The Last King of Scotland

The resurgence of interest in the subject of Ebola can be summarized in one sentence: “nearly half of the cumulative case burden of Ebola in the three countries has occurred in just the last 21 days”.


Christian Althaus of the University of Bern in Switzerland just released a grim new calculation of the RO for this epidemic that finds that when the outbreak began in Guinea, it was RO = 1.5, so each person infected one and a half other people, for a moderate rate of epidemic growth. But by early July, the RO in Sierra Leone was a hideous 2.53, so the epidemic was more than doubling in size with each round of transmission. Today in Liberia, the virus is spreading so rapidly that no RO has been computed.

This basically means this disease, while still a minor league killer compared to other African diseases, has gotten away from the public health authorities. Reuters writes “Ebola spreads exponentially in Liberia, many more cases soon: WHO”.  Laurie Garrett at Foreign Policy turns the acronym WHO into a question. WHO?

The neglectful status of the WHO was, horribly, by design. Its governing body, the World Health Assembly (WHA), in which nearly every nation on Earth is a voting member, has declined to increase country WHO dues for more than a quarter-century. Worse, following the 2008 financial crisis, most of the extrabudgetary special support that the WHO relied upon — funds from rich countries that more than doubled the agency’s financing — disappeared as once-wealthy governments turned away from philanthropy while saving their fiscal skins….

This week the WHO finally came out of its somnambulant state and infuriating claims of being just a “normative agency,” as Director-General Margaret Chan has repeatedly put it. … The WHO’s Chan has been at great pains in her media blitz this week to say that the U.N. and WHO are not in charge … If Ebola spreads to other countries this conundrum will arise again, and the global community will be left with its own question: “Who’s in charge?”


The real ‘Who’ of course is Captain America.  Since the end of the Second World War, and especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’ve lived in the most religious of eras. One reason why the superhero movie trend is enjoying a boom is because our modern world, which has grown too sophisticated to believe in Christianity, really believes in the Marvel Comic Book universe.  WHO can safely say “who me?” because like everyone else, they feel sure that somebody will save the day.

The idea that “someone” will take care of things now universal. It is not confined to Africa. Most will have heard by now that Scotland is on the brink of declaring its independence from the UK. Some of the most telling arguments for Scottish independence are shown in this poster.

Just wait till Putin shows up

Just wait till Putin shows up

Free everything.

As James Fallows wrote in the Atlantic, “a majority of Scots want to live in a center-left society, while a majority of English want to live in a center-right society.”  Pointing out that people who want to live center-left lives need center-right taxpayers and troops to keep them in clover won’t work.  Because not just Scotland but everyone firmly believes, not just in the tooth fairy, but the Hulk and SHIELD and the NSA. As the current crisis shows, NATO is really a bunch of Europeans meeting to decide on how America will defend them.  Just as center-left Scotland depends on center-right somebody to provide all that free stuff, so do Europeans depend on the knuckle-dragging Americans to prop up their imaginary nuclear-free zones.


NEWPORT, Wales—Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will pledge at a summit here to lift their military spending to 2% of each country’s gross domestic product over the next 10 years, according to three officials familiar with the negotiations over the summit communiqué….

The summit statement is expected to say that governments will “aim to” meet the 2% target in 10 years, meaning it is a nonbinding commitment. It will include a pledge for countries to spend 20% of their defense budget on investment, including new equipment. The latter target was included after German encouragement, since Berlin argues that the quality of military spending matters as much as the amount.

Diplomats said the pledge was initially resisted by Canada, which spent just 1% of GDP on defense last year, according to NATO estimates, and Germany, which spent 1.3%.

Just as everyone knows that Putin the Cat must be belled but no one wants to bell the cat, everyone wants to stop Ebola. But when ‘everyone’ wants something the ‘world’ apparently means that ‘someone’ is going to do it. Otherwise it doesn’t get done at all. “Obama says military will help fight Ebola outbreak in West Africa”.  There. Finally. At last. When talk turns to ‘independence’, rely upon it that they are really talking about dependence.  For example, when Obamacare promises to free health care what they really mean is that somebody has to pay for it.


In this  Marvel Universe we’ve constructed the average person is convinced that “someone” — the gods — rules in Asgard. In fact most security theater is designed to convince the onlooker that this is literally true. Actually the gods may be doing nothing at all except putting in SEIU overtime.  A candid glimpse into Valhalla may reveal Odin snoozing; and worse Odin as just a government employee of the sort you find in the post office or the DMV. Recently James O’Keefe filmed a volunteer dressed as an ISIS terrorist crossing Lake Erie from Canada without challenge. The film maker followed his antics as he disembarked in Cleveland, Ohio and walked into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Recently Ted Cruz proposed a measure that would strip Americans fighting for ISIS of their U.S. citizenship and bar them from the US.  The astounding thing is that it took Ted Cruz to think this up.  What happened to the gods in Asgard? But then you would have thought that WHO was in charge of stopping Ebola.  No they’re not.  Someone else is.  At least everyone thinks someone is.

And the amazing thing is that up until recently there actually was a Captain America of sorts.  A friend of mine once remarked that given the folly of mankind, the only way you could explain human survival was to posit the existence of God or the protection of Space Aliens. Well maybe Captain America kept the world spinning till now. But now he’s retired. If so then Ragnarok isn’t some climactic battle in Marvel Universe. The end of things won’t arrive with a bang and clash, just the creaking of a door as the world peeks into an empty room and sudden realizes that there is no one in Valhalla any more.


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