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Posts Tagged ‘The Oregonian’

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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Motorcycle/Car Collision In Oregon City

According to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Oregon’s traffic deaths fell to a low of 9.4% from 416 in 2008 to 377 in 2009.   Washington’s road fatalities dropped from 521 to 492, a 5.6% decline.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cited the weak economy as a contributing factor, saying many Americans had cut back on “discretionary driving,” including going out to bars and restaurants after work or on weekends.  At the same time, LaHood stated cars are becoming safer and motorists are becoming increasingly safety conscious.

In Oregon, the annual highway safety report also found:

  • The number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities continued a five-year slide, dropping from 137 in 2008 to 115 in 2009.
  • Speeding-related road deaths declined from 147 to 125. In 2005, there were 161.
  • The number of bicyclists killed in crashes dropped slightly, from 10 in 2008 to eight in 2009. While the number of pedestrians killed on the road dropped from 51 to 35.
  • After improving dramatically in 2008, the number of teenagers killed in crashes was on the rise again in 2009, climbing from 34 to 46. In 2005, 84 teens died in vehicle crashes.

Bucking these overall positive trends were motorcycle fatalities in Oregon increased to 53 in 2009 from 48 in 2008.  Nationally motorcycling fatalities in 2009 decreased for the first time in more than a decade, dropping to 4,462 in 2009 from 5,312 in 2008.  To read the 2009 FARS data in detail click here (.pdf).

Fred J. Brehony -- Patriot Guard Riders

In related news and sadly was this morning’s report of a motorcycle rider who died at the scene after a collision with a car at the intersection of South Springwater and Bakers Ferry roads in Oregon City.  According to Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective Jim Strovink the victim’s wife was following in a separate vehicle and witnessed the crash making this event even more of a tragedy.  Names were not released, but photos of the crash scene indicate the rider was a member of The Patriot Guard.  They are volunteer’s who provide escorts for veteran funerals, and Veterans coming home ceremony’s.  My sincere condolences to his wife and family.

It’s unknown if the driver didn’t yield or if the motorcyclist was at fault.  I’ll continue to follow the reports and provide updates.  My view is that you can never be defensive enough so please be safe out there.

UPDATE: September 11, 2010 — There is a good update in the Oregonian about Fred J. Brehony who was killed yesterday on his way to the Willamette National Cemetery.  As a member of the Patriot Guard Riders he was in route heading to a funeral for Howell “Hal” Birdwell (a U.S. Vietnam War vet) when he collided with a car.  Mr. Brehony was a U.S. Navy Veteran who served on a destroyer during the Vietnam War and deeply believed in the mission of the Patriot Guard.  He will be missed.

UPDATE: September 14, 2010 — KGW did an expanded story on Mr. Brehony.  Video is HERE.

UPDATE: September 14, 2010 (3pm PST) – Information was posted on the PGR Forums Web Site which outlines a two phase mission for Mr. Brehony.  One on Thursday, 16/Sept/10 and another on Sunday, 19/Sept/10.  Staging and briefing times are covered HERE.

Photo courtesy of Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.  Brehony photo courtesy of Olivia Bucks and The Oregonian.

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Launched in 1994, the “American Rider,” a bi-monthly magazine which targeted Harley-Davidson enthusiasts is folding.

The June issue will be its last.

Advertising is way down, newsstand sales are minimalistic and subscription rates are falling.  As a result the Affinity Group (Ventura, CA) reported their intention is to fold the content into the sister magazine “Rider” which reportedly has a monthly circulation of 140,000.  An on-line presence will continue, but three staff positions were eliminated due to the closure. Hopefully they’ll retain Clement Salvadori who is a contributing author with high quality and interesting articles.

The demise of American Rider has plenty of company.  According to this report there were 367 magazines which shutdown in 2009 and 67 went on-line only.  This number is much improved from the 526 magazines that closed in 2008 or the 573 magazines which closed in 2007.  According to this site which tracks magazine “death pools”, even the all powerful EasyRider and V-Twin publication were caught in combining their circulation numbers as “real” to advertisers and neglected to mention the blending.

