August 20th, 2023
‘Over the next decade, the government plans to increase the budget of ultra-Orthodox educational institutions by 40 percent. This will make Israel the first country in the developed world that incentivizes schools that barely teach core subjects such as math, science, and English.’


And the core reason Israel is now functionally a theocracy?

Israel has never created a constitution separating church and state. As a result, among other things, the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate holds a monopoly on marriage, which forces many secular Israelis to get married in other countries, or even online. Israel has no formal public transportation on Saturdays, which strands the millions of residents who don’t own a car.

As most of the school funding goes to schools that reverse engineer intelligence, having no wheels on a Saturday is going to be the least of Israelis’ problems.


One silver lining: Normal people are being brought together.

“We should be glad about the greatest achievement we got: the creation of a new kind of centrist identity,” [one observer says]. “This center includes various shades, from the capitalist, hawkish right that believed in Netanyahu so far but not anymore, through the liberal center and up to the social-democratic left.”

“[When] a serving coalition is acting in a frenzy, it makes us feel, every minute of every day, that we are connected,” [says another]. “The liberal camp is a country that is just being formed.”

It’s the same thing here with theocratic attacks on abortion rights; it’s the same thing in Iran with theocratic attacks on women. Outrageous acts bring normal people together in defense of liberty, democracy, decency, equality. Indeed I think we can begin to see, in the polling, the same thing happening in regard to America’s homegrown outrage-generator, Trump. Eventually most normal people can’t take gross abnormality.

August 15th, 2023
The toxic Claremont name.

An opinion piece in the Claremont Colleges student newspaper calls for a forceful public act of separation from the “disgusting” Claremont Institute, home of traitors.

[T]he Claremont Institute is not a normal think tank: their values and platformed beliefs are extremely far outside of anything [the Claremont Colleges stand for]… As a set of small schools we must acknowledge that our small reputation risks association with bad actors such as the Claremont Institute. Combatting that association cannot be a passive process — it requires active combat against the Institution.

Having besmirched the word “Claremont” with their vile and inhumane social positions, and with a hatred of American liberal democracy so intense as to turn their leadership into aiders and abettors of the unspeakable John Eastman, the Claremont Institute has become a damaging embarrassment for the colleges that share its name.

August 14th, 2023
Boys Behaving Badly: The Claremont Institute

Many extreme ideas that first look wacky and disreputable and then end up sweeping the country originate in California, and such is definitely the case with the Claremont Merry Pranksters and their thing: The urgent need to blow up American democracy.

Named after their ‘sixties precursors who drove a school bus all over the US while similarly denouncing The Establishment, the Claremont group also shares with the original Pranksters a virtually all-male membership, a belief in “the power of a certain kind of approach to politics that’s sensational,”  and a commitment to overthrowing the country.

Their creed: Human society is incapable of the kind of rational, deliberative government that liberal democracy requires, man. Y’all need a dictator, like Donald Trump, cuz without him you is making one shitty stinky mess of things.


Given their belief that (in the slightly altered words of SNCC, another ‘sixties precursor) ‘the only position for women in CMP is prone,’ it must be quite the provocation that not one, not two, but three women have lately written the most in-depth and scathing denunciations to which the organization has ever been subjected. “We’ve been warning people about Vagina Dentata from day one, and here it is,” one Prankster (He goes by the anonym Santa Monica Centurion. Okay, I made him up.) has commented in response to the girl essays. “Now they’ve really gotten their teeth into us.”

The first essay appeared around this time last year and, in a more in sorrow than anger way, noted the increasingly Dennis the Menace feel of the group. This year, as the CMP’s escalating hatred of liberal democracy, coupled with rage at Donald Trump’s and John Eastman’s post-Jan 6 travails, has taken it way, way off the reservation, Laura K. Field and Katherine Stewart both openly express horror at the combination of juvenility and violence inside the organization.

Why has so much of the American conservative movement embraced the story that the principles of equality and the pursuit of a more just society are the greatest threats to Western civilization today? Who or what is responsible for giving these paranoid ideas an intellectual veneer? The Claremont Institute gets you much of the way to an answer.

