TABOO SUBJECT – The Firing of Juan Williams

Posted in Excerpts at 10:32 am by admin


Juan Williams

 On June 4th 2010, I blogged: “Eight Ways to Destroy America.” I’m sure some thought I was way out of line, and trying to instill fear, and unrealistic ideas about our future.  I even presented this paper at a discussion group and the consensus was, “These ideas originally come from a radical conservative.”  They dismissed my ideas as “way out there!” not worth discussing, etc… This week, part of this blog came true and is causing me fear, anger and sadness, which I am still trying to control.

          I wrote the 7th way to destroy America was

          “I would place certain subjects off limits – make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of ‘diversity.’  I would find words similar to ‘heretic’ in the 16th century – that stopped and paralyzed thinking.  Words like, ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobe’ (fear of people of foreign origin) halt discussion and debate.”

            That is exactly what NPR did.  Juan Williams expressed his personal emotion on Fox News, the O’Ralley Factor. He said: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot.  You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried.  I get nervous.”

          Whether you share his feelings or not, is beside the point.  The thing that scares me is his feelings were off limits and taboo to talk about on National Public Radio, and cannot be legitimately expressed and/or debated.  His ex- boss even made reference to his mental well being on a public speech, suggesting he may wish to talk to his psychiatrist.   

            Are we becoming a nation where freedom of speech is taboo?  I believe no one should be admonished for his/her personal feelings, no matter how radical they may seem.  Personal feelings and opinions should be heard and be open to dialogue in any form but especially in a public forum such as NPR which is funded by our contributions and is subsidized by our government.   

          We dare not put certain subjects off limits if we want our democracy to survive.  This is especially true for our news media, our politicians, and individuals who have an influence on our country.  Some people (including myself) label NPR as radically liberal.   Sunday I heard on Meet the Press someone referring to Fox New as “Republican Propaganda,”  Everyone has the right to his/her opinions, but the important thing is that we keep an open mind and openly express our feelings and opinions. Read the rest of this entry »


My Impression of an Islamic Country

Posted in Excerpts at 01:18 pm by admin


View of Prayer Towers From Our Fez Hotel

Now that I have had a chance to think about my Moroccan experience, here are some thoughts. First, I don’t think anyone should be afraid to visit a country just because it is Muslim. The people of Morocco were very friendly, and I felt we were always welcome. 

            I believe that the Islamic religion is powerful and compelling.  In all of our traveling I did not see one house of worship other than Mosques. The prayer towers are visible wherever you look, even in the country side, where houses are sparse.  Five times a day there is a call to prayer.  Just think of the pressure to adhere to this call!  It is your religious duty and belief that Ala requires you to pray not to mention the social pressure.  If you do not appear to be a devout Muslim, your friends, and your family will know and you will feel their disapproval.  Many men actually have calluses on their foreheads from hitting the ground with their heads.  In Fez we were on a hill, surrounded by towers.  The first night I was awakened at 4:15 A.M. and finally figured out what was happening.   The prayer towers were loudly calling everyone to prayer, and for a good 15 minutes the praying went on.  This is powerful, it has a strong subliminal message which the person is not aware.

            Our local guide in Fez was a devout Muslim.  He answered our questions and said he does not like to pray in public, but only in the privacy of his home because he loves the reading of the Quran so much that it makes him weep.  By the way, I also learned that there are no spontaneous prayer, but the prayer is simply reading the Quran. The Quran, in Arabic, is like poetry i.e. rhythmic, beautiful and emotional.  Many adherence memorize the whole Quran, and because of its poetic form it is easier to memorize.  The Quran looses much of its power and beauty in translation. 

            One more important observation:  Devout Muslims are preoccupied with religion.  Five times per day they pray and pray in unison.  Some are careful to observe the Shariah Law, although I thought it was significant to note that the King of Morocco declared that female circumcision is not mandatory for the people of Morocco.

