Last week, I went to the preliminary hearing for Chris Bucchere, a software developer charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. On a workday morning in March 2012, Bucchere struck and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian, Sutchi Hui, in a busy, crowded intersection. Bucchere’s case has gotten a lot of attention in San Francisco, both because this is a case of manslaughter by bike rather than by car, and because Bucchere garnered criticism for writing about the incident on an online biking forum afterward, particularly because he ended the post by lamenting the “heroic” death of his helmet.
As in many urban environments, there is strife between the different classes of commuters in his city. Bucchere epitomized for many the reckless biker who takes liberties with the laws of the road — annoying drivers — and does not take seriously the damage that can be done on two wheels to those on two legs — annoying pedestrians, and in this case, mortally injuring one. The case interested me because press reports indicated that data from Bucchere’s Strava account — an app that bikers can use to track their rides — had been used to show how fast he had been going and to prove he had ignored stop signs.
District Attorney George Gascón told me the Strava data was part of the reason the city had decided to bring such severe charges against Bucchere. “It implies he was trying to compete with himself,” Gascón said. Bucchere’s online comments also played a role. “His helmet was more important than a human being.”
The Strava data did not wind up being instrumental in the hearing at all, though; instead 30 seconds of surveillance video took center stage.
I wish I could tell you that Americans fought the good fight, and the TSA let us be. I wish I could tell you that — but holiday travel is no fairy-tale world. We never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile — travel consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Americans would show up with fresh bruises. The TSA kept at us — sometimes we were able to fight ‘em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for American travelers — that was our routine.
Today is the biggest travel day of the year, and for another Thanksgiving, Americans will be doing it under the watchful eye of the Orwellian Transportation Security And Molestation Administration. The $8 billion dollar organization is alive, well, and entrenched. And nobody can accuse the freshly reelected Democratic president of doing anything to protect our civil liberties against the TSA. Nor has the supposedly liberty-loving Tea Party made aggressive groping at airports a major issue.
But for the most part, the country seems resigned to the TSA’s continued existence. Ooh, now kids under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes. Progress! We don’t sue them, we don’t legislate against them, we just kind of take it and hope that they decide to take their hands off our junk out of the kindness of their hearts.
We’ve got a couple of stories that, in their own way, highlight how cowed we’ve become….
Yesterday we covered the internet brouhaha over Progressive Insurance. The insurance company caught a lot of internet flak after comedian Matt Fisher wrote this provocative blog post: My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court. Outrage against Progressive’s apparent provision of a defense to the driver who killed Katie Fisher — even though Katie Fisher was Progressive’s insured, not that driver — went viral over social media (especially after actor Wil Wheaton got involved).
Now Progressive is paying up. The company has reached a settlement with the Fisher family.
We recently heard from Progressive’s PR firm, which sent us a statement on the Fisher case. What does Flo have to say for herself?
If you were on the internet at all yesterday, you likely heard about this. Your mom probably posted it on her Facebook wall and a thousand of your tweeps probably hit you up on the Twitter to register their outrage. On Monday, a comedian by the name of Matt Fisher wrote a post on his tumblr account titled “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court.” What resulted was an outpouring of rage and hive-minded moralizing that has become the internet’s stock in trade. A great injustice had been done and, dammit, the internet was going to save the day. Or at least tweet about the day. Even Wil Wheaton made an impassioned cameo in the great shoutathon, presumably because a cameo is the best Wil Wheaton can hope for these days.
And this great unwashed mass of outrage went to sleep last night and slept like babies, secure in the smug knowledge that they had done good. Of course, the picture that was so broadly painted yesterday didn’t do justice to anyone. Progressive Insurance is not evil and the Internet remains a cesspool of pornography and legal blog posts. Matt Fisher did a pretty solid number on Progressive Insurance; this is true. They’ve taken a great PR hit, and most coverage of the whole affair has quickly moved on from any sort of analysis of the actual claim itself to a much easier consideration of how, and in which ways, Progressive Insurance is royally f**ked.
* Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried by a military commission at Guantanamo, but John Yoo is still not satisfied. He wants to capture people and hold them indefinitely without trial proof that the Obama Administration can conduct terror trials successfully. Obviously, the elegant solution is to make KSM live in Yoo’s basement until one of them begs for an impartial arbiter. [Ricochet]
* If you ever read the warnings on your prescriptions, I think this is what you’ll see (by Jeremy Blachman). [McSweeney]
Conceptual designs for a new building to house Pitt Law School.
I feel bad for Pittsburgh Law students. Just ten days ago, career services embarrassed them by offering students jobs putting fliers on parked cars. And now today, an out-of-control driver punched a hole into their law building.
Literally. Last night an SUV crashed into the Barco Law Building and punched a hole in the wall. Nobody was hurt during the accident, but we hear that nine people were injured during the ensuing stampede of Pitt law students trying to escape through the hole. (Just kidding — nobody was injured — the hole wasn’t nearly big enough for people to fit their non-dischargeable debts through.)
The crash was pretty epic — and there’s a photo. Check it out for yourself…
The wheels of justice might have taken a wrong turn today. It seems that Justice Antonin Scalia had some minimum contacts — with another vehicle, on a highway outside D.C.
According to a Supreme Court spokesperson, Justice Scalia was involved in a minor car accident this morning, while heading in to One First Street to hear oral argument in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. The accident took place on the George Washington Parkway (a tricky road to drive on, as I know from my time spent in Washington).
Justice Scalia — my personal favorite among the justices, for his brilliance, wit, colorful personality, and unmatched writing skill — was thankfully not injured. He made it on to the bench in time for the Tuesday oral argument session.
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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