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Chart of the Day - 10.18.2008***

| Sat Oct. 18, 2008 1:39 PM EDT

CHART OF THE DAY....A couple of weeks ago I quit watching the stock market's gyrations during the day because it was obvious that they didn't really mean anything. Up, down, whatever: the events of the final hour, from 3 pm to 4 pm were all that mattered, wiping out huge gains in an instant or turning small losses into disasters.

Now comes a nice chart via Zubin Jelveh that demonstrates the point graphically. As you can see, normally the stock market moves anywhere from a quarter of a percent to one percent in the final hour of the day. That's roughly the same as the other six hours the market is open. But since mid-September? Final-hour volatility jumped to 2%, and then earlier this month to a high of 6%. That's as much movement as the entire rest of the day. So if you're the nervous sort, give yourself a break and take your eyes off the hourly movements of the Dow. Just check in at 4 pm and be done with it.

Need some more charts? Ezra Klein has a nice one showing that sometimes placebos work just as well as surgery. (With a followup here.) Maybe those Christian Scientists are on to something after all?

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16 Words: New Court Filing Suggests Manufactured Terror Threat in Bush's 2002 State of the Union

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 10:38 PM EDT

A new court filing by the lawyers for Lakhdar Boumediene and five other Guantanamo detainees suggests that the Bush administration ordered the Bosnian government to arrest and hold the men after an exhaustive Bosnian investigation had found them innocent of any terrorism related activity and had ordered their release, in order to use them as props in Bush's January 2002 State of the Union speech.

The filing--"Lakhdar Boumediene, et al., Petitioners, v. George W. Bush, President of the United States, et al., Respondents, Petitioners' Public Traverse to the Government's Return to the Petition for Habeas Corpus"--lays out the case that the Bush administration threatened at the highest levels to withdraw diplomatic and military aid to the Balkan nation if Bosnia released the men, which its own three-month investigation had found innocent of any terrorism charges in the days leading up to Bush's January 2002 State of the Union.

Faced with the threats of the withdrawal of aid and that if it released the men, the White House would order NATO troops to detain them, Bosnia transferred the men under duress to the custody of the US government in January 2002, and the US transferred them to Guantanamo. Ten days later, in his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush used sixteen words to warn Americans that, in "cooperation" with the Bosnian government, it had captured terrorists who had planned to bomb the US embassy in Sarajevo: "Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy," Bush told the nation.

But, six years later, the detainees' new petition says, after the US Supreme Court has sided with the detainees and ordered the US to give the detainees habeas corpus rights, the Bush administration has failed to repeat the embassy plot charges that Bush used in his State of the Union address, or to produce credible evidence of why the men should be held as enemy combatants.

(Bush also used 16 words to falsely claim in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger -- a claim the White House had been previously repeatedly warned by the CIA was unfounded and which the White House later admitted Bush should not have said, months after the US invasion of Iraq).

The 58-page traverse petition was filed today in the US District Court for the District of Columbia (.pdf). Some key excerpts from its preliminary statement below the fold:

Dan Savage on Sex, Moose, and the Palin Kids

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 9:44 PM EDT

Gay-as-hell sex columnist Dan Savage offers himself up to teach Sarah and Todd's kids about sex and birth control, if they'll teach his kid about God and how to "kill and field dress a moose. Something he doesn't get to see at home."

Take a look, it'll make your day, trust me.

The American Economy - More Pain to Come For Now

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 9:30 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

There are no bright spots on the immediate horizon for the US economy, mired in a debt-led recession that has yet to reach its trough. Indeed, on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke relayed his most somber opinion about the US economy to date. Focusing on the ongoing liquidity crisis, he told a roomful of people at the Economic Club in New York that there was a "significant threat" to the US economy emanating from the credit markets, indicating that as bad as it seems, the worst is still ahead.

Though Bernanke appeared to be giving the Fed room for more rate cuts in the near future, especially since inflationary pressures from things such as high oil prices have fallen dramatically over the past few weeks, that won't be enough to do more than put some short-lived cheer in the markets.

Even if Bernanke were to cut rates to the levels that Greenspan reached to spur the US economy out of its recession in 2001, he and the US are facing a more widespread problem given the extent of credit issues. He can do little to control the massive over-leverage that still exists in the US (and global) banking industry, but wait, and hope that at some point, the pressures of the tightened credit will ease.

New Plan To Protect Sea Turtle Highways

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

TortueLuth_Leatherback.jpg The IUCN meeting in Barcelona has adopted a resolution urging nations to create marine protected areas along the Pacific leatherback sea turtle's migratory routes. The plan is designed to shield critically endangered leatherbacks from devastating longline and gillnet fisheries. Hopefully it will also save the hammerhead sharks ravaged in those fisheries too.

The resolution is sponsored by the a Costa Rican nonprofit PRETOMA and centers around a "Cocos Ridge Marine Wildlife Corridor." Recent satellite tracking data has shown that Pacific leatherbacks swim from nesting beaches in Costa Rica to the Galápagos via the Cocos Islands. A protected corridor along this route during the migratory seasons could save many of the last leatherbacks.

Is Getting Race Right All About the Benjamins?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 6:36 PM EDT

Ireland is welcoming immigrants of all hues and thriving. From Slate:

After centuries of emigration—particularly to Great Britain and the United States—Ireland has attracted thousands of newcomers. While the economy has cooled, foreigners have not, for the most part, headed for the exits: Approximately 10 percent of the country's 4.1 million residents are now foreign-born. The diversity of this group becomes apparent as you stroll around Dublin: Filipino restaurants stand next to Polish grocery stores and African hair-braiding salons. ...

