William Jefferson: 419 victim?

From Facing South, apparently indicted Rep. William Jefferson today issued a statement in which he asserted his innocence of the charges against him. When he got to explaining where the $90,000 in his freezer came from, though, he said something downright odd:

Did I bribe a foreign official? Absolutely not. The $90,000 was the FBI's money. The FBI gave it to me as part of their plan that I would give it to the Nigerian Vice President. But I did not do that. When all of the facts are understood, I trust I will be vindicated.

I... What? The Nigerian Vice President? I think I've received that spam before. But no, apparently there's a real connection of some sort there:

The impact of the [Jefferson bribery] case even has roiled presidential politics in Nigeria. According to court records, Jefferson told associates that he needed cash to pay bribes to the country's vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

Abubakar denied the allegations, which figured prominently in that country's presidential elections in April. Abubakar ran for the presidency and finished third.

In Lagos, Nigeria, Abubakar spokesman Garba Shehu said the former vice president "has always denied wrongdoing in the matter."

"He has only had official interaction with the congressman, who the vice president felt deserved a hearing because he was a ranking member of the U.S. Congress," Shehu said. "The vice president was in no way cited in this thing, so we feel vindicated."

Court records indicate that Jefferson was videotaped taking a $100,000 cash bribe from an FBI informant. Most of that money later turned up in a freezer in Jefferson's home.

What on earth is this all about? Is Jefferson really going to explain himself in court by claiming that these events were not bribery but simply Jefferson enacting an elaborate secret plan for the FBI?

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Jon Kyl revealed as source of anonymous hold on Open Government Act

As was commented on previously in the MyDD diary section, the Open Government Act, a bill which strengthens the FOIA, was recently put on an anonymous hold in the Senate. The source of that hold has now been revealed as
Jon Kyl
, Republican from Arizona.

Dozens of journalism and advocacy groups supporting the Open Government Act argue it would speed up the government's response to public requests for information under the federal Freedom of Information law.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., says the Justice Department is concerned that it could force them to reveal sensitive information.

In a statement Thursday, Kyl said the agency's "uncharacteristically strong" opposition is reason enough to think twice about the legislation, and he will block a vote until both sides can work out the differences.

Supporters of the bill are irate.

"This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike can and should work together to enact. It should be passed without further delay," said the bill's sponsor, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Frustrated, Leahy now is pressing senators to clear the bill for a vote.

Advocates who range from the Society of Professional Journalists to the Humane Society of the United States are especially frustrated because Kyl had objected under a Senate rule that allows members to hold legislation anonymously.

Kyl revealed his name Thursday, days after the bill's backers launched an e-mail and telephone campaign, urging their supporters to help in "smoking out 'Senator Secrecy.'" They pointed out the irony that an open government bill was being blocked using a rule that allowed secrecy.

So, I'm a little puzzled as to what is going on here. If any Senator can perform this maneuver, then why don't we see these "anonymous holds" used more often? Is Jon Kyl in particularly good standing to be pulling this kind of stunt, and is there any way pressure can be placed on him? How exactly does Leahy go about removing the hold to bring the bill for a vote?

And overall, what happens next for the Open Government Act?

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Obama asks Dean to make Democratic debate videos free for use on Internet

From a letter from Barack Obama to Howard Dean:

Dear Chairman Dean:

I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.
Your presidential campaign used the Internet to break new ground in citizen political participation. I would urge you to take the lead again by continuing to support this important medium of political speech. And I offer whatever help I can to secure the support of others as well.

This issue is of particular interest to me, because as a person who does not have cable television I am finding access to debate video consistently problematic. I still have not seen the first Democratic debate.

The letter referred to was sent last week and was signed among others by the founders of Craigslist, Wikipedia, DailyKos, MoveOn and the Huffington Post. As far as I know Obama is the first of the presidential candidates to endorse this particular effort; I hope the others will jump on soon as well.

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Big day thursday

A close Bush advisor, controversial among the left but virtually unheard of by anyone else, was appointed to little fanfare and little oversight to a very high-ranking official position during the Republican salad days of Bush's second term. It is now a few years later and now that the political winds have shifted, the official is suddenly implicated in an allegedly unethical behavior which has been apparently going on for some time. The official simultaneously claims that his actions were appropriate and rightful, and that his actions were a "mistake", but the scandal refuses to go away and builds for weeks. Though the official seems untouchable as long as they weather the storm, there are increasing calls for resignation and the list of supporters is, outside the White House, slim. This is all coming to a head this thursday, when the body claiming oversight over the official will meet to discuss his fate.

You probably think I'm talking about Alberto Gonzales, whose purported "no, really, this is your last chance to come and give us testimony that won't be shown the very next day to conflict with e-mail evidence" appearance before Congress was delayed to this thursday due to the Virginia Tech tragedy.

But no, actually, as it turns out, this storyline is double-booked for tomorrow. I'm talking about Paul Wolfowitz:

World Bank directors to meet to settle Wolfowitz's future

WASHINGTON (Thomson Financial) - World Bank directors were set to meet Thursday to debate the future of the development lender's embattled president, Paul Wolfowitz, sources said.

The meeting of the 24 executive directors was previously scheduled to discuss the bank's planned development projects, but now will be dominated by a pay and favoritism scandal that has engulfed Wolfowitz.

I think we can expect tomorrow to be an interesting news day.

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Kucinich vs Gravel : Who should be the far-left darling?

So, at least in the corner of the internet where I was, in the leadup to the 2004 Democratic primaries there was this tendency where the "progressive"-minded voters generally supported Dean, but occasionally added "but if I could, I'd support Kucinich". Now, given, nobody I encountered took Kucinich seriously as a candidate either in the primary or for the general, and some of the people who "supported" him didn't even like him as much as some of the other candidates. (This is not to say that people who supported Kucinich seriously did not exist; this is just to say I did not encounter such people myself.) But Kucinich got recognition and possibly respect for being the one person campaigning for the Democratic nomination who seemed to be leaning as far to the left as possible, the only person willing to take the purely "liberal" stance on several issues-- even though nobody took him seriously for any other reason. (Though technically he wasn't the only one with these stances: For some reason Carol Moseley Braun, the other candidate who openly supported gay marriage, never really seemed to come up.)

This time around, Kucinich seems to be shaping up to take that same spot again by default. However, it's worth noting he's not the only option: Mike Gravel, former Democratic Senator from Alaska, is also running in 2008, and has nearly as many and possibly more hardcore-left views and credentials as Kucinich does. So, the question arises: Who should get the Kucinich slot in this electoral primary? Dennis Kucinich? Or Mike Gravel?

I have my own opinions on this, but rather than giving them here I'd rather ask for yours: If you were in the unlikely position of being able to actually support Kucinich or Gravel for President, which would you prefer and why? Please answer in terms of who you'd rather have for President, not in terms of who you'd rather have as the Democratic nominee in a general election-- neither is winning the primary anyway.

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Linking Iraq War funding to... the minimum wage?

So just posted on Breaking Blue was this thoughtful and insightful column by David Sirota on Democratic strategy on the Iraq supplemental going forward. The column ended with:

Finally, Bush will try to seize on any distraction he can to win this confrontation. In fact, he's already doing this in his attempt to focus on the additional non-Iraq spending as "wasteful pork." Because Iraq is such a huge issue, I doubt this will work. However, there is one way for it to work: If Democratic leaders start using major issues (rather than "pork" which is not a major issue in the public's mind) as bargaining chips in this whole thing.

We can go back to 2002 for an example of this. The only way Bush got out of his flip-flop on creating the Department of Homeland Security was by focusing it on Democrats demands for union rights for Homeland Security workers. While I strongly support those rights, that issue was portrayed as "extraneous" to the bigger issue of national security - pushing Democrats into the trap of looking like they were trying to use national security to help their political allies. We can't let this happen again. If we start bringing in other - albeit very important - non-Iraq issues, we will open the door to a Bush victory and worse, to a longer war.

Coincidentally, a few minutes after this showed up in the Breaking Blue sidebar, this showed up on Google News:
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Although it's been overshadowed by a fierce debate over timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, House and Senate lawmakers are pushing to use the emergency war-spending bill as a vehicle for enacting the first rise in the minimum wage in 10 years and a host of tax breaks aimed at small businesses.
House Democrats successfully added the wage and tax language to their version of the $124.6 billion emergency war-spending bill that cleared the chamber last week. The Senate on Wednesday morning quietly added its version of the minimum-wage bill, including an expanded package of tax breaks, to its spending bill.

Buh? Whose idea was this?

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Poll: Who will drop out next?

So, just for fun: Now that Vilsack has dropped out of the 2008 primary race, who (if anyone) do you think is likely to follow him?

Poll after the jump.

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Al Gore is not running for president. Really.

Al Gore today issued the closest thing he's said yet to an absolute statement he's not running for President in 2008:

LONDON (AFP) - Former US vice-president Al Gore reiterated here that he does not intend to run for president in 2008 -- though he did not entirely rule out doing so further in the future.

Gore, now an environmental campaigner... said: "I don't have plans to be a candidate again and though I haven't... completely ruled out any possibility of running at some point in the future I don't expect to and cannot perceive circumstances in which I would."

This is spoken in Politician, but I don't think even the most optimistic reading possible could interpret this to mean anything better than "maybe in 2016".

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