Death of a childhood hero

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and I are taking a moment today to reflect on our growing-up years when we ate, drank and dreamed about “next year” and the Messrs. Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Duke Snider.

Those of us who remember the years of broken hearts and cursing the Damn Yankees are taking time today to mourn the passing of one of our childhood heroes:

“Duke Snider, Brookyn Dodgers Great, Dies at 84,” The New York Times, 27 February 2011 (LINK).

In Snider's words, "It was a great time for baseball." Heaven's center field is covered.


A second post follows.

Sex, lies and Ailes on tape

A former high school classmate, now living in NYC, sent me a copy of the New York Daily News front page with its blaring headline, “Deadly Voodoo Sex Romp.” The friend opined, “Voodoo candles sex ceremony sparks deadly Brooklyn fire. I can’t make this stuff up.”

The next article in my inbox queue, sent by another friend, falls in the “I can’t make this stuff up” category as well.

Turning back time to when Dubya named Rudy Giuliani’s buddy, former NYC police commissioner Bernard "Bernie" Kerik, to head homeland security - and the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan:

There was the matter of Kerik’s extramarital affair and the love tryst in an apartment donated for use by Ground Zero recovery and rescue workers. A lot of dirty little secrets came to light.

And now, a new one.

It is no secret that Fox News has no qualms about lying. “In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.” (LINK) Yep, Fox News' defense was lying is protected by the First Amendment because there is no specific law against it!

But, when the cable “news” network’s head honcho advises an employee to lie to federal investigators, he’s on tape, and his actions could constitute a federal crime, things are getting serious for Rupert Murdoch’s flagship money-maker. Well, actually, they would be serious for any other media outlet, but seemingly Fox News has a business-as-usual immunity.

Read on.

“Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show,” Russ Buettner, The New York Times, 24 February 2011 (LINK).

Since David Corn (biography) is a favorite journalist and author, I was particularly interested in his take – emailed by my friend – on all the dirty little secrets which have emerged from this story that won’t go away. Read his column, “Roger Ailes' Sex-and-Lies Tale: There Is Something Different About Fox.” (LINK)

Oh, what tangled webs ...

The lady is $10.75 million richer. A president, a presidential candidate and former NYC mayor, a former NYC police commissioner and, now, a powerful media executive ended up with pie on their faces.


Highwaymen, burglars and book abridgers

Viewing the Mona Lisa from La Gioconda’s nose up or stopping the music before Ravel’s “Bolero” reaches its fullest crescendo compares, in my opinion, to reading an abridged book.

Like Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail,” I get “lost in the language” of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Imagine reading an abridged version of that book. There’s a reason such books becomes immortal. So, why take a chainsaw to them?

Katharine Hepburn’s memoir, “Me,” had long graced my bookshelves when a friend gave me an audio copy of the book. Since it is read by the actress herself I gave it a listen, only to find it ended before Miss Hepburn's heartfelt recollections of Spencer Tracy.

Abridged audiobooks are a natural progression from Illustrated Classics comic books, CliffsNotes and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

I chafe at the omission of skillfully drawn word pictures – none so breathtaking as Mr. Dickens' in my favorite, “Barnaby Rudge.” Take away the ghostly appartition in the burnt castle, the massacre at the roadside tavern or the fire at Newgate Prison, and you might as well read a gum wrapper or a cereal box.

Imagine some book editor whacking away at the psychological impact of a single footprint on a stranded Robinson Crusoe.

I found a comrade in Daniel Defoe’s Preface to “The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe," part two of the trilogy:

“The just application of every incident; the religious and useful inferences drawn from every part are so many testimonies to the good design of making it public and must legitimate all the part that may be called invention or parable in the story.

“The second part, if the editor’s opinion may pass, is, contrary to the usage of second parts, every way as entertaining as the first, contains as strange and surprising incidents and as great a variety of them. Nor is the application less serious or suitable, and doubtless will to the sober or ingenious reader be every way as profitable and diverting, and this makes the abridging of this work as scandalous as it is knavish and ridiculous.

