Monday, December 14, 2009

Irish court recognizes genetic realities

And cocks a snook at EU law

The Irish Supreme Court has ruled that a gay man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple who decided to move to Australia should be permitted to see his three-year-old son regularly, in part because Ireland's constitution does not recognise the lesbians as a valid family unit.

The ruling is a legal first in Ireland, where homosexuality was outlawed until 1993 and gay couples are denied many rights given to married couples. Critics contend the case highlights how Ireland's conservative Catholic constitution dating from 1937 conflicts with contemporary European norms and fails to address the reality that hundreds of gay couples in Ireland have children.

In their unanimous decision, the five judges of Ireland's ultimate constitutional authority said a lower court erred by trying to apply the European Convention on Human Rights in favour of the lesbian couple. They concluded that when the two are in conflict, the Irish constitution is superior to European human rights law.

In her written judgment delivered on Thursday, Justice Susan Denham said the lesbian couple provided a loving, stable home for their son, but the constitution defined parents as a married man and woman, and gays were not permitted to marry in Ireland. She said Irish law did identify the sperm donor as the father and he therefore had a right to have a relationship with his son. "There is benefit to a child, in general, to have the society of his father," Justice Denham wrote in the ruling. "I am satisfied that the learned High Court judge gave insufficient weight to this factor."

In April last year the High Court's Justice John Hedigan ruled in favour of the couple and rejected the man's application to have visitation or guardianship rights. The man immediately appealed. The man, whose identity has been concealed throughout the two years of legal wrangling, attended Thursday's judgment and said he was overjoyed with the verdict. The couple did not attend.

The Supreme Court appealed to both sides to negotiate an agreement on when the man could begin visiting his son. It referred the question of granting the man full guardianship rights back to the High Court.

The man testified that the couple had been his good friends and he agreed to donate sperm to one of them on condition that he would be treated as the family's "favourite uncle". But after the 2006 birth, both sides agreed, their relationship soured, reaching breaking point when the two women decided to move to Australia with the boy. The man successfully sued to prevent them from leaving Ireland pending a ruling on custody of the child.

Ireland's parliament has yet to pass laws that effectively regulate fertility clinics or define the clashing parenting rights of gay couples versus sperm donors. Last week the Government opened second-stage debate on a proposed civil partnership bill that, if passed, would give gay couples many marriage-style rights, particularly in relation to property, finances and inheritance. However, it offers no legal recognition of their right to be parents.


Is Obama Treating Palestinian Violence as an Inevitability?

The president may have inadvertently encouraged attacks against Israelis for their settlement policies. Late last month, upon receipt of news that Israel was proceeding with a program of urban construction for Jews in parts of Jerusalem lying beyond the old 1948 armistice lines, President Barack Obama said that he opposed it because it could be “very dangerous.”

There is not a person inside or outside the region who does not know that such language, in this context, is a euphemism for the threat of Palestinian violence. It is therefore astonishing — or ought to be astonishing — that Obama did not couple this observation with any statement on the unacceptability of such rioting or terrorism, or, if he believed it likely, did not publicly counsel against any Palestinian resort to violence. Such a failure encourages the very thing that prompted Obama’s warning.

In recent days, both before and since his statement, senior Palestinian Authority officials from Mahmoud Abbas down have foreshadowed a return to violence. For example, former PA Prime Minister Nabil Sha’ath said two days before Obama’s comments that:
Today we have the right to return to the armed struggle in order to restore our rights. … [W]e have the right to turn back to the alternative [routes]. … If negotiations fail, we will turn to armed struggle. This is our right, as I have said. … International law stipulates that, when an occupying [force] takes one’s land and harms one’s honor, one has the right to resort to armed struggle.
So what prompted Obama to admonish the Israelis but not the Palestinians? The U.S. and Israel have never seen eye-to-eye on Jews moving beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines that divided Jerusalem. Contrary to the view of successive Israeli governments, left and right, and the bulk of the Israeli public, the U.S. acts as if there is, or should be, a prewar-style gentleman’s agreement to prevent Jews from entering certain neighborhoods.

