(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘slavery

“Freight mobility and movement, while not a sexy policy issue, is a highly important one”*…

… and a hugely profitable one. Shipping rates, which have contributed to inflation, are coming down– but remain high– and massively profitable for carriers…

The results are in. The container shipping industry earned profits of $58.9 billion in the third quarter, breaking a streak of seven straight record quarters for the sector and further confirmation that the industry’s earnings peak is now firmly in the rear-view, according to industry veteran John McCown.

While the $58.9 billion profit is 22.4% higher than the $48.1 billion profit from last year’s third quarter, it is 6.6% lower than the “mind-altering” $63.7 billion earned in this year’s second quarter, making for a slight sequential earnings downturn that is expected to continue in the months and quarters ahead as aggregate overall pricing in the sector continues to ease, McCown said in his latest container shipping quarterly report

Throughout the pandemic, container shipping has benefitted from significant price increases across most lanes as strong consumer demand combined with widespread port congestion drove freight rates to records.

“The sharp upturn in the quarterly bottom line performance of the container shipping industry over the last two years is one of the most pronounced performance changes ever by an overall industry,” McCown writes. “It comes on the heels of results in the more than ten years following the financial crisis and preceding the pandemic that results in a negative overall bottom line. The container shipping industry has literally gone from being at the bottom related to overall industry performance to being at the top related to overall industry performance.”

McCown attempts to put the container shipping’s recent performance into perspective by comparing the industry’s profits to FANG, an acronym he uses for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

“Container shipping industry profits were 14% higher than total FANG profits in 4Q21, 103% higher than FANG profits in 1Q22 and 145% higher than FANG profits in 2Q22. For 3Q22, that gap has expanded even more as container shipping industry profits have swelled to being 158% above total FANG profits.”…

The invisible behemoth– container shipping, from @MikeSchuler.

Bill Lipinski

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As we contemplate containers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1860 that the slave ship Erie was sold at government auction at Red Hook, Brooklyn:

The ship was sold, after being captured and impounded by the US Government, for enslaving and importing Africans, a business banned by the federal government under the Piracy Law of 1820, which followed The Slave Trade Act of 1794, two steps in the USA’s long, slow process of devolving and banning the slave trade (the shipping of captured people) and slavery. Slavery was finally banned in 1865.  The case of the ERIE was chosen by a US Attorney, a judge, and by President Lincoln himself to signal a major change in policy on slavery and their commitment to end it.

The owner and captain of the Erie, Nathaniel Gordon of Maine, did not get off free as was usually the case. He was tried and found guilty of running a slave ship – and the Piracy Law of 1820 said the punishment was execution. Gordon’s supporters, including members of Congress and even friends of President Lincoln, sought a presidential pardon; but Abraham Lincoln refused due to his conviction that a point about slavery needed to be made with the ERIE and Captain Gordon.

Captain Gordon was distressed, in jail, and attempted suicide. He was resuscitated and was hanged at the Tombs in Manhattan and became the first – and only – importer of slaves to be executed for the crime in the USA. Soon after Gordon’s execution, Abraham Lincoln presented his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Several months later, the Proclamation was finalized, followed by the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery.

Slaver Captain Arrested – Ship Sold at Auction in Red Hook – 1860

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 5, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”*…

It’s all too easy to believe that slavery is a thing of the past. The reality is different…

Slavery officially ended in 1981, when Mauritania became the last country to ban forced labour. But in practice it remains surprisingly common. On any given day, at least 49m people are in modern slavery, according to a new report by the UN and Walk Free, a human-rights group. The report defines modern slavery as people either forced to work or forced to marry. Such issues are often seen as a problem confined to the world’s poorest countries. But the authors of the report reckon that more than half of the global incidents of forced labour last year happened in what the World Bank defines as upper-middle and high-income countries (though poorer countries had a higher rate per 1,000 people).

To estimate the prevalence of forced labour, the authors interviewed around 78,000 people from 68 countries. In some places, such as North Korea, it is impossible to conduct such surveys, so estimates are less reliable than in more developed countries. According to the report, countries in Asia and the Pacific are host to more than half of all incidents of forced labour. Though as a proportion of the population Arab states were the worst offenders, with the equivalent of 1% of their populations enslaved.

The already grim situation is getting worse. Between 2016 and 2021 an additional 2.7m people worked in forced labour, taking the total to nearly 28m—more than 3m were children, though the data show that number is falling. Forced marriages increased by 6.6m over the same period, to a total of 22m. That may be an undercount: respondents were asked if they consented to their marriage, meaning that people who were forced into a relationship but later accepted it would not be counted in the data. Women and girls made up the biggest share of forced marriages, though one-third of those coerced into wedlock were male.

The most common type of coercion faced by workers is non-payment of wages. The fact that covid-19 lockdowns decimated many people’s incomes made it easier to exploit that vulnerability. In wealthier countries, sectors including agriculture, construction, domestic work and fishing were found to have the highest rates of forced work, with the private sector responsible for the majority of cases…

The plague is getting worse: “The number of people in modern slavery is increasing,” from @ECONdailycharts.

* Abraham Lincoln

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As we stamp out servitude, we might send free birthday greetings to David Walker; he was born on this date in 1796. The North Carolina born son of a slave father and a free African American mother, he was born free and made his way to Boston, where he became an outspoken abolitionist. From 1827-29, he was the Boston representative and correspondent for New York City’s short-lived but influential Freedom’s Journal, the first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans.

In 1829, he published An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, a call for black unity and a fight against slavery. African Americans throughout the South got hold of Walker’s Appeal, enraging Southern governments. Less than one year after the publication of the Appeal, Walker was found dead of unknown causes. A $1,000 reward had been offered for his death.

The issue of Freedom’s Journal containing the first version of the “Appeal”; subsequent editions followed (source)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand”*…

It’s painfully obvious that America is a divided nation. The reasons are many, and have deep roots. Alan Jacobs contemplates three of the most fundamental…

The American Civil War was not that long ago. The last surviving Civil War veteran died two years before my birth. A conflict of that size and scope and horror leaves marks — marks on the land and marks on the national psyche — not readily erased.

I have come to believe that certain habits of mind arising directly from the Civil War still dominate the American consciousness today. I say not specific beliefs but rather intellectual dispositions; and those dispositions account for the form that many of our conflicts take today. Three such habits are especially important.

1. Among Southerners – and I am one – the primary habit is a reliance on consoling lies. In the aftermath of the Civil War Southerners told themselves that the Old South was a culture of nobility and dignity; that slaves were largely content with their lot and better off enslaved than free; that the war was not fought for slavery but in the cause of state’s rights; that Robert E. Lee was a noble and gentle man who disliked slavery; and so on. Such statements were repeated for generations by people who knew that they were evasive at best – the state’s right that the Confederacy was created to defend was the right to own human beings as chattel – and often simply false, and if the people making those statements didn’t consciously understand the falsehood, they kept such knowledge at bay through the ceaseless repetition of their mantras. (Ty Seidule’s book Robert E. Lee and Me is an illuminating account, from the inside, of how such deceptions and self-deceptions work.) And now we see precisely the same practice among the most vociferous supporters of Donald Trump: a determined repetition of assertions – especially that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen, but also concerning COVID–19 and many other matters – that wouldn’t stand up even to casual scrutiny, and therefore don’t receive that scrutiny. It’s easy to fall into a new set of lies when you have a history of embracing a previous set of lies. 

2. Among Northerners, the corresponding habit is a confidence in one’s own moral superiority. Because the North was right and the South wrong about the institution of slavery, it was easy for the North then to dismiss any evidence of its own complicity in racism. Our cause is righteous – that is all we know on earth, and all we need know. (But if our cause is righteous, doesn’t that suggest that we are too?) And then, later, whenever there were political conflicts in which the majority of Northerners were on one side and the majority of Southerners on the other – about taxation, or religious liberty, or anything – the temptation was irresistible to explain the disagreement always by the same cause: the moral rectitude of the one side, the moral corruption of the other. The result (visible on almost every page of the New York Times, for instance) is a pervasive smugness that enrages many observers while remaining completely invisible to those who have fallen into it. 

3. And among Black Americans, the relevant disposition is a settled suspicion of any declarations of achieved freedom. Emancipation, it turns out, is not achieved by proclamation; nor is it achieved by the purely legal elimination of slavery. Abolition did not end discrimination or violence; indeed, it ushered in a new era of danger for many (the era of lynching) and a new legal system (Jim Crow) that scarcely altered the economic conditions of the recently enslaved. After this happens two or three times you learn to be skeptical, and you teach your children to be skeptical. Brown v. Board of Education produces equal educational opportunity for blacks and whites? We have our doubts. The Civil Rights Act outlaws racial discrimination? We’ll see about that. I wonder how many times Black Americans have heard that racism is over. They don’t, as far as I can tell anyway, believe that things haven’t gotten better; but they believe that improvement has been slow and uneven, and that many injustices that Americans think have died are in fact alive and often enough thriving.   

I think these three persistent habits of mind explain many of the conflicts that beset Americans today. And if I were to rank them in order of justifiability, I would say: the first is tragically unjustifiable — and the chief reason why, to my lasting grief, we Southerners have so often allowed our vices to displace our virtues —; the second is understandable but dangerously misleading; and the third … well, the third is pretty damn hard to disagree with.  

As the man [William Faulkner] said: The past is not dead; it is not even past. 

From Jabob’s always-illuminating blog, Snakes and Ladders, “habits of the American mind.” You can follow him at @ayjay.