The paranoid Claremont men have convinced themselves that they must kill nihilist, relativist, progressivist, female-fetid, American democracy before it kills them:

“Given the promise of tyranny, conservative intellectuals must openly ally with the AR-15 crowd,” argues author Kevin Slack, a professor at Hillsdale College, in a lengthy book excerpt published in Claremont’s online magazine, The American Mind. “Able-bodied men, no longer isolated, are returning to republican manliness in a culture of physical fitness and responsible weaponry. They are buying AR-15s and Glock 17s and training with their friends, not FBI-infiltrated militias or online strangers but trustworthy lifelong friends to build a community alongside.”

The armory might not have been necessary had Eastman’s traitorous January 6 plan, in which Claremont continues fervently to believe, worked.

[C]onsider the cynicism and nihilism necessary to believe in [Eastman’s] theory—or even to take it seriously as a possibility… You must believe that our institutions are so top-to-bottom corrupt that nothing and no one is worthy of civic trust. Not the neighbors who served as election observers, not the poll workers, not county officials, not city governments, not state legislators, and certainly not Republicans in Congress. This is conspiracism in its most unaccountable form... Once you begin understanding our national politics as a matter of emergencies, corruption, and lies reparable only by figures of exceptional heroism, there is no returning to a politics of the everyday, of democratic choice and representation, and of disagreement, contestation, and compromise. There is … no easy weaning from the dystopian hype.

For evidence of the survival of the non-cynical world, read this.


I remember my first encounter with dystopian hype (“[M]any Republicans … are pushing the view that America is a degenerate society that cannot be saved.”), and I remember how sexually exciting I found its dark Eastwood (Wood, not Man; Clint, not John) pathology: It was my reading, as a Northwestern undergrad, of Kit Lasch’s (I got to know him when we were both at U Rochester) Culture of Narcissism, a book whose utterly black disposition in regard to every aspect of America has been shamelessly adopted by Patrick Deneen and other contemporary theocrats who want to convince you that your secular life in this country is so unbearably empty that you’re desperate to embrace existence under an all-male, all-powerful, Vatican.

Lasch himself, I was excited to discover, was a handsome, brooding, chain-smoking, dead-ringer for John Cassavetes, and the whole spectacle – intellectual, erotic – had me weak at the knees.

But, tu sais, I was twenty-two years old and really dumb and immature – pretty much where the leadership of Claremont is today – and then I grew up and saw how cheap and manipulative radically dystopian anti-Americanism is, left and right variety. I mean, it’s the oldest sales pitch in the world – your Dodge Charger is a total piece of shit you should be embarrassed to be seen in. I’ve got a late-model Mercedes C-Class you’ll feel much more meaningful inside of…


“They just want to blow the place up,” concludes Katherine Stewart, and oh how the UD I used to be loved this disrupter shit.

Yes bring it on baby pistol whip me with your AR-15 make me feel young again.

August 12th, 2023
“There is no other country in the global north, among states that are considered liberal democracies, that gives formal powers to a system that is totally, completely male and excludes women. Instead of abolishing this, Israel is going in the exact opposite direction and expanding their power.”

How could it have been stopped? Everyone foresaw it, but how could they have stopped it?

Is it really too late to do anything? I fear it’s too late.

August 10th, 2023
If your sanction comes from eight miles high / Your social issue’s gonna die.

The soul-searching natalists of Ohio could do worse than keep UD‘s little ditty up there in mind as they survey the hulking ruins of their best-laid anti-abortion plans.

Here’s the deal: The US is really strongly distinctly not a theocracy, but it sure looks as though the activist core of the No Abortion Even For Nine Year Old Rape/Incest Victims Or For Any Other Human Atrocity You Can Think Of movement is composed of theocrats.

Now, a few anti-abortion people are not theocrats and they are looking directly away from the ruins of Ohio toward the land o’ compromise. But they can forget it. When you’re taking orders from God, you’re in no mood to fuck with compromise. Compromise will compromise you right out of heaven, and you’re not going to miss your salvation.

