Buy a lottery ticket, PLEASE!

December 7, 2017 Comments Off on Buy a lottery ticket, PLEASE!

I am an expert conversation killer, having the ability to bring the liveliest discussions to a screeching halt with a few ill-chosen words, or well-chosen ones, such that you could even consider me a mass murderer of happy dialogue, a Ted Bundy in the world of social gatherings. One of the main reasons that conversations in my presence wilt like delicate orchids in a blast furnace has to do with the topics I introduce.

The topics themselves are harmless, just like guns, because after all, topics don’t kill conversations, people kill conversations. For example, it’s conceivable that there are many social groupings that would relish a conversation about learning Chinese, or about medieval European cities, or about the relationship between Croatian and Bosnian and the degree of mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovakian, but that’s like saying there are many foods that go well with Bearnaise sauce … and not knowing that chocolate ice cream isn’t one of them.

Even good friends who like to read and who enjoy a robust chat never take the bait, so what I usually do is end up listening, adding a comment every now and then, and keeping most of my thoughts to myself. This, in fact, is the only reason I’m able to hang onto the admittedly few friends I have; I have the hard-earned wisdom to know when to be silent, and its corollary, the knowledge of when to shut up.

Still, even my mustard gas convo weaponry can’t account for the fact that the moment I mention the word “insurance” a pall goes over the crowd. And I talk about insurance a lot.

It’s not because I sell insurance, but because my job puts me into contact with insurance policies all the time, every day, and what’s worse, it puts me into contact with no insurance policies where there by all rights should have been one. I’ve written about the importance of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and how it can protect you when you are on a bike and you get hit by a car. If you’re unfamiliar with this crucial topic, please read this.

But recently in L.A. I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend: Cyclists who get hit by cars and who themselves have no UM/UIM coverage under their own auto policy because they don’t own a car. More and more people are simply going bipedal or bicycle-only and stepping off the one-man-one-car, an-auto-in-every-pot mentality that made America mildly great and obese and prematurely dead.

For these cyclists and pedestrians, who have no auto insurance and therefore no UM/UIM coverage to protect them when they are victimized by a hit-and-run or uninsured driver, there is actually a very practical solution. But before I get to it, I have to conquer the conversation-slaughtering effect of the word “insurance.”

Why do people hate the word so much that the moment you say it they stop listening, reading, thinking? Why so much odium surrounding a word that’s ostensibly there to protect you? I’ll tell you why: Because insurance is one of those things in life that signifies a negative obligation with no payoff. Sure, if you need it it pays off, it’s insurance, but the connotation is “pay something and get nothing.” So, like trying to sell people a “living will” or “probate services,” you’re pretty much fucked the minute you mention it.

So I figured out a way around it. All along we’ve been calling it the wrong thing. Instead of saying “insurance,” we should be calling it by its real name, which is “lottery ticket.” Now that will get anyone’s attention! Hey, can I sell you a lottery ticket?

Even if you don’t want one, at least you’re listening. And everyone has an opinion on lotteries, and deep down everyone wants a winning ticket. NO ONE WANTS A WINNING INSURANCE POLICY BECAUSE YOU GENERALLY HAVE TO GET MAIMED OR DIE. But everyone wants a lottery ticket because you might get money!!!!!

Therefore, today’s blog post is about getting a Non-Operator Lottery Ticket. These lottery tickets can be purchased even if you don’t own or drive a car or even have a driving license. The way they work is this: You go to a Lottery Ticket Sales Company (formerly known as an insurance company), and tell them you want one of these non-operator lottery tickets. They will sell you tickets which, if you win, will pay up to $500,000 if the driver who hits you is uninsured or underinsured. These lottery tickets are affordable and a must-have if you ride a bicycle and don’t own a car.

Before you go out and purchase a new speedsuit or a pair of rad cycling glasses or some more carbon to go with your 100% carbon that is all carbon, please get yourself one of these non-operator lottery tickets. Because unfortunately, if you ride enough on the streets of Los Angeles, there’s a real good chance you’re going to win.

