We haven't had a Mystery Guest segment for a while, so let's correct that. In fairness, this isn't an actual Mystery Guest, but one who might be familiar to somebody on the panel, and so they have to use blindfolds. The guest here is Dick Kollmar, who was a Broadway producer, including of the hit musical Plain and Fancy, which starred Barbra Cook right before she did The Music Man, but why this segment is such particular fun is that he's also the husband of panelist Dorothy Kilgallen. The show seemed to like doing this to her, since they also had her father (a well-known newspaperman) on as a guest, as well as her two children together. Making it additionally fun is that one of the panelists is Fred Allen.
This is the full show. Dick Kollmar is the first guest, so you can either just watch from the start or jump to the 2:45 mark.
It didn’t get much attention at the time -- and I was busy here writing about other issues that kept cropping up, waiting to address it -- but three weeks ago the Biden Administration did something critical that was largely ignored during the Trump years, whether through apathy or intent. But there was a major meeting at the White House to deal with cybersecurity in the country. And among the top business executives in attendance were some significant heavyweights: the leaders of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google and IBM. At issue was how government and business can work together on cybersecurity.
Afterwards, the White House put out a press release that the National Institute of Standards and Technology “will collaborate with industry and other partners to develop a new framework to improve the security and integrity of the technology supply chain."
More importantly, several of the company already pledged significant involvement. Among them:
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company will invest $20 billion on security solutions over the next 5 years, along with $150 million “to help US government agencies upgrade protections and expand our cybersecurity training partnerships."
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said they would over $10 billion during the next five years in cybersecurity efforts, among them helping secure the supply chain and strengthening open-source security. Additionally, Google will expand "zero-trust" programs, whereby companies don't automatically trust any person or device. And also, they pledged to train 100,000 Americans in tech support and data analytics – and they said they would train another 10 million Americans in a range of digital skills over the next two years.
And IBM said that it would train 150,00 people in cybersecurity by the end of 2024.
Clearly, this is not The Solution – nor are these the only initiatives to come out of the meeting. But given the lack of attention on cybersecurity by the government over the past four years, it’s a strong start on something so deeply necessary.
As we finish Yom Kippur, which ends tonight at sundown, I thought I'd get this in under the wire. It's the song "Avinu Malkeinu" which comes at the very end of the service.
This was one of my mother's favorite songs for the High Holidays, and it's sung wonderfully here by 13 cantors from around the world. I find some of the visual editing a little distracting, but not the singing.
Avinu Malkeinu means "Our Father, Our King," and the prayer itself is basically one of supplication, while also asking God for compassion whether or not it's deserved. It can be recited throughout the year, though the prayer is an important part of 10 days of the High Holidays starting with Rosh Hashanah and notably sung at the end of the service atoning at the start of the new year.
Or something like that. There are many variations, and even verses, whose order I think maybe can even be flexible, and the different denominations handle it their own way.
For all the well-deserved attention on the stories leaked from the new book Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, as much as the ones about General Mark Milley dealing with China to protect the country against Trump were the most critical, what struck me most was the exchange Milley had with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy,” said Speaker Pelosi. “He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness.” To which Gen. Milley replied, “I agree with you on everything.”
What leaps out as so important to me about that is it’s the foundation for Milley’s later actions. And it’s as blunt as you can get, coming as it does in a private conversation. No polite expression in public to dance around an awkward sensibility. No, just flat out -- “He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness.”
Clearly, too, this is not meant euphemistically, nor hyperbolically. But literally. Now, of course, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and General Mark Milley are not licensed psychologists, so it’s just amateur analysis. But it’s amateur only from a psychological standpoint – they’re expressing very professional observations from the long high-ranking experience in their jobs in Congress and in the military. Further, one has to keep in mind that both Pelosi and Milley have dealt with Trump in ways that we’ve never seen – in private, behind closed doors. Where any protective guards that Trump might work hard to put up in public are let down so he can be himself. And he was crazy enough in public. One can only imagine the depths of his mania, especially hearing the Speaker and General.
Two other things about the exchange stand out for me.
