Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Islamization of Europe and America: Which religion promotes freedom and democracy?

Can secular government save us, or is reason on the way out? 

The wars of the gods seemingly never end. A family member asked me today what I thought of the "Islamization of Europe." She forwarded me at letter entitled, "The Lights Are Going Out All Over Europe."

My first thought was, Are they having power shortages in Europe? But the article was not about lights or electric power at all: The message was yet another fear-mongering spiel on the dangers of Islam. The gist of the article was this: " Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy," 

My reaction (my reply to my sister) was: "Is there a religion that is compatible?" 

If so, it must be a new religion with which I am not familiar.

The article complains of Muslims flooding Europe, taking over neighborhoods and even entire cities. 

Islamic subcultures forming pockets in European nations raised interesting questions for me: Where are they coming from? Why are they there? Is it an invasion, or are these refugees fleeing their more fundamentalist brethren? Can it be that they prefer a more liberal  state after all?

I have not studied the migration patterns in Europe, but in general, people migrate when they are hungry/starving, unemployed, persecuted or threatened with annihilation. Civil wars and religious wars can result in a lot of migration.  

When mass migration happens, people with strong religious ties and or racial identities gravitate/cling to one another and form enclaves, especially if they are not rapidly integrated into society. This may well be the case in, for example, France, which I understand (I just looked it up.) has had a lot of Islamic immigration due to wars and poverty in Africa, Lebanon, Syria, etc. Netherlands is seeing immigration from Indonesia and Surinam, and Germany from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia.

 Do you see a pattern here? Political conflict, religious violence, low standards of living  and unemployment are driving people to move in deseperation.

In France, for one example, the general population is reacting with fear and distrust: Polarization going on.

What are the dangers? All Abrahamic religions are potentially dangerous to other groups: As a rule they tend to be anti-freedom, anti-democracy, and anti-science, in my opinion, but Islam is particularly dangerous due to Muslim exclusiveness, combined with a demanding, and sometimes even warlike approach. 

Islam is a very successful religion in terms of survival and replication.  Muslims seem good at systematically imposing their beliefs and practices on others: Perhaps they are even better at this than Christians (which really tells us something).

Is the world endangered, by polarized groups of religious fanatics of all types? Probably so to at least some extent. 

The prospect of these two giants, Islam and Christianity, slugging it and dragging the rest of us into an all out religious war is particularly disturbing, yet forces on both sides are trying to  increase fear, generate hate. stir up animosity and to foster intolerance.  In the background one can almost hear the war drums beating: There are those among us who want the rest of us to get whooped into a killing frenzy.

The downside of certainty
People do like the certainty of absolutes: Religion appeals so much, that most people will indeed give up their personal freedoms for it. Not content with that, they will bomb and destroy infrastructure that took generations to build, all in order to enjoy group identity and promote religious solidarity.  

What could be more destructive than wars, and what motivation to fight is greater than the motivation of religion? Religious convictions entail the false certainties that are most likely unleash the uncertainties of war.

Which religions are really democratic?
Do any religions really believe in secular government? My experience with Christianity and my occasional observation of the international news tells me the answer in general is "No." Many religious folk with whom I have spoken seem to be using secular government in hopes that it will some day be replaced with their version of a religious monarchy. 

Many Christians wish to use politics to promote their own religion, and the same goes for Muslims. In my experience, neither Christians nor Muslims really believe in secular government at all, but they are willing to use secular government for all it is worth to promote their own civil rights, and to deny the rights of those of other faiths.

Secular government versus religion

In America, one of the most feared bogeys of all time has been secular humanism. Yet secular humanism seems to be the only alternative, really, to the oppression, war, and cruelty that has beset the world for millions of years, all in the name of religion. It appears that the gods are not perfect.

A secular, democratic society is not perfect either, yet it would be a great improvement over the blood-curdling, religious fanaticism that threatens to engulf us. State-sponsored religions have never promoted freedom for all. Meanwhile, public education is under ongoing attack by those who would like to control the curriculum and to supply religious myths en lieu of science. 

