Not much blog fodder at the end of the week, so I think I’ll just summarize a few news item on my beat:
- Col. Donald L. Shaffer officially took over Grand Forks Air Force Base today from Col. John E. Michel. There’s not much opportunity for in-depth conversation after a change of command ceremony so I just focused on whether he planned to continue the framework that Michel emphasized. "Absolutely," he said. Shaffer was vice commander at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and so was Michel, so they know each other pretty well, which is even better if you’re looking for continuity. (If this outdated Web page is to be believed, Michel is still vice commander.)
Before I met Shaffer in person, I asked an airman what he thought of his new boss, mostly because his portrait made him look pretty dour. Michel’s framework requires a lot of glad-handling and humorless individuals would not be ideal. The airman said Shaffer is a lot like Michel except not has caffeinated.
- North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz met with Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Charles W. Murphy today, but neither will talk about what they talked about. I guess it’s not hard to guess that they talked about the feasibility of the tribe holding a referendum on the nickname in the next few months, since that’s what State Board of Higher Education President Richie Smith told me he’d like to hear. It’s gotta be politics — like how likely it is that Murphy can get a coalition together to pass a referendum — because not much is more sensitive than politics.
When I talked to President Smith yesterday, I asked why he wasn’t meeting with Chairman Murphy or even Vice President John Backes. Smith said people are busy with work and that, at any rate, he didn’t know if any other SBHE member was coming. I was told by the NDUS spokeswoman that it was definitely a one-on-one. Why not a high-level rep? I asked. Smith said the chancellor was pretty high level. This is puzzling because I’m sure he knows what I mean. The chancellor works for the SBHE so sending him alone to meet the tribe’s top executive is kind of — I don’t know — it indicates this issue isn’t very important to the SBHE. It’s that appearance of haughtiness I was talking about before.
- The Sierra Club had another rally this week to get rid of the coal-fired steam plant at UND. The first one announced its intention and this one was apparently meant to rally more support for a petition the club’s got going around. Club members will talk to UND President Robert Kelley soon to press him on a timetable to get rid of the plant.
Two interesting things I noticed from the rally:
1. Professor William D. Gosnold, an expert on geothermal energy who was the featured speaker, said the most feasible goal was to gradually add new ground source heat pumps to different buildings on campus. It’s not a one-year project but a 10-year project, he told me. This seemed to contradict with the Sierra Club’s goal of getting rid of the steam plant ASAP. I asked club organizer Sriram Madhusoodanan if that was the case and he said the club hasn’t worked out goals yet. I think if it’s going to ask Kelley to commit to some kind of timetable it probably ought to agree on what that timetable might be.
2. Sophomore Thomas Storfjord, the events coordinator for the campaign, had this funny speech where he said "I have experienced vast changes in just my lifetime," by which he meant climate change. Winter used to start at the end of October or the beginning of November where he grew up in Norway, but in the last five years, there’s been several Christmases without snow.
Man, I hate to burst his bubble, but this is exactly the non-scientific argument that’s used by a lot of climate change deniers. One colder than average year and it’s suddenly evidence that global warming doesn’t exist. Climate change takes place over centuries, not decades and certainly not five years! We’re talking about changes in average temperature of a fractions of a degree over many years, not something you suddenly see one winter. One would hardly call that "vast changes." [Note: I made it to the rally late because of other stories I was working on that day and took the quotes from Storfjord's statement.]