This is an important victory, but real justice is not getting killed by the police for being black in the first place.
Since my 2012 bicycle accident, I’ve been taking HD POV recordings of as much of my riding as possible. One of the first things I learned in criminal court is that the presumption of innocence is complete and total bullshit. You’re guilty from the moment you’re charged and innocence is a misdemeanor—if you’re lucky. Recording every ride is a way to PROVE my innocence, and even though no one should ever have to, this is how I cope given my experience with the criminal justice system.
FWIW, I don’t ride bikes much anymore, but I am doing maybe 50 miles/week on an electric skateboard, and I did an 11 mile loop today. I normally just discard the footage, but this evening I exported a 20x recap of my ride, which gives a sense of the breathtaking experience of skateboarding the southwest quadrant of San Francisco, including riding over the shoulder of Twin Peaks and a descent down Laguna Honda. Maybe soon I’ll post my northwest loop, which is even more beautiful.
I’m not hiding the fact that George Gascón tried to ruin my life, it’s no secret, I wrote a book about it, and I ran political attack ads against him during the primaries. Of course I’m biased beyond belief, but that’s because I had a deeply personal experience with him. He’s literally all over the news every day and I guess I’m just not educated enough to keep my mouth shut. So here goes: this guy is rotten to the core.
With my apologies to the law-and-order cohort, it’s actually not his policies. In addition to lining up with all of the modern criminal justice research, Gascón’s “radical” platform doesn’t seem quite as crazy if you accept the premise that the criminal justice system is little more than the modern extension of slavery, which it unquestionably is. But he’s in a tough spot, because there are a lot of centrists from both parties who are having a hard time parting with their outdated notions that punishment deters crime. (It doesn’t.) In fact, nearly 30,000 of them have already gathered in a “Recall George Gascon” Facebook group, hell of a first week on the job, even by Gascón standards.
But like I said, he’s got the right message. He’s just not the right messenger. And what he lacks in experience, he doesn’t make up with character.
Why is he mouthing off into a microphone like that at all, and why about, of all things, education? He dropped out of high school, joined the service, then spent a lifetime as a cop—with a brief hiatus spent as a used car salesman. (I can’t make this shit up.) Later kiss ass con moved into “management” by snitching on his Rampart officers, eventually kanoodling his way up to LAPD’s assistant chief, then Mesa, AZ’s, where he basked in the spotlight of a very public pissing match with Sheriff Joe. A lifetime republican, he suddenly renounced the GOP and the death penalty (sort of) when appointed to SFPD’s Chief, and then, to everybody’s surprise, SF’s DA, where he earned the honor of never pressing charges in any of SF’s 24 officer-led shooting deaths, inspiring Colin Kapernack to take a knee and BLM to run him out of town. Weird that I’m still talking about the same guy, right?
Gascón climbed the political and institutional ladders not because of his intelligence, not because of his character, but because he knows how to cozy up to authority and how to put himself in the spotlight. In 2012, Gascón waxed poetic about his supposed arch-rival to Rolling Stone: “Arpaio knows how to move the needle when it comes to appealing to the base. What he did very artfully is piggy-back on this fear of illegal immigration that was becoming so prevalent in border states like Arizona. He was able to capitalize on that and he became the hero, the only guy who would single-handedly go after it.”
This is where the story gets personal, and rare. San Francisco had two bicycle/pedestrian accidents in the span of thirteen months. Both fatal, both times the cyclists lived and the pedestrians died. I was the second cyclist.
George Gascón, clearly seeing another opportunity for the spotlight, turned both cases, in particular mine, into proof of a reckless cycling epidemic, then he “artfully piggy-back[ed]” on this fear of cyclists by spinning a web of lies in the local media to ensure that I could never get a fair trial, and SPOILER ALERT: I never did. Gascón’s lies turned me into the city’s poster child for reckless cycling, and he was “the hero” who saved everyone from me.
So sure, he has no legal experience, that’s established: night school law degree from some unaccredited tier-four college, never tried a case for the prosecution or the defense, ever. He only has negative reviews from everyone in SF who’s ever worked with him.
