The US deficit crisis, damage already done?

The street theatre game that is the US debt default crisis rolls on with no sign of a successful conclusion in sight. Both parties blame each other for the current crisis and in some respects both are right, thought historically it’s arguably the Republicans who are more to blame than Democrats (as I discussed in my last post on this topic). The Republicans reckon the whole deficit crisis is a consequence of Democratic “bleeding heart” welfare programs, midnight basket ball and “high” taxes, while the democrats blame republican war mongering, tax cuts for the “good-olde boys network”, the financial crisis caused by Bush being asleep at the wheel, as well as Republican commitment to various special interests (i.e. giving fat government contracts to their country club golfing buddies).

I suspect Americans will find that the real cause of the deficit crisis is a little closer to home. My advice to any American is go to the bathroom and look in the mirror and you’ll find the true cause of the deficit staring back at you. The cause of this deficit crisis is ultimately US citizens themselves and their unreasonable expectations. As Andrew Sullivan puts it “...the biggest problem in this country is…they’re (the people) are big babies. I mean, people keep saying they don’t want any tax increases, but they don’t want to have their Medicare cut, they don’t want to have their Medicaid [cut] or they don’t want to have their Social Security touched an inch…You have to make a choice…”
And as Fareed Zakaria puts it “ one sense, Washington is delivering to the American people exactly what they seem to want. In poll after poll, we find that the public is generally opposed to any new taxes, but we also discover that the public will immediately punish anyone who proposes spending cuts in any middle class program which are the ones where the money is in the federal budget. Now, there is only one way to square this circle short of magic, and that is to borrow money..”

There are in essence only three ways a government can sort out its finances, borrowing, raising taxes and cutting spending. Up until now US politicians with elections to win have had little choice but to resort to the former as the latter two would be political suicide. The US people can’t complain, they after all voted for these guys.

Another part of the problem is that many Americans still seem to think that they’re living up on the high frontier (in the back of a wagon heading west) in a “low tax” and “small goverment” economy. They’re not, the US government is a vastly bloated system, little different from the Keynesian economies of Europe that they regularly sneer at, as this Time article “United states of France” makes clear. Of course the one notable difference is that the French recognise that a big government requires high taxes to run it. Now while I’m not expressing admiration for the French, indeed I had a pop at them a few months back, but at least they know what kind of economy they’re running. By contrast the mantra from Americans is for “big government to get off our backs…except the bit that’s paying my farm subsidies and/or military contractor job and builds federal highways for me to drive on free of charge” or “put up taxes…for everyone else but me”.

Of course a third option to deal with the current deficit crisis, that favoured by the Libertarians and Tea party amounts to cutting down “big government” and that this will somehow “stimulate” the economy and magically solve everything. Libertarianism is essentially to economists what the Atkins diet is to fat lazy people – an excuse to do nothing, but delude yourself in to believing things are changing. There is already a country where “big government” got off people’s back. It’s called Somalia. If libertarians were right Somalia should now be the richest most dynamic trading nation on earth, in fact it’s actually one of the poorest and most dangerous places on the entire planet. The country is wholly dependant on food aid, in and out of famine and virtually all economic activity revolves around the illegal kind (piracy, kidnappings and banditry) or the economic “stimulius” that is the presence of African Union peacekeepers. Of course as I pointed out in my past post the irony here is that the very people proposing such policies in American are the very people who are most dependant on “big government” spending!

The truth is that if the US government is truly serious about dealing with its current deficit crisis then they need to either raise taxes across the board or drastically cut spending, which as I highlighted before will mean substantial cuts to the military budget (as the conservatives were forced to impose on the UK) as well as various “special interest” line items such as farm subsidies, federal infrastructure building programs and the various Bush era “corporate welfare” programs. Any tax rises, even if performed with the aid of spending cut will have to be fairly sharp (e.g. introducing VAT, road taxes or the high petrol duty we pay in Europe and/or repeal most of the Bush era tax cuts). For America to sustain itself with European levels of public spending will naturally require European levels of taxation. Anything else, as congress now propose (both parties), are merely cosmetic cuts that will probably do more harm than good.

Indeed a fatal flaw in the proposed cuts both Republican and democrat have put forward is that they are dependant on a sudden sharp increase in tax revenues at some point in the future (see graph here with more on the issue found here). I would question whether this is a reasonable assumption, indeed all the evidence is that the US/global economy is still slowing down and may even lurch back into recession, something which a sudden cut in federal spending could easily provoke.

