October 20, 2007

Britain's top rabbi warns against multiculturalism

Interesting story from the AP:

Sacks: Multiculturalism threatens democracy


Multiculturalism promotes segregation, stifles free speech and threatens liberal democracy, Britain's top Jewish official warned in extracts from his book published Saturday.

Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, defined multiculturalism as an attempt to affirm Britain's diverse communities and make ethnic and religious minorities more appreciated and respected. But in his book, "The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society," he said the movement had run its course.

"Multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation," Sacks wrote in his book, an extract of which was published in the Times of London.

"Liberal democracy is in danger," Sacks said, adding later: "The politics of freedom risks descending into the politics of fear."

Sacks said Britain's politics had been poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment.

The process, he said, began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. He said the effect had been "inexorably divisive."

"A culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its pain, injury, oppression, humiliation is greater than that of others," he said.

In an interview with the Times, Sacks said he wanted his book to be "politically incorrect in the highest order."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Levitt weighs in on James D. Watson

In his Freakonomics blog on the New York Times, economist Steven D. Levitt issues a stirring defense of freedom of speech and scientific inquiry. Well, no, actually, Levitt sidesteps that whole tarpit and instead complains that he, Levitt, should have gotten more publicity.

James Watson, Black Intelligence, and New Research by Fryer and Levitt

Nobel Laureate James Watson got into trouble recently for expressing the opinion that blacks are less intelligent than whites.

If you look at almost all existing data from standardized tests in the United States, there is indeed a sizable black-white test score gap. Whether the gap is due to genetic differences is a hotly debated academic question.

Roland Fryer and I have done some research on this topic which we think is potentially quite interesting and important — although we seem to be the only ones with this opinion at present. (The paper was rejected yesterday by the American Economic Review on the second round of review, and a search of Google Scholar reveals only two citations to the working paper version released in early 2006.)

In my work with Fryer, we analyzed a newly available nationally representative survey of children ages two and under, done by the Department of Education. Included in this study are tests of mental ability around a child’s first birthday. While you might think it would be impossible to capture anything meaningful at such a young age, it turns out that these measures of one-year-olds’ intelligence are somewhat highly correlated with IQ scores at later ages, as well as with parental IQ scores.

The striking result we find is that there are no racial differences in mental functioning at age one, although a racial gap begins to emerge over the next few years of life.

So what does this mean for the genetics vs. environment debate? Quoting from our abstract, “the observed patterns are broadly consistent with large racial differences in environmental factors that grow in importance as children age. Our findings are not consistent with the simplest models of large genetic differences across races in intelligence, although we cannot rule out the possibility that intelligence has multiple dimensions and racial differences are present only in those dimensions that emerge later in life.”

Like all research, our study has its flaws and limitations. I have to say, however, that I imagined a lot of reactions to this paper, none of which were utter indifference on the part of academics and the popular press. But that was the reaction we got.

I just did a study of lactose tolerance among one-year-olds, and guess what? I didn't find any racial differences! They were all lactose tolerant. So all those stories you hear about how East Asians don't have a gene for lactose tolerance are just racist myths! I proved it with science!

I also did a study of one-year-olds' ability to slam dunk on a ten foot basket. Once again, there were no racial differences. None of them could dunk. I even lowered the basket to six feet and still there were no racial differences in dunking. So, when you watch the NBA and there are all these blacks guys slam dunking, that's just racism. Who are you gonna believe, science or your lying eyes?

Then, I got a bunch of Kenyan and Ethiopian highlander one-year-old babies together with some other babies and timed them in the marathon. As always, there were no racial differences. Not a single baby of any origin finished the 26.2 mile run. So, the next time the top ten finishers at a big marathon are eight Kenyans and two Ethiopians, don't believe it!

You don't want to end up like James D. Watson, suspended from running the laboratory that you have built up over the last 39 years for political incorrectness, do you?

Seriously, I always love how the New York Times is oh-so-skeptical about IQ testing in general, except when it supports something they like, and then credulity is the order of the day. Look, there is no IQ test for 1-year-olds. What Levitt did in this paper is look at a test of infant liveliness (e.g., how often the infant babbles) that has a fairly low but positive correlation with childhood IQ (a correlation which is, by the way, quite common. Indeed, it's hard to find a behavioral measure that is not at all correlated with IQ -- drumming ability is the most famous example of something with no IQ correlation, as all the Drummer Jokes told by high IQ rockers like Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie might suggest.)

