Menace to Venice


Venice was higher and sea level lower in the past, but the city has been suffering “acqua alta” flooding for more than a thousand years. This painting by Vincenzo Chilone shows the Piazza San Marco in early December, 1825

Recent news reports told of the disastrous flooding of Venice, Italy, where high tides brought water levels close to the record high of 1966. Damage is pegged at more than $1 billion, and is predictably blamed by the city’s mayor on “climate change.”

Climate is naturally ever-changing, of course, but nature can’t pay for damages. So what the mayor is really saying is that humans are responsible. Does reality support that claim?

Tide gauges around the Adriatic show sea level rising at a constant rate (not accelerating) from 1875 through 2018. Venice has been sinking into its lagoon for more than a millennium.

During the 20th century, sea level at Venice rose about 4.3 inches while Venice sank about 4.7 inches.

Sea level will continue its slow rise regardless of the outcome of climate conferences, and Venice will continue sinking in spite of efforts to stop it.

In 1987, the Italian government initiated a flood gate project to protect Venice from high tides. It was supposed to be finished by now, but thanks to corruption, cost overruns, and delays typical of infrastructure projects in Italy and California, it may not be operational before 2022.

Human-caused climate change is clearly not the cause of the recent disaster.

The sinking of Venice is not going to stop. The Adriatic tectonic plate is being subsumed under the European plate, and whatever is left of Venice will eventually be recycled in the Earth’s mantle.

The tectonic sinking isn’t uniform. Venice is slowly tilting toward the east. It may someday become a tourist attraction vying with the famous tower in Pisa, perhaps to be called “The Leaning City of Venice.”

Let’s hope the whole thing doesn’t slide into the lagoon.

A push for pumped storage redux

Prior to the 2016 election I wrote an article regarding the proposed Big Chino Valley Pumped Storage plant. The estimated initial drawdown from the Big Chino aquifer to fill the plant’s two storage reservoirs is nearly 9 billion gallons—1.5 times the estimated annual base flow of the Verde River and nearly twice the estimated annual recharge rate for the entire aquifer.

After the initial fill, Big Chino’s storage reservoirs would need regular replenishment due to evaporation. The evaporation rate would be greatest during periods of drought. Consequently, the most extensive pumping from the aquifer would occur when the aquifer is most in need of replenishment.

Is it remotely possible this extraction would not affect base flow of the upper Verde River?

The project would require approximately 151 miles of 500kV transmission lines with a 200ft right-of-way.

Profitability of Big Chino Valley Pumped Storage relied on Democrat-supported federal subsidies for both plant and transmission lines. When hope for subsidies died after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, Farallon Capital Management LLC divested their entire 3.88 million shares of Big Chino’s Michigan-based parent company.

Farallon Capital is a hedge fund management company founded by Tom Steyer.

In February 2018 it was reported Big Chino had again found financial backers. I don’t know who, but I can speculate why.

Tom Steyer-financed Proposition 127 would have required Arizona electricity providers (in our case APS) to buy electricity from inefficient back-up sources during periods when intermittent wind and solar sources are not producing. Big Chino Pumped Storage is the only storage source waiting to be built. Its output could be sold at a price that justifies the project’s cost if electricity providers were forced to buy it. This could be the reason upcoming Gen IV nuclear reactors—the only non-fossil-fueled source that could support electrified transportation—were excluded from the energy mix.

Fortunately, 69% of Arizona voters who don’t want their state to become another California said “no.”

Unfortunately, Big Chino Pumped Storage is not giving up. It was formed to benefit investors for whom the future of the upper Verde watershed is not likely a major concern. And if Democrats take control of government in 2020, we may see fresh subsidies and mandates that make the project profitable.

And that is worthy of concern.

Journalism has never been a saintly profession

An October 12, 2018, commentary by journalist Rusty Cunningham in the Verde Independent begins with a 1787 quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“…Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Cunningham goes on to claim that journalists “share a passion, a mission, a quest.” They “search for the truth as watchdogs of the people elected and appointed to serve our citizenry.” They’re trained to make sure they “don’t become part of the story.”

But then he writes that journalism has itself become “the story—especially as President Trump calls journalists the ‘enemy of the American people.’”

“Journalism matters,” he writes.

Does it matter that Trump calls “fake news media” the enemy of the people, not journalists?

Journalists in general are not enemies of the American people, but they are not saintly watchdogs keeping government honest, either. Few can put aside prejudices or a desire to remain employed.

Cunningham quotes Thomas Jefferson, who preferred newspapers to government in 1787. But journalism preceding Jefferson’s 1800 presidential election was rife with partisan hyperbole. One journalist wrote that, if Jefferson were elected, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.”

