Monday: American Mouth

In this roundup: Volkswagen vacillations, disappointments a la Colombia, UK, Hungary (and don’t forget Poland!), anthropocene extinction, and maybe a straggling bit at the end to get this Monday on the road. Read more

John McCain, George Bush’s Bagman

So I spent a day and a half, knowing full well that the Colombian rescue was done with the assistance of our intelligence services, wondering, still, why they timed the rescue to coincide with McCain’s visit to Colombia.

Leaders of the Colombian FARC rebel movement were paid millions of dollars to free Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, Swiss radio said on Friday, quoting ‘a reliable source’.

The 15 hostages released on Wednesday by the Colombian army ‘were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,’ the radio’s French-language channel said.

Saying the United States, which had three of its citizens among those freed, was behind the deal, it put the price of the ransom at some $20 million.


White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the rescue ‘was conceived by the Colombians and executed by the Colombians with our full support,’ while implying that Washington had provided intelligence and even operational help.

Silly me! They didn’t need McCain there for a photo op! They needed a bagman.

Now I wonder how long it’ll be before we find out the ransom came from Bandar’s little slush fund? But don’t worry–McCain’s just aspiring to be like Saint Ronnie.

Bush: Let Colombia Kill Union Organizers–Or Hugo Chavez Wins

Oh, this should be fun. Bush chose today to send the Colombia Free Trade pact to Congress today, just one day after Mark Penn’s former contract with Colombia led to his firing resignation forfeiture of his Chief Strategist title with the Clinton campaign. I especially like this bit:

The president also has said that failing to approve a free-trade deal with Colombia would have the effect of encouraging Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez’s anti-American regime and casting the United States as untrustworthy and impotent across South America.

You see, I’m not convinced that Penn was fired resigned gave up his title because he mis-stated Clinton’s stance on the Colombia Trade pact.
If he had gone that far off the reservation, after all, you’d think he’d have been fired outright. So this may be just cover–to prevent unions from balking at Penn’s comment. Or a slap on the wrist, to ensure that Penn doesn’t speak out again in the remaining time of the campaign. Or, it could be that Penn doesn’t want responsibility for what’s going to happen in the next several weeks of the campaign. Or, it could be an attempt on Penn’s part to regain the business with Colombia.

But one thing’s clear. Anything short of a full end of the relationship between Penn and Clinton suggests only lukewarm disapproval that his meeting with the Colombians was reported in the press. Take that to mean what you will.

So now, after Democrats had hoped that Bush wouldn’t make the Senate vote on the pact, he’s doing just that.

Moreover, Democratic leaders balked at forcing the matter to a vote.

I can see why, when the economy is tanking and the country is being devastated by foreclosures and Wall Street is getting addicted to public financing, Bush would think the most important way to spend the Senate’s time is to consider sending more jobs to places where environmental regulations and pesky unions won’t trouble the captains of capitalism.

But I’m particularly intrigued that Bush is turning the US-Colombia pact into an issue of Chavez. Bush would love to start war-mongering against Chavez, along with Iran, and you could argue the Administration and its Colombian allies have already started doing just that. Of course, the US could make no credible military threat against Venezuela right now–we’ve squandered that ability in Iraq.

Read more

Banana Split

The investigation into Chiquita for supporting Colombian terrorists always stank. Chiquita’s executives got some high level meetings at DOJ and–purportedly–DOJ told them they should not worry about paying protection money to terrorists, so long as they cooperated with DOJ’s investigations into the Colombia death squads. Then, no charges were filed against any of the well-connected Republican executives. But now we find out that a warrant supposedly served on Chiquita back in 2004 may never have been served (h/t Rayne).

What happened to the search warrant that the government supposedly served on Chiquita Brands International three years ago? The lead prosecutor on the case — in which Chiquita was accused of funding terrorism — has always thought that the warrant was executed. But lawyers for the company and a U.S. Department of Justice official recently said that it wasn’t. Their revelation has led to new questions: Was the warrant blocked, and if so, why?


… one highly placed Justice official confirms that no warrant was executed. This official, who spoke on the condition he not be named, wouldn’t elaborate.

In a postpublication interview, [the original prosecutor Roscoe] Howard says he still believes the warrant was obtained and executed, and that the Justice Department is "stonewalling" for reasons he doesn’t understand. He adds, "I’ve got no doubt it was executed, but someone may be covering it up for some reason." Howard and Seikaly both say that their former colleagues in Justice won’t discuss the warrant with them now, which puzzles them.


Ken Wainstein also played a key role in the Chiquita probe. At the time of the Justice deliberations over the warrant, he was chief of staff to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which would have been responsible for serving the warrant. Boyd, Wainstein’s current spokesman at the national security division, declined to comment on his boss’s involvement with the Chiquita warrant.

One source close to the Chiquita investigation, who asked to remain anonymous, says he suspects that the warrant was cancelled either by someone at the Justice Department’s main headquarters or at the FBI. If the warrant were sabotaged, it raises questions of favoritism, and even obstruction of justice. Read more