The long and sordid story of President Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee, Penny Pritzker

The Secular Jurist

The love fest between Barack Obama and his top fundraiser Penny Pritzker that has led to her being nominated as Commerce secretary would not be so unseemly if they both just confessed that they did it for the money. Her money, not his, financed his rise to the White House from less promising days back in Chicago.

“Without Penny Pritzker, it is unlikely that Barack Obama ever would have been elected to the United States Senate or the presidency,” according to a gushing New York Times report last year that read like the soaring jacket copy of a steamy romance novel. “When she first backed him during his 2004 Senate run, she was No. 152 on the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans. He was a long-shot candidate who needed her support and imprimatur. Mr. Obama and Ms. Pritzker grew close, sometimes spending weekends with their families at her summer…

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It isn’t easy for gay sportsmen such as Jason Collins to come out. Just look at the stereotypes | Hadley Freeman | Comment is free | The Guardian

It isn’t easy for gay sportsmen such as Jason Collins to come out. Just look at the stereotypes | Hadley Freeman | Comment is free | The Guardian.

The ill-advised future (or not) of the tea party, and how it will cripple the GOP

What a calamity they’ve been for the country! We will have wasted six years of the Obama presidency fighting tooth and nail just to defend decades old programmes, never mind putting in place a truly progressive health care system.

Caveat Lector

Recent centrist moves and minor steps toward compromise on the part of Ohio Republicans has apparently angered the Ohio Tea Party, with the advent of the election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for the gay-rights group Equality Ohio, breaking the proverbial camel’s back.

From an article in the Columbus Dispatch:

Feeling betrayed by the Republican Party and its leaders, tea party groups in Ohio appear to be uniting and moving toward either a split from the GOP or action to punish Republican candidates who fail ideological purity tests.

A series of events, culminating with the April 26 election of Matt Borges as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, spurred a flurry of meetings and conference calls among tea party leaders last week to plot a course of action heading into the 2014 statewide election.

Options being discussed, according to Seth Morgan, policy director for Americans for Prosperity, range…

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How the CIA’s Fake Vaccination Campaign Endangers Us All: Scientific American

How the CIA’s Fake Vaccination Campaign Endangers Us All: Scientific American.

We might overlook the effects of the legendary law of unintended consequences if those effects couldn’t be predicted.  In this case the ramifications were perfectly foreseeable.  Surely our much vaunted ‘intelligence’ services could have concocted an alternative cover which wouldn’t have jeopardised years of hard work.

The plight of my fellow North Carolinians

Caveat Lector

It turns out that the North Carolina Republican Party’s attempt to declare an official state religion – about which I re-blogged about a week ago – was just the most abhorrent tip of a very large opportunistic iceberg. From Corey Hutchins writing for the Columbia Journalism Review (emphasis mine):

Maybe you’ve seen some of the eye-catching headlines bouncing out of North Carolina’s capitol over the last couple months. Stories about legislative measures like the one that would have made it possible to create an official state religion, or another that would mandate a two-year waiting period for a divorce.

It’s the first time in more than a century that Republicans have control of the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature. And they haven’t wasted any time in trying to drastically reshape North Carolina’s political, social, and economic landscape, unfurling a wave of bills on matters…

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Children of the dust I

The photographer, Eric Valli, deserves an award for this one…

Photo avant-garde

From photographer Eric Valli.

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3,000 Years of Abusing Earth on a Global Scale: Scientific American

3,000 Years of Abusing Earth on a Global Scale: Scientific American.

On the face of it, this offers some consolation and hope…

how long the human impact on land has been widespread requires a broader global synthesis of the archaeological and paleoecological data on human population and land use. Most of that data is available—and has been examined—in a local rather than global context, such as the impacts of humans on the Yucatan Peninsula or Australia. Nevertheless, what data exists suggests that this is a “used planet,” in the words of the authors. “We’ve been husbanding these biomes and creating our own types of ecologies—the cultivated lands, the rangelands—we’ve been doing this for a very long time,” Ellis argues. “We’ve been living in that Anthropocene biosphere since prehistory.”

Especially when the author points out…

If the human impact is longstanding and widespread, then the landscape is as much in recovery from past impacts as it is enduring new changes. Think of the cutting back of the Amazon rainforest—itself potentially a recovery from earlier, more intensive human use before the arrival of Europeans—versus the regrowth of the forests of the eastern U.S. In fact, the woodland ecosystems of Europe and South America commonly thought of as natural may be the legacy of prior human use. “Most of the forest have had people in them, interacting with them and transplanting species around for thousands of years,” Fuller notes. “We have very little in the way of natural forests, which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be trying to reforest environments and have forests.” After all, the modern phase of the Anthropocene may be the first time humans can choose intentionally what an appropriate level of impact might be.

A Hard Look at 3 Myths about Genetically Modified Crops: Scientific American

A Hard Look at 3 Myths about Genetically Modified Crops: Scientific American.

Thoughtful survey of the current limits of our knowledge.  Some may believe me antiscience for my scepticism regarding GM technology. I have yet to encounter a ‘killer’ argument that current GM technologies are essential to feeding anything other than corporate profits.