The Vanishing American Adult (Audiobook) by Ben Sasse

The Vanishing American Adult (Audiobook)The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance

by Ben Sasse

Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs., 9 Min.
Macmillan Audio, 2017

Read: July 24 – 26, 2017

I typically don’t like to do this, but in the interest of time, I’m just going to use the text from the publisher’s page to describe the book:
Raised by well-meaning but overprotective parents and coddled by well-meaning but misbegotten government programs, America’s youth are ill-equipped to survive in our highly-competitive global economy.

Many of the coming-of-age rituals that have defined the American experience since the Founding: learning the value of working with your hands, leaving home to start a family, becoming economically self-reliant—are being delayed or skipped altogether. The statistics are daunting: 30% of college students drop out after the first year, and only 4 in 10 graduate. One in three 18-to-34 year-olds live with their parents.

From these disparate phenomena: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse who as president of a Midwestern college observed the trials of this generation up close, sees an existential threat to the American way of life.

In The Vanishing American Adult, Sasse diagnoses the causes of a generation that can’t grow up and offers a path for raising children to become active and engaged citizens. He identifies core formative experiences that all young people should pursue: hard work to appreciate the benefits of labor, travel to understand deprivation and want, the power of reading, the importance of nurturing your body—and explains how parents can encourage them.

Our democracy depends on responsible, contributing adults to function properly—without them America falls prey to populist demagogues. A call to arms, The Vanishing American Adult will ignite a much-needed debate about the link between the way we’re raising our children and the future of our country.
The first third or so is Sasse laying out the problems with the 30-and-younger set (and the parents and grandparents that got them and their society in the sorry state they’re in). The next two-thirds are his suggested solutions, what he believes parents can do to help raise a generation with the necessary rigor and grit to make it. Nothing here can be implemented like blueprints — these are all just things to get parents thinking. Even if the reader disagrees with Sasse (as I do frequently), you get the feeling that he’s more concerned with people and parents thinking about these ideas and doing something about them, even if it’s what he doesn’t think needs to be done.

There’s a chapter devoted to helping our children and teens become critical readers — talking about the necessity of being more than just functionally literate, but people that interact with books — good books, as well as entertaining books. People reading this blog should find a lot to love (and a little to demur with) in this chapter — I almost listened to it twice in a row it was so good.

The book is largely a-political. Yes, politics does enter into it. Yes, if you agree with him (before or after reading the book), it’ll likely lead to certain political moves — but people on all points on the political spectrum should be able to get something out of this book. Just because Sasse is a U.S. Senator, don’t think that this is a book about that. He does highly value “republican” values — but he usually goes out of his way to stress that it’s “small-R republican” he’s referring to. Ditto for the Christian point of view he writes from — Sasse’s very up-front about that, but goes out of his way to show how non-Christians (or even Christians from different traditions) can agree with much of the book, or disagree constructively.

There was problem with the audiobook — there’s no text to refer to. There’s so much that you want to go back and re-read, notes you want to take, quotations/citations you’d like to double check. The literature chapter alone needs to be re-read. And it’s just such a pain to do all that with an audiobook. Trust me, get the hardcopy. The audiobook is a very effective advertisement for the hardcover. It is good to hear Sasse read this himself.

There’s a lot of this book that I just don’t get — I’m not saying he’s wrong, necessarily, but I don’t think he’s always as right as he thinks he is. But I’m telling you, I thought a lot about what he talked about — I talked a lot about the content of this book. I’m looking for ways to put some of this into practice, and wish I’d done a better job of doing it years ago.

Agree with it or not, this is a book well worth reading.


5 Stars

Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far) (Audiobook) by Dave Barry, Patrick Frederic

Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far)Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far)

by Dave Barry, Patrick Frederic
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 29 mins.
Penguin Audio, 2007

Read: April 10, 2017

Back in high school, I worked at a public library (shock, right?), and I kept shelving this book — Dave Barry Slept Here, and eventually succumbed and took it home — several times. I fell in love with Barry’s humor, and read him a lot over the next decade — every book, as many columns as I could find, etc., etc. But I eventually stopped, for no good reason that I can think of (it’s probably not Harry Anderson‘s fault) — and have really only read his novels since then.