...the government has encouraged businesses to fill low-skill jobs with citizens from the new EU member states. According to 2006 statistics (the most recent available), about 70,000 Poles have successfully landed work in Ireland. The third-largest group of foreigners—after British and Polish—are Africans. There are about 50,000 Africans in Ireland, and many of them arrived as asylum seekers.

One Nigerian immigrant is mayor of an Irish town, and he isn't even a citizen. Imagine that happening here. Unfortunately, immigration isn't going so well in Spain. Also from Slate:

It wasn't so long ago that Spain was considered one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world. In 2005, the nation's European neighbors looked askance when the Spanish government instituted an amnesty program that granted residency papers to more than 500,000 foreigners. It was a potential first step to acquiring Spanish citizenship and, by extension, an EU passport. That wasn't the only chance non-EU citizens had to settle in the country through legal channels: The government has also allowed businesses to recruit for so-called hard-to-fill positions—ranging from medical technician to domestic worker—by hiring abroad. Last year, more than 200,000 foreigners arrived in Spain this way. Upon arrival, newcomers both legal and illegal could access Spain's health care system at no cost by registering at the local town hall.

Immigrants can still access the state safety net, but now that the economy has cooled, opportunities to settle in the country legally are becoming scarce. ...

Perhaps it was inevitable that the Spanish government would become more apprehensive about its newfound multiculturalism. The country has undergone a bewildering transformation: In the past decade, the immigrant population spiked to nearly 4 million, or 10 percent of the country's total population of 40 million. That is almost as high as the proportion of foreign-born residents in the United States, where immigrants comprise 12.5 percent of the population. Unlike the United States or European countries like Austria and Germany, Spain has little experience of absorbing outsiders. Traditionally, people left the country rather than settled there.

As usual, it's all about the benjamins; when the economy is strong and unpleasant work needs to be done, immigrants are wooed. When the economy tanks.....

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Friday Cat Blogging - 17 October 2008

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 4:19 PM EDT

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....We're in the middle of a mild Santa Ana condition right now, which means it's been pretty warm this week. Despite this, Domino has taken to burrowing under the bedroom quilt for her afternoon snooze. So that's what she's doing on the left. On the right, Inkblot, having finally cottoned to the fact that something is going on underneath the blankets, heads over to check it out. Needless to say, this had potential for considerable merriment, but after taking a brief swipe at Domino's paw, which was sticking out of the blanket, he got sort of addled and headed downstairs for a snack. That's always been the real center of his universe, after all.

Google Goggles, YouTube Snobs, and xkcd, Oh My!

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 4:16 PM EDT

resize.jpgFirst webcomic xkcd tossed off a funny about a virus forcing YouTube commenters to listen to their comments out loud before posting them. (Apparently there are those who believe hearing oneself sound ridiculous will stop one from using asinine words—clearly not true.) Then YouTube actually debuted something similar: Audio Preview, a non-mandatory feature that might make comments more coherent.

Still, there's no guarantee. Annoyed by X number of spelling mistakes, all or no capital letters, or extreme punctuation? Try YouTube Comment Snob, a program that lets you censor the comments you deem idiotic.

If all of that isn't web-nannying for you, check out Google's new drunkmailing prevention feature: Mail Goggles. Requiring you to answer five math questions before you can send an email, the program can be set to watch your back for whatever hour you tend to stumble home. (Its default is Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.)

—Brittney Andres

Image from xkcd.com.

LA Times Endorses Obama

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 4:07 PM EDT

LA TIMES ENDORSES OBAMA....I won't try to pretend that the LA Times endorsing a liberal candidate is some kind of harbinger of social upheaval, but still: they haven't endorsed a presidential candidate for over 30 years. This year they're endorsing Obama:

We may one day look back on this presidential campaign in wonder. We may marvel that Obama's critics called him an elitist, as if an Ivy League education were a source of embarrassment, and belittled his eloquence, as if a gift with words were suddenly a defect. In fact, Obama is educated and eloquent, sober and exciting, steady and mature. He represents the nation as it is, and as it aspires to be.

They still like McCain because they think he'll cut taxes more on rich people (seriously, that's what they say), but they also aver that "the presidential campaign has rendered McCain nearly unrecognizable." Perhaps. Or maybe stress reveals character more than they think. That aside, though, most of the editorial is sharply on point. You can read the rest here.

Maybe Nothing is Wrong With Kansas

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 4:03 PM EDT

CNN reports that Rep. Murtha is apologizing for referring to western Pennsylvania, which he represents, as "a racist area". Of course, this comes on the heels of Obama's comments about the white working class bitterly clinging to racism, guns and religion as the economy worsens. Until recently, this week in fact, my reaction had been a big 'truth hurts. Deal with it'. Now I'm wondering if it's so simple.

In the Oct. 13 New Yorker, George Packer offers a superbly argued defense of this very demographic and tries to shift the paradigm: Counter-intuitive as it seems for poor-to-lower middle class whites to have shifted their loyalty to the GOP and remain aloof to Obama, it is not a symptom of stupidity. It's a legitimate reaction to their belief that the Democrats just haven't done much for them lately. Lately, like since the 70s, when working whites abandoned the party they'd embraced since FDR.

It's the delicious New Yorker, so a quick excerpt just won't do: