Marc Laidlaw's 'Epistle 3' decoded

After his ten-year non-disclosure agreement with Valve expired, Marc Laidlaw, one of the writers and designers for Half-Life and Half-Life 2, has posted a coded synopsis for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (or perhaps Half-Life 3). There have been many stories in the past indicating various changes to the story, and this may be only one of many potential plots.
Still, it's probably the closest we have to an official conclusion to the Half-Life series, and we should be thankful to Marc for having published it.
As such, I have taken the liberty of decoding it:



Dearest Player,

I hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already, “Gordy Freeman, we have not heard from you in ages!” Well, if you care to hear excuses, I have plenty, the greatest of them being I’ve been in other dimensions and whatnot, unable to reach you by the usual means. This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances, and was redeposited on these shores. In the time since, I have been able to think occasionally about how best to describe the intervening years, my years of silence. I do first apologize for the wait, and that done, hasten to finally explain (albeit briefly, quickly, and in very little detail) events following those described in my previous letter (referred to herewith as Episode 2).

To begin with, as you may recall from the closing paragraphs of my previous missive, the death of Eli Vance shook us all. The Resistance team was traumatized, unable to be sure how much of our plan might be compromised, and whether it made any sense to go on at all as we had intended. And yet, once Eli had been buried, we found the strength and courage to regroup. It was the strong belief of his brave daughter, the feisty Alyx Vance, that we should continue on as her father had wished. We had the Antarctic coordinates, transmitted by Eli’s long-time assistant, Dr. Judith Mossman, which we believed to mark the location of the lost luxury liner Borealis. Eli had felt strongly that the Borealis should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Combine. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Borealis might hold the secret to the revolution’s success. Either way, the arguments were moot until we found the vessel. Therefore, immediately after the service for Dr. Vance, Alyx and I boarded a seaplane and set off for the Antarctic; a much larger support team, mainly militia, was to follow by separate transport.

It is still unclear to me exactly what brought down our little aircraft. The following hours spent traversing the frigid waste in a blizzard are also a jumbled blur, ill-remembered and poorly defined. The next thing I clearly recall is our final approach to the coordinates Dr. Mossman has provided, and where we expected to find the Borealis. What we found instead was a complex fortified installation, showing all the hallmarks of sinister Combine technology. It surrounded a large open field of ice. Of the Hypnos itself there was no sign…or not at first. But as we stealthily infiltrated the Combine installation, we noticed a recurrent, strangely coherent auroral effect–as of a vast hologram fading in and out of view. This bizarre phenomenon initially seemed an effect caused by an immense Combine lensing system, Alyx and I soon realized that what we were actually seeing was the luxury liner Borealis itself, phasing in and out of existence at the focus of the Combine devices. The aliens had erected their compound to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized. What Dr. Mossman had provided were not coordinates for where the sub was located, but instead for where it was predicted to arrive. The liner was oscillating in and out of our reality, its pulses were gradually steadying, but there was no guarantee it would settle into place for long–or at all. We determined that we must put ourselves into position to board it at the instant it became completely physical.

At this point we were briefly detained–not captured by the Combine, as we feared at first, but by minions of our former nemesis, the conniving and duplicitous Wallace Breen. Dr. Breen was not as we had last seen him–which is to say, he was not dead. At some point, the Combine had saved out an earlier version of his consciousness, and upon his physical demise, they had imprinted the back-up personality into a biological blank resembling an enormous slug. The Breen-Slug, despite occupying a position of relative power in the Combine hierarchy, seemed nervous and frightened of me in particular. Wallace did not know how his previous incarnation, the original Dr. Breen, had died. He knew only that I was responsible. Therefore the slug treated us with great caution. Still, he soon confessed (never able to keep quiet for long) that he was himself a prisoner of the Combine. He took no pleasure from his current grotesque existence, and pleaded with us to end his life. Alyx believed that a quick death was more than Wallace Breen deserved, but for my part, I felt a modicum of pity and compassion. Out of Alyx’s sight, I might have done something to hasten the slug’s demise before we proceeded.