“Seeing, while to shorten the book, that they may seem to reduce the value, they strip it of all those reflections as well religious as moral which are not only the greatest beauties of the work, but are calculated for the infinite advantage of the reader.

“By this, they leave the work naked of its brightest ornaments. And, if they would, at the time, pretend the author has supplied the story out of his invention, they take from it the improvement which alone recommends that invention to wise and good men.

“The injury these men do the proprietor of this work is a practice all honest men abhor, and he believes he may challenge them to show the difference between that and robbing on the highway or breaking open a house. If they can’t show any difference in the crime, they will find it hard to show why there should be any difference in the punishment, and he will answer for it, that nothing shall be wanting on his part to do them justice.”


Trust me:

In addition to pamphlets and poetry, Daniel Defoe wrote some 500 books on every conceivable subject. (My favorite is "Moll Flanders.") A tribute to his writing genius is that no editor has been tempted to clean up his grammar and spelling errors!


STAMP: Support this anti-violence mail project

As part of an ongoing effort to pressure Fox News into pulling the plug on the Glenn Beck Show, here is a standard petition letter addressed to Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Please feel free to copy the text of this letter and paste it into your letterhead - adjusting type size and font style as needed:


Roger Ailes
Chairman and CEO, Fox News Channel
News Corporation
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036

Dear Mr. Ailes:

After the shooting rampage in Tucson that left six people dead and 13 injured, you offered this appeal for civility: “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.

Weeks after Tucson, nothing has changed. Glenn Beck has turned up the volume on partisan hate speech. The poisoned atmosphere unleashed by Glenn Beck means any citizen - Democrat, Independent or Republican - can be defamed in public and targeted for persecution. Beck’s messages provoke unstable persons to act on impulse, and news headlines have shown that violent rhetoric leads to violent acts:

Prison Term for Man Who Threatened Speaker Pelosi

Mother of Accused Man Blames Fox News

Renowned Professor Terrorized After Glenn Beck Broadcasts

League of Women Voters Targeted by Glenn Beck Fans

Two California Highway Patrolmen Shot by Glenn Beck Fan

Three Pittsburgh Policemen Killed by Glenn Beck Follower

There is no plausible deniability that can wipe the blood off Beck’s hands or absolve the Fox News Channel of responsibility for reckless incitement. Shooting sprees, murder, malicious defamations and infamous provocations: these have no place in a free society. When toxic television threatens public safety, all citizens of all persuasions have grounds for alarm.

Glenn Beck has crossed boundaries that should never be crossed. It is time to pull the plug on the Glenn Beck Show before more people are terrorized, injured and killed.


(Name and Signature)

Just copy and paste the letter into your document format and print. Within a few days, please look for another petition letter addressed to Fox News advertisers (i.e. the boycott letter). A startup list of advertisers will be included with that post.

Five minutes and a STAMP can make a difference. Thanks!


Been grabbed on the breast lately?

Like Egypt, the United States has a lot of problems to be solved, but women here can walk down the street without the EXPECTATION of being grabbed on the breast.

DemWit, for the sole purpose of sharing information under the “Fair Use Notice” in my sidebar, calls readers’ attention to the following commentary:

Egypt's harassed women need their own revolution

By Mary Rogers, CNN
February 17, 2011 4:58 a.m. EST

CNN Editor's note: CNN producer and camerawoman Mary Rogers has lived and worked in Egypt since 1994. She joined CNN in 1981 and has covered conflicts in Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Congo, Iraq, Chechnya, Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Recently she filmed the uprising in Tunisia.

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Several months before the revolution, I wrote a piece for CNN.com on the sexual harassment of women in Cairo.

News of the chilling attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan, as well as other sexual assaults against women during Egypt's uprising, show that attacks against women have not gone away.