END

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Resist, occupy, stick it to the man, etc.

July 8, 2017 § 27 Comments

I had one the nicest things happen to me yesterday that’s ever happened in my professional career. A group of friends who had been wrongly pulled over by a L.A. County sheriff’s deputy, then harassed, then wrongly cited for obeying the law, invited me to a thank-you dinner.

The thank-you was because I defended all eleven of the sixteen defendants who decided to fight the bogus charges. I’d like to say that everyone was acquitted due to my amazing legal skills and brilliant courtroom wizardry, but with the exception of one actual trial, all of the cases were dismissed because the citing officer failed to appear.

Of course nothing is as simple as it sounds. Deputy Castro, the outrageous and offensive cop who wrote the tickets, did appear once, for the first trial. With the help of expert testimony from Gary Cziko, and on-deck help from Geoff Loui, and due to the deputy’s confusion, dishonesty, misrepresentation, and ignorance of the law, in that first trial the defendant was acquitted.

Deputy Castro was amazed and even a bit angry when the judge ruled for the cyclist; we were kind of shocked as well. It’s not often that the court puts on a full trial, replete with expert witnesses, to fight a bike citation that carries no DMV points and that the People have already offered to settle for fifty bucks.

That one small win had big consequences for the rest of the defendants and for the cop. Deputy Castro, shortly thereafter, was transferred out of the traffic division. You can imagine that the captain was not pleased. Castro had called in a helicopter and five additional squad cars to write up the sixteen cyclists. Additionally, most of the citations had to be amended because Castro had put down the wrong location of the violation. When you tote up the officer time, helicopter time, squad cars, time spent processing, then amending the tickets, it was a significant action on the part of the department given the minor nature of the “violation” of CVC 21202a.

Deputy Castro looked foolish to the court as she lied and contradicted herself under cross-examination, but you have to think that where she really lost face is with her fellow deputies — going to all that trouble to call out so many officers to write a stupid bike citation that she couldn’t even make stick. Keep in mind that cops have pride about their work. No policeman, with the possible exception of the Thank-Dog-He’s-Gone-Deppity-Knox, takes pride in being known as a bike ticket violation writer. It’s drudgery, has zero cachet, garners zero professional respect, and is only done when there is either (a) absolutely no other law to enforce or (b) when the city council has demanded a cyclist crackdown. (a) and (b) almost always occur in tandem …

In the short term, the willingness of the cyclists to challenge these trumped up charges led to one terrible cop being booted from the traffic beat. In the long term it reinforced to the Lomita Substation that there really are more important law enforcement issues in Rancho Palos Verdes. It communicated that with limited resources, the department would be well advised to go pick on someone else, as these fake citations will be fought tooth and nail.

The cyclists who chose to fight instead of pay had to “waste” time and energy in contesting the charges. Compared to the settlement offer of $50 and no DMV points, it might seem like a waste; each defendant had to go to court twice: Once to plead not guilty, and once to appear for trial. But it wasn’t a waste, far from it. It educated the court, it educated the sheriff’s department, and it empowered cyclists to shift gears from being victims to being advocates.

In addition to fighting all eleven tickets, the defendants re-calendared their trial dates so that in the event one of them lost, we’d still have the opportunity to appear again. Since traffic court judges rotate, that increased the chance of getting a different judge and it would have forced Deputy Castro to appear eleven separate times. The one trial we did took well over an hour; that’s a bunch of overtime the department would have had to pay.

If you compare the time and money that was spent fruitlessly trying to convince the Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes city councils that cyclists are traffic with legal rights, with the the time and money that was spent fighting the tickets, which successfully changed personnel and policy, it was the best advocacy imaginable. We spent hundreds of person-hours at city council meetings only to be beaten down and targeted by crazypants trolls. The public records request (publication forthcoming) I did on Robert Chapman, local PVE sillypants and bike hater, only confirmed that traditional political advocacy doesn’t work very well on the hill. Sometimes you have to suit up and go to fuggin’ court, even when it’s “only” traffic court.

