Monday, June 07, 2010

Current affairs

I haven't said much about the oil spill. I dislike intensely the way that the big O emphasizes the British Petroleum, when the company has been called BP for more than 10 years and probably the majority of its investors are American. Any direct responsibility lies with Transocean, the American company that owned and operated the well, but which is based in Switzerland for tax purposes. Though does my memory play me tricks or didn't the big O himself buy in to offshore drilling?

The loss of life and environmental damage pales into insignificance compared to the disaster in Bhopal caused by the American company, Union Carbide. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate that 8,000 died within the first weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases. Some 25 years after the gas leak, 390 tons of toxic chemicals abandoned at the UCIL plant continue to leak and pollute the groundwater in the region and affect thousands of Bhopal residents who depend on it, though there is some dispute as to whether the chemicals still stored at the site pose any continuing health hazard. Union Carbide is now owned by Dow Chemical Company. I notice today, that some Indians (but no Americans) have been sent to prison over the incident. The parent company washed its hands of the affair for 460 million dollars, less than half what BP has spent so far to clear up the mess in the Gulf. The mess remains in Bhopal and people are still dying.

I don't want to be anti-American, but perhaps BO should consider the words: pot kettle and black before being so disparaging.

I haven't said much about the Israeli attack on the Turkish ship. Both sides are milking it for all the propaganda they can get. Difficult to know whom to believe, but the Palestinians have a track record of manipulating the media during the war in Lebanon. However, I must say that I am enjoying the Wallender series of films in Swedish. Henning Mankell, Wallender's creator, was on board the ship as a 'peace protester'.

In the UK more people were killed by the vicious gunman in Cumbria. It now appears that the immediate trigger for his madness was his being dumped by his Thai girlfriend whom he paid to bring over. The man had a criminal record and was being investigated for tax fraud. It's a wonder that he had a license to own a shotgun and a rifle.


Anonymous said...

First off, British Petroleum was the name of the company, and no, we Americans don't blame the British for the spill, we blame the oil company. And this might be peevish of me, but I dislike intensely you referring to President Obama as "The Big O." You're of course more than free to do so, but I get the feeling that mocking him is a childish way of justifying your misplaced patriotic feelings about his use of "British Petroleum". Also: President Obama didn't "buy in to offshore drilling", he has stated his qualified support while very much emphasizing the need for cleaner energy. It isn't clever to pretend you've caught him in some great contradiction, it's only misleading. And finally, it is distasteful and shocking that you use a moral equivalence argument to minimize the tragedy that is still ongoing in the Gulf of Mexico. Both the Bhopal and the British Petroleum (OK, fine, BP) spill have caused horrible human and ecological tragedies for too many. Sneering at what you've determined is the lesser tragedy because of some misguide belief that you're defending your country's honor is beneath you.

50s something professional in recovery said...

Disrespectful to call my duly elected president the Big O, sorry but you need to be more loving...

Terry Hamblin said...

I guess GWB was called worse than the big O. In my opinion Obama is a worse president than Bush. I don't think that someone as partisan as Obama can hide behind teh respect that he claims as a nation's president. As I have written before Obama has a track record of snubbing the leaders of other nations. Sauce for the goose.

I'm not sneering; just pointing out the way that Obama is being partisan. The UK is still losing proportionately more soldiers in Afghanistan is support of America's tragedy of 9/11. Transocean, the American company that owned and operated the rig, is seeking a statuary limitation of its responsibility for the disaster. BP is waiving its right to such a limitation.

Many people had high hopes for Obama. He has disappointed them. For them he is not the big O, but teh Big Zero.

Anonymous said...


BO, BO BO! Those are his initials, isn't it?

BO is responsible for the disaster in the Gulf. I'm sure you blame Bush for everything (why not Herbert Hoover while you're at it???)

BO is taking vacation after vacation, going golfing and thinking up new ways of ruining America, while the Gulf is destroyed.

BO is an idiot, a Chicago hustler, and just about the worst president ever. I've heard him speak without a teleprompter and he stutters more than any other major leader in memory.

I also love what he said about America's power (and I'm paraphrasing)..."Like it or not, America is a great power..."

Like it or not? This guy is either an empty suit or bent on destroying this country.

Take your pick.

Anonymous said...

As I stated, you're free to call President Obama "the Big O". It's still childish, and that childish names were used against GWB doesn't make your phrase less so. But feel free. Name calling is part of the (sometimes childish) human condition. I don't see that your personal assessment of Obama's relationships with other world leaders has anything to do with the oil spill, unless the name calling is the goose sauce you want to use as retribution. Well, again, have fun with it if it make you feel better. What's really sad is that you think by blaming Obama, you are in some way relieving BP of their responsibility for the tragedy. I can tell you (and as I stated before), we Americans do not blame the British for this tragedy, we blame the oil company and any of its affiliates, i.e., Transocean. We care as much about the national origins of these companies as all the oil soaked sea life does. To try to draw some connection with our justifiable anger at BP and the dead and dying brave British and American soldiers in Afghanistan is embarrassing and shockingly manipulative.

Terry Hamblin said...

OK I'll spell it out. Obama's attack on things British is jeopardizing our support for the war in Afghanistan. The public see the war in Iraq as slavishly following America and this has colored their feelings about Afghanistan. Obama famously has a Kenyan father and it is thought here that he sympathized with the Mau-Mau terrorists. Remember how his first act on entering the White House was to return the bust of Winston Churchill. Or how he presented Gordon Brown with a present consisting of a packet of DVDs that can't be played on British machines.

The man is seriously disliked over here. Of every seven pounds paid out in dividends in British pension funds, one comes from BP. Obama has been driving down the share price of BP by his attacks. No wonder a lot of older people can't stand the man.

Anonymous said...

One wonders what you would be saying had Exxon/Mobil or some other American company bespoiled the shores of Great Britain and destroyed the way of life - possibly forever - of thousands of people. As has been stated in an earlier post, America doesn't blame the (thin-skinned) British people for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, rather they blame a British headquartered company, which by the way has repeatedly in the past been found to be negligent.

BP has obfuscated about the scope of this disaster from the start. As well, their CEO Tony Hayward, has until recently shown, through a number of reported "gaffs", an almost imperial and insolent indifference toward the disaster. "I want my life back". Ugh! And then you Terry further whine about British pensioners losing out (discuss with Gulf Coast people!), as if America is somehow the culprit and not BP. In the latest BP "infomercial" aired on U.S. television, even Hayward admits BP is totally responsible for this horrendous disaster.

As for "your (British) support" for the war in Afghanistan, this is a NATO operation. NATO countries have recognized the reality and dangers of the situation there and responded accordingly.

Terry Hamblin said...

You sound as though British coasts have never been hit by oil spills! We have suffered more than most. Think back to very low price of petrol in the US if you want to think of why there is drilling in the gulf. These oil companies are all multinationals, with capitalization greater than many American States. Exxon-Mobil has a big operation in the UK just as BP does in America. It is the repeated emphasis on 'British' by Obama that I object to, as if he were trying to gain Kudos for 1776. And just who is the driving force in NATO?

Terry Hamblin said...

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I do think there's something slightly worrying about the anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America. I would like to see a bit of cool heads rather than endlessly buck-passing and name-calling.

'When you consider the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP it starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten up on the airwaves. It was an accident that took place and BP is paying a very, very heavy price indeed.'

Writing of his website, former minister, Lord Tebbit said Mr Obama’s attitude was explicable but ‘despicable’.
‘The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill - so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political Presidential petulance against a multinational company?,' he said.

Lord Tebbit pointed out that U.S. engineering giant Halliburton was also involved in the events leading up to the Gulf disaster.

And he added: 'It is time that our American friends were reminded that they sang a different tune when the American company Union Carbide killed many thousands of Indians at Bhopal. Not to mention when the American company Occidental killed 167 people on a North Sea oil rig in 1988.

'At the very least, the President might acknowledge that the company directly responsible for the Gulf disaster was American, not British. He may be holding on to some Democratic Party votes, but he is storing up a great deal of ill will that he might regret at some time.'

Echoing the president's own pledge last month to keep his '[Jack]boot on the throat' of BP to make sure it met the costs of the spill, Mark Dampier, of financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown, said the President actually had 'his boot on the throat of British pensioners'.

'Obama is obviously trying to show how tough he is but the trouble is he can't really do anything,' said Mr Dampier.

'What's going on in the Gulf is pretty horrible. But he is playing politics and I don't think it's a very helpful game. Most British companies hold BP shares in our pension funds, so a dividend cut is not great news.'

Part of the problem has been the use of British idiom by Tony Hayward. Remarks that would have been unexceptional in an English context have caused affront to American audiences unused to the self-depracating, ironic style of English speech.

Anonymous said...

Well, that didn't take long: Kenyan father, Mau Maus, and a DVD packet that couldn't play on Gordon Brown's DVD player. Quite a mixed bag of accusations. I didn't realize we'd get to Crazy Land so fast, but here we are. I'm still unsure what, if any, culpability you think BP has for the oil spill, but I can see that you drag a heavy bag of Obama hatred with you, so I think we'll have to call it a day. I see that you've had some serious health problem recently and I sincerely hope you are starting to feel well again and continue to grow in strength. Not worth putting your energy into all this silly stuff while you need to grow stronger. So good luck to you!

Terry Hamblin said...

Well so far they have paid $1.5 billion. That sounds like they are playing their part. Around three times as much as Union Carbide paid for a much bigger disaster in Bhopal.

Terry Hamblin said...

From an American website:

Just three days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Dutch government offered to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms and proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands. LA Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) supported the idea, but the Obama administration refused the help. All told, thirteen countries have offered to help us clean up the Gulf, and the Obama administration has turned them all down.

