March 2, 2007

African female sexual freedom spreads AIDS

The Washington Post catches on to something I've been writing about for three years: AIDS is so bad in Africa in part because it has a different sexual structure than much of the rest of the world. One of Africa's big AIDS causes is not Castro Street-style promiscuity, but multiple concurrent partners.

Speeding HIV's Deadly Spread
Multiple, Concurrent Partners Drive Disease in Southern Africa
By Craig Timberg

FRANCISTOWN, Botswana -- … A growing number of studies single out such behavior -- in which men and women maintain two or more ongoing relationships -- as the most powerful force propelling a killer disease through a vulnerable continent.

This new understanding of how the AIDS virus attacks individuals and their societies helps explain why the disease has devastated southern Africa while sparing other places. It also suggests how the region's AIDS programs, which have struggled to prevent new infections even as treatment for the disease has become more widely available, might save far more lives: by discouraging sexual networks.

"The problem of multiple partners who do not practice safe sex is obviously the biggest driver of HIV in the world," said Ndwapi Ndwapi, a top government AIDS official in Botswana, speaking in Gaborone, the capital. "What I need to know from the scientific community is, what do you do? . . . How do you change that for a society that happens to have higher rates of multiple sexual partners?" …

But the number of sexual partners is not the only factor that increases the risk of AIDS. The most potentially dangerous relationships, researchers say, involve men and women who maintain more than one regular partner for months or years. In these relationships, more intimate, trusting and long-lasting than casual sex, most couples eventually stop using condoms, studies show, allowing easy infiltration by HIV.

Researchers increasingly agree that curbing such behavior is key to slowing the spread of AIDS in Africa. In a July report, southern African AIDS experts and officials listed "reducing multiple and concurrent partnerships" as their first priority for preventing the spread of HIV in a region where nearly 15 million people are estimated to carry the virus -- 38 percent of the world's total.

But for many Batswana, as citizens of this landlocked desert country of 1.6 million call themselves, it is a strategy that has rarely been taught.

… International experts long regarded Botswana as a case study in how to combat AIDS. It had few of the intractable social problems thought to predispose a country to the disease, such as conflict, abject poverty and poor medical care. And for the past decade, the country has rigorously followed strategies that Western experts said would slow AIDS.

With its diamond wealth and the largess of international donors, Botswana aggressively promoted condom use while building Africa's best network of HIV testing centers and its most extensive system for distributing the antiretroviral drugs that dramatically prolong and improve the lives of those with AIDS.

But even though the relentless pace of funerals began to ease in recent years, the disease was far from under control. The national death rate fell from the highest in the world, but only to second-highest, behind AIDS-ravaged Swaziland. Men and women in Botswana continued to contract HIV faster than almost anywhere else on Earth. Twenty-five percent of Batswana adults carry the virus, according to a 2004 national study, and among women in their early 30s living in Francistown, the rate is 69 percent.

Researchers increasingly attribute the resilience of HIV in Botswana -- and in southern Africa generally -- to the high incidence of multiple sexual relationships. Europeans and Americans often have more partners over their lives, studies show, but sub-Saharan Africans average more at the same time.

Nearly one in three sexually active men in Botswana reported having multiple, concurrent sex partners, as did 14 percent of women, in a 2003 survey paid for by the U.S. government. Among men younger than 25, the rate was 44 percent.

The distinction between having several partners in a year and several in a month is crucial because those newly infected with HIV experience an initial surge in viral loads that makes them far more contagious than they will be for years. During the three-week spike -- which ends before standard tests can even detect HIV -- the virus explodes through networks of unprotected sex.

This insight explained what studies were documenting: Africans with multiple, concurrent sex partners were more likely to contract HIV, and countries where such partnerships were common had wider and more lethal epidemics.

A model of multiple sexual relationships presented at a Princeton University conference in May showed that a small increase in the average number of concurrent sexual partners -- from 1.68 to 1.86 -- had profound effects, connecting sexual networks into a single, massive tangle that, when plotted out, resembles the transportation system of a major city.

… These factors, researchers say, explain how North Africa, where Muslim societies require circumcision and strongly discourage sex outside monogamous and polygamous marriages, has largely avoided AIDS. They also explain why the epidemic is far more severe south of the Sahara, where webs of multiple sex partners are more common, researchers say.

West Africa has been partially protected by its high rates of circumcision, but in southern and eastern Africa -- which have both low rates of circumcision and high rates of multiple sex partners -- the AIDS epidemic became the most deadly in the world. "That's the lethal cocktail," said Harvard University epidemiologist Daniel Halperin, a former AIDS prevention adviser in Africa for the U.S. government, speaking from suburban Boston. "There's no place in the world where you have very high HIV and you don't have those two factors."

… "It explains why Africa is hardest hit" by AIDS, Mosojane said. "The way we contract for sex is different from how others do it."

