In London, where I am at the moment, the BP oil-spill melodrama is just as big a story as it is in the States — bigger, in fact, since BP dividends have been paying £1 in every £6 paid by FTSE 100 companies. That winds up being about 12 percent of dividends paid to British pensioners.  So Brits, who should still be smarting from President Obama’s calculated rudeness to them — practically his first act as president was to send back a bust of Winston Churchill which had been in the White House — now have another reason to dislike the former Chicago machine politician.

Pursuing the Alinsky policy of never letting a crisis go to waste, the White House and the Democrat-controlled Congress have greeted the BP oil spill with an access of glee wrapped up in watercress of stern moralizing. The president’s televised speech on the subject the other day got nearly unanimous bad marks, which is not surprising since it merely expanded on the embarrassing “I’m-looking-for-some-ass-to-kick” (but whose? whose?) motif he announced last week.

Even more nauseating was the spectacle of various U.S. congressmen falling over themselves to find new ways to insult BP CEO Tony Hayward and declare their high-minded, selfless concern for Gulf fishermen  and “the environment” while pronouncing anathema upon evil “unregulated” oil companies, etc., etc. (Where, I wonder, do they think the gasoline that fuels their limos comes from?)

One shaft of light in this malodorous comedy came from the Texas lawmaker Joe Barton who treated the kangaroo-court grilling of Hayward with some of the contempt it deserved. “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,”  Barton said to Hayward during the hearing. “I apologize. It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a 20-billion-dollar shakedown.”