But here’s the rub: when Gascón turned San Francisco against me, he ignited the ire of a small, vocal minority, a tiny slice of law-and-order supporters who get off on telling the internet that criminals just aren’t getting punished enough and they should get so, so much more. These were the people telling me I should be hanging by my testicles in Union Square. For a bicycle accident. These very same people, or at least their friends in LA, are the same folks tearing Gascón apart right now for being an authoritarian prick, for sounding like the dumb cop that he is and always will be.
Sadly, the law-and-order folk are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Message good, messenger bad, right?
Cops are also notorious liars, and famously good at getting away with it. In this way, however, Gascón is not very gifted. He lies, sure, but bluntly, and he was always easy to catch, again and again. Abusing a position of power to lie to the media? That’s some pro politician shit, and George Gascón is warming the bench in the farm leagues.
We need criminal justice reform, and we need it desperately. But not from this guy.
As of yesterday, in the race to pick Los Angeles’s next District Attorney, it became mathematically impossible for Jackie Lacey to avoid a runoff with George Gascón. That means they’ll face a runoff in November, if we have a November (but that’s another story).
First, a little history: In 2012, Gascón press released a series of false statements making me seem 100% guilty and turning my fatal bicycle accident into the “crime of the century.” This showed no respect for the accused or for the deceased. Instead, Gascón followed only his own political ambitions by sending a message to the already much-maligned cycling community—turning me into a felon in order to serve as his messenger.
His lack of respect for the law, his willingness to lie to the public repeatedly, and his other moral and ethical failings left me $100,000 in the hole, with a career and reputation in shambles and a felony on my record, all so that he could stand behind a podium and say “the rules of the road apply to everyone.” All to appease the raging bikelash he started because of the lies he spread in the media. And when Gascón’s own video evidence exonerated me in court—instead of letting the truth set me free—he dug in deeper and demanded a felony or a year in jail, strong-arming me into a settlement. I reluctantly accepted, in order to stop the anguish Gascón was causing the victim’s family through his 18 month shitshow and because I knew I could never win against a cheater who was determined to see me punished for a crime he invented—by peddling fake stories about it to the media.
Most defendants don’t speak up when they are falsely accused or convicted. Many can’t because they’re in jail and/or lack the resources to tell their stories. Gascón knows this, which is why he feels empowered to bend and break the law to serve his political ends, without concern for fairness, without concern for justice. I spoke out against Gascón’s malfeasance by publishing a book in 2018, Bikelash: How San Francisco created America’s first bicycle felon and by releasing all of the information about my case—including his exonerating surveillance video evidence—on a public forum. Also, using my own time and money, I campaigned against Gascón, distributing fliers, running Facebook attack ads and making three trips from SF to LA to encourage voters to stop listening to his snake-charming words and start looking at his record. Although I was not paid or even encouraged by Rachel Rossi’s campaign, when asked, I suggested voting for her, a public defender with a similar reform-minded record—minus all of Gascón’s and Lacey’s baggage.
Rossi did better than I expected, but not well enough to earn a second place spot. And Lacey couldn’t earn 50% +1, so now LA is facing two bad choices: Lacey (the devil you know) and Gascón (the devil you don’t).
Lacey, an establishment law-and-order Democrat, has sent 22 defendants to death row, all of them people of color. Since 2012, she has charged exactly one cop in over 400 LAPD officer-led shootings. She touted her support for substance abusers and the mentally ill, but only had 80 defendants complete mental health diversion programs—when over 3,000 were eligible. Meanwhile, she refused to prosecute Ed Buck, a prominent white Democratic donor, for two deaths (and one near-death overdose) of young black men he lured into his drug den and injected with meth. On the eve of the election, Lacey’s husband brandished a gun at Black Lives Matter protestors, yelling “I will shoot you.” In spite of all this, she has the nerve to call herself a moderate reformer, a message that fell flat on (slightly) more than half of LA voters
Gascón, a former cop and lifelong Republican who later became a darling of the Democratic Party, carpetbagged his way to LA in an attempt to escape scathing reviews by everyone who worked with him in San Francisco. He has hidden a record similar to Lacey’s under a cloak of progressivism, making him a dangerous District Attorney—and a persistent, unrelenting liar. In the 24 SFPD-led shootings in San Francisco while he was DA, Gascón charged zero cops, claiming in a recent presentation at USC that the “firing squad” who assassinated Mario Woods was just looking out for their “brother officers,” a bizarre reference he learned in the 1990s while a member of one of the most corrupt police forces in history, the LAPD. In another high-profile accidental death, he grossly overcharged Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate with first degree murder, which led to an acquittal. He also talked a big game about mental health treatment but did nothing beyond a series of recommendations. When asked to respond to a series of racist SFPD texts, he convened a “Blue Ribbon Panel” which again gave recommendations, but disciplined no one and again, did nothing. Meanwhile, the POA President gave a sworn deposition calling Gascón a racist since he himself referred to his former LAPD “brother officers” as “dumb black guys” and said that the drug trafficking problem in California was caused by “fucking Mexicans.” This fell right in line with other racist statements he made as SF’s Police Chief, calling Arab Americans terrorists and musing about how they might try “parking a van in front of [The Hall of Justice] and blowing it up.”
