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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Oregon Rep. David Wu (D) as Tony The Tiger

Meet Congress’ newest playboy…  56 year old Oregon Rep. David Wu (D).

A lawmaker from the northwest who has done nothing for motorcyclists or motorcycle issues is the latest to be accused of sexual misconduct.  Reportedly a woman, who is the daughter of one of Wu’s high school friends and a donor to his campaign efforts, is accusing the Oregon congressman of an unwanted sexual encounter.  Mr. Wu who is being treated for an undisclosed mental health condition stated the encounter was consensual.

Huh?

Mr. Wu defined the encounter as “consensual”?  Uh, right… everyone knows that 18 year old women are always searching for 50+ year old men for a ‘hookup.’

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to speculate that Mr. Wu was a bit delusional on that consensual part.  In fact it’s been widely reported he had become an increasingly unpredictable person whose senior staffers were so alarmed over his erratic behavior during last November’s election that they demanded he enter a hospital for psychiatric treatment.  At least six staffers left his team in protest.  Some of them, including the chief fund raiser had been with the congressman for more than a decade.

Allegedly this “consensual” incident happened around the same time — Thanksgiving 2010 — and was recently discovered when the woman left a scathing message on Wu’s phone, and the message was heard by aides in his office.

It wasn’t but just a few months ago that Wu attempted to explain his erratic behavior on KGW’s “Straight Talk”.   He insisted that he didn’t know whether the painkillers he accepted from a donor were prescription oxycodone or over-the-counter ibruprofin. He claimed he was just clowning around when he sent e-mails in his childrens’ names to staff members asking them to lay off “his dad” when he was wasted. He cautioned people about sharing photos of themselves in Halloween costumes. His talking points, delivered in a Prozac-like zombie calmness behind an unflinching smile, kept returning to how he was in a “really good place.” After listening to the interview, I wondered just exactly where that place is.

Hey we’ve all been there before, right?  Who hasn’t gotten a little tipsy and sent out early-morning e-mails to subordinates and signed them with our childrens’ names? Who hasn’t popped a couple of pain pills offered by a friend without asking what they were?

So with pressure mounting and a looming ethics investigation Mr. Wu announced he would resign.  No, wait.  In keeping with his unpredictable status he then decided he wouldn’t resign but instead would not run for re-election again in 2012.  Oh joy.  Rather than admonishing us to wash our hands to avoid the flu, as he did in his taxpayer-funded public-service announcements leading into the last election, now he’ll be able to record new ones with a mental health theme.  Maybe a “no means, NO” video for the youth?!

Let’s provide some perspective.  Riding out these rough waters for awhile means that Wu would continue to qualify for a pension worth about $851,000 over his lifetime.  This number was calculated by the National Taxpayers Union and reported in the USA Today.  Congressional pensions are 2 to 3 times more generous than those offered to private-sector workers who earn the same salary.  In addition, unlike most private-sector plans, a cost of living adjustment is applied to the congressional benefit.  More information on congress’ disproportionate accumulation of privilege is HERE.

Yeah, Wu is in a very good place indeed.

After 13 years in DC Wu’s lack of effectiveness is clear (485 co-sponsored bills (ranks 72 of 440; 14 made it into law (ranks 172 of 440).  Even during the KGW interview Mr. Wu didn’t dispute his poor ranking.  Why should we expect results from an Oregon politician?  Besides, Wu’s transgressions are extremely pedestrian compared to Portland’s illustrious borderline-pedophile mayor – Sam Adams.

Makes me so proud, I think I feel a tingle up my leg.

Photo re-mix by editor and courtesy of Kellogg’s and Wu.

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Early 1900's Police Patrol Ads

You might not be aware of this, but August Vollmer, Chief of Police for Berkeley, CA., is often credited with establishing the first police motorcycle patrol in 1911.

However, many police bureau’s reported using motorcycles as patrol vehicles earlier.  For example right here in “River City”, the Portland, OR., Police Bureau hired Merle Sims in 1908 because he owned his own motorcycle and by 1910 the Portland bureau purchased two of their own motorcycles for patrols of the city.

So what does this have to do with the Law Enforcement Museum?  Glad you ask!  In 2000, the U.S. Congress and President Bill Clinton authorized the establishment of a National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC.  It paved the way for the nation’s largest and most comprehensive museum honoring the duty and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers.  The key purpose of the museum is to tell the story of American law enforcement through exhibits, collections, research and education.

The National Law Enforcement Museum will have several motorcycles, including H-D on exhibit when it opens in 2011 as well as a broad sampling of historical and contemporary objects.

"Mechanical Nippers"

The building is located in the 400 block of E Street, NW, which is part of the Judiciary Square, just north of Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall. In the original plan for the nation’s capital, Pierre L’Enfant identified Judiciary Square as the center of the judicial branch of government, and today the historic setting is surrounded by a number of federal court buildings. Directly adjacent to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Museum makes an architectural statement that complements this monument to officers killed in the line of duty.

Patrol photo taken at H-D Museum.

The two different “mechanical nippers” pictured are Malcolm (bottom left) and the Iron Claw (bottom right) by Argus Manufacturing Co.  Photo courtesy of NLEO Museum.

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It’s disturbingly commonplace and pretty workaday stuff for law enforcement.

If you are an owner of one of the country’s 277 million cell phones, it’s possible that your cell-phone company retained records of where your device has been at all times.

Cell phones have tiny GPS devices embedded inside or because each phone call is routed through towers that can be used to pinpoint the phones’ location to within areas as small as a few hundred feet.

And as the government continues it’s relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens, cell-phone tracking has become commonplace and among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance. The ease at which your location information can be accessed is a question posed by a Newsweek article, which outlines the various methods local law-enforcement agencies and the Justice Department can use to trace Americans’ cell phones–tracking that in some cases can be done in real time. According to the article, courts across the country routinely agree to police requests for cell phone location information.  The legality of such requests is somewhat murky and there is anecdotal evidence of abuse of the system, with requests that are clearly personal.

What if the Justice Department wants to track political protesters or motorcyclists at the Washington CoC Run?  Or how about track all the motorcycle enthusiasts who arrive at the state capital for “Black Thursday” in Olympia to protest unfavorable biker legislation?  Apparently, it may all be allowed.

It would seem the Orwellian day of Big Brother secretly following motorcyclists movements through the cell phone device in our pocket is here.  Currently, the records are obtained under what is known as “2703(d)” orders—a reference to an obscure provision of a federal law known as the Stored Communications Act—in which prosecutors only need to assert that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the records are “relevant” to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, a much lower standard than that needed for a search warrant.

When the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Enhancement Act of 1999 was passed, I don’t think they thought about law enforcement over reach or customer’ privacy information related to location-based services.  I encourage preservation of the Fourth Amendment and think it’s time that Congress clarify the terms under which location information may be released to law enforcement.

Until then, if you’re someone who does not wish to disclose their movements to the government then you’ll need not use a cellular telephone.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

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Stimulus_PlanStimulus watching as a lifestyle is boring.  I’d rather be motorcycle riding, but none-the-less how our tax $$ get spent has reached the Northwest Harley Blog.

The blog theme isn’t changing.  There are lots of sources for stimulus-related blogging that serious government-watchers can find. However, coffee drinking colleagues down at ‘bucks’ started tracking stimulus as part of their retirement concerns and because I’ve put energy into promoting Vet’s and Veteran Motorcycle Association topics in the past, I wanted to forward this information.

Nobody does spending plans—complete with color-coded spreadsheets and embossed covers full of eagles and seals and other important looking symbols—like the U.S. military. Check this report out (.pdf).  The stimulus bill, by the way, became law on February 17, 2009. The Pentagon plan was released on March 20th, right on the deadline.

