Thoughts of a Semi-Self-Quarantiner: a modest proposal

Fenster writes:

Previously on Semi-Self-Quarantiner: 1, 2, 3.

How’s this for a modest proposal.

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Thoughts of a Semi-Self-Quarantiner: When you see a fork in the road, take it.

Fenster writes:

Previously on Semi-Self-Quarantiner: 1, 2.

My last post on the virus has not yet gone viral.  But that will not stop me from piling on.  So here’s another.

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Thoughts of a Semi-Self-Quarantiner: Questions

Fenster writes:

In discussing the virus from the comfort of home I just got the preliminaries out of the way with here, ending with the troubling conclusion that it is hard to know with great certainty what the hell is going on.

Maybe there’s no need to know. But amateurs are citizens, too, and up to their necks in the public health questions since they are, well, public.  That fact, combined with the intuited sense that the experts don’t have their act fully together yet either, argues for active amateur engagement.  So in that spirit here are a bunch of questions I have.  Questions, mind you, not answers, and offered in the spirit of intellectual modesty and policy prudence.

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Thoughts of a Semi-Self-Quarantiner: Prelims

Fenster writes:

The problem with the future is that it hasn’t happened yet.  I had a hard time explaining this to my finance students in a discussion of accounting and budgeting.  Accounting is replete with risks and uncertainties, but for the most part they are risks and uncertainties associated with whether you put things that already happened into the proper and most useful buckets.  Budgeting has all those risks, combined with the much more significant risk that things have not happened yet, and that your tool for managing the future my not only be off as a result of internal factors but external factors not under your control.

Figuring out what to do about the virus is a future-oriented task and as such it benefits by, but is also constrained by, projections about the future.  It is wise to take both benefits and limitations into account explicitly in fashioning policy but there is, if you will, a limit to this.  It is hard to make allowances for known unknowns.  Harder still to make allowances for unknown unknowns.  Harder yet again if the object of high uncertainty is of grave consequence, for it is here that the “fat tails” that Taleb discusses reside.  Sometimes the hardest things to make subject to probabilities are the ones that will kill you if you are wrong.

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Realignment Blues

Fenster writes:

At the risk of tossing out an oxymoron, here is an excellent article from Vox: What Donald Trump gets about the electorate, by Lee Drutman.  The very title seems out of place in Vox in that it gives off the unmistakable aroma of sympathy for Trumpism, if not Trump.

The explanation for this odd occurrence is two-fold.  First, the article dates from August 2015, just two months after Trump announced his bid for the presidency and well before hysteria became de rigueur in all the right precincts.  Second, it is written by a guy at New America, a think tank that tilts left while still allowing for research and scholarship that is not insane.  The brilliant Michael Lind, who I have written about here and here, was one of the founders of New America and is a colleague of Drutman.

Drutman’s article is somewhat of a piece with Lind’s work in that both favor clear thinking about fundamentals over fake scholarly spin, with the result that the zany Schrödinger’s Catlike features of the current landscape, with left and right being both what they are and their opposites at the same time, can be made explicable. Fenster is fond of saying all irony disappears under the microscope, and the same can be said of many conundrums.  A single penetrating insight can be a mighty cutter of Gordian Knots.

Drutman’s short article reveals a lot about our current situation.  It is a shame it seems to have been shoved down the left’s memory hole.  They would be wise to dust it off and take another look.

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Notes on “Edge of Darkness”

Fenster writes:

I just got around to seeing Edge of Darkness, a 2010 film starring Mel Gibson as a cop out to avenge the murder of his daughter.  It had been on my list for some time since it is a Boston film and as a Bay Stater I am interested in how we are portrayed.   It is an OK film with a lot of predictable plot contrivances.  On the other hand I was intrigued not only by the local flavor but also in the relevance of the film to current political conditions.

Spoiler Alert.

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VDH on our Deplorable Elites

Fenster writes:

Victor Davis Hanson pens a characteristically sane and sober column on elite disparagement of the masses.  He starts with Mike Bloomberg, who when at Oxford several years ago

dismissed farming, ancient and modern. He lectured that agriculture was little more than the rote labor of dropping seeds into the ground and watching corn sprout — easy, mindless, automatic.

“I could teach anybody,” Bloomberg pontificated, “even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.”

Hanson goes on to take aim at other liberal targets, citing Obama’s “bitter clinger” remark, Hillary’s famous “deplorable” comment and even Biden’s characterization of some Trump voters as “virulent” and as the “dregs of society.”

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