Is Our Police Learning: The Jump Out Squad Edition

I’ve been trying to write something about policing, but it hasn’t been coming together. While doing so, however, I came across this article about D.C.’s jump out squads. What’s a jump out squad?

The squads operate in a lot of American cities. They’re often welcomed by residents who’ve been under siege in a high-crime neighborhood, and are celebrated by police chiefs and mayors eager to improve crime numbers, and look swift and decisive.

They stop. Frisk. Take guns. And people want the guns gone. So despite the harm they can cause, the aggressive units often stay. But over the weekend, America saw what can go wrong when the laserlike focus of aggressive policing is set on a neighborhood.

In Memphis, it was SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. And the nation gasped in horror after police released a video of the traffic stop by the SCORPION unit that ended in 29-year-old Tyre Nichols’s death and showcased crime suppression squad policing at its most lethal. It has since been shut down.

In D.C., one of these tactical units deployed to a high crime area in 2017 was called Powershift, and they had wicked T-shirts made with a stylized cross and the phrase Morgan and his friends have heard so many times: “Let me see that waistband.” It also had the letters “Jo” to stand for “jump out.”

Let’s say for the sake of argument that these are effective (given D.C.’s homicide rate, one wonders however…). This is the part that doesn’t make any sense:

“They all pull up their shirts,” said Ryan Morgan. “They know they want to see their waistbands.”

Morgan is 31 and has spent nearly half his life being stopped and searched by specialized police units rolling through his Southwest D.C. neighborhood….

Morgan said he’s been stopped about 50 times.

“I’ll never forget the first time, when I was 16. I was just walking out of my house and they jumped out the car and pulled me, pushed me up to my gate, started going through all my pockets,” Morgan said. “I yelled: ‘Dad, help! Dad, help me!’”

Police found nothing on him then, or ever, he said.

But Morgan, who owns his own production company and studied film in college, began filming the encounters. He now has a YouTube channel of jump outs, including his most recent one, when police ran a drug dog through his car after they pulled up to him. He was just waiting for someone, watching videos on his phone.

“It was a nice car, a 2017,” he said. “They said my windows were too dark. And they ran that dog through it, he scratched it all up.”

There was no arrest, no ticket for a tinted window. He just looked “suspicious” they told him.

“This is in my neighborhood,” he said. “In front of my family’s home.”

To put this in perspective, Morgan has been stopped, on average, three times per year in the same neighborhood (including in front of his home). After six or seven years and twenty or so stops without any violations (just rattle that around in your head for a while), wouldn’t good policing and appropriate allocation of resources suggest that you leave him alone. One could understand a few stops because it might not be the same police officers. But at some point, he has to be known to officers–he has been stopped fifty times!–and they still stop him anyway.

I don’t think jump outs are good policy on the whole, but, even if you do, how is this the right way to do them? At what point, does one conclude that confronting the same innocent person dozens of times is not an effective crime fighting strategy, even if you do agree with the assumptions of the approach?

Posted in Crime, The Rule of Law | 2 Comments

Links 2/1/23

Links for you. Science:

How to See the ‘Green Comet’ Everyone’s Talking About
Dead insect being controlled by parasites.
Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.5 Infections, Macau, June–July 2022
Early Introduction and Community Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant, New York, New York, USA
Australia’s iconic black swans have a worrying immune system deficiency, new genome study finds
U.S. should expand rules for risky virus research to more pathogens, panel says
BNT162b2 effectiveness against Delta and Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 in adolescents aged 12-17 years, by dosing interval and duration

Other:

The Trillion-Dollar Coin Might Be the Least Bad Option
In Confidential Memo, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Celebrated Unemployment as a “Worker-Discipline Device”: Yellen wanted this to be the best of all possible worlds, but the best world she could conceive of was terrible.
The Messaging, It Is Bad
China’s Economic Model Is in Crisis (and Xi Knows It)
Fentanyl is killing older, Black D.C. residents
Progressive Rep. Ruben Gallego launches campaign to unseat Kyrsten Sinema: “She abandoned Arizona”
No Labels Makes Initial Investment in Bipartisan Presidential Ticket
Butter Emails
Florida says AP class teaches critical race theory. Here’s what’s really in the course
Where did all the new podcasts go?
Florida teachers told to remove books from classroom libraries or risk felony prosecution
Manchin-Romney Attack on Social Security Is ‘Last Thing We Need’: Sanders
The Rise of Spirit Warriors on the Christian Right: How an extreme transformation in American religion poses an existential threat to our democracy
We tried to run a social media site and it was awful
Time Savings When Working from Home
D.C. Statehood Bill Introduced In U.S. Senate, But Democrats Concede The Political Reality Isn’t Great
A Jewish family sold a Picasso to flee Nazis. Their heirs want it back.
Hopelessly devoted: Kevin McCarthy’s dedication to Marjorie Taylor Greene is a dangerous sign
Tesla’s Problems Go Way Beyond Elon Musk: The EV giant is alienating its customers, bringing in less revenue, and falling behind legacy carmakers.
Which Of These Was The Worst Trick Play Of All Time?
Actually, Japan has changed a lot. The 2020s are not the 1990s.
Ron DeSantis Likes His Culture Wars for a Reason
In Our Own Base Killing Our Own D00ds
Senators Berate the Ticketmaster Monopoly
Santos Isn’t Going To Prison Because He Used To Be Kitara— Here’s Why He’s Going To Prison

