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Media Revelations From YearlyKos: Bloggers Aren’t ‘Chaotic,’ Carry Political ‘Clout’

Fri, 2007-08-03 11:25

As you may have noticed, blogging has been lighter than usual the past few days. ThinkProgress is in Chicago for the second annual YearlyKos conference, with more than 1,200 bloggers, blog readers, activists, politicians, journalists, and other progressives.

Much of the media coverage hasn’t been especially earth-shattering, focusing on the same themes they wrote about last year: 1) many liberal bloggers don’t fit into the stereotypes the media has created, 2) liberal bloggers are respected (and feared) by politicians, and 3) liberal bloggers disagree about stuff. Some highlights so far:

U.S. News and World Report, Cyberactivists Are A Must-See For Candidates: The prominence of the upcoming event, which features 200 speakers and is expected to draw crowds of more than 1,400, may be a wake-up call for the less Internet-savvy organizations and candidates.

‘Net Roots’ Event Becomes Democrats’ Other National Convention: There is no one leader, the name of the convention notwithstanding, and it’s a disparate, unorganized community that’s almost impossible to categorize. While the leading bloggers are in their 20s and 30s, the rank-and-file are older, in their 40s and 50s.

New York Magazine, Dispatches From The YearlyKos Convention: No one naked around here. No chaos at YearlyKos. No “sweet smell of marijuana,” as the straight papers used to refer to it. No demands for revolution. No denunciations of bourgeois democracy. The Democratic National Committee Chairman is listened to respectfully and cheered enthusiastically.

Seattle Post Intelligencer, “Net Roots” Activists Carry Political Weight: It’s earnest enough to be a little amusing, but these are serious people intent on taking back their country, with the dream of an America run not through Washington, D.C., spin, but with active participation by the governed.

Chicago Tribune, YearlyKos Forum A Magnet For Bloggers And Pols: And anyone who doubts blogger clout should consider this: seven presidential candidates, the two top congressional leaders and the Democratic Party’s chairman will all stop by to pay their respects.

MoJoBlog, Gristmill, DCist, and Ezra have updates from some of the conference’s panel sessions.

View photos from the conference HERE and watch the sessions HERE.

UPDATE: Devilstower at DailyKos has more.

Gates’s surge skepticism.

Fri, 2007-08-03 09:28

The LA Times reports:

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates acknowledged Thursday that the Bush administration underestimated the difficulty of getting a political truce in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government has been crippled by a walkout by Sunni Arab ministers.

The Pentagon chief’s remarks Thursday were his closest yet to acknowledging that the Bush administration’s top political goals for Iraq may not materialize during the buildup, even if it is extended into next spring, the latest the military could sustain the increase. He also is the top Bush administration official to express such concerns publicly.

Sen. Kyl ‘disturbed’ over U.S. attorney firing.

Thu, 2007-08-02 18:15

Documents released Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee show that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) “was upset with Bush administration officials” over the forced resignation of U.S. attorney Paul Charlton, but the Justice Department quickly hushed his dissent. “I understand that Kyl is significantly disturbed over the Charlton issue,” Rebecca Seidel, a deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in an e-mail. “I am hoping that Kyl would not bring it up in an open hearing.”

Clinton finally gets Pentagon Iraq exit strategy briefing.

Thu, 2007-08-02 17:51

Earlier today, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) “finally got the Pentagon briefing on how the military is planning to withdraw troops from Iraq,” two weeks after Undersecretary for Defense Eric Edelman told her that “public discussion” of Iraq withdrawal “reinforces enemy propaganda.” But Clinton said that the briefing didn’t “by any means” answer all the questions about the White House’s exit strategy. Additionally, Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced legislation today requiring the Pentagon to keep Congress informed of such contingency plans.

Durbin Calls Out White House On Executive Privilege Sham

Thu, 2007-08-02 15:38

When former White House aide Sara Taylor testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) asked whether President Bush had a role in the firings. Despite being under executive privilege, Taylor stated she did not attend meetings with Bush nor did she believe he was involved in the scandal.

