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The brand new earthen Teton Dam in Eastern Idaho collapsed on June 5, 1976 at 11:57 am. The entire reservoir of about 288,000 acre feet (or about one-twelfth of the Oroville Reservoir’s capacity), roared down upon two towns in the flood plain, demolishing them.

The human death toll was remarkably low, either 11 or 14 according to various sources, but about 13,000 cows were killed.

The Oroville reservoir is now down almost 48 feet below its brim to 853′ elevation. The goal is to lower the water level to 850′, which is what they were holding it at when it suddenly shot up earlier this month to 902′.

Outflow down the damaged main spillway has been cut from 100,000 cubic feet per second down to about 55,000 cfs, while the inflow from the moderate rains a few days ago is up to around 40,000 cfs. So the drop in the lake’s elevation is down to just over 1 inch per hour.

It hasn’t started raining again yet in Oroville, but a fairly big storm is expected from Sunday through Tuesday. The small town of Feather Falls up in the reservoir’s watershed is expecting about 6.5 inches of rain, which would be about 75 or 80 feet of incremental elevation, all other things being equal (which they never are). Fortunately, the week after this onrushing storm is expected have less than one inch of precipitation, with fairly cool temperatures to retard snowmelt.

The official reason for cutting the main spillway’s outflow so far back is to allow the power station to be restarted, which could add 13,000 cfs to outflow.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Interestingly, there’s a fourth outlet, the “river valves,” that used to have 5,400 cfs capacity, but were cut to 2,000 after an accident, and apparently haven’t been used in this emergency.

Here’s a curious headline:

5 Oroville Dam workers fired after posting pictures on social media
By Allison Weeks, KRON and Clemence Robineau, KRON
Published: February 18, 2017, 6:27 pm

So, it’s All Hands on Deck … except that managing our social media presence is, of course, the highest priority. We can’t let the 16,000 residents of Oroville, CA, 7 miles downriver, get their information unfiltered.

That would be inappropriate.


Screenshot 2017-02-18 22.40.02

Personally, I prefer the United States Constitution and the rule of law, even (or especially) if it comes to it.

But then, unlike Bill Kristol, I’m a notorious extremist, so I would, wouldn’t I?


Screenshot 2017-02-18 15.10.57



One reason that there is so much competition on campus these days to be the Single Most Offended Student is that that seems like a way to try out for one of the growing, but still limited, number of paying gigs as Social Justice Jihadis. From the Chicago Tribune:

Publishers are hiring ‘sensitivity readers’ to flag potentially offensive content

Recently, author Veronica Roth – of “Divergent” fame – came under fire for her new novel, “Carve the Mark.” In addition to being called racist, the book was criticized for its portrayal of chronic pain in its main character.

Before a book is published and released to the public, it’s passed through the hands (and eyes) of many people: an author’s friends and family, an agent and, of course, an editor.

These days, though, a book may get an additional check from an unusual source: a sensitivity reader, a person who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families” or “transgender issues.”

Big budget movies have been doing this for a few years. George Miller supposedly paid Eve “Vagina Monologues” Ensler $100k to certify Mad Max: Fury Road as officially Feminist Woke. And then of course Miller just went ahead and spent the other 99.9% of his budget to make the same blue collar heavy metal lunacy as he did in his Mel Gibson days.

For their hit animated musical Moana, veteran Disney film-makers Clement & Musker refined this process one step further. Rather than just pay off a potential critic, they hired amenable folks from the relevant minority who might actually contribute here and there. They toured Pacific Islands and put on their advisory board local old-timers with an interest in island legends with whom they had hit it off.

So that could be the next battleground, with young SJWs protesting that artists are hiring as their Sensitivity Readers excessively reasonable and helpful members of each Official Victim Group instead of fire-breathing puerile Social Justice Jihadi know-nothings like they are supposed to.


Your thoughts?


California’s 770-foot tall Oroville Dam is a magnificent structure, except that it’s kind of like a 770-foot skyscraper with a fine primary fire escape, plus a door that says “Auxiliary Fire Escape” on it, but 50 years later when the building’s on fire and the main stairwell is broken and you’re trapped on the top floor, you finally open the door marked “Auxiliary Fire Escape” … and there’s just a big ball of twine for you to lower yourself out the window with.

