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Surprise is in how unsurprising temps were

Published 8:53am Friday, January 6, 2012

One January day, now nearly 30 years ago, we got a call at the newspaper where I was working. “They’re playing golf! In January!” the excited caller said. So I went and slogged around the snow- and mud-covered local golf course, camera in tow, to get pictures of what was going on during the crazy January thaw.

It was, as I recall, about 50 degrees.

But it was nothing like this year’s so-called winter. When Thursday’s temperatures soared past 50, considerably warmer than expected and far beyond the not-so-old record of 44, it was cause for comment but somehow it didn’t really surprise people all that much because we’ve had almost nothing but unseasonably warm weather all fall and winter. Indeed, Thursday’s high temperature was a good 25 degrees warmer than the same date a year ago, which was itself a relatively warm January day.

So the wonder isn’t that it was warm yesterday. The wonder is that we can have these kind of January temperatures and not be shocked about it; weird weather seems to be the new normal.


The New York Times ran a long story last week about how little time President Obama seems to spend schmoozing members of Congress and other Washington big shots, preferring to spend whatever passes for presidential spare time with family and friends.

Of course, this is all relative. The president, even if he would rather not hang out with other politicians, probably spends more time schmoozing in a single day than most of us do in a year, or maybe even a lifetime.

But one can hardly blame Mr. Obama for limiting his time with what are generally called “Washington insiders.” One can only imagine how difficult it would be to have even a moment’s conversation with leaders of Congress or the Senate, each of whom seems to spend all of every day angling for political advantage. As the president, every word uttered in Washington not only can, but certainly will, be used against you.

When the people around him smile, nod and seem to agree but are trying to turn every conversation to a personal and political advantage — well, who would want to be part of those conversations? No one in his right mind.

One can only imagine what it would be like to live every moment in that kind of shark-infested fish bowl. Is any job worth it? And does anybody who is running for president understand what it’s really going to be like — how lonely it is truly going to be at the top?

It’s not customary to feel sorry for the president. But it’s hard to think about what that life must be like and feel anything but sympathy. It also makes one wonder about those who were so busy in Iowa this week, chasing their own hopes at landing the top job. Why do they do it?


States and utilities operate on a different playing field than the rest of the world, but even given their special circumstances it is hard to fathom the effort North Dakota and various coal interests are making to force Minnesota to accept North Dakota-generated electrical power.

In essence, the North Dakota coalition is suing its customer to force the customer to buy what North Dakota is selling.

That may be a world-record low point for customer relations.

Minnesota has relatively restrictive laws about “importing” electrical power that is generated at coal-fired plants. This has upset the state of North Dakota, its coal industry and some of its utilities, all of which would benefit if Minnesota would buy lots of North Dakota coal-generated power.

To try to force the issue, North Dakota is suing Minnesota in federal court — an effort that, according to an Associated Press report, could cost as much as $1.2 million, of which North Dakota taxpayers will pay at least $500,000. No word on what Minnesota will spend defending itself, but it will be a lot.

This is likely to be only the first of many battles over electrical power as the nation attempts to move to a cleaner energy standard.

But surely there’s a better way to work through the issue than with a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

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