Monday, August 16, 2010

Liberalism and the Jihad

"Phony orthodoxy is permitted to protect and succor Jihadists but not their critics"

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, the German newspaper editor Josef Joffe contributes an intriguing if somewhat ungainly little essay; its subject is the mosque in Hamburg where Mohamed Atta and other September 11th conspirators plotted their treachery. German authorities recently shut it down. One of its jihadist preachers was finally tried and imprisoned. “This is where Imam Muhammad al-Fazazi used to preach venom and murder throughout the 1990s, opining that ‘Christians and Jews should have their throats cut.’ In 2003, a Spanish court gave this pious cleric 30 years for planning attacks on Jewish institutions in Morocco.”

Mosques have become controversial in the West. To elite liberals, this is cause for dismay and anger, and evidence of the derangement of the Western mind. More sympathetic consideration would disclose that certain striking events — for instance one in Lower Manhattan on a fine September morning — may possibly have left an impression on Western observers.

Mr. Joffe continues:
Meanwhile, a naturalized German from Syria, Mamoun Darkanzanli, had taken the pulpit [at the Hamburg mosque]. Investigators call Darkanzanli the “elder statesman of jihad” and have a fat file on him. They think that he is bin Laden’s man in Germany, and that he also helped the Madrid train bombers of 2004. When Spain asked for his extradition, the German Constitutional Court said “nein.” That would violate his rights as a German citizen.

Darkanzanli continues to live in Hamburg — unmolested and on welfare. And he knows his rights, wrapping himself in the constitution while preaching that Allah will kill the infidels. He isn’t inciting violence, just spreading God’s word. This is a problem that stumps counterterrorism officials around the Western world.

Why this should be such a stumper is something of an enigma. Mr. Joffe makes little effort to unlock it. On the contrary, he simply presupposes that current orthodoxy on Free Speech stands invincible.
Fanaticism itself is no crime, nor is discoursing on Allah’s will. As in the U.S., a hateful ideology is no ticket to prison. Authoritarians have no qualms about equating ideology and intention. But Western liberal democracy obeys due process and the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” Words, as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote for the Supreme Court in 1919, have to “create a clear and present danger” to be criminal. In that respect, the Germans may have become more American than the Americans.

But of course it is illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust; in numerous Western nations speech codes on sensitive matters, when contravened, can indeed result in a “ticket to prison”; in the UK Christian preachers have been prosecuted for denouncing homosexuality; Canada’s most famous commentator narrowly escaped legal sanction at the hands of that country’s Human Rights Commission — precisely for his criticism of Islam.

Thoughtful observers like Mr. Joffe would do well to take cognizance of such incidents. In totality they would seem to lay to waste the common presupposition on Free Speech orthodoxy. The truth is that for our liberals Tolerance is a one-way street. Far from invincible, Free Speech is abandoned for the pretense it is the moment a stronger force intrudes on it. And stronger forces are plentiful in our politics: genuine Free Speech men, ready to make good on Voltaire’s famous dictum, are few and far between.

What is more alarming is that in some cases this phony orthodoxy is permitted to protect and succor Jihadists but not their critics. Darkanzanli can lounge in the plenty of the European welfare state and counsel his followers to bring doom and slaughter to the infidels, while Mark Steyn must mount a lengthy and costly defense against charges of hate speech.

More alarming still is the deeper disorder of the liberal mind, which can maintain its self-righteousness in the teeth of all this manifest blunder and incoherence. Proud liberals have spent several weeks now preening their indignation at the very thought that Americans would oppose the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero in New York. The Mayor of New York feels at liberty to conjecture, without a shred of evidence, that a man who attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square was a disgruntled opponent of the new health care bill; and then, some time later, to read us all a series of scolding lectures on tolerance when he discovers firm opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. The imposture is transparent. The Mayor does not scruple to impute malice and treason to his countrymen with both his ignorant speculations and his lectures on tolerance.

Our age is not noted for its historical imagination. The sheer antiquity of the Jihad is lost on most of our contemporaries. Some suppose it began in the wastes of Afghanistan in the 1980s, armed by Reagan and the neocons; others would prefer to imagine that it grew out of the early 20th century totalitarian systems; still others conceive that it was borne out of Israeli perfidy and oppression.

