October 30, 2015


Of necessity, this will be brief, because that's all I can manage.

Less than a week after my last post, and after some promises from weather forecasters of cooler weather, Los Angeles had the worst heat wave of the year (and the worst heat wave in 25 years, if I recall correctly). It hit 100 degrees in my neighborhood three days in a row, and temperatures were very high for several more days. That proved to be far more than my body could take. I ended up immobile in bed for that week, and for most of the time since. I began to get a little better this past week, but now we're having a few days in the mid- to high eighties; at this point, that basically makes me want to lie down and die, just so all this ends.

I still trust that the mood will pass, when the goddamned weather finally gets cooler. They say that will happen next week -- but that's what they said a month ago. I just pray they're right this time. Regardless of the weather, I fear I will be calling 911 one day fairly soon. Some of the symptoms I've been experiencing are extremely unnerving. I've become accustomed to very bad shortness of breath when I walk to the store a block away, where the nearest ATM is located. Over the past several years, I've gone downhill from having to stop and rest once or twice when walking that block, to now having to stop and rest five or six (or more) times. The periods of rest have gotten significantly longer, too. It now takes me 45 minutes to an hour to make the round-trip; five years ago, it took me 10 to 15 minutes. And now, I sometimes experience bad shortness of breath just from slowly moving around my apartment.

I had sworn to myself that I wouldn't ask for donations again until after I'd published at least two or three major posts. I'm sorry, but I just haven't been able to do it. Not even close. This past week, I did begin collecting all my notes -- and, thanks be to heaven, I finally found what I think is an interesting way to approach a large amount of material. I wanted to publish the first in a series of articles by the end of this week, but then it started getting warmer again. Fucking weather.

And now it's the end of the month again. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Don't know what else to say at this point. I'm almost flat broke. I have a little over a hundred dollars, and that's it. Nothing for rent, nothing for food, nothing for any other bills. Nothing at all.

Here's hoping it actually does get cooler in November, and that I finally can get some writing done. But if I can't pay the rent, it won't matter. If I'm dealing with the likelihood of eviction, nothing else will matter. It will be over for me at that point. Maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing now. (Gee, do you think I'm depressed? Can't imagine why.)

So, as always, I would be deeply grateful for any help people can provide. I wish I had something "meaningful" to say about all this; I don't. So my apologies once more, along with my gratitude.

I hope to survive all this, and to see better days again. But people hope for all kinds of things ,,,

September 29, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: Dmitri Hvorostovsky is a much-loved operatic baritone. He's a fine artist, with a beautiful voice. Earlier this year, he announced that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He immediately began treatment, and he cancelled all his engagements for several months.

He was supposed to perform in the Met's current revival of Il Trovatore, but most people expected that he would not be able to take part. But he and the Met announced about a month ago that he would do the first three performances; he was originally scheduled for several more, but after the third performance, he will return to London to resume treatment.

So when he took the stage at the Met last Friday night, the audience gave him a warm ovation when he first appeared. Then, during the final curtain call, something wonderful happened. You can see it here; Hvorostovsky is the very attractive man with his trademarked white mane, who first appears at 0:32. You might want to watch the whole sequence to get the full effect (it's only five minutes long), but the wonderful thing starts at about three minutes in. A lot of people in the audience and on stage cried; I did, too. (The curtain call is described here.)

I fervently hope that Hvorostovsky enjoys a full recovery. It's just too awful to think these performances might be the last ones he does at the Met. He's 52 years old.

And here's a special treat for all those interested: the second performance of Trovatore, with Hvorostovsky, will take place tonight. It begins at 7:25 pm EST, and you can listen to it on the Met's free audio stream: right here.

The Bad: From time to time, I mention that I frequently challenge myself about the truth of the ideas I regularly discuss, and whether those ideas do, in fact, explain certain phenomena in the manner I claim. I am convinced that anyone who takes ideas at all seriously, and certainly anyone who writes about politics and culture with any regularity, must do this. I could say I exaggerate when I remark that I say to myself, at least once a week (and more commonly, at least once a day), "Arthur, everything you think is wrong." But I'm not exaggerating: that's exactly what I say to myself. If more people followed this practice, we wouldn't read as many pathetic. exhausted, moth-eaten explanations and defenses of people's views as we unfortunately do.

