2008 - %3, May

As Obama Takes Lead in Superdels, Clinton Makes Unlikely Bid for Popular Vote

| Fri May 9, 2008 12:19 PM EDT

ABC News reports that Barack Obama has passed Hillary Clinton among superdelegates, with a current count of 276-275. A couple caveats: (1) Every major news outlet has a different count when it comes to Obama and Clinton's superdelegate totals, and ABC News is the first to say Obama has passed Clinton. Nevertheless, the other networks will likely follow close behind — most others have Obama trailing Clinton by five to 10, and Obama has been closing steadily since Super Tuesday. (2) These numbers are constantly in flux, with new superdelegate endorsements coming every day.

Nevertheless, ABC's announcement is a sign of things to come. We will soon reach a point where there aren't enough outstanding pledged delegates and undecided superdelegates for Clinton to win the nomination. At that point, she either has to drop out or try to convince Obama superdelegates that they need to switch to her.

One way the campaign might convince superdelegates to do that? Winning the popular vote. Clinton is campaigning in Kentucky, where her campaign chairman addressed the issue with reporters:

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The Paulites Aren't Done Yet

| Fri May 9, 2008 11:18 AM EDT

ron_paul_supporters.jpg Ron Paul deserves representation at the Republican national convention in proportion to the support he received in the primaries. And his supporters are prepared to fight like hell to make sure he gets it.

Across the country, at state and county GOP conventions, diehard supporters of maverick Ron Paul are staging uprisings in an effort to secure a role for Paul at the national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul....
In Minnesota, Paul loyalists captured seven delegate slots at congressional district meetings, and in Nevada, the convention abruptly recessed on April 26 after balloting showed Paul supporters winning at least half of the initial contests for delegate slots to the national convention....

People are catching on.

Last weekend in Maine, McCain's forces were well organized, but Paul's activists nevertheless managed to pick up one of the 18 delegates at stake.
"They attempted fraud," [Julie O'Brien, executive director of the Maine Republican Party] asserted. "We knew what had happened in Nevada, so we really prepared in advance . . . to make sure everything was done by the book."

I say boooo to Julie O'Brien. I hope there are enough Paulestinians at the national Republican convention to rouse some rabble. To paraphrase one of our commenters, Ron Paul tried to save the Republican Party. Sometimes I wonder why he bothered.

Starbucks' Slutty Mermaid Making Waves

| Thu May 8, 2008 7:25 PM EDT

pikes-place-logo.jpgLately, I've seen some changes at the two Starbucks that live less than a block away from the Mother Jones office. Last month, they both started pushing a new blend called "Pike Place Roast" as their regular drip coffee, as part of a campaign to compete with brisk coffee sales at Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's. As part of the campaign, Starbucks re-introduced its 1971 brown-and-white logo featuring a two-tailed mermaid. Okay, technically it's a siren, but regardless, the image of a female figure brazenly spreading its tails has made a few Christians vow to boycott the company.

"The Starbucks logo has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute," explains alarmist Mark Dice, of a Christian group called The Resistance. "Need I say more? It's extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks."

While I'm curious what the value of a Slutbuck is relative to a Schrutebuck, I'm worried that Dice doesn't seem to understand the Starbucks siren is half-fish. She doesn't have legs to spread, much less a vagina to go between them. The fact that Dice doesn't get the difference between a fin and a foot may be an example of what abstinence-only funding does to education, but it's certainly not the first time spunky Christians have boycotted the multinational company.

Just last summer, a group of Christian ladies boycotted Frappuccinos because there was a homosexual-agenda-pushing Armistead Maupin quote on some of the cups. Others have boycotted the company because of anti-God quotes.

All I can say is that if Starbucks goes down, it won't be because of a handful of Christian boycotters. And it won't be because a friend of a CATO Institute vice-president couldn't buy a customized "Laissez Faire" gift card, either. As the WSJ tells it, a Starbucks slump will be due to oversaturation and a faltering economy that makes $4 lattes seem like less of a necessity. Whether that's an act of God or not is for you to decide.

Gag Order Lifted, Israel Obsesses Over Corruption Probe Targeting Prime Minister

| Thu May 8, 2008 6:49 PM EDT

As the sun set on Israel's 60th Independence Day celebrations tonight, Israeli media were partially liberated from a gag order that had restricted their reporting details of a fast moving and curiously timed corruption investigation of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The probe's quickening pace now is curious given that it is focusing on financial transactions between Olmert and an American financier and philanthropist that date back to the 1990s when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister in the government of Ariel Sharon.

