2009 - %3, April

Recession Lingo

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 7:58 PM EDT

When the going gets tough, the tough make up euphemisms to soften the blow.  Here are a few recession-inspired words to add to your Urban Dictionary.

In-sourcing:
when workers float through different departments in lieu of temps.

BBR: buy, burn, and return. Buying DVDs or software from a store, burning them, and then returning them for a refund.

Intaxication: euphoria when receiving a tax refund.

Wii bum: a person who has no Wii of their own, so goes over to others' houses largely to play their Wii for free.
 
Sellsumer: a consumer/entrepreneur who hawks insights and ideas to corporations to help sales.
 
TALF’d: Tricked into believing something big is going to happen when it doesn’t.

Ponzimonium: describes the recent spike in mini-Madoffs.
 
Furcation: an unpaid, forced holiday.
 
Shovel-ready: local infrastructure “ready to go” projects waiting for stimulus money.
 
Duppie: a downwordly-mobile urban professional.
 
Renoviction: when a landlord moves a tenant out during renovations and then jacks up the rent.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Keira Knightley's Domestic Abuse Ad

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 5:46 PM EDT

Public interest videos are rarely aesthetically appealing, but this one starring Keira Knightly just might buck the trend. Directed by her Atonement and Pride and Prejudice collaborator Joe Wright, the two-minute ad spot for Women's Aid features Knightly as a victim of domestic violence in a smartly shot movie-within-a-movie. You can watch it for yourself above, but suffice to say it's disturbing—and effective. I don't know much about advertising, but when a public interest ad works, it works

Spousal abuse has been especially linked with celebrity recently, so it's nice to see someone lend their time and energy to promote a solution. And the way this has made traffic around the web is testament to the power of a familiar name and some top grade directing. Well done.

TARP Funds Still MIA

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 5:11 PM EDT
The U.S. Public Interest Group has been doing an admirable job of tracking the government's failure to track what banks are doing with the billions in taxpayer dollars they've received from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Today, they circulated a nice little chart showing the status of the many alleged efforts at transparency. It's not encouraging. Here's the running tally:

Hearings on or related to the Troubled Asset Relief Program:   24
TARP Special Inspector General reports received from banks:   364
Department of Treasury requests for lending data:   21
General Accounting Office reports urging more oversight: 11
TARP oversight bills pending Congressional action:  14
TARP oversight bills passed into law so far: 0
Comprehensive accountings made to public agencies or the public to date: 0
 
USPIRG observes that "Six months, $565 billion, 24 hearings and 364 reports later, the American taxpayers still don’t know where their money has gone."

 

Should Madonna Adopt Again?

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 4:50 PM EDT
As any tabloid reader knows, Madonna is back in the African country of Malawi, where her 3-year-old adopted son, David, was born. This time she's hoping to adopt a 4-year-old girl named Mercy James, whose 18-year-old mother died shortly after giving birth. Now an American organization that promotes reform in international adoption has started a grassroots fundraising effort to keep the child in Malawi, arguing that Mercy could likely remain with extended family for less than $300 a year. While Ethica admits it doesn't have specific information about the case, its "Call to Action" argues that the child is being fast-tracked to international adoption without regard to possible alternatives. Ethica argues that kids should only be adopted internationally when:

* The child is a "true orphan" with no family (including appropriate extended family).
* The child cannot find appropriate, permanent, in-country care in a family-like setting.
* There is an established system for intercountry adoption in the country of origin.

"For every child that does not meet the three criteria above but that enters the world of intercountry adoption anyway, another child that meets these criteria waits without a home," Ethica maintains. The group is asking supporters to help raise the $2,240 they calculate would be needed for extended family to raise Mercy until she turns 14; they say that if the girl does end up being adopted, they will donate the funds to child welfare efforts in Malawi.

Mother Jones has covered international adoption extensively, most recently here and here. What do you think? Is this fundraiser a good idea? And when is international adoption appropriate--or not?

Madonna vs. Malawi, Update

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 3:10 PM EDT

In a surprising turn of events a Malawi court ruled today that Madonna will not be allowed to forgo the residency requirements to adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James. The BBC reported the judge's ruling this afternoon:

"By removing the very safeguard that is supposed to protect our children, the courts by their pronouncements could actually facilitate trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals," she said. The judge also noted that Chifundo had been placed in one of Malawi's best orphanages and no longer suffered the severe poverty endured after her mother died in childbirth.

Though Madonna wasn't concerned enough to show up in court for the final ruling, she did release a wonderfully tactful statement: "To deny Chifundo James the opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable." This afternoon the Associated Press reported that Madonna plans to file an appeal with the Malawi supreme court of appeal. If Madonna is so determined to adopt the girl, couldn't she move to Malawi, and raise Mercy and son David Banda in their homeland? Otherwise, there are plenty of places right here in the USA where she could rescue children from povertywithout breaking the law.



