As a defender of burqa bans, UD definitely squirmed when she read that the French Senate just passed a law (it won’t be enacted; it won’t move past the Senate) prohibiting girls under eighteen from wearing hijabs.

Burqa bans, like marijuana, can be gateway drugs; they can lead to more dangerous bans. And while UD agrees that little girls are obviously unable to give consent to the hijab, the more important principle here is one of restraint and religious liberty. For UD, the burqa/hijab difference has to do with a fundamentally uncivil refusal to be visible in the public realm, vs. a visible face, a willingness to be identified as part of a free and equal society. Female-identity-crushing burqas are eccentric to any authentically egalitarian setting, whereas hijabs allow wearers to remain within the democratic orbit.

“Why she chose to leave [Australia for the ISIS caliphate]… is unclear.”

Yet again we get the infantilized woman, the woman incapable of ideological clarity and conviction. We can never know why Suhayra Aden left Australia for the ISIS caliphate! A moral idiot, like all women, Aden must have been victimized by some clever man who talked her into boiling away in the stinking desert so as to be treated as sexual chattel by one ISIS fighter after another.

Now the men… ah, the men grasp the content of fanatic Islamism, and they like it, see? So we can hold them accountable. “It’s unclear what role, if any, Aden may have had in ISIS.” Not only was she just really confused as to where she was and why, she probably didn’t … do anything. But what can this mean? Lived in the caliphate for years doing… nothing. Nothing to promote a terrorist state. Nothing besides hanging around being an idiot.

If you want to know why no state – even places like New Zealand, which pride themselves on being humane and progressive – wants this woman, you have to understand that while some observers seem to believe she’s harmless solely because she’s a woman, actual politicians tasked with protecting actual people have eyes in their head. The same group of fanatics she hung out with in Australia are still there in the home country, ready to take her back into the fold. You think she’s an idiot, but Australian security services will need to spend years, money, and plenty of personnel tracking her once she returns.

Put her on trial in Australia, you say? She could have murdered ten people; the chaos that was ISIS and the burqa as fashion choice makes it almost impossible to find documentation and witnesses.

No, UD does not think this woman and her children should stay in the desert. Authorities should first try to convince Aden that the children’s best interests are served by sending them to family in Australia, if family willing to take them exists.


Australia and New Zealand are locked in a nasty battle over which country has to take this woman in; both have dug in their heels. As Jacinda Arden notes, Australia has the greater claim:

“It is wrong that New Zealand should shoulder the responsibility for a situation involving a woman who has not lived in New Zealand since she was 6, has resided in Australia since that time, has her family in Australia and left for Syria from Australia on her Australian passport.”

But Australia has revoked her citizenship.

Constant readers know UD‘s suggestion. With money from sympathizers, Aden can try buying citizenship in any number of countries. Some will reject her; but if they agree with those who believe that because she’s a woman she’s harmless, others will take her. Her children can visit her there. Not the worst outcome for her.

Terse, matter of fact, rational.

And for that reason devastating.

Israel is one of the few countries whose fundamental character is imperiled… Modern Israel cannot survive [Haredi cultural regression]—there will be no one to fund it—unless the Haredim fundamentally change their behavior and worldview, of which there are no signs. It is more reasonable to foresee that, if anything, the process will be accelerated by secular flight…. [Even small changes will draw from the Haredim] charges of “anti-Semitism” and probably rioting in the streets.

Dan Perry lays it out in eighteen stark paragraphs: Israel is a democracy rapidly transitioning to a rather violent theocracy. One of its most powerful political parties simply rejects the authority of the state; suicidally and homicidally ignores covid laws; and bars women from running for office because public life of any form “isn’t their natural place.” If women must go outside, gender segregation and heavy physical covering is a must.

Established as a secular democracy, Israel is well on its way to making Saudi Arabia look enlightened. Yet because its current cultural grotesquerie has been a gradual process, people don’t really see it. They don’t see the secular brain drain, the out-of-it authoritarian rabbis, the masses of illiterate children. Maybe they take in the endless court judgments against appalling haredi behavior; but then they miss the fact that the haredim ignore all such judgments.

The Jew with literary history’s most fantastical, malignant imagination – Kafka – could never have imagined contemporary Israel. It exceeds even his mental grasp.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Scathes Through a Statement from Shamima Begum’s Lawyer.

She’s stuck in a rancid ISIS prisoner camp, and England won’t take her back. Intelligence services believe that this fanatic (she says that’s all over) continues to represent a threat to the country.

