About unlikelyprofessor

Now in my mid-40s, I've been teaching in some respect since I was 18 years old. I now teach history classes at 2- and 4-year colleges, have retired from a 25-year career in rock bands, have 2 kids born 11 years apart, love to read sci-fi, ride motorcycles whenever I can, and am saving up to buy my first house.

the year in music: 2017

Another bleak music year – which probably says more about me than the music industry. I have a hard time getting into new bands. I listen to what I listen to, and it’s just tough to break into that circle. I was also majorly underemployed for the first nine months of the year, which put a damper on my discretional spending.

Despite that, I have to call 2017 the year of Gojira. I had heard of this French heavy metal band in the past, but not enough to care to give them a listen. That changed when I saw a YouTube video of one of their songs, which led to me getting their From Mars to Sirius album in 2016. I liked that one enough to pick up the two albums that followed it this year, and all three albums are getting heavy rotation. I don’t even mind that they don’t play guitar solos, which is usually a deal-breaker for me when it comes to new bands.

Top 10 By Listens

10. Sarah Jarosz – Song Up in Her Head (2009). I went to see Jarosz play at what is basically a minor-league NASCAR track. They have a concert venue in one of the buildings big enough to hold a couple hundred people. Fantastic show, really pleased I got to see her play live at last. Even though her newest album (Undercurrent, 2016) is good, it’s still her first album that catches my attention every time. This album didn’t make the Top 20 last year, but I listened to it a lot in 2016, too.

9. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014). This was my #1 album of 2015 and ranked #8 in 2016, so clearly I am still enjoying this album a lot. I’m surprised it made the Top 10 given that Mastodon came out with a new album in 2017, but there it is nonetheless.

8. Eric Johnson – Europe Live (2014). I bought this album last year and it has quickly become my favorite EJ live album. His playing never ceases to amaze me, and I love a good live album. “Cliffs of Dover” still blows me away every time he plays it.

7. Pink Floyd – Animals (1977). I will not hide the fact that Animals remains my favorite Pink Floyd album, and I listen to it a lot. I have a half-dozen versions of it between LPs and CDs. I even had the 8-track once upon a time! The musicianship and songcrafting still amazes me after all these years. Back in the Top 10 after a year off.

6. Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (2014). I’m not the biggest fan of growly vocals and I don’t tend to like things from, about or made in France. I tell you that so you’ll understand just how hard it is for Gojira to break into my album rotation, let alone actually make it into the Top 10 of my annual list. This album is that good. The two albums that follow it, The Way of All Flesh and Magma are also excellent, but there’s something about the aggression and environmental awareness of From Mars to Sirius that resonates with me. My favorite track is “Global Warming,” an eight-minute song in which nearly the entire guitar part is finger-tapped.

5. Fear Factory – Genexus (2015). Last year’s #4 album is this year’s #5, showing that it remains strong in the rotation. Fear Factory’s precision metal and mix of growly and melodic vocals keeps bringing me back.

4. Dead Can Dance – The Serpent’s Egg (1988, 2008 remaster). I’ve had DCD’s “greatest hits album” A Passage in Time since I took a creative writing class in college in probably 1993 or ’94; the professor liked to use it to set a mood for our in-class writing exercises. I always dug that album, but found myself wanting to know what one of their regular studio albums sounded like. I chose the one that had the most songs on APIT, and that’s this one. It’s cool, mellow and thought-provoking, even if you can’t understand the lyrics. I think they sing in Latin, but it could be Dutch for all I know. Sometimes it’s English, but not usually.

3. Ghost – Popestar (2016). One of the things that Ghost does that I like is they like to put out singles – but instead of just releasing one song, they do an EP that has the new single plus a few cover songs. There’s no doubt that Popestar’s centerpiece, “Square Hammer,” was a huge, huge song for Ghost, but for me, the standouts on this EP are their covers of Eurhythmics’ “Missionary Man” and a song called “Bible” originally performed by Imperiet, a Swedish band that nobody has ever heard of. Ghost translated “Bible” into English, and it recounts the myth of God creating the heavens and the Earth in just six days. It’s a slow-building song, and its climax is worth waiting for. Ghost’s version of “Nocturnal Me,” originally by Echo & the Bunnymen, is also excellent.

2. Baroness – Yellow & Green (2012). Last year’s #3 album was Baroness’ Purple – a good album, but it didn’t even make the Top 20 this year. I reverted back to the album that drew me to Baroness in the first place. Their Red album was just outside the Honorable Mentions this year. This is a double album, and it’s fantastic. If you only get one Baroness album, this is the one to get.

mastodon_emperorofsand1. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand. Ever since I discovered Mastodon’s Leviathan, I have gotten everything they put out as soon as they put it out. They are as good a metal band as there has ever been. One of the things I dig about them is that whatever their next album is, it doesn’t sound exactly like their last album. That’s funny, because the thing I dig most about Slayer is that their next album sounds just like their last one. Anyway – Emperor of Sand is probably Mastodon’s most accessible album. The songs are mostly under five minutes and while there’s plenty of progressive influence still apparent, there are tons of hooks and catchy choruses abound. “Sultan’s Curse” is practically a pop song – sure, it would be a pop song about cancer, but still. There’s only two songs on the album over six minutes long and the longest of them is just under eight – compare that to “Pendulous Skin” from Blood Mountain at over 22 minutes long, “The Czar” and “The Last Baron” from Crack the Skye (11 & 13 minutes long respectively), and the nearly 14-minute-long, mostly instrumental “Hearts Alive” from Leviathan. This is an astounding album, topping 2015’s Once More ‘Round the Sun, which I called their best to date in 2016.

Honorable mentions (#11-15) on this year’s most-played list are AC/DC, For Those About To Rock (a perennial favorite, #5 last year); Black Label Society, Stronger Than Death (#6 last year); Enigma, Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi (what can I say? I had an electronica phase); Slayer, God Hates Us All (replacing their Repentless in my top rotation); and Ghost, Meliora (last year’s #9).