In truth the Jihad is older than almost anything around. It outlasted empires Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Spanish and more. When King Alfred was fighting the Danes it was carving up the enervated Byzantine provinces of the Near East. After its initial surge across from Arabia to Spain — in which it extinguished almost without a trace the Latin civilization of North Africa — petered out, it was successively reinvigorated by the conversion of Asiatic tribes, culminating in the Ottoman Turks and their fearsome empire. Only during the Crusading Age was a sustained counterattack mounted; and nothing is more embarrassing to liberals than the Crusades.

So we do well to recall that the Jihad is very old. There is little reason for confidence that its current material weakness will endure. It excels at harnessing the resources of the conquered and subjugated. Its creed will always appeal to the resentful and discontented, to criminals, radicals and brigands. For centuries the ranks of its Mediterranean pirates were reinforced by Greek and Italian renegades. It is strong in our prisons today.

The Jihad has outlived archaic despotism, feudalism, monarchy, republicanism and nationalism; and it is not too much to speculate that it will live through the eclipse liberal democracy as well.


British cities pay for prostitutes for the disabled

Taxpayers' money is being spent on prostitutes, lap dancing clubs and exotic holidays under schemes designed to give more independence to the disabled. One local authority is using its budget to pay for the services of a prostitute in Amsterdam, while others have said visits to lap dancing clubs are permissible under new policies which transfer funds directly to those who receive care from social services.

Holidays abroad, subscriptions for internet dating and driving lessons have all been funded by the taxpayer under a national initiative introduced by the last Government.

The £520 million scheme promised to give elderly people and those with disabilities more control over the care they received, by passing on cash so individuals could choose the services they needed, such as home help, or mobility aids.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can disclose that exotic holidays, internet dating subscriptions and adventure breaks, as well as visits to sex workers and lap dancing clubs have been permitted under the system.

One local authority has agreed a care plan including payment for a 21-year-old with learning disabilities to have sex with a prostitute in Amsterdam next month. His social worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said social services were there to identify and meet the needs of their clients – which, in the case of an angry and frustrated young man, meant paying for sex.

Another care worker said staff at her council had been told that trips to lap dancing clubs could be funded, if it could be argued that it would help the "mental and physical well being" of their client.

In response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, four local authorities describe themselves as "condoning" the payment of sex workers by disabled clients, using money transferred from their budgets. Other councils said they took no moral judgement about the use of funds, but said care money could be spent on anything, as long as it was not illegal.

Paying for sex is not against the law but soliciting sexual services, kerb crawling and paying for sex with women who have been coerced into prostitution is.

In Greater Manchester and Norfolk, councils say payments to social care clients can be used to pay for internet dating subscriptions.

In the course of 12 months, one man with mental health problems from Norwich received a holiday in Tunisia, a subscription to an internet dating site, driving lessons, and expensive art materials. Department of Health documents describe how the man received the funding on top of his state benefits, after suffering from psychiatric problems when his wife asked for a divorce. In the report on his case, the man says he needed "some time out, some rest and a change of scenery" after suffering marital problems and says the break in Tunisia with a friend was cheaper than a week in institutional care.

Trafford council, in Greater Manchester, says its budgets cannot be spent on anything illegal, or anything that would bring the council into disrepute. It suggests personal budgets could be used for holidays, adventure breaks, subscriptions to dating agencies, horse riding or to buy a pet.

The FOI survey, by The Outsiders and TLC Trusts – two groups which campaign for the sexual rights of people with disabilities – found most local authorities said they did not "condone" transfer of their funds to pay for sex. But of 121 councils who responded, 97 per cent said they had no policy on the topic, allowing discretion for social workers and junior managers about how to manage such requests.

Several councils contacted by this newspaper said they did not know if they had ever funded visits by disabled people to sex workers. Stockton-on-Tees borough council said it did not think it had funded sex workers for clients. A spokesman said people "in receipt of our care can do whatever they wish, though we would not condone or be involved in anything illegal".