The first is that neither General Milley nor Speaker Pelosi have denied the conversation, or even anything about it. So, yes, everybody, yes, I called him crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness. And yes, I agreed with her on everything. It’s one thing for Nancy Pelosi to be fine with acknowledging the full exchange – we pretty much know her sense of Trump from her many public statements, even if they weren’t this blunt. But for a general in the army and White House Chief of Staff, who’s spent most of his public life being as taciturn as possible, his confirmation is noteworthy.
And the other thing that leaps out to me is how on earth did Woodward and Costa get that exchange – and get it word-for-word right. I have no idea, but why that’s important is that when reporters gets something that private and newsworthy, it gives credence to all of their work All the more so since General Milley has confirmed all their other stories about him, Trump and China.
Peril, indeed. And thankfully we got passed that. And how wonderful that it’s on the record, for whatever is to come from Trump.
But again, as always, this is not about Trump – we know who he is, and that’s he’s crazy. As do Republicans in Congress, especially Republicans leaders. This is about the Republican Party who enabled the crazy Trump and supported him and his crazy fascism for four years, and still do. Knowing that he’s crazy.
For musical theater fans, Stephen Sondheim is scheduled to be a guest on Stephen Colbert's show tonight (Wednesday).
Colbert had Sondheim on his old show at least twice, and appeared in a limited run production at Lincoln Center in Sondheim's Company. He seems to pretty much idolize Sondheim, and his interviews with him have been wonderful -- a big fan and deeply respectful, but knowledgeable, interested and fun.
From the fine folks at The Dodo, here's a very fun tale about a rooster in the house. They tend to keep call it a chicken, but finally get it right.
And it only cost $276 million.
The good thing about the Republican attempt to recall the California governor for no actual reason other than they're unhappy they lost in 2018 is that it makes clear their effort was fascist, irresponsible and phenomenally costly. And it was clearly so fascist, irresponsible and phenomenally costly that it will be remembered for a very long time.
And yes, it was a fascist attempt, because one of the tenets of fascism is to try and undermine centers of power, creating mistrust in them, so that a strongman can come in to power. And this was nothing more than an effort to overthrow a fair election and distrust democracy. Worse, days before the election, Republicans already began trying to push that the election was supposedly rigged.
And then reality set in. At the time of writing -- 10:30 PM, California time -- 66% of the votes are in, and the recall effort is not only failing by 66-34%, but it was called for "No" to the recall by all news channels long ago. [UPDATE: At 7:30 AM, with 70% of the votes in, it's 64-36%.]
It’s losing by 33%!! That number will come down, but at a bare minimum the recall will fail by 20 points, perhaps even 25 points. (And who knows, it could even be higher at the end, but I’m just being conservative in my assumptions.) Even at just 20 points, that’s massive. In fact, that would be close to the 62-38% margin Gov. Newsom won by in 2018. To fix an election with that huge a margin, you’d need rigging that would bewilder magician David Copperfield.
And the big problem for Republicans with this is how utterly foolish it makes them look. Not just massively foolish in losing this recall election by so much (though it does that), but otherworldly foolish in the long-term the next time Republicans try to claim an election was rigged. Because (especially with a margin this huge) it risks turning the cry of "rigged" into becoming just white noise, knee-jerk meaningless, nothing more than a Republican slogan, with a weeping tear as the logo.
And what will be remembered, too, is that Republicans forced a state to spend $276 million – a quarter of a billion dollars – trying to undermine a fair election in order to overthrow democracy by claiming a governor should be removed from office…and being crushed in the process.
This was a truly horrible process. Happily, there are a few good things to come from it:
It made the Democratic Party in California even more united and stronger and vigilant in knowing what they have opposing them in the GOP. Indeed, it likely helped the National Democratic Party for the same reasons.
It showed the general public even further how fascist the Republican Party had become, with one more attempt to undermine the democratic election process.
It emphasized public support for health measures and mandates.
It solidified that Newsom will likely win re-election in 2022. In fact, his only hurdle will be if he's challenged in the Democratic Party -- but even that will now be a high fence to get over. After all, he was vetted strongly at his "worst," allowing people to vote for him twice. Moreover, he now has $24 million leftover in his campaign chest from money raised for the recall. Along with a new team of volunteers.