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NIH Funding, Collaborative Mechanisms, and (Politically) Risky Research*

Oh my?

With the bugshitcrazytarian wing of the Republican Party gearing up for hearings on how Hunter Biden used the COVID vaccines to convert M&Ms to lesbianism COVID-19, including ‘exploring’ the hypothesis of a lab leak, we’re going to see many stories digging into how there was a lack of NIH oversight regarding the funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). While the hearings are all going to be about dinging Fauci et alia**, beating up on the libturds and so on, all along I’ve thought this is much more an issue of a particular class of funding mechanisms, which I’ll call collaborative mechanisms (they often get more precise names depending on the specific program and so forth, but this will do for a general discussion).

In terms of oversight, most extramural NIH research (research that doesn’t happen within NIH itself) is grant awarded and the principal investigator*** has to report progress directly to an NIH program officer. Of course, the reports can be falsified or incomplete, but if NIH finds out someone has done so, then there often are consequences. This is essentially a direct report to NIH by the investigator; in other words, there is direct oversight.

Collaborative mechanisms are different. Essentially, NIH gives a principal investigator (or group of investigators) a pot of money, and then the investigator acts as a mini-program officer, and doles out the award money to ‘sub-grantees’ (other researchers). This has some advantages in that there is more flexibility and speed: for example, if there is a good subproject that should be followed up on, the resources (money) can be allocated without an extremely lengthy grant review process (which most of the time will fail). Moreover, the principal investigator often will have far more expertise in a given sub-area than the program officers or grant reviewers.

The reality unfortunately can be quite different in my experience. On the science side, there’s the issue of herding cats: sub-grantees often have to be watched like hawks to ensure they’re providing the results the entire project needs to be successful (and doing so on time). But the key problem–and the one we’ll hear about over and over again–is most investigators lack the experience to adequately supervise and document what the sub-grantees are doing. They have no program officer experience, and many of the ‘little’ things, like, um, data deposition in public repositories or adequate documentation of activities, go by the wayside. If someone takes a hard look at the project because something ‘went wrong’ or is thought to have gone wrong, everything looks bad.

Leaving aside any political implications of the coming investigatory clusterfuck, I think NIH might have to take a hard look at collaborative mechanisms, and how (or even if) they can be supervised adequately by NIH personnel. Over the long term, it will be interesting to see if these mechanisms are less likely to be funded or used by NIH.

*Risky Research sounds like a pornstar name.

**But will anyone point out that these breaches happened under Trump’s watch? Of course not…

***Technically speaking, the award is to the investigator’s institution.

Posted in NIH | Leave a comment

Links 1/31/23

Links for you. Science:

Long covid outcomes at one year after mild SARS-CoV-2 infection: nationwide cohort study (note the streptococcal infection data…)
The hunt for a better weather forecast
NIH biosecurity advisers urge tighter oversight of pathogen research
Covid, flu, RSV declining in hospitals as ‘tripledemic’ threat fades
Polar bears could have more dangerous run-ins with people as ice melts
Selective bacteriophages reduce the emergence of resistant bacteria in the bacteriophage-antibiotic combination therapy

Other:

War on Empathy
Ex-FBI official arrested for alleged money laundering, Russia sanctions, taking money from former foreign agent. Charles McGonigal allegedly took $225,000 in cash from a former foreign agent while still working for the FBI.
The preposterous premise of the Twitter Files
Priests who lost their faith but kept their jobs
The Gig is Up, and It Feels Weird: The German Minister of Public Health just confirmed what scientists have been trying to tell the world about Covid. (not entirely convinced of the science, but will be interested to see how the world reacts)
COVID is spiking sudden deaths. Not talking about it is supercharging anti-vax conspiracies. (I don’t agree with everything, but the basic point is valid)
The Misery of Being a Big-City Mayor
Data Snapshot: Unnatural Deaths Like Accidents, Trauma, and Overdose Rarely Attributed to Covid.
The Poor Deserve the Least, says a Boston Museum of Science Exhibit
What the ‘Weaponization’ Committee Is Really After: ‘It’s a drug they’re going to put out on the street for conservative media and conservative voters.’
Harry & Meghan in History
The Cult of Bike Helmets
Discarded Housing Authority Commissioners Are Cynical About the Future of the Agency
Tiny Little D.C. Has More Green Buildings Than Most States
America’s Obsession with Its Guns Is a Sickness
Northwestern vs. Minnesota, 1936
The #DavosStandard safe air should be for all of us
Biden was sloppy with classified documents. That’s not great, but it’s nothing like what Trump did
Why Do Republicans Want to Kill Their Voters?
In blocking an AP Black studies course, DeSantis tells us who he is
The Federalist Society’s Lackeys on the Supreme Court Aren’t Hiding their Stripes
A year in, how has Biden done on pandemic response? (since Zients is going to be the new Chief of Staff)
The Red Queen’s Race, Neoliberalism & Why Healthcare Is Being Privatized
The Wingnut Extended Universe
Relationship between Telework Experience and Presenteeism during COVID-19 Pandemic, United States, March–November 2020
Senate Democrats Should Offer Some Real Perspective on Biden Docs—or Stop ‘Helping’

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The Washington Post Editorial Board Wants to Sicken Its Readers

For tax revenue, no less. In another post, if I’m motivated enough, I’ll discuss some of the absurd justifications the Washington Post makes for forcing federal workers back to the office full-time, but in this post I want to discuss health-related issues.

Anyway, just to sum up: the Washington Post editorial board wants federal workers to return to the office full time* to generate tax revenue. What’s remarkable is that there is no mention of COVID, or in particular long COVID (months long, possibly permanent, disability); the word COVID is found once in the editorial, and only in reference to the pandemic, not as a health problem. That doesn’t surprise me, since the Washington Post, along with other major media outlets, simply have not pressed either the Biden administration or public health officials about the likelihood that vaccinated and boosted people will contract long COVID (for any new readers, I’ve been warning about long COVID for over two-and-a-half years; this isn’t some ‘new excuse’).

Based on my reading of the literature–and I was doing genomic epidemiology before we called it that and have been an infectious disease microbiologist for several decades–people who are vaccinated have a one to two percent chance of developing debilitating long COVID, and you can probably double that for people who aren’t up to date on their shots** (note there are other unpleasant long-term consequences of COVID, but I’m focusing on the ones that prevent working and taking care of oneself). Yet the Washington Post editorial board seems oblivious to this. When you add in that most federal employees (who work at desks) work in common open spaces to save the federal government money–they don’t have private offices they can retreat to–this is putting federal workers at risk. Workers have no control over the ventilation in many of the downtown buildings–and many of those buildings aren’t new, so the ventilation isn’t good either.

And, of course, as much as people want to, we should not forgot the immunocompromised–and workers with households with immuncompromised people–either. They too are federal workers, and should not be put at risk.

If the Washington Post spent as much time (or any time) asking the Biden administration and public health officials about the likelihood of long COVID, especially in those who ‘did what they are supposed to do’ (get vaccinated) as they did call for return to full-time at the office, we would have far fewer sick (and dead) people. Instead, the ghouls at the Washington Post are asking federal workers to risk their health to increase tax revenues, which shows a vile disregard for the health of their readers.

*The reality is few federal employees are working full-time remote, and are in the office one or more days per week. Mondays and Fridays, pre-pandemic, were always light (just ask WMATA…), and this is just expansion and continuation of a pre-pandemic trend.

