Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Senior editor at Mother Jones. Obsessive generalist, word wrangler, data cruncher, pun maker.

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Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him.

Baghdad's Missing Billions Rediscovered

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 1:59 PM EST
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After former CPA head Paul Bremer got grilled by Henry Waxman yesterday, the press has rediscovered the story of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money that went missing during the heady days after the fall of Baghdad. In particular, it's glommed onto the nifty fact that the U.S. government shipped 363 tons of Benjamins (and maybe some Ulysseses, too) to Iraq—much of which was spread around like play money. In his defense, Bremer explained, "We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people." Apparently democracy is a lot easier to export than standard accounting practices.

The revealing tale of the cash airlift isn't new, however—we wrote about it in September 2005. It's good to see it being picked up again, though. And it gives me an excuse to post this great photo of CPA officials giddily posing with $2 million in cash, which was given to the security contractor Custer Battles, which was accused ofdefrauding the government.

Update: Post amended in light of Custer Battles' fraud conviction being overturned later today.

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Chuck Norris Kicks Darwin's Ass

| Fri Jan. 5, 2007 2:43 PM EST

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I had Chuck Norris pegged as a survival-of-the-fittest kind of guy. Guess I was wrong. Over at MovieGuide.org, a site that reviews movies based on biblical principles, the star of Walker: Texas Ranger weighs in on some of the wacky "Chuck Norris Facts" floating around the Internet. Like this one:

Alleged Chuck Norris Fact: "There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live." It's funny. It's cute. But here's what I really think about the theory of evolution: It's not real. It is not the way we got here. In fact, the life you see on this planet is really just a list of creatures God has allowed to live. We are not creations of random chance. We are not accidents. There is a God, a Creator, who made you and me. We were made in His image, which separates us from all other creatures.

Now while we're discussing the falacy of natural selection, let's talk about Hollywood projects God has allowed to live. (Image: publicity shot from Top Dog.)

Military Contractors Lose Their "Get Out of Jail" Card

| Thu Jan. 4, 2007 4:25 PM EST

Five years into the war on terror, American military contractors have finally lost some of their immunity from prosecution for dirty deeds done on the federal dime. In a post over on DefenseTech, the Brookings Institution's Peter Singer reports on a quiet insertion into the 2007 Pentagon budget that means "contractors' 'get out of jail free' card may have been torn to shreds." Basically, contractors are now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which means they can be court martialed:

This means that if contractors violate the rules of engagement in a warzone or commit crimes during a contingency operation like Iraq, they can now be court-martialed (as in, Corporate Warriors, meet A Few Good Men). On face value, this appears to be a step forward for realistic accountability. Military contractor conduct can now be checked by the military investigation and court system, which unlike civilian courts, is actually ready and able both to understand the peculiarities of life and work in a warzone and kick into action when things go wrong.

The scope of new law is not entirely clear; it may include embedded journalists, too. (Not that they go around playing soldier—Judy Miller aside.) But overall, says Singer, this move brings a bit of much-needed oversight to a largely unregulated industry. "Last month," he writes , "DOJ reported to Congress that it has sat on over 20 investigations of suspected contractor crimes without action in the last year." Sounds like a good place to begin.

Whistleblowers Get Their Own Wikipedia

| Thu Jan. 4, 2007 12:46 PM EST

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This could be cool. A new site, Wikileaks, is setting up an open-source, online repository for leaked information. Using a wiki interface, it will allow anonymous whistleblowers to upload confidential info—but unlike Wikipedia, unhappy bosses and government agencies won't be able to edit or delete the entries. The site already claims to have received 1.1 million documents and plans "to numerically eclipse the content the English Wikipedia with leaked documents." Sounds like a potentially great source for activists and journalists. Not everyone is excited, though. Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, who often passes on leaked or declassified documents from the U.S. government, writes: "In the absence of accountable editorial oversight, publication can more easily become an act of aggression or an incitement to violence, not to mention an invasion of privacy or an offense against good taste." Which gets to the heart of the wiki issue—unfettered authorship versus the demands of accuracy. Let's see what happens here.

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