Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block — ProPublica

eye g man

A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.

5,600 websites of 100,000 contaminated — 5% — that seem at a glance at the first 100 to be mostly porn BUT WITH MANY NEWS SITES MIXED IN like DAILY KOS.]

by Julia Angwin
ProPublica, July 21, 2014, 9 a.m.

ProPublica investigates the threats to privacy in an era of cellphones, data mining and cyberwar.

(David Sleight/ProPublica)


Update: A YouPorn.com spokesperson said that the website was “completely unaware that AddThis contained a tracking software that had the potential to jeopardize the privacy of our users.” After this article was published, YouPorn removed AddThis technology from its website.

This story was co-published with Mashable.

A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com.

First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.

The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites [5,600]. Most of the code was on websites that use AddThis’ social media sharing tools. Other fingerprinters include the German digital marketer Ligatus and the Canadian dating site Plentyoffish. (A list of all the websites on which researchers found the code is here).

Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.

“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.[That's what HITLER said.]

Harris said the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.”[That's what HITLER said.]

He added that the company has only used the data collected from canvas fingerprints for internal research and development. The company won’t use the data for ad targeting or personalization if users install the AddThis opt-out cookie on their computers, he said.[That's what HITLER said.]

Arvind Narayanan, the computer science professor who led the Princeton research team, countered that forcing users to take AddThis at its word about how their data will be used, is “not the best privacy assurance.”[That's what HITLER said.]

Device fingerprints rely on the fact that every computer is slightly different: Each contains different fonts, different software, different clock settings and other distinctive features. Computers automatically broadcast some of their attributes when they connect to another computer over the Internet.

Tracking companies have long sought to use those differences to uniquely identify devices for online advertising purposes, particularly as Web users are increasingly using ad-blocking software and deleting cookies.

In May 2012, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, noticed that a Web programming feature called “canvas” could allow for a new type of fingerprint — by pulling in different attributes than a typical device fingerprint.

In June, the Tor Project added a feature to its privacy-protecting Web browser to notify users when a website attempts to use the canvas feature and sends a blank canvas image. But other Web browsers did not add notifications for canvas fingerprinting.

A year later, Russian programmer Valentin Vasilyev noticed the study and added a canvas feature to freely available fingerprint code that he had posted on the Internet. The code was immediately popular.[That's what HITLER said.]

But Vasilyev said that the company he was working for at the time decided against using the fingerprint technology. “We collected several million fingerprints but we decided against using them because accuracy was 90 percent,” he said, “and many of our customers were on mobile and the fingerprinting doesn’t work well on mobile.”[That's what HITLER said.]

Vasilyev added that he wasn’t worried about the privacy concerns of fingerprinting. “The fingerprint itself is a number which in no way is related to a personality,” he said.[That's what HITLER said.]

AddThis improved upon Vasilyev’s code by adding new tests and using the canvas to draw a pangram “Cwm fjordbank glyphs vext quiz” — a sentence [NOT A SENTENCE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!] that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once. This allows the company to capture slight variations in how each letter is displayed.

AddThis said it rolled out the feature to a small portion of the 13 million websites on which its technology appears, but is considering ending its test soon. “It’s not uniquely identifying enough,” Harris said.

AddThis did not notify the websites on which the code was placed because “we conduct R&D projects in live environments to get the best results from testing,” according to a spokeswoman. [That's what HITLER said.]

She added that the company does not use any of the data it collects — whether from canvas fingerprints or traditional cookie-based tracking — from government websites including WhiteHouse.gov for ad targeting or personalization.

The company offered no such assurances about data it routinely collects from visitors to other sites, such as YouPorn.com. YouPorn.com did not respond to inquiries from ProPublica about whether it was aware of AddThis’ test of canvas fingerprinting on its website.

Read our recent coverage about how online tracking is getting creepier, how Facebook has been tracking you, and what tools to use to protect yourself.
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BULLETIN! Gaza in Ukraine! Kiev forces attack city of Donetsk, civilian casualties reported — RT

[While demanding access to the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine "to investigate the MH17 crash, fascist Obama/-backed Kiev forces ATTACK DONETSK!!!!