**So get vaccinated. That’s not even debatable.

Posted in COVID-19, Fucking Morons, News Media | 13 Comments

Links 1/30/23

Links for you. Science:

What we know about how COVID-19 vaccines may affect menstrual cycles
All hail, ‘Toadzilla’: Giant toad in Australia could be world’s largest
Biofoul: The Stowaway Turning Dream Cruises Into Trips to Nowhere
Estimating The Uncertain Effect of the COVID Pandemic on Drug Overdoses
Persistent SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients seemingly recovered from COVID-19
COVID-19 Surges Linked to Spike in Heart Attacks

Other:

No Way to Prevent This, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens (excellent)
Ashish Jha Must Go: The inaugural director of the White House Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy must not be the current White House Covid-19 response coordinator, Ashish Jha. Here’s why. (must-read)
The Media Is Burying The Most Important Political Address Of 2023
The Debt Limit is Unconstitutional
We Deserve So Much Better Than ‘Restore Roe’
The Debt Ceiling Limit is Destructive, Duplicative, and Dumb
NYT Whitewatering Very Strongly
California Joins Other States in Suing Companies Over Insulin Prices
She was denied entry to a Rockettes show — then the facial recognition debate ignited
“Fuck your nuts, I don’t care”
The Real Origins of the “Democrat Party” Troll
Why are there so many tech layoffs, and why should we be worried? Stanford scholar explains
Microsoft’s big bet on AI could bring ChatGPT to the masses
Tiktok’s enshittification
Why We Need Civics
Attacks on U.S. Jews and gays accelerate as hate speech grows on Twitter
You Can Let Republicans Destroy the Economy, or You Can Call Their Bluff
A Black professor defies DeSantis law restricting lessons on race
NYC will offer free abortion pills at 4 city-run sexual health clinics
Most Abortion Bans Include Exceptions. In Practice, Few Are Granted.
‘There is no plan. There’s nothing’: Florida Democrats in despair over future (good opportunity for the left here, if it’s seized)
D.C.’s first elected AG leaves behind transformed office, unfinished fights
Students want new books. Thanks to restrictions, librarians can’t buy them.
Pronatalism: Elon Musk’s fakest public alarm
America Has No Transportation Engineers

Posted in Lotsa Links | Leave a comment

Assuaging Rural Rage

Paul Krugman writes (boldface mine):

Rural resentment has become a central fact of American politics — in particular, a pillar of support for the rise of right-wing extremism. As the Republican Party has moved ever further into MAGAland, it has lost votes among educated suburban voters; but this has been offset by a drastic rightward shift in rural areas, which in some places has gone so far that the Democrats who remain face intimidation and are afraid to reveal their party affiliation.

But is this shift permanent? Can anything be done to assuage rural rage?

The answer will depend on two things: whether it’s possible to improve rural lives and restore rural communities, and whether the voters in these communities will give politicians credit for any improvements that do take place.

This gets to several problems with Democratic strategy. First, professional Democrats don’t toot their own horns very well (sounds kinda dirty, but you know what I mean). The blogger Oliver Willis always jokes about how Democrats should engage in Trumpian hyperbole: “We are building our beautiful highways so strongly”, but he is right in that Democrats need to tout their accomplishments.

But that gets to a much deeper problem. Between Fox News and the purchase of local newspapers and television stations by either hedge funds who are destroying their ability to accurately report the news (can’t do much of that with one reporter) or by ideologues who are turning them into mini-Fox News stations (often even more rabid versions), it’s hard to penetrate these markets. That means Democrats will have to create news by visiting and being present. They actually have to show up and raise the flag. They also will have to have functional and funded local and state parties to push accomplishments and talking points (STOP LAUGHING! STOP LAUGHING NOW!).

Could helping rural communities bring some of them back to the Democratic fold, or at least, blunt the Republican advantage? Yes, especially at the margins in state-wide contests. But to do that, we need a very different Democratic Party (including its financiers to be crass about it). Hopefully, Biden’s strategy will work, but I think it will have a limited effect because professional Democrats aren’t doing the other things too.

Posted in Conservatives, Democrats, News Media | 4 Comments

Links 1/29/23

Links for you. Science:

First cases of gonorrhea resistant to several classes of antibiotics identified in the U.S.
Two-Years Follow-Up of Symptoms and Return to Work in Complex Post-COVID-19 Patients (it’s not good. Again, you are not the weirdo if you’re trying to avoid (re)-infection)
A New Report Outlines a Vision for National Wastewater Surveillance
When scientists tagged a curious seal, he led them to signs of a potential climate disaster
What zombie show ‘The Last of Us’ gets right about fungus in a warming world
Abstracts written by ChatGPT fool scientists (pre-print here)

Other:

WaPo Feeds Denial With False Claims About Overcounting Covid Deaths
The Right Wing Grift
World Economic Forum: Here Are All The Covid-19 Precautions At Davos 2023
Utah plastic surgeon injected kids with saline instead of COVID vaccine as part of anti-vaxxer scam (read to the end on this one)
Remember MOOCs?
Puck’s Official Streaming Service Hierarchy
Never Forget
The Crime Wave That Wasn’t
We Need To Get Junk Science Out of Courtrooms
The Eternal Sunshine of S.B.F.
What Italy’s Failures to Stop Berlusconi Teach Us About Preventing a Trump Comeback
The 5 Creepiest Moments at Davos
The Biden administration moves to end noncompete agreements and the exploitation of workers
Nick Bostrom, Longtermism, and the Eternal Return of Eugenics
The antivaxers’ ghoulish exploitation of dead celebrities
The S.B.F. Chronicles, Part 5: The Mysteries of Stanford
Long Island Publisher Recounts Disturbing Early Meeting With ‘Pure Evil’ George Santos
The Republican con on the debt ceiling
The lasting legacy of Boston’s busing crisis
What more education on racial issues taught me
Why ‘how downtown Boston is recovering’ depends on which downtown you’re talking about
How Nevada Picks Millions From California’s Pocket
The NYT’s trans ‘debate’ isn’t actually a debate
How to change your iPhone’s text size for a specific app: In iOS 15, you can have a different text size for each app
‘We need new antivirals’: Australia’s ‘Omicron soup’ is blunting our best COVID treatments

Posted in Lotsa Links | 20 Comments

Links 1/28/23

Links for you. Science:

Highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection in farmed minks, Spain, October 2022
The Black Death May Not Have Been Spread by Rats After All (paper here)
Bears were mysteriously missing toes. These scientists cracked the case.
Trying to Stop Long COVID Before It Even Starts
Gas stoves can harm your health — and scientists have known that for decades: While the fierce political debate over gas stoves may be new, the science behind it is not.
SARS-CoV-2 variant biology: immune escape, transmission and fitness
Surveillance of 16 UK native bat species through conservationist networks uncovers coronaviruses with zoonotic potential

Other:

The Pundits Are Wrong About D.C.’s Crime Bill: A cynical freakout stretching from Fox News to the Washington Post is utterly bogus.
The science (and business) behind COVID-19 disinformation. And what to do about it.
Now George Santos Seems to Think He Appeared on ‘Hannah Montana’
NBC’s Tony Dungy is out here spreading unhinged conspiracy theories. Months after it was debunked, former Indianapolis Colts HC tweets that schools are putting litter boxes in bathrooms
See How Texas’s Big-city Skylines Have Changed Over the Past Half Century
The Father of the Abortion Pill: The 96-year-old scientist who came up with an idea for an “unpregnancy pill” decades ago has led an eventful life, from his teenage days in the French Resistance to his friendships with famous artists.
The end comes soon: Drums, drums in the deep
Does Dobbs violate the establishment clause? (I’m including this partly because Marcus is wrong about Jewish law: there are situations where abortion is not only permitted, but considered to be the ethical choice)
The Lawsuit That Could Freeze Speech Against Billionaires
Was leaking the Dobbs opinion the perfect crime? It sure looks that way.
Harvard Reverses Course After a Nation Exposé
Boston’s ‘Embrace’ holds fast to the whitewashed view of MLK
Tony Dungy Is a Right-Wing Zealot and the NFL and NBC Don’t Care
Fingerprint gunk and arm fatigue: Are touch-screen laptops a good idea?
Did Twitter Let Trump Post His Way Into a Coup?
The mysterious art of Amsterdam’s ‘Unknown Sculptor’
Why Is Governor Kathy Hochul Waging War on Her Own Party?
A teacher shortage so acute that students are expected to learn without one
‘Constitution Loving’ Capitol Rioter Flunks Basic Bill Of Rights Question At Trial
In Omaha, a streetcar named undesirable by Warren Buffett
Iowa GOP Moves To Stop SNAP Users From Buying White Rice, Fresh Meat And More
Facing early pushback, Michelle Wu says her rent control proposal strikes proper balance
6 Years Before George Santos, Trump’s Endless Lying Made Him President
‘Holding on by its fingernails.’ The biotech industry in Massachusetts braces for another tough year.
Democrats Are Mounting A Push To Expand Voting Rights After Big State-Level Midterm Wins
GOP grandstanding on the IRS

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In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

Well, He Did Such a Great Job Combatting COVID

We Should Offer Boosters Every Six Months, Not Yearly

Another Democratic Crisis

COVID and Streptococcus

What to Do with D.C.’s Downtown

Posted in Weekly Roundup | Leave a comment