Now its possible that some sort of a deal might still be pulled out of the bag before Tuesday, but it will be little more than a fudge, a political face saving exercise. As Steph Flanders at the Beeb points out, the US may simply re-write the rules on what actually consitutes a default, much to that annoyance of the Europeans, who are getting hammered by the rating agencies even though none of them are arguably as close to the edge as the US. And that is the wider problem for the US. The debate over this issue has laid bare to the watching world that the political will of Americans to overcome their deficit simply isn’t there and anyone holding US bonds has reason to be wary as it’s likely that AAA rating ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Already there are mutterings coming out of China (America’s biggest lender) along those lines. While I doubt they would stop lending to the US tomorrow (that would put at risk the money already lent) I won’t be surprised if international lenders will now show a reluctance to lend to the US as freely as they did before, diversifying they’re portfolios, slowly cashing in and selling off existing bonds, etc. Of course this will mean the US government will find it increasingly difficult to raise money, at least without pushing up its interest rates – which would of course instantly wipe out the deficit reduction plans proposed, and put the US into the same deficit “austernity” spiral that several European countries are now caught up in.

So even if the US can avoid national bankruptcy on Tuesday (and again, I’d be very surprised if they actually did default on Tuesday) the fraca in Washington these last few weeks has merely demonstrated that a future US default in its debts is a near mathematical certainty. The only thing that can prevent this is a major change in US government policy and that would require a significant swing in US public opinion. i.e. a willingness by Americans to accept that everyone has to pay more taxes (although the rich will inevitably have to take the biggest hit) and that public services that they directly benefit from must be cut back. Until that happens, lenders to the US need to realise it’s simply a matter of “When?” and not “IF?” the US will go bankrupt.

Phone hacking scandal – a new Watergate?

I’ve been meaning to comment on the whole Murdoch phone hacking show case (my past post on it here). Last week we saw Rupert “Palpatine” Murdoch come across as something midway between Mr Maggoo and Mr Burns, while his spawn came across as a Waylon Smithers type. One can best sum up Rebekah “Sideshow” Brooks performance as follows.

Either way it now seems that they may have been telling porkies, as this Beeb report (widely reported in other papers including the Evening standard here) suggests. It appears he was made fully aware of the whole saga a lot earlier than he says, was paying the legal costs of so-called “rogue” staff and had agreed to pay hush money to alleged phone hacking victims. Meanwhile “Sideshow” Brooks is embroiled in a mini-fraca with plod over a pair of computers recovered from a rubbish bin which she (or at least her husband) are claiming ownership of. The Keystone cops are for once actually taking the matter seriously and examining the laptops.

Clearly they need to get the Murdochs and “Sideshow” Brooks back in for a proper grilling. And I mean put em in a corner with a spot light on them and sweat them down. The MP’s could try good cop/bad cop on them. Some slimy Tory tries to butter them up, then John “Slugger” Prescott comes in and tries to jump on one of them, only for Gordon Brown to have to pull him off saying “I can hold’em off forever”…course this tactic might backfire if Wendi “couching tiger (not-so) hidden goldigger” is allowed in the room as she’d likely kick the $hite out of both of em. Alternatively we could pull in Robby Coltrane and have him reprise his role of Cracker on em…or maybe I watch too many cop shows!

Either way all the indicators seem to say there is something seriously amiss here. Murdoch would not willingly make himself come off looking like the grandfather from the Worthier’s Original ads (without the candy) unless he had good reason to play dumb. The decision to close the (don’t laugh) News of the World was clearly one taken in panic for some reason. That they were willing to sacrifice the cherished BSB deal, after going to all that trouble to stitch up Vince Cable suggests something is seriously amiss. The failure to sack “sideshow” Brooks until a few days prior to her arrest suggests they had reasons to protect her…and its suspicious how she resigned right before being arrested…almost as if she knew it was going to happen…is this a brown envelope I see before me?

But will the story run out of steam? Well I was away most of he weekend but while the events in Norway and Amy (too much) Wine-house’s death knocked it off the top story slot it still got a mention. So I don’t think its going to die just yet. Like Watergate we could have a story that will run and run.

And what of the Tory’s in all of this? We’ll if we’re comparing everyone here to Simpson characters then David C is probably Cletus the slack-jawed yokel. I mean he hires Andy Coulson despite advice to the contrary and even allegations are now emerging about how he was vetted for security clearance. And his likely successor, George “slimy” Osborne has met with News International staff 16 times since the election. This whole saga ain’t over by a long shot! But I wouldn’t hold out much hope for an election. Nick Clegg doesn’t want one due to the fear he’ll wind up the Liberal Democrat (note lack of plural) and I’m not convinced Ed “I-can’t-believe-its-not-David” Miliband can exploit the situation and win an election any time soon.

