When a video mashup of a 1984 Apple commercial, starring Hillary Clinton as Big Brother, became a YouTube sensation in March, pundits were quick to declare the start of the first YouTube presidential campaign. From now on, ad man Bob Gardner told the San Francisco Chronicle, "every candidate will have to worry about some guy with a video camera and a Mac being able to do whatever he or she wants." The Obama campaign was "probably calling their consultant and saying, 'Why couldn't you guys come up with something as brilliant?'"
That's Bush enjoying a frosty mug of low-alcohol beer (a Buckler, to be precise) between sessions at the G8 summit. It's not the first time the teetotaler-in-chief has been caught on film downing a near beer (even though he apparently used to try to hide his habit from the press.) But I wonder why a recovering alcoholic would choose to drink a low-alcohol beer (Buckler is 0.5% alcohol). My sense is that it has less to do with the smooth, refreshing taste than simply wanting to be convivial. You can imagine Bush feeling like a wuss while his world-leader buddies enjoy a stiff drink (though tough guy Vladmir Putin reputedly abstains). But there's still the question of whether he should be drinking fake beer. There's an AA saying that "Nonalcoholic beer is for nonalcoholics." So is this a sign of Bush's recklessnessor his self-discipline? Or should we get a life and just let the guy enjoy the ice cold beverage of his choosing?
29-year old Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just won Britain's Orange Prize for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Rina Palta interviewed Adichie for Mother Jones last October; she also gave the novel a big thumbs up"a great read... without the oppressive symbolism or exoticism common to novels by young authors from so-called third world countries."
If you liked the Beatlemaniacal Powerpuff Girls clip Ben posted below, check out this sentencing memo from a Montana judge (via the Smoking Gun). Peeved that a 20-year old burglary defendant had alluded to the band as the "Beetles" in a letter to the court, Judge Gregory Todd responded thusly:
If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006. That night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted 'Money' or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on on North 27th Street. As Mr Moonlight at 1.30am, you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine.
Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke. After you stole the 18 pack of Old Milwaukee you decided it was time to Run For Your Life and Carry That Weight. [...]
Later when you thought about what you did, you may have said I'll Cry Instead. Now you're saying Let it Be instead of I'm a Loser. As a result of your Hard Day's Night, you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge. Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better.
Judge Todd then said the word and set the would-be beer thief free, giving him three years probation.
There are more details on the paltry sums the U.S. military pays out to the civilian victims of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to a new GAO report [PDF]. Some highlights:
Condolence payments for death, injury, or property damage max out at $2,500 in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Under new rules, generals in Iraq may authorize payments up to $10,000 in "extraordinary circumstances."
In 2005, the military paid out $21.5 million in condolence payments in Iraq; it paid out $7.3 million in 2006. Assuming that the $2,500 maximum was disbursed in each case, that means more than 11,500 payments were made. However, the military does not keep records on the number of payments or the reasons for them. It also does not keep track of denied requests for payment.
Here's an example of the system at work: "Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in [...] condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage)."
Civilians may also file for up to $100,000 in compensation under the Foreign Claims Act. Between 2003 and 2006, the Pentagon paid out $26 million on 21,450 claims filed by Iraqis under the act. That comes out to an average of $1,200 per claim.
Before April 2006, no condolence payments were offered for Iraqi soldiers, police officers, or government workers wounded or killed by U.S. and Coalition operations. The Pentagon has since started offering what it calls "martyr payments" for Iraqis killed on the job.
In short: One Iraqi life is worth the same as a totaled car, but very special Iraqis may be worth up to $10,000. Also, it's very hard to do math amid the fog of war, so don't bother asking about civilian casualty figures. And being called a martyr by the U.S. government? Priceless.