Transocean, Titanic and the Law

As a child, I rarely spent time on the water, but I knew a thing or two about boats.

In my child’s mind, boats were child-sized. Imaginary boats made of paper or leaves skimmed rain-filled gutters in the streets. Plastic boats fitted nicely into bathtubs or backyard wading pools. Even real boats were small. Fabricated from metal or wood, they crossed our rivers and lakes in tiny, buzzing swarms. You could fish from a boat, or go water skiing. Sometimes, you just filled it with people and drove it around, for all the world like taking a Sunday outing in the car.

On the other hand, ships were big. Ships lived on the ocean. They carried things, or fought wars. My great-aunt Fannie adopted Louisiana as her home, hung tire swings from her moss-draped oaks, rocked on her gallery until she became bored and then traveled to Europe on ships. So did great-aunt Sigrid, a mysterious woman whose accounts of her travels were equally mysterious; she wrote her postcards in Swedish.

In time, I added “yacht” to my vocabulary. Bigger than a boat but not utilitarian in the same way as ships, yachts crossed oceans in a style fully as impressive as the great passenger liners. After I began sailing, I expanded my vocabulary with the abbreviations M/V and S/V.  I learned to distinguish between Motor Vessel and Sailing Vessel, and discovered a whole variety of “vessels” plying the waters. 

Lazing along the edge of the Houston Ship Channel I saw car carriers, petroleum tankers, container ships, LNG barges and Coast Guard buoy tenders mixed in among the more familiar shrimpers and fishing boats.Despite their differences, these boats, ships, tankers and carriers had one thing in common. They moved by their own power. The source of the power varied – the sails on pleasure craft hardly would do for a tanker – but still, they propelled themselves. Barges and jackup rigs were interesting, but they weren’t vessels. They needed assistance to move.

When Bullwinkle, a remarkable offshore platform originally belonging to Shell Oil and now the property of Superior Energy Services, was fabricated in Ingleside, Texas, offshore sailors used it for months as a landmark because of its size. When a completed Bullwinkle moved seaward through the Port Aransas jetties, pulled along by some of the snazziest ocean-going tugs ever, I knew two things with certainty. The tugs were vessels, and Bullwinkle was not.

My long-standing assumption that all vessels move by their own power finally was called into question on May 13, 2010 when Transocean filed suit in Houston Federal Court to limit liability in the explosion and sinking of their semi-submersible Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The basis for the filing was an old and somewhat arcane law known as the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851. Under that law, a vessel owner is liable only for the post-accident value of the vessel and cargo, provided the owner can show he or she had no knowledge of negligence in the accident.

I was startled to discover Deepwater Horizon, a semi-submersible drilling platform, listed in the filing as a “vessel”.  And yet, according to maritime law, that’s precisely what it is. In fact, the list of “vessels” covered by maritime law includes a host of platforms, pontoons, barges, dredges, rigs and docks that aren’t going anywhere unless Tubby the Tugboat comes along to help them out.

David Robertson, faculty specialist in Admiralty and Maritime Law at the University of Texas at Austin, points out the definition of “vessel”  as that which includes “every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water” has been on the books since 1873. In a 2005 case known as Stewart v. Dutra Construction Company, the Supreme Court held the 1873 statute “codified the meaning that the term ‘vessel’ had acquired in general maritime law” and it became the default definition.

Prior to the sinking of Deepwater Horizon, the most widely known use of the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 involved the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, owner of the ill-fated Titanic. In an article entitled Legal Consequences of R.M.S. Titanic, Jeffrey A. Weiss, Professor of Maritime Law at SUNY Maritime College, makes several points about the statute.

First, the law provides that all persons having claims in connection with the casualty must pursue those claims in the court in which limitation proceedings were filed or risk a default. In other words, the petitioner (Oceanic Steam Navigation Company in the case of the Titanic, Transocean in the case of Deepwater Horizon) gets to determine where the case will be heard.