But then the U.S. and much of the world believe, or pretend to believe, that the Arab war on Israel is really a purely national conflict about territory, not an ideological conflict about Israel’s existence.

That being the case, and faithful to his position, Obama nonetheless could have said, “I do not agree with this policy because I want Israel to divide Jerusalem in the context of a full peace treaty with the Palestinians. At the same time, I warn against any exploitation of this development by extremists and urge the authorities, Israeli and Palestinian, to take all steps to prevent violence.” Prudence alone would have dictated no less. But he didn’t.

It is therefore as if Obama was saying that there is some correspondence between the alleged offense of Israelis building apartments and Palestinians resorting to riots — or worse — on this pretext. This amounts to suggesting that Palestinian violence is a natural and excusable reaction to Jews building houses. For the American president to say or imply this is itself, to coin a phrase, “very dangerous.”

History shows that much of this conflict has been exacerbated by this brand of amoral neutrality toward violence that has allowed extremists to set policy:

1921: In British-controlled Palestine, after rumors present an intra-Jewish clash as an anti-Arab uprising, Arabs riot in Jaffa, killing Jews. The British response? A temporary suspension of Jewish immigration into Palestine.

1929: The Palestinian leadership incites large-scale pogroms against Jews throughout Palestine, based on trumped-up stories of Jews attacking Muslims and Muslim shrines. The British response? A commission of inquiry recommends curtailment of Jewish immigration.

1996: Palestinians riot in Jerusalem following trumped-up rumors circulated by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority that Israel’s opening of a Jerusalem archeological tunnel is designed to harm the mosques on Temple Mount. The international response? Criticism of an unnecessary Israeli provocation and renewed pressure on Israel to make further concessions.

2000: A pre-arranged visit to Temple Mount by Israeli politician Ariel Sharon is distorted by Palestinian media as being gratuitous violation of Muslim sanctuaries, producing riots and a terror wave. The international response? Condemnation of Israeli provocation and demands for more concessions in on-going peace talks.

Common to these examples (and others) is this clear fact: Palestinian violence, often based on lies fomented by unscrupulous men, is turned into a paying proposition. Far less clear is why President Obama would wish to encourage this time-honored Palestinian stratagem.

Even allowing that his comments stem from a background of pro-Palestinian partisanship, they are devoid of common sense and finesse, since Obama is seeking to reconvene peace talks. (The absence of such talks is itself the result of this policy of demanding a Jewish construction freeze that the Palestinian Authority never made a pre-condition for talks until Obama himself did, before backtracking — but only somewhat). Yet resuming talks, useful or useless as these might be, cannot occur if Obama assists a resort to violence by Palestinians.

To treat Palestinian violence as a social inevitability, like common theft, best dealt with by not attracting the thieves’ notice is to put a premium on it and to ensure its recurrence. Can Obama actually want this? And where then will his Arab/Israeli policy be?


Australia: The hate-motivated party

Comments below by Andrew Bolt. One thing Andrew fails to note is that displaying a flag upside down is a sign of disrespect for it

NOW put some clothes on the lady and explain to me the difference - but slowly, so even I can understand. Let's start with Sam. Last year Channel 9 Footy Show star Sam Newman stuck a picture of a female sportswriter's head on a bikini-clad mannequin, and that was so wickedly sexist that he had to be hounded off air, formally counselled and slagged off by every sanctimonious blowhard in the land. "Punt the bastard," screamed a typical headline, over a piece by Michael Costello, former chief of staff to Labor leader Kim Beazley. Costello was sure feeling righteous on that day. Speaking on behalf of outraged women and their more unctuous gallants, he raged at the "low, sad, pathetic antics of sickos such as Newman".

