Monday assorted links

1. Portuguese political path dependence.

2. Japanese ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink.  “Eimi Haga followed the ninja technique of “aburidashi”, spending hours soaking and crushing soybeans to make the ink.  The words appeared when her professor heated the paper over his gas stove.”

3. New part of Tale of Genji found.

4. An ecologist on tree thinning and wildfires.

5. Why was Nepal never colonized?

6. Young people who are convinced they should give away all of their inherited wealth.


#1 "Brazil was colonised by similarly ceding "captaincies" to nobles, there were latifundias, landless peasants, and an oligarchic political and economic system."

It is not that simple. The captancies system in its purest form lasted fifteen years. After that, a central colonial government was imposed and the power of the captaincies' owners was curbed by the Crown.

Great point as always, Thiago.

My insightful response to these links is that I don’t like the POTUS.

I am no Thiago. I am Mr. Johnson, an American citizen and life-long Republican voter.

Fwiw, I just woke up, and these "parodies" are not me.

Strange days.

Tell me about it.

"My insightful response to these links is that I don’t like the POTUS."

Stop pretending to be the mouse!

4. The thinning he describes is very labor intensive. Essentially a crew cleans up the wood debris on the forest floor, clears small trees away. It doesn't prevent or stop a fire, it simply slows it down so that fire fighters can deal with it.

The forests in this area are mature, with diseased sections. The areas that are diseased are gradually getting burned out. There is so much wood fuel on the forest floor, in many places two or three layers of dead falls, that a fire burns extremely hot, down to the gravel and burns the standing trees. It takes a long time for that forest to regenerate. I was hiking in an area burnt in 2007 and there are shrubs and berry bushes, very few new trees because there isn't any soil yet.

Fire is a natural process that rejuvenates the forest. The problem is that we live in the forest areas. The town I live in and it's environs are very vulnerable to fires, and there will be a problem one year. The mature forests are going to disappear one way or another. Best to do it in a controlled manner. Logging is one way to do it. The other ways are to burn it in the off season, or wait and hope that when it burns it isn't too bad.

The fire suppression system has been so effective that it has created a forest that is going to burn catastrophically. The last few years in the Cariboo and Chilcotin areas have been catastrophic. Mature forests with serious beetle kill have burnt off massive areas, with serious disruption. But the current way of doing things is well funded and deeply entrenched in the government way of doing things. We were lucky this year, it was wet and cool in July. There were few fires. Just more undergrowth to dry off next year and burn.

More Trumpian rake the forest solutions.

You’re pathetic.

The local regional district (akin to a county) has a program where they clean up and thin forest interfaces. From 300-500 meters, trees are thinned far enough apart to prevent crowning, the forest floor cleaned with anything flammable removed. Very labor intensive, typically by hand. The goal is to slow down the fire spread as it approaches developed areas.

In the real world people deal with real problems and apply practical solutions to them. Then there is your world, where ever it is.

That is the correct way to do it. Around here the thinned and raked forest is called a shaded fire break. The local fire department is surround by just such a shaded fire break, both to protect the fire station and as a demonstration project.

"Essentially a crew cleans up the wood debris on the forest floor, clears small ..."

That sounds like Trump's "raking", which is exactly what the professional firefighters do here in our forest in Central California, but this triggers the mouse, because TDS.

Don't pay any attention to the mouse.

BTW, the mouse world is in Russia or Central Asia somewhere. His assignment is to stir up sh*t.

1. So, places where there is historically greater equality... tend to vote right-wing?

Unlike places with an oligarchy of landlords. Like, say, San Francisco.

4. Tree-thinning is literally virtue signaling. It gives the appearance of doing something but doesn't really address the issue. Go ahead and clear your conscience. But don't kid yourself that it'll stop all wildfires.

Building fire breaks and clearing defensible space around houses in fire-prone areas is not virtue signaling. It is survival. And it is also the law.

In CA, violating that law is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1000. So the company breaks law intentionally because the fine is way cheaper than hiring contractors and the government gets to tell everybody that the law will protect them. Looks like virtue signaling and security theater to me. Everybody can pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Way cheaper? PG&E is bankrupt and liable for billions of dollars. That hardly seems cheap .

Being a de facto monopoly in Northern California in a critical service like electricity, PG&E is simply too big to fail. So you know what that means.

Moral hazard is like string theory, it looks impressive on paper but doesn't apply to the real world. The geniuses in economics who came up with the idea need to revisit this ridiculous notion that has ill served our world. The principal-agent problem trumps moral hazard every time.

PG&E pulled a fast one when they paid dividends just before filing for bankruptcy. That's ugly.

