Memorial Day 2010

Got home last night from an abbreviated motorcycle ride, woke up this morning, and put the flag out on the porch.

A small symbol of the day, but one that started me thinking.

And I realized that we make a serious mistake here in America when we talk about our ‘gifts’; the gifts of freedom, or prosperity, or security. These aren’t gifts, they are debts. Cultural and national debts. We owe for them. I’m big on that issue.

And as a nation and a culture, we’ve been sort of bad about the debt thing. We tend to think about what we have as gifts freely given, which means we can squander them at will. But I have a feeling – a hope – that as we become more frugal and prudent financially as a nation, we also will become more aware of the greater debts that we must repay.

Cultural and national debt isn’t inherently bad; it’s important and useful because it means we get to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I enjoy what I have today because others helped create and defend it. The issue is whether we are ready – as a nation and a culture – to acknowledge the debt we owe.

And make no mistake, you and I owe…we owe to the future citizens of our nation and members of our culture to leave them something of value. Each of us can – each of us has the chance to pay that debt in our own way, with our own contributions.

Soldiers have paid for what I have with their lives, their blood, their spiritual hurt and their physical suffering, and today is the day we set aside to remember them, and to reflect on what they have given us, and what we owe for it.

Because no lie…each and every one of us owes. This year, it has become personal for me as I think this year – about James Nolen and Carlos Santos-Silva and Marcus Tynes, and the others who served with my son and will not be at the green ramp when the families welcome the soldiers whom this fall – and am more motivated to try and make sure that in my life, I’m paying what I owe.

Fixed typo on Marcus Tynes’ name…

Michael Caine

Here’s a great interview (in both senses of the word – good interviewing and fascinating replies) with Michael Caine, talking about his UK vigilante film ‘Harry Brown.’ (h/t Ed Driscoll blogging for Insty)

My favorite line?

Yeah, I did. I think we should all vote like that [turning out the incumbent party after two or three terms]. Otherwise we’re just the slaves of any political party. We should vote for the welfare of the country, not for the welfare of the party.

That’s a tagline if I’ve ever heard one…

Draw Mohammed Day


(Miniature illustration on vellum from the book Jami’ al-Tawarikh (literally “Compendium of Chronicles” but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 A.D)

I thought hard about whether to participate in this.

On one hand, there are pious Muslims who will be offended by what I and others do today; for that personal offense I do personally apologize. I chose an image drawn by a pious Muslim deliberately to minimize your hurt.

But politically, and socially, we live in a society where there is no right to be free from offense. And the recent reactions of the few irate Muslims, and the fewer violent ones, means simply that I can’t stand by. I owe them no apology, and simply want to say that their behavior is what makes this necessary.

I’m disinterested in living in a world where people try and kill cartoonists for what they draw. When that stops, I’ll be happy to be more polite. Until then, I’ll point out that we live in a society where we take our most holy icons and dip them in piss.

Why should any icons be entitled to anything different?

How Is This Not A Good Thing?

….on oh so many levels??


I’m flabbergasted by the right-wing pundits who are beside themselvesBESIDE THEMSELVES – that a young woman whose family is from Lebanon was chosen as Miss USA.

First, as the above photo amply testifies, it was a damn good decision. Second, beauty pageants share their reputation for probity with state fair weight-guessers.

I’m not shocked that Debbie Slussel has blown a gasket – gasket-blowing is her stock in trade. I’m kinda disappointed in Daniel Pipes; he’s got far better things to put under his name than this column.

Look, this is what our goal is – to support an Arab and Muslim culture that fits into American culture…the tawdry parts and all. Get a clue, folks.

And if there are other stunning young Arab women out there…I’m looking forward to the pageant photos.

Nirvana – And Kilesas – On A Motorcycle

So, Saturday morning, TG gave me a hall pass from chores and work, and I decided to go out for as much of a motorcycle ride as my sore wrist would stand…

In Los Angeles, we’re blessed with two close-in chunks of motorcycle nirvana; the Santa Monica Mountains (also known as the ‘Malibu Alps’) and the San Gabriel Mountains. Each of them offers a serious chunk of two-wheeled nirvana (a Nirvana not without kilesas, as we’ll point out later).

I rolled my Hypermotard out of the garage, did a quick preflight (tires, brakes, chain, oil), suited up (Sidi Canyon boots, Aerostich Roadcrafter suit, Shoei RF1000 helmet, Alpinestars 365 gloves), and headed out.

By 7am, I was at the Chevron at Sunset Blvd and PCH, meeting up with a friend. Here’s where we went…

View Larger Map

I haven’t been out sportriding in some time; but after about half an hour I suddenly ‘clicked’ and spent the rest of the morning in and out of a real state of flow.
On the last leg for me – heading down Latigo Canyon from Kanan Dume to PCH – I really hit flow. My awareness was about ten feet out in front of the motorcycle, and I genuinely couldn’t tell if I was riding fast or slow. I was lost in the rhythm of ‘move my head and shoulder into the corner’, ‘settle’, ‘roll off throttle’, ‘steer’, ‘add throttle’, ‘back to center’, and repeat…there were some moments on downhill turns where it felt like skiing, extending my body outward over the downhill corner and then letting the motorcycle catch up and then suddenly sweep me sideways into the corner and across the hill…it was magical.

And even though it didn’t feel like I was going fast, I know I was…but still it was easy and I never felt like I had to rush; the road was packed with bicycles, and I would come around a corner onto two pedaling along, and effortlessly adjust my line to pass them with a wide berth. Except for the bicycles descending…committed in a tuck, chin on their bars headed downhill at 40 mph.

I’d always fall in behind them and wait for a place where I could accelerate past without disturbing them…they’d earned the descent, and I didn’t want to ruin it for them.

I was done and off the mountain by 11; my friend kept riding. I always get out of the Santa Monicas by 11, because that’s when they craziness starts.

I quit in large part because of the kilesas – Wikipedia includes this definition, which is perfect:

In early Buddhist texts the kilesas generally referred to mental states which temporarily cloud the mind and manifest in unskillful actions.

On summer weekends, my playground is full of people in that condition; full of people like me – riding motorcycles for pleasure through the scenery and challenging roads (check out this map of Latigo Canyon). I like to believe I’m different – responsible, considerate (I never roost through stretches of street where there are driveways; I always upshift and quiet the bike as I pass joggers or people walking bikes; I always try and maintain the awareness that this is both my playground and a neighborhood where people live).

Fifteen or twenty years ago, when I started doing this, there were few enough riders in the mountains that you kind of remembered most of the folks you’d seen or ridden with – by bike, by attire, by riding style.

Today…not so much.

Last weekend, we had three major accidents (one a fatality) – all three bikes had paper (dealer) plates.

The weekend before, we had a crash and fire:

The mountains around LA are full of unskilled riders without the judgment to ride within their skill levels, riding motorcycles that they have barely ridden – motorcycles which are capable of going 170mph off the showroom floor.

Businesses have even grown up to serve these folks – photographers who spend the weekend in corners and take pictures of the riders…


Are they an attractive nuisance?

I don’t know…but something has to change.

We can wait for a minivan full of children to get knocked over the edge by a high-speed bike in the wrong lane; we can keep killing a rider or so a month. Or, ideally, we’ll figure something out first.

Meanwhile, knowing that I’m part of the problem, I spend less and less time there.

DADT Redux

So, since the petition went up, there’s been a bit of churn on this issue.

CJ Grisham put up a counterpetition, asking that DADT not be dismissed, and stating that:

We urge Congress to oppose any efforts to repeal the law and lift the policy of openly homosexual service in the military. A large number of associated concerns and costs are associated with the repeal, among them housing, legal status in various states, and moral objections from the majority of the force. The policy would also open doors to legitimate objections from polygamists and other groups who would feel discriminated against. The time is not now to consider such actions while our military is at war on more than two fronts.

Jimbo – of course- signed both CJ’s petition and recruited me to sign the one I signed. I called him about that, and will let him make his own explanations – I’ll just say that it’s not clear he had his serious face on when he signed CJ’s.

Simon Owen, over at Bloggasm, did a pretty thoughtful piece on the ‘nuance’ in this discussion.

Andrew Lubin, a co-signer of the petition I signed (who BTW is trying to raise money to do another embed – go over and donate), messaged me on Facebook and challenged my interpretation of our petition.

So let’s go back to the petition that he and I signed and look at the last sentence.

“The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell without compromising its mission. Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Now I don’t know why Andrew (and maybe Jim) are backpedalling from the clear position that sentence defines. I’m not.

No, I’m not a soldier or a veteran, and so on one hand I get it that my opinion in this argument may be devalued somewhat. But it shouldn’t be, It shouldn’t be because all those soldiers out there? Ultimately, they work for me, and people like me – civilian society. And ultimately they have to function within the boundaries we set for them.

Now I’m kind of a public supporter of the military in word and deed, so before my uniformed friends blow a blood vessel over what I just said let me point something out to them.

My kid – the one walking around Afghanistan in battle rattle – doesn’t give a shit about this issue. I’ve asked him. His buddies, asked over a beer, don’t give a shit.

The 19 and 22 year olds – from all over the country – to a large extent are just flat past this issue.

It’s time the 50-somethings writing about it were as well.

DADT Begone

Over at BlackFive is a letter to SecDef Gates asking him to repeal DADT. I signed it…

 We consider the US military the
greatest institution for good that has ever existed. No other organization has
freed more people from oppression, done more humanitarian work or rescued more
from natural disasters.  We want that to

Today, it appears inevitable to
us that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and law restricting those displaying open homosexual
behavior from serving will be changed. 
And yet, very little will actually change.  Homosexuals have always served in the US
Military, and there have been no real problems caused by that.

 The service chiefs are currently
studying the impact and consequences of changing the DADT policy, and how to
implement it without compromising the morale, order and discipline necessary
for the military to function. The study is due to be completed on Dec. 1st. We
ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer.  We urge Congress to listen to the service
chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.

 The US Military is professional
and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell without compromising
its mission.  Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and
ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual

Matt Burden- Warrior Legacy

Jim Hanson- Warrior Legacy

Blake Powers- BLACKFIVE

Fred Schoenman- BLACKFIVE 

David Bellavia- House
to House

Bruce McQuain- Q&O 

JD Johannes- Outside
the Wire

Diane Frances McInnis Miller- Boston Maggie 

Mark Seavey- This
Ain't Hell

Michael St. Jacques- The

Mary Ripley- US Naval
Institute Blog

John Donovan- Castle

Andrew J. Lubin- The
Military Observer

Marc Danziger- Winds
of Change

Greta Perry- Hooah Wife