Wednesday Worries

W.J. Astore

I’ve been meaning to post more about President Biden’s decision to throw $33 billion in weapons and money at Ukraine, followed by the decision in the House to boost that to $40 billion, and the vote that took place in which all Democrats, including the so-called Squad, voted for it, with a few dozen Republicans voting against. The implications of this are staggering. The U.S. has already committed more than $50 billion to the proxy war against Russia as Americans stagger under rising costs for everything.

We need Russia to attack the American working class — only then might workers in America get some financial relief from “their” government.

Democrats are “all-in” on being pro-war and pro-military (and pro-police, since Biden has called for even more police to be hired), leaving anti-war positions to a smattering of Republicans with various motivations. All credit to Senator Rand Paul for holding up the $40 billion Ukraine “aid” package. He wants an Inspector General to monitor and control how this immense sum of money will be spent for Ukraine. A smidgen of accountability — imagine that! I actually wrote a note to Senator Paul to salute him for this and for his opposition to the DHS Disinformation Governance Board.

More unaccountable billions for Ukraine and the military-industrial complex, more government censorship for Americans: a couple of worries for our Wednesday.

Anyhow, here are a few good articles I’ve been meaning to cite on this:

Caitlin Johnstone, “The Squad” doesn’t exist outside of social media https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2022/05/13/the-squad-doesnt-exist-outside-of-social-media/

The US House of Representatives has voted 368-57 to spend $40 billion on a world-threatening proxy war while ordinary Americans struggle to feed themselves and their children. All 57 “no” votes were Republicans. Every member of the small faction of progressive House Democrats popularly known as “The Squad” voted yes.

The massive proxy war bill then went to the Senate, where it was stalled with scrutiny not from progressive superstar Bernie Sanders, but from Republican Rand Paul.

This is because the left-wing Democrat is a myth, like the good billionaire or the happy open marriage. It’s not a real thing; it’s just a pleasant fairy tale people tell themselves so they don’t have to go through the psychological turmoil of acknowledging that their entire worldview is built on lies.

Glenn Greenwald:

The Bizarre, Unanimous Dem Support for the $40b War Package to Raytheon and CIA: “For Ukraine”

Video Transcript: “The US Anti-War Left is Dead. The Squad’s $40b War Vote Just Killed It.” Many Dems voting YES have long denounced exactly these sorts of bills. What happened?

What happened, indeed? Not a single Democrat has a principled stance against weapons and war.

Another article by Caitlin Johnstone details a war game on NBC News that addresses a war with China over Taiwan: https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2022/05/16/pentagon-funded-think-tank-simulates-war-with-china-on-nbc/

Funded by the American taxpayer!

And then there’s this article by Dan Froomkin: “CBS helps world’s biggest arms dealer hone his pitch”

CBS helps world’s biggest arms dealer hone his pitch

Here’s the beginning of Froomkin’s article:

You could see something new playing out on the Sunday shows this past weekend: Some TV news networks are starting to raise questions about whether the U.S. involvement in the Ukraine might have some downsides.

But not on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

After hearing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who called for “more weapons, more sanctions” — and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova — who asked for “more military support, more sanctions” — “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan warmly welcomed Jim Taiclet, the chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, tossing him questions that weren’t even softballs, they were bouquets.

One can imagine how that might have come about. Earlier in the week, President Biden visited a Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama that makes Javelin anti-tank missiles, pitching his requests for $33 billion in aid to Ukraine and subsidies for American microchip production. So Ukraine and supply-chain issues were in the news, and Taiclet could address both.

But still, what it came down to was a major television network inviting onto its marquee news show the head of the largest weapons manufacturer in the world — the company that profits more from war than any other company worldwide — and not asking a single pointed question.

Watch the entire six-minute segment and ask yourself if state television in a totalitarian country would have done it any differently.

In the 1970s and into the 1980s, the mainstream media occasionally did challenge the military-industrial complex. Those days are gone. I no longer see articles that criticize waste, fraud, abuse, threat inflation, and so on. The mainstream media, like the Democrats, have become pro-war and pro-weapons and pro-Pentagon. Rare indeed do you hear any sustained criticism or meaningful opposition. (You do get posturing from the Squad, but only when their posturing has no effect on legislation and money.)

What good is freedom of the press when the press muzzles itself on issues that could very well lead to a wider war, even a nuclear one? Why is America shoveling scores of billions of dollars to sustain a bloodletting in Ukraine? What is our strategy to end this war, rather than simply prolonging it and profiting from it?