Historian Marc Reisner’s witty 1986 book Cadillac Desert is a screed against expensive water projects (and against the general existence of Los Angeles). Here’s his version of how Jerry Brown’s dad, Governor Pat Brown, sold his State Water Project, of which the Oroville Dam is the centerpiece, to voters in a 1960 referendum.

Screenshot 2017-02-17 22.46.02

Screenshot 2017-02-17 22.47.38


From the New York Times:

Even When White Men Can Jump …

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz FEB. 17, 2017

… For years, [NBA] owners were accused of padding their benches with white players to increase a team’s fan base. The implicit assumption: If you are white, you will have more fans.

… But we now have probably the best data set ever accumulated on the fandom of N.B.A. players: Facebook likes.

I downloaded information on the likes of 215 N.B.A. players who have fan pages on Facebook.

… While Facebook does not ask users to denote their race, it uses a variety of information to identify someone’s ethnic affinity, which can be useful for targeting ads. My research suggests that this ethnic affinity measure correlates strongly with race.

Screenshot 2017-02-17 17.33.15

Barea is a white Puerto Rican who has played important roles in the successes of the Puerto Rican national team in international play. (Puerto Rico, by the way, is officially a separate nation for the purposes of the Olympics and other sports).

Cody Zeller is pretty much the 1983 movie Hoosiers come to life. He was the state of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in high school and played for the Indiana Hoosiers in college.

Raymond Felton is a journeyman point guard. I don’t know why he is so much more popular with blacks than with everybody else. It’s perhaps less that he’s super popular with blacks as he’s less popular with everybody else. He’s been arrested for carrying an illegal gun and he’s been benched for being overweight.

Jeremy Lin is of course Mr. Linsanity, a Taiwanese-American Harvard grad who had a famous seven-game hot hand streak in 2012.

Overall, I estimate that the average white player in the N.B.A. has a fan base that is 56.7 percent white and 22.7 percent black. The average black player has a fan base that is 46.7 percent white and 32 percent black, a significant difference.

… Do white fans give an edge to white players or black fans give an edge to black players?

… we find that there is a clear edge to being of a certain race. But it goes against what many white owners and journalists have long thought.

If a white and a black player are similar on paper, it is the black player who will have more fans.

Among black Americans, black players are roughly twice as popular as comparable white players. But black players get a slight boost from fans of every racial group. Compared with white players who are similar to them in all ways I could think to measure, black players have more fans among white Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans.

If you like diversity with a small d, you might prefer to follow baseball, which is pretty representative of the national population, as we saw with the Chicago Cubs in the World Series last fall. But if you like Diversity with a capital D (i.e., black supremacy — e.g., you are outraged that Beyonce has won merely 22 Grammys), then you follow basketball.

Honestly, I was blown away by the overall size of this advantage. Roughly speaking, I estimate that a white player would have to score 10 more points per game to have as big a fan base on Facebook as he would have if he were black.

That’s a lot of anti-white bias.

But the actuality might be even more bigoted.

Unfortunately, since Facebook doesn’t have an Unlike button, there’s no obvious way to measure white bigotry against white basketball players, which has been a noticeable phenomenon at least since all the hate against Duke U. in the early 1990s for winning with a diverse roster rather than an all-black one.

So, this analysis understates how bad the anti-white bias is because it doesn’t measure white fans who exhibit racial animus against white ballplayers. (I’m not aware of any examples of a black fan who roots against black players the way it’s common for white fans to root against white players.)

Asian-Americans also have a huge advantage in building a fan base, although this is driven almost entirely by Mr. Lin, who is the 27th most popular player despite being the 80th most prolific scorer.

… If African-Americans were discriminated against in building a basketball fan base as well, it would show that white privilege can even show itself in one of the arenas in American life in which blacks have had tremendous success.

But African-Americans getting a boost in support? What should we make of that?

Welcome to the last half century?

