What I’ve been reading

1. Donna Zuckerberg, Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age.  Ten or fifteen years ago, would I have predicted that Harvard University Press would publish a serious academic argument claiming that on-line pick-up artists misread the classic texts they cite?

2. Cass R. Sunstein, The Cost-Benefit Revolution.  One of the very best Cass Sunstein books, the product of decades of reflection, remarkably well thought out on every page to an extent which is rare these days.

3. William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era.  Winner of a Pulitzer, this remains one of the essential takes on mid-20th century Soviet history and is highly readable as well.

4. Maxwell King, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.  Yes, that is Mister Rogers.  If you’ve seen the movie, this book is the perfect complement.  I hadn’t know that Mister Rogers was born into wealth, self-financed his early work, and consistently turned down opportunities to market “Mister Rogers toys” to kids for large sums of money.  His email address by the way was zzz143@aol.com, with the triple z’s indicating he slept soundly every night, and the 143 referring to the constant weight he kept throughout his adult life.


When you do those very good sentences piece, #1 is up there

So pick-up artists are not usually experts on Shakespeare and Ovid?

Knowing nothing about either they or the author, I'm willing to bet the denizens of the internet know more than Ms. Zuckerberg. Some things are so stupid it takes a truly elite schooling to get suckers to buy.

In its zeal to destroy existing institutions, especially trans-national ones, the alt-right resembles most the subset of incels who preach hatred online (and in a few cases, commit terrorist acts.)

Both groups have a strong sense of entitlement, and think that things must be handed to them on a platter without putting in much effort because they belong to an "exalted" group.

1. A virulent strain of antifeminism is thriving online that treats women’s empowerment as a mortal threat to men and to the integrity of Western civilization. Its proponents cite ancient Greek and Latin texts to support their claims―arguing that they articulate a model of masculinity that sustained generations but is now under siege.

A similarly virulent strain of feminism, not restricted to an on line environment, exists as well. Its advantages over the toxic machos are apparent in courtrooms and judges' chambers, legislatures, the general media and entertainment.

The post-WWII US spent billions defending itself, not just from another alien political system but also a foreign culture. Americans of the 1950s ridiculed the Soviets for forcing so many mothers into the work force while their young children spent their days in organized care. That's now the new norm.

It's also a norm that cultures and societies undergo change. It's possible that an individual or small group can be the impetus of such a change but there's no assurance that its toleration by the rest of society will ultimately be favorable to most people. Enthusiastic feminists aren't any better at predicting the future than anyone else.

The school-district-run daycare across the street from me is the only one I have firsthand experience of - years ago I sometimes filled in there - but I have no reason to think it was not either typical or better than average. Children spending from 7:30 to six in a single room, with perhaps an hour total outside if the weather was good (I am trying but failing to recall that it was more, an hour-and-a-half perhaps?) - I necessarily felt was a point in Brave New World's column, over 1984, for predictive power, though it was so much the lesser book.

Of course, I do understand that children are not the customers.

#1 - I was interested enough to follow the link but stopped reading once the book blurb mentioned 'toxic masculinity'. It may exist but the term itself has become a cliche and immediately signals lazy thinking.

Buzzfeed has an interesting series, Follow This, I believe on Netflix. One of their little issues was 'toxic masculinity' and online "mens rights" groups (mostly incels and others).

The usual mens rights silliness was articulated by a 'honey badger' (a woman who agrees with men against feminists). One of the prime things being men are often victims of violence, even domestic violence and 'feminists don't care'.

Interesting angle, the reporter actually found a domestic violence shelter that specialized in taking in male victims. A minority of domestic violence victims but real nonetheless. She asked point blank what type of support they received from men's rights, incels, and like online groups. Absolutely nothing.

To me it seemed like a big dodge. You can fairly cite Jordon Peterson type facts like men are often more likely to get locked up or be victims of violence, if you don't also consider 'toxic masculinity' or something akin to that?

Let’s fact check this comment real quick.

Within the first 2 sentences you cite Buzzfeed authoritatively.

Worse, you inexcusably define groups agitating for custody law reform/alimony reform as “incels and others.” You’re either an idiot who believes Buzzfeed or are deliberately trying to discredit a wide swath of groups by lying about them.

Women make up at least 50% of domestic violence perpetrators. This has been hard to get accurate statistics on, but we know this is true because The more women in a relationship, the Higher the domestic violence rate. Propensity to batter is higher in women.

Lowest to highest:

Two men
One woman one man
(One woman one bisexual man) ; rate is higher than 1w1m for some reason
Two women

Current estimate is that it’s gender symmetrical, 50-50, but Given the above this seems unlikely.

Whether feminists “care” or not, I don’t know how you would define the answer.

I can’t find a # of domestic violence shelters for men, although one of the first opened in 2016? If there are really only a handful, I’m not surprised they don’t receive funding from groups. How do you even find one to give money to?

You would also have to be an idiot to donate to an actual men’s rights group. Just asking to get Eich’d out of a career. What’s he up to now sans Mozilla?

In summary, men’s rights groups are stupid, there’s no need to lie or discredit via throwing them in with other groups. Besides, have some faith, the collective response to men complaining will be a collective yawn.

Is Dave Foley still banned from Canada?

I rate this comment a 0/10. Pretty weak stuff coming from you, Hmmm. Your "fact check" is over 10 paragraphs yet contains zero facts and cites but chockful of unsupported assertions, ad hominems, and nonsequiters. For example,

"Women make up at least 50% of domestic violence perpetrators. This has been hard to get accurate statistics on"
You lead with made up fake news and then immediately admit you have no data to back this up. If you're going to lie to us, then at least don't admit that you don't have the facts. Even an 8 year old knows how to lie better.

I don't have an agenda on this, I'll listen to feminists or mens right, but good god, bring facts, data, and logic to these things and stop treating readers like we are stupid. We can smell the bullsh!t even out here on the web.

Your criticism is that the men do not "offer support" which is to say act like women.

Women make up at least 50% of domestic violence perpetrators. This has been hard to get accurate statistics on, but we know this is true because The more women in a relationship, the Higher the domestic violence rate. Propensity to batter is higher in women.

It's hard to get numbers yet we 'know' this? I think there's a mess of confusing concepts going on here.

First violence is on a spectrum so it is hard to read what 'propensity' means here. If a woman is 10 times more likely to slap a partner but a man is 4 times as likely to break a partner's bone, you can say 'more women the more violence' but that misses a really important piece of the picture.

Is Dave Foley still banned from Canada?

Who cares? From what I read quickly of his case he was making lots of money so his child support number was big. His TV show got canned so his income dropped and couldn't afford the payments. 99 times out of 100 stories like this almost always involve someone not giving the full story or neglecting to do something they should have done. I don't buy for a second Canadian law does not have provisions that allow a parent to petition for a change in child support if their income drastically changes.

I can’t find a # of domestic violence shelters for men, although one of the first opened in 2016? If there are really only a handful, I’m not surprised they don’t receive funding from groups. How do you even find one to give money to?

Funny, people can dox individual female writers in gamergate but no one can find the info about battered shelters for men to donate money too? Ohhh wait, a Buzzfeed journalist not only found the shelter but managed to go there and interview the woman who runs it and a client.

You would also have to be an idiot to donate to an actual men’s rights group. Just asking to get Eich’d out of a career. What’s he up to now sans Mozilla?

Unless you are running for office and releasing your tax returns (which appears to be optional given this President), charitable donations are generally private. You can even buy a money order and mail it to a charity if you really want to keep your help secret. The failure of such real life groups to get any support indicates these groups have about as much weight as the electrons their posts carry. Words backed by not even trivially easy actions make them worth less for being spoken.

I don't buy for a second Canadian law does not have provisions that allow a parent to petition for a change in child support if their income drastically changes.

Yes, and no doubt grants judges the discretion to refuse such petitions. Summarily.

Yes, so what? Maybe he had already made huge amounts of money and was claiming to not only have no current income but also claiming to be totally broke, having blown millions. Maybe the judge didn't believe him or maybe he couldn't provide a full accounting of his money to the judge. Maybe he didn't even bother to petition for a change and just stopped paying. I have no idea of the ins and outs of his case and neither do you. I do know women who have had to personally pay child support, even have it taken out of their disability checks so if you're argument is the system is biased against men you may be right but this anecdote is not much evidence.

143 also refers to the numbers of letters in the words I love you, which wasn't lost on Mr. Rogers.

1. Odd that TC should offer a characterization of Donna Zuckerberg's seminal scholarly monograph so at odds with the official Amazon sales summary, which cites this work for its importance in pointing out just how substantive and nuanced discussions of classical literature have become in online forums and on social media platforms as opposed to, say, Ivy League humanities classrooms and campuses.

I doubt that I'll be getting to Zuckerberg's monograph soon, avid as I remain to read translations of Juvenal and Aristophanes. Yet I remain struck by that Amazon summary, so I can only hope DZ addresses the following in depth: what explains the prowess of online pick-up artists in mastering Greek and Latin prosody, or does she instead cite structural failures in American pedagogical approaches to Greek and Latin classics? If online textual explorations are not actually so well informed, who can we thank for these misreadings of classical literature: contemporary translators and editors? contemporary secondary and post-secondary curricula?

Additional query: what characteristic or quality makes "a serious academic argument claiming that on-line (sic) pick-up artists misread the classic texts they cite" capable of being deemed "serious"? Mere publication by the same firm that publishes the Loeb Classical Library titles? --or is it instead the substance of her argument that fidelity to the translation and interpretation of classical literature can be entrusted only to well-trained academics and (so-called) "cognitive elites"? (That Amazon description is so short on detail: does she fault citations and contemporary translations of Ovid's Latin to the exclusion of treating Marlowe's translations?)

Recall watching a documentary about Rogers a decade ago and it hits you half way through (the umpteenth time they run an archival clip where he utters the word sensitive) that the same thing happened to Rogers that happens to most of us: as he grew older, he turned into a caricature of himself. As a purveyor of children's television, he was notably less appealing than Bob Keeshan ("Captain Kangaroo") or Bob Homme ("The Friendly Giant") because he was cloying in a way and to a degree that these others were not. He was, ca. 1978, brutally mocked by George Carlin. It was unkind and borderline slanderous, but Carlin wasn't on the side of Satan. Rogers could be disconcerting to youths with normal-range fathers and his work was animated by prevalent but dubious conceptions of what was wrong with the world.

Got a link to Carlin's 78 takedown of Rogers? Do you think him being disconcerting might just be the age range?

Got a link to Carlin's 78 takedown of Rogers?

It was a routine several minutes long and all over the radio at the time. If he issued LPs, it's likely on one of them.

Do you think him being disconcerting might just be the age range?

No, I think it was a function of their own fathers having quite different sensibilities, manners, and mannerisms. (Or, at least it was in my case). Since there was that one guy in Pittsburgh, I'd have to say you could find adult males like that. Not anyone I ever crossed paths with ca. 1968.

#1. My theory is that Ms. Zuckerberg is nursing a grudge against pick-up blogger Roissy ever since he put up a picture of her brother alongside his decent enough but unexceptional looking wife and the caption "Game is worth a billion dollars." I admit I laughed. Why HUP thought they needed to publish this is a bit of a mystery to me, aside from the billionaire brother, of course.

...is 1 worth reading?

If it's just another fundamentally anti-male book then I don't think I want to read it.

Ms. Zuckerberg finds herself in a conundrum. She teaches classics in the SJW era. The few people still interested in the foundations of Western civilization are often inconveniently "White Supremacists" (read: normal white men) while students of color find the material unappealing if not downright macroaggressive. Cue the frenzied efforts to make the subject seem more "woke."

Omg pick-up artists are misinterpreting Ovid for their own ends!!! Seriously, who cares? Note that she will object to a pick-up artist lens as "misinterpretation," but I doubt she would do the same with superimposed Marxist or feminist interpretations.

Donna Zuckerberg apparently thinks it's not legitimate to be interested in the classics because you want to understand the foundations of western civilization; it is too dangerously close to white supremacy. Here is quote from her blog:

"When you hear someone —be they a student, a colleague, or an amateur — say that they are interested in Classics because of “the Greek miracle” or because Classics is “the foundation of Western civilization and culture,” challenge that viewpoint respectfully but forcefully. Engage them on their assumed definitions of “foundation,” “Western,” “civilization,” and “culture.” Point out that such ideas are a slippery slope to white supremacy. " https://eidolon.pub/how-to-be-a-good-classicist-under-a-bad-emperor-6b848df6e54a


From the Amazon summary of the book:

"In The Cost-Benefit Revolution, Cass Sunstein argues our major disagreements really involve facts, not values. It follows that government policy should not be based on public opinion, intuitions, or pressure from interest groups, but on numbers―meaning careful consideration of costs and benefits."

In other words, government policy should not be driven by the electorate but by "experts". Why does that sound inconsistent with the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers? We should be "nudged" by our elites.

And yet even now "elite" clowns publish books, read only by themselves, trying to unpack Trumpism.

I wonder if there are any used guillotines floating around or are we going to have to build them ourselves. Think of all the new service sector jobs building and maintaining guillotines - they need to be cleaned, oiled, and sharpened.

Having established that democratic processes should be abandoned in favor of "facts", as defined by elites, it should not be a problem to skip trials and have "experts" selected by experts on experts.

I know it sounds unsophisticated, but what goes around comes around.

I find the idea of crowds roaring in front of guillotines dripping with blood distasteful. Instead, we should start small - let's tax the endowments of elite universities.

Yawn, yea I'm sure Sunstein argues for abolishing all elections and instituting an elite group of mathematician kings to run the country by a series of 'nudges'.

Interestingly the Constitution itself is not so much about elected people running things but setting up a very complicated set of checks and balances to 'nudge' those purporting to run things in different directions.

You are wrong about the Constitution. It was not designed to nudge, but to limit the power of people inclined to nudge.

I guess you are in favor of nudging. You would be the modern analogue of a loyalist. The loyalists were not treated well.

If it was about limiting power, they could have just left the Articles of Confederation. In fact in many ways it was about expanding power, massively. Just consider, before the Constitution each state could run their own money and trade. After they cannot. However it's interesting how that power was expanded. Money and trade is influenced by both common law (judiciary), executive action and legislative action. As a result we got the First Bank of the US rather than just letting the President run a printing press for money.

You seem to have a beef with nudging but don't want to really articulate what it is.

I understand the evolution of the Articles of Confederation into the Constitution very well, thank you.

Taleb offers a good counterpoint here:


Sunstein is an archetypal IYI.

Thanks for the link. I enjoy having someone like NNT on my side of the argument. Taleb argues Sunstein isn't even all that smart, but then goes on to point out the undemocratic nature of the IYI's interventions in the life of ordinary people. As he says, people like Sunstein believe in one Ivy League degree one vote. The infuriating reality is that it is more like one ivy league degree 100,000 votes, given the influence they have as a consequence of their status and roles in government.

Ironically, Sunstein was born in Concord, MA - a short bike ride from my hometown. He ought to know better.

If these IYIs think they are still in charge, I have a bridge I would like to encourage them to walk over, just like the one in Lexington/Concord.

There's no counterpoint there. It's actually pretty cheesy class warfare but unlike class warfare of an older age, it's a distinctly modern type of class warfare. Michael Kinsley identified this type of modern snob decades ago. See http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/readme/2001/03/oreilly_among_the_snobs.html. Taleb has some interesting ideas but his whole routine of acting like an anti-snob snob reduces his credibility by quite a bit (for example, see his 'Fat Tony' character who reads like a 3rd rate SNL skit on The Sopranos).

Since you didn't seem to get it: He's making a Hayekian argument about localized systems being superior to top-down, no skin-in-the-game technocratic planning.

Taleb does have a tendency to romanticize cab drivers, etc., but if you're interpreting him as primarily "anti-snob" that is way off base, imo. Taleb is conservative/traditionalist in the sense of believing in evolved knowledge and proven institutions. But note that most of these "robust" systems Taleb would view favorably are hierarchical. And do note that hierarchy and populism are not necessarily contradictory (think Aristotle's distinction between oligarchy and aristocracy). What Taleb objects to is the pernicious modern technocratic/deep state rule.

P.S. That Kinsley article reminds me of just how low Slate has sunk. They used to have some decent writers. Now it is embarrassing and unreadable.

I just finished Skin in the Game, he has a valid point about loss aversion. People are wise to pay more to avoid a possible $100 loss than an equally probable $100 gain. Every $100 loss a person takes brings them closer to ruin than a hypothetical investor who has infinite backing and infinite time to reap the entire market's return. He doesn't really engage Sunstein or Thaler, though, just mocks them with 'Intellectual Yet Idiot", which doesn't flow as a phrase and, annoyingly, his toadies repeat as if it was an argument in itself.

I'm unaware of any 'nudge' advocate who thinks the gov't should create a huge set of default incentives to eliminate 'irrational loss aversion' and all other cognitive biases. I doubt they even think such a stunt is possible. The 'nudge' I'm most familiar with is defaulting new employees into 401Ks, which hardly seems 'top down' to me and it strikes me as pretty anti-fragile if more people tapped a few percentage points in their 401K...esp. when many places will match.

I liked Taleb initially but then I found him on Twitter, which struck me as odd since his first book made it sound like he ignored all commentary, reviews etc. to keep his perspective as un-infected as possible. Then I found he blocked me on Twitter, which was even odder since I never bothered to engage with him. Then I realized he gets into flame wars and blocks not just his flamer but anyone who follows the person he declares out of the circle. I think he could do better with this.

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