Relax, Britain. We’re Upset with BP, Not the British People or Nation

Like other news shows Friday night, PBS News Hour spent the first 10-15 minutes fretting about some manufactured controversy between America and Great Britain, somehow related to BP. But for the life of me, I can’t find any evidence that any sensible American or any half-way sensible US official is even remotely upset at the British people, the UK or its government.

Listen up, Brits: It’s not about you or your country, so relax. We’re pissed at BP, and we’re worried about how we can get this hugely arrogant and grossly negligent oil company to do what its CEO has promised in its well financed public relations campaign: "We will get this done. We well make this right."

As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explains, we don’t believe him, because he and his company have repeatedly misled or lied to us and withheld critical information about the extent of the catastrophe and what could be done to stop it. BP is still concealing data we need to study health and environmental effects, and that has to stop. And they’re still stalling in getting effective cleanup measures in place, even as the ugly oil spreads to more areas.

We’re worried that they may not have either the resources or the proper incentives to "make this right," whatever that eventually means. We’re upset about being overly reliant on their technologies and expertise and equipment. We’re frustrated when they promise one thing and don’t deliver; and we’re fuming over the delays and negligence in protecting our beaches and wetlands and compensating those who’ve lost their livelihood.

They keep telling us how many zillion booms they’ve deployed, but they don’t have a plan to monitor and keep them in place so they’ll work. So we’ll probably have to do it ourselves, like a lot of other things they should have done.

And now that it’s clear the direct economic damages to our Gulf Coast and its residents and businesses will be many billions of dollars, we have a genuine concern that BP will resist attempts to hold them financially accountable and be too slow in paying out "all legitimate claims." We have experience with Exxon in Alaska, and BP in others places, that tells us not to trust the oil companies. And like you, we have corporate shills urging us to shield corporations from the damages they cause.

BP is a huge and hugely successful international oil company; it hands out $10 billion in dividends yearly and retains another $25 billion for exploration and investments. Those are very deep pockets. But the damages BP’s oil disaster has caused and will continue to cause are also in the billions. We have every reason to be concerned about their ability and their willingness to "make this right."

To be sure, you’ll hear some calls for "seizing the company," or putting it into "receivership." Those are premature, at best. What would we do then? The responsible goal now is to make sure they do every thing that needs to be done to protect our waters and shores and our people. We’re still struggling with how to get that done between the government and BP and still make sure BP pays for it. We may have to take over some functions and send them the bill. How that gets resolved is still up in the air, but it’s a problem we’re having with our own government, not just BP.

Like you, we have our own wackos, too many dumb talking heads, and sometimes half the US Congress is prone to say stupid things. But pay no attention to them; most of them are blithering idiots.

So this is not about you, Britain. We have lots of reasons to be upset at BP and worried about how this all gets right. But as far as I’ve seen, no responsible official of the US government or any thinking American has said a single derogatory thing about Great Britain, its people, or (yet) its government because of BP’s oil disaster. You’re cool . . . unless you humiliate us in soccer, in which case, all bets are off.

John Chandley


Update
: Marcy Wheeler, Time to check in on our relations with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company
Update II: AP/Times-Picayune, Obama tells Britain, no hard feelings, and thanks for the goal

More:
David Dayen, BP’s total liability: $80 billion and counting?
BBC, BP Board to discuss dividends on Monday

Facing South, BP hires company to handle oil claims whose goal is "reducing payouts" for clients

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