I realize that we are constantly lectured about how oppressed blacks are by white hatred, etc etc. But this obsession is increasingly antiquarian. For example, the New York Times has run ten articles since January 26, 2017 mentioning Emmett Till, who was murdered 62 years ago.

One interesting follow-up analysis that could be done with this database is whether white American fans like white European and white South American players much. My impression is that white American possess virtually no feelings of racial affinity toward non-English speaking white players.

For example, in 2011 German-born Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks put on a spectacular performance through four rounds of playoffs to beat LeBron James’ Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. But I’m not familiar with any evidence of white Americans rooting for the white German out of racial affinity, despite the heroism of the underdog Nowitzki punching up, as it were, against the overdog LeBron.


In general, our concepts of things like 100 Year Floods and 1000 Year Floods are based on what we have measurements for, which is usually roughly the 20th Century. But it’s quite possible that the 20th Century wasn’t all that representative. Perhaps the 21st Century will be quite a bit more extreme in one way or another.

For example, one commenter has pointed out that Los Angeles, which averaged 15 inches of rain per year in the 20th Century, received 66 inches in 1861-62.

Here’s another Old Weird California weather fact. Richard Henry Dana visited California on a sailing ship out of Boston in the mid-1830s and came back to write an 1840 bestseller about it, Two Years Before the Mast.

One of the themes of his book was the trouble caused by a routine cold wind out of the east which blew his ship away from the California coast almost to Hawaii. Back then, it had a name and was considered by Californios to be a common pest.

But we don’t have it today. We have a warm wind out of the southeast, the notorious Santa Ana made famous by Raymond Chandler:

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

Here’s an insane tribute to the Santa Ana winds by the Philip Marlowe/Frankie Valli/Phil Spector/Pee Wee Herman narrator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:”

But, apparently, there used to be a cold wind from the East in Southern California. Yet, when Dana revisited California just before the Civil War, he mentioned that the cold East wind had stopped, which had made life much more pleasant in California.

That’s weird.

But maybe the future will be weird, too.

Speaking of disasters:


Here’s a documentary about the 1983 near-catastrophe at the spectacular Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado River near the Arizona-Utah border in the upper reaches of Grand Canyon. Lake Powell is about 8 times the volume of Lake Oroville, so a dam collapse would have been apocalyptic:

Strikingly, as Part 2 below recounts, one way they kept the dam from overflowing was by temporarily raising the height of the dam by installing vertical flashboards in a two day long effort. Could something similar be done along Oroville’s 1730 foot emergency spillway? How long would it take to add, say, 8 feet to the height of the emergency spillway?

Here’s Part 3:

One thing to keep in mind is that the immediate fight to save Glen Canyon dam went on for several months in the summer of 1983. And this was followed by a sprint in 1984, which turned out to be even wetter than 1983, to make substantial repairs and improvements to the spillways. All told the effort took about 14 months.

Thanks to Lake Powell Realty for finding these videos.

At the Oroville Dam today, a half-inch of rain fell in the early morning hours. Because the watershed is roughly 144 times as large as the lake, that would, theoretically eventually convert to a 6 foot rise in the lake (or perhaps more if more precipitation fell at higher altitude, as usually happens). So far, the inflow into the lake hasn’t gone up much and they’re continue to drain the lake down the main spillway. It’s now down 37 feet from the emergency spillway’s brim.

Outflow down the main spillway has been cut from 100,000 cubic feet per second to 80,000 cubic feet per second. The goal is to lower the water level backing up the river to the dam so that the power station can be restarted, which would allow an additional 13,000 cfs of outflow. They are dredging the river to remove the partial dam caused by debris from the hole in the spillway landing in the river. (There is also some concern about heavy intake of water damaging the bottom of the lake, although I’m not sure if that is relevant at present or only at lower levels of the lake.)

Weather Underground is forecasting 7.85″ of precipitation over the next seven days, followed by 3 days of sun, at the small town of Feather Falls at 2900 feet elevation inside the reservoir’s watershed. At a rule of thumb of one inch of precipitation eventually equals a 12 foot rise in the reservoir, that would add about 100 feet to the lake’s level. On the other hand, if they can pump out, say, 8 feet per day over the next ten days, that would lower the lake 80 feet, which, with the current 36 foot buffer, would keep the lake 17 feet below the emergency spillway.

