🤬 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 voting guides for 2018 election

The 2018 mid-term elections are happening in about one month. Do you know how you are going to vote?

Note: Check whether you are currently registered to vote using the California Voter Status page. Additionally, you can use the site to check on the status of your ballot from previous votes.

When I first started voting, like many others I would simply show up at the polls, put a checkmark next to anyone with a D next to their name, and then randomly vote yes or no on the propositions. This form of uneducated voting was unproductive.

One year I encountered a proposition that was so obtusely worded that I could not figure out whether I wanted to support or oppose the effort, even after thoroughly reading the official voting guide provided by my local county. For the first time I decided to go to Google to figure out what the proposition was about and what I found amazed me.

There exist some incredible voter guides on the internet. Not only are they easy to navigate and read, they provide clear descriptions of each candidate and proposition, an explanation of financial implications, and a list of groups supporting and opposing each candidate/proposition. These voter guides are so helpful that they make me wonder whether our government purposefully complicates the wording on the ballot to confuse and discourage voters. Regardless of whether the effect is on purpose, voter participation usually comes in around 35% for any California election and uninterpretable ballot information is one reason that number is so low.

After learning that voter guides exist on the internet, I will never again vote in any election without consulting those guides. Any other approach would leave me underinformed.

Below is a list of the best voter guides I have used:

Voter’s Edge California – Voter’s Edge California is a joint project between MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund. VEC provides a comprehensive look at all the available candidates and measures on your ballot.

CALmatters 2018 Voter Guide – CALmatters is a non-profit, non-partisan, member-supported news organization focused on California. In addition to insightful and comprehensive reporting on news matters, CALmatters has put together an excellent guide to the November 2018 election.

Ballotpedia – While not the easiest site to navigate, Ballotpedia contains a true wealth of information about every aspect of voting. This page provides a solid central navigation point for learning about the upcoming November 2018 election. To learn specifically about the November 2018 California ballot propositions, click here.

Ballot.fyi – A non-partisan guide to the ballot propositions on California’s 2018 ballot. This guide is put together by a two person team, an engineer and a journalist with help from The Knight Foundation.

KQED Elections Voter Guide – A guide to the propositions on the California ballot from the reputable KQED organization.

League of Women Voters of California – When looking for voter guides, the League of Women Voters of California voting guide is probably the most referenced guide on the internet. While they do not win the award for the most exhaustive guide, the LWVC have been putting together great information in their voting guides for many years. Their voting guides are easy to use as you can quickly assess whether you agree or disagree with their endorsements.

Green Party of California State Voter Guide – This is a simple list of endorsements from the Green Party of California. It’s nothing special, but if social justice and the environment are important to you, these are probably the votes you want to cast.

📷 The testimony of Doctor Ford versus Judge Kavanaugh

If you watched the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh earlier this week, you will have clearly noticed the differences between the two hearings. Ford was docile and polite whereas Kavanaugh was angry and combative.

The other striking difference between the two testimonies was the content of each person’s responses. Ford made an attempt at answering every single question she was asked. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, dodged or otherwise avoided answering questions at numerous points.

Below is a chart created by Vox which visually illustrates the difference between the two testimonies. If you click through to their article, clicking on the sections of each person’s testimony will expand to display the transcript of what was spoken at that point in time.

Vox transcript chart
Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart [Vox]

🤬 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.

🧠 TIL about 8645

You may see the number 8645 or 86/45 around for another couple years and I’m here to tell you what it means.

8645

Well before Trump became a household name, an American slang term existed called “86” or “eighty-sixing”. When used as a verb, 86 means getting rid of something, ejecting someone, or refusing service. While no definitive origin for the term is known, there are several possible origins.

When paired with 45, the number of Donald Trump’s presidency, 8645 or 86/45 indicates support for getting rid of President Trump.