Albums Purchased in 2017

  • Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora. I know DH’s bass player Aaron Deal. Great guy, fantastic bass player. I got in on their crowdfunding campaign to get their newest album put out, and if you like growly vocals and aggressive metal, you will probably love this album.
  • Dead Can Dance – The Serpent’s Egg (1988, 2008 remaster)
  • Eve 6 – It’s All in Your Head (2011) and Speak in Code (2012). I really love this band’s Horrorscope album and got the bug to hear what they’ve done since that album. While I wasn’t hugely disappointed or regret spending the money, neither of these albums is going to make it into heavy rotation.
  • Sarah Jarosz – Undercurrent (2016). Another solid album from Jarosz as she slowly moves away from her bluegrass roots and towards becoming the queen (or at least a princess) of Americana. I bought this directly from Jarosz at her concert. Nice lady.
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman. I got this album after seeing a documentary about Jones; she was a late-in-life success story and cut down in the prime of her career by cancer. This is a mind-bendingly good rhythm & blues album that any fan of the genre or powerful female singers would be well advised to pick up. Think Ike-era Tina Turner, but with more attitude and a better horn section.
  • Kaleo – A/B (2016). My coworkers were playing this in the office one day, and I liked it enough to pick it up for myself. They’re sort of Zeppelin-esque with a modern sensibility, and at least one song on this album is in their native Icelandic language. I can’t understand the lyrics, but it’s a great song.
  • KXM – Scatterbrain. This is probably my biggest disappointment of the year, CD-purchase wise. On its surface, the blending of dUg Pinnick (King’s X), George Lynch (Dokken) and Ray Luzier (Korn) should produce music that is both forceful and memorable; unfortunately, this album is only the former. It’s good, but it’s forgettable, unfortunately.
  • Gojira – The Way of All Flesh (2015) and Magma (2016). My obsession with Gojira continues to grow. I will keep working my way back through their catalog one CD at a time.
  • Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls (2015). I went to see Iron Maiden last summer. It was a great show – as expected – but Maiden’s newest songs are … well, competent. They sound like Iron Maiden, and I’m glad they’re still writing new music, but this double album goes on for too long – both in song count and in individual song lengths. The closing track is an endless, meandering piano piece that I would have been happy to never hear.
  • Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed (2014). I only got this album a few days ago, having heard about it right before Thanksgiving. It’s Troy Sanders (bass/vox) from Mastodon, Max Calavera (guitar/vox) from Sepultura, and a couple of guys I never heard of from bands I’m barely familiar with. The first few listens are promising – good, old-fashioned metal right here.
  • Mastodon – Emperor of Sand and Cold Dark Place. Cold Dark Place is an EP of songs that were left off the Once More ‘Round the Sun and Emperor of Sand albums. I manipulated the song info in iTunes to include them with the albums they were recorded for, and I think they play quite well in that manner. A nice add-on release from Mastodon.
  • Pinnick Gales Pridgen – PGP 2 (2014). I picked this album up simply for the sake of having both PGP albums – King’s X is one of my favorite bands and I love dUg Pinnick’s voice and bass playing. Eric Gales is a MONSTER guitarist, and Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta) is a fantastic drummer. This album isn’t quite as good as their self-titled debut, but it’s worth repeated listenings.
  • Joe Walsh – The Definitive Collection (2006). What can I say? I love Joe Walsh and decided to pick up this greatest hits CD that spans his career from The James Gang to his post-Eagles solo work. It’s fun. The dude can PLAY!

There is no Movie Top 10 this year because – well, I was unemployed for nine months and didn’t spend money on going to the movies. I saw Murder on the Orient Express last night because the power was out at my house and I was bored. Even though the movie was good, it did not cure my boredom. I’ll go see the new Star Wars movie next week, but other than that and Wonder Woman, there wasn’t much to catch my attention in the movie theaters in 2017.

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Why Harley-Davidson is building a factory in Thailand

There’s a lot going on in Harley-Davidson world, and some of it may have escaped your attention.

While it’s not always the best practice to focus on one company as the bellwether of how an industry is doing, Harley-Davidson is such an iconic American brand that it does serve as a beacon of sorts for not just American industry, but the overall motorcycle industry as well.

We’re constantly bombarded with “America First” and “Make America Great Again” from the Trump administration, but as recent moves from Harley-Davidson show, manufacturing and business are far more complex than slogans can account for. Capitalism is, of course, built up and torn down at the altar of the Market, and what the Market giveth the Market can taketh – often in one quarter.

harley-thailand-fullOn 23 May 2017, The New York Times broke the story that Harley-Davidson is establishing a factory in Thailand. HD officials say the purpose of the factory is to build motorcycles for Asian and other overseas markets, and that the motorcycles will not be brought into the United States.

This move has been roundly denounced by union officials, such as:

  • Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers: “It’s a slap in the face to the U.S. workers who built an American icon.”
  • Press Release from the United Steelworkers: “[Harley’s] decision to offshore production is a slap in the face to the American worker and hundreds of thousands of Harley riders across the country.”

Indeed, in a lot of places, Harley-Davidson IS America. Harley has spent decades building its image and carefully crafting the perception that riding a Harley motorcycle is part of a lifestyle worth achieving. To a certain extent, all the motorcycle manufacturers do this, but none perhaps so successfully as Harley-Davidson.

What the critics of this Thai factory are missing are two incredibly important aspects of the motorcycle industry.

Displacement

MY17 107 Engine. Milwaukee Eight.There is a common adage among motorcycle riders that there is “no replacement for displacement,” meaning that the bigger a motorcycle’s engine, the better the motorcycle is. This is not a sentiment shared by the majority of the population of the world, and certainly not in countries where gasoline is more expensive than Americans can possibly imagine.

For example, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the USA on 19 April 2017 was $2.57 a gallon. In Thailand, it was $3.72; in India, $4.32. The highest average price in the Bloomberg article used as a reference was $7.23 in Hong Kong; the lowest was $0.91 in Saudi Arabia.

The average gas price isn’t enough to form a solid picture of the real cost, however. In the USA, the average worker enjoys a daily income of nearly $163, while in Thailand, the average worker’s daily income is just over $17. That difference is critical – no matter the price difference in gasoline between the USA and Thailand, gas is simply more affordable in one country than the other.

What this means is that where the rubber meets the road, the American motorcycle rider simply doesn’t have to care about fuel efficiency as much as the Thai rider does. That $3.72 the Thai rider spends on a gallon of gasoline has to last him (or her) much longer than the $2.57 the American rider spent.

