Archive for February 5th, 2005

State of the Union


Catching up on odds and ends from the past week, we came across the
notes we took during the President’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday
night. We must say, we we quite impressed with his performance, from
a purely oratorical and dramatic point of view. The man has clearly been
woodshedding his pitch, we are sure with a host of major league pitching
coaches and Phded advisors, and the results were impressive.  He has almost
entirely eliminated the infuriating smirks (they did slip out two or three
times, like a naughty toddler sent upstairs to bed who sneaks halfway
down the stairs to eavesdrop on the grownups), and replaced it with a
warm and sincere-seeming slightly wistful smile, which he flashed with
great effect at various members of the crowd as he mentioned them. These
artful glances, combined with perfectly timed cutaways to the recipients,
created the impression of a caring, engaged leader, and combined with
much improved pronunciation and pacing put this speech head and shoulders
above the embarrassingly amateurish performances during the Bush-Gore
and the early years of his first term.

As to the content, well, given the willful suspension of disbelief that
is the hallmark of modern American culture, we were tremendously reassured
by the message of our maximum leader. The Neo-Con land of make-believe in which we live is a brave new world of enlightened political liberation theology.

Rejoice! We can save Social Security and the flagging stock market at
the same time! We are winning the war on terrorism, and will hunt down and eliminate
those opposed to our way of life like rabid dogs. We can create a culture
of life!

The beneficent government is protecting African Americans from AIDS!
Who knew? We are going to end tyranny in our times. We have no desire
or intention to impose our form of government on any other country. Nevertheless,
we are going to forcefully promote Democracy around the world.

We are going to achieve peace in the Middle East, finally, by respecting
the right to sovereignty and self-determination of all peoples, which may involve regime
change in Iran and Syria.

The President painted a masterful picture, picking and choosing from
a palate of liberty, freedom, democracy and the other core American values.
But as the speech wound up, we couldn’t help but notice a few key omissions.
For example, there was not a single mention of one key American value,
that three-letter linchpin of our economy and geopolitical policy these
past hundred years, and for the foreseeable future – O-I-L.

The reality of what the American political system has morphed into is
a new kind of representative democracy, which represents basically
the oil and defense industries. This is in accord with the most basic
principles of modern statehood, mirrored in various permutations across
the board of political systems around the world.

The business of the modern state is to build things and to blow things up.  Given
ultimate control of the highest level of generation and utilization of
capital, national governments are the biggest players in the first truly
worldwide integration of the productive capacity of the entire planet, which
we call the global economy.

Although in theory not profit-making enterprises themselves, national
governments nevertheless control the collection and spending of the majority
of capital expenditures around the world, and the companies that they
favor with their contracts and support are the richest and most powerful
on the planet. The owners of the biggest companies involved in building
(Haliburton), operating (the oil and energy industry) and defending what
we have built while blowing up what our enemies build (the defense
industries) have such a vested interest in the budgetary decisions of
the national governments that it is little wonder that they have, since
their inception, dedicated significant resources to influencing and if
possible controlling the politicians who make the spending decisions.

It is not only in the US and like minded capitalistic democracies where
the economic power centers tend to dominate the political policy-makers.  In
our erstwhile ally Saudi Arabia, for example, in an eerie mirror of our own petrolocracy,
the powers behind the throne are the self-same oil industry and the in-house
construction empire of the Bin Laden family. Build ’em and blow ’em up, and keep it in the family. Go figure.

Is it too much of a leap to conclude that the energy industry, near the
apex of its historical cycle of oil dependency and economic primacy,
would seek to move beyond influencing the politicians who arrive at
the top and actually groom and put into place their own wholly-owned
subsidiary in the form of an unabashedly oil-drenched and aggressively
expansionist administration?

They are at the top of the heap now, legitimately ensconced in power
and feeling their oats after their successful imposition of an apocalyptic
vision of an America under siege, but also under courageous leadership
determined to carry high the torch of liberty and justice for all. After
listening to President Bush Tuesday night, part of us actually wished
that his polished but hollow words rang true. What a wonderful world
it would be.

cartoon from