Now fast forward to this week, when many of this same Costello's Labor cronies, Beazley included, crammed into the Guillame at Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the 80th birthday of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke. There they all gathered, these black-tied representatives of the party that inflicted on us so many anti-discrimination laws and hired so many anti-discrimination police to nick the Newmans of this wayward world.

(God still laughs that Hawke, that once notorious womaniser, in 1984 gave Australia the Sex Discrimination Act, presumably as a public sign of repentance.)

There was Paul Keating, for instance, and Simon Crean, as well as Gough Whitlam, the always breathless Maxine McKew and glowering Greg Combet, the fiercest global warming moralist, with his new partner. Naturally, Pope Kevin Rudd turned up to give the blessing, since he's always hogging microphones and always up for a moral sermon, delivered in words of the deadest bureaucratese, like this: "It's very important for sporting organisations across the country to show leadership in demonstrating proper respect towards women."

And then it was party time. The band struck up ... and, golly, the clothes came off. See, a model - far fleshier than Newman's mere mannequin - hopped on to the stage as a treat for bawdy Bob from wife Blanche and stripped down to her bikini, while using an Australian flag, carried upside down, for some peekaboo. And on her head she had not a picture of sportswriter Caroline Wilson, stapled to her skull, but a latex mask of John Howard, the second-longest-serving prime minister of this country, after Sir Robert Menzies.

Hur, hur, hur. That'll cut Howard down to size, turning him into just a girl. Into just a bimbo. Because that was the joke, right: Howard was demeaned, because being a woman is demeaning. Even better, Howard's Labor haters - or at least the men - could at last now really do him over, at least in their fervid minds.

So did Hawke reel away in horror, shouting for his sex discrimination police to come arrest all those responsible? Did Beazley or his old chief of staff thunder denunciations of such "low, sad, pathetic antics"? Did Pope Rudd rise from his throne to counsel "leadership in demonstrating proper respect towards women"?

I've gone through the pictures of that night but all I can see is leers, smirks, mouths wide open with guffaws, people clapping and taking glad snaps, and Rudd with glasses gleaming and jacket off like he was once more back at Scores strip club, and this time could see.

How strange, then, that a paid clown like Newman is required to set a higher moral example than are the men who've run - and again run - this country. But how often we see the great deftly excuse themselves from laws meant for the small.

Yet this is not just a "let them eat cake" teachable moment, or a chance to show that our new moral laws are often more a weapon than a principle. What strikes me most from Hawke's bouncing birthday treat is just what a tribe will excuse itself when bonding - and how tribal a collectivist party such as Labor really is.

And, yes, this is indeed something you'd expect from Labor rather than the more individualist Liberals. Could you really imagine the Liberals using John Howard's 80th birthday for some raucous group-hate of Kevin Rudd, let alone hiring some stripper to strut around with Rudd's picture over her scone? Gentlemen, please. Ladies, shame! And hand over that flag.

But see what the tribe permits itself when in need of some some boyo bonding. THINK how much more it permits itself when its members are such to-the-knife rivals (think Keating and Hawke, Beazley and Crean) that they're best united by a common hatred than a common passion. No wonder such a tribe could forgive - even applaud - a stripper in a Howard mask.

But would these Labor moralisers have forgiven their dancer had she done her jiggle on the Footy Show instead, wearing, say, a Barack Obama mask - or even Caroline Wilson's picture, glued to her nose? Or take the other details of the act. Could Rudd have resisted delivering an improving sermon had he seen a stripper use the Australian flag as a prop not at Bob's bash, but at some bump-and-grind club?

The difference is that a tribe must hate, and hate licences what love could never excuse.


Official Britain's hatred of photography

Real crooks are too difficult for the British police but cameras are a gladly-seized excuse to harass ordinary people

On Tuesday morning, a sunny day in London, Grant Smith decided to make use of the good light and set out to take some photographs of Christ Church on the corner of Newgate and King Edward Street. Australian-born Smith has lived in the capital for more than 25 years. He is an award-winning architectural and construction photographer, but this was a personal project.

