Quizzically Musing

Watching the madness

Archive for November 2010

Darker skinned Hobbits

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I remember reading The Hobbit as part of the English curriculum in primary school.  In, funnily enough, New Zealand where Peter Jackson has developed his own middle earth.

As this article reminds us:

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described three races of Hobbits inhabiting the Middle Earth fantasy world which is the setting for the movies, including harfoots, who “were browner of skin” than the others.

Yet here we have a casting person stating, sans instruction, all those seeking movie extra stardom should be of “light skin tones”.   Three cheers for Peter Jackson, the casting agent has been fired.

Seems Tolkien was more tolerant than the casting agent in question. 

Had Tolkien written a book with only blonde haired, blue eyed Hobbits and Peter Jackson was being true to the novel, I would not have a problem.  After all, filming “Roots” with caucasians in the lead roles would have been a little silly.  There is a need to be true to the story being told.

Had Tolkien not described his Hobbit’s complexions at all, then the casting agent would really have been drawing a long bow, for without a specific description who could claim to know what was in the writer’s mind at the time?  Would have been very unlikely – Tolkien describes to the nth degree, which is why I found The Hobbit far too slow to ever enjoy.  Perhaps I should try it again.

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Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Be careful where you give birth!

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This article is not a concern for me or my family personally.  We are not going to have any more children and all the children we do have, have citizenship of one country or another.  Interestingly, my daughter is entitled to New Zealand citizenship by descent, but not my son – New Zealand’s laws changed between their births!

I wasn’t quite sure whether to put this entry here or on my other site – it really is a bit of both.  While my personal site concentrates on my own personal visa battle, I have commented several times that we need to change the way we handle the question of immigration, partner visas in particular because that is currently the area I know most about, although I know a reasonable amount about protection visas as well!

The article linked to above caught my eye because in the cases discussed we are not talking specifically about people marrying across borders (although indirectly we are) or refugees: we are talking about quite simply happy couples having much loved children.  Children, who because of different laws in different countries around the world, end up stateless.

…Mark Manly, head of the statelessness unit at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that gaps between national citizenship laws have put high-flying professionals around the globe in the same boat as migrants and refugees when it comes to getting passports for their kids.

“Far more people live outside their country of nationality than before, and there are more children born to parents of different countries,” he said. “We have a lot of situations where the children are not acquiring any nationality at all.”

One child in the article has a Chinese mother, Canadian father, was born in Belgium and after considerable stress for the parents, has now been granted Irish citizenship based on his grandfather’s nationality.  The father is quoted in the article, “When people think of refugees and stateless people they don’t think of Western, educated professionals with an office job.”

There is an international covenant that covers this sort of problem, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, however it only has 37 signatory countries.  We have a long way to go.

This article supports what I have said before: the world is now a much more mobile place.  The various countries need to deal with this appropriately.

The article doesn’t address Australia specifically, but a quick look at the DIAC web site shows that clearly it could be a problem for foreigners residing here too, if they happen to come from a country where it is difficult or impossible to obtain citizenship by descent for their children.

Australian citizen by birth

Whether you are an Australian citizen by birth depends on the date of your birth.

Most children born in Australia before 20 August 1986 are Australian citizens by birth unless one parent was entitled to diplomatic privileges or was a consular officer of another country.

Children born after that date are only Australian citizens if at least one parent was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of their birth.

Children born in Australia to parents who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, automatically acquire Australian citizenship on their 10th birthday if they have lived most of their life in Australia.

Australia is having an each way bet – let’s hope if you give birth to a stateless child in Australia, you don’t want to travel for the first 10 years of that child’s life!  I need to cross-check the requirements of the Hague Convention, as I am sure it mentions statelessness too.  So many conventions, so little time!

What about if you go overseas and have a child?  Well, the waters get a bit mukier:

Child born overseas to an Australian citizen

Commonly, if you were born overseas after 26 January 1949 to an Australian citizen parent, you may be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship by descent.

If your parent became an Australian citizen by descent, he or she must have been present in Australia for periods totalling two years at some time in their life.

If you were born outside Australia or New Guinea before 26 January 1949 you may also be eligible for Australian citizenship by descent if at least one of your parents became an Australian citizen on 26 January 1949.