Not far from where we had been detained by Dr. Breen, we found Judith Mossman being held in a Combine interrogation cell. Things were tense between Judith and Alyx, as might be imagined. Alyx blamed Judith for her father’s death…news of which, Judith was devastated to hear for the first time. Judith tried to convince Alyx that she had been a double agent serving the Resistance all along, doing only what Eli had asked of her, even though she knew it meant she risked being seen by her peers–by all of us–as a traitor. I was convinced; Alyx less so. But from a pragmatic point of view, we depended on Dr. Mossman; for along with the Borealis coordinates, she possessed resonance keys which would be necessary to bring the liner fully into our plane of existence.

We skirmished with Combine soldiers protecting a Combine research post, then Dr. Mossman attuned the Borealis to precisely the frequencies needed to bring it into (brief) coherence. In the short time available to us, we scrambled aboard the ship, with an unknown number of Combine agents close behind. The ship cohered for only a short time, and then its oscillations resume. It was too late for our own military support, which arrived and joined the Combine forces in battle just as we rebounded between universes, once again unmoored.

What happened next is even harder to explain. Alyx Vance, Dr. Mossman and myself sought control of the ship–its power source, its control room, its navigation center. The liner’s history proved nonlinear. Years before, during the Combine invasion, various members of an earlier science team, working in the hull of a dry-docked liner situated at the Aperture Science Research Base in Lake Huron, had assembled what they called the Bootstrap Device. If it worked as intended, it would emit a field large enough to surround the ship. This field would then itself travel instantaneously to any chosen destination without having to cover the intervening space. There was no need for entry or exit portals, or any other devices; it was entirely self-contained. Unfortunately, the device had never been tested. As the Combine pushed Earth into the Seven-Hour War, the aliens seized control of our most important research facilities. The staff of the Borealis, with no other wish than to keep the ship out of Combine hands, acted in desperation. The switched on the field and flung the Borealis toward the most distant destination they could target: Antarctica. What they did not realize was that the Bootstrap Device travelled in time as well as space. Nor was it limited to one time or one location. The Borealis, and the moment of its activation, were stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Seven-Hour War and the present day Antarctic; it was pulled taut as an elastic band, vibrating, except where at certain points along its length one could find still points, like the harmonic spots along a vibrating guitar string. One of these harmonics was where we boarded, but the string ran forward and back, in both time and space, and we were soon pulled in every direction ourselves.

Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Aperture Science at the moment of teleportation, just as the Combine forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Borealis; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past. Alyx grew convinced we were seeing one of the Combine’s central staging areas for invading other worlds–such as our own. We meanwhile fought a running battle throughout the ship, pursued by Combine forces. We struggled to understand our situation, and to agree on our course of action. Could we alter the course of the Borealis? Should we run it aground in the Antarctic, giving our peers the chance to study it? Should we destroy it with all hands aboard, our own included? It was impossible to hold a coherent thought, given the baffling and paradoxical timeloops, which passed through the ship like bubbles. I felt I was going mad, that we all were, confronting myriad versions of ourselves, in that ship that was half ghost-ship, half nightmare funhouse.

What it came down to, at last, was a choice. Judith Mossman argued, reasonably, that we should save the Borealis and deliver it to the Resistance, that our intelligent peers might study and harness its power. But Alyx reminded me had sworn she would honor her father’s demand that we destroy the ship. She hatched a plan to set the Borealis to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Combine’s invasion nexus. Judith and Alyx argued. Judith overpowered Alyx and brought the Borealis area, preparing to shut off the Bootstrap Device and settle the ship on the ice. Then I heard a shot, and Judith fell. Alyx had decided for all of us, or her weapon had. With Dr. Mossman dead, we were committed to the suicide plunge. Grimly, Alyx and I armed the Borealis, creating a time-travelling missile, and steered it for the heart of the Combine’s command center.

At this point, as you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, a Certain Sinister Figure appeared, in the form of that sneering trickster, the G-Man. For once he appeared not to me, but to Alyx Vance. Alyx had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but she recognized him instantly. “Come along with me now, we’ve places to do and things to be,” said the G-Man, and Alyx acquiesced. She followed the strange grey man out of the Borealis, out of our reality. For me, there was no convenient door held open; only a snicker and a sideways glance. I was left alone, riding the weaponized luxury liner into the heart of a Combine world. An immense light blazed. I caught a cosmic view of a brilliantly glittering Dyson sphere. The vastness of the Combine’s power, the futility of our struggle, blossomed briefly in my awareness. I saw everything. Mainly I saw how the Borealis, our most powerful weapon, would register as less than a fizzling matchhead as it blew itself apart. And what remained of me would be even less than that.