This November, if we have an election, Los Angeles will be faced with two bad choices for District Attorney. Although it pains me to ask people not to vote in this race, I would recommend abstaining from voting for either DA as way of sending a message of “no confidence” to both of these deplorable candidates.
If we make it to 2021, one of them will unfortunately become Los Angeles’s DA. And I’m already sorry about that. But please don’t say that I didn’t warn you or try to stop this. I did, and I tried, and it just wasn’t enough.
A true story by Chris Bucchere
March 29th, 2012, 8:20am, Castro Street
When he regained consciousness, Chris found himself bloodied and bruised, being loaded into an ambulance. He had no idea that his life had permanently changed. Because, a few days later, an elderly man he had hit with his bicycle would die of injuries sustained in the accident. News would go viral internationally, including articles in the New York Times and Forbes magazine. The District Attorney of San Francisco would see Chris’s case as an opportunity to send a message to the city’s cyclists.
But this isn’t a story about cycling. It’s about criminal justice. It’s about prosecutors manipulating the press in order to deprive defendants of due process, where facts get misconstrued and inaccurate details leaked. It’s about social media whipping public opinion to a frenzy, giving DAs fodder for political gain. It’s about what really happens behind the headlines: who wins, who loses, who plays fair—and who doesn’t.
Bikelash is a story chronicling Chris’s role in a fatal bicycle-pedestrian accident. These 107,000 words are based on court transcripts, emails exchanged with his attorney, and Chris’s in-the-moment journaling from immediately after the accident until he pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter eighteen months later.
Get the Kindle or print edition of Bikelash: How San Francisco Created America’s First Bicycle Felon
Today Robert Scoble wrote a really interesting and thought-provoking article on his blog about the alleged suspension/removal of Joel Comm’s Facebook account. He draws a parallel to the revocation of Robert’s own Facebook account and makes a good case for Facebook being outta line.
Here’s my response to Robert:
In defense of you, Joel and countless others who have been suspended or removed from Facebook, it certainly doesn’t seem like you’re being treated fairly. It’s hard to imagine that someone with 5,000 confirmed Facebook friends and ten times as many followers on Twitter could be considered a spambot. Generally speaking, online communities, wikis, social networks, etc. have a way of policing themselves; content that other people enjoy gets shared and promoted while spam and other “noise” gets blocked or ignored. Facebook and other social sites would all be best-served by this sort of grassroots self-policing, rather than a top-down approach.
However, there’s a subtle point to which some other readers have alluded in the comments. You wrote, “I don’t support companies that ‘erase’ MY data without my permission.” What you may not realize is that based on Facebook’s TOS, what you think are “your data” actually are not “your data,” not by a long shot, not once you’ve posted them on Facebook.
If you think there are safer or better places than Facebook to put “your data” on the internet, you’re also mistaken. Take a peek at Google’s TOS. In particular, read section 11, where you hand over all rights to “your” content to them (except basic copyright, which you automatically have any time you produce an original work and put your name on it). You’re basically giving Google a free license to use your content — even for their own commercial gain!
Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In return for providing “free” distribution of “your” content, companies like Facebook, Google and the likes are creating massive databases of incredibly valuable “information capital.” This in turn allows them to offer you a “free” service while they sell this information capital — the stuff you gave them, remember? — to advertisers. That pays their bills, which in turn allows them to continue to give you “free” content distribution.
