The Opposite of Opposite

I remember hearing in school that one of the few words in the English language that is its own antonym is "cleave," which can mean either to adhere to or split from. Surprisingly, I learned today that one of the synonyms for cleave is ALSO its own antonym: "laminate," which can mean either to split into layers or to put together in layers.

Why all the confusion in our language about whether things are coming together or coming apart. (And, now that I'm up to my neck in this, why would you use "come" for both together and apart?)


If you're like me, then you really appreciate a good cathartic, down, low-key but earnest song. Here are my favorite artists in that vein:

6. Morphine
5. The Tindersticks
4. Serge Gainsbourg (& Mick Harvey doing Gainsbourg songs)
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
2. Nick Drake
1. Leonard Cohen

It appears that male vocalists dominate this field. I'll throw in Portishead, even though I think I like it for different reasons.


Obscure thought for the week

Fish poo is part of God's perfect creation. Bread loaves are man's imperfect invention.
Drawing arbitrary lines in the war on terror

"Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you."

- Attorney General John Ashcroft quoted by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas


Read this April, 1997 letter to Governor George W. Bush:

"Dear George,

You will be meeting with Ambassador Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan's Ambassador to the United States on April 8th.

...Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2 billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan, and Gazprom of Russia to develop Uzbekistan's natural gas and transport it to markets in Europe, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. This project can bring significant economic opportunities to Texas, as well as Uzbekistan. The political benefits to the United States and to Uzbekistan are important to that entire region.

...I know you and Ambassador Safaev will have a productive meeting which will result in a friendship between Texas and Uzbekistan.




The Regressive State

A survey published in today's Birmingham News reveals that most Alabamian's identify education as by far the most important issue facing the state. Those surveyed also agree that finding additional funding for schools is critical to improving the quality of education. Furthermore, most respondants are of the opinion that sales taxes, as opposed to property or income taxes, are the most equitable and reliable source of such funding. The fact that these assertions are demonstrably false doesn't say much for educational levels in the state right now.
"Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life’s ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved."

- W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938


Underground System

Set the foot down with distrust upon the crust of the
world --- it is thin.
Moles are at work beneath us; they have tunneled the
With separate chambers; which at an appointed knock
Could be as one, could intersect and interlock. We walk
on the skin
Of life. No toil
Of rake or hoe, no lime, no phosphate, no rotation of
crops, no irrigation of the land,
Will coax the limp and flattened grain to stand
On that bad day, or feed to strength the nibbled root's of
our nation.
Ease has demoralized us, nearly so, we know
Nothing of the rigours of winter: The house has a roof
against -- the car a top against -- the snow.
All will be well, we say, it is a bit, like the rising of the
For our country to prosper; who can prevail against us?
No one.
The house has a roof; but the boards of its floor are
rotting, and hall upon hall
The moles have built their palace beneath us, we have
not far to fall.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1939


You won't believe this:

Neil Bush, fellow Tulane alumnus, former chief of the Silverado Savings & Loan, and presidential brother, was in Jidda, Saudi Arabia last week giving the keynote at an international business forum sponsored by the Saudi Binladen Construction Group (yes, THAT bin Laden - Osama's dad's company). Former President Bill Clinton was also a speaker. But this isn't the scary part, the scary part is that such a curious appearance intersects with another curiousity...

Neil was in the middle east seeking investors for his new company, an educational software firm called "Ignite!" which stands to profit enormously from the "No Child Left Behind Act" signed by older brother George W. Here's what Neil had to say about the trip: “What am I supposed to do? Nothing in life? Every country has a concern about the education of its children—and I’m happy to cooperate with them. I don’t see a conflict.” - [article]

I wish there was some sort of alternative way he could spend his excess energy and ambition, but apparently he can either finagle a huge payoff from attracting foreign governments to invest in a software-selling scheme that dovetails conveniently with new federal mandates, or he can do nothing. Why couldn't he just market his own brand of beer?

Oh, and speaking of marketing...Happy National Consumer Protection Week!
The Worst Offense is a Bad Defense

So, $3.2 million out of the inadequate portion of the "war on drugs" budget earmarked for treatment and prevention was blown on a couple of Superbowl ads telling you that buying drugs is financing terrorism. Well, I'll let other people argue the case that decriminalizing drugs would seriously undercut the black-market's profit margin and save us the few billion dollars we were going to spend arming commandos, coddling informants, and buying Latin American elections. Instead I'll point out that the money trail to al-Qa'ida branches off in three main directions. One of them was the Taliban's control of the world heroin market - but they banned opium growing last year - so that would have dried up pretty quick anyway. The second is Mr. bin Laden's share of his family's enormous fortune amassed as a near-monopoly contracting company whose major clients have included Halliburton Oil (Mr. Cheney's company). The third is from redirecting funding for honest charity and aid. The easiest portion to redirect is that intended to support fundamentalist Islamic education and social institutions - which are largely funded by the Saudi government from their vast wealth accumulated in oil production. So, in addition to just saying "no" to drugs, you might also consider saying "no" to Cheney and "no" to that new SUV.