TV & DVD Review: The Moneychangers (NBC)

The Moneychangers, a four-part 1976-1977 winter miniseries that aired on NBC, is based on the bestselling novel by Arthur Hailey, who also wrote Airport and Hotel. The miniseries has a varied broadcast history as it’s been re-broadcast in a few incarnations, having been split into shorter or longer segments of varying lengths. I watched the approximately eight-hour series on DVD.

The television drama is better than I’d expected. Combining subplots that feed into the history, conflict and survival of an American bank, which is what makes this miniseries appealing, The Moneychangers shows how general consumer banking works. How many TV series, then or now, revolve around the boardroom discourse, daily operations and profitability of a bank? I’ve never read the novel, though I’ve read some of Hailey’s fiction, which I’ve enjoyed as light industrial or business-themed entertainment.

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The Moneychangers, produced by Ross Hunter, who’d previously adapted Hailey’s Airport into one of Hollywood’s first major blockbusters in 1970, makes me want to read the novel. With a musical score by Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), a cameo by Marla Gibbs (Florence on The Jeffersons), a radical, anti-profit Elizabeth Warren-type character and leading performances from Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) and Kirk Douglas (Paths of Glory) as two bankers competing for the bank’s top executive position, the miniseries has potential.

The Moneychangers bundles its variety, potential and possibility for good drama, or at least melodrama. Especially with pre-Dynasty Joan Collins as an upscale prostitute on a crooked banker’s (post-Bonanza Lorne Greene) payroll. Look for Robert Loggia (The Jagged Edge), Stan Shaw (Scared Straight) and Patrick O’Neal (The Doris Day Show) as a crime boss, young black activist and advertising crony.

Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show) plays a handsome young bank employee who embezzles the bank, gets caught, tried and convicted. He then serves time in prison. After he’s gang raped, he succumbs to an interracial same-sex relationship for protection. Later, upon his release from prison, the bank gives him an opportunity for a fresh start but it involves going underground to bust a counterfeit ring, with help from a single Latina mother and bank teller with whom he falls in love.

So, this is not typical mid-Seventies network television programming. Anne Baxter (All About Eve) co-stars as a top notch bank executive. Hayden Rorke (Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie) and Ralph Bellamy (Roots) also star in key roles. Look for Helen Hayes (the Boeing 707 stowaway in Airport) as an empathetic doctor.

The central plot involves the contentious rise of the two bankers seeking the bank’s top position after a grandson of the bank’s founder announces that he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Add to this a run on the bank, the “social justice” warrior (Susan Flannery), class and racial strife, a terrorist bombing, a mentally incapacitated spouse, suicide and a crime syndicate and The Moneychangers moves briskly with a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, the theme’s not an endorsement of capitalism. But, for a pre-high technology, pre-mergers and acquisitions showcase of banking, as with Airport and Hotel, I found the dramatization of the industry fairly accurate, relevant and absorbing.

Kirk Douglas is relatively subdued for a change, not hamming up every scene, gritting teeth and overacting, though he does show off his muscles. This is some of Douglas’s best acting. Plummer strongly plays a Puritanical second-hander and pulls off a powerful climax. The late Percy Rodrigues, in the best acting performance and role of his enduring career, plays the bank’s security chief. He catches the Bottoms character in crime and serves one of the The Moneychangers’ best performances and subplots. Anyone who works in banking or wonders what’s involved (or was in the mid-70s) in money-making, saving and changing will probably find something here to appreciate and enjoy, even if half-naked Collins and some of the cast are cheesy in that melodramatic acting style.

The Moneychangers does not depict high finance. But it entertains.

 

TV Review: Chernobyl (HBO)

Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl, directed by Johan Renck, who’s known for music videos, and starring the ubiquitous and talented Stellan Skarsgård (Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mamma Mia!, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, Cinderella, Thor) dramatizes the collapse of Soviet Russia.

Buy the Miniseries

As gray, bleak and lifeless as a honest series about socialism and its more consistent altruist-collectivist application, Communism, in practice must be, the five-part miniseries for AT&T-owned Home Box Office (HBO) stands out for depicting bureaucracy as a deathtrap. Chernobyl taps the Soviet and Russian sense of life, which is essentially anti-life.

But it does so strictly and only in minuscule measure. Upon a young technology co-worker’s recommendation, I bought and watched this series. I find Chernobyl’s excellent acting, visual and production values completely immersive and engrossing. You probably will, too. It’s striking for both its implicit and explicit honesty about socialism. This is so true that it is tempting to evaluate HBO’s series as a breakthrough.

Chernobyl is not quite that good. Socialism is spreading in the United States as a dishonest socialist presidential candidate exploits America’s workers’ fears into believing that a wealthy, old New Englander can loot the wealthy and spread the loot to give everyone clean air, good medicine and a college education. So, it’s refreshing to watch and reassuring to know that a major miniseries counters the fraudulent pseudo-curmedgeon with a dramatization of the truth that socialism, like radiation poisoning, destroys the individual and, left untended, kills everyone.

If you know about the spring 1986 nuclear disaster in Communist Russia — the only major nuclear meltdown in history  then you’ll enjoy Chernobyl more. If you don’t, as my young colleague did not, you may be inclined to think that the truth-based Chernobyl’s a work of pure fiction. This is especially so if you’ve come of age post-Earth Day. If so, you’re part of generations that’ve been subjected to nearly 50 years of relentless environmentalist propaganda falsely blaming the wealthy, business, capitalism, America and industry for mass death, disease, pollution and natural disaster.

With key roles in strong performances, Chernobyl shows otherwise. The scientists whose knowledge under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is powerless, to invert the meaning of Francis Bacon’s famous quote, try in vain to contain, alleviate and convey the damage after a nuclear plant explosion caused by incompetence, bureaucracy and faith in the welfare state. Emily Watson (War Horse, Angela’s Ashes, Anna Karenina) and Jared Harris (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Notorious Bettie Page, General Ulysses Grant in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln) excel in these roles. There’s also a fireman and his wife, various Communist Party thugs, from idiotic plant chiefs to security goons, and Skarsgård as a top Communist Party thug.

As is evident everyday in Hong Kong, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and China, any one who’s a member of the Communist Party is what amounts to a thug, so I’m going with that term because it is true. And part of the problem with Chernobyl, as shocking as this may sound to fans and admirers of Chernobyl, is that Chernobyl doesn’t fully account for this fact.