Here’s her attorney on the subject:

What happened to Christian forgiveness? Does it not apply to a woman — and a dark-skinned one at that? It seems that different rules apply… Is it perhaps that some of us are more British than others of us? Shamima is of Bangladeshi descent, does that change her right to British nationality? I am tempted to think it does…

SOS says: Manifold are the ways one can speak up on behalf of one’s client. Admittedly, this attorney has a superjumbo problem on her hands, since her client not only renounced her British citizenship when she embraced Islamic State citizenship, she also committed vile acts (suicide vest sewing; slave-ownership; public support of mass murder in Europe and beheadings in the caliphate, etc.) and has expressed little remorse for her extensive blood-thirstiness. But SOS wonders whether lazily pushing certain buttons is the best one might do for Begum.

The lawyer’s weakest button is the Christian thing. Not sure she’s looked around at England lately, but it’s the land of empty churches. It rivals France for empty churches. If you’re going to go the Christian route, try getting her American citizenship. We’re the land of full churches…

But, you know, 135,000 slaughtered Assyrians later, I’m not sure you’re going to have much success in that direction either. Better drop the whole Christian thing.

That leaves sexism and racism. UD readers already know my take on the there there little woman you can come back cuz you’re a stupid harmless li’l thing approach to this problem. The sexism in the Begum story locates itself firmly in defenders who believe – claim to believe – that women are just too nice to be mean, and too dense to form serious, protracted, ideological commitments.

There are of course many light-skinned people among those that various countries have refused to repatriate. ISIS enjoyed a broad appeal.

Finally, yes: Begum is of Bangladeshi descent. And it is to Bangladesh that her lawyer should direct citizenship claims.

Number 12 of Timothy Snyder’s “Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century” in his book about How to Avoid Tyranny:

MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SMALL TALK. [This is part of] being a citizen and a responsible member of society.

Burqa enthusiasts simply don’t care about this; for them, the total blacking out of women on the streets of their cities represents a higher value than responsible citizenship, than the open mutuality of open faces. An outfit designed to repel interaction – an outfit which, most shockingly and insultingly, features mesh over the mouth of a woman (small talk? no talk), fits perfectly, as Snyder’s argument suggests, in a tyrannical setting like Saudi Arabia. It has no place in a democracy, and, as Kunwar Khuldune Shahid’s very long list of democratic – and would-be democratic – countries where burqas are outlawed suggests, more countries and municipalities realize that every day. Switzerland is only the latest; it will not be the last.

It’s Official: Switzerland Now Joins Much of the Rest of Europe in Having a…

…national ban on the wearing of burqas/niqabs.

‘A projection for national public broadcaster SRG nearly two hours after polls closed put support for the proposal at 52%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Lukas Golder of polling agency gfs.bern told SRG’s SRF television channel that a defeat was “practically almost ruled out.”’

We should know the results of the Swiss national referendum on banning face coverings at some point today. Critics are of course right that, although the language of the proposal says nothing about burqas and niqabs, it is primarily aimed at those garments.

Constant readers know that UD supports burqa bans; she has gone into excruciating detail, over many years, about why she does. Although Switzerland doesn’t need a big majority for the referendum to pass, UD hopes that the result is strong enough to continue making the point to men who won’t let their wives and daughters leave the house unswaddled, and to women who for whatever reason believe they cannot “face” the world (all men are rapists so I must be invisible to protect myself; and it pleases God, are the two most popular motives, as attested to by burqa-wearers), that democratic societies firmly reject their world view.


I personally find that when there’s a confrontation between everything I love – scientific inquiry, reason, cosmopolitanism, secularism, the emancipation of women … and everything I hate – stone-age fascism – it’s a no-brainer.

I felt exhilaration on the eleventh of September. I feel slightly ashamed to say that, in the view of the fact that so many people lost their lives that day, but when the day was over and I’d been through the gamut of rage and disgust and nausea … when I went into it with myself, I was pleased to find I was exuberant: Okay. Right. I’ll never get bored fighting against these people, and their defeat will be absolute. It will be complete.

It’s one thing for a country like America to deal with citizen-terrorists.

Turns out we have quite a few, so we have to up the physical protection of the Capitol, authorize commissions, etc., etc. Latest thing is that a bunch of them want to blow up the Capitol during Biden’s State of the Union address.

So okay, Trump-radicalized home-grown terror cells pose a terrible threat to the nation and we need to act on this.

Non-citizen terrorists are a whole nother thing. Most people I think would agree that a country doesn’t troll for foreign terrorists held in Syrian camps just to add more spice to the stew. Yet this is one way of thinking about what England has been faced with in the long court case of Shamima Begum, who, having left England to join ISIS, lost her citizenship.

ISIS futures don’t look very robust at the moment, and Begum wants back in; and plenty of well-intentioned people argue that she was young and stupid and groomed when she did what she did, and that she should at least be allowed back in to argue her case for renewal of British citizenship.