As a result of this need for extreme fuel efficiency in nearly every country that isn’t the USA, large-displacement motorcycles are a luxury item. For example, in 2014 Americans bought 466,000 motorcycles of all brands. In the same year, TVS Motor in India sold 784,000 units. Neither of them even holds a candle to Honda, however, which sold over 15 million units in 2013, most of them (13 million) in Asia. Even with 15 million units sold, motorcycles are only Honda’s THIRD biggest source of revenue!

The majority of these motorcycles are vehicles that American riders wouldn’t even identify as such, calling them mopeds, scooters or even just toys. Motorcycles with 50cc engines dominate foreign markets – and in the USA, the average walk-behind lawn mower has a 150cc engine! In every other place on Earth besides the United States, most motorcycles come in under 300cc, and many of those are well under even that mark.

In the long run, the motorcycles Harley-Davidson makes are only hugely popular in the United States, and they’re losing market share on this continent, primarily to Indian Motorcycles (manufactured by Polaris Industries).

Putting factories in other countries gives Harley-Davidson access to people and companies who have been building smaller displacement motorcycles for decades, and it won’t be long before we see Harley’s Street 500 being built in overseas factories. Harley may well start making motorcycles smaller than that as well.

Taxes

Income taxThe simple matter of import taxes (tariffs) is the other aspect of why Harley-Davidson is looking to build bikes in Thailand.

Importing a 125cc motorcycle into Thailand carries an immediate 60 percent upcharge. Add to that another 5 percent for the excise tax, 7 percent for the value-added tax (VAT) and 10 percent for the interior tax, and the cost for a run-of-the-mill Harley-Davidson Road Glide jumps from $21,999 in the US to $43,499. The reality of it is, though, that the Road Glide is not a 125cc motorcycle and its import taxes would be exponentially higher, driving the cost closer to $60,000.

In India, the import tax on a 300cc motorcycle is 100%. The price of a small imported motorcycle doubles before it even hits the showroom floor – yet India continues to be the hottest, fastest-growing market for companies like Trimuph, whose sales rose 37 percent … to 350 motorcycles. Triumph’s smallest displacement motorcycle is about 675 cubic centimeters, so even with that ridiculously small number of sales, there is clearly a market in places like India for foreign brands with higher displacements than are traditionally built in India.

When it comes down to the economic bottom line, it makes excellent economic sense to simply build these motorcycles in the countries where the manufacturer wants to sell them. With the Trump Administration backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership early in 2017, it really shouldn’t be a surprise to see Harley-Davidson initiating the manufacturing of its motorcycles in Thailand, because Asian nations won’t have the same tax rates for products coming from other Asian nations as they will for products coming from the United States.

It’s smart business.

In the past several years, another well-known motorcycle manufacturer, BMW Motorrad, has started making motorcycles and their components in Brazil and India. Branching out from their core manufacturing homeland of Germany has enabled them to not only keep costs down from a manufacturing standpoint, but to also get around some of these massive import taxes used by some countries to protect their home-grown industries.

When it comes to protection, that’s exactly what Harley is trying to do. Polaris Industries bought the rights to the Indian Motorcycle name in 2011 from UK private equity firm Stellican Limited (majority owner, at any rate). At the time they already owned Victory Motorcycles, and Victories were well-regarded bikes despite their low sales numbers. Two years after the acquisition, they announced their 111 cubic inch engine – that’s 1,820 ccs for you metric folks – and started selling motorcycles based around that “Thunderstroke” engine in August 2013. Here it is only four years later, and Polaris has shut down Victory completely to focus on the ten current models Indian offers – a number that is likely to continue to grow.

Harley-Davidson did a similar thing in 2009 when it closed the doors on Buell. Buell motorcycles were touted as technologically advanced, but they didn’t sell in numbers high enough to warrant their continued existence under the HD banner. Many riders cried foul when Harley unceremoniously dumped Erik Buell’s bikes in the dustbin of motorcycling history, but shares of $HOG began to steadily rise through the end of that year. It’s that perceived value, as represented by the stock price, that appeals to shareholders, board members and investors, not how cool or high-tech the motorcycles are.

Even though Indian is still selling a fraction of the number of motorcycles Harley is selling every year, Indian is selling more and more bikes every year while Harley is selling fewer and fewer every year. With Victory out of the picture, Polaris can concentrate all its motorcycle efforts on one brand, and believe that they are doing exactly that as hard and fast as they can.

20050529153007_thunder3
The Pentagon’s parking lot the morning of the annual Rolling Thunder ride.

Harley-Davidson reacted, of course, by coming out with a new engine and redesigning a number of the bikes that use their new “Milwaukee Eight” engines (there are two, air/oil cooled at 107 ci/1750 cc and liquid cooled at 114 ci/1870 cc). Nobody will know until their 2017 annual report comes out if that effort will translate into a slowdown in the loss of market share, and Harley still owns close to 50 percent of the large-displacement, cruiser-style motorcycle market in the USA. However, in the same year (2015) that Polaris’ motorcycle income surged 67 percent, Harley’s fell 5 percent.

However, if Harley continues to lose market share in the United States, long its most lucrative market, they will obviously have to do something to boost their bottom line. Unlike Honda and Polaris, Harley doesn’t have other vehicle sales to fall back on. They cannot afford to continue losing market share year after year, not even to a brand as iconic as Indian. Expanding overseas makes sense, and doing so in a fashion that allows them to minimize their tax burden and maximize their profits makes even MORE sense.

They also have to find a way to reduce labor costs. They’re doing it to a certain extent through layoffs, and Harley has reduced the number of workers at its York, Pennsylvania, facility by over 50 percent since 2009. They recently announced that another 118 jobs will leave the York factory, as the company transfers construction of its Softail line to its Kansas City factory. Nobody is under the illusion that labor costs in Thailand are anything but FAR lower than what they are in the USA, where the average union worker earns about $1,000 a week. In Thailand, the average weekly wage in manufacturing jobs is about $230 a MONTH (based on exchange rate on 24 May 2017).

There’s an old saying in scientific circles that a species that fails to adapt to its changing environment is doomed to become extinct. When it comes to capitalism, the same can be said by substituting in a few words: Any company that fails to adapt to the changing market is doomed to go bankrupt. The people running Harley-Davidson clearly see this, which is exactly why they’re following BMW Motorrad’s lead in India and building a factory in Thailand.

