Play By The Rules Senator Lautenberg

Power. n. “The energy or motive force by which a physical system or machine is operated;” or “A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others.”

In 1887 the English Catholic historian Lord Acton said, ““Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

I wonder if Senator Frank Lautenberg, has ever heard of Lord Acton. By all measure, Senator Lautenberg is a great man. Serving in his 5th term in the US Senate, he is firmly entrenched in the D.C. power base.

I don’t know the distinguished Gentleman from New Jersey. Aside from his relentless attack on personal liberty and individual choice, I know very little about his politics in general.

However, yesterday, December 12, 2011 Sen. Lautenberg used his position and influence in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to introduce legislation which (if successful) will eventually allow the Federal government to mandate motorcycle safety gear and punish the states who do not comply. All in the name of “The government knows what’s best for you.”

Politicians such as Lautenberg believe people do not own themselves. They believe that people, in whole or in part, are the property of the U.S. Congress, or owned by God, who has given divine power to the U.S. Congress to manage them.

They believe an election affirmed their moral and mental superiority above the ordinary men and women who elected them.

The great irony is even as they Lord over us, they go to great lengths to highlight their humble beginnings and lowly economic childhood, constantly polishing it as a beauty queen would her crown.

Sen. Lautenberg, whose parents came through Ellis Island as immigrants, and who after high school, served in the Army, finished college on the GI Bill and became mega wealthy after a successful business startup, is a bona-fide rags to riches success story. I’m not diminishing his accomplishments.

What’s got my drawers in a wad is how easily Sen. Lautenberg brushes aside the Constitution and it’s fragile guarantees of individual and personal liberty.

Since I’m a trusting person, I’m going to assume that Lautenberg believes that what he’s doing is the best thing for me. I’m going to assume that he has the best of intentions.

But someone should remind the Senator that the road to Hell is paved with “good intentions.”

I suggest he re-read the Senate Oath. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

I don’t read any exceptions for “good intentions.”

On his Senate website Lautenberg is described this way, “In a place that is often plagued with gridlock and inertia, Senator Lautenberg has always been someone who bucked the rules, stood up for what he believed, and persisted in making a difference.”

That may be true Senator, but I’d like to challenge you to take a step back, put aside your personal beliefs, and play this one by the rules.

The rules as written by our Founding Fathers, the ones you took an oath to defend.

Tell us what you think

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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Trademarked…Should You Care?

photo courtesy of ·

The arrival of August signals the beginning of the end of the summer for many motorcyclists.

And, the biggest motorcycle event in the summer is Sturgis Bike Week.

Making the pilgrimage to the Black Hills is a rite of passage that some of us only dream about, while some of us do every year.

Uh, oh. I just realized that by not asking permission, and by not using the circle R ® trademark symbol after the word “Sturgis Bike Week” I might be in trouble with the entity that claims the term as a trademark.

While it may seem I’m being a little absurd, and even though I’m using the term in an editorial, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc, (SMRI) might decide that I don’t have that right, and could very well send me a cease and desist letter. Even going so far as to ask for punitive damages.

But, I’m hopeful SMRI won’t sue since they’ve got their hands full, frying bigger fish to fry.

SMRI is flexing it’s legal muscle, fresh off the grill with an out-of-court victory over Little Sturgis Kentucky rally, and two forced surrender wins over Sturgis South (Mississippi) and Sturgis on the River Rally. One rally quit, and the other changed it’s name. Now, SMRI wants its neighbors in the Black Hills to pay up.

Let me see if I can reduce this down to a simple analogy. One day someone (or a group of people) plant an apple orchid on land nobody owns and nobody claims. The orchid is cared for and tended until it’s time to gather in the fruit. Then the community allows outsiders to come in with the necessary equipment and help with the harvest.

This works fine for over 60 years. That’s when someone in the community realizes nobody actually “owns” the orchid. So they file paperwork and now at harvest time, (without doing anything to improve the orchid or enhance the flavor of the fruit) the new owners force everyone, (no matter how long you’ve been picking free apples) to pay for the privilege of harvesting the apples. No fee, no fruit.

