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Posts Tagged ‘Gang’

Book of Eli

If the first installment of Son’s of Anarchy” (SOA), Kurt Sutter’s unique take on a motorcycle gangs modern life, served as a refreshing kick during a woeful aftermath of the financial crisis, then the 2nd installment served as a protest on assault weapon prices and the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Even when viewed as mindless diversion, it’s difficult to imagine how the 3rd installment will provide bolder and grittier action for the discordant “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” crowd.

Television sequels find it difficult to live up to the glory of the previous season, especially when the original was a hit.  And according to Kurt Sutter, season 3 will deal with SOA roots and “a world that is outside their own.”  Speaking of another world, I came up with some ideas for Sutter’s “anarchists.” In a word Kurt – APOCALYPSE!

Is there anything better than an apocalypse? No food, marauding motorcycle gangs out to kill you, survival skills, a horrible lack of soap – none of its good.  Season 3 could be all about how SAMCRO survives in an apocalyptic world?  The below film examples might provide Mr. Sutter story ideas for SOA season 3:

  • Introduce a dangerous loner – (The Book of Eli, 2010) – SOA could introduce a “Hatchet” Harry character like Denzel Washington who plays Eli, a dangerous loner who protects the only book that could save humankind or the SOA club. For some reason, there are a lot of people out to stop him, so Eli has to depend some handy kung-fu skills with a mini-sword to survive.  SOA would need martial-arts training to combat the loner and stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Don’t trust the military (28 Days Later, 2003) – In a country overrun by zombies, it’s completely understandable that SOA would run to “church” – the first safe haven within hundreds of miles. But when that fortress is overrun by dozens of all- male military officers who haven’t seen women in weeks, their intentions toward female companions of the club are probably less than noble.
  • Conserve water (Tank Girl, 1995) – The year 2033 is basically a paradise for quirky middle-schoolers; But, drinking water is, well, harder to track down than Tiger Woods. So, don’t be surprised if the world’s most powerful corporation tries to kill everyone the club knows so they can control the water wells.
  • Kidnap an orphan (Waterworld, 1995) – This post-apocalyptic future is literally a water world, so change the location of the club and the survival basics are self-evident. Some kind of flotation device will be needed. Motorcycles are exchanged for Jet-skis. And if you can manage to collect enough old milk jugs, tie them together and form the floating Sons of Anarchic city state on the open water.  Of course they would rely on filtered pee for drinking water in the endless search for an orphan with a map to the Promised Land tattooed on her back.
  • Have a good, old-fashioned book-burning at the library (The Day After Tomorrow, 2004) – Sure, the effects of global warming occur over many years. But on FX what if global warming was impatient and decided to screw over SOA in just one week? Well, for one, Charming, California would get wicked cold – so cold that arctic wolves would roam the streets for food. Fortunately, the solution can be found at the local club house: members barricade inside.  Eat chips from the vending machine and start burning every book in sight. Who needs knowledge when the temperature is plummeting?
  • Invent time travel (12 Monkeys, 1995) – Wouldn’t it be swell if SOA could go back in time and do things differently for the good of the club? You know, so that Charming wouldn’t have been plagued by the white supremacy “virus” that forced the SAMCRO survivors to form a new society, deep under the Earth’s crust? Good thing someone invented time travel! That way, SOA can send club members back in time to try and collect information about the “virus” so that the future-people can make a cure. Time machines don’t do much about, say, the fact that the club is pretty well damned to live in the dark with a bunch of creepy scientists for company, but whatever.
  • Run! Run for your life! (Children of Men, 2006)- When every woman in Charming stops getting pregnant, civilization is bound to get a little nutty. So, imagine how SOA would react if they were in charge of protecting the sole pregnant woman on the entire planet. A friendly baby shower is out of the question and it’s best to lace up your boots and do plenty of cardio, because SAMCRO has a lot of terrorists and religious zealots to outrun.
  • Outwit, outplay, outlast (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1981) – You might think this IS the slogan for SOA. But when SAMCRO is trapped in the only remaining oil refinery and surrounded by a murderous gang of cagers that want your gasoline, the motto “outwit, outplay, outlast” may be what saves the club. First, try a decoy: While the bad dudes think the gas is in one place, take the real stuff somewhere else. Then get a loner with impressive kung-fu and driving skills to take out every last one of the psychopaths, while the club rides off into the unknown. You may not know where you’re going, but at least you’re going somewhere in the wind!
  • Be a good dad (The Road, 2009) – The apocalypse is no excuse to abandon parenting skills. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to teach the outlaw children about peer pressure: Just because every other human on Earth has turned to murder and cannibalism to survive is no reason to adopt those habits for the club children, right? The SAMCRO offspring will not only learn valuable survival skills, but their self-esteem will be through the roof.