I speak from experience. While most of my days covering Tahrir Square during the last few weeks were free from harassment, there was one day when I was groped. Another colleague almost had her pants ripped off by a gang of thugs.

According to a 2008 survey of 1,010 women conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed.

It happens on the streets, on crowded buses, in the workplace, in schools, and even in a doctor's office.

I was walking home from dinner recently when a carload of young men raced by me and screamed out "Sharmouta" (whore in Arabic.)

Before I could respond, they were gone, but I noticed policemen nearby bursting with laughter. I am old enough to be those boys' mother, I thought.

This incident was minor compared to what happened in 1994, shortly after I moved here. It was winter, and I was walking home from the office, dressed in a big, baggy sweater, and jacket. A man walked up to me, reached out, and casually grabbed my breast.

In a flash, I understood what the expression to "see red" meant. I grabbed him by the collar and punched him hard in the face. I held on to him, and let out a stream of expletives. His face grew pale, and he started to shake. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he whispered.

But the satisfaction of striking back quickly dissipated. By the time I walked away, I was feeling dirty and humiliated. After a couple of years enduring this kind of harassment, I pretty much stopped walking to and from work.

Of course, harassment comes in many forms. It can be nasty words, groping, being followed or stalked, lewd, lascivious looks, and indecent exposure.

At times it can be dangerous. This is what a friend told me happened to her: "I remember I was walking on the street, when a car came hurtling towards me. Aiming for me! At the last minute he swerved, then stopped, and finally laughed at me. I learned later that it was a form of flirting."

Why is sexual harassment in Egypt so rampant? There could be any number of reasons, but many point to disregard for human rights.

Before the uprising, Nehad Abu el Komsan, the Director for the Center for Women's Rights, told me that Egypt was more interested in political than public security. She said that often meant that officials focused more on preventing political unrest than addressing social ills.

Some also blame the spread of more conservative interpretations of Islam from the Gulf over the past 30 years. They say such interpretations demand more restrictive roles for women and condemn women who step outside of those prescribed roles.


“Perhaps it will be people power, the same people power that brought down a regime, that will successfully combat sexual harassment.”
- Mary Rogers


"Four million Egyptians went to the Gulf," el Komsan said. "They returned with oil money, and oil culture, which is not very open, related to the status of women. All of this changed the original culture of the Egyptian," she adds, "which included high respect for women."

Sara, a young Egyptian activist, told me that the concept of respect for some reason doesn't exist any more. "I think Egypt has lived a very long time in denial. Something happened in Egyptian society in the last 30 or 40 years. It feels like the whole social diagram has collapsed.

What is being done to raise awareness and combat such behavior? A law regarding sexual harassment will have to wait. The country has greater concerns now -- forming a new government; writing a new constitution; getting Egypt's economy going again and dealing massive unemployment, among other things.

The military is in charge now, and who knows when Egypt will get a new president, or parliament.

In the past, women who have been sexually harassed here have been too afraid or ashamed to speak up. That is changing slowly. In 2008, in a landmark court case, a man was sentenced to three years of hard labor for grabbing the breast of Noha Rushdi Saleh, a brave woman determined to seek justice.

The trial was covered extensively in the Egyptian press, and brought the problem of sexual harassment out in the open.

A group of young idealists are taking a personal initiative in trying to combat sexual harassment.

They are handing out pamphlets now saying: "Don't take bribes, don't drive the wrong way on a one way street, and don't sexually harass women." Perhaps it will be people power, the same people power that brought down a regime, that will successfully combat sexual harassment.

But the only real protection women can have is when the attitudes of men change.

BJ NOTE: CNN.com ran this at the end of the commentary:

"The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mary Rogers."

And maybe a whole lot of women.

UPDATE: I've been snowed under with inbox activity and wrote a friend last night that I had not checked news headlines in three days. That's why I missed the story sent by that same friend and read immediately AFTER publishing this post. I would be remiss not to include it here:

"Lawsuit Says Military Rife with Sexual Abuse," The New York Times, 15 February 2011

While I stand by my premise that most women can walk down the street here in the U.S. without expecting to be sexually molested, this lawsuit filed against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld claims the U.S. military created a climate of permissiveness by ignoring military rapes.