While that strategy worked on outsiders, the locals are gathering their pitchforks and torches and marching on the castle.

After receiving notice it was being sued, Rushmore Photo and Gifts held a press conference in mid-July and said it intends to “vigorously defend” itself against allegations of trademark infringement by SMRI (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc.)

And it has recruited others to help. Specifically those small businesses in the Black Hills who stand to lose the most revenue if the trademarks are allowed to stand. Calling themselves the “Concerned Citizens for Sturgis,” The fledgling group is raising money to challenge nine trademark registrations owned by SMRI.

In their counter claims and answer to the SMRI suit, Rushmore Photo and Gifts says that the (previous owner) Sturgis Chamber of Commerce obtained their trademark fraudulently, since they did not have “exclusive use” of the term Sturgis as it refers to motorcycles and motorcycle rally for 5 years prior to filing for trademark protection. SMRI is going to have a hard time with that one.

The Concerned Citizens are also calling for a boycott of “official” licensed merchandise.  That one might be a tough sell to bikers.  A better tactic might be to ask bikers to seek out “Outlaw Sturgis Merchandise” since we all know how rebellious and anti-establishment we old biker dudes can be.

But, that’s just my opinion and we all know the saying about opinions and Uranus. Every solar system has one.

According to reports in Dealernews and a white paper sent out by the lawyers defending Rushmore Photo and Gifts, the owners of Hot Leathers/Good Sports and Black Hills Harley-Davidson are also board members of SMRI.

Both Hot Leathers and Black Hills HD initially opposed the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce’s trademark action, and rightly so, because it would have negatively affected their revenue from t-shirt sales during the rally.

At some point, (and I am going on complete conjecture here) a deal was cut that Jerry Berkowitz (owner of Hot Leathers) and Jim Burgess, (an owner in the local HD dealership) could live with and secured them a seat at the table, and a slice of the “licensing revenue” or at least a “permanent exemption” from having to pay future licensing fees to use the word “Sturgis.”

And that class, is how smart business is done in America.

It’s been said that business and politics are step-brothers and if that’s true, Berkowitz would make the consummate politician.

He can flip flop quicker than a catfish stranded on a sandbar.

In 2001, when the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce started this trademark fiasco,  Berkowitz  as President of Good Sports, (in a sworn affidavit) accused the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce of committing fraud in their claim for “exclusive use” of the mark “Sturgis.”   In that suit, Good Sports (ie Jerry Berkowitz) admitted that the very trademark he is now trying to force others to pay to use  has been used freely  in the public domain continuously since at least 1982 in connection with the sale of Rally Products at the Rally (Sturgis) and elsewhere.

In fact, Berkowitz (Hot Leathers) is so slick that while he’s in one Federal Court claiming the term “Sturgis Bike Week” is unique and should be protected, he’s in different Federal Court arguing that the term “Daytona Bike Week” isn’t special and shouldn’t be protected.

Hmmmm….that’s interesting. But not surprising since a competitor of Hot Leathers pulled a fast one on everybody last year and secured a trademark for “Daytona Bike Week.” So, it’s understandable that Berkowitz wants the Daytona mark invalidated. Otherwise he will have to pay a licensing fee to use Daytona Bike Week.

Now I’m no fortune teller, but I’d bet my right thumb there’s some secret closed door negotiations going on that will give Hot Leathers a Sturgis type deal in Daytona.  I mean you can’t really blame the Chambers who work these deals.  After all, they give Hot Leathers a free pass to use the trademark, and in exchange, Hot Leathers uses their clout to force everyone else to pay up.  I’d say that’s a sweet deal for everyone but those pesky little people who are becoming quite a nuisance.

Besides his legal maneuvering, Berkowitz has also filed to trademark Laconia Bike Week and Laughlin 2005 (and every year through 2010) according to the report in Dealernews.

So, you ask, why should we care that one group of businessmen are fighting with another group of businessmen over who can print a slogan on a few t-shirts?