There you have it.  A few potential plot ideas for season 3.  I left off the possible extended two-hour episode of club hostages incorporating the Stockholm Syndrome into the tyrannical ways of the club.

Thank me later Kurt.

Photo courtesy of Comic Con and Tommy Lee Edwards.

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Brammo_CEO

Craig Bramscher (Brammo CEO) and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden

Equal treatment from the state and federal government.  It’s a topic that many motorcycle groups and individuals invest a lot of time to ensure.

Whether it’s fighting against profiling of average citizens who ride motorcycles or “anti-gang bills” that defines a gang as “an association of three or more individuals who share a symbol or name either formally or informally.”  Or maybe it’s calling out press organizations who use motorcycle club sensationalism to sell advertising which has the added benefit of isolating the motorcycle riding segment of our population from the mainstream and tries to “criminalize” motorcyclists in the court of public opinion.

But, today economic factors have me advocating on behalf of the motorcycle “Eco-Activist”.  Specifically the manufacturers that make electric two-wheeled vehicles.   They have been largely discriminated against and cannot benefit from the numerous government incentives designed to spur the growth and adoption of electric vehicles.  Remember the Clunker Program?  Motorcyclists need not apply!

However, there are some positive signs with HR 3246, which is called the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.  The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the amendment giving two-wheel electric vehicles manufacturers access to Department of Energy funding for further development of electric vehicles.  For the EV industry this will allow, for the first time, two wheel vehicles to benefit from federal Department of Energy funding which automobiles enjoy.

Plug IN America was instrumental in getting this legislation passed in the house, but as you may recall a bill must pass both the House and Senate and then be signed by the President.  And while it’s gratifying to see the House of Representative approve and show support for electric motorcycles, the Senate needs to follow suit.  I encourage motorcyclists to take a moment to tell their U.S. Senator’s to support and pass this measure when it comes up to vote. A complete list of Senators and their contact information can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Brammo.  Full Disclosure: I don’t work for or have an investment or ownership in Brammo.

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authority1Imagine for a moment you purchase a new Harley Iron 883.  Before pulling away from the dealer to enjoy a nice spring day ride you slip on a black leather riding vest with a large Harley-Davidson embroidered logo.  Near the bottom of the logo there is a Milwaukee, WI rocker.  Your buddies have similar vest’s and all head out.  Your pleased with the “patch” because it’s public evidence that you’re wearing colors of allegiance to the motorcycle company and it represents a new wind in the face lifestyle.  As your group rolls north up the I-5 corridor you take notice of WSP signaling you to pull over. 

The officer states that your biker “clothing” is a dress code affiliation typical of outlaw motorcycle “gangs” and as part of their early gang identification tactics your name, license number/plate is entered into a new gang watch-list database.

Impossible?  Think again.  Washington state legislators are set to pass an “anti-gang bill” that includes funds for police anti-gang taskforces, increased penalties for gang-related crimes and increased recruitment penalties.  The bill defines a gang as “an association of three or more individuals who share a symbol or name either formally or informally and who’s members participate in a crime.”   Basically a police officer can accuse you of belonging to a gang.  There is no burden of proof and if your name is put into the database you have no due process and there is no judicial overview.  There is no method to appeal – nothing!

What about abuse?  It’s likely.  For example here is a video of WSP taking license plate information from motorcyclists who visited the state capital.  And on a day specifically pre-arranged as the annual motorcycle rights lobbying day (see previous posts at: Giving Bikers A Voice and Expect The Unexpected).  It’s fair to say there is a crucial difference between motorcyclists participating in the democratic process to support motorcycle rights vs. being painted as criminal operatives engaged in a range of criminal activities only because they ride a motorcycle. Imagine the public outcry or media scrutiny if gay-marriage advocates rallied at the capital and WSP “stalked” around attendee vehicles for the purpose of entering licenses into a tracking database?!

Of course there is nothing funny about any of this.  The hard core criminally-committed motorcycle gangs, like street gangs, are primary conduits for the illicit drugs being pumped in the U.S. by the Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO).  The consequences of the smuggling can strike anywhere in America.  Undercover work is not a game.  It is an essential part of our national defense against this wave of plunder, violence and corruption. But, have WSP and state legislators reached a point of hysteria with regard to criminal street gangs to allow unchecked power to condemn any three motorcycle riders or riding club affiliation?  Is LE basically executing “color coded” profiling? 

I’m not sure, but I don’t approve of the Black Thursday tactics, I don’t like the potential for anti-gang abuse and I’m not resigned to this riding club suppression law.

Illustration courtesy Australian artist Eamo Donnelly.

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Gretchen Shappert

Gretchen Shappert

I’m sure that after working hundreds of drug, gang and murder cases in the court system which is a land littered with dead bodies, grieving families, and killers of every station and stripe it would be easy to debate if all the exposure to violence and threats makes you tough-as-nails or more vulnerable.

Such is the situation with Gretchen Shappert.  The top federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney in Charlotte, NC has stepped down.  Not to take a work break from going after the Motorcycle “Clubs”, the MS-13s or Bloods, but to join the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.  Shappert is going to work for the Obama administration’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys where she will coordinate gang and violent crime prosecutions across the country.  And from this previous gang threat level post it looks like she will be most busy!  Recently Shappert said:

“People who kill once will kill again.  People who shoot once will shoot again, and people who start doing robberies don’t stop unless you stop them.”

Shappert’s name surfaced in the ongoing Washington scandal involving the firing of eight U.S. attorneys across the country.  She was also involved in prosecuting Sam Currin a top figure in North Carolina Republican circles.

However, one of her most high-profile cases involved the Outlaws Motorcycle ‘gang’ where 21 members were convicted in “Operation Speedball” – an investigation into organized crime, racketeering and distribution of meth.  Shappert has prosecuted more drug and violent gang cases than any other federal prosecutor in the country and will now bring that expertise to the executive office. 

Photo courtesy WCNC.

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gang_threatAs a biker, I know there is a difference between the true image of brothers in the wind and public perceptions.  This becomes acute when it’s time to work on serious issues like association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, noise mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies and deal with 1%’ers. 

Unfortunately, it seems when legislators deal with serious motorcycle issues they do so with little knowledge, act as  experts and spray paint so called fixes on everyone.  And at least one community is to blame — the media — for often failing to report unbiased information regarding motorcycle “clubs” or gangs.   More often than not the reporting tends to lean towards the sensational.  Bloggers are guilty too.

So, before I get a bunch of email stating how the term Motorcycle “gangs” indicates my bias or how they are misunderstood and are really a bunch of biker dads who love leather…let’s review the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment (PDF) which was recently released.  While much of the report is skewed toward “street gangs” (examples: Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Ñeta, MS 13, Sureños 13 etc.,) there is a lot of information about outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) (examples: Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Sons of Silence, etc.) all working to control retail-level distribution of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana.  The OMG designation is from the document and I’m using it to be consistent with the report.

The report conservatively estimates more than 1 MILLION gang members belong to more than 20,000 gangs.  There are between 280 and 520 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) that range in size from a single chapter to hundreds of chapters worldwide. Estimates indicate that more than 20,000 OMG members reside in the U.S.  If I did the math correct, OMG membership represent about 2% of the overall gang membership and about 3% of the total number of gangs.  Not an alarming number in of itself, but somehow attracts a disproportionate share of media publicity.  A few factoids from the report:

  1. Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) pose a growing threat to law enforcement and public safety. Especially pronounced along the U.S.- Canada and U.S. – Mexico border. They frequently associate with criminal organizations to facilitate drug smuggling into the U.S.
  2. Criminal gangs are responsible for as much as 80% of ALL crime in many communities.
  3. National-level OMG criminal activity poses a serious national domestic threat. National level OMGs are a considerable concern to law enforcement because they are highly structured organizations with memberships ranging into the thousands, maintaining strong associations with transnational Drug Transport Organizations (DTOs) and other criminal organizations.
  4. In the U.S. 109 regional-level OMGs have been identified by gang investigators; most support one of the national-level OMGs. Several regional-level OMGs maintain independent associations with transnational DTOs and other criminal organizations.
  5. For the first time provides insight into the size and role of gangs in the military

The report goes on to highlight how the criminal organizations — like technology — seem to move fast, adopt and never stay the course with tactics.  They are most busy and seldom wait on the sidelines missing out on “revenue” or allow themselves to become marginalized.  They use cell phone voice/text messaging capabilities to conduct transactions and prearrange meetings.  They use multiple cell phones or prepaid phones which are frequently discarded after conducting operations.  Internet-based methods are being adopted and the use of social networking sites, encrypted e-mail, IP telephones, and Twitter message sites are common.  The use of social media sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook to post well-produced, self-promoting music/videos of the “gang” lifestyle.  Pre-teens are down loading propaganda ring-tones and images which glorify gangs!  There has also been an increased effort by gang members to actively “spar” on internet message boards to protect their virtual spaces as well as use internet profiling techniques to recruit.

My grip after looking over the report is the fact it doesn’t attempt to address:

  1. Gang intelligence improvements that work and help reduce incidents.
  2. Gang suppression techniques which are working and the role of the community.
  3. Legal considerations on enforcement issues and use of gang-specific legislation.
  4. Cost of anti-gang resources and return on investment – no performance measurement of the organization?

So, do you think this report will help or hurt motorcycle enthusiasts?  Do you think it will accelerate legislation to address enhanced “affiliation” penalties in the northwest?   Should we wait for the Homeland Security advisory system to monitor and report on the ongoing threat levels of the nations criminal gangs?  If so it would be set at HIGH (Orange). 

Photo courtesy of National Gang Intelligence Center.

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