Tea Party productions presents: The great default theatre game

There is a risk right now of the US defaulting on its debts on the 2nd of August. Why? Because congress needs to raise the debt ceiling but seeing as how the whole “death panels”, gay marriage and light bulb bagging pitches the Republicans had been throwing at the public didn’t seem to be biting, they opted instead to raise the spectre of US federal debt…ignoring totally of course that its generally been Republican presidents such as Bush (both of em) and Reagan who have pushed up the national debt, but let’s not let pesky little facts get in the way of a good sales pitch.

Did I hear you say its all Obama’s fault? (his Stimulus package, Obama care, etc.) actually no (see here) only 6% of the current US debt run up since 2001 is a consequence of Obama’s Stimulus package. Bush’s tax cuts are to blame for 13%, the wars 15% and his two recessions 28%. Obamacare is scheduled to be revenue neutral indeed it may even run a slight surplus.

Anyway the downside of the “blame it on the black guy” sales pitch is that the Tea Party/Republican policies are such that they now can’t raise the debt ceiling. This raises the risk of a “default”. Of course strictly speaking the US is already in default as that’s essentially what the quantative easing policy they are engaged in amounts to (as it makes the value of the dollar drop essentially devaluing the scale of their debts). But now there’s a risk of an actual no-shit default and that’s the worry. If that happens, the rating agencies will have to cut the US ratings and unleash the same debt spiral beast that they did on the Europeans, which would almost certainly either bankrupt the US or force a major default by it.

This means the US government has to do one of two things, cut the deficit, which means spending cuts or raising taxes. The Libertarians will come out with various theories about cutting spending and taxes and how this will “stimulate” the economy and magically whisk the debt away to laalaa land, but even if we accept such Underpants gnomes school of economics notions, its not going to solve the US debt crisis in 2-3 weeks, i.e. before August the 2nd.

Neither of the other options (cuts or more taxes) is palatable to either Obama or the Republicans. Firstly tax rises. If America wants to continue its levels of European style public spending (see United States of France here) it will need to raise taxes to compensate (to European levels). But as the poor in the US are mostly mortgaged up to the balls they simply can’t afford to pay any excessive tax rises. The only options for tax hikes are with corporate tax rates and wealthier individuals either directly via income tax rises or by taxing property, high death taxes or higher VAT rates (which hit everyone but hit the wealthy the most). Of course to many wealthy Americans this is out of the question.

What I don’t think many Republicans realise that the alternative, spending cuts, will hit them and their political base even harder than it will the democrats. What’s the largest piece of discretionary spending in the US budget? ……The Military budget (18% of the total US federal budget!)…..yet that’s the one thing that as far as the Tea party (or Republican party) are concerned cannot and will not be cut, ever, not least because the military tend to strongly vote (by a 75% margin) Republican.

While the government here in the UK hummed and hawed over 2 aircraft carriers the US has 11 of them (they’ve never used more than 5 at one time since WW2)! And the US Marines have a fleet of 20 or so smaller helicopter carriers & assault ships too! (the last Amphibious assault the US launched was in the Korean war). One has to question the need for these carriers given that the Chinese and Russians now possess long range “carrier killing” ballistic missiles, plus nuclear submarines (which can potentially sneak up on and torpedo a Carrier*), which greatly limits the usefulness of carriers in a conflict. As for the USMC fleet of naval assault ships (around 30-45,000 ton range sort of like mini aircraft carriers), they are only useful if the US plans to mount a major amphibious assault against a well prepared and hostile enemy. Think Inchon or Omaha beach. Given that such operations tend to be very costly in terms of lives, 10-30% casualties being typical (on the first day!), I’d question whether the US has the stomach for such enormous combat losses. If so, then you don’t need a vast fleet of such ships. Hence the US could get by perfectly well with maybe half or a quarter of the above forces.

* funny story, I recall a game of “Harpoon” (a naval simulation war game) at a Con I once sat in on, where a bunch of amateurs who’d never played it before took on a load of US navy sailors (from a visiting warship) and succeeded in sinking they’re entire carrier task force using but a single Alfa Class sub :>>! To add insult to injury to the US navy, the winners were themselves blown out of the water in the next round by a team of 12 year olds :DD!

