Tag Archives: books

Seeking Tribe #2: Bison, Boars, And Books — Oh My!


Can you feel it? It’s going to be a wonderful week.

I am so grateful for the positive initial response to this newsletter and thankful that you decided to stick around.

This past week, I had a couple friends from out of town visiting so I ended up much more focused on friendship than my personal projects.

I have decided to stay in Rochester for the next 10 months (originally I had planned to move to DC or another larger city) and focus on: building my ‘skill stack‘, identifying a great, next full-time opportunity, and prototyping  various digital events (book clubs, writing groups, author interviews…) and ‘community’ spaces. The quarantine has emphasized my personal need for a social function within a community and the importance of friendship.

If you plan to visit Rochester, please be sure to give me a heads up and if you’re local and want to connect, dm me!

The Best of my Recent Reads:

  • When most people hear the name Ben Horowitz, they either don’t know who he is or, they think of his work as the co-founder and a GP at a16z. My personal admiration for him comes from his excellent books on management and organizational culture. I am currently reading What You Do Is Who You Are, which opens with insights from Touissaint Louverture’s experience leading the Haitian Revolution and how these principles of culture are being applied by powerful organizations throughout the world. I plan on writing a book review once I’m done but cannot recommend it enough for anyone interested in the importance of culture for any movement or organization.
  • One of the greatest potential positive outcomes from the pandemic is a deeper appreciation of humanity’s impact on ecosystems. Decreased manufacturing and social activity in various parts of the globe have yielded no shortage of videos of wildlife roaming into areas where they haven’t been seen for decades, most recently these boars in BerlinThis piece by Santi Ruiz in the National Review makes a strong case for a concerted effort to Bring Back The Bison. I’m no fan of the National Review and am now wondering if its decision to run this piece is further evidence of a larger political-cultural shift underway.
  • In my limited understanding of the tenure system, it was designed to provide academic researchers with the job protections that they need to conduct their research, without excessive pressure to avoid lines of inquiry that are unfashionable, or even dissident. Is that empirically the case and is tenure sufficient? In a recent piece for the Atlantic, Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom, the [liberal] Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, John McWhorter makes the case that it isn’t. Are the figures and narratives he cites mostly a function of who selects and is selected into jobs as academic researchers, or does it have more to do with our current cultural moment?

    A survey of 445 academic researchers [,who are members of] Heterodox Academy found that, “…more than half the respondents consider expressing views beyond a certain consensus in an academic setting quite dangerous to their career trajectory.”

This post was initially sent on September 14th, 2020 as part of an early prototype of my newsletter Seeking Tribesubscribe here!


Dave Rubin Comes Out As a ‘Chad Centrist’ Nationalist, He Is Not A Classical Liberal

I used to work in a library so this is as close I would let a flame get to a book!

This post is a review of Don’t Burn This Book by Dave Rubin. This review was initially posted as a 3 star book review on Amazon.

I pre-ordered this book to help support Dave for all of the wonderful, insightful interviews he has hosted over the past few years. I am grateful for how he has exposed his audience to people who do not conform to the rigid labels conducive to short-form, corporate media: Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Malice, Eric Weinstein, Bridget Phetasy, Heather Heying, and countless others.

I currently identify as a ‘liberal localist’. I agree with Dave on many topics, and apparently disagree with him on even more than I previously thought. I am not rating this a 3 star because of our ideological disagreements. Although, I would consider bumping it up to a 4 star if Dave would give me the opportunity to discuss my worldview on the Rubin Report, as described in my book, Lead The Future (New Degree Press 2019) ;).


  • The hook of the book is excellent. It grabbed my attention right away and was incredibly humanizing. It set my expectations high and I love it thematically.
  • Dave is correct that we should prioritize our friendships over political ideology. The story of his first ‘wake up call’ is the kind of story that deserves to be repeated and applauded. I hope that David Webb and Dave have maintained their friendship over the years; it sounds like David might even be winning their ‘battle of ideas’ but we’ll get to that more later.
  • Dave diagnoses the problems of contemporary progressivism and its associated strain of identity politics well. His story is the perfect example of how this type of shaming and resentment hurts well-intentioned people and may, quite intuitively, drive them away from the left.
  • Dave uses humor effectively at many points throughout the book. [Although at times, it comes off a bit callous and hurts his ability to persuade his readers (if that’s even his aim).]
  • And much more!


