NMT to disinvite Harrison Schmitt?

I posted the following to an alumni group’s Facebook page in response to a post that cited this article and invited alumni to ask the school’s president to disinvite Schmitt.

I have difficulty believing there is a serious movement to disinvite Dr. Harrison Schmidt as commencement speaker. He’s an astronaut who’s explored — as a trained geologist — another planet, on foot. If he’s wrong about climate science, well, he won’t be the first person to demonstrate the Dunning Kruger effect. I’m think in particular of a physics professor who was determined to bring back punched card media for his simulation software.

But more than that, I am appalled that the professors at Tech are failing to teach their students that Science is not a collection of orthodoxies that must not be questioned. When I went to Tech, I heard from my petroleum engineering friends that one of the geology faculty refused to subscribe to the theory of plate tectonics. I don’t know if that was true, but it was believable because people were allowed to hold unpopular opinions. When I was at Tech, we read “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and learned the big problem in science is overcoming the informal orthodoxies that creep in despite our best intentions. We watched Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and shook our heads at the medieval clergy who treated Galileo as a heretic and refused to look through his telescope.

But worst, I think, is the boorish gauchery of disinviting a speaker from an event after the invitation had been made and accepted. What kind of people would even consider it? A few years ago, I thought President Trump was 50% vulgarian, 50% clown, and 100% reality show personality. Today, I’m afraid he embodies the spirit of our age. The idea that Techies would outdo him in classlessness… it’s #Sad.

Sting’s Pose

What’s with this pose he uses for his albums? I hadn’t noticed, until iTunes put them all next to each other like that.

installing eyeD3

I keep thinking I should learn the basics of Python programming. But I never seem to get around to it.

Today I needed to know how to install a program written in Python, because Homebrew used to include eyeD3 and today it didn’t. Here’s what I ended up doing:

$ sudo easy_install pip   # because pip isn’t installed

$ sudo pip install eyeD3

then it says that won’t work because libmagic isn’t installed. But fortunately, Homebrew provides that (whatever it is). So try again:

$ brew install libmagic

$ sudo pip install eyeD3

P.S. eyeD3 is the best command-line ID3 tag editor I’ve found. It is the only thing I’ve found that allows you to install album art from the command line. (See my earlier post.)

 

The Senate and SCOTUS — A Modest Proposal

Since the nomination of Merrick Garland has been held up all year, and is at this point likely dead, President Trump may nominate as many as three (even 4?) Justices to the Supreme Court.

The Senate, of course, must approve those nominations. Historically, this would have been subject to a 60-vote requirement to overcome any minority-party filibuster. But retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid eliminated that precedent, and, indeed, even two weeks ago sought to permanently “nuke the filibuster.” We may therefore expect that even a bare majority in the GOP-held Senate could approve each of those nominees.

Perhaps today Democrats can better see the folly of Harry Reid. Even some Republicans are uneasy at the prospect of President Trump’s SCOTUS picks.

I believe that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should, in the interest of national unity, allow the Democrats to restore to the Senate the historic protection of the filibuster.

He should announce that he will, in this session, schedule hearings for Merrick Garland on the condition that each member of the Senate — every single one, without exception — go to the floor of the Senate, and make a public pledge of support for the filibuster, along the lines of: “I solemnly renounce and abjure the disastrous and demagogic policies of Harry Reid which so gravely imperiled the historic safeguard that is the filibuster, and put our republic in jeopardy of descending into the ugliest form of mob rule.”

Since no Senate can bind a future Senate, this show of support for the filibuster will be necessary at the start of each term. Incoming Senators should be required to make the same pledge in January. Without such a show of national unity and resolve, McConnell should declare the filibuster dead and delete it across the board from all Senate rules.

Would this be humiliating for Democrats? Absolutely. So it might tempt the Republicans, who, otherwise, will want to wait for Trump’s nominee and those who will come later.

But swallowing their pride would be good for Democrats. Being (sort of) generous in victory would be good for Republicans. And restoring a strong filibuster would be good for the country, and not only in the area of SCOTUS nominees.

If nothing else, the election of President Trump and a GOP Senate should teach us that it is dangerous to take power into our own hands that we would be terrified to see in the hands of our political opponents.

Arctic Climate Change and Extinction

I can barely understand the abstract:

The Arctic Ocean is undergoing rapid climatic changes including higher ocean temperatures, reduced sea ice, glacier and Greenland Ice Sheet melting, greater marine productivity, and altered carbon cycling. Until recently, the relationship between climate and Arctic biological systems was poorly known, but this has changed substantially as advances in paleoclimatology, micropaleontology, vertebrate paleontology, and molecular genetics show that Arctic ecosystem history reflects global and regional climatic changes over all timescales and climate states…. Climate-driven biological impacts included large changes in species diversity, primary productivity, species’ geographic range shifts into and out of the Arctic, community restructuring, and possible hybridization, but evidence is not sufficient to determine whether or when major episodes of extinction occurred.

Denial

You and [his son, who’s a doctor] are very big into truth, truth, truth, yes, yes, yes. But denial – respect denial. It’s very important in the human architecture. It’s what we do when we can’t face what the world throws at us. It’s what helps us get up in the morning, until enough mornings pass that we begin to walk upright in the world.
  —Ron Suskind, quoting his friend Max Pluskey

From a talk at Calvin College talking about the story behind his book, Life, Animated.

(Cross-posted from my other blog.)