Yet there’s a pretty solid bottom line here: British intelligence services have determined that Begum remains a really dangerous person who should not under any circumstances be allowed back to England. They’d rather not go into detail, since that would compromise all sorts of people and things, but intelligence assures us that Begum remains a significant threat to national security.

An appeals court did rule that she should indeed be allowed back in Britain to plead her case; but now the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected that appeal, noting that the court of appeal “mistakenly believed that, when an individual’s right to have a fair hearing… came into conflict with the requirements of national security, her right to a fair hearing must prevail.”

UD, who has followed Begum’s case closely [scroll down], has long shared with her readers her confidence that Begum will never be allowed back into the country she betrayed and attacked. The decision of the court does not surprise UD, and neither does its unanimity. The way forward for Begum is to attempt Bangladeshi citizenship (her parents are from Bangladesh); and, if that fails, she should try to gather funds from supporters to buy citizenship in a country that offers that possibility.

‘[Michel] Houellebecq is among a growing number of Western intellectuals flirting with anti-liberalism: Perhaps liberalism is not the unmitigated good most of us are raised to believe it is. In an odd way, though, liberalism’s critics end up saying more about the resilience of liberalism than its demise.’

Here’s an excellent, brief, 2018 essay about the trend – especially among a group of Catholic scholars in America – to dump liberal democracy for theocracy. Shadi Hamid’s focus is fundamentalist Islam, but his argument applies as well to the emergence, here, of intellectual briefs for what UD calls a Cathophate.

Ol’ UD remains truly shocked right down to the ground that respectable American academics openly argue for a future of religious tyranny in this country, of “Christian authoritarianism — muscular paternalism, with government enforcing social solidarity for religious reasons.” I mean to say that the moment I grasped what Adrian Vermeulen and Patrick Deneen and company were about, I was fucking gobsmacked, and I still am. I’m still all of a mucksweat about it. I’m like in permanent Margaret Dumont shock.

Chalk it up to UD‘s naivete + emotional instability if you like, but I actually don’t get why all sentient Americans aren’t shitting themselves over being told by Mariolatric Madoffs that they need only invest in the Edmund Waldstein Radiant Future Fund to realize Total Happiness Now and Forever. God does not want you for an Individual Liberty friend! In Bondage and Submission lies Salvation!


Whew. Hold on. Getting a little hot here…

… Margaret Dumont only pretended to be scandalized by the twisted Marx Brothers; similarly, maybe UD‘s sublimating her actual erotic attraction to The Story of O, Saved by Flagellants… ? To the idea of a total male total priesthood running their switches over her bum… ?


Yet. As Hamid asks, “Is a lack of meaning really worse than a lack of freedom? … What liberalism’s critics appear unable, or unwilling, to address is whether a lack of meaning is a worse problem to have than a lack of freedom.” Maybe liberalism – “the political order that privileges non-negotiable rights, personal freedoms, and individual autonomy” – issues in some degree of conceptual confusion, and maybe even in a difficulty or refusal to commit oneself to clear philosophical/theological convictions – but is this really so unbearable a position to be in that one’s only option is rule by monks who think burning heretics at the stake is key to good governance?

“Endless free choice,” as Deneen disparagingly calls it, is a dead end. Choice needs to be a means to something else, but to what? Legally based religious systems—which only Islam among the largest religions potentially offers—quite consciously seek to restrict choice in the name of virtue and salvation…

And that’s the thing. Deneen can argue all he likes about the disabling side effects of individual liberty, but what he’s really about is damnation or salvation. The Medieval Church wafts you upward; free thought’s an express train to the abyss.

As the doorbell ringers at the beginning of The Book of Mormon put it: Have fun in hell.

‘The recent violations, the violence in the streets, the sense that Haredi communities are betraying the basic solidarity expected of them by the rest of Israeli society – all these images and emotions have crystallized into widespread anti-Haredi anger, an anger Netanyahu must now grapple with as it seeps deep into the political right.’

The right. Note the last word in that sentence. Of course the ultraorthodox have long since alienated the political left in Israel; now, Haviv Rettig Gur observes, they’ve lost much of the right. And forget the center.

That leaves… that leaves nothing at all. That leaves the haredim where – in principle – they’ve always wanted to be. More or less where a lot of don’t mess with Texans wanted to be before the lights and the water went out. On their own. Snug as a bug in their own little rug. Dreaming of secession. Stop the world I want to get off.

And if checking out of civilization means that a Jew living in a first world country in the twenty-first century conducts his wretched existence at a seventeenth-century level… if it means that a contemporary, proto-cultic Texan enthusiastically endorses for her entire political leadership degenerates who detest government in any form and respond to state-wide crises by leaving the country…

If it means that, okay. Most people think basic solidarity with your fellow creatures improves life; but if you disagree, go for it. Ride ’em cowboy. Choose cult over culture.