A spokeswoman for Knowsley council said requests for funding to access sexual services would be "looked at on a case by case nature".

Doncaster council said that so far it had not funded any requests for sexual services, but said future decisions would depends on the needs of the individual.

Norfolk county council said it did not believe it had funded any visits to sex workers, but Di Croot, assistant team manager for learning disabilities in North Norfolk said such requests would be looked on "favourably" with staff encouraged to be "as free thinking as possible" about how to ensure all the needs of clients were met. Zoe Grace Cozens, who wrote the council's policy on learning disability and sexuality, said the authority also had a duty of care to ensure that those with learning disabilities were not being exploited financially, if they paid for prostitutes from their own money. "That could mean care workers phoning to check what rate sex workers were charging," she added.

Belinda Schwer, a legal consultant who advises councils, said many local authorities agreed support plans for clients which did not specify how funds would be used, once they passed out of their hands. "From what I have seen, at least one quarter of local authorities are doing support plans which only state what outcome should be achieved – not which services are being employed."

In the case of someone given funds to go to a sex worker, such documents might set out an intended emotional outcome, rather than the means by which it was achieved, she suggested. "If you have got a happy and calm person who was previously frustrated and angry, that might achieve a good outcome, but the case law says councils should be setting out which services are being used," she said.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Alliance, said most people with disabilities did not want or expect the state to pay for sexual services. He said: "When people go to councils for help, they are looking for essential services to maintain some level of dignified existence – help to dress and wash. Given that councils have been drawing the most basic support from those who need it, I do not think this is the biggest concern of people with disabilities."

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability network Radar, said the desire for sexual relations was a matter of human rights, meaning cases involving payments should be carefully examined on a "case by case" basis.

Matthew Elliot, chief executive of The Taxpayers’ Alliance said it was “deeply worrying” that public money had been spent on the services of prostitutes, lapdancing clubs and to pay for holidays. He said: “Many taxpayers will be appalled and offended that money intended for social care has been used in this way. What's more, it’s deeply worrying that this scheme has been so vulnerable to these abuses. It’s essential that where public funds are involved, there are the sort of checks and balances in place that prevent money being wasted in this way”.


Barnardo’s, butt out of the law

The British children’s charity wants to ‘fast track’ court cases that could result in the removal of a child from its family. No way

This week, the British children’s campaigning group Barnardo’s published data relating to care proceedings in England and Wales. It strongly criticised the delays experienced by families who are subject of proceedings under section 31 of the Children Act 1980.

Under these proceedings, parental responsibility for a child can pass to a local authority where that local authority has demonstrated that the child is ‘suffering or likely to suffer significant harm’ and that the harm is ‘attributable to the care being given to the child’ or ‘the child being beyond parental control’. Barnardo’s said the fact that these proceedings can take as long as 62 weeks to get through the County Courts was ‘damaging vulnerable children’. The time spent awaiting a ruling in care proceedings places children in a ‘desperate limbo’ and leaves them ‘very possibly at risk’. The ‘evident lack of credence given to social workers’ today is one of the causes of ‘significant delays’, said Barnardo’s, before suggesting that a time limit of 30 weeks be placed on all cases, with a ‘fast-track’ system for cases involving children who are under 18 months old.

Of course, if a long period of time is spent making a decision about the care of a child, that could be extremely unsettling for the child involved. But still, we should think carefully about what Barnardo’s is advocating. A fixed limit on the amount of time a court has to dispose of a case would be extremely unusual for England and Wales. With limited exceptions in the criminal courts, there are no statutory time limits to force the conclusion of cases. Courts have the discretion to allot an appropriate amount of time in consideration of the complexity of the facts in an individual case. This discretion is particularly important in relation to care proceedings, where determinations can vary hugely from the straightforward to the enormously complex.

The language employed by Barnardo’s suggests that it thinks the decisions taken during care proceedings are simple. Its campaign materials flippantly use terms like ‘abusive households’, with children straightforwardly categorised as ‘at risk’ and ‘not at risk’. With such a black-and-white, abstract worldview, where everything is defined almost in terms of good and evil, it’s no wonder Barnardo’s thinks the amount of time spent on care proceedings should be capped and everything should be sped up to ‘save children’.