My response to all of this: Let freedom ring. Let government be secular.  Let education be free. And let religious folk learn to get along with others, like everyone else does.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Why is Hamas rocketing Israel now?

Opinion: Hamas is laboring under an illusion: Iran will drop Hamas like a hot potato, but if they don't, we could end up in a real world war.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The golden age of waffles: Why my waffles were soggy, and how I fixed the problem

Are you tired of soggy waffles? You might want to do what I did to get beautiful, crunchy waffles like the one in the photo below.

 Laura Lockwood making waffles with our "new" antique waffle maker. 
Let's face it: I had not tasted a good, crunchy, homemade waffle for decades. 

Oh, we had all the latest gear, but they always came out soggy, and I began asking myself, "What is it about these waffles?" Was it just my imagination telling me that the waffles used to taste better? An idea began to take shape in my mind: What if the waffle makers of today just are not as good as the vintage waffle irons? 

This morning when I saw an older waffle maker at a yard sale, I decided to find out. "How much for that waffle iron?" 

It was starting to rain and the lady at the yard sale was trying to cover things up to keep them from getting wet.

I suggested, "That waffle iron looks really old."

This was in town, but for some reason the woman seemed very "countrified" to me. She stopped what she was doing and looked at the old waffle iron. "Oh, yes, that's an antique." 

"How much will you take for it?"

She must have been in a good humor despite the weather: "How about one dollar?" 

The deal was done.  Yes, it was a little greasy, yes it was a little scratched up, but I was about to embark on a scientific experiment. Well, the "experiment" as it evolved, would smell to a scientist like an anecdotal report, but so what? I suspect that even scientists tend to believe their own taste buds.

This evening about 10:30 I got hungry. We had three frozen waffles in the freezer, enough for one of us. I suggested that Laura eat the frozen waffles and I would experiment with our new appliance to make my own midnight snack. 

I kind of scrubbed it down a little, but I was thinking, Heck, this thing will get hot won't it? 

Hot enough to kill any germs, or I would always think it should have." 

I plugged it in.

I explained to Laura: "I will make some waffles and just throw the first one away. That should clean the waffle iron pretty well." 

While Laura was finishing off her frozen waffles, the vintage appliance started to smell hot, not like smoke, but like ... HEAT! 

This thing is really getting hot! 

I reflected on the fact that my modern waffle maker never emitted the essence of heat like that. I felt like the first cave man to cook on an open fire! Well, perhaps I exaggerate a little. But, I had yet to add the batter.

Laura got up to look into this activity too. We both had our doubts about how this would turn out. Would the waffles turn instantly black? Would they be scorched to ashes and soot?

I had sprayed the grid with cooking oil, and added oil to the waffle mix as well. I filled the grid with batter and shut it down. Steam was rolling out and let me tell you, the smell was reminiscent of my younger days and all the while, the the scent of real food was re-awakening the appetite of my youth.

When the steam stopped escaping I figured the waffle must be done, and I was right. That danged waffle looked and smelled so perfect, I told Laura, "Heck, I am not going to throw that waffle away!" Golden-brown exterior was too gorgeous.

I smothered that first waffle with Smart Balance and artificial maple syrup from Albertson's, and dug in. The next thing I noticed was the crunch, and I knew for certain, this experiment was a success; my days of soggy waffles were over. 

So here's the deal (What the scientists call the "summary") You can try to save the world and keep on using your Energy Star appliances if you want to. As for me, I am seventy years of age. You can't fool me into thinking those soggy, limp pieces of doo that we had endured before were real waffles

I suppose I am just too old to save the world from hot waffles.

How much difference can one little waffle make anyway? From now on, I plan to use a waffle iron that is as old as I am, or nearly so, especially when they give them away for $1.00 each, and even more so if they are still working after 50 years! (Surely there must be some energy savings involved in not having to purchase a new unit every five years to get the latest colors and styles.) 

Long live those crunchy waffles of yesteryear.