As my mother used to say, maybe we had better "clean up around our own doorstep."


Beck: Before hate turns to horror

To the chagrin of liberals and conservatives alike, the “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” rhetoric of Fox News’ Glenn Beck, fully documented, is fanning flames of hate across our country. The Supreme Court of the United States takes exception to so-called “free speech” which has the potential to do great harm.

Glenn Beck's hate speech, therefore, should be no exception to SCOTUS’ exception.

DemWit today is joining a team of bloggers, organized by friend “Octopus” at The Swash Zone and invites readers and bloggers to participate in this and future efforts to tell Beck’s advertisers “enough is enough!” Octopus’ first entry, dated 2/14/11:

After the shooting rampage in Tucson that left six people dead and thirteen injured, including Congresswoman Giffords, Fox News President Roger Ailes appealed for civility:  “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.

Weeks after Tucson, nothing has changed.  If anything, Fox News has turned up the volume on partisan hate speech.  Fevered hysteria and conspiratorial fear mongering on national television are not harmless.

How quickly we forget the lessons of history. The bogeymen of 1930s anti-Semitism that morphed into the bogeymen of 1950s McCarthyism has morphed again into the mainstreaming of Glenn Beck Militia Theater. The message is clear: Glenn Beck wants to extort your silence, and anyone who refuses to capitulate will be targeted and stalked:

Glenn Beck, Self-Appointed "Progressive Hunter"

The poisoned atmosphere unleashed by Glenn Beck and Fox News means any citizen - Democrat, Centrist, or Republican - can be slandered in public and targeted for persecution.  Beck pitches his messages at unhinged misfits who are most likely to act on impulse, and events have shown that violent rhetoric leads to violent acts. There is no plausible deniability that can remove this blood from Beck’s hands:

Murders, shooting sprees, domestic terrorism, private citizens hiding in fear, infamous intimidations and provocations broadcast on national television - all linked to Glenn Beck - enough is enough!  When toxic television threatens public safety, it concerns everyone.  Even prominent Republicans are becoming alarmed:

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum:

Former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner: 

National correspondent for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg:

It is time to pull the plug on Glenn Beck and serve notice to Fox News that partisan hate speech has no place in a free society. The strongest message you can send is to vote your pocketbook. Write letters to Fox News advertisers; tell them you will no longer patronize their products and services; and keep boycotting sponsors of Fox News until these outrageous partisan witch-hunts have stopped. Removing Glenn Beck from the airwaves will save lives.

Visit the Drop Fox Website Here
Visit the Stop Beck Website Here

Captain Fogg, Sheria, BJ, Octopus, Squatlo, Sue, Nance, TnLib, TomCat, Truth 101, Maleeper, Green Eagle, Kay.



Access to the World Wide Web can:

1) Scare you senseless.
2) Make you sick.
3) Empower you.
4) All of the above.

I’m in the market for a new clothes washer and am getting an education. Caveat Emptor 101.

One can assume if a person buys a product which turns out to be a lemon, one way to vent is to hop on the WWW and write a product review.

But, when the best review you run across is from a woman who is overjoyed her clothes washer lasted six years before it conked out, you begin to get a picture of product quality today, and it’s not pretty.

According to the GE-certified repairman who paid a visit Wednesday, my GE washer was made in 1986. I bought it, second-hand, 11 years ago for $130. I’m told it looks brand new. After 25 years, it sprung a leak and cannot be repaired.

25 years!

I got my money’s worth. Which is more than today’s consumer can say if review after review is any sign.

Examining a number of washers in various price ranges - short of a king's ransom - one can expect, from reviews, a product life span of about two years.