Just then, as you have surely already foreseen, the Vortigaunts parted their own checkered curtains of reality, reached in as they have on prior occasions, plucked me out, and set me aside. I barely got to see the fireworks begin.

And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the Resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Except no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final Episode.

Yours in infinite finality,

Gordon Freeman, Ph.D.

A comment I wrote on a terrible liberal article

The article is here. It's fawning over noted liberal moron Bill Maher talking about Russia as if it's a bigger deal than Trump threatening nuclear war with North Korea and an invasion of Venezuela. I eagerly await the condescending liberal responses to my comment, which is reposted in full below:

'See, this is why I'm not a liberal anymore. I counted myself as a liberal until a few months ago. I always knew the Republican Party was rotten to the core, and I could never support them save for a couple of good eggs. The Democratic Party, as I had understood it, had some issues I disagreed on, like abortion, but overall was the party of FDR and JFK: a good party that did good things.
'I spent the first half of my childhood in the Bush years, when I saw the corruption, incompetence, and warmongering of the neocons in charge. Even as a kid, when I saw the reports coming in about Iraq and Afghanistan, I wondered what this was all about. Oil, my grandmother and mother who raised me explained. The former was an independent and the latter was a RINO. I was glad Obama got elected, but the financial crisis hurt my family: as healthcare costs rose, my grandmother had to quit her nursing job to take care of my disabled mother, who had to quit her finance job after leaking internal memos which described nasty dealings by Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
'My confidence began to erode in politics after seeing where "bipartisanship" led: the public option got killed in Congress and the bailout ended up helping out the banks that had caused the crisis in the first place. Iraq and Afghanistan were both ended only after too much damage was allowed to be done, and the Obama administration policy of drone strikes disturbed me. Chelsea Manning's leaks proved especially horrifying: she had presented clear evidence of war crimes, the government was forced to admit that, despite their efforts to poison the well against her, none of her releases ended up harming anyone but the government themselves, and she was the one being imprisoned and tortured. By last year, my faith in Obama, who I had generally thought of as a good man who was forced to hold back on his promises by a crooked Republican congress and a host of military and financial bureaucrats, began to fade.
'Bernie Sanders became my new hope. He wasn't perfect by any metric, but he was going to cut back on the use of our military, try to get a single payer system, and provide free college. And not only that, he was describing how. My family and I had just been evicted so that the landlord could sell off our old house to a bunch of condo developers, only months after returning home from a year of the abusive nightmare called "protective custody" (long story short, the state had twisted some statements I thought I was making to a private therapist into accusations against my family, and I spent a year being transferred from abusive group home to abusive group home), and this guy sounded like the real deal.
'After Hillary got the nomination, I felt that Bernie had been unfairly treated. The DNC email leak seemed to confirm my suspicions of dirtiness within the DNC, but I'll wait for the lawsuit to decide what went on.
'I was sceptical about the Russia allegations from the beginning. They sounded like yet another set of WMD allegations to my ears. The thing that scared me, though, was how they were being used to sour the atmosphere even more between Russia and the United States. Believe me, I think Putin needs to go if Russia's going to get any better, but I was worried more and more about the rhetoric about Russia sounding like calls for war. I didn't want to see my fellow poor kids ship off to Ukraine to fight alongside the Azov Battalion, and I still don't.
As for what's going on between them and Trump, this is what I think: I still don't believe it was Russian state actors behind the leaks. I believe there's proof beyond a doubt that Trump and his team at the very least attempted collusion, and I think it's very likely that collusion between Trump and Russian state elements happened. What I think will happen is that we'll receive proof that collusion happened, and nothing will happen. The Democrats will pride themselves on getting proof that Trump and his gang did something illegal, and that'll be the end of it. The Republicans will simply dismiss any attempts to get him impeached on that evidence.
'And that's the problem I have. Currently, there is a Republican 'civil rights reform' bill in Congress which, if it passes, will significantly hurt me as a transgender woman by ending all existing and preventing any future protections for transgender people.
'There's also the healthcare issue. If even the budget passes to defund Medicare and Medicaid, my mother will die fast. And my grandmother will die more slowly.
'So excuse my cynicism over this Russia story and my lack of faith in liberalism. I'm a registered Democrat, and I intend to vote in the Senate primary and in next year's elections. I'm starting a job at a local business in the next few weeks.
I'm a democratic socialist now - not out of any wide-eyed idealism, but because I've read economics texts, including Ha-Joon Chang, David Ricardo, Richard D. Wolff, John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Anwar Shaikh. I'd like to see some social-democratic reforms passed in the meantime, including single-payer and free college.
I want to see the Democrats talk less about Russia and more about preserving healthcare, non-discrimination protections, and democratic procedure, as well as fighting Trump's draconian and racist agenda.
'All I want is my mother's healthcare, my rights, and to hold down a job and get an education. I'm tired of being condescended to that my rights as a trans woman and my family's health, along with the safety of my neighbours of colour, have to be put on hold because Trump had some dirty dealings with Russian oligarchs.'

