‘R’Oil Indignation

The British are upset with the United States. That’s not too unusual. There was this revolution thing a couple of centuries ago.

But America’s Number 1 ally is upset that Americans are blaming BP for that nasty little oil spill in the Gulf. You know, the one where as much as 1.7 million gallons of crude oil a day has given us new species of no-flight pelicans and black-skinned dolphins.

The Brits’ FaceBook pages, blogs, radio comments, and letters to newspapers are full of nasty comments about how America is over-reacting, how Americans are unjustly blaming Britain and all that is holy about corporate incompetence. Boris Johnson, the conservative mayor of London, told BBC Radio he worried about “anti-British rhetoric … that seems to be permeating from America.” Ian Cowie, London Daily Telegram feature columnist, bluntly wrote, “Much of the rhetoric from other American politicians is plainly jingoistic claptrap with a beady eye on their own chances in the U.S. midterm elections.” He is partially accurate; many American politicians, more than a few of whom were in the bed of the oil companies throughout their political careers, may be grandstanding. But, there is truly justifiable outrage by all Americans and all politicians.

In response to President Obama’s tough accusations and threats to BP, the Daily Telegram headlined its story, “Obama’s Boot on the Throat of British Pensioners,” a reference to a reality that BP stock dividends provide a huge source of pension revenue. BP expects to pay a $14.7 billion quarterly dividend, about a 9 percent return, or roughly nine times what the average American earns in a savings account. Attorney General Eric Holder is planning to force BP to suspend dividends and is also contemplating criminal charges, something that will interfere with a delightful afternoon tea. A 40 percent decline in BP stock is attributed not so much to the disaster that BP caused but to President Obama’s tough stance.

The British also upset that some people, including President Obama, are calling the world’s fourth largest corporation, and the largest one in the United Kingdom, British Petroleum, its former name, and not BP, its legal pseudo-anonymous name. So far no one’s calling it the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, its first name, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, its second name. And hardly anyone remembers that Dwight Eisenhower, in the first year of his presidency in 1953, authorized a CIA bloody coup to retake the company that had become nationalized by the Iranians after World War II.

That economic value includes sales of about $239 billion last year, including $2.3 billion from the Pentagon, and employment of 80,000 persons, most of whom know how to find, drill, and sell oil, but apparently have no clue of how to stop oil disasters.

The Brits do believe that most—they hardly ever say all—of the disaster is BP’s fault. BP did try to save money by not installing adequate oil rig protections, and didn’t have a solid disaster plan. But, in fairness, some of the disaster is distinctively America’s fault. The Department of the Interior had become too cozy with the oil industry. During the first decade of the 21st century, dozens of Interior and oil company officials traded jobs, as if they were trading baseball cards. The U.S., unlike many nations, especially those in the North Atlantic, also didn’t require better disaster plans.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, while saying he was “frustrated” by the oil spill and its effects, also stated that “it is in everyone’s interest that BP continues to be a financially strong and stable company.” George Osborne, England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, reminds Americans of the “economic value BP brings to the people in Britain and America.”

Peel away some of their own rhetoric and anger at America, and you get something familiar to Americans: BP is just too big to fail. You know, too big like those large mega-corporations that the Bush–Cheney administration threw billions of bailout dollars to in order to keep them from failing—and then watched as they failed and took hundreds of thousands Americans with them.

But not getting much benefit are the Gulf Coast’s fishing industry and shrimping industries. They’re apparently not too big to fail. Perhaps that’s because the income of a ship’s captain, the deckhands, or just about anyone involved in the industry is only a tiny fraction of the $6 million that the BP CEO made last year.

Also not apparently too big to fail is the environmental campaigns to save the animals and plants of the Gulf coast. Thousands of unpaid volunteers have come to the Coast to help wash and rehabilitate the pelicans and other marine life, to try to help humanity by helping preserve our oceans, beaches, and wildlife.

More than 50 passages in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, tell us we must be good stewards of the land and all its life.

We aren’t doing a very good job.

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, and his latest Fracking Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at: walterbrasch@gmail.com. Read other articles by Walter, or visit Walter's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on June 14th, 2010 at 9:30am #

    The damage to the infamous “special relationship” is the silver lining in this particular cloud. But I don’t think BP is too big to fail. Quite the contrary, I see bankruptcy as a very likely option. The damages arising out of the spill will be astronomical. I doubt if BP will be able to pay them and I don’t see the British government bailing them out.

  2. Don Hawkins said on June 14th, 2010 at 1:07pm #

    George nailed it. The British are upset with the United States will this Brit made me feel better. Good one George

    The Tea Party protests began after the business journalist Rick Santelli broadcast an attack from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the government’s plan to help impoverished people whose mortgages had fallen into arrears(3). To cheers from the traders at the exchange, he proposed that they should hold a tea party to dump derivative securities in Lake Michigan in protest at Obama’s intention – in Santilli’s words – to “subsidise the losers”. (I urge you to watch the broadcast – it is the most alarming example of cheap demagoguery you are likely to have seen. It continues to be promoted by Santelli’s employer, CNBC(4)).