So I worry.

Listening to Noam Chomsky and Julian Assange

W.J. Astore

I’ve caught a couple of videos featuring Noam Chomsky and Julian Assange and want to share insights I gleaned from them.

Let’s start with Julian Assange, currently being punished for being a journalist who actually challenges powerful people by telling uncomfortable truths. When asked what the number one enemy is, Assange replies that it’s ignorance. People are ignorant because the vast majority of the media are “awful,” relying on deliberate distortion and lies to advance narratives that reinforce the already powerful. As Assange notes, nearly every war is the result of lies facilitated by the mainstream media. This is unsurprising, since the media has been coopted by the military-industrial complex. Generally, people don’t like wars (surprise!), but it’s relatively easy to lie and manipulate most people into supporting them.

You can see why Assange had to be locked up in a maximum security prison and effectively gagged.

Awful media coverage is not just about lying; it’s also about eliding the truth. Consider blanket coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War and contrast that with the dearth of coverage of an ongoing genocide in Yemen, of slave markets in Libya, of starvation in Afghanistan, of U.S. occupation of oil fields in Syria. How can you speak out against the latter when there’s a relentless and all-consuming focus on Ukraine as the good guy and Russia and Putin as pure evil?

Chomsky’s insights into the media complement those of Assange. Media talking heads, Chomsky notes, are screened and selected for their obedience and conformity: their willingness to be subordinate, to go along to get along. They are boot-licking careerists, essentially, who learn quickly that there are certain things you just don’t say. And if you should stray and start to color outside the lines, you are slapped back into line, and if that doesn’t take, your crayons are confiscated and you’re demoted, fired, or otherwise silenced. Think again of the Iraq War in 2003 and how Phil Donahue was fired, Jesse Ventura was hired then put on ice because NBC belatedly discovered he was antiwar, Ashleigh Banfield was demoted for speaking out against the one-sided, pro-America coverage that almost entirely ignored Iraqi casualties and suffering, and so on.

Jesse Ventura, paid millions of dollars not to have a show because he was critical of the Iraq War

Along with these insights, I have an anecdote of my own. I know a skilled journalist who actually courts controversy by challenging prevailing narratives. He told me how he visited a journalism school and spoke to a class of would-be journalists. Did these student-journalists want to be the next Assange, or even Woodward or Bernstein of Watergate fame? Of course not! They aspire to be well-paid anchors or opinion-mongers on cable news, or so my friend told me. They’re in it for the money, for access to power, for fame. They’re not in it to call the powerful to account; they want to be among the powerful, and profiting from the same.

And that’s the way it is, as Walter Cronkite might have said.

On Censorship and Disinformation

W.J. Astore

The best way to combat disinformation is with more and better information.  Censorship isn’t the answer.

The Biden administration has reached a different conclusion, creating a “Disinformation Governance Board” under the Department of Homeland Security. This “board” is headed by Nina Jankowicz, an unelected official and an apparent partisan hack. One example: she dismissed the infamous Hunter Biden laptop story as a “fairy tale” involving a “laptop repair shop”; it’s now been confirmed that Hunter’s laptop was real, and so too was that repair shop.

Democrats, of course, don’t have exclusive rights to censorship. Republicans always seem to be calling for books to be banned or education to be policed. But the real problem is much larger than partisan hackery and bickering. Efforts at censorship are all around us, couched as a way of protecting us from harmful lies and other forms of disinformation. Yet, as the comedian Jimmy Dore points out, the government isn’t that concerned about protecting you from lies; it is, however, deeply concerned with denying you access to certain truths, truths that undermine governmental authority and the dominant narrative.

As a retired U.S. military officer and as a historian, the most insidious lies and disinformation I’ve encountered have come from the government. Consider the lies revealed by Daniel Ellsberg and his leak of the Pentagon Papers. Consider the war crimes revealed by Chelsea Manning, aided by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Consider the lies revealed in the recent Afghan War Papers. Consider the lies about the presence of WMD in Iraq, lies that were used to justify the disastrous Iraq War. The government, in short, is a center of lies and disinformation, which is precisely why we need an adversarial media, one that is willing to ferret out truth. Instead, we’re being offered a governmental Ministry of Truth in the form of a “Disinformation Governance Board.”