I submit to this self-imposed challenge with regard to one subject more than any other: my view of the crucial nature of Alice Miller's work. A critical part, indeed the critical part of Miller's thesis is the devastating impact of parents' major lesson to their children: the primacy of obedience to authority. All of us are subjected to this lesson. It is most commonly delivered by our parents; if by some miracle, we escape that lesson at home, the idea that obedience is the primary virtue is reinforced by teachers (and by "education" in general), and by numerous factors in the culture at large. In many essays, I've traced the development of this pattern and how the lesson is taught. I've also described the immensely destructive consequences of this lesson, personally, politically, culturally, and in just about every way you can imagine. (The opening sections of this essay provide a good overview of my argument.)

But as I say, I often ask myself if I claim too much for this thesis. Yes, to insist on the critical importance of obedience is bad, even terrible, but perhaps it doesn't explain all that I say it does. I usually have to reflect on the matter only for a few minutes, before convincing myself once again that the situation is at least as dire as I say, and perhaps even worse. And then there are times when I read passages similar to the opening two paragraphs of this New York Times article about the Volkswagen scandal. Take a deep breath (which is not a warning I myself received when I innocently began reading the article, completely unprepared for the horrors that awaited me), and consider this:
BERLIN — As Germany has emerged as the dominant actor in Europe, it has lectured Greece and other debtor nations on the virtues of thrift and lately wagged its finger at countries that balk at receiving a share of refugees from the killing fields of Syria. Its right to lead, based on a narrative of self-sacrifice and obedience to rules, was generally acknowledged.

That is one reason the Volkswagen scandal has shaken the country’s very core. More than just a tale of corporate misdeeds, the disclosure of systematic cheating by one of Germany’s most iconic companies has delivered a sharp blow to its conception of itself as an orderly nation and tarnished its claim to moral leadership of the Continent.
The reporter returns to this theme later in the article; it is clear that she means it.

The idealization of "obedience to rules" and "order" is breathtaking; such qualities are not only virtuous in themselves, but legitimately constitute the basis of the "right to lead." For writers of this kind -- and the overwhelming number of such writers is too hideous to contemplate -- history appears not to exist, including the recent history of Germany itself. It seems that the twentieth century is utterly irrelevant to understanding political and cultural events. One might have thought that "obedience to rules" and "order" were qualities that Germany in particular had learned could lead to destruction and death on a world-horrifying scale. As usual in these matters, one would be wrong.

There is more to be said about this article and its meaning (particularly for those not familiar with my many articles about Miller's work), and I would already have gotten to it -- but that brings me to ...

The Ugly: "Ugly" is perhaps too strong a word; extremely unpleasant is more accurate. Despite my plans to publish at least several posts in September, this month was lost to me. The excessive heat leaves me completely exhausted; even when it gets a little cooler, it takes me several days to get my bearings back. And the heat in September has been truly awful and ghastly. It was frequently in the mid-90s, and it rarely went below the high 80s. The effects on my already bad health have been horrible. Add to that the ongoing intestinal discomfort (not as bad as it was, but still not great -- probably another malady that requires examination, which I won't be able to manage until it gets permanently cooler), and the month was barely survivable. My apologies for the lack of new writing. But as I hope even the brief items above indicate, I'm anxious to get back to posting regularly. There are even more "good" items that I want to share with you. And of course, we continue to be subjected to a full menu of the horrors with which we are all too familiar.

And now we're at the end of the month. As is almost always the case, funds are low. I'm short on the rent, and have no money at all for internet service, and so on. As is always the case, I am profoundly grateful for donations, without which I cannot keep going at all. I've begun sending thank you notes! Yes, I have; I can provide witnesses if required. If you haven't received a note from me yet, you should be receiving one in the near future. I'm determined to learn a few new tricks, even in my aged, decrepit state. If we can't learn some new tricks, we might as well die and decrease the surplus population, as someone observed.

