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'R'Oil Indignation

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Walter Brasch
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by Walter Brasch


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 Telegraph 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.

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Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of (more...)
 

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