The US also has a vast surplus of fighters and way too many military bases. Indeed many of those military bases are dispersed right across the middle of the country. This was a sensible cold war strategy when the US faced attack from soviet nuclear missiles. Now you’d question the need for all these bases. While some critical bases in the middle of the country are needed (NORAD, Whiteman AFB (where the B-2’s operate out of) or SAC) the rested could be closed down and forces concentrated in a few “superbases” by the coasts. And indeed you’d have to question whether the US still needs a vast army to defend the country.

Finally there are various ridiculous boondoogle military research projects. The F-22, Comanche, Crusader (artillery piece), Missile defence, Osprey and recent Tanker aircraft debacles all stand as stark examples of political pork barrel projects and the reckless waste of public money. A serious constraining of such projects, forcing the major US defence contractors to actually compete in a free market for contracts (again see the Tanker aircraft program for an example of how “free” and “fair” competition for military contracts is in the US) all of this would serve to further reign in the military budget.

Furthermore one of my criticism of such projects as missile defence and airborne lasers is nevermind the development costs, can the US military afford the deployment costs? The US has a nasty habit of developing high tech weapons which it then can’t afford to deploy in a significant quantity. The original plan for the B-2 was to have 175 of them (they got 20!) and 750 F-22’s(they got 180 odd!). I already mentioned a number of projects above where not a single piece of hardware was delivered despite tens of Billions spent on development. Do they honestly reckon they’ll be able to afford to buy a future fleet of airborne lasers or ABM rocket launchers? If the answer is no, then there’s no point wasting money on development costs.

You could easily halve or more the US military budget (or more!) and still defend the country, but of course nobody’s going to do that because that would mean many 100,000’s of people out of work (mainly conservative voting mind), not to mention many more 100,000’s of job losses across the corporations that supply the military industrial complex.

Indeed it’s worth remembering that many defence jobs in the US are in either swing states, or states with a strong tendency to vote Republican. Indeed Utah & Colorado, two of the States which one could declare as the heartland of the Tea Party are in fact two of the top “state welfare queens” (see here and here) – that is US states that get more money off the federal government than its citizens pay out in taxes. Many other Republican states are also on the receiving end of generous farm subsidies and Federal highway and water systems building projects. So the chances of any of the above programs, or the military budget being substantial cut by a Republican president or congress, is likely a non-starter. But these are the very things that would have to be cut to seriously reign in the deficit.

The irony is that there was a recent US president who did cut the deficit and rein in public spending and even towards the end of his term he ran up several budget surpluses – his name? Bill Clinton!, but I don’t see anyone in the political right of America advocating his policies (I’ll send Bachmann a box of cigars just in case!). Notably, one of the things Clinton did do was to cut out large chunks of the US military budget. I would argue of course that he didn’t go far enough, but then again the Republicans controlled congress then and won’t let him (why? Read the paragraphs above)….so its a bit rich them now turning around after Bush and complaining about these huge deficits that they are largely responsible for running up!

No, instead the Republicans have chosen to borrow various Tea Party/Libertarian polices to cut “non essential” things like International development aid, (just under 1% of the total government budget) most of which is in some way “strategic” i.e. about half is currently going Iraq and Afghanistan, most of which is funding they’re security forces, Israel tends to be the next biggest donor and they mostly use it to buy weapons (from US companies). The rest of the development aid goes towards various important projects helping the very poorest people on the planet, so we’re talking about taking the bread out of the mouths of beggars so that rich folk don’t have to cut back on smoked salmon.

Another favourite target of “Underpants Gnomes” is the US department of Education (1.3% of the US federal budget in 2010) which Ron Paul has proposed to shut down. Eh!……well I suppose it makes perfect sense to someone who home schools their kids, not so good if you want them to get a proper education. Most working class Americans simply can’t afford private tuition, and one of the key things schools do in a society is to get the Wee’ins out from under the parent’s feet for a few hours a day allowing them to go to work. This could mean you’re average working mom in America will be forced to quit work (cos she has to stay at home and mind the kids), something which will have an immediate and rather negative effect on the economy, i.e more people on welfare, less people working, never mind the long term effects of American education and literacy rates declining (so bang goes the knowledge economy).

Another proposal is to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Actually there’s a simple solution here, most of this money spent on these is little more than a massive bloated feeding trough for the pharmaceuticals industry to feed off of. By the US government simply buying out the patents on a few of the more heavily used drugs (which with $700 Billion a year they could easily afford to do) then have those drugs manufactured under license at generic costs. India and other developing countries do this and as a consequence many of these drugs cost several pence per dose, rather than hundreds of dollars a week in the US. Of course such a policy would hit the major US pharmaceutical companies, big donors to the Republican party, very hard.