Or something. My model is super simplistic, and a lot of other factors can come into play.


In the kingdom of the blind vs. in the global empire of the distracted

Facebook zillionaire Mark Zuckerberg has posted a 6000 word manifesto on the meaning of history:

Building Global Community
Mark Zuckerberg · Thursday, February 16, 2017

On our journey to connect the world, we often discuss products we’re building and updates on our business. Today I want to focus on the most important question of all: are we building the world we all want?

History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers — from tribes to cities to nations. At each step, we built social infrastructure like communities, media and governments to empower us to achieve things we couldn’t on our own.

Today we are close to taking our next step. Our greatest opportunities are now global …

“History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers — from tribes to cities to nations.”

As we all know, independence and diversity have always been the enemy of progress.

For example, that’s why Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Dependence submitting the American colonies to the British Empire.

Similarly, the father of history, Herodotus, wrote to celebrate the mighty Persian Empire’s reduction of the various Greek city-states to a satrapy ruled from Babylon.

Likewise, every year Jews gather to admit that their stiff-neckedness provoked the Roman Empire into, rightfully, smashing the Temple in Jerusalem on the holy day of We-Had-It-Coming.

And, of course, who can forget Shakespeare’s plays, such as Philip II and Admiral-Duke of Medina Sidonia, lauding the Spanish Armada for conquering the impudent English and restoring to Canterbury the One True Faith?

Similarly, Oswald Mosley’s prime ministership (1940-1980) of das englische Reich is justly admired for subordinating England’s traditional piratical turbulence to the greater good of Europe.

Likewise, who can not look at the 49 nations currently united by their adherence to the universalist faith of Islam and not see that submission is the road to peace, prosperity, and progress? If only unity had prevailed at Tours in 732 instead of divisiveness. May that great historical wrong be swiftly rectified in the decades to come!

Seriously, while I realize that Mr. Zuckerberg’s views represents cutting-edge Conventional Wisdom, while I’m an extremist wacko … but my basic stance is that consolidation is some times a good thing, and other times independence or decentralization is a better thing. Getting the scale of control right all depends upon the circumstances. It’s usually a very interesting and complicated question that is the central issue of high statesmanship.

For example, George Washington is famous because he was centrally involved into two major revisions of the scale of dominion that have both, so far, proven enduring: first, splitting the British Empire and, second, partially unifying the 13 states.

Switzerland is an unusually successful state that has slowly agglomerated since 1290 into a state that is big enough to defend itself, but decentralized enough for its various cantons to not get on each others’ nerves too much, despite the great diversity of language and religion. But these are difficult questions to get right.

Now, since I’m an notoriously extremist nutjob, my prejudice in favor of moderation, realism, open-mindedness, and prudence is of course anathema to virtually all responsible, disinterested zillionaires, such as Mark Zuckerberg.

One Globe Under Zuck


Not Hate

From the New York Times’ This Week in Hate column:

‘Let’s Become Great Again,’ the Flyers Said
This Week in Hate
By ANNA NORTH FEB. 16, 2017

Valerie Grim discovered flyers from a white nationalist group posted outside her office at Indiana University in Bloomington. Credit A J Mast for The New York Times

This Week in Hate highlights hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of President Trump.

Growing up in Mississippi in the 1960s, Prof. Valerie Grim was only too familiar with racism. So when she discovered flyers from a white nationalist group posted outside her office at Indiana University Bloomington, she wasn’t intimidated.

Instead, she was curious about what had led someone to post flyers depicting Michelangelo’s David along with the phrase “Let’s become great again” and the name of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group, outside offices in the university’s department of African-American and African diaspora studies. The group’s name, symbol and Twitter handle were also written on the whiteboard on Prof. Grim’s door.

“This is someone who really got a wrong view of history,” says Professor Grim, who teaches African-American history.


The NYT’s This Week in Hate column has still not deigned to cover the beatings of dissidents in Berkeley by masked blackshirts.

