Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown scaling back Delta Tunnels proposal

Sacramento Delta

After seven years of resistance and fightback against the Twin Tunnels boondoggle that would shunt water from the Sacramento Delta southward to the Central Valley and Southern California, California Governor Jerry Brown is thinking of scaling it back to just one tunnel. This would cost a mere $10 billion rather than $17 billion. Gosh. Proponents of the plan say they might be close to getting the money. Translation: They don’t have the money.

Yet this misbegotten project continues to stumble on. Perhaps if Gov. Brown and the State of California hadn’t been so obviously and deliberately misleading about the project, maybe more would support it. But you can’t shunt huge amounts of water away from the Delta then say with a straight face that this will help the Delta. Yet that is what Gov. Brown is doing.

And it’s questionable the tunnels would actually allow more water to be pumped.

Complicating Brown’s plans, his administration has not been able to guarantee that the tunnels will allow any more water to be pumped out of the Delta than is being pumped out now — roughly 50 percent of all its fresh water in most years.

Obegi said the primary goal of his organization is to get the state to take less water from the Delta. Regional projects like water recycling, stormwater capture and the construction of new off-stream reservoirs should instead meet California’s future water needs, he said. Other environmentalists agreed, saying want more details of how much water would be taken in a single tunnel, when and what the impacts on the environment would be.

“After spending over a quarter of a billion dollars pushing for the big tunnels, the state and the Metropolitan Water District have finally recognized that it is dead,” said Jonas Minton, a senior water analyst with the Planning and Conservation League. “The problem with a somewhat smaller version is that it still lacks all the safeguards required to ensure that it will not destroy the environment and economy of the Bay Delta estuary.”

Gutenberg for WordPress will break things. Long-term, that’s good.

Gutenberg, the new underlying platform for WordPress, will start being implemented early this year in the editor. There is considerable gnashing of teeth about this in some circles because some existing plugins will not work with the Gutenberg editor. The plugin code will have to be updated. Moreover, Gutenberg is not just for the editor, it will also be implemented for themes and plugins.

My thoughts: Gutenberg is way better than existing WordPress. Building complex posts and pages with lots of styling and options becomes easy. Everything will be drag-and-drop. Changes can be made with a couple of clicks. WordPress can either continuing being backwards compatible with years of sometimes bad code or it can reinvent itself with new underpinnings and be more than competitive with Wix and Medium. Based on Gutenberg editor demos I’ve seen, WordPress will soon have a more powerful editor than the competition.

Backwards compatibility will be sacrificed to do this. Users will be able to disable the Gutenberg editor, at least for now. Once Gutenberg is implemented in themes and plugins then disabling it will be more problematic.

Gutenberg might fracture the WordPress community. There could be a code split. Or WordPress could get through this coming bumpy period having created a new world-class version of itself.

WordPress has always been a project that prides itself on backwards compatibility, a choice that has left the codebase large, outdated, and full of technical debt. WordPress allows the software to be run on a version of PHP (5.2.4) that has been unsupported by PHP since January 2011! Developers have been calling for this to be raised for some time but it has been postponed under the banner of backwards compatibility and the ‘Design for the Majority’ philosophy because the “average WordPress user simply wants to be able to write without problems or interruption.”

But Gutenberg is quite a departure from this stance. The goal of the project has dictated the need to use modern technologies (React, REST API), and therefore it circumvents the problematic parts of core. Matt Mullenweg views this as a positive, perhaps not willing to admit the double standard here.

Time will tell if the Gutenberg project is a success. It certainly is powerful software and could be a gamechanger. Although I joked about not liking change, I see the value in it. It is necessary to grow and push forward. But only when the change is well thought out, initiated for the right reasons, and adopted in a sensible fashion.

Oroville Dam spillway collapse due to “long-term systemic failure”

The Oroville Dam in California suffered from a flawed design and construction, and had inadequate inspections in the decades since it was built in the 1960s. These ongoing errors and omissions, coupled with an overconfident Department of Water Resources created the situation leading to the catastrophic failure of the spillway in Feb. 2017, says an independent report.

The report is blunt. There were multiple problems, made worse by regulators and officials not paying attention. The result was thousands had to be evacuated because of fears the entire dam might fail.

“The seriousness of the weak as-constructed conditions and lack of repair durability was not recognized during numerous inspections and review processes over the almost 50-year history of the project.”

It appears probable, given botched inspections (they were visual only) and maintenance that was never done, that the Division of Safety of Dams will be reorganized.

“This is an institutional failure,” says Ron Stork of Friends of the River, at a recent legislative oversight hearing. “That dam has not been safe since it was constructed.”

Stork is partly referring to the Dept. of Water Resources’ choice to build the dam’s emergency spillway with no concrete reinforcement. Massive erosion on the bare earthen slope is what triggered mass evacuations in February, when weeks of heavy precipitation pushed Oroville Lake over the rim of the spillway, threatening a potentially catastrophic flood.

Municipal broadband. Ammon, Idaho leads the way

The small town of Ammon, Idaho needed broadband. Rather than going with big cable or big telco, they did it themselves. They used existing budgets for water, school, fire, and other municipal services to build the grid then – and here’s the really innovative part – they sell excess capacity to locals. It makes a profit. Thus,the city gets badly needed broadband for its departments for no monthly fee, and citizens and businesses get fast, cheap internet.

Everyone wins. And they allow people to sign up for whatever service they want. Anyone can offer service, it’s open. The city virtualizes the internet. This allows users to change service providers in five seconds. It also allows gunshot sensors in schools to instantly notify cameras near the gunshots, which monitor what happens and it notifies police. This happens in seconds.

“We talk with Ammon’s Mayor, local residents, private businesses, and the city’s technology director to understand why a small conservative city decided to build its own network and then open it to the entire community. We explain how they financed it and even scratch the surface of how software-defined networking brought the future of Internet services to Ammon before any larger metro regions.”

Iran protests are genuine, huge, deserve support

Saying the Iran protests are somehow stage-managed by Washington is American Exceptionalism. It implies the US somehow controls the planet and that protesters, some of whom have been killed, are unknowing puppets. Which is really kind of insulting to the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Iran now, when you think about it.

The Iran protests were probably originally started by hardliners. However, the protests grew hugely and quickly. The hardliners no longer control them, if they ever did. These are real, homegrown protests by people weary of their autocratic, religious nutcase regime. At least twenty are dead, so far.

Yes, outside forces and shadowy groups will try to influence the protests, to spin it their own way. There has been disinformation. Getting accurate information is dificult because the regime is so repressive. However, by all accounts, the protests are immense, not manipulated, and deserve support.

It may be that these conservatives initiated or tolerated the protests as a way of undermining President Hassan Rouhani, seen as a political moderate, who was re-elected by a landslide last year. If so, the protests have swiftly spiralled out of the control of the conservatives and are erupting all over Iran, strong evidence of a high level of discontent everywhere in the country and possibly a sign of covert organisation by anti-government groups.

And of course their Supreme Leader is blaming outside agitators. This invariably happens when protests get huge.

Iran’s supreme leader broke his silence Tuesday on the antigovernment protests erupting across the country, blaming the deadly unrest on foreign “enemies.”

“During the escapades of the past several days, Iran’s enemies, using the various tools at their disposal, including money, weapons, politics and security apparatus, have allied [with one another] to create problems for the Islamic establishment,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by state media in his first comments on the unrest that began Thursday.