So their proposal is pretty much a case of throwing grannies out of care homes and not vaccinating on treatable diseases. And what will the economic impact of a major epidemic be to the US? What about the people who have to quit work to stay at home and work as carers? (and thus won’t be paying tax and looking for unemployment benefits and food stamps).

Then there’s the Department of Energy (less than 1% of the US federal budget, would the last one out please turn off the lights….for the entire country!) or FEMA (so next time a Hurricane hits there’ll be no warning and no rescues meaning tens of thousands more causalities), the IRS (so basically everyone can cheat on they’re taxes without fear…..ya that’ll solve the deficit!) and ironically enough the department of Commerce (well given that after a year or 2 of Tea party/Libertarians in power there won’t be much commerce being done in the US anymore this mightn’t be such a bad idea!).

The bottom line is cutting from any of the above departments would cause enormous pain with little concrete gain. No, the only significant places where serious cuts can be made are things such as farm subsidies, the military budget, roads/federal highway’s agency and various “corporate welfare” programs. Of course none of these are palatable options for the Republicans.

And if the US does default who will be hit the worst? The banks, again mostly Republican voting and as noted, it tends to be Republican presidents who borrow more than democrats so they’ll be merely shooting themselves in the foot here.

Hence my advice to Obama would be not to worry, indeed sit in his hands, take a vacation and let the Republicans sweat. They need that debt ceiling raised more than he does, so he should let em squirm!

The war on light….bulbs

The US Tea party pulled off their first major public victory today. Did the get the deficit stopped? no! Did they prevent the debt ceiling being raised? no! Did they come up with a way that solves US debts without cutting any public spending in any tea party states without raising taxes (achievable by following any rainbow to its end and collecting the pot of gold)? no! They succeeded in getting a Federal ban on incandescent light bulbs reversed….I’m not making that up btw, seriously check it out below:

There logic behind this was that the ban on incandescent bulbs was “an attack on personal freedom”….and shooting people with guns isn’t “an attack on personal freedom”. Or how about the right to die? gay marriage? or abortion? capital punishment? If you think the government regulating light bulbs is a case of the Federal government going too far, then logically you’d have to say that all of the above would also count as excessive use of government power, so I shall be expecting Tea party support for gay marriage and abortion legislation soon….but no! How do you spell hypocrite? Do Tea party birther’s understand the concept of irony?

And what does the lightbulb industry say to this? Well actually they supported the ban, indeed they’ve been trying to phase out the older bulbs for years in line with an agreement with governments.

If I were to start writing a book about a crazy group of people who were convinced that the first black president of America wasn’t an American (and Muslim) and went around with tinfoil hats, supporting a presidential candidate whose core policy was overturning a lightbulb ban (as crazier-than-Palin-or-a-pole-cat Bachmann has done) I’d be accused of writing bad science fiction, as such a thing could never happen. Isn’t truth stranger than fiction.

The Phone hackers of the World

I shall presume that only those who’ve recently returned from Mars can ignore the whole saga of the current “phone hacking” affair. Over the week the papers own propaganda machine has turned in on itself. For example the paper had made a name for itself, like most tabloids, by flying the flag (a paper run and owned by Yanks and ex-convicts, i.e. Aussie’s), trying to be “patriotic” and “supporting the troops”…until it turned out they’d be hacking those very dead “heroes” phones! All the human tragedy stories they loved to run backfired when it turned out they’d been adding to the tragedy by hacking the phones of those involved and leaking private info to the public. It has now brought down a 160 year old newspaper and put in jeopardy the BSB takeover. Now let’s be clear, we ain’t loosing much. One thing that always got me about “the news of the world” is that a) it didn’t contain any actual news and b) it hardly ever mentioned the world, as the top story was usually about rumours that some WAG had a new boob job, or the usual little red ridding hood stories.

However, call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think there’s something bigger going on here. Why is Rebekah “sideshow” Brooks still in her job? She claims to have handed in her resignation to the Murdoch’s but it was rejected. This does not make any sense. “sideshow” Brooks was boss of the paper during the time we know this phone hacking was going on. This means one of two things, either she knew about it (in which case she should be in custody) or she was not in effective control of the company. I mean she’d walk in to work past desks while the hacks were listening away to the voice mail of 4,000 people’s phones and fail to notice anything amiss! I have this impression of “sideshow” Brooks spending her entire time in charge in the executive wash room with her fingers in her ears going “NA NA NA NA NA can’t hear you!”. In either case and in any other situation involving a scandal like this hitting a company (never mind a newspaper), it would have been a case of her being given a simple choice of resign or be sacked. And this would have happened months ago. Why has this not happened?

