Thursday, August 30, 2018

Raising The Curtain On Peggy McIntosh

I have mentioned elsewhere Peggy McIntosh's seminal rant-disguised-as-an-academic-exercise, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible KnapsackPeggy McIntosh" (PDF). It has received an unusual number of citations (3,895 by Google Scholar's count), i.e. more than one, and with good reason: it is foundational to the enterprise of intersectional politics, i.e. the scaffolding supporting the entire parasitic operation. Yet not enough attention has been paid to the woman herself, an oversight happily rectified today by William Ray at Quillette. McIntosh, it turns out, benefited mightily from wealthy parents and deep, aristocratic connections:

So central has this doctrine [of intersectionalism] become to progressive politics, pedagogy, and activism, that to even question its validity is to invite the inquisitorial wrath of ‘social justice’ radicals. But it is for this very reason that it is important to subject McIntosh’s ideas to scrutiny.

Peggy McIntosh was born Elisabeth Vance Means in 1934. She grew up in Summit, New Jersey where the median income is quadruple the American national average—that is to say that half the incomes there are more than four times the national average, some of them substantially so. McIntosh’s father was Winthrop J. Means, the head of Bell Laboratories electronic switching department during the late 1950s. ...

Elizabeth Vance Means then attended Radcliffe, a renowned finishing school for the daughters of America’s patrician elites, and continued her private education at the University of London (ranked in the top 50 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings), before completing her English Doctorate at Harvard. Her engagement to Dr. Kenneth McIntosh was announced in the New York Times‘s social register on the same page as the wedding of Chicago’s Mayor Daley. McIntosh’s father, Dr. Rustin McIntosh, was Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at Columbia University. His mother was President Emeritus of Barnard College, an institution in the opulent Morningside Heights district of Manhattan, famous since 1889 for providing the daughters of the wealthiest Americans with liberal arts degrees. This was once the stomping ground of American cultural luminaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cecil B. DeMille, and several Supreme Court Justices. Kenneth McIntosh was himself a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy, which boasted alumni including Daniel Webster, the sons of Presidents Lincoln and Grant, and a number of Rockefeller scions. He later completed his elite education at Harvard College and the Harvard Medical School. By the time of his marriage to Elizabeth, Kenneth McIntosh was a senior resident at the prestigious Brigham Hospital in Boston, founded by millionaire Peter Bent.

In other words, Peggy McIntosh was born into the very cream of America’s aristocratic elite, and has remained ensconced there ever since. Her ‘experiential’ list enumerating the ways in which she benefits from being born with white skin simply confuses racial privilege with the financial advantages she has always been fortunate enough to enjoy.
"One is left to wonder why," Ray continues, "given her stated conviction that she has unfairly benefited from her skin color, there seems to be no record of her involvement in any charity or civil rights work." If you are your movement's Moses, your reputation is already secure.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

How Big Data Is Raising Costs And Killing Doctors

This week, I interviewed two doctors starting a new practice in Little Rock using the Direct Primary Care model. We talked a good bit about a number of issues, but particularly, those of Electronic Medical Records (EMR), their distribution, and security. It came up that their days as employees of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences went something like this:
  • 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM: see patients (with fit-ins possibly pushing that back to 1:00 PM)
  • Lunch
  • 1:00-2:00 PM to 6:00 PM: paperwork (ICD-10 coding, mainly)
That is to say, they were expensive secretaries whose time was better spent doing other things. Doctors are scarce as it is, and this makes a bad situation worse. It also meant that these two young women were unable to pick up their children from daycare, even given a ten-hour window! It is all too sadly typical:
A recent study in the Annals of Family Medicine used the E.M.R. to examine the work of 142 family medicine physicians over three years. These doctors spent more than half of their time — six hours of their average 11-hour day — on the E.M.R., of which nearly an hour and a half took place after the clinic closed.

Another study, in Health Affairs, tracked the activities of 471 primary care doctors over a three-year period, and also found that E.M.R. time edged out face-to-face time with patients.

This study came on the heels of another analysis, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, in which 57 physicians were observed directly for 430 hours. The researchers found that doctors spent nearly twice as much time doing administrative work as actually seeing patients: 49 percent of their time, versus 27 percent.
The insanity of such paperwork loads is obvious, and contributes mightily to physician burnout. According to a study from the Mayo Clinic, 1 in 5 doctors plan to curtail their clinical hours over the next two years, and 1 in 50 plan on leaving the field altogether. Big Data comes with real-world consequences. Remember that the next time you see some self-interested company pitching its wares as a means to improve outcomes or costs,  or some dimwit politicians endorsing it using fatuous acronyms.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Why Don't Federal And Texas Homicides By Illegal Immigrants Match?

