Sunday, February 14, 2016

Some meandering before I get to the point

Antonin Scalia, d. 13 February 2016

It's been a while since I last posted, the reasons for which I won't mention now but may in some future post or posts.

And I don't know how frequently I will post in the future, but hope to make it a more regular thing. We'll see. I can already say that with this post I'm doing better than I did in the entire year of 2015. Upward and onward!

Just a few thoughts for today:

I do not very much enjoy politics, though I do feel duty bound to try and keep up with at least some of the national political scene. It's nasty. It leaves a taste in my mouth worse than the skunk scent Jelly Belly jelly bean mixed with the rotten egg jelly bean (yes I've tasted both, though not at the exact same time, but in fairly rapid succession). I am not looking forward to this year's presidential campaign at all.

Is it coincidence that leap year and the summer Olympic games and the US presidential election all happen in the same year?

Speaking of the Olympics, and sports performance more generally: I recently listened to Mark McClusky's Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn From Them. As a student of the exercise sciences I'm sort of biased, but I really enjoyed it. I hope to have more to say about it in a future post. But if you like sports and science then you'll likely enjoy it too. It's a great companion to another book I've briefly reviewed here, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein. Read them both.

Which brings me to my next point: We need more books like that.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying the following titles most recently and will likely make mention of others from the past year or so that deserve special mention:

Mere Humanity: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition by Donald T. Williams. I've read some of all three authors' works, though admittedly I'm the least familiar with Chesterton apart from some of his Father Brown stories and his novel The Man Who Was Thursday. In Mere Humanity, Williams uses the works of Chesterton, Lewis, and Tolkien to answer the age-old questions What is Man? and What is the purpose of life on this Earth? He also addresses the challenges of modernism and post-modernism. Definitely worth checking out.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. I just finished reading this one for the first time to our older son and he loved it. I had piqued his interest by telling him it was one of my favorites when I was a boy -- I'm especially fond of the new Narnian soil's ability to grow a tree from anything planted in it: a lamp post from a piece of lamp, a toffee tree from a piece of toffee, and gold and silver trees from coins of the same metals -- and I sweetened the deal for him by promising to eat toffee with him  -- up till now I don't think he's ever had toffee -- when we got to the chapter with the toffee tree. Turns out both chapters 12 and 13 mention the toffee tree, in case you wanted to try the same approach with your own children.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. It's one of the tragedies of my life that I stopped taking math classes after my junior year in high school, unless you count my two biostatistics courses in graduate school. But fortunately one needn't be a math whiz to understand -- and enjoy -- this book. (Admittedly, though, I was a little lost in the part where Ellenberg discusses the relationship between prime numbers and the natural logarithm. I don't know if it was because it was late at night when I was reading it and I was tired, or if it indeed went over my head.) Ellenberg's wit and humor and liberal use of real-word examples and interesting anecdotes bring his subject to life. It's well worth your time just to find out why you should ignore just about every news article discussing the latest study of diet and disease risks.

But let's get on to the real reason why I decided to write this post. And I hope that you're still with me.

I'm talking about the recent passing of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Antonin Scalia (May he rest in peace).

I'm definitely not going to get into any reasons why President Obama should or shouldn't make a nomination, or whether the Republican-dominated Senate should or shouldn't confirm the President's nomination should he make one.

What I will say is that if President Obama does decide to go ahead and nominate a new justice, which I believe is his constitutional right to do so as the chief executive (I don't think there's any confusion on that point, is there?), that he should nominate Thomas B. Griffith, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Here's the perfect opportunity for the President to show the nation -- and especially politicians -- that he retains a genuine interest in reaching across the aisle, so to speak, and play an active role in reducing the political polarization and incivility he recently spoke about.

The Supreme Court just lost its foremost conservative justice. Why not replace Justice Scalia with another conservative rather than jumping at the chance at tipping the balance toward the left just because the President can (assuming, of course, that the Senate went along with it). Admittedly, I'm assuming here that Judge Griffith leans conservative because of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the American membership of which, at least, is strongly conservative.

But assuming I'm right, that Judge Griffith is a conservative, then President Obama can actually have a two-for-one by simultaneously appointing a Mormon to the Supreme Court. It's never been done before (How historic! What a legacy!! What bipartisanshipfulness!!!) and Obama could make an important demonstration that he does indeed support members of minority religions who have faced significant persecution in the past in America and not just in a rhetorical sense.

It also doesn't hurt that back in 2005 then Senators Obama and Biden -- not to mention Senator Harry Reid (a Mormon Democrat from Nevada, yes they exist, and not just in Nevada) -- all voted to confirm Judge Griffith at his confirmation to his current post.

If you're wondering what kind of a Supreme Court Justice Griffith would be, you ought to read what he had to say to the Brigham Young University student body back in 2012. I think it's safe to say that he will be, like Justice Scalia, a close reader of the US Constitution and bring much honor to the Supreme Court.

Anyway, if any of you can forward this post to the President, I'd be much obliged. Vote Judge Griffith for the Supreme Court vacancy!

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