I, Robot

You have to feel sorry for Peter Crouch. Mercilessly mocked for his height and nerdy looks, and endlessly patronised for his ability to play football despite being 6’7″ tall, tonight he scores England’s best goal of the game, and once again plays better in a white shirt than Michael Owen has any time recently. Yet, when he tries to perform the robot dance by way of celebration, what do his team-mates do? They turn their backs in scorn, that’s what. Bastards. He may not be the most naturally graceful of players nor the most talented, but he doesn’t deserve that. Every geek, misfit and outsider who has ever been treated the same should root for him that little bit extra this World Cup.

Although, his robot dancing is nothing compared to this guy‘s. Awesome does not begin to describe it…

Daz doorstepped

“If they were on fire I’d walk past those two. They disgraced this great country of ours…”

The relative of someone killed in a terrorist attack talking about the bombers? An embittered council estate resident complaing about the local crack dealers making her life hell? Your local foul-mouthed cabbie on the cyclists who just cut him up? Nope. The charming words of Eurovision hopeful Daz Sampson, about his predecessors Jemini (y’know, the ones who got nul points). However, he was sure he was going to not disgrace this fair isle:

“We think we get hard done by, but that’s total nonsense. It’s because we’ve sent absolute toilet. […] This year we’re sending something world class, it’ll be unique. I feel I can make a difference.”

Well, Daz turned out to be toilet too: he came a stonking 19th out of 24 last night, an improvement of just seven points on Javine’s effort last year. And in a nutshell, he symbolises everything that is wrong with modern Britain. Nasty, bullying and blind to his own shortcomings, Sampson is a typical example of this miserable country and its self-obssessed thinking. Everything about him and his song stinks: his lyrics echo empty hyper-individualistic platitudes, which dismiss the counsel or advice of others and replaces it with the vacuous narrow-minded philosophy of “follow your dreams”. It mistakes egomania for confidence, arrogance for self-esteem. Humility or grace have no place in his vocabulary. To top it off, there’s the cheap, lazy misogyny; for fuck’s sake – girls in the school uniforms are the oldest trick in the book, as every sleazy halfwit club owner in Ibiza knows. Besides, if it’s a song about your own schooldays Daz, why aren’t there any dancing schoolboys in the lineup?

Hang on, you’re going to say, it’s just Eurovision. And you’re right, it is just Eurovision, something which none of us should ever really take that seriously. It’s a celebration of culture, not a war. But Sampson does take it seriously, deadly seriously, enthusing about how he would be a “future hero” if he won. An egomaniac in his mid-thirties who has yet to get over his own childhood, who invokes repressed fetishism of schoolgirls as proof of his manliness, genuinely thinks Eurovision is what it takes to make him a “hero”. Well, you’re not a hero, Daz, nor are you a failure or a disgrace. All you were ever going to be was some bloke with a couple of minor chart hits who was in a song contest, and not much more than that. The sooner he gets over it, and the sooner we as a nation get over our own self-importance, the better.

Finally, totally unrelated point. Was I the only one, when watching the winners Lordi, who thought they were just an elaborate stunt by Fathers 4 Justice? I was almost disappointed when they didn’t tear off their masks, throw eggs and start whining at the hosts.

Split the Home Office?

Most (though not all) of the recent failings of this government have been in one department, namely the Home Office (e.g. the latest one of employing illegal immigrants as cleaners). The Home Office is a curious beast – rather than set up with a particular and specific mandate, when the department’s ancestor was set up in 1782, it was given a mandate to do more or less everything that wasn’t to do with foreign affairs. Since then, it has been stripped of various powers, leaving a higgledy-piggledy arrangement behind – everything from serious crime to turning the clocks back.

To leave just one person in charge of such a wide range of responsibilities is an obvious folly; for all the good talk of “joined up government”, we seem to be at the other extreme, that of an enormous, unmanageable bureaucracy that no-one can take control of. Splitting the Home Office into two or even three distinct departments – the police, criminal justice and immigration functions, each with a Cabinet-level minister in charge – seems an option worth exploring (as entertained in a BBC report from last month). Yes the three functions overlap somewhat, but crime and public safety also overlap with wealth, health, education and even nutrition (apparently) and we have separate departments for them. Splitting the functions would not only give ministers more control over their domains but would help provide better accountability; ministers would be less able to hide behind the usual excuses of bureaucracy and institutional difficulties.

Maybe. Still entertaining this idea and by no means totally decided. No doubt someone will point out the problems in the comments…

Passport bodgery

This first passport-related news item doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising, or even bad:

The Home Office faced fresh criticism yesterday after it emerged that 1,500 UK passports have gone missing in the post in the past two years.

The documents should have been returned by the passport service to their owners, but never reached them, said the Scottish nationalist MP Stewart Hosie.

Given that the UKPS deals with roughly six million passports a year, that means a loss rate of only 0.0125%. You know, that’s just about tolerable – no service is ever going to be perfect, and that’s pretty darn low.

However, much less reassuring is this second news item:

The Home Office faced fresh controversy last night after ministers were accused of accidentally repealing the law which makes it an offence to have a forged passport.

In an extraordinary development, it was claimed that Labour’s Identity Cards Act had repealed the existing laws before the new laws to replace them come into force.

One court case involving two men who were caught with forged passports has already had to be adjourned.

So while only 0.0125% of new passports face the risk of getting lost in the post, 100% of all passports now face the risk of getting forged with no legal sanction. It’s almost as if our lawmakers are having an incompetence contest with the Home Office’s bureaucrats. I think they’ve won on this count.

Expect the governmental response to this to be something like this: “What this mistake shows is that we need a mechanism where the executive can make and change laws arbitrarily without the need for Parliament, so that we can reverse these cockups swiftly (and more importantly, without anyone noticing). So back the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. Remember – the only way to stop us from making more bad laws is to give us more power.”

Waving, not drowning

I’m busy as hell at the moment, but the following (from here, sorta via Curious Hamster) is worth blogging about, as it nearly made me fall off my chair:

Facing a drubbing in the polls serious enough to affect his long-term future, [Tony Blair’s] strategists apparently believed it was time to address the awkward question of why the electorate is angry with the Prime Minister. The conclusion reached by the planning group, which included Matthew Taylor, his senior policy adviser, and political secretary Ruth Turner, however appears to have been a surprise. “They basically said people were angry with Tony because they love him so much, and are angry because they think he might go”

Which reminded me of an exchange from this

Audience: Boo! Boo!
Burns: Smithers…are they booing me?
Smithers: Uh, no, they’re saying “Boo-urns! Boo-urns!”