Congressional junkets picking up steam

Congressional junkets picking up steam

(U.S. Embassy, Estonia/State Department)
A Congressional delegation trip to Estonia conducted in August 2004 shows (from left to right) the U.S. embassy’s Community Liaison Officer, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Senator Lindsey Graham, a tour guide, Senator Hillary Clinton, and Senator John McCain. More and more congressional delegation trips are becoming an everyday occurence on Capitol Hill with the Carribbean becoming a favorite destination.

WASHINGTONCongress is keeping Andrews Air Force base plenty busy this year ferrying lawmakers all over the globe at taxpayers’ expense. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi took his wife, nine Democrats and two Republicans – Reps. Dan Lungren of California and Mike Rogers of Alabama – on a whirlwind tour of the Caribbean last week. After stops in Honduras and Mexico, they stopped in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the delegation stayed at the five-star Caneel Bay resort.

In a separate trip to the Caribbean last week, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York squired his wife and four Democratic members to Grenada and Trinidad.

All told, the military flew at least 13 congressional delegations to various destinations during the Easter recess — at an estimated rate of $10,000 or more per flying hour.

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The congressional delegation trips, known as CODELs, are paid for by taxpayers. They are supposed to be directly related to members’ official duties, and House guidelines also stipulate that delegations include members of both parties to qualify for military planes — a requirement that Speaker Nancy Pelosi waived for Engel’s group and two other delegations.

“There was a good faith effort made to include Republican members,” a Pelosi spokesman said. “For one reason or another, that did not work.”

In one instance, he said, a Republican slated for a Democrat-led trip had to cancel because of a “family emergency.”

In their successful campaign to win control of Congress last fall, Democrats accused Republicans of extravagant travel paid for by lobbyists. Some of these trips carried a strong whiff of influence peddling. The worst that can be said of CODELS, and critics often say it, is that they’re junkets.

Thompson’s office said he toured the Caribbean because he now chairs the Homeland Security Committee and wanted to see vacation hot spots to “examine border security and port security.” Three other members of the delegation also brought along their spouses.

“They are going from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday,” a committee spokeswoman told The Examiner. “They do not have down time.”

At the Caneel Bay resort, where room rates reach $1,100 per night, the spokeswoman said Thompson and his wife paid the “government rate.” But, according to the reservations department, Caneel Bay doesn’t “offer any government rates.”

After Caneel Bay, the group headed to Key West, Fla., for a “classified briefing on inter-jurisdictional agency task forces,” a Thompson spokeswoman said.

The Caribbean trip led by Engel, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, explored the “best practices for emergency disaster relief” and energy policy, according to his office.

Traveling with Engel and his wife were Reps. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Tex., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who went to Belgium in a delegation led by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., earlier in the week, also joined Engel’s Caribbean trip. She brought her husband with her.

Frank’s trip to Belgium and London was related to his work as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, according to his office. The trip, which also included Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., was designed “to further understand the interrelationship between various issues related to the financial services regulatory structures” of the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, according to Frank’s office.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., also led a trip to Belgium over the two-week Easter recess. In February, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, took a delegation there.

“We’re at war with Iraq and Afghanistan, but apparently our members see Belgium as our most urgent international destination,” scoffed one Republican member of Congress.

Last week, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., defended Congressional travelers after a trip he took to Syria came under intense White House criticism.

“Members of Congress are not simply potted plants, though the White House apparently would like them to be,” he told reporters after his return. “Congress plays an important role in determining policy and providing funding for America’s international policies.”

Read other stories by Charles Hurt

Gas OPEC Emerges: A Stealthy Threat

Gas OPEC Emerges: A Stealthy Threat
By Ariel Cohen | April 17, 2007

Steadily and stealthily, a new gas cartel is emerging.[1] The Gas Exporting Countries’ Forum (GECF) is the brainchild of some of the world’s least democratic countries—
Qatar, Hugo Chavez’s
Venezuela—and it took baby steps towards formation at a meeting in
Doha, Qatar, on April 9.

The cartel is lead by those who stand to benefit most from its future geopolitical muscle:
Russia and
Iran, and specifically President Vladimir Putin and
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


United States should create a global coalition of energy consumers to oppose oil and gas cartels and to bring market principles to the natural gas industry. The
U.S. should also liberalize its own regulations to allow energy exploration in the
Arctic, in the
Rocky Mountains, and along the Pacific and Atlantic Continental shelves.

Global Gas Strategy 

Moscow is playing a complex and sophisticated game, one that is likely to maximize its advantages as the leading gas producer with the largest reserves on the planet.

Russia’s approach is gradualist.
Moscow has never been never openly enthusiastic about a gas cartel but has waited for an opportunity to launch one.
Viktor Khristenko, Russia’s Vice Premier in charge of energy, rejected the idea just days before President Putin called a gas OPEC “an interesting idea” during his February 2007 visit to
Qatar. This past week, however, in
Doha, Khristenko said that “We have not, do not have, and will not have the goal of organizing an alliance against anyone.”

The message in the Russian media after the summit was that no documents were signed to create a gas cartel—a useful message for Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas monopoly. But careful examination of the official announcement and media reports reveals that there is reason for concern. 

Russia’s approach is stealthy. Instead of announcing the cartel prematurely, and spooking consumer countries, it is quietly putting the component parts into place. In
Doha, Russia initiated the creation of a “High Level Group” that will “research” the pricing of gas and develop methodologies using commonly accepted gas pricing models. Conveniently,
Russia will staff this group.

Russia is able to appear reasonable. The immediate price-regulating function of the emerging cartel is supported by those Latin American countries which want to dispense with market principles in the gas trade:
Bolivia and
Argentina. With Iran and Venezuela (supported by Bolivia and Argentina) applying their OPEC-honed instincts to gas and demanding price regulation, Russia can afford to stand aside and let others do the talking. Nevertheless, an unnamed “high ranking member of the Russian delegation” to
Doha told RIA Novosti that “As the gas market undergoes globalization, certainly such an organization (a gas cartel) will appear and is necessary.”

Fourth, and most importantly, a cartel by any other name is still a cartel. Members of the GECF agreed to discuss dividing up the consumer markets between them, particularly in
Europe, where
Russia and
Algeria are major players. For example, if
Russia agrees not to challenge
Algeria’s position in
Algeria will stay clear of
Germany. This will clearly challenge the European Union’s energy liberalization and gas deregulation policy, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

The group members plan to “reach strategic understandings” on export volumes, schedules of deliveries, and the construction of new pipelines. They also plan to jointly explore and develop gas fields and coordinate start-ups and production schedules. To continue their work, members will gather for their next annual meeting in
Moscow and plan to create a permanent secretariat. Despite protestations to the contrary, this has all the characteristics of a cartel in the making.

Today’s Concern, Tomorrow’s Threat 

Oil is a global commodity, but natural gas is not yet. When it is piped, prices are set up to 15 to 20 years in advance through long-term contracts. However, liquid natural gas (LNG) is rapidly becoming a worldwide commodity.  

By 2010, LNG’s share of the world’s total gas consumption will double. Thus, price gouging through production quota manipulation may come faster than many experts expect if the GECF becomes a new OPEC and if consumer nations do not unite and flex their muscle. Moreover,
Russia and
Iran are interested in increasing their geopolitical leverage against the EU in areas which often have little to do with energy.

Major gas producers share another characteristic.
Brunei, and
Venezuela, to name just a few, have one feature in common: a democracy deficit. Just like OPEC, the gas cartel will be a formidable global force that can be used to oppose, challenge, and possibly weaken market-based democracies through high prices and wealth transfer. Such a cartel may cut deals with similarly undemocratic large-scale consumers, while forcing the West to pay full price.

Coordinated Action Needed 

The Bush Administration barely reacted to the
Doha meeting. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–FL), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to the Secretary of State that the establishment of a gas OPEC would be a “major and long-term threat to the world energy supply” which the
U.S. should “vigorously oppose.” Privately, officials express grave concern.

As the case of OPEC demonstrates, closing markets to competition, promoting national oil companies (NIOCs), and limiting production through a quota system results in limited supply and higher oil prices. Gas, in the long run, will not be different. The
United States should open its vast natural gas resources on- and off- shore to further exploration and production and encourage its neighbors in
Mexico, and the
Caribbean to do the same.


Finally, the Bush Administration must develop a clear global policy to limit cartelization of the gas markets. Specifically, the
U.S. should work with the European Union member states,
India, and other countries to prevent the cartelization of the gas sector. This can be accomplished through cooperation in the International Energy Agency, which
China and
India should be invited to join, and by applying antitrust legislation worldwide against state-owned companies that are actively involved in cartel-like behavior in energy markets. The
U.S. should also work closely with those within GCEF who oppose Russian-Iranian domination. These include
Canada, The Netherlands and
Norway. The National Security Council and National Economic Council should take the lead in developing this policy. Unless buyer solidarity is translated into action, energy consumers and economic growth will suffer worldwide.



[1] The forum was created in 2001 by
Russia and

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Karachi mosques announce: people being killed by virus transmitted through mobile phones

Karachi mosques announce: people being killed by virus transmitted through mobile phones

More crazy conspiracy theories, such that, when they turn toward the West, make people believe that 9/11 was an inside job, etc.

“Hello? You’ve Got a Virus,” from FoxNews, with thanks to BD:

What happened to Prince Albert in a can?Today’s practical jokers are more likely to dial V for Virus, as mobile service providers in Pakistan have been inundated by calls from subscribers worried by a prank message that they could die of a deadly virus being transmitted via their phones, Reuters reported.

The rumor was so effective that some mosques in the country’s biggest city, Karachi, made announcements that people were being killed by a mobile virus and they should be aware of God’s wrath, Reuters reported.

Ahmadinejad tells the West: “Abandon your oppressive behavior. Otherwise you and your nations will be harmed”

Ahmadinejad tells the West: “Abandon your oppressive behavior. Otherwise you and your nations will be harmed”

1938 Alert. “Iran says could reveal new ‘nuclear achievements’,” by Parisa Hafezi for Reuters:

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran will announce unspecified new “nuclear achievements” if the United Nations takes fresh steps against it over its disputed atomic program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday.

“If they (the United Nations) pass another resolution against Iran, our nation will reveal new nuclear achievements,” Ahmadinejad told a rally in the central province of Fars, the official IRNA news agency reported.


“The Iranian nation will stand up for its legal right and will not retreat even one iota to preserve its nuclear right,” Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech to a rally in the central Iranian city of Shiraz.

The crowd chanted “Death to America,” and “Nuclear technology is our right.”

Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful figure in Iran’s system of rule which gives the final word on policy, including nuclear affairs, to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But the president is often the most prominent voice both inside Iran and abroad because of his fiery and usually anti-Western speeches made on regular tours of the country.


The Security Council in March imposed a second round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment work, banning Tehran’s arms exports and putting financial bans on individuals and institutions. That resolution followed one in December.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would not yield to international pressure, calling on the West to give up its “bullying methods”.

“Abandon your oppressive behavior. Otherwise you (the West) and your nations will be harmed,” Ahmadinejad said, without elaborating.

Iran has threatened, if pressured, to review its membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the accord that obliges non-nuclear states to renounce the pursuit of atomic weapons.

Iran said on Sunday it would seek bids in the next few days for two new nuclear power plants and will partly run them on fuel produced at home.

Some Western diplomats and analysts say the move was to justify Iran’s insistence on producing its own atomic fuel. Western experts say it would be cheaper for Iran to import fuel, but Tehran says it needs the security of domestic production.

The two new power plants would be built at Bushehr, the southwest port city where Russians are building Iran’s first atomic plant.

Congress busy with Easter junkets

Congress busy with Easter junkets
By UPI Staff
United Press International
April 17, 2007

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for last week’s tour of Caribbean resorts by members of Congress.

Flying out of Andrews Air Force Base, nine Democrats and two Republicans stopped in Honduras and Mexico before landing in the U.S. Virgin Islands to stay at a five-star Caneel Bay resort, the Washington Examiner reported Monday.

In a separate trip last week, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., accompanied his wife and four Democratic members to Grenada and Trinidad.

In all, at least 13 congressional delegations flew to various destinations during the Easter recess at an estimated rate of $10,000 or more per flying hour, the Examiner reported.

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., defended such travel after a trip he took to Syria was criticized by the White House.

“Members of Congress are not simply potted plants, though the White House apparently would like them to be,” Lantos said to the Examiner. “Congress plays an important role in determining policy and providing funding for America’s international policies.”

Democratic Candidates Embrace Anti-Semitic Hate Group

Democratic Candidates Embrace Anti-Semitic Hate Group

by Bill Levinson

After the Nevada Democratic Party cancelled a Presidential debate on Fox News, the major Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joseph Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson) have all agreed to speak at the conference of an anti-Christian and anti-Semitic hate organization: the National Jewish Democratic Council. We have previously shown that this is a double oxymoron, as there is nothing either Jewish or Democratic about this organization.

How could the National “Jewish” Democratic Council be anti-Semitic? It is anti-Semitic for exactly the same reason that Black rap artists who continuously describe Black men as “pimps” and Black women as “hos” are racists. When a purportedly Jewish organization spews anti-Semitic propaganda, it is far more destructive than it would be if it came from a white supremacist hate group. The white supremacists can point to NJDC and say, “Look, this is what those Jews say about themselves!” They can point to rap artists like Snoop Dogg and say, “Look, this is what those Blacks say about Black men and Black women,” although “Blacks” is probably not the word the white supremacists use.

The National “Jewish” Democratic Council is Anti-Semitic
The Judenrats (Nazi-appointed Jewish governing councils) and kapos (Jewish concentration camp trustees) of the Second World War can, to some degree or other, offer the defense of duress for their collaboration with the Nazis. If they didn’t cooperate, the Nazis would have simply killed them and found other Jews who would be more cooperative. One of the Judenrat’s functions was to tell Jews that the cattle cars were going to take them to nice country retreats and relaxing work camps. In contrast to Jews who cooperated with Nazis because they had guns (often literally) to their heads, NJDC leader Ira Forman was under no duress whatsoever when he said the following:

Jewish voters should take comfort in knowing that is not a haven for anti-Semitism and the organization will renounce and remove any postings of the sort. Leave it to Republicans to not allow the truth to get in the way of campaigning.

Ira Forman
Executive Director
National Jewish Democratic Council

Right: is not an anti-Semitic organization even though it knowingly and willfully welcomed the most vicious imaginable anti-Semitic hate speech, including an actual blood libel of Jews, at its moderated Action Forum. However, Tommy Thompson is anti-Semitic because he is a Republican said that making money “is part of the Jewish tradition.” Thompson was referring to the Jewish culture of education and industry, which naturally tend to produce higher incomes. It is like promoting the stereotype that, at most American universities, “the Asian students are always in the library” (and therefore earning higher grades than the non-Asians who are out partying.) Thompson actually said,

I’m in the private sector and for the first time in my life I’m earning money. You know that’s sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that.

What if he had said, “I’m in the private sector and for the first time in my life I’m earning money. You know that’s consistent with the Protestant work ethic and I do not find anything wrong with that?” Would that be derogatory of Protestants? The problem is that the NJDC is so desperate to find things wrong with Republicans that it will call John McCain a racist for using the phrase “tar baby” (an inanimate object from a very entertaining story from Black folklore) while whitewashing for promoting actual blood libels of Jews, 9/11 denial, and hate speech against Catholics, evangelical Christians, and even Black people.

We have seen so far that NJDC is anti-Semitic for lying to Jews about’s anti-Semitic hate activities. NJDC adds to this its own vicious anti-Semitic propaganda. From Republicans’ Elephant in the Living Room comes this beauty:

As for the purportedly common ground between Jews and Christians on American domestic issues, it is narrow indeed. Research by a variety of scholars and pollsters – Ken Wald of the University of Florida, Eric Uslaner and Mark Lichbach of the University of Maryland, the survey released just last week … shows a chasm between American Jews and evangelical Christians on issues ranging from the Iraq war to legal abortion to gay rights.

More than identifying the schism on any specific topic, the research describes a visceral distrust, bordering on antipathy, for Evangelical Christians on the part of American Jews. For myself, I find this attitude to be exaggerated, or at least more suited to the past than the present, and yet it is an undeniable political reality. It is the kind of passionate reflex that a political consultant of my acquaintance, who happens to be a Republican, refers to as an “emotional trigger.” And in any campaign, he says, you need to find your side’s emotional trigger to get people out the door to vote.

This statement is clearly designed to damage relations between Jews and evangelical Christians, and it is therefore anti-Semitic. It is, in fact, similar to “Jew as Christian-hater” propaganda that anti-Semites have spewed for centuries to incite pogroms and, most recently, the Holocaust. From “Propaganda and Children during the Hitler Years” by Mary Mills at Nizkor’s Web site,

Drawing on several centuries of anti-semitism, Bauer intensifies her anti-semitic assault by making the virtuous German the object of the Jewish hate. …An example of this concept of the Jew as a Christian-hater occurs in Uncovered Jewry, Or A Thorough And Truthful Report About The Horrible Ways The Hidden Jews Desecrate The Holy Trinity.

It would be one matter if a statement like “a visceral distrust, bordering on antipathy, for Evangelical Christians on the part of American Jews” had come from the Ku Klux Klan or some other white supremacist group, because it could then be written off as white supremacist hate speech. When it comes from a purportedly Jewish organization, however, it becomes believable–just as depictions of Black men as pimps and Black women as “hos” becomes semi-credible when it comes from a Black rapper like Snoop Dogg. The proper response, of course, is to write off Snoop Dogg as a low-class entertainer who is no more representative of Black people than NJDC is representative of Jews.

Having accused Jews of “distrusting” Christians, NJDC does its best to intensify this distrust with anti-Christian hate cartoons. The following clips are from its “Bubbie” video series, which it posted during the 2004 elections. This frame has a Christian minister proclaiming, “A vote for Bush is a vote for God.” We can imagine how Christians might be outraged by this picture, and we must denounce and repudiate its connections with anyone or anything we are prepared to recognize as “Jewish.”

Then NJDC uses the issue of evangelism to damage Jewish-Christian relations, as shown by the following.

The implication is obvious; the evangelists, or “Jews for Jesus,” are trying to convert Jews while proclaiming that a vote for Bush is a vote for God. We are not personally receptive to the J for J’s position that Jesus was the son of God and that we should worship him. On the other hand, we could easily describe ourselves as “Jews for Jesus’ teachings,” noting that there is no appreciable difference between what Jesus would do and what Rabbi Hillel would do. Instead of looking for common ground on which we can meet and welcome our Christian friends, e.g. the fact that “what would Jesus do?” is probably 99 times out of 100 what Rabbi Hillel would do, NJDC is doing its best to alienate Christians. NJDC can therefore be regarded as a divisive hate organization that has no place in civilized and rational political discourse.

Having directed hatred and contempt at Christians, NJDC goes on to mock Jewish members of George Bush’s cabinet by having them dance the hora for Bubbie, the stereotyped Jewish grandmother:

In other words, NJDC is even willing to use Jewish ethnic stereotypes against Jews it happens to dislike. NJDC is worse than an ordinary hate organization, which directs hate speech and pictures only against outsiders; it even directs ridicule and contempt at the very ethnic or religious group it claims to represent.

It is a well known fact that racist demagogues and hate organizations appeal almost universally to the lowest classes of the societies they claim to represent. White supremacist David Duke appeals to the lowest class of Caucasian, while Al Sharpton appeals to the lowest kind of African-American. The fact that both John Kerry and Ned Lamont welcomed this racist and anti-Semite’s support shows that they do not think very highly of Black people. Most Caucasians would be outraged by the implication that the likes of David Duke could deliver their vote to a candidate, and Kerry’s and Lamont’s position that Sharpton can “deliver the Black vote” is repugnant and insulting to every decent African-American in the country.

As far as we are concerned, the following individuals have just told us that they think we are the kind of Jew whose vote can be delivered by the hate-mongers of the National “Jewish” “Democratic” Council. They have effectively told us that we are the Jewish counterpart of the kind of white person to whom David Duke might appeal, or the class of Black person whose vote Al Sharpton can deliver.

U.S. Senator Joseph Biden
U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton
U.S. Senator Chris Dodd
U.S. Senator John Edwards
U.S. Senator Barack Obama
Governor Bill Richardson

The above individuals have automatically disqualified themselves from any consideration for our vote next year, and the Democratic Party would be well advised to look into someone like Joe Lieberman (”Jew Lieberman” as’s people call him), Pennsylvania’s Ed Rendell, Paul Kanjorski, or some other genuine DEMOCRAT who has not soiled his or her hands through contact with, NJDC, or Al Sharpton.

Posted by Bill Levinson @ 9:26 pm |