            When I add the time a Muslim needs to make a living plus the time needed to adhere to religious customs, how do they find time for anything else?  Serious prayer takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. It also channels their energies in the direction of 7th century thought.  I think this has affected the progress of Morocco and all devout Muslim countries.  I cannot think of a Muslim who has won a Nobel Prize for Science.  I believe any devoutly religious person, be they Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, can become obsessed with religious thought and cannot find the time or energy to think of much else.  I believe one’s love of God has to be fostered with the love of the Earth, and betterment of his fellow man.  Another observation is that many Muslim countries, do not give much value one half of the population i.e. its women.  And with the loss of this powerful contributing force to both the culture and the economy it cannot compete in the modern world.  This is what I saw in Morocco.  Read the rest of this entry »


My Impressions of Morocco

Posted in Excerpts at 10:35 am by admin


A Kasbah in Morocco

We are finally back home and I have had some days to think about our trip and have some of the interesting things I wish to share.  I am writing two blogs, “My Impressions of Morocco” and “My Impressions of an Islamic Country.”

            I noticed as we left the north of Morocco, the countryside, houses and people changed.  Morocco is a large country, larger than California.  The North is very modern and the people dress and look almost European.  We traveled in the interior of Morocco and therefore missed one of its largest cities Casablanca, which is on it western coast. 

            While riding to our first city of Meknes, 300 miles North of Marrakech, I noticed many farms.  The temperature was extremely hot, higher than 109 F, yet there were many large farms.  They have adjusted to the dry dessert climate by building plastic enclosures for most of the crops, which hold in the moisture and prevented freezing on cold winter nights.  Many of these were tall (about 6 feet plus) plastic covered plats, some looked larger than a football field.  I soon saw a tear in the plastic and discovered that these are banana plantations.  Imagine, growing a tropical fruit in a dessert.  Many other fields were covered and the structures not as tall, just the height of the crops they were growing.  The houses in this area, although simple, were orderly and they seemed to be prospering.  Most of the structures were square, or rectangular, built of red clay blocks, with  very few, small windows.  I did not see much variation in the architecture. There were poorer neighborhoods, probably those of the farm workers, where the houses were smaller, and closer together.

            On our way to Marrakech we also saw the remains of several Kasbahs.  These were huge mud structures with very small windows, 17th century fortresses which housed the important men of the time.  One wing held his main wife, another housed his other wives, and a separate wing was for his concubines.  These structures have been damaged by rain and wind, but it is surprising how well they have held up.

After Marrakech we continued southeast to Erfoud, in the Sahara dessert.  Up to this point I had seen very few women dressed in Burkas, only about 3, all in the smaller towns we passed.  In Erfoud it was different.  Most of the women dressed completely in black, covering their head and face.  Even the younger children were not dresses as well or as colorfully as the children of the North.

From Erfoud we continued North, once again crossing the Atlas Mountains on our way to Fez.  Fez is one of the imperial cities where the King lives.  Our hotel was on a hill in hearing distance of several prayer towers.  Prayer towers are a common fixture in every town and village.  I will talk more about this in my next Blog. Read the rest of this entry »


A Passenger on a Motorcycle

Posted in Excerpts at 10:54 am by admin

            I have just returned from a seventeen day motorcycle trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, as participant in a motorcycle tour of these countries. We travelled 4300 kilometers, approximately 2700 miles. I was excited about going on this adventure and now that it is over I have time to reflect on the experience.

            First, I envisioned a leisurely trip. I have been on several motorcycle trips in Europe and on those occasions we rode at normal speeds taking time to enjoy the sights as we rode. I expected some temperature differences because we were going to travel in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the sea coast of Portugal, and the Sahara Desert. I came fully equipped and maybe I overdid the cold weather gear. There were seven couples and one guide on this adventure. What I didn’t know was that this was not going to be a leisure trip, but the men expected to ride as fast as the bikes would go, within the legal limits. They welcomed narrow roads, the more curve the better, and rough roads were also welcome. A few times I pumped so high I was surprised I landed back on the bike and prayed: ”Thank you Jesus for keeping me off the pavement!” This was a major testosterone event, and although a few times we stopped for a moment at vista points, we were right back to our racing as soon as possible.

            In order to be a good passenger, one must become” one with the bike.” For the first two days I held on so tightly that my fingers were numb. My body ached all over by the end of the day from the tension. Today, a week after the trip one finger is still numb. I may have some nerve damage. Eventually I was able to relax, and just “go with the flow.” This means leaning with the bike and totally trusting that the rider is expert enough that I will be safe. Trust is the key to being a good passenger. I took me at least two days to physically and psychologically trust the driver and the bike.

