🤬 Police are untouchable

In July 2015 a pregnant woman named Mara Mancini heard a commotion outside of her home in Indianapolis. She stepped out onto her front porch to investigate and that’s when a police dog from the Indianapolis Police Department ran up and severely mauled her.

The mauling left here with irreparable nerve damage to her arm which has seriously impaired its ability to function. The medical bills from multiple surgeries to fix the damage have forced Mancini into bankruptcy and the pain medications she took caused her son to be born with a drug dependency.

Instead of owning their actions, the Indianapolis Police Department denied all responsibility in the mauling. Mancini then sued the department for violating her Constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment, arguing that the attack violated her right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Last week a judge ruled on the case that Mancini’s 4th Amendment rights were not violated because the police dog was not intentionally directed to attack her. Rather, she was considered an unintended bystander. Using this same line of reasoning, the police can legally shoot anyone as long as the shot was not intentionally directed at the person it hits.

This story is nothing less of disgusting and is an excellent example of how both the American judicial and law enforcement systems are broken. It is also one more example of how police are untouchable when it comes to legal accountability.

Judge: Police dog attack didn’t violate woman’s rights [AP News}

🤬 I am confused about tsunamis

Last week, Indonesia experienced a tsunami after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake occurred near the island of Sulawesi. While the death toll is still rising, it currently stands at 844 people. Regardless of the viewpoint assumed, this event is incredibly sad and horrible.

However, I want to ask a question from my privileged, first-world, well-educated, wealthy-white-male perspective: Why are so many people in tsunami-prone areas ignorant of the danger present in the minutes and hours following an earthquake???

Tsunamis have been occurring for as long as the Earth has held enough water to form oceans, well before the appearance of land animals let alone human beings. After modern humans showed up on the scene, it did not take long for them to understand the danger tsunamis posed and when they were likely to occur. There are many examples from cultures around the planet which explain the danger of tsunamis. From folklore to proverbs, different cultures have used different mechanisms to teach their people about how to avoid tsunamis when they occur. Some of these warning are literally carved in stone. The point I am trying to make is that knowledge about tsunamis has been held for thousands of years, well before computers and modern communications.

If knowledge about tsunamis has been held and well-disseminated for thousands of years, why are hundreds of people killed by tsunamis when they occur? Why do these unfortunate people think that they do not need to avoid low-lying land after strong earthquakes? Do I hold a misunderstanding about just how well known tsunami danger is in developing countries?

🤬 California gas tax repeal

I believe the argument to repeal the increase in the California gas tax coming to the ballot this November is weak.

Currently, the state gas tax is 30 cents per gallon. Let us pretend that I drive a fair amount and put 300 miles per week on my car. If my car gets 25 miles per gallon, I need to put 12 gallons of gas in my tank each week. The state tax on 12 gallons of gas is $3.60. With this amount of driving, my contribution in state taxes totals $14.40 over four weeks, roughly one month. That’s essentially the cost of signing up for a family plan on Spotify.

How much tax is in a gallon of gas?
Gas tax: What Californians actually pay on each gallon of gas [The Mercury News]

While $15 a month does not sound like much to me, I understand how some families could be affected by that expense. At the same time, roads do not build themselves and there is a strong argument to be made that people who use roads should fund their maintenance.

However, Proposition 6 does not repeal the California gas tax. Prop. 6 instead repeals the 2017 increase of 12 cents per gallon. That’s what we are fighting over here. A mere 12 cents. If I run the same numbers from the pretend situation above but this time to calculate what Prop. 6 would save me, the total comes out to $5.76 per month.

Saving me $5.76 per month would mean roughly $50 billion over the next 10 years would no longer be available for state and local road programs, public transit, and traffic congestion improvements. The repeal is not worth that cost.

While California ranks near the top among states when it comes to tax on gas, the United States ranks only behind Mexico when it comes to countries with the lowest gas tax. When the U.S. first started building roads for automobiles, the tax on gas covered the expenses needed for construction and maintenance, but that is no longer true. Gas taxes and vehicle fees in the United States do not cover the expenses associated with our roads. But this is not a terrible situation.

Even if you and I do not drive, we receive a tremendous amount of benefit from our road networks. We live in a nation where access to goods and services is unrivaled anywhere else. In most urban and semi-urban locations, emergency services can be at our front door within 5 minutes. A well-maintained road network clearly benefits everyone.