Remember the one word of advice Benjamin gets in “The Graduate:” “Plastics.” Well, welcome to the world of washer tubs and gears made of plastic – instead of porcelain-coated metal. Imagine a load of clothes and 30 gallons of water being jostled by plastic parts!

I am a firm believer in the old axiom, "You get what you pay for." Essentially, you need to calculate the average per month of what is spent before a plastic gear tooth breaks, a motor burns out or your floor is flooded. Factor in the cost of a repair visit before learning your “new” washer can’t be fixed. Because, basically, your purchase is nothing more thn "Rent a Wreck."

Answer to the WWW question: all of the above.

I don’t drive, so laundromats are not an option.

Anyone got an old washer, halfway through its prime, for sale?


Deification of the Dead 2

“Facts are stupid things.” – President Ronald Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention, misquoting John Adams’ “Facts are stubborn things.”

During the full week of Ronald Reagan’s funeral on TV and the celebration of his Centennial, my objections have centered not on remembering a former U.S. president, but on the revisionist aspects of The Media Myth and the exploitation of the poor man for political purposes.

We will never forget “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” although communism had already begun to self-destruct, and Reagan did not singlehandedly bring it down as some now believe.

We will never forget a beautiful and frail Nancy Reagan rubbing her hand across the flag-draped coffin, then laying her cheek on it in a final gesture of love.

We must not, then, forget history or alter its facts.

I’ve pulled a couple of interesting items from my old computer files. The first is a brief 1998 article by David Corn of The Nation. When I dared, about three days into TV coverage of Reagan's death, to feature the article, I received the response shared here from a relatively young relative.


66 (Unflattering) Things About Ronald Reagan

Source Editor's Note: This list of "66 Things to Think about When Flying in to Reagan National Airport" appeared in The Nation on March 2, 1998 after the renaming of Washington National Airport after Ronald Reagan. As David Corn says, "The piece remains relevant today – particularly as a cheat sheet for those who dare to point out the Reagan presidency was not all that glorious and was more nightmare in America than morning in America."

By David Corn
The Nation

The firing of the air traffic controllers, winnable nuclear war, recallable nuclear missiles, trees that cause pollution, Elliott Abrams lying to Congress, ketchup as a vegetable, colluding with Guatemalan thugs, pardons for F.B.I. lawbreakers, voodoo economics, budget deficits, toasts to Ferdinand Marcos, public housing cutbacks, redbaiting the nuclear freeze movement, James Watt.

Getting cozy with Argentine fascist generals, tax credits for segregated schools, disinformation campaigns, "homeless by choice," Manuel Noriega, falling wages, the HUD scandal, air raids on Libya, "constructive engagement" with apartheid South Africa, United States Information Agency blacklists of liberal speakers, attacks on OSHA and workplace safety, the invasion of Grenada, assassination manuals, Nancy's astrologer.

Drug tests, lie detector tests, Fawn Hall, female appointees (8 percent), mining harbors, the Savings and Loan scandal, 239 dead U.S. troops in Beirut, Al Haig "in control," silence on AIDS, food-stamp reductions, Debategate, White House shredding, Jonas Savimbi, tax cuts for the rich, "mistakes were made."

Michael Deaver's conviction for influence peddling, Lyn Nofziger's conviction for influence peddling, Caspar Weinberger's five-count indictment, Ed Meese ("You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime"), Donald Regan (women don't "understand throw-weights"), education cuts, massacres in El Salvador.

"The bombing begins in five minutes," $640 Pentagon toilet seats, African-American judicial appointees (1.9 percent), Reader's Digest, C.I.A.-sponsored car-bombing in Lebanon (more than 80 civilians killed), 200 officials accused of wrongdoing, William Casey, Iran/contra. "Facts are stupid things," three-by-five cards, the MX missile, Bitburg, S.D.I., Robert Bork, naps, Teflon.

David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, is author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

SOURCE: Information Clearinghouse



The man is dead. Whether you liked him or not is irrelevant. Whether ANYONE liked him is irrelevant.