On the Declaration of Independence

Two hundred and forty-one years ago, the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Its second sentence is one of the most famous in the English language, and rightfully so. Draughted by Thomas Jefferson and edited by the Committee of Five, it reads:
'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'
It was recognised by Sojourner Truth, by Harriet Tubman, by the masterful Frederick Douglass, by the heroic John Brown, and by our great old President Abraham Lincoln that, so long as black humans were subject to the cruelties, the whippings, the beatings, the murders, and the absolute denial of humanity that was slavery, these unalienable rights were not real.
It was recognised by Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, by Ida B. Wells, by Julia Ward Howe, by Margaret Fuller, by Ernestine Rose, by Abby Kelley Foster, by Lucy Stone, by Alice Paul, and by hundreds of thousands more that, so long as women were mere subjects of men, these unalienable rights were not real.
Eugene V. Debs, Big Bill Haywood, and Joe Hill fought for the 'Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness' of workers; Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X struggled that, as 'all men are created equal', segregation was a denial of this statement to be overcome; Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Harry Hay, Allen Ginsberg, and Larry Kramer fought for LGBTQ+ people to be granted their unalienable rights.
Yet all of these fights remain unfinished.
When the Great Seal of the United States was first proposed, Benjamin Franklin, a member of the First Committee for the Seal, proposed this design:
REBELLION TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD
REBELLION TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD.

The scene is one from the Book of Exodus, of God leading the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Canaan. It is a scene commemorated every year at Pesach, or Passover. And the lesson I learn nearly every year at Pesach is this: That so long as there is one suffering, we all suffer; that so long as there is one oppressed, none of us are liberated; that so long as one is enslaved, none of us are free; that so long as one is poor, none of us are rich; that so long as there is a single human being hungry, homeless, and naked, none of us are fed, sheltered, or clothed.
If 'all men are created equal,' if 'they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,' if 'among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness', then why is there such a great disparity between the wealth of the wealthy and that of the rest? (Jefferson had changed the Lockean phrase from 'life, liberty, and property' because he realised, as did Proudhon later, that property, when not in the service of liberty, becomes theft and the foundation of despotism!) Why does there still seem to be one law for the poor and another for the rich, one law for our brothers and sisters of colour and another for white people, one for women and non-binary people and another for men? Why do our police kill the innocent; why do we send our citizens abroad to kill and be killed? Why do we spy on all under the Sun, and assault the rights of people to freedom of speech, of assembly, of religion? Why do we leave so many without food, without shelter, without healthcare, without clean water, even without clothing?
Are these not denials of the rights which our Creator granted us? Is this the decree of He Who is the 'death of Death and Hell's destruction'? No! To say such would be the highest blasphemy! This is the will of the Adversary, the result of the worship of Mammon!
Throughout all of the history of Humanity, there has been a striving for the realisation of these principles, an impulse in the heart that the bounties of Creation must belong to all, that the hungry must be fed, that the widow and the orphan are to be comforted.
If we are to understand the words of Jefferson in their truth, we must allow their radical implications to be realised. Then, and only then, can we see it fulfilled, that
'with righteousness shall he judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the land;
'And he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth,
'And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
'And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,
'And faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
'And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
'And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
'And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
'And a little child shall lead them.
'And the cow and the bear feed;
'Their young ones shall lie down together;
'And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
'And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,
'And the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk’s den.
'They shall not hurt nor destroy
'In all My holy mountain;
'For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD,
'As the waters cover the sea.'

Isaiah 11:4-9, JPS Tanakh 1917.

Trump is consolidating power and using Russia as a distraction

I. Some background.

Back in April, political scientist John Bellamy Foster wrote an article entitled 'Neofascism in the White House' for the Monthly Review, a self-described 'independent socialist magazine'. In his piece, he painstakingly details how what Steve Bannon calls the 'deconstruction of the administrative state' is a component of fascist ideology, disturbingly similar to what the Nazi Party called 'Gleichschaltung', or 'bringing-into-line', in which all power of the German state was consolidated into the top rung of the executive branch—in the Nazis' case, Hitler and his inner circle; in the present case, Trump and his advisers.
In the latest episode of his radio show Economic Update, economist Richard D. Wolff explains that Trump's budget proposal is nothing short of an austerity budget. It's a massive redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top and to the military-industrial complex.
His infrastructure plan, as well, consists of privatising and selling off massive amounts of America's infrastructure. As Foster notes, 'an often overlooked Nazi policy was the selling-off of state property. The concept of privatization (or “reprivatization”) of the economy, now a hallmark of neoliberalism, first gained currency in fascist Germany, where capitalist property relations remained sacrosanct, even as the new fascist state structure dismantled liberal-democratic institutions and instituted a war economy. At the time of Hitler’s rise to power, much of the German economy was state-owned: sectors such as the steel and coal industries, shipbuilding, and banking had been largely nationalized. Under Hitler, the United Steel Trust was privatized in just a few years, and by 1937 all of the major banks were privatized. All of this increased the power and scope of capital.' He goes on to quote Maxine Yaple Sweezy in her 1941 study of Nazi economic policy: 'The practical significance of the transference of government enterprises into private hands was thus that the capitalist class continued to serve as a vessel for the accumulation of income. Profit-making and the return of property to private hands, moreover, have assisted the consolidation of Nazi Party power.'
I've seen barely any discussion in the mainstream media of Trump's austerity plan nor his initiative to sell off our infrastructure. Nor have I seen a lot of coverage of the fact that Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, Trump's chief strategist and senior policy adviser, respectively, are thinly-disguised white nationalists, with the former speaking of a 'Great Fourth Turning' which would spiritually regenerate America through violence (an idea drawn from the pseudoscientific Strauss-Howe generational theory, which, fittingly for fascist ideology, pertains only to America—particularistic national myth is a vital component of any form of fascism), hinting at the idea of a new Crusade against Islam and China ('There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global.…You will see we’re in a war of immense proportions') while praising the French Front National, and even approvingly citing Julius Evola, a philosopher and left-hand path esotericist who declared once that '[f]ascism is too little. We would have wanted a fascism which is more radical, more intrepid, a fascism that is truly absolute, made of pure force, unavailable for any compromise.…We would never be considered anti-fascist, except to the extent that super-fascism would be equivalent to anti-fascism', all at a Vatican City conference in 2014, while the latter has a background of doing such things as helping Richard Spencer set up an event featuring fellow white nationalist Peter Brimelow (who coined the term 'alternative right') while they were friends in the Duke Conservative Union and having fans in David Duke and 'race realist' Jared Taylor. The closest I've seen to that kind of reporting was when it was revealed that Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President, is a member of the Vitézi Rend (Hungarian: 'Order of Vitéz'), an elite Hungarian secret society with links to the original Nazi Party; this reporting almost—and I emphasise almost—got him fired.
Trump's cabinet is full of 'deconstructors'—take, for example, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who bought her way into politics through her family's donations to the Republican Party, and who would like to dismantle public education and replace it with a system of vouchers for (preferably conservative Christian) charter schools, or Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (one of only two people of colour in the Cabinet), who recently said that poverty is caused by nothing but a 'state of mind' and that compassion somehow means not giving people 'a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: "I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me"', or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a former Exxon-Mobil CEO whose security forces committed various human rights abuses (including kidnapping, sexual assault, and torture) under his watch and who's stated 'My philosophy is to make money', or Secretary of Defense James 'Mad Dog' Mattis, who plans to betray Kurdish forces including the YPG/YPJ and the Peshmerga after the siege of Raqqa and whose bipartisan hawkishness (especially toward Iran) is impossible to overstate, or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a xenophobic racist who wants to make medical marijuana illegal, is restoring Reagan-era tough-on-crime policies, and is escalating the War on Drugs, or Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer and hedge fund manager, who, last decade, invested in two Trump properties and whose OneWest Bank (which included none other than George Soros, a bogeyman for Trump, on its board of directors) played a role in the financial crisis by aggressively foreclosing on over 80,000 homes using potentially illegal tactics.
Or take the new CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who in April branded WikiLeaks a non-state hostile intelligence service, announced an arrest warrant for Julian Assange, and declared that 'it ends now.' (This happened a month after WikiLeaks embarrassed the CIA by publishing the 'Vault 7' leaks, which reveal that the CIA has a collection of hacking tools that, among other uses, can be used to spy on people from any device or hijack any car with an onboard computer (this revelation in particular revitalised suspicions about Michael Hastings' death) and that many of these hacking tools are in the hands of third-party black-hat hackers.) Assange replied by saying that WikiLeaks is fundamentally a journalistic outfit that operates on the same principle as any other journalistic outfit ('to publish newsworthy content') and has done some incredibly important work (Chelsea Manning's whistleblowing helped spark the Arab Spring and thus, indirectly, the Occupy movement), and that to attack a journalistic outfit and issue an arrest warrant for its founder is nothing short of an assault on the very principle of freedom of speech.
Trump has repeatedly attempted to implement his Muslim ban, but each attempt has been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional; he's issued verbal attacks on individual judges in what could be an effort to delegitimise their power in his supporters' eyes. In February, he issued an executive order to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants by force, without reference to length of residency, age, criminal record, or visa or citizenship application status.
Trump has inherited over a hundred judicial vacancies; to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of reactionary Antonin Scalia, he nominated the even more reactionary Neil Gorsuch. Fifty-one Republicans and three cowardly Democrats voted to confirm. The other vacancies will allow Bannon and Miller, through Trump, to restructure the Judicial Branch in their own image.
Within the National Security Council, Trump created an organization, shrouded in secrecy, called the Strategic Initiatives Group, of which Gorka is a key figure; this was part of a January restructuring of the National and Homeland Security Committees, intended as a step toward the total transformation of the Executive Branch into a militaristic organisation with all power consolidated in the hands of the top rung.
Several agencies, including the EPA, have been blocked from reporting their research. Congressional Republicans have revived a defunct 1876 law that allowed for reducing government employees' salaries to $1 per year; this is almost certainly a threat of poverty against civil servants who refuse to be brought-into-line.
Trump has called for even more privatisation of prisons (a policy Sessions is already enacting), increased surveillance of Black Lives Matter and other activists, and expanded racial profiling. A draft of a now-cancelled executive order was leaked, containing religious 'freedom' exemptions to various nondiscrimination laws, including allowing corporations to reject access to goods and services relating to abortion, contraception, and protections for LGBTQ+ people.
Simultaneously, the Republican-dominated Congress is proposing a national 'right-to-work' law which would allow workers to receive union benefits without having to pay the dues (a.k.a. scabbing), which would send unions into financial crisis. The Supreme Court, with a conservative/reactionary majority, could do the same much more quickly in certain upcoming cases. DeVos' school privatisation is aimed at breaking teachers' unions. The point is to utterly crush de facto labour power in America; this was the first thing every fascist government did.
Perhaps the three most frightening things in the litany of steps toward total fascism are as follows:
  1. The new VOICE office publishes weekly lists of (alleged) crimes committed by (primarily non-white) immigrants, in a clear effort to deceive the public into falsely believing that immigrants are more likely to be criminal, when statistics show the exact opposite. This measure is strikingly similar to how the Nazi-controlled press would publish weekly lists of (alleged) crimes committed by Jews.
  2. Trump's aforementioned budget proposal includes massive increases for the military. His administration has plans for what amount to global crusades. They literally want an American Empire. (Which would definitely please the neoreactionaries and the radical traditionalists.)
  3. In 2011, Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This law allows for the indefinite military detention, ordered by the President or any military or government authority, of any citizen or non-citizen suspected of any connections to terrorism. Given what Trump and his administration consider to be terroristic, the implications of the possible use of this law are disconcerting at best.

Yet the mainstream media, for the most part, neglect these disturbing details in favour of obsessing over Trump's team's alleged collusion with the Russian government.
And here lies the problem.

II. The problem.

We've seen a rapid succession of political shocks; the speed and convolution of it all is enough to make even me dizzy. The constant lies, distortions, firings, hirings, scandals…and we're literally only six months in!
Several prominent psychiatrists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists have said that Donald Trump is a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder. He must be the centre of attention at all times; anonymous White House staffers have noted that he gets irrationally angry if he gets too much negative press or if he doesn't get enough press at all.
A common feature of narcissistic personality disorder is pathological lying, and Trump is a pathological liar extraordinaire: two days ago, the New York Times published an online piece detailing each and every falsehood, distortion, and outright lie that Trump has shat out of his mouth since his inauguration and up to this point.
Just twenty-four days after his appointment, Mike Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor under political pressure for…well, for meeting with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about it.
Just last month, on 9 May, James Comey was fired by Trump for such a plethora of mutually contradictory reasons that I have no clue why he was fired. Was it on a recommendation from the Department of Justice, or one from Rod Rosenstein (which has already been shown to be false), or Trump himself? That last option seems the most likely, as it's highly probable that he's under investigation and fired Comey to take the pressure off of himself, as he explained in a private meeting with a group of Russian officials, ironically calling Comey a 'nutjob'; the firing, along with this admission, may be evidence of an attempt at obstruction of justice. I'll discuss the significance of this act of firing in the next part.
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus admitted on 30 April to ABC journalist Jonathan Karl that the White House has considered a Constitutional amendment to change what speech is allowed; when asked what Trump means when he says we should 'open up the libel laws' and informed that this would require a new amendment, Priebus responded, 'I think it's something we've looked at. How that gets executed, or whether that goes anywhere, is a different story.' That answer was not a mistake, as he repeated 'this is something that is being looked at' later in the same interview. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo explained the significance of this: 'The changes President Trump wants are blocked by decades of jurisprudence which is little contested, unlike other hot button points of constitutional law. If you want what Trump wants, you have to amend the Constitution—and not the Constitution in general but the First Amendment specifically. Amending the First Amendment to allow the head of state to sue people who say things he doesn't like amounts to abolishing it.' Yet despite how extremely concerning it is that the White House even considered this—and is probably still considering it—I only saw that one interview and a few opinion pieces in the mainstream media. They talk about how alarming it is when Trump declares the press 'the enemy of the people'—which definitely is concerning, considering how such a phrase is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes—but they mostly ignored the actual plans Trump and his team developed (and may still be developing) to really implement censorship in favour of covering—you know exactly what I'm about to say at this point—Russia.
But why the Russian collusion narrative, despite only a tiny amount of actual evidence? Who actually benefits from it? The American people? The Democrats? Or could it actually be Trump and his team themselves?

III. The hypothesis.

In Part I, I discussed the 'bringing-into-line' occurring in the Executive Branch to a large extent. In Part II, I discussed the mainstream media's incompetence in the face of creeping totalitarianism.
There's a very sinister purpose behind the Russia allegations and a very simple explanation.
As I noted, Trump is a textbook narcissist. All attention must be on him, all the time, and even negative attention is better than none. Anonymous White House staffers have reported that he gets irritable and irrationally angry if he's not featured in the news prominently enough. The Russia stories feed his ego by focusing negative attention on him and also provoking positive coverage of him in the right-wing media.
As well, they provide liberals with the fantasy that he can be impeached soon. Just as soon as the smoking gun is found…any day now…and maybe we can impeach Mike Pence and even Paul Ryan too!
As well, every minute spent on Russia by Congressional Democrats is a minute that could've been spent on fighting the Republican agenda. All of the horrifying things I listed in Part I and more are being developed and implemented. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the investigations are happening, but wasting too much time on them just allows Trump and the Republicans to restructure the government at a fundamental level. Do we want to fight Trumpcare or do we want another investigative session that leads nowhere?
Lastly, the allegations distract the general public from the Trump administration's consolidation of power. While ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are covering the Russian collusion allegations nonstop, ICE raids are increasing, our infrastructure is being sold off to corporations like Blackstone, and protesters are being tortured by police before even being tried in court. We're not getting the full picture. Our democracy is being destroyed before our very eyes, but we're too distracted by the mere possibility of Russian interference to even notice!
Remember: Steve Bannon is a master propagandist, and Trump has surrounded himself with PR people. Such a team can easily spin what amounts to an alternate reality game with a mystery story worthy of Ian Fleming. They've killed three birds with one stone.
We're being duped, taken for fools on a massive scale. And if you want to get wise to what's happening, you have to divert your attention away from Russia, away from demonising the Bernie crowd, the socialists, and the leftists, away from the superficial vulgarity Trump displays, away from Clinton and her managerial liberalism, and toward solidarity with the poor and oppressed, toward an authentic left (like Corbyn in the UK), and toward the little steps to totalitarianism:
“What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security…
“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised…as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes.
“To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
“You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
“And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic…
“Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.”