In this age of extreme partisanship, it is important to recognize the spectrum of our positions so that we can come to fair conclusions that benefit society in the long run. It does not make sense for drivers to pay for 100% of our road network and neither does it make sense for them to pay an insignificant share. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

From my position, driving is not taxed heavily enough considering the costs of road maintenance and the numerous other externalities it generates, climate change being a large one. I fear that Prop. 6 moves California even further away from the position where it should be when it comes to taxes on gas.

🤬 No such thing as sexual assault in AK

The following story occurred in August 2017.

A 34-year old man named Justin Schneider picked up a hitchhiking 25-year old Native American woman from a gas station in Alaska. After driving a ways, he stops on the side of the road and asks her to get out of the car to help him with something. He then proceeds to strangle her into unconsciousness while saying that he is killing her. Once the woman is unconscious, Schneider masturbates and ejaculates over the woman. Eventually the woman regains consciousness and calls 9-1-1 to report the attack.

Following Schneider’s arrest, he accepted a plea deal where pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree felony assault. This came with a sentence of two years in prison “with one year suspended”, meaning he only gets one year in prison. However, between Schneider’s arrest in 2017 and now, he has been confined to his home under house arrest. Therefore, the judge considered Schneider’s house arrest time served, declaring that Schneider would not have to serve time in prison.

The prosecutor, Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik, emphasized that he made the plea deal because Schneider had no prior criminal record and seemed amenable to rehabilitation…

“That’s the reason why I made the deal that I made, because I have reasonable expectations that it will not happen [again],” Grannik said. “But I would like the gentleman to be on notice that that is his one pass. It’s not really a pass, but given the conduct, one might consider that it is.”

Where is the charge of attempted murder? Where is the charge of sexual assault? How is a single count of assault and a sentence of one year under house arrest adequate punishment? I fear that stories such as this one are why my generation has grown up with a lack of faith in the American legal system.

Man accused of kidnapping woman and masturbating on her is given ‘one pass,’ won’t go to prison [The Washington Post]

Former Eagle River man who strangled woman reaches plea deal with prosecutors [Alaska Star]

🤬 Spotify is absolutely terrible

Ever since Rdio went out of business, I have yearned for a music service that is easy and enjoyable to use. Apple Music is a joke when it comes to usability and Pandora does not offer a comparable on-demand music service. This leaves me with Spotify as my only option.

Sadly, Spotify is full of design issues. However, today I encountered a problem so severe that I am closing my Spotify subscription.

Spotify permits you to save only 10,000 songs to your music library.

I wish you could have seen the dismay and anger on my face when I learned this fact. I was ready to throw my laptop threw the window in front of me.

10,000 songs is nothing. That’s less than 1,000 albums. It would take me a mere 500 hours to listen to that entire library start to finish.

This is unbelievable. I pay $120 per year for this service and I cannot save more than 10,000 songs to my library. Don’t think for a second that Spotify needs to save these 10,000 songs in a unique location on their servers requiring gigabytes of data. No, Spotify merely saves a list of metadata which holds the names of songs I’ve added to my library. It’s the equivalent of a text file on my computer which lists the title and artist name for each song in my library. At most, my account uses a maximum of 100 megabytes on Spotify’s servers. In reality, the size is probably much closer to 10-20 megabytes. In this day and age, using 100 megabytes on someone’s server is like asking the person next to you to hold a piece of paper for a second.

Spotify, I was making do with your poorly designed service, but this limit is too much for me to bear. It was nice to know you.

🤬 SWAG is no longer stuff we all get

I frequently hear people talking about swag. I’ll see a Reddit post titled “Check out all this free swag company X sent me!” or I’ll hear a podcaster say, “Head to our podcast store to purchase our swag!” These statements bother me because they demonstrate that the person speaking or writing does not understand what the word ‘swag’ means.

SWAG is an acronym which stands for Stuff We All Get. I don’t know where the word originated, but I first heard it used when the company I worked for purchased a bunch of t-shirts to hand out to every employee in the company. In that case, we were truly receiving swag. It was stuff that everyone in the company got.

Nowadays, people not only refer to anything they got for free as swag, they even refer to products they purchased as swag. Clearly, if you had to purchase a product, that product is not something we all get. Only you get it because you paid for it. That’s not swag.

/rant

Further reading: What does ‘swag’ mean? [Merriam-Webster]