Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018 Book List

The 2018 Book List
  1. Ones and Zeroes by Dan Wells
  2. Children of the Divide by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  3. The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
  4. The Higgs Boson and Beyond by Sean Carroll (The Great Courses)
  5. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by Bart Ehrman
  6. Republic, Lost: Version 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig
  7. The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook by Niall Ferguson
  8. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey
  9. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant
  10. Why Honor Matters by Tamler Sommers
  11. Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy by Jonah Goldberg
  12. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
  13. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe
  14. Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe
  15. Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe
  16. Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James. P. Carse
  17. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (black Barbadian woman)
  18. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (African-American woman)
  19. I Should Have Honor: A Memoir of Hope and Pride in Pakistan by Khalida Brohi (Pakistani Muslim woman)
  20. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (caucasian transgender woman)
  21. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (caucasian lesbian woman)
  22. A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (caucasian lesbian woman)
  23. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (caucasian woman)
  24. Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray (caucasian woman)
  25. A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray (caucasian woman)

Breakdown

Format:
  • Audiobooks: 16
    • Audio courses: 1
  • Kindle: 5
  • Dead tree books: 7
Subjects:
  • Total Fiction: 13
    • Science Fiction: 8
    • Fantasy: 5
    • Non-Fiction: 12
      • Science: 3
        • Physics: 1
        • Psychology: 2
      • Religion: 2
      • History: 5
      • Politics: 7
      • Business/Economics: 1
      • Philosophy: 5
    These numbers don't quite match up, because some books cover multiple areas, and so I've included them in all relevant categories. So, for example, a book on free will would fall in both Psychology and Philosophy (and possibly even Religion) categories. And a book on Politics might drift enough into the realm of Philsophy (or vice versa) that I count them as both, or both might explore enough historical groundwork that I feel the need to include it as a History book.

    Similarly, some books I read using Whispersynch-for-Voice to jump between the Amazon Kindle and Audible audiobook versions of the books, so they got double-counted in the format section if I read them in both formats. I've also included The Great Courses audios that I listen to through Audible.com. Though not actually books, I figure that a 10+ hour course on a subject contains about the same informational content, if not presented structurally in quite the same way as it would take in a written book.

    Podcasts

    In addition to listening to audiobooks, my intake of thinking consists enough of podcasts that it seems worth including them as a category. Here are the podcasts that I have listened to in 2018 on a fairly regular basis:

    • Writing Excuses
    • You Are Not So Smart
    • Waking Up Podcast with Sam Harris
    • History of Philosophy
    • History of Africana Philosophy
    • Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria
    • Very Bad Wizards
    • What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law
    • The Lawfare Podcast
    • The Cyberlaw Podcast
    • Rational Security
    • The Phil Ferguson Show
    • Hidden Brain
    • Stuff You Should Know
    • Stuff to Blow Your Mind
    The History

    And for anyone who is interested in looking into the past to see some of my previous book lists...
    Prior to 2008, I didn't keep a precise running record of the books that I read.

    Monday, September 03, 2018

    Initial Thoughts and Reflections: Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg

    Regardless of political affiliation or inclination, I sincerely wish that we could have a national book club where everyone was encouraged to read Jonah Goldberg's Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy.

    It took me the better part of the summer to get through it. This is not because of any flaw in the book, nor is it difficult to get through on any level. It's actively engaging and entertaining, in fact, despite the serious subject matter. No, the delay is entirely on me. First, I am busy. Second, and probably more importantly, the book was one that I definitely wanted to deeply engage with. Therefore, rather than getting the book on Audible and listening to it, I actually wanted to read the book, with a notebook near me for writing down quotes or thoughts and observations as I went.