In ways large and small, the series shows what it means to be a Communist or socialist, often with precise and profound attention to detail. The nuclear power plant known as Chernobyl was, in fact, the Vladimir I. (for Ilyitch) Lenin nuclear power plant. As if to remind the audience that the horror movie-like story of Chernobyl begins with the monster who promoted self-sacrifice and socialism, Lenin’s portrait, depicting the evil philosopher whose ideas made possible the bloodiest dictatorship on earth, looms over every episode of Chernobyl.

But those who mindlessly carry out his mission of monstrosity don’t get called out. Certainly, they get implicated, and this includes, again, refreshingly, the chief Communist of the Eighties, the dreadfully overpraised New Left hero, Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, who appears in Chernobyl in key scenes marking the dictatorship’s errant, slow, delayed, deliberate and utterly horrifying response to the nuclear meltdown. Gorbachev, darling of the left, the press and everyone in the West, including to some degree unfortunately Thatcher, during and after the collapse of Soviet Communism, was a Communist. To his credit, he noticed that Communism was collapsing under his dictatorship. But Gorbachev was a Communist dictator. Like a janitor who’s the only one left in the building to mop up the mess of a Department of Water and Power system failure, Gorbachev merely managed the end of a dictatorship. Chernobyl shows this, demonstrating that Gorbachev was merely more calculating and publicity-savvy. That this Communist dictator knew he’d be better regarded by avoiding total loss of life, stature and decency is rightly regarded as secondary.

Chernobyl does not put Gorbachev or any of the Soviet Communists in their place, however. For its taut drama, suspense and spot-on portrayal of the insidious philosophical and existential poisoning of an entire country, Chernobyl not only doesn’t get around to rendering moral judgment of the union of concerned scientists and Soviet socialists — it barely scratches the surface of Soviet mass murder, coming closest in a scene with a woman milking a cow — Chernobyl makes the dictatorship’s moral premise, altruism — the idea that the individual exists to serve Others — a source of heroism.

In dramatizing Soviet divers, miners and Lenin plant workers, and those who love them, to the extent it is possible to love someone while living under a dictatorship, Chernobyl holds sacrifice as the moral ideal, leaving the Chernobyl disaster’s — and Soviet Russia’s— cause perfectly in place. Not a single scene implicates altruism or self-sacrifice as the toxin that poisons the plant and the country. Chernobyl unfolds with adherence to the cold, miserable and vacant representational recreation of Soviet Ukraine and, especially, Moscow. Its soldiers, KGB agents, committee members, lines, housing projects, cars, streets and red star-emblazoned machines reek of an entire population of humans steeped in ignorance, despair and total misery. Mazin’s series demonstrates for the thinking viewer what, how and why socialism makes everyone rotten, corrupt and depraved. This is especially true in an unnerving subplot with Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, Life’s a Breeze, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) as an innocent soldier who, with two comrades, is assigned to terminate post-disaster contaminated animals and pets in evacuated zones.

Chernobyl can’t come close to fully dramatizing the horror of Soviet Russia. The mass death, including the long, drawn-out, slow, waiting-in-line-to die-slowly-by-radiation-poisoning, which is the perfect metaphor for Soviet Russia, of this socialist state is impossible to fully capture. Tens of millions were slaughtered. The makers of Chernobyl seem to grasp this on some level, with end titles that admit that no one knows how many died from the 1986 nuclear disaster.

Whatever its flaws, this series, which is best seen as an intellectual, fact-based horror miniseries, not as a deeply contemplative TV program, merits serious attention. In an era in which voters in the greatest nation on earth may be on the verge of electing a socialist president who chose not just to visit but to honeymoon and sanction Communist Russia after the Vladimir Lenin nuclear meltdown, Chernobyl rumbles and hums with fact-based foreboding of the horrifying past as chilling prologue.

 

China, Asia and ‘The Last Emperor’

My recent post on Communist China, Hong Kong, Trump and the 2020 Democrats was on the cover of Capitalism Magazine. Though I do not endorse tariffs and I explicitly declined to do so or go into detail on trade, military and foreign policy, I credit the American president for ending 50 years of unchecked sanction and appeasement of Communist China. I also contrast the president with the 2020 Democrats in this context.

The impetus for writing my first and only positive Trump post since the pragmatist announced he was running for president four years ago is the realization that, for the first time in recent history, the U.S. government explicitly and actively challenges Communist China’s power, if not with consistency, let alone on principle.

This is thanks to Trump. I think opposing China is a mark of American progress. Read my post about Trump, Democrats and China on Capitalism Magazine here.

Capitalism Magazine also asked to reprint an excerpt from my review of Ken Burns’s PBS miniseries, The Vietnam War. Read the excerpt here. This is part of my recent series of Asian-themed posts, including a review of the Vietnam War-themed Broadway musical now touring, Miss Saigon.

I’ve also written a new movie review. Oscar’s Best Picture winner for 1987, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, has been on my list of movies to watch for many years.

Encouraged and emboldened by the protests for democracy and individual rights in Hong Kong, the pro-Western city now protesting control by Communist China, a cosmopolitan city which once welcomed American whistleblower and hero Edward Snowden, granting him sanctuary from the oppressive Obama administration, I recently watched the movie with China and its rich history in mind. Read my review of The Last Emperor, featured on the cover of The New Romanticist, here.

 

Introducing Disney Plus

“For a monthly price of $6.99 or an annual rate of $69.99 in the U.S. (pricing varies outside U.S.), Disney+ offers viewers of all ages a compelling price-to-value proposition”, Disney’s press release announced this week. The streaming service, which promises “commercial-free viewing, up to four concurrent streams, and unlimited downloads with no upcharges,” debuts on November 12. The app claims to feature:

  • Unlimited downloads of shows and movies on the Disney+ app to watch offline later on up to 10 mobile or tablet devices; subscribers can watch on the go and without an internet connection
  • Multiple profiles: subscribers can set up to seven different profiles and choose an avatar tailored to a favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars character, from over 200 available avatars
  • Concurrent streaming on up to four registered devices with no up-charges in multiple languages for movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and Disney’s newly acquired studio library from 20th Century Fox, which includes Fox’s National Geographic brand

But proceed with caution. For example, beware of Disney’s original programming, which includes several Avengers-related series, which cumulatively sound as enticing as another season of The Simpsons. The legendary studio’s also touting something that sounds designed for diversity and inclusion, which is a euphemism for sameness and exclusion of anything that diverges from the status quo, called Diary of a Female President. And coming soon is a slew of new Star Wars series, including 12 new episodes of an ongoing series from Kathleen Kennedy, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated, Emmy® award-winning series which I’ve never seen (a movie of the same name was middling), streaming on Disney+ in February 2020.