Good grief – do they literally mean ON 26 January 1949 and no other date?  Amazing.  What does “may be eligible” actually mean?

So it seems that while Australians are not specifically mentioned in The Age article, yes, there could be difficulties. 

I dare not venture into the topic of Australian Citizenship by adoption, I have a feeling that would be way too complicated for today!

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

Legal lunacy?

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I should not have been surprised when I read this.  But I am surprised.  This is nothing short of utter stupidity in my view.  Bureaucracy or red tape or something gone nutty.

Read the full article for how one in receipt of such an order is supposed to crystal ball the problem, but the crux of it is:

Allow him to explain. ”I received a County Court suppression order warning me that under the Serious Sex Offenders Act I could not identify a respondent or broadcast any information that may lead to the identification of that respondent ‘without the leave of the court’.”

Fair enough so far. But wait: ”When I went to see whose name I could not legally use, the suppression order said the man’s name had been suppressed. So I have a court order telling me I cannot name a person whose name they won’t tell me – but if, by a fluke, I do mention a name that happens to be the one they have suppressed – I am breaking the law.”

Whoo, seriously weird. Browser phoned the Justice Department, which flicked us on to the County Court where a spokeswoman told us: ”Ahhh, most of the time the names are there. On rare occasions they are not. If they are not suppressed in the Magistrates Court and you follow the matter through, you will know who that person is. And sometimes they are suppressed after the first directions hearing. Before that time the name will be published. But it can be tricky, I agree.”

When I was working through my husband’s shambles of a protection visa case I came across all sorts of things that made me shake my head in utter amazement.  I’m actually not sure what is worse – or maybe both are cut from the same cloth.

What the hell has happened to plain old every day common sense?

I’m totally ignoring the big news of the day, on the basis it is no surprise: we have another election result so close that again no result will be known  for days.  What did worry me about the election was the terribly low voter turnout.  Where is democracy going when even in a country where voting is compulsory, we seem more prepared to pay a fine that exercise our democratic right? 

And so the world turns……..

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 28, 2010 at 12:09 am

Posted in News, Stupidity

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Another dead heat? Voting in Australia…..

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Chamber, Parliament

Elections!  Arrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!  This time it is Victorian State Parliament.  We just had a hung Federal election and it looks like we could get a hung Victorian one as well if some of the commentators are to be believed.  While I rarely agree with Andrew Bolt about anything much at all, I have to say he is rather on point with his assessment that this looks like another “dead heat” in the making.

Farrah Tomazin of The Age is saying rather much the same thing.

The headline banner of the HeraldSun says “On a Knife Edge”.

I have a sense of deja vu.  Impending doom of another two week wait for independants to clutch their moment of power while staring at the TV cameras like deer caught in the headlights.  Maybe not quite, but there is no situation like a hung election result to give an amazing amount of attention to a few – sometimes just one.  There was once this senator from Tasmania, I believe………

We Victorians will all dutifully trudge to the polls tomorrow at our local primary school, the church hall, the this or that building to have our names marked off the role and put our numbers in the little boxes.  Those of us who forget will be fined if we don’t have good reason for foresaking our democratic right to vote.  To Americans the concept of compulsory voting is indeed strange.  They think it is undemocratic.  But then I have had Americans swear they live in a republic, definitely not a democracy.  I’m not sure what they teach in American schools about “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.  At least we have the sense to hold elections on a Saturday.  Can you imagine voting on a Tuesday, a work day?

I like the fact Australia makes it a family thing.  Children pop along with their parents and grow up with the idea voting is the normal thing to do.  The odd sausage sizzle adds to the flavour of the day.  We could do without all the “how-to-vote” cards but I guess it just goes with the territory.  How many really follow those things anyway?

In the Federal election we had a record number of “informal” votes – in fact, if I recall correctly, we had a record number of actual blank votes.  Perhaps I should explain a little.  You see, having been a scrutineer myself in another life, I can personally attest to the interesting things one finds on ballot papers.  Interesting anatomical drawings are not uncommon.  Swearing is also popular.  Blank is actually quite unusual.

