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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

1984 Honda Magna (VF700C or V42)

It’s a play on George Orwell’s dystopian 1949 novel 1984 — where the world in 1984 is under control of Big Brother and the Thought Police who enforced the rules against individuality and original thinking — essentially praising society’s achievement on the “Unification of Thoughts.

Taking a page from Apple’s Super Bowl ad, my “1984 wasn’t like 1984,” — thumbing my nose at the roots of America, I purchased a little slice of freedom and original thinking in the form of a Honda VF700C or V42 Magna.

That shiny jet black Honda Magna (V42) had a liquid-cooled, double-overhead cam 90° V4 engine (displacement is 699cc or 42.7 ci) with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 10.5:1.  Honda claimed it’s output was 82 crankshaft HP at 9,500 RPM.  The motorcycle had a smooth shifting 6-speed transmission, a wet multi-plate clutch that was hydraulically activated and shaft final drive with helical gearing in the rear-drive unit.  The motorcycle featured twin horns, coil rear springs, hydraulic clutch, air preload front fork with anti-dive valving, and an engine temperature gauge.

1984 Honda Magna (VF700C)Specs

Braking was delivered via a hydraulic activated double twin-piston disc brakes up front and a traditional non-ABS mechanical internal expanding drum brake in the rear. Great for leaving skid marks, but not so much for stopping!

The instrumentation was housed in chrome and included an analog speedometer, tachometer and engine coolant temperature gauge, along with lights for oil pressure, neutral, turn signals, tail light burn-out and a light that illuminated “OD” which let the rider know the transmission was in 6th gear.

As I reminisce on riding the Magna, I recall it having good power and a broad torque band.  Given its light weight and low center of gravity, the motorcycle was easy to ride in the city or a twisty two-lane country road. The Magna’s features were truly pushing the state-of-the-art for a production cruiser in its day.

From a historical viewpoint, only a few years had past since Harley-Davidson executed the epic buy back from AMF.  Their sales hadn’t reached the levels they envisioned, in part, because the AMF era was famous for shoddy quality, bikes requiring a lot of maintenance and the Milwaukee motor company was getting knocked down publicly and in need of some sunshine.

The poor quality and hi-maintenance requirements on Harley motorcycles was a key factor in my decision to purchase Honda.  In fact, a member of our posse also purchased a Honda, a V65 Magna (VF1100C) the same year.  Man, those V65 Magna’s (1,098 cc) were fast.  It was Honda’s initial entry in the “1/4 mile wars” between all the Japan manufacturers during the ’80s.

As Harley skidded toward bankruptcy, you might recall they petitioned and lobbied the Reagan administration in 1982 to raise tariffs on Japanese manufacturers because of “Dumping.”

“Dumping” in this context refers to exporting a product at a lower price than is charged in the home market, or selling at a price that is lower than the cost to produce it.  In April 1983, President Reagan signed into law an act that imposed draconian import tariffs for a five-year period on Japanese motorcycles with a displacement of greater than 700 cc.  This would give the sole American motorcycle maker some breathing room from intense competition to retool, get its act together and turn profitable.

However, Honda quickly responded to the retaliatory import duties and retooled the engines (what had been the 750cc class, VF750C V45 Magna) to displace just under 700cc; making them immune to the financial impact of the tariff.  One of the bikes that debuted as a “tariff buster” in 1984 was the V42 Magna.  Ironically and in a show of engineering superiority, it had three additional horsepower compared to the 750cc!

Harley was eventually able to turn a corner and the motor company ultimately requested that the tariff protection end early — essentially stating, they were now strong enough to take on the best competition in the world!

While the act was supposed to last for five years, then CEO Vaughn Beals asked that it be lifted a year early in 1987.  The 5-year tariff officially expired in 1988. That same year the Honda Magna reverted back to its original size of 748 cc.

Photos courtesy of Honda and Harley-Davidson Museum.

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52 Years Later—USS Pueblo

USS Pueblo (AGER-2)

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of an extraordinary event.

The USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was captured by North Korean forces on January 23, 1968 and forcibly taken to Wanson Harbor.  The ship was on a surveillance mission in international waters off the country’s coast.

The ship seizure was without question the largest compromise of information concerning the cryptologic community collection, processing, and reporting operations and techniques in U.S. cryptologic history.

Speaking of surveillance, the USS Pueblo was equipped with the latest and most sophisticated signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection equipment available in the U.S. inventory, with a capability to intercept and record North Korean voice and other communications particularly in the ultra high frequency (UHF) and very high frequency (VHF) spectrums. It had the standard WLR-1 electronic intelligence intercept receiver used throughout the naval fleet and had positions set aside to intercept Soviet telemetry.  When captured, the ship had more than 500 documents or pieces of equipment, including 58 technical SIGINT instructions, 37 technical manuals, 33 communications intelligence (COMINT) technical reports and 126 collection requirements. The USS Pueblo had copies of about 8,000 messages containing SIGINT data transmitted over the fleet operational intelligence broadcast. The broadcasts carried large amounts of information on Southeast Asia and China and thus collectively revealed the effectiveness of the U.S. collection efforts. The USS Pueblo also used four cryptographic systems, associated keying materials, maintenance manuals, operating instructions, and the general communications-security publications necessary to support a cryptographic operation.

The cryptomachines and manuals the North Koreans seized from the USS Pueblo were soon passed to the Soviets.  These were identical to those heavily used by U.S. Naval commands worldwide.