While the “slap in the face” referenced by Robert Martinez Jr. and the United Steelworkers may indeed be more literal than metaphorical, there are solid economic reasons why Harley-Davidson is building a motorcycle factory in Thailand. It has little to do with the American worker and everything to do with the company’s future profit-and-loss statements.


SOURCES

a brief history of the Fleming clan

My daughter started asking me questions about our family’s ancestors this evening. I don’t know much, but I told her what I know.
 
fleming_largeThe Fleming family name obviously originates in Flanders, a region that was at various times controlled by France, Spain and the Netherlands, but it got its start as part of the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar called the region Gallia Belgica, including it as part of Gaul, and called its inhabitants Belgae.
 
As the Roman Empire went through its lengthy dissolution, Flanders was part of mainland Europe known colloquially as the Saxon Shore, mainly because it was frequently attacked by the Saxons from across the Channel in England.
 
It should come as no surprise, then, that when William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, put the word out in 1066 that he wasn’t pleased with the ascension of Harold Godwinson to the throne of England following the death of King Edward and planned to invade England, the natives of Flanders – known as the Flemish – eagerly stepped up to support William’s initiative.
 
(William felt his claim to the throne was stronger than that of King Harald of Norway (Harald Hardrada). King Harold defeated King Harald’s army, killing Harald in the process, but Duke William subsequently defeated (and killed) King Harold, taking the throne of England for himself after the famous Battle of Hastings… but you probably already knew that.)
 
After William – now called the Conqueror instead of the Bastard – successfully consolidated power in England, he distributed land grants to his loyal followers, including the nobles from Flanders who helped him.
 
Henry II (Plantagenet), who was William’s great-grandson, invaded Ireland in 1171 to counteract moves being made by Richard de Clare, known as Richard Strongbow. Henry won the short war, but let Strongbow live and even granted him territory to help bring the other Irish nobles in line under his control.
 
When the Irish kingdom of Meath refused to submit, Henry II simply acknowledged their steadfastness and granted that territory to Hugh de Lacy, a prominent Norman noble. Baron Lacy spent the rest of his life (d. 1186) trying to gain military control of Meath in the name of the king. It depends on who you talk to as to how successful he was.
 
Now, you may wonder why I’ve taken this sideways spin into English-Irish history. Well, patient reader, here’s why you’ve stuck it out this long.

The Flemish, being the loyalists they were, answered Henry II’s call to arms for the invasion of Ireland. Their reward for their loyalty and lives was land grants across Ireland, and indeed, there are Flemings in nearly every county of that fine land to this day. However, my particular branch of the family was loyal to Baron Lacy and set about helping him attempt to pacify Meath.

Other branches of the Flemish clans stayed in England, and still others migrated to Scotland over the years. As the centuries progressed, Flanders became a center of European textile technology and manufacture, with Flemish weavers in high demand across the continent – and especially in England, Scotland and Ireland, leading to a wave of people named Fleming coming to England. Of course, they didn’t get the name Fleming until they got there, because once the King of England established the Poll Tax (a kind of income tax), everybody had to have a last name.

The Flemings loyal to Baron Lacy found themselves on the outs, royal-favor-wise, when they backed James II in his bid to unseat William (of William and Mary) in 1690, but by then the Flemings were well entrenched in Ireland.

It’s entirely possible that my branch of the Fleming family traces its roots back to one John Fleming, who attended a church rite in 1435 in Slane, County Meath, and signed his name spelled with one ‘m’ to an official document. This was not the normal spelling at the time, the common spelling having the distinctive ‘mm’ in the middle.
From what I remember from my Grandmother Fleming’s genealogical research, a number of Flemings fled Meath during the Potato Famine and settled in the Midwest, spanning from western Pennsylvania, through Ohio and on to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

It was at this point that my daughter – remember why I started telling this story in the first place? – declared that she is going to tell people she is “Ohirish with a little Mexican thrown in.” I told her I can live with that.

Now, besides me, you may have heard of a number of Flemings. My clansmen and women have made great contributions to the world. Here’s a rundown of Flemings You Should Know.

  • Peggy Fleming – figure skater who won Olympic gold in 1968, but perhaps most well-known as the object of Snoopy’s love from the late 1960s through the early 1970s
  • Ian Fleming – creator of James Bond. Duh.
  • Valentine Fleming – Ian’s father and a casualty of World War One; the major was a close friend of Winston Churchill and died as a result of German action at Gillemont Farm in May 1917. He was a Member of Parliament at the time, and Churchill wrote his obituary.
  • Alexander Fleming – Scottish scientist who discovered penicillin
  • Renée Fleming – opera singer (and a damn good one)
  • Thomas Fleming – the Archbishop of Dublin from 1623 until his death in 1655
  • Valerie Fleming – two-time Olympic gold-medal winner in the 2-person bobsled in 2006; she also earned 8 silver medals and 8 bronzes over the years
  • Richard Fleming – USMC/USN Captain, KIA in his Vindicator dive bomber in action against the Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma during the Battle of Midway and subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor
  • Williamina Fleming – astronomer who discovered the Horsehead Nebula in 1888 (we claim her even though she married into the clan)
  • Lord David Fleming – a prominent Scottish judge and author of the Fleming Report, which led to public funding for elementary schools
  • John Fleming, the 2nd Lord Fleming – killed in a duel by a guy called Tweedie in 1524
  • Michael Anthony Fleming – a Franciscan monk born in Ireland who became the first Catholic bishop in Newfoundland
  • Dave Fleming – contender for rookie of the year for the Seattle Mariners in 1992
  • Victor Fleming – directed Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Joan of Arc, The Wizard of Oz and won an Oscar for Best Director for Gone With the Wind
  • Nancy Fleming – Miss America 1961

lies, damn lies and statistics

At this point, about one month into the Trump Administration, I’m kind of beyond caring how good or bad a job Donald Trump can or will do. I’m pissed, and I can’t hold it in any longer.

He’s a liar. A lying liar what lies. AND HE LIES ABOUT STUPID SHIT.