Secondly, court proceedings take place before a Federal judge rather than a jury.

Finally, the law allows a ship owner to limit liability arising out of a marine casualty to “the value of the vessel and her pending freight”. In the case of the Titanic, the owners alleged the loss was incurred “without the privity or knowledge of the vessel’s owners”. Going further, they argued that, even if they were at fault, their liability should be limited to the Titanic’s post-catastrophe valuation. That figure totaled around $95,000, the value of the ship’s surviving lifeboats and related equipment. Obviously, $95,000 was far less than claims brought by survivors and the families of those who perished.

In the press release which accompanied Transocean’s original court filing, the points raised by Weiss regarding the Titanic were obvious to anyone familiar with the law. In the following citations taken from that press release, I’ve highlighted points of Titanic/Transocean similarity:

(Transocean notes) that one of the primary goals of this filing is to consolidate in a single court many of the lawsuits that have been filed following the Deepwater Horizon casualty to initiate an orderly process for these lawsuits and claims before a single, impartial federal judge. The filing also would establish a single fund from which legitimate claims may be paid. Transocean believes this type of orderly process is in the best interests of all parties involved…

Among other things, the complaint asks that the Court issue an injunction restraining certain lawsuits underway against these companies in any jurisdiction other than the Southern District of Texas. The petitioners noted in the complaint that more than 100 lawsuits have been filed against the companies in multiple states and courts…

As set forth under Federal Law, the complaint also asks that the companies be judged not liable on claims for certain, defined losses or damages relating to the casualty or, if they are judged to be liable, that the liability for such claims be limited to the value of their interest in the Deepwater Horizon rig and its freight including the accounts receivable and accrued accounts receivable as of April 28, 2010. The petitioners assert in the filing that the entire value of their interest does not exceed $26,764,083. (NB: Before the accident, the rig was worth around $650 million.)

It’s no small irony that despite all our knowledge, experience and technological advancement, recent events with clear parallels to a 1912 tragedy are being litigated in the context of an 1851 law.

Whatever Transocean, British Petroleum, Halliburton and their lawyers intended, of course, the first order of business was stemming the tide of oil gushing from the uncapped well in order to stem further environmental and economic damage. That accomplished, the process of sorting out responsibility, compensating individuals, restoring communities and demanding future accountability began in earnest.

As happened after the sinking of the Titanic, there certainly will be changes in procedures, advances in equipment, shifts in sensitivities and perhaps even revisions to the law before the case is closed. As with the Titanic, there is little question complexities of maritime and corporate law have been used as much to delay justice as to ensure justice. Certainly the application of American law to foreign companies, the natural inclination of corporations to limit their liability and the needs of victims continue to confront one another in the courtroom, as they always have.

Nevertheless, from the perspective of history, the explosion and sinking of Deepwater Horizon and the sinking of the Titanic bear a striking resemblance to one another. Beyond the legal issues involved, both stand as reminders that no matter the nature of the vessel, when disaster strikes, the view from the boardroom, the courtroom and the lifeboat rarely are the same.

Originally written in 2010, this piece has been revised and reposted as a commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and as a reminder of the continuing plight of Gulf coastal communities struggling to recover from the Deepwater Horizon disaster two years ago, April 20, 2010.
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48 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s mindboggling the value of these vessels before disaster and after disaster. Yes, the view is different from the boardroom and the lifeboat. This was some amazing research you navigated. Again, I am in awe of how you make sense of so much, so succinctly.

    • georgette,

      When I was researching this, I had to laugh at how closely the legal wrangling resembled conversations between homeowners and insurance adjusters. After Tropical Storm Allison, a fellow reminded me, “Just remember. Determining valuation is a combination of art, science and con game.” I suspect that’s more true than we’d like to think.

      I find the law terrifically interesting. It’s also terrifically complicated, and hard for me to understand. I’m glad I was able to make some sense of this for you!