It’s not just magazine publications.

One day I expect to open my front door and find a booklet with 4 tiny little pages.  This booklet will be known as The Oregonian.  It could well happen to the New York Times or Los Angeles Times.  They’ve all shrunk the height, the width…got rid of so much material that many question why newspapers are necessary.

The Rocky Mountain News is gone.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, gone.  In fact, since January 2008 at least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shutdown.  More than 21,000 jobs evaporated.

Be it magazines or newspapers, part of having freedom of the press is the freedom to let whoever is producing the best information be heard.  If that is bloggers then so be it.  To narrow down the parameters of what counts as “the media,” is restricting the press.  There is nothing that states that the NYTimes or NBC are valid news sources and for example the Cyril Huze blog is not.  The validity of a news source is based on their reputation of having produced accurate and responsible results in the past.  Reputable bloggers know this and work hard to abide.

Publishers will either need to change and accommodate the way people want their news, or fail.  That is the way the market works.

Photo courtesy of American Rider/Affinity Group.

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SB2C Flying In Formation

I’ve written previously about the Kwajalein Atoll and what is known in military circles as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Site.

It’s part of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and is a premiere asset within the Department of Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base. I happen to know a little about “Kwaj” (aka: Kwajalein Island) having lived, worked on the island and flown in/out of Bucholz Army Airfield.  I haven’t blogged about my SCUBA diving experiences while on the island or discussed what was called the ‘aircraft graveyard’ of Kwajalein Atoll, but this came to my mind today when Oregon State Police (OSP) reported that loggers discovered a WWII-era U.S. Navy aircraft, specifically a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver near Rockaway Beach, OR., as part of logging operations on private property.

Oregon SB2C - Oregon State Police Photo

Designed in 1939, the Curtiss SB2C ‘Helldiver’ was a single-engine dive-bomber intended as the replacement for the earlier Douglas-built SBD ‘Dauntless’.  SB2C stands for Scout, Bomber, second dive bomber contract from Curtiss, and the ‘C’ was the letter assigned by the Navy to all aircraft built by Curtiss Aircraft Corporation. The Helldiver carried a crew of two — a pilot and a rear gunner who doubled as the radioman. Early versions of the Helldiver were armed with a single machine gun in each wing while later versions carried a 20mm cannon. The aircraft had an internal bomb bay and could carry a variety of bombs as well as depth charges. The Helldiver had a top speed of 295 mph and good range, making it an essential tool in the Pacific war.

Oregon SB2C - Oregon State Police Photo

Flying from the USS Bunker Hill, Helldivers of Bombing Squadron 17 saw a lot of action over Kwajalein Atoll during Operation Flintlock, which was the assault on the atoll in early 1944. Helldivers helped sink a number of the Japanese ships that lie on the lagoon floor and which we often had the opportunity to dive on.  They flew strikes against targets on several islands within the atoll. After the Japanese airbase on Roi-Namur was captured by American forces the Marine squadron VMSB-151 was initially assigned to Roi with SBD Dauntless dive bombers. The aircraft graveyard near Mellu Island has the wreck of at least one Helldiver.  One wreck we found lies in 85 feet and has one wing in the folded position. Parts of the tail are nearby. The wreck is missing the canopy and dive flaps, and we were never able to determine the specific variant of this particular aircraft. Unless a data plate can be located and photographed that has the manufacturer’s serial number, the history of the plane is very difficult to determine.

SB2C at 85' Near Mellu Island in Kwajalein Atoll

But I’ve digressed and need to get back to Oregon’s SB2C find.

So the search process will begin with historians and analysis gathering to determine the air station where the aircraft flight originated.  The OSP Bomb Technicians have searched the area and found no signs of unexploded ordnance, but there is a possibility of human remains on the site and a team of U.S. Navy personnel are working on-scene to investigate.   All information is being shared with the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) in Honolulu.