My deep thanks, as always. And now, while we have a somewhat cooler day (they claim that cooler weather arrives more permanently starting next week), I'll return to looking over my numerous notes for new posts, to see where I might begin again.

August 27, 2015

Some Good News

UPDATE, Sunday afternoon, August 30: The heat has been beastly; that, in combination with the turmoil in my guts, has left me unable to do anything except lie in bed, trying to rest but remaining extremely uncomfortable as a fan blows 85-90 degree air over my body. Kind of a preview of hell, I suppose. It's been awful.

The weather is supposed to break tomorrow, and the week ahead will be substantially cooler, so they tell us. I hope to get back into the writing beginning tomorrow, with the post ready for publication several days later, if all goes according to plan.

My very deep thanks to those who have made donations. I can cover the rent and a few other bills, including internet service. But finances remain very tight for the rest of the coming month, with funds for food that will last only ten days or so. I'll have to consult my list again for all the ways to make a baked potato interesting. But with the intestinal problems, I'm not terribly hungry in any case. One benefit is that I have lost some of the weight I've been wanting to get rid of; I think I've lost at least five or six pounds in the last few weeks. Every cloud, and all that.

So I should be back later this week, with a new post (or two!). See you soon. Many thanks again.


About ten days ago, I finally started working in earnest, and regularly. As is my wont, I've chosen a theme which is hugely complicated, and often difficult to explain in a (hopefully) comparatively simple and persuasive manner. But I am writing again, and it's going well. I had hoped that I would have completed the first article in this new series of essays several days ago, but I've been slowed down by two primary factors. These two factors are in addition to my grief about Cyrano, which went deeper and lasted longer than I had expected -- and I had been prepared for it to be very deep and long-lasting. I continue to miss Cyrano terribly, and I think about him all the time. Since we lived in this apartment together for almost 17 years, every inch of this place is filled with memories of him. But Sasha is wonderful company, and she and I are beginning to fall into new patterns of our own, now that only the two of us reside here. And Sasha is a wonderfully affectionate and sweet girl. I'd be utterly lost without her.

The terrible heat has come back to Los Angeles. I've had to develop strategies for dealing with it, especially in the last several years, since excessive heat has awful effects on my already faltering health. So that's been manageable for the most part, but it does mean that for fairly long stretches on very hot days I'm mostly immobile in bed, conserving my energy and (remaining) health as best I can.

The second problem has been some sort of intestinal problem, which resulted in the worst case of constipation I've ever had. I finally had some relief last weekend after dosing myself with Dulcolax -- no help at all, for me at any rate -- and Ex Lax. The Ex Lax worked, but I went through almost two full days -- TWO. FULL. DAYS. -- of hours spent in the bathroom, waiting, hoping, straining, praying for relief. During those two days, I constantly thought of calling 911. Straining of that kind (of any kind, but particularly of that kind in certain ways) is not recommended for someone with a bad heart. I wasn't sure what would explode first -- my heart or my ass. I came thisclose to calling 911 many times. It's only because of the horrible experiences I've had with hospitals and caregivers (the last time especially) that I resisted, and continue to resist. I will call if I think some kind of ultimate crisis might be starting, but determining whether such a crisis has finally arrived is the damnable part, obviously.

In any case, my heart hasn't given out yet, although I'm still exhausted from that lengthy period of extreme discomfort. And the relief, when it finally came, was terrifying, let me tell you. Unbelievable. I'm amazed I didn't pass out. And my bowels still haven not returned to normal. I'm concerned that something may be going on that will require serious medical attention at some point, but I continue to hope, for the moment at least, that this too shall pass (so to speak... sorry). I also think it's entirely possible that the constipation may be some sort of traumatic bodily reaction to Cyrano's death. So let's hope that things slowly return to normal, as my body and soul absorb the reality of the loss of Cyrano.

Meanwhile, yes, it's that time again. I desperately wanted to finish this new article and publish it before asking for further donations (I will tell you that it's a lengthy essay, as well as being very complex) -- but this morning, I'm again struggling with bowel movements and the lack thereof. So my concentration is likely to be significantly undercut for at least much of today. And the first of the month is almost here, and my anxiety is beginning to overwhelm me. I only have half of what I need for the September rent, and there are also several other bills (including for internet service) that have to be paid shortly after the first.

