19 June 2011

Lateralist Classifications

Every now and then, even the those whose views you already find contemptuous make it easy for you.

According right-wing gas-bag, Piers Ackerman, renowned centenarian Dame Elizabeth Murdoch is too old to voice an opinion on climate change. The fact that her opinion is contrary to his own probably has nothing to do with it.

I wonder what Piers thinks she ought to be doing saying. Something about impending death? A few banal cliches about the link between hard work, the odd snifter of port and longevity? A few long-concealed revelations that she withheld affection from poor Rupert, and that she regrets what it did to him? The mind boggles.

But perhaps Piers is onto something. Maybe the members of our good citizenry should have to fulfil a few basic criteria before voicing their opinion on anything. That'd certainly cut a swathe through the recycled sewerage that many espouse.

Sadly for Piers, though, he'd be one of the first to get the chop. Unfortunately, under the new regulations inspired by his attempt to censure Dame Murdoch, Piers is now banned from opening his blubbery mouth ever again. Why? He's too fat, too ugly, too stupid, too prejudiced, too ill-informed, too stupidly named (a misspelt jetty? please.), and lastly, too f*cking intolerant of those who disagree with him.

Thanks, Piers. You tosser.

15 June 2011

A Fine Example of a Letter of Complaint

What follows is not my own work but that of a friend writing to the UK Border Agency. The basis for his complaint will become evident. I have posted it here as I think it's a wonderful piece of writing and a perfect example of the incresingly threatened species that is the complaint letter.

Application for Certificate of Approval of Marriage

Your ref: CA ----------

Case ID ---------

My complaint relates to the incompetence of the UK Border Agency staff responsible for processing my application and to the disregard by those staff of the published requirements and guidelines of the UK Border Agency.

I applied for a certificate of approval for marriage on 20 October 2010. This was acknowledged by return letter from the Border Agency dated 21 October 2010. No progress was made on my application until 22 February 2011, when I received a letter of that date from the Border Agency, stating that those applicants who were originally granted less than 6 months' leave to remain or only have 3 months of valid leave remaining must submit a statutory affidavit in support of the application. As I pointed out in my reply dated 3 March 2011, I was originally granted a three year working visa (No. ---------) which was extended and reissued until 15 October 2012.

This is the first instance of incompetence (or contempt, for if it is not incompetence it can only be contempt for the very own guidelines of the Border Agency) of which I now complain. Despite not being required to do so by the Border Agency's published requirements, I nonetheless enclosed statutory affidavits as requested in an effort to accelerate the determination of my application, which had now been outstanding for 19 weeks, well in excess of the Border Agency's published service targets.

I then waited. Despite numerous calls to the Border Agency's information line - a singularly useless service, I might add, given the complete absence of contact between the people staffing the service and the people determining the applications. You would surely be doing a greater good to the taxpayers of the United Kingdom by cancelling this information line entirely - not one of your staff had the decency to inform me of a bill before the Parliament which would cancel the certificate of approval scheme. I discovered the passage of the bill into legislation by a chance visit to your website in late April. I thus set out to wait patiently for the return of my application.

What I did not expect, and what has moved me to make this complaint, is the rank opportunism taken by the UK Border Agency to put its thumb in my eye one last time, and to remove utterly any doubt that would otherwise remain regarding the contempt with which the Border Agency holds those who apply for its permission to marry. Instead of simply returning my application for a discontinued permission, your staff have once again demonstrated their incompetence or contemptuous disregard for guidelines by stating in their letter dated 5 May 2011 that my application has been discontinued on the basis that my fiancée does not live in the United Kingdom and has not on that basis also submitted an application for a certificate of approval for marriage.

The guidelines of the Border Agency were clear. Only those settled in the United Kingdom must submit an application for a certificate of approval. Those who wished to enter the United Kingdom for the purpose of marriage but not to reside thereafter need only obtain an entry visa endorsed for marriage.

I am a decent, law-abiding person. I work hard and contribute to society. I understand and respect the need for the United Kingdom to protect its borders against the abuse of the institution of marriage for the purpose of gaining entry through illegitimate relationships. However, I could never have imagined that the civil service of any civilised government would take seven months to determine an application of this nature, to fail - disingenuously in my mind - to inform an applicant of a bill then before the legislature to remove the scheme, and then, on two separate occasions, to act with contemptuous disregard for their very own published guidelines and requirements.

I look forward to the day when the cold winds of economic change finally sweep through the British civil service, whereupon a good number of its staff will find themselves thrust out of the warm comfort and protection of the taxpayers' bosom and have to find real jobs that produce and contribute to the society in which they live. I am sure that such incompetence and contempt as has been meted out to my application will not make the search for such employment an easy one.

I am available to submit copies of any documents you may need to support this complaint. I should emphasise this last point, just in case the very same individuals that processed my application with such a marked ability to see black as white are now in charge of complaints: this is indeed a complaint. It is not praise.

I wish to see my complaint acknowledged. I wish it to be acknowledged that this experience is not justifiable on any grounds, be they of public policy or otherwise. I wish the past seven months of uncertainty and expense and frustration to be acknowledged. I wish the fact that I have been callously prevented from marrying the woman whom I love because of the unaccountable incompetence or contempt of individuals in the employment of the UK Border Agency to be acknowledged. I wish to receive an apology.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Postcript; the author and his beloved were married last Friday.

14 June 2011

Lateralist Commentary - A Critique

It's been a great year thus far for supporters of the West Coast Eagles. I'm not saying we're going to win the flag, but given that we are the current holders of the wooden spoon, the fact that finals are a realistic proposition is nothing short of incredible.

If only the commentary was as good.

