Friday, March 27, 2020

Shipping by land was slow, laborious, and prohibitively costly

From the excellent Perilous Fight by Stephen Budiansky, an account of the naval aspects of the War of 1812. Page 216.
But the tightening British stranglehold on the American coast was telling everywhere. Two ships of the line and two frigates loitered off Sandy Hook and Montauk Point, sealing off Decatur in New York with the United States and his refitted prize the Macedonian. At Norfolk, the Constellation was for the moment safely holed up behind a floating gun-ship battery of thirty-four guns, a hastily erected artillery emplacement on Craney Island at the mouth of the harbor, and a line of blockships that had been sunk in the channel off Lambert’s Point barring the entrance to the Elizabeth River; but the natural and artificial facts that made Norfolk hard for the British to get into made it equally hard for the Constellation to get out of, and ever escape to sea. The Constellation’s captain, Charles Stewart, reported to Jones that many residents of Norfolk had fled in anticipation of a British attack on the town, and that some of the local militia had deserted from an apprehension that they would be ordered to serve on the undermanned gunboats. Jones replied promising all assistance and authorizing a reasonable recruitment bounty to make up the deficiency of crews for the gunboats, but cautioning that defense everywhere against a superior force was impossible: “The presence of a powerful hostile squadron is naturally calculated to excite alarm, thus we have urgent calls from Maine to Georgia, each conceiving itself the particular object of attack.”

The blockade had almost completely shut down the coasting trade, forcing shipments to go by land and creating commercial gluts and shortages. Philadelphia was cut off from the lower Delaware, and Baltimore was completely isolated from the sea; flour from the mid-Atlantic states that sold for $10.50 a barrel before the war was now going for $18 in Boston and $6.50 in Baltimore, where fifty thousand barrels piled up in warehouses. Baltimore newspapers began facetiously listing the movement of wagons in the style of shipping news items, telling how many days they had been on their journeys and reporting “no enemy cruisers” sighted on the way, but the thin humor could not mask the grim reality that shipping by land was slow, laborious, and prohibitively costly. One item that was reported without any attempt at jocularity read “Four wagons loaded with dry goods passed to-day through Georgetown, South Carolina, for Charleston, forty-six days from Philadelphia."

The Balcony, 1911 by Eugene de Blaas

The Balcony, 1911 by Eugene de Blaas

Click to enlarge.

I see wonderful things

Data Talks

He could make his men roar with laughter or shake in their shoes as he pleased

From The Great Mutiny by Christopher Hibbert. Page 57.
In his young days at the beginning of the century, in contrast to the 1850s, the colonel of Sita Ram's regiment was a familiar figure to everyone, responsible for discipline, not forbidden, as he subsequently was, to award a punishment more severe than five days' drill without obtaining higher authority. He was 'well known all around' as well as in the regiment, Sita Ram said; and 'the villagers came from as far as thirty miles away to inform him where the game was' when he wanted to organize a tiger hunt to which he would, perhaps, invite a local landholder. Contemporaries of his, who appear in other memoirs of the time, wrestled with their men or fenced with them or took them out hawking. One colonel is described as sending a non-commissioned officer ahead of him on the march to discover the best chess players in the village nearest his camping-ground. Another, who knew ' how to treat the sepoys in their own way', who was not one 'of your pipe-clay rigid disciplinarians who would utterly extinguish the native in the soldier', could make his men roar with laughter or shake in their shoes as he pleased. Like most British officers in India then he had a native mistress, and made no attempt to interfere with her ancient faith which he was prepared to respect until God saw fit to change it. It was not until the 1830s and 1840s, when marriage to white women became more common, that living with a native mistress was considered to be rather disreputable. By then it was 'fashionable to admire what came from England and to eschew everything "black"; increasingly the figure of fun became, not the griffin . . . but the peppery colonel with his hookah, his mulligatawny and his Indian mistress'.

Unchecked innumeracy

An excellent example of something I have been observing and commenting for a long time.

Click for the thread.

The NYT journalist misunderstood the analysis he was reading and ended up misreporting the findings. The mainstream media does this a lot. On average, their journalists have a narrow and shallow portfolio of life experience, they are innumerate, they are only average in their cognitive abilities though they assess themselves as significantly above average and they no longer have anyone reviewing their work to catch even the most obvious blunders. With spellcheckers and grammar checker tools in MS Word, they are good to go, straight from the uncluttered brain of the journalist into print with nary a fact check or reality test.

It is empirically observable that most journalists are college educated, urban located, overcompensated, younger, harder left than the American population at large. This of course leads to skewed reporting, marred by fallacious reporting owing to innumeracy, etc.

The great challenge is that when you combine innumeracy with bias, you get markedly skewed fake news.

The question is whether this is 1) emergent order from contextual circumstances, 2) deliberate and intentional bias, or 3) pure laziness and unprofessionalism.

These three hypotheses could each plausibly explain the manifest poor quality of reporting. Right leaning commentators incline towards Hypothesis 2. Left leaning commentators deny that there are any errors in reporting.

The right position is bolstered and the left position undermined when obvious shenanigans such as this go on.

I subscribe to Hypothesis 1 with a dash of Hypothesis 3.

I don't think there is much that is deliberate in the implausibly inaccurate and skewed reporting. It is mostly the product of the combination of innumerate and inexperienced reporters in a bubble reporting on things about which they do not know (but think they do) in a context where the business fundamentals are such that there is no quality control and an overwhelming pressure to generate clicks over valuation of accuracy. It is unconscious emergent order. And of course, as a human system, Hypothesis 3 always has relevancy.

It is not easily proven. But in the above case of the ever evolving headlines, it is worth noting that the first version, for a hard left leaning organ such as the NYT, could only have been generated in error. The later rewrites were obvious intentional efforts to mask the initital truth reported, but there is no way that the first headline was printed on purpose. It was a simple accident that the truth slipped through.

Click to enlarge.

Cry me a River by Julie London

Cry me a River by Julie London

Double click to enlarge.
Cry me a River
by Julie London

Now you say you're lonely
You cry the whole night thorough
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you

Now you say you're sorry
For bein' so untrue
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you

You drove me, nearly drove me out of my head
While you never shed a tear
Remember, I remember all that you said
Told me love was too plebeian
Told me you were through with me and

Now you say you love me
Well, just to prove you do
Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you

I cried a river over you
I cried a river over you

The universal meme rises to the occasion

Best of the Bee

Why should their families be spared the experience of the nation?

Soybeans by Thomas Alan Orr

by Thomas Alan Orr

The October air was warm and musky, blowing
Over brown fields, heavy with the fragrance
Of freshly combined beans, the breath of harvest.

He was pulling a truckload onto the scales
At the elevator near the rail station siding north of town
When a big Cadillac drove up. A man stepped out,
Wearing a three-piece suit and a gold pinky ring.
The man said he had just invested a hundred grand
In soybeans and wanted to see what they looked like.

The farmer stared at the man and was quiet, reaching
For the tobacco in the rear pocket of his jeans,
Where he wore his only ring, a threadbare circle rubbed
By working cans of dip and long hours on the backside
Of a hundred acre run. He scooped up a handful
Of small white beans, the pearls of the prairie, saying:

Soybeans look like a foot of water on the field in April
When you're ready to plant and can't get in;
Like three kids at the kitchen table
Eating macaroni and cheese five nights in a row,
Or like a broken part on the combine when
Your credit with the implement dealer is nearly tapped.

Soybeans look like prayers bouncing off the ceiling
When prices on the Chicago grain market start to drop;
Or like your old man's tears when you tell him
How much the land might bring for subdivisions.
Soybeans look like the first good night of sleep in weeks
When you unload at the elevator and the kids get Christmas.

He spat a little juice on the tire of the Cadillac,
Laughing despite himself and saying to the man:
Now maybe you can tell me what a hundred grand looks like.