So once more, since I have no other source of income, I must ask for donations. Please allow me to emphasize again how profoundly grateful I am for the support of all those who help keep me going. And an extra helping of thanks goes to those who regularly send donations, whether I'm able to write or not. Without the help from all of you, I would have been out on the street a long time ago, which means I would have been dead a long time ago. (Survival on the street is not an option in this scenario, given my already existing health problems.)

A multitude of thanks to all of you. When I'm not in the bathroom, or prostrate in bed (from the heat and/or from exhaustion after the bathroom episodes), I'll continue working on the new piece as best I can. I still hope to publish it by the beginning of next week, and perhaps sooner if the gods smile on me. They haven't done that much lately, so a few smiles would be lovely indeed at this particular moment.

Many thanks, dear friends. As I've been writing this new piece (and making notes for additional articles on the same general theme and related issues), I've discovered once again that I have a lot to say. That probably sounds strange or even stupid, but I have felt written out at certain times in the last few years. But I don't feel that way any longer. And I swear to God, I'll do my best to keep writing about the issues I care most about until the whole damned world agrees with me. Actually, five or ten percent of the world would be more than enough to see the start of major changes. So, yes, five percent. I'll shoot for that.

See you soon. And I'll add an update over the weekend, if I'm not able to complete the new piece by then, to let you know how I'm doing.

July 24, 2015

Loss, and Rededication

UPDATE: Cyrano died shortly before noon today, Saturday, July 25. He would have been 17 on August 15.

Long farewell my dearly beloved, wondrous, loving, beautiful boy. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.


This may be a very strange post. There is so much I want to say, but I simultaneously feel that I don't have the faintest idea what to say. I am indeed sorry about my very extended period of silence; I was quite startled to see that my last post here was two months ago. I had thought I published it perhaps only a month ago. Among all the other losses, I seem to have misplaced my sense of time altogether.

This entire year has been captured by my own deteriorating health, together with Cyrano's. I don't think I misread the signs of Cyrano's ill health last winter, but I was wrong when I predicted that he probably only had three or four months left. My beloved friend and companion is still with us -- but now he is definitely close to the end. No mistaking it at this point. Since I have been almost entirely housebound for too many years to contemplate, Cyrano and I have spent virtually all our time together and. in recent years, with the wonderfully sweet Sasha as well. I don't see the cats only in the morning and when I return from my day in the evening. I don't/can't go anywhere, so we're always together.

Cyrano has been with me almost the entire time I've lived in this apartment (17 out of 18 years), and he's also been with me all of the time I've written the blog. He's kept me company, inspired me, delighted me, given me endless love and invited me to shower him with love. His imminent passing shatters me. I know I'll survive, but I can't bear to think about it.

Months ago, several very kind readers wrote to me with suggestions about supplements and similar ideas that might help with Cyrano. We tried a few of them, and those suggestions may be largely responsible for Cyrano surviving this long. I cannot express how grateful I am to those individuals for their care and concern. I think I also seriously underestimated Cyrano's strength and determination: he simply wasn't ready to leave. He's ready now.

For the last eight or nine months, my days have been shaped by the limits of my health and caring for Cyrano. I'm only able to be up and at the computer, or preparing and eating meals, or washing dishes, and so on, for a few hours at a time. Then I have to return to bed to rest for several hours. Then I get up again, and the cycle repeats. It's been easy to lose track of time, as I obviously have done. I spent a great deal of time taking care of Cyrano, and especially in trying to keep him interested in food. His likes and dislikes have changed a number of times, as have the times he prefers to eat. I've known when he wanted to eat because he would yowl to tell me about it. For a month or two, his hunger yowls began at 4:30 am, and recurred about every four hours thereafter.

I was delighted to comply, and I tried a huge variety of foods and treats to find those things that he particularly liked. The cries for food have stopped now. I'd give anything to hear that insistent 4:30 am demand for food once more.