But the distribution of flyers featuring the greatest work of art by a single artist demands massive coverage.

The city of Florence should dress David from head to toe in black, including a mask, so he would stop being such a Symbol of Hate.


“Diversity” is our highest value.

But people seem to disagree on exactly what it means in practice. To blacks, it means that blacks should win all the Grammys and Oscars. After all, nothing could be more Diverse than Beyonce winning all 80 or so Grammys every single year.

To Angelo Mozilo, Diversity meant that Hispanics (and everybody else, while he was at it) shouldn’t have to follow outdated federal relations about documenting their incomes or providing a down payment in order to qualify for a mortgage from Countrywide Financial.

And to Chinese students in the U.S., Diversity means shutting up the Dalai Lama. From QZ:


Chinese students in the US are using “inclusion” and “diversity” to oppose a Dalai Lama graduation speech

by Josh Horwitz, February 15, 2017

Chinese students are joining their peers on American campuses in getting woke. Their cause? Defending the official line of the Communist Party.

… The announcement triggered outrage among Chinese students who view the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as an oppressive figure threatening to divide a unified China. …

As the aggrieved students have trumpeted their opposition, their rhetoric has borrowed elements from larger campus activist movements across the United States. The upshot: What Westerners might perceive as Communist Party orthodoxy is mingling weirdly with academia’s commitment to diversity, political correctness, and other championed ideals.

Somehow, this is all the White Man’s Fault.

Hmmmhhhhh …

I’ve got it.

The Dalai Lama’s tutor, Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer, was a Nazi!

The UCSD Shanghai Students organization announced:

As Chinese alumni, we are proud to be part of the growing UC community because of its diversity and inclusiveness. When addressing such a diverse community, there is a greater responsibility to spread a message that brings people together, rather than split them apart. During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones. If Tenzin Gyatso expresses his political views under the guise of “spirituality and compassion,” the Chinese segment of this community will feel extremely offended and disrespected during this special occasion.

USCD should fire the Dalai Lama and instead hire Ta-Nehisi Coates to give his usual spiel about how People Who Believe They Are White crush Black Bodies.

That wouldn’t offend or disrespect anybody. Or at least not anybody who matters.

Seriously, globalization means that everybody is in everybody else’s face all the time now. UCSD has 3,569 Chinese nationals as students, most paying full tuition. And these Chinese residents just want to have what everybody else on campus wants: a boot stamping on their enemy’s face forever. Is that too much to ask?

Traditionally, the system has been set up to allow “minorities” to act out by telling the white majority to take it like a man. After all, there are only a few minorities in this world compared to the vast majority who are white, so if minorities act out, those insults get diluted by the vast numbers of whites to absorb the insults.

I mean, how many Chinese people can there possibly be on Earth?



Okay … well, I guess I hadn’t thought much about the technical numbers.

But what about at UCSD in La Jolla, CA, where the Romney family lives? Surely the student body must be 90% blond Haven Monahan surfers, right?

What? Only 20% of UCSD undergrads identify as white?

Holy Toledo. I had no idea. This Diversity thing is getting out of hand …

Wait … I didn’t say that.

But [gathering oneself] that’s not the point, the point is that white people are the Legacy Majority and will just have to go on taking it like a man. For the sake of Diversity.

Okay, we didn’t actually think through the end game when we started this process. We just assumed that the mighty white man would always be dominant, so whites could concede just a sliver of their privileges to the paltry numbers of minorities. But now you are telling me that in a globalized world, whites are a minority!

Who knew?


I realize that nobody is interested in country clubs … except for Presidents, billionaires, and the people who advise billionaires and Presidents, like Tom Friedman, who may be the world’s richest reporter. From the NYT:

President Trump, Will You Save the Jews?

Thomas L. Friedman FEB. 15, 2017

Dear President Trump:

These are the moments that make or break a presidency.