However, PG&E is regulated by the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission). The board members are appointed by the Governor - one by Newsome all the rest by Gobernor "moonbeam" Jerry Brown. Go to the CPUC website and read their bios. You will see the words and phrases "sustainable", "social justice", "renewables", etc. What is even more interesting is what you don't see.

I often wonder if the big political machine in California wants to kill PG&E. The local enviro-lobby, of which I am a member, pushed through a local, opt out, "sustainable", "community power" utility to deliver electricity from "sustainable" sources. Of course I was automatically enrolled. I didn't opt out, even though I think it's bullsh*t, because I wanted to see how it works. The "community power" utility doesn't generate any sustainable power, it buys it from other utilities, like hydro-power from Washington state, which now has to replace that power with power from other sources, like natural gas. The "community" power utility uses PG&E's power lines, it doesn't have any of it's own. When the lines go down in the winter storms, which that always do, PG&E crews repair them, often in the rain in the middle of the night standing on the tie of a mudslide. PG&E handles the billing. I get a bill from PG&E but the money goes to the "community" utility. Basically, the "community power" utility is just an office somewhere. It seems like rent seeking and free riding to me, but I never even took Econ 101, so what do I know. All of this was pushed through via the power of the left controlled government.

I think the big left political machine in California would be happy if PG&E went out of business and the machine could divy up and give the power market in California to all their political friends in the "sustainable" power business. There is only one PG&E but there could be scores of community power companies - that's a lot of political plums to leverage.

It's all politics, and all politics is local.

+1, nice thread

The BBCs podcast series "the missing cryptoqueen" is self-recommending.

6. Referring to his giving away part of the fortune received by his Qualcomm founder grandfather: “I wish what I do wasn’t voluntary”.
In other words, “I’d like to be a slave, provided the rest of the people were as well”. Simply terrifying.

I read the story, and noted that not one of these people was personally working to do anything real, e.g. develop a cure for disease, better building material to lower housing cost, better anything.

It’s very high end virtue signaling.

I met Grandfather Jacobs once, before he founded Qualcomm. There was a guy who created, along with Andrew Viturbi and a few others, much of the reality of modern wireless communications.

These trust fund kids are pathetic fools.

He gave his hard earned money, certainly that counts as virtue and not signaling.

His only point is that all millionaires (and some good portion of what I like to call thousandaires) should be required to give much of their mostly ill-gotten wealth back to society through taxes.

So his money was hard earned, but the other millionaire’s money was mostly ill-gotten?

LeTourneau gave up 90% of his wealth, though I suspect these philanthropic entrepreneurs wouldn’t approve

#6: Bobos in paradise. The New Upper Class and How They Got There Brooks, David (2000)

#6) Interesting that when someone spends their inherited wealth to advance their left-wing social justice warrior political agenda, they are "giving it away". When the Koch brothers spend the wealth they earned themselves to advance freedom and liberty for the rest of us, they are dominating our political system.

That would depend on how it gets spent, doesn't it? Trust fund babies usually lack discipline and can't think beyond virtue signaling. The Koch brothers and others like Soros are professionals at this game and know very well what they are doing. They certainly play to win.

5. "The reason Nepal wasn't gobbled up by the British Empire was because the East India Company didn't want to jeopardize the lucrative trade between British India and China"

How does this jeopardize trade considering all the other land grabs taking place at this time? If anything, British India would get another trade route into China with more land to grow commodities.

I don't quite get this either. What makes more sense to me is that it would have been a pain to rule/manage for a seafaring empire and most of the trade value could be captured in their Indian territories anyway, so why bother?

Off topic, tangential book recommendation: The Last Moghul by William Dalrymple concerning the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny in and around Delhi. The mutiny precipitated the British government taking over administration of the Subcontinent from the East India company.

Yeah, that was clickbait by The Guardian and by Tyler. It wasn't a new chapter, it was a chapter already known and published. What they found is an older copy of that chapter.

I.e. as with Shakespeare's plays, the original manuscript is long gone and all we have are transcriptions, of varying vintage and accuracy.

6. They should of spent their time starting a business, managing staff, and trying to make a profit on their own. Instead they sit around with boat loads of cash and speak their weirdo neo Leninist-golbdygook-authoritarian double speak.

I’m unsurprised that a wealthy generation fully indoctrinated in the mediocre far left American university zeitgeist is guilty about their wealth.

Also for a group of Uber rich kids, they don’t seem to have raised very much money. Maybe the author of the article is overhyping this “movement”.

"I’m unsurprised that a wealthy generation fully indoctrinated in the mediocre far left American university zeitgeist is guilty about their wealth."