—Milton Mayer, 'But Then It Was Too Late', in They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1955, pp. 166-173.

Achieving a mutualist society through decentralisation

Adam Kokesh, controversial anarcho-capitalist celebrity and anti-war activist, is planning to run for President of the United States on the platform of an orderly dissolution of the state.
As far as I can tell, he plans to do this by slowly privatising or abolishing each and every agency of the government throughout his term, and then fully dissolving the entire government as he leaves office.
I have a very similar yet radically different proposal. As I am not an anarcho-capitalist, but a left-libertarian, I figure that a similar plot may be used to replace the state with a mutualist social order.

Instead of immediately setting about privatising the government, we should instead build up a robust social-democratic system, akin to Jeremy Corbyn's vision for the UK.
Our first step should be to create a workable universal healthcare system, a Medicare for All. We should also create a free college system similar to Bernie Sanders' proposal.
As for our current welfare systems, they are in dire need of substantial reform. Unemployment benefits can be replaced with a guaranteed minimum income or universal basic income scheme. The latter can also replace retirement benefits.
The energy, water, and other utilities industries should be fully nationalised. The energy industry in particular should be transitioned as quickly as is possible to using clean, renewable power sources as opposed to fossil fuels and other pollutants.
Certain regulations should also be enacted: for instance, all workplaces should be required to unionise, overly-complex financial arrangements and actions (such as credit default swaps) should be restricted, and net neutrality should be implemented and strictly enforced.
At the same time, civil liberties must be restored. The USA PATRIOT Act and the USA FREEDOM Act should be repealed, along with the Controlled Substances Act, the Espionage Act of 1917, and any other law which infringes on the right to privacy, freedom of speech, or any other fundamental right.
The Department of Homeland Security should be abolished and the Department of Defense shrunk to only the minimum required to defend against foreign attack. At the same time, the state should adopt an open-borders policy. As I have suggested before, the state should not penalise immigrants nor penalise employers for simply hiring immigrants, but should rather penalise employers for not paying immigrants the same wage as native-born workers doing the same job.

Once this order is implemented, more radical measures must be taken. Taxation should be reduced to a land value tax, a capital gains tax, and a progressive general wealth tax. These have two functions:
  1. These taxes should be more than enough to fund all state functions; see Joseph Stiglitz' work on the land value tax.
  2. The taxes, combined with the social programmes, have the effect of restoring land and capital to their rightful places as common property to a certain extent.
A rule should be instated mandating that a failed or bankrupt business hand over its ownership to its workers to be managed as a cooperative; the same rule should apply immediately to any business directly or indirectly receiving government benefits. Extensive financial reform should be undertaken to remake each bank into a credit union.

As soon as this programme is running smoothly, the functions of the state must be not privatised but decentralised. Social welfare agencies and nationalised industries should be transformed into mutual aid networks. Regulatory agencies can be replaced by consumer watchdog collectives. The police and the military can be substituted for people's militias (such as the YPG/YPJ or EZLN). And so on.

For further elaboration on the relationship between anarchy and democracy, please refer to Gabriel Amadej's excellent piece for the Center for a Stateless Society, 'The Regime of Liberty'.
In the meantime, let us practise mutual aid and exercise compassion toward the aim of a fairer, freer world.

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