And it probably ensured that California’s truly horrific recall law will be changed – hopefully significantly, but even at worst, it critically important small ways – like increasing the number of signatures required to force a recall, requiring a serious reason for qualifying there be a recall, and determining who the replacement would be if a governor is recalled, like perhaps it being the Lieutenant Governor.
And it all cost only $276 million.
I've written in the past about my cousin Diana Leviton Gondek, who's a terrific artist in Chicago. Among other things, she's worked with the Special Olympics -- who are based in Chicago -- even to the point of being commissioned to design their 50th anniversary poster. I've also noted the three fiberglass horses she was commissioned to create for the city to honor fallen policemen, one horse of which was on display outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
It turns out that the Special Olympics is introducing a new program, where they feature artwork from their athletes shown side-by-side with professional art. The CBS-TV affiliate in Chicago, WBBM, did a report on this, and the Special Olympics asked Diana to speak on behalf of it.
(I think this could lead to a spin-off series, an artist who solves crimes as a hobby, finding patterns that lead her to the culprits, accompanied by her sidekick cat, Banksy.)
So, okay, yes, I'm biased. In either event, I can now refer to her as my artist cousin Diana Leviton Gondek as Seen on CBS News. And so, we take you now to our correspondent in the Windy City.
I've started to see social media posts from people who are now explaining that their company gave them a deadline to get vaccinated or leave, and that they've chosen to leave. Most say this sadly, but also with pride -- one of them, for example, noting that his decision was not from any high-minded principle, but just his "natural stubbornness," and in the end, he just didn't want to "be stupid."
Of course, just as it was his personal choice to not get a shot, it was also his personal choice to quit. He was given an option, not pressure. But then, pretty much all of life is a personal choice. And in this case, he chose "being stubborn." Which, he's right, is not particularly high-minded. In making his personal choice out of stubbornness, however, he also confused social responsibility with "being stupid." Which I'd suggest speaks loudly to his standards.
On the other hand, a few weeks ago Delta Airlines told workers that those who were unvaccinated would be having their health insurance raised by $200 a month, since the program's costs were rising as a result of those not being vaccinated getting sick. Within the first two weeks, 4,000 employees (which is 20% of the unvaccinated workforce) already got vaccinated -- and none quit. So, that was their personal choice and social responsibility.
I am sure that there are some valid reasons people may have for not getting the vaccine -- actual medical issues, or deep, lifelong religious convictions, or profound fear, perhaps. That's one thing. But as much as those quitting their jobs want to seem like they're making a great individual stand, I think there are very few high-minded reasons for quitting rather than getting vaccinated. Not because personal choice can't be high-minded -- it absolutely can be. But because in a worldwide pandemic of an infectious virus, from which 4,652,874 people have already died, that has mutated even more deadly and will mutate further, potentially rendering current vaccines ineffective, ignoring social responsibility removes almost any claim to nobility.
Social responsibility is not a touchy-feeling, feel-good, kumbaya thing to sing about around the campfire. It's what everyone takes on the moment you step outside your home into the world. If one doesn't want to take on that social responsibility, that's fine, but then you're pretty much obligated to stay in your home or live in the forest alone or on a deserted island.
Yes, people have every right to make another of their unending, daily personal choices and in doing so, ignore their social responsibility to the world around them. But you don't get to think that just because you are ignoring your social responsibility it therefore doesn't exist -- nor in making that personal choice do you get to think that you might not be causing harm to others to whom, as a member of the society you have entered, you owe that responsibility.
Some matters of social responsibility are minor, and if we ignore them in exchange for our personal choice, the consequences are insignificant to the world around you. A worldwide pandemic with 226 million cases so far of deadly infection is not one of them.
In not wanting to "be stupid," you most probably are not only the very definition, but also selfish and potentially a killer.
If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, he's back in his studio with a limited, vaccinated audience after 18 months. The Main Story about Belarus, notably its profoundly dictatorial leader of 30 years, Alexander Lukashenko. It's a fascinating report, interlaced with a great deal of humor.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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