People in Australia have been making quite a political football out of asylum seekers of late, especially any that happen to cross the seas in a boat.  To those people who want to see us treat these people to the conditions of places such as Christmas Island and then send them home, I suggest as you exercise your vote on Saturday, you take a moment to reflect on how lucky you are to be able to stroll down to the polling station, kids in tow, grab a snag from the fund raising sausage sizzle and wander home in peace.  With your hands still attached to your wrists.  No bullet through your head.  No risk of your wife or daughter being raped because you had the audacity to vote.

Treat your right to vote with the respect it deserves and while you are doing it, have a thought for those who flee from regimes where it is perilous to attempt to achieve the freedoms we take for granted.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Scanners = child porn?

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A little dramatic?  Not according to one mother in the USA.

The scanner debate in the USA continues to heat up as reported in The Australian today.  Search YouTube and there is an abundance of anger and fear about not only the scanners, but the “enhanced” pat-downs.

This woman was very (and I believe very rightly) perturbed when her 12 year-old daughter was put through the scanner.  Watching this YouTube video, I learnt more about the technology I didn’t know.  It is disturbing.  The TSA are in a locked room until the images are deleted.  So in other words, their behaviour while in that room is hidden – or are the TSA agents also monitored?  The whole thing starts to become rather scary if you think too much about it.

Yesterday I asked the question about safety.  The above linked article from The Australian reports several people are asking the same questions:

Some opponents of the scanners claim they pose a health risk, despite checks carried out by the Food and Drug Administration and Johns Hopkins University.

They point to a letter from four scientists at the University of California, who wrote to the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy expressing “serious concerns about the potential health risks” and calling for a new “independent evaluation”.

While we in Australia may look on and think “only in America”, how long before we have to submit Australians to the same procedures in order to fly a plane into the USA?  I recall going to the USA shortly after 9/11.  I left from Melbourne Airport.  I had to go through additional American security at the gate before boarding.  While that was dropped some time later, don’t be surprised if something similar is on the horizon.

Don’t think I’ll be flying to the USA again any time soon.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 25, 2010 at 9:08 pm

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“Safe for everyday use”? So was asbestos once…….

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I am revisiting my earlier entry about airport passenger security, simply because of the last line of an article in today’s press.

TSA chief John Pistole insists that there is no danger from radiation in the scans and that intensive searches are necessary to prevent increasingly imaginative bombers from boarding planes.

“We want to work with industry to make sure we have the safest machines available. That is the bottom line. They are safe for everyday use,” he told MSNBC television

Really?  And we know this because?  I am old enough to remember many other things that were initially considered “safe” and subsequently found not to be so.  Here’s a few high profile examples!

Anyone heard of cigarettes?  I thought so.  There used to be at least one ad on TV promoting smoking as something to cure that nagging cough.  How about “More doctors smoke Camels”?  They could have at least picked a decent brand!

Thalidomide?  Resulted in over 10,000 human birth defects.

Asbestos?  Once widely used, now a known danger!

Xrays – we are warned not to have too many a year.  Radiologists have to monitor their exposure.  Why?

We have only JUST started introducing these machines.  But we are suddenly 100% sure they are “safe for everyday use”?  Why am I sceptical?

What about very frequent fliers?  What about cabin crew and pilots? Are these safe twice a day? Twice a day once every six months? Twice a day four days in a row? Once a week?  I’d like to see some controlled testing, thanks, before I go floating through one too often.

Are they as safe for developing bodies, such as children or unborn babies?  What about women who may not yet know they are pregnant?

Are we going to see an increase in some form of cancer in 20 or 30 years time?  An increase in birth defects perhaps?

Is anyone asking, or more importantly answering, these questions?

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm

New Zealand mine disaster – Greymouth

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Pike River coalmine disaster. Photo: Reuters

Very sad day.

I will keep it short – many others will write much.  This disaster happened in the town in which I was born therefore I have a personal connection.

We seem to have had way too many mine disasters in the last few months, globally.  If I am not mistaken, New Zealand has suffered the greatest loss of life of those.

My thoughts are with the families and all others involved directy and indirectly in this sad event.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm

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