No room for historical revisionism


I’ve been a history buff for years. Growing up in Kentucky, I dealt with people intent on glossing over the evils of slavery. I was born less than 90 years after the Civil War ended, and there are people still intent on re-fighting that war today.

This bit from leaves little room for gloss. Written about a skirmish in Arkansas in 1864,

The Rebels’ treatment of black troops was harsh. No black troops were captured, and those left wounded on the battlefield were brutally killed, scalped, and stripped. The Washington Telegraph, the major Confederate newspaper in Arkansas, justified the atrocity by declaring “We cannot treat Negroes taken in arms as prisoners of war without a destruction of social system for which we contend.”

The men ultimately responsible for this atrocity were Confederate General John Marmaduke, later governor of Missouri, and Confederate General Samuel Maxey, who later represented Texas in the US Senate.

I rather suspect that in the current era, both would have been imprisoned or shot for war crimes. However, in Missouri and Texas, they get elected.

I was in Charleston a few years ago when a tour guide tried to claim that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. That’s a difficult case to make if you look at the newspaper and diary accounts from that time. We’re better off being honest with ourselves about our past and our future.


Internet Insecurity Revisited


Your applications encrypt your data.  You’re protected, right?ben_franklin


There are three things you need to know about the latest round of papers made public by Wikileaks:

  • The CIA (in some cases in partnership with UK’s MI5) developed ways to hack device operating systems. The devices include all types of computers and cell phones, networked TVs, car onboard systems — basically everything anyone uses that’s connected to the Internet. The operating systems affected are Windows, Android and Apple.
  • The hack allows the user to read data as it is entered (typed or oral), before it is encrypted.  Everything.
  • The hack allows users to control devices and use them for spying on device owners.
  • The CIA may have LOST CONTROL of these hacks, meaning that they are out in the public domain where others can use them.

The CIA might not care about you, but are there others who might want your bank account?

The revelations have shocked experts.

Still, the amount of smartphone vulnerabilities and exploits detailed in these documents was shocking even to experts. “It certainly seems that in the CIA toolkit there were more zero-day exploits” – an exploitable vulnerability in software not known to the manufacturer – “than we’d estimated,” Jason Healey, a director at the Atlantic Council think tank, told Wired Magazine. He added: “If the CIA has this many, we would expect the NSA to have several times more.”(3)

Early reports are that the documents published by Wikileaks appear authentic.  None of the companies involved have commented on the situation. Nor do there appear to be any patches immediately in the offing.  After all, none of the players is yet admitting that they have something to patch.

Some writers see a bright side in these revelations: the decision to hack operating systems means that data encryption tools work.  That may or may not be true.  We don’t know what is still to be revealed.

Security problems aren’t under control or going away.

“Anybody who thinks that the Manning and Snowden problems were one-offs is just dead wrong,’’ said Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence at the office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Ben Franklin said three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. If secrets are shared on systems in which thousands of people have access to them, that may really not be a secret anymore. This problem is not going away, and it’s a condition of our existence.’’(4)

I’ve said that nothing on the Internet is private, but this takes that statement to an entirely new level.  Nothing you type or speak into an Internet connected device is private. 

Ben Franklin was indeed a very wise man.


  1. Sharon Profis and Sean Hollister, “WikiLeaks and how the CIA sees your WhatsApp messages, explained,” CNet, 7 March 2017.
  2. Jose Pagliery, “Wikileaks claims to reveal how CIA hacks TVs and phones all over the world,” CNN Tech, 7 March 2017.
  3. Trevor Timm, “WikiLeaks says the CIA can use your TV to spy on you. But there’s good news,” The Guardian, 7 March 2017.
  4. Devlin Barrett, “FBI prepares for new hunt for WikiLeaks’ source,” The Washington Post, 7 March 2017.

A Timely Quote


In a speech honoring Lincoln in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt said the following:

“We of to-day, in dealing with all our fellow-citizens, white or colored, North or South roosevelt_portrait_photo_01should strive to show just the qualities that Lincoln showed – his steadfastness in striving after the right and his infinite patience and forbearance with those who saw that right less clearly than he did; his earnest endeavor to do what was best, and yet his readiness to accept the best that was practicable when the ideal best was unattainable; his unceasing effort to cure what was evil, coupled with his refusal to make a bad situation worse by any ill-judged or ill-timed effort to make it better.”

Women in Medicine


Why does history matter?  Pretty simple, really.  If you don’t know where you came from, how do you  know where  you are or where you’re going?

