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Archive for April, 2011

Senate Bill 805 - Bureaucracy In Action

I’m talking about the Oregon legislature!

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself and should provide background on Senate Bill 805.

In the U.S., 78.5 billion eggs were produced for eating in 2010. The breakdown is that 2.5 billion were exported, 6.3 billion went to food service use, 24.8 billion were processed into liquid, dried, and frozen products and 44.9 billion went to retail.  There are 187 companies who “lay” claim to about 95% of egg-laying hens in the U.S. Thirteen of these manage flocks of more than 5 million and sell specialty eggs under other names. Cal-Maine Foods, the country’s largest egg producer, owns the brands Eggland’s Best, Farmhouse, and 4-Grain.  Oregon (2.5M) doesn’t even make the top 10 producer list (as measured by number of egg laying hens) and the top 5 egg production states are Iowa (54M), Ohio (27M), Pennsylvania (23M), Indiana (23M) and California (19M).  In fact, at retail, more and more businesses and consumers are demanding organic eggs from hens that are either cage-free (hens able to run about inside huge chicken houses but not outdoors) or free-roaming (hens have access to the outdoors for at least 51% of their lives (~18 months, but there are no regulations on the quality or size of the open-air space)).

It turns out the tastiest, healthiest, most humanely produced eggs come from your local farmer’s free-roaming small flock.  Eggs contain varying amounts of 39 vitamins and minerals—many of which don’t even make it onto the nutrition facts label. Some eggs are healthier than others and it’s really all about what the hens are fed, which ranges from corn and soybean meal to a chicken’s more natural diet: a blend of grains and whatever the hen finds by foraging the pasture.  Again, egg nutrition value is determined by the feed, not breed.

Oregon’s Senate Bill 805 (SB 805) provides hens with a few more inches of space for laying eggs, but may well cost the farmers (which will be passed on to consumers) who will need to purchase/prep for the incremental space mandate.  It’s hard to imagine given the current budget issues facing the state how this matter rises to the level of debating a bill that is largely being determined by consumer purchases of the best tasting eggs.  But, I’d like to congratulate the Oregon legislature for displaying so much intellectual honesty, storming the farmland and solving an issue that isn’t even a problem. It’s another “teachable moment” for those who went to Salem for a life-long political career to do nothing.

I’d bet a Grande Coffee at Starbucks that the next bill after SB 805 will be mandating the quality and size of the open-air space.  Maybe they’ll even look to mandate ambient noise levels so the hens can breathe without excessive sound…hopefully no flocks are near a highway where a group of motorcycles may travel as OSP will be ask to single out motorcycles and set up an EPA-compliant exhaust check point!

The point of this post is not directly related to the Oregon egg industry, but about the unending government proposals, rules, and regulations that affect or creep into the motorcycle lifestyle.  Today there is more bureaucracy about eggs/hens and the amount of breathing space.  Tomorrow it’s about how and what we ride and drive. From taking away off road land areas, to the Federal Register re-defining what is a motorcycle, to performance modifications, and denial of insurance benefits — everywhere you look there is a current or proposed law that will negatively impact all of us. Every day as a result of the current economic collapse I get reports about home foreclosures and short sales, but Oregon lawmakers would rather waste tax payer money debating topics on chickens vs. being “compassionate” to the residents of the state.  Is a chicken’s well being more important?

All this ranting and talk of eggs in the morning made me hungry.  Who’s up for breakfast?!

Photo courtesy of the egg industry.  Fun fact: Did you know that 300,000 eggs go to Peg’s Glorified Ham N Eggs on South Sierra Street in Reno, NV., every year, where they are transformed into heaping breakfast platters piled with hash browns and homemade salsa.

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U.S. Ambassador to China - Jon Huntsman

In a heady display of “feel the vib” and “look at me” doing that pursuit of freedom gig, the political poster child for human rights, dares onlookers of the patriotic possibility and the fact it’s not just something special for the American people as he rides his signature Harley-Davidson RoadKing Classic through the streets of Shanghai.