Average people (who upload videos of dogs on skateboards, etc. to Facebook) don’t care about data ownership and are perfectly happy to hand the rights to their content over to Facebook or Google it order to share it more easily with their friends. Average people — however — aren’t one man media outlets, either, but YOU are. So, being an internet/social media mogul, I’m sure you understand that content distribution isn’t free.
The solution? Host your content yourself! People like you and Joel have the resources to pay for your own hosting AND you have loyal audiences that will follow you wherever you go. You can leverage social media to help the viral spread of your content, but the obvious goal of your participation in social media and social networking should be to drive eyeballs/click-throughs back to YOUR site so people can view YOUR content, ensuring that YOUR advertisers get bang for their buck.
It really all boils down to two old sayings: there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for. Want to pay for your own hosting and distribution? Then you can own your own content. Want to get free distribution from Facebook or Google? Then be prepared to give them something in return.
I was checking feedhaus today and I noticed that the flickr badge (the cool lil’ widget that displays a little collage of photos) was down for the count. I thought perhaps I had broken something on the dev server, but a quick health check revealed that everything was okay with feedhaus.
So, I decided to check out flickr to see if there were any messages about known downtime, current server issues, etc. Lo and behold, flickr was also down! Hello? Anyone? Bueller?
This demonstrates one of the classic problems with mashups, a crucial component of Web 2.0: cascading SLAs (Service-Level Agreements), or, more precisely, a lack thereof.
Here at feedhaus, I have a responsibility to provide up-to-date news so that my users will be the “first to know.” I can (although I probably won’t) guarantee a level of service for feedhaus’s ability to deliver content. But, as a multi-band content aggregator, I’m solely dependent on the sources of content — namely flickr, YouTube and you-name-it syndicated feed from whatever.com. Now if my sources are CNN, Google, Fox, etc. I would expect pretty dependable service. But Digg? Twitter? Seeing what happened to Skype recently, I’m beginning to wonder if everyone, even the biggest — and most distributed — systems are subject to serious unplanned downtime.
So, what I’m getting at here is that my SLA, no matter how much I pay my attorneys to draft it, is only as good as the SLAs of the services that I use. Now, I’m not paying the sources for those services — and, I might add, you’re not paying me to use feedhaus — so I have no SLAs for my underlying services, which makes my SLA worth less than the paper it’s printed on. Do you see the problem? (I’m reminded of a certain scene from the 1989 classic comedy Major League. “See, it says right there; no calisthenics. What do you think of that?”)
So, before you start drafting that SLA for the cool new mashup you just built between Google Maps and Facebook, think about the stability and sustainability of your sources. Or else your SLA might have the same fate as Roger Dorn’s contract. . . .
I usually don’t take much interest in legal matters, but I found this tidbit quite interesting and even a bit entertaining.
Two weeks ago, in an appellate court ruling, Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker wrote that a patent infringement suit filed by Datamize against Plumtree Software should be essentially thrown out the window (by what’s called a summary judgment) based on the fact that the words “aesthetically pleasing” make Datamize’s patent invalid.
Intrigued? I was.
It turns out that Datamize filed patent 6,014,137 back in early 1997, right around the same time that Plumtree founders Joe McVeigh, Glenn Kelman and Kirill Sheynkman were dreaming up version 1.0 of the Plumtree portal and getting Plumtree Software, Inc. off the ground. The patent tries to lay claim to the act of “developing and maintaining user interface screens for multimedia kiosk systems” that can be “customized quickly and easily” while following “good standards of aesthetics and user friendliness.”
The appellate court’s main objection to the patent was the use of the phrase “aesthetically pleasing” because the definition of aesthetics has too much to do with deciding what’s beautiful and what’s not, which is far too subjective to be enforceable. In other words, as we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beerholder, even when it comes to kiosks!
I’m just happy to see another worthless software patent get thrown out for two reasons. One is that I have a particular distaste for overly broad and blatantly obvious software patents (e.g. the classic Amazon one-click ordering example, 5,960,411) and two is that I have sharp disdain for companies that try to use their patents to squeeze money out of the market-leader in their industry simply because they’re losing and acting like sore losers.
If you want to win in this business (or any business), make your product or service better, market it better, sell it better and support it better than your competitors. At least that’s our philosophy at bdg.