I wish I could have continued writing essays during this time. I tried many times, but I simply was unable to do it. My overriding feeling has been only this: Just let us have one more good day together. I didn't have room or the emotional resources for anything beyond that. And for more months than I expected, we managed that.

I also wish I could have managed to compose some thank-you notes, but I was unable to do that either. I am truly sorry about that; a full explanation of this particular failure would require that I tell you far more about the twists and turns of my psychology than you care to know. It would also take a very long time. But please know that I am profoundly grateful to all those who have been so kind. And I send special thanks to some particular personal angels, including K.R., H.A., D.K., B.C., A.N.. E.W., and others I'm criminally forgetting for the moment. I offer a huge thank you to all those who have helped us during this terrible time.

My experience with writing for the blog has left me with ambivalent, deeply painful feelings. I had thought -- especially from roughly 2004 through 2010 -- that my writing would find a larger audience. And as part of that recognition. I would find some financial security. On a very modest scale, to be sure, but I certainly didn't think my audience wold dwindle to almost nothing. If you read my work from that period (and, I would add, a number of pieces from the last several years, too), I think you might agree that my work deserved a wider readership. I don't intend such statements to be obnoxiously boastful, but as observations of plain fact. I consider my best writing, including all the articles concerned with the meaning and implications of Alice Miller's work, and I set it side by side with work that brings its authors fame and fortune in varying degrees, and I'm aghast at the insanity and injustice of it. My feelings are made better and worse by the notable fact that Miller herself endorsed my work in this area. That fills me with great joy, and it also causes me to wonder: Christ, what does the world want from me?

I am not on good terms with the world. If I were, I may not have written the articles I have. I know that, too. So, ambivalent. But as my life with Cyrano comes to a close, I feel I must ready myself to write more, especially on the Miller themes, and on a few other subjects as well. I'm beginning to feel a very strong need to make certain issues as clear as I can, to explain why the world constitutes an enormous source of pain to me, and to others similarly situated. The world can also be a source of great joy, even of ecstasy, and I've written about that. Living ecstatically is the prescription I must now reclaim. I will reclaim it for Alice Miller, for Cyrano, for all those I care about and love, for myself, for those of you who still wish to journey with me.

I will never think that the bastards have won. Those individuals whose attitudes and actions lead only to pain, suffering, destruction and death can win nothing. They may prevail in particular instances or in certain periods, but domination is not victory, except for those who are irreparably damaged psychologically. I live, I write for a world which places no values higher than justice, compassion, empathy and love. I would be on the best of terms with that world. I had temporarily forgotten that when I write about what makes such a world possible, I live ecstatically now. As I observed in that earlier essay, that is everything.


Yes, I could use some help at the moment. I've spent a small fortune on Cyrano, especially in the last few months. Now we'll have the end of life expenses, and the first of the month is almost here. The cupboard is close to bare. Donations in any amount will be received with enormous gratitude.

I realize the plea for help may strike some as crass and calculated, especially after this particular post, but I mean every word of what I wrote above. It took Cyrano's imminent passing and the prospect of utter financial ruin to wake me from the trance of the last half-year. It's awful that such terrible events were needed to snap me out of it, but as I said, this world and I do not get along very well. Writing again will enable me to immerse myself in the world I want to see, the world I dream about. When the writing goes well, I am living in that world. Now, I must get back there.

And this time, I will be back here very soon.

May 25, 2015

Terrible, Dreadful Times

I'm very sorry about my absence from this space, and for my extended silence. I'm sorrier about the nonstop barrage of attacks on my physical and psychological health. The last two and a half months have been close to unbearable. I've survived, but in pathetically bad shape.

In the last week, I've begun looking at my mail (of both email and snail variety), but only for a few minutes each day. That's all I can manage right now. In the next week or two, I'll try to write thank-you notes to some very kind people. In the meantime, please let me offer my immense thanks to all those who have expressed their caring and generosity.

I would like to return to writing, but I can't put a date on it at the moment. My thinking is not yet what I'd like it to be, but I'm working on it. It goes slowly.