In a perfect world, the theocrats would shut up and content themselves with mini-theocracies like Idaho, where they can pursue a heaven-bound life unmolested by rapidly secularizing Americans. But their faith makes that impossible; they must always pursue the impossible dream of absolutely no reproductive rights up and down this great land of ours. Good luck with that.



“Republicans spent half a century working to overturn Roe, yet they weren’t prepared for the democratic policy debate when that finally happened in Dobbs last year. Now they’re seeing abortion regimes as loose as Roe, or potentially looser, imposed by voters even in conservative states. This political liability will persist until the GOP finds an abortion message that most voters can accept.”

[A]bortion-rights groups may yet encounter an electorate that they cannot sway. But for now and for the foreseeable future, the energy and democratic will is on their side. Americans in general have been fairly clear for years that they did not support overturning Roe v. Wade. Roe’s demise strengthened that position instead of diminishing it. 

August 10th, 2023
As Trump, speech by speech, heads toward clinical madness, you can learn a lot about his etiology…

... here.


What follows isn’t one of Katherine Stewart’s sexier paragraphs, but since this is a blog about universities, we’ll go with it. To get to the good stuff, you’ll need to read the whole thing.

So, who gets to join the [Claremont Institute’s] secret society of latter-day Greco-Roman authoritarians? A strange fact to remember is that Costin Alamariu, a.k.a. the Bronze Age Pervert, got his Ph.D. from Yale. Curtis Yarvin has degrees from Johns Hopkins, Brown, and the University of California, Berkeley. Anton is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley. Their hero Ron DeSantis has both Harvard and Yale on his C.V. Manly man Josh Hawley is Stanford and Harvard. Yes, Virginia, these very men are themselves the Bugmen. When they talk about sticking it to the administrative state or fantasize about having their dictator-buddy tell all the liberals to suck on it, they seem to be dreaming about revenge on the professors, administrators, and fellow students who were mean to them on their way up.


Some excerpts from Stewart’s analysis of the Claremont Institute (they’ve changed the name to BEARmont – more masculine) a particularly dramatic and high-profile instance of anti-democracy in America:

In embodying a kind of nihilistic yearning to destroy modernity, [Claremont has] become an indispensable part of right-wing America’s evolution toward authoritarianism… [It has become] openly contemptuous of democracy.

[Its intellectual premise seems to be that] human society is incapable of the kind of rational, deliberative government that liberal democracy requires.


Therefore, America requires an authoritarian ruler/regime. Cue Trump.

August 10th, 2023
“Since the [end of Roe]…

… abortion rights have been on the ballot in seven states. [T]he pro-choice position has prevailed in all of them.

August 9th, 2023
Lawrence Tribe is really pissed with the little shit.

[Kenneth] Chesebro … contrived a scheme (later adapted by [John] Eastman), which included misusing the very parts of my treatise that Chesebro had helped me with as a research assistant, … thereby casting me falsely as a supporter of a ludicrous reading of the Constitution that Chesebro and Eastman both apparently sought to normalize so that it would make it easier for Trump to get away with circumventing the [Electoral Count] Act.

Tribe goes into the sort of excruciating detail you go into when you’re really really angry.

But Tribe is the least of Chesebro’s problems this morning.


From a comment on the NYT article:

The goal was not just to overturn “Biden’s win”, but to overturn and permanently end the practice of meaningful democracy in America. If this scheme had worked, establishing the principle that the incumbent vice-president can selectively choose which candidate to award any “disputed” states’ electoral votes, coupled with partisan schemes to selectively manufacture “disputes” at will, no vice president would ever again allow the opposition party to win an election.

August 9th, 2023

Und so weiter. Take your pick of today’s headlines about the THREE MILLION Ohioans who came out to vote in the middle of August in a seemingly obscure bureaucratic referendum.

BUT one that would make it more difficult to defend abortion rights, see, which seems to have fired up a whole lotta people.