Indeed, why should we care?

But yet I do. It just smells like legalized extortion.

And the argument that “it benefits the local charities” doesn’t pass the smell test either. Some of the most notorious mobsters in history were big contributors to the church and charities in their communities.

But what the heck, let’s just live free and ride free because we’re not here for a long time, just a good time, right?

Until next month, ride safe and always take the road less traveled.

Pimping the Georgia State Patrol

It was my intention to write this editorial AFTER I returned from Daytona Bike Week.

You know what they say about “good intentions” right?  There’s a road paved to you-know-where with them, and sometimes in this business I feel like I’m headed there in the express lane with the throttle wide open.

Since the schedule won’t cooperate, I’m writing this a few hours before leaving for the annual spring motorcycle migration.  I fully expect this year’s event to be well attended, despite the lingering economic uncertainty.

I believe most of you are as tired of winter as I am.  Hopefully the lower hotel/motel rates (than in years past) should offset the higher gasoline prices and lure you down to spend a few days basking in the early spring Florida sunshine.

For some of you that will mean passing through my home state of Georgia.  If you take I-75 or I-95,  I apologize for the discrimination you will likely experience on the ride through.
Normally Georgia is considered motorcycle friendly.

However,  we have pimped out our troopers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  for a measly $70,000.

Let’s put this into perspective.  For less than the cost of two patrol cars and a motorcycle, the Georgia Highway Patrol allowed itself to be hired out to perform discriminatory traffic profiling, under the guise of “safety checkpoints.”

In their press release the GSP said they were focusing on high speed motorcycles and reckless riding and would be checking for non-DOT approved helmets, valid tags and motorcycle endorsements.

I’m all for safety but how does a check point deter high speed motorcycle riders.   And when did an improper tag become unsafe?

What’s worse is the GSP spokesperson had the audacity to claim the stop should only take about a minute for the rider who has all  the proper paperwork.

I don’t know about you but it takes me more than a minute to stop, get off the bike, take off my helmet and gloves and get my wallet, find my insurance card and license and then suit back up.
The brain trust who wrote that press release obviously never rode a motorcycle.

What chaps my ass the most isn’t the “safety spin” or “it’s not really an inconvenience” spin the Georgia State Patrol is putting on this.  What chaps me the most is how eager they are to participate in blatant discrimination for a little overtime pay.

Is there nobody in a position of authority in the State Patrol that has the moral turpitude to stand up and say, “This is wrong and we should not participate in it, regardless of how much money the Federal Government is throwing at us.

Not to mention these checkpoints will be conducted on interstate weigh stations.  The same brain trust who wrote the GSP press release must have thought it would be a good idea to mix motorcycles and 18 wheelers.

I don’t know about your state, but Georgia has made some deep cuts to the State Patrol budget.  I’ve got a good source inside the department who told me that troopers have been instructed to stay in one spot during the bulk of their shift and not drive any more than they absolutely have to.

As a former law enforcement officer I can tell you that sitting in one spot for a long period of time makes for a boring shift.    I can’t really blame them for filling their time with checkpoints, but I do blame them for participating in “discriminatory” checkpoints.

In a perfect world individual State Patrol officers would step up and complain about this type of enforcement and refuse to condone it.

In this world we’ll have to rely on legislation that has been introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) to block the Department of Transportation (who funds NHTSA) from giving grants that target motorcycles only.   Not only would it stop the Georgia checkpoints it would also stop the checkpoints that New York State has been doing. (corrected 03-04-2011 – The New York checkpoints are State funded, not with NHTSA grants.)

I’m trying my best not to Chicken Little this issue and cry “foul” at every perceived injustice to motorcyclists, so if there’s someone out there who can justify these checkpoints, I’d love to hear your argument for their validity.

Until next month, ride safe and always take the road less traveled.


When NOBLE Takes Over Your Life

By Scott Cochran, Editor
I was tempted to dig through the morgue where we keep our back issues to see how many times I’ve written an editorial on helmets.