The Soviet acquisition or windfall of U.S. cryptographic equipment from the USS Pueblo, as well as the acquisition of U.S. keying material for the same machines from John Walker (more on this topic in a later post) beginning in late December 1967 and later from Jerry Whitworth, gave the Soviets all they needed to read selected U.S. strategic and tactical encrypted communications.

Un-Classified NSA Cryptologic Assessment

The ship attack and seizure was a major propaganda coup for North Korea.

The USS Pueblo 83 officers and enlisted men along with two civilian oceanographers — whose presence was intended to reinforce the ship’s cover story —  were held (beaten daily, humiliated, and starved) for 11 months!  Petty Officer Duane Hodges, 21, of Creswell, Oregon, died during the seizure, when North Korea first attacked the USS Pueblo. Mr. Hodges was  presented with the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously).

The spy ship tragedy briefly hit the news cycle a couple years ago, but at the time it seemed the incident was largely lost on the public.  Why?

You may recall, that in 1968, the USS Pueblo attack was overshadowed by Vietnam and all the other drama in that chaotic year.  There were assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. The riots that shook Washington, Chicago, Baltimore and other U.S. cities. Campus protests. Civil rights protests. Vietnam War protests. The Tet Offensive. The My Lai massacre. The rise of Richard Nixon and the retreat of Lyndon Johnson. There was the Black Power movement, “The White Album,” Andy Warhol, “Hair,” and Apollo 8.  It was an extraordinary year and the USS Pueblo fell through the cracks of the public consciousness because of everything else.

Sailor Belongings On Display At North Korea Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Initially newspapers ran profiles of the brave sailors captured by the evil North Korean Communists and the USS Pueblo was the main focus of national attention.  But, 7-days later, January 30, 1968, the Tet offensive exploded and the American public returned focus to Vietnam. Soon after, Walter Cronkite called for a Vietnam exit, a national debate flared up about the military’s request for more troops, and Johnson announced that largely because of Vietnam, he would not run for re-election. In the haze of Vietnam-related tumult, the USS Pueblo faded.

The U.S. military did take sweeping steps—many unpublicized—to prepare for a war with North Korea, but climatically they relented with a publicly repudiated written apology that freed the crew in December 1968.  After 335 days in captivity, and a written admission by the U.S. that the USS Pueblo had been spying, as well as an assurance the U.S. would not spy in the future — the men were sent to the Demilitarized Zone border with South Korea, and ordered to walk one-by-one across the “Bridge of No Return.”  Many of the men were crippled, malnourished and almost blind from the hideous torture they received.  After the last man had crossed the bridge, the U.S. verbally retracted all its admissions, apologies and assurances.

USS Pueblo Moored At Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

I need not detail the aftermath, but the crew fought for years to have their reputations restored and it wasn’t until 1989 that the U.S. government finally recognized the crew’s sacrifice, and granted them Prisoner of War medals.  The story of the crew suffering and what happened has largely gone under-reported. Hopefully this blog post illuminates the rallying cry to “Remember the Pueblo.”

Currently, the USS Pueblo remains a commissioned naval ship and property of the U.S. Navy held captive.  It is moored in the Potong River at Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.  It is being held as a trophy of war—a “tourist” attraction and propaganda piece for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) regime as part of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

In 2008, a U.S. Senate resolution declared the USS Pueblo as the first U.S. Navy ship to be “hijacked” by a foreign military in more than 150 years and proclaimed to show the world its resolve by getting the USS Pueblo back by whatever means.

A lawsuit in 2008 was brought by three members of the USS Pueblo crew, William Thomas Massie, Dunnie Richard Tuck and Donald Raymond McClarren, and Rose Bucher, wife of the Pueblo’s late commander, Lloyd Bucher.  The court awarded the three surviving crew members $16.75 million each, and Bucher’s estate $12.5 million for the abuse suffered during capture and the “physical and mental harm that (they) likely will continue to endure throughout the rest of their lives.”

In February 2018, a new lawsuit was filed in a federal court under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism for torture, hostage-taking, personal injury or death.  More than 100 crew members and relatives of the USS Pueblo joined the lawsuit.  North Korea has never responded, but plaintiffs could recover damages for relief under a $1.1 billion dollar fund established by the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act, which can be awarded to people who have “secured final judgments in a United States district court against a state sponsor of terrorism.”

In 2019, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (CO.) announced a new resolution calling on the North Korean government to return the USS Pueblo back to the United States.  The resolution also directs the clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit copies of the resolution to the president, secretary of defense and secretary of state.  It states the U.S. Navy “would welcome” its return as “a sign of good faith from the North Korean people to the American people.”

To the service members who served on the USS Pueblo, I thank you for your sacrifices and service!

The end of the Korean War and the subsequent Armistice Agreement of 1953 has not resolved any of the issues that divide North and South Korea.  It is unlikely that Kim Jong Un’s regime will ever end their incendiary rhetoric, or send the USS Pueblo home or respond to any terrorism litigation.

More information can be found at the below links.

Crew Experiences and Psychology: HERE
USS Pueblo Naval History: HERE
Un-Classified NSA Cryptologic Assessment: HERE
Un-Classified CIA Assessment: HERE
LBJ Chronology Of Seizure Actions: HERE
USS Pueblo Website: HERE
The Pueblo Incident — U.S. Navy Film (28 minutes): HERE

Photos courtesy of: U.S. Navy; Korea Konsult AB; NSA Archives and Washington Post newspaper archives

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It’s a reference to a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name (video). Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time. Interestingly, the song addresses no specific issue and prescribes no concrete action, but simply observes a world in upheaval.

“Changes” is a relevant topic as the Oregon Legislature passed hundreds of bills last year during the short summer session.

I won’t bore you with the “Sustainable Shopping Initiative” and the HB 2509 upheaval, but what follows are some changes in 2020 that motorcycle enthusiasts might be interested in knowing more about:

HB 2017 — Vehicle registration fees are a-changin!  In 2020, some vehicle fees in Oregon will be based on miles per gallon (MPG) as part of “Keep Oregon Moving,” a major transportation funding program. If you have an electric vehicle or a car that gets more than 40 miles per gallon, you’ll have two options. You can pay the full fee up front to register or renew your tags, or you can pay a lower fee and a monthly per-mile charge for miles driven in Oregon if you join OReGO. The net-net is, drivers with more fuel-efficient vehicles end up paying more in registration fees. I’ve reached out to DMV for a statement on specific changes related to electric motorcycles and will update this post with any information. SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM. Oregon is one of a handful of states aggressively pursuing new registration fees (read more tax $$) for electric vehicles, in a preemptive move to capitalize on the shift to electric that is leading to lower gas taxes.

HB 57 — Were you recently pulled over and did the law enforcement officer fail to notice your change of address sticker on the back of your drivers license… which led to an even long(er) traffic stop? Good news!  HB 57 ends change-of-address stickers because Oregon DMV will no longer require stickers on drivers’ licenses, permits or ID cards when people change their addresses. It was estimated that ending the sticker program will save $550,000 a year in printing and postage costs. Those savings will go into the State Highway Fund to “support local and state roads.” Oregon law still requires driver license, permit and ID card holders to update the DMV with a change of address within 30 days of moving.

HB 2015 — Oregon becomes one-of-thirteen other states providing driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. Proponents of extending driver’s licenses to immigrants argue that licensing undocumented residents will lead to fewer hit-and-runs, more trust between immigrants and police, and increased revenue for DMV. Opponents assert that granting licenses to undocumented residents reduces the incentive to follow immigration laws and would lead to increased voter fraud, ID fraud, bank fraud and easier for terrorists/criminals to obtain fraudulent documents.

Whether or not you get twisted up around an ideological axle on this topic is your choice, but Oregon’s HB 2015 — the Equal Access to Roads Act — signed in July 2019, now allows undocumented immigrants to obtain their driver’s licenses, though they still aren’t eligible to vote. While undocumented immigrants don’t have to prove citizenship, they will still be required to pass a driving test, pay a fee, and prove they’re current Oregon residents. House Bill 2015 removes the requirement for individuals to provide proof of legal presence when applying for a driver license or ID card. However, after January 1, 2021, individuals applying for a standard driver license or ID card must still provide proof of full legal name and identity, date of birth, Oregon residency, and a Social Security number. If an individual has not been assigned a Social Security number, they must sign and submit a written statement with their application. The law was passed in 2019 and is only applicable for a standard Oregon driver license or ID card. Important to note is that standard driver license or ID card is not Real ID compliant. All other requirements such as proof of name, identity, date of birth and Oregon residency stay the same.

You might be asking why was this law signed in 2019 if it doesn’t go into full effect until 2021? According to the DMV talking points — they are implementing a number of changes in 2020, including a new computer system and the introduction of Real ID compliant cards in July 2020. Waiting until January 2021 allows DMV to update the technology to accommodate the undocumented immigrants law change. Oregon and 13 other states and Washington, D.C. currently issue driver licenses to individuals who do not provide proof of lawful status.

SB 998 — Oregon passes a version of the “Idaho Stop” law.  SB 998 now allows bicyclists to yield at stop signs rather than come to a full and complete stop before proceeding through an intersection. If you ride a motorcycle in the city of Portland, you’ve likely observed that bicyclists rarely come to a complete stop at stop signs. In 2020, bicyclists now have the option of yielding—rather than coming to a complete stop—at both stop signs and flashing red lights. Red lights still require a full and complete stop, and bicyclists must still yield to pedestrians and right-of-way traffic, and maintain a safe speed.

SB 792 — Do you like spending time at the salvage yard looking for motorcycle projects? Maybe you plan to start “Bill’s Cycle Heap” business this summer? A vehicle dismantler is anyone who takes apart motor vehicles. This often includes recovering, rebuilding, reselling or recycling parts from worn out or damaged vehicles. SB 792 modifies laws related to vehicle dismantler certificates and the plates and registration transfer from totaled vehicles. Notices submitted to the DMV stating that a vehicle has been totaled will allow the transferring of plates and registration from that vehicle to another. The transfer can’t take place if a salvage title was previously issued.

HB 2017 — The thrill of paying more $$ for fuel!  HB 2017 means Oregon’s current gas tax will jump up by 2 cents, the second of four increases approved in 2017. The Oregon Department of Transportation will use some of the additional funds (estimated at $60 million) to improve state roadways, and the remainder will go to Oregon cities and counties.

HB 3452 — U.S. Highway 26 across Oregon is officially designated a POW/MIA Memorial Highway now.  HB 3452 was sponsored by Central Oregon lawmakers.

A list of bills passed by the Oregon House in the 2019 session is: HERE

UPDATE: January 9, 2020 — Per Customer Assistance (Chelsi) at Oregon Department of Transportation (DMV) —  “All motorcycle fees (electric or otherwise) are the same. They are not based on the same MPG scale as passenger vehicles. Thank you for using our online services.”

Photos courtesy the State of Oregon and Creative Commons.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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As you know, I’m a motorcyclist licensed in the State of Oregon.  I’ve written many blog posts that represent motorcyclists and advocate for the passage of laws that improve motorcycle safety and result in motorcycle awareness and driver accountability.

My perspective comes from years of riding motorcycles and having first hand knowledge of friends who have been injured when drivers don’t see motorcycles and the dramatic consequences.

Speaking of motorcycle accidents, the following are examples of common motorcycle accident causes:

• A car makes a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle, usually because the driver is not looking for, or does not otherwise see, the oncoming motorcycle.

• A vehicle pulls out of, or into, a side street or driveway, also usually because the driver does not look for, or otherwise see, the motorcycle.

• A car rear ends a motorcycle because the driver is inattentive or distracted, usually by a mobile electronic device.

• And the all-to-common motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcyclist!  There have been a number of motorcycles that inexplicably missed a curve on a clear, dry road and left the roadway.  Many suffered injuries or death after striking a tree, roadside sign, utility pole or boulder.  Be it age related (yes, I said that!), pushing the limit of the riders skills or the capability of the motorcycle, driving impaired — both by drugs and alcohol — or by fatigue and exposure — riders need to constantly tweak riding habits to stay sharp.

In tracking the U.S. states information, searching and following-up on the Oregon data of various motorcycle accidents in the news, it seems that negligent drivers are often not being cited for any violation when they cause a motorcycle accident. Moreover, careless drivers are typically only being cited for routine traffic violations, and reckless drivers are being cited only for careless driving.  I’ve also read about simple cell-phone tickets being cited when drivers cause severe accidents.  If you try and track motorcycle accident cases, they are usually not referred to the District Attorney’s office unless there is a fatality or a drunk driver involved. Careless and even are facing very little to no criminal repercussions for their conduct and instead being given a traffic violation or no traffic violation at all.

That’s all about to change!

Back in 2017, Oregon began to address this issue by passing HB 2598, which expanded Oregon’s Vehicular Assault Statute, ORS 811.060, to protect motorcyclists and their passengers from reckless drivers, making it a Class A Misdemeanor for a reckless driver to injure a motorcyclist or passenger. That same year, Oregon passed SB 493, which made it a Class A Misdemeanor for a criminally negligent driver to seriously injure a vulnerable user.

However, under the current statute, motorcyclists, moped operators, and their passengers are not, even though they are equally susceptible to being directly struck and seriously injured by a careless, or criminally negligent, driver as the other road users.

But, effective January 1, 2020 is Senate Bill 810.  Signed into law back in June, the Bill modifies the definition of “vulnerable user of a public way” to include persons operating or riding on moped or motorcycle.  The law (801.608, “Vulnerable user of a public way”) enhances penalties for motorists who kill or injure motorcyclists, as well as other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, highway workers or bicyclists.

Oregon has taken an important step to protect riders and their passengers. Oregon now joins the State of Washington along with several other states by treating motorcycles and mopeds the same as other vulnerable road users by significantly enhancing the penalties against careless and criminally negligent drivers.

Thank you Governor Brown!

UPDATED:  November 1, 2019 — Removed the 1st – 4th priority scheme under motorcycle accident causes paragraph (see comment below) as it was misleading.  Added a reference HERE to the NHTSA Highway Crash Data for 2018.

Photos courtesy of ODOT and GHSA

Oregon Crash Statistics & Reports    |    Invest in yourself and Stay Sharp HERE!

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE:HOG) reported the third quarter 2019 financial results in a press release HERE.

Key indicators the motor company reported was revenue from motorcycle and related products fell 4.9% Y/Y to $1.07B in Q3.  Motorcycle shipments were down 5.8% to 45,387 and gross margin fell one point to 29.9% of sales.  The company stated it expects shipments of 38,500 to 43,500 motorcycles in Q4 and 212K to 217K for the full year.

In other interesting financial sound bites; Harley’s Q3 marketing spend was up over 30% with efforts on the LiveWire and LowRider S television spots running in major markets across the U.S.  International retail sales were up 2.7% driven by growth in both developed and emerging markets.  In addition, Harley-Davidson gained 2.2 percentage points of market share during the quarter within the Touring and Cruiser segments, which represents approximately 70% of the total 601cc plus industry.

In the attracting more people to riding and keeping riders riding space (i.e. the 2027 strategic imperative) — in Q3 the company gained deeper analysis and insights on why people engage, participate and disengage from riding.

Lets call it a “participation lifecycle!”

H-D Marketing and Brand Amplification

Harley-Davidson now has an acute focus on how to influence each customer at their buying decision points to build the total number of committed Harley-Davidson riders.  By 2027,  the company will expand to 4M total Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S., grow international business to 50% of annual HDMC revenue, launch 100 new high impact motorcycles and do so profitably and sustainably.  Lastly, Harley added Amplified Brand as a growth catalyst in the More Roads to Harley-Davidson’s growth plans.

For example Harley-Davidson refreshed their brand look at major events during Q3 including Sturgis, World Surf League and Spartan races and recently announced we will be the presenting sponsor at next summer’s hotly anticipated Hella Mega music experience tour featuring Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy.  The Hella Mega Tour being promoted by Harley-Davidson is the co-headlining tour of rock bands Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer. The tour was announced on September 10, 2019 and includes dates from March to August 2020.