Yet anyone familiar with the law in this area will know that there are many intricacies involved. The courts have frequently disagreed on how to apply various provisions in the Children Act and have developed reams of case law attempting to formulate applicable definitions. The job of the practitioners in this area of law is to apply these concepts to the breadth of circumstances being weighed up in court. It is often a painstaking process. And considering that the proceedings can result in the state removing a child from its family – a very serious move – it is only right that it is a painstaking process. We should feel reassured that it often takes a long time to make these life-changing decisions.

Of course it is true that there are many unnecessary delays in the family courts. Concerns about such delays are not new. In 2006, the UK Department of Constitutional Affairs published its Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales. It identified a number of factors causing unnecessary delay in hearings relating to the Children Act, including: the poor quality of legal representation; poorly prepared applications; the scarcity of judicial resources. But none of these issues would be solved by enforcing a Barnardo’s-style time limit; instead we need greater investment in the UK’s sclerotic civil legal aid system, which currently fails to provide legal protection for the poorest in society from some of the state’s most draconian powers. Fixing legal aid, however, is not something Barnardo’s is very interested in; it only wants to rush cases through the courts.

This is because Barnardo’s is not really concerned with the ins and outs of various complex cases, but rather with pushing its own interventionist agenda. In the aftermath of the horrific Edlington assault case, in which two young boys were jailed following a prolonged assault on a nine-year-old boy, the chief executive of Barnardo’s, Martin Narey, criticised social services in Britain for ‘trying to fix families that are completely broken’. He went on to say that ‘if you take a baby young and get them quickly into a permanent adoptive home, then we know that is where we have success’.

In May 2010, Barnardo’s assistant director for policy, Enver Solomon, said at a conference on service provision for vulnerable children that social services had ‘failed to crack neglect’ due to their ‘reluctance to make proactive decisions to remove children living in chronically neglectful circumstances’. It seems that, for Barnardo’s, taking children away from families should be a priority, and care proceedings are simply a question of how quickly a child can be removed.

This is why the administration of the law should not be influenced by the prejudices of individual charities. The law should not bend its rules to suit campaigners’ simplistic classification of legal problems in black-and-white moralistic terms. The issues dealt with by the family courts are frequently complex and carry the most serious consequences for those on the receiving end of the state’s powers. As such, the courts should be free to determine the amount of time required for the proper consideration of each matter on a case-by-case basis. Barnardo’s may like to think that the decisions made in care proceedings are simply a case of deciding who is and who is not ‘at risk’ – thankfully, adhering to due process is never that simple.


No man is an island

Relationships Improve Your Odds of Survival by 50 Percent, Research Finds

A new Brigham Young University study adds our social relationships to the "short list" of factors that predict a person's odds of living or dying.

In the journal PLoS Medicine, BYU professors Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith report that social connections -- friends, family, neighbors or colleagues -- improve our odds of survival by 50 percent. Here is how low social interaction compares to more well-known risk factors:

* Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
* Equivalent to being an alcoholic
* More harmful than not exercising
* Twice as harmful as obesity

"The idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognized by health organizations and the public," write the PLoS Medicine editors in a summary of the BYU study and why it was done.

The researchers analyzed data from 148 previously published longitudinal studies that measured frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for a period of seven and a half years on average. Because information on relationship quality was unavailable, the 50 percent increased odds of survival may underestimate the benefit of healthy relationships.

"The data simply show whether they were integrated in a social network," Holt-Lunstad said. "That means the effects of negative relationships are lumped in there with the positive ones. They are all averaged together."

Holt-Lunstad said there are many pathways through which friends and family influence health for the better, ranging from a calming touch to finding meaning in life.

"When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks," Holt-Lunstad said.

In examining the data, Smith took a careful look at whether the results were driven primarily by people helping each other prolong their golden years. "This effect is not isolated to older adults," Smith said. "Relationships provide a level of protection across all ages."

Smith said that modern conveniences and technology can lead some people to think that social networks aren't necessary. "We take relationships for granted as humans -- we're like fish that don't notice the water," Smith said. "That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly to our physical health."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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