But then I realized this rant isn’t about helmets, it’s more about  pushing back against the “nanny state” that is attacking our personal liberties with legislation designed “for our own good.”

At least that’s the position of the National Transportation Safety Board is taking.

Calling for all 50 states to enact mandatory helmet requirements for motorcycles, Christopher Hart, Vice Chairman of the NTSB (A Federal agency with little or no Congressional oversight) said that motorcycle fatalities have doubled, while total traffic deaths have declined, and that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a “public health issue.”

I’m throwing a BS flag on that one Mr. Hart.

There’s nothing inherently dangerous to the non-riding public if a motorcyclist opts not to wear protective gear.   It’s not contagious or likely to cause innocent bystanders harm.

However, let me state unequivocally that if you choose to ride without a helmet or protective gear, you are not exercising good common sense.

But, for full disclosure, there have been times when yours truly has ridden without a helmet. I don’t make it a habit, but it happens.

So, it’s not the wearing of the helmet that I oppose, it’s our Federal government (which represents us) using its power to force individual states to usurp personal freedoms, and use taxpayer (our money) funds to accomplish the agenda.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims the public pays when motorcyclists go down without helmets. “Only slightly more than half of motorcycle crash victims have private health insurance coverage. For patients without private insurance, a majority of medical costs are paid by the government.”

With the passage of Obama Care, everyone will be covered, but premiums of non-riders will increase to cover motorcycle accident victims.

Can you see the logical conclusion to this agenda?

If your activity causes my health insurance premiums to increase, and the government subsidizes health insurance, then it becomes a “public health issue” and government has an obligation to regulate it, or ban it outright.

What disturbs me the most is not what the NTSB is doing, but the absence of any outrage among civil libertarians over this.

Society, (aka The Government) does not own my body. It does not own my thoughts nor what I generate from my thoughts and actions.

As an adult I am (and rightly so) free to engage in various forms of self-destructive behavior.

I can smoke or drink alcohol to excess. I can eat whatever I want as much as I can afford and refuse to exercise. I do not have to visit a doctor or a dentist. My teeth can rot out and my body fall apart if I so choose.

I can ride horses and climb mountains without the first piece of safety gear. I can operate a chain saw without a minute of safety instruction. I can go for a swim in any river or ocean without having to wear a flotation device, and I don’t have to know how to swim.

I can have casual sex with as many strangers as I like (and risk contracting AIDS) without having to wear protection.

All of these activities are inherently dangerous to my personal health, so what’s different about riding a motorcycle without a helmet?

Not much, if you think about it.

The sad fact is that If we remain complacent, and do not defend personal liberty, no matter if it affects us or not, most of what active, fun loving adults enjoy will be banned as “too dangerous” by some new alphabet nanny agency. Most likely the National Organization for Boosting Life Expectancy or NOBLE in gov speak.

One day future generations will look back and wonder how the world survived with idiots smoking in public, sweet tea, fried food and motorcycle riders who rode without ballistic armor, airbags and full face helmets.

Sadly, they’ll never know what they missed.

Ride safe and always take the road less traveled.

Loud Pipes Are An Expression, Not Safety Equipment

Loud Exhaust; Safety or Expression?

By Scott Cochran, Editor

This will, in all probability, be the most unpopular editorial I have written in the ten years of puking out ink in this space.

I don’t know any other way to say it, but I’m throwing a BS flag on the popular slogan, “Loud Pipes Save Lives.”

Normally I don’t make it my business to debunk pithy helmet stickers.  There are plenty out there that are as suspect as the Loud Pipes sticker, but most of them are assumed to be tongue in cheek and not taken seriously.

Some of my favorite stickers are “For a small town this sure has a lot of assholes” and “If I don’t remember…it didn’t happen!” The one I’ve used in conversation recently is,  “Who Lit The Fuse On Your Tampon?” And one that is applicable here, “I have the right to remain silent but not the ability.”

But, back on loud pipes.

My first real “road” bike was previously owned.   The original owner had removed the stock exhaust and replaced it with “straight” pipes.

