This Is The School I Want For Our Kids

This sounds amazing.
History — Grade 9:

Aristotle, Politics.
Herodotus, Histories.
The Holy Bible, American Standard Version
Livy, Stories of Rome.
Plato, The Republic, et al.
Tacitus, Annals.
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian Wars.

English — Grade 9:

Cicero, Selected Works.
The Holy Bible, American Standard Version.
Homer, The Iliad.
Homer, The Odyssey.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar.
Sophocles, Three Theban Plays.
Golding, Lord of the Flies.
The 10th grade list looks good, too. The 9th grade list is focused on the classical world (Golding is a strange bird to fold in there, since his work is clearly Freudian; it's not at all certain to me that he belongs, but otherwise the list is great). The 10th grade list focuses on the European heritage. Eleventh grade literature is wasted on American authors, only two of whom are truly great -- I mean of course Twain and Melville, and they intend to read only Twain -- and while there are a few other American books worth reading (To Kill A Mockingbird, say), the truth is that we don't merit a whole year. They could easily have extended the British literature segment to a year and a half.

I like reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar about the same time as Livy and Tacitus. Lots of cross-pollination to be had there.


This might be a good test to perform on all squishy research:  replace the numerical results with random numbers and see if the conclusions change.

On a lighter note

It's Saturday, and that means it's Quiz Time.  I got five of these "famous first lines of novels expressed in emoticons."

Chopped liver

President Obama has just observed casually that Ukraine is not a member of NATO.  It is a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum, however, along with the United States:
The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances is a political agreement signed in Budapest, Hungary on 5 December 1994, providing security assurances by its signatories relating to Ukraine's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Memorandum was originally signed by three nuclear powers, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. China and France gave somewhat weaker individual assurances in separate documents.
The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine as well as those of Belarus and Kazakhstan. As a result Ukraine gave up the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile between 1994 and 1996, of which Ukraine had physical though not operational control. The use of the weapons was dependent on Russian controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system.
Following the 2014 Crimean crisis, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., as well as the other countries all separately stated that Russian involvement is in breach of its obligations to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum, and in clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia, however, argued that the Budapest memorandum does not apply to the 2014 Crimean crisis because separation of Crimea was driven by an internal political and social-economic crisis. Russia initially claimed it was never under obligation to force any part of Ukraine's civilian population to stay in Ukraine against its will.
To answer Grim's question, should the people of Ukraine worry?  If they were depending on their government's agreements with the U.S., the answer is yes.  And why anyone would ever again give up nuclear weapons (or anything else) in exchange for assurances from us is a mystery to me.

Should Ukrainians?

Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?
Russia doesn't have the population, now, for a war like 1939. No European state does.

Of course, nuclear Russia doesn't have to invade you to make life difficult.

"It's best not to mess with us" is apparently the new Russian national motto, roughly equivalent to the old Scottish national motto: Nemo Me Impune Lacessit. The Scots meant it, back in those days. Perhaps they will again: they have a referendum on independence soon.

The Russians seem to mean it now. What to do?

Getting away

The Weather Channel isn't providing me with the radar pictures I was hoping for:  a series of lovely, wet thunderstorms that were supposed to be generated by this collapsing tropical system in the western Gulf.  But it does have a link to some amazing remote spots.

This one is a romantic monastic spot in Georgia.  No, not that one:  the one in Eurasia.

All Right, Market Defenders

Explain this one to me.
When George W Bush passed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act 12 years ago, there was an influx, led by Goldman Sachs, of purely financial players who had no interest in ever buying food, but who sought solely to profit from changes in food prices, says Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food.

He added: "What we are seeing now is that these financial markets have developed massively with the arrival of these new financial investors, who are purely interested in the short-term monetary gain and are not really interested in the physical thing – they never actually buy the ton of wheat or maize; they only buy a promise to buy or to sell. The result of this financialisation of the commodities market is that the prices of the products respond increasingly to a purely speculative logic. This explains why in very short periods of time we see prices spiking or bubbles exploding, because prices are less and less determined by the real match between supply and demand."
Now, what I'd expect to see if there are more dollars chasing the same amount of food is a price spike, followed by a production spike. If there aren't actual needs for the food, though, that production spike should be followed by a price collapse. Thus, though people might starve to death in the short term, any who survived would eventually enjoy lower prices for food (at least until the market adjusted).

That isn't happening, apparently. What's happening instead is that food prices went way up in 2008, and have remained up (with occasional further spikes-and-collapses).

Is this a case for government regulation of the market, e.g., to prevent speculation on certain necessities like basic foodstuffs? Or is there an upside that isn't evident from the article? Or is there no upside, but regulation should still be opposed -- and if that, why?

Point of Parliamentary Procedure

Can one, in fact, become a "citizen" of the Caliphate?
"I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State,”Hasan says in the handwritten document addressed to “Ameer, Mujahid Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

"It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."
Or is the proper petition to become a subject?

Decisiveness - a Remembrance

I remember how people used to make fun of President Reagan because he slept so much. The Capitol Steps did a really hilarious skit (to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), where Reagan is sleeping through a foreign-policy crisis while Vice-President Bush tries to solve it alone and the chorus sings, "a-wake-him-up-a-wake-him-up-a-wake-him-up-a-wake-him-up..."

It was only years later that I learned, when Grenada was overthrown by a radical Marxist coup, Mr. Reagan was shaken awake at four in the morning...and he was ready to make his decision right then. No doubt it helped that he had a strategic vision. A simple one, they say, but effective.

ISIS has been on the rampage out of Syria and into Iraq since mid-June. Today, at the end of August, I heard the news from President Obama: "We don't have a strategy yet."

Our prospective next President got her longed-for 3 A.M. call from Benghazi...and blew it.

As the troubadours sang, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."


Where is everybody? Well, if you were looking at our solar system from outside, the way we look at others, the only planet you'd see is Neptune:

More Voices on Chivalry

Another blogger takes up the question. He begins with two cases in which chivalrous actions ended up badly for the actors.
Even more tragic is the instance one night last July when a 49-year-old man came to the rescue of a woman being sexually assaulted by two men at a Fresno gas station. This allowed the woman to escape, but he was badly beaten by the pair and left in the street, where he was struck and killed by a passing vehicle.
That's true, but he died a hero. He could have passed by that scene and lived a coward. He could have lived long enough to die horribly of some disease of corruption. If you don't want to die a hero, how do you want to die?

The comment include the usual expressions, so well familiar as to be unremarkable. One, though, caught my eye. He was responding to a man who had declared that few women were 'worth' the risk, or the sacrifice.
Shame on you.

Chivalry has never been a 2-way street and your rationalizing is either an excuse for your own cowardice, or an irrational grudge against women. Every woman is worth it. Christ died for her, you and me, so we’re all worth it.

I have held doors and been insulted, given up a seat on a bus and been chewed out. I still hold doors and give up my seat. I won’t let such nonsense keep me down. I’ve stepped between a stranger and the man verbally abusing her. He looked like he could take me, but he didn’t try. A man’s duty is to protect and honor women, protect and guide children. There are no conditions attached. God bless those poor souls who did their duty. God have mercy on you if you go to Him with such excuses for your failings in life.
There speaks the soul of a Christian knight.

A Texas Jury Speaks

A Texas father was found not guilty Wednesday of gunning down the man who killed his young sons in a drunken-driving accident. It took the jury three hours to acquit David Barajas, who was charged in the shooting death of 20-year-old Jose Banda Jr. in December 2012. "I thank God. This has been hard on me and my family," Barajas told reporters. "It's been a lot of weight lifted but I'm still very hurt."

An intoxicated Banda struck Barajas and his two children while they pushed the family’s disabled truck down a road, just 50 yards away from their home in Alvin, south of Houston. Barajas’ children — David, 12, and Caleb, 11 — were killed. Amid the chaos, authorities charged, Barajas went home, retrieved a gun and went back to the wreckage to shoot Banda in the head. But investigators never recovered a gun and didn't have an eyewitness to the shooting.


Paul Bloom writes:
When asked what I am working on, I often say I am writing a book about empathy. People tend to smile and nod, and then I add, “I’m against it.”
Why? He goes on to explain from a famous example.
Hannah sounds like a good therapist, and it seems as if she would also be a good mother to young children.

But consider what it must be like to be her. Hannah’s concern for other people doesn’t derive from particular appreciation or respect for them; her concern is indiscriminate and applies to strangers as well as friends. She also does not endorse a guiding principle based on compassion and kindness. Rather, Hannah is compelled by hyperarousal—her drive is unstoppable. Her experience is the opposite of selfishness but just as extreme. A selfish person might go through life indifferent to the pleasure and pain of others—ninety-nine for him and one for everyone else—while in Hannah’s case, the feelings of others are always in her head—ninety-nine for everyone else and one for her.

It is no accident that Baron-Cohen chose a woman as his example. In a series of empirical and theoretical articles, psychologists Vicki Helgeson and Heidi Fritz have explored why women are twice as likely as men to experience depression.
So it has a cost for her. But not just for her: because it is emotional and unstoppable, it is unreasonable and unreasoning. Something must be done, whether it is the right thing or not. If it makes the problem worse in the long run, but provides a moment of relief from this intense emotional pressure, it must be right. Those who conflate empathy with goodness, or non-evilness, are thus committing to a vision of the good that is thoughtless, careless, and sometimes reckless.

Nor is that the only reason to be against it! You may find it worthwhile to read the rest.

A Ferguson neighbor

Dellwood, which adjoins Ferguson, has a different approach to police work.
In Dellwood, a “citizens academy” was started for residents. They graduate, receive certificates and shirts and then can volunteer at events to essentially help keep the peace. It “brings the community closer to the police department,” according to [Mayor] Jones.
The police chief in Dellwood has also apparently issued an order to have each officer meet one new person each week and file a report on who they met. This is “another way to ensure the officer is talking to people” and “getting to know residents.”
If you know the people, you are policing then you don’t have as much fear of what those people are going to do. Fear seems to have been a huge contributing factor to the arrests and police violence that have unfolded in the past weeks. So, Jones said that the city makes an attempt to make sure the relationship between the community and police is not a “me against you” relationship.
* * *
The city of Ferguson has red light cameras that were installed in August 2011.
“We don’t do those kind of things, which frustrate residents,” Jones asserted. “Those kind of things create a bad relationship between government and residents when you have all these kind of things you are constantly using—and for revenue purposes—but seventy percent of the time you’re frustrating people.”
“I believe in good old-fashioned policing. Pull you over with a radar, and write you a ticket,” Jones added. “True, we can put a camera up and boost revenue, but I just don’t think that’s necessary because, again, you create that bad relationship with your residents and your police or even your government when you start doing that.”
Jones has been the mayor since April 2013. He ran based on a vision of uniting the city because there had been a “big political fight” that had divided it. He put forward a platform that included listening to more voices in the community and, according to him, city council meetings now have “great attendance” with people coming out to see how government is operating and what is going on.
* * *
Like many who have observed and been involved in what was happening, Jones contended that what Ferguson residents need to learn is to vote in their city’s elections. The city is nearly 70% African-American and there is only one black on the city council. There are only three black police officers. Yet, in the last election, voter turnout was 12%.


Someone has developed a nail polish that allows the wearer to dip her finger in a drink and detect knock-out drugs.
Some opponents were outright angry at the invention.
“I don’t want to f[***]ing test my drink when I’m at the bar,” said Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of an activist group called FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. “That’s not the world I want to live in.”
Well, princess, go find another to live in, then.

Students' spirits brutally crushed by regressive pedagogic techniques

When I tutored fourth-grade kids in a bombed-out section of Houston some decades back, I was surprised to find that they'd been confidently reassured by teachers and family that they need never memorize the multiplication table. Given a problem like 6x7, they would laboriously add 6 and 6, get 12, add 6 again, and so on. They would get there eventually, of course, and it's nice that they understood the connection between addition and multiplication, but we'd reach the end of the hour before they had time to grind through more than a couple of problems. They weren't ever going to advance any further, without some shortcuts that involved memorization. But no one really expected them to progress. The main focus was social promotion, keeping the age groups together. The teachers knew barely more than the kids did, though they all seemed awfully nice and well-meaning. They welcomed the volunteer efforts of my colleagues and me without any visible trace of suspicion or resentment, and generally maintained order among their young students.