And that's about all I can do this morning. Time to crawl back into bed, where I spend inordinate amounts of time. Being seriously ill is unbelievably boring.

P.S. For yet another nauseating, infuriating, goddamn Memorial Day, this, one of my better efforts in all the years of this blog. And if you haven't seen The Americanization of Emily, you've committed a crime against humanity, including your own. It's wonderfully funny, passionate, and bracingly, deeply intelligent. Go watch it. You'll feel better.

And there's considerably more about Emily here (including a close analysis of the crucial final scene, which seems to trouble so many people, the fools), also a good effort in these parts.

February 17, 2015

Not So Casual This Time

As Cyrano is writing his last chapter, I realize I may be writing my own final chapter at the same time. The simple fact is that there appears to be only barely detectable interest in what I do here these days, or whether I do anything at all.

I published two posts a couple of weeks ago (here and here). Each of them got five or six tweets, and a few hundred readers. In a time when a photograph of an ingrown toenail offered by some schlub in Lower Flatass, Michigan, routinely garners several thousand tweets (at a minimum), that's humiliating.

A week earlier, I'd posted an update about my personal situation. I mentioned that I was close to completely broke and asked for donations. But I made it sound sort of casual. Not a huge deal. So six people responded to my request. As a result, I've been living on fumes for the past week. Well, not fumes: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I don't have any other food and can't afford to buy any.

I had my last cup of coffee four days ago. I only drink decaf these days, as I have ever since my heart condition was diagnosed six years ago. But I do like my cup of decaf in the morning. And I like to drink (caffeine free) diet soda during the day; I drank the last of those two days ago. I almost ran out of toilet paper, but I raided my stash of quarters for laundry to buy some at the corner store.

But what causes me to lose sleep is wondering what I do if Cyrano should have some kind of crisis when I'm this broke. I have no idea what I'll do. Probably I'll take a cab to the vet, beg the vet to treat him (even if it's only to put him to sleep), and swear to the vet that I'll manage somehow to get the funds together to pay him for his services. If Cyrano should die here at home (as happened with the last three cats with whom I went through this process), I'll have a different problem. The pet crematory service I've used in the past charges about $220 to pick up the body, cremate it, and return the ashes to me in a plain wooden urn. I think if I skip the urn, it's about a hundred dollars less.

But I won't have the money for that, and the crematory service requires payment in advance. So what do I do with the body? What do very poor people generally do? I guess they wrap the body up in a garbage bag or two, and throw it away with the garbage. I suppose that's what I may have to do.

And if I do that, I may kill myself afterwards. I suppose I probably won't, but I'll certainly feel like killing myself. Imagine throwing away the body of a pet you've adored for almost 17 years with the garbage. Poverty is disgusting, which I suppose is news to no one. (I would bury Cyrano in a yard somewhere, but there isn't any such yard anywhere around here. I also suspect that burials of that kind are prohibited by some health regulation or other law. Not that I care about that. There simply are no yards in this neighborhood.)

So I have $63 in my wallet, which I hold onto in case I need to make that emergency trip to the vet. If I have to make an emergency trip to the hospital myself, I'll be calling 911, so I won't need cab money, except to come home, of course (assuming I come home).

In the midst of all this loveliness, I've been working on some new articles. They are a continuation of my exploration of Alice Miller's work and how it applies to cultural and political events. I'm doing those pieces since I think that is the one area where I can offer something new that is of some importance. But now, it seems that no one agrees with me, except for the same five or six people who continue to show up (and bless them for it). Even people who have proclaimed their immense admiration for my work don't tweet links to my new articles any longer.

And in less than two weeks, I'll have to pay next month's rent. My joy has been notably increased with the new owners' announcement to the tenants here that, beginning with this New Year, they will be strictly enforcing late penalties for rent payment, as well as aggressively pursuing eviction when rent is not paid. Additional pressure of that kind is exactly what I needed.

Christ. I don't have anything else to say at the moment. So I'll stop.

February 05, 2015

The Internet as You Know It Will Cease to Exist, Part II

This is one of the major news stories today:
Health insurance giant Anthem Inc. said hackers had breached its computer system and the personal information of tens of millions of customers and employees was possibly at risk.