Polygamy once was common in the region, and in some parts still is; Swaziland's king has 13 wives. In generations past, even Batswana with just one spouse rarely expected monogamy. Husbands spent months herding cattle while their wives, staying elsewhere, tended crops, Mosojane said. On his return, a husband was not to be quizzed about his activities while he was away. He also was supposed to spend his first night back in an uncle's house, giving his wife time to send off boyfriends.

An anthropologist friend who spent years in Botswana talks about how once he and some of the tribesmen went off on a trip. On the way home to the village, they were making better than expected time, so he proposed driving through the evening and arriving about midnight, rather than the next day as they had announced upon leaving. The tribesmen were aghast at his proposing such a social faux pas. No gentleman would arrive home early, likely surprising his wife in flagrante delicto with her lover. It would be most embarrassing for all concerned. No, a polite husband never comes home early.

In Setswana, the national language, "the word 'fidelity' does not even exist," Mosojane said.

The few checks that traditional villages had on sexual behavior dwindled during the development frenzy after 1967, when diamonds were discovered. Batswana increasingly moved to cities for school or work. Plentiful television sets delivered a flood of Western images, including racy soap operas and music videos featuring lightly clad women vying for the attention of wealthy, bejeweled men.

The key is that African husbands tend to be more tolerant of their wives having a long term lover or two than is the norm elsewhere. The thought of one's wife becoming pregnant by another man is intolerable to most husbands around the world, but tends to be less infuriating in Africa.

That probably stems from women doing most of the farm work in rural Africa. (That's why you are always hearing about men in Africa working away from home in mines or wherever for months -- the men aren't often needed around the farm because most of the work is just hoeing weeds, which women can do at least as well as men.)

So, the husbands don't have as much leverage over their wives' behavior as in places where husbands are work-a-daddies bringing home the bacon. And African husbands don't have as much motivation to enforce fidelity on their wives since they won't be investing as much money in their wives' children's upbringing as they would elsewhere.

Another contributor to the high rates of AIDS in Southern/Eastern Africa besides multiple concurrent partners and lack of circumcision is the bizarre fetish for "dry sex," which I would guess doesn't exist among West Africans because (thankfully) you never hear about it among their African-American cousins.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

February 28, 2007

The Typograph of "Idiocracy"

Idiocracy money

A print designer's blog called "Speak Up" offers an in-depth appreciation with lots of freeze-frames of Ellen Lampl's dumbed-down corporate logos for Mike Judge's movie "Idiocracy."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Let's play "Spot the Fallacy:"

In the LA Times:

Immigrants boost pay, not prison populations, new studies show
Immigrants are less likely to go to prison than U.S.-born residents of the same ethnic group and they boost pay for natives, research says.
By Teresa Watanabe

Two new studies by California researchers counter negative perceptions that immigrants increase crime and job competition, showing that they are incarcerated at far lower rates than native-born citizens …

Among men of Mexican descent, for instance, 0.7% of those foreign-born were incarcerated compared to 5.9% of native-born, according to the study, co-written by UC Irvine sociologist Ruben G. Rumbaut.

So, why isn't this good news about the long term impact of immigration on crime rates?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

February 27, 2007

Little Mexico in Alta California

Little Mexico in Suburban Los Angeles: Southern California has an enormous number of municipalities, some of which increasingly resemble Cicero, Illinois in Al Capone's day. Here's an LA Weekly article about a town I'd never heard of, but is home to 28,000 unfortunate people.

The Town the Law Forgot
An L.A. ’burb is mired in gangs, cartels and south-of-the-border-style politics
By Jeffrey Anderson

Cudahy resembles a Mexican border town more than it does a Los Angeles suburb. Entrenched gangs and Mexican drug trafficking have trapped working-class legal and illegal immigrants in a cycle of violence and fear, in a city where less than a quarter of the 28,000 residents are eligible to vote. An uneducated city council, a deeply troubled police force imported from Maywood two towns over, and the raw power of the 18th Street Gang — a complex criminal organization with a knack for setting up business fronts and obscuring underground drug activity — make Cudahy residents seem like hostages in their own city...

With its narrow, deep lots — the result of an agricultural past that is long gone — its glut of rundown apartment buildings and its lack of economic growth, Cudahy offers a good example of how Mexican drug cartels, the prison-based Mexican mafia and gangs like 18th Street are attracted to the Los Angeles–adjacent industrial sprawl populated by poor immigrants. Do these criminal elements influence Cudahy’s leaders, with city officials answering to someone other than the public or the rule of law, in a town policed by another town’s troubled police force? [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

February 26, 2007

Chicago's Election

Mayor Richard M. Daley will likely tie the late Mayor Richard J. Daley's municipal mark by winning his sixth straight mayoral election on Tuesday. (Illinois Senator Barack Obama has jumped on the bandwagon, endorsing Daley despite previously expressing concern about the corruption of Daley's regime.)

