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Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

What did you say?

What did you say?

I’m fascinated by the fact that everything blows up quickly today and there’s a rush to judgment.

Take the man of “sterling” character.

You know him as the 80-year old billionaire and L.A. Clippers owner.  Born, Donald Tokowitz there are no excuses for his ugly, crass and trashy comments, but after what seemed like  days of 24/7 news commentary (at least CNN moved off the Malaysian airplane search) incessantly playing snippets of the secretly-tape recorded phone conversation while calling for his head on a platter… I learned he was married and has three children.

.

Rip City, Baby!

Huh?  He has a wife?

In the NBA, only a team owner can sit with his “friend” (aka mistress) at games on national TV, give her millions of dollars in gifts, precipitate a lawsuit from the old coot’s wife demanding return of their community property and none of this merits discussion of the scandal stories about him?

Here’s the thing in America.  Gossip.  You may not be rich, but you can sure talk about the rich and everyone is.

In addition, hypocrisy reigns throughout the American landscape.  Racism and sexism are the new tools to destroy careers and people.  Some recent beat down examples are: Paula Dean when it was discovered she made a racial remark several years before it came to light.  Then there is Brenden Eich, CEO of Mozilla who was forced to step down from the company he founded when it was learned he made a $1K contribution in support of California Prop 8, which was against same sex marriage.

So what’s the point here Mac?  How does this relate to the motorcycle community?

Well the last time I checked, in this country, people are allowed to be morons.  In addition, they’re allowed to be stupid and think idiotic thoughts.  It’s a very slippery slope when you say something stupid in the privacy of your own home that is recorded and made public without your knowledge or consent and then you’re force to sell something you own or you’re interest is involuntarily seized.

Let me say it again for the haters.  I don’t share Sterling’s views so save the emails.

It’s clear the verdict for Sterling comes largely at the expense of the right of privacy and the motorcycle community is well aware of privacy/freedom to ride issues like motorcycle-only checkpoints and police targeting of “pack riders” and/or motorcycle clubs.  It’s not about any crime, but how the government judges who you are, who you associate with or by simply what type of vehicle you use.  Yeah, Sterling is in the NBA and it operates with different rules…

Then again, some lawmakers are currently sponsoring a bill to have federal researchers comb through broadcast radio and television, cable and public-access TV, commercial mobile services and other electronic media and the Internet for any communications that may have prompted violent acts and/or “hate crimes.”   Think about how much power this vague bill would give a handful of people over hundreds of millions of people.

The rush to judge and failure of due process or to consider many of Sterling’s rights in the process of this specific incident and how they were suppressed — has a scent all its own.

The “Uncle Sam” photo courtesy of Paul Lachine.

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President Barack Obama has been re-elected for 4 more years and we remain a collection of polarized red and blue states.

The first instinct of some will be to blame the voters — to say they just don’t “get” it — or to imply the “takers” simply outnumber the “makers.”

To my way of thinking, Americans should have been outraged by what happened in Benghazi. Or outraged by the increasing debt — or by the fact that the unemployment rate actually rose during Obama’s first term.  But it’s the job of the political spin “machine” and party movements to persuade Americans to buy into their “reality distortion field” — vision.  And clearly they aren’t buying what Republicans are selling.

So while most will focus today on Obama’s reelection victory and mandate this or mandate that, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and their families.

I’ll admit it — Mitt wasn’t my guy in the primaries.  But when he got the nomination, I put a few of my differences aside to join him in supporting the many other things we have in common from a business background.  As the campaign went on, he grew on me — especially after he chose Ryan to help confront some serious spending issues.   They ran a good and dignified campaign.  Many of you may disagree, but I felt President Obama lowered himself and the office of the president with mudslinging class warfare and immature name-calling.  It’s debatable, but I felt Romney kept his eye on the bigger picture.

At the end of the day, I respect Mitt Romney.  As one of the 48%, the loss is a disappointment, but I’m proud to have been represented in this election by a man who carried himself with dignity, even when he faced vicious & narrow-minded attacks on his personal character, his work ethics and his faith.

As he stated in his gracious concession speech, that he “left everything on the field” and for that, I wanted to provide him a sincere shout out.

To Mr. Obama: The campaigning and election are over. It’s time for governing and making things happen.  Please do it!

Full disclosure:  I have a major distrust of government that wants to manage every aspect of my life.  I believe in balanced budgets and that private enterprise creates wealth, but I also know that some of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives are so overpaid you’d think they solved world peace and don’t get a pass.

Photo courtesy of Scripps Media.

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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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Let’s face it.  Planning for the unthinkable isn’t fun.

Healthcare benefits are important and they are complex.  Choosing health benefits is challenging and making an informed decision requires focused effort to understand how the benefits are changing or understand all the intricacies of your insurance service and how any of the changes will affect you.  A daunting task to say the least.

In addition, it’s been a year since President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but many of us don’t know enough about the basic law let alone understand the fine print.

Speaking of the president, back in October I blogged about Obama visiting Oregon to stump for now Governor Kitzhaber and with his visit occurring in the middle of rush-hour traffic it triggered an accident on I-84 when eastbound traffic slowed to watch the president motorcade traveling west from the Portland Air National Guard Base.  A motorcyclist and northeast Portland man (Peter Kendall Gunderson, age 59) may have failed to see traffic ahead of him was slowing down for the presidential motorcade and as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident died at the hospital.

A couple weeks ago, Steve Duin, of The Oregonian published a compelling follow up report about the incident and the story reads like an old fashion motorcycle club “beat-down” by a privately held, for-profit company — Lifewise.

The Lifewise mission is: “To provide peace of mind to our members about their health-care coverage.” But five months later, Mr. Gunderson’s wife, Ellen, is still held captive to all the gray areas of the cost of trauma services; the imprecise terms of insurance policies; and the ethical dilemmas that arise over the exact moment when a donor’s death is certain and his organs become available.   I suspect like many of us, Mr. Gunderson never anticipated there would be so much uncertainty in the wake of a personal tragedy.

I suggest you read the story.  Then take action to review your beneficiary designations, understand your medical rights and responsibilities and plan for the unthinkable. Mr. Gunderson organs probably saved three lives but, the process for his family of navigating the billing intricacies, months of lien notices, collection threats and double billings has certainly been painful.

Lifewise has a reputation for trying to get out of their responsibilities to pay for the cost of medical care, but it’s important to note that according to the BBB there have been 3 complaints closed in last 3 years with no significant government actions involving the LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon.

Photo courtesy of Lifewise.

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Let’s be clear.  Lady Gaga (a.k.a. Stefani Joanne Anglina Germanotta) grates on me.

Her lifetime achievement of ten songs are not only a derivative, but uninspired.  More on music later.

She’s been everywhere: award shows, gay-rights rallies, magazine covers, stadiums, YouTube, Letterman, SNL, Grammy’s, etc.  She consistently makes headlines for wearing outrageous outfits – a meat dress here, a spiky scepter there – and for spouting sound bites such as, “I can mentally give myself an orgasm” or “I smoke a lot of pot when I write songs” … it’s gag-a, gag-a all the time.

She is clearly a celebrity overexposed and should just go away.  But, her “little monsters” are goo goo over gaga and won’t let that happen so, what to do?

Call Mark-Hans Richer to suggest he create and capitalize on a “Sputnik Moment” as President Obama evangelized.  So here it is… drum roll please…the headline would read: Harley-Davidson signs Lady Gaga to an endorsement deal!  I can’t think of anyone else other than Lady Gaga who cuts across multiple gender identities, social boundaries, is an erotic taboo breaker, a mainstream manufactured product who claims to be singing for freaks, the rebellious and the dispossessed.  If there ever was a Harley-Davidson brand ambassador she would be it!

So, I put the question out to the Northwest Harley Blog think tank (a.k.a. my pet cat Smurf!) and the name H-D: Lady Gaga Edition rose to the top.  A close second was Lady Gaga: Dare To Be Different clothing line.  Honestly I think Lady Gaga’s fashion style is weird and qualifies her for worst dressed, but what do I know?  My fashion wardrobe is mostly black t-shirts.  However, the youth crowd demographic — which H-D desperately seeks – see’s her as agent provocateur.

Now I could wax on about some ideas of a limited edition, “Bites of Enlightenment” Sportster model with Beef Jerky strips as the paint theme or “The Fame Monster” FatBoy model complete with a “Glam” accessory kit like a hair bow, hat, sunglasses, gloves and even a couture neck brace!   But you’d likely think I’m just grousing and I wanted to get back to music.

Speaking of, there’s no cheating music.  Let’s be clear, you can imitate, you can rip off what’s been done before, but there is no short cut.  There’s a schism between “performers” and true artistry.  The artist stories are all the same.  They bought records and practiced in their basements until they were good enough to get a gig.  Then they gigged long enough until someone noticed.  Then they got a chance and some broke through.

The Eagles - 1973 on BBC

Speaking of breaks.  A reader emailed me a video.  My jaw dropped.  It was an Eagles performance on the BBC.  It was like being transported back to 1973 instantly.

So for all you Gaga haters out there the clip begins with “Train Leaves Here This Morning.”  What’s stunning is the band is sitting on stools singing all the music.  ALL the music.  Incredible harmonies.  There’s no one in the background, nothing electronic-fied or on tape.  The 4-part harmonies are almost perfect.  And when something is almost perfect you get “chicken skin.”  Hell, Bernie Leadon is wearing a UCLA t-shirt which was likely the first thing in his suitcase.  It was about the music not the look.  Randy Meisner smiles when singing “A Certain Kind of Fool” and when Don Henley sings “Witchy Woman” it takes you back to the first time you ever heard it, when you had no idea who he was.  This is a band.  Remember bands?

This is not Glee.  It’s not a look-a-like tribute to Madonna.  It’s like stumbling onto the Dead Sea Scrolls.  You can be broke and still sing “Take It Easy” with the wind in your face on the open road and you’re right where you want to be.  It’s reminiscent of a time where radio was about music, not commercials.  This is the way it use to be.  Something that exists in the mind of the artist/players not some stylist standing in front of the mirror perfecting your ‘do.

Photo courtesy of Lady Gaga, The Eagles, BBC and various publishers.

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Yesterday, President Obama returned to Portland, OR to try and fire up the Democrats or rekindle some political magic.  There was an enthusiastic crowd estimated near 10,000 which packed the convention center and listened as the president stumped for John Kitzhaber, who is locked in a tight race for his old job as governor.

Sadly, the visit occurred in the middle of rush-hour traffic and triggered an accident on I-84 when eastbound traffic slowed to watch Obama’s motorcade traveling west from the Portland Air National Guard Base.

At about 6pm, a northeast Portland man (Peter Kendall Gunderson, age 59) was eastbound when he may have failed to see traffic ahead of him was slowing as police were closing down the westbound lanes for the upcoming presidential motorcade to travel in.  Gunderson lost control as he braked for the slowing eastbound traffic.  The motorcycle skidded then fell onto its side, sliding uncontrolled in the left eastbound lane until it hit underneath a stopped 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. The motorcycle came to rest near the center concrete barrier and quickly caught fire.  Some witnesses pulled Mr. Gunderson away from the burning motorcycle to the far right eastbound lane.  Mr. Gunderson was transported by AMR ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Hospital with critical injuries, but died this morning.  The full OSP report is HERE.  It’s unclear if police had enough lead time to plan a safer route in Portland.

Peter Gunderson Accident

I did a quick search and it turns out that there are many deaths across the U.S. just so the president or a dignitary doesn’t need to sit in traffic. Many are motorcycle officers, but some are similar to Mr. Gunderson being caught up in the police route.

For example, in 2006, a Honolulu officer died when he and two other motorcycle officers crashed while part of a presidential motorcade. In 2007, a police officer died after crashing his motorcycle while riding in a motorcade with President Bush.  In 2008, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s only campaign swing through North Texas was cut short after a police officer in her motorcade died in a crash on the way to a rally.  Also in 2008, an Albuquerque, N.M., police officer in President Bush’s motorcade died in a motorcycle crash.

I’m not blaming Obama – just pointing out that presidential motorcades aren’t safe for everyone!  My condolences to Mr. Gunderson’s family.

No word if President Obama or anyone in his administration has tried to reach out to Mr. Gunderson’s family.

Photo courtesy of Oregonian and OSP.

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Sunset H.O.G. Poker Run

The attacks of September 11, 2001 shaped the nation and the course of history.

Prior to this date most people would not have considered the possibility of an enemy attack on U.S. soil.  Nine years later it’s easy to forget that 2,749 lost their lives and seven buildings were destroyed. Recently President Obama announced the withdrawal of 90,000 combat troops from Iraq, marking the “end of America’s combat mission”, but who would have believed we would have a death toll of over 4,000 troops from the two wars?

I recall the events not to dwell on the tragedy, but to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, to honor the veterans and to remind myself that terrorist fanatics want to destroy the very principles of freedom and democracy that I write about on this blog. Sure the posts are slanted toward issues more relevant to motorcyclists, but it’s the same principles of freedom none the less.

We all remember where we were and what we were doing that day.  After watching the towers collapse, seeing the Pentagon and the western Pennsylvania crash I remember feeling a sense of desolation and anger.  But, I also remember how proud and inspired the first responders as well as Rudi Giuliani made me feel by their actions.  I remember the World Series just 6 weeks later in New York, the opening pitch by George Bush and a stadium full of people determined to not let this act change everything.

And speaking of freedoms, I’m not even a little conflicted about the $100M development of a mosque near ground zero.  I think it’s in poor taste and no matter how you spin it; the people behind the mosque are using our open arm kindness as a weakness.  And here is where hipsters will inundate my inbox with missives telling me I don’t know jack, that I’d better do the public a favor and stop writing, but pure and simple it’s an insult to the victims of 9/11.

There are and will be many motorcyclists paying tribute on September 11th.  There is “America’s 9/11 Ride” that raises money for families of active-duty first responders’ children.  There is the “Ride With The 40” which honors the hero’s of Flight 93 and lots at a the local level.  Here in the northwest is the 18th Annual Sunset HOG 9/11 Poker Run which is open to all flavors of motorcyclists.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll just watch a documentary or participate in one of the rides.  I plan to do something to support the victims and remember the attack.

Photo courtesy of Sunset H.O.G.

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