On 16 Feb 2017, Trump gave a press conference to announce his new nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor. He had to do this because his first choice withdrew from consideration after he figured out there wasn’t enough support in committee to get him to a full Senate vote. This is politics, it happens. Not really that big a deal.

The press conference, however, went on… and on… AND ON for 77 minutes. The thing I find myself focusing on is the one massively, obviously disprovable lie he told – and has been telling for weeks.

First he said he won the biggest electoral margin since Reagan.

Wrong.

Then he said he won the biggest electoral margin of any Republican since Reagan.

WRONG.

Here’s the cold, hard facts on every election from Reagan’s first in 1980 through the one we just had in 2016.

  • 2016
    • Trump (R) – 304
    • HR Clinton (D) – 227
    • Ratio of Victory – 1.3:1
  • 2012
    • Obama (D) – 332
    • Romney (R) – 206
    • 1.6:1
  • 2008
    • Obama – 365
    • McCain – 173
    • 2.1:1
  • 2004
    • GW Bush – 286
    • Kerry – 251
    • 1.1:1
  • 2000
    • GW Bush – 271
    • Gore – 266
    • 1.018:1
  • 1996
    • WJ Clinton – 379
    • Dole – 159
    • 2.4:1
  • 1992
    • WJ Clinton – 370
    • GHW Bush – 168
    • 2.2:1
  • 1988
    • GHW Bush – 426
    • Dukakis – 111
    • 3.8:1
  • 1984
    • Reagan – 525
    • Mondale – 13
    • 40.4:1
  • 1980
    • Reagan – 489
    • Carter – 49
    • 10:1

There you have it folks – cold, hard, historical facts. Reagan’s narrowest margin of victory still saw him pull down 91% of the electoral votes. Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton doesn’t even crack the top 10 lowest margin-of-victory contests. Trump got 56.5% of the electoral votes, more than Kennedy (56.4%) but less than Truman (57%). Barack Obama won the closer of his two elections, in 2012, with 61.7% of the electoral votes.

The last Republican to win before Trump was George W. Bush, both of whose victories are in the lowest 10 margin-of-victory elections; the hotly contested 2000 election that was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court saw him win with 50.37% of the electoral votes. In his “big” victory in 2004, he got 53.16% of the electoral votes.

The list of presidents who won a higher percentage of electoral votes than Donald Trump reads like a who’s-who list of presidents you never heard of: Van Buren, Garfield, Harrison, Buchanan, McKinley, Polk, Taft, Grant, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Pierce.

Quick – can you name one thing – ONE THING – that William Henry Harrison did in office other than die less than 31 days into his presidency? No, you can’t! AND HE WON 79.6% OF THE ELECTORAL VOTES!!

Donald Trump won a higher percentage of the electoral votes than precisely five presidents in the last 100 years: George W. Bush (twice), John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon (1st election), Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson. That’s it. Literally every other president since the 1916 election has won with a higher percentage electoral votes than Trump.

Just so you know, other than George Washington – who got 100% of the electoral votes both times he was elected – the only other presidents to come close to Ronald Reagan’s crushing defeat of Walter Mondale (525 to 13) were James Monroe (1792, 231 to 1), Franklin Roosevelt (1936, his 2nd election, 523 to 8), and Richard Nixon (1972, his 2nd election, 520 to 17). No other president won with a greater than 95% take in the Electoral College.

Every president since Reagan except for GW Bush got a higher percentage of electoral votes than Donald Trump did. There is no disputing these facts. I cannot help but wonder that if Trump is willing to lie about something so quickly and easily disprovable, what else is he willing to lie about?

 

protective tariffs, motorcycles and the beef lobby

In April 1983, President Ronald Reagan ordered a rise in tariffs – taxes on imported or exported goods – on “heavyweight” motorcycles from 4.4 percent to 49.4 percent. If you ever wondered why the 1980s were littered with Japanese motorcycles that topped out at 699cc, now you know why. The tariffs kicked in at 700cc because half of all Japanese motorcycles imported into the US displaced 750cc. This rise in tariffs was based on the 1974 Trade Act, which gave the government broad authority to do exactly this kind of thing to help American companies.

“We’re delighted,” said Vaughn Beals, Harley-Davidson’s chairman at the time. He couched that statement by claiming The Motor Company would improve their manufacturing processes and practices, but we all know that didn’t happen until the introduction of the 80-horsepower Fathead (officially the Twin Cam 88) engine in 1999. The 15-year focus on the 1340cc Evolution engine, released in 1984, ushered out the venerable 1200cc Shovelhead power plants that HD had been relying on since the mid-1960s. The Fathead vibrated so viciously that HD revised it (but not until the 2000 model year), adding counterbalance shafts in an attempt to mollify long-complaining riders.

In other words, Harley had 20 years, give or take, to improve their product, but refused to even make a half-hearted attempt do so until Japanese motorcycles started seriously threatening their market share on America’s highways.

I digress, however, and I do not want you to think this article is out to bash Harley-Davidson. They had 50% of motorcycle registrations in the USA in 2015 for a reason. It is important to note that in 1983, they had only been out from under the disastrous, destructive leadership of AMF for about two years and were struggling for survival. Harley-Davidson is a legitimate American icon, and nothing I say can take that hard-earned status away from them.

Instead, let’s jump back and look at those tariffs. In 1983, the import duty (another word for tax) jumped from 4.4 percent to 49.4 percent. This affected about 20 percent of the over one million motorcycles imported into the USA, and about 80 percent of the motorcycles affected were manufactured in Japan. According to President Reagan’s five-year plan, the tariffs would gradually reduce from 49.4 percent in the first year to 14.4 percent in the fifth, after which they would return to 4.4 percent.

The law carved out an exception for a growing number of motorcycles manufactured in West Germany – our beloved BMWs. By the end of the program, 10,000 German motorcycles would be exempt from the import duties. British and Italian motorcycles (Triumph and Ducati) were also granted a number of exemptions, with up to 9,000 bikes allowed imported at the old 4.4 percent rate by the end of the program.

The justification for these tariffs was twofold. First, the US International Trade Commission determined that imported Japanese motorcycles were hurting Harley-Davidson. Second, Harley testified before the USITC that they planned to start manufacturing motorcycles in the 750cc segment, what today we call a “midweight” motorcycle.