Whatever harm or good he did for the country is sixteen years gone, and is also irrelevant, in the grand scheme of things. Not mentioning the "bad" things for one week out of the YEARS and YEARS of history is NOT going to do irreparable harm to the kids who don't pay attention in history class in the first place. Two hundred years from now, which will they mention in the history books? The Iran-contra affair or one state funeral of who knows how many?

Let the dead rest. Give the man his week of respect by keeping your mouth shut, if nothing else. And don't whine at me about censorship. It's called manners, which I thought we HAD in the South.

Don't discuss sex, religion or politics at the dinner table, and if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.


“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Sadly, this seems to be the media’s new approach to U.S. history. I refuse to condone it.


The Fox version

Words of inspiration spoken by the president of the United States at the recent National Prayer Breakfast received this comment on Fox News:

"President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast."
- Fox Nation, 2/03/11


"Obama was quoting from the New International Version [of the Bible], while Fox Nation was pointing to the King James Version to 'debunk' him."
- Media Matters, 2/04/11

SOURCE: The Progress Report


Propaganda works: According to Gallup tracking, an average of only 13 percent of registered Republicans approved of the job President Obama did during his second year in office.




'Deification of the Dead'

I have an acquaintance who is a very talented organist and is very much in demand to play at weddings and funerals. What he doesn’t like about being engaged to play at funerals, he once told me, is the “deification of the dead.” He said the deceased could have been the worst sort of scoundrel, but is always elevated to sainthood in the service.

In thinking about the “deification of the dead,” I would like to reflect on my early days in the workplace when employees were treated as an integral and worthy part of what made a business successful. It was a time when esprit de corps existed and workers were very proud of the company’s delivered products or services.

All that changed, and one can pinpoint when the change occurred. The balance shifted, employees became replaceable “cogs in the wheel” of production and, being so marginalized, began to lose heart – no longer taking pride in being a part of the whole and working only in weary anticipation of payday.

The change came hard and fast. When I was in management in 1983, I was initiated into “Management by Objectives,” one feature of which was “Attrition by Absorption.” One goal of management, I was told, was to make an employee so miserable he or she would resign, resulting in reduction of personnel. Management was taught ways to achieve this. Then, another employee could “absorb” the departing worker’s duties, with no increase in pay. My conscience rejected such dirty tricks.

I lived it. I know when the change began. But, let me share a well-written disclosure of the moment. And, when you have read it, I want you to think a lot in the days ahead about my friend’s “deification of the dead.”

Ronald Reagan, Enemy of the American Worker

by Dick Meister, t r u t h o u t
Op-Ed (LINK), 2 February 2011

The 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth is coming up in February, and before the inevitable gushing over what a wonderful leader he was begins, let me get in a few words about what sort of a leader he really was.

Ronald Reagan was, above all, one of the most viciously anti-labor presidents in American history, one of the worst enemies the country's working people ever faced.

Republican presidents never have had much regard for unions, but until Reagan, no Republican president had dared challenge the firm legal standing labor gained through Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930's.

Reagan's Republican predecessors treated union leaders much as they treated Democratic members of Congress - at times, as adversaries to be fought with, and, at others, as people to be bargained with. Reagan, however, engaged in precious little bargaining. He waged almost continuous war against organized labor and the country's workers from the time he assumed office in 1980 until leaving the presidency in 1988.

Reagan had little apparent reason to fear labor politically. Opinion polls at the time showed that unions were opposed by nearly half of all Americans, and that nearly half of those who belonged to unions had voted for Reagan in both of his presidential campaigns.

Reagan, at any rate, was a true ideologue of the anti-labor political right. Yes, he had been president of the Screen Actors Guild, but he was notoriously pro-management in that position. He led the way to a strike-ending agreement in 1959 that greatly weakened the union. Under heavy membership pressure, he finally resigned as union president before his term ended.

