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Archive for February 4th, 2009

Antelope, Oregon Garage 

Antelope, Oregon Garage

Near Antelope, OR (Wasco County) there are some beautiful motorcycle roads.  I’ve traveled this county a few times and the route just off the Dalles California Hwy is a peaceful sagebrush filled valley with rolling hills.  The roads are Antelope Hwy (H-293) and the Shaniko Fossil Hwy (H-218).  If you’ve not driven this part of Oregon then I suggest taking some time and add it to your ride list. From Antelope you can start a scenery loop ride to the “painted hills” section of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Antelope has a sorted history and if you’ve been in the northwest any length of time you’ll remember how the town became famous in the early 1980s as ground zero for Rancho Rajneesh (Big Muddy Ranch) – a self-proclaimed prophet arrives with thousands of enlightened red-robed followers to start a colony with the sex guru – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  All wearing a 108-bead mala (necklace) where the color of beads hold significance as it designates each person’s level of sexual inhibitions as they merrily went about their day.  Known as “Rajneeshees” the folks on the inner-circle had a Tantra-esque belief in the power of sex as a door to samadhi’…a vehicle to the last step of enlightenment. 

wasco_countyAs an aside,  the Bhagwan used three Rolls-Royce automobiles as collateral to buy the Martha Washington Hotel in Portland, which they renamed Hotel Rajneesh. The Bhagwan collected many Rolls-Royce’s (93 at one count) and every day, he drove one of the cars into Madras to buy an ice cream soda. Highway 97 became a tourist trap, with people from all over the country stopping to take a look-see at the “Rajneesh show.”  In July 1983 the hotel was bombed and the cult became paranoid.  Equipping the Antelope compound with 150 security guards, semi-automatic weapons, tear gas grenades, riot guns and helicopter recon teams.  There followed a traumatic but semi-successful name change attempt of the town, use of the state’s own laws against itself, a plot to kill the federal prosecutor in Oregon, immigration fraud, several lieutenants convicted of crimes and the departure to Europe with lots of donated money.  The Bhagwan eventually returned to India in 1986 and died of heart disease in Poona on January 19, 1990.

Today Rancho Rajneesh has been converted into a modern Christian Youth Camp.  I believe it’s called “Young Life Ranch.”  The roads (Muddy Creek Road, Burnt Ranch Road, and The Gosner Road) into the place are rough/gravel and not recommended for heavy weight motorcycles.  There are now huge buildings, locked gates with signs posted on every tree and gate.  There is a private 4000 foot aircraft runway along with a super oversized pavilion filled with RV’s.  There is also a large go-cart-track with banks and a graded perimeter.  The youth “compound” is not open to the public.  All road gates are padlocked.

There is a plaque topped by an Antelope at the base of the towns post office dedicated to those who lived through the “Rajneesh Occupation” of 1981-1985.

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gang_threatAs a biker, I know there is a difference between the true image of brothers in the wind and public perceptions.  This becomes acute when it’s time to work on serious issues like association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, noise mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies and deal with 1%’ers. 

Unfortunately, it seems when legislators deal with serious motorcycle issues they do so with little knowledge, act as  experts and spray paint so called fixes on everyone.  And at least one community is to blame — the media — for often failing to report unbiased information regarding motorcycle “clubs” or gangs.   More often than not the reporting tends to lean towards the sensational.  Bloggers are guilty too.

So, before I get a bunch of email stating how the term Motorcycle “gangs” indicates my bias or how they are misunderstood and are really a bunch of biker dads who love leather…let’s review the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment (PDF) which was recently released.  While much of the report is skewed toward “street gangs” (examples: Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Ñeta, MS 13, Sureños 13 etc.,) there is a lot of information about outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) (examples: Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Sons of Silence, etc.) all working to control retail-level distribution of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana.  The OMG designation is from the document and I’m using it to be consistent with the report.

The report conservatively estimates more than 1 MILLION gang members belong to more than 20,000 gangs.  There are between 280 and 520 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) that range in size from a single chapter to hundreds of chapters worldwide. Estimates indicate that more than 20,000 OMG members reside in the U.S.  If I did the math correct, OMG membership represent about 2% of the overall gang membership and about 3% of the total number of gangs.  Not an alarming number in of itself, but somehow attracts a disproportionate share of media publicity.  A few factoids from the report:

  1. Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) pose a growing threat to law enforcement and public safety. Especially pronounced along the U.S.- Canada and U.S. – Mexico border. They frequently associate with criminal organizations to facilitate drug smuggling into the U.S.
  2. Criminal gangs are responsible for as much as 80% of ALL crime in many communities.
  3. National-level OMG criminal activity poses a serious national domestic threat. National level OMGs are a considerable concern to law enforcement because they are highly structured organizations with memberships ranging into the thousands, maintaining strong associations with transnational Drug Transport Organizations (DTOs) and other criminal organizations.
  4. In the U.S. 109 regional-level OMGs have been identified by gang investigators; most support one of the national-level OMGs. Several regional-level OMGs maintain independent associations with transnational DTOs and other criminal organizations.
  5. For the first time provides insight into the size and role of gangs in the military

The report goes on to highlight how the criminal organizations — like technology — seem to move fast, adopt and never stay the course with tactics.  They are most busy and seldom wait on the sidelines missing out on “revenue” or allow themselves to become marginalized.  They use cell phone voice/text messaging capabilities to conduct transactions and prearrange meetings.  They use multiple cell phones or prepaid phones which are frequently discarded after conducting operations.  Internet-based methods are being adopted and the use of social networking sites, encrypted e-mail, IP telephones, and Twitter message sites are common.  The use of social media sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook to post well-produced, self-promoting music/videos of the “gang” lifestyle.  Pre-teens are down loading propaganda ring-tones and images which glorify gangs!  There has also been an increased effort by gang members to actively “spar” on internet message boards to protect their virtual spaces as well as use internet profiling techniques to recruit.

My grip after looking over the report is the fact it doesn’t attempt to address:

  1. Gang intelligence improvements that work and help reduce incidents.
  2. Gang suppression techniques which are working and the role of the community.
  3. Legal considerations on enforcement issues and use of gang-specific legislation.
  4. Cost of anti-gang resources and return on investment – no performance measurement of the organization?

So, do you think this report will help or hurt motorcycle enthusiasts?  Do you think it will accelerate legislation to address enhanced “affiliation” penalties in the northwest?   Should we wait for the Homeland Security advisory system to monitor and report on the ongoing threat levels of the nations criminal gangs?  If so it would be set at HIGH (Orange). 

Photo courtesy of National Gang Intelligence Center.

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