'I've been making a study of the Wren churches in the City,' he explains. 'The church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century after being destroyed in the Great Fire. 'It was heavily damaged during the Blitz, so all that remains are two walls and a steeple - there's a public garden where the rest of the church once stood - and it's beautiful.'

But not everyone approved of this innocent activity. Smith was standing on the corner with his cameras when he was approached by a security guard from the neighbouring Bank of America Merrill Lynch building. 'He asked me for ID,' says Smith. 'I politely explained that I didn't need to provide ID as I was standing in a public place. Then another, more senior, security guard came out. 'Again, I said that I didn't have to say who I was, and withdrew to the other side of the road.'

Smith was then approached by a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) who demanded to know what he was doing. Their conversation was cut short by the noisy arrival of blaring police sirens bearing down from the east and west. As Smith watched in astonishment-three police cars, lights flashing frenetically, as well as a police riot van containing armed police officers, swerved into view and pulled up to investigate the 'incident' - which consisted of nothing more than a man taking pictures of a church in the capital in broad daylight.

Fortunately, as a professional photographer, Smith knew exactly what was going on, so he was more angry than distressed. This had, after all, happened to him before. Nor is he the only one. Up and down the country, every day, people whose only 'crime' is to be carrying a camera and using it to take harmless snapshots of landmarks - or even, in one extraordinary case, a fish and chip shop - are being stopped, questioned by the police and asked to give their personal details. Sometimes, they are told (wrongly) that they are not allowed to take photographs - despite being in a public place. On occasion, the police have even (illegally) asked people to delete photographs from their camera. This is happening to tourists, day-trippers, sightseers and amateur photographers, as well as professionals.

The reason for this absurdity is a controversial piece of legislation known as Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Section 44 gives police the right to stop and search anyone within certain geographical areas without the usual requirement of reasonable suspicion. It was brought in as a counter-terrorism measure. But, increasingly, members of the general public are complaining that because of it they are being treated like potential terrorists on reconnaissance missions.

'It's an issue that has affected our readers a lot,' says Chris Cheesman, news editor of Amateur Photographer magazine. 'Some of the reports that come in are bizarre. 'One man from Kent, for example, was visiting relatives in Hull and while he was there decided to have a wander in the city centre. He was taking pictures when he was stopped and told not to, on the grounds that some of the buildings were sensitive.'

Jeff Moore, chairman of the British Press Photographers Association (BPPA), concurs. 'It's a constant thing. It's particularly prevalent in London and around Westminster. 'I'm asked to speak at lots of events across the country and this subject comes up again and again. I hear about it from landscape photographers, members of the public, reams of people - anyone of any description who might have a camera. 'There was one case of a professor of history who was stopped because he was taking a photograph of a park bench in South London, for goodness sake.'

The thinking behind Section 44 was that by giving each force the opportunity to designate entire areas of their region as 'stop-and-search-zones' it would help police protect places considered to be vulnerable to terrorist attacks - for example, railway stations, power plants and government buildings. The trouble is, because areas covered by Section 44 are often kept secret - for fear that it would help terrorists plan attacks - it is impossible to know whether you are in one or not. Indeed, we are not even allowed to know how many such areas there are nationwide, nor how many square miles they cover.

Many feel there is also a problem with over-zealous policing, particularly by Community Support officers and junior police officers; others blame the imprecise legislation. Two campaign groups, and 'I'm a photographer not a terrorist', set up to provide information for those uncertain of their rights, have each attracted support from several thousand people over the past few months.

There is certainly no shortage of ridiculous examples of innocent photographers being stopped and questioned in a way that many find intimidating. Two weeks ago, BBC photographer Jeff Overs was standing outside the Tate Modern by the Thames in London, taking pictures of sunset over St Paul's Cathedral, when he was approached by a policewoman and a community support officer who said they were 'stopping people who were taking photographs as a counter-terrorism measure'.