I'd find it so much easier to enjoy the success of the Eagles if Brian f*cking Naylor was barred from calling Eagles games. He is a colossally annoying wind bag, whose girth is in inverse proportion to his wit. If I hear him refer to the f*cling vortex pocket or call Glen Jakovich the King of the West one more time, I'm going to feel more than justified in throwing a pie at him next time I see him. And to make sure he doesn't mistake it for a gift and scoff it down as would a pelican with a chip, I'll be sure to lob it at the back of his head.

Not that there are many better options out there. Robert Walls is a joke, intoning inanely obvious details like a man who thinks reading Wittgenstein. I shit you not, last year I distinctly remember him saying - with extraordinary self satisfaction - that from a position of being ten goals down, Richmond were really going to have to lift their work rate. You think, Wallsy? I know that the AFL isn't exactly the most neuron-rich environment in which to work, but to sound like a bloke who's just cracked Fermat's Last Theorem, one honestly should feel the need to offer something a bit more insightful than that.

But Wallsy's hardly the bottom of the barrel. Take a bloke like Alastair Lynch, who, regardless of what he's actually saying, says it in a voice so torturously rasped, that he sounds like a Dalek on crack. Even Bruce McAvaney, for all of his enthusiasm, describes the players like an obsessive (and rather delicate) man professing love for each and every member of his porcelain doll collection. Mind you, he travels less than Collingwood, so it hardly matters.

Which leaves only Cometti, and he can hardly be asked to call eight games every weekend. Admittedly, Gerard Healy is quite good, but he's no Cometti. In all seriousness, it shouldn't be that hard to get people who can call the game with the following caveats:

a) They can speak English;
b) They understand the game;
c) They do not call the game from a criminally biased Victorian perspective; and
d) They can present their views from a position other than deep inside their own arse.

Brian Naylor, I'm sorry to say, is zero for four.

Still, at least we're winning. And that's something.

08 June 2011

Lateralist Livestock - The Politics of Conscience

I was going to start this posting with a reference to the debate about live animal exports that's been taking place recently. But I can't, because no such debate has taken place. Instead, there's been shocking footage, public outcry, Government action, and some grumbling. It's not been particularly inspiring.

I couldn't help but be annoyed when I got an email from GetUp proclaiming proudly just how effective they'd been in garnering over 300,000 signatures to a petition calling for live exports to be banned. I was annoyed because I don't think getting so many people to profess their outrage to such horrendous footage was much of an achievement. Truth be told, I don't think anyone - GetUp, the Meat Industry, the Government, or the public, for that matter, have very much to be proud of at all.

We are good at reacting to things. As is our Government. When I say we (and by extension, they) are good at it, I mean it happens with dispiriting consistency. I do not mean that the reactions themselves are good; after all, reactions (as opposed to swift decisions) rarely are.

It's frustrating on two levels. On the first, it should have been well known to all in the Meat Industry that such atrocious acts of cruelty were taking place. A Four Corners Report really need not have been necessary. It seems more and more apparent just how much was known about what was going on in Indonesian abattoirs, and that it was being blithely ignored by those who could have acted to stop it. This can only have occurred for selfishly commercial reasons. So if money is lost - too bad. Money made from cruelty deserves to be lost. It's a shame that the most guilty figures probably aren't the only ones going to lose, but I'd still rather be a cattle farmer with empty pockets than a cow bound for bloody and brutal slaughter.

But it is also frustrating how little we - as a general public - choose to care about things until they are shoved under our noses. There is certainly animal cruelty in other parts of the world. We as a nation trade with other nations who impose brutal regimes on their citizens, never mind on their poor animals. We trade with nations who barely recognise women as even a sub-species of human being. But right now, we're outraged about cruel cattle slaughter, because someone showed us some nasty pictures.

I think our consciences need to be controlled by more than a drip-fed media message. We, as people, need to be active citizens of the world, who actively care about things. For this to happen , we do need an engaged, passionate culture of journalism. As the so-called Forth Estate becomes increasingly corporatised, we lose more and more of the investigative voices that we need to help us keep track on an increasingly complex and interwoven world. But even as we lose these key links in the chain of understanding, the onus will still be - as it has always been - on us, as people, to care, and to act, or not to act.

Personally, I'd be thrilled if the live export trade of animals folds completely. It's a barbaric trade, and a pathetic way to make money. But I think there are a lot of other things we need to care about, too. Focusing on the live export trade for the moment, I can understand how easy it is for people to focus on the money and the trade, rather than on the other, less pleasant things. But I could scarcely believe (okay, I could) the idiotic comments made by Opposition spokesman, Barnaby Joke, who basically argued that Indonesia is too powerful a country (and near neighbour) for us to piss off over something this insignificant. Fuck you, Barnaby. I think every wanker complaining about the detrimental economic effect this ban on the cattle industry is going to have should be stripped naked, given a nice jolt from a cattle prod - right up the arse - and hoarded onto a ship. In a box the size of a coffin, let them make their way to Indonesia. Let's see how they like it. Why? Because it's bullshit. The cows bound for export were never going to be consumed here. It will do sod all to the meat industry as a whole.

Consuming an animal need not be an act of barbarism. But there are limits to what an animal should have to suffer to provide sustenance for a human being. But in an age of Coles and Woolworths, people are losing more and more touch with the increasingly corporatised world of food production. We are eating food of lower and lower quality, and ignoring the fact that for the sake of a few dollars, we are prepared to let animals endure unbelievably cruel conditions. It's terrifying. I mean seriously, if you buy caged eggs, there's something wrong with you.

I'm all for caring about things that matter, but I refuse to be lead - like a horse to water - by a flavour-of-the-moment outrage, like a cow bound for export. Serious issues need serious attention.

And it needs to be ongoing.