Archive for March, 2013



Line O’ the Day:

“So, if the average female porn star is a 5’5″ woman who weighs 117lbs and has B-cup breasts, what colour is her hair? Blonde, presumably, if my friends’ guesses were anything to go by. Apparently not. Dark-haired porn stars outnumber blonde ones almost 2-to-1. Of course, the vast majority of the fair-haired performers dye their hair, because only 5% of Americans are naturally blonde,5 but the fact that most female porn stars don’t choose the blonde bombshell look is interesting, I think. The notion of most porn stars being busty blondes (as opposed to brunettes with B-cups) must either be a carryover from a cultural stereotype (that the most sexually adventurous and available women are blonde with big breasts), or an indication that when someone thinks of the average porn star, the vision they see is an amalgam of a few of the most famous adult models, who do fit the busty blonde mold: Jenna Jameson, for instance.”

– Jon Millward, “Deep Inside: A Study of 10,000 Porn Stars and Their Careers” [Jon Millward: Psychology, Self-Improvement, Sexual Attraction blog]

Best of the Best:

Italy’s ex-intelligence chief given 10-year sentence for role in CIA kidnapping [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

Not a single victim of the abuses of the US War on Terror – not one – has even been allowed by the US federal judiciary to have a day in court, let alone obtain accountability for what was done to them. Federal judges have obediently slammed the courthouse doors shut in the faces of War on Terror victims even when everyone recognizes that the victims were treated savagely and were guilty of nothing. Indeed, US courts have refused even to hear cases brought by rendition (kidnapping) victims. Instead, US federal judges, over and over, have meekly submitted to the decrees of US national security state officials that the mandates of secrecy and national security shield them from any form of judicial review even when they kidnap and torture innocent people.

DOJ kill list memo forces many Dems out of the closet as overtly unprincipled hacks [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

Democratic partisans owe a public, sincere, and abject apology to George Bush and Dick Cheney. It’s certainly true that Obama has not continued many of the policies progressives found so heinous: he hasn’t invaded Iraq or legally authorized waterboarding. But Obama has completely reversed himself on so many of the core criticisms he and other Democrats made about Bush and Cheney regarding the need for due process for accused Terrorists, the dangers of radical secrecy, the treatment of Terrorism as a war on a global battlefield rather than a crime to be prosecuted. And if Tomasky’s excuse is correct – empathy with the leader’s need to Keep Us Safe shows that these are much more complicated issues than civil libertarians claim – then he and his fellow partisan soldiers should apologize, since that’s exactly what Bush/Cheney defenders said for years would happen once a Democratic president was empowered.

The state of our union is … dumber: How the linguistic standard of the presidential address has declined [The Guardian]

Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test the Guardian has tracked the reading level of every state of the union

South Americans Face Upheaval in Deadly Water Battles [Michael Smith on Bloomberg]

When Adelaida Tabaco went out looking for her husband, Paulino Garcia, gunshots were still crackling in the afternoon air. She says she heard dozens of shots as she searched, and she saw bullet casings rain from the sky as soldiers blasted from a military helicopter. Troops were shooting at people running away, she says. “They were firing at anything that moved,” she says. “It was like war.” The barrage began just as Garcia was walking past some houses, witnesses told his wife. One person saw Garcia on the street when he was shot, Human Rights Watch investigators found. Marco Arana, a former Catholic priest, says it’s morally — and should be criminally — wrong for the government to allow officers to randomly shoot and kill people. “For this violence to stop, the deadly police actions must be ended,” he says. “The government is wrong if they think that with bullets, torture and beatings, they can repress the justifiable concerns of the people.” A day after the shootings, Arana, who works for a Peruvian human rights organization called Grufides, helped lead a march against the Conga mine in Cajamarca’s central square, just across from the town’s 18th-century Catholic cathedral. As he rested on a bench, helmeted, shield-wielding riot police beat him and dragged him away, television images show.

How New Mexico Legalized Gay Marriage – For 8 Hours [Jake Grovum on Stateline]

It was just after 8 a.m., February 20, 2004. For the next eight hours, same-sex marriage was legal in New Mexico. The state put an end to it that afternoon. But since then, the whole issue has been in a sort of legal limbo, leaving citizens and especially the 64 couples who married that day living in an uncertain situation. Today, New Mexico is the only state in the country that has no law of any kind dealing with same-sex marriage. The controversy started when Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap announced she’d begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, arguing, correctly, that nothing in state law defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. “She just sprung it up,” Norma Vazquez de Houdek, Mary’s spouse, says. “I thought it was a big hoax.” But it was no hoax. And the quiet county government building in Bernalillo quickly turned into a circus, as Mary Houdek recalls. Journalists, lawyers, protesters and, of course, couples, flooded the scene. By mid-afternoon, armed guards were stationed at the complex holding back the throng of couples rushing to file paperwork. The final license was processed at 4:10 p.m., after then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid ordered the county to stop. In all, 66 licenses were issued. Dozens were left in line.