Navigating Section 301 Tariff Process

You can’t have a finance report these days and not talk about TARIFFS!  The dizzying series of trade and tariff events over the last few months has pushed the trade war front and center into Harley-Davidson.  How to navigate the Section 301 Tariff process, prepare for any impact etc., is a challenge in of itself.  For the full year 2019, Harley-Davidson now expect impacts of recent EU and China tariffs to be approximately $105 million. This is a $5 million increase from prior expectations and is driven by an increase in Section 301 tariffs, which continue to shift with the breeze as part of global trade negotiations.

It appears that some developed nations will slip towards recession, and governments and companies keep hoping the signs of economic weakness in China would push all the parties to a “deal” table faster.  Harley-Davidson looks to continue mitigating the impact of tariff increases through tariff classification, tariff engineering, first sale, and other methods.  Some of which may have an impact on U.S. manufacturing jobs.
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Q3’19 Press Release:  HERE
Investor Slides:  HERE
Transcript of Q3’19 Financial Call:  HERE
More Roads Plan:  HERE
Hella Mega Tour:  HERE
Section 301 Tariffs:  HERE
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Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson
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The Andrew J. Weber Panamanian Tour

Have you ever had the thought, “That would make a great story!” when it comes to your family history… this is exactly that, “Once upon a time moment.”

 

To add historical context and a colorful backdrop, the year was 1968.  It was one of the most tumultuous single years in history.  Soviet armed forces invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia–Prague Spring; North Korea captured the Navy intelligence vessel U.S.S. Pueblo; The Tet Offensive, an all-out effort by the Communists to inflict terminal damage on the South Vietnamese regime; U.S. ground troops killed many Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam; both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated; Summer Olympic protests recorded black-gloved fists in a salute to the Black Power movement; Richard M. Nixon wins the White House and Apollo 8 carried the first humans to orbit the moon.

It’s difficult to truly appreciate everything that occurred in 1968 even as we watched it play out on TV.

This story begins as a lovely autumn day 50+ years ago, to the month, when my father (U.S. Army – now Retired) arrived with a team of nine military personnel in the Panama Canal Zone.  It’s a journey over a short period of time that will lead him and our family from Fort Bliss, Texas to Kwajalein Marshall Islands and then to the SAFEGUARD AntiBallistic Missile System (ABM) in Nekoma, North Dakota.

Panama Canal

But, first some historical context on Panama.  It’s country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a 48-mile-long man-made waterway, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route.  It’s designated as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

You’ve likely heard of the Panama Canal, but you may not know how it works.  The Canal is a system of locks that allows ships to ascend and descend in steps, like a staircase.  The lock system lifts a ship up 85 feet to the main elevation of the Panama Canal and down again.  The Gatun Dam moderates the amount of water in Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created solely to reduce the amount of excavation work that was required to build the canal.  The Dam’s hydro-electric generating station provides electricity to operate the locks and a wide range of other equipment in the canal zone.

USS Sturgis – Moored at Fort Belvoir, Virginia

Gatun Lake is a critical element of the Panama Canal, acting as a reservoir of water for the operation of the canal locks.  Every time a ship transits the canal, each lock chamber requires 26 million gallons (the equivalent size of 35 olympic sized swimming pools) of water to fill it from the lowered to the raised position; the same amount of water must be drained from the chamber to lower it again as the water passes from the lake into the sea.

As the tale went, in early 1968 there was a severe water shortage that jeopardized both the operation of the Panama Canal locks and the production of hydroelectric power for the Canal Zone. The large amounts of water required to operate the locks and the water level on Gatun Lake fell so drastically that operations at Gatun Hydroelectric Station were curtailed.  Brown outs and total black-outs from a complete loss of electrical power became the norm.

Andrew J. Weber

Shrouded in military secrecy, was the Andrew J. Weber, a floating power plant equipped with three 1,650-kw diesel generators and two 8,400 kw gas turbine sets, that was designed to provide 20 MW of on-demand electrical capacity.  Enough to supply approximately 25,000 homes with electrical power!

The military often prefers strange, far-flung and obscure parts of the world for testing because the Pentagon doesn’t like to advertise them.  Such was the case for the power barge which was obscurely in route to KWAJALEIN, Missile Range (KMR) in the Marshall Islands.

Marshall Islands Location

The increased demand of electrical power for missile-tracking radar at the SECRET Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site was it’s planned duty station, however, the demands of the Vietnam War had significantly increased traffic through the Panama Canal and while transiting the canal en route to Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR), the Secretary of the Army redeployed the “Power Ship” in October 1968 to the Panama Canal Zone at Gatun Lake.

Another historical context for this story is that a few months prior, the USS STURGIS (look, there is a name reference to motorcycles!) a WW II Liberty cargo ship (previously named: Charles H. Cugle) was converted into a 10 MW floating nuclear power barge/ship and was already on location, but could not fully meet the electricity demands.  This electrical shortfall added to the decision criteria of the Andrew J. Weber being redeployed to the Panama Canal Zone.  The electrical power produced by the Weber and Sturgis replaced the power from the Gatun Hydroelectric Station, and freed up the lake water for canal lock navigation use.

U.S. Army Air Defense Command

The USS Sturgis was the first “ship” to be deployed and the only one in the U.S. Army with a nuclear reactor power plant.  The MH-1A plant was a pressurized water reactor and one of a series of reactors in the U.S. Army Nuclear Power Program.  Program Video HERE:

In 1968 we lived in El Paso, Texas just off the Fort Bliss military base where my father was stationed.  Fort Bliss was home of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM).  The military installation was instrumental in training personnel on Air Defense Artillery missiles, such as Nike Hercules, Nike Zeus, Nike X, and the Sentinel Missile System (renamed to the SAFEGUARD AntiBallistic Missile System (ABM)).

But, I’ve digressed and want to return to Panama.

Arnulfo Arias Madrid was a Panamanian politician, doctor, and writer who served as the President of Panama.  He took office on October 1, 1968 and demanded the immediate return of the Canal Zone to Panamanian jurisdiction and announced a change in the leadership of the National Guard.  President Arias removed the two most senior officers and selected Colonel Bolivar Urrutia to command the Guard.  The Guard staged a coup and removed Arias from the presidency. He served for eleven days!  The overthrow of Arias provoked large scale student demonstrations and rioting in many areas.  The military seized power, suspended civil liberties, censored the press and deployed combat troops to help the police make hundreds of arrests.

Fairbanks-Morris Model 38D-8-1/8 Diesel Engines

It was during this political strife that my father arrived with a team of nine military personnel.  In fact, the day before the team (notable members: Roger Ashpole, R. Cunningham, Dave Mathews) arrived, the Chief of the Panama Police was assassinated.  They rucked it over to Balboa, Panama, (Atlantic side of the canal power system) in civilian clothes due to the U.S. being cast as villains in the coup and immediately initialized start-up procedures of the power barge.  They spun up the Fairbanks Morris Diesel Engine/Generators and gas turbine sets and operated three shifts–3 guys to shift 24×7.

Speaking of Diesel engines, the power barge had three massive Fairbanks Morris 16 cylinder opposed Diesel engines and two GE LM1500 gas turbines to produce over 20 MW.  The Fairbanks-Morse Model 38D-8-1/8 is a two stroke cycle engine with an upper and lower crankshaft and detonates in the middle.  They were compressed air started and had a pressure release valve on top of the engine.  You’d pull the lower air handle while pulling the top valve until it started firing.  The engine was known to have oil everywhere all the time.  In fact, drip pans were a “feature” mounted on the side of the huge block that routed leaking oil back into the motor.

The team’s mission was to provide tactical electric power and environmental control capabilities to the canal zone in defense of the economic interests of the U.S.  The power barge augmented the USS Sturgis and was able to establish a power generation grid in the canal zone.  Eight months later the nine-man team was replaced by a “small” Army company of 125 men.

My father stated that “Life in Panama was not hard, but it was strenuous and the investment of sweat-equity was worth it.  It was an interesting time and it was nice working as a liaison with civilian personnel to help restore stability and the operations of the Panama Canal.”

Don’t stop reading!  The tropical sun is about to come out and all will be clear.

Kwajalein Marshall Islands

As mentioned above, the Andrew J. Weber power barge was in route to KWAJALEIN, Missile Range (KMR) before being redeployed to the canal zone.  Shortly after my fathers Panama Canal assignment we departed Fort Bliss and relocated to the tropical island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese, say: “Yokwe Yuk” versus welcome.  Kwajalein Island is one of 97 that make up the Kwajalein Atoll and is situated 2100 miles SE from Honolulu.

The island, a two-mile long flat boomerang strip of land dominated by the runway and dotted with palm trees, tranquil beaches and stunning aqua water with coral reefs are all set under an unrelenting equatorial heat.  No one just drops in on the island.  For security reasons only staff and their dependents can live on Kwajalein, tourists aren’t allowed. Everyone (military and government contractors) are there in a professional capacity as the island has no private housing.  No one actually lived on the island of Meck, that houses a launch facility, which meant a 25-mile helicopter commute for my father every day over water from Kwajalein.

Kwajalein Test Facility

When we lived there and today, no cellphone network exists on the island, residents relied on landline phones which were dotted all around the island, including in the supermarket and on the beaches. There was no Television, but today TV is provided by Central Pacific Network (CPN), a service of the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). The Army operates a small fleet of vehicles for official use, but for “islanders” the main mode of transport is bicycles, everyone has one.  Underneath the relaxed veneer is a strict security protocol.  There were things we couldn’t photograph and doing so would likely get you a permanent pass off-island.

Systems Technology Test Facility constructed on Meck Island on Kwajalein Atoll

The tropical environment of the island makes it sound like a wonderful playground, with work merely an afterthought. Rest assured, the business of the missile range is extremely serious.  The radar facility is part of the Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base. They provide range instrumentation, missile launch facilities, mission control center, range safety, meteorological support, and support space operations.  The site hosts a suite of unique instrumentation, located on eight islands throughout the Kwajalein Atoll and provides space-, ground- and sea-based sensors of real-time target acquisition and tracking data to a command-and-control center during various Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests.

An ICBM target launches from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands on 03/25/19

For example, earlier this year (2019), the military launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missiles (Minuteman III) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and tested the reentry vehicle on the 4,200-mile flight over the Pacific Ocean to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands which is now know as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

After a couple of years living the island life in flip-flaps we departed the year-round heat and humidity and relocated to the SAFEGUARD AntiBallistic Missile System (ABM) in North Dakota. We arrived in a particularly intense cold month, the angle of sunlight was stark and non-penetrating, and snow drifts covered everything.

The Complex was authorized by Congress in 1969 and construction began in 1970 for the purpose to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China.

Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC)

The Safeguard system was a cluster of military facilities in Cavalier County, N.D. and consisted of several primary components, the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR), the Missile Site Radar (MSR), the Spartan missile launchers, co-located Sprint missile launchers, and Remote Sprint missile launchers (RSL).

