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What Sank The Titanic?

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The Freedom Forum

With President-elect Titan Donald Trump’s cabinet now firmly in place, it’s abundantly clear that he will most definitely not govern with rational thought as his guide. He will, as he has always done, conduct himself in a way that is highly emotional, compulsive and weird. That millions of Americans voted for this buffoon is befuddling enough, yet it’s with this prerogative (if not mandate – the guy lost the popular election by THREE MILLION VOTES), Trump is still Tweeting inane rants about the CIA, Jill Stein and the recount and anything else that keeps him up at night. It’s all so very unsettling. In the elitist enclaves of Harvard Square, liberals are freaking out as never before while my barber, an early Trump supporter, gave way with some back story on Christian Evangelical Trump support during my latest haircut: apparently, some firefighter predicted Trump would win the Presidency back in 2011 and save America. He then prophesied that Armageddon would be next on the agenda. Makes sense to me!

End of the World prophecies are as old as the written word itself and there’s no shortage of end-time entertainment to suit all tastes, from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement to the film 2012 (2009) when, as you may remember, the world was supposed to end because it was penciled in the Mayan calendar. The Four Horsemen have been corralled since then, but with the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the United States Presidency, our culture is once again primed and ready for some serious Revelation! Make that Revelations 21:8:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Baba Vanga, the Russian mystic who predicted that the world would end in the year 3793 and who foretold the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl disaster, the date of Stalin’s death, 9/11 and the Kursk disaster, also said that America’s last president would be black. The human tendency to self-fulfill prophesies will spawn insane Alex Jones-style theories that wackos who believe in Fake News will greedily lap up, re-tweeted by Steve Bannon’s idiot fear machine – all care of septuagenarian Donald J. Trump at 3AM Washington time. Let the tribulations begin!

I suppose a more quaint analogy to the end of the world may be the oft-used example of the RMS Titanic and the unintended consequences that resulted in her sinking. It was the end of the world for more than 1500 people on the night of April 14, 1912 when the great ship struck an iceberg and sank into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic has come to symbolize the hubris of man – the unsinkable ship, sunk on her maiden voyage. The owner of the Titanic, the White Star Line, was one of the many holdings of the industrialist and billionaire J.P. Morgan, who hoped to dominate transatlantic shipping through contractual arrangements with the railroads. That proved impossible because of the unscheduled nature of sea transport, American antitrust legislation, and an agreement with the British government. The cause (or causes) of the disaster have been debated ever since 1912, and in an article published in Physics World in 2012, Dr. Richard Cornfield attempted to explain the top ten reasons for the accident:

The Titanic became fully submerged within three hours before dropping four kilometres to the bottom of the Atlantic. The steel plates of the time may have been inadequate for the task in waters of those temperatures, and the rivets were of inferior quality. Second, mistakes were made by the crew once the vessel was under way: the absence of binoculars in the crow’s nest; Smith’s decision to maintain a high speed despite the abundance of iceberg warnings; the radio operators’ tardiness in getting crucial information to the officers and their emphasis on passenger messages rather than operational ones; and, of course, the almost cynical lack of lifeboats…

… It seems that in 1912, in a way not dissimilar to our own box-ticking, responsibility-avoiding culture today, lack of effective oversight on the part of the authorities caused the consequences of the disaster to be much worse than they might have been… No one thing sent the Titanic to the bottom of the North Atlantic, rather, the ship was ensnared by a perfect storm of circumstances that conspired her to her doom. Such a chain is familiar to those who study disasters — it is called an ‘event cascade.’

This ‘Event Cascade’ continued rolling on when Mr. Morgan’s fortunes sank faster than the Titanic, culminating in the House Committee on Banking and Currency’s investigation into Morgan’s ‘money trust.’ The resulting Pujo Committee investigation found over $22 billion in assets controlled through 341 directorships held in 112 corporations by members of an empire headed by Morgan. The findings of the committee inspired public support for ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913 (authorizing federal income tax), passage of the Federal Reserve Act that same year and passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. Talk about unintended consequences! In fact, Morgan partners blamed the April 1913 death of J.P. Morgan on the stress of testifying at the Pujo hearings.

The ship’s famous sinking – the year before J.P. Morgan’s death – was a financial disaster for IMMC, the holding company of the White Star Line, which was forced into bankruptcy in 1915. Analysis of financial records shows that IMMC was over-leveraged and had inadequate cash flow when the Titanic was pressed into service. Morgan was on top of the world, and in two hours, a cascade of events that he inadvertently set into motion conspired to take him down.