In today’s hearing, Leahy asked the same question to White House aide J. Scott Jennings. In contrast to Taylor, Jennings refused to answer, repeatedly citing executive privilege. In fact, Taylor answered “a number of questions that Jennings has refused to answer,” despite both being under similar assertions of executive privilege.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted the discrepancy between Taylor and Jennings’ responses and called out Jennings for abusing executive privilege. Jennings responded: “I respect [Taylor’s] decision…but I simply do not intend to disobey a directive from the President.”

Watch it:

Jennings’ stonewalling is an attempt to further muddle the administration’s role in the attorney scandal. As Leahy asked Taylor last month, “what is the White House so intent on hiding?“:

I do note your answer that you did not discuss these matters with the president and to the best of your knowledge he was not involved is going to make some nervous at the White House because it seriously undercuts his claim of executive privilege if he was not involved. … Your testimony today under oath bolsters that impression. And that really shows, again, that the White House counsel’s broad instruction is not only unprecedented, but it’s unsound. … This broad invocation of the notion of executive privilege to obstruct Congress from learning the truth leads one to believe it’s part of a cover-up.

Paul Kiel adds that today, Jennings wouldn’t even answer what his job description is.

Transcript: (more…)

Senate passes ethics bill.

Thu, 2007-08-02 12:33

In an 83 to 14 vote, the Senate today joined the House and passed legislation requiring that “lawmakers disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists, a move some called the biggest advance in congressional ethics in decades.”

UPDATE: Full roll call vote HERE.

Three former Bush aides to testify in Tillman inquiry.

Thu, 2007-08-02 11:32

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), announced today that the White House will allow three former top aides tesify in an inquiry into the friendly-fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. Former White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and former speechwriter Michael Gerson will testify “without a transcript and with White House attorneys present.” If investigators determine that the aides have relevant information, they will be asked to return for transcribed interviews. “The White House has reserved the right to oppose that by claiming executive privilege.”

Read the letter from Waxman and Ranking Member Tom Davis (R-VA) to White House Counsel Fred Fielding here.

Bush administration backtracks on Katrina contracts.

Thu, 2007-08-02 08:59

A new congressional analysis finds that the “Bush administration has shown little progress — and in some cases backtracked — on its pledge to do a better job in awarding contracts to small, Gulf Coast businesses for Hurricane Katrina work.” Some highlights:

– Approximately “7.4 percent of Katrina contracts so far have gone to small businesses in Louisiana, down from 12.5 percent in April.”

– “Since April, only 6 percent of new GSA contracts for Katrina work _ about $61,000 out of roughly $978,000 _ went to small Louisiana businesses. At the VA, the percentage was even lower: 0.7 percent, or $25,435 out of $3.6 million.”

– “Out of the $95.6 million in total contracts that were inaccurately claimed as going to small business, more than $77 million, or 81 percent, were awards by the Defense Department.”

Leahy: Supreme Court now an ‘arm of the Republican party.’

Thu, 2007-08-02 08:06

In an interview with the Politico, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that Chief Justice John Roberts “has made the court an arm of the Republican Party.” The senator voted to confirm Roberts “because he knew Roberts was going to be confirmed anyway and did not want a party-line vote that would encourage Roberts to believe that he was ‘an appointment of the Republican Party.’ But that is what has happened anyway, Leahy said.” (More on the court’s right-wing shift HERE.)

Spending on classified programs at ‘record levels.’

Thu, 2007-08-02 07:25

The government’s “black budget” — which covers classified programs — “is expected to be around $31.9 billion next year, roughly on par with spending from the past two years,” according to a new analysis. The budget also includes the CIA’s black prison sites and the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Chickenhawk congressman criticized by local press.

Thu, 2007-08-02 04:00

Last week, ThinkProgress noted that right-wing Ohio Congressman Michael Turner attempted to disparage and smear Center for American Progress military expert Lawrence Korb. Yesterday, Turner’s hometown paper — the Dayton Daily News — covered the incident:

The Center for American Progress’ action fund accused Turner of “smearing” Korb, then tossed out a barb of its own — calling the Republican congressman a “chicken hawk.” The term is often used for someone who ascribes the bravery of soldiers in wartime to themselves because they take a pro-war position. Turner never served in the military. […]

Korb, who taught at the University of Dayton from 1969 to 1971, said he was taken aback by Turner’s line of questioning. “He was saying I was claiming to be something I wasn’t,” he said.

The definition of chickenhawk referenced in the article was first proffered by TP commenter Midwest Product.

O’Hanlon begins backpedaling from op-ed.

Wed, 2007-08-01 22:36

Just a few days after writing about the progress he saw in Iraq, Brookings analyst Michael O’Hanlon claims that if the situation remains as it is currently, he could not “write another Op-Ed” declaring success:

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. O’Hanlon said the article was intended to point out that the security situation was currently far better than it was in 2006. What the American military cannot solve, he said, are problems caused by the inability of Iraqis to forge political solutions. “Ultimately, politics trumps all else,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “If the political stalemate goes on, even if the military progress continued, I don’t see how I could write another Op-Ed saying the same thing.”

House expands children’s health insurance program.

Wed, 2007-08-01 22:10

The House defied a veto threat from President Bush today and passed SCHIP legislation that would give 6 million children health insurance, “while making deep cuts in federal payments to Medicare HMOs.”

Beck Lauds Bush’s ‘Incredible Passion And Resolve’ After Personal Meeting At White House

Wed, 2007-08-01 21:39

Today, CNN Headline News’s right-wing host Glenn Beck had a personal “off-the-record” meeting with President Bush at the White House. Beck’s insights from this meeting include that Bush “is a man who personally feels the pain of every wounded hero” and has “incredible passion and resolve.” From Beck’s show tonight:

Let me tell you the whole story on this. He feels the pain of every wounded hero, every lonely, grieving parent this war has caused. He is a man who understands the heavy cost that we are paying, but who believes with every ounce of his being that we are in the fight for our very survival, a fight that’s importance can only be judged fairly decades from now, and I believe a fight he is willing to be judged harshly for until that time comes, even if he’s long dead.

I can also tell you that he’s — frustrated is not exactly the right word — hopeful, yet frustrated. He’s so frustrated that so many people are so myopic that they have lost sight of the forest through the trees.

Beck isn’t the first journalist to receive an exclusive meeting with President and walk away with nothing but superficial observations. In fact, Bush seems to exclusively invite journalists who won’t criticize him. The main insight New York Times columnist David Brooks was able to offer after a 110-minute meeting with Bush was that the President’s “self-confidence” is “remarkable.”

Beck also added that Bush specifically mentioned the work of Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon to support his policies.

UPDATE: Video has been added. Achorn has more HERE.

Transcript: (more…)

Ware: Surge Is Undermining ‘The Very Government That America Created’

Wed, 2007-08-01 09:00

Last night, during his interview with Larry King, Vice President Cheney claimed that “the reports I’m hearing, from people whose views I respect, indicate that the Petraeus plan is in fact producing results.”

On Anderson Cooper’s show later in the evening, CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, who spoke live on a night scope camera while embedded with troops responded to “the vice president’s evaluation” of progress in Iraq, calling it “sleight of hand.” “Yeah, sectarian violence is down, but let’s have a look at that,” said Ware. “More than two million people have fled this country. 50,000 are still fleeing every month, according to the United Nations. So there’s less people to be killed. And those who stay, increasingly are in ethnically-cleansed neighborhoods. They’ve been segregated.”