I recently encountered a piece at American Thinker purporting to show that illegal immigrants murder at much higher rates than the general US population. Randall Hoven's piece starts with a March, 2011 GAO survey (PDF) estimating the number of murderers among the ranks of "criminal aliens" (a group that includes people legally in the United States) in state jails under the DOJ's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or SCAAP) and ones in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) committed over two periods:
To determine the number and nationalities of criminal aliens incarcerated, we analyzed BOP data on criminal aliens incarcerated in federal prisons from fiscal years 2005 through 2010 and SCAAP data on criminal aliens incarcerated in state prisons and loca l jails from fiscal years 2003 thorough 2009.
Hoven takes 2009 DHS estimates of 10.8 million illegal aliens in the United States, and a total alien population of 25.9 million, from the GAO study. Given there are two periods and two prison populations studied by the GAO, this leads to obvious problems with coming up with the right numerator and denominator. Over the study period, on page 21 (PDF page 27) they claim 25,064 criminal aliens were imprisoned for homicide. Assuming a static population over the longer of the two terms studied (which is clearly false but will serve to increase the rate otherwise), that means
Let’s take homicide as an example. The GAO estimates “criminal aliens” were arrested, convicted and incarcerated for 25,064 homicides. If non-citizens committed them over seven years, the annual rate would be 14.2 per 100,000 non-citizens. If illegal aliens committed them over four years, the annual rate would be 58.0 per 100,000 illegal aliens. Either way you compute, those are high rates.
So far, so bad (at least for what this means). We should expect to see similar figures from the states. Yet this hasn't materialized. Texas, according to the DHS, had 1.9 million illegal immigrants as of 2014 (PDF). The Texas Department of Public Safety records only 225 homicide convictions over a seven-year period from 2011 through 2018. This correlates with an annual homicide rate of around 1 per 100,000, which is dramatically lower than the general US population figure of around 5/100,000 — more than an order of magnitude of those calculated by Hoven, in fact.

So why the discrepancy? Digging deeper into the Bureau of Justice Assistance website, it turns out SCAAP eligibility (PDF) is contingent upon
Each applicant government is to provide detailed information about the individuals —
(1) whom the applicant government “incarcerated” for at least four consecutive days during the “reporting period,” and
(2) who the applicant government either knows were “undocumented criminal aliens,” or reasonably and in good faith believes were “undocumented criminal aliens.”
Which is to say, there's a considerable financial incentive to overreport such individuals. This isn't the end of this discussion, but it bears substantial further investigation, especially given the policy stakes.

Update: One interesting comment on this comes from the National Council of State Legislatures, which mentions that SCAAP eligibility changed starting in 2012: "SCAAP payments will only be made to states and localities only for those inmates that DHS can verify as illegal aliens. DHS will no longer reimburse states for “unknown” inmates (58 percent of the program in 2010)." Indeed, looking at the 2010 data (Excel spreadsheet, the closest year available before the 2011 GAO report, more years available here), 43% of the total presented to UCA for SCAAP reimbursement (21,831 of 50,402 total from Texas) fell into the "unknown" category. This seems ripe for exaggeration, as well.

Update 2: It would appear that SCAAP data would also admit illegal aliens, suspected or actual, who had been jailed in preparation for a trial in which they may have been exonerated. So the "crime" listed might entirely be speculative.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sarah Jeong Gets A Job At The Racial Animosity Factory

It's hard to say anything of substance about the Sarah Jeong story without duplicating things everyone else has said, so I here succumb to the temptation to link dump, mostly. The basic story is by now well-known; Jeong got hired to write unsigned editorials for the New York Times after a stint at The Verge and Harvard Law. Her tweets — literally, years of them — "reveal a vicious hatred of an entire group of people based only on their skin color" as Andrew Sullivan put it. Those of us on the receiving end of her nasty rhetoric (including expressions of "eliminationist" wishes — "#cancelwhitepeople") must understand that all this is just fine:
Jeong definitionally cannot be racist, because she’s both a woman and a racial minority. Racism against whites, in this neo-Marxist view, just “isn’t a thing” — just as misandry literally cannot exist at all. And this is because, in this paradigm, racism has nothing to do with a person’s willingness to pre-judge people by the color of their skin, or to make broad, ugly generalizations about whole groups of people, based on hoary stereotypes. Rather, racism is entirely institutional and systemic, a function of power, and therefore it can only be expressed by the powerful — i.e., primarily white, straight men. For a nonwhite female, like Sarah Jeong, it is simply impossible. In the religion of social constructionism, Jeong, by virtue of being an Asian woman, is one of the elect, incapable of the sin of racism or group prejudice. All she is doing is resisting whiteness and maleness, which indeed require resistance every second of the day.