So, this test of liveliness of 8 to 12 month olds doesn't show the differences seen among older children on IQ tests! If that isn't stop the presses news, I don't know what is.

Indeed, the highest IQ children (Northeast Asians) do the worst on this test of infant vivacity. With a typical Freakonomic leap of faith, Levitt and Fryer suggested that this shows that IQ differences aren't genetic but are caused by environmental differences, presumably between age 1 and the earliest ages at which IQ tests are semi-reliable.

Of course, all Levitt actually did was show that this test of infant liveliness is a racially biased predictor of IQ. Why is it racially biased? Well, there are lots more ways for something to go wrong than to go right, but one obvious possibility is that the test of infant alertness might measure traits that differ on average between the races, but aren't related to IQ differences between the races. For example, within a race, babies that babble more turn out to be a little bit smarter on average than more taciturn babies. Yet, Asian infants don't babble as much on average as other babies, but that doesn't mean they'll turn out to have lower IQs on average than babies from races that babble more. But pointing out that this test of babies is racially biased is not as sexy a story as claiming it shows Nurture Triumphs Over Nature.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


My VDARE.com article, which will be up late the evening of Sunday, October 21, focuses on the latest ritual denunciations, this time of DNA legend James D. Watson.

And, yes, I've found a new angle.

On the way home Friday evening to write my VDARE article, which was due Saturday morning, I saw I was across the street from my favorite bookstore. You know how in cartoons, you have a white angel on one shoulder and a red devil on the other, offering conflicting advice? Well, on one shoulder I've got an eager beaver telling me, "Do some more research! Go buy Watson's book and skim it. You'll come up with some connection that nobody's seen before. Who needs sleep?"

And on my other shoulder is a tired bear who just wants to hibernate. "C'mon, there's been a million words written about this controversy already. Everybody's saying that Watson never thought about race and IQ before he just spouted that off the top of his head. Surely, if there was anything of interest in Watson's memoirs relevant to this story, it would be all over the place already. Who are you to find something new in something so hashed over? Anyway, you have to get to sleep before dawn."

Eventually, the beaver overcame the bear, so I bought Watson's book. Sure, enough, after an hour or two of reading, I strike paydirt. The most important part of Watson's book is directly focused on my obsessions. I wrote it up and sent it off to VDARE.com at 7:45 am, and crawled off to hibernate.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 19, 2007

"Gone Baby Gone"

Here's an excerpt from my review of "Gone Baby Gone" in the November 5, 2007 issue of The American Conservative:

With The Sopranos wrapped up, there's a general feeling that the Italian mafia has finally been exhausted as grist for movies and TV. What Hollywood needs now is a new favorite crime-prone immigrant group, of which there is no shortage of candidates.

Here in Los Angeles, the more dismal murders -- such as one teenager shooting another over graffiti-tagging rights to an alley -- are committed mostly by the usual suspects. In contrast, the colorful capers that Quentin Tarantino or the Coen Brothers would find cool, the seemingly brilliant schemes that somehow go awry and end in a bloodbath, are perpetrated primarily by white newcomers from either the Middle East or the ex-Soviet Union: Armenians, Israelis, Persians, and the like.

Yet, Hollywood seems instead to be falling in love with an ethnic group that has been here even longer than the Italians: the Irish. Working class white Boston, where killings, while rare, frequently remain unsolved, has been the setting for the recent Oscar-winners "The Departed" and "Mystic River."

Now, failed leading man Ben Affleck (perhaps most notorious for bombing in "Pearl Harbor"), who won a screenwriting Oscar a decade ago with his best friend Matt Damon for their movie about a Boston prole, "Good Will Hunting," has returned to his roots. He has co-adapted and directed "Gone Baby Gone," a detective thriller by Mystic River novelist Dennis Lehane set in Boston's grimy Dorchester neighborhood.

Well, Dorchester is not exactly Ben's roots. He, personally, was born in Berkeley, California and was raised in Cambridge, which is just like Dorchester, if Dorchester were home to Harvard and MIT.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Time to get creative

Since so many commenters on this blog have a (quite reasonable) fear of getting Watsoned or Summersed down the road if they used their real names, my comments section often consists of a horde of people with the same name ("Anonymous") arguing with each other. It can be as hard to follow as the transcript of a South Korean presidential candidates' debate.

Therefore, may I suggest that each of you Anonymouses choose a nom de plume and more or less stick with it. It's a chance to display some personality and creativity. Think of the possibilities! Here are a few I've come up with:

Planetary Archon
False Messiah
Partly Inbred
Whooping Crane or Whooping Cough?
Coolidge Effect
Great White Defendant
Editor of "Commentary"

I'm sure you can do better!

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 18, 2007

"Things We Lost in the Fire"

An odd duck of a movie, but one I rather liked. It starts out as a tragedy and ends up as a comedy. David Duchovny plays an affluent Seattle developer who dies suddenly, leaving a widow (Halle Berry), two cute kids with amazing hair, and a best friend from childhood (Benicio Del Toro) who is a lawyer turned fulltime heroin junkie, whom the widow despises. It's like a lighter, more watchable version of "21 Grams," which starred Del Toro, Sean Penn, and Naomi Woods.

Mostly because she doesn't have anything else to do, the widow Halle invites Benicio to move into the garage, and she tries to get him to go to his NarcAnon meetings. The bald, fat, rich white guy next door helps Benicio get a job because it will piss off his insufferable, status-climbing wife. By the end, Benicio has passed the mortgage broker test and gotten a new girlfriend (Alison Lohman, who still looks like the 14-year-old she played in "Matchstick Men"), but he still has this dream of perfect happiness: having a needle full of junk in one hand and the money for his next score in the other.

Obviously, in real life, recovering heroin junkies are not welcomed into upscale neighborhoods, but the Danish lady director Susanne Bier, making her first American film, gives the impression that she's perfectly aware that charming Benicio and gorgeous Halle aren't real people, they're Hollywood movie stars! There's an early scene where Duchovny and Del Toro talk about how beautiful Berry's character is, which is unusual in movies: we're usually supposed to assume that the ultra-good looking star is a just plucky underdog fighting against all odds.) So, the film has this strange conditional realism: this is what could happen to a heroin addict if he was as lovable as Benicio Del Toro.

The main reason for seeing this film is if you like to watch Benicio (the Oscar-winning Mexican policeman in "Traffic") overact, which I certainly do. In his ability to make his face jump around, he's like an ursine, flabby Jim Carrey. His facial gymnastics are particularly enjoyable during the early scenes for their contrast with the woodeness of Duchovny, the yuppie Charles Bronson. Del Toro's performance as a junkie appears to be modeled on heroin addict Lou Reed's affected vocal in the Velvet Underground classic "Sweet Jane." (I know that sounds like I'm just making it up, but "Sweet Jane" is played three times in the movie, so the Lou Reed comparisons are inevitable.)

I think I've finally figured out the Halle Berry question: How exactly is she both a (not undeserving) Oscar winner for "Monster's Ball" and notoriously bland in superhero films like "X-Men" and "Cat Woman?" Here, her acting starts out strongly in the emotionally-charged scenes at the beginning, but then, as things settle down in the plot, she loses screen presence. She's still easy on the eyes, but by the second half of the movie you're done marveling over how petite her chin is (Can she eat steak with that little jaw?) and there's not much else going on with her.

In other words, she's good at the big, hard stuff (like grieving over her slain husband), but not at the little things. She's like an Olympic figure skater who nails her triple toe-loops but doesn't do anything interesting in-between the jumps, like 1998 winner Tara Lipinski or Tonya Harding, in contrast to, say, Katarina Witt (1984-88) who couldn't do triple jumps, but was a dream of feminine charisma when she was just skating around. With Halle, though, it's confusing; because she's so pretty, you expect her to be good at being ingratiating but not at the big tragic emoting, when, in fact, her skills are the reverse.

So, Halle was quite good in a fairly short role in the lurid melodrama "Monster's Ball" playing the operatically absurd role of a widow who falls in love with the prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) who executed her husband (Puff Daddy), but she's lousy in a comic book movie where only charisma is required.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Watson suspended from job for crimethink

A press release:

Statement by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Board of Trustees and President Bruce Stillman, Ph.D. Regarding Dr. Watson’s Comments in The Sunday Times on October 14, 2007

Earlier this evening, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Board of Trustees decided to suspend the administrative responsibilities of Chancellor James D. Watson, Ph.D., pending further deliberation by the Board.

This action follows the Board’s public statement yesterday disagreeing with the comments attributed to Dr. Watson in the October 14, 2007 edition of The Sunday Times U.K.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

James D. Watson pleads temporary insanity

From The Daily Mail:

Yesterday, Dr Watson issued an apology.

"Science is no stranger to controversy and I am not one to shy away from tackling issues, however, difficult they might prove to be," he said.

"I have had my share of controversy, as many of you know. But I am mortified about what has happened.

"More importantly, I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have.

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly.

"That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief. "

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Surprise, surprise

Back in August, I pointed out that subprime crisis was in part the result of years of government efforts to prevent "discrimination" against minorities in the mortgage market. Now, the NYT reports -- unwittingly, of course -- that the current supbrime mortgage crisis is in part an outgrowth of the long government war on redlining:

Study Finds Disparities in Mortgages by Race


Home buyers in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods in New York City were more likely to get their mortgages last year from a subprime lender than home buyers in white neighborhoods with similar income levels, according to a new analysis of home loan data by researchers at New York University.

The analysis, by N.Y.U.’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, illustrates stark racial differences between the New York City neighborhoods where subprime mortgages — which can come with higher interest rates, fees and penalties — were common and those where they were rare. The 10 neighborhoods with the highest rates of mortgages from subprime lenders had black and Hispanic majorities, and the 10 areas with the lowest rates were mainly non-Hispanic white.

The analysis showed that even when median income levels were comparable, home buyers in minority neighborhoods were more likely to get a loan from a subprime lender.

In Jamaica, Queens, for example, where the majority is black and the median household income was $45,000 in 2005, 46 percent of the mortgages were issued by lenders who specialize in subprime loans, the second highest rate in the city. In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which had a median income of $50,000 and is mostly white, the rate was among the lowest in the city, with 3.6 percent of home loans coming from subprime lenders.

The analysis provides only a limited picture of subprime borrowing in New York City. The data does not include details on borrowers’ assets, down payments or debt loads, all key factors in mortgage lending. And comparing neighborhoods is inexact; the typical borrower in one may differ from a typical borrower in another.

Jay Brinkmann, an economist with the Mortgage Bankers Association, said there was not enough information in the Furman Center analysis and other studies on the issue to draw conclusions about whether subprime lenders were discriminating against minority home buyers. One of the crucial missing pieces is the credit histories of individual borrowers, he said.

But the Furman Center study, a summary of which is being released today, still raises questions about the role of race in lending practices. A separate analysis of mortgage data by The New York Times shows that even at higher income levels, black borrowers in New York City were far more likely than white borrowers with similar incomes and mortgage amounts to receive a subprime loan.

“It’s almost as if subprime lenders put a circle around neighborhoods of color and say, ‘This is where we're going to do our thing,’” said Robert Stroup, a lawyer and the director of the economic justice program at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.

The New York State Division of Human Rights is investigating whether subprime lenders have been engaging in discriminatory practices by singling out minority communities. ...

Even so, housing and civil rights advocates said the findings highlight lending patterns that have long troubled them.

They say minority communities whose financing needs were starved decades ago because of redlining — banks’ refusal to offer loans or other services in minority areas — are now singled out for high-cost, high-risk mortgages in a kind of reverse redlining.

In other words, in the past, poor credit risks in minority neighborhoods had a hard time getting mortgages at the standard rate. So, now, after decades of government lawsuits and programs to direct more lending to minorities, the complaint is that the poor credit risks in minority neighborhoods are getting mortgages, they just have to pay more for them. Obviously, the only solution is for the rest of us to subsidize the mortgages of minorities. After all, how much could it cost? A trillion or two?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 17, 2007

$74k income needed by a renting family-of-four in LA

On Monday, the ever-reliable Shankar Vedantam reported in the Washington Post: "When Immigration Goes Up, Prices Go Down." And now we have some real world confirmation on just how cheap it is to live in America's immigration capital, Los Angeles. From the LA Times:

Poverty line out of touch with costs, advocates say

A report by the California Budget Project estimates that a two-working-parent family in L.A. needs $74,044 to make ends meet.

By Alana Semuels

Everyone knows living in California isn't cheap. But a new report casts a light on how challenging it is to afford basic necessities -- and how inadequate a minimum-wage job is to meet those needs.

A person working full-time for the state's minimum wage of $7.50 an hour earns $15,600 annually. But a single adult in Los Angeles needs to make $28,126 a year to live modestly, while a single parent needs $62,393, according to the California Budget Project, the policy group behind the report being released today.

A two-parent family in Los Angeles with one working member needs $51,035, while a two-working-parent family needs $74,044, the report calculated.

The group estimated the cost of housing, food, transportation, child care, healthcare, taxes and miscellaneous items in regions across the state.

Calculations were based on families who do not receive healthcare through employment, rent rather than own real estate and have a car.

"The standard of living envisioned is more than a 'bare bones existence,' " the report says, "yet covers only basic expenses, allowing little to no room for 'extras' such as college savings, vacations, or emergencies."

They are assuming $1,269 per month for rent and utilities for a family of four. For a three bedroom apartment, that would put you in some place pretty dismal, rather than in a section of LA with decent public middle schools, such as Sherman Oaks or Valley Village. On the other hand, they are assuming $861 per month for health care, so the head-above-water point is a little lower if you get insurance through your job. (Of course, you could pay a lot more than $861 for health insurance on an individual family basis -- as a cancer survivor, I once got quoted $1,500 per month.)

To buy a home rather than rent, you'd roughly have to double that income to, say, $150,000, although at present, nobody is buying anymore, so it's all pretty theoretical.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 16, 2007

James D. Watson being investigated for crimethink

From The Independent in the UK

Africans are less intelligent than Westerners, says DNA pioneer

Fury at James Watson's theory: "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really"

By Cahal Milmo

One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks "in full". Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so." ...

Dr Watson arrives in Britain today for a speaking tour to publicise his latest book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science. Among his first engagements is a speech to an audience at the Science Museum organised by the Dana Centre, which held a discussion last night on the history of scientific racism.

Critics of Dr Watson said there should be a robust response to his views across the spheres of politics and science. Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "It is sad to see a scientist of such achievement making such baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments. I am sure the scientific community will roundly reject what appear to be Dr Watson's personal prejudices.

"These comments serve as a reminder of the attitudes which can still exists at the highest professional levels." ...

Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson's remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: "It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way. It amounts to fuelling bigotry and we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The coming demise of Commentary Magazine has just been announced

From the neocon vanity newspaper, the New York Sun:

Commentary's Transition

New York Sun Editorial

October 16, 2007

While the Republicans are arguing about the meaning of their party and their philosophy, one of the clearest-thinking journals in America, Commentary magazine, is signaling that its own transition will be true on matters of principle. It announced yesterday that its next editor will be John Podhoretz, who will take over the monthly in January 2009. Mr. Podhoretz will be only the fourth editor of Commentary in the magazine's 61-year history, succeeding one of the finest editors in journalism, Neal Kozodoy, who has been with Commentary since 1966, served as editor since 1995, and made the magazine the gold standard of what has come to be called neo-conservative thinking — and a showcase of enterprising journalism, offering scoop after scoop on the beat of ideas.

… Mr. Kozodoy also guided the magazine to its independent ownership in a new not-for-profit corporation, leaving its long-time home in the American Jewish Committee.

In John Podhoretz, who has been writing a brilliant column for the New York Post, Commentary is turning to a leading voice of the younger generation at the same time that it continues its connection to the intellectual tradition that has brought so much to our city and country. It's an inspiring transition for those of us who cover the battle of ideas, and who recognize the enormous impact that a relatively modest publication can have. It is something to think about for a Republican — or any — Party that is trying to find its footing in a turbulent time.

JPod is, of course, the son of former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz.

This tradition of giving magazines to the offspring of first generation neoconservatives is getting out of control. I mean, William Kristol, who runs The Weekly Standard, may not be quite right in the head, but he at least looks presentable. John Podhoretz, in contrast, is a notorious buffoon. If the younger Kristol is evidence for the theory of regression toward the mean, JPod represents regression below the mean.

Charles Murray, the last of the neoconservative data-crunchers, should begin looking for a new outlet.

So, who exactly made this decision? Didn't the Board watch "Gladiator," which teaches the usful lesson: Don't give power to malign oafs just because they are related to the old boss?

I wonder how Commentary's Managing Editor Gary Rosen feels today?

By the way, Podhoretz's brother-in-law is convicted criminal Elliott Abrams, who during the first term of the current President, "filled the post of Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs." In other words, he was the President's adviser on Israel. "At the start of Bush's second term, Abrams was promoted to be his Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy" -- Wikipedia.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 15, 2007

Sleep and IQ

From New York:

Snooze or Lose

Overstimulated, overscheduled kids are getting at least an hour’s less sleep than they need, a deficiency that, new research reveals, has the power to set their cognitive abilities back years.

By Po Bronson

I was going to add an insightful comment, but I can't think of any, so I'll go to bed instead.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

What causes the high rates of AIDS in Africa?

From the New York Review of Books:

How, and How Not, to Stop AIDS in Africa

By William Easterly

The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS
by Helen Epstein

Epstein's view is that the cause of the AIDS crisis in Africa is what has now become known in AIDS jargon as "concurrent" relationships. Africans have about the same number of sexual partners as anyone else; they are just more likely to have more than one long-term partner at a time. Crucially, both men and women have multiple partners, in contrast to other poor societies where men may often stray but women's monogamy is jealously guarded. Western men and women are more likely to practice serial monogamy or engage in one-night stands. To oversimplify a little, Africa's AIDS tragedy is that it combines greater Western-style sexual equality for women with social norms that permit simultaneous long-term sexual relationships for both partners.

Multiple long-term relationships are prevalent in Africa for many reasons. In southern Africa (where the epidemic is concentrated), one of the few opportunities for gainful work open to men is to become long-distance migrants to the mines. Both husbands and wives may have other long-term partners during the months when they are separated. The African tradition of polygamy (described by historians like John Iliffe as a cultural response to maximize fertility in what used to be a lightly settled continent) has given way to modern relationships between older, well-to-do, gift-bestowing men and multiple young girlfriends. This is not so different from the successive trophy wives of American fat cats, but much more widespread since Africa's poverty often makes it a matter of survival for African young women to have a rich (older) boyfriend. The desire of young women for young boyfriends can be accommodated on the side.

For many reasons, concurrent, long-term sexual relationships are much more dangerous for the spread of AIDS than serial monogamy. When both men and women have concurrent relationships, they are part of a huge web of sexual partners by which the HIV virus moves through the population. Long-term relationships are much more likely to spread AIDS than one-night stands because of the low probability of a single sex act spreading the virus. Since the HIV-positive are most contagious soon after they themselves become infected, a long-term partner who has just become infected in another relationship poses much more risk than a prostitute who has been infected for a long time. Serial monogamy in the West kept the virus largely trapped within single relationships, a fact Epstein nicely illustrates with some clever graphs. Her explanation based on concurrent relationships has gained broad acceptance and has been confirmed by mathematical modeling and by surveys of sexual habits in various countries; but one still wishes the evidence was a little more extensive for such a critical issue. At this point, however, it looks like much stigma, denial, and inaction took place simply because of lack of understanding of African sexual behavior. ...

To illustrate the role of political agendas, Epstein discusses the famous success story by which AIDS infection rates in Uganda decreased as a result of the ABC campaign—"Abstain, Be Faithful, and Use Condoms." Epstein damns both the Western right and left for their misuse of the lessons of Uganda. The religious right played up the "Abstain" part because it happened to fit their particular moral preferences. People on the left, who had different sexual morals, said just use condoms. The "Be Faithful" message, precisely the one in Epstein's story that was critical in Uganda (led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who called for "Zero Grazing"), was a political orphan, disdained by both left and right. ...

When well-conceived efforts to improve prevention do exist, they often run afoul of the aid industry. Epstein observes that there was already a huge international bureaucracy devoted to combating population growth by distributing condoms. When suddenly condoms became marketable for preventing AIDS as well as pregnancy, this presented a huge new growth opportunity for family-planning organizations (which had been losing foreign aid market share as people realized that population growth was not as scary as originally thought). The condom bureaucracy did what it does best, which is flood countries with condoms. Alas, supply does not create its own demand. Condom-saturated countries like Botswana have made little progress in reducing new AIDS infections, since people there don't like to use condoms and are not yet convinced that they are at risk of HIV infection if they don't. Meanwhile, the "Be Faithful" message was neglected because it was not of interest to the bureaucracy concerned with AIDS. As Epstein muses acidly: "Zero Grazing" had "no multimillion-dollar bureaucracy to support it." ...