Some might even call him showing off a bit since urban incomes average about $2,200 a year in Beijing where the bikes sell for $12K to $37K.  Harley-Davidson opened its first store in China in April 2006 and the allure of its citizen’s growing spending power means the motor company is unwavering in its commitment to extract dollars from the world’s most sought-after-market… who cares if in Beijing and Shanghai, motorcycles are largely banned from most major streets and highways.

In fact, Shanghai stopped accepting motorcycle registrations back in 2002 so, I wonder how Mr. Huntsman got that motorcycle registered?  Was it shipped over or did he buy it there?  In a country well know for reproducing (“copy”) everything, unlicensed Harleys have been smuggled in to the country for years so his would likely go unnoticed. Details, details…Don’t bore me with the details.

The mandarin speaking Mr. Huntsman will resign as U.S. Ambassador to China on April 30th and according to Politico reports he might make a run for the Republican nomination in 2012.  Adding fodder to this speculation is the fact he’s booked for a speaking engagement in New Hampshire in May shortly after his return.

Interestingly, if a deal can’t be made and the government shuts down in less than 30 hours due to what looks like near-fatal-distrust of the two parties… I wonder how Mr. Huntsman will get back to the U.S. — charge it?!

UPDATE: June 21, 2011 – Mr. Huntsman enters the 2012 Presidential race.  Reuters report HERE.

Photo courtesy of AP.

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"Blood Rocks"

Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being sent down mines to die so that motorcyclists in Europe and America can ride the freedom of the open road…

Attention getting statement?  Sure.  Does it also carry an overall air of guilt towards Harley-Davidson producing motorcycles with “conflict minerals” and implicate the consumers who are buying them?  Yes.

The phrase conflict minerals (often referred to as “blood rocks”) has quickly become a familiar term as concerned consumers and organizations begin to raise public awareness of the role the mineral trade plays in fuelling the violence raging in the DRC.

I’m talking in particular about tintungsten and tantalum – collectively referred to as the “3Ts” – and speculation on the motorcycle manufacturing supply chain at Harley-Davidson.

The Congo has been home to countless atrocities that afflict the civilian population; atrocities committed by various competing armed groups vying for profits from its rich supply of minerals know as the “3-Ts”.   Some five million people have been killed in the central African state since the start of a 1998-2003 war as the government and U.N. forces struggle to uproot rebel groups who are active in the minerals-rich east, particularly the North and South Kivu areas, which share a porous border with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

Do I believe there is some clandestine attempt on the part of the H-D motor company to bring suffering to the people of the Congo?  No.  I’m sure that H-D management takes very seriously any allegation that metals in their supply chain may be fueling human rights atrocities.  In fact, you can read Harley-Davidson’s corporate governance which highlights environmental responsibilities, however, doesn’t directly address the monitoring of conflict minerals in their supplier chain.  I wanted to highlight the issue as the motorcycle industry is not immune.

First, let’s get a brief background on the minerals:

  1. Tantalum – is a rare, non-radioactive metal and in nature, tantalum (Ta) is almost always found with niobium (also known as columbium) in oxide form. The principal source for tantalum is the mineral columbite-tantalite.  60% of its commercial use is in the field of consumer electronics (cellular phones, DVD players, computers, gaming platforms, specialty electronics (radio), etc.) where it is used for its capacity to store and release electrical charges.
  2. Niobium – is added to steel and stainless steel to create high strength low alloy steel. It doubles the strength and toughness of steel due to grain refining while reducing weight. Therefore ferro-niobium alloy is used in oil and gas pipelines, chemical processing equipment, motorcycle frames, car and truck bodies, architectural steel, tool steels, ships’ hull, railroad tracks, nuclear reactors (helping keep reactors safe) or cutting tools in machining operation are fabricated from niobium carbide (to avoid high temperature deformation).
  3. Tin – is an important commodity and is used in hundreds of industrial processes and products.  An alloy of tin and niobium is used to make superconductive wire. Tin is also used as plating to avoid corrosion of various metals and can be found in items such as food packaging, culinary equipment, electronics, tin chemicals, plumbing solders, engineering alloys, pewter and bronze in music and arts, dental amalgams, anti-corrosion and engineering coatings, wine capsules and fire retardants.
  4. Tungsten – has the highest melting point of all metallic elements and because it is extremely stable at high temperatures, it is used in parts of spacecraft and missiles, high-speed cutting tools or rocket engine nozzles. Combined with carbon in tungsten carbide (WC), it becomes a very hard compound, used for tips of drill bits, high-speed cutting tools or mining machinery.

In the DRC there are thousands of independent artisanal miners working to make a subsistence living.  Clearly achieving responsible sourcing of minerals in the DRC is a complex multi-stakeholder process that must be viewed from a logistical, political and financial standpoint. All the various groups have unique and sometimes competing objectives and priorities, and all are claiming to put the best interests of the victims at the forefront of their initiatives.

I’m of the view that talk is cheap and last year President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  It wasn’t just financial reform he signed into law, but in Section 1502, the Conflict Minerals section of the act,  it contains a stipulation that requires public companies to disclose the use of such conflict materials in independent audits filed with their annual financial reports.

Enforcement will be through embarrassment.   If a company uses conflict minerals “necessary to the functionality or production of their products,” the company must disclosed the information. Companies must also detail their due diligence on the source and the chain of custody of the minerals.  If a manufacturer can demonstrate that the metal it uses is not from the DRC, it may state that its metal is “DRC conflict free.”   But if a company cannot determine the source of its mineral after a “reasonable country of origin inquiry” or if the company determines that its metal did originate in the DRC, it must make those disclosures.

Not knowing the source of metal could be problematic for Harley-Davidson, particularly for metal, where such a large percentage is derived from scrap. We don’t fully know the market consequences or the effect on production and metal segregation or on international competitiveness as a result of this law.  It’s possible the law will distort the market and increase costs.

Yet conflict minerals are inevitably getting into the H-D motorcycle manufacturing supply chain and that I, along with you, purchased a motorcycle which contains conflict minerals.  Once we get past the “who’s at fault” mentality we can focus on ideas that will make a difference.  I for one would like to know that my “wind in the face” motorcycle appetite didn’t help fuel human rights atrocities and believe that companies that don’t use conflict materials and can label their products “conflict-free” will discover just how lucrative being conflict-free can be.

Photo courtesy of Engadget.

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You (almost) thought it would never happen but, finally, winter is waning.

Let’s face it, riding anything (including a riding lawn mower) in the northwest has been a chilling and damp experience!  And we still have many cold, wet days ahead even though spring is supposedly here.

Portland (OR) normally receives an average of 3.71 inches of rain during March, but at the end of the month we had received 6.49 inches (5th highest on record) and there were 29 days of measurable rain breaking the old record of 27 days.  And on the very last day of month was the first time we witnessed the temperature gauge hitting 60 degrees… the latest date in recorded history to reach that mark.  Yep, a lot of records were broken and not necessarily in a good way.

But, no worries if you like the drizzle it’s going to be another soggy week throughout the area with high temperatures reaching all the way up to the mid- 50s.

My point is that I’m trying to sketch out my spring and summer riding entertainment and the weather is making it difficult to visualize.  What with all the boating, hiking, photography, local festivals and drinking of refreshments over the BBQ I’m not sure if I can fit it all in which is largely dependent on when the rain will subside.   Last year I laid a plan out HERE and was fortunate to have the budget to complete three (Laughlin70th SturgisStreet Vibrations) of the five trips as well as the Hells Canyon rally.  It was a lot of miles and a good riding year in my book!

One which will be difficult to repeat as the Zac Brown Band song, “Toes” rolls around in my head…

“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today…”

It got me to thinking about all those miles last year and the first surprise to me is how much better motorcycle clothing has become.  It use to be a worn out leather jacket to carry you through summer and winter riding, augmented with a vest or long sleeve shirt or two.  Now days there are heated hand grips, heated clothing and a variety of wind blocking jackets with reflective piping.  In addition there are all these Gore-Tex waterproof pullovers, neckerchiefs and face masks that do exactly what they were meant too.

Let’s see, if drizzle falls at about 3-4mph and big rain drops fall at about 7-8mph… then the difference of a walk in the rain vs. a motorcycle ride in the rain is about ten times the speed.  Ten times as much water hits you per second.  I won’t go into the mathematical proof here, but think about that and the fact that rain is hitting the rider horizontally, not just vertically.   First the air gets cold, then the rider is hit with a wall of spray from trucks that is mixed with oil residue all the while the face shield accumulates condensation … Is there any wonder why so many motorcyclists try and limit their riding in the rain?!  But, I’ve really digressed.

Time to hit “repeat” on the iPod and sketch out my riding plans…for when there is less rain!

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

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Only in America

He grew up on HOG farm in Pawnee City, Nebraska and dropped out of college in his junior year after trying his hand at comedy.  It turns out that was a good decision.

I’m talking about Daniel (Dan) Lawrence Whitney (a.k.a. “Larry The Cable Guy”) with his stereotypical redneck appearance and his southern catchphrase, Git-R-Done!

The Lippin Group, an entertainment communications and marketing firm contacted me about a “tune-in-alert” on the History Channel who is airing a biker-themed segment of “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy” on (Tuesday), April 5th (9/8C).  If you are unfamiliar with the TV series, the comedian explores the country, immersing himself in different lifestyles, jobs and hobbies.  On the April 5 episode Larry visits the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

The episode airing tomorrow was shot last year (August 11, 2010) during the 70th Anniversary.  I was fortunate to attend the 70th rally and blogged about the ride out and back HERE, HERE and HERE.  I also provided a follow up post on the rally statistics HERE.

And speaking of South Dakota,  where a lot has been written about native Americans, the Sturgis show airs on the marriage anniversary of Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Indian confederacy, who marries English tobacco planter John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia. The marriage ensured peace between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians for several years.

Set your DVR if you can’t watch the episode as it should be interesting.

Photo courtesy of History Channel and Larry The Cable Guy.

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The first stop in Detroit of Sheen’s My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option variety ‘warlock’ show occurred this past Saturday night.  According to reports thunderous applause at the start, but in about an hour “fans” walked out wanting their money refunded.  Ultimately the conclusion of the first show being — let’s just call it un-winning?

Charlie Sheen made the mistake of thinking the audience was on his side.  That’s what happens when you descend from your showbiz perch, step out of the television and enter the realm of the common man, you find out we’re all equal.  And that if you don’t give a great presentation, we’ll tear you down from your peak.  Don’t think that just because people paid to see you, they’re on your side.  You’re no longer at the mercy of the critics, you’re at the mercy of the public.  A $100 ticket member of the audience is no longer passive, they’ll provide an opinion not only through catcalls and boos, but will tweet and blog as those who care will follow along from home.

For Sheen to play to fewer people over the next 19 cites with even less attention would not only be a PR disaster, but devastating to his pride so, one can only assume there will be some show cancellations.  But, the big story of the past six months is that the people rule.  It happened in the Middle East, it’s happening here.  How long do you expect people to overwork just to make ends meet while an “undeserving” upper class gets to live in an alternative universe?  According to Wikipedia, a humble person is “someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others.”

Is there a H-D motor company lesson here?