THIS IS ALL TOO SUSPICIOUS. The MH17 airliner is shot down by Ukrainian Buk guided missile and PROVED by Russian radar evidence and

Just coincidentally the fascist, theocratic, apartheid genocidal Israeli government launches a brutal, bloody, genocidal attack on the human Palestinains living in Gaza,

Just As "the world" (whatever that is) demands international access to the MH17 crash site for "investigations" which puts Kiev forces in the region of SouthEastern Ukraine,

Just As the fascist, US-backed coup d'etat government in Kiev launches a brutal attack of state terrorism on the city of Donetsk -- human population 1 million -- just 70 km from the MH17 crash site which terrorizes the civilian population

Just As....

TOO MANY DAMNED COINCIDENCES FOR ME!

In statistical research, we call that "a pattern"...]


Smoke rises over the train station on July 21, 2014 as intense shelling rocked the area, in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. (AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)

A heavy firefight is underway in a section of the city of Donetsk, with cannonade heard downtown. Self-defense forces report pro-Kiev armored vehicles and infantry trying to cut through defenses next to the central railway terminal.

Ukrainian troops equipped with tanks and armored vehicles are attempting to break into Donetsk, a city of approximately 950,000 people, an official of the rebels’ self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Sergey Kavtaradze, informed Reuters.

The fighting is occurring in several spots simultaneously.

The heaviest fire is heard near the Donetsk Airport, currently held by pro-Kiev forces and next to the main railway station, which suffered an airstrike this morning.

Minister of Defense of People’s Republic of Donetsk Igor Strelkov has informed Novorossiya news agency that units of Ukrainian army launched attacks against communities of Avdeevka, Peski, Karlovka and Netailovo.

“The advancing tanks and motorized infantry on APCs are supported by artillery, howitzers and multiple launch rocket systems. We’re fighting a battle,” Strelkov said.

The city is being shelled with heavy artillery and unguided missiles of multiple launch rocket systems.

Victoria, a resident of Donetsk, heard explosions when she went to the railway station to meet her parents: “I arrived at the railway station at 9 a.m. approximately, saw my parents, we exchanged a couple of phrases – and then explosions burst out. We ran away to the bus to get away from there as fast as we could”.

There was a group of military at the site – self-defence forces were telling people to leave. While on the bus, Victoria heard another series of explosions and saw people running in panic. According to eye-witnesses, shooting was heard near the railway station, it is a habitable area with a market, private houses and multi-storey buildings, and she felt the ground shaking and saw smoke.


An element remained after the explosion of a unguided multiple launch rocket (An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by user@newsanna)

“The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation is continuing. We are not about to announce any troop movements,” the spokesman for Kiev’s military operations in eastern Ukraine, Vladyslav Seleznyov, announced on Monday.

While Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered a ceasefire within a radius of 40km from the crash site of Malaysian Airways flight MH17 in Donetsk Region, the assault on the city of Donetsk itself continues. It is situated some 70km from the scene.

At the same time spokesman for Ukraine’s Security Council claimed that Ukrainian army is in no way responsible for explosions in downtown Donetsk that occurred on Monday. [LIKE KIEV's fascist US-backed government is NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SHOOTING DOWN OF THE MALAYSIAN AIRLINER TO COVER THIS COWARDLY, ISRAELi-LIKE GENOCIDE IN THE SOUTH EAST OF UKRAINE.]

“There is work on clearing approaches to the city, on destroying checkpoints of the terrorists. If there are explosions in the middle of the city – then it is not Ukrainian soldiers,” Andrey Lysenko told a news conference. The spokesman admitted, though, that the blasts could be a result of subversive operations.

The spokesman admitted, though, that the blasts could be a result of subversive operations.

“We have strict orders not to use airstrikes and artillery in the city. If there is fighting in the city, we have information that there is a small self-organized group who are fighting with the terrorists,” he said. [OH RIGHT!]