Harley’s 1986 Sportster came in at 883cc, well above the 750cc mark. The only 750cc motorcycle Harley built in the 1980s was the XR750, a well-known flat-track racing bike, which also saw action in other styles of racing. When HD finally made a street version of the XR750 in 1983, they put out a Sportster with a 1000cc engine based on the XR750 design. The bike sold so poorly they made it for just two years, ending its production well before the protective tariff law’s five-year plan expired.

Harley brought back the XR in 2008, with the XR1200, but discontinued that bike after the 2012 model year due to poor sales. (It’s too bad, too, because I rode an XR1200 and it was a fantastic motorcycle.)

The “motorcycle wars” of the 1980s spurred the Big Four – Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha – to innovate. They couldn’t rely on big profits from large-displacement bikes such as Honda’s CBX – a 1047cc six-cylinder behemoth – so they simply stopped making it and many other similar bikes, focusing instead of smaller displacement motorcycles that weren’t affected by the giant tax increase.

In the end, Harley was still making motorcycles, and the Japanese companies were still importing huge numbers of bikes into the US. Nobody really won the motorcycle wars, but nobody really lost, either, except for maybe motorcycle riders who loved big-bore Japanese bikes.

Looking back, we can understand why this all happened.  Harley was hurting after a recession. Their technology was stuck in the previous generation. At the same time, the Japanese and European motorcycle manufacturers were leaping forward as fast as they could – remember, BMW introduced the first ABS-equipped motorcycle (the K 100) in 1988 – and their economies weren’t as hindered by the 1981-82 recession as the USA’s was.  It made sense for Harley to go to the government to ask for help, and the help they got in the form of protective tariffs made sense in the grand economic scheme, even if it ultimately did not show Harley-Davidson a huge amount of benefit.

Which brings us to today. As you may know, Europe’s economy is in a weird holding pattern and right on the verge of chaos. The turmoil comes from a set of poorly performing countries (PIIGS – Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) and the impending exit of Britain from the EU. There are motorcycles made in those countries, but other than Italy, none of them sport a first-line street bike manufacturer.

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that, once again, it seems as if protective tariffs may come to imported motorcycles. This time, however, the target is exclusively European motorcycles. The government institution involved is not the International Trade Commission, but the United States Trade Representative. The reason for the hoped-for protective tariffs is not a flailing Harley-Davidson, but rather the beef industry.

Wait, what?

Since 1981, the European Union has banned the importation of any meat from any animal raised with synthetic hormone treatments; it was a gradual ban that took full effect in 1989. You may have heard of BGH – bovine growth hormone – and substances like that are exactly what they’re keeping out of their food supply. Europe has a troubled history with beef in the 20th century, largely due to several outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as “mad cow disease.” Britain suffered the continent’s worst outbreak of the deadly disease, with millions of cattle slaughtered between 1986 and 1998 to prevent the spread of the disease. While BSE’s causes lie in cows consuming the remains of other cows and not the treatment of cattle with hormones (natural or synthetic), the fact remains that Europe is wary of beef, period, and imported beef is granted a high level of scrutiny.

When the EU’s ban on US beef went into full effect in 1989, the US responded by putting 100% tariffs on a variety of European food products.  Like the 1980s tariffs on imported Japanese motorcycles to protect Harley-Davidson, these tariffs on food make sense. They were a simple tit-for-tat measure to hit back against the EU’s meat ban.

What doesn’t make sense is that the USTR is now considering imposing tariffs on sub-500cc European motorcycles imported into the US over an argument about beef. After losing an appeal to the World Trade Organization, the “beef lobby” seems to think a 100% tariff on all sorts of scooters and dirt bikes as well as street bikes like the KTM RC 390 and BMW G 310 R will force the EU to rethink its ban on hormone-treated meat. This is the third time the beef lobby has tried to get these tariffs imposed; previous attempts in 1999 and 2008 failed.

When it comes to BMW, the proposed tariff is, at best, symbolic. BMW sold 13,730 motorcycles in the USA in 2016 and not a single one of them was under 500cc. BMW announced its first sub-500cc motorcycle since the R 51/3 in 1956 last year, the single-cylinder G 310 R and its sister, the G 310 GS. The 310 R isn’t even expected to make it to dealerships until the third quarter; a 100% tax on it would obviously double its $4,995 price tag and destroy any sales potential the motorcycle has.

The American Motorcycle Association has naturally spoken out against this measure, but it is incumbent upon all American motorcyclists to act when our sport is threatened unreasonably. I am all for protecting American companies when they need the help, but it is unfair to punish European motorcycle manufacturers for the EU’s meat importation policies. The AMA says the 2008 attempt to get these tariffs in place received about 600 thumbs-down comments. If that was all it took to defeat the measure, imagine what we could generate in these politically charged times.

There are three ways you can make your voice heard on this matter:

  1. Point your web browser to the USTR’s website and leave a comment about this measure on the appropriate page, which is https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=USTR-2016-0025-0001. You must do this no later than 30 January 2017.
  2. Attend the public hearing on this issue. The hearing starts at 9.30 in the morning on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 in Rooms 1 and 2 of the US Civil Service Commission building, located at 1724 F Street NW, Washington DC 20508. This building is also known as the US Trade Representative Annex and it is on the Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places. If you attend the hearing, plan ahead and allow plenty of time for the D.C. area’s notoriously terrible traffic. 1724 F St NW is just a few blocks from the White House. Parking is limited. Farragut West is the nearest Metro station.
  3. Contact your federal senator and/or representative in the US Congress and express your opinion on this matter and ask them to get involved. If you don’t know who your senator or representative is, head over to the website whoismyrepresentative.com and plug in your ZIP code.

2016: the year in music and movies

Since I’m not into Hamilton, this has been a poor year for music. Not much I was excited about came out this year, but the stuff I got that I was excited about, I was really excited about!  Let’s start with MUSIC.

MOST PLAYED ALBUMS of 2016

10. April Wine, Animal Grace. This is an anomaly album in April Wine’s catalog – the one that AW’s die-hard fans love to hate. It’s radio friendly, almost pop music, and I have loved this album since I first got it back in 1984. I freely admit I bought it because of the awesome cover and having heard “This Could Be the Right One” on the radio a couple of times. Fun album, and obviously I listen to it quite a bit. It does sound dated now, as the drum and keyboard sounds are stereotypical for the early 1980s.