First you were tested by a rival — Russia — and utterly failed to appreciate the corrosive impact on our democracy of your indulgence of Russia’s hacking our election. And on Wednesday you’re going to be tested by a friend — Israel — and its prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Can you appreciate the corrosive impact on Israel’s democracy of what it’s now doing in the West Bank? I ask because you may be the last man standing between Israel and a complete, self-inflicted disaster for the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Let me explain it in terms you’ll appreciate: golf.

Did you happen to follow the story involving Barack Obama and Woodmont Country Club?

I’m sure Trump took zero interest in that story.

No, I’m kidding, of course he did.

Woodmont is the mostly Jewish golf club in Maryland, just outside D.C., where Obama played as a guest several times during his presidency. Near the end of his term it was rumored that Obama would seek membership there.

Then he clashed with Netanyahu over Obama’s refusal to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Shortly thereafter, The Washington Post reported that a Woodmont member, Faith Goldstein, had sent a private email to the club’s president declaring that Obama “is not welcome at Woodmont” because of his U.N. vote.

It was appalling to think that Jews, who for so many years were themselves excluded from joining certain country clubs

A.k.a., the Golfocaust.

Remember that we suffered having to play Hillcrest instead of L.A.C.C.

, would consider excluding our first black president, especially for his acting on the basis of what half of Israel believes — that continued expansion of Jewish settlements into Palestinian-populated zones of the West Bank will eventually make the separation of Israelis and Palestinians in a two-state solution impossible, and thereby threaten Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.

Fortunately, in the end, the decent members of Woodmont prevailed. As The Washington Post reported, the club’s president, Barry Forman, invited the Obamas to join, declaring that “it is all the more important that Woodmont be a place where people of varying views and beliefs can enjoy fellowship.”

Why am I telling you this story?

Because you and Trump and Obama and Bill Clinton and the Bushes are very interested in country clubs, even though nobody else is.

The last President who wasn’t an obsessive golfer was Reagan, and he wound up retiring to a house on a mountain that the Bel Air Country Club tunnels under to get from one green to the next tee.

I probably more or less agree with Friedman about the 2-state solution and the West Bank settlements and all that, but I don’t pay that much attention to it because, (A) it’s not my country, and (B) lots of people in the American press do pay attention to it, so I don’t think I have that much more to contribute relative to a lot of other topics.


Screenshot 2017-02-15 14.53.12


From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

The Vengeance of Edward Said
by Steve Sailer
February 15, 2017

Contemporary white progressives cater to the most regressive tendencies of the various Others.

Anybody who can get themselves classified as an official Other-American is today repeatedly encouraged to play the race card, the religion card, or the sex card in the most intellectually crude, bigoted manner possible. Open-mindedness is only an obligation for American-Americans.

You can see it in the Establishment’s hunt for ever more Other Others, such as the transgendered and Muslims. A few years ago, for example, Mexicans were the great beige hope of the Establishment. Yet you’ll notice that Mexicans have proved disappointing and been displaced by Muslims in the elite’s dreams of demographic avengers.

Read the whole thing there.

Here’s a summary of my revisionist interpretation of Edward Said, the postmodern literary critic who wrote the hugely influential book Orientalism:

And here’s the famous and/or headscratching redneck/Orientalist music video with Tom Petty as the Mad Hatter and Dave Stewart as the “hookah-smoking caterpillar” that I linked to to illustrate the last line of my essay about Said:


First, here’s some Oroville dam math:

Drainage Area = 3,624 sq mi
Maximum Water Surface Area = 15,810 acres or 24.7 square miles.

So, the watershed is 147 times bigger than the maximum area of the lake. So if the soil in the watershed was totally waterlogged and there was no snow and now evaporation, then one inch of rain falling uniformly on the entire watershed would raise the lake (with no outflow) by 147 inches or about 12 feet.

Weather Underground is predicting that the next set of storms will arrive in about 24 hours in the wee hours on Thursday and drop 4.75 inches over the subsequent 8 days. If every bit wound up in the lake, that would raise the lake level, with zero outflow, by 4.75 x 147 or about 700 inches or about 58 feet.

On the other hand, they’ve been able to lower the surface level by at least 8 feet per day (and that’s with not insignificant inflows from the last set of storms). So 8 days times 8 feet per day is 64 feet of outflow.