Members of the self-defense forces walk during the combat with Ukrainian forces in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on July 21, 2014. (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)

The city of Donetsk has effectively been under siege for days now and all supplies from central Ukraine have been suspended. There is no shortage of food in the shops so far, but stocks are expected to dwindle. The same applies to medical supplies in local drugstores.

The worst situation is in Kuibyshev district, where all shops and firms have discontinued operations and mobile network is down. There’ve been reports about water shortage in certain districts of the city.

This morning reportedly six unguided missiles fired from Ukrainian fighter bomber exploded at Donetsk railway terminal, killing three civilians and injuring at least one.

Blogger Christian Malaparte who is in Donetsk right now monitoring the ongoing battle for the city confirmed to RT that the Ukrainian army continues to shell the zone around the railway terminal with mortars.

Because the pro-government forces in Donetsk are not advancing further right now, Malaparte sees only one reason for the continuation of shelling of the living quarters: to terrorize the populace of the city.

Many citizens of Donetsk have already moved to improvised bomb shelters in cellars of the buildings.

Despite the damage caused to the railways and terminal building, the trains continue to operate, yet the ticket office in the terminal is closed and passengers have to board the trains as free riders.

The Donetsk mayor’s office has addressed all citizens to stay at home and do not leave apartments without real need.

The Face of "Hope" and "Change You Can Believe In" and "Forward"...

The Face of “Hope” and “Change You Can Believe In” and “Forward”…

BULLETIN! BULLETIN! Whistleblower: U.S. Satellite Images Show Ukrainian Troops Shooting Down MH17 [Hitler's Reichstag Fire Again?!]– InfoWars


Buk Missile

Source tells award winning Associated Press reporter Washington lying about responsibility for tragedy

by Paul Joseph Watson | July 21, 2014

Award winning former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry has been told by an intelligence source that

the United States is in possession of satellite imagery which shows that Ukrainian troops were responsible for the shoot down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.


In the absence of any proper investigation, media rhetoric over the last few days has firmly pointed the finger of blame for the downing of the aircraft on Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels, but Parry’s source tells a different story.

What I’ve been told by one source, who has provided accurate information on similar matters in the past, is that U.S. intelligence agencies do have detailed satellite images of the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile, but the battery appears to have been under the control of Ukrainian government troops dressed in what look like Ukrainian uniforms.

The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said.

Although the establishment press has attempted to deride any questioning of the official narrative that Ukrainian rebels were responsible for the incident by invoking the tired “conspiracy theory” pejorative, Parry can hardly be dismissed as a crank given his key role in covering the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

Indeed, Parry’s investigative work on intelligence matters, for which he was awarded the George Polk Award, suggests that the information provided by his source is worthy of serious attention.


U.S. and Ukrainian authorities continue to insist that Moscow-backed separatists were responsible for the tragedy, asserting that a BUK missile system was used to bring down the airliner.

However, this was contradicted by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Vitaliy Yarema, who stated, “The military told the president after the passenger plane had been shot down that the terrorists did not possess our Buk missile systems.”

In a related development, audio experts who conducted a study into the authenticity of a recording released by Ukrainian authorities which implicated Russian-backed rebels as being responsible for the missile attack on MH17 concluded that the tape was fabricated.

“The tape’s second fragment consists of three pieces but was presented as a single audio recording. However, a spectral and time analysis has showed that the dialog was cut into pieces and then assembled. Short pauses in the tape are very indicative: the audio file has preserved time marks which show that the dialog was assembled from various episodes, the expert said,” reports ITAR-TASS.

Barack Obama

BULLETIN! Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash – Moscow — RT

Published time: July 21, 2014 12:59


Image courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry

The Russian military detected a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe. Kiev must explain why the military jet was tracking the passenger airplane, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

“A Ukraine Air Force military jet was detected gaining height, it’s distance from the Malaysian Boeing was 3 to 5km,” said the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov speaking at a media conference in Moscow on Monday.