That’s why Jeong hasn’t apologized to the white people she denigrated or conceded that her tweets were racist. Nor has she taken responsibility for them. Her statement actually blames her ugly tweets on trolls whose online harassment of her prompted her to respond in turn. She was merely “counter-trolling.” She says her tweets, which were not responses to any individual, were also “not aimed at a general audience,” and now understands that these tweets were “hurtful” and won’t do them again. The New York Times also buys this argument: “her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time, she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.”
Sullivan, who rightly called this excuse "the purest bullshit", found himself shortly thereafter attacked by the usual dimwits, including Ezra Klein, who stupidly used the fact that one of her tweets was about Sullivan to dismiss any criticism of it. (This was also picked up by Tyler O'Neil, who noted that Jeong used the tweet to whip up anti-Sullivan sentiment.) The Federalist had good responses from Warren Henry ("The scandal is not that the NYT hired Sarah Jeong. The scandal is that so many progressives cannot conceive of it being scandalous.") and Sumatra Maitra, for whom this graf stands out (emboldening mine):
One cannot possibly imagine how superficially polite but internally toxic and Stasi-esque the environment of a New York Times editorial meeting is, unless of course, you accept that all the men and women who work at The New York Times are groveling, self-hating cowards. It would be a great social science experiment to take an anonymous survey of the New York Times office to unearth what people really feel about their co-workers.
Likewise Jonah Goldberg in National Review; do we really have to spell out that racism against white people can be a thing? I guess so:
If all you need to know about Oscar Wilde is that he was a gay dude, just like Richard Simmons or Milo what’s-his-name, you’re a bigot. If Meyer Lansky and Albert Einstein are merely two Jews to you, you’re an anti-Semite. If Margaret Thatcher, Joan of Arc, and Lizzie Borden are just three chicks, you’re a sexist.

...But for some bizarre reason, for many people, this idea evaporates like water off a hot skillet when you replace any of these categories with “white” or, very often, “male.”

Suddenly fancy words and phrases fly like sawdust from a wood chipper: “structures of oppression!” “decontextualized!” “ahistoricized!” etc. It’s all so clever and complicated. The same people who take to the streets at the slightest suggestion that Muslims can be judged by the evil deeds of other Muslims will lecture and harangue you for hours, mob you on Twitter, or condescendingly dismiss you for not understanding that all white people have it coming.
A coda from David French:
...[T]his argument confuses the gravity of an offense with the existence of the offense. A powerless person’s hate may not harm the powerful, but it is still hate. A powerless person’s hate may even be grounded in specific experiences, but it is still hate. The essence of bigotry is to look at the color of a person’s skin and, on that basis alone, make malignant judgments about his character or worth.
A corollary illustrating how stupid the left's position here is that racism is geographic. If racism only exists in the contexts of power, and if you don't happen to be among the powerful majority, then a white person can't be racist in China, and a Chinese can't be racist in the west. Claire Lehmman credited the addled thinkers excusing Jeong with "[having] to defend their bailey position (racism=power+prejudice) rather than simply retreating to their motte position (dictionary definition of racism)", but so far as I have seen, this hasn't happened. The definition of racism got a good working over at Slate Star Codex:
So we have a case where original coinage, all major dictionaries, and the overwhelming majority of common usage all define “racism” one way, and social justice bloggers insist with astonishing fervor that way is totally wrong and it must be defined another. One cannot argue definitions, but one can analyze them, so you have to ask – whence the insistence that racism have the structural-oppression definition rather than the original and more commonly used one? Why couldn’t people who want to talk about structural oppression make up their own word, thus solving the confusion? Even if they insisted on the word “racism” for their new concept, why not describe the state of affairs as it is: “The word racism can mean many things to many people, and I suppose a group of black people chasing a white kid down the street waving knives and yelling ‘KILL WHITEY’ qualifies by most people’s definition, but I prefer to idiosyncratically define it my own way, so just remember that when you’re reading stuff I write”? Or why not admit that this entire dispute is pointless and you should try to avoid being mean to people no matter what word you call the meanness by?
The answer to that should by now be obvious: the people behind it want institutional power and this is a way to get it without accountability. "If you can't be racist against white people, then why are you trying so hard?"

