Climate, Obits, and Frozen Pipes

Ideas and Issues
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February 17, 2021

New Orleans       I called a friend in Houston to see how bad the snow and ice had hit them. He said they were among the lucky ones and didn’t lose power as four million other Texans did including Local 100’s organizer there. The mid-20’s Fahrenheit are unfriendly. Houses in the deep South just are not built for this kind of weather. Relatives in Arkansas and Missouri told of record lows in single digits, like 4 degrees and lower, so we kept our mouths shut. The radio station and the office in Little Rock were closed down until the weekend. Meanwhile, we kept moving on a Mardi Gras day from place to place looking for the warmest space.

Climate change doesn’t just mean global warming, it also means that polar vortexes are on the move in our direction because of higher temperatures in the Arctic and less ice and snow in the far north. Hotter summers and colder winters, what a deal. Not a fair deal, just a deal, since local groups and power grid experts in Texas noted that lower income and minority neighborhoods blacked out first and can expect to be powered up last, as usual.

Not moving out and about as much, and bored with the news, my mind was wandering. I spent part of the holiday reading about Asian anti-colonialist, anarchist revolutionaries one hundred years ago interspersed with vividly illustrated Italian children’s stories, also from a time long gone.

I’m at the age where I read more obits.

One recently was the less than adequate Times’ handling of John Sweeney, former president of the AFL-CIO and SEIU, but it had sent me to a book he had written as a fundraiser for a college in Northern Ireland. A fact he mentioned that I had not heard or seen reported elsewhere was an offer during the federation schism that the AFL-CIO executive council made to the dissident unions committing to spend $250 million per year over 5 years dedicated to new organizing, creating more than a billion-dollar organizing fund. The die might have already been cast by then and all trust and good will evaporated, but too bad we didn’t see that kind of investment in organizing.

James Ridgeway, the muckraking reporter, being one of the journalistic tribe, fared better in his Times’ obit. I remembered sitting with him and his writing partner at the time, Andrew Kopkind, in a hotel bar in downtown Des Moines after the Iowa caucuses in 1980, and parsing the results between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy in that contest and how ACORN had fared in our 20/80 effort for lower income representation in the parties. They were characters with fierce and cynical opinions laced with humor, as I recall.

The news says that former President Trump thinks Senator McConnell is a political hack. This is a situation where we can clearly cite Trump on something where he is complete authority.

President Biden has announced that he is extending the federal moratorium on foreclosures until June. We might freeze in our houses, but at least we won’t be on the street this winter and spring. That’s something to celebrate in a topsy-turvy world.