“[We] would like to get an explanation as to why the military jet was flying along a civil aviation corridor at almost the same time and at the same level as a passenger plane,” he stated.

“The SU-25 fighter jet can gain an altitude of 10km, according to its specification,” he added. “It’s equipped with air-to-air R-60 missiles that can hit a target at a distance up to 12km, up to 5km for sure.”

The presence of the Ukrainian military jet can be confirmed by video shots made by the Rostov monitoring center, Kartopolov stated.

At the moment of the MH17 crash an American satellite was flying over the area of eastern Ukraine, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. It urged the US to publish the space photos and data captured by it.

In addition, MH17 crashed within the operating zone of the Ukrainian army’s self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air ‘Buk’ missile systems, the Russian general said.

“We have space images of certain places where the Ukraine’s air defense was located in the southeast of the country,” Kartapolov noted.

The first three shots that were shown by the general are dated July 14. The images show Buk missile launch systems in about 8km northwest of the city of Lugansk – a self-propelled vehicle and two launchers, according to the military official.

Another image shows a radar station near Donetsk.


Radar stations of the air defense in Donetsk Region, 5km north of Donetsk city, on July 14, 2014.Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry

While the third picture shows the location of the air defense systems near Donetsk, he explained. In particular, one can clearly see the self-propelled system, about 60 units of military and special equipment, he elaborated.

Buk missile defense units in Donetsk Region, 5km north of Donetsk city, on July 14, 2014.Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry

“Images from this area were also made on July 17. One should notice that the missile launcher is absent [from the scene]. Image number five shows the Buk missile system in the morning of the same day in the area of settlement Zaroschinskoe – 50km south of Donetsk and 8km south of Shakhtyorsk,” the Kartapolov said


No Buk missile defense units in Donetsk Region, 5km north of Donetsk city, on July 17, 2014.Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry


Buk missile defense units in Zaroschinskoe, 50km south of Donetsk city and 8km south of Shakhtyorsk, on July 17, 2014.Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry

The question that has to be answered is why the missile system appeared in the area controlled by the local militia forces shortly before the catastrophe, he stated.


Images taken on July 18 show that the missile systems left the area of the MH17 crash on July 17, the military official said.

Kartapolov also pointed to the fact that on the day of the plane crash Ukraine’s military increased the intensity of the radar stations of the Buk missile systems.

In response to Moscow’s evidence, Kiev said on Monday it had proof [but did not SHOW ANY!] the missile that brought down a Malaysian airliner last week came from Russia.

“There is evidence that the missile which struck the plane was fired by terrorists, who received arms and specialists from the Russian Federation,” spokesman for Ukraine’s Security Council Andrey Lysenko told a news conference. “To disown this tragedy, [Russia] are drawing a lot of pictures and maps. We will explore any photos and other plans produced by the Russian side.”

‘Violent attacks’ caused uncontacted Peruvian Indians to emerge — Survival InterNational

EXCERPT: “Brazilian experts have evidence which suggests that the Indians, who belong to the Panoan linguistic group, crossed over the border from Peru into Brazil due to pressures from illegal loggers and drug traffickers on their land.”

EXCERPT: “Uncontacted Indians in Peru suffer multiple threats to their survival as the government has carved up 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest for oil and gas exploration, including the lands of uncontacted tribes.”

uncontacted indians 1
Seven uncontacted Indians made contact with a settled Ashaninka community near the Brazil-Peru border in June. Authorities have treated them after an outbreak of flu. [Mighty White of 'em to do so.]

21 July 2014


Highly vulnerable uncontacted Indians who recently emerged in the Brazil-Peru border region have said that they were fleeing violent attacks in Peru.

FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department, has announced that the group of uncontacted Indians has returned once more to their forest home. Seven Indians made peaceful contact with a settled indigenous Ashaninka community near the Envira River in the western Acre state, Brazil, three weeks ago.