One obvious conclusion is that “sideshow” Brooks not been sacked because she knows something, and for the Murdoch’s to be prepared to sacrifice a 160 year old paper with a readership of 2.8 million, then whatever it is that she knows it must be something big, something that could get one of Murdoch’s spawn banged up or even bring down the whole News International empire. We could speculate on what this is until the cows come home, it could be that the Murdoch’s knew about the phone hacking or even ordered it, some skeleton in old Rupert’s closet (love child, involvement in some naughty illegal business deal, being the guy on the grassy knoll), I mean we could speculate all day and personally I’ll leave that up to the conspiracy theorists whom I’m sure are having a field day right now. The fact is that if he’s prepared to write off an entire newspaper to save one woman’s career and put in jeopardy the BSB deal, he has to have some genuine reason to save her least she get herself arrested and turn canary on him.

Now, you might say that his reasons are out of loyalty to a loyal employee…this the same Rupert Murdoch we’re talking about! He wouldn’t have made it past the post of mop boy without learning the golden rule of the corporate executive, develop survival instincts that would give a rat pause for thought and make Machiavelli’s the prince look like Gandhi. And those instincts would have meant using Mrs Brooks as a “meat shield” the instant things looked dodgy. So the very fact he is prepared to shut down newspapers to save this situation means we are probably merely seeing the tip of an iceberg emerging. Watch this space.

As for the News of the World, I suspect we’ll have the “Sunday Sun” out by next week.

The Ministry of Silly walks

Yesterday was the annual day for the Orange men to go “marching up and down the square” in Glasgow, hence many of us were awakened at 9am to the sound of drums and a brass band outside, not the sort of thing you want to hear when sleeping off a hangover (thank god for ear plugs!). I don’t know what it is about these guys, but they always remind me of that Monty Python sketch “ministry of silly walks”, what with their little bowler hats and umbrella’s.

The Orange order is a sort of strange relic of a bygone era. Their whole policy amounts to questioning whether we should you have one German in Rome as head of the church…or another German in Windsor :)) ?…sorry, I meant Lower Slough :DD? Indeed it’s strange to consider how so many people in the modern era hold such bigoted views. I would note that often its not the Orangemen who are the problem, but the hangers on in Rangers tops who follow any march that are usually the ones who cause all the trouble (the wannabe Orangemen). But still, if a load of wannabe Jihadi’s were to go marching through Glasgow in celebration of Bin Laden, or the Clan/neo-nazi’s to go marching either, PC plod would be in there like a shot (never mind what would happen if a bunch of peace-niks tried to do the same!). So its strange how we let one group of bigots get a free pass while anyone else trying to do the same will get themselves arrested.

Of course the Orange order would claim they are not anti-catholic “bigots, but merely celebrating Britishness and the importance of the Union… guys do know that William of Orange was a Dutch toff who barely spoke a word of English and indeed his only qualification for the job of king was the fact that he was rabidly anti-catholic. Hardly the sort of person I’d be celebrating as an example of modern Britishness. And have any of you guys been to Holland these days? Are you familiar with Dutch politics, i.e. legalisation of pot, prostitution, gay marriage and euthanasia and pretty much everything else that stanch conservatives such as the Orange order are firmly against.

Of course, this is what happens when people adopt a tabloid version of history. Another favourite king of many Brits is Richard the 1st (or “the Lionheart” to give him his absolute dictator stage name). He’s been voted “the best ever English King” on a few occasions….English King! Richard I was about as English as onion soup or frogs legs! He was in fact a French man who spent barely a few months in Britain during his entire reign, could barely speak a word of English and basically regarded the country as his own personal royal piggy bank to be milked dry to support his wars abroad. So less Kenneth Branagh and more Nicolas Sarkozy.

Of course the thing that I really can’t understand, so why so many Catholics, particularly those in the North, get so upset about the Orangemen, and I mean to the point of rioting. Guys, the only reason they are marching is in the hope of getting a rise out of you and basically pissing people off. If everyone adopted my strategy (ignore em!) then they’d eventually get bored and go away and annoy somebody else… maybe taking up cartoon drawing lessons…or maybe that’s the point, that Catholics need to “take one for the team” on this matter for the sake of everyone else.