      Linda

  2. This is fascinating!

    • jm,

      You know, there were two Australians on the Titanic. Because South Africa and Australia were part of the Commonwealth at the time, they were counted as British at first, but a couple of researchers have given them their own category.
      I couldn’t find any information on whether they survived, but there’s a good bit of uncertainty about both the passenger list and the survivors.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda

  3. I repeat what Georgette said: I’m in awe of all the research you must’ve done to write this post. Thank you for reposting it.

    Interesting how lawyers can prove that the value of the rig went from $650 million to $26 million.

    What about the pollution along the Gulf of Mexico shore? Did Shell pay anything to clean it up?

    Your great aunts, Fannie and Sigrid, sound like amazing characters. I’d love to hear more about them and see their photos. I hope you have some.

    • Rosie,

      Well, I’m not sure the lawyers “proved” that decline in value. Maybe we should say they “successfully argued”. Or, maybe they didn’t. As time has gone on, orders, pre-trial hearings, status reports, tentative settlements and so on have piled up, making it hard for me to sort through it all.

      If you’re interested, you can go to this posting from the US District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana and do a quick skim of the activities. There’s a note there about a proposed settlement between British Petroleum and “certain private claimants”, but no more information.

      There’s no question the pollution is much better than it was. Many still have questions about the long-terms effects. Tar balls still are being found, the shrimp catch has been affected, and so on. As you can imagine, there’s lots of arguing about these issues, too.

      Sigrid was on my Dad’s side of the family, and I’ve never seen a photo of her. The only thing I have is that clutch of postcards, one or two in English but the rest in Swedish. Fannie I remember. I stayed at her house a few times, have some photos and some written reminiscences. They lived just east of Baton Rouge, and I absolutely loved going there – it was a very different way of life!

      Linda

  4. What a thought-provoking parallel, Linda. Much to think about in this regard. One always wonders where they come up with compensation figures, and this helps explains some of that. Nope, the view is rarely the same, indeed!

    • Bayou Woman,

      Amazing to think that we were down there on the bayou with you when Deepwater happened. Two years? My gosh. It’s time to get myself back there before summer sets in.

      Are you going to do an update post on how things are there now? It’ll be interesting to see how much attention your disaster gets. It’s always easier to focus on a disaster that’s a hundred years old – the needs of people aren’t quite so immediate, and the need for justice is less sharply felt.

      I wish I could sit you down with the board of BP – just for a little chat, you understand. Maybe we could make a bigger-than-lifesize model of Plato, and take him along, too. Just for a little emphasis, and to prove we haven’t forgotten.

      Linda

  5. I would never have thought about a connection between the Titanic and these other examples, but I never considered the legal issues that resulted. Very enlightening and not surprising how the legal ramifications and responsibilities are only a percentage. Of course in reality whether we like it or whether it’s fair or not there has to be a cap on everything. Money won’t bring back the dead or restore clean water.

    You’re exactly right when you conclude that the lifeboats, board rooms, and courtrooms are all very differing viewpoints.

    The Titanic seems to have grown beyond a horrid tragedy, to a fascination, and in recent years it borders on a love affair between those who view it from the outside looking in.

    • sherri,

      I just came across the most interesting and distressing bit of information – many of the younger ones among us weren’t aware the Titanic was a real ship before it was a movie. One thing Twitter does well is provide grist for the social commentary mill – here’s part of the evidence.

      I couldn’t help smiling at your comment about a cap being necessary on everything. If only we could convince the Washington politicians and bureaucrats of that…

      Still, money has a role to play in these situations, particularly when it comes to supporting people who have lost livelihoods because of events like the Deepwater Horizon. In Louisiana, promises made by BP have not uniformly become promises kept, but the payments they’ve made have helped stabilize the economy.

      There’s a good current overview at NOLA.com.

      I suppose my greatest hope is that, in the end, the board rooms and the courtroom won’t be responsible for sinking the life boats.