A government health team was dispatched and has treated seven Indians for flu. FUNAI has announced it will reopen a monitoring post on the Envira River which it closed in 2011 when it was overrun by drug traffickers.

The emerging news has been condemned as “extremely worrying” by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, as epidemics of flu, to which uncontacted Indians lack immunity, have wiped out entire tribes in the past.

Brazilian experts believe that the Indians, who belong to the Panoan linguistic group, crossed over the border from Peru into Brazil due to pressures from illegal loggers and drug traffickers on their land.

uncontacted indians
Uncontacted Indians face pressures on their land due to illegal logging, drug trafficking and oil and gas exploration (picture taken in 2010).
© Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/Survival


Nixiwaka Yawanawá, an Indian from Acre state, said, “This news proves that my uncontacted relatives are threatened by violence and infectious diseases. We already know what can happen if the authorities don’t take action to protect them, they will simply disappear. They need time and space to decide when they want to make contact and their choices must be respected. They are heroes!”

Uncontacted Indians in Peru suffer multiple threats to their survival as the government has carved up 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest for oil and gas exploration, including the lands of uncontacted tribes.

Plans to expand the notorious Camisea gas project, located in the heart of the Nahua-Nanti reserve for uncontacted Indians, recently received the government’s go-ahead, and Canadian-Colombian oil giant Pacific Rubiales is carrying out exploration on land inhabited by the Matsés tribe and their uncontacted neighbors. [OIL! Oil! OIL! everything is ALWAYS about OIL!

Both projects will bring hundreds of oil and gas workers into the lands of uncontacted tribes, introducing the risk of deadly diseases and violent encounters, and scaring away the animals the Indians hunt for their survival.

Survival has launched an urgent petition to the Brazilian and Peruvian governments to protect the land of uncontacted Indians, and called on the authorities to honor their commitments of cross-border cooperation.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “This news could hardly be more worrying – not only have these people confirmed they suffered violent attacks from outsiders in Peru, but they have apparently already caught flu. The nightmare scenario is that they return to their former villages carrying flu with them. It’s a real test of Brazil’s ability to protect these vulnerable groups. Unless a proper and sustained medical program is immediately put in place, the result could be a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Act now to help the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil

Your support is vital if the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil are to survive. There are many ways you can help.

Writing a letter to Brazil’s President and Peru's President about the threats faced by uncontacted Indians is a quick and simple way to let the government know of your concern.

Excellency Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil


Donate to the campaign for the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil (and other Survival campaigns). [Click on text]

Write to your MP or MEP (UK) or Senators and members of Congress (US).

Write to your local Brazilian high commission or embassy.

If you want to get more involved, contact Survival…

Chris Hedges: The Actor and the Minister — TruthDig


Michael Milligan, in his one-actor play “Mercy Killers,” portrays a man struggling with our dysfunctional health care system as his wife is dying of cancer. Photo by Nicholas Betito

BOSTON—On June 30 I was at the First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, which had turned its hall over to Michael Milligan, traveling the country performing his one-man play about a husband and wife trapped in our dysfunctional health care system. I arrived early at the stone church, whose present structure was erected in 1853, to help set up the chairs and clear the stage.

The minister, the Rev. Terry Burke, who was a classmate of mine at Harvard Divinity School, officially retired that day after 31 years as a minister at the church. Burke, a non-smoker, has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and his doctors have told him he has six to 12 months to live.

He applied for Social Security disability and was denied. He consulted a lawyer. He well might spend his last months struggling to get the disability system to pay for the chemotherapy that sustains his life.

Michael Milligan confronted the callousness of our health care system when he cared for a friend with a serious illness. His play “Mercy Killers,” which he has performed nearly 200 times,

chronicles the struggle with insurance companies, drug companies and hospitals that profit from medical distress and then discard terminally ill people when they no longer can pay.

The hourlong drama, set in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, occurs in a police station where Joe, an auto mechanic originally from West Virginia, speaks to an unseen investigator. [To see samples from the play, click on text to go to site.]

