Blogs

Madonna's Billboard Number-Ones, Ranked

| Sat Aug. 16, 2014 4:48 PM EDT

Madonna Louise Ciccone was born August 16, 1958. In celebration of her birthday, here are her songs that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 ranked, according to me, a fan with opinions.

12. "This Used To Be My Playground" (1992)

11. "Justify My Love" (1991)

10. "Who's That Girl" (1987)

9. "Live To Tell" (1986)

8. "Music" (2000)

7. "Take A Bow" (1995)

6. "Crazy For You" (1985)

5. "Papa Don't Preach" (1986)

4. "Open Your Heart" (1987)

3. "Like A Virgin" (1984)

2. "Vogue" (1990)

1. "Like A Prayer" (1989)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

We Created a Policing Monster By Mistake

| Sat Aug. 16, 2014 12:28 PM EDT

Although I've avoided writing about Ferguson for private reasons, I almost wrote a short post yesterday in order to make one specific point. But it turns out to be OK that I didn't, because Annie Lowrey wrote it for me and did a better job than I would have.

The point of her post is simple: Two decades ago violent crime really was out of control, and it seemed reasonable to a lot of people that police needed to respond in a much more forceful way. We can argue forever about whether militarizing our police forces was an appropriate response to higher crime rates, but at least it was an understandable motivation. Later, police militarization got a further boost from 9/11, and again, that was at least an understandable response.

But at the same time the trend toward militarization started in the early 90s, the crime wave of the 70s and 80s finally crested and then began to ebb. Likewise, Al Qaeda terrorism never evolved into a serious local problem. We've spent the past two decades militarizing our police forces to respond to problems that never materialized, and now we're stuck with them. We don't need commando teams and SWAT units in every town in America to deal with either terrorism or an epidemic of crime, so they get used for other things instead. And that's how we end up with debacles like Ferguson.

Police militarization was a mistake. You can argue that perhaps we didn't know that at the time. No one knew in 1990 that crime was about to begin a dramatic long-term decline, and no one knew in 2001 that domestic terrorism would never become a serious threat. But we know now. There's no longer even a thin excuse for arming our police forces this way.

This Guy Appears To Have Live-Tweeted Michael Brown's Shooting

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 6:17 PM EDT

Via Rolling Stone National Affairs reporter (and Mother Jones alumnus) Tim Dickinson, Twitter user @TheePharoah appears to have witnessed—and live-tweeted—Michael Brown's shooting on August 9 from his home in Ferguson, Missouri.

(Scroll to the bottom, the tweets are in reverse chronological order.)

In the days since the unarmed teenager was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson, Feguson has come to look increasingly like a war zone, with the highly militarized police department squaring off against peaceful protestors.

(We've reached out to @TheePharoah and will update this post if we hear back.)

Friday Cat Blogging - 15 August 2014

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 2:55 PM EDT

Yesterday, in a surprising act of cooperation, Domino just sat in the sun while I took her picture from a distance. Usually I can get off maybe one or two shots before she realizes what's going on and heads directly over to the camera. Is it because she loves the camera? Distrusts the camera? Just wants to say hi to me? I don't know, but this time she just let me click away. This one reminds me of Inkblot's presidential campaign portrait.

In other news, click here to meet Meatball, possibly the world's biggest cat.

Open War in Ukraine Is a Little Bit Closer Every Day

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 2:34 PM EDT

"Maybe it’s just me," tweets Blake Hounshell, "but open warfare between Ukraine and Russia seems like a BFD."

Yes indeed. As it happens, we're not quite at the stage of open warfare yet, but we sure seem to be getting mighty close. Remember that Russian "aid convoy" that everyone was so suspicious of? Well, it turns out to be....pretty suspicious. BBC reporter Steve Rosenberg says that upon inspection, many of the 280 trucks turned out to be "almost empty." Yesterday we received reports of a column of Russian military vehicles crossing the border into Ukraine as the aid convoy idled nearby, and that was confirmed by NATO earlier today. A little later, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine had destroyed "the majority" of the column.

In one sense, this is nothing new. Ukraine has been saying for months that Moscow is backing pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and more recently Ukraine began an aggressive fighting to expel them. Still, this does appear to be an escalation. Between the mysterious aid convoy and the military column that may or may not have been largely destroyed by Ukrainian forces, warfare is indeed becoming a little more open every day.

Who Should Run Against Hillary?

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 1:14 PM EDT

Andy Sabl surveys the Democratic field today and concludes that, sure enough, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive frontrunner. Who could challenge her?

Any Democratic candidate jumping in at this point will have to have already demonstrated party loyalty, actual or likely executive skills, and the ability to win a majority of votes in both a party primary and a general election. Moreover, it would help if that candidate had a record of early and loud opposition to doing “stupid [stuff]” in the Middle East...It would help if the candidate had vast personal wealth....as well as strong and deep connections to Silicon Valley, the only serious rival to Wall Street (Clinton’s base) as a source of campaign cash.

So who could this be? Sabl is obviously describing Al Gore, and admits there's zero evidence that Gore has any intention of running. "But if he did, and if he ran as the anti-war and populist—yet impeccably mainstream—candidate that Hillary clearly is not and has no desire to be, things would suddenly get interesting."

I guess so. But that raises a question: Who would you like to see challenge Hillary? I'm not asking who you think is likely to run, just which plausible candidate you'd most like to see in the race.

I suppose my choice would be Sherrod Brown. He's a serious guy who's been in Washington for a long time. He opposed the Iraq War; he's got good populist anti-Wall Street credentials; and he's a solid labor supporter. He's a pretty good talker, and never comes across as threateningly radical. As far as I know, he doesn't have any skeletons in his closet serious enough to disqualify him. (Aside from the fact that he says he has no interest in running, of course.)

Who's your choice? Plausible candidates only. Not Noam Chomsky or Dennis Kucinich. It's surprisingly hard, isn't it? The Democratic bench is actually pretty thin these days.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Europe Agrees to Arm the Kurds

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 12:00 PM EDT

What are the odds that Iraqi Kurdistan will ever be able to secede and form its own sovereign state? That depends in large part on whether the United States and other countries support Kurdish independence, which so far they haven't. Today, however, the EU officially encouraged its members to "respond positively to the call by the Kurdish regional authorities to provide urgently military material."

Is that a step toward accepting Kurdish independence? Maybe, but only a smidge. The EU statement also said that arms shipments should be done only "with the consent of the Iraqi national authorities." And the Guardian reports that, "At the same time the EU reiterated its firm commitment to Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

If the new Iraqi government works out, this probably leads nowhere. But if the new government is no more competent or inclusive than Maliki's, this could end up being a tacit first step toward Kurdish secession. Wait and see.

GOP Obstruction Is Making It Harder To Catch Rapists—Mitch McConnell Would Rather Not Talk About It

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 11:47 AM EDT
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not say if he will stop blocking a major spending bill in the Senate that contains funding to help identify and prosecute rapists—or whether he would support a separate bill to break the log jam.

As I reported last week, since June, Senate Republicans have held up a $180 billion appropriations bill that would fund several federal agencies, including the Department of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Justice. Part of the funding allotted for the DoJ is supposed to go toward a $41 million grant to help states and localities go after rapists by funding jurisdictions to process backlogs of rape kits, the samples of DNA evidence that are taken after a sexual assault and used to identify assailants. There are over 100,000 untested kits waiting to be processed at crime labs and police departments around the country, partly because states and localities don’t have enough money to test them. The kits can go untested for decades, allowing countless rapists off the hook.

The sweeping spending bill has hit a wall in the Senate because McConnell and other Senate Republicans want Dems to let them add several unrelated amendments to the legislation. The amendment McConnell introduced would make it harder for the EPA to enact new rules on coal-fired power plants. Democrats have complained that GOPers are abusing the amendments process to hold up a bill they don’t like. "Regardless of the outcome of the amendment votes…Republicans have indicated that they are not willing to support the underlying bill," a Senate staffer told me last week.

On Tuesday, the Louisville, Ky. Courier-Journal asked McConnell if he would withdraw his amendment, which would indicate that he and fellow Republicans would be willing to vote for the underlying bill, including the $41 million in funding to process rape kit backlogs. McConnell dodged the question. His office did not respond when Mother Jones asked the same question this week.

Lawmakers may be able to add the rape kit funding into an temporary spending measure in October. However, neither McConnell's office nor Republicans on the House and Senate appropriations committees will say whether they would support doing so.

A California Hospital Charged $10,000 for a Cholesterol Test

| Fri Aug. 15, 2014 10:34 AM EDT

By now, I assume we all know that hospitals charge widely varying rates for similar procedures. But it's often hard to pinpoint exactly what's going on. Sometimes it's due to the amount of regional competition. Sometimes the procedures in question vary in ways that simple coding schemes don't pick up. Some doctors are better than others. And of course, hospitals inflate their list prices by different amounts.

All that said, be prepared for your jaw to drop:

Researchers studied charges for a variety of tests at 160 to 180 California hospitals in 2011 and found a huge variation in prices. The average charge for a basic metabolic panel, which measures sodium, potassium and glucose levels, among other indicators, was $214. But hospitals charged from $35 to $7,303, depending on the facility. None of the hospitals were identified.

The biggest range involved charges for a lipid panel, a test that measures cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat (lipid), in the blood. The average charge was $220, but costs ranged from a minimum of $10 to a maximum of $10,169. Yes, more than $10,000 for a blood test that doctors typically order for older adults, to check their cholesterol levels.

A lipid panel! This is as standardized a procedure as you could ask for. It's fast, highly automated, identical between hospitals, and has no association with the quality of the doctor who ordered the test. You still might see the usual 2:1 or 3:1 difference in prices, but 1000:1?

So what accounts for this? The researchers have no idea. No insurance company will pay $10,000 for a lipid panel, of course, so the only point of pricing it this high is to exploit the occasional poor sap with no health insurance who happens to need his cholesterol checked. Welcome to health care in America. Best in the world, baby.

Wondering What #NMOS14 Is?

| Thu Aug. 14, 2014 7:08 PM EDT
Jeremiah Parker, 4, stands in front of his mother, Shatara Parker, as they attend a protest Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Starting tonight at 7pm Eastern time, a National Moment of Silence event will be playing out in gatherings big and small across the country. It's headed up by a New York-based activist and social worker who writes online as Feminista Jones and talked to USA Today about the event:

After an activist posted on Twitter that there would be a vigil in downtown Manhattan for Brown, Feminista Jones reached out.

"I wonder why they always have vigils so far removed from the people who are most likely to be affected by police brutality," she wrote back to the poster. "I just know that people in the Bronx and Brooklyn will struggle getting there on Sunday trains." (The correspondence is documented in a Storify.)

Plans for the peaceful assemblies began through that platform, then moved to Facebook. It's an update to activism Jones compares to "phone banking and letter writing — just reaching 90,000 people."

"We're having a national moment of silence — one chord, one silent voice — to honor not only Mike Brown, not only Eric Garner, but all victims of police brutality, especially those who have lost their lives," she said.

The Root, the online black culture and politics mag, is using the #NMOS14 tag to post heartbreaking photos of unarmed black men shot by police over the years, from Amadou Diallo to Kimani Gray to Oscar Grant to far too many others.

To find an #NMOS14 event near you, check out the Twitter hashtag #NMOS14 and this Facebook listing of local groups.