HELLO, HISTORY, GIMME REWRITE

Faced by right-wing charges that an upcoming miniseries about Ronald Reagan was too hostile, CBS announced that Showtime would run it instead. If the television networks are going to start insisting that docudramas– be they about the Kennedys, Nixon, Princess Di, the Clintons, Reagan, whomever–stick to the facts, that’s one thing. If on the other hand this is merely the latest instance of a network’s craven cave-in, what else is new? Meanwhile, Representative John Dingell sent this letter to the producers: “In the interest of historical accuracy, please allow me to share with you some of my recollections of the Reagan years that I hope will make it into the final cut of the mini-series: $640 Pentagon toilets seats; ketchup as a vegetable; union busting; firing striking air traffic controllers; Iran-Contra; selling arms to terrorist nations; trading arms for hostages; retreating from terrorists in Beirut; lying to Congress; financing an illegal war in Nicaragua; visiting Bitburg cemetery; a cozy relationship with Saddam Hussein; shredding documents; Ed Meese; Fawn Hall; Oliver North; James Watt; apartheid apologia; the savings and loan scandal; voodoo economics; record budget deficits; double digit unemployment; farm bankruptcies; trade deficits; astrologers in the White House; Star Wars…”

TRIPPED UP

Some stories about Linda Tripp being awarded $595,000 said the Defense Department had violated her privacy rights by leaking information about her arrest on grand larceny charges. But Eric Alterman points out on his weblog (altercation.msnbc.com) that when she filled out a security clearance form for a Pentagon job, she didn’t mention the arrest in response to the usual question about any criminal record. The facts were revealed in a story during the Lewinsky scandal in The New Yorker. Reporter Jane Mayer discovered Tripp’s local police rap sheet. The Pentagon told her–truthfully–it had no knowledge of any arrest.

WAL-MART’S ILLEGALS

Jennifer Berkshire writes: The raids on sixty Wal-Mart outlets last month were intended to crack down on cleaning contractors who hire illegal immigrants with Wal-Mart’s knowledge. The raids netted 250 illegals, most of whom will pay a stiff price for taking low-paid janitorial jobs: deportation. What’s less clear is the impact the raids will have on the practices of Wal-Mart, its cleaning contractors or other employers. The Supreme Court’s 2002 Hoffman decision, in which it ruled that an undocumented worker who’d been fired during a union organizing drive was not eligible for back pay, encourages employers to hire illegal immigrants. Employers have been pushing for similar rulings at the state level. Pennsylvania and Michigan have invoked Hoffman to deny workers’ compensation to undocumented workers, while Massachusetts will soon rule on whether illegal immigrants are eligible for workers’ comp. These rulings effectively create a big loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Profits from sidestepping overtime or workers’ comp are far in excess of the $10,000-per-worker fine Wal-Mart’s cleaning contractors will likely pay.

RACE MATTERS

Q & A from Barbara Miner: A white man who has served prison time for a felony drug conviction applies for a job as a dishwasher. A black man with the same skills and education but no criminal record also applies. Who’s more likely to get the job? Answer: The white man with the criminal record. A Milwaukee study found that white high school graduates with felony convictions for possession of cocaine with intent to sell were more likely to get entry-level jobs than black men with similar education and work history but no criminal record. The testers–two white men and two black men–applied in person at 350 places in Milwaukee in 2001. Whites with a criminal record were called back 17 percent of the time, blacks without a criminal record 14 percent. (Whites without criminal records had a 34 percent call-back rate.) Conservatives argue high unemployment among blacks is not due to race but to lack of education, criminal records, etc. This study suggests race is the most important factor.

ANTI-W. MESSAGES FROM THE GRAVE

Sally Baron died in Wisconsin on August 18 at 71. Remembering how she used to watch TV news programs and swear at W. (“She thought he was a liar,” her daughter Maureen recalled), her children composed this death notice: “Memorials in her honor can be made to any organization working for the removal of President Bush.” Gertrude M. Jones, 81, who died on August 25 in New Orleans, left similar instructions. After Baron’s posthumous protest was reported by the AP, dozens of people wrote they had donated in her name to their favorite anti-Bush group. Go and do likewise. It is later than you think.

NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW

Senator Trent Lott on events in Iraq: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.”