When Richie Daley was first elected in 1989, nobody (including, I'm sure, the candidate himself) imagined that aesthetics would be his foremost concern. And, yet, Daley, of all people, has proven the most artistically important politician in America. Chicago's lakefront is now a gleaming wonderland, and Daley is going all out to get the 2016 Olympics to show it off to the world.

As a politician, Daley is strangely similar to one of his inspirations, the Emperor Napoleon III, the renovator of Paris. Fortunately, lacking an army, Daley hasn't gotten into similar entanglements abroad, such as attempting to put a puppet king on the throne of New Mexico or declaring war on the insolent Teutons of Wisconsin.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The 2008 California Primary

Back when America had a messy but relatively sane Presidential nominating system, the California primary in early June was often the Waterloo of the long primary season. California is where Barry Goldwater knocked out Nelson Rockefeller in 1964 and Robert F. Kennedy famously defeated Eugene McCarthy moments before his murder in 1968.

But over the years the nominating process has become absurdly front-loaded, culminating in 2004 when John Kerry won the ridiculous Iowa caucuses in January and Howard Dean emitted a weird noise, and that was that: the Democratic Party was stuck with Kerry because a few thousand Iowans thought he was more "electable." So, the citizens of America's biggest state haven't had a say in the nominations in decades.

Now, Gov. Schwarzenegger looks like he's going to get his way and move the California primary back all the way to February 5, 2008. Obviously, that has massive implications for fundraising in 2007 since the cost of buying advertisements in the LA and Bay Area television markets is gigantic. So, this would suggest that the many dark horses who have talked about entering the race won't stand a chance.

Of course, if the media and voters remain as obsessed with momentum coming out of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina (and in 2008 Nevada for the Democrats) as they have been in recent years, the races might still be virtually over by the time the candidates get to California.

Our dysfunctional Presidential nominating process is one of America's biggest problems, but there doesn't seem to be any feasible way to fix it.

By the way, something that isn't widely understood is the odd way that the GOP primary will hand out delegates in California.

The Fresno Bee reports:

"For Republicans, the primary election will be a new experience as the party will select all but a handful of its delegates based on which candidate wins each of the state's 53 congressional districts. In past elections, the top vote-getter statewide earned all the delegates. In each congressional district, the Republican winner will capture three delegates. It is the same for a liberal Bay Area district or a conservative Valley district…"

This means that liberal Republican candidates (e.g., Rudy Giuliani) will have a big advantage in picking up delegates in California, where they can win Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco Congressional district with a ridiculously small number of GOP votes. And I have no idea who is going to win Maxine Waters' South Central LA district, but I bet the GOP winner won't make it to four digits in votes there.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Surprisingly, I can't argue with many of the award choices. It must be the first time ever.

Okay, "The Departed" isn't "Raging Bull," but it sure is entertaining. You're probably hearing a lot of cinemaphiles claim that it doesn't compare to the Hong Kong thriller, "Infernal Affairs," that it's loosely based on, but I can't imagine anybody saying that who had seen "The Departed" first. Scorsese is one of the very few of the cocaine casualties of 1975-1985 to come all the way back. Coppola has never really recovered and Cimino ("The Deer Hunter") hasn't made a movie in a decade. But in his sixties, Scorsese, after the relative failure of "Gangs of New York" regrouped and made "The Aviator" and "Departed." And well deserved Oscars for William Monahan's richly detailed screenplay (he's written a comic novel that sounds interesting, if overdone) and to Scorsese's great editrix Thelma Schoonmaker (her third).

How about the anti-Communist "The Lives of Others" winning Best Foreign Film?

Jennifer Hudson's Best Supporting Actress award points out the impact of "American Idol" on the entertainment industry. Clearly, before the TV show came along the music industry wasn't doing a good job of identifying female singing talent.

Speaking of energetic old guys, Oscars, and drugs, what was the point of making Alan Arkin's grandpa in "Little Miss Sunshine" a heroin addict? Doesn't heroit make you nod off, not radiate a ferret-like intensity? This just seemed to be another example of the film's random quirkiness, so I can't be too enthusiastic about it winning Best Adapted screenplay, even though I liked the film's message. ("The Lives of Others" wasn't nominated for Original Screenplay, but it would have been a better choice.)

Still, Arkin is a marvel. If you get a chance to see the trilogy movie "Eros," skip Wong Kar-wai's and Antonioni's segments and watch Soderbergh's (highly non-erotic) section for the amazing comic chemistry between Arkin and Robert Downey Jr. as a 1955 psychiatrist and his patient, Madison Avenue man in a gray flannel suit advertising executive, who between them invent the snooze button for an alarm clock Downey is promoting.

Another bad award: Best Score to "Babel" -- maybe the music wouldn't be so irritating if everything else about the movie wasn't so annoying, but by the end of the film I was intensely sick of the music. Well, "Babel" didn't win anything else, so let's count our blessings.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer