SevenDeadlyVirtues.com

October 22, 2014

SevenDeadlyVirtues.com is live now.

There won’t be much original content over there, but there are some excerpts from the book and the full roster of contributors.

Little nuggets are being tweeted out by @TheDeadlyVirtue, if you’re into that sort of thing.

{ 0 comments }

Sonny Bunch: Patriot

October 21, 2014

I always knew Santino was a great American.

{ 0 comments }

JVL Elsewhere

October 17, 2014

I’ve got two pieces in the new Standard. The first is a review of Mitch Pearlstein’s excellent new book, Broken Bonds. If you’re a layman interested in the sociology of family fragmentation, but don’t want to get into the data too heavily, this is the book for you. Pearlstein has interviewed 40 very smart people–like Kay Hymowitz, Heather Mac Donald, and Isabel Sawhill–and turned the transcripts of those conversations into a coherent and vibrant book. As I say in the review “the overall effect being that the reader feels as though he’s sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on a particularly stimulating and elevated discussion.”

The other piece is the Buzzfeedingly-titled “Six Reasons to Panic.” It’s about Ebola.

{ 2 comments }

I got a copy of The Seven Deadly Virtues from the publisher yesterday and I’m really excited by it. Everything about it, from the embossing on the dust jacket to the textured endsheets, is just beautiful. It’s the kind of lovely physical artifact that you’ll want to own, I think.

If you’re in D.C., we’re having a little event for the book at AEI on Tuesday, October 28. It’s not a party, but there will be copious amounts of alcohol, followed by a little debate between Jonah Goldberg, P. J. O’Rourke, Rob Long, Christine Rosen, and James Lileks. It’ll be kind of like a King of the Ring tournament for the virtues. Or maybe a Survivor Series for the virtues. I haven’t figured out all the details yet.

But if you’re around, you should come. It’s free, it’ll be fun, and it’ll give you the chance to get your copy of 7DeadlyV signed by almost all of the authors.

You can register here.

Hope to see you there.

{ 1 comment }

Captain Ebs

October 9, 2014

I don’t want to get too tin-foil hat on you. And in my defense, I haven’t ordered my emergency rations bucket from Sam’s Club yet. (True story: Sam’s is better for this sort of thing than Costco. Who knew?) But . . .

This Ebola outbreak scares the bejeezus out of me. A few thoughts, none of which are original:

* With the number of infections already in the thousands, I don’t know that we’re in a place where the virus can be easily contained. Contagions progress in a geometric pattern, which means that the curve for the resources needed to contain them follows a similar curve.

* There is no written-in-stone understanding of Ebola transmission, because viruses mutate in the wild and the more people who are infected, the greater the opportunity for mutation. Think about that for a minute–we really don’t know the exact limits of transmission right now. And what we do know is terrifying. Have you wondered why Ebola protocols call for washing down infected areas with chlorine? Because the virus can survive for up to two weeks on a dry surface.

* We’re rapidly approaching the point where the best case scenario is a horrifying devastation that’s limited to the African continent. The worse case scenarios get nigh unthinkable awfully fast.

* Do you really want to be scared? Whether or not you realize it, Ebola is a weapon of mass destruction. What’s to stop some jihadi from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over? I understand that ISIS doesn’t tend to use suicide bombers as much as other jihadi groups, but this is just the biological warfare version of a suicide bomb. And can you imagine the panic if someone with Ebola vomited in a NYC subway car? Is this scenario highly unlikely? Without question. But we take drastic precautions against unlikely scenarios all the time. Just look at the massive infrastructure we’ve built for airport security based on two highly-unlikely actions.

All of which leads me to a thought about politics, that’s really not about politics:

You might wonder why the Obama administration has been so reflexively resistant to the idea of stopping flights to the U.S. from infected countries. It’s incredibly easy to get here: Just to pick a day at random, Kayak says you can fly from ROB in Monrovia to JFK for $1,459. That’s prohibitively expensive for your average Liberian, but not for everyone. Closing off flights seems like a no-brainer, yet the administration rejects it out of hand. Why? I suspect it’s because they sense how Ebola has the potential to reshuffle the political landscape. Starting with immigration.

If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, then you’re implicitly rejecting the entire ideological framework of the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are some cases in which the government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. I suspect that some folks see that as the thin end of the wedge. Because what happens then if Ebola breaks into Central America? Then you have to worry about masses of uninfected immigrants surging across the border–not to mention carriers of the virus, too. What do you do? If it was okay to cut off flights from Liberia, is it okay to try to seal the Southern border?

These things tend to have a logic of their own. Once you get majority opinion on board with protecting borders from Ebola, you’re that much closer to having them agree to protect the borders from labor market dilution.

But immigration is just one issue. Barack Obama didn’t create the Ebola virus in the basement of his secret Kenyan mosque. (Note: this is a joke, people.) But he came to office promising to unify the nation, slow the rise of the oceans, and heal the planet. Six years later we have a healthcare law everyone hates, a lousy economy, civil war in Syria, Russia annexing its neighbors, a Secret Service that can’t protect the president, an IRS that targets the president’s opponents, ISIS setting off a new 30-years-war in the Middle East, and oh, look at this–an actual plague. Next up: rain of frogs.

Ebola isn’t Obama’s “fault” in that he didn’t precipitate the outbreak. But he was sitting at the Big Desk when it happened and if things get bad then at some point people will start asking why the the president of the United States was fighting the “war on women” and going to fundraisers with Richie Rich Richman instead of getting ahead of the situation with Captain Ebs.

When institutions break down the way they have in America over the last 14 years, you enter into a world of potentialities that’s very unpredictable. The only real analog in American history, I think, is 1978-1979. America got lucky then because we got Ronald Reagan, who turned out to be one of history’s Great Men. But if you look through history, instability doesn’t always turn out so well for societies.

Okay, I’ll take the tinfoil hat off now. Everything’s fine. The professionals are on the case. They’ll deal with Ebola and this pandemic panic will, like SARS and the avian flu and the pig flu, turn out to be less awful than we feared. I’ll leave the hopeful last word to Galley Friend X:

The reason I think Ebola will not become a major world problem? Nigeria seems to have contained it. If it became a problem in Lagos, I’d think we’d have a real global problem on our hands. But they had cases, they dealt with them, and it’s been probably three weeks since there has been any known Ebola there. Think of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole as the bellwether. If the situation there stays as it is now, then this outbreak is just a regional problem, and maybe even a minor one, relatively speaking. If it becomes a real problem there again, we could be fucked.

Let’s hope he’s right.

{ 18 comments }

The kids in Math class have formed a ring and are chanting “Nerd Fight! Nerd Fight! Nerd Fight!” while pushing Nate Silver into the circle to face off against Princeton’s Sam Wang. And Silver, for his part, seems exasperated by the spectacle. Meanwhile, Wang is either the most naive guy in Central Jersey–a real possibility, I grant you–or is disingenuously demurring that he’s just a poor suburban academic who didn’t understand public rules of decorum and thought that peer review snark was all part of the game.

I’m on record as being a Silver apologist. What he, and other modelers, do has value, even if it is not oracular. Further, what I like most about Silver is that (unlike some of his admirers) he definitively does not present himself as an oracle. He hedges just about everything with caution and qualifiers and seems highly aware of the limits of his work. Plus, he’s a clear writer. Any way you slice it, he adds value to our understanding of the dynamics of elections.

Enter Sam Wang, a Princeton professor of neuroscience who has emerged as the Baghdad Bob of Democratic modelers and has totally by accident carved out a space for himself in the public square by taking shots at Silver. Which would merely be cloying and hackish if Wang was selling something worthwhile himself. But he’s not. He’s not selling a “model”–he’s selling Democratic comfort food. It just happens that there’s a huge market for that right now and he’s the only vendor. Which makes him a cloying and hackish partisan.

All of which is fine. But what really grates is how smug he is. Because here’s Wang in mid-September telling the Daily Beast how easy this stuff is:

He is the author of two books on the brain and his recent work focuses on autism. Politics, he says, is just kind of a hobby. “It’s a relatively easy problem compared with the other things I do,” he told me.

Well, well, well. That’s quite a marker. So Wang has been running around, shooting his mouth off, taking shots at guys with bigger profiles, and trying to make a name for himself selling a narrative that runs totally counter to everything everyone knows about the election by claiming that Dems now have a 63 percent chance–down from 70 percent!–of holding the Senate–and saying that coming up with this divine truth is “easy”?

He better be right. Because if the Dems don’t hold the Senate, then Wang should be completely discredited. At least when it comes to politics.

And by the by, if Wang is doing important work in neuroscience and autism, then isn’t it kind of criminal for him to be wasting so many clock cycles on media fights and the quotidian stuff of election modeling? Goodness knows, we’d rather have a better understanding of autism than a better understanding of the midterm elections, which are going to give us a result one way or another, regardless of what observers write about them.

That is, unless Wang was just concerned with pumping up his Twitter numbers:

In a phone interview with TPM this week, Wang said that he had emailed Silver since the flare-up but has not heard back from him yet. He referenced more than once his relatively meager 6,500 Twitter followers versus Silver’s 959,000.

{ 3 comments }

Lazarus, Supreme Blue Rose, Women in Comics

October 1, 2014

On my last trip to the comic shop I picked up the last few issues of Hawkeye and Lazarus and the first couple issues of a new Image title, Supreme: Blue Rose. Hawkeye continues to underperform its magical first 12 issues. I suspect that writer Matt Fraction is a victim of his own success here. Hawkeye was so good that its […]

Read the full article →

Romney 2016!

September 25, 2014

Ben Domenech had a great headline in this morning’s Transom: “Romney 2016 is real and it is spectacular.” That’s based off the steady drip-drip-drip of pieces over the last eight weeks or so plus Byron York’s piece today. A few thoughts: * I don’t know whether or not I ever blogged about this (turns out I did, […]

Read the full article →

Keith Olbermann, Reborn

September 24, 2014

Yes, it’s six minutes long. WATCH THE WHOLE THING. Because by the time he gets to Red Ruffing–“You don’t know who Red Ruffing was. Do you?”–it’s already the most epic TV baseball segment, evah. And you’re only half way home. An instant classic that goes right on the top shelf with George F. Will’s Sports Machine. […]

Read the full article →

Don’t Go on ‘The Daily Show’

September 24, 2014

Maybe the smartest thing Megan McArdle has written. Reminder: This is not the first time we’ve seen that The Daily Show acts in bad faith. Also, another reminder: Jon Stewart is kind of a dick.

Read the full article →

Chris & Me

September 19, 2014

I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but over at TWS I’ve got a little essay about comic books, my best friend, parenthood, and mortality.

Read the full article →

Coming Soon: The Seven Deadly Virtues

September 10, 2014

As of today the good folks at Templeton Press have sent my new book, The Seven Deadly Virtues, off to the printer. I’d like to tell you about it, since, unlike What to Expect, this project has been shrouded in relative secrecy. First off, it’s not really “my” book. After What to Expect, which took a little more than five […]

Read the full article →