Frank Ellsworth Lockwood is also the author of the novel, "Captains All." Purchase it now at: https://www.createspace.com/4133264



Thursday, June 12, 2014

School violence and education reform: Potentially deadly connection overlooked

I have been saying this for decades, perhaps I should have been shouting it: There may be, probably is, a connection between school violence and ill-advised aspects of education reform.

Don't get me wrong: I have always been a supporter of better education, better methods, science-based instruction and the implementation of best practices, however, so-called school reform or education reform does not always go hand in hand with good education, when defined as what is best for students.

The basic premise of the reforms of the past thirty years has been flawed, the premise being this: Raising the bar (often paired with cutting the budget) is the cure for bad education. No, not true. Bad thinking!

The assumption is this: Schools have not been expecting enough of the teachers and students. Put more pressure on the kids and teachers and you will see a marvelous transformation: Higher achievement, more success, enhanced industries, happier employers, satisfied universities and more. Problem is, it just is not so.

The so-called raising of the bar can be expected to help maybe 15 to 25 percent of students, and to harm an equal number, but once the chant caught on, it was popular with politicians and various groups with their own agendas, and it fulfilled a need: The need to place blame on someone for a range of popular discontent with the schools.

The schools were the great hope, and at the same time, the great Satan: You failed college? Must be the school system's fault. Didn't get a raise? School system's fault.  As an employer, you hired people at minimum wage, then found that they lacked training and academic work: Must be due to the bad schools. Your kid went out of control, took drugs, got drunk, got in fights, the solution was the same: Raise the bar, expect more, put on more pressure to "succeed," whatever succeed meant to you.

Social stress
Although I think this reasoning has been wrong all along, I also believe there is adequate evidence that many if not most of the school murders that have occurred in the past thirty years have had their roots in social isolation and or school stress.

The above seems self-evident to me: The people who kill others wantonly, are not happy campers! They are failures on one level or another or else they view themselves as outsiders, as failures.

Purveyors of our culture, sometimes referred to as the "movers and shakers," use "the pursuit of excellence" as a license to put undue stress on many individuals, which may aggravate that problem, in my opinion.

For every student that goes bonkers and starts killing people, you can safely bet that there are dozens, if not hundreds, who are having the same kinds of self-image problems, the same problems "fitting in," the same trouble accepting oneself as "okay," the same difficulty viewing oneself as successful, and too easily, our school philosophies can reinforce that isolation.

We have turned the educational system into a mandatory system of self-reproach, based upon the official implementation of so-called "bench-marks." The state of Oregon set standards so high that, even after 25 or maybe 30 years of implementation, no student had ever passed the advanced benchmarks.

I live in one of the towns that I believe has some of the best schools in America: Richland, Washington, yet I read just the other day that our schools lost their good standing with the federal government for supposed school failure. The only school in the Tri-Cities to rank Exemplary is Ruth Livingston Elementary. Overall, 41 of the 60 schools in the four area districts are rated no better than fair. (http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/press/press-releases/few-tri-cities-area-schools-rank-high-new-report)

Ours is a very competitive society, so when the best public schools in the country, perhaps among the best in the world, are rated as failures, what kind of message does this send to our students and teachers?

The typical administrative response has been two-fold: to prune off the supposed dead wood -- fire teachers, hire new ones, change administrators, implement new programs based upon the same flawed assumptions. The other strand has been to hire specialists in school safety, implement programs geared make students more compassionate and so-on. We try to teach kids social skills and loving, caring, groupie attitudes, and perhaps that works for some students.

Nonetheless, don't look for school violence to abate until we back off on our false notions about what can be achieved, given the resources that we have. Until we acknowledge that "the same high standards for all" was a farce, we are bound to keep putting more and more pressure on those within the system. People who are already under stress cannot handle the added pressure. Some react with self-destructive behaviors: Others explode in acts of violence upon other people.

I hate to find myself in the position of promoting perpetually new reform movements, but perhaps the time has come to have a new school reform, one designed to undo the ill effects of the ill-advised school reforms of the past thirty years. We should keep what works, and recognize what does not.