If you’re one of the privileged, don’t intersect with the public.  Fly private, live behind a gate or a guard, avoid publicity.  Because the little people are there, waiting to pounce on every misstep?  Then again, what if the motorcycle world is ready for a true leader, who knows all this, who is not beholden to the public so much as cognizant of the landscape and willing to march forward into the future.

Does that describe Harley-Davidson?

Jim Collins, who has spent double digit years researching how certain companies are able to sustain superlative performance and identified a key ingredient — having a Level 5 leader — an executive in whom genuine personal humility blends with intense professional will was essential to take a company from good to great.  Transforming a good company into a great one also included getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus).  In other (my) words, true professionals don’t equate attention with talent.  They don’t equate notoriety with a career.  They don’t equate an initial demand with longevity.  They don’t set themselves up for ridicule because the smell of a stunt stinks worldwide and people (motorcyclists) know what is good.

One of the most common causes of failure once people (or companies) achieve significant success in business is an out of balance ego.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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The grueling wait is over!

Harley-Davidson today announced the launch of its latest customer focused strategy in the battle of the motorcycle wars – the new “left-handed” Harley-Davidson® Blackline™ L-Edition.

A full page advertisement in LA Times announced the introduction of the Harley-Davidson® Blackline™ L-Edition, a new model in their 2011 lineup: a left-handed motorcycle specially designed for the more than 35 million left-handed Americans.  According to the advertisement, the new Blackline L-Edition was made of the same high-quality components as the original ‘right-handed’ version (motor, frame, seat, handle-bars, tires, etc.), but all the vehicle operations were rotated 360 degrees for the benefit of the left-handed customers, thereby redistributing the weight of the rider so that the bulk of the controls will skew to the left.

Mark-Hans Richer, CMO at Harley-Davidson, was quoted as saying that the new Blackline L-Edition was “lean as wire, hard as iron and would satisfy the rebellious nature of our left-handed customers.” The advertisement stated that the left-handed Blackline L-Edition would initially only be available in the U.S., but that the company was “considering plans to roll it out to other countries with large left-handed populations.” Clearly the left-handed Blackline L-Edition throws new fuel on a fire that burn’s across many left-handed generations and quenches their desire to ride.

A spokesperson from the Left-Handed Motorcycle Club (LHMC) stated:

“We are enthusiastically behind Harley-Davidson’s recognition of the difficulties riding a motorcycle that has a natural right-hand bias to it.  We urge all left-handed motorcyclists to visit their nearest Harley-Davidson dealer and experience the difference for themselves.”

The skill and care that went into the customization is clear, and the list of parts that were manufactured with a skew to the left speaks for itself: a 1 degree milled-left chrome rocker cover kit and the rear fender was bobbed from the left and placed high-and-tight over a slim, 144mm tire that emphasizes asymmetric left-hand side tread and an authentic hardtail profile. The compact headlight and speedometer were slightly skewed-left and low into the wide, FX front end, and there’s just enough shine to make the black parts look blacker.   Once aboard the Blackline L-Edition, the rider hugs the sculpted left-side frame on the lowest two-up seat ever offered by Harley-Davidson, and reaches high for new Split Drag™ left-handlebars that bolt right to the top of the left-leaning triple-clamp.

In addition, Harley-Davidson introduced a new “Lean Left” clothing line to support the new Blackline L-Edition and the company has teamed up with left-handed Supermodel Sophie Dahl in an innovative left-handed marketing campaign to introduce the latest addition to Harley-Davidson’s high-performance line of ‘Dark Custom’ motorcycles.  Partnering with Supermodel Sophie Dahl is a perfect match as the skewed left Blackline L-Edition sculpted frame and commanding physique complement the left-handed model, who has a recently learned the art of left-handed burnouts.

Please Note: According to a report by CareerBuilder.com, 33% of respondents said they’d been the victim of an April Fool’s Day prank in the office… if you believe this blog post then you’ve just been punked!  Nothing in this post is true and no left-handed people were harmed in the writing of this post.

Photo courtesy of Blue State Creations.

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