Fascinating Words from the Iowa Court

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 2:42 PM EDT

We've already weighed in on Iowa's legalization of gay marriage here on the mother blog and over in Kevin's space, but I wanted to add this portion of the court ruling highlighted by Marc Ambinder. Elegant, commonsensical -- it's language like this that gives confidence that more and more courts will begin to see things the same way.

We begin with the County's argument that the goal of the same-sex marriage ban is to ensure children will be raised only in the optimal milieu. In pursuit of this objective, the statutory exclusion of gay and lesbian people is both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. The civil marriage statute is under-inclusive because it does not exclude from marriage other groups of parents--such as child abusers, sexual predators, parents neglecting to provide child support, and violent felons--that are undeniably less than optimal parents. Such under-inclusion tends to demonstrate that the sexual-orientation-based classification is grounded in prejudice or "overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences" of gay and lesbian people, rather than having a substantial relationship to some important objective. See Virginia, 518 U.S. at 533, 116 S. Ct. at 2275, 135 L. Ed. 2d at 751 (rejecting use of overbroad generalizations to classify). If the marriage statute was truly focused on optimal parenting, many classifications of people would be excluded, not merely gay and lesbian people.

Maybe time to rethink the argument I laid out here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Friday Cat Blogging - 3 April 2009

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 2:41 PM EDT
Are these pictures great, or what?  They make quite a pair.  On the left, Inkblot is focused intently on a deadly laser beam (outside the frame, sadly) that was apparently smuggled into the house by SMERSH.  Needless to say, it met its match.  On the right, Domino isn't focused on anything.  She's just sacked out on the couch, wondering why Kevin keeps waking her up with that stupid big glass eye he carries around.  Humans are so weird.

Still, not a bad week for the human-in-chief, was it?  He did some good work on nuclear arms reduction, kept the peace between France and China, met the queen of England, helped broker a surprisingly good G-20 agreement, and (though this wasn't widely reported) won international support for the free flow of cat food.  Not bad for a human.

 

Quote of the Day - 4.3.09

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 2:01 PM EDT
From Barack Obama, at a meeting with bank CEOs last week:

“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

That's what FDR said too, and the captains of industry didn't believe him either.  But he was right, and for better or worse, Obama probably is too.

Cop Says Shawn Johnson Stalker Sounded Crazy, but Aren't We All Still a Little Shawn Johnson Crazy?

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 1:25 PM EDT
Robert O'Ryan, 34, is a little obsessed with Shawn Johnson, the 17-year-old Olympic gymnast from West Des Moines, Iowa. Last week the Florida man was arrested for trying to jump a fence outside Dancing With the Stars and carrying a loaded shotgun in his car. Before he arrived in sunny California, though, he was pulled over in Alabama. The cruiser-cam caught O'Ryan telling the officer he had spoken with Johnson and "I know it sounds a little crazy, but my intuition tells me we're going to have a beautiful relationship."

Nearly a year after the Beijing Olympics, the Des Moines Register still feeds readers the latest Shawn Johnson updates through a Shawn Johnson mini Web portal. Johnson devotees can enter their location on an international fan map, download Shawn desktop wallpaper, and go outside the lines in a Shawn coloring book. On Shawn's personal website, her book, Shawn Johnson: Olympic Champion: Stories Behind the Smile, is now on sale, as is the Peace, Love Shawn Johnson Collection by Adidas. The Shawn Johnson line of jewelery features pendants and diamond necklaces with an Olympic twist. Her face appeared on a box of Cheerios, and she competes, with some success, against the likes of Belinda Carlisle and Lil' Kim on DWTS. Let's cut this stalker some slack! O'Ryan is not alone in his obsession. Though he is probably the best armed.

Gaming Geithner

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 1:23 PM EDT
Via the Wonk Room, the Financial Times reports on plans for banks to game Tim Geithner's toxic waste plan by bidding on each other's assets:

US banks that have received government aid, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, are considering buying toxic assets to be sold by rivals under the Treasury’s $1,000bn (£680bn) plan to revive the financial system.

....Wall Street executives argue that banks’ asset purchases would help achieve the second main goal of the plan: to establish prices and kick-start the market for illiquid assets.  But public opinion may not tolerate the idea of banks selling each other their bad assets. Critics say that would leave the same amount of toxic assets in the system as before, but with the government now liable for most of the losses through its provision of non-recourse loans.

Administration officials reject the criticism because banking is part of a financial system, in which the owners of bank equity — such as pension funds — are the same entities that will be investing in toxic assets anyway. Seen this way, the plan simply helps to rearrange the location of these assets in the system in a way that is more transparent and acceptable to markets.

Italics mine.  Look: I'm no financial rocket scientist, but I'm at least a halfway reasonable judge of bullshit.  Are the Treasury boffins seriously suggesting that the aim of their plan is merely to "rearrange" the assets from one distressed bank to another?  Someone might want to take a wee look at public opinion on this before they put their feet any further in their mouths trying to explain why this is such a great idea.  It's not gonna fly, folks.