Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Devastation in Lebanon

The international conference in Rome failed to come up with a cease fire solution for the Israel-Lebanon conflict, primarily because the US does not want a cease fire. An odd conference it was, with the most legitimately interested parties not participating - Hezbollah, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and Iran. Israel purposely misinterprets the non-decision as a green light to continue destroying south Lebanon and everyone who does not get out of the way - including red cross ambulance drivers and UN observers - in order to destroy Hezbollah. Possessors of superior firepower always seem to naively assume guerrilla forces do not have enough sense to get out of the way of the fire and then fight back from new locations. Perhaps it is not just naievite, but also a desire to punish bystanders.

The Bush Administration’s mouthpiece, Dr. Rice, parrots the simplistic lines about Hezbollah being the instigator and cease fires being no good unless there can be a “sustainable peace”. Sustainability comes in degrees. Permanent sustainability is the ideal, but history shows the difficulty of obtaining it. How realistically sustainable does the US want peace for Lebanon to be? Expecting Hezbollah to lay down its arms, especially after Israel has wreaked such disproportionately responsive havoc, is not realistic, which the US knows, but talking about some “sustainable” phantasm enables Israel to continue the destruction, which is what the US really wants.

The Iraq fiasco show the Bush administration does not understand guerrilla movements, insurgencies and militias. They see these as symptoms of a military problem, solvable with military force, instead of identifying the underlying maladies manifested by the symptoms. Political, social-economic and religious-ethnic problems require more than the use of military force to achieve a solution which has some hope of longevity. In 1979, Jimmy Carter brought Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel together to negotiate and agree on how their countries could live together in peace without the use of military force. That agreement is still in effect 27 years later, which is quite an accomplishment in the middle east.

The US endorsed Israeli devastation of south Lebanon, like the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, is creating new generations of Arabs and Muslims who hate the US and Israel. After 9/11, the neo-cons in the Bush administration leaped in to launch their bogus agenda in Iraq. Most Americans now see the fraud of that endeavor, but the US support for the Israeli attacks on Lebanon shows the neo-cons still hold vast power over the Bush Administration.

Lebanese history over the last several decades is complex. Israel has been there before, most recently ending military occupation in 2000. The US has also been there, Reagan sending armed forces peace keepers to Beirut and then “cutting and running” after a suicide bomber (most likely from Hezbollah) killed 241 of them on October 23, 1983 - the earliest example of the US retreating in the face of middle eastern terrorists. Reagan distracted attention from the bombing by courageously launching an invasion of Grenada two days later. That farce worked for a short while, but the biggest distraction from remembering Reagan’s early encouragement of suicide bombers has been the creation of the mythology that Reagan single handedly ended the cold war.

There is a US backed UN resolution to disband Hezbollah. Though it is not fully realistic, the resolution should be enforced by the UN, not Israel, and the US as a UN superpower should be one of the leaders in getting the UN to enforce it. The US and Israel argue that military devastation of the infrastructure in south Lebanon is necessary to thwart Hezbollah, and that the Lebanese government is too weak to do the job itself. Massive devastation of the infrastructure of a nation, with attendant death and displacement of civilians, in the pursuit of non-governmental militias is unwise, immoral and possibly illegal. Failure to work with the moderate Lebanese government to empower it to better handle matters in its own country is also unwise and immoral, but military powers like the US and Israel cannot abide moderation. Militarists believe “if you are not with us, then you are against us” , a mentality which can only produce the kind of peace that lasts merely until the victor takes his foot off the throat of the vanquished.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stem Cell Veto

George Bush used his first executive veto to kill a modest proposal to authorize Federal spending for stem cell research on existing frozen fertilized embryos that are otherwise destined to be destroyed. His press secretary says using the embryos for stem cell research would amount to murder of innocent human life. Bush himself does not go into much detail whenever he mentions the issue, just saying that such use of embryos is an immoral taking of human life. In fact, the veto photo op was very low key, taken with the families of some of the 128 children who had been adopted as embryos, out of an estimated pool of about 400,000.

You may remember that Bush spent considerable time, into August 2001, at “the ranch”, supposedly contemplating what Presidential action to take regarding stem cell research. It was during that time of supposed contemplation, in the month before 9/11, that security concerns about Al Qaeda were ignored. Bush eventually emerged with his Solomon-like decision - Federal funding would be allowed for research on the existing lines created from embryos which had already been destroyed, but not on any lines created from embryos after his oracular pronouncement.

If you read the August, 2001 pronouncement, you will notice the President appointed a Council to supposedly study and report on stem cell research. From what I can tell, that Council has merged into the President’s Council on Bioethics, which was actually created in 1995 by Bill Clinton, and has an expansive list of interests and has in fact issued some reports. Under Bush, two reports have been issued on stem cell matters, one basically just documenting the Bush position, and another exploring alternatives to the use of embryos.

Virtually all Congressional Democrats and many Republicans disagree with Bush on this issue, including enough in the Senate to almost override his veto. The American people also disagree with Bush on this issue, by a 2 to 1 margin. Why did he choose this issue for his first veto? Probably because he thinks it makes him look like a man of religious principle, who is not afraid of unpopularity. As a disgraced lame duck, Bush doesn’t have much to grab at, and if he can keep the religious right happy, he may be able to bank on their financial support in his retirement, giving sermons on how courageous he was to stand up for unwanted embryos. Notice that in his first term it took him a month of mental turmoil to come up with his ethical compromise, which he hoped would keep all his political options open.

Stem cell research has been and will be continuing in spite of Bush. Private funds can be used and States can provide funding, as California voters have done. Other countries are supporting research. The next Congress might include enough new people to pass the legislation again and override a Bush veto. Otherwise, the next President probably would not be inclined to veto such research. Bush knows this, which is part of the reason he has not made a mission of trying to stop stem cell research, other than Federally funded “post-pronouncement” research. He has fallen on his face on every other mission he has undertaken, so I think, for the rest of his term, his mission will be to not have any more missions.

Iraq Deaths

The killing in Iraq has gotten so out of hand that Americans at home may actually now be more aware of the number of Iraqis being killed than of the number of American service personnel deaths.

About 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. That same number is the monthly figure for Iraqis killed over the last two months. Each day 100 Iraqis die at the hands of criminals, insurgents and Americans. Most noticeable to Americans at home are the daily targeted sectarian assassinations of Shiites and Sunnis. [If you still think terror by suicidal killers is new, you should recall that the ancient word “assassin” comes from the arabic word “hashish”, the drug taken to induce killers whose political mission was to kill, knowing they would also likely be immediately caught and killed in retaliation].

In case you had not heard lately, US service personnel deaths in Iraq were 69 in May and 61 in June, with the total since the invasion now approaching 2,600. Just after the end of the year, the total should be about equal to the number who died on 9/11. Estimates of Iraqi deaths during that time vary, but a conservative, documented total of 40,000 seems an indisputable minimum.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel and Lebanon

The current Israeli military actions in Lebanon are thought by many to be a disproportionate response to the recent Hezbollah provocations. The world community, except apparently for Israel and the Bush Administration, seems to believe an immediate cease fire is in order. Even Bush’s buddy, Tony Blair, thinks the UN should arrange a cessation of hostilities monitored by an increased UN peace keeping force.

I previously admitted my ignorance of much about the middle east. Last March, I posted an article saying the demonstrations in Lebanon to send Syrian forces home seemed a little suspect to me. Since then, I have thought that article proved my ignorance. But now, I think I might have been at least part right in my suspicions. The Syrian forces were supposedly in Lebanon to protect against Israeli aggression. Now, after they were withdrawn, Israel has found it much easier to take hostile action against Lebanon, something the Bush Administration supports. So maybe it was not so far out to suspect that the CIA might have been involved in the assassination that triggered the uprisings in Lebanon last year.

Now Bush is saying Syria needs to exert restrictive control over Hezbollah in Lebanon. It seems that would have been easier to do when Syrian forces were stationed in Lebanon - in fact, it seems like the removal of Syrian troops may have made it easier for Hezbollah to use Lebanese soil to launch missions against Israel. Confused meddling in middle eastern affairs is a specialty of the Bush Administration. We foolishly increased the importance of Iran in the region when we removed from power their arch enemy, Saddam Hussein. We also seem to be playing a part in increasing the role of Syria.

Potty Mouth President

[This post is R-rated for language]

George W. Bush once again has been recorded by an open mike of which he was unaware. Speaking at the Group of 8 meeting to Tony Blair about the Israel-Lebanon hostilities, Bush gave his simplistic solution, “what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.” This reminds us of his open mike campaign remark to Dick Cheney referring to a New York Times reporter as “a major league asshole”. Cheney, of course, is more direct, saying right to Senator Leahy’s face, “Fuck you”.

Potty mouth language aside, Bush continues to embarrass our country on the international stage with his immature failure to grasp the basics of diplomacy. Impatience is his strong suit. Quick meetings and short comments are his style, which is fitting for a man who holds a job for which he is totally unqualified. His major observation at the G8 is that people talk too long. He prefers to cut it short and head for home.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

End of the Alphabet

What a relief to have finished my alphabetical passing thoughts. If you have been reading them, you may be even more relieved than I am to see them end.

When I started the alpha thoughts process two months ago, I had only been posting one article a week and I wanted to publish more often. I am not quite sure what I had in mind for the alpha postings, but the result was my own mini version of a Devil’s Dictionary. I had hoped the alpha postings would prompt me to write more regular articles also, but the alphas took up much more time than I expected, so very few other articles got written.

I did learn a few things by going through the alphas. I did not include many links in the alpha postings, and I realize such links broaden the value and appeal of what is written, so I look forward to getting back to writing articles with good links. In choosing the alpha words, I just picked what came to mind, so the results do show what areas are most on my mind. I wrote most about the Bush Administration, economics, politics, religion and war, all topics I expect to continue covering in my future postings.

One final thing I learned is to be careful about committing myself , and subjecting my readers, to a similar project in the future.

(Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry, so aptly named for this posting, sounds interesting per the editorial reviews at Amazon)

Passing Thoughts on Some “X” “Y” and “Z” Topics

X Factor - The unknown element, as usually identified by the person trying to sell it to you.

X Box - A game console sold by Microsoft, which apparently tried to get people to believe it had some unknown element that made it better than the competition. Consumers evidently do not think so, preferring instead to purchase the Play Station 2.

X Ray
- Looking beyond at, and short of through, inside, without seeming to enter.

- The Intelligent Designer’s name in the earliest preserved written mythology.

Yellow Pages
- When the phone company was a monopoly, they made a colossal mistake in not trademarking the term “yellow pages”, thereby letting it slip into free use to describe any business listings. Yellow page advertising was a huge revenue source for the phone company, but monopoly busting plus the trademark lapse, and now internet searching created competition for yellow page advertising and some phone companies have sold off their yellow page business.

Yes - Sometimes easy to say but hard to live up to. Sometimes hard to say and easy to live up to.
The trick is predicting accurately.

Youth - Wasted on the young? Would you really want to go back, knowing what you know now? Might be time to watch “Peggy Sue Got Married” again.

Zero - I tried the blog search engine at the top of the page to find the discussion John from Phoenix and I had on the history of the mathematical concept of zero, but all the engine found was an article I wrote on sex offenders, mentioning zero tolerance. I guess that shows even search engines are preoccupied with sex and avoid math.

Zillow - This web site is further proof that big brother is watching - and knows the value of your house.

Zoo - Where man looks at animals, who look back, each being happy not to be the other.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Passing Thoughts on Some “W” Topics

Wages - Payment for time spent working. Given employer reluctance to make wages any higher than absolutely necessary, some employees make up the difference by sloughing off the work. The ideal, embodied in the trade union philosophy, is a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. The ideal as embodied in Federal Law is a minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, a figure which has not been raised by Congress for almost ten years, during which time members of Congress have raised their own pay numerous times. Senator Clinton has proposed legislation to only allow Congressional raises when the Federal minimum wage is raised.

- Everyday low prices - but not the lowest, not the best quality, not the best employment practices, and not the best corporate citizenship. Probably has the most active and annoying public address system though.

Walking - Healthy, fuel efficient means of personal transportation, disdained by many people in favor of hovering in the parking lot in their idling automobile, waiting for the closest parking space to the door of the store to become available.

War - Violence which escalates until one party surrenders, or until both agree to a truce.