Just don’t expect people to agree with you when you complain to the Knesset that

“It’s not our fault! You, who sent us to live in such crowded conditions, it’s your fault!”

It’s not Israel’s fault that, like all cults, the ultraorthodox cannot change. Cannot improve themselves or conform even a tad to any mainstream or reform any aspect of their practices. Cults become desiccated; they cannot grow – except, of course, in sheer numbers. They cannot thrive. Everyone knows that except cultists.

Over here, it’s not our fault Texans are literally as well as figuratively off the grid. We didn’t elect Ted Cruz. Just like the haredim, you make your bed, you lie in it.

Freedom ain’t free, huh?

‘[A] clear majority of the Senate voted to condemn the former president as an insurrectionist against the United States. The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office.’

[J]ustice failed, [but] democratic self-preservation is working. Trump lost the presidency, and that loss held despite all his attacks on the vote and the counting of the vote. His party split against him on this second round of impeachable offenses. He has lost his immunity to civil suit and his impunity against federal indictment. The world is crashing down upon his head.

The impeachment did not prevail. But Trump still lost. And as the power of that loss reverberates, so should the honors to the day’s heroes of day: the brilliant and eloquent House managers, led by Representative Jamie Raskin—and the eight senators who wrote their own profiles in courage.

Winner, Ms Non-Saudi Woman, 2021.

Get a load of that picture. Bless you. Bless you.

NASCAR gets its first Arab American woman driver.
Word-Bolding Mine.

It was the first non-peaceful transfer of power in American history. In over two centuries, it remains unprecedented, the most grotesque assault on democratic processes by a single president in history… That Trump clearly put the lives of cops, Senators and his own vice-president in danger was, of course, of no concern for him. No lives apart from his own have ever mattered to him…

There has never been a president who has done any of this: express contempt for the democracy he leads, refuse to accept the legitimate results of an election, and attempt to stay in power by marshaling violence in the streets. There are no parallels among any first-world modern democracies for this kind of behavior by a head of state or prime minister. No Western leader, after losing an election, has ever insisted he actually won it in a landslide — and refused to grant any legitimacy to his successor. It is such a grotesque violation of a president’s oath of office that, only a few years ago, it would have been deemed an impossibly far-fetched scenario.


Non-degenerate political observers search and search for words accurate and strong enough to convey the moral depravity of this person. All feel (I dare say) the same sense of linguistic inadequacy. No one — not Mencken, not Murdoch, not Hitchens, not Arendt, not Didion, not Orwell, not even James Baldwin, whose writing so astonished wee UD when she encountered it in high school and has never stopped astonishing her — no one had or has the political and writerly chops to really express the disgust and shock attendant upon realizing that the leader of your country is not only vile, but arguably one of the vilest people in the world.

All of us who were more or less properly raised were taught (I dare say) to ignore, to socially annihilate, the worst of the worst, the vilest of the vile, especially those among the vile who held positions of power and were therefore able to marshal their vileness to produce real destruction. They had to be so radically isolated as to be without scope for action. Indeed many of us have dealt with the sometimes close-to-unmanageable emotions the cruelty of this man has inspired by altogether shifting our attention away from him, somehow in some sort of sad magic trick trying to make him go poof. Almost as many people, though, revel in his viciousness and want to keep him front and center.

Among rockhard reactionaries and erstwhile idolators it’s largely women so far – Lynn Cheney, Nikki Haley – who have finally, for cynical or authentic reasons, cracked.

Anyway Andrew Sullivan, up there, found the word “grotesque” and ran with it.

comically or repulsively ugly or distorted

incongruous or inappropriate to a shocking degree

It’s a good choice, a promising direction, grotesque. It captures the continued disbelief many of us harbor in regard to the full sharp slap of a president who seems to have tried to kill his vice-president and other political leaders in order to establish a tyranny. Comically and repulsively ugly and distorted in the feathered and tattooed bodies of the insurrectionists who tried to kill in the name of their beloved. Inappropriate to such a shocking degree that we still refuse to let ourselves be slapped that hard. As my congressional representative, Jamie Raskin, smacks my face again and again with it, I still – even now – try to dodge the blows.

Keep your mind in hell and do not despair.

Let’s face the music and dance.

These are UD‘s mantras; she recites them to herself all the time. Only she lacks the courage to live by them.

“The key question is whether the formation of an angry and virulently discontent base of MAGA voters in the Republican Party — spreading obscurantist, cultish pseudo-politics — will push the long-term problems of polarization past a tipping point, threatening even more dangerous levels of disruption to the political system.”

Some argue we should go to proportional representation. But that would arguably be worse.

[It would] give the far ends of the political spectrum continuous formal representation in the political system. The Trumps could more easily realize their goal of becoming the Le Pens of America.

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