      Linda

      • From my experience as a high school teacher I can confirm that young people know little of what happened before their lifetimes (and of course the schools acquiesce in that ignorance, giving out diplomas to kids who don’t know much of anything about anything). I once had a student who asked what kind of airplanes were used in the Civil War.

        • Those stories-from-school always sound like very bad jokes, but of course they aren’t. On the other hand, I do know what kind of airplanes would have been used in the Civil War – very, very polite ones….

  6. I never in a hundred years would have pulled these two events together, Linda, but here you have done it masterfully. WOW.

    • Ginnie,

      I had some help. In one of the first articles I read about Deepwater Horizon, they mentioned the conflict between BP and Transocean over who was responsible for the explosion, and in the discussion there was mention of the Titanic. I couldn’t figure out what in the world the Titanic would have to do with Transocean.

      And now, as Paul Harvey would say, we know the rest of the story – or at least a portion of it!

      It is fascinating, isn’t it? Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Linda

  7. The law is the law is the law; sometimes an ass, sometimes justice, frequently on the side of the cleverest lawyers.

    My interest in the matter is limited but you certainly have made me read the whole of your article. Quite amazing, what you’ve said.

    • friko,

      It’s funny, isn’t it, how the law and lawyers have taken a beating for centuries. You and Susan reference Dickens – even Shakespeare got applause for his line that “the first thing we do, we’ll kill all the lawyers”.

      Still, law is complicated, and if we’re to have any idea at all of what’s going on around us, a little understanding doesn’t hurt. After Deepwater Horizon, a shrimper I know followed the legal proceedings pretty carefully, and soon was citing case law. When I asked him about it, he said, “If I don’t know how these people think, I won’t know how they’re thinking about me.” That’s a smart man.

      Making an arcane subject comprehensible and enjoyable is tough, especially for readers who didn’t just have an oil well blow up in their back yard. I’m glad you read it through, and I hope you never have to contemplate such matters of law – ever!

      Linda

  8. I wouldn’t have made the comparison without this article, very interesting thanks. Plus, I’d always thought of vessels of moving themselves without aid of tugs etc.

    Juliet
    Crafty Green Poet

    • Juliet,

      I love finding these connections, even when they overturn a few commonsense assumptions!

      I was thinking about some of the conflicts you’ve described re: building, speculation, struggles over preservation and such. The law can be an important ally there, too!

      Linda

  9. After my father died near the end of November in 2001, it occurred to me that his long life had been measured off, approximately, between two disasters: he was born a few weeks before the sinking of the Titanic, and he died a couple of months after September 11.

    • Steve,

      That’s a long, rich life. It’s amazing to think of all he saw and experienced in that span.

      Disasters are strange things. My mother often talked about the Hindenburg and the Challenger, discrete events like the ones you mention, but she also spoke of the Depression as a disaster – a slow, on-going disaster similar to our recent drought.

      Your father and my mother were of a generation that knew how to cope with such things. Since there’s little chance disasters will disappear in our future, I hope we can keep our coping skills sharp.

      Linda

  10. Ah, once again, the law is revealed to be an ass.

    Early on in my career as a lawyer, determined to fight for the right and the good, I came smack up against the realization that the law and justice often have little to do with one another. You’ve done a superb job of laying this out–and unlike lawyers usually do, it’s highly readable and gripping and worthy of publication in a high circulation magazine (if they exist anymore, that is). I’ve had a thorough education in the meaning of the word vessel and how slippery it is!

    • Susan,

      In my first years in social work, I had to come to terms myself with the inherent tension between law(s) and justice. It only got more complicated when I tripped over that niggly little business about competing rights – competing “goods”, too.

      It’s pretty easy when you have Snidely Whiplash on one side and the pretty blond tied to the tracks on the other. But, when you have Ordinary Bob and Just-as-Ordinary Kevin tied up in court, it can be harder. If you have multiple corporations wrangling, it’s no wonder people throw up their hands and say – well, nasty things – as they’re heading off to that other kind of bar.

      Hearing you say “the law and justice often have little to do with one another” reminds me of one of my Faulkner favorites: “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.” Smoosh those two quotations together and we move directly into the world of findings of fact and conclusions of law – and all of the appeals that inevitably follow disasters like these.

      Linda

  11. Very interesting and informative post! My mother, who was a young girl then, with her mother, was booked on that trip of the Titanic but had to cancel the trip due to a sudden and severe illness. The illness turned out to be a blessing.

    • montucky,

      A blessing, indeed – a rather more dramatic example of what all of us have experienced when we come upon a bad auto wreck and think some variation of, “If I hadn’t stopped for a coffee…”

      I received my latest copy of “The New Yorker” magazine yesterday, and was interested to see the photo of the ship I’ve used above also shown in an article there. It’s been widely used, but it’s credited in the article to the National Museums of Northern Ireland/ Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. It’s in the Harland and Wolff collection there, along with other, equally fascinating photos.

      Linda

  12. As someone living at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, ships and oceans are not in our everyday vocabulary. So thanks to your thorough research, you’ve brought me closer to the sea. You know, this could be the beginning of an insightful documentary. ;)

    • Arti,

      Isn’t it fun to get these glimpses into other parts of the world? I very rarely hear or have use for the word “stampede”, unless it’s related to those Christmas shopping disasters at the big stores, but it’s very much a part of your vocabulary!

      And of course you have your own litigation issues, too. I just did a little search for “Alberta tar sands litigation” – my goodness! As we might say here in Texas, there’s a whole lotta litigatin’ going on there. Just this week, the Beaver Creek Cree have been allowed to continue their 2008 lawsuit against the Alberta and Canadian governments.

      I imagine there are more than a few people in that 900-person tribe who are learning more about the law than they ever anticipated!

      Linda

  13. What a wonderful piece of writing! Fascinating and educational, and the photos are wonderful. I love reading about a subject so near and dear to your heart.

    By the way, after reading this, I looked up the pre-accident value of the Titanic. $7 million dollars, which would be over $162 million by today’s standards.

    • Moonbeam,

      It’s funny. I’d never been interested in the Titanic and knew only the broadest outlines of the story. I never saw the film. It wasn’t until the Deepwater Horizon disaster that I became interested in the Titanic, when I found a brief mention of its legal relationship in an article about BP. Better a late than never, I suppose.

      Actually, this little entry is one of the best arguments I’ve got against the “write what you know” school of thought. I didn’t know about any of this until writing the post. Maybe a better rule of thumb would be, “Write what interests you”. There are a few subjects I know a whole lot about but have not a lick of interest in. I suspect that would translate into a boring post!

      That’s quite a detail, about the Titanic’s value. Inflation? What inflation!

      Linda

  14. Goodness, Linda, you’ve written and researched so thoroughly for this article. With the 100th commemoration here, it’s been interesting to see re-enactments (computerized of course!) of the event.

    • nikkipolani,

      One of the fascinating differences between the Titanic and Deepwater Horizon events (not just the explosion, but the entire process of dealing with the consequences) is that one took place in relative isolation. The other was recorded from beginning to end.

      While they still were trying to cap the well, I can’t tell you how many hours I spent watching live streams of the undersea work, often in tandem with discussion on the forum over at The Oil Drum.. It was completely fascinating, in the same way that a hurricane bearing down is fascinating. Even when I know I’m about to be in really deep trouble, I can’t help watching and saying, “Wow!”

      Linda

  15. What a well-researched, fascinating post!

    After an initial reaction of seeing the gaps between law and morality (divorce gets you past any correlation between the two pretty quickly), something stuck me like an iceberg: The legal system is in place to get things “back to normal.” A catastrophe happens—whether global or personal—and we are caught up in its horror and unfairness. But how do we get from there back to Life again? People, the environment, small businesses– all are subject to laws beyond knowledge or comprehension. How many of the Titanic survivors could afford to travel to the courthouse? Does “ignorance of the law is no excuse” apply to marine life covered in oil who were living in the wrong place at the wrong time?

    When the patterns of day in, day out life blow up in our faces, we use the artificial set of standards called The Law.

    It all proceeds from catastrophe to a new normal.

    Even my lawyer thinks laws are weird.

    • Claudia,

      Back in the day, I think they called that process of getting back to normal “justice”. I remember the days when it was assumed “impartiality” and “equal protection under the law” were givens. Clearly, that’s not true any longer. It’s not just occasional miscarriages of justice that bother people so, but obvious and systemic perversions of the law.

      Unfortunately, that previously comedic phrase, “the best justice money can buy” isn’t so funny any more.

      I do remember the days when Readers’ Digest would publish occasional lists of weird and wacky laws. We always wondered what possessed towns or states to pass them. In some cases, I’m sure it was a result of dear Mrs. Whattzit showing up month after month after month at Council meetings and nagging them to death.

      I did check out a list of weird laws and happened to notice that in New Jersey it’s illegal to pump your own gas. I’ll await confirmation on that one. ;)

      Linda

  16. Hello Linda,
    I am a little late getting here to read this story but you understand!
    WOW I just learned a lot of things about Maritime law and all kinds of sea vessel information. Of course I did not know much about them to begin with.

    Great essay; enjoyed the read!
    Patti

    • Patti,

      You know, I think a lot of folks have learned a lot about maritime law recently. There was the Costa Concordia sinking, and now the news is full of a recent event where a cruise ship didn’t go to the aid of stranded Panamanian fishermen. I’ve read but haven’t confirmed that the same company owns the ships in both cases.

      There are so many frivolous lawsuits filed these days, but the fact is that sometimes the law is the only recourse for people. Knowing more about how the law functions than what time Judge Judy comes on seems like a good thing to me!

      Linda

  17. True, the view is rarely the same – yet in the case of every disaster, of stunning loss, there is always a blink of astonishment, a cold shock of reality. The Titanic was built under the captain’s assumption that even God himself could not sink that ship, leading people to mutter about ‘tempting Providence’. I wonder if that (with WWI nailing the coffin shut) marked the end of such contented boastfulness?

    • aubrey,

      An end to contented boastfulness? I think not.Granted, it may have been phrased more delicately post-Titanic. I’m thinking now of the Shuttle Columbia disaster. There was that same astonishment, that same dose of cold reality. I suspect some who were alive at the time of the Titanic also thought, “That can’t have happened.” Of course, no one except those who were there witnessed the sinking in quite the same way as we experienced the Columbia explosion.

      I’m thinking of the Twin Towers, too, and Deepwater Horizon. So many were affected – but I can’t help but remember Auden’s poem:

      “In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
      Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
      Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
      But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
      As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
      Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
      Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
      had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

      Linda

      • You’re right.

        Merlin in John Boorman’s “Excalibur” said something about man’s doom being that he will always forget. Humanity must always be prepared for its dose of cold reality like a child waiting for his medicine. But I wonder if we’re ever prepared.

        Perhaps I was referring to that type of golden contentment of the Edwardians: of the aristocracy, garden parties and country house weekends…living the illusion of a happy, invincible life.

        • aubrey,

          My mind doesn’t go naturally to the Edwardians – you’re more steeped in and sensitive to that era – but I take your point. Now that I think of it, examples of people living the “illusion of a happy, invincible life” abound – and not all of them are in the past.

          Linda

  18. It goes to show that, regardless of what you want this world and life to be about, even the greatest of tragedies and disasters come down to dollars and cents. Pain and suffering suddenly have a monetary worth placed on them. I don’t know if it is right or wrong. It is the society we have built for ourselves, though.