Clearly, deadly school violence should be a ref flag for anyone interested in improving schools.

Replacing the slogan, "same high standards for all," with another slogan: "Appropriate levels of difficulty for all" might be a place to start.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Washington the Wheezer State: Should Washington State approve new coal exporting facilities?

Why would Washington State permit the exporting of death?

I have concerns about our state's tacit promotion of death-by-coal, and that depiction is no exaggeration, according to official state documents (See links below.).

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The death of the great American waffle.

My waffle flopped!
The last great waffle I ever had: That's  what's on my mind.

Waffling! That is, the making of waffles. They don't taste good any more! Have you noticed that? Well, probably not unless you are over 50 years of age.

Maybe this lady named "Karly" has the solution, maybe not. Her recipe certainly looks enticing, and after this morning, I intend to try it out.

I would try Karly's waffle recipe right now except for one thing: Laura only has one egg left in the fridge and what do you want to bet she has plans for that egg? Oh, and I already ate.

I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning and my tummy was growling, but I thought, "It's better to be hungry now than to have diabetes later."

That was before I had the visions. I am not saying the visions were from the "Lord" of your choice.

I started dreaming of waffles the way I used to eat them, when I was a kid. For those who may not know me, that was a long time ago (as in the 1940s and 50s).

The vision just would not go away, so I got up and got out the waffle iron.

How I wish I had Mom's old waffle iron again: Yes, the one that had brown and black persistent crud that would not scrub off. It featured a curly wire wrapped around the cord where it entered the waffle iron. You could not get the damned thing clean, but I just can't make good waffles without it.

I swear, something is wrong with my waffle iron. Something has changed with the waffle irons lately. My waffles always turn out soggy. If  I leave them in the waffle iron long enough to become crispy -- they way waffles are supposed to be -- they come out stiff as a board!

If anyone has an old waffle iron from the 1940s in working condition, I want that thing. Now.

Yes, they are heavy! Cast iron, none of this Teflon, uh, stuff.

I could swear that soggy waffles are a Communist plot (did you ever notice how the government, the EPA for instance, makes you feel guilty for the damnest things? Good waffles, for instance.)

I am betting that they changed the specs for waffle irons, as if crispy waffles were a notable cause of global warming.

Mind you, I am a firm believer in global warming: I just don't think soggy waffles are going to save the world!

I cannot imagine a Russian worrying about cooking waffles on a cast iron waffle maker. So I guess it's not a Communist plot. Nonetheless, modern waffle irons rank right down there with water-saving toilets, in my opinion. You know. the ones that don't flush?

Oops, I am off topic. Back to the Russians, who I guess are no longer Communists (though I suppose Mr. Putin must rank right up there with Stalin). But do Russians even know what waffles are? Well, certainly, if they ever went to an I-HOP!

My point is, everything else (except Mom, of course) is the same as when I was a kid: the batter, the dough, the syrup, the butter, the 110 volts AC, the imaginary Communist plots. The problem must be with the new electronic waffle-flopping gadgets. That's all I can figure out.

Nonetheless, next time I have a hankering for waffles, I plan to look up this gal, Karly. She looks like the type of person who knows her waffles inside out and backwards, and this recipe looks yummy.

If that doesn't fix the problem, I am back to shopping in antique stores for a real waffle iron.

That's it. Enjoy your breakfast: Mine is sitting like a rock in my stomach right now, which made me look online a solution: Wish me better luck next time, as I plan to try "Buns In My Oven" very best waffles. If you get around to doing this first, please let me know how they turn out!

You may find Karly's waffle recipe here:  http://www.bunsinmyoven.com/2012/05/30/the-very-best-waffles/

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Prayer to a Capitalist Saint: Please send jelly beans! Thanks.



Addressee:
Mr. Ronald Reagan, AKA Saint Trickle-Down
Red House, Apt #1
1600 Publican Avenue
American Haven, Global-House USA
CC to the Family of Earthlings


Dear Saint Trickle-Down

Congratulations on winning Heaven over to your views of Trickle-down Economics. This must have been difficult, given The Son's tireless -- but futile -- efforts on behalf of the poor.