“Mercy Killers” opens with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” playing. The song soon morphs into the sound of sirens. Joe explains how he attempted to care for his terminally ill wife, Jane, amid crushing psychological and financial pressures that put him half a million dollars in debt. His neighbors, he tells the police interrogator, held a bake sale to help out and raised $163.

Joe, who buys into the credo of the tea party and quotes Rush Limbaugh, is forced to set his ideology of individualism and self-reliance against a health care system—as well as a banking system that sold him a mortgage with an interest rate that rose—designed to feed corporate profit rather than care for the ill or protect the consumer.

Milligan’s high-octane performance is raw with grief, rage and incomprehension. The stark set—a chair, a bright light and a table—highlights Joe’s loneliness, inadequacy and abandonment.

And by the end of the play, a for-profit health care system that is responsible for more than 60 percent of all U.S. bankruptcies is no longer just a matter of statistics. Its reality is felt like the blast of a furnace.

Joe tells the investigator:

“So, they gotta find the right cocktail—combination, pump a dozen liters of antibiotic through her. Goes on for months.

They’re the ones who got her sick, and now they’re billing us tens of thousands’a dollars for their fuckup.

That’s exactly when they let us know the insurance doesn’t want to pay. I call. And they tell me her policy’s been revoked. So I ask if it’s one of those pre-existing condition things. They say no.

They got lotsa ways to cut people off. Apparently they sent us a, a fucking form, man, requesting some information about “Jane’s recent employment history.” And because we didn’t respond to it in a “timely fashion” they decided to cancel her policy.

We were off the radar those couple months in the trailer park. Mail’s not too reliable, what with the rugrats and meth heads, not to mention the post office got gutted with service cuts.

But the Insurance, they don’t give a shit about any that. Truth is, they’re lookin’ for any reason to cut bait, ya know? Somethin’ like breast cancer, that triggers an alarm over there, they run her through their equation, see if there’s any way they can cut her loose before she costs ’em any more money. And they got an analyst over there gets a bonus every time they find a loophole’ll let’ em throw somebody under a bus! And that’s how the CEO’s pullin’ in 100 million a year in stock options—all of it comes from leaving sick people out to the fuckin’ law of the jungle!

Desperate to get money, he starts scamming customers at his auto shop, upending his pride in being an honest, hardworking American.

“But you get desperate, you gotta bend your own rules,” Joe says. “Pretty soon, it’s like ‘Oh, your engine’s broke? Oh, by the way, we really oughta replace those brake pads, and the filter and the fan belt, and the blah, blah, blah’ and you’re just running it up, playing on their fear. ‘Wouldn’t want your daughter to be the one brakes go out on, now would ya?’ Yeah, that always gets you an extra hundred bucks—if you want it. But no, it’s amazing how easy it is to lie—when someone you love is on the line.”

“There’s all this stuff out there and none of it’s either your fault,” he says a little later, “but you can’t help it, you start makin’ it ’bout the other person. Yeah, it’s her fault I’m fuckin’ greased up seven days a week pullin’ 12 hours a day instead of going to the lake with my buddies. It’s her fault we’re not having sex, we ain’t never gonna have any kids. So, yeah man, you feel bad for thinking any of that. And then it’s just back and forth between them, the guilt and the resentment, and you can’t talk about it, not with her. That’s all she needs to hear—you gonna make her feel bad for being sick?”

Milligan, who appeared on Broadway in “August: Osage County,” “La Bête” and “Jerusalem” and who has played many of the country’s major regional theaters, as well as performing in London with the Royal Shakespeare Company,

does not need to spend nights on couches after performing in union halls, community centers and church basements, but the commercialization rampant in health care has also occurred in the arts, as in almost every other area of American life.

To say something meaningful, to present theater that holds up our experiences to scrutiny and examination, often requires stepping outside the mainstream, especially given the reliance on corporations to fund the arts.