    Great post.

    Tim

    • Tim,

      It does seem so from time to time, but perhaps counting the cost in other terms is simply too painful. And it does cost, to bring back whatever semblance of normalcy is possible. Cleaning oil-slicked birds, testing water, capping wells – all of that requires dollars. The argument, always and forever, is about who should pay them

      Of course, that raises the issue of compensatory vs. punitive damages. Being fairly compensated for loss is one thing. Sticking it to a company, individual or corporation simply for the pleasure of it is something different. At least it appears that compensation for those affected by Deepwater will be coming at last.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  19. An insightful post.I’m especially fascinated by the legal aspect of the article. Amazed that lawyers can depreciate something that is valued at $650M to $26M!

    ~Matt

    • Matt,

      That’s why lawyers are so important. I don’t know much about law, but I do know this – like every system devised by humans, it tends toward complexity. Having someone on your side who understands those complexities and who can work the system competently is important.

      Like the tax code, simplification would be a good thing. Until that happens, there’s full employment for folks who understand the system.

      Linda

  20. Interesting about your great aunt Sigrid. My dad had an aunt Siglinda (AKA Aunt Shug as in “sugar.”) That would have been either in the Beaumont area or the Corpus area. She was memorable for her pomegranate trees, one on either side of her front gate. My dad would always filch one to use for ammo for his pop gun. My dad’s grandfather was a conductor on the old Katy railroad.

    • WOL,

      Texas railroad history’s so interesting. I spent some time in the area of the old Macaroni line – even mentioning it reminds me that some attention to the Italians who helped build Texas might be in order.

      My first train trip was with my dad, back in the days before diesel engines. It was memorable, to be sure, and one of the things I remember is the conductor. I thought he was so handsome, in his uniform!

      I must say – I’ve never heard of someone using pomegranates in that way – that’s a pretty great memory,too!

      Linda

  21. I don’t know much about the Titanic other than from the movies. I do remember nearly 30 or more years ago, Anna and I fishing by a sunken boat tied up to a pier. It did not need to be tied, it wasn’t going anywhere. We had very little money. We purchased bait and then would fish by that old boat and catch the tastiest fish in the world for our supper.

    • Preston,

      There’s an interesting connection here. Structures like your old sunken boat are good places to find fish – and that includes oil platforms. “Going out to the rigs to fish” is pretty common around here, so there’s one more connection between the Titanic (and other much smaller boats!) and the Deepwater Horizon (and other much smaller rigs!)

      And I must say, there’s nothing like freshly-caught fish for a good supper!

      Linda

  22. Hi Linda:

    Read the whole blog post with a law book in my hand, so to speak. Lawyers and their corporate arguments are difficult to follow. The meaning of a word written two hundred years ago can be the difference between paying or not paying a liability. Of course corporations will use whatever legal means possible to restrict payments to the victims.

    I still remember the video of a 24/7 gush of oil spilling out of a valve in the Gulf of Mexico. The amount of the oil spill was frightening, hour after hour without stopping. The still camera was implacable.

    I understand the owners of the Titanic insured the ship for $25 million, a lot of greenback in those early days. I’ll bet you my bird, the victims never got close to that amount. The law got in the way and stopped the spill of compensation to the ones who passed away. Justice is very difficult to grasp.

    Thank you for such a well-researched subject,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      There seems to be a paradox built into the law. It needs to be detailed, for the sake of clarity. But the mass of detail leads to complexity, and an inability for “outsiders” to understand it. Lawyers necessarily gain enormous power, and the use of the law to subvert justice becomes possible.

      What makes it even more distressing is that so many of our legislators are lawyers. They’re quite skilled in hiding power grabs and ripoffs behind pages and pages of legalese no one can understand. We like to say we’re a nation of laws, not men, but when the law is indeciperable – well. It can mean whatever the current crop of lawyers and judges decides that it means.

      Linda


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