[Voters] overwhelmingly rejected Issue 1, an amendment that would have raised the threshold to pass a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60 percent, as well as complicate the process to bring citizen-initiated ballot measures to voters in the first place. Though it had profound implications for a number of issues, it was widely seen in the state as a way to thwart November’s measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s Constitution.

The measure’s defeat now gives abortion-rights supporters a clearer path to victory.


Protecting abortion access is extremely popular in the United States. Efforts that would make it harder to ensure abortion rights can help voters understand how Republican politicians are trying to tilt elections to thwart majority rule.

August 4th, 2023
‘Trump received excellent legal advice from everyone around him, including his own veep and AG and Republican governors, who repeatedly, insistently, with mounds of evidence, told him that he lost and should concede. He simply chose to find, in Pence’s words, “crackpot lawyers” who would tell him what he wanted to hear. Those lawyers were also often out of their minds, especially Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. (John Eastman is not crazy — just a partisan, treasonous fanatic, who should be tried as such.)’

Andrew Sullivan’s final, parenthetical, mention of John Eastman is the most interesting part of this paragraph. (No link.)

Giuliani’s nothing. A sloppy drunk. Powell is something, but only one thing: The reincarnated Jean Harris, described by Diana Trilling at her murder trial as having the fixed expression “of the classic belle indifference of morbid hysteria, the corners of the mouth turned up in the fixed beginning of a smile.” 

Sullivan’s right that of the weird sisters only Eastman deserves a treason trial – one, because he is neither insane nor strung out; and, two, because he and he alone both conceived and plotted the treachery.

August 2nd, 2023
‘Zibly said he was concerned about letting his children grow up in an Israel he said is becoming increasingly undemocratic.’

“I can’t have my daughters living in a place like that,” [Zion] Zibly said of Israel. “They grew up in a country with Jewish democratic values and it is becoming undemocratic and [more] Jewish — not in the direction of my Jewishness, but in a manner in which they dictate to me what being Jewish is.”

Hey, he’s even named for the place. But no one with half a brain (and Zibly, now director of neurosurgery at Yale, has a whole brain) would let a daughter grow up in haredi Israel.

July 29th, 2023
Democracy dies

Polish and Hungarian campaigners recognise in Netanyahu’s drive to turn Israel into an illiberal democracy the transformation wreaked in their own countries. Activists have travelled between Warsaw, Budapest and Jerusalem trading lessons, advice and even solidarity videos. “Tell your people that this must not happen because you might end up like Poland,” urged the country’s former president Lech Wałęsa in a message to Israelis. Meanwhile, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper uses the slogan “Democracy can die in daylight too”, a nod to the Washington Post’s Trump-era motto: “Democracy dies in darkness.” 

…  If all the strength and numbers Israel’s pro-democracy movement has mustered are not enough, what exactly will it take? Can it really be that a nation is powerless to stop a leader bent on destroying his country to save himself? That thought is almost too bleak to contemplate. Which is why everyone who cares about democracy, including those who are distant from Israel, should desperately want those protesters to succeed. We need them to win.

July 28th, 2023
The threshold of dictatorship

Given that Israel lacks a formal constitution — its idealistic 1948 Declaration of Independence and a series of easily amended “basic laws” are no substitute — and that the same coalition controls the government and the parliament, [we are seeing] a near-Putinization of what has until now been a liberal democracy for 75 years. Netanyahu would effectively control all three branches of government.

This reflects a vulgar view of democracy as amounting to a tyranny of the majority, wildly out of sync with the American system of checks and balances on top of guarantees for each citizen secured by the Bill of Rights.

… Israel is by now on the threshold of dictatorship. Yet we are optimistic, because the massive resistance movement that has arisen in Israel, with hundreds of grass-roots organizations working together and more being created by the day, shows that President Herzog was actually right. It shows that after years of indifference and fence-sitting, the liberal-democratic camp understands that it needs to fight for its freedom and the future of Israel as a liberal democracy, in a determined manner and for the longer term.

July 24th, 2023
‘An overwhelming majority of Ohio voters back a state constitutional amendment that would guarantee access to abortion in the state.’


July 19th, 2023
An Opill Battle.

But I think we’re winning it.

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