In fact, Kennedy introduced a Disney fan expo audience to what’s being advertised as “the second Lucasfilm live-action series for Disney+, now in development,” based on the mediocre Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Besides this less-than-thrilling announcement, there’s a new Disney Lucasfilm series dubbed The Mandalorian, “set after the fall of the Empire”, supposedly tracing the trail of “a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy”. I could be wrong but the Star Wars content, which gets worse with each new release, looks flat and dull.

Now that the Burbank studio’s bought 20th Century Fox, and with its distinguished history, Disney ought to tout its vast backlog because the newest offerings, such as Dumbo and Aladdin, are either awful or mediocre. Is currently unlimited access to Disney’s and Fox’s archives worth paying $6.99 per month as an early price? The answer may depend on how many, if any, of the classics you already own and the quality of the studio’s original programming, which has a spotty recent track record at best. For the streaming service with the unfortunate name, which evokes Google’s failed attempt at social media, it’s buyer beware.

 

TV Review: The Vietnam War (PBS)

TV Review: The Vietnam War (PBS)

The Vietnam War, a 10-part series for PBS which aired in 2017, is flawed, biased and incomplete. It is also a compelling and important examination of the Southeast Asia war America lost.

Written by Geoffrey C. Ward and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, with key military guidance from certain war intellectuals and participants, this is a generally honest account of a terrible, impossible war.

I welcome feedback on this long, episodic review, which I’ve composed from my notes after watching the series on Apple TV. I apologize in advance for any errors or omissions, so please feel free to let me know if I’ve missed something important or misspelled the name of a soldier, a village or a battle. Know that I especially want to hear from the reader who served in Vietnam.

This war loomed over my childhood and life. It still does. Generations in America suffered irreparable harm and year after year, president after president, election after election, Americans make the same mistakes. I want my post to prompt the reader to think about the Vietnam War … or to think twice.

I’m giving this program the long, deep and detailed analysis I think the topic deserves, especially in an increasingly anti-intellectual culture in which the individual, the press and the government give asinine topics all their attention at the expense of topics that matter. Going to war without purpose and for the sake of helping others and the men who were forced to wage it matters and it matters very much to your daily life. I want you to learn from what I found in this series even if you never watch this series, which I hope you do.

Each episode, produced by Florentine Films for public television and presented without commercial interruption, is approximately 90 minutes.

Buy the DVD

Episode One

Starting with the sound of a helicopter, the continuing symbol of the Vietnam War from its origins to its end to its aftermath in movies and Broadway musicals, The Vietnam War on PBS commences with its first installment, aptly titled “Deja Vu” marking the years 1858 through 1961.

Here, you will learn why the war was born of misguided conquest. Today, this would be reduced to the vulgar term clusterf**k. Vietnam’s agrarian society was primitive with multiple forces and influences, especially through mysticism and religions, none of which is delved into here.

But there’s enough material here to see that the mid-20th century precedes this major turning point with a worldwide war engulfing Asia, especially mystical, Imperial Japan, which allied the worst evil of the century, Communism, with the West.

This alliance happened under an American president who sought statism in America. The authoritarian war president, Franklin Roosevelt, previously studied by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in his series The Roosevelts, set the course for an exotic jungle war in Vietnam. The Vietnam War does not make these observations. But it documents the evidence for the rational mind to make the connection.

Enter the monstrous Ho Chi Minh, a spindly figure who merges faith, nationalism, collectivism and pieces of civilization into a mongrel mixture that dazzles or sedates nearly everyone. Under dozens of pseudonyms, the charismatic leader travels the world in “Deja Vu”, from New York City and Paris to Boston and London from his native Vietnam. He studies America, writing to President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 pleading for Wilson to support Ho Chi Minh’s nationalism. He plans, goes to Soviet Russia and gains sponsors, returning to Vietnam in 1941.

By the time the sick, dying Ho Chi Minh was saved by the American government with Western medicine in 1945, the year the U.S. ended the war by dropping atomic bombs on Japan after the barbaric state refused to surrender, Minh had — like later Islamic terrorists — been nursed, trained and armed by the United States.

Roosevelt had wanted nations to be free to choose Communism.

This left Ho Chi Minh to look to the U.S. as some sort of egalitarian empire. The Vietnam War makes much of Minh’s quoting Thomas Jefferson, downplaying Minh’s other philosophical sources and influences, such as Josef Stalin, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, which tout Communism, nationalism and socialism. But it is clear that Ho Chi Minh’s interest in America was never based on individualism; it was filtered through his worship of the omnipotent state, a fact which this series evades or ignores,. Minh’s outreach to the U.S. is contingent upon his glorification of race, tribe and a people’s state. Ho Chi Minh was indoctrinated and funded by Soviet Russia.

After World War 2, Minh lived, Novick and Burns report with actor Peter Coyote’s narration, in a cave he named after Marx. He named a nearby stream after Lenin. Ho Chi Minh knew exactly his political philosophy. His brigade of Communists, the Vietnam Minh, killed their first American, a peace-making colonel named Peter Dewey, when they supposedly mistook him for a Frenchman when Col. Dewey was brokering a peace deal between the Communists and France.

So, at least this series lets it be known that the first American to die in Vietnam came in peace. Dewey was an innocent who was gunned down by Hi Chi Minh’s Communists. Soon afterward, Communist Mao Tse-Tung, responsible for mass murdering more innocents than perhaps anyone ever to exist on earth, takes over China. The series reports that Mao and the world’s other bloodiest dictator, Josef Stalin, funded the Communists in Vietnam.

In this sense, the first episode of The Vietnam War illustrates how Communist China and Soviet Russia poisoned this poor, farm country in Southeast Asia through a leader nursed, trained and armed by an American government with a socialist bent.

When Franklin Roosevelt died while in office, his vice-president, Harry Truman, became president. Having been accused of being the guilty party on the question of ‘Who lost China [to Communism]?’, President Truman promptly approved of $23 million in aid to France, which ruled Vietnam and Southeast Asia as a kind of colony.

The context is complicated. As Ho Chi Minh advanced against France in Vietnam, Truman was already drafting American men to fight a proxy war with China on the Korean peninsula after Chinese-backed North Koreans invaded South Korea.

All of this is more or less packed into the first episode of The Vietnam War. These are starting points. There’s more, pardon the advertising cliche, much more.

