The horror! The horror!

The first of what are likely to to be many cringeworthy tales from this summer’s Conservative BBQ circuit:

I would have liked to have chatted longer with Jim Flaherty and get into some good economic discussions. But like the PM he was an extremely popular person there and it was tough getting any face time with him. When I got my picture taken with him he put his wine glass down so it wouldn’t be in the picture and my buddy says to him, “come on Jim, it’s Stampede,” but to no avail.

When I did finally get my chance to talk to the PM I asked him an extremely important question though. I asked him how he lost all that weight because I need to slim down too. He told me he ate lots of fruits and vegetables. Also, he said it wasn’t that hard. Well not that hard except for the snacking. And I must say he looks great in person. On tv you notice how slim he is, but it’s nothing compared to in person. It’s true that the TV adds 10 lbs because he looked even slimmer than on tv.

Oh and there are going to be pictures too! Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Update: Actual “news” of the fundraiser here.

Harper Expert Unsure About Alleged Doctored Tape

Gee, this is a wee bit of an inconvenient development for Team Harper, isn’t it?

A former FBI scientist hired by Stephen Harper’s lawyer in the Prime Minister’s $3.5-million lawsuit against the Liberal Party has contradicted two other experts who said an audiotape at the centre of the legal action was doctored, court documents reveal.

The résumé of the latest expert Mr. Harper’s legal team consulted demonstrates the extent to which the Prime Minister is prepared to go in his claim the Liberals defamed him over allegations of bribery in offers the Tories made to late MP Chuck Cadman as a government confidence vote approached in 2005.

Former FBI special agent Bruce Koenig – who lists expert evidence about former U.S. president Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes and analysis of gun shots in the assassination of John F. Kennedy among his accomplishments – said more evidence is needed to judge the veracity and integrity of the disputed tape recording.

Frankly, I’m still at a loss to understand how the Liberals “libeled” Harper by suggesting that a bribe was offered to Chuck Cadman in exchange for his support on a crucial vote. Does anyone seriously believe that the “financial considerations” (which Harper admits were offered) involved were merely to cover potential election expenses of a man with terminal cancer who was on the verge of death? I mean, come on… Seriously?

“Bob’s House”

As Raphael over at Unambiguously Ambidextrous says, “No wonder Mugabe won’t go quietly.” Indeed.

I only posted two of the exterior shots because, quite frankly, the interiors are just garishly awful beyond belief — go check them out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. It’s quite an amazing trip.

And while you’re at it, here’s a rather startling account of daily life in Harare, by David Damberger, a Calgarian with the NGO Engineers Without Borders:

I’ve visited quite a few capital cities in some of the very poor countries that I’ve traveled in, and in each one there are always your few rich neighborhoods. There is always an area or two where the high-end politicians, the rich bankers and the savvy business men put up hugely lavish homes in spotless manicured communities away from the massive amount of impoverished poor people throughout the rest of the city. The difference here is that in Harare, these communities and homes take up at least half of the cities physical area.

At first sight you are amazed at the amount of wealth in the city. When arriving here, I was blown away after driving through community after community after community of these very high end homes and communities. With the mixture of landscapes, it was like I was more in a hybrid-city between London and Vancouver, not Lusaka and Lagos. My Zimbabwean friend and I decided to sneak into the Nick Price designed golf resort communities of Bonnyville and FolyJohn. Again, it was more like driving through a Hollywood tour of movie-star houses then any slum infested perceptions of “Africa” that I had coming into the city.

Granted this travelogue is from several years ago now and conditions have deteriorated considerably since then, but it may still challenge some of the preconceptions in your mind about the city. I know it certainly surprised me more than a little.

Different Country, Same Song & Dance

Speaking today to Sky News in connection with the repatriation of one of that country’s soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said “advances were being made” in the war-ravaged country.

“My assessment when I was there, and it was shared by the military people I that spoke to, is that we are making progress. We are now very much back into the fighting season, so what’s now occurring was not unexpected,” Mr Smith told Sky News.

“Yes, the Taliban have had some successes in recent weeks and recent months, but this is a long-term struggle.

“It’s absolutely in Australia’s national security interests to be there.”

He said Afghanistan, especially the border region with Pakistan, was a hotbed of international terrorism.

“That’s very mobile, it can just as easily go north to Europe as it can go south to south-east Asia and Australia has already been (experienced) the adverse consequences of terrorist activity in south-east Asia.”

Meanwhile, in another sign of “progress” in Afghanistan, nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 15 wounded in a multi-pronged militant assault on a small, remote U.S. base, the deadliest attack in three years.

The attack on the U.S. outpost came the same day a suicide bomber targeting a police patrol killed 24 people, while U.S. coalition and Afghan soldiers killed 40 militants elsewhere in the south. Earlier in the week, a suicide bomber attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul, killing 58 people in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since 2001.

It’s not altogether certain what a lack of “progress” would look like.

Dumbest Blogger on the Planet?

No, not that guy, or that guy, or any of these asshats (although more than a few are definite contenders on any given day), but this guy — Larry C. Johnson of “No Quarter.” You might recall him as the sleazy dirtbag that falsely claimed last month to have a shocking tape of Michelle Obama ranting in some allegedly anti-white diatribe.

Today, he seems to have mistaken a clearly satirical post at Firedoglake titled “OBAMA ROCKED BY SCANDAL: Is Presidential Bid Over?” as being deadly serious. In actuality, the FDL post is a pretty transparent send-up of the hyper-inflated reactions to be anticipated in the wake of some off-colour jokes made by comedian Bernie Mac at a recent Obama event.

Although such a blindingly obvious gaffe is completely hilarious, it’s more than a little disturbing when you take a moment to consider Johnson’s ostensibly impressive curriculum vitae:

Larry C. Johnson is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm with expertise combating terrorism and investigating money laundering. Mr. Johnson works with US military commands in scripting terrorism exercises, briefs on terrorist trends, and conducts undercover investigations on counterfeiting, smuggling and money laundering.
Mr. Johnson, who worked previously with the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism, is a recognized expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management.

Isn’t it nice to know this is the razor-sharp quality of super-sleuthing being deployed to combat terrorism around the world?

Encana’s Double Life

Pictured above: Architectural rendering of Calgary’s skyline featuring “The Bow,” Encana’s new 58 story office tower, the largest west of Toronto.

Calgary alternative newsweekly Fast Forward has an interesting feature in its current issue profiling the EnCana Corporation, the Alberta company formed in 2002 with the merger of PanCanadian Energy and Alberta Energy Company that today is one of the largest oil and gas conglomerates in the world with $23 billion in revenue last year.

The article purports to tell the “full story of Canada’s greatest business success, and the angry people left in its wake,” namely the “trail of farmers and ranchers who say the company has ruined their land, made them sick and killed their livestock.” One such hair-raising tale involves Rosebud, AB resident Jessica Ernst:

In 2005, Ernst noticed something was happening to the water from her well. At first, her dogs wouldn’t drink it. Then, she saw it was fizzing as if it was carbonated. In December, she couldn’t turn her taps off: there was so much gas in her water, it raised the pressure and forced its way through her pipes.

She also discovered she could light it on fire. When lit, a huge blue flame burns on the surface of the water, before turning orange and escaping upward like a flare. “It still scares me,” she says. “You never know what the water is going to do.”

Tests on her water revealed high levels of methane, ethane and several other fossil fuels. It also showed signs of heavy hydrocarbons, like the ones used in drilling fluids. Three other area wells have shown high levels of gas. At least two studies have shown that, when a well is fraced, the pressure can break through the bedrock and leak natural gas into the groundwater. Drilling fluids can also contain trace amounts of chemicals, ranging from diesel to ammonium.

But it would be wrong to simply portray EnCana as an insensitive company recklessly despoiling the land as it relentlessly exploits the valuable natural resources that lay beneath the surface of the western prairie. Far from it, according to its own corporate information and the glowing Wikipedia entry which states that:

EnCana has received numerous awards for its environmental initiatives and is recognized on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2008 alone, EnCana has set aside $50 million CDN to be spent on new technologies that will increase energy efficiency. Another program, EnCana’s Environmental Innovation Fund, “supports technologies that reduce air emissions, increase energy efficiency, improve water conservation, enhance waste management, and develop new renewable energy.” $23 million from this fund has already been dedicated to 15 Canadian companies.

Additionally, as noted in the article, EnCana has “created jobs, brought investment and poured money into rural communities across the Canadian Prairies” — lots of money.

EnCana has made its mark everywhere it operates. This year, it plans to donate $35 million to charities in communities from northern B.C. to Texas. Everything from the 4-H Club — the iconic prairie club that teaches kids farming skills — to community rodeos have benefited from the company’s philanthropy. In Calgary, EnCana is building a billion-dollar skyscraper whose design has garnered praise from architecture critics…

It’s this dichotomy of interests on the part of the various stakeholders involved and the tensions that almost always seem to arise — the obvious benefits and short-term gains that natural resource exploitation bring on the one hand and the practically unavoidable, long-term costs and frequently harmful ecological impacts on the other — that make the EnCana story a particularly compelling symbol of the challenges faced by oil and gas producers in a world that’s grown more acutely sensitive (some might say too much so) over the years to safeguarding the environment for future generations.

The Fantastic World of Sandy Crux

Here’s a remarkable bit of wishful thinking and mendacity even for one of Harper’s most shameless sycophants, the ever-fawning Sandy Crux:

…gradually the truth is starting to get out that many in the foreign press see our PM differently. And, what they see is a dignified leader who speaks the truth and whose government has got a lot done in just over two years. For another, they seem to see that Harper does not seem to care about current global warming “orthodoxy” and politically correct versions of the Kyoto accord.

One immediately wonders who the “many in the foreign press” are that have gained a newfound appreciation for our truth-telling Prime Minister and his maverick ways. Funnily enough, it turns out that the “many” isn’t any particular assortment of journalists or columnists from different newspapers around the world as one might naturally infer — in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a mention of Harper’s name at all aside from being in attendance at some meeting or other — no, it’s actually just one; namely, the editor of The Daily Telegraph, who wrote the following patronizing tripe about Harper at the G8:

Of all the leaders, only Stephen Harper – the talented but curiously neglected Canadian prime minister – is able to point to a popular and successful record in office.
Some will regard it as alarming that, in current times, world leadership should rest with Canada. But the Canadian Tories are a model of how to behave during a downturn.

They have kept spending in check and reduced taxes. They are playing their full role in world affairs, notably in Afghanistan.

Rather than canting about saving the world (Mr Harper, in his quiet and courteous way, is a Kyoto-sceptic) they have addressed themselves to curing remediable ills and, above all, to putting their own affairs in order.

If the rest of the world had comported itself with similar modesty and prudence, we might not be in this mess.

Hmmm. Surely even the otiose Crux knows that the right-wing, formerly Conrad Black owned Telegraph has been the house paper for the British Conservative Party for the last hundred years or so — a fact so well known that it’s regularly lampooned by the satirical Private Eye as the “Torygraph” — and therefore, the mildly favourable assessment of Harper should come as no surprise whatsoever.

For a person who routinely scolds the media for its hideous “liberal bias” and automatically dismisses anything remotely critical of the Dear Leader on that account alone, it seems a particularly rich bit of hypocrisy to hold up some pleasing remarks in one friendly publication and then claim this to be an approving view of Harper held by “many in the foreign press.” But then such is the demented, fact-free thinking of cultists like crackpot Crux and her cadre of fellow Harper-worshiping idolaters.

Links With Your Java

• The expected bailouts out Freddie and Fannie begin with the injection of up to $15 billion of capital into the two ailing mortgage firms. John Cole asks: “Can someone explain to me why the industry that refuses to be regulated appropriately always is the first one requiring a bailout?”

• Now 51 running scandals… Bush’s new “pay to play” scheme for keeping America safe from Terra. Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, gets caught on tape offering access to key members of the administration’s inner circle in exchange for “six figure donations” to the new Bush library.

• McCain tells the NYT that he’s “learning to get online myself” and that “I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself.” Yes, soon… quite soon, the next leader of the free world might have the computer skills of a six yr. old.