The nearby Naval Air Station Tillamook was primarily used to house blimps and was base operations for Squadron ZP-33.   Because of steel rationing during WWII the hangars were built entirely of wood.   It was decommissioned in 1948 and is located about 20 miles southeast of the crash site.   It’s unclear if this aircraft is from the Tillamook station, but the Navy team is on-scene and is making a thorough, undisturbed investigation as safety and integrity of the aircraft site is important.  Initial responders reported seeing a wing, tail section, landing gear and other debris spread out over an approximately 200 yard heavily-wooded area.

I’ll update this post as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: 26 March 2010 – Additional news reports HEREHERE and HERE.  OSP provided a news release last night stating information as to the exact location is not being released to media in an effort to maintain scene integrity.  Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Archeologist Matthew Diederich advised that it is a violation of State Law (ORS 358.905-955) to alter, damage, or remove material from this archaeological site. Violators will be prosecuted.  Important to note that the aircraft was discovered on 18 March 2010, but OSP released information on the discovery a week later on 25 March 2010.  Photos from the location area seem to indicate that the logging crew had already cut and removed much of the timber.  It’s unknown if they did so prior to notifying authorities.  If they trampled the so-called “archaeological” scene with equipment prior to notifying LEO will they be subject to ORS 358.905-955?  The Oregonian reported that Sig Unander Jr. (a Cornelius resident) who has spent years researching and tracking down wreckage of military planes estimates there are approximately 30 military aircraft in WA., OR., ID., and MT., from the mid-1930’s through the mid-1940’s that are unaccounted for.

UPDATE: 31 March 2010 – Oregonian reported that a former mechanic for the Navy (Alvin Boese) remembered the crash which was first published on 1 April 1948.  A story which ran the next day stated the pilot was identified as Chief Aviation Pilot R.W. Smedley of Long Beach, CA.  The Navy has not confirmed this crash was the same or would they comment on the circumstances of this “new” find until they were confident of the results.

Photo’s courtesy of Bluejacket.com and OSP.

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DPSST Admin Building

Earlier this week I attended a day-long training session at the Oregon Public Safety Academy (DPSST) about Deadly Force used in making an arrest.

It took some persistence, but I was able to convince the Department of Public Safety that independent bloggers DO have a community voice and should be included along with “mainstream” media. To that end I was afforded the opportunity to fully participate in the Salem event and want to provide a major shout-out to Cmdr. Cameron Campbell and PIO and OSP Trooper Lt. Gregg Hastings!

So why was I there and what’s the 411?

You may recall last month’s fatal shooting of Aaron M. Campbell by a Portland police officer which sparked intense scrutiny on the use of deadly force.  The 25-year-old African-American was shot and killed by a white police officer after he emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment where officers had been called to perform a welfare check on a suicidal, armed man.  The shooting prompted national attention, including public protests and marches by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and a high profile drive-by visit to Portland by none other than the infamous Rev. Jesse Jackson.  I’m not going to cover all the details and anyone who wants to have an opinion about this police shooting really needs to read the nearly 500 pages of grand jury transcripts.  Or if you prefer The Oregonian can provide summary information HERE.

DPSST Admin Building (Back)

The law enforcement agencies were quick to realize that when a police officer shoots an unarmed person because the officer fears for her/his life – this is a huge contributor to the tension and distrust that the public might feel on the streets – so it prompted the Oregon Police Trainers to offer the media some unique training to learn about the realities in use-of-force incidents.  Basically in 8 hours we received what police officers receive during the 16 week training program.

Not surprisingly, a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp survey found that 56% of Americans think the government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to their rights and freedoms.  And with that, in some communities, there is a deep-seated distrust of police and a fear that interaction with them has the potential to turn violent.

