State of the Union: What’s next? A “War on Petroleum?”

You can’t say we don’t keep abreast of the news around here. Last night we watched with mouth agape as G.W. Bush, the erstwhile president of our southern neighbour, received standing ovation upon standing ovation in response to his furtive looks, his sly winks, and his trailer park coloquialisms. The event? His annual “State of the Union” address.

What is with those people? Those senators and congress-types. What did they find worthy of ovation? Were they trying to deliver a message or just a massage? [or were they just trying to stay awake by practicing random calisthenics? —ed.].

The subtext of Bush’s speech and the jingoistic response from the goons in congress was perfectly cu-lar however [sorry–you’ve gone too far. Are you making fun of the way Bush pronounces “nuclear?” —ed.]: “We’re behind you mister president, you’re as low as Nixon in the polls but to us you’ll always be number one!”

The thing that was uncu-lar however was what Bush was really proposing for the United States. A state of constant war? He’ll let the generals decide on the pullout date from Viet-Iraq. A problem with petroleum dependency? Nothing a little technology can’t fix.

This last comment made the front pages of the major Toronto newspapers this morning.

Bush will have us all breathing the sweet gases coming from the smokestacks of super-scrubbed coal-fired electrical generation plants by the year 2025 (sustained applause). He’s got a future laid out featuring internal combustion engines burning ethanol (standing ovation), and hybrid cars floating on hydrogen (another standing ovation).

Someone on the president’s staff has been whispering sweet nothings about peak oil into Bush’s back-pack receiver, that much is cu-lar.

Kurt Vonnegut was on cbc radio today, telling the interviewer the ‘war on terrorism’ has been so successful, it’s time for Bush to call for an all-out war on petroleum.

He was being a cynic, you might say. Fact is however, there is a war out there–not on petroleum, but by petroleum. What does that look like, you wonder?

If you want a picture, think of the daily violence and antagonism that cyclists and pedestrians suffer under the wheel of car drivers.

For example, the news has been larded with stories about a certain cyclist/motorist confrontation that took place here in Toronto last week. Fact is, cyclists and pedestrians face assault at the hands of motorists on a daily basis. Until the Toronto Coroner’s Rule in implemented, we can be sure it will only escalate. Motorist anger will out, as Schopenhauer put it.

What was newsworthy about this recent assault were the remarkable photographs that appeared on the website They demonstrate the aftermath of an incident where a person with a bicycle saw a person in a car drop something into the street. The cyclist returned the litter by opening the car door. The driver of the car then left the car and attacked the cyclist. The photos take up the story from there. Three of these photos were on the front page of the Toronto Star on Tuesday, and the Globe and Mail published one of them today. The CBC writes about it here

The driver of the car left the scene of the assault after bystanders intervened and called police. Not a lot more needs to be said on this particular example of the war by petroleum, except to note that no charges are to be pressed. In a curious bit of circlear logic [now you’ve definitely gone too far —ed.], the police imply the cyclist asked for it: and if charges are to be pressed against the driver, they would need to be pressed against her too.

What’s really cu-lar about this logic is that motorists who attack cyclists, or people walking their bicycles, or just people walking, is perfectly okay with the powers that be around here.

One Response to “State of the Union: What’s next? A “War on Petroleum?”


    Our old friend and colleague Francis Wilkinson has resurfaced in the New York Times op-ed pages, most recently with his own take on the whole concept of presidential state of the union addresses. A brilliant writer, Wilkinson skewers the proceedings as a bizarre holdover from British Parliament, a carnival event we Canadians look forward to every year as the "speech from the throne." He writes:

    Thomas Jefferson abandoned the spectacle when he became president, preferring to send his constitutionally mandated message to Congress in writing. His republican example succeeded in killing the ritual for more than a hundred years.

    It was Woodrow Wilson, Anglophile and world-class meddler, who revived the custom of delivering the address in person, prompting one senator to lament "this cheap and tawdry imitation of English royalty."

    Cheap, tawdry and mediocre. As oratory, the speech's record speaks for itself.

    Wilkinson goes on to nail George W. to his own pathetic record of State of the Union addresses:

    Not one but two of his addresses have produced entries for the books. The first was the over-greased "axis of evil" in 2002 — alluring alliteration made memorable by inadvertent inanity. The second, in 2003, consisted of those 16 words about Saddam Hussein's uranium safari — and yes, even the "has" and "of" turned out to be false.

    We looked, but did not find Wilkinson's follow-up to the state of the union address GWB gave this year.

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