Epstein argues that it violates both common sense and the evidence to put much faith in vague, happy-sounding messages about self-esteem and safe sex. During visits to Africa I have often seen the ubiquitous donor-funded "AIDS prevention" billboards, featuring beautiful young couples who are meant to convey—well, what exactly? Epstein (backed up by an epidemiological study of the Uganda prevention success story) argues that the prevention campaigns could use less sexiness and more fearfulness. What worked in Uganda, she writes, was the "ordinary, but frank, conversations people had with their family, friends, and neighbors—not about sex—but about the frightening, calamitous effects of AIDS itself."

This is Epstein's "Invisible Cure." ... One still wishes that the evidence for what works was a little more substantial than one Ugandan success story that lasted a few years, but Epstein is such a persuasive storyteller that she earns a serious hearing. To illustrate what's needed, Epstein draws an analogy to the medical activism of women's groups in nineteenth-century America. Once they understood the germ theory of disease, they were able to spread habits of hand washing, covering your mouth while coughing, not spitting in public, etc. This successfully reduced disease even before the invention of antibiotics.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 14, 2007

Let's Play: "Spot the Fallacy"

From the Washington Post:

When Immigration Goes Up, Prices Go Down

So, that's why it's so cheap to live in California!

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Conclusion of my review of "Farewell to Alms" by Gregory Clark

Last week, VDARE.com ran the first portion of my review of Gregory Clark's "Brief Economic History of the World," in which I considered Clark's initial topic: why did the Industrial Revolution start in England. Today, I consider the second, and more important subject of his book: why has the Industrial Revolution spread to some countries but not to others?

A Farewell To Alms Part II: Why Have Some Countries Profited From The Industrial Revolution?

By Steve Sailer

[See also last week's A Farewell To Alms: Why Did The Industrial Revolution Happen Where It Did?]

In A Farewell to Alms, economic historian Gregory Clark asks: Why has the Industrial Revolution of the last two centuries caused a Great Divergence, making some nations so rich, while others have stayed so poor.

This is a social scientist's question, not a historian's, because there are enough separate countries in the world that general patterns can be perceived that can be reasonably well explained by a limited number of factors.

There are a lot of data to work with, folks.

A quick survey of the globe shows, for example, that countries tend to be poorer when they are ruled by crazed ideologies (e.g., North Korea vs. South Korea) or are far inland (e.g., Paraguay vs. Uruguay).

But another factor is so obvious that we aren't supposed to mention it.

If you rank the 156 countries with populations of one million or more in order of per capita GDP, the top 23 are made up of one Arab oil country (the United Arab Emirates), four Northeast Asian countries—and 18 countries with populations primarily of European origin.

Number 24 is Israel, where Europeans make up a little less than half the population, but dominate the economy. Not until 33rd place do we find a non-oil country without a predominant European or Northeast Asian population: Trinidad and Tobago, which is 40 percent South Asian and 38 percent black.

The poorest European country is Serbia, which is still ahead of 66 others.

As of 2006, the 43 countries with majority European populations average $22,000 each, the eight Northeast Asian countries $21,000, and the 105 other countries $5,225.

Economists, however, have intellectually disarmed themselves from tackling this second question. Clark complains:

"Although the disparities in performance across countries remained unchanged, the ‘labor quality’ explanation disappeared from the economics literature after WWII. … Unskilled labor is assumed to be of the same quality everywhere."


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"We Own the Night"

I haven't seen this new crime thriller flick with Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix about the NYPD battling all the "Russian mafia" crack importers who operated in the Outer Boroughs in 1988, but for anybody who has seen it, here's a question: Does the movie ever explain how all these Russian immigrants got to New York City by 1988 to set up their own mafia? Wasn't it kind of hard to get out of Russia back then? I vaguely recall there was a Berlin Fence or something like that and it not coming down until 1989. There are a lot of articles on Google News about the movie being about "Russian" mobsters, but I haven't found any that see fit to explain this little conundrum.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer