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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Archives for: September 2008

Paul and Paulson

The financial debacle that we are currently experiencing puts two men of very similar names but very different attitudes on the opposite sides of the opinion spectrum.

On the one hand we have Hank Paulson - the Treasure Secretary and former CEO of Goldman Sachs. That would be one of the largest investment banks which shamelessly peddled flimsy securities to unsuspecting investors, both home and abroad, while shorting the very same investment vehicles, knowing very well that most of the underlying mortgages were bound to fail as surely as any other pyramid scheme known to man.

On the other side there is Ron Paul - a Republican Congressman and former presidential candidate, who spent the last two years advocating sound money and warning about inherent dangers of easy credit, not the least of which is reckless spending. Endlessly expanding credit does create an illusion of wealth, but it is a fool's gold at best. Thanks to his understanding of monetary policy, Ron Paul was able to recognize the housing market fiasco at times when most market economists (and certainly other fellow presidential candidates) were still locked in the ignorant cheerleading mode. But very few chose to listen to him.

Now who do you think we should commission to lead us out of this mess?

Well, if you lived in a far far away Galaxy on some bizarre planet, where intelligent life forms watch stars rather than NASCAR, where killing your own species in the name of a loving superbeing would be regarded ridiculous and where solid work and skills might be rewarded more generously than accounting sleight of hand, then Ron Paul would probably be a pretty good guess. But here in the Solar System we do things differently. Why risk the expertise of a man who had foresight and commonsense of warning us against living above our means, when we can trust our collective check book with a man who has already pocketed a solid profit from the credit pimping that we are trying to eradicate. Let's give nearly absolute powers to a man whose personal integrity can be divined from the fact that merely weeks before he rushed into Congress begging for taxpayers money to avert the impending economic doom he repeatedly assured us that our financial system is "fundamentally strong".

But such is the nature of human race, I guess. We are like an alcoholic who wants to have that one last drink before quitting. Rather than facing the harsh reality of the credit hangover, we choose to follow the barman who just may pour us a glass of whiskey one more time. The man who gives us that warm cozy feeling that our economy is fundamentally strong. Until it isn't.

Roof Mower Wanted

Some people wear their heart on their sleeve and some houses wear their lawn on their roof. Especially in Norway.

If you think that grass being greener on the other side of the fence is a valid pretext for a healthy bout of the neighborly envy, imagine the peer pressure some Norwegians are subject to. You get up one day - and lo and behold - the Joneses have greener roof than you!

Turf roof (in Norwegian torvtak) is a traditional element of the Scandinavian home building. When you drive through Norway, you'll get to see it a lot, especially in rural areas. Originally, the turf was meant as a weight to hold waterproof birch bark down, but being an excellent thermal insulator, it survived on many buildings to this day even though the birch bark had been replaced by more modern materials.

The only thing that puzzles me about this architectural peculiarity is how do you mow the roof? Do you build a little mowing funicular or do you hone your old scythe and straddle the roof yourself?


California Peach

There was an ominously growing pile of TIME magazines by my bedside, so I decided to take its edge off a little bit and peruse a couple of numbers today. In the issue dated Aug 11 (page 6), I found 10 questions for the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The one which tilted my eyebrows in the weirdest angle was this one.

Q: Why have you taken impeachment off the table as an option for president George Bush?

A: ...You can't talk about impeachment unless you have the facts, and you can't have the facts unless you have cooperation from the Administration.

Wow. That's like the Police Chief Wiggum saying: "Well, you can't put a thief in jail unless you catch him, and you can't really catch him unless he cooperates and stops running away."

You are doing a heckuva job, Nancy!

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