Next goes Europe, itself. The Greek default closes the book on Europe in its current form, which is a lost cause. It is the end of the beginning: there is not going to be any ‘recovery’ or way back from the abyss that is now engulfing the continent. Some fragments here and there might save themselves for a little while, then like sparks from a bonfire be swept away by the wind. The crisis must now burn itself out: Europeans, look to yourselves and may your turkey-God have mercy on your souls. (From ‘God, Peak Oil and Turkeys’)
What is interesting about this time of year besides having to deal with the tax man (“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s) is the opportunity to gorge on Titanic-mania. With the famous sinking taken place 100 years to-the-day yesterday, the Titanic-mania is set to overload. Titanic and hockey playoffs are almost enough to compel a trip to the local ‘Best Buy’ for a 53-incher. Add pizza and life in the gibbering madhouse called the U. S. of A. becomes entertaining!
Watch that ocean liner filled with arrogant, rich morons hitting an iceberg over and over again, what’s there not to like?
Reformers could manage the same thing today: load a giant cruise ship with ‘entrepreneurs’, bankers, auto company executives; innovators, politicians and hedge fund managers and send it out with Captain Jack Sparrow looking for an ice field. Sorry, five life boats. If no ice is to be found after a day or two (climate change) the Navy can fire a missile into the ship and the Iranians can be blamed. Any ‘complications’ and the lawyers would be loaded onto a giant cruise ship … etc.
Fixing what’s wrong with America is remarkably easy, if you put your mind to it.
There are many reasons why the Titanic is the perfect metaphor for our times: the enterprise was (and is) gigantic, hubristic and overdone. The managers were (and are) greedy and stupid, the end had (has) the quest for the ultimate in luxury and decadence blowing up in everyone’s faces.
Here are some Titanic factoids:
– The Titanic was one of three more-or-less identical sister ships built by the Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff for the White Star Line’s transatlantic trade starting in 1909.
– The White Star Line was owned by banker J.P. Morgan within a trust called ‘International Mercantile Marine Company’ which also owned a number of other international passenger shipping companies. This made the Titanic an American-owned ship. Morgan was booked to travel on his new toy but
took ill and remained in England chickened out at the last minute.
– Surprisingly, neither Morgan nor the shipyard nor White Star Lines’ manager J. Bruce Ismay, or the line itself were brought to account for the disaster: Morgan and others for negligence, the yard nor its suppliers for defective or sub-standard materials. It is hard to see such a disaster taking place today without legal complications and billions in lawsuits.
– White Star manager Ismay was pilloried in the Hearst press for not going down with his ship, he was publicly scorned as a coward for the rest of his life. Today, the managers and owners of sinking ships are expected to be in the first lifeboats after having hurled all the women and children over the side first (which is where that term ‘women and children first’ originates).
– The Titanic was the second of the three ships: the Olympic was first, the Titanic second, the third was to be named ‘Gigantic’ but the name changed after the sinking of Titanic to Britannic. The Olympic had a long 25 year-career as a transatlantic liner, the Britannic was sunk during World War One and was never in paying passenger service.
Unknown photographer, Shipbuilder Magazine, 1911, ‘Grand staircase on RMS Titanic’. Note the clock at the center of the landing: even in the middle of the ocean among the super-rich there is no escape from the tyranny of the clock.
– The Titanic was altered during construction to be slightly larger than the Olympic. There were other cosmetic changes made between the ships but all were designed to be floating luxury hotels with elaborate public spaces within the ship. The Britannic was not fitted out when World War One began, after a short layup it was converted to a floating hospital. Consequently, many of its first-class amenities were not installed.
– The three ships were developed to compete for the transatlantic trade with Cunard’s Lusitania and Mauritania as well as the Hamburg-America Line’s SS Deutschland and North German Lloyd’s SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The largest part of the trade was the ferrying of European immigrants to the United States. At the same time, ships were the only means of travel between continents and competition for the first-class customers was intense.
– The three ships were not designed to be the fastest ships but rather the most comfortable, even for third-class passengers, who had access to good food and hot-and-cold running water, for instance. It was supposed that the first time many of the third-class passengers saw a toilet was on board the Titanic.
– The officers on board the ship during her maiden voyage were veterans of ocean liner crossings. The captain, Edward John Smith, was a mariner for his entire 38 year career, 25 years as master on White Star passenger ships. As Commodore or senior captain, Smith had earned the right to command new White Star ships on their maiden voyages. Captain Smith was something of an ocean liner klutz: he was involved with several close calls with collisions including a near-miss with another iceberg in 1902. During the port-out of Southampton on the way to Cherbourg the prop-wash of the rapidly-moving Titanic pulled another, smaller ship, the SS New York, from her moorings almost causing a collision in the port which would have ended the voyage. Tugs were able to pull the New York away from the Titanic at the last minute.
– The Titanic was a technological marvel of her age, a self-contained floating city: considered to be unsinkable due to her sixteen watertight compartments, telegraph wireless communications, internal telephone system, hot and cold water throughout the ship, electric heating and lighting for the passengers all on a ship as large as an eighty-story skyscraper laid on-end, one that could move across the ocean at 28 miles per hour.