- What one has, usually implying a quantity greater than the average and often applied as a measure of economic worth. More broadly, wealth means well being, and in some places is applied to the public good as embodied in the State, as for example the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A variation of the term is the word welfare, also meaning the well being of someone. Same root, but a vastly different meaning - wealthy, or on welfare.

- Tools of violence. In war, better weapons can overcome superior opposing forces, so warfare escalates the production of ever more powerful weapons. Every weapon of increasing devastation developed by man has been used in war, the most powerful to date being the atom bombs the US dropped on Japan. More powerful nuclear weapons have not been used - yet. Will we finally break the chain of devastation and destroy all nuclear weapons so they will not be available for use? It does not seem likely in the foreseeable future, with many nations pushing to acquire nuclear arms, prompted some say by the belligerence of the Bush Administration.

- The activity of that part of the environment not directly connected to the ground. Essentially beyond our control, the power of the weather should be something we celebrate and respect, working with it as best we can, instead of foolishly altering it by our environmental neglect.

- Undesirable plants, as determined by the farmer or gardener. Before there were farmers and gardeners, were there weeds? They certainly were not part of the intelligent design of the Garden of Eden. But after Eve ate the apple, the Designer started horticultural terror.

- In the modern US sense of a hand out from government, welfare is dispensed to diverse recipients, from corporate giants to unemployable mothers with dependent children. Those most in legitimate need of welfare also have the least power to influence government, so they are the ones most likely to be targeted by so-called welfare reform.

- Another gift to English from the Icelandic, where it meant a person who commits adultery. The word should properly have continued to be applied equally to men and women, but men having the societal power, it has come to be applied most often to a female prostitute.

- From the Anglo-Saxon for wife of a man, it is now used to mean any adult female human being. Since it takes both a man and a woman to reproduce, one can see that equal rights makes sense. But men created a mythology otherwise and enforce it with their superior capability for violence.

Words - Units of communication, capable of sending everything from simple messages to emotional explosions. The human study of the use and power of words is woefully deficient, probably because those who know how to use words most powerfully for their selfish purposes want it to be that way.

Worry - Emotional energy expended, in almost all cases needlessly, in contemplation of the future.

Worth - A measure of value, unfortunately most often used in the monetary sense. Without endorsing the Mastercard commercials, some things are truly priceless.

- Digitally manifested employment of words, sometimes mundane, sometimes magnificent, but most often somewhere in between. Even today, many adults are not capable of writing, or of reading writing, thereby compounding many of their troubles. World literacy should be a top human concern.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Passing Thoughts on Some “U” and “V” Topics

Ugly - Extreme make overs being rare, ugly is hard to accept, either in oneself or in others. Say what we will about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, most people agree on what is ugly. Ugliness can be toned down, and a good personality can distract from it once one gets to know the ugly person. Ugly is one of a handful of words brought to English from Icelandic.

Unemployment - An economic indicator to economists, but a harsh reality to the jobless person behind the statistic. Why a certain percentage of ready, willing and able unemployed people is not an unhealthy sign when there are so many things worth doing that are not getting done has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Full employment in legitimate jobs seems to me a desirable goal.

Unions - Workers getting together to keep “the man” from playing them off against each other. Some workers don’t care enough about the other workers to unite with them, and they can be used by “the man” to play off against other workers. For that reason, the laws of democracy have been applied to unions - if the majority of workers want a union, the minority in opposition are bound by the decision to unionize; they get the benefit of union negotiation and are required to pay the cost of being in the union.

United Nations - Americans were highly instrumental in its wise creation, which makes it all the more sad to see so many Americans today ignorantly disparaging it, cheered on by former yell leader George W. Bush.

United States - A federation of now 50 States, originally developed by compromise, later preserved by a war to suppress succession, and now held together by a wise Constitution and many well meaning citizens in spite of efforts by George W. Bush type politicians to foment discord between citizens of different States.

University - A conglomeration of colleges, affording students the opportunity to be exposed to some aspects of all the universe of learning - or at least as many as can be accommodated in the elective hours left after the requirements of the major course of study are met. Taking at least one course from each college would be a good requirement for a university curriculum.

Utopia - A place where everything is perfect. To conservative US Republicans, a country where the rich are not taxed and the poor are not protected. To liberal US Democrats, a country where the rich pay a fair share of taxes and the poor are protected. Which vision is more unrealistic?