            One of the other passengers on this trip showed me her fingers. Her nails were bitten completely down, and she had started biting her cuticles. She said she was petrified, and didn’t know why she agreed to do this. I checked with her everyday, and she said: “I started praying 8 hours a day and now I’m up to at least 12 hours.” She was never able to relax and enjoy any part of riding. 

           I found it hard to get on and off the bike. Even with practice, it never became easy. We were on a BMW GS 1200 and the seat is very high off the ground. My right leg had to reach over the seat which was too tall for my short stature.

            The first time we stopped for gas we managed to “drop the bike.” My husband forgot to put the side stand down while I was dismounting and Bill couldn’t hold us up and bike slowly fell to the side. The fall was slow enough that we did not damage the bike. There was considerable damage to Bill’s dignity and self esteem but he is expected to recover.

            The temperature riding through Morocco went from a high of 107 F to a low of 50 F. Fortunately I had purchased a summer mesh riding jacket before I left home. I took a warmer jacket along but did not use it once. The mesh jacket with the water-proof liner installed, gave plenty of warmth for the colder times. Read the rest of this entry »


The Sahara Desert

Posted in Excerpts at 11:14 am by admin

            Saturday, September 18th is our 7th day of riding.  However, we opted for  Toyoto 4 by 4 Land Cruisers over the desert roads and sand dunes on the way to our tents.  A previous tour took motorcycles part way and even so the motorcycles had trouble with the rough ride on lava rock and staying upright in the soft desert sand.  It took us about one hour and a half to reach our destination.

            On the way we had some interesting stops.  One was to the village of the “Black People.” Here we were entertained with music, dancing, and mint tea by the village men. These were Africans slaves brought here in the early 1900.  They intermarried and did not mix with the Moroccan population, and today still live and survive in their separate village, mainly from tourists coming to see them perform.  It was interesting to note that we did not see a single women, either in performance or on the village streets.

            One more stop was to a high point in the desert where the Moroccan soldiers quartered near a closed mine shaft.   This area is about 50Km (30 miles) from the Algerian border, and the function of these soldiers is to monitor the borders and make sure no Algerian crosses over to Morocco.  Sound familiar? !!! 

Our 4 wheel Land Cruiser took us over sand dunes, gravel pits, dry lakes, and by 5:00 P.M. we arrived at our desert Bivouac (tents).  Soon after we mounted camels for the ride to the top of the erg.  These dunes are 22 km long (North to South) and 5 km wide.  The tallest dune reaches 150 meters (approx. 500 feet high).

The camels took us to the base of one of the tallest dunes, we dismounted and walked up the edge of the dune until we reached the very top.  There we sat on the ridge, watched the sun set, and were served champagne.  This was surreal and I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming.  Then we rode our camels back to the camp.

The “Black People” came to our camp and provided music while we sat around a camp fire.  A Mo Read the rest of this entry »


Our Motorcycle Adventure

Posted in Excerpts at 04:30 am by admin


On our way to Marrakech

Today we are starting the second week on the BMW 1200 G.S. motorcycle. Westarted in Seville, Spain.  There are two guides and 7 couples, a total of 8 motorcycles and a mini van that caries our gear plus an extra motorcycle. Three couples are from Rio de Janeiro, one from Canada, two couples from Sedona, Arizona plus Bill and me.  Our incredibly handsome main guide, Nuno, is from Portugal, and newly married to a Brazilian. The driver Malcolm is from Argentina where he has a raspberry farm, run by Malcolm, his wife and two young children, and to supplement their income he leads motorcycle tours 4 times a year.

            We crossed over from Spain to Morocco by ferry and Tangier was our first glance of this amazing Country. Tangier was a pleasant surprise.  The women wore beautiful long colorful dresses with matching solid color head scarf.  Young girls usually wore jeans and a colorful blouse often without head scarf.  The young men wore jeans with colorful shirts.  There were many women driving cars, which surprised me.  The men looked like any western dressed men, only occasionally the older men wore long, white traditional dress. The children loved to wave at us, and many wanted the motorcycles to make loud motor sounds and with their hands asked us to rev-up the engines and then they laughed and waved.

