October 26, 2006

Frank Mckenna & Parliamentary Deja Vu

One small step forward, two giant leaps back:
Frank McKenna and Parliamentary déja vu.

Anyone bored enough to closely follow federal politics should be getting a nasty case of déja vu right about now, and New Brunswick's favourite neo-liberal golden boy, former Premier Frank McKenna, is leading the charge to revisit Parliamentary malfeasance most of us would rather forget.

Last week, the former ambassador to the United States, well connected businessman, and Liberal Party stalwart published a discussion paper arguing the Federal Liberals should rethink their refusal to join the Missile Defense Shield, or 'Star Wars', proposed by the Americans.

The Liberals, under Prime Minister Paul Martin, refused to join Star Wars in 2005, attempting to defend their political left flank from the NDP.

The world's largest trading relationship is at stake if Canada feeds the perception that it is not a safe neighbour, McKenna's paper argues.

Threatening economic repercussions against those who disagree with increased militarization is a classic tactic of Canada's new right.

"The Americans just never understood our position on missile defense," McKenna told the CBC after publishing his case for Star Wars and closer economic integration. If that is the case, then our neighbouritos down south aren't too bright.

The most obvious reason to oppose missile defense cuts across the political spectrum: the idea of shooting down a speeding missile with another missile, which the system is predicated upon, simply won't work.

Although most scientists agree missile defense can't meet its stated objectives, the program with an estimated $60 billion price tag, will be a boon for the weapons industry. With the war on terror, the war on drugs, and the war on crime, those poor folks could certainly use some more public subsidies.

McKenna is by most accounts a pretty savvy guy; his support for Star Wars clearly has more to do with economic matters than military ones.

Since leaving Provincial politics in 1997 McKenna has been a busy boy in the business world, sitting on plenty of corporate boards. For a while, he chaired the Canadian advisory board to The Carlyle Group, which bills itself as the world's largest private equity-investment firm. Carlyle's US$18.9 billion in assets include heavy investments in munitions and weapons systems manufacturing. Among its most profitable military interests is United Defense Industries Incorporated - the U.S. army's fifth-largest contractor and builder of armored vehicles, missile launchers, artillery, defense electronics and naval guns.

Because Carlyle is a private equity firm, not a publicly trade company it is not required to provide information to shareholders or anyone else for that matter. By most accounts, Carlyle is a pretty shady operation group doing business with the Saudi Royal family and other unsavory folks.

If the U.S. goes ahead with Star Wars, don't be surprised if Carlyle gets a piece of the action.

Star Wars wasn't the only lousy re-run playing this week on Parliament Hill. The Conservatives announced they were reopening the immensely irritating same sex marriage debate. Even those religious groups who want gays to stay in the closet, must by now want government to move onto more important issues.

Fortunately, by reopening tired debates, unequivocally supporting Israeli war crimes in Palestine and Lebanon and limiting discussion on Afghanistan to flag waving numbskullery, the Conservatives have become their own worst enemies, losing ground to the Liberals in recent polls.

Unfortunately, the Liberals with influential members like McKenna supporting Darth Vader like policies don't look much better than the Tory's, even with Dr. Evil himself at the helm.

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