Reagan's war on labor as US president began in the summer of 1981, when he fired 13,000 striking air traffic controllers and destroyed their union.

As Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson noted in 2004, the firing was "an unambiguous signal that employers need feel little or no obligation to their workers, and employers got that message loud and clear - illegally firing workers who sought to unionize, replacing permanent employees who could collect benefits with temps who could not, shipping factories and jobs abroad."

Reagan gave dedicated union foes direct control of the federal agencies that were originally designed to protect and further the rights of workers and their unions. Most important was Reagan's appointment of three management representatives to the five- member National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The appointees included NLRB Chairman Donald Dotson, who declared that "unionized labor relations have been the major contributors to the decline and failure of once healthy industries" and have caused "destruction of individual freedom."

A House committee found that under Dotson, the NLRB abandoned its legal obligation to promote collective bargaining, in what amounted to "a betrayal of American workers."

The NLRB settled only about half as many complaints about employers' illegal actions as it had during the previous administration of Democrat Jimmy Carter. Most of the complaints were against employers who responded to organizing drives by illegally firing union supporters. The employers were well aware that, under Reagan, the NLRB was taking an average of three years to rule on complaints - and that, in any case, the board did no more than order that discharged unionists be reinstated with back pay, which was much cheaper than operating under a union contract.

The board stalled equally as long before acting on petitions from workers seeking union representation elections and generally stalled for another year or two after such votes before certifying winning unions as the workers' bargaining agents. Also, under Reagan employers were allowed to permanently replace workers who dared exercise their legal right to strike.

Reagan's Labor Department was as one-sided as the NLRB. It became an anti-Labor Department, virtually ignoring, for example, the union-busting consultants that many employers hired to help them fend off unionization.

Very few consultants and very few of those who hired them were asked for the financial disclosure statements that the law demands, yet all unions were required to file the statements that the law required of them, and that imbalance could be used to advantage by their opponents. Although the Labor Department cut its overall budget by more than 10 percent, it increased the budget for such union-busting activities by almost 40 percent.

Among Reagan's many other outrages, there were his attempts to lower the minimum wage for younger workers, weaken the child labor and anti-sweatshop laws, tax fringe benefits and cut back programs to train unemployed workers for available jobs. He also tried to replace thousands of federal employees with temporary workers who would not have civil service or union protection.

Reagan all but dismantled programs that required affirmative action and other steps against discrimination by federal contractors, and he seriously undermined job safety programs. He closed one-third of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) field offices, trimmed the agency's staff by more than one-fourth and decreased the number of penalties assessed against offending employers by almost three-fourths.

Rather than enforce the laws, Reagan appointees sought "voluntary compliance" from employers on safety matters - and generally didn't get or expect it. Reagan had so tilted the safety laws in favor of employers that safety experts declared them virtually useless.

The same could have been said of all other labor laws in the Reagan era. A statement issued at the time by the leaders of several major unions concluded that it would have been more advantageous for those who worked for a living to ignore the laws and return to "the law of the jungle" that prevailed a half-century before.

The suggestion came a little late. Ronald Reagan had already plunged the nation's labor-management relations deep into the jungle.

Yet Reagan will nevertheless be honored in centennial celebrations throughout the United States, in Europe and elsewhere in coming days. He's become a much beloved mythical figure, and nothing will change that - certainly not the unheard or unacknowledged facts of his presidency and its disastrous effects on America's working people, many of whom, ironically, will be among the celebrants.

Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based writer who has covered labor and politics for a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. You can contact him through his website, http://www.dickmeister.com/.



Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, speaking in 1983 on the legacy of Ronald Reagan, noted (LINK):

“Perhaps the most important, and then highly controversial, domestic initiative was the firing of the air traffic controllers in August 1981. The president invoked the law that striking government employees forfeit their jobs, an action that unsettled those who cynically believed no president would ever uphold that law. President Reagan prevailed, as you know, but far more importantly his action gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.”