Vandalism - Useless defacement and destruction by ignorant and otherwise idle people who in some cases mistakenly believe themselves to have artistic talent.

Vanilla - A flavor so delicious and popular that it somehow became considered plain.

Vengeance - “Is mine sayeth the lord”, again demonstrating the role of terrorism in the mythology of the Intelligent Designer. Vengeance is getting even, or paying back, for some wrong, including that done to others. George W. Bush told us we needed to get vengeance for Saddam Hussein gassing the Kurds , but he never mentioned that the Kurds were gassed while his father was President and that his father at the time did not bat an eyelash.

Veterans (US)- People who were in the military or naval service of the US, and promised certain benefits in return for their service, if they lived to claim them, and then were periodically discouraged from claiming them, as is being done now by the Bush Administration.

Victory - Achieving a goal at the expense of something or someone else. The goal is often redefined as its original basis proves spurious or as its attainment becomes less likely. The definition of victory in the US invasion of Iraq first proved to be falsely based and then became illusory and now seems to be shifting and unattainable in the foreseeable future.

Vindictive - Punishment with expected delight, which never lives up to its billing.

Violence - Physical force prone to causing injury, considered illegal in most instances, unless called a sport or a justified war.

Virginity - Absence of experience. Though it can apply to any type experience, it is most commonly applied to the act of sexual intercourse - and at a higher level to olive oil, which can be extra virgin. Incidentally, I believe Olive Oyl remained a virgin. Sweet Pea was not the child of Popeye, and though the cartoons are somewhat ambiguous, the earlier comics indicate Sweet Pea was a foundling and neither Olive Oyl nor Popeye was a parent.

Voting - Giving those considered qualified the opportunity to participate in the election of an officeholder or in making the decision on a proposition. A revered methodology to Democrats. To Republicans, an alterable process to be manipulated at the qualification level (such as the fraudulent Florida voter roll purges), at the participatory level (such as the Ohio voting booth shortages in Democratic precincts), and ultimately at the decision level (such as the Republicans on the US Supreme Court stopping the vote count and awarding the Presidency to Bush).

Monday, July 10, 2006

Passing Thoughts on Some “T” Topics

Talent - That which makes one better than most people at performing a particular task. Some talented people do not recognize or choose to use their talent. Some are frustrated getting others to let them use it. Too many untalented people mistakenly think they have talent, and sometimes they are allowed to perform - with disastrous results. Case in point - George W. Bush.

Tangent - Where I often go, sometimes worthwhile and sometimes not. Life without tangents might be more direct, but less interesting. And what’s the hurry - especially when one gets older?

Tea - A drink with jam and bread the song said. I prefer it to coffee and drink it at home for a small fraction of the cost of a Starbuck’s concoction.

Team - People working together for a common goal, some out of sincere conviction and some merely out of need. The better teams are composed of people committed to the goal with a need to be part of attaining it, and the best ones also have talented members.

Technology - From the Greek meaning the art of making things that do work. The term now sometimes seems to mean Geek made things we can’t figure out how to make work.

Term Limits - Except in the case of the all powerful US President, where we should strongly consider shortening the duration from two terms to one, term limits do not really work. Professional office holders merely play musical chairs, running for different offices when the limits bounce them. The best term limit is the one least used - voting out incumbents.

- A tactic as old as creation. In fact the Intelligent Designer has made continual use of the device, according to the various published accounts. The so-called War on Terror is one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people.

Testing - Requiring proof of knowledge. The younger and less powerful are subjected to the most testing requirements. Those who hold seniority and power usually escape testing. Testing can be used to discourage participation (e.g. Jim Crow literacy testing of black voters), and it can be used to undermine institutions (as some say the No Child Left Behind law intends to do to the public school system). Testing is best used to encourage progress and protect against injury by incompetents.

- There is so much one can write about this subject - but I don’t have the time right now.

- A ceremonial drug of indigenous people, turned by a secretive corporate industry into a highly profitable mass addiction. The remedy for tobacco litigation should have been to put the corporations into receivership with the stock ownership being transferred to the victims who then could decide how to liquidate the corporate assets.