"So persecute me for 200 years"

Just 'cause I lied, now no one believes me?
And reports that [Michael Brown's] friend Johnson had a criminal record that including lying to police has put Johnson's credibility in question.
In 2011, Johnson was arrested and accused of theft and lying to police about his first name, age and address. Johnson said Monday night he doesn't understand why some are questioning his credibility.
"I see they bring up my past, my history, but it's not like it's a long rap sheet," Johnson told Lemon. "This one incident shouldn't make me a bad person."
I wish I could find a clip of the old Garrett Morris SNL skit about Kermit Washington's complaint that the media were portraying him as though he had punched Rudy Tomjanovich right in the face.

An unusable back-up

Is it just me, or is a back-up for your computerized agency less than useful if retrieving anything from the back-up system is too onerous to be attempted?

I really wouldn't want to have to take this position in front of a federal judge who's already showed signs of ceasing to believe anything I or my client had said about the discovery process for the last year or so. I'd expect him to suggest gently that the magistrate he has appointed to look into possibly criminal offenses has got plenty of time and won't find the task onerous at all.

Politically, however, the problem is less daunting. The broadcast news channels simply ignore it, so most voters will never hear about it. Maybe it will get some coverage if someone goes to jail.


The Epicurean Dealmaker writes from Wall Street:
I prefer to label these special snowflakes Trophy Kids, since their entire young lives have been spent in pursuit of trophies and awards of all kinds, scrapping and scrambling to get into the best schools and the best clubs and the best jobs from the moment their hypercompetitive parents decided they should. Of course, “best” in this context means what everybody else thinks is best, so the trophies we are talking about are clear, unambiguous, and well recognized by everyone: top grades in school, passionate commitment to approved extracurriculars, conspicuous community service to high profile, photogenically needy causes, and the right employer out of college.

“Trophy Kids” is also apt because these socioeconomic poster children make themselves highly desirable as acquisitions by those institutions which aspire to have the best themselves, just like aging billionaires like to accumulate trophy wives and girlfriends. It is not too far to stretch a metaphor to observe that Trophy Kids’ relationships to high-prestige employers are fundamentally the same as trophy wives’....

And this explains why investment banks like Goldman Sachs want to recruit the tippy top of the best and brightest to their sausage factories, O Dearly Beloved: they want trophy employees. They want them not because, as Kevin Roose correctly observes, they need such hyper-accomplished hothouse flowers to program their 50-page spreadsheets and 100-page PowerPoint presentations. I have banged on at length about this before: they don’t. Trophy Kids often make lousy investment bankers, at least over the long term, because my business is a client service business. In contrast, Trophy Kids have been raised from birth to want and expect to be the client.

That's a relief

As long as there's no conclusive link, we should be OK:
The VA response — copies of which were obtained by USA TODAY — includes talking points that reveal at least one crucial finding by investigators: No deaths of veterans at a Phoenix VA hospital could be "conclusively" linked to delays in care at that facility.

The inside scoop on amnesty

Goldman Sachs probably has as much insight as anyone into what's about to issue forth from the President's telephone and pen. I fully expect whatever happens to be a blend of political opportunism, condescension, economic madness, and wishful thinking, so it's not as though I'm likely to be disappointed. I will say, though, that there's one aspect of what's likely to come that makes some sense to me: if we're not going to deport people, which is clearly the case, then it's both monstrous and destructive not to let them work. But soon, no doubt, we'll start worrying about letting them self-exploit, so we can undermine their employment rates for their own good.

Are America's poorest left to hang?

A British blogger compares American prosperity to British in each of twenty percentile groups, and finds Americans better off economically in all but the bottom 5%, where Britain has a narrow edge. There's also a ranking of each America state, with some European countries included for comparison. Only Mississippi loses out to Britain. H/t Maggie's Farm.

Four Guys Against Rape

So rape drugs are a problem. For years -- indeed, for decades -- I've heard people advising women not to drink anything they haven't had positive control of every second since they watched it being poured.

Four college students, all men, thought this was a problem. So, they're fixing it.

Solid work, boys.

Too Much Individualism

I don't think Milbank understands the TEA Party very well, and in fact I think his proposal here is not very likely to work. Nevertheless, I am surprised to see that we seem to agree about the problem with American culture, even if we disagree about the solutions:
Liu observes that American culture now has an excess of individualism, short-term thinking and prioritizing of rights over duties. He calls for “a corrective dose” of Chinese values: mutual responsibility, long-term thinking, humility, moral character and contribution to society.
Now, I was just praising Jackie Chan on exactly this ground, so it may seem that we have some agreement about the solution set as well. Certainly Chinese culture currently has a stronger sense of the family as an institution that is (and ought to be) binding on its members: America has largely disposed of every binding institution except the State, following the logic of the Enlightenment philosophers from Hume and Locke to JS Mill -- to say nothing of Marx and those under his influence. We have come to see the world in terms of atomic individuals and their governments, so much so that the Democratic party now speaks of government as 'the thing we all belong to,' or 'the word for what we do together.'

Still, there are two things to say about this:

1) Chinese culture is not the answer. For one thing, as Milbank's article itself points out, Chinese culture isn't a hedge here -- it's breaking down on the same lines as we speak. For another, the authoritarian response that Milbank describes is very much at the core of Chinese cultural ideals. The boss in China is a very different figure than an American boss, as the fourth of these graphics relates.

Part of the reason is that Chinese culture is incompatible with direct confrontation between individuals, which is very much necessary to the American form of government. In order for a republican form of government to work, people have to speak the truth as they see it, and hash out their differences in conflict. A society that believes that politeness is built around not making others uncomfortable may be noble on its own terms, but it requires the authoritarian mode of government that Chinese culture produces not only in government itself, but in the family, and in the business world. Someone has to be empowered to make a decision binding on everyone else just because you can't have direct confrontations that would allow you to hash things out. If you don't like a proposal you can signal it by saying things like, "Maybe we could do that," rather than, "Yes, let's do that!" But you can't have the kind of frank exchange of views that is necessary for the traditional American city council that would allow you to come to a compromise position. You need someone to make the call, and you need a culture of submission to that call when it is made.

2) We have an American solution that is fully formed. It's just been abandoned. But America used to have stronger families, we used to have more of a sense of duty and community, we used to celebrate faith and religion.

Why did it fall apart? Industrial economics. The move from extended families to nuclear ones follows from the need of an industrial economy for mobile workers, which shatters the old model of families because it requires the children to move in different directions. The sort of small Protestant churches that were historically so prominent in America break up for the same reason. Only larger churches that one can belong to without being tied to a particular place can hold generations of people together if the families are going to break up and move in different directions every few years. The same holds for private clubs and other small cultural organizations.

An information economy makes larger families possible again, and stable churches and other community organizations, insofar as you do not need to move to be physically present at a given office, but such an economy isn't fully realized even here in America.

For the moment the philosophy of individualism is triumphant, in other words, in part because the forces that would resist it have been broken by the economy on which we all rely for survival. As we transition to a new way of producing, the old institutions may recover -- and if they do, they will be better positioned to reassert the more traditional modes of American thought on things like family and church.

In the meantime, individualism is so convincing to so many because it is the only way of thinking that seems to match the physical reality they encounter. It isn't obvious to them that this reality is a human construction, in part because the structure of the economy is beyond human control. It is wholly our production, but it is the force of so many of us acting at once that no group -- even a nation -- can really alter the basic facts about it to any substantial degree. Efforts at control fail to produce the intended results.

Now Milbank intends, when he talks about Americans thinking of themselves as belonging to a community, something like these 'efforts at control.' He thinks of the TEA Party as a kind of revanchist movement because he doesn't understand their economic points, which aren't about individualism per se but about eliminating government meddling with the economy (such as taxation, regulation and mandates) in order to allow the economy to flourish. This same economy has been destroying families and communities, but the only hope to recover lies in moving forward, not in trying to build dams. That's what they're arguing -- not that they should not be thought of as members of communities. Of course they don't think that. If they did, there wouldn't be such a profusion of community-oriented symbolism at TEA Party functions: religious communities, families, and of course the basic symbolism of belonging to an American political community that is captured in the tricorner hats and copies of the Constitution.

The solution, then, isn't to import other cultures to improve ours. The solution can only be to move forward with developing an information economy, while mindful of the need to build and sustain communities and families and churches. The solution is to push down power to localities when possible, states when not, and to diminish the role of the Federal government -- in that way, you'll get people working together to solve problems because the government will be operating at a scale they can actually affect with their efforts.

The introduction of "whiteness" is a red herring. The problem is not ethnic, and the solution is not either.

Diplomatic Jokers

The British Embassy is having some cake.

Unpronounceable hazards

Alarms are beginning to sound a little less shrilly over the possibility of a big air-travel disrupting volcanic explosion under one of Iceland's glaciers.

I give this volcano high marks for its name, Bardarbunga.  Not that I'm likely to be able to remember it an hour from now--except as some kind of mashup between Mordor and Cowabunga--but it sure beats Eyjafjallajokul.


These sights in the sky would certainly get me thinking about alien invasions.

Seriously, I need to do some more doomsday prepping.

Bugging out, New-York style

Cheer up:  doomsday preppers no longer are restricted to those scary hyper-male government-conspiracy-obsessed Christians you see on TV.  Manhattanites are embracing the trend, in their own Manhattanish way.

Speaking strictly for myself, I'd say that Rule #1 for surviving an apocalypse would be "move out of Manhattan this instant."  For some New Yorkers, though, that's unthinkable, so they've turned their attention to practical plans for escaping the island in an emergency.  Inflatable kayaks are one approach.

As a species, we don't seem to have much imagination when it comes to the sudden loss of the intricate web that supplies us with food, water, and other necessities of life--and that goes eleventy for people who live in tall buildings on a small island crammed with 3 million people:
Urban survivalist culture also overlaps with sustainability and homesteading culture. Many preppers are interested in organic and local foods, farmers' markets and the reduction of toxic chemicals. Some meetings, for instance, have focused on such things as how to make deodorant and laundry detergent at home . . . .

Curves bending the wrong way

For a week or more recently, I hunted for new statistics on the Ebola outbreak, but the official death toll was stuck in the 800 range, despite hints that the reporting system had broken down.  It now looks as though the infections and deaths were indeed piling up silently.  Reported deaths are now over 1,400.  WHO now admits that the outbreak has spread to the Congo, after initial denials.  The Ivory Coast has closed its borders.

Ebola remains a relatively difficult disease to transmit, or we wouldn't be seeing deaths in the 2,000 range six months into an epidemic in countries with almost no institutions capable of slowing its spread: we'd be seeing millions. The 1918 influenza spread worldwide in a few months and killed something like 50 or 100 million people (the world was in such a mess, and reporting systems so rudimentary, that it's hard to be sure). Now, the flu: there's a virus that knows how to spread. It's contagious before symptoms occur, for instance, which is not the rule with Ebola.

Ebola kills just over half of the people who contract it, in horrific conditions. We have no information to speak of on what percentage of people it kills in a modern hospital capable of delivering good supportive care while the body mounts its own immune response. As infected Europeans come home for decent treatment, though, we may be about to find out.

Like many of the diseases that have intruded themselves on human attention, including HIV, influenza, West Nile virus, bubonic plague, Lyme disease, and salmonella, Ebola is an example of zoonosis, meaning that it has an animal reservoir and occasionally spills over into the human race. The current thinking appears to be that Ebola, like rabies, Chunkunguya, influenza A, SARS, Hendra virus, and Nipah virus, may have its reservoir in bats. Bats make a good reservoir for human disease. They resemble humans in several important respects: they're long-lived mammals, they cover long distances on the wing, and they live in huge communities capable of sustaining an infectious disease. Bats are lovely creatures that serve their neighbors well by eating lots of insects, but it's a really terrible idea to go into a bat-cave, especially in Africa.

Lately it's a bad idea to go anywhere in Africa.  Ebola is the least of their worries.