You may recall the Recovery Act includes approximately $7.4B in Defense-related appropriations, which accounts for less than 1% of the total $787B stimulus package.  In the stimulus bill, Congress allocated $2.3B in construction funds to the Department of Defense. The surprising part is what the specific provisions require: No war-fighting facilities, but rather the construction of “child development centers,” “warrior transition complexes,” hospitals, family housing, renewable-energy projects, and, in general, infrastructure for the Pentagon’s softer and earth-friendly side of the business.  In part, they are going to put soldiers and their families ahead of big-ticket technology—or at least on equal footing and the Department intends to spend this funding with unprecedented transparency and accountability. 

milcomapFor those with military experience you might agree that given all its failures to live up to soldiers and their families, and for all of its catch-22 double-speak, anyone who walks around inside the U.S. military quickly sees that it is one of the best-run bureaucracies in the federal system.  The website, www.Recovery.gov, is the main vehicle to provide everyone with the ability to monitor the progress of the recovery.  The DoD also has a website HERE, which links to Recovery.gov. 

The DoD intends to spend its funds as quickly as possible in the following categories:

  • $4.2 billion in Operation and Maintenance accounts to improve, repair, and modernize DoD facilities, including energy-related improvements  
  • $1.3 billion in military construction for hospitals  
  • $240 million in military construction for child development centers  
  • $100 million in military construction for warrior transition complexes  
  • $535 million for other military construction projects, such as housing for the troops and their families, energy conservation, and National Guard facilities 
  • $300 million to develop energy-efficient technologies  
  • $120 million for the Energy Conservation Investment Program (ECIP)  
  • $555 million for a temporary expansion of the Homeowner’s Assistance Program (HAP) benefits for private home sale losses of both DoD military and civilian personnel  
  • $15 million for DoD Inspector General oversight and audit of Recovery Act execution  

I did a quick scan (.pdf) for Northwest based projects and notice Camp Withycombe, OR will get a Storm Sewer MILCON upgrade and the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, WA will have a new Water Distribution System & Energy Conservation.  There are several other projects embedded into the document specific to the northwest if you have a desire for more detail.

Photo courtesy DoD and blogger Steve Coll.

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ford_logoFord Motor reported last week a $3 billion quarterly loss while burning through $6.3 billion in cash and cutting another 2,600 hourly workers.

Ford’s press release said something about…blah, blah, blah…cut salaries…blah, blah, blah…reducing bonuses…who believes any of this now days?  At the same time executive management was meeting with Congress to push their double-down request on the $25B (yes that’s BILLION) low-interest loan program approved previously – BEFORE – they got any money from the first loan!  Automakers must think the car buying public is stupid?  They want us to believe it’s all about energy legislation and the help they need to convert over to more fuel-efficient vehicles while meeting the demands of buyers and new federal mileage rules.   So, that would explain Ford’s new 2009 Harley-Davidson F-450 Truck called “Big Hog DaddyHERE, right?! So, I wrote Ford a letter… 

Dear Mr. Alan Mulally (Ford CEO),

The taxpayers don’t want to reward Auto companies or their management for lack of vision and insight.  We don’t want to carry your cash hemorrhaging burden.  This is not a one off event that will be contained by a blank check from the tax payer.  This downward spiral has been brewing for decades while you profited from high margin SUVs. And now that the public no longer wants or values bigger SUV’s you want the tax payer to come up with the “mother of all bailouts!”  You’ve got nerve Alan.  After all, your organization doesn’t stand out as an ethical oasis in today’s corporate desert!  Isn’t this just another example of big corporations exploiting the little guy, and keeping all the money for themselves?

Signed – The Little Guy

Intermittent Windshield Wiper

Intermittent Windshield Wiper

But, let’s go back to the future…it was 1962 and Bob Kearns was driving his Ford Galaxie through a Detroit rain storm.  He had the inspiration to ask “Why can’t a wiper work more like an eyelid?”  He knew the human eye blinks at different speeds when needed – so why can’t a windshield wiper do the same thing – move quickly in heavy rain and slowly in light mist. WHAM!  The idea for an intermittent windshield wiper was born.

Kearns is one of the more famous independent inventors in the U.S., but it hasn’t been an easy road.  After showing his invention to Ford, and believing he had a contract to manufacture the item for the auto company, Kearns watched Ford cancel their deal and bring out their own intermittent wiper, which incredibly looked like the one he had provided them.  Thirty years of legal action followed.  I’m sure Ford thought they had the time, money and ability to pay high-profile attorneys to wait out or steam-roll Kearns.

Kearns won every “lawyered-up” automobile legal battle and obtained millions in settlements.  They even released a movie last month about it called Flash Of Genius starring Greg Kinnear (“As Good as it Gets”, “Little Miss Sunshine”) which was based in large part on the New Yorker profile.  But, Kearns wasn’t interested in the money…he wanted justice.

Isn’t it ironic that Ford’s arrogance or attitudes of the past likely helped them get into trouble today.  And a movie about a big auto company exploiting the little guy while keeping all the money/credit for themselves clearly doesn’t bode well for any bailout cause now does it?!  Clearly Ford is in it to make money.  Any allusion to the contrary is disingenuous.  Their actions are no different than any other company defending their turf and using all available means to get or keep their disproportionate share of the pie

But, still… shame on Ford.

Ford logo and drawing courtesy of company web sites.

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Like many “Average Joes” on the street, if you ask them to name a well-known motorcyclists I suspect most would connect-a-dot with actors who have played bikers in movies (Brando, Fonda, McQueen, Travolta), but if you ask them to name something relevant about the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) or what they have done for motorcyclists — I believe you’d get the perverbial deer-in-the-headlight look.

In the early days (circa: 1920’s) only members of AMA chartered motorcycle clubs were permitted to race, and professional racing with its world-class competition was a prime factor in the formation of motorcycle clubs. The AMA imposed strict rules on its members in the interests of racing safety as well as for public image, specifically to promote an image of a family-friendly and wholesome sport.  This was especially true after an organizational rift within the AMA apparently occurred in reaction to media coverage of the 1947 incident in Hollister, CA.  

So what is AMA today?  Basically they promote and protect the motorcycling lifestyle and freedom on two wheels. AMA advocates for motorcyclists’ interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations and the court of public opinion. Through its member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions many motorsports competition events around the world.

It’s the AMA promotion of motorcyclist interest and the HIPPA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act that brings me to blog today.  There is a rule making it possible for health care benefits to be denied to those who are injured while participating in motorcycling.  That’s not right and I’m soliciting your help.  Write your Congressman.  I’ve supplied a form letter below or you can go HERE and leverage the easy to use form at AMA.

 

Subject:  Cosponsor S. 616, “The HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act!”

Dear,  [Congressmen Name HERE] Oregon is: Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

I live, ride and work in your district and I am urging you to support motorcyclists by co-sponsoring S. 616, “The HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act.”  

U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) recently introduced S. 616, “The HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act.” Identical legislation passed the full Senate in the 108th Congress and obtained 177 bipartisan cosponsors in the House. 

S. 616 aims at ending health care discrimination for individuals participating in legal transportation and recreational activities-activities like motorcycling, snowmobiling, skiing, horseback riding, and all-terrain vehicle riding. 

This legislation addresses a loophole caused by a Department of Health and Human Services’ rule making it possible for health care benefits to be denied to those who are injured while participating in these activities. 

On August 21, 1996 an important opportunity arose when President Clinton signed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), prohibiting employers from denying health care coverage based on a worker’s pre-existing medical conditions or participation in legal activities, such as motorcycling. 

In 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services released the final rules that would govern the HIPAA law.  The rules recognize that employers cannot refuse health care coverage to an employee on the basis of their participation in a recognized legal activity.  However, the benefits can be denied for injuries sustained in connection with those activities!  Therefore, you were guaranteed the right to health care coverage but not guaranteed any benefits in return for your monthly payments.   

This legislation will fix the loophole for people like me in your district!  Please cosponsor and support S. 616.  Thank you very much.

Your [Name/Signature]

Whether you agree or not with the AMA charter to promote a motorcycle image of a family-friendly and wholesome sport…I think reasonable minded motorcyclists will all agree that your health provider should NOT be able to deny you medical coverage just because you are a biker.

Thanks for supporting!

Full disclosure: I don’t work for the AMA or am I a member.

Photo courtesy AMA advertisement.

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