Do the names Blackwell, Preston, Crumpler, Walker, or Picotte mean anything to you?  How about Gerty Cori?  Helen Dunbar?  If not, please read.

Courtesy of Medscape, here’s a brief synopsis of these and other pioneers.

  • Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the US (1849).blackwell

“Dr Blackwell decided to become a doctor when a dying friend confided that she would have suffered less had her physician been a woman.”

  •   Dr. Ann Preston, the first female dean of a medical school in the US, in Philadelphia.

“Frequently the target of attack, the College nevertheless thrived under Preston’s guidance and with the support of an advisory board of “lady managers”—wealthy supporters solicited by Dr Preston. The College itself blazed trails by training the imagesfirst black and Native American female doctors. Under Dr Blackwell’s guidance, the College also created social programs meant to educate poor women about hygiene and physiology.”

  • Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, the first black female doctor.  She moved from Boston to crumplerRichmond in 1865 to provide care for freed slaves.




  • Dr. Mary Walker, first female surgeon and first female surgeon in the US Army.


  • Dr. Susan Picotte, first Native American female doctor

“As a child, La Flesche Picotte decided on a career in medicine after witnessing an Indian patient die because a white doctor had refused to give her care.”picotte




  • Dr. Gerty Cori, winner of Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1947.
  • Dr. Helen Taussig, first female president of the American Heart Association.
  • Dr. Helen Dunbar

“The influential psychiatrist Helen Flanders Dunbar, MD, PhD, considered the ‘mother of holistic medicine,’ pioneered theories of psychosomatic medicine and psychobiology and was a leader in the pastoral care movement.”

  • Dr. Virginia Apgar, created the Apgar score for evaluating newborn.  First woman to become full professor in the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (1949).
  • Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, pioneer in the study of death, dying and grief.
  • Dr. Audrey Evans, pioneer in study of childhood cancers.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath, founded the discipline of community ophthalmology.
  • Dr. Antonia Novello, first female and first Hispanic to become Surgeon General of the US.
  • Dr. Nancy Dickey, first female president of the American Medical Association.



The Radiation Legacy of WWII


Radiation is a part of American life.  Everyone gets some.  A few “lucky” ones get a lot  more.

North St. Louis County, Missouri, is peppered with sites identified by the US Army Corp of Engineers as radioactive.  It’s the legacy of uranium processing for nuclear arms programs in World War II.  Uranium waste was dumped into a landfill near the St. Louis airport (Lambert Field).  However, the area is subject to flooding by Coldwater Creek, and that has spread radioactive material to parks and yards across North County.

The result: North County has been turned into a cancer hotspot, and shown in the map below.  Some of the cancers seen in this area are extraordinarily cancer_cases_1242rare.

Coldwater Creek drains into the Missouri River above the juncture with the Mississippi River, and just above the intake for drinking water for the City of St. Louis.

There have been a number of law suits file over the last 6 years, with some thrown out by various judges and some still active.

OK, that’s known, at least to local residents.  Whether it has had an impact on tourism or on convention traffic isn’t known.

However, St. Louis was only one processing center,  There were five others:

  • Tanawanda, New York (on the Niagara River upstream from Niagara Falls)
  • Deepwater, New Jersey (on the Delaware River across from Wilmington, Delaware)
  • Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (south of Pittsburgh)
  • Oak Ridge, Tennessee (near Knoxville)
  • Cleveland, Ohio (on Lake Erie)

There are radiation issues in all of these communities.  In many cases, the coverage is old enough that current residents may not even be aware of the problem.  A 2006 article labeled Canonsburg as “the most radioactive town in America.”

That said, some level of radioactivity exists in all areas of the US.  The map below is from a civilian volunteer monitoring program (the Radiation Network).  Unfortunately, none of the civilian volunteers appear to be focusing on historical problem sites.



Knowledge is safety.  The more you know about where you live and where your kids play, the better you can try to protect yourself and them.





Veteran’s Day


From, on the end to  World War I:

In a letter written to his parents in the days following the armistice, one soldier–26-year-old Lieutenant Lewis Plush of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF)–eloquently pondered the war’s lasting impact: “There was a war, a great war, and now it is over. Men fought to kill, to maim, to destroy. Some return home, others remain behind forever on the fields of their greatest sacrifice. The rewards of the dead are the lasting honors of martyrs for humanity; the reward of the living is the peaceful conscience of one who plays the game of life and plays it square.”

Plush’s words sound antique and perhaps naive in the modern age of spin, and are a reminder of how much people have changed — the country has changed — in the last 100 years, a mix of good and bad.