Yes, I’m white and feel that police are here to protect me and work for me.  I can’t represent or fully appreciate through a racial lens what African-American people feel.  I can say that as a motorcycle enthusiast I’ve experienced law enforcement arrogance that allows an armed professional to be held less responsible than a typical citizen to control motorcyclists or rally crowds and make them stay “in their place.”  That mentality comes from people who believe that their time is more valuable than ours. It comes from an arrogance that says that our actions are supposed to make their lives easier, not the other way around.

Then I spent two hours in a class room with Lorraine Anglemier (Deputy DA and Judge) getting a comprehensive overview on the use of force and Oregon statues and my views started to evolve.  The conversation went well beyond typical discussions of force continuums or matrixes.  The focus was on how the use of force must be understood in a comprehensive manner to ensure proper force decision making.  She covered statutory authority and limits, State and federal case law, prevention and tactical consideration.  We were reminded of the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment along with the Oregon equivalent (Article 1, Section 9).  Then came State v. Bates, 304 OR519 (1987) followed by Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and how excessive force is analyzed (deadly or not) under the 4th Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard.  Then we dissected the “Graham Factors” and whether the totality of circumstances justifies a particular sort of action.  Yeah, it was heady stuff and as a person who has trouble with a motorcycle rental agreement this had my head severely spinning.

After another 30 minute presentation by Capt. Raymond Rau on the physical effects of being in a high-stress situation and the traumatic effects of being involved in a shooting I made my way down to the “Tactical Village” … I’m fitted with face protection, a bullet proof vest, holster, a Glock firearm and extra clips/bullets (paint balls) to undertake my urban training scenario’s … I kept replaying what Ms. Angelmier stated… the standard “reasonableness at the moment” applies not with 20/20 hindsight in my head.

This is a multi-post article… Part 2 HERE on Tactical Village.

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Out Of Busines

Harley-Davidson has undergone a grueling restructuring over the last year to better compete amid less demand.

The economy and housing bubble depleted consumers’ wealth and left a lot of folks unwilling to spend on Harley’s high-end bikes.  I anticipate that Harley will remain at least three quarters away from achieving positive retail sales trends in the U.S., especially given the companies lapse of a successful promotion in the first quarter.

I’m genuinely concerned.   More so about the decay of prosperity in the local motorcycle shops, parts suppliers, and dealers.  Be it routine service or customization, the local shops most often operate on their ability to make sure YOU are happy. They know if you leave satisfied, you will tell your friends about your experience with the shop.  Word of mouth is an integral part of a shops reputation in the local area and carries a lot of weight in generating new business.  “Giving” local shops rebuild, repair, or service work on your bike, while appreciated, is not going to keep a shop in business.   The industry at large will need sales to rebound or the local motorcycle businesses will lay-off their skilled workers or worse – close down operations.

Unless you own or work in a local shop, you have no idea of what it takes to stay in business.  Facility overhead, staff salaries, phones, heat/electricity and advertising are things everybody thinks of.  But what about insurance, hazmat costs, licensing fees and money paid to local city and state governments for all the TAXES they require?

And speaking of taxes, I’m very skeptical of government spending our way to prosperity.  Increasing the tax liability on small business owners does nothing to encourage businesses to take care of their employees.  In fact, in Oregon there is a special ballot measure on personal and corporate tax increases.  In my opinion this one-size-fits-all legislation may well force motorcycle shops to shut down.  You’ve heard of Measures 66 and 67 and read more about net profits and corporate structures to last a life time so I’ll avoid explaining the details.  Instead, let me ask a simple question.  Did you get a raise last year?  I know I didn’t.  And if you’re lucky enough to still have a job, I’m willing to bet that you didn’t either.  Most likely you took a pay cut.  Or had your hours reduced.  Or were required to pay a larger share of your health insurance coverage.

At the same time you and I were taking cuts the Oregon Legislature voted to increase the tax burden on higher incomes and businesses by $750 million dollars, it also authorized $248 million in pay raises for state employees.  Yep, that’s right.  State workers got raises during the worst economy we’ve been through since the Great Depression.