Contrast our political advocacy with the effectiveness of fighting bogus tickets. The cops don’t show up, the tickets get dismissed, and everyone realizes it’s a shit-show, including the police, who are now more reticent to waste time writing the stupid citations in the first place. It dawns on everyone that the PV Peninsula has problems that are more significant than 21202a violations and bicycle stop sign tickets.

Unfortunately, there are still far too many cyclists in the South Bay who are willing to pay the reduced fee and get on with their lives. It’s too much pain and effort to re-calendar, go down to court twice, and deal with the whole headache. So last night, at the thank-you dinner that was ostensibly for me, I took the opportunity to thank all of the people who were willing to stand up for themselves and for others as well. And if you don’t mind, I’ll take this small space to thank them again.

END

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Hired Guns: Part 9

April 17, 2017 § 18 Comments

Part 9: Who is Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr.?

Last year when the bicycle protests in PV Estates got underway, a guy told me to “look out for Robert Chapman.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“He’s this anonymous Internet troll guy who lives in PV and is a complete ass.”

I didn’t pay much attention, since “anonymous Internet troll” always equates with “coward” and since I had other concerns than playing Billy Goat Gruff. Before long, though, this link on the Internet came up, and it won’t take you more than a few sentences to suspect what I did: The anonymous troll author of this web site is seriously deranged. I’m no fan of the PV Estates cops, the council, or the city manager, but these vile attacks on wives, ex-wives, and children are sick, and they’re the product of a sick mind.

Is the author of this junk Robert Chapman? I don’t know for sure, but the bizarre language of the web site is eerily reminiscent of the bizarre behavior in the following police reports, all of which were returned as part of a public records request for “Emails or any other documents in paper or electronic format pertaining to the following matters: Activities or complaints regarding or connected with Robert Chapman.”

Remember all those police reports where an anxious bedwetter in PV Estates consumed countless hours of police time to investigate dogs? Tip of the iceberg …

Hundreds and hundreds of pages were returned as a result of my public records request; some of the documentation is truly bizarre, and I’ll be publishing all of it shortly. I hope you like stories about bald, droopy, middle-aged men prancing around in hot tubs.

But my interest in Chapman is actually specific to cycling. Why is the author of the PVE PD hate web site, whether or not it is in fact Robert Chapman, so torqued about the police department?

I’m torqued about the police because they unfairly target cyclists and harass outsiders. But the hate web site’s author lists a slew of reasons that even a cursory inspection reveals as subterfuge. After a bit of reading, a bit of googling, and a whole bunch of time spent reviewing crazy-talk public and court records, I may have unearthed the reason for the author’s venom, and perhaps his hidden-in-plain-sight identity as well.

This matters to cyclists because the same web site that is going after the organization and the individuals who make up the PV Estates police department is the same person who’s going after cyclists. Perhaps a little sunlight will go a long way to disinfecting his rotten attitude and chickenboy attacks. If not, at least people will be able to pin a face and a name on the donkey who is too cowardly to sign his own name.

But first, a continuation of the police reports and the truly dyspeptic personalities involved. If you’re a cyclist, you should ask yourself again: Can a police department that responds to people and complaints like this ever be expected to treat cyclists fairly, when it’s these very bedwetters demanding that the police “enforce” the laws against cyclists?

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Hired Guns: Part 8

April 12, 2017 § 12 Comments

Part 8: The Interchickens

Anonymity is a powerful thing, and sometimes it’s a force for good. The Federalist Papers were written anonymously, and the numerous hacks that have exposed public and private corruption in our own century couldn’t have been done except under cloak of secrecy.

But anonymity’s power can be used for evil just as easily for good. Threats and harassment from nameless adversaries can punish the innocent and allow the person hiding behind the mask to behave in ways deserving the most extraordinary opprobrium. The most famous of these was probably the troll Michael Brutsch, who, despite his online bravado, became a whimpering sop when he learned he would be outed as a troll and purveyor of hate speech: “When Chen informed [Michael Brutsch] about the impending exposé, he pleaded with Chen not to publish it because he was concerned about the potential impact on his employment and finances, noting that his wife was disabled and he had a mortgage to pay. He also expressed concern that he would be falsely labeled a child pornographer or anti-Semite because of some of the subreddits he created.”