Obviously, most American voters did not believe it. But the rancor continued, and Jefferson wrote in 1807, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”

In 1897-98, however, much of the nation did believe the “yellow journalism” promoting war with Spain. Fabricated stories of Spanish atrocities enabled the war that made Theodore Roosevelt a hero and a president.

Journalists also reported false claims of German barbarism that encouraged entry into World War I, prompting Congress to satisfy Woodrow Wilson’s requests for Espionage and Sedition Acts that put hundreds of people in prison for criticizing the government. Journalists did not publicly complain.

In 1932, Walter Duranty, respected New York Times Moscow correspondent and Stalin apologist, won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting the glories of Soviet Russia while millions of Ukrainians were being starved to death. His widely believed fake news helped convince FDR to recognize Stalin’s government.

Our current crop of journalists is not above confabulation.

When Elizabeth Warren released results from a DNA test showing she likely had a Native American ancestor 6-10 generations ago, she claimed Trump promised to “give $1 million to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry.” Many mainstream journalists called on Trump to pay up.

But Trump made no such promise. He said that if “Pocahontas” ever mentions her ancestry in a debate, he’ll toss a DNA kit at her and offer a million dollars to her favorite charity “if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.”

Senator Warren is not an Indian. What her DNA test shows is that she falsely listed herself as “minority” in the Association of American Law Schools directory, and that faculty who claim they always knew she was white were complicit in Harvard University falsely touting her as their “first woman of color” in order to meet demands for diversity.

Yes, journalism matters, and it would help quash claims of fakery if journalists strove a bit harder for a complete story without bias.

The dubious sanctity of sanctuary cities

Why are California Democrats so desperately defending their sanctuary cities to the point where they have fast-tracked legislation that declares the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants and guarantees tax-funded attorneys for those facing deportation? Surely illegal voting by immigrants could not account for Hillary Clinton’s 4.3 million-vote win over Donald Trump in that state.

I wondered: Could this have something to do with congressional representation?

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state…” Legality of residency is not a factor.

The Apportionment Act of 1911 limits the House of Representatives to 435 seats. Those seats are apportioned to the states based on all of a state’s residents according to the most recent census. The number of a state’s electors in the Electoral College match its number of Representatives and Senators, and in California the winning presidential candidate takes all of the state’s electoral votes.

If representatives were apportioned based only on numbers of legal residents, California would have only 47 representatives. But thanks to more than 2.5 million illegal immigrants, California has been apportioned 53 representatives and 55 electoral votes.

California is a dependably Democratic state in national elections. The more immigrants California can attract, the more influence the Democratic Party wields both in Congress and in presidential elections, especially since additional house seats are taken from less populous states more likely to lean Republican.

So, in answer to my wondering: To the degree sanctuary cities attract illegal immigrants they decidedly affect not only the state’s congressional representation, but the state’s influence in presidential elections as well.

The Snow Job of Kilimanjaro

It’s been a bit more than 10 years now since the release of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” in which Al Gore warned that “within the decade there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro” as a result of man-caused global warming. As with many of Mr. Gore’s warnings, that was a convenient fiction.

Kilimanjaro’s current glaciers began forming almost 12 thousand years ago as the last glacial period ended and the climate of equatorial Africa became wetter and warmer. The ice fields have expanded and receded many times since then, and began their current recession in the mid-1800’s, at the end of the Little Ice Age. They have receded more than 85% since their extent was first measured in 1912. However, Kilimanjaro can still receive more than 4 feet of seasonal snowfall, and the remaining ice cap is still as much as 170 feet thick.

The air temperature at 19,000 feet does not rise above freezing. The snow and ice rarely melt, they evaporate due to low relative humidity for which man-caused global warming is not the primary cause. In the mid 1800s, a change in the trade winds reduced snowfall. As population increased, cutting of forests around the mountain’s base reduced humidity and rainfall. Reforestation is apparently increasing precipitation, but it may take a change in the trade winds to reverse the loss of ice at the summit. If and when that might occur is unknown.

Al Gore’s “expert” source for his warning was paleoclimatologist Dr. Lonnie Thompson. Dr. Thompson gained fame and fortune through scientific research suggesting man-made climate change is a global crisis, garnering more than $10 million in government grants and a shelf full of environmental awards from his prodigious efforts. No matter if his predictions don’t pan out so long as the initial media coverage is alarming.

While climate crisis promoters profit from their alarming prognostications, volunteers have been busy planting trees around Kilimanjaro. It’s not clear their efforts can succeed long term. Population in the area has more than tripled in the last 50 years, and most of it relies on firewood and charcoal for cooking and heating. But if deforestation isn’t reversed, the population faces an unpleasant future as farmland erodes and water supplies dry up.