The attack on the nation’s second-largest health insurer could be one of the largest data breaches in the healthcare industry, experts said. Anthem said hackers infiltrated a database containing records on as many as 80 million people.

Hackers appear to have accessed customers' names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, member ID numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information, Anthem said. Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

At this point, it appears that the data stolen do not include medical information or credit card numbers, according to the company.
I don't think anyone can be at all confident that medical information and credit card numbers (and perhaps still more personal data) were not compromised; Anthem obviously isn't all that sure itself ("At this point, it appears..." -- the language of professional weasels).

One of the more astonishing aspects of this story is that "the information involved was not encrypted in [Anthem's] database." The lack of encryption is altogether baffling and mind-crushingly dumb because Anthem has gotten into trouble of this kind before, and has been assessed fines precisely because of security weaknesses. Just goes to show: you can't count on large bureaucracies to do anything, except fuck up. (Well, and oppress, brutalize and kill people, but let's not go into all that for the moment, mmkay?)

Effectively buried in the middle of the story is this:
Suspicious activity was first noticed and reported Jan. 27. Two days later, an internal investigation verified that the company was a victim of a cyber attack, the company said. The unauthorized access to the vast database goes back to Dec. 10.
Get a load of that timeline. The first unauthorized access occurred almost two months ago. But no one noticed anything at all until January 27. And then it took two more days to verify that the company had been hacked.

So, a few thoughts. What Anthem admits makes the company appear to be run by some of the clumsiest amateurs in the world. Give them this month's prize for Outstanding Stupidity. And even though their admissions establish them as colossal dunderheads (Dumb and Dumber, indeed), I don't believe their story, except (possibly) in its most general outlines.

I don't believe it for several reasons that apply to all stories of this kind. Anthem has to acknowledge what happened in some form; if they tried to cover it up, they would eventually be in even worse trouble. But the company's leading executives will do everything in their power to save face, which means they will minimize the impact of the cyberattack in every way possible. When I say they're saving face, I mean they're trying to salvage what remains of their reputations, and of their future employability. (Would you hire the clowns in charge of this operation?) In situations like this, I always assume that the truth is far, far worse than anyone admits.

In a related story, and surprising absolutely no one who followed the story of the Sony hack, it is finally being reported that Amy Pascal is "moving on" from her position as co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Pascal was provided with the requisite face-saving deal (lots of face-saving in these stories, and Sony may also want to avoid a protracted battle over contractual obligations and the like): she's becoming a full-time producer, which is what Hollywood does to executives when it wants them to die. Pascal's bosses undoubtedly have some concerns about the hack itself, but of far greater significance, especially in image-conscious Hollywood, is that Pascal's emails revealed her and those with whom she exchanged messages to be sophomoric, asinine jerks. (And racist, too, let's not forget that detail. And honest to Christ: begging Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for meetings, so she can begin the "healing process." Pascal's life is like a truly shitty Hollywood movie, which will have to suffice as consolation.)

But we can't have the general riff-raff thinking that Hollywood people are stupid (racist) jerks! Hollywood people are special people, much smarter and better than everyone else. The general public can't learn that the people running Hollywood are the"adult" (I use the term loosely) version of the kids you hated in high school (you know, the shitheads who ran everything and made your life hell). Granted, Hollywood being concerned about its image is not unlike Jack the Ripper claiming to suffer sleepless nights because he's been accused of employing unsanitary practices, and being messy on top of it. Still, there you go.

Okay, what I really want to talk about is this. The story about the Anthem hack provides a brief summary of the major hacks in recent years (Target, Home Depot, the State of California, etc.). Hacks aren't news any longer; they're a regular feature of a world which has become alarmingly dependent on the internet. I say "alarmingly," because it's the internet -- that is, there's only one. That is very, very weird. It's the opposite of a decentralized, distributed system. In the United States, the internet is controlled by a handful of telecom companies -- and the State, of course. Can't forget the State. Worldwide, more companies are involved (but still not a large number), and more States. So the internet is basically at the mercy of a limited number of very large corporations and States. You can't make up a nightmare worse than that.

