Archive for November, 2008

ski_season_ed_steinI’ve certainly posted my fair share of negativity since summer ended, but I now declare this blog a “bummer-free” zone.  For the next week the rants which have been more like “Rages” will go on hiatus as I reset my emotional state!

I’ll be busy travelin’ around this country looking for sun-block and Sex Wax.  I’ll be talkin’ about things, readn’ things and doin’ a little relaxn’…all at a much slower pace.

sex-waxThe short break will be over at the beginning of the month. I invite you to read some of the commentaries posted by other insightful readers.

Now is the season to give thanks and I hope all of you have a terrific Thanksgiving holiday.

Note: comments needing moderation may experience delayed posting.


Photo courtesy of Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News and Mr. Zog.

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Dr. Michael Baden

Dr. Michael Baden

A wild west style gunfight involving a resident alien.  Then there was a Supreme court appeal, a HBO celebrity and the appointment of a judge pulled from retirement bliss…all to serve up justice on the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC). 

It took over 2 years of South Dakota tax dollars, hundreds of hours of legal resources and 3 days of jury deliberations to find two HAMC members not guilty on 5 counts of attempted murder in the shooting of Outlaws Motorcycle Club members near Sturgis, SD.

custer_parkChad Wilson, formerly of Lynnwood, WA (now living in San Diego) and John Midmore of Indiana (a HAMC prospect from a British Columbia chapter) were on trial for an August 2006 shootout in Custer State Park at Legion Lake Resort.  Several Outlaws MC members were injured in the shooting melee where 12 shell casings were retrieved.  Reports during the trial indicated;

“A quick restroom stop at a resort area to smoke a marijuana joint [medical?] resulted in five people receiving injuries and Danny Neace (Outlaws MC) being paralyzed from the waist down.”

With a rock-star defense budget, even “Hollywood’ers” got into the act.  The notorious Dr. Michael Baden of HBO’s “Autopsy“, also a Fox News contributor and chief forensic pathologist for the NY State Police testified.  The judge (Gene Paul Kean) had earlier separated the conspiracy charge from the main counts so, now it’s unclear if Wilson and Midmore will stand trial for that charge. 

And the twists continue with this case — turns out that Midmore has dual citizenship (Canada and Australia) and is a resident alien.  Wilson is a Canadian citizen and in the U.S. illegally.  Sure the federal government plans to deport him, but it’s unclear if he’ll return for any conspiracy trial. If interested there is post-verdict video from Keloland and more reactions were posted by the Argus Leader. Tracey Kelley (Custer County DA) and Mike Moore (Prosecutor) are trying to put their best spin on the [“respect the jury’s decision”] loss.  Congrats to David Kenner who was the HAMC Defense Attorney.  One could debate that he helped even the score a bit after the Iron Pigs weapons charges were dropped on a different case involving a HAMC shooting.

It’s not clear if a ‘more guns, less crime’ type of thinking will breed further acceptance of motorcycle club violence or if it’s just a sign of apathy from South Dakota juror’s?  I’m doing a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking here, but human behavior is influenced by three competing instincts: to act in a socially appropriate manner, to do what feels good in the moment, and to maximize one’s resources.  I wonder if this is a classic case of “broken windows” or part of a DA strategy to prevent future occurrences?  Unlikely we’ll know, but from my e-view it looks like a waste of tax dollars.

Photos courtesy of HBO website.

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santa_cruz_closedThe sign in the window tells the story.  It’s not something that Harley-Davidson dealers have experienced since the 1980’s, but it’s starting to happen across the U.S. – foreclosure and going out of business sales.

Today it was announced that in Dubuque, Iowa, Wilwert’s Harley-Davidson is being foreclosed after almost 50 years in business.  According KCRG news and the county Sheriff’s department the building is set for public auction on January 15, 2009.   The sale notice states there is a judgment awarded to American Trust and Savings Bank in Dubuque for $1.6M.

Last week and shortly after running an ironic “End-of-The-World” sale the Santa Cruz Harley-Davidson dealer removed their equipment from the shop and closed.  Owner Mike James cited poor motorcycle sales due to the struggling economy ending 11 years at this location and a 80 year run in the city.  The dealers satellite shop in Watsonville, CA closed earlier this year.  He was quoted in the Mercury News

“We may be the first Harley dealer, but we won’t be the last.”

Things like this can really have a “domino effect” and in the end affects a lot of people beyond just the immediate employees.  There is a local HOG Chapter without a sponsoring dealer and more important many people from the dealer as well as the owners have contributed greatly to local charities and fundraisers.

It’s a sobering reality and I hope the best for the employees and owners.  Interestingly is that the only comment from corporate Harley-Davidson is a “no comment” on these things.  Is that corporate lethargy and money talking?   In this environment addressing customer concerns and making sure they don’t become further disappointed by parts and service issues should be important….

UPDATE: To clarify, Todd Wilwerts Golf Vehicles is NOT affiliated with the Harley dealer or is it closing. 

Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz HD web site.  

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turkeysWith Thanksgiving fast approaching, and everyone’s thoughts turning to the big feast, I decided to look at some of Harley-Davidson’s turkeys that made news in 2008–albeit for the wrong reason in my opinion. 

It’s never nice to point out the flaws in plans, products or ad schemes if they are questionable, failed or are in the process of going downhill, but it would also be irresponsible to simply just forget the follies of some of Harley’s bigger turkeys.

Click through the list to get a juicy taste of these ’08 Turkeys:

  1. Hired Hip-Hop Artist Run DMC For Judges At HD “Hot Model” Contest
  2. We Don’t Do Fear Ad Campaign
  3. Headcount Reductions Announced Q1
  4. HD Stars in Indiana Jones Movie
  5. Mv Augusta Group Purchase
  6. HD States Obvious Market Declines In Q2 Results
  7. HD Announces Tri Glide Ultra Classic and Ford Announced “Big Hog Daddy” Hauler
  8. Sex Sells – Ad Campaign with Marisa Miller
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Jim Jones

Jim Jones

Every now and then I’ll deviate from a specific motorcycle post and such is the case today.

I remember the time like it was yesterday.  At the time I was living in Alexandria, Virginia and would drive down to visit my grandfather and step-grandmother who was a most religious woman.  They lived on a large well-maintained ranch with the literal white-picket fence in a Richmond suburb that had many more retired civil service employees living out their days versus actual working ranches.

For weeks she spoke of the second coming…as if drugged with some “opiate” of religion and everyone had to be brought on board a new level of enlightenment.  She relayed stories about an engaging speaker out of San Francisco, a pastor who drew religious people together from all across the country. This minister had built a communal organization and set up an integrated sense of family which was rare to have an integrated Christian congregation filled with young, idealistic and many college-educated people.  Unable to enlighten or convince my grandfather to make the appropriate changes, she took all the money from the family savings account, packed a small suitcase with only a few belongings, boarded a commercial air flight and left my grandfather to live out his remaining days alone.

The flight was headed to Jonestown, Guyana and home of the Reverend Jim Jones, the twisted leader of the Peoples Temple cult.

Later on we learned that Congressman Leo Ryan who was concerned about constituents that had joined the group arrived on a fact-finding mission to Jonestown on November 18, 1978.  After meeting with Jones and his followers, their small party was ambushed by Peoples Temple gunmen as they were leaving. The congressman and four others were killed.  The shootings were just the beginning of the carnage as later in the day more than 900 members of the Peoples Temple died in a mass suicide ceremony, most after they lined up to drink poisoned Flavor Aid.

I never understood the path my step-grandmother took, how she became misled to give all her money to Jones, or sought out acceptance and a sense of family through this cult.  It turns out that many people were fooled by this engaging speaker or character who called himself a minister. It’s been reported that Jim Jones entertained people and had a way of spinning words with a tremendous power in his voice. He drew people who were basically religious, were hard-working, and drawn to his messages and promise of a paradise.

Not a year goes by that I don’t stop to remember Jonestown and the terrible loss.

Photo courtesy of NYT

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NO ANGEL 5.26.qxd

There are many ways to talk about the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC); as a reporter illuminating the record, as an advocate praising their actions or as an undercover agent providing clear insight into the mind of a biker enterprise.  Sure, not everyone agrees with the mission and tactics of law enforcement just like not everyone is going to praise OMG. It’s the way of the world.

Much thanks to G. Walker (Det. Retired) who provided me a preview of the book “No Angel” by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  I wanted to pass this along because as the preview suggests, this is going to be one great read!

“No Angel – My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels”

ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton

(Crown Publishers, 2009)

      ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns sat with his back to me.  He was furiously typing on a well-used keyboard.  He wore a white wife-beater t-shirt and both his exposed arms were fully “sleeved”, or covered with tattoo work.  Pulled down low over his bald skull was a dirty blue knit cap.  I quietly watched him as his fingers danced over the keyboard, wondering how no one else at the outlaw motorcycle gang conference I was attending hadn’t spotted this brazen infiltrator who was even now probably sending license plate numbers and other handy information to whichever 1%er club he belonged to.

      It had happened before.  Two full patch members of the Vagos MC had openly walked into a past OMG conference presentation, the room filled with cops and investigators.  The Vagos went unnoticed for several minutes before being identified and ushered out of the hotel.

      I found the conference coordinator and shared my concern about the tough-looking b*astard using the business room Internet service.  “Oh,” he replied, “that’s just Jay…Jay Dobyns.  He’s our ATF guest speaker on the Hells Angels.”

      Well f*ck me…

      Later in the conference I listened to Dobyns speak about his role in Operation Black Biscuit, a two-year ATF undercover operation against the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Arizona.  Pacing back and forth in front of a table featuring some of the OMG props he and his ATF team of UC bikers, known as the “Solo Angels”, had used to gain introduction and then admittance into the inner sanctum of the HAMC, Jay’s rapid-fire account of the deepest UC thrust into the heart of the Angels’ organization came alive.

      Today Jay Dobyns, in conjunction with co-author Nils Johnson-Shelton, has written the true story of both his greatest professional and near personally ruinous achievement – riding shoulder to shoulder with the Hells Angels to include the ultimate Angel himself, Ralph “Sonny” Barger.  It is a book the Red & White won’t appreciate; however in all fairness, it’s also a book some in the ATF will hate with equal passion.

      Whether brokering deals for illegal automatic weapons, taking on murder for hire contracts, arming up to do battle with the rival Banditos on behalf of the “81”, or riding 18″ off the rear wheel of an Angel juggernaut Jay Dobyns shoves us down the slippery steep steps that lead to the glowing red inferno that is the world of the Hells Angels.

      Finely woven throughout the book is the agent’s personal decent into the madness of both the investigation and his increasing loss of identity as a human being.  He writes “As I said, dark days.  I turned to the only things I had left: God, friend, and family…It wasn’t my job, it wasn’t ATF, and it wasn’t the Hells Angels that had transformed me into the worst version of myself.  It was I alone who had done that.”

      There have been several previous books on the HAMC and Operation Black Biscuit but none comes close to the knife-edge reality and factual accuracy of Jay’s memoir.  Of the Hells Angels he observes “I realized in that single moment that the brotherhood the Hells Angels claimed to be part of was nothing more than a support group for misunderstood loners held together by hate and money…I’d thought I was the one infiltrating them.  I had it backwards.  They were the ones who had infiltrated me.”

      In mid-2003 Operation Black Biscuit was brought to closure in a series of search warrants and arrests.  The case, however, was gutted by squabbles among prosecutors and the decision makers at the ATF and by 2006 “Black Biscuit” looked more like Brier Rabbit’s badass tar baby.  Earlier, in 2004, the Angels put a contract on Dobyns’ head.  In 2008 his home mysteriously caught on fire and while no one was injured the implications were obvious to the man once draped with the Angel’s coveted Deathhead for “killing” a rival Mongol down Mexico way, an elaborate mock murder that brought Dobyns to the goal he’d always thought he wanted – to become a fully patched Hells Angel as an undercover ATF agent.

      You can advance order your copy of “No Angel” through Amazon.com. The book will be released this February.  Warning! Once you’ve opened its cover and entered the world of Special Agent Jay “Bird” Dobyns there’s no putting it down.  This is one 5-star weekend’s reading about the man who dared enter the innermost sanctuaries of the Hells Angels and returned with his soul singed but intact.

More information available on Jay Dobyns web site.  Book pre-order information from Amazon.

Previous posts on 1%er bikers (1, 2, 3, 4).

UPDATE: February 5, 2009 – Good interview and summary written by Leo W. Banks of the Tucson Weekly.

Book cover photo used with permission.

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posse_rushmoreWhy does the Federal government discriminate against motorcycles?  National Parks are the biggest offenders. 

A recent example is from a trip to Sturgis to visit the granite monolith of Presidents at Mount Rushmore.  You pull up to the facility entrance and you’ll notice signs of a $10 (Cars, Motorcycles, and RV’s) fee.  Clear thinking people will immediately notice that the price applies to a family of eight touring the Black Hills of SD in a rusted out RV or two-up on a motorcycle.  Huh?  Talk about a rip off!

So, I sent an email to the U.S. Department of the Interior to get the discrimination scoop:

Dear Mr. Interior,

As a motorcyclist I feel discriminated against when visiting your fine monument.  I arrived over the summer to witness long lines of motorcycles, automobiles, vans, and RV’s packed with people eager to park and take photos of the stone Presidents.  To my shock I was required to pay a $10 fee just like all the other vehicles.  Yet, when my lovely “model” passenger informed the heavy soda drinking Park Ranger that we could not fit six people on the prize winning custom Black Harley-Davidson he just sneered and gave us $10 change from the Andrew Jackson…no sir not fair, not very fair at all…is it?

The attached photo (above) is of the posse who spent $80 to enter your facility on motorcycles.

Signed – Mac (Feeling ripped by the Department of the Interior)

The reply from the Interior’s head dude:

Dear Mr. Mac Rant,

Thank you for submitting an email on November 5, 2008, concerning your visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial over the summer. The legislation that established Mount Rushmore National Memorial prohibits charging an entrance fee at the Memorial. No fees have been charged at the Memorial prior to the summer of 1997 when a parking fee was established.

This fee you reference is charged to pay for the cost of the construction and operation of the parking facility only. The new facility was necessary to accommodate the increased length of stay due to the new facilities now available at the Memorial. We determined after much effort that a federal appropriation to build the facility was not possible. Therefore, the National Park Service issued a concession contract for the design, construction and operation of a parking facility.

The concessionaire is allowed to collect a fee that will pay these costs. The concessionaire has set a standard rate of $10 for all personal vehicles. The concessionaire does not make special accommodations for various sizes of personal vehicles. In this method, we hope to keep our policies fair for everyone who visits the memorial. The parking concessionaire is also a non-profit organization, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society. Any income above expenses that might arise from the parking revenues is returned to assist the memorial with operations and maintenance.

We do appreciate your interest in Mount Rushmore National Memorial and you taking the time and initiative to learn more about the management of the memorial.

Signed – Park Ranger Bob

Bummer.  The ‘ol form letter from the government.  How ironic that I’ve been “stone-walled!”  What is it with these government types?  Let’s peel back some of the political layers here.  The DOI is the nation’s principal conservation agency.  It has over 80K employees at over 2400 locations across the U.S.  It has a $15.8B annual budget of which $12.9B are revenues collected from energy, mineral, land sales and recreational management.

rushmore_parkSo, what we have here is an aggressive commercialization situation by parking thugs concessionaire’s and us motorcyclist provide financial assistance way above all others who have a similar desire to visit the park.  This goes way beyond any reasonable common sense test!  Yet we continue to pay and provide the most generous contributions.  Clearly the Park Management knows this is the case.  I’m sure they have attendance reports that show half of the parking fee revenue is generated from motorcycles yet we don’t consume the equivalent parking space.  In 2007, over 2M visitors came to the monument.  I’ve solicited a report via the freedom of information act (FOIA) which will provide detailed information on the revenue break out and I’ll provide an update on the findings.

Given that budgets have grown tighter and the reality of federal appropriations for parks, it would be a good bet that this parking policy will never change.   So, on your next trip might I suggest as a sign of “cage” protest that we use one full parking space per motorcycle and send a message that we’re tired of the rip-off!

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buell_outlineIf you follow any of the recall news you’d think not much is being made correctly these days.  No exception on the motorcycle front as there have been a number of recalls in the past week.  Most notable is Buell recalling 624 units of its ’08-’09 XB12XT and ’09 XB12XP motorcycles. The windshields could become loose, dislodge and either strike or distract the rider while the vehicle is being ridden.  Dealers are removing the windshield’s rubber mounted nuts and installing two new fastener assemblies.

Buell is also recalling 140 units of its ’09 1125CR motorcycle. These motorcycles have had a premature failure of the rear cylinder cam chain tension guide. This failure can cause plastic debris to block the oil pump screen, and lead to oil starvation and an engine seizure. That in-turn could lead to a rear wheel lock-up. Dealers are replacing the rear cam chain tensioner. The tension guides were manufactured in Austria.

You may remember that last June, Buell recalled 1,579 units of the 1125R because of 5th gear galling on the clutch shaft due to lack of lubrication that might result in the gear to seize to the shaft and result in a rear wheel lock-up.

Check Buell recall information HERE.

Photo courtesy of Buell web site.

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bmw_meetupI’m not talking about exploring your driving passions on a meandering S-curve road with a new BMW motorcycle, rather I’m talking about a come-clean Eliot Spitzer “moment” from Germany’s wealthiest woman. 

It’s a script right out of a movie — a tale of how lovers filmed their hotel trysts and one of the parties demanded millions of $$ to not reveal them.  Sort of a “One-Night in Paris” do-over, but ultimately it’s called blackmail?  Hey, you can’t make up drama this good! 

The woman is Susanne Klatten, a member of the Quandt family, who owns a 12.5% stake in BMW and is on the supervisory board.  She also owns just over half of the chemical company Altana AG.  The press reported that Klatten, a 46-year-old married mother-of-three, first met Helg Sgarbi a 43-year-old Swiss man at a hotel bar. In a weak moment Mr. Sgarbi embellished his bio by describing himself as a multilingual special envoy for war zones, although in reality he sold chicken at a fast food stand.  Not what you’d call on a career “fast-track”, but at least he wasn’t on drugs, broke and homeless like Ashley Dupre the call girl who brought down the Governor of NY (Spitzer).

klattenThe meetings, including hotel-room rendezvous, were secretly filmed by an accomplice and used in an attempt to extort millions from the family.  Ms Klatten paid the blackmailers $15 million to prevent the release of the tape and photos before additional requests for greater amounts ($51M) followed.   She then decided to file a legal complaint with the state prosecutors in Munich.

And if this news wasn’t sleazy enough, it turns out the Quandt family had ties to the Nazi party and built its fortune supplying German army and railway worker uniforms. Klatten’s grandfather’s first wife went on to marry Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.  After a television program revealed that forced labor had been used in their factories as part of the Nazi war effort the family pledged a full investigation into the matter. 

I’m sure she will have the best attorney’s money can buy.  And she can buy a lot because her wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at almost $10 billion, making her the 68th richest person in the world.  Oh the petty sex troubles of the rich and famous…

Postscript: not letting any of this slow down her business savvy, Klatten announced over the weekend she will pay $1.2B to buy the other half of the chemical company Altana AG that she did not already own.  BMW reported a year-over-year decline of 10.5% in retail sales.

UPDATE: March 9, 2009 – Swiss playboy gets 6 years prison sentence HERE for blackmail and more info HERE.

Klatten photo courtesy Uwe Lein (AP) and BMW Motorcycle web site.

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xr1200This motorcycle has a fuel-injected 1202cc motor, one of the best tach’s, 43mm Showa inverted or “upside-down” cartridge front forks, Nissin 4-opposed-piston caliper brakes, and Harley-Davidsons first cast-alloy swing arm for rear-wheel movement. 

But it weighs more than most Euro cruisers and “shakes so badly at idle that you can’t read street signs!”

That was the opinion of the reporter.  What is it, you ask?  The Harley-Davidson XR1200.  The author viewed the bike as neither a cruiser or sports bike.  Unavailable in the U.S. market I’ve been trying to find more background information on the motorcycle and ran across this good review from Motoring in South Africa.  The road test was in the same area of Africa’s biggest Harley rally and where the 2009 HOG Route 62 Rally will be hosted.

hd_tachI’m thinking this motorcycle will come to the U.S. market next year as Harley tries to extend the brand and if a Buell, Aprillia 750 or Ducati GT 1000 are too radical then this might be the ride for you.

What do you think about the motorcycle coming to the U.S.?  Send any suggestions or comments to Harley-Davidson HERE.

Photos courtesy of Dave Abrahams and Motoring web site.

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