“I left Juilliard to play the great roles in the regional theaters,” Milligan told me over dinner at the Café Pamplona in Cambridge, Mass., a day earlier. “I found that was difficult and precarious in terms of scratching together a living. I found that the structure was not conducive to great work. Our not-for-profits and big arts institutions are reflections of the corporate culture that runs everything in America. They are organized around maximizing efficiency. Rehearse eight hours because this is how long we have you and we are going to squeeze everything out of you. It is a five-week rehearsal period.

In drama school we studied Stanislavski. And for Stanislavski you rehearsed for six months. You did not work eight hours a day. There was an incubation process over a long period of time. You had a company of actors. But in this current system, artists have no say over the creation of the art.

Art is controlled by an army of administrators. They cater to an imagined subscriber base. These administrators determine what is done and how it is done. I began as an actor to feel like a day laborer or a mercenary.

Actors are hired at the end of the process. They come in after the artistic director and managing director figure out what they are going to sell that next year to keep the doors open and pay for their $50 million building.”

“This play expresses my whole self,” he went on. “It expresses my feelings as a human being. Being hired to do something by a casting director does not compare to this. I collaborate now with activists, people who are grateful that someone cares about what they care about. An actor should have agency. He or she should be part of the collaborative process. We should have a say about what is art. But this means often going out on your own.”

Milligan was a member of a working group of Occupy Wall Street called Health Care for the 99 Percent. He works with the advocacy group Health Care Now.

He is committed to theater that tells the story of ordinary people, that allows audiences to see themselves and their experiences reflected on stage.

He wants to make people think about their place in the world and the systems of power that dominate their lives. Art is not about entertainment or spectacle. It is about transformation. And by the time Milligan had finished performing the play June 30 he had visibly shaken his audience of about 40 people.

I helped put the chairs away after the performance. I had been in that hall 31 years earlier with Terry Burke. He had brought me over to see the parish. The church was barely surviving in 1983, reduced to about three dozen members, many elderly. It was not clear that it would endure. Burke was nervous, maybe even apprehensive, and excited.

The church is flourishing now. When I went to Burke’s retirement party in the church hall a week before the play, there were about 200 people. He had preached to them innumerable times, visited them in hospitals, conducted the funerals of their fathers, mothers and sometimes their spouses or children. He had comforted them in moments of grief, loss and depression. Among those at the party were young men and women whose lives had been defined by the community he formed around the church. And there were children who will enter that community without him.

Being a minister is like being an actor.

The work is ephemeral.

It is about personal transformation, empathy and self-reflection.

It does not define its worth by profit.

It posits that our role in life is to make the world a better place, to protect the weak, to take care of the sick and to love our neighbor as our self.

It celebrates the majesty and musicality of language.


But those who dedicate their lives to beauty and truth have no place in the corporate state. What does not feed the mania for profit and the cult of the self is superfluous and often ridiculed.

At Burke’s request I read the T.S. Eliot poem “Marina” at his retirement party. The poem is built around Shakespeare’s “Pericles.” The final plays of Shakespeare are filled with poignant reunion scenes, moments when loved ones mysteriously return after being lost. In “Pericles” a father regains a daughter he thought was dead. Shakespeare reminded us at the end of his life that it is those around us, those we love, who matter most.

Eliot uses the metaphor of water in the poem to define the course of our existence. Water flows from streams and rivers, expanding and contracting like our lives, until merging into the vastness of the sea. The place where all waters meet is the place of death.

Pericles is conscious of this, even as he rejoices in his reunion with his daughter. In Eliot’s poem the unnamed Pericles asks that he be able to remember, even in death, the sound of his daughter’s joy, the

“Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet

Under sleep, where all the waters meet.”

Great actors, like great ministers, know that love and empathy must be honored if we are to be fully human and create sustaining communities.

It is a message that is harder and harder to hear amid the din of the corporate state.

It is a message that is deeply subversive to capitalists bent on ceaseless exploitation.

Those who bring us this message call us back to our better selves. Milligan did it from a stage. Burke did it from his pulpit. Heed them.

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