            Without going into a daily travel log, I will summarize the trip so far, as being damned difficult. The first day we travelled only 200 miles to Menzeh, on a freeway, going about 75 to 80 PMH and the temperature was averaging 106 degrees.  We made frequent stops, and lunch took about 2 hours, so it was a full day.

            The next day we rode 310 miles (about 500 km) to Marrakech.  We crossed the Atlas mountains which gave us some relief from the heat of the desert, but the roads were winding and the motorcycles had to slow down a bit.  By the end of the day Bill and I had used every bit of our energy, and wished we were 15 years younger.  The traffic in Marrakech is something else, lots of traffic circles, and full of cars, trucks, motorbikes , bicycles, horse driven carriages, etc… In the evening the group went out to eat at a traditional Moroccan restaurant with belly dancers, lots of atmosphere and great food.   Bill and I could hardly stay awake.

            Thank goodness, the next day was a free day.  We slept, exercised, had massages, and in the evening went to the Djemaa el Fna market which is the busiest and largest market square in Africa and the world.  Here we saw snake charmers, story tellers, musicians, vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to live chickens. Read the rest of this entry »


Stop! Being Overly Respectful to Seniors

Posted in Excerpts at 08:45 pm by admin

           I have a pet peeve and wonder how common this may be.  I hesitate bringing it up because I know it is done with the best of intentions, but it still “bugs” me and I don’t think it is proper, and here it comes.

Its me

 It seems as I got older, and in my 60’s I became everyone’s sweetheart, honey and dear.  I’ve even had people call me lovie.  This is done in person, and on the phone.  What surprises me is that I am called by these names in restaurants, banks and various businesses.  I hate to be unfriendly, but these people are not my sweetheart, my honey or dearie.  I don’t even know them!  Often, inappropriately, I’ve had people moving light chairs for me or asking if I need help lifting small boxes, etc.

            I’ve asked friends about this and most agree that it makes them “mad” specifically, my friend Carole who is five years younger than me.  When I was in my early sixties I told her about this phenomenon.  She half believed me, but a few years later Carole called me and said: ”Gracie, you are right, I’m becoming everyone’s love. “

          To me this means I’m old, feeble, needing assistance and not up to par.  I believe there are elderly folks who appreciate this attention and need the help, and I believe for some it gives them status, but it is only a small minority of seniors who need help and if so, it is usually obvious.   But for the majority of us, it is degrading and disrespectful.  Businesses should teach their employees when and where not to use these familiar terms such as: Hon, Honey, Dearie, Sweaty, Lovie, etc…when addressing a senior.

          Grace & Husband Motorcycling in EuropeBy the way, I’m in my 70’s but I’m grateful for outstanding health, and although my face may have a few lines, I’m in better shape and have more energy than when I was in my 40’s..  I play tennis at least 3 times a week, I ski, I walk 5 to 6 miles at least 2 times per week, and next week I am going on a 3 weeks motorcycle trip (renting BMW’s in Seville) to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.  I believe it is important and respectful to treat seniors as an equal, not to assume we are old, feeble and in need of nurturing and physical assistance, unless asked.

          I plan to add a few blogs during these next three weeks and let you know what it is like to be on a motorcycle in these Countries and what the experience is for me.  Hopefully, I can encourage you to take a similar trip. Read the rest of this entry »


The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro – Part II – Building Walls

Posted in Excerpts at 04:30 pm by admin


Rocinha Favela

 I have received many comments about my blog of January 26, 2010, entitled “The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro. Therefore, many of you may be interested in the latest development in the favelas.

            First, Rio has a hundred slums which is estimated to be one fifth of Rio’s population.  In 2004 it was proposed to build walls around 40 of the largest slums. These walls would be 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall. This project today is fully underway.  In my blog I particularly spoke of the favela I visited, Rocinha, which is one of the largest slums and is one of the first favelas to be walled off.

            The government says that the wall will act as an “ecobarrier” preventing the expansion of the favela to the surrounding lush tropical forests.  The residents of Rocinha do not see it this way. The residents see it as a wall around a “ghetto,” and an effort to control violence, and separating the slums from the wealthy areas of Rio. It is interesting to note that of the 13 favelas at the top of the list, 12 of them are near the richest areas of Rio, the fancy hotels, restaurant, and beaches, and away from the western areas where the rapidly expanding slums really do effect the forests.  The residents of Rocinha see this wall as a preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.  They are comparing it to the Berlin Wall, and the Walls built to separate Israel and Palestine.

Building Favela Wall

Spokesmen for the Rocinha have proposed better ways of defining this area, and preventing growth.  If this is their true objective, why not build walking paths, ecological parks and low walls to help define this neighborhood.  Or maybe provide affordable housing for those who wish to relocate.  The Brazilian government has allocated funds to build one million low-income homes by 2011.  But this is just a drop in the bucket, when there is a need for at least 7.2 million homes, and the population has increased from 169.9 million in 2000 to 190 million in the last 10 years.  I appreciate how difficult it is to find a solution to this very real problem, but I absolutely hate the idea of building walls.

             Psychologically there are even taller walls than 3 meters which separate the slum dwellers from the local middle and upper classes in Brazil.  These walls are ignorance, poverty, lack of medical care, and the fact the workers, maids, gardeners, for all of Rio  comes from the favelas.  Read the rest of this entry »


No More Comments?

Posted in Excerpts at 06:20 pm by admin

            During the first week in August I was very upset because all of a sudden there were no more comments on my web site coming from the readers of my blogs.  I was shocked that it happened so suddenly.  Usually I receive 10 to 15 comms per day.  Of course, I figured the problem was with me.  I had not written any blogs for over two weeks.  Then I posted the blog about President Obama’s appearance on The View and still I had no comments from readers. 

            I use Word Press as filter for all of my blogs.  I am given a chance to accept or reject all comments before actually posting them on my web site.  On a few occasions this is very useful, as there are always people trying to sell something, or some comment not having anything whatsoever  to do with the blog.  I also receive a significant number of comments in other languages, including;  Dutch, German, Chinese, etc…     I always  get a translation before I post them. 

            As I mentioned, the first week of August I did not receive any posts.   I also noticed that I had over 150 items in the “Junk Mail” folder, which is way above normal.  I was very busy during this time and I emptied this folder without looking.  Today, again I had accumulated a lot of items in the “Junk Mail.” folder   I decided to look at this folder, and see what was happening.  Well, I was shocked to see most of them were comments waiting for my approval from Word Press.  Somehow my computer was placing all of these in the “Junk Mail” folder. 

            So, if you sent me an important comment and do not see it in my blog page, please re-send it.  I will make sure it gets posted.  Thank you for reading my blogs and I greatly value each and everyone of your comments.  This keeps me motivated and I will continue adding new information to my blog pages.


President Obama and The View

Posted in Excerpts at 09:48 am by admin

President Obama on The ViewI think it is interesting.  For the past three weeks I have been unable to create.  My mind goes blank and I am unable to think of anything to write.  I have never experienced this before and it is very frightening.  That is why, today, I have decided to sit down and just write, even though I can not think of a specific topic.

Last week I was upset at the prospect of President Obama  being a guest on a talk show, especially “The View”.  I think of this show as frivolous and not the type of show  that our leader should be part of.  My “old fashioned” idea is that the presidency is dignified, on a high pedestal and the President should act accordingly. Obviously this is not today’s protocol.   I could not get myself to watch the live show, but was able to record it and I watched later in the week.  

These are my impressions.  I felt President Obama seemed to enjoy this role, and this did not surprise me.  He is known for enjoying the role of “rock star” and being in the media front.  I felt the women on this program were very respectful and they were very aware of their special role when questioning the President of the United States.  They were obviously prepared, and their questions were, for the most part appropriate. Even Barbara Walters carefully chose her words and showed a great deal of respect for our leader.  Elizabeth tried to ask a provocative question about the effect of unemployment on our population, but the question was, for the most part ignored.   President Obama was interested in letting the audience hear about all the wonderful things he has accomplished.  Joy, asked several frivolous questions, trying to lighten the conversation such as “Do you know that Lindsay Lohan is in jail? “  but I don’t believe these questions in anyway made the program less Read the rest of this entry »

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