If all goes well on Wednesday (no rain and the main spillway continues to dump 100,000 cfs), then they’ll start rainy Thursday with the lake maybe 26 or 27 feet below the brim of the no-good emergency spillway. So there is hope of making it through the next ten days without overspilling the brim.

If the main spillway holds up.

On the other hand, it could continue to rain heavily in March and well into April.

For example, here in Los Angeles the biggest rain storm I can recall was 15 inches over

Probably the scariest scenario would be a torrential warm rain that also melts the high altitude snow pack. Those are less common in California, but they do happen.

A more philosophical topic:

A common way to get yourself in trouble in a situation where you have multiple safety systems is to assume the odds of each of them failing are independent.

Say, you have three ways to drain a reservoir:

A. You can run 14,000 cubic feet of water per second through power station

B. You can run 65,000 cfs down the main spillway

C. You can run 250,000 cfs over the grandly named Emergency Spillway.

Say the odds of each one failing is 1/100. Then the odds of all three failing at once are 1/100 times 1/100 times 1/100 or one in a million. No problem!

Except, maybe it doesn’t work that quite like that. Maybe if one fails, the others are more likely to fail.

For example, if the main spillway gets damaged, are you sure you can still vent water through the powerplant?

As far as I can tell, the 14k cfs through the power station under the dam has been shut down for several days now, although I’ve read different explanations for why that is, such as worries about debris from the broken main spillway or too much water going down the main spillway into the river and backing up to the power station

And what if you’ve never actually tested your emergency spillway and the only way you’ll ever test it is if both your other outlets are damaged. Maybe the odds of it failing turn out to be more like 80%? But you’ll only find that out when you’ve got big trouble with the other two drains?

Something similar happened with the financial crash of the previous decade.

You couldn’t lose big on mortgages because, it was assumed, you could model defaults like you model deaths for life insurance actuarial purposes. Defaults happen at random. Right? A wave of defaults would be like a wave of cancer deaths. Not gonna happen.

And if your financial company was national, it couldn’t go wrong betting on the housing market, because home prices have never declined nationally, right? (Of course, what happened is that they went up so high in just four states that when home prices in those 4 Sand States plunged in 2007-08, that was enough to drag the whole country into a recession, which then hurt home prices across the rest of the country).

Oroville really needs a second main spillway, located well away from the current spillway, maybe at the other end of the emergency spillway brim, where the boaters’ parking lot is now.

At Oroville, at the moment, the good news is that the lake is down more than 17 feet below the brim at 901 feet of elevation. That’s 9.2 feet in 24 hours.

A reservoir is shaped like a funnel, so the lower the level falls, the faster the decline gets. So they might get down 10 feet in the next 24 hours.

After that it’s going to start raining again, but it probably takes a few days for the rain to trickle out of the hills into the lake. So if the rains aren’t heavy, they may not top out again over the next week, if the main spillway holds up to the pounding its taking.

The dam is about 21 feet taller at 922 feet above sea level than the 1700 foot wide emergency spillway at 901 feet, so it’s hard to see how the dam could be overtopped, short of some kind of combination of earthquake, landslide and tsunami within the lake.

Overtopping the 901 foot brim of the emergency spillway would likely erode away the base of the 30 foot high lip of the lake they built to hold the lake back.

If that collapsed that would dump about 465,000 acre feet into the Feather River about 750 feet below. That’s about 1/8th the capacity of the reservoir, so it’s a lot less cataclysmic than the dam collapsing.

On the other hand, does anybody really know what would happen from 465,000 acre feet of water plunging 750 feet down. Some of the water might boil back upstream and do who knows what to the downstream side of the dam. So, it could be an important question whether the concrete lip of the emergency spillway would fail over several hours (bad) or all at once (real bad).

A minor issue in this current crisis but one that needs some rethinking is how to manage water levels. Looking at the daily chart for the Oroville Reservoir, it looks like the management was trying to keep the water level at about 850 feet, 51 feet below the brim, even after it started raining on February 2. The maximum they can cut the lake down to intentionally by using the main spillway is about 814 feet, or 87 feet below the brim.