According to one Dutch newspaper, European firms could complete the oil spill clean up by themselves in just four months, and three months if they work with the United States, which is much faster than the estimated nine months it would take the Obama administration to go it alone. The major stumbling block is a protectionist piece of legislation called the Jones Act which requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens. But in an emergency this law can be temporarily waived as DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff did after Katrina. Each day our European allies are prevented from helping us speed up the clean up is another day that Gulf fishing and tourism jobs die.

And then there are the energy jobs that the Obama administration is killing with its over-expansive ban on offshore energy development. Experts--who were consulted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar before he issued his May 27 report recommending a six-month moratorium on all ongoing drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet--now tell The New Orleans Times-Picayune that they only supported a six-month ban on new drilling in waters deeper than 1,000 feet. A letter from the experts protesting the use of their names to support a ban they actually oppose reads: "A blanket moratorium is not the answer. It will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation's economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill. We do not believe punishing the innocent is the right thing to do."

And just how many innocent jobs is Obama's oil ban killing? An earlier Times-Picayune report estimated the moratorium could cost Louisiana $2.97 billion in revenue and 7,590 jobs directly related to the oil industry. President Obama still has the power to save many of the jobs. He could reverse his decision and lift the ban. But political considerations make that impossible. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the President was the largest single recipient of campaign contributions from BP and its employees over the past twenty years. Therefore, the President has to put distance between himself and BP, which may be why President Obama has not spoken with BP CEO Tony Hayward one single time since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April. The problem is, vilifying BP's corporate leadership does nothing to stop the spill or quicken the cleanup.

Terry Hamblin said...

Here's an investment opportunity: but BP shares now. You will never get such a bargain investment again. If they produce a dividend you will be rapidly rewarded, because the market has already discounted the dividend due this year.
That dividend would be payable mainly to American rather than British pension plans. No wonder BO is unpopular.

Terry Hamblin said...

From the EU Referendum site:

For all the hyperventilation and anti British rhetoric by the American greenies over the Deepwater oil spill, they do at least have in BP a company that has devoted considerable resources and expense to dealing with the ensuing crisis – and which has taken full responsibility for the damage done by er .... US drilling contractor Transocean.

However, with a criminal investigation now in the offing, it is perhaps apposite to note the outcome of a trial in Bhopal Magistrates' Court yesterday.

This comes twenty-six years after the world's worst industrial disaster, on 3 December 1984 when 3,500 people died immediately and over 15,000 in the days afterwards when a giant poisonous cloud of methyl isocyanate leaked from the factory and rolled into a neighbouring slum.

Now, seven former managers of Bhopal's Union Carbide pesticide factory have been found guilty of causing death by negligence. But, because the charges pursued against the executives were reduced by the Indian Supreme Court in 1996 from culpable homicide to death by negligence, the local court could only hand down a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Even then, the guilty men were able to leave the court after a few hours, armed with bail orders after furnishing bonds of 25,000 rupees and personal sureties of the same amount (totalling about £700 each).

Victims' relatives and activists protested that the verdict was a travesty of justice and an insult to those who died. They say up to half a million people have had their health affected, including children who continue to be born with disabilities. "For 25 years we waited and now after two hours this morning these men have effectively been set free," said one relative.

And, after all those years, there is toxic waste still on the factory premises. The state government has failed to remove huge quantities of chemicals and pesticides from the factory and its evaporation pond nearby.

No concrete steps have ever been taken to remove or detoxify the waste and, while the Supreme Court has recently ordered that the 300 tons of packaged waste should be disposed of at the district disposal facility, the incinerator there has just begun its trial run.

But what is most remarkable about this whole affair is the treatment of Warren Anderson, chairman of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation at the time of the incident. Three hours after he had been arrested amidst high drama in 1984 on the charge of causing death by negligence, a mysterious phone call to the then chief minister of the state government secured his release on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 (£350).

Anderson was put on a state government aircraft and flown to New Delhi. In his bond, Anderson promised to return to India to stand trial in the case whenever summoned. He never did. The courts failed to get him extradited and the Government of India has admitted it was impossible to bring him back. Today, he is an absconder, the only accused in the criminal case against the Union Carbide to escape trial.

Now 89, Anderson lives in luxurious retirement near New York, having taken no personal responsibility for the disaster.

With US protesters now calling for the prosecution of BP chief executive Tony Hayward , a British citizen who has been at the centre of the clean-up efforts, they perhaps should be looking a bit closer to home before they start shrieking - as they are doing - about wanting justice.

Terry Hamblin said...

Terry Hamblin said...

From today's Guardian:

BP is a conglomerate, a merger of British Petroleum and Amoco (formerly Standard Oil of Indiana) in 1998 when it became BP Amoco. Subsequently it acquired ARCO (from the US) and The Burmah Oil Company (British) in 2000 and formally became plain old BP PLC in 2001.

So why does he keep calling it British Petroleum then?

Because the POTUS is a clever man and he knows by referring to it as British Petroleum it makes Britain the bad guys in the minds of the American voter which takes the heat off US business interests and his powerlessness to force a timely resolution and clean up.

He's not angry at us, of course not. But he knows the value of a good diversion and we're it.