In the autumn of 1951, the culprit in starting the Vietnam War first appears on scene.

His name is Congressman John Kennedy. The series reports that the young war hero was visiting a rooftop bar when he heard guns across the Saigon River. Kennedy returned to his native Massachusetts and told constituents that, unless the U.S. could persuade the Vietnamese that Americans are as opposed to “inequality” as they are opposed to Communism, Truman’s aid to France would result in “foredoomed failure”.

Rep. Kennedy would continue Roosevelt’s statist legacy when he became President Kennedy. Vietnam would become a quagmire and it would chiefly be his doing. But, during the 1950s, U.S. policy on Vietnam was set by Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, whose vice-president, Richard Nixon, is seen in this first episode going over a map of Vietnam on television.

By 1953, France had gone though six commanders in trying to colonize Vietnam and France had failed at what it termed pacification, which then and now is a euphemism for winning the hearts and minds of the people. The French had also widely used a form of gelatinized petroleum called Napalm in its military efforts. This caused Parisian leftists to oppose the war in Vietnam, shown here and intercut with later footage of 1968 New Left American protests, and riot in the streets.

Then came the debacle between Vietnamese and French forces at Dien Bien Phu on March 13, 1954. As commentator Daniel Gregg puts it: “[Americans] should’ve seen the fall [at Dien Bien Phu] as the end of colonialism…instead we saw it as part of a Communist threat.” The 17th parallel split came after France’s devastating defeat, with French troops forced to retreat into the south, leaving the Vietnam Minh to control the north, separating Vietnam into two countries by a demilitarized zone (DMZ) until an election could be held to reunify north and south.

In the south, the French supported a Saigon crime syndicate which opposed the regime in South Vietnam. This regime was opposed by President Eisenhower, too, but Ike was pressured to support South Vietnam’s corrupt government when the regime was reelected.

President Kennedy, The Vietnam War shows, made support for South Vietnam’s corrupt government explicit — Kennedy was the first American president to do so, really — modeling South Vietnam on Roosevelt’s New Deal and Marshall plan with massive infrastructure rebuilding — after Ike ordered scores of Americans to South Vietnam to rebuild and win hearts and minds.

The moral premise of the Vietnam War had been established: helping others. If Truman and Eisenhower initially aided Vietnam as a hedge against Communism, they did so without a proper study of the people, the culture and the geopolitics of Vietnam. But it would be John Kennedy who would double down on the oversight, turning an error into a blunder.

On July 8, 1959, The Vietnam War shows that six Americans watching a movie in their mess hall in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon, were attacked by Minh’s guerillas.

The terrorists had silently crept into the U.S. compound to fire their guns through the windows — a New York Times article refers to this act of war as “Communist terrorism” — and two top U.S. soldiers, Major Dale Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Ovnard, were killed. The men were the first American soldiers to die from enemy fire. Pictures of their names on the Vietnam Memorial — Dale R. Buis and Chester N. Ovnard — appear in this initial episode.

Before it concludes, “Deja Vu” shows a clip of a famous speech by President Kennedy — Kennedy vows that Americans “shall pay any price, bear any burden…” on January 20, 1961 — and it is at once striking that the president who undeservedly gets credit for putting an American on the moon never gets blamed for putting Americans in harm’s way, let alone for doing so with neither purpose nor end. Six weeks after Kennedy was elected president, the murderous Viet Minh became a southern Vietnam subversive terrorist force called the Viet Cong — Cong stands for Communist Traitors to the Vietnamese Nation — the military wing of the north’s National Liberation Front.

Episode Two

The title of The Vietnam War‘s second episode, “Riding the Tiger”, is taken from a line in President Kennedy’s inaugural speech. This covers the Vietnam War Kennedy started in earnest from the year 1961 through 1963.

American John Musgrave, a key military combatant interviewed throughout this extremely educational series, talks of a night light when describing the terror of war in the context of being the son of an Army pilot and a father to children. In doing so, Musgrave captures both the ghastly horror of Vietnam and the Kantian sense in which the American deployed there never possessed the power of knowledge to fight in war.

After this harrowing narrative, Jack Todd speaks of wanting to go to war because President Kennedy was to him like a god.

So begins the deifying of the American president. This became worse with every presidency, from Johnson being adored for enacting his Great Society by force and the iconography of Reagan’s melodramatic bootleg romanticism to Bill Clinton as the redeemable hillbilly, the repulsive vilifying or deifying of Barack Obama for his race and the thick-headed cultishness of red-capping the current presidency. This ugly spectacle began with Theodore Roosevelt and spread to cousin Franklin. But the charismatic leader cult ballooned with the president who was a Kennedy.

The Ken Burns series is guilty of this, too, referencing the Berlin Wall as something Kennedy could not stop — it is now known that, at best, Kennedy, in fact, allowed the wall to be built and, at worst, he negotiated for its construction — and failing to account for Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs fiasco. Instead, the series equivocates and rationalizes that Kennedy “had to” act in Vietnam.

Lacking supporting evidence, this is a crucially dubious assertion.

Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, a former Ford Motor Co. systems analyst, is perhaps the first major American military figure to choose foreign policy based on statistics, numbers or “metrics”. It was McNamara who first tried to apply a business model to the most crucial role for government.

The results were a disaster. McNamara’s faith in numbers created the vast, “military-industrial complex” against which President Eisenhower had rightly warned. Watch McNamara for an early example of running the model that the government can be managed like a business; it won’t be hard to connect the dots to the appeal of an anti-capitalist authoritarian like Donald Trump.

Episode two’s lessons detail the faulty war foundation laid by the Kennedy administration. At least it leaves the impression that the men, such as John Musgrave, who were drafted to fight are superior communicators to those in previous generations; Vietnam War veterans who participate in this documentary demonstrate that they have the capacity to think and express themselves. Today’s Americans are the beneficiaries of their ability to communicate with objectivity.

The Vietnam War grants these men ample opportunity.

The 10-part program does so while documenting that President Kennedy, arguably an absent and deficient commander-in-chief, was vacationing when a cable came from South Vietnam regarding a coup — which the administration bungled like it botched everything — and the bloodshed essentially started the Vietnam War. To their credit, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and McNamara argued against what Kennedy chose to do, which is to cede to the State Department, which steered the 20th Century’s worst American foreign policy blunders, especially Islamic dictatorship in Iran.

Kennedy’s fiasco ends on the eve of his assassination as Buddhist monks self-immolate in Saigon’s streets. Self-sacrifice is an ominous sign of the sacrificial holocaust to come.

Episode Three

Audio recording of President Lyndon Johnson expressing doubts (all vindicated) while cleaning up the mess Kennedy created dominates the third episode of The Vietnam War, “The River Styx”, which covers January 1964 through December 1965. Johnson’s self-doubt lead him to keep Kennedy’s team despite the evidence.

Johnson’s interest in the Vietnam War, however, was secondary to his interest in expanding the Kennedy administration’s legacy of plunging the nation deeper into the welfare state. The results, possibly against Johnson’s intentions, were a military, moral and philosophical disaster. Johnson’s ignorance and deceit in foreign and domestic affairs worsened the quagmire, the militarism and the New Left’s militancy.

Johnson’s lies about the Tonkin Gulf resolution fed distrust among the public, which, in turn, fed subversive factions seeking to overthrow the government. This, in turn, fed the government’s tendency to mislead the press and the public on the grounds that every turn of the war ought not to be shared with everyone.

In video footage of Vietnam War commanding Gen. William Westmoreland speaking to his men, he instructs troops that they must avoid hurting women and children and commands them to win Vietnamese hearts and minds. Thus begins the vicious cycle of waging war by public relations causing massive losses, bad optics and so on. While the enemy waged war by terrorism spawned from the Ho Chi Minh trail, infiltrating South Vietnam’s villages, farms and rice paddies, Americans were ordered to fight with disadvantageous rules of engagement.

Sound familiar?

Gradually, however, an approach of tit for tat by the U.S. military toward North Vietnam complicated the war. It didn’t help that Communist China sent a total of 320,000 troops — pitting American troops against Chinese troops for the second time in the 20th century — and that, with the first war on television in the freest nation on earth, every mistake could be reported in the free press and given absolute expression of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Magnifying American blunders while the New Left mobilized for the enemy, eventually waving enemy flags in U.S. cities, complicated the Vietnam War.

Diplomat George Ball’s ominous warning and prediction loomed large by 1965.

Episode Four

“Resolve”, chronicling the war from January, 1966 to June, 1967, compounds the misery depicted in Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s documentary The Vietnam War.

With wrenching family memories, this film recalls those killed in action and the rippling, shocking impact on Americans back home. The series provides new audio-visual evidence of Lyndon Johnson’s conflicts. Unlike Johnson’s predecessor, he seems terribly frustrated, involved and affected by every facet of the Vietnam War.

This happens as Robert McNamara, the tactician who, like a social media programmer, reassured everyone by citing statistics and calculations to justify what turned out to be wildly off-track projections, is reported to meekly harbor his doubts.

Meanwhile, the government of South Vietnam lies in constant crisis near impending collapse, especially after a Buddhist general is fired. That the war was sanctioned while Johnson schemed what he termed a Great Society — having enacted socialized medicine for people over the age of 65, Medicare, on the false premise that the old were feebly desperate for medical care — is an unexplored abomination.

Gruesome Vietnam War battles are explored in graphic detail. Titles are indispensable in guiding the viewer to better understanding of the war. If ever America was to turn, counter and win this war, which never seems remotely possible during the entire 10-part series, it is in these crucial months. But there is never the will to win because there is never the purpose, drive or clarity, let alone national unity, and this is lacking because Johnson was spun into Kennedy’s quagmire from the start.

In retrospect, all Americans could’ve done in these years was to get out. Yet the moral grayness — war as moral duty for the sake of others; the altruism which infects American war policy to this day — was accepted by the Johnson administration, the American press and, to a large extent, by the American people. The fourth episode shows that altruism was grinding away at the optimistic American sense of life.

Episode Five

A Marine tells the tale of exacting moral duty in practice in a powerful midway installment of The Vietnam War. “This is what we do”, he shrugs with helplessness, pronouncing having to implement emergency ethics under orders from a government which abnegated its primary function. The poor Marine explains this amid opening footage of Johnson and riots in Newark and Detroit.

America was splitting part, this fifth episode reports, while punch card metrics at the Pentagon actually miscalculated that the United States won the Vietnam War in 1965. McNamara and his band of technologists who had been empowered and activated by Kennedy — and retained by Johnson — had executed their “war of attrition” in numbers and statistics with deadly and devastating failure.

Bean-counting bureaucrats were taking over. The surveillance and welfare state was getting its omnipotent place in power. All of this comes through for the discerning audience in The Vietnam War‘s fifth episode, “This Is What We Do”, detailing the bitter, cruel and monumentally unjust acts of war between July and December of 1967.

This is when anarchy seems to break out in both America and Vietnam. The late Sixties, a disgustingly romanticized period of time, begins. Here, one learns the origins of the terms gook, etc., however there is no explanation of their genesis into wider acceptance. One learns, too, that the enemy fired upon Americans from the DMZ — which Americans dubbed the Dead Marine Zone — while Americans were ordered to abide discarded rules of engagement.

Without proper leadership, without basic decency, honesty and functional supplies, is it any wonder they took their lives and missions into their own hands?

Marine Musgrave tells of not wanting to look in the mirror as a 63-year-old and see someone who had not done everything in support of what he believed — he didn’t want to leave the toughest job to other men. This is what leaves Musgrave psychologically crippled and physically delivered as young flesh for slaughter.

For example, he speaks of seeing humans as animals — viewing subjects as objects — to make himself ready to fight for his life. “This is what happens when you send children to fight war [without reason],” he tells The Vietnam War: racism.

His scathing analysis, among the most searing and important insights in the series, reminds me of what the late Nothing Less Than Victory author and Duke University war historian John David Lewis told and taught about rational motivation during war, including in the interview he granted before he died (read it here). Musgrave, showing restraint and impeccable powers of self-awareness and objective communication, discloses that his government reduced him and his comrades to raw hatred as a driving motivation for going to war.

“This Is What We Do” reports that 20 percent of U.S. troops, men such as John Musgrave, did most of the combat fighting — 80 percent of U.S. troops were in South Vietnam for support — and that one of the primary weapons, the M-16 rifle, malfunctioned, jammed and failed, killing many Americans. It’s sickening.

Four sectors of a South Vietnamese map offer a good breakdown, though the map should’ve come sooner in the series. Also, rock and folk songs incessantly overlap men’s voices, which is a constant irritant and distraction.

Other audio clips provide rare insights. Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen speaking with the president about the Vietnam quagmire includes a clip of Johnson telling the truth that what the anti-war protestors were demanding — that the U.S. stop bombing North Vietnam —would lead to more dead Americans.

Ho Chi Minh’s chief accomplice, Communist Le Duan, was preparing for the Tet Offensive during this time. So was the U.S. Tiger Force, accused of rape by an Army reporter, engaging in combat. And an antiwar radical named Jerry Rubin was giving a press conference threatening to seize the Pentagon. Look, too, for footage of the late Senator John McCain, captured when his Navy plane was shot down by the North Vietnamese and tortured by the Communists.

Some of these stories — of a Marine left for dead time and again by American medics — may never leave you. This episode features a CBS News report by journalist Walter Cronkite giving a detailed account with a large model re-creating the terrain in South Vietnam, explaining with markers and a pointer the battle of Dak To where U.S. Marines in three companies were pinned down.

Forty-two Americans were killed during the battle — by an American bomber.

Episode Six

The 1968 Tet Offensive, North Vietnam’s assault on South Vietnam named after an Asian new year date, begins with incredible combat footage. Tet marks a turning point in The Vietnam War. This episode, “Things Fell Apart”, ranges from events of January in 1968 to July of the same, awful year.

Memories by a black Marine from Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood and an American doctor captured by the enemy after his helicopter crashed into a mountain provide further background. The doctor, whose harrowing tale is a stark counterpoint to the New Left’s propaganda claims against America, summons strength in singing patriotic songs while the Communists force him into a brutal 30-day march on his bare feet while refusing to properly treat his severe bullet wound.

These reports and oral histories contextualize one of the worst years in Western history. It’s here; the Los Angeles assassination of Robert Kennedy after winning California’s presidential primary, the Memphis assassination of Martin Luther King, the pacifism of presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, whose candidacy was based on opposition to the war, and President Johnson’s address to the nation announcing that he would not run for re-election. And Tet.

In fact, press coverage of the Tet Offensive is as distorted as Johnson charged, as he expresses in audio shared here. A key foreign adviser’s advice to withdraw troops from the Vietnam War is included, though without the context that he’s the holdover from the Truman administration whose blunder arguably started the Korean War, another American quagmire which was a war America neither declared nor won.

That, too, like Vietnam and today’s quagmires in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, cost lives and treasure and wiped out American resolve. The Vietnam War never makes this historical connection but it presents the evidence from which to draw the conclusion.

Communist butchery during the Tet Offensive was apparently not filmed, or the evidence is unavailable to Novick and Burns. As is always the case, the freedom to express oneself in the press thanks to freedom of speech exhibits some of the most horrifying images. Rightly or wrongly, these pictures contributed to the war’s being opposed at home and arguably exacerbated the perceptual-based culture in which decent Americans now find themselves struggling to communicate complex ideas in words which are concepts, not pictures, looping videos and memes.

So, in this episode you see the famous picture of the South Vietnamese executing an insurrectionist who betrayed South Vietnam. You see that it “got play” and spread in the West where one is free to think, write, take pictures and associate with those who trade to distribute the picture across multiple platforms. However, you do not see evidence of the mass slaughter and suffering at the hands of the other side in war.

And no one asks you to make note of this distinction.

To its credit, the series correctly and repeatedly notes that the United States under Johnson’s leadership and South Vietnam defended against the historic Tet Offensive with success. In fact, Tet was a massive disaster for North Vietnam. The Communists lost. They failed to achieve their goal to spark Communist revolution in the South. They failed miserably and at great cost.

The perception, that America was being challenged and taken aback, was widespread. America lost the upper hand in terms of controlling the optics and public relations. Not without reason, the upshot moved the nation against the Vietnam War.

Episode Seven

“The Veneer of Civilization” capably covers the dreadful 11 months from June of 1968 through May of 1969. The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, for instance, was so chaotic that it almost made Chicago’s notoriously brutish mayor, Richard J. Daley, referred to as “boss” because he was like a mafia boss due to his authoritarianism, look reasonable.

Mayor Daley was one of many government officials in the horrendous late Sixties to be forced into a corner by New Left and other terrorists, anarchists and radicals. After watching Chicago’s terrorism, anarchism and assaults on TV, President Johnson considered traveling to Chicago to re-enter the 1968 presidential campaign.

The Vietnam War reports that Johnson did not attend because the Secret Service advised the president that his safety could not be assured.

This — a nation on the brink of anarchy, civil war and recklessness fed by Communists, racists and other collectivists amid mass death in an unwinnable war and total government compulsion of young men’s military service — is what the late 1960s meant in daily American life.

Dead soldiers are pictured. One American combatant who wanted to dodge the draft, addressed here as an existential fact, not as a nationwide policy or historical fact, expresses regret that he decided not to dodge the draft. Other soldiers, too, are forced by the moral ambiguity of the Vietnam War into an ethical crisis or dilemma.

Burns and Novick are respectful of the Vietnam War veteran. The American who served in Vietnam is given preferential treatment in interviews, though New Left radicals, such as Bill Zimmerman, are also interviewed and much or some of what they say is totally anti-American. The series rightly focuses on the war from the perspective of the men who were sent to fight it.

U.S. POWs are interviewed, including Maj. Kushner, who shares an absorbing story of bonding with fellow American POWs in Communist captivity, who, while emaciated and starving, conspire to kill a camp commander’s cat so they can consume food. He explains that they were caught by a guard and describes what came next.

Kushner details being united with POW comrades in an I am Spartacus moment when the POWs are forced to divulge who came up with the idea. He remembers one American being beaten to death. He recalls what his captors did to his body. The testament to Kushner being alive adds to the segment’s emotional power. Kushner’s account puts New Left protests, which include waving an enemy flag, in context.

It also clarifies North Vietnam’s brutality, which was not lost on their own soldiers and civilians, who never knew any political system but enslavement. “Saigon was freer,” one of several former North Vietnamese soldiers interviewed recalls, adding that, among families in Hanoi, there was no communication from Ho Chi Minh’s government about the war dead. Of course, there were no press reports — “I don’t recall reading about a lost battle,” someone says, even after Tet — in state-run media.

Among the people, there was no knowledge of the war in Vietnam in North Vietnam.

Accordingly, one gets a sense in these accounts of how Vietnam changed from a simple farm society to dictatorship. The U.S., too, is radically transformed, as presidential candidate Richard Nixon reportedly reached out to Hanoi during the war talks, which Johnson considered treasonous. Illicit drugs take a toll, as stories of the Harrison family — a tale of two brothers, one the draft dodger, the other a soldier — disclose the cost of an overdose in Hong Kong, foreshadowing 1978’s The Deer Hunter.

Savagery ruled. Civilians were killed, often, though this is not explained, partly because of the nature of the fighting; i.e., North Vietnam infiltrating South Vietnam with a stream of sleeper cells. South Vietnam’s corruption is rampant. It’s widespread or overlooked in the U.S. military, too. American contraband, supplies and machinery, from cigarettes to helicopters, sold on Vietnam’s black market via Saigon’s rotting corpse, cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. The U.S. lost $2 billion in a single year.

No one paid attention to those numbers. “All these metrics,” someone recalls, “—[were] a waste of time.”

Some initiatives worked; projects Misty and Phoenix undermined the Viet Cong along the Ho Chi Minh trail, kept going by persistent North Vietnamese truck drivers. Soon after Nixon was inaugurated as president in 1969, he sought to make peace with Communist China, which had implications for South Vietnam. America’s new national security adviser, a pragmatic college professor named Henry Kissinger, geared secretly bombing Cambodia.

When the New York Times reported the bombing, in a preview of the coming surveillance state, the U.S. wiretapped 17 reporters.

Throughout The Vietnam War, titles condensing certain group, faction and agency names — including breaking down certain acronyms — are extremely helpful in understanding military jargon on both sides.

Episode Eight

In the eighth episode, “The History of the World,” covering April, 1969 through May, 1970, the audience gets to experience President Nixon’s promised withdrawal from the Vietnam War.

This was not satisfying, however, for a terrorist group called the Weathermen.

Their terrorist attacks shocked the nation. With stoned hippies at Woodstock in upstate New York, the enemy flag flying above antiwar marches (which is downplayed in the series) and anarchy by Black Panthers (also minimized), Nixon delivers his stirring Silent Majority speech.

After telling combat stories, U.S. soldiers returning home explain reactions to their homecoming, including several choosing to become antiwar activists. John Musgrave, who settled in Kansas, is shocked at the hatred for his military service in the Vietnam War. In compelling interviews, Marine Musgrave talks about contemplating suicide.

Other Vietnam War flashpoints, from the My Lai massacre reported by Seymour Hersh to National Guard shootings at Kent State and Jackson State, get partial reporting. For example, while Peter Coyote’s narrative covers that antiwar radicals burned down the ROTC building at Kent State — physically preventing firemen from extinguishing the fire — there’s no apparent attempt to interview guardsmen, historians or those working with Ohio’s governor, James Rhodes, about the tragic events at Kent State.

Other imbalances or incomplete versions include a reference to Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy‘s opposition to the Vietnam War, with no mention of the death he caused, knew about and covered up at Chappaquiddick in the summer of 1969. While the crime may have had no bearing on his opposition to the war, the crime, cover-up and aftermath had direct relevance to Kennedy’s credibility on issues of life and death. In this context, the unmentioned historic event in 1969 is a glaring omission.

Episode Nine

The depth of the nation’s division emerges in the time period covered from May, 1970 to March, 1973 in The Vietnam War‘s ninth episode, “A Disrespectful Loyalty”.

As Nixon attempts to apply the policy of what he called Vietnamization, ostensibly letting South Vietnam militarize its own war during a gradual and certain withdrawal of U.S. troops, construction workers in New York City rally to defend themselves against raging antiwar radicals. Vets returning from Vietnam are attacked, having their cars assaulted, rocked and pounded as they arrive home to America.

Soviet and Viet Cong flags fly over American protests — while Nixon, like his predecessor, Johnson, becomes convinced that Communists are actively infiltrating American society and instigating, sustaining and sponsoring the antiwar protests, an assertion which is certainly vindicated by post-Soviet archives and today’s reports of Russian and Chinese spying and propaganda campaigns to influence American life.

The drug culture also took root in the wake of the Vietnam War.

“Heroin was cheap, pure and everywhere”, someone reports, and the Pentagon would eventually admit that 40,000 American troops were addicted to heroin. This episode covers the so-called Pentagon Papers, later depicted in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, disclosed by Daniel Ellsberg in a 1971 article series published in the New York Times. The report, which shows that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson lied and misled the public about the Vietnam War, led to a key free speech ruling by the Supreme Court.

Also look for a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a naked South Vietnamese girl running with Napalm tearing off her skin after having been bombed by South Vietnam. The picture further fortified people’s war opposition with another example of South Vietnamese and U.S. inability to plan, wage and win a war against the aggressor.

South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, too, like the man he sought to replace in the White House, was caught meddling in the peace process, trying to cut a deal with North Vietnam, as POW Kushner‘s wife seconds his nomination at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida.

Miami’s also the site of the 1972 Republican National Convention. This is where Richard Nixon is nominated for his second and final term before winning a landslide victory over McGovern and resigning in August of 1974. The documentary includes nothing substantial, unfortunately, about Nixon eliminating the draft. I find it telling that such a historic act goes unaccounted for during the series. Nixon’s Watergate break-in is covered. But what is arguably his best achievement, abolition of the draft, made possible to abolish during the Vietnam War, is all but ignored.

Instead, the infamous, arguably treasonous, two-week visit to the enemy state by an accomplished if vacuous American actress in 1972 is rationalized. Jane Fonda, reduced to a sexual fantasy, shown nude with no commentary or defense of her actions, nor an attempt to account for whether she was approached for an interview, appears in a short segment consisting of a few minutes showing her collaboration with the enemy.

At least The Vietnam War reports for historical purposes that, in fact, Fonda called for the execution of American soldiers.

Fonda is not alone in collaborating with the enemy, however. Kissinger secretly negotiated with North Vietnam without the knowledge, consent or involvement of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese president, a corrupt official like most South Vietnamese leaders, learned about the Nixon administration’s secret negotiations from a document found in a Communist bunker.

Other parts of this episode include the Christmas bombing of Hanoi after peace talks start in Paris and footage of President Nixon’s televised address to the nation the day after Lyndon Johnson died at his ranch in Texas in 1973.

The ninth episode ends after ABC News journalist Harry Reasoner announces a climactic homecoming for American prisoners of war.

Episode Ten

The Vietnam War comes to an end in the 10th episode, “The Weight of Memory”, which picks up in March of 1973.

To understand the Vietnam War, watch this series and episode. It covers essential facts from the date the last troops leave Vietnam, March 29, 1973, to the same date two years later when South Vietnam’s second largest city, Da Nang, falls to Communists. You will learn about the country where tens of thousands of Americans had been killed, tortured and wounded and glimpse history as Vietnam begins to fall under dictatorship. For this alone, the final episode ought to be seen.

Much of this comes as an afterword. President Nixon welcomes POWs at the White House. There goes John McCain in footage from May 24, 1973, limping in his naval uniform to the ceremony at the White House. Watch interviews with some of the few hundred United States Marines posted to guard American consulates and the embassy in Saigon. See the photograph of a man upside down flying through the air for a snapshot of the deadly frenzy that took place in South Vietnam’s final months. Contemplate the 2.5 million American troops who served in the Vietnam War.

South Vietnam attempted to reclaim itself with an army that had been unsuccessful in eradicating South Vietnam of its enemies even with the help of 600,000 American troops. When U.S. war funds halted on August 15, 1973, and supplies, spare parts and ammunition ceased, conditions in South Vietnam quickly deteriorated.

“Defeat was inevitable,” someone recalls. “Da Nang was not captured,” an American reporter remembered, “it disintegrated in its own terror.“

Remembers one who is South Vietnamese in words that ought to be taken seriously: “You have to lose a nation to feel that humiliation.” On April 27, 1975, rockets were landing in the heart of Saigon. Finally, at 7:53 AM on April 30, 1975, the last helicopter lifted off the U.S. embassy roof in Saigon with the United States Marines who had remained. Master Sergeant Juan Valdez was the last American to climb aboard.

Darkness fell. Mass executions, torture and worse followed. South Vietnam soon ceased to exist. The Americans and their press, cameras and attention were gone. Then, came the Communists’ re-education camps.

“Some believed they were going for a short time,” one South Vietnamese man remembers. With a deep sense of weary knowing and bitterness, he adds: “But not me.”

He goes on: “I was detained in a re-education camp for 17 and a half years. I was among the last 100 people to be released.” Today, one Communist North Vietnamese man admits, “the nation is more divided than ever.”

After the fall of Saigon, Le Duan sought to make Vietnam “an impregnable outpost of the socialist system”. Capitalism was abolished. Inflation rose 700 percent a year. People starved. Some 400,000 of the boat people made it to the United States and settled in America, many in Orange County and other areas of Southern California. Many among the boat people died. Refugees often drowned.

The Vietnam War leaves the ensuing mayhem, disorder and panic to one’s imagination. You can almost hear the screams. You may be haunted by the faces of those left behind.

What was ahead for departing Americans? What used to be called combat fatigue, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One Vietnam War veteran, Jan Scruggs, created a private charity in 1981 called the Vietnam War Memorial Fund.

His charity earned more than $8 million from voluntary, private gifts or donations from 650,000 Americans who sought to have a memorial. Though writer Tom Wolfe commented that he thought the memorial was a tribute to Jane Fonda, most of those interviewed who visit the two black walls of granite embedded into the ground in Washington, DC, are left sobbing, relieved or more understanding of the war in Vietnam. One antiwar radical apologizes to the Vietnam War veteran.

Pictures appear of President Clinton becoming the first American president to visit Vietnam in 2000. Barack Obama is also pictured visiting Communist Vietnam.

Major Kushner, whose valiant resistance to the enemy’s monstrosity is chronicled in earlier episodes, gets a postscript, too. The doctor remarried and became an ophthalmologist in Florida. The series closes with the Beatles song, “Let It Be”, which fits the documentary’s somber tone.

Despite the incompleteness, The Vietnam War skillfully reports part of an American experience that sheds light on a long war we lost through which America continues to divide, remain ignorant, lose confidence and evade reality. Over 40 years after Saigon fell, with innocents “yearning to breathe free” clinging to U.S. helicopters, Americans remain mired in unwinnable wars that never end. 

America still sacrifices thousands of Americans. We remain plagued by doubt, shame and guilt. Ho Chi Minh’s political philosophy is taking root here, too, with nationalism, collectivism and socialism on the rise.

The Vietnam War does not document why we lost the Vietnam War. The series capably reports only that we withdrew from the mid-century war with everything less than victory. These ten parts are a shocking testimony which proves the hard and bleak truth that waging aimless war for the sake of others makes Americans stop wanting to win.

App Review: CBSN

For an excellent source of news through streaming, try CBSN, an application for CBS News for television streaming which is one of my favorite regular means of getting news. It’s free on Apple TV.

CBSN also features live streaming of CBS News. Other programming is also available, from CBS Evening News, Face the Nation and CBS Sunday Morning to 60 Minutes and Mobituaries.

Functionally, CBSN is both satisfying and accessible. For example, unlike other apps for major broadcasting news competition, such as ABC News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News, its content is both substantive and fast to use without excessive advertising, promotions and noise, graphics and fast cuts. I’ve been informed, amazed and moved by multiple reports, stories and segments, including an excellent report on an American Prisoner of War’s widow and some sense of closure during last week’s failed summit in Hanoi, Vietnam between Communist Korea’s dictator and the American president.

Leftist bias creeps in, though in smaller measure than in other quality press sources, such as National Public Radio (NPR). Wide access to CBS News archives, with archival reports, footage and material from the late Walter Cronkite and other CBS News journalists, adds value to the source. Major Garrett’s reports and podcasting (The Takeout) from Washington, DC, are especially good. That’s where I learned that Face the Nation hostess Margaret Brennan’s favorite movie is the awful hamfest The Departed starring Jack Nicholson and for no good reason, really, and that her favorite book is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, which she says made her never want to eat beef. This answer by Brennan says so much about her and helps me better judge her inquiry on Face the Nation.

But one of the best reasons I like CBSN is that it’s an intelligent news tool. Unlike the worst of these apps, such as the ABC News app, which moves too fast in bright color with lots of sound effects and seems designed for unthinking audiences, the CBS News app deals primarily in stories, in facts and, occasionally, because it is an app, in tidbits. The ads are not too distracting. The longer form features, such as 60 Minutes segments, are very well done. Generally, there’s a kind of respect for the viewer as a thinker; a benefit of the doubt that you’re a person who’s capable of exercising independence when consuming the news. Strikingly, this means CBS News is more balanced and less biased in its approach than other sources.

I watch, read and listen to other news sources. But I find that, increasingly, bias and an agenda to push me toward a certain viewpoint creeps in, whether I’m watching Fox News, listening to NPR or reading the Los Angeles Times. Or, worse, there’s a general aversion to any coherence or reporting at all in the name of neutrality, which results in a sort of burp of sensory-level material that makes no sense, like a meme or a looping video clip. CBSN isn’t perfect, but it helps me accomplish the crucial task of keeping myself informed.