Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The best of all possible worlds

The newly reappointed Ben Bernanke – the Dr. Pangloss of the Federal Reserve -  says that the recession is probably over. It’s a good thing he said so, because most of the rest of us are having trouble seeing it. Here’s one thing you can see, though: a huge fleet of idled container ships off of Singapore:

ghost fleet off Singapore

The U.K’s Mail Online (the source of the photo) says this about the fleet:

The biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history lies at anchor east of Singapore. Never before photographed, it is bigger than the U.S. and British navies combined but has no crew, no cargo and no destination  -  and is why your Christmas stocking may be on the light side this year.

The article continues:

The tropical waters that lap the jungle shores of southern Malaysia could not be described as a paradisical shimmering turquoise. They are more of a dark, soupy green. They also carry a suspicious smell. Not that this is of any concern to the lone Indian face that has just peeped anxiously down at me from the rusting deck of a towering container ship; he is more disturbed by the fact that I may be a pirate, which, right now, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.

His appearance, in a peaked cap and uniform, seems rather odd; an officer without a crew. But there is something slightly odder about the vast distance between my jolly boat and his lofty position, which I can't immediately put my finger on.

Then I have it - his 750 ft - long merchant vessel is standing absurdly high in the water. The low waves don't even bother the lowest mark on its Plimsoll line. It's the same with all the ships parked here, and there are a lot of them. Close to 500. An armada of freighters with no cargo, no crew, and without a destination between them.

Spotty, the articles says it’s the biggest gathering of ships in maritime history. Wasn’t the Spanish Armada larger?

I don’t know, grasshopper; look it up.

Anyway, James Kunstler calls the current mood of even cautious optimism and the stock market rally of the last several month the recession of reality.

We got another dose of reality when the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reported a study that showed that Minnesota will not see pre-recession employment levels until 2013.

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