Using anonymity to push political agendas is time-honored, and it is under cover of anonymity that at least one of the major players is leading the charge against the PV Estates Police Department. This culture of secrecy and clandestine hate follow the trajectory of racism in PV Estates as well, where blacks have epithets painted on their homes under cover of darkness and racial insults are scrawled on cars at PV High by nameless vandals.

Who are these people so opposed to the PV Estates Police Department? Why are they so fearful of signing their name at the bottom of the screeds they write? How do they look at themselves in the mirror knowing that for all their keyboard bravado, they still lack the courage of a simple signature?

Answering this question takes us yet one more step along the journey of understanding law enforcement in Palos Verdes Estates. The police report linked below is disturbing in the nth degree. Read it for yourself, and imagine what would have happened if the antagonist had been black, rather than a well-known and infamous resident of PVE itself.

[Link here: Resident’s blatant obstruction_of_law_enforcement during a traffic stop.]

If you read the link, you will doubtless be wondering who this person is. Is it the same bedwetter who wastes countless hours of police time with barking dog complaints? Is it the same person who has launched attack after anonymous attack on cyclists who both live in and ride through the community?

More disturbingly, is this one whackjob all it takes to throw PV law enforcement off its game? A bizarre resident wielding a camera phone? What happened to those staples of law enforcement known as mace, handcuffs, radio, and baton?

The answer is simple: There are two penal codes in PV Estates. One for white, rich, spoiled, angry residents, and one for everyone else.

END

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Hired Guns: Part 7

April 11, 2017 § 15 Comments

Part 7: The delicate bedwetters on the Hill

When we turn to the PV Estates Police Department and try to compare it with the LA Sheriff’s Department, a number of problems arise. The first is that they are completely different organizations. One is a massive, multi-billion dollar police force that, like an aircraft carrier going off the edge of a cliff, is extremely hard to control. The other is a tiny, semi-private security service whose employees are easily manipulated by the taxpayers who pay their salaries.

The media and the rich love to paint the image of wealthy people as being super confident, strong, hard-to-rattle titans of industry. Sometimes they are. But just as often they can be thin-skinned, vain, petty little people whose financial security gives them little to do but whine, complain, and grouse about the minor annoyances of life that the rest of us shrug off without a moment’s concern.

It’s hard to grasp how infantile some of the PV Estates residents can actually be. There’s one particular area of the city located by Bluff Cove and dominated by a couple of streets, Paseo del Mar and Via Horcada, where there is an unbelievable concentration of events that can only be described as the anxieties of adult bedwetters.

It’s these people and their ilk who dominate much of the time and efforts of the PV Estates police, people who demand to be coddled, mollified, hand-held, and who require that their every damp didy be accompanied with a gentle butt-wiping by a steady hand. These people consume untold hours of the police department’s time, are often abusive, nasty, aggressive, and make endless calls to police dispatch complaining about everything from raccoons to imaginary sounds.

You think I’m making this up? Keep reading.

This matters because as police chief Kepley points to increased police department expenses specifically due to cyclists, he fails to mention the hundreds of man-hours burned through by one or two whiny bedwetters, and he fails to tell the city council that a lot of the city’s police expenses result from the fact that the police force behaves like a nanny rather than a police department. At the last city council meeting we were treated to a rogues’ gallery of brown and black arrestees, showing the residents how busy the police were controlling serious crime.

What they didn’t show were the stats and incident reports filed by short, balding, middle-aged tattletales that make policing PV Estates the law enforcement equivalent of a nursery school for spoiled brats.

So I’ve compiled the reports for them.

Below is a very small sampling of police reports from the Via Horcada/Paseo del Mar area, which seems to be ground zero for pee-pee in the pants, anxiety-ridden grown men. The names of the complainants have been redacted by the department, but it won’t take you much independent investigation to figure out who at least one of these infantile crybabies is. More importantly, it shows that the city isn’t necessarily overrun with bad people, it’s just that a handful of truly deplorable bedwetters with too much free time and too little maturity have made it a living hell for everyone else.

