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Oliver Stone on the President's Son

The barely credible drama of the Bush family has been compared before to the Kennedys, the Corleones, and even the Macbeths, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before Oliver Stone took it on. And now he has. Here's the trailer for W., the new Stone movie that takes viewers through the 43rd president's action-packed life. Josh Brolin—who apparently got really involved...

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 3:21 PM EDT

The barely credible drama of the Bush family has been compared before to the Kennedys, the Corleones, and even the Macbeths, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before Oliver Stone took it on.

And now he has.

Here's the trailer for W., the new Stone movie that takes viewers through the 43rd president's action-packed life. Josh Brolin—who apparently got really involved in the role—plays our president from his time as a college student through the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

Stone is no supporter of Bush, and the movie is sure to be unflattering.

Still, it doesn't look like there will be any big surprises in W. Bad student, bad businessman, bad governor, bad president. Sprinkle on a little drug use and alcoholism and it's the standard bad Bush presentation. And because this is Oliver Stone, W. will probably be full of lies. That's too bad, because there's not really much need for embellishment in this story.

One made up moment in the film occurs when George Bush Sr. is elected president: "I'll never get out of Poppy's shadow," W. tells his wife. "They'll all keep saying what's the boy ever done … I mean who ever remembers the son of a president?"

The future first lady then reportedly gives a deeply ironic three-word answer: " John Quincy Adams."

W. appears in theaters October 17.

—Daniel Luzer

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Primary Sources: DOJ Memos to CIA

Last week, the ACLU released three previously sealed memos written by various CIA and Department of Justice officials, from George...

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 2:44 PM EDT

Last week, the ACLU released three previously sealed memos written by various CIA and Department of Justice officials, from George Tenet on down the line, that outlined the departments' policies on torturing prisoners. The heavily redacted notes shed more light on just how slyly the two agencies sidestepped the law to escape any blame for torture.

One memo from 2004 indicates interrogators should only use "interrogation techniques, including the waterboard" if they clearly understand the "legal and policy matters" of those devices. The problem is those policy matters contradict each other and ultimately present an incredibly narrow opinion of what constitutes torture. The memo reminds the interrogator the US has implemented Article 16 of the UN's Convention Against Torture. Article 16 outlaws "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" during an interrogation that do not necessarily amount to torture.

Judge: Current and Former White House Aides Must Comply With Congressional Subpoenas

U.S. District Judge John Bates issued a ruling today that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House...

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 1:56 PM EDT

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U.S. District Judge John Bates issued a ruling today that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten must comply with the subpoenas issued to them by the House Judiciary Committee. The subpoenas were issued as part of Congress's investigation into the allegedly politically-motivated firing of eight US attorneys. The White House had argued that Miers and Bolten were immune from testifying or sending documents to Congress, but Bush-appointed judge John D. Bates was having none of it. Bates, regarded as a pro-administration judge, said in his decision that the White House's claim that its aides were always and in all circumstances immune from subpoenas was "unprecedented" and "without any support in case law." Glenn Greenwald, who goes deeper into the legal implications of this ruling, pointed to a passage from page 78 of the ruling as especially important:

The Executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisors in this or any other context. That simple but critical fact bears repeating: the asserted immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by case law. In fact, there is Supreme Court authority that is all but conclusive on this question and that powerfully suggests that such advisors to not enjoy absolute immunity.

That's a pretty serious smackdown of the administration coming from the same judge who said in 2002 that Dick Cheney could keep his Energy Task Force records secret from the Government Accountability Office. The White House will likely appeal the ruling, but it's unlikely to get a judge more favorably inclined towards the Bush administration than Bates. Still, the appeal will keep Bates' ruling—which would have required Miers to testify and required both Bolten and Miers to hand over documents—from being enforced until there is a final judgment. And as in the White House emails case, the Bush administration may be able to simply run out the clock.

Photo by flickr user dcjohn used under a Creative Commons license.