Once he’d attributed Kilimanjaro’s ice loss to anthropogenic global warming, Dr. Thompson moved on. However, his research partner, Douglas Hardy, is still working on the mountain and reporting online at http://kiboice.blogspot.com/.

For those who want to contribute to the reforestation effort, I found only two groups that are actually claiming results, and both are Christian outreach programs. Plant With Purpose, a non-profit with a good review from Charity Navigator, does reforestation and ecological education in Haiti, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Burundi, and Tanzania. Their website is at https://www.plantwithpurpose.org/.
Trees 4 Kilimanjaro, unrated, claims planting of 75,000 trees. Their website is at http://www.trees4kili.org/.

Neither reference constitutes an endorsement.

Could the presidential election determine the fate of the Upper Verde River?

The “Project for A New American Century” (PNAC) was a neoconservative think tank co-founded in 1997 by Robert Kagan and William Kristol. In February 1998, PNAC members produced an open letter to President Clinton advocating regime change in Iraq due to Saddam Hussein’s persistent non-compliance with U.N. mandates. In October 1998, Congress passed the “Iraq Liberation Act” stating that “it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” President Clinton signed the bill and two months later pulled weapons inspectors out of Iraq and initiated a 4-day bombing campaign. But without public support, that is as far as Iraqi “liberation” got — until the 9/11/2001 attack on the U.S. provided an opportunity.

Deputy Secretary of Defense and PNAC member Paul Wolfowitz advocated using the 9/11 attack as an excuse to invade Iraq, and President Bush enthusiastically agreed. PNAC member Richard Perle, Wolfowitz, and others hit the Sunday morning news shows promoting an invasion, which Congress effectively green-lighted in October 2002.

And so the blame for the Iraq invasion was placed on Bush and the neocons. But before there was a PNAC, there was the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC, founded in 1985 (and chaired by Bill Clinton from 1990-1991) also endorsed the invasion of Iraq after 9/11, and supported many Bush policies. In fact, much of the DLC philosophy is no different from the PNAC neocons’.

As senator, Hillary Clinton was a prominent DLC member. She and other congressional DLC members gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq. They did not do it because they were “fooled,” and it’s no surprise that the Bushes, Kagan, Perle, and Wolfowitz favor Clinton over Trump or Johnson in the 2016 election.

Neocons and neolibs are unapologetic corporatists. Clinton has not raised more than $500 million in political donations by favoring “plain folk.” She travels on a Boeing 737 jetliner with a custom paint job. She netted more than $3 million in one day’s fundraising at the Martha’s Vineyard estates of Lady de Rothschild and former Universal Studios CEO Frank Biondi, events that were interspersed with a 20-mile flight to a fundraiser at the Nantucket Island estate of the former Portugese ambassador.

The global elite are buying what those at the top always crave: the status quo. Clinton will not rock the boat that keeps her afloat. Promises she will give us stuff at the expense of those she represents are as empty as “hope and change” and “compassionate conservatism.”

There is, however, one campaign pledge that could come to fruition: the costly escalation of the government’s war on climate.

The Democratic Party platform promises to “streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar, and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.” It promises to globally address the “climate crisis…on a scale not seen since World War II.”

Which brings us to the Verde River.

Investments in two proposed energy projects in the Upper Verde Watershed depend on federal subsidies. NextEra Energy has proposed the largest wind farm in Arizona on leased Yavapai Ranch land. Longview Energy Exchange has proposed a $4 billion pumped storage plant over the Big Chino Aquifer. The wind farm has yet to be added to the Yavapai Ranch development plan submitted to the county. The pumped storage plant’s preliminary permit was extended by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until April 2017.

Given sufficient tax credits, taxpayer guaranteed loans, and government-mandated pricing to ensure investor profits, these two projects could help justify each other’s construction, forcing taxpayers and ratepayers to foot the bill for inefficient storage of inefficiently produced electricity. After an immediate pump out of 17,500 acre-feet of water to fill the storage reservoirs, evaporative water losses would require additional pumping, especially when aquifer recharge would be at a minimum. It’s hard to imagine how this would not reduce outflow from the aquifer into the already depleted Upper Verde.

Bad as that sounds, it could be even worse.

Back in 2008, Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens proposed using eminent domain to open a corridor for transmission lines from the panhandle to Dallas, where he could sell electricity generated by his tax-subsidized wind farms. He also wanted that corridor for a more profitable business. Once the corridor was open, pipe could be laid to sell water pumped from the Ogallala aquifer under Pickens’ property. Public outcry put an end to that project, and Pickens wound up selling his water rights to local governments and quitting the wind power business.