All things being equal, a democratic society thrives best when speech is as free as possible, trusting in the people to sort fact from fiction, and sound theories from blatant propaganda. And there’s the rub: trusting in the people. Because the government doesn’t trust us (remember Hillary Clinton’s comment about all those irredeemable deplorables), even as the government is often at pains to mislead and misinform us. As maverick journalist I.F. “Izzy” Stone said, all governments lie. It’s truly nonsensical, then, to allow the government to police what is true and what is “disinformation.”

But don’t we need some censorship in the name of safety or security or mental health or whatever? Sorry: censorship is rarely about safety, and it most certainly doesn’t serve the needs of the vulnerable. Instead, it serves the needs of the powerful, those who already possess the loudest megaphones in the public square.

But doesn’t someone like Donald Trump deserve to be censored because he spreads disinformation? Which is the bigger problem: Trump or censorship? I happen to think Trump is a divisive con man, but it was a bad precedent for Twitter to have banned him from tweeting. The bigger problem wasn’t Trump’s tweets but the media’s obsessive coverage of them in pursuit of ratings. The way to combat a blowhard like Trump is to ignore him, and to correct him when needed. To combat his lies with the truth. We don’t need a governmental Ministry of Truth to police the tweets of a former president. Not when the government is often the biggest liar.

The solution isn’t censorship but an active, engaged, and informed citizenry, assisted by a fourth estate, the press, that is truly independent and adversarial to power. But the weakening of education in America, combined with a fourth estate that is deeply compromised by the powerful and often in bed with the government, means that these democratic checks on power are less and less effective. Hence calls for quick yet dangerous “solutions” like censorship, where the censors (governmental boards, private corporations) are opaque and almost completely unaccountable to the people.

Unless your goal is to give the already powerful a monopoly on speech, censorship is not the answer.

Hollywood, the Oscars, and America

W.J. Astore

I finally watched the Oscars last night. Of course, I’d heard about Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock because of a joke Smith’s wife didn’t like. It was an ugly incident, but fortunately Chris Rock kept his cool. Hollywood loves itself, much like America loves itself, and an A-list actor like Will Smith can pretty much get away with anything, including assaulting one of the hosts for a joke that, though apparently well-intended, obviously miscarried. Smith never apologized during the show, though he finally issued a pro forma apology yesterday once he figured out that public opinion was against him.

I’m a movie buff, and I’ve always enjoyed watching the Oscars, but each year the shows get tackier, sleazier, and more morally repugnant. As my wife said this morning, you see a lot of sick people at the Oscars with no morals and apparently no souls.

I did want to mention one oversight at the Oscars. Now, I have to admit I didn’t listen to every word of every acceptance speech, but those I did hear all had one glaring omission: None of the Oscar winners thanked the fans, the movie-goers, the ones who truly pay them and support them. Instead, the winners thanked the usual suspects: agents, mentors, producers, big companies like Apple and Disney and Netflix, with occasional references to parents and to God. After slapping Chris Rock, Will Smith blubbered on about how he was all about serving God and love, apparently seeing no contradiction between his words and his deeds.

Of course, the Oscars are always a self-indulgent spectacle, always an exercise in narcissism and self-promotion. But would it really hurt the Oscar winners to take a few moments to thank their fans and movie-goers, especially when going to the movies was a bit risky given the Covid-19 pandemic? Instead, I heard talk of how brave they all were for continuing to make movies during the pandemic.

Again, I’m a big movie fan, and I don’t dismiss their artistry and often their cultural significance. At their best, movies can truly inspire us; they can help to open doors to new worlds; they are truly part of the human experience. What’s truly sad is how the Oscars and Hollywood’s yearly celebration of itself actually diminishes the movies rather than showcasing and enhancing them.

The Oscars should go the way of the Emmy Awards — they should simply disappear, having outlived their usefulness and having become something of an embarrassment.

A rare moment of grace at the Oscars, as Lady Gaga helps Liza Minnelli announce the award for best picture (Photo by Christopher Polk)

Critical Media Literacy

W.J. Astore

He who pays the piper calls the tune is a saying I learned from my dad. He also taught me to never believe anything you read and only half of what you see. Direct experience is best, of course, but even when you’re living through an historical event, your perspective is necessarily limited and filtered through your own biases. All my readers, I’m assuming, don’t currently have direct experience of the war in Ukraine. So how do we know what’s really going on? And who’s paying the piper to call the tune on the media coverage of the same?

I was thinking of all this as I watched Briahna Joy Gray talk to Abby Martin on Gray’s show, “Bad Faith.” Both women remind us that major networks like Fox, MSNBC, CNN, PBS and the like are captured by corporations and rely on advertising revenue from Raytheon, Pfizer, and similar powerhouses of the military-industrial complex, big Pharma (drug pushers and dealers), and of course fossil fuel companies. They pay the piper and therefore call the tunes that we hear daily.

The result, as Abby Martin says here, is that the Russia-Ukraine war becomes a “cartoon binary that infantilizes us all,” in which Putin is Sauron and Zelensky is both Gandalf the White and Frodo, sage wizard and plucky underdog, to use characters from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

Is that you, Putin?

Anti-Russian hysteria has grown so common that my local liquor store was at pains to tell me that Stoli vodka comes from Latvia, not Russia, therefore I could still in good conscience purchase it without serving Sauron/Putin.

Mainstream media networks in the U.S. are owned by five major corporations, notes Martin, and their goal is to control the narrative while strengthening their positions and maximizing profits. This is why it might be wise to remember not to believe everything, or anything, that you read, and to remember as well that the pipers we listen to on the air are not free to call their own tunes.

Anyway, I highly recommend Gray and Martin’s interview. Enjoy, readers!

Dissent Is Needed More than Ever

W.J. Astore

Dissent and critical thought are needed most of all in times of war. Yet it’s precisely the time when people are pressured the most to silence their doubts, to mindlessly conform, and to wave the flag and to cheer for the “good” guys against the “bad” ones.

Dissent is easy to tolerate when it’s about trivial matters that don’t challenge or involve prevailing power structures. Chomsky and Herman famously wrote “Manufacturing Consent,” which is another way of saying that dissent itself is manufactured and controlled, providing us with an illusion that democratic debate is allowed and encouraged in America. But of course dissent isn’t tolerated when it threatens power structures, profit margins, and prevailing narratives.

We see this clearly in the amount of dissent policing and information quashing about the Russia/Ukraine war. Look at what happened to the RT (Russia Today) network in the USA (RT America). It was dropped by DirecTV and forced to layoff its staff and cease operations. It’s easy to cheer something like this if you think or have been told everything Russian is evil, but the loss is considerable to democracy and to free speech.

I didn’t watch a lot of RT America, but I appreciated the network’s support of informed critics like Chris Hedges and Jesse Ventura. Hedges and Ventura, both freethinkers, were excluded by the mainstream media in the U.S. Ventura’s case is especially revealing. He had a three-year, multi-million dollar contract with MSNBC for a talk show in 2003 that was cancelled when the network realized he was against the Iraq War. The network honored the contract, paying him roughly $6-8 million while keeping him off the air for three years. Millions in hush money for no work sounds like a good deal, but it’s obviously not in the interest of free speech.

Jesse Ventura on RT: An informative, provocative, and often funny show

When I started writing for TomDispatch.com in 2007, posting articles that called into question the official narrative of “progress” in the Iraq and Afghan Wars, there were exactly two TV networks that asked to interview me: Al-Jazeera and RT America. (I turned them down, mainly because I was working in rural Pennsylvania and had no time to travel to New York City for in-studio interviews.) No mainstream media network showed any interest. I’m not complaining here — I’m just stating facts. Ask yourself how many times you’ve seen and heard antiwar voices and penetrating criticism on NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, and similar networks. You won’t see and hear it there because it’s considered bad for business.

Why is it bad for business? Advertisers don’t like it. You know: companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and similar bastions of the military-industrial complex. Those same companies are often part of multi-national conglomerates that own the networks. They are not about to sanction shows or grant airtime to well-informed critics like Hedges and Ventura. Why would they? Profit and power trump free speech every time.

Dissenting voices are still out there, but they are kept on platforms where their reach is often limited by computer algorithms that send people to mainstream sites first. For what it’s worth, I look for alternative perspectives at the Jimmy Dore Show, at Useful Idiots, at Breaking Points, and from journalists like Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, and Caitlin Johnstone, among others.

I also continue to check mainstream sources like the New York Times, NBC News, and PBS, as well as subscribing to old-fashioned paper magazines like The Nation, The New Republic, and The Baffler. And I’m not above watching Tucker Carlson when he features important voices like former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Americans, citizens of what is allegedly a democracy, deserve access to the widest possible range of sources and critics. Denying the same to us is censorship. It limits thought, it stifles debate, and it makes us much less than what we could be as a democracy and as a people.