I remember how much I loved the sound of that bike.  I especially enjoyed riding through the concrete canyons of metro areas late at night and blipping the throttle to hear the thunder echo through the alleyways and empty parking garages.

My current bike has aftermarket pipes which are louder than stock, but not obnoxiously so.  The note is deeper and more throaty but still louder.

But, I’ve never believed those loud pipes have saved my life, or caused anything other than admiration at the sound, or irritation at the noise, depending on the person’s viewpoint.

Exhaust noise travels backwards.  Unless you’re riding 3 mph and blipping the throttle constantly, there’s little chance anyone in front of you will hear your “loud pipes.”

True enough some drivers will turn their head when you ride by and you may have convinced yourself that you “got their attention” with your loud pipes but as any baseball outfielder will attest, you see the ball heading your way before you hear the crack of the bat.

You would do much better to invest in the loudest train horn you can find to alert inattentive drivers who may turn or pull out in front of you.

“OK Cochran, but what about on the interstate when I’m riding alongside some soccer mom talking on the cell phone and yelling at her kids in the back?  She hears my pipes and it keeps her from pulling into my lane!”

Personally I never ride along beside anyone on the interstate. I’m usually riding slightly faster than the flow, but I still say a extremely loud horn is more effective, but arguably not as cool.

Now I know many of you will disagree with me, and that’s OK.  I’ve been on the politically incorrect side  of the fence before and I’m sure I’ll be there again.

Don’t misunderstand me, I like my exhaust to be louder than stock.  California’s recent legislation which will make it illegal to have anything on your new bike other than stock exhaust,  really chaps my ass.  I think it’s a slippery slope and one that begins to erode the guarantees of the First Amendment.

But my point is that loud pipes are not a “safety” issue and we, as a community and as voters, shouldn’t try to frame our arguments against noise legislation around that.  Loud pipes are an expression, just as pithy helmet stickers and “The Bitch Fell Off” t-shirts.

Plus the EPA sticker on most new bikes is placed in obscure locations, not easily read by law enforcement and in some cases only viewable by removing plastic or chrome parts.  This  will undoubtedly result in subjective enforcement until more legislation is passed to standardize placement of the EPA stamps.

Recently Dublin Georgia (30 miles from my office) enacted an ordinance which bans “saggy pants” and if you get caught with your pants 3 inches below your hips you’ll get slapped with a $200 fine.   Not many motorcyclists worry about getting pinched on this one but, I’m sure that the majority of you reading this editorial probably agree with that ordinance because you dislike seeing urban gang-bangers walking around the mall with their pants half to their knees and their boxers hiked up over their shirts.

But, the truth is, what is offensive to some of us is a form of expression, rebellion or a statement of individuality to others.

I think it’s juvenile to wear your pants half down to your knees but there are just as many people who believe its juvenile to ride a motorcycle that’s louder than a fire truck and those same people are convinced that social nirvana is reached by outlawing anything that offends either their eyes or their ears.

I’m not proposing we all replace our aftermarket pipes with factory silencers, but if we’re going to win this one we’d better get the non-riding public on our side.

Since I don’t see that happening any time soon, I’ll enjoy my aftermarket exhaust as long as possible.

Oh, and my new favorite sticker? “Yes it’s loud, but you’re ugly and you don’t hear me suggesting you get plastic surgery do you?

Ride Safe, and always take the road less traveled.