Overs was asked to give his name, address and date of birth and issued with an anti-terrorism stop-and-search form - this in a place full of people enjoying a classic view of the capital, many of them recording it on their camera or mobile phone. 'I was outraged at such an infringement on my liberty,' says Overs. 'Foreign tourists must think Britain has become a police state.'

Indeed. In April, two Austrians were taken aback when they were stopped at Walthamstow bus station in East London where, like so many millions of other visitors to Britain before them, they had been taking pictures of London's famous red buses. They were asked to delete their pictures and, unaware that police have no authority to enforce this without a warrant, they complied. If they had not, there is no guarantee that their perceived hostility would not have got them into a tighter corner.

Alex Turner, from Kent, discovered the cost of questioning police authority in the summer, after he was stopped by two men on Chatham High Street while taking a picture of a fish and shop called Mick's Plaice. According to Turner's account the men refused properly to identify themselves. When he continued to question their authority, they summoned uniformed police. He took pictures of the two officers as they approached him - and was then arrested, held handcuffed in a police van for more than 20 minutes, searched, and interviewed by two plain-clothes officers.

As Andrew White, from Brighton, points out, it all seems a terrible waste of resources at a time when public services are already stretched to the limits. Mr White was taking photographs of the Christmas decorations in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, as he walked to work when he was stopped and asked for his details. He says: 'I don't think taking too many photos in the street warrants being considered as some kind of terrorist threat. Surely the money spent on getting PCSOs to harass me in the street could be better spent elsewhere.'

The situation is all the more ridiculous when you consider that many of those who are stopped are taking pictures of streets or buildings that are already documented and available to anyone to search online, thanks to Google's photographic 'Streetview' project. Google sent a fleet of vehicles to take pictures of every street in major cities.

Austin Mitchell, MP for Grimsby, tabled an Early Day Motion condemning police action against lawful photography in public places. 'This is pure officiousness,' he says. 'Photography is a joy and a pleasure, not something to feel furtive and persecuted about. People have the right to take photographs and particularly of historic landmarks and buildings. 'Here we have PCSOs and also junior constables inhibiting people from taking them. It's nothing to do with terrorism, it's just a desire to throw weight around.' Mitchell also blames the law: 'If you pass legislation like that, you get silly consequences.'

A Home Office spokesman insists: 'We have no intention of Section 44 or Section 58A being used to criminalise ordinary people taking photos or legitimate journalistic activity. 'We have issued guidance to all police forces, advising that these offences should not be used to capture an innocent member of the public, tourist or responsible journalist taking a photograph of a police officer. These offences are intended to help protect those in the frontline of our counter-terrorism operations from terrorist attack.'

But Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil rights pressure group Liberty, believes the law needs to be reassessed. 'Section 44 stops are not based on reasonable suspicion,' she says. 'And we know that less than one per cent result in arrest. 'Hassling photographers and preventing them from carrying out perfectly ordinary assignments helps nobody, but blame must rest squarely with Parliament. It is time for this blunt and overly broad power to be tightened.'

Some fear that if the situation continues, a gradual process of attrition will mean that in a few years' time people will feel too nervous about what they are and are not allowed to do, and that they will stop taking photographs of public buildings altogether. 'There is a danger to journalism,' says the British Press Photographers Association's Jeff Moore, 'because this is impeding the way we can report. And what about our pictorial history?

'When we think of the past, we think of iconic images, like the one taken by Bert Hardy of two women sitting on railings on the seafront with their skirts blowing around their waist. But if things go on, we run the risk that the visual history of our country will not be recorded. 'We won't have anything like that in future. It will only be recorded by the state, through police pictures, or security firms, through CCTV cameras.' Then Big Brother really will have triumphed.



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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. 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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