And since more and more information is available on the internet, more and more people will try to get access to it. There will be more and more hacking. For more than ten years, I've assumed that everything I've ever done on the internet is available to anyone, if they're determined enough to get it. I don't know why anyone assumes their information will remain confidential. I assume it's all public record. (That doesn't mean I like or intend for all my information to be public record; I simply recognize the possibility that it all could become known, and proceed accordingly.) And, yes, I'm aware of the Deep Web, but I don't think that alters my comments here, at least insofar as most of the general public is concerned. But feel free to correct me if you think I'm wrong about that.

What will save us from the future wave of increasingly frequent cyberattacks? Why, the State, of course. Late in the Anthem story is this:
The wave of cyber attacks, including the recent hacking at Sony Pictures Entertainment, spurred President Obama during his State of the Union address to urge Congress to pass legislation to fight cyber attacks and identity theft.
One of the more remarkably stupid viewpoints of recent years -- and you've all heard it, since it's repeated by vast numbers of people -- is that the internet will save us. The internet will make us free. Since so much information is available to more and more people, more people know the truth than ever before in history. Despotism and tyranny are doomed! The people know the truth now! We will be free forever!

I recently heard a commentator (with admittedly excessively limited mental capabilities) offer this catechism almost word for word. I am always astonished by the possibilities of human ignorance and self-delusion. The truth is precisely the opposite, and that is particularly true as long as we have the internet. I've been over this ground before (that's why this post is designated "Part II"). From the earlier post:
If you understood the possibilities that might be realized by the internet, do you seriously think those people and interests possessing the most power and wealth did not? Yes, we're all special and unique and all that keen stuff, but the ruling class is people, too (revolting thought, I understand, but also true). And the ruling class is not stupid. It is certainly not stupid about this kind of thing. So our betters will do everything in their power to harness and redirect every advance to their own purposes. Again, consult history. This is always the pattern.
I expect that, as there are more cyberattacks, there will be growing calls for increased State regulation. One possibility is that no one will be permitted to access the internet until they are provided with a personal ID number. Everything you do on the internet will be tied to that ID number. For most people, that will be the end of internet anonymity -- although, following the historical pattern, as more obstacles are erected, more ways to evade them will also be created. Just as people get fake IDs now, people will get fake internet IDs -- but it will be harder to do, and most people will simply succumb to State control.

If you consider the matter, I think you might agree with me that the internet is one of the most diabolically clever means for population control ever devised. Why, it's almost like someone did it with that very purpose in mind ...

Is there a solution? Yes, and one possible solution was suggested in my earlier post. I quoted one commenter to a story I discussed as follows:
Just open your wireless port, call it parasite.net, and then set yourself up as an 'ISP' with an FTP, web server, torrent tracker, etc. If you can convince enough people in your area to create access points and mirrors of the content we'll eventually cut out the telecoms and have a truly distributed data and communications network.
You can call it "going local." See the earlier post for more.

I'm sure some people are already setting up their own networks, in this or similar ways. And that's just one possibility. As I suggested in the conclusion of the previous post, the pattern remains the same. The ruling class consolidates and expands its power; those who would escape, or at least minimize, the depredations of the ruling class devise means of eluding their grasp; the ruling class then does its best to take over the newly devised means of escape from their rule and integrate them into its own powers, which are thereby expanded once more; still new means of escape are devised, and so on. I am profoundly skeptical of any claim that X changes everything. Nothing changes everything, except mass extinction or a means of making humans immortal. But in the last case, we wouldn't be talking about "humans" any longer, not using the current definition, so that would be a new ball game. Short of that...

So. Some ruminations for a Thursday. On we go...

P.S. I encourage readers to contact me with their thoughts about the future of the internet. I especially welcome comments from those with technical expertise in this area, which I sorely (and perhaps obviously) lack. I'll be happy to publish interesting and informative replies. You can write me at: arthur4801 at yahoo dot com. And please indicate if you give me permission to publish your comments (I never publish emails without permission, unless I do so anonymously, but that happens very rarely).