Cathy Young:
So, what is the final lesson of the controversy over Jeong? Some conservative critics have slammed the New York Times for a “racial double standard” in standing by her, while others have denounced her tweets while agreeing that she shouldn’t be fired. But, interestingly, there has also been some angry reaction on the left. On Splinter News, Libby Watson called the Times’ handling of the incident “pathetic”; the newspaper’s statement, she fumed, not only validated “bad faith” right-wing complaints about Jeong but seemed to endorse the view that “being flippant about white people” was “comparable to actual racism.”

The Jeong controversy has revealed to what an extent a toxic form of identity politics is prevalent on the left today. The silver lining is that both the New York Times and Jeong have agreed that white-bashing is bad. Perhaps we can start a new conversation from that point.
Yes, especially given that Asian-American families out-earn their white counterparts by about 28% (PDF), it's hard to see how someone like Jeong, educated at an elite school, gets to make snotty comments about "all white people" — a group that includes a lot of Appalachian poverty. Jeong's tweets, it seems to me, amount to a sort of argot that provides a passkey to the cool kids hangout in the upper tiers of American society. They may not be meant seriously, but they not only did not cost her her job at The Verge, they got her an upgrade at the NYT.

Inkoo Kang at Slate essentially told white people to shut up, chiding the Times for "how protective it’s being of white feelings at a time of renewed and active discrimination against people of color", as though somehow being actually considerate toward others wasn't part of the process of convincing them to your point of view. But in keeping with the argot theory of Jeong's tweets, Jeong's job at the Times isn't one of convincing people so much as telling them the right thing to think. In fact, as Yascha Mounk (also in Slate) put it,
But while I do not think that Jeong should be fired for her tweets, I am depressed by the extent to which they are now being celebrated. This is true both because the content of her tweets is, from a liberal perspective, much worse than her defenders want to admit and because the kind of rhetoric in which she engaged is detrimental to the prospect of building a just society.

The core of the Times’ defense of Jeong is that she “responded to … harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.” In the most obvious reading of the statement, this is simply untrue. If Jeong had been imitating the rhetoric of her harassers, we would expect most instances of it to come in direct response to trolls. But in reality, she took aim at “white people” in standalone tweets on a wide range of subjects, from food to television.

The only tenable interpretation of the Times’ statement is therefore much broader: Because Jeong has frequently encountered abuse from white social media users—something that is, sadly, beyond doubt—she imitated their style and rhetoric when tweeting about white people in general, even when unprompted by any specific incident of harassment.
It seems incredible that Mounk needs to make the obvious point that, "the defensive inversion of bigotry ... is also a massive gift to the very people who are most intent on doing harm to them." That is to say, it is a kind of political suicide, one that reminds me of Freddie deBoer's response to the "magic words" concept.

Update 2018-08-09: Reihan Salam in The Atlantic:
In some instances, white-bashing can actually serve as a means of ascent, especially for Asian Americans. Embracing the culture of upper-white self-flagellation can spur avowedly enlightened whites to eagerly cheer on their Asian American comrades who show (abstract, faceless, numberless) lower-white people what for. ... <

Think about what it takes to claw your way into America’s elite strata. Unless you were born into the upper-middle class, your surest route is to pursue an elite education. To do that, it pays to be exquisitely sensitive to the beliefs and prejudices of the people who hold the power to grant you access to the social and cultural capital you badly want. By setting the standards for what counts as praiseworthy, elite universities have a powerful effect on youthful go-getters. Their admissions decisions represent powerful “nudges” towards certain attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and I’ve known many first- and second-generation kids—I was one of them—who intuit this early on.

Consider the recent contretemps over Harvard’s undergraduate admissions policies. Critics argue that the university actively discriminates against high-achieving Asian American applicants by claiming that a disproportionately large number of them have lackluster personalities. One obvious reaction to this charge is to denounce Harvard for its supposed double standards. This reaction might be especially appealing to those who see themselves as the sort of people who’d be dismissed by Harvard’s suspect screening process, and who’d thus have every reason to resent it. ...

So what if you’re an Asian American who has already made the cut? In that case, you might celebrate Harvard’s wisdom in judiciously balancing its student body, or warn that Harvard’s critics have a darker, more ominous agenda that can’t be trusted. This establishes you as an insider, who gets that Harvard is doing the right thing, while allowing you to distance yourself from less-enlightened, and less-elite, people of Asian origin: You’re all being duped by evil lower-whites who don’t grok racial justice.