Zoning Board vs Harley-Davidson Dealer

There must be something in my DNA that enjoys a good fight, or rather hates to see people being bullied.
I’ll fire off a Letter to the Editor in a heartbeat and more often as not, stick my nose in where it probably otherwise doesn’t belong.  As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to tone it down a bit just to get along.
This is one of those times when I’m having trouble keeping my unsolicited opinion to myself.
Rocky Timms is the owner of a Harley-Davidson dealership in Anderson South Carolina.  No, he doesn’t advertise, so I’m not taking his side for any other reason than he’s being unfairly targeted by a few small minded anti-motorcycle “zoning police” that live around his dealership.
Timms hosts a bike night in Anderson every Thursday, and has been since May.  By all accounts, it’s fairly successful and attracts a decent sized crowd from 6-9 or 9:30.
By 9:45 the lot is mostly empty.
But, for Wayne Self, and his neighbors opposed to the bike night, those 3, to 3 and a half hours of “noise” were enough to complain to the zoning board and ask the county to shut the bike nights down.
I don’t know about you, but this sort of whining chaps my ass.  Here you have an honest businessman, doing everything he can in this economy to make a profit and keep jobs for local citizens and a group of penny ninnys complain that their quiet neighborhood is disrupted for a few hours a week?  During daylight hours no less?
I’d bet a dollar to a donut that not the first complainer has ever owned a business where he or she had to make payroll, or had the kind of investment that Timms has and stands to lose if the dealership folds.
The complainers said that the extra cars that come in create a parking problem and a hazard in the neighborhood.  Timms told the cops to tow any vehicle that was creating a parking hazard.  Apparently that wasn’t good enough.
The planning director for Anderson said Timms could apply to have his property rezoned to support outdoor commercial recreation.
That’s all well and good but if a few neighbors, and it’s only a few not a majority, can cause the city to shut down his bike night, even though the property is currently zoned commercial business, what kind of chance do you think he’ll have with a rezoning request.
I see this sort of attitude in the news almost everyday.  Sometimes it’s legitimate and business owners go too far and deliberately break the rules and do not care how it affects their neighbors.
Then there are those people who let their 5th grade hall monitor appointment go to their head and still get a sense of importance by being the “zoning police” or “noise nanny” of the neighborhood.
These are the same people who call the police if they see someone parked in a “no parking zone” even though doesn’t affect them.  They just don’t like to see someone else “breaking the rules” as they understand them.
They’re also the ones who generally dislike motorcyclists because they see us as being too “free spirited” and “rebellious.”
I’ll admit that 80 or 100 motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidson’s, will create a fair amount of noise as they come and go into a dealership.  I won’t argue that it probably does cause somewhat of an inconvenience to some of Timms neighbors during the bike night hours.
But this is America and while you might not agree with it, or fully understand it, capitalism and our free market system is the engine that powers our economy.  I have no doubt that Timms Harley-Davidson writes a  large property tax check to the city and county every year and receives no more government services than do his neighbors.  He shouldn’t be molested when it comes to making a legal profit.  Customer events are an important part of a successful motorcycle dealership.

But that’s probably something his neighbors wouldn’t understand.

-Editor Scott Cochran

Liberty Is Imperiled When Men Hide Behind Bad Laws


When taping your own traffic stop becomes illegal

By: Scott Cochran, Editor

Last March Anthony Graber was riding his Ducati in Maryland on I-95 in an illegal and unsafe manner. That is not disputed. In fact, Graber was recording himself with a video camera on his helmet.

Because of that video, Graber might be going to jail. Not for reckless riding, but for illegally taping the police officers who stopped him.

The bruhaha began when Graber posted the video on YouTube. In it, Graber pulls off an exit where he’s stopped by traffic and a plain unmarked car pulls up beside him and a white male jumps out with a handgun and quickly approaches him yelling to turn off the motorcycle. It is approximately 5 seconds before the plainclothes police officer identifies himself, and a few seconds after that a marked unit pulls up behind Graber.

When Graber is allowed to take his gear off, he turns off the video recorder, but when asked by the officer if he was being recorded, he denies it was on. I can only conjecture that he believed the recording would have been confiscated had he admitted the officer was taped.

Once posted online, Maryland State Police sought to prosecute Graber for “illegally wiretapping police activity” and sent a request to the State’s Attorney in Harford County.

Graber was arrested again and charged with a wiretap felony and could spend years in prison if convicted.

Within days of the story breaking online, civil libertarians and bloggers lit up the internet like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

A spokesman for the State Police deny the wiretap charge is retaliation for Graber having exposed the department’s heavy handed Gestapo type actions.

“This is not some capricious retribution,” said Shipley, calling Graber the type of reckless driver troopers “are peeling … off the backs of tractor-trailers and off the curbs.” He said the audio recording of the traffic stop “is a violation of the law. Period. That’s what our job is. We’re not going to apologize for doing our job.”

And there’s where I have a problem with it.

The attitude of “It’s the law and we’re not going to apologize for doing our job.”

What prosecutors in Maryland are using is a law written to prevent “voice” recordings. Had Graber deleted the audio portion, or garbled it before he posted it, then he wouldn’t be in trouble.

As a former plan clothes police officer I can appreciate the situation the Maryland State Police find themselves in, but the public should have the right to record traffic stops, the same as law enforcement. The plain-clothes officer gave up his rights to anonymity when he took himself out of the role of detective/investigator and participated in the traffic pursuit.

There are thousands of hard working, honest and dedicated law enforcement officers who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect and serve the citizens in their jurisdictions. This is by no means a slur on their character and integrity.

However, when men in authority seek to hide behind immoral laws to protect their ambitions, or to justify bad behavior, then it becomes the duty of free men to demand the law be changed.

My problem is with a law that disregards the civil rights of individuals, while providing those in authority with the legal means to prevent oversight by the public. Laws, such as these, foster and even encourage abuse of power, all in the name of “we’re just doing our job.”

This law, written with the intent to protect law enforcement, judges and officers of the court from illegal wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping without their consent was never meant to prevent private citizens from recording the activities of police in a public venue.

To misuse this statute in this manner is ethically and morally wrong. To stand by without protesting its use is also morally wrong.

But, let’s be clear on one thing, Graber was breaking the law. I watched his YouTube video and I think his actions on his motorcycle were irresponsible and criminal. He placed himself and others at great risk. High speed pursuits are dangerous to the public and the police officers who are involved in them.

Charge him with every traffic violation he committed. If combined they reach the level of felony endangerment and he loses his license and his freedom, then so be it. But to jail him for posting a video online he recorded in plain view on a public highway is not only wrong, it is a violation of his civil rights, and one that should outrage every American.

As for the plain-clothes officer who approached Graber with his gun drawn before identifying himself, he should be reprimanded. Nothing more or less. He was overzealous, but that’s it. Maybe next time he’ll let the uniform officers do their job and he’ll stick to his.

The greatest threat to our democracy does not come from without, but from within. We must jealously safeguard our liberties and protest vigorously when they are threatened.

Until next month, Ride Safe, and always take the road less traveled.

Quick Fact on Fringe.. Practical or Fashion Statement?

By: John Turner.

In times not so long ago, fashion statements in clothing were the exclusive province of the wealthy, the well heeled, the aristocratic breed if you will. For us mere peasants the idea of clothing was more utilitarian where the popular “form follows function” statement was the obvious choice.

Here is one example of that principle that may be somewhat lost in the fashion statement of today’s motorcycle rider. There are quite a few very nicely constructed leather jackets for men and women with fringe adorning the arms and in some cases the front and the backs.

Now for us this is a fashion statement. Our leathers are usually made from some sort of cow hide or pigs hide or something of that type because these are herd animals for which everything except the “moo” or the “oink” is used for some product.

I call this my “Paul Harvey” moment. Because here is the rest of the story!

Our ancestors, especially the American Indians and our 19th century cowboys had leathers too. Most of their leathers were made of deerskin however. That fringe we see as decoration for us today was far more practical for the Native American or cowboy caught out in the elements. Because of the absorption characteristics of tanned deerskin the water will soak into the hide, but the fringe was placed on the arms, the front and the back to quickly wick the water away from the body and drip off thereby keeping the core body temperature from dropping. Since nothing will chill the body faster than wet and cold.

Some of you already knew this. But I bet for most this is one of those tidbits of knowledge that will make you say “those folks back then had to deal with some pretty rough times, so I guess they figured things out the way a human being is capable of doing”.