Tolerance - Cutting slack for people who are different - up to a point. Some people put the point quite close to themselves. In the US, our tradition has included a more open attitude toward diversity. Libertarians are the most tolerant, conservatives the least. Liberals are on the tolerant side of middle, moderate Republicans just over the line toward intolerance.

Torture - A bad way to get bad information. When bad people do it, they are called brutal. When good people do it, they say the end justifies the means, without ever showing evidence torture produced a good end. The international community had the sense to agree to outlawing torture, but the Bush administration did not have the sense to live up to the agreement.

Trade - Swapping, or in the case of the US today, buying huge amounts from China with comparatively little sold in exchange.

Tradition - Something done twice in a row, and so pointed out by someone who wants to see it made an ongoing requirement.

Transcendental - Something beyond natural, rational, knowledgeable or experienced understanding - such as how in the hell the American people allowed themselves to end up with George W. Bush in the White House.

Transportation - Movement of people and things, usually mutually intended, but sometimes at least in part, involuntary. [See also, for example, rapture and rendition].

Travel - People transportation, sometimes for fun and sometimes of necessity. Traveling to other countries and experiencing other cultures can be a broadening experience. George W. Bush, when he assumed the Presidency, had not traveled abroad, except to Mexico, one of many factors contributing to his colossal ignorance of international affairs and to his personal rejection by the international community.

Trees - Only God can make one said Kilmer, apparently considering seeds, arborists and botanists as secondary causes. I just visited some 1,000 year old trees at the Grove of the Patriarchs on Mount Rainier. Experiencing their aged presence did not make me think of Deity creating them, but rather of man’s sad inclination to cut them down.

- The boob tube, home of the vast wasteland of the 1960s. Back then, in a college speech course, I argued that pay TV would produce better programming than advertiser supported TV. What we ended up with is cable TV, a more vast wasteland , for which we have to pay while still putting up with advertising.

Two Party System
- An early, mostly unexpected development in US history, that seems to have ingrained itself to the detriment of our government. On a few occasions, third party movements have had temporary impact, but a strong argument can be made for the value of developing permanent minor parties to work for progress in areas where the two parties are stagnant.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Passing Thoughts on Some “S” Topics

Sabbatical - Getting the seventh year off with pay, as opposed to corporate merger where one gets the seventh year off without pay.

Sacrament - A sacred rite that is believed to confer a special blessing. Catholics have five more than most Protestants, thus proving Catholics are more blessed - or more in need of blessing.

Satellites - Man made objects orbiting the earth, originally for scientific and military purposes, but now often for commercial reasons. Earth people’s first forays beyond the atmosphere have also created the first known garbage dump in space.

Sausage - Though it tastes good, supposedly we do not want to know how it is made, lest we be turned off by what goes into it. No wonder it is often compared to legislation.

Science - Not necessarily the opposite of religion, though some people who claim to be religious act as if science is anti-religion.

Score - A comparative measure used in competitions. Most of us live life as a competition, keeping score and comparing ours with others. Constant score keeping and comparison is probably not the best way to live.

Scotus - Acronym for “The Supreme Court of the United States”.

Scrotus - Acronym for “Some Congressional Republicans of the United States”.

Secret - Something I know but you don’t and that I want you to wish you did. Sometimes you do know it, but do not know you know it because you are too concerned with trying to get it out of me rather than finding out for yourself. Sometimes it is non-existent even though some fools insist it is there - such as Saddam’s WMD.

Security - Safe from falling or failing. Our US Social Security system is a wonderful safety net for all participants, though many Republicans, including George W. Bush, would like to see it replaced with something allowing for profiteering by some at the expense of others.

Sense - The name chosen for this Blog. Feeling based on perception. The better the perception, the better the feeling.

Sex - Whether you are a man or a woman. Also, an intimate act you might do with a man or a woman. The intimate acts are a primary concern of religions and governments, though most people, except the Paris Hilton types, prefer to keep such intimacies private.

Shopping - Once only a necessity, this endeavor has now become recreation for many people, which may be preventing them from achieving financial security.

Sibling - A rival, never intended as such by the common parents.

Sin - An Anglo-Saxon word for something evil or wicked, adopted by some religious leaders to make other people feel inferior. Jesus put it well when he saved the “sinful” woman from being stoned by the righteous men, saying “let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”. Be sure to include the “among you” in this quote, lest you have the situation where a huge boulder comes flying in from Heaven.

Sinecure - A job that pays for not working. Quite rare. Not the same as a person who is paid to work but does not do so. In the US we have sinecure farm land, owned by agri-corporations which are paid by the taxpayers not to farm it.

Skeptic - A doubter, with reason, who knows some things really are too good to be true.

Slavery - Subjugation of one human being by another which, as in most things, comes in different degrees, the worst being based on physical characteristics such as race and having as a basis the belief the slave is a piece of property instead of a human being. This worst type is what existed in the United States and its predecessor colonies for almost 250 years.

Slum - A run down area of a city, occupied by poor people but usually owned by rich people. When the poor people of the slum use free market capitalism to improve their financial situation, as by selling drugs to rich people who come to the slum to buy them, the government of the rich people makes war against them.

Socialism - A form of government in which some degree of common ownership of property is utilized to bring about a more fair distribution of wealth and the fruits of labor. All governments are socialist to some extent, the differences being what property is owned in common and what is considered a fair distribution.

Spam - I actually liked it in sandwiches as a kid, but cannot stand it now on my computer. Spam persists because a few people are stupid enough to bite on it and the smart people who keep the Internet going are not smart enough to figure how to get the stupid people to stop biting.

- Looking like fish through a microscope, these aggressive competitors have a program of their own and seek diligently to accomplish their mission in spite of defensive attempts to prevent them. Abstaining from launch would appear to be the most effective defense, but it quite often fails, because the launchers are biologically programmed not to abstain.

Spiritual - Not physical. Sensed or felt without perceiving. That which is truly spiritual should be personal to the individual. Much that is called spiritual is not truly personal and individualized, but is instead manufactured in others by self-proclaimed spiritual leaders seeking to benefit by the manufacture.

Spy - Surreptitious information gatherers. The most worthwhile are those who gather information to be used in the maintenance of international peace. The least are those who spy to aid unjust wars, followed closely by those planted on our computers to target us with unwanted advertising.

Standard - Something fixed by which other things can be measured, sometimes to their detriment [not up to the standard] and sometimes for the better [extra special as opposed to the standard variety]. Standards are needed for objectivity, sometimes obviously as for feet and inches, and sometimes when all but forgotten as in journalism [Fox News fair and balanced, by what standard?].

Stars - Go to a mountaintop or observatory to be awed by the universe and humbled by our place in it.

Statistics - Numerical facts, the proper understanding of which is often crucial to our decision making as individuals and as a society. Those who misrepresent and distort statistics to pervert decisions , as the Republicans and Bush Administration have continuously done, most notably in regard to tax giveaways to the rich, should be punished - in the case of public office seekers, by voting against them.

Strike - To hit - or in baseball, to miss when you try to hit, or not try to hit when you should have [no wonder they call baseball a thinking man’s game]. In labor relations, a strike is a withholding of labor as a bargaining tactic. The rich elites have always tried to portray trade unionists as criminal types, so the use of the word “strike”, with its violent overtone, may have been a public relations defeat for unions. I’m trying to think of a better one word substitute. Any suggestions?

Stuff - Our physical accumulations, too important for us to give up. Try this test; hold up successive pieces of your stuff and ask yourself , if you did not already own it, would you pay 25 cents for it at a garage sale?

Surrogate - One who takes the place of another. Currently used most commonly for a surrogate mother, one in whom the fertilized egg of an infertile woman is implanted. One who provides sperm in place of an impotent man is called a sperm donor if he does it through a laboratory, and could be called a lot of other things if he does it directly, depending on the circumstances. The closest thing to a real surrogate father is probably an adoptive or step-dad.

Survivor - I confess to watching this hokey CBS show. What I like about it is the coming together of a diverse group of strangers, each with personal goals ,in addition to the big one of winning money, and the gradual development and testing of relationships based on a variety of human factors. It actually is a lot like life, so this member of the much maligned reality genre actually lives up to the billing in many respects.

Sympathy - Feeling for the feelings of someone else, without actually putting yourself in his or her place. Empathy adds the element of imagining yourself in the place of the other. Hallmark sells sympathy cards. They tried empathy cards, but they did not work well - people kept mailing them to themselves.