Still, when I saw this audiobook on the library’s site, it was an automatic click — without even reading the description. This is essentially a reprinting of his “Year in Review” columns for the first few years of this millennium and a review of the previous 1,000 years of human history.

It was hilarious. Just that simple. There’s nothing more to say, really.

In the beginning Frederic played it straight — which surprised me a bit, but I liked the effect. A serious reading of Barry’s goofiness worked remarkably well. Later on, Frederic seemed to loosen up — he even did a couple of decent impressions. I really enjoyed his work on this.

Yeah, the humor’s a bit dated, but funny is funny. This is a great look back at the early part of the 21st Century (and before). I laughed a lot, remembered a few things, and generally had a good time with this.


3.5 Stars

Guest Post: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Marjorie Thelen, an author I talked about last month asked if I’d be interested in guest reviews, and sent this one along — which is great, because I’ve just been too busy this week to come up with a post for today. Hope you enjoy it — and be sure to stop by her page and look at her books, would you? Thanks, Marjorie!

Oh yeah, probably obvious, but the opinions expressed in this post are all Marjorie’s, and do not necessarily reflect mine.

This Changes EverythingThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein

Paperback, 532 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2015

If you think you are not responsible for combatting global warming, think again. You better read this book. It has “radicalized” me into becoming an environmental activist.

With notes and acknowledgements this book is 532 pages (paperback) and jammed packed with information, facts, and opinion. Naomi Klein makes the compelling case that unfettered capitalism as a way of life is destroying the environment and is a big contributor to global warming. The faster we-the-people regulate large corporations, particularly the extractive industries like oil and mining, the better chance we have of reversing climate change. She outlines case after case after case of the harm the oil industry has done to the environment. Extreme extraction like fracking is especially harmful to land, water, and people. If you haven’t heard of the earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by fracking, you are living in a vacuum.

Our church book study group read the book, it is on the recommended reading list for the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and it has top reviews from a number of organizations and individuals. I had to make a tremendous effort to read the book, because in the first two sections, Klein paints a pretty dismal picture. Her writing is dense with fact and opinion. She is often repetitive but she gets her points across with facts. In part one she outlines how free market fundamentalism helped overheat the planet in a chapter by that name. She gives extensive coverage to the climate deniers, to scientists who think creating clouds will cool the planet, to the environmental groups she calls Big Green, some of whom, as it turns out, are in bed with Big Oil. In chapter seven she tells us that there are no messiahs, that the green billionaires won’t save us. She beats up on Richard Branson, the airline magnate, at length and points out that even though he talks a good green game, he and other green billionaires don’t follow through on their promises.

Klein gets more hopeful in part three with the chapter on the new climate warriors, who are ordinary citizens blockading the advance of the extractive industries. She sees hope in the Blockadia movement and gives examples of the development of the movement, like the protest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. She says that extraction and refining has always required sacrifice zones and usually it is the underrepresented and poor who pay the price. “Through various feats of denialism and racism, it was possible for privileged people in North America and Europe to mentally cordon off these unlucky places as hinterlands, wastelands, nowheres . . . . the people reaping the bulk of the benefits of extractivism pretend not to see the costs of that comfort so long as the sacrifice zones are kept safely out of view.” (p. 311) Throughout the book she does not mince words.

She applauds the effort of Indigenous peoples to prevent tar sand development, open pit mines, fracking, and pipelines from destroying their lands and livelihoods. White people are glad to see this push back from the Indigenous people, but they can’t think that Indigenous people can carry on the fight by themselves. Everyone has to join in. Ironically, we now need the Indigenous on “our” side, whereas their concerns and battles were invisible to us before.

Klein advocates much more regulation of the extractive industries, read here Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Copper, think the development of the Pebble Mine in Briscoe Bay in Alaska. I don’t see that in today’s political climate more government regulation is in the cards, but I’d be happy if someone proves me wrong.

And when we keep oil in the ground we affect the love affair that American have with their trucks and SUVs. When are we going to stop buying them and go to more fuel-efficient vehicles? It would also affect plastics and related industries. When will the American consumer stop buying products that are not environmentally friendly? The consumer price index is a huge indicator of the health of our economy and what happens if and when Americans stop consuming so much? There are far-reaching implications of what Klein proposes in combatting global warming, and time is of the essence.

The divestment movement is another way to combat contributors to climate change. Institutions, colleges, organizations can divest in the stock of these companies that they hold. This is making headlines now. International laws and moratoriums can prevent and rollback expansion of carbon polluters. (p. 353). Some of the groups involved in the new wave of anti-fossil fuel activism are Food & Water Watch,, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth. “It is this corroded state of our political systems that is fast turning Blockadia into a grassroots pro-democracy movement.” (p. 361) Needless to say, Klein is not kind to political systems controlled by big industry.

Klein says that filling out surveys, signing petitions, and giving money isn’t enough. We have to get out on the front lines and demonstrate, let our voices be heard. She says if you think that someone else is going to fight to combat climate change and things will turn out fine, you are wrong. (I was in this group.) We-the-people are responsible and have to make our voices heard. In our book study group, we asked ourselves what can we do, a small group in a small, rural town. We decided to start by showing the DVD documentary of This Changes Everything to raise awareness. I have ordered the DVD, and we will have a showing and discussion of it at our Senior Center and invite the public. Many people are simply not aware of the direness of the global warming situation. Through education we might create more activists.

“The task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis — embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid.” (p. 462)

If you are concerned about the future for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and planet Earth, you must read this book and take up the cause of combatting climate change.

Dusted Off: Government Bullies: Americans Arrested, Abused, and Terrorized by Rand Paul

Government Bullies: Americans Arrested, Abused, and TerrorizedGovernment Bullies: Americans Arrested, Abused, and Terrorized

by Rand Paul

Hardcover, 272 pg.
Center Street, 2012
Read: October 16 – 29, 2012

Great read. This book angered me, made me want to change the world, and filled me with despair–certain that things’ll only get worse. Frequently within the same paragraph (if not the same sentence). These tales of bureaucracy run amok should (and likely will) cause any freedom-loving patriot’s blood run cold.

I can see where a lot of people would get tired of Paul bringing himself into the book as often as he does–as a candidate or Senator. But honestly, it’s only as Senator/candidate that Paul gets this information, gets this perspective. Besides, he’s got to look toward re-election and this is part of his work earning that.


4 Stars

Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto by Matt Kibbe

Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian ManifestoDon’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto

by Matt Kibbe

Hardcover, 272 pg.
William Morrow, 2014
Read: June 19 – 20, 2014

FreedomWorks’ Matt Kibbe has produced a very accessible, very readable libertarian manifesto. A rallying cry for a grassroots movement of concerned citizens. He focuses on 6 Rules for Liberty, emphasizing 1 & 2:

Rules for Liberty:
1. Don’t hurt people.
2. Don’t take people’s stuff.
3. Take Responsibility.
4. Work for it.
5. Mind your own business.
6. Fight the power.

With these as a starting point, he critiques many aspects of the U. S. Government (current and recent administrations of both parties) as it currently operates. Kibbe is positive about (a few) politicians on both sides of the aisle, but he’s mostly negative about the overwhelming majority. Sure, he’s more positive about Liberty-leaning Republicans than anyone else currently in Washington, but at the end of the day, he wants to replace both parties.

Compared to a lot of Libertarian/Libertarian-ish books that I’ve read, this is pretty light reading. He jokes, he drops pop culture references, he’s not all that cranky, he writes with conviction and hope. He drops lines like:

Music and freedom just seem to go together, just like the word “bacon” belongs in any sentence that includes the phrase “proper meal.” I can’t prove it, but you just know that it’s true.

One chapter features a simulated round table between Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Justin Amash, Rep Thomas Massie, and Rep. David Schweikert — based on interviews he conducted with each individually. Yes, a real round table would’ve been better, but this was probably easier to pull off. But seeing the way that these men were similar, yet distinct, was good to see. Kibbe’s not promoting a monolithic libertarian view, there’s room for differences based on a shared commitment to the 6 Rules.

It seems so strange that a book on politics is as dependent on a classic rock album (Rush’s 2112, which I should really try to listen to one day) as one of my favorite SF novels of recent years, but — hey, it works. I don’t think this book will convince anyone to become a Libertarian. But it does present a case for the philosophy, it will serve as a good introduction for those who are curious. In contrast to many of his peers — who come across as cranks or kooks — Kibbe comes across as someone with conviction, someone of principle, while still remaining rational.

I remember debating Chris Matthews, the guy on MSNBC’s Hardball, once at an event in Aspen. I was making a (surely profound) point, and Matthews abruptly interrupted. He does that. “I know, I know,” he said. “I read Ayn Rand in high school. I used to believe that stuff, too, but then I grew up.” Maybe he didn’t know he was parroting his favorite president, Barack Obama.
I’ve heard this so many times. I’m sure you have, too. . . Grow up. Play ball. Get in line.
Well, I don’t want to “grow up.” I don’t want to if growing up means abandoning the principle that individuals matter, that you shouldn’t hurt people or take their stuff. I don’t want to give up on values that have gotten me down the road of life this far. I won’t “grow up,” if that means not seeking ideals, taking chances, and taking responsibility for my own failures. I don’t want to compromise, at least not on the things that really matter. I don’t want to split the difference on someone else’s bad idea, and then pat myself on the back for “getting something done.”
I have no plans to fall in line.
I do the best that I can, and I belong to a community of many millions of people who seem to agree with me on the things that really matter.


4 Stars

Dusted Off: The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas by Jonah Goldberg

The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of IdeasThe Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas

by Jonah Goldberg

Hardcover, 320 pg.
Sentinel, 2012
Jun. 27 – Jul. 10, 2012

Not much to say about this that’s not in the publisher’s description. This is a pretty good read–plenty of things I disagree with or quibble with, but even more that I can pretty much agree with. But all of it is pretty darn entertaining. Goldberg’s one of the most enjoyable political writers of our time, there’s more than a few chuckles to be had in the midst of his analysis. Which isn’t to say he’s taking things lightly–he’s dead serious about this stuff, he’s just found a way to be witty while he does so.

I found it a lot easier to handle the outline of every chapter–introduce cliché and how it’s used, give historical context (usually not how it’s used today), apply this to today’s debates–if I limited myself to 1-2 chapters a day. Otherwise it was just too much of the same thing.


4 Stars

Dusted Off: A Nation of Sheep by Andrew P. Napolitano

A Nation of SheepA Nation of Sheep by Andrew P. Napolitano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Am reading Andrew P. Napolitano’s book A Nation of Sheep, which is quite the experience so far. The book is about how our national government ignores, circumvents, and attacks the rights and liberties that are the foundation of our nation.

Napolitano’s best known for his frequent/regular appearances on pretty much every show on FOXNews, he obviously takes his talking points from the GOP, slavishly promotes the agenda of the Bush (43) Administration, and is some sort of fascist (closeted or otherwise). Right?

Except he’s not. In fact, the Bush Administration’s agenda is the main target of Napolitano’s vitriol. However, I should note that the Adams (2), Lincoln, Roosevelt (32), Trueman and Nixon administrations receive knocks as well.

After a few chapters skimming U.S. History (with quick glances at contemporary events), Napolitano turns his focus on the present with this little end-of-chapter tease:

If you’re not convinced that the government is hell-bent on accumulating extreme amounts of power in the name of national security, the forthcoming chapters will finalize the exsanguinations of your skepticism. In other words, get ready for some sleepless nights.

I found that more amusing than I ought–the one phrase I’ve been muttering to myself (and TLomL) about the book so far is “don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep again.” And he now tells me it’s gonna get worse?