The Keyboard Commandos

W.J. Astore

As war in Ukraine drags on, the possibility for dangerous escalation increases. The goal should be the quickest possible ceasefire and a diplomatic solution that puts an end to hostilities. Or, to cite Vera Brittain in “Testament of Youth” again: “No to killing. No to war.”

An obstacle to this are all the keyboard commandos in the West who are recklessly calling for dangerous escalations against Russia. These include a “no-fly” zone above the city of Kyiv enforced in part by the U.S. Air Force, and direct attacks by European air forces against Russian armored columns on their way to Kyiv. Such calls for military action are indeed reckless since Vladimir Putin has issued a none-too-veiled threat of a nuclear response to them. Is he bluffing? I for one do not want to find out.

The West is already providing advanced weaponry to Ukraine such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles. EU countries even talked of sending fighter aircraft to Ukraine, but that deal seems to be falling apart. Such weaponry may increase the costs of war to Russia, but weapons alone are not likely to prove decisive in any way.

For all those keyboard commandos out there, safely tweeting about attacks on Russian forces in the cause of “helping” Ukraine, I have a challenge for you. Come out from behind your keyboards, book a flight to Ukraine, grab a Kalashnikov or perhaps even a Stinger, and show how determined you really are to defend Ukraine. Barring that, and assuming you’re of military age and that you’re American, why not take this opportunity to enlist in the U.S. military, as NFL star Pat Tillman famously did in the aftermath of 9/11. Show us how tough you really are; show us how much you truly care.

Because, if you’re not willing to put up, it really is better (and also much more honest) if you shut up.

Condemning War

W.J. Astore

And so the dogs of war are off and running again, this time unleashed by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine. What is Putin up to? Is it a punitive raid against Ukraine, or a general invasion followed by an occupation, or something in between? Time will tell, but wars are unpredictable. Just look at America’s wars. Vietnam was supposed to be over with quickly after the U.S. committed large numbers of troops there in 1965. Afghanistan started as a punitive raid in 2001, then morphed into a wider invasion and occupation that persisted for two decades. Iraq was supposed to be over and done with in a few weeks in 2003, but that general invasion also morphed into an occupation that persisted for nearly a decade.

At their best, wars are controlled chaos, and that contradiction in terms is intended. My best guess is that Putin sees this as an extended punitive raid to send a message to Ukraine and to NATO that Russia won’t tolerate NATO expansion into Ukraine. Put bluntly, NATO, led by the USA, got into Putin’s grill on Ukraine, and Putin calculated that drawing his saber was a better choice than simply rattling it. Whether he who lives by the sword will die by it remains to be seen.

In the meantime, I took a quick look at how the mainstream media is covering the Russian invasion. I noted that NBC spoke of Russia’s “terrifying might,” while CBS spoke of “dozens reported dead” in Ukraine. CNN simply said that “Russia invades Ukraine” and that “Ukraine vows defiance.” I have nothing against these headlines, but I wonder if the same coverage would apply to the U.S. military. Would NBC speak of the “terrifying might” of U.S. military attacks? Would our mainstream media mouthpieces report on the deaths of foreigners from those attacks? Did we see terse headlines that read, simply, “U.S. invades Iraq” or “U.S. invades Afghanistan” or “U.S. invades Vietnam”? I can’t remember seeing them, since we like to think of the U.S. military as “liberating” or “assisting” other countries, or, even better, bringing democracy to them with our “freedom” bombs and “liberty” missiles.

U.S. leaders like Antony Blinken and Nancy Pelosi have shown their toughness. Blinken said Putin will “pay for a long, long time” for his actions, and Pelosi said the Russian invasion is an “attack on democracy.” Did Ukraine truly have a functional democracy? For that matter, does the United States have one?

I’m with Ike: I hate war with a passion. Most often it’s the innocent and the most vulnerable who end up dead. Whatever Putin is up to, it’s wrong and he should be condemned. But while condemning Putin for his invasion, we shouldn’t forget America’s wars. Indeed, in condemning Putin for his invasion, it offers us a fresh chance to condemn war in general — even, or especially, America’s own versions.

The U.S. Mainstream Media and War

W.J. Astore

When it comes to war, mainstream media voices in the U.S. are almost always for it, even when it could conceivably escalate to a nuclear exchange.

That’s a disturbing lesson reinforced by recent U.S. media coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The basic narrative is that Putin’s Russia is the aggressor, the U.S. is the defender of democracy, and that U.S. actions are high-minded even when they involve weapons sales, troop deployments, and draconian economic sanctions.

You don’t get more mainstream than David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart on PBS, so I tuned in to watch their “debate” (2/18) on the issue. Both men expressed their approval of Democrats and Republicans coming together to support the Biden administration’s hardline against Russia. Bipartisan unity is to be celebrated when it comes to warmongering, I suppose. Especially revealing was David Brooks’s quick dismissal of left/right critics of the administration’s policies:

There will be some people who worry on the left that this is part of American imperialism to get involved in Europe. There are some people on the right who like Vladimir Putin. They see him as a manly, socially conservative, authoritarian kind of guy who they kind of like. So, I’m sure, on either end, there will be some [critics]. But, among the mainstream of both parties, I think, right now, there’s strong unity. The Biden administration has done an excellent job of rallying the Western alliance. It’s been a demonstration of why the world needs America to be a leader of the free world.

So, leftist critics are knee-jerk anti-imperialists; rightists critics are authoritarian Putin-lovers. But real Americans in the mainstream support Joe Biden and America as the “leader of the free world.”

What’s amazing about the “mainstream” in America is how narrow that stream is allowed to be. Of course, as Noam Chomsky famously wrote, it’s all about manufacturing consent. But imagine if true diversity of opinion was allowed on PBS. Imagine if someone like Jonathan Capehart said the following:

“The U.S. betrayed its promise not to expand NATO to the borders of Russia. Even worse, the U.S. meddled in Ukrainian politics in 2014, driving a coup and empowering neo-Nazi forces there. Sending weapons to Ukraine is making a bad situation worse, and constant threats are ratcheting up tensions that could lead to war. In war, mistakes are always possible, even common, which could lead to a wider and disastrous war between the world’s two leading nuclear powers. Measured diplomacy is what we need, even as the U.S. should take a step back in a region of the world that is not directly related to our national defense.”

Imagine that statement as a counter-narrative to the idea the U.S. is always in the right (as well as blameless), that more troops and weapons are always the answer, and that Russia has no national defense issues of its own, because NATO obviously poses no military threat to anyone. (Imagine, for one second, seeing the expansion of NATO and U.S. meddling in Ukraine from a Russian perspective, which we should be willing to do because you should always plumb the mindset of your rival or enemy.)

Truly, the lack of diversity of opinion on foreign relations and war is startling in U.S. media. It’s almost as if we have an official state media, isn’t it, comrade? I still remember Tass and Pravda from the days of the Soviet Union; who knew that today the U.S. would have its very own versions of them, while still applauding itself as the unbesmirched leader of the “free” world?

It’s all so saddening and maddening

W.J. Astore

Remember Tass, the state news agency for the former Soviet Union? I was thinking of it as I watched PBS on Friday. Two commentators, David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, respectively with the New York Times and the Washington Post, covered the leading news items of the week. Of course, there was nothing said about the colossal war budget passed by the House ($778 billion, which is actually an undercount); there was nothing said about the continued persecution of Julian Assange by the U.S. government; and indeed there was nothing said about the sham democracy summit overseen by Joe Biden.

The topics covered were Bob Dole’s death and the good old days of compromise in Washington, a general condemnation of Trump and polarization, and some concern about inflation, which was dismissed as evidence of an expanding economy.

PBS used to be a halfway decent news source; now it relies far too heavily on corporate funding and is afraid of losing its government funding as well. So it’s become a state propaganda network, much like Tass was in the USSR.

With respect to the commentators, David Brooks is the reasonable Republican who speaks calmly about achieving incremental change through the system; Jonathan Capehart is the reasonable Democrat who also speaks calmly about pretty much the same; he adds “diversity” in the sense he’s Black and gay, yet his political views vary little from those of Brooks. Mark Shields, the previous voice opposite Brooks, was occasionally somewhat outspoken and even mentioned unions and workers; he’d worked for Senator William Proxmire and had enlisted in the U.S. Marines. I always sensed Shields hadn’t forgotten his roots, but of course he’s now 84 years old and semi-retired.

The previous week, I listened to Capehart as he talked about the Supreme Court and abortion. He seemed most concerned about the potential for a conservative court to overturn the legitimacy of gay marriage. I understand the personal angle, but I was hoping for a stronger statement in favor of a women’s right to choose — to control her own body and her own life.

To be honest, I don’t watch mainstream media reports that often, but when I do, it’s all so saddening and maddening.

Jonathan Capehart (right) speaks to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They both know their roles.