[Image above: source]

* Abraham Lincoln (in his speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention, Springfield, Illinois June 16, 1858)

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As we dwell on division, we might recall that it was on this date in 1787 that an organic act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, the Northwest Ordinance. It created the Northwest Territory, the new nation’s first organized incorporated territory, from lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains, between British North America and the Great Lakes to the north and the Ohio River to the south. The upper Mississippi River formed the territory’s western boundary; Pennsylvania was the eastern boundary.

Considered one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation Congress, it established the precedent by which the federal government would be sovereign and expand westward with the admission of new states, rather than with the expansion of existing states and their established sovereignty under the Articles of Confederation. It also protected civil liberties and outlawed slavery in the new territories and set legislative precedent with regard to American public domain lands.

The prohibition of slavery in the territory had the practical effect of establishing the Ohio River as the geographic divide between slave states and free states from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, an extension of the Mason–Dixon line, helping set the stage for later federal political conflicts over slavery during the 19th century until the Civil War.

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“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”*…

Each year, millions of barrels are shipped from NYC to the Caribbean. Ameena Walker unpacks the why, how, and the economics involved…

For many Caribbean communities across New York City, carefully curating barrels to ship to relatives outside of the U.S. is a relatively common practice. Fueled by an urge to provide for loved ones left back home, the Caribbean diaspora in New York, and cities around the country, meticulously source a variety of sought-after goods, intricately packing them in barrels on the cusp of overflowing and eventually mailing them overseas. The unconventional shipping method is the most affordable way to get a hefty load abroad. More than four million barrels are shipped from the northeast to the Caribbean annually, indicating a strong demand for merchandise from the U.S and a thriving business in this niche logistic sector….

The justification for using barrels to ship goods is practical. An empty 55-gallon HDPE or HMWPE drum weighs around 50 kg, but has a capacity of around 1,200 kg. Their maneuverability also plays a large part, as they can be easily stacked, rolled, or forklifted and withstand pressure and temperature changes during storage and handling….

Once the barrel is obtained, you’ll need to fill it to the brim. This is one of the more intriguing aspects of the process, as it is essential that no space is left unfilled. Practices like rolling clothes as tight as possible, stuffing the insides of footwear with additional items, removing excess packaging (e.g., taking shoes out of boxes) and shoving small items like batteries and toothbrushes into nooks and crannies ensure that not even a single crevice is left void. It’s not uncommon for someone to climb into the barrel to squish the whole mass further down, provided there aren’t any breakables or spillables inside. Virtually any item can be shipped, and it can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several months to fill a drum to maximum capacity. It’s an unspoken rule that if the barrel doesn’t require a full-sized adult to sit on top of it to force it closed, there’s room to pack more! After the drum is willed shut, it is sealed with a metal clamp and locking security cable that secures the lid and ensures its contents will not be accessed while enroute. It is then labeled on the top and side with sender and receiver’s information that should match whatever is on the shipping documents…

Despite the expansion of e-commerce, many Caribbean countries still don’t have access to simple conveniences like online shopping, making it difficult to obtain necessities. Relatives in major U.S. cities mollify this by making sure their loved ones back home get the goods they want and need, with no ocean standing in their way and no barrel packed too full…

Eminently worth reading in full: “Remittance by the Barrel,” from @awalkinny in @the_prepared.

Proverb

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As we pack it tight, we might send gilded birthday greetings to Johns Hopkins; he was born on this date in 1795. A businessman who is largely remembered as a philanthropist, he operated wholesale and retail businesses in the Baltimore area; he built his fortune by judiciously investing his proceeds in myriad other ventures, most notably, the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad. In 1996, Johns Hopkins ranked 69th in “The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates – A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present

His bequests founded a number institutions bearing his name, the best-known of which are, of course, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University.

Although Hopkins is widely-noted as an abolitionist, recent research indicates that Johns Hopkins was a slave owner for at least part of his life.

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“A good bookshop is like a genteel black hole that knows how to read”*…

Some good news…

Riding strong gains in the second half of the year, bookstore sales increased 28% in 2021 over 2020, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales were $9.03 billion, compared to sales of $6.50 billion in pandemic-ravaged 2020.

The rebound was not quite enough to bring 2021 bookstore sales back to 2019 levels, falling 1% below 2019 sales of $9.13 billion… [but] was higher than the 19.3% increase for the entire retail sector…

Book shops are back: “Bookstore Sales Rose 28% in 2021,” from @PublishersWkly

* Terry Pratchett

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As we browse, we might spare a thought for an author whose works are eminently worth picking up on one’s next bookstore run: social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman Frederick Douglass (Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey); he died on this date in 1895. Born into slavery, he escaped to become a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings.

He was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counterexample to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens; indeed, some Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great thinker had once been a slave.

Douglass believed in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders,” criticized Douglass’s willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

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