“There is still no sense of unity. And without America to act as the big baby sitter, this thing is not going to last.” Watch it:


Ware also responded to Brookings Institution analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack’s recent New York Times op-ed offering a sunny appraisal of progress in Iraq, calling the report “very one dimensional.” “It doesn’t look at what’s been done to achieve this and what long term sustainability there is,” said Ware. “I mean, these guys unfortunately were only in the country for eight days.”

In order to achieve the small victories that O’Hanlon and Pollack cherry-picked for their column, America is actually undermining the Iraqi government, according to Ware. “What America needs to come clean about is that it’s achieving these successes by cutting deals, primarily, with its enemies,” he said.

“By achieving these successes, America is building Sunni militias,” said Ware. “Yes, they’re targeting al Qaeda, but these are also anti-government forces opposed to the very government that America created.”

We Need Interns!

Wed, 2007-08-01 08:00

The team that produces Think Progress and The Progress Report is looking for interns this fall.

We need students (undergraduate, graduate, or recent graduates) with strong research and writing skills to help out with extensive researching, writing, editing, fact-checking, monitoring of news stories, blogging on Think Progress, and other tasks as assigned.

Interns will be integrated into the workings of American Progress, attending events, meetings, and participating in a variety of other projects.

Application here. E-mail applications to [email protected]. Interns are accepted on a rolling basis.

More details on the internship:

Required elements:
1) Internship Application
2) Cover Letter and Resume
3) College or University Transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
4) 2-3 References (please provide both the phone and email contact information)

All interns receive a stipend and transportation subsidy.

More information can be found here.

A ‘bad’ day for ‘American journalism.’

Wed, 2007-08-01 06:46

“It’s a bad thing for the Journal and American journalism that the Bancroft family could not resist Rupert Murdoch’s generous offer,” said former Dow Jones director Jim Ottaway Jr., who opposed Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of Dow Jones. Another board member, Leslie Hill, “quit the board in protest last night.”

ThinkProgress is traveling to YearlyKos today.

Wed, 2007-08-01 06:00

There will be light posting as ThinkProgress makes its way to Chicago for the second annual YearlyKos conference. This year’s conference marks the increasing influence of the progressive blogosphere: Five top presidential candidates will be attending, as will the top congressional leaders. Read more about the convention here.

Cost of escalation may reach $40 billion.

Wed, 2007-08-01 04:55

According to testimony provided by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) during yesterday’s House Budget Committee Hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan Reconstruction, the cost of sustaining the President’s surge strategy in Iraq for two more years will reach $40 billion dollars:

DangerRoom notes that CBO predicted in Feburary that the surge would be “much more costly” than the administration’s estimated $5.6 billion.

Also during the hearing, the Pentagon promised to provide the committee with the estimated “costs of various redeployment timelines” within the next 30 days.

REPORT: Putting U.S. Troop Casualty Statistics In Perspective

Tue, 2007-07-31 20:29

At least 73 U.S. troops are reported to have died in Iraq this past month. The numbers are a decline from the all-time highs of 108, 131, and 117 from the previous three months.

Media reports herald the statistics as encouraging and as demonstrating “steady progress” in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said that the lower death toll was a “positive sign.”

According to, at least 3,653 U.S. troops have died in the 53 months that the war has been going on — a per monthly rate of nearly 69 U.S. troop casualties. Thus, the current month’s total still exceeds the average monthly casualty rate of the entire war.

Moreover, 73 is also greater than the average monthly casualty rate of each of the first four years of the war. A look at the monthly U.S. casualty rates over each of these years:

RATE 2003 48.6 per month 2004 70.8 per month 2005 70.5 per month 2006 68.5 per month 2007 92.9 per month

Statistics compiled from

The AP notes that “the daily average for U.S. troop deaths in July was at least 2.35 — higher than the daily average of 2.25 last year, and remarkably consistent with average daily casualties in 2005, at 2.32, and 2004, at 2.33.”

While U.S. troop casualties have fallen, reports indicate Iraqi deaths are rising again in Baghdad to pre-surge levels.