As originally proposed by President Johnson in 1967, the system, then known as Sentinel, was supposed to provide protection for major cities against a ballistic missile attack.  The “Pyramid” as it was called by locals, was located in Nekoma, N.D. and was the main control of the Safeguard system. It housed the computers and a phased array radar necessary to track and hit back at incoming ICBM warheads. The facilities were a technological marvel at the time. The structure is 80 feet tall and has four-foot-thick concrete walls sloped at a 35-degree angle to protect it against a potential nuclear blast. Each face of the structure had the ability to scan the landscape and skies for targets coming from any direction.  The MSR provided launch and control for Spartan, and the shorter-range Sprint anti-ballistic missiles.

Dependent Housing – Nekoma, N.D.

The facility was later re-named the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). The ABM debate in the Senate and the impact of the SALT II treaty proved to be a turning point—as the facility became active in April 1975, fully operational in October 1975 and was shut down in February 1976.

The Library of Congress has an extraordinary set of images documenting the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in various states of construction and completion.

At various times from 1973 to 1976, both my father, and I worked at the MSR.  We spent a lot of time in the underground power plant and it was rather impressive. There were several Cooper-Bessemer Company, 4-cycle, turbo-charged, dual-fuel (diesel or natural gas), V-12 engines which supplied electricity to the complex when commercial electricity failed or when there were mock attack tests. The engine turned a 2-ton fly wheel connected to a General Electric generator. The complete unit weighed 35 tons and was shipped in via rail to the facility during initial construction.

RSL #2

In addition, we worked at the four Remote Sprint Launch Sites (RSLs).  The MSR could command the launch of Sprint missiles located at the RSLs.  The Spartan missiles were designed to intercept incoming warheads at high altitude at distances in excess of 400 miles.  Sprint missiles are a super quick-reaction missile used to knock out enemy warheads at close range.  A Sprint launch is dramatic….its acceleration is immediate, stunning and literally as fast as a bullet (zero to Mach 10 in 5 seconds! Video HERE.).

The history of the SRMSC is fascinating on many levels and I’ve only scratched the surface.  If you like deep dives,  please check out David Novack’s comprehensive web site HERE.

Unclassified CIA Sidebar: The Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR) was a test site for ICBM missiles along with the testing validation for SAFEGUARD.  And then there is this from an unclassified CIA document (page 40):  “In September 1969 in connection with an estimative paper on the Soviet ICBM designated the SS-9. CIA analysis indicated that the new Soviet missile, then nearing deployment, had powerful capabilities, but they were uncertain exactly how powerful. An unanswered question was whether the multiple warheads of the SS-9 were fitted with individual guidance systems to direct them precisely to dispersed US missile silos. The Nixon administration was just then seeking public and Congressional support to develop and deploy an antiballistic missile defense system, the Safeguard ABM. To provide a rationale for the multibillion-dollar ABM system, Laird and the Pentagon seized the Soviet development of the SS-9, claiming that its triple warheads were individually targeted (Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle, or MIRV). This weapon, military analysts declared, would enable the USSR to destroy the bulk of the US Minuteman ICBM force in one strike and demonstrated the Soviets’ intention to develop a first-strike capability. The US ABM system, they argued, was an essential antidote.  The antidote became the Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense site (Nekoma, ND) which was later re-named to the the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).

We departed North Dakota and relocated to Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  Fort Belvoir is home to a number of important U.S. military organizations and has nearly twice as many workers as The Pentagon.  More on this station duty at a later time.

Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense site

So, lets connect the dots on this rather long post… we started out in Texas, the home of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command learning about HAWK and NIKE missile systems.  Then a power generation assignment in Panama to stabilize and keep the canal operating.  That led to an assignment in the Marshall Islands at the Kwajalein Missile Range and then an assignment at the Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense site in North Dakota.  All of it relates to the Ballistic Missile Defense program which represented many years of missile defense training, maintenance and operations.

Why is this important?  These were “good ‘ol days” for lots of now older folks -and one that they/we were quite proud of – the learning experience and doing something useful. Most of us look back and smile because there are a few times in anyone’s life when you have a chance to have a special place in the world’s imagination. One of those times was during the Cold War.  Our family didn’t choose to have a role in the Cold War, and for the most part we didn’t complain about being moved around and part of the Ballistic Missile Defense program.

SRMSC Power Plant Control Room

Although the thrill of gas turbine sets spinning up in the middle of night while going into “Alert Status Mode” remains strong, the former missile launch sites—once protected by high fences, search lights, and armed guards—are no longer on the front lines of America’s Cold War.

 

P.S.  Today, the Andrew J. Weber was one of 16 vessels scuttled as part of a military target practice program in 2001. The 6,000 ton Andrew Weber was sunk July 19, 2001. It currently lies at a depth of 12,600 feet, about 250 nautical miles south east of Agana, Guam.

P.S.S.  Since the late 1970s, the USS Sturgis had been part of the Reserve Fleet, sometimes colloquially called the “Ghost Fleet.”  In October 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $34.66 million contract to decommission, dismantle and dispose of the ship in Galveston, Texas where it was towed that winter.

P.S.S.S.  Today the topside of the North Dakota SRMSC appears exactly as it did during its existence as an active launch facility.  The only part of the original SRMSC installation still in use is the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) which the U.S. Air Force operates as part of its space track and early warning system.  The SRMSC was made available to the highest bidder via an online auction by the GSA.  The winning bid of $530,000.00 was accepted in December of 2012 and the sale closed in February of 2013.  The new owner is the Spring Creek Hutterite Colony of Forbes, N.D. The Hutterites are a faith group with 45,000 or so members living in several hundred colonies scattered across the North American prairies with a lifestyle similar to the Amish and Mennonites.  In addition, the Cavalier County Job Development Authority (JDA) purchased about 40 percent of the land, including the tactical buildings, for $435,000 from a legislative appropriation. That group is invested in the site because of it’s historical significance in the community.  They have plans to create a “historical interpretation,” at some point in the future.  Related to the RSLs, Mel Sann purchased RSL #3 (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places) site and another was bought by James and Anna Cleveland.  The Clevelands renovated the RSL site into a home and it was previously reported they are trying to sell it for $1.25 million.  Mr Sann runs tours during the summer at RSL #3 and you can get more information HERE.

 

Note:  This article was developed from discussions, personal notes and photos with my father.  In addition, I’ve chronicled a bit of family history from my own experiences, family discussions along with research from various news outlets and internet sites.

Photos courtesy of Time Magazine (’68 Cover); Map data (c) OpenStreetMap (and) contributors, CC-BY-SA; MISSILE DEFENSE AGEN; Stars and Stripes; Library of Congress; Ed Thelen’s Nike Missile Website; U.S. Army; SRMSC Facebook Page

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Real ID Driver License Example

Do you remember the $300 million in federal taxpayer money wasted for Cover Oregon?

The State of Oregon shutdown its planned healthcare exchange in 2014 which never launched. Former Governor Kitzhaber had staked his reputation and his reelection bid on promoting State-based health and welfare programs.

Given all the in-fighting and blame among employees in the Oregon Health Authority, Cover Oregon was becoming a political liability so, the state quickly pivoted to a blame-Oracle narrative and instructed Attorney General Rosenblum to justify and pursue litigation.

Real ID Information

Now it’s Déjà vu all over again.

I’m talking about the Real ID Act and the State of Oregon Driver License.

The state and/or the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) looks to be unwilling to take responsibility for its own system failures in trying to comply with the federal Real ID Act.

 

Here are some facts:

• Oregonians are not required to change their standard driver license or ID card. The current card will continue to be valid until it expires, and you can use it for everything you use it for today – including air travel until October 2020.
• When your driver license or ID card expires, you have the option of renewing your standard license or ID card (prior to July 6, 2020) or getting a Real ID version on July 6, 2020.
• From the DMV stats page: There are approximately 4.1 million registered vehicles in the state of Oregon. Of those, about 3.2 million are passenger vehicles with nearly 3.1 million licensed drivers.  Those drivers are served by 60 DMV offices around the state.
• The State of Oregon is not yet compliant with the standards of the Real ID Act and CANNOT provide a Real ID option until July 6, 2020.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given Oregon multiple extensions to-date, but their last and final extension means the state has to provide a Real ID option prior to October 2020.
• The DHS will not recognize driver licenses with out Real ID for air travel after October 2020.

The State of Oregon has received constant warnings about being prepared and providing Real ID licenses, but the project, its problems, its scope, its goals, its costs, its risks, its timing, its milestones, its deliverable, and its schedule didn’t seem to be understood by many until DHS extensions stopped.  I’m not certain, but I anticipate government representatives making the rounds on TV pontificating whining how the State of Oregon teams faced so many legacy issues, including complex IT structures, manual processes, insufficient visibility into systems and dwindling resources to comply with this federal act.

Oregon DMV Locations

Let’s do the math — assuming all 3.1M Oregon licensed drivers get a Real ID license during the “90 day window” (July 6, 2020 – Sept 30, 2020) that is 34,444 drivers renewing licenses per day.  Divide 34,444 drivers by 60 (# of DMV offices across the state) that is 574 drivers per day, filing paperwork and renewing their licenses.  Of course the 90 days isn’t totally accurate as the DMV offices are not open 7-days a week and in addition, the highest number of drivers will be in a smaller number of the overloaded metro offices.

I’m not going all Chicken Little on you, but it looks like the “sky is falling on the Oregon DMV” and at best, this is a political embarrassment for Governor Brown.  At worst, it’s another example of Governor Brown’s administration  accountability or lack there of, for procedures in important areas and may set off another round of state employees lobbing rocks over the fence in a defensive, accusatory and inaccurate ways.

In fact, earlier this week it became all about offense as government officials started amplifying the spin on TV and recited:  “Avoid the long DMV lines next year and instead either get one or plan to use your current passport for air travel.”  Clearly this is an effort to change the narrative of Real ID implementation delays which I read with deep skepticism.

Who will help rescue the state from its own incompetence this time?  Why has the state kept key details on the reason for Real ID delays concealed from the public?  Why has no media outlet demanded an answer on the reasons of the delay?  How will the state triage and combat lengthy wait times?  Will the state redirect employees from the DMV headquarters and staff from other state agencies and departments— to reduce the wait times at field offices?

The State of Oregon owes the public a duty of transparency on the Real ID project!

 

Real ID Background:
On September 11, 2001, America was attacked.  While prior to September 11th, states were already implementing numerous security measures to counter issues with counterfeit driver’s licenses (DLs) and identification cards (IDs) and dated licensing procedures, after September 11th states accelerated these efforts to ensure that their driver’s licenses and identification cards were secure.

The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005.  On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005” (H.R. 1268, P.L. 109-13), which included the “Real ID Act of 2005.” Title II of Real ID—“Improved Security for Driver’s License’ and Personal Identification Cards”—it was based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”  It establishes standards that state-issued driver licenses and identification cards must meet in order to be accepted for certain federal purposes.

More information on the Real ID Act, federal funding and extensions is:  (HERE)

Photos courtesy of Oregon DMV and Google Maps

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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