The so-called “Pickens Plan” can be imagined here. NextEra builds the wind farm, Longview builds the pumped storage plant. One transmission line connects the two projects, another connects Longview to APS’s 230KV line at Willow Lake. The right-of-way to Willow Lake could then be used to pipe Prescott’s water allotment from the Big Chino.

Bye bye, Upper Verde.

Can school district administrators be cured of educratese?

The Verde Independent’s June 22 editorial, “We could use more leaders like Superintendent Goodwin, Mayor Currier,” notes that politicians and bureaucrats are “famous for talking a lot but never saying anything of substance.” I’ve noticed some educators in Cottonwood are particularly notable for an abundance of impressive verbiage that says little.

Back in February, Bill Helm wrote about Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District implementing the “World Café” program to provide a “powerful space for community conversations to emerge” in which “its strength comes from the way that the questions are framed and the opportunity provided for participants to move between tables and meet new people where new perspectives are exchanged.” The possibility of new insights is enriched as participants “engage in ever-widening circles of thought.”

If ever-widening thought circles in a powerful space of mingling participants fail to make your head spin, try wrapping your perspective around the “McREL Balanced Leadership Principal Evaluation System” approved at COCSD’s March 22 board meeting. This “online evaluation rubric” will ensure that school principals already imbued with “Balanced Leadership” training are fulfilling expectations of “moving their schools to a shared vision for students’ success.” This shared vision into which schools are to be moved consists of “Building a Purposeful Community, Managing Change, and Focus,” which, we are assured, are the three components necessary for successful leadership in school systems.

It is certainly commendable that school board members may now be allowed to leave their tables and meet new people with different perspectives, but I can’t help but wonder how school administrators previously schooled in administrative skills and supposedly hired to exercise those skills can possibly do their jobs when they are constantly being re-educated and tested to ensure their re-education was effective.

Perhaps straight-talkers Superintendent Goodwin and Mayor Currier should be invited to enter the powerful space of the COCSD’s World Café to examine ways COCSD administrators might explain in plain English how this jargon-infested administrative re-education helps students succeed. They could start the conversation by defining the word “symposium.”

The European Union isn’t just tyrannical, it’s stark raving mad.

Kicked into survival mode by the Brexit referendum, the EU stood on its tippy-toes, waved its arms, and roared through its media mouthpieces. Alas, most Brits were not frightened into submission. They were mad as hell and not willing to take it any more.

The mandated placement of “refugees” in EU nations against the best interests of those nations’ citizens is rightfully cited as a major source of discontent. But there is more to EU mandates than forced acceptance of foreigners.

Thanks to EU “green energy” mandates, Indonesian and Brazilian rain forest is burned and converted to oil palm, soybean, and sugar cane plantations. Meanwhile, forest is cut in the Southeast U.S. and pelletized for use as a less-efficient fuel for coal-burning power plants.

Millions of tons per year of these “biofuels” are produced with fossil-fueled machinery and shipped to Europe and the UK in cargo ships powered by some of the dirtiest-burning fossil fuel on Earth.

It’s mandated anti-ecological insanity.

Brexit is the “end of the world as they like it” for global corporations who will no longer be able to bribe just one especially corrupt regulatory agency to pave their path to guaranteed profits.

Hot, hotter, hottest June?…

The Verde Valley didn’t get sloshed — quite the contrary, winter was dry, with record heat in February. Spring then became cool and moist, but unusually high atmospheric pressure has turned the thermostat up again this month.

New daily records were set for Cottonwood/Tuzigoot (Cottonwood station was moved to Tuzigoot National Monument in 1977), one nearly matching the all-time high of 118°F set June 26, 1994:

  • 105 on June 2 broke the 1956 record of 103.
  • 108 on June 3 broke the 1996 record of 106.
  • 109 on June 4 broke the 1996 record of 108.
  • 110 on June 5 broke the 1996 record of 107.
  • 113 on June 19 broke the 1968 record of 108.
  • 117 on June 20 broke the 1936 record of 109 and was 1° hotter than Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Cottonwood lacked a weather station from 1937 through 1948, but it appears that average June high temperatures continue to rise. Here’s a history of new record average highs:
 1922: 97.3
 1924: 97.6
 1956: 98.7
 1960: 99.3
 1974: 102.1
 1994: 102.6
 2016: 102.7 (estimated)

Nine of the 15 hottest Junes occurred this century. Nine of the 15 coolest Junes occurred prior to 1963.

Cause for panic? No. Average global temperatures have been on the increase since the “little ice age” ended in the 1800s. It would be odd if records weren’t broken and more worrisome if most were record lows instead of highs.