Between February 2 and February 6, about 2.6 inches fell. I don’t know how long it takes for most of the water to get into the lake: I’m guessing maybe 36 hours?

Then on Tuesday, February 7th they discovered the main spillway was damaged. On February 8th and 9th over 3 inches of rain fell on Oroville and the lake peaked at 902 feet on Saturday the 11th. I haven’t looked at old forecasts, but I read something from the Department of Water Resources complaining that the rain was heavier than expected over the watershed.

In retrospect, management should have been spilling water by February 2 or 3 to get ready for the week of storms coming. I don’t know how they get compensated for providing water but presumably they get paid more for having water available in hot dry August than sending it down to the sea white it’s raining in February.

Now this is probably all of a moot point regarding the crisis, because if they had been sending more water down the spillway earlier in February, the spillway would probably have been damaged earlier.

But still, all this suggests that maybe the statistical models for managing outflows are overly oriented, especially after the long drought, toward saving water at the risk of a rare catastrophic failure.

They should probably make it a goal for the rest of 2017 to drain the reservoir down to “ogee crest” of the main spillway at 814 feet of elevation, about 87 feet below the emergency spillway’s brim.


From Fox News:

Stanford uses CRISPR to correct sickle cell, human trials planned
Published November 08, 2016 Reuters

CHICAGO – Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have used the CRISPR gene editing tool to repair the gene that causes sickle cell disease in stem cells from diseased patients, paving the way for a potential cure for the disease, which affects up to 5 million people globally.

“What we’ve finally shown is that we can do it. It’s not just on the chalkboard,” said Dr. Matthew Porteus, senior author of the study published in the journal Nature.

With the study, and unpublished findings from his lab, Porteus believes his team has amassed enough proof to start planning the first human clinical trial using the powerful CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system to correct the genetic mutation that causes sickle cell disease.

From the New York Times:

Human Gene Editing Receives Science Panel’s Support
By AMY HARMON FEB. 14, 2017

An influential science advisory group formed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine on Tuesday lent its support to a once-unthinkable proposition: clinical efforts to engineer humans with inheritable genetic traits.

In a report laden with caveats and notes of caution, the group endorsed the alteration of human eggs, sperm and embryos — but only to prevent babies from being born with genes known to cause serious diseases and disability, only when no “reasonable alternative” exists, and only when a plan is in place to track the effects of the procedure through multiple generations.

What do you think?



From the New York Times Editorial Page:

The ‘Caddyshack’ President

“Now you’ve got some pretty good pictures — the prime minister of Japan, and the president.”

That’s President Trump, crashing a wedding party at his Mar-a-Lago club on Saturday night, immediately after holding a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan …

… This is rule by Al Czervik, Rodney Dangerfield’s character in “Caddyshack”: a reckless, clownish boor surrounded by sycophants, determined to blow up all convention.

That sounds pretty anti-Semitic, New York Times!

(Not to mention her being racist toward visiting Asian dignitaries.)

Here’s the Caddyshack scene that the NYT Editorial writer was reminded of by Trump and the Oriental gentleman at the country club.

But isn’t Al Czervik actually the hero of the movie, not bigoted Judge Elihu Smailes? After all, Al gets the last line:

C’mon, Elizabeth, confess: you always doze off when your husband tries to make you watch his favorite moronic golf movie, so you don’t actually know what Caddyshack is about.

Screenshot 2017-02-13 19.47.32

Speaking of clownish, I liked this correction:

Correction: February 13, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated whom Mr. Trump once introduced as “the richest guy in Germany.” It was a golf club member, not a reporter.

Of course, who doesn’t confuse a reporter with the richest guy in Germany?


It’s a time-honored tradition for black entertainers to storm the stage in outrage when they lose an award. For example, here’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard at the 1998 Grammy Awards protesting:

I went and bought me an outfit today that costed a lot of money, today. You know what I mean, because I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win.

I think we need more of this. I want to see Denzel Washington yank the Oscar out of Ryan Gosling’s hands and pistol whip his Canadian ass with it.

In these troubled times, that would bring America together.

Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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