    Aside: This is definitely not a slam on audiobooks. I dearly love the format, and find it a great way to engage with a lot of my information intake these days ... but since I specifically listen to audiobooks when doing other things, it does not facilitate careful notetaking and reflection on the subject matter in the way that reading can. Reflection while reading is automatic, because you must consciously proceed to follow the author's flow of words, and the internal voice takes precedent. Reflection while listening, on the other hand, requires the active step of pausing the flow of the author's words (or ignoring their continued flow, at least) in order to reflect on your reaction to them. For comparison, while I very interested to read James Comey's Higher Loyalty, I felt no need to take careful notes on it, so an audiobook was a perfectly appropriate format ... and I finished it in a couple of days of listening, as I drove around town, did laundry, etc. Nor, for that matter, did I find 
    I imagine that there is a world in which I would have read Suicide of the West and been very convinced that the biases and assumptions with which President Hillary Clinton is running America are probably dangerous and troubling. I dearly wish that we lived in such a world.

    Goldberg's central thesis is focused on portraying admiration for something he refers to as "the Miracle" - which is, generally speaking, the Enlightenment and the subsequent growth of plurality, secular society, democracy, and capitalism - and expressing the concern that the tribalism, populism, nationalism, and identity politics of the title put those features of our society at risk.

    Goldberg began work on the book prior to the 2016 election, so the transformation in his understanding of the thesis as he watched his own conservative party get taken over by a form of rampant nationalist populism is intriguing to witness. The book is a coherent, well-edited whole, so you don't see the gradual transformation take place as you move from page 1 to the final page, while Goldberg realizes that his own house is far from in order. No, instead, the tone throughout consistently recognizes that everyone is subject to these foibles of human nature.

    Despite the fact that I no doubt am much more willing to give the state a free hand in trying to help people out than Goldberg is inclined to, I found very little in his criticism of this approach - or, indeed, in most of the arguments in his book - to take issue with. For the issues he brings up, if our concerns were placed a scale of 1 to 10, I'd imagine that in general we'd be off by a point or two here or there.

    Intriguingly, one of the claims that he makes that I most took issue with was the following quote:
    Indeed, as much as I hold Trump in contempt, I am still compelled to admit that, if my vote would have decided the election, I probably would have voted for him.
    I am certainly not disagreeing that this is how Goldberg would have felt compelled, but given his own arguments, I am definitely disagreeing that this is how he should have felt compelled.  Even given all of his concerns about the statism and over-reliance on regulation embodied by the Obama administration, which would certainly have continued under a Clinton administration, by his own metrics there should not have been no contest that Clinton was the better choice.

    There are a ton of arguments that I could make why Clinton wasn't as big a danger to America's values and "the Miracle" as Trump is, but let's focus on Goldberg's own points here.

    At one point, he quotes some of Clinton's comments, such saying that Islam has "nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism," pointing out that she "painted with a broad brush in a single color and so did Trump." But there are two differences here, and both are ones that Goldberg is trying to highlight and then ignoring in the case of Clinton.

    First is the nature of the "broad brush in a single color" being used. Clinton's comment is made in an attempt to demonstrate respect to good Muslim people, and to re-affirm (if incorrectly) that American society has a place for them and that Americans would to well to welcome and embrace them as a whole. This is 100% in accord with the arguments that Goldberg himself makes throughout the book.

    Trump's comments about Mexico sending us their rapists and banning all Muslims, on the other hand, paints "with a broad brush in a single color" that is specifically at odds with the very American values that Goldberg is admirably defending.

    Second is what this rhetoric covers up. Here, admittedly, Goldberg may well disagree with me, but I see absolutely no reason to believe that Clinton doesn't know that she was painting with a broad brush in a single color. Yes, she was making a rhetorically excessive statement in support of a higher principle (inclusiveness for peaceful Muslims), but in practice is there any reason to believe that this would inhibit her ability to implement security procedures when acting as President of the United States? Is Goldberg suggesting that she does not actually understand that there is a connection between Islam and terrorism that has to be considered by the intelligence and security communities?

    Trump, on the other hand, seems to believe his rhetorical excesses about Muslims to quite a significant degree ... both in the moment he's making them, and when called out on them. There's nothing in his subsequent comments to really make it clear that he understands the differences between Islam and terrorism, or between dangerous and peaceful illegal immigrants for that matter.

    Toward the end of the book Goldberg identifies the key elements of conservatism as twofold: Ideas matter and character matters. As flawed as Hillary's ideas and character may have been, on both of these accounts that Goldberg clearly values, she has to be held up as superior to Trump. Indeed, of the two candidates, by this metric (and many others) she was actually more fundamentally conservative than Trump actually was (or is).

    All of this, of course, is to parse hairs over inconsequential differences. Goldberg's book, even when I disagreed with it, forced me to be far more critical of my assumptions and how different rhetoric that sounds good resonates through our society. Hell, he even convinced me that if I were to watch one of my favorite movies as a teenager, Dead Poet's Society, I would probably find that it is no longer appealing to my adult sensibilities.

    And being forced to confront the flaws of one's own assumptions is, I think, the best that one can ever expect to get from a book.

    Monday, January 01, 2018

    2017 Book List

    End of the year, so time for my annual accounting of books consumed for 2017!

    The 2017 Book List
    1. The Speech by Bernie Sanders
    2. Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
    3. Over Your Dead Body by Dan Wells
    4. The Dictator's Handbook by Alastair Smith & Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
    5. Witch: A Tale of Terror by Charles McKay (read by Sam Harris)
    6. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
    7. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
    8. The Daily Show: An Oral History (the Audiobook) by Chris Smith
    9. On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
    10. Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter
    11. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
    12. Pathfinder Tales: Gears of Faith by Gabrielle Harbowy
    13. Convictions: How I Learned What Mattered Most by Marcus Borg
    14. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
    15. Keynes/Hayek by Nicholas Wapshott
    16. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene
    17. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sas
    18. Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi (graphic novel)
    19. Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells
    20. Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward
    21. Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders by Denise A. Spellberg
    22. The Atheist Muslim by Ali A. Rizvi
    23. The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson
    24. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
    25. Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek by Manu Saadia
    26. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
    27. Verbal Judo, Updated Edition by Pam Thompson
    28. Bluescreen by Dan Wells
    29. This Fight is Our Fight by Elizabeth Warren
    30. Extreme Makeover: Apocalypse Edition by Dan Wells
    31. Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente
    Breakdown

    Format:
    • Audiobooks: 14
      • Audio courses: 
    • Kindle: 8
    • Dead tree books: 9
    Subjects:
    • Total Fiction: 8
      • Classics: 1 
      • Science Fiction: 2
        • Young Adult: 1
      • Fantasy: 5
    • Non-Fiction: 20
      • Science: 3
        • Physics: 
        • Psychology: 3
        • Biology: 1
        • Technology: 
        • Math/Statistics: 
      • Religion: 7
      • History: 12
      • Politics: 9
      • Education: 3
      • Business/Economics: 7
      • Philosophy: 5
      • Humor: 2
      • Writing/Creativity: 3
    These numbers don't quite match up, because some books cover multiple areas, and so I've included them in all relevant categories. So, for example, a book on free will would fall in both Psychology and Philosophy (and possibly even Religion) categories.

    Similarly, some books I read using Whispersynch-for-Voice to jump between the Amazon Kindle and Audible audiobook versions of the books, so they got double-counted in the format section if I read them in both formats. I've also included The Great Courses audios that I listen to through Audible.com. Though not actually books, I figure that a 10+ hour course on a subject contains about the same informational content, if not presented structurally in quite the same way as it would take in a written book.

    The History

    And for anyone who is interested in looking into the past to see some of my previous book lists...
    Prior to 2008, I didn't keep a precise running record of the books that I read.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Open Letter on Secretary DeVos' Nomination

    This morning I called Indiana Senator Todd Young. I was kicked to voicemail, presumably with the staff overburdened with calls related to things that came up over the weekend. Young is on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, so I wanted to speak with him regarding the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Not able to get through, I left a quick message expressing that I'd like to be contacted to give my concerns.

    Since I wasn't able to speak with anyone, I jotted down my thoughts here:

    Today President-elect Trump's Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, is having a confirmation hearing. I have worked in the educational field for nearly twenty years, first in Detroit with a non-profit math enrichment program and then in the educational publishing industry, working with the testing company CTB for a decade. I have an undergraduate degree in physics and a Master's in Mathematics Education, and I have worked with more than a half-dozen states on developing, designing, and writing their mathematics assessments, including two national assessments: the TASC high school equivalency test and the Smarter Balanced Coalition test. For the last two years, I have been working self-employed as a freelancer in educational publishing, with the majority of work that supports me and my family being with testing companies and textbook companies. 
    I have two concerns regarding Mrs. DeVos as a potential Secretary of Education.  
    First, she seems to be singularly unqualified. She has made statements that make it clear she does not understand educational policy, specifically the Common Core. And when I say she "does not understand," I don't mean that I disagree with her stance on the issue or her conclusion ... I mean that her rhetoric has made it clear that she is fundamentally confused about some of the basic facts related to the defining educational policy of the last 6 years. She appears to think that "local control" means "eliminating the Common Core," but any state that is utilizing the Common Core is doing so because it has chosen to. An educational policy of "eliminating the Common Core" means coming in and imposing federal educational restrictions on the states. It is not clear that she understands this crucial distinction. I would hope that questioning during the confirmation hearing can help clarify her thinking on whether her objective is "returning local control" or "eliminating the Common Core," because you can't do both.  
    Nor, for that matter, is it necessarily good policy to do so. Indiana, for example, voted to get rid of the Common Core for partisan political reasons, and had to go through the expense of developing a new set of state standards ... which, not surprisingly, are really just superficial cosmetic changes to the Common Core. The vast majority of the Common Core was retained in the new Indiana standards. I don't complain about this too much, as part of my work over the last year has been working on a math textbook that is designed for the Indiana standards, but as a citizen and taxpayer in Indiana I wish they had just stuck with the Common Core. 
    My second concern is that Mrs. DeVos was the head of the All Children Matter PAC, as I understand it. That being the case, I feel that anyone in the committee, or in the Senate, who has received money from that PAC (or from DeVos personally) should recuse themselves from voting on this nomination. Or, at the very least, she should be asked about which Senators she has given money to in the past. 
    I'll admit, I have not been particularly political in the past, prior to seeing what happened in this election. Maybe it is normal in Washington for active lobbyists to be appointed to Cabinet-level positions, but mixed with her bizarre lack of educational qualifications and my extensive experience in the field, I find this really a problematic nomination. 
    I am not opposed to school choice. I've taught in charter schools in Detroit. I have sent my son to both private and charter schools in the Anderson area, though ultimately we found that the public schools have been a much better fit. I do not oppose school choice, but anyone who is going to support school choice in the role of Secretary of Education has to be committed, first and foremost, to maintaining a quality educational standard in our public education system. Mrs. DeVos does not appear to have demonstrated that commitment.

    NOTE: Due to morning brain, I accidentally called Mrs. DeVos "Senator DeVos" in the original title. I've fixed the title, but it's obviously still incorrect in the link. And, of course, since she isn't yet confirmed, calling her even "Secretary DeVos" is a bit premature, but seemed appropriate anyway. So I know all of that ... the e-mails can stop now.

    Saturday, December 31, 2016

    2016 Books Read

    End of the year, so time for my annual accounting of books consumed for 2016!

    The 2016 Book List
    1. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
    2. This Will Make You Smarter by John Brockman
    3. The Koran
    4. A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells
    5. Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
    6. Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden
    7. Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills (The Great Courses) by Professor Stephen Novella
    8. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
    9. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
    10. The Higgs Boson and Beyond (The Great Courses) by Sean Carroll
    11. Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology by Kentaro Toyama
    12. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford
    13. The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross
    14. Common Sense by Thomas Paine
    15. The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses) by Prof. Robert Garland
    16. Revisionary by Jim C. Hines
    17. Chupacabra's Song by Jim C. Hines
    18. Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer
    19. Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft
    20. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer
    21. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
    22. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
    23. There Was No Jesus, There Is No God by Raphael Lataster
    24. The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems ... And Create More by Luke Dormehl
    25. Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists by Raphael Lataster w/ Richard Carrier
    26. Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart Ehrman
    27. Answers to Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life by Massimo Pigliucci
    28. The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
    29. The Ark: Children of the Dead Earth (Book One) by Patrick S. Tomlinson
    30. Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
    31. Trident's Forge: Children of the Dead (Book Two) by Patrick S. Tomlinson
    32. Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior by Bart Ehrman
    33. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
    34. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
    35. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
    36. Extraordinary Zoology: Tales from the Monsternomicon, vol. 1 by Howard Tayler
    37. Mr. Monster by Dan Wells
    38. I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
    39. Partials by Dan Wells
    40. The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells
    41. Necessity by Jo Walton
    42. Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work That Matters, and Make Smart Choices About Giving Back by William MacAskill
    43. The Lady Astronaut Club by Mary Robinette Kowal (beta reader of draft edition)
    44. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (with commentary by Steven Barnes) (re-read)
    45. How Great Science Fiction Works (The Great Courses) by Prof. Gary K. Wolfe
    46. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
    Breakdown

    Format:
    • Audiobooks: 26
      • Audio courses: 4
    • Kindle: 13
      • Kindle shorts: 1
    • Google Docs: 1
    • Dead tree books: 6
    Subjects:
    • Total Fiction: 22
      • Classics: 2
      • Science Fiction: 8
        • Young Adult: 2
      • Fantasy: 13
        • Horror: 3
    • Non-Fiction: 25
      • Science: 9
        • Physics: 3
        • Psychology: 1
        • Biology: 3
        • Technology: 4
        • Math/Statistics: 1
      • Religion: 8
      • History: 8
      • Politics: 5
      • Education: 1
      • Economics: 5
      • Business: 6
      • Philosophy: 7
      • Humor: 2
      • Writing/Creativity: 2
    These numbers don't quite match up, because some books cover multiple areas, and so I've included them in all relevant categories. So, for example, a book on free will would fall in both Psychology and Philosophy (and possibly even Religion) categories.

    Similarly, some books I read using Whispersynch-for-Voice to jump between the Amazon Kindle and Audible audiobook versions of the books, so they got double-counted in the format section. I've also included The Great Courses audios that I listen to through Audible.com. Though not actually books, I figure that a 10+ hour course on a subject contains about the same informational content, if not presented structurally in quite the same way as it would take in a written book.

    The History

    And for anyone who is interested in looking into the past to see some of my previous book lists...
    Prior to 2008, I didn't keep a precise running record of the books that I read.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2016

    Why I Hope to Vote for Donald Trump in 2020

    There has possibly been no political contest in my living history that I have felt more strongly about than this one, so the result that Donald Trump has been elected as President is really devastating. These aren't quite my first thoughts on this, because I had to get up, see my kids off to school, take my youngest to a doctor's appointment ... you know, the stuff of living that actually matters, far more than this political stuff.

    But the political stuff matters, too, when people's healthcare, and their family's marital status, or ability to stay in this country, or the integrity of their control over their own bodies are on the line.

    At about 10:50 last night, the results were coming in were devastating, and I convinced my wife to go to sleep rather than suffer through hours of stress watching the results come in.

    I woke up at 4:00 am (because my phone went crazy with a bizarre series of junkmail texts) and saw that Donald Trump had won ... and could not get back to sleep.

    I have been fundamentally wrong at every stage in this election, sure that the Republicans would nominate a reasonable candidate, and then sure that the American people would reject the man they eventually chose. I clearly had too much faith in the American people to make the moral choice - yes, the moral choice - in this election. I was wrong about what America would do.

    Now, I find myself in the position of hoping that I am wrong. I truly hope that I'm wrong about the character of Donald Trump, that I have misinterpreted his statements that were strategic attempts to gain support and do not represent his actual views. I hope that he will be a centrist, with conservative economic policies and a concern for individual civil liberties.

    I remember reading about President Bush's first advice to Barack Obama:
    Trust yourself. And know that ultimately regardless of the day-to-day news cycles and the noise that the American people need their president to succeed, regardless of political party.
    We are in the position where Donald Trump, along with the Republicans, have the run of the table. And, as much as I loathe the way he has run his campaign, and indeed his whole life, and the way the Republicans have handled themselves the last 8 years, I cannot wish the government abject failure.

    Americans need a government that succeeds. We need economic and tax policies that promote jobs and growth. We need a President who can deftly maneuver the various threats to our national security and national interests.

    And, much as I loathe President-Elect Trump's rhetoric during the campaign, I hope he rises to the challenge. I hope that the White House brings out the very best in him, in fact that he leads in such an exemplary fashion that in four years, when he runs for re-election in 2020, it is not primarily among rural white voters that back him, but that he has broad approval among women and African-American, LGBT, urban, and Latino populations, and that he has earned that because his policies are really working, and he's proven himself to be a thoughtful man with deft leadership.

    I doubt this will happen ... but I truly have never hoped to be wrong more in my life.

    Friday, February 19, 2016

    On Scalia: Letter to Dan Coats

    In this February 16 interview, Indiana Senator Dan Coats said that he didn't believe President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. Here is the point he made, in particular:
    “I think that ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate,” Coats said. “But at that point, that person has to be evaluated in a non-partisan way, in my opinion. Does he have the experience? Does he or she have the criteria to be a justice? The temperament?"
    He isn't alone. There's been a slew of this talk from Republicans, and some Republicans have actively broken ranks to say that Congress should do its job, including the definitely-not-pro-Obama Tea Party governor of Maine. While I'm willing to attribute this behavior strictly to political opportunism, and a real fear about losing strong conservative voices on the court, some have attributed far more sinister motives to the call.

    The end result of all this, for me, was the following letter to Indiana Senator Dan Coats:
    Dear Senator Coats,  
    I was disappointed to read today that you had publicly expressed the desire to push off a decision on a Supreme Court nominee until after the election. In the interview you claimed that this was a desire that it "ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate."  
    It occurs to me that this question has indeed been put to the American people twice, in 2008 and 2012. I voted for President Obama in both cases, but I'm non-partisan, and in each election I seriously considered all of the candidates. I intend to do so again this year, but I will confess that this sort of obstructionism on the part of Republicans is troublesome to me. If Republicans have a hope of winning over enough moderate voters in a general election to win the White House, they have to convince the American people that they can actually govern. 
    In this case, that means allowing President Obama - whom the American people decided twice to be their president - to perform his duties for the fourth year of his second elected term. What it seems to me you are actually saying in the above quote is that you feel uncomfortable with the decision the American people made in 2012 and hope they make a different one this year. You are certainly free to be uncomfortable with it, but your Constitutional duty as a Senator is clear. If President Obama puts forth a qualified nominee, and Republicans obstruct it on purely political grounds, I suspect it will cast a very poor shadow on Republican prospects among moderates in the general election.  
    I know it will for this moderate.  
    Thank you for your time. 
    I don't know if this sort of thing ultimately has any impact, but it seems good to have one's voice heard. You can leave a message for Indiana Senator Dan Coats here.