Still don’t care?  Then how about this.  The legislature approved a budget that increased state spending by 9%.  If I was operating a motorcycle shop I can assure you that if my business increased 9% over the past two years I’d be most happy.  The legislature increase is about $4.7 billion more than the previous two years.  Time for another question.  Do you think state services have improved as spending has increased?  Are the schools better? Is our infrastructure better?  At a time when Oregon has lost over 120,000 private-sector jobs in the past 18 months the state has added 10,000.  It would seem that in Oregon, government has become the ONLY growth industry!

I’m not sure about where you live, but in Oregon during the winter many think about what customization you can do to your bike in the off-season.  Before long you’ll be sitting at your MacBook, surfing the web looking to make some modification dreams come true.  You’ll likely have questions and find yourself on the phone calling the local motorcycle shop trying to get all those questions answered.  Before long you’ll have spent most of an hour discussing scenarios, getting advice and prices from the local shop expert.

What if they don’t answer your call because the parts expert is no longer employed?  What if they’ve gone out of business?

We’re told by the “spinsters” in Salem that the state is making “budget cuts.” Huh?  In fact it means simply they can’t have as much of an increase as legislators would like.  A 9% increase is NOT a cut!  It’s my opinion that the private sector creates wealth.  Government does not.  I hope you’ll join me in voting NO on Measures 66 and 67 to send a clear message to the Oregon legislators that a CUT means CUT.   

Increasing taxes on motorcycle shop owners means more will go out of business.

Source: Statistics from The Oregonian

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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just_rideI made a commitment earlier in the year to blog more about and highlight Northwest legislative activity.  My intent is to provide illumination on issues and help give motorcyclists a “voice.”   It’s turning out that it could be a full-time job as America seems to be moving farther away from its Founders’ vision and government, but I digress.

I was checking my BlackBerry and read a story by Charles Pope in The Oregonian.  I’m positively stunned the writer and article took a conservation-group bias about public land protection.  NOT!

So, what actually transpired.  The bill — Senate Bill 22: The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 — a bill that would have banned motorized vehicles from more than 2 Million acres of public land — failed to get the required two-thirds vote of the House members for approval. The vote was 282 yes to 144 no, with six lawmakers abstaining.  Mr. Pope reported it failed because it was “short two votes” in the house.  True enough.  But, he didn’t illuminate the fact that the bill had raised the ire of sport enthusiasts and recreational motorcyclist (AMA members and many other groups) not only because it was a package of more than 160 bills loosely coupled together to form a single bill more than 1,300 pages long, but also because it was fast-tracked through the Senate earlier this year and then positioned for a final House vote without the consideration of House members on more than 70 bills in the package.

The bill is yet another example of the recent trend in our government.   Fast-tracking bills through the legislative process without appropriate review is truly a violation of the spirit of open and democratic government.  This bill was a poor product of a poor process, and it would have cut off reasonable access for a whole host of activities on our public lands.  Much of that land is currently used for enjoyment and recreational vehicle use – responsibly!

While the debate is certainly not over, the grassroots lobbying so far has definitely helped the recreational motorcycle cause.

UPDATE: March 16, 2009 — Although the original bill, S. 22, was defeated on March 11 in the U.S. House of Representatives following Senate approval, it has been revived as part of H.R. 146, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Acquisition Grant Program.

Even with the defeat of S. 22 in the House, the Senate is employing rare tactics to shove this ban through Congress.  The Senate has employed a little used parliamentary procedure to reintroduced the bill as a 1,300-page amendment to an unrelated piece of legislation for a vote as early as today.

Clearly this shows how serious Senate leaders are about removing the public debate and getting unreasonable restrictions put in place to public land access approved into law.  We must be just as vigilant in our response. Time is short.

All motorcyclists and ATV riders need to call their senators now and insist they vote no on H.R. 146.

Photo courtesy AMA.

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