9. Ghost, Meliora. Ghost (formerly Ghost B.C.) is a Swedish band that, visually, is taking the piss out of religion. The singer – Papa Emeritus – dresses as an anti-pope character, and nobody knows who anybody in the band is – except maybe for Dave Grohl, who has been known to don the outfit of a Nameless Ghoul and sit in with the band. The lyrics are vaguely Satanic, and I know some people are offended by that kind of thing, but I’ve been listening to Stryper since their first EP came out (The Yellow and Black Attack, 1984) and doing so hasn’t turned me into a Christian, so listening to a dark metal band isn’t going to turn me into a Satanist. Besides, I don’t really listen to the lyrics anyway. Meliora came out in 2015, but I don’t really pay close attention to stuff, so I didn’t get it until this year. It’s fantastic – Ghost’s metal is driven by a solid rhythm section, two guitars and a keyboard. It’s fun, peppy music that isn’t really all that “heavy” when it comes to heavy metal. I can’t even pick out standout tracks, because this is just a fantastic album. My favorite song is “He Is,” followed closely by “Mummy Dust,” which takes on the worship not of Satan, but of MONEY. Great song.

8. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun. This 2014 album was my #1 album of 2015 and has clearly fallen a few slots in the rotation. This is mostly because other stellar albums have come out since then that have distracted me. Still a great album, and IMO Mastodon’s best to date.

7. Cutting Crew, Broadcast. Last year’s #2 falls in the rankings as well, but this album remains one of my all-time favorites.

6. Black Label Society, Stronger Than Death. Zakk Wylde put out a new album this year, but it wasn’t what knocked last year’s #3 down a few notches on this year’s list.

5. AC/DC, For Those About To Rock. Last year’s #10 surges forward on this year’s list. This remains my favorite AC/DC album, and I still believe it’s a stronger disc than the more commercially successful Back in Black.

4. Fear Factory, Genexus. One of my Facebook friends posted the video for “Expiration Date” (which I am listening to as I write this) and I was hooked. It is a long, moody song that not just evokes Blade Runner (one of my favorite movies), but quotes two characters – played by Rutger Hauer and Edward James Olmos – in the song. An amazing song that caps off a really good (and extremely heavy) album. Fear Factory plays a brand of precise, grinding metal driven by the drummer’s double bass pedals. I also dig that the guitarist plays a 7-string, something I’ve been doing a lot since summer. He’s also a fat dude like me.

3. Baroness, Purple. Baroness continues naming their albums after colors, and Purple is their first album since getting a new drummer and bass player. The former drummer and bassist suffered broken backs in a bus crash and left the band to focus on their recovery. Their new drummer plays in a much more straightforward hard rock/heavy metal style than their previous drummer, which caused the band to lose a chunk of its progressive edge. Having said that, obviously I am enjoying this album, though it took me a while to get into it. I think I kept listening to it to decide if I liked it, then kept that streak going because I did.

2. Deftones, White Pony. After I gave myself a 7-string guitar for my birthday back in July, I started researching what bands use 7-string guitars. Deftones turned up, but I couldn’t decide which of their albums to get. My brother Jeremy said White Pony was the best one to start with, and he was absolutely right. One of the songs (“Passenger”) I thought sounded a lot like Tool – and then I discovered that Tool’s singer guested on the song.

anthraxforallkings1. Anthrax, For All Kings. Not just my #1 most-listened to album of the year, but absolutely hands-down my #1 album of 2016. Anthrax doesn’t always appeal to me, but holy shit is this album good. Like FREAKY GOOD. There isn’t a bad song on the album, and better than that, it is definitely “all killer, no filler” – there isn’t even a halfway-decent throwaway track here. Excellent disc from open to close.

Honorable mentions (i.e. #s 11 through 15) on this year’s most-played list are Gojira, From Mars to Sirius; Cake, Fashion Nugget (last year’s #7); Iron Maiden, Piece of Mind; Pink Floyd, Animals (last year’s #14 as well); and Racer X, Technical Difficulties.

My most disappointing purchase of 2016 was Lamb of God’s Ashes of the Wake. I really dig the music on this album – the band – but the singer’s growly vocals are a complete turn-off for me. Fear Factory has the growly vox as well, but they intersperse it with melodic singing, and frankly, I find FF’s music more compelling than LoG’s.

I bought 14 CDs in 2016, as follows (no year indicates it came out in 2016):

  • Anthrax – For All Kings
  • David Bowie – Blackstar. Weird album, and weird listening to it after he died.
  • Deftones – White Pony (2000)
  • Rik Emmett & RESolution 9 – RES9. This is a fun, bluesy album that I enjoy but probably won’t get heavy rotation.
  • Fear Factory – Genexus
  • Ghost – Popestar. More a maxi single than an EP, this disc features one original song and five cover tunes, including the Eurhythmics’ “Missionary Man.”
  • Giraffe Tongue Orchestra – Broken Lines. The second Mastodon spinoff released this year, featuring guitar/vox from Brent Hinds. The main singer is Alice in Chains’ William DuVall and he does a great job here.
  • Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (2005). I resisted listening to this band for a long time, probably because of my irrational resistance to anything from France. Gojira is officially the only thing I like from France, and this album is excellent. Progressive metal at its best.
  • Gone Is Gone – Gone Is Gone. This was the first Mastodon spinoff album to come out, and GIG features bass/vox from Troy Sanders – arguably the raspiest of Mastodon’s three vocalists. GIG is a fun, quick listen that isn’t terribly challenging.
  • Hellyeah – Band of Brothers (2012) and Unden!able. This was a 2-for-1 deal; Hellyeah features Vinnie Paul, formerly the drummer for Pantera. This band is decent, but is not as good as Pantera.
  • Eric Johnson – Europe Live (2014). EJ went a long time without playing “Cliffs of Dover” in concert, but on this European tour he brought it back. It’s as fantastic as ever, as is Johnson’s playing and tone. Well worth the time to listen to this one.
  • Lamb of God – Ashes of the Wake (2004)
  • Slayer – Repentless (2015). My favorite Slayer album to date. Fantastic album! I think it didn’t make the list of my most played albums because I listen to it in the car, so since it’s not on my computer, there’s no count of how many times I listened to it. It should be in the Top 15, though.
  • Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows II. Not a bad album, but doesn’t measure up to Pride and Glory or the first Book of Shadows. Lots of acoustic guitar and piano showing Zakk’s softer side.