You wanna a safe space?

You need one - clearly you are triggered.

1. The author's analysis is wrong. The ownership of land in the South of Spain and Portugal was mainly transfered from the Mosque to the church and not an oligarchy. It was the same regime of land ownership in Algeria where land belonged to the mosque. Middle age Islam was the first large scale experience of collectivism.

"The author's analysis is wrong. The ownership of land in the South of Spain and Portugal was mainly transfered from the Mosque to the church and not an oligarchy."

But, in the 19th century, the liberals confiscated the Church lands and sell it in public auctions, and this land is bought by rich people - then, oligarchy.

Actually the author is rigth, and you are oversimplifying, the "church" was not a single entity, but a oligarchy, including nobles, knights and ecclesiastical orders.

The author is contending that the agrarian system explains latter-day voting patterns. He doesn't stop to ask how plausible that is when all of 6% of the working population is to be found in the agricultural sector.

6. Interesting article, but I wish they provided more information on what organizations were getting the donations.

On the one hand, I believe that philanthropy should be strongly encouraged and large inheritances strongly discouraged—the system of private property and capitalism turns into feudalism if one’s wealth depends more on what one inherited versus what one earns through one’s own efforts.

On the other hand, there is a difference between philanthropy that helps poor people directly such as effective altruism versus philanthropy that seeks political change. And there is a difference between philanthropy that seeks to reduce versus increase the government’s coercion of others not involved in the philanthropy. It would be good to know which categories most of this organization’s giving falls into.

"[Large] inheritances [should be] strongly discouraged" - I believe you underestimate the next generations' ability to squander their elders' wealth.

If you had any doubt, this article give you plenty of examples. Grandpa founds Qualcomm, grandson gives it to a bunch of losers.

>Last year he donated a portion of the growth of his trust fund income, around $750,000. [...] In the meantime he works as a $115-an-hour SAT tutor for an agency
Social-mobility-wise, that's probably a wash.

"A portion of the growth." At least he managed to internalize one lesson: "Never spend the principle!"

"A portion of the growth of the income." Even better!

6. ALL their money? That's what your link says, that's what the article title says.

Alas, no. If one of these people really does give away ALL their money, that would be an amazing story, like Francis of Assisi.

This has an utterly different vibe to it.

I laughed out loud at the one girl, given her turn to speak, “I’m just really consumed with my puppy right now. Pass left.”

Fight the power!!

Yes, total misrepresentation. Nothing new is in that new chunk.

The Tale of Genji is a lot like the New Testament, in that there are hundreds of manuscripts of various parts dating from various periods, with a greater or lesser amount of later editorial attention.

There are two, or perhaps three, main lines or traditions, families that maintained and annotated manuscripts of the Tale of Genji over generations. One of them is the most popular source for translations. These families are the equivalent of Benedictine monks copying the New Testament over and over again and preserving it during the dark ages.

We know a lot more than we would otherwise know about classical Japanese grammar and vocabulary, poetic and historical allusions in the Tale, poems copied from old anthologies and repurposed by Murasaki, and more, because of these families of scholars. The book, although very long, has almost no internal inconsistencies, "continuity" problems, or "bloopers," a state you only get to if there are dozens of generations of editors looking over a book and tweeking it.

In addition, the book comes to us in its present order because of the editorial attention paid to it. It was originally distributed as loose scrolls (the young girl in the Sarashina Diary talks about reading it piecemeal as she got her hands on scrolls, eventually scoring the whole thing from an aunt who had collected all the scrolls). From internal evidence the editors assembled the Tale into its present order, but this order is controversial. There are some chapters that could be in different places.

Most interestingly, the book can be arranged in two completely independent streams, each of which is ordered but does not require any chapters from the other stream. From this has developed the theory that Murasaki wrote and completed the book, and then started over and wrote an alternate set of tales in parallel time, due to popular demand. Editors later interwove these.

Like the New Testament, the Tale of Genji has its share of apocrypha (fake chapters or ancient "fan fiction") and satirical takes from centuries ago.

Makes sense. I thought that scene where Genji meets Murasaki was in the text I read. Not a big deal as you all are saying.

#5 who would want it? Of course who would want Yemen....or Afghanistan..or x?
I think political thinking has not caught up with Adam Smith yet.

I’m happy to take anything they want to give.

But they don’t need an article to show how wonderful they are, they should just do it.

They don’t need mechanisms, gimmicks, virtual parades, foundations, Just cut checks or swipe.

And damn the tax consequences.

The US Treasury will always take their money.