As you click on the links below, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are you fucking kidding me?
  • Are these the same people who complain about cyclists?
  • Can a police department slavishly obedient to people like this fairly enforce the law?

Also, note that virtually all of these “incidents” occur in the vicinity of the 700 block of Via Horcada and the 600 block of Paseo del Mar. I’ve highlighted the relevant items that the officers were called out to investigate, as well as the number of officers who responded to the call and wrote up the supplemental report. Apparently, the time clock at PVE PD gets ridden so hard it should have a saddle on it … and most hypocritically of all, the same people who complain about the cost and the overtime of the police don’t seem to mind at all when it’s their butt that’s being wiped at time-and-a-half.

So here ya go, with apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

  1. Mystery of the Assault by the Baby-Stroller Jackanape (Link: assault_of_minor)
  2. Mystery of the Bedwetter Bothered by the Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_1)
  3. Mystery of the Off and On Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_2)
  4. Mystery of the 15-Minutes Barking Dog Causing Multiple Bedwettings (Link: barking_dog_3)
  5. Mystery of the Barking Dog So Mysterious That It Can’t Be Found (Link: barking_dog_4)
  6. Mystery of the Barking Dog Who Could Read Notices in the Mailbox (Link: barking_dog_5)
  7. Mystery of the Barking Dog Who Was Taken Inside (Link: barking_dog_6)
  8. Mystery of the Barking Dog Who Was Reading More Notices (Link: barking_dog_7)
  9. Mystery of the Multiple Bedwetters Upset by the Mysterious Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_8)
  10. Mystery of the Family of Bedwetters Awoken by the Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_9)
  11. Mystery of the Dog that Knew to Stop Barking When the Police Showed Up (Link: barking_dog_10)
  12. Mystery of the Not Excessively but Just Enough Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_11)
  13. Mystery of the Two Dogs Night (Link: barking_dog_12)
  14. Mystery of the Non-Barking Dog Left Out in the Non-Rain (Link: barking_dog_13)
  15. Mystery of the Legally Barking Dogs in the Area (Link: barking_dog_14)
  16. Mystery of the Home Alone Dogs Who Didn’t Bark (Link: barking_dog_15)
  17. Mystery of the Complainant Who Wanted to Find Out About the Dog That Didn’t Bark (Link: barking_dogs_16)
  18. Mystery of the More Non-Barking Dogs (Link: barking_dog_17)
  19. Mystery of the Dogs Not Barking After Two Hours (Link: barking_dogs_18)
  20. Mystery of the Dog That Didn’t Bark for Ten Minutes (Link: barking_dog_19)
  21. Mystery of the Dog That Didn’t Bark for Over Ten Minutes (Link: barking_dog_20)

This is a tiny fraction of the complaints emanating from this very small area of a couple of blocks; most of the complaints I’ve obtained were either made by or involve the same bedwetter. Keep in mind that these complaints about noise are coming from a place where the lot sizes are massive and the homes are essentially walled compounds. How would these people even exist in normal society if the sound of an imaginary barking dog drives them nuts? Answer: They wouldn’t.

I’ve obtained hundreds and hundreds of pages of this crap from 2010 to 2017, mostly in this one neighborhood, covering everything from the Hound of the Baskervilles mystery above to even more unbelievable stuff–and yes, I’m going to post another batch of these high crimes and misdemeanors tomorrow. Hopefully when the city council meets on April 25 they’ll make an impassioned plea to save the police department so that it can continue preventing diaper rash from these pillars of the community.

From the looks of these reports, they’d better be buying their talcum powder by the barrel.

END

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Hired Guns: Part 6

April 10, 2017 § 49 Comments

Part 6: Trial by fire

“The twilight zone that lies between living memory and written history is one of the favorite breeding places of mythology.” C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.

