Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones' San Francisco (not Frisco) office. Reach him at dgilson@motherjones.com. Follow him on Twitter or read more of his stories.

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Scooter Libby's Unpardonable Fundraiser

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 2:21 PM EST

Scooter Libby's legal defense fund has yet to start calling for a presidential pardon. But while it rejiggers its strategy, let's get reacquainted with the group's head, Republican donor and former ambassador Mel Sembler. As John Gorenfeld wrote in our May 2006 issue:

...Sembler knows a thing or two about the humiliations of involuntary confinement. For 17 years, he directed Straight, Inc., a substance-abuse rehab and behavior modification program that treated American teens like terrorism suspects. Sembler's official bio boasts that the "remarkable program" — where children had to flap their arms like chickens or else face shaming as "sluts" and homosexuals — treated 12,000 kids. President George H.W. Bush hailed it as one of his "thousand points of light." But in the early '90s, amid state investigations and suits filed by clients claiming physical and mental abuse, his clinics were dismantled. Hundreds of Straight alums now claim they were scarred for life, among them Samantha Monroe, who was enrolled in 1980 at age 12 and claims she was starved, raped, and confined in a closet.

Once a point of light, always a point of light, I guess.

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In the Red: Bono's AIDS Ad Campaign Tanks

| Mon Mar. 5, 2007 12:26 PM EST
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Bad news for Red, the Bono-inspired, star-studded ad campaign to sell Gap t-shirts, and—oh, yes—raise some money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Despite all the hype, its total contribution to the Fund so far has been a paltry $18 million. A Global Fund spokesman explains to Ad Age that this was to be expected: "Red has done as much as we could have hoped for in the short time it has been up and running.... The launch cost of this kind of campaign is going to be hugely frontloaded." Translation: Most of the money raised has been blown on ad budgets by Gap, Motorola, Armani, Apple, and other companies that are taking a cut from selling Red stuff. To give you a sense of just how big the corporate cut is, for every special edition Red iPod nano sold, Apple donates just $10.

This isn't the first time an altruistic corporate campaign has been revealed to be too good to be true—we collected some other examples in our November issue. But there's an easy way to not get snooke(red)—cut out the middleman and give directly to the Global Fund. Visit buylesscrap.org to find out how.

In the Red: Bono's AIDS Ad Campaign Tanks

| Mon Mar. 5, 2007 12:25 PM EST
redpanties.gif

Bad news for Red, the Bono-inspired, star-studded ad campaign to sell Gap t-shirts, and—oh, yes—raise some money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Despite all the hype, its total contribution to the Fund so far has been a paltry $18 million. A Global Fund spokesman explains to Ad Age that this was to be expected: "Red has done as much as we could have hoped for in the short time it has been up and running.... The launch cost of this kind of campaign is going to be hugely frontloaded." Translation: Most of the money raised has been blown on ad budgets by Gap, Motorola, Armani, Apple, and other companies that are taking a cut from selling Red stuff. To give you a sense of just how big the corporate cut is, for every special edition Red iPod nano sold, Apple donates just $10.

This isn't the first time an altruistic corporate campaign has been revealed to be too good to be true—we collected some other examples in our November issue. But there's an easy way to not get snooke(red)—cut out the middleman and give directly to the Global Fund. Visit buylesscrap.org to find out how.

Seinfeld: "Documentarians Not Funny." Documentarian: "You Too."

| Fri Mar. 2, 2007 7:57 PM EST
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The statute of limitations for post-Oscar bickering is about to run out, so now's the time to get in some last licks. I'm gonna avoid the just-how-tacky-was-Ellen minefield. So let's focus on another bland and unmemorable Oscar presenter—Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld seems to have ticked off at least one filmmaker during his presentation of the Oscar for best documentary. John Sinno, a nominee for the great Iraq in Fragments, just wrote an open letter (not online yet, but posted in full after the jump) to the Academy, criticizing Seinfeld for calling his film and the four other nominees "incredibly depressing":

While I appreciate the role of humor in our lives, Jerry Seinfeld's remarks were made at the expense of thousands of documentary filmmakers and the entire documentary genre. Obviously we make films not for awards or money, although we are glad if we are fortunate enough to receive them. The important thing is to tell stories, whether of people who have been damaged by war, of humankind's reckless attitude toward nature and the environment, or even of the lives and habits of penguins. With his lengthy, dismissive and digressive introduction, Jerry Seinfeld had no time left for any individual description of the five nominated films. And by labeling the documentaries "incredibly depressing," he indirectly told millions of viewers not to bother seeing them because they're nothing but downers.

OK. Maybe it was a bad call to get a guy whose comedy is about "nothing" to introduce films that are about capital-S something. But let's be honest—this year's docs were really depressing. But that's why we like documentary films; they're a needed, if downlifting, reality check. And if it makes Sinno feel better, even the documentary about Seinfeld was a downer. If you ever want to see the story of a man with a moribund career and no interior life to boot, check it out.

New in Mother Jones: Don't Blame the Internet for Killing Newspapers

| Fri Mar. 2, 2007 1:05 AM EST
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Here's one of the mysteries of the media world: Newspaper chains routinely make profits that Fortune 500 companies only dream of—we're talking 20% plus here—and yet everyone says newspapers are about to go the way of the horse and buggy. What's up with that? As Eric Klinenberg explains in "Breaking the News," in our current issue, there's actually no disconnect between fat profits and the demise of the great American newspaper. In fact, the cutting back on reporting and content to wring more money from newspapers is what's killing them. Nope, the Internet isn't to blame. (Though newspapers—and magazines [ahem]—still have a thing or two to learn about making money online.) Klinenberg, the author of the just-published Fighting for Air, takes a close look at the ongoing Los Angeles Times debacle, a case study in how to turn a world-class newspaper into a shadow of its former self, all in the name of satisfying shareholders and equity-chasing investors.

Klinenberg's article is worth checking out even if your fingers haven't been smudged with newsprint for years. Because even if you're an online-only, blog-reading, indy media type, you still need newspapers whether you realize it or not. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're doing the kind of reporting that blogs can't. Or as Kevin Drum explains in his companion piece, "Why Bloggers Need the MSM":

In fact, blogs and the MSM [mainstream media] are symbiotic. Blogs at their best improve on MSM reporting both by holding reporters to account and by latching onto complex topics and talking about them in a conversational style that professional reporters just can't match. But the blogosphere would shrivel and die without a steady diet of news reporting from paid professionals.

Even if newspapers printed on dead trees disappear, we're still going to have to get our daily news somewhere. Back to Klinenberg:

"What's really at risk here is not the future of newspapers but of the news itself. While our democratic culture could survive the loss of the daily paper as we know it, it would be endangered without the kinds of reporting that it provides. It's the journalism, not the newsprint, that matters."

These stories are just part of a larger package that includes Sridhar Pappu's look at the implosion of the LA Times, plus an interview with former LAT editor Dean Baquet, and a nifty chart [PDF] of media mergers and acquisitions from AOL-TimeWarner to Google-YouTube. Check it all out here.

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