Your disciples on earth have really been getting the word out!

Meanwhile, I remain a loyal fan of yours, ever since the movie, All American, in 1940. (Oops, I was born in 1944. Mark it down to poetic license.)

In 1969 I cheered as helicopters spread tear gas on students  in Berkeley, California (viewed on black and white Television of course). As governor, you were a no-nonsense role model.

I applauded your hard line as President, your fights against those awful socialists and evil communists in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua. They shunned the blessings of your "trickle-down" economics.

Your plans to protect the oil interests went fabulously too.

See how well they are doing in Angola, for example: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/28/business/angola-oil-revenues/)

I loved your vast, cold war military spending, unprecedented in peace time (a great use of American tax dollars).

The Soviet Union, try as they would, could not outspend us and match our military might. Trying to do so, however, they broke their economy,  which led to the breakup of the Soviet Union and hardships for most of the inhabitants of this huge, former country.  Glory be!

And to think, you accomplished all this by increasing revenues for the US military and defense industries (trickling down more and more bait, er, money to the poor fish at the bottom of the pond!).

Dear Saint Reagan,  I believed in you then, and I believe in you now.

I do have a request to make. Would you please ask the Big Money Manager in the Sky to speak to the Tea Party about this small issue?

My problem is this: When we finally got rid of that nasty old Peanut Farmer and you became President, you said trickle down economics would eventually create a rising tide to float all boats, large and small.

I was an entrepreneur, proudly running my own business. The trickling began, and the building-industry in my home town in Oregon, collapsed. I blamed those damnable Democrats, of course.

After toughing it out for three years, I saw realized this trickling was going to take a little longer than I had thought. But I didn't mind: I was still a proud Republican. I even wore green on Saint Patrick's Day!

The trickling began in 1981.

I retrained and took other work, as a teacher, but I lost that job too, due to more government cuts.

I was undaunted: Poverty was my patriotic duty. We were going to rescue the country from the evil Kennedy types, so never mind. I took a pay cut. By then I was earning 50 percent of my former salary as a teacher: A small price to pay for the great American dream -- liberty and freedom for all!

Especially freedom from taxes. Glory be to the Red, White and Blue. Glory  to the Elephants in the Sky. And glory to the Gipper!

Now, however, the year is 2014. The economy is still sitting high and dry. My old American dreams hang like skeletons in the closet of my memories, covered with dust and spider webs. Meanwhile, I have retired due to an accumulation of age-related, minor illnesses, hearing loss, lung disease and such.

Of course, the big Republican ships remain, navigating in deeper waters,  carrying cargo of bombs and smart weapons. The soldiers, too, are off to liberate the next small country as always; many of them will no doubt be leaving their small arms -- and legs -- on the battlefield. But that is their duty, bringing happiness and liberation to the world, just like Jesus did! Well, almost like Jesus did.

But my point is: The economic tide did not rise equally in all segments of the economy, even after we succeeded in destroying the economies of several nations. You know how we did it: embargoes, sanctions, CIA involvement, funding of revolts, toppling of governments (with flawed economic ideologies of course).

In spite of our successes, I find that a lot of other good Republicans are just like me: still high and dry, waiting for the former and the latter rains.

Now the veterans have joined the ranks of the unemployed too.

Religion used to be an asset for us, but now the speaking-in-tongues of the religious right wing has changed to the wagging of tongues and the pointing of fingers.

Something is wrong in our party: We have been waiting for the trickle-down to become a flood, for 33 years now.

Would you please ask the Big Man in the Sky to whisper in the Tea Party ears:  "This trickle thing is not working out quite as planned!" 

Yes, it will require a Revelation but, as they say in the military, it falls under "lessons learned."

Thanks, and while your are at it -- We are no longer expecting the rising tide, but  -- as an indicator of your approval, could you just rain down a few red, white and blue jelly beans from heaven? Thanks.


Sincerely yours,


Devoted in America