6. "In the first six months of 2019 it broke an internal record when some of its more than 600 dues-paying members pledged $20 million to a variety of social justice and grassroots organizations."

$33,000 average pledge (pledged - not yet given!) is hardly giving it all away for anyone in the multimillionaire set.

They want to keep the Tesla and the Manhattan loft, and virtue-signal with money that won't affect their lifestyle.

An elderly lady summoned ***** to discuss the future of her property with an eye to conserving it. (It had no great value as habitat, but she loved it as people do their patch of earth, their birds and flowers ... ultimately it was decided she would donate it, and he would place a development-prohibiting conservation easement on it, and sell it on to a new private owner. This was done, after many a visit, and a day spent moving her furniture to the old folks' home.)

That first visit, he of course asked as always, about her heirs, what was their desire for the property?

She conveyed that there was no family interest in holding on to the land. Of her two sons, one was gay, she said, and the other was a "hairdresser in Amsterdam."

People without children - or no expectation of grandchildren - are often a boon to charity.

I am not sure all the people - particularly the immigrants - to whom these young trust-funders with seemingly no plans to procreate (does the tiresomely-reiterated "queer" strike anyone else, gay or straight, as a word that can't be retired too soon?), wish to distribute their excess dough, are on board with the idea that money must not be increased for, and kept within, the family.

I feel like the really revolutionary move would be to give away your granddad's money, while having a boatload of children.

The Resource Generation membership cutoff at 35 made me smile. That, I believe, was the old Junior League* cut-off ... until that organization realized it was at crosscurrents with certain societal trends.

*They had the loveliest little orange sweet rolls, served complimentary with lunch, in their tearoom. Tearooms, I miss you, especially on rainy days.

There is a logic disconnect in anyone who objects to thinning a overgrown forest to prevent fires because they love trees, but lies a burned forest.

Not sure if true.
A thinned forest will remove topsoil, while a burned forest will not. Ash leaves the carbon and soil in place while logging will gradually remove it.

Or more accurately ... do we know whether a fire or logging are equally destructive? Not sure we do. Plausibly, fire is less destructive.

Here you see the libertarian position: wildfires for all.

It is probably true that a clear cut (not a thinned forest) would allow topsoil to be washed away. But it is not clear that this is anywhere near the problem that the activists would claim it is. I live in the forest, one of the largest pine forests in the U.S. and it is difficult to find any forest that was not cut and most have been cut more than once. Yet if you go look these regrowth forests are very healthy. I have also spent time in forests that have regrown after a fire and they look great after 20-30 years too. about the only difference between the two events is that cutting the wood provides money to the state, to the federal government and to the companies and employees in the wood products industry AND provides the wood products to build homes. The forest fires do none of these things.

More to the point, "tree thinning" for forest health is vastly different from deregulating tree-cutting which is what Tyler was advocating. His response to the barrage of science last time is a brief and fluffy interview from NPR of all places. Is this just California-baiting?
Most of California receives quite a bit of sunlight and water. You can't stop that from turning into vegetation, and you can't stop some of that from drying out during the summer and becoming fuel, every year. These are the inputs.
So let's look at the annual dying and drying problem. It's a mistake to equate "vegetation" with trees. Much of it is scrub and annuals that survive fire as seeds. Their work is expected to go up in smoke. Trees have much more invested as individuals and when native west coast forest gets established, it does its collective best to shade the annuals out and preserve itself. These are our allies against smoke.
When you deregulate tree cutting, these are the trees that get cut, which is why there is so little old growth forest left. The increased exploitation approach to this problem is not just incorrect but repugnant. It's not about tree worship - the non-native Eucalyptus likes fire as much as the shrubs do. But Tyler's argument is hardly that nuanced.

I refuse to click the link for #2 until it's confirmed that the student's essay included an Ovaltine joke. It's what the ninjas would have wanted.

Similarly, my initial reaction was "What's the big deal? We learned how to use lemon juice as invisible in in 3rd grade."

But the student showed pretty good self-awareness. Secret messages about Ovaltine are probably not part of Japan's cultural heritage, but in the article the student did say that her essay was very pedestrian, she knew that if she was going to get a good grade it was going to be due to the medium, not the message. And the teacher refrained from heating and reading the whole essay, leaving the end still invisible in case news photographers wanted to see what the revealed message looks like, compared to its invisible state.

And the student instead of simply buying some lemons did quite a bit of work to re-create the ninjas' recipe, which involves soaking soybeans and using the extracted juice. She had to experiment with the ratio of water to soy juice (presumably too much water makes the message unreadable whereas too little makes it too visible). So there actually was a good amount of work and experimentation that she put into this.

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