  • We know who hurt you, Dave! Although it’s unclear who the audience for this book really is (I imagine someone older and more conservative than me…), one of the audiences was definitely any progressive journalist who couldn’t help but read his book. Dave spends arguably four chapters focused solely on ‘OWNING’ and ‘DESTROYING WITH FACTS AND LOGIC’ some imagined, stereotypical-progressive reader. This is most evident in chapter five where he spams the reader with a set of inconvenient facts, without any real analysis for those of us who don’t know what beliefs they’re supposed to be rebutting.
  • Dave opens the book by stating that he is a ‘Classical Liberal’. He does evangelize many positions which liberals and libertarians share; localization of drug policy and minimum wage, free speech absolutism, skepticism towards Magic Money Theory, etc. However, later in the book he ‘comes out’ again as what might be more accurately described as a centrist/liberal nationalist, or what I would describe as a ‘Chad Centrist Nationalist’ (Now wouldn’t that be an interesting part of a video title for the Rubin Report?).
  • Not passing judgment on Dave’s pivot to a more nationalistic politics, he goes on to make some claims that he barely attempts to justify. He categorically states that the United States is not an imperialist nation, an opinion that you would struggle to find any ‘moderate’ Libertarian would agree with, let alone a genuine liberal. Dave does this by defining imperialism in the most narrow way imaginable, ie. if a state doesn’t have explicit colonial territories, it is not imperialist. He also states, “This aside, much of our foreign military intervention has been good— just look at Korea, Vietnam…where our contribution secured much-needed freedoms.” If you want to claim that US intervention in Vietnam is now justified, you’re going to at least need to make an argument.
  • There are quite a few cringe moments in the book. It seems as if Dave either did not seek out feedback from fellow liberals or he did not listen to them. At one point Dave writes, “…the so-called [wage] gap disappears faster than conservative content on Twitter.”(104) He also opens chapter 7 by telling everyone who doesn’t think “America is the best country on Earth…” should “ditch all of your first-world luxuries”. “A socialist dystopia like Venezuela would be an excellent choice, or perhaps a dictatorship such as North Korea. Sure you’ll have to eat out of the garbage…”(127).
  • There are numerous other factual inaccuracies throughout the book. He needed editorial help from someone with a broader background in the numerous topics he touched on throughout the book.
  • It seems as if he wrote much of this book under the idea he had for “The Ravings of a Right Wing Lunatic” (a title that he mentions he considered at one point) and then tried to re-purpose it as “Don’t Burn This Book.”
  • And yes, much more!


  • At one point, Dave enters the abortion debate. His position is essentially that abortion should be ‘legal, early, safe, and rare,’ which is actually a common, [secular] liberal position. He lays out his thought process about how ‘he’ would have an abortion if his surrogate child was going to be born with serious deformities, or other quality of life issues. This was a completely missed opportunity to demonstrate the complexity of this debate. He completely omits the reality that it would be the surrogate mother who would be the party having the abortion…what are her rights in the situation? What type of contract exists for that type of thing? Was she at all a part of this conversation? It doesn’t seem like it from the brief discussion in the book.
  • In one of the chapters where Dave is mostly focused on ‘owning the progs’, he references two claims which actually have the potential to persuade others to consider his position on how parents should respond to their children identifying as transgender. Unfortunately, Dave does not cite the actual research on the topic to back-up these claims but only the authority of the relevant Rubin Report guest, Deborah Soh. The claims made are “Many children naturally outgrow their gender dysphoria by adulthood.” (61) and “…sixty to ninety percent, completely outgrow the desire [to change gender]. They’re more likely to grow up to be gay, rather than trans.” (61). The latter in particular would’ve been a prime opportunity for Dave to weigh-in on this topic from the perspective of an influential, openly gay man.
  • In a portion about the importance of nuclear weapons as a deterrent, Dave incorrectly states that Ukraine is a member of NATO. However, he goes on to make allusion to the intervention in Libya, which is a much stronger argument for his point anyway. He even quotes Obama conceding that the intervention in Libya was a disaster and likely removed incentive for future ‘rogue nations’ to disarm in the future.
  • Dave’s practice of taking a month off from social media and screens every summer is genuinely admirable and interesting. He mentions it briefly and ends on a note that is informed by his experience ‘unplugging’ every summer for the past two years. I think that a chapter dedicated to this perspective and sharing more about it would’ve been more impactful, and served similar ends, as his chapter about Fake News. It just wouldn’t have been as inflammatory.
  • In general, Dave didn’t attempt to persuade people in ways that were effective which was disappointing as a liberal.

Ultimately, I cannot think of a single person in my personal network who I would recommend this book to. It’s a book for people who want to know more about Dave. If you’re a new fan of the Rubin Report and want to learn more about where Dave is at in 2020, this is likely a good place to start. This book is neither as great as his most tribalistic fans believe nor as bad as his tribalistic haters decree. It needs some work and I’m optimistic that Dave will be open to constructive criticism, “losing a debate isn’t a sign of stupidity or weakness, but a sign of growth if you’re willing to embrace it with humility.” (95)

Dave, if you read this, I am genuinely so happy for you and David. I think it’s wonderful that you two have decided to start a family. That was another aspect of your book that I truly thought was good, although you covered it quite well! I look forward to watching your perspective change as you become a father.

If this review is helpful, please consider tweeting it at @RubinReport. Maybe, we’ll be able to discuss some of these topics on his or ‘my show’, preferably his.

Thank you for reading! If you want to support me on my current adventure, please consider purchasing a copy of Lead The Future, leaving a review on Amazon, joining my newsletter, or helping me to secure speaking opportunities in-person or on media platforms.


Via Negativa and the Copenhagen Consensus Center


“The Copenhagen Consensus Center is a think tank that researches the smartest solutions for the world’s biggest problems, advising policy-makers and philanthropists how to spend their money most effectively.”

This institution has attempted to rank-order interventions that philanthropic humanists should engage in to maximize their return, articulated in $USD return-on-investment per $USD spent. I will not attempt to characterize their methods, as any attempted summary would be perceived as ignorance.

Here are a couple examples so you clearly understand what I am referring to:
One-page of rank-ordered developmental goals
Top 19 targets for work development
They even did a national focused one for Haiti!

I have no doubt that many of these interventions could have non-linear positive consequences. However, they are still interventions, which brings us to Via Negativa.

VIA NEGATIVA is a powerful concept which was, at the least, re-popularized by Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile (more on that another time; I would recommend that anyone reading this post read Taleb, even if you hate it (I mean, it’s overrated)) .

Via Negativa translates to ‘negative way’. It is a method of improving a system or gaining a greater understanding by subtracting, rather than by adding, or intervening. The basic idea being: intervention can bring severe, negative unintended consequences. Whereas, Via Negativa we are removing complexity from the system and are less likely to inadvertently cause [net] harm. 

Fictional personal example – (note: I am not a licensed professional of anything and taking any ‘advice’ from me is your liability, not mine): I went to the doctor and the test said my blood pressure was high. She prescribed to me a medication to bring it to a healthy level. I went back to the doctor 6 months later because I was having some issues. My blood pressure was fine but now I had another problem and it now also required a medication…


I went to the doctor and the test said my blood pressure was high. She recommended that I take a medication to reduce it. I said “No thank you, doctor”. I thought there could be many non-threatening reasons why my blood pressure was high on that particular day. Work had been stressful lately. However, I decided that it was just another reason to quit smoking cigarettes. [Thank you, Easy Way]. I went back to the doctor one year later for a check-up and my blood pressure was great and my Doctor told me that my lungs sounded healthy…

With this concept in mind, I would be interested in seeing a distinct set of prescriptions, of the sort of The Copenhagen Consensus Center -perhaps only at the national level, that strictly advocated for the [hypothetically] optimal, Via Negativa solutions.

We couldn’t even really compare the effect of these solutions to [m]any advocated by The Copenhagen Consensus Center. They might involve not spending millions of dollars to not do millions of dollars of harm. A $USD return-on-investment per $USD not spent, or -$USD spent!

If I am doing so much which is harmful, and could be best resolved by reducing actions, how much less harm could our institutions do Via Negativa?

This post should not be construed to mean that The Copenhagen Consensus Center is wrong and bad. This post should not be construed to mean that institutions only do harm. I also believe that, like many institutions, I may do harm but I am a net good – all I am suggesting is that we strive to avoid doing harm when we mean to do good. 

P.S.: I have never been addicted to cigarettes or alcohol but I did read The Easy Way To Stop Drinking by Allen Carr from cover to cover.


Top to-read 11/10/2018

  1. How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler
  2. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett
  3. Poke The Box by Seth Godin
  4. The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna
  5. High Output Management by Andy Grove
  6. The Truth Machine by Paul Vigna
  7. Creativity Rules by Tina Seelig
  8. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
  9. The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler
  10. Thus Spake Zarathustra by Nietzsche
  11. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  12. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  13. Change By Design by Tim Brown

It’s easy for me to lose focus and avoid reading the books I think I should read in favor of the ones that capture my attention, energy spontaneously.

I spent quite a few hours organizing the books I have amassed over the past few years. I considered their: page length, seriousness, potential re-readability, action-ability, and expected effect on my energy (alliterations are lit). After a few hours of fun introspection, oscillating between Amazon and Google Sheets (!?), I settled on this, generally, rank-ordered list.

Fun fact: If I read 40 pages/day, it would take 78 days and 3 hours to read all 13 of these.