"Olmert suspected of accepting illicit funds from U.S. businessman," a Ha'aretz headline proclaimed:

Oliver Stone's W: Will It Be Better than "Lil' Bush"?

| Thu May 8, 2008 6:26 PM EDT

mojo-photo-ewbush.jpgEntertainment Weekly has a "first look" at Oliver Stone's W, the upcoming feature on our most awesomest president ever, starting Josh Brolin as the smirking W himself. Of course, by "First Look," EW is stretching things a bit, since, as they say, "shooting begins in less than two weeks." However, it sounds like Stone is trying to get the movie turned around in record time, with a release possibly coming "as early as October." EW's article is six long pages; so I've collected some highlights after the jump:

Grand Theft Auto IV Makes More Money Than Anything Ever

| Thu May 8, 2008 5:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-grandtheft.jpgWell, almost. Billboard magazine reports that first-week sales for the latest installment in the "Grand Theft Auto" videogame series has outperformed even the most optimistic of predictions, making more than $500 million in sales the first week. Billboard says that's 6 million copies, but it's $60 on Amazon, and that works out to $360 million, but who knows how they count these things. Either way, it's a new first-week record for a game, smashing the previous high mark set by "Halo 3" of $300 million.

For comparison's sake, let's just take a look at some other cultural products and institutions and their associated monetary figures, after the jump:

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Guns Don't Kill People, Irresponsible Gun Dealers Do

| Thu May 8, 2008 5:39 PM EDT

Eric Thompson sells guns on the Internet. Of course, you may already know that. After all, his Green Bay, Wisc.-based firm, TGSCOM Inc. (www.thegunsource.com), has had some high-profile clients, including Seng-Hui Cho, who massacered 33 classmates at Virginia Tech last year, and Stephen Kazmierczak, who killed five students at Northern Illinois University last February. And surely for this, Thompson feels sorry. But don't ask him to apologize for his business, for he's committed to placing firearms in the warm, living hands of as many customers as possible... at the lowest possible price.

Since the initial shock of learning he had played a supporting role in at least two school shootings, Thompson has turned infamy into a marketing strategy. In the spirit of there being no such thing as bad publicity, he's taken full advantage of opportunities to appear on television, including his recent FOX News sparring match with Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. This followed Thompson's visit to Virginia Tech last month, where, almost a year to the day after the shootings, he spoke at an on-campus event sponsored by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. A school spokesman called the visit "terribly offensive" and said "the organizers appear to be incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims who lost loved ones and to the injured students still recovering from this horrendous tragedy." But Thompson, who claims to have donated money to a Virginia Tech victims' fund, stands by his decision to appear at the university. It's all part of the "special responsibility" he's been given to "help change people's opinions."

Pigs Spared Med School Surgeries

| Thu May 8, 2008 5:24 PM EDT

184100079_51b6915f01_m.jpg NatureNews reports how doctors used to practise surgery on animals before being allowed to work on patients. Nowadays only a handful of US med schools maintain animal labs. The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio will shut its live-animal lab this month. Next semester, instead of practising on anaesthetized pigs, its med students will use technologies like virtual simulations. It's all part of a general phase-out of animal labs across the US. In 1994 live-animal experiments were on the curriculum in 77 of 125 medical schools. Now as few as eight use them.

Cost is a factor in the change, since it's expensive to maintain animals and veterinary staff. But simulations have also developed impressively in the past decade. The most advanced simulators now have 'haptic feedback,' providing the sensation that the students' instruments are touching real tissue—advances that make the use of live animals gratuitous, according to John Pippin, a cardiologist in Dallas who once used live dogs to study heart attacks but now works for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group continues its work to convince the 6% of US institutes that still use live animals to change their ways—notably the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. NatureNews reports that Jonathan Lissauer, a doctor recently trained at Johns Hopkins, says that sometimes animal surgeries were used "as just a diversion for people who won't be using those skills at all. I think then you cross the territory from appropriate medical education to something worse than that. There was no medical utility in having pigs die so that people going into psychiatry could play around."

why_animals_matter_medium_rwcz.jpg According to Erin Williams and Margo DeMello in their compelling treatise on how animals suffer in institutional settings, Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, the switch from live-animal experiments to simulations was driven in large part because "medical students around the country expressed reservations about killing animals as part of their education, and many refused to participate in dog labs and other classes in which animals were killed…" Could this be a way to identify the compassionate docs from the not so compassionate?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Is Boycotting Wal-Mart Activism?

| Thu May 8, 2008 2:32 PM EDT

We want the lowdown on student activism, past and present. Been arrested and regret it? Would your school win the prize for silliest student protest? Was student activism way better when you were in school? Is your cause unique?

Help us put together our best student activism roundup yet. It's our 15th annual! Check out last year's. Answer a few quick questions and you could win some cool prizes.

Click here to begin!

A Vote For McCain Validates Bush

| Thu May 8, 2008 1:31 PM EDT

There are, in the minds of many, historical legacies at stake in the 2008 presidential election. From Der Spiegel, via Nitpicker:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Iraq war was perceived as the one chance the neocons had in our time to prove that their theories were right. Is neoconservatism already a historical footnote?
[Neoconservative Lawrence] Kaplan: The near-term argument here is that if John McCain wins the presidential election, neoconservatism will have been vindicated. Because by voting him into office, people will have tacitly given their endorsement to that sort of foreign policy. His advisers are the very people we are arguing about.