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Disturbing Questions On A Monday Morning

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I am headed down to Butte today for the big "economic development" conference here in Montana, and a question has been bothering me. Why is Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) bringing Bob Rubin in as the keynoter on job development, at a time when Rubin, a top executive at Citigroup, is laying of 17,000 workers? This question brings up some other disturbing questions this Monday morning.

- Could Mark Penn and the Clinton team be any more of a walking advertisement for corruption, insiderism and limousine liberalism?
Read the big Washington Post story and you'll see what I mean. It includes hilarious denials by Penn that his corporate clients pose any conflicts of interest, and a passage about former Clinton White House officials - pining for a return to their old jobs - embarking on wistful strolls between Vernon Jordan's Georgetown mansion and the Clinton's Georgetown mansion.

- Are congressional Democrats on the verge of triangulating against labor and backing K Street's free trade agenda? It sure seems that way from the Wall Street Journal's story this morning entitled
"Unions Post Trouble for Democrats on Trade." Somehow, after Democrats won the 2006 election by standing with working people and against lobbyist-written trade policies, unions are now suddenly being billed as "trouble" (as opposed to "key allies") for Democrats.

- How can Time Magazine justify a story written by not one, but two, of its top reporters that has just two on-the-record sources total? In their
breathless, issue-free horse race story, Karen Tumulty and Jay Carney come up with just two total on-the-record sources, both of which, by the way, are Clinton campaign officials (Terry McAuliffe and Phil Singer). The rest are snippets of inane gossip from anonymous "Democratic strategists." Follow up questions: Are two on-the-record sources who talk nothing about actual substance be all that two senior reporters could find in an entire week of "reporting?" Does Time Magazine ever wonder whether such "reporting" has something to do with its declining circulation?

- Out of all the things to be worried about from Barack Obama - the crowds of average people coming to see him speak, his small-dollar donations, his creeping up in the polls - is the Hillary Clinton campaign really MOST worried about the fact that huge Wall Street donors are giving him some money? I ask this, because the Tumulty/Carney horse race extravaganza leads by saying "What startled Clinton's team [about Obama] was not just Obama's totals or his success at drumming up contributions over the Internet, but also how much he is collecting from the big donors who have fueled Clinton enterprises for the past decade and a half." In an age where grassroots politics is reemerging, is Clinton so wildly out of touch/insulated that, sitting there with $25 million herself, she's happy to tell the media that the key thing she's fretting about is Big Money?

- Does George Will really believe Americans are stupid, or is he stupid? In
Will's column for Newsweek this week, he says America's media presents truly diverse voices because "there are 14,000 radio stations—twice as many as in 1970—and satellite radio has nearly 14 million subscribers." What Will doesn't say is that while the number of stations may have increased, the number of owners of stations has dramatically decreased - and as we all know, ownership decides content. According to the nonpartisan Project for Excellence In Journalism, "the top 20 companies own more than 20 percent of all domestic radio stations." Meanwhile, two companies (XM and Sirius) own all of satellite radio. So the question again, is whether George Will is too stupid to actually research these facts before writing a column, or does he think Americans are just stupid enough to believe his propaganda?

- Part 2 of "does George Will really believe Americans are idiots, or is he an idiot?" In his
column, Will cites the willingness of media companies to promote right-wing voices and the difficulty of progressive voices from getting the same treatment as proof that progressives can't "compete in the marketplace of ideas." He says "consumer sovereignty" is choosing conservative voices. Yet, he says nothing about the fact that, with the media now owned by a handful of for-profit corporations that simultaneously use their Washington lobbying clout to push for all sorts of conservative policies, those media owners that decide who to put on the air have a personal/financial stake in promoting conservative voices. Does Will really think Americans are so stupid that they don't know that companies owned by conservatives will put conservatives on the airwaves they own, and that such a decision has nothing to do with "consumer sovereignty?" Or is Will too stupid to understand that basic truism?

- Is there something just a little bit weird about government leaders of the most populous black African nation hiring a GOP lobbyist who, according to the New York Times, has
"a passion for the old Confederacy?" Yes, you read that right - the New York Times reports that Nigeria's leaders have hired a Republican lobbyist who "heads a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans" and "marched down a street in Richmond, Va., rebel battle flag in hand, to protest the unveiling of a statute there to the late black tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr." Couldn't Nigeria find someone a little bit different?
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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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