift out of resources for social medicine - helping the small and the weak 4Fs - to war medicine, to aiding the 1A military recruits.

It all was really just an excuse by those who had always opposed helping the needy of the small occupied countries of war torn Europe, to use 'war preparation' to also cut aid to America's needy.

Dawson was so worked up by both this homegrown hypocrisy and the evil efforts of Hitler abroad, that as often happens in cases of severe stress, he apparently made himself ill with an auto immune disease, then then usually fatal Myasthenia Gravis.

Dawson wasn't to realize this for a few more months. For now all he felt was very wan and very tired, which he put down to worry and lack of a good night's rest.

As it just happened, a German-born Jewish biochemist, Dr Karl Meyer, who Dawson was currently doing research with on the flesh eating powers of strep bacteria, had just proposed that Dawson help his efforts to synthesize an improved artificial version of a natural fungus mold extract.

Synthesizing this valuable medicine would be Meyer's contribution to the war effort.

Meyer wanted Dawson to grow industrial pilot plant levels (runs of 50 US gallons a time of liquid extract) of the fungus and by then test both the older natural and new artificial chemical to compare their anti-germ activity.

Dawson was very good at growing lab research levels of strep bacteria but regularly producing pilot plant levels of a common household mold inside a cleanliness-obsessed hospital was entire scientific and engineering universes away from his normal area of expertise !

But over the weekend, Dawson seemed to have read deeply into what little was known about this stuff, penicillin.

He saw that the natural penicillin already possessed an unique trio of characteristics that might allow him to finally conquer the Mount Everest of infectious diseases, SBE - subacute bacterial endocarditis, the disease that made Rheumatic Fever the leading killer of school age children.

Again, SBE was worlds away from his area of assigned expertise and in the protocol rigid confines of a world class hospital and medical school, filled with highly ambitious alpha male researchers, that really mattered.

Dawson had never shown any visible signs of interest in SBE, as a disease, to judge from the published records of him in journals and the minutes of medical conferences.

But the expected non-treatment of wartime SBEs, as a symbol of all that was wrong with the war against social medicine, their fate suddenly interested him muchly.

SBEs were seen as extremely costly in terms of hospital resources by those in the medical community long opposed to any form of social medicine and in a wartime resource crunch they were already arguing the SBEs should simply be abandoned to their dire fate.

It didn't help that, unlike Polio that mostly hit the white suburbs, Rheumatic Fever and SBE were mostly diseases of inner city kids - minorities, the poor, immigrants.

Dawson's brainwave was to put the biologically small (the penicillium) to work to save the lives of the human small down at the very bottom of the current human pecking order (the SBE patients).

His real target, beyond saving the lives of a handful of SBEs (all that was likely to come his way to treat) was people of good will and high morality, who were nevertheless sitting on their hands during the current moral crisis in Europe.

Traditional appeals to our moral obligation to help the weak and the small, the sort that had drawn in Dawson himself in WWI to help the suffering little Belgians, were clearly no longer working and hadn't worked since 1931 when the Japanese invaded Manchuria.

People of good will still sighed and worried as much as ever over the fate of the small suffering overseas.

But they did nothing - became mere bystanders, watching Axis bullies beat up the hapless.

Almost all felt hopeless to intervene, given the scant scientific understanding they had gained a half century earlier in public school.

Back then it seemed clear that Progress was directly aimed at evolving into the biggest, the strongest, might is right, bigger is better, God and Evolution is on the side of the biggest battalions etc.

One could wish it was different but the sad fate of the small is inevitable - it was natural.

But to Dawson, this "Appeal to Nature" fallacy was never more false.

Life is on the side of the small battalions

The current evidence, circa 1940, actually shown that the progress of both the Universe and the Earth was generally oriented, if oriented they be, to the small and the non-solid.

If he could but show the bystanders of good will that their outdated scientific understanding was totally wrong, that the small in biology and humanity still had useful roles to play, then perhaps the Bystanders' traditional feelings of empathy and charity could flow freely once again.

Of course, Dawson wanted to save all the lives he could, in the war zones and among the SBEs.

But I believe he was certain that his all-out efforts to save the SBEs, in a time of war priorities, would ultimately rouse such fierce opposition that there then would be a very public and heated debate over the true war aims of the Allies.

One set of war aims, Churchill's throughout the war, was to almost match the Nazis on a slippery moral slope ever downwards in order to 'quickly' defeat them, because this need for a speedy end justified using almost any means.

This approach focused on a military route to defeating Hitler, without altering in anyway the existing social system in the West.

The other - FDR's initially, though he later adopted Churchill's approach - was to defeat Hitler morally as well as militarily.

FDR and his team of advisors publicly proposed a new set of rules for humanity to live by (the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter) that contrasted much more strongly with Hitler's ideology than did the existing practises of the western nations.

This second approach was exactly what Dawson was aiming at -- though he felt it had to move beyond high sounding rhetoric to real life practise.

For, despite FDR's soaring rhetoric of 1940-1941, the American medical elite's attitude to the SBEs in 1942-1945 was actually a slightly milder variant of Hitler's Aktion T4 : only here their death was to be by neglect, rather than death by needle or gas.

Thanks to Dawson, around the September 1943 very public life and death of young SBE Marie Barker of Chicago, the ordinary people of the western world finally had that serious conversation over the Allies' true war aims.....