Monday, May 07, 2007

Digital Politics Forum: Meet David Sirota, Your Moderator

As you'll be hyper-aware by this time next week, Carla and I are helping to co-sponsor a great event in Portland next Tuesday: The Digital Politics Forum on technology and politics, put on by The Bus Project and the Portland Mercury and featuring national author, blogger and progressive spokesperson David Sirota.

Sirota, who lives in Helena, MT, may currently be best known for his recent book Hostile Takeover, which came out in hardback just over a year ago and is slated for paperback release later this month. In it, Sirota exposes just how much corporate corruption affects the life and living standards for ordinary Americans.

Somewhat in the mold of Crashing the Gate, the "other" major progressive political publication from last year, the book explains how you're being screwed by the entrenched armies of the establishment--and more importantly, how intrepid individuals can come together and work to start changing things back. I started reading the book before David signed on to moderate the forum, and it's a great read. It opens with he and his wife stuck in an airport, at the mercy of their carrier. Who can't relate?

Despite his "hostile" attitude towards the way things are generally accepted to work, Sirota is no frothing, fringe-element radical; in fact, his professional political associations show him to be simply a touch ahead of the curve. His first job was working for soon-to-be PA Congressman Joe Hoeffel, a stalwart progressive in a state full of squishy, moderate Democrats. From there he moved on to a job with perhaps the most durable beacon of progressive politics, Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who is now Senator Sanders after victory in 2006).

In 2000 Sirota left Sanders to work with a rising star in Montana, Brian Schweitzer. Schweitzer came close but ultimately lost to incumbent Conrad Burns for Senate. The bond was forged, however, and after stints in the Dems' stable at House Appropriations and with John Podesta at the newly formed Center for American Progress thinktank, Sirota returned to help elevate Schweitzer to Governor of Montana in 2004.

While building up that experience in the trenches, David has been a prolific writer and pundit for a wide array of publications: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Hartford Courant, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Charlotte Observer, Knight Ridder Newspapers and The Washington Monthly, among others. Perhaps unusual among wonky scribes, Sirota is also an able spokesman on TV and the lecture circuit; his "live" credits include appearances on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, PBS’s Now with David Brancaccio and National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation. And if you're wondering about his ability to take on the BS artists, he's publicly debated Ann Coulter, ABC News “reporter” John Stossel and Wall Street Journal editorialist John Fund.

Oh, and did I mention he's a senior editor at These Times magazine, a frequent contributor to The Nation and The American Prospect, and does the blogging for Working Assets? Somewhere in there is sleep I'm sure, but it must only be in 20-minute bursts between interviews.

We're flat out thrilled that David will be speaking and moderating our panel; we hope you can join us next Tuesday, May 15th, at ACME Food and Drink on SE 8th Street. Admission is FREE, and with the Bus Project and Mercury involved, you know it won't be some tired old discussion with a bunch of suits creating their own oral heat source. Drink, learn, participate, and drink some more! (Don't forget to eat, though). And over the next week, we'll deviate just a touch from our Oregon-only mandate and talk about some of the topics and elements that our panelists (currently Amy Ruiz from the Merc, Kari Chisholm at BlueO, Anna Galland from, and Clippy the MS Word avatar) will likely discuss. So keep checking back at LO this week, and we'll see you next Tuesday at ACME!