– The ship was at the bleeding edge of what shipyards of the time could produce. Titanic’s hull was assembled out of hundreds of one inch thick steel plates sized approximately 6 feet by 20 feet. These plates were overlapped and riveted together and onto the ship’s frames. The hull areas in the center of the ship where the boilers and engines were located were given triple-rows of steel rivets, the ends of the hull were given double rows of cheaper iron rivets. Both the steel and iron rivets were found later to be defective, of low-quality material. Likewise, the steel plates were determined to become brittle when chilled. It is likely that both rivets and the plating cracked during the collision. The ship was divided into watertight compartments with the bulkheads given automatic doors that could be operated from controls on the bridge. What the Titanic lacked was high-volume pumps that could keep up with flooding within the compartments. There was certainly steam power available to drive large pumps that could have kept the ship afloat longer and under less strain even if she could not have been saved.
– The German and Cunard ships were faster but the White Star giants were more efficient: Titanic’s power plant required 650 tons of hand-shoveled coal be fed into its boilers every day, 350 tons less than its older counterparts.
– There were reports of a smoldering coal bunker fire aboard Titanic’s number six hold that the stokers were hoping to put to use in the boilers which might have been a reason for the ship’s high rate of speed through the ice field.
Everyone knows what happened on the evening of April 14th, 1912: the ship hit the iceberg in the North Atlantic a glancing blow, the first six watertight compartments were breached and the ship slowly sank taking the lives of over 1,500 passengers and crew.
Fast-forward to the present and there is the ‘Titanicaca’ which has all of the hubristic characteristics of the previous version with none of the grace and style. It’s made of cardboard and duct tape wadded together with false promises. It looks great on the outside but the inside is an unimaginable mess. It’s too large to control properly underway, it does not have pumps needed to manage liquidity. Like the first version, the passenger list includes feckless elites who cannot be bothered, unscrupulous ‘fixers’ and racketeers with the third-class sections filled with always credulous ‘television believers’.
As was the case with the original Titanic, the current version has struck a submerged object and the first five watertight compartments are flooded. The analysts have rushed below to inspect the damage and make assessments; the ship is doomed, sinking is assured it is only a matter of time. How much time? It could be tomorrow or next year but likely sooner (Bloomberg):
|BRENT CRUDE FUTR (USD/bbl.)||118.500||-2.710||-2.24%||15:13|
|GAS OIL FUT (ICE) (USD/MT)||991.500||-15.000||-1.49%||15:12|
|HEATING OIL FUTR (USd/gal.)||312.020||-5.440||-1.71%||15:13|
|NATURAL GAS FUTR (USD/MMBtu)||2.015||0.034||1.72%||15:11|
|GASOLINE RBOB FUT (USd/gal.)||326.710||-7.900||-2.36%||15:13|
|WTI CRUDE FUTURE (USD/bbl.)||102.990||0.160||0.16%||15:13|
Watch those oil prices dive, last week the Brent price was over $125 per barrel. There are no more Saudi Arabias to offer crude, only demand that has bellied-up and sunk.
Up on the bridge of the Titanicaca, the EU, ECB and IMF managers have completely lost their grip on reality. The multiple captains have ordered staff to go below and steal all of the passengers’ property that isn’t bolted down. Someone asks where the staff is going to put the property on the ship where will be safe? The captain standing in the corner does not answer but stares off into the distance muttering ‘Ice … I hate ice …” The officer returns: stealing turns out to be impossible because all of the property is underwater. Next, the officers order seamen to scurry below and cut off the flooded compartments labeled P.I.I.G. and S. with hacksaws. The idea is the ship without a bow will reach its ‘destination’ much faster than it would, otherwise.
Meanwhile, the ECB officer is bailing out the various compartments with a bucket running from one to the other and back frantically. The water hurled from the bucket flows right back into the Titanicaca. Of course there aren’t enough lifeboats: the various upper classes of passengers are taking what they can carry and battling their way into the boats. One is named ‘Swiss franc’; another is named ‘yen’ and another, ‘Singapore dollar’; others are, ‘US dollar’, ‘Treasury securities and equities’, some are named ‘gold’ and ‘silver’. Not everyone is going to make it: those missing the boats are putting on life-jackets made out of lead weights: ‘real estate’ and ‘EU sovereign debt’.
Meanwhile, the third class passengers are locked up in the hold. The captain has ordered then to suck the water out the ship, the tools assigned to them are soda straws stamped ‘Made in China’. The straws must be bought and paid for before use but the Chinese are willing to extend credit if good collateral is offered.
What to do?
Are the lower class passengers ready to mutiny and put the officers off the ship or do they desire to take the first-class passengers’ place, so as to better rearrange the deck chairs? Since they are the only ones able to fix the ship’s problems it is really up to them to decide what to do. If they behave as the first class has done the ship will sink. If they attempt to make things right the ship might sink but they also might succeed. If they do nothing there is certain failure. Here is a dilemma that the passengers are ill-equipped to cope with. The passengers must not only act outside their narrow personal interests but also against how class interests as these are ordinarily defined as gains excluded from others. It is also outside decades of ‘television training’ which demands that individuals serve the system in order to be rewarded for their efforts at some unspecified point in the future (never).
When an ocean liner starts taking on water, what governs whether it’s “women and children first” or “every man for himself”? According to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lead author Benno Torgler, men’s altruistic versus self-serving behavior depends on how quickly the ship sinks.
How quickly the ship sinks, indeed …