As with Donald Trump, Mr. Morgan was born into wealth and privilege and went on to distinguish himself as a robber baron and textbook narcissist-billionaire. The ‘elites’ in New York City – some of them even friends of mine – are talking in somber, hushed tones about the looming storm that the good ship Trump is bound to endure. These are the voters who know Donald Trump better than anyone else in America. They voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton – 2.1 Million to Trump’s 930,000 in New York City (Kings, Suffolk, Queens, Nassau and Manhattan counties). In Queens and Manhattan, Where Donald Trump was born and raised and where he runs his business empire, Hillary Clinton won the vote by 800,000 votes. What do these urbane people know that the rest of America Doesn’t? A hint may come from the mutant administration that Trump is now assembling. New Yorkers have seen this act before. As Hillary Clinton might have said, The Donald has fashioned himself a Cabinet of Deplorables.

Let’s start with Rex Tillerson, former Exxon Valdez CEO, for Secretary of State. None other than Dr. Evil himself, Dick Cheney lobbied for Tillerson – as the feckless Mitt Romney was summoned twice to prostrate himself in front of The Donald while he quaffed frog legs while Trump snickered at him all the while. To see the video of Trump looking ‘annoyed’ by the camera at his overpriced dinner at the swanky Jean Georges Restaurant in New York City is practiced and priceless. The kabuki theater of the naming of the new Secretary of State exemplifies the weirdness of Trump’s style – he clearly had Tillerson in mind for State, but saw a unique opportunity to humiliate Romney. It was too good a chance to pass up and the opportunist Romney was an easy mark. Take a chair next to ‘tough guy’ Jebbie Bush, Mitt!

Trump and Tillerson’s pal, Vladimir Putin has been accused by the CIA and the FBI of hacking our election – and this can only be seen in the context of: The Oil Play. An indication of this is also seen in Climate Change Denialist Scott Pruitt as head the Environmental Protection Agency. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he described himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and has openly lobbied for the abolishment of the agency he now heads. In his opinion, the “EPA shouldn’t be in the business of writing regulations.” Cue the blasting of mountaintops, the fracking of what’s left of Oklahoma and oil pipelines as far as the eye can see! More concretely for the white, uneducated voters who backed Trump in the election for better financial prospects, gasoline prices will double within two years.

Rick Perry for Energy Secretary is another pure example of Trump’s decision making in assembling a oil-centric administration. This is the same Perry, who, during a 2011 presidential debate, infamously attempted to list three government agencies he’d do away with. He stuttered and couldn’t think of the third, finally saying, “Oops!” This, of course, denotes his idiocy – Perry is as dumb as a bag of rocks (as The Donald said about Jeb Bush). I suppose he’ll make his boss look good by comparison? Of course, this is all just political payback for Perry’s support of Trump during the campaign as opposed to the treatment of (unemployed) Mitt Romney. Perry will be another compliant cipher in Trumps Oil Play, unlike Romney may have been.

The list of anti-government appointments that Trump has added to his abnormal basket also includes billionaire Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, a longtime and passionate proponent of school choice, as in “we choose to bankrupt the public school system.” And then there’s Ben Carson, Trump’s pick for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He’s a surgeon with no experience in government, housing policy or urban development, who never lived in public housing, once saying, “My stance is that we the people have the responsibility to take care of the indigent in our society,” during a CNN town hall. “It’s not the government’s job.” He mumbled. This pick is Trump’s most basely political, a reward for Carson’s early support for Trump as well as the subtle placement of the only prominent African-American in Trump’s Administration – in charge of America’s crumbling housing projects. Ugh.

In James Cameron’s billion dollar mega-hit Titanic (1997), as the ship slipped slowly into the icy Atlantic below, actor James Lancaster as Father Thomas Byles, a Catholic priest from England, prayed with and consoled passengers during the ship’s final moments. A witness said that “All Father Byles had to do was raise his hand when panic and chaos broke out, and calm returned. “The passengers were immediately impressed by the absolute self-control of the priest. He began the recitation of the Rosary. The prayers of all, regardless of creed, were mingled, and the responses, ‘Holy Mary,’ were loud and strong.” As the witness described it, “After I got in the boat, which was the last one to leave, and we were slowly going further away from the ship, I could hear distinctly the voice of Father Byles and the responses to his prayers. Then they became fainter and fainter, until I could only hear the strains of Nearer My God, to Thee.”

Father Byles was among those who died that awful night and his body was never recovered. The day before, on the morning of Sunday, April 14, he celebrated Mass and preached a homily which, according to news reports, was on the need to have a “lifeboat in the shape of religious consolation at hand in case of spiritual shipwreck.” In the film, Father Byles is portrayed reciting Revelation 21:4 when the ship finally breaks in two and is doomed to Davey Jones’ Locker:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.


John Underhill
December 17, 2016

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