    The protests which claim to defend the interests of the working class began, in other words, with a call for a bankers’ revolt against the undeserving poor. They have been promoted by Fox News, owned by that champion of the underdog Rupert Murdoch, and lavishly funded by other billionaires(5).


  3. Don Hawkins said on June 14th, 2010 at 1:32pm #

    Bogus and misdirected as the Tea Party movement is, in one respect it has an authenticity that the left lacks: it is angry and it’s prepared to translate that anger into action. It is marching, recruiting, unseating, replacing. We talk, they act.

    It strikes me that in the US the greater opportunities lie not in confronting the Tea Party movement but in turning it. As its mixed responses to Sarah Palin and Ron Paul show(8), it remains fluid and volatile. There’s an opening here for trades unionists to move in and agree that an elite is indeed depriving working people of their rights, but it is not an intellectual elite or a cultural elite or a liberal elite: it is an economic elite. The radical right has something to teach us on this side of the Atlantic as well: the world is run by those who turn up. George Monbiot

    It is angry and it’s prepared to translate that anger into action. It is marching, recruiting, unseating, replacing. We talk, they act. With the Gulf being turned into the dead Sea just maybe George has a very good point. Sarah Palin , Ron Paul, Al Gore, and on and on and on the whole bunch are mad I tell you an economic elite and in Ron Paul’s case gold is his metal. Oh Fox New’s maybe five blackboards for Glenn Beck as we are getting warmer.

  4. Don Hawkins said on June 14th, 2010 at 4:47pm #

    Let’s see the Gulf of Mexico is being turned into a dead zone the Arctic ice sea ice is going and going fast that will change weather not climate much more than it has already changed. The oceans not dead yet but acid is a good word and heavy metal not to mention plastic in very large areas. The flooding we see here in the States the last few day’s you know record rain fall and on and on and tonight on CNBC the Kudlow Show he talked of the one trillion dollar find of resources in Afghanistan and how we should keep China out as America all that blood and treasure already spent the bounty is ours. Mad I tell you mad the way these people think. China help the people move back to the country before it’s to late, be wise.

    If advanced spacefaring aliens exploit resources like humans we’d better hope they don’t find us anytime soon. Hawking

  5. Don Hawkins said on June 15th, 2010 at 6:35am #

    Sent this to CNBC this morning, did they see it I don’t know


    The tea party and the thinking of a few has a major fault it’s called the real World and in twenty ten the real World could be called wonderland as you see most have never used there eye’s have never used there ear’s and have human’s been in this prison for the mind in just the last few years or can we go back in history and not see or hear? That is a very good question. Can we look at history just on the off chance we don’t see or hear and see it this lack of knowledge and how it play’s out? The Gulf is being turned into a dead zone and the changes to the Earth are no longer in hundreds of thousand’s of year’s and do we see do we hear? So the question just might come up who is in charge of not seeing or hearing any thought’s on that one? Granted just on the off chance we need a new way of thinking easy well no far from it but this not see not hear part is not only stupid but boring. I know your afraid of change and the amazing part to see and hear nothing but illusion of knowledge is a good way to put it and that’s being nice when as we know we are not seeing or hearing a damn thing is ok. The flooding the last few day’s any ideas on why that’s happening record flooding?


  6. Don Hawkins said on June 15th, 2010 at 7:43am #

    Just watched Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate mad I tell you mad. He was talking about the spill and how the American people want it stopped and the administration so far is to blame and MMS didn’t do this or that and no cap and tax because of this and that mad I tell you mad. Oh Mitch how long has big oil and coal been telling you all what they want and it appears they still do that now doesn’t it. Can you people work together to solve any problem let alone the biggest problem the human race has ever faced? Who’s in charge anyway wait don’t tell me a few in charge of telling people you don’t see or hear it’s just better that way. Do any of you people understand how stupid you all look and very soon even more will not believe a damn thing you say? Why should anybody you all don’t say anything all you do is go through the motions a side show and what changes not much. Drilling a mile down or deeper is not a real good idea of course to not do that change is a good word major change to the system don’t like that idea do we will a secret going to happen anyway. I know have a meeting and see if you can work together on second thought never mind I think we already know the answer to that fundamental differences is it. Mad I tell you mad and in a mad World only the mad are sane well Mitch it look’s like your sane.

  7. Don Hawkins said on June 15th, 2010 at 7:55am #

    I wonder could the tea party see and hear the truth transformation is a good word. What do you think Glenn Beck does freedom work. It’s alive it’s alive.