By now it should be pretty clear that PV Estates has a problem with racism, and has had one since it was established in 1923, regardless of whether current residents want to remember it. What is less clear is how that translates into harassment of cyclists by the city’s police department. But before I make that connection, it’s important to understand why the city’s decision to employ the LA Sheriff’s Department or to retain its municipal police force is so important for cyclists.

And to understand that, we need to jump up to the very recent past of January 27, 2017, when Deputy Castro of the LASD’s Lomita Substation pulled over thirteen cyclists and cited them for violating CVC 21201(a) while descending from the bottom of the Switchbacks to Portuguese Bend. The operation required Deputy Castro to call in three additional squad cars, and at one point a helicopter.

I suppose you never know when the underwear-clad crowd in clackety shoes will get unruly, turn into a violent mob, and hurt you with the legendary massive arms and fists of, uh, twigly bicycle riders. Thirteen citations later, the cyclists continued on their ride.

The first two of these citations were tried last Thursday in Torrance traffic court. The deputy showed up expecting a slam dunk win and was chagrined when the first case was dismissed and the the second was judged not guilty.

Deputy Castro’s claims were preposterous, and the judge didn’t believe that she had been able to see and identify each cyclist and locate their position while she was traveling 35 mph in the other direction across a median, and the cyclists were traveling at close to 30 mph in what she falsely called “a big mob.” On cross examination she admitted that she couldn’t identify the rider because she was, according to her own confused testimony, ten cars behind the group. When asked whether she had ID’d the cyclist by his calves and buttocks, she admitted she hadn’t.

It turns out that even in traffic court you can’t convict someone who you can’t identify.

But the bigger issue and by far the bigger problem was the court’s total resistance to the argument we made that the cyclists were not in violation of 21202(a) because the lane was of a substandard width, therefore releasing them from the “as far to the right as practicable” language of the statute. On cross examination, Deputy Castro freely admitted she was unfamiliar with the exception and in fact had never read it.

More disturbing, the judge was unfamiliar with and completely unmoved by the argument. We produced uncontroverted testimony by our expert, Dr. Gary Cziko, that the lane measured twelve feet at the most. Dr. Cziko produced measurements of the operational space needed by a bike (4 feet), the average width of a small car (6 feet), and the distance required for a car to pass a bike in California (3 feet). Even though the simple arithmetic showed that 13 feet can’t fit into a 12-foot lane–and that’s assuming zero operational room for the car–the judge was unimpressed with the law or the facts.

Similarly, the cyclist’s testimony regarding obstacles in the shoulder and against the fog line, though uncontroverted or even questioned, were ignored by the court. These two exceptions to 21202(a) are of course the backbone for vehicular cycling, or for what’s known as lane control when circumstances warrant. Having a court that was completely unwilling to countenance uncontroverted facts that demonstrated compliance with the law meant that the victory in this case was strictly a one-off ruling.

Cyclists who can’t defend themselves by showing that the officer failed to identify them, something that won’t happen when the rider is alone or in a group of two or three, will be unable to rely on the strongest argument for using the lane when necessary–at least in Torrance, and at least in front of this particular judge. Equally disturbing was the judge’s repeated apologies to the deputy for finding against the People. “I don’t fault you for citing them,” he said three or four times.

What was that supposed to mean, other than, “Keep writing bogus tickets.”

Deputy Castro took her cue and said, “I guess I’ll just have to up my game.”

Most disturbing is that despite the acquittal and dismissal of these two cases against cyclists lawfully controlling the lane, cyclists in PV are now more likely to be subject to harassment by Deputy Castro and her fellow deputies as they “up their game.” This is why education of the LASD deputies in this matter is imperative whether or not they take over PV Estates, since we already ride so much in Rancho PV.

With the exception of an event many years ago, PV Estates police have never ticketed an entire group for following the law, and at least the city’s web site makes mention of the right of cyclists to control the lane when circumstances warrant. Regardless of which way the city goes, cyclists who want to ride legally on the peninsula have their work cut out for them.

END

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Do the right thing or have it done for you

April 3, 2017 § 60 Comments

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