Twenty-sixteen was a tough year for the music industry, with more notable deaths than I can remember occurring in any one year in the past. I even had to add somebody new to the list just this morning, as pioneering prog-rock bassist Greg Lake passed away last night. Here’s the list of 2016’s victims:

David Bowie, Glenn Frey (Eagles), George Martin (Beatles producer), Keith Emerson, Merle Haggard, Prince, Natalie Cole, Otis Clay, Clarence Reid aka Blowfly, Jimmy Bain (DIO, Rainbow), Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire), Vanity, Sonny James, Lennie Baker (Sha-Na-Na), Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest), Lonnie Mack, Nick Menza (Megadeth), Prince Be (PM Dawn), Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell (P-Funk), Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist), Ruby Wilson, James Woolley (NIN), Shawty Lo, Stanley Dural (Buckwheat Zydeco), Jean Shepard, Joan Marie Johnson (Dixie Cups), Pete Burns (Dead or Alive – he spun you right round), Bobby Vee, Eddie Harsch (Black Crowes), Jean-Jacques Perrey, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and Greg Lake.

MOVIES

Of the 10 highest-grossing movies of 2016, I saw #9 – Doctor Strange. My wife and kid saw #10, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

We watched #3, Zootopia, on Netflix. It was funny – very typical Disney, though. Slick, pretty and a clear morality tale.

I haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War or Deadpool; I’m kind of burned out on superhero movies. I want to see Deadpool and I had to go see Doctor Strange because my wife thinks Benedict Cumberbatch is hot. Suicide Squad doesn’t interest me at all, nor did Batman vs. Superman.

Movies that came out and I saw in the theater

  • Central Intelligence – my daughter and I loved this comedy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart.
  • Ghostbusters – more a reboot than a remake, and it was excellent.
  • Star Trek Beyond – good, but not great. Felt like a long episode of The Original Series, which isn’t a bad thing.
  • Doctor Strange – enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away.
  • Arrival – loved this movie AND was blown away. Easily my favorite movie of the year so far – but I haven’t seen Rogue One yet!

Movies that came out I wanted to see but didn’t

  • Jane Got a Gun
  • Hail Caesar! – I like George Clooney and this looked funny.
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – I have an unhealthy obsession with Tina Fey.
  • Hardcore Henry – the idea of doing a movie that looked like a first-person shooter video game intrigues me
  • Pete’s Dragon – I don’t understand why Disney felt it had to do a live-action remake of what is one of my favorite animation/live action mix films, but they did and I wanted to see it. I love this story, we’ll see what the film does to it.
  • The Magnificent Seven – I have not only a weakness for Westerns, but for Denzel Washington as well. I’d watch him read the phone book.
  • Hacksaw Ridge – the only thing I like more than Westerns is WW2 films, and this story of a conscientious objector who refused to carry a weapon but went to war anyway seems like it would make a good movie.

Movies that came out and I saw on Netflix or Hulu

  • Now You See Me 2 – I didn’t see the first one, but liked this one well enough. It was a little predictable, but not a bad movie at all.

Of course, I will go see Rogue One when it comes out next week, I’m very much looking forward to it.

We lost some big film/tv entertainers in 2016 – man, it was a brutal year for pop culture. Twenty-sixteen claimed Alan Rickman, Dan Haggerty, Abe Vigoda, George Kennedy, Garry Handling, Ken Howard, Patty Duke, Doris Roberts, Guy Hamilton, Burt Kwouk, Anton Yeltsin (who got killed by his own car), Michael Cimino, Garry Marshall, Kenny Baker, Fyvush Finkel, Arthur Hiller, Tommy Ford, Kevin Meaney, Steven Hill, Gene Wilder, Robert Vaughn, Tony Burton, Florence Henderson and Ron Glass.

your next commerce secretary: wilbur ross, jr.

On 30 November 2016, President-Elect Donald Trump chose 79-year-old Wilbur Ross, Jr. to nominate for the post of Secretary of Commerce in his upcoming administration. Ross announced the selection himself during a CNBC interview that also featured Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice for Secretary of the Treasury. Both Ross and Mnuchin must be confirmed by the Senate before taking on their Cabinet positions.

Ross specializes in turning around failed corporations and seems to prefer those in energy and construction circles. Ross is reportedly worth $2.9 billion; Mnuchin’s net worth is estimated to be only about $40 million. Both men have worked many years for Wall Street firms and other financial institutions.

In Trump’s announcement confirming the selection, he called Ross a “champion of American manufacturing” and that Ross “knows that cutting taxes for working families, reducing burdensome government regulations and unleashing America’s energy resources will strengthen our economy at a time when our country needs to see significant growth.”

In 2004, Ross formed the International Coal Group in such a manner that the corporation was free from labor unions, health care plans for its employees or a pension plan. Through a series of subsidiaries, ICG owned Anker West Virginia Mining, which operated Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia. On 2 January 2006, an explosion collapsed Sago Mine, trapping 13 miners. Only one of the miners survived. At the time it was the worst mining disaster in the US since 2001 and the worst in West Virginia since 1968. Another coal mine explosion in 2010 topped Sago’s death count with 29 fatalities.

In 2005, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cited Sago Mine with 208 violations, 96 of them classified as “serious and substantial.” Forty-six of the violations (18 S&S) came in the three months leading up to the explosion. The mine was closed following the explosion, but reopened on 12 March 2006. ICG later closed the mine permanently.

Though various state and federal agencies who investigated the explosion have released documents relating to the disaster, ICG has refused to release any records. A New York Post reporter, Roddy Boyd, claimed that Ross “knew all about [Sago Mine’s] safety problems,” but no proof of that knowledge has ever been released.

Ross served on the US-Russia Investment Fund during the Clinton administration and as New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s privatization advisor. Ross was at one time an officer of the New York State Democratic Party. He has been married three times and has two daughters from his first marriage.

Photo of Ross courtesy of the Palm Beach Daily News (Creative Commons 4.0 license).