Leaders of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" Now in Afghanistan?

With this morning's report by the Washington Post that senior leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq may now be...

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 1:29 PM EDT

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With this morning's report by the Washington Post that senior leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq may now be operating in Afghanistan, it's difficult not to see the decreasing violence in Iraq in a new light. Attacks are way down, yes, and the number of insurgents crossing into Iraq from neighboring countries has fallen to about 20, down from an average of 110 last summer, according to an intelligence analyst interviewed by the Post. But Al Qaeda, despite the intense military pressure being brought to bear on it, has proven to be remarkably resilient and tough to kill, organizationally-speaking.

The problem, according a new report (.pdf) by the RAND Corporation, lies in how we've chosen to deal with Al Qaeda. The "War on Terror" paradigm is fundamentally misguided, says Seth Jones, the study's lead author. "Police and intelligence agencies, rather than the military, should be the tip of the spear against al Qaeda in most of the world."

To make their case, RAND researchers analyzed 648 terrorist groups that operated between 1968 (the year Palestinian extremists inaugurated terrorism's modern age) and 2006. How did these terrorist groups meet their end? The study found that 43 percent of them entered the political process, whereas 40 percent were dismantled by the efforts of police and intelligence organizations or by decapitation strikes against their leadership. Just 7 percent were subdued by military force. (The remaining 10 percent of terrorist groups achieved their goals... so don't believe the mantra that terrorism doesn't work. Unfortunately, it does, at least on occasion.)

Mary Lou Sapone the Runner Up for Olbermann's "World's Worst Person"

On Countdown last night, Mary Lou Sapone narrowly avoided being named the "world's worst person" by Keith Olbermann. In...

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 9:54 AM EDT

On Countdown last night, Mary Lou Sapone narrowly avoided being named the "world's worst person" by Keith Olbermann. In the end, that distinction went to Fox & Friends for mistakenly showing a picture of Osama bin Laden when discussing presidential candidate Barack Obama. Though Sapone was dubbed "worser" than Olbermann nemesis Bill O'Reilly.

Fires Burn Budgets Badly

A couple of interesting articles on the fire season blazing in the West. The LA Times reports how fire commanders are pressured to order aircraft into action on major fires even when they won't do any good. Why? Because they make good television. CNN drops, they call them. And because citizens and politicians have come to expect the sight of aircraft dumping water...

| Wed Jul. 30, 2008 8:42 PM EDT

800px-Hercules_C130_bombardier_d_eau_Californie.jpg A couple of interesting articles on the fire season blazing in the West. The LA Times reports how fire commanders are pressured to order aircraft into action on major fires even when they won't do any good.

Why? Because they make good television. CNN drops, they call them.

And because citizens and politicians have come to expect the sight of aircraft dumping water and fire retardant means "their " fire is getting the attention it deserves.

It's not that aircraft aren't useful. They can help a lot. But aircraft don't put out fires, say firefighters. And their use is escalating the cost of fighting wildfires. Last year the Forest Service spent $296 million—up from $171 million in 2004.

The Sacramento Bee reports the Forest Service has already spent $900 million this year, nearly 75 percent of its fire-suppression budget. And this on a season that hasn't reached peak yet.

These days nearly half the Forest Service's budget is spent fighting wildfires or trying to prevent them. In 1991, it took only 13 percent. So far this year's fires have cost $210 million more than at the same point last year.

The Bee article alludes to the fact that climate change is driving a longer, more expensive, and more extensive, fire season.

Which is just one of the reasons why our big global warming experiment is going to be such a budget burner.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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Brady Campaign Prez Weighs in on MoJo Story

In a blog item titled "NRA Dirty Tricks," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has...

| Wed Jul. 30, 2008 6:00 PM EDT

In a blog item titled "NRA Dirty Tricks," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has just weighed in on today's MoJo article on gun lobby mole Mary Lou Sapone (a.k.a. Mary McFate). He writes:

When the National Rifle Association asks its members for their next contribution, they might want to disclose how much of that money will be spent to spy on gun violence victims and their families.

Mother Jones Magazine today reported that someone the gun violence prevention movement believed was a committed gun control activist was, in fact, a gun lobby spy.

New Ludacris Song "Obama Is Here" Not Likely to Help With Hillary Supporters

Here on the Riff, we've covered how conservatives have tried to attack Barack Obama by tying him to scary hip-hop music, as well as the good (and the not-so-good) hip-hop tributes to the presumed Democratic candidate. But none have stirred up the, er, pot, as much as good old Ludacris, who has released a new song that lauds Obama and insults both Hillary...

| Wed Jul. 30, 2008 4:49 PM EDT

Here on the Riff, we've covered how conservatives have tried to attack Barack Obama by tying him to scary hip-hop music, as well as the good (and the not-so-good) hip-hop tributes to the presumed Democratic candidate. But none have stirred up the, er, pot, as much as good old Ludacris, who has released a new song that lauds Obama and insults both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. "Politics: Obama is Here" (amateur video above) includes the lines, "Hillary hated on you, so that b**** is irrelevant," and "McCain don't belong in any chair unless he's paralyzed." One can just picture Obama slapping his head in frustration here. Clinton supporters have already demanded Obama condemn the song, oh and whoops, look at that, he has, thanks Drudge.

The song itself, I must say, is terrible, and clearly the lyrics are pushing the boundaries in a desperate attempt to make up for its deficiencies. It's too bad, since Ludacris is generally pretty fantastic. After the jump, a couple of his standout videos to remind us why Obama had Luda on his iPod in the first place.

Have You Seen This Woman? She's a Spy

This morning Mother Jones broke the news that, for more than a decade, a prominent gun control activist has...

| Wed Jul. 30, 2008 1:44 PM EDT

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This morning Mother Jones broke the news that, for more than a decade, a prominent gun control activist has actually been a mole for the gun lobby. In addition to infiltrating gun control groups, Mary Lou Sapone (who also goes by Mary Lou McFate and Mary McFate) has, in the past, spied on animal rights and environmental groups. Has she been involved in any other operations? Targeted any other citizens groups? If you recognize the woman pictured below (and above), let us know: dschulman[at]motherjones.com.

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Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Doctors Prescribe... Nothing

The patient is ill. It's contagious. It's sweeping the globe. And the doctors prescribe? two pills of ignorance and a shot of whining. How's this? Well, a new survey reports that most health department directors believe their jurisdictions will face serious public health problems from climate change in the next 20 years. Yet few have done anything to detect, prevent, or adapt to the...

| Tue Jul. 29, 2008 10:39 PM EDT

402px-Surgeon_operating%2C_Fitzsimons_Army_Medical_Center%2C_circa_1990.jpgThe patient is ill. It's contagious. It's sweeping the globe. And the doctors prescribe… two pills of ignorance and a shot of whining.

How's this? Well, a new survey reports that most health department directors believe their jurisdictions will face serious public health problems from climate change in the next 20 years. Yet few have done anything to detect, prevent, or adapt to the threats.

This, even though the majority of these directors believe that heat waves, heat-related illnesses, reduced air quality, reduced water quality, and reduced water quantity are likely to become common or severe problems in a warming climate.

Several factors contribute to the slackerism. Most survey respondents felt hamstrung by a lack of knowledge about climate change. Most felt little help was available from state and federal slackers. Most felt they needed more funding, staff, and training.

In other words, most are hoping someone else will take care of it.

"The reason why so many Americans view climate change as a threat to other species rather than as a threat to people may be in part because health professionals have been largely silent on the issue," says Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication. "By using the opportunities available to them, public health and health care professionals can educate people on the threats of climate change to their health and wellbeing."

That would require the docs to get off the antidepressants and get, well, seriously worried.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.