My Experience Making ‘The Canyons’ [James Deen via The Daily Beast]

Bret and I began to email back and forth. He made it clear he was not offering me a role in a movie, and I made it clear all I wanted to do was hang out with the writer of Less Than Zero. Before we met, he sent me the treatment. I read it in less than 45 minutes. I couldn’t put it down, even to take a sip of water. The story was riveting. We met at the SoHo House in West Hollywood. I am a pretty nervous person, and I was fighting a panic attack as I waited for the literary icon to arrive. He walked in, and I could see he was full of the same nerves I was. I got comfortable after we had a 15-minute conversation about the proper place to sit.

  • James Deen’s first-hand account of working with Lindsay on The Canyons [Vince Mancini on Filmdrunk] The lack of Lindsay Lohan stories is kind of incredible when you consider that this is a movie that spawned an epic, almost 8,000-word NY Times piece focusing largely on Lindsay Lohan and what a pain in the ass she was. The porn guy out-classes the Old Grey Lady! (I think that’s also a Ron Jeremy title, incidentally). It’s interesting to me that the people who seem to have the best, most-realistic attitude about the movie business are people who started out in porn. Like it’s only after you’ve been jizzed on and degraded without pretense that you can fully understand what it’s about and navigate accordingly. Porn is like the movie industry without the metaphor.

Tight Market for Farmhands: Growers Press for Immigration Bill to Ensure a Steady Flow of Migrant Workers [Miriam Jordan and Mark Peters on The Wall Street Journal]

Meanwhile, ahead of their coming harvest, many farmers are turning to a temporary agricultural visa, known as the H-2A program, which allows growers to bring workers into the U.S. for a short period. Growers have long avoided this program because it means they have to pay higher wages, housing costs and other expenses. But in a difficult labor market, “there is no room for error,” said Mike Carlton, director of labor relations for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. In North Carolina, growers are using the program to avert huge losses from not being able to pick tobacco—it can cost $3,000 to $4,000 an acre to grow—rather than to avoid fines for hiring illegal workers. “What’s driving it is not a fear of enforcement, but a fear they’re not going to have a workforce there when they need it,” said Lee Wicker, deputy director of the North Carolina Growers Association, which handles visas for 750 farms.

Why Tax Revision Is an Inexact Science [Josh Goodman on Stateline]

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s plan—which he is still formulating—will call for removing sales tax exemptions to pay for ending the income tax. He has said the plan will be revenue-neutral. Jindal has good reasons for that: He’s pledged not to raise taxes, but a tax cut likely wouldn’t fly in the legislature given the state’s serious recent budget troubles. So neutrality may be the only politically viable option. However, achieving even approximate revenue neutrality won’t be easy. “Nobody knows exactly what people pay for haircuts in Louisiana. Nobody knows exactly what the beauty salons earn,” says James Richardson, a Louisiana State University economist and veteran member of the state’s revenue estimating conference. “The numbers that are out there are very tentative. We’ll essentially not know until we actually tax them how much is actually there.” The estimates also generally don’t account for another factor: the way tax changes could alter how taxpayers act. States usually assume that cigarette tax increases will reduce smoking rates because the link is so clear, but when it comes to other behavior-related tax revisions, there often aren’t any reliable estimates at all. States also often assume 100 percent compliance with new taxes, even though they are sometimes difficult to enforce or administer. “I don’t think there’s any state out there that does dynamic forecasting,” says Von Mosch, of the Minnesota Department of Revenue. “Behavioral changes are not part of our estimates.”

50 Years Ago: The World in 1963 [In Focus with Alan Taylor on The Atlantic]

A half century ago, much of the news in the United States was dominated by the actions of civil rights activists and those who opposed them. Our role in Vietnam was steadily growing, along with the costs of that involvement. It was the year Beatlemania began, and the year President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin and delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. Push-button telephones were introduced, 1st class postage cost 5 cents, and the population of the world was 3.2 billion, less than half of what it is today. The final months of 1963 were punctuated by one of the most tragic events in American history, the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.

Luring Primary Care Docs into Medicaid [Michael Ollove on Stateline]

Which is why some are puzzled by one of the restrictions of the health law. The rate increase applies to physicians who provide primary and pediatric care services. Only doctors whose practices comprise at least 60 percent primary care will be eligible for the Medicaid pay raise. Not covered, however, are nurse practitioners, who often provide primary care in rural and isolated areas that do not have doctors nearby. Seventeen states allow nurse practitioners to operate independently of the supervision of physicians, but the nurse practitioners in those states will not be eligible to receive higher fees. “We think it will limit access and does create a discriminatory aspect that shouldn’t be there,” says Jan Towers, a senior policy adviser at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Asked why she thought the nurse practitioners were excluded, Towers gave a simple answer:  money.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ at 30: How One Album Changed the World [Billboard]

Thriller’s” legacy goes far beyond its own sales and awards accomplishments. Once MTV found success with Michael Jackson, videos by other black performers quickly appeared on the playlist. This development single-handedly forced pop radio to reintroduce black music into its mix: After all, pop fans, now accustomed to seeing black artists and white artists on the same video channel, came to expect the same mix of music on pop radio. It was impossible to keep the various fragments of the audience isolated from one another any longer. Mass-appeal Top 40 radio itself made a big comeback due to this seismic shift. Beginning in early 1983 in Philadelphia, and rapidly spreading through the country, one or more FM stations in every city switched to Top 40 and many rose to the top of the ratings playing the mix of music made popular by MTV-young rock and urban hits. In the age of “Thriller,” black music made a resounding comeback on the pop charts. If 1982 was the genre’s low point in terms of pop success, by 1985 more than one third of all the hits on the Billboard Hot 100 were of urban radio origin. Even Prince’s “1999” single, shut out of pop radio upon its initial release in 1982, was re-launched in mid-1983 and off the back of its belated MTV exposure became a huge pop radio success the second time around. Thus, in a way few historians appreciate, the Michael Jackson/MTV team proved itself a remarkably progressive force, helping to reintegrate a fragmented popular culture at the dawn of the Reagan era. Black music was back at the center at the mainstream, and to this day it has never again been pushed from the spotlight.

As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price [Louise Story on The New York Times]

A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains. The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid.

The Insourcing Boom [Charles Fishman via The Atlantic]

GE hadn’t made a water heater in the United States in decades. In all the recent years the company had been tucking water heaters into American garages and basements, it had lost track of how to actually make them…The GeoSpring suffered from an advanced-technology version of “IKEA Syndrome.” It was so hard to assemble that no one in the big room wanted to make it. Instead they redesigned it. The team eliminated 1 out of every 5 parts. It cut the cost of the materials by 25 percent. It eliminated the tangle of tubing that couldn’t be easily welded. By considering the workers who would have to put the water heater together—in fact, by having those workers right at the table, looking at the design as it was drawn—the team cut the work hours necessary to assemble the water heater from 10 hours in China to two hours in Louisville.

Dreams in Infrared: The Woes of an American Drone Operator [Nicola Abé on Der Spiegel]

Why isn’t he with the Air Force anymore? There was one day, he says, when he knew that he wouldn’t sign the next contract. It was the day Bryant walked into the cockpit and heard himself saying to his coworkers: “Hey, what motherfucker is going to die today?”

59% of America’s “tuna” isn’t actually tuna [Christopher Mims on Quartz]

Sushi restaurants were far more likely to mislabel their fish than grocery stores or other restaurants.

NATO may keep Afghan forces at peak strength longer [Phil Stewart and Adrian Croft on Reuters]

NATO officials are strongly considering a proposal to keep Afghan forces at their peak strength of 352,000 until at least 2018, as opposed to current plans to cut the force by a third after 2015, alliance officials said on Thursday…The United States this year is providing $5.7 billion of the $6.5 billion cost to field the Afghan forces, which are nearly at peak strength. Other NATO members are providing $300 million and the Afghans are paying for $500 million of that total.

One Month in Damascus: A Photographer’s War Story [Goran Tomasevic on Reuters via PBS Newshour]

One day, I watched a man fire an antiquated, probably 1960s vintage, Soviet B-10 recoilless rifle, a heavy, bazooka-style cannon normally mounted on a little trolley and weighing about 70 kg (150 pounds); the rebel fighter simply hefted it onto his shoulder and blasted a heavy round somewhere down the road.

Supreme Court shields warrantless eavesdropping law from constitutional challenge [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

The supreme irony here is that when Obama supported this 2008 eavesdropping law, it sparked intense anger among his own supporters as he ran for president. To placate that anger, he vowed that, once in power, he would rein in the excesses of this law that he oh-so-reluctantly supported. He has done exactly the opposite. He just succeeded in pressuring the Congress, with heavy GOP support, to extend this eavesdroppiong law for five years without a single reform. And now his Justice Department has used the five right-wing justices to completely immunize the law from judicial review (the only way the law could now be challenged is from a handful of extremely unlikely situations, such as if the US government criminally prosecutes the foreign clients and sources of these plaintiffs using information they obtained from the warrantless eavesdropping, and even then, the ability to challenge the law’s constitutionality is far from certain).

On Terror’s New Front Line, Mistrust Blunts U.S. Strategy [Drew Hinshaw and Adam Entous on The Wall Street Journal]

Edgar Raupach was among hundreds of German engineers working in Nigeria’s booming construction industry, helping pave stretches of road. In January 2012 he disappeared from the northern city of Kano, and word spread in nearby Kumbotso that some men had brought home a German hostage. Locals said these men were unpopular outsiders who didn’t speak the prevailing Hausa language. If the outsiders weren’t popular with the Nigerian villagers, Nigeria’s national police and armed forces were even less so. Residents at a town council meeting quarreled over whether to tell the security services, some arguing that doing so might just make matters worse, according to people who attended. The outcome was unclear, a council official saying he sent a letter to the government but got no reply, while other residents doubted a letter was ever sent.

We Found Our Son in the Subway [Peter Mercurio via The New York Times]

When we finally remembered the purpose of the visit, and Danny and I moved into position to exchange vows, I reflected on the improbable circumstances that delivered all of us to this moment. We weren’t supposed to be there, two men, with a son we had never dreamed of by our side, getting married by a woman who changed and enriched our lives more than she would ever know. But there we were, thanks to a fateful discovery and a judicious hunch.

Curiously Strong Remains:




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