In This Episode
- Russian forces captured the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson yesterday, making it the first to fall since the invasion that began last week. Today, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to talk about Russia’s attack with NATO foreign ministers in Belgium, while another round of conversations between Ukraine and Russia are reportedly set to take place soon as well.
- March For Our Lives, the organization founded by student survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting, released a statement following President Biden’s State of the Union address last night, saying that Biden hasn’t treated gun violence like the “emergency it is.” David Hogg, one of the co-founders of March For Our Lives, joins us to discuss gun reform activists’ view of Biden as well as where the country is in terms of reform efforts.
- And in headlines: Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott secured the Republican nomination in his quest for a third term, the White House unveiled its new coronavirus response plan, and the United Nations agreed to make the world’s first global plastic pollution treaty.
- Support March For Our Lives: https://marchforourlives.com/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, March 3rd. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re hoping that more people attend our next birthday party than we’re at the most recent D.C. trucker protests.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, we will not have the advantage of our party being covered by the news, but we still hope to get at least 10 people there, which I think would make it bigger than the convoy.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s all I’m asking for, not shooting for the Moon here.
Gideon Resnick: It’s a small ask. On today’s show, a conversation with gun control activist David Hogg. Plus, the U.N. agrees to create a plastic pollutions treaty.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, some updates on Ukraine as we go to record around 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Russian forces captured the city of Kherson yesterday, making it the first to fall since the invasion that began last week. Elsewhere around the country, Russian troops have reportedly attacked all kinds of civilian infrastructure in the past 24 hours, including Ukrainian hospitals and health workers, which the World Health Organization said is a violation of international humanitarian law. As for the casualties, the exact amount is uncertain. The United Nations said that 227 civilians had been killed as of Wednesday, while the Ukrainian government said that the approximate figure was over 2,000. The Russian Defense Ministry has also said that almost 500 of its own troops had been killed. Meanwhile, an astonishing one million people have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s crazy. And the U.N. General Assembly also overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution condemning Russia’s invasion. Here is Sergiy Kyslytsya. He is the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N., speaking yesterday.
[clip of Sergiy Kyslytsa] For almost a week, Ukraine is fighting, fighting under the bombs and missiles, fighting in the face of armadas of hardware and countless crowds of enemies. They have come to the Ukrainian soil not only to kill some of us, not only to shift our course and priorities, they have come to deprive Ukraine of the very right to exist.
Gideon Resnick: Moving to today, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet with NATO foreign ministers in Belgium before a series of other travels in Eastern Europe. And another round of conversations between Ukraine and Russia are reportedly set to take place soon as well. And as those attempts continue, the U.S. is reportedly going to ramp up economic sanctions even further. The Washington Post says the administration is going to expand the number of Russian oligarchs subject to sanctions, and the DOJ has launched a task force dedicated to it. In related news, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich said on Wednesday that he’d be selling the Premier League soccer club Chelsea. A report in The Guardian featured economists saying that Russia’s economy could shrink by as much as 7% because of all the sanctions, which are already making life even more difficult for people trying to go about their lives there.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is the latest we have on Ukraine. As always, you can follow us and other Crooked pods to stay informed as the situation continues to develop. For now, let’s turn to some issues here at home. Yesterday on the show, we gave you all an overview of the many topics that President Biden covered in his first State of the Union address. They range from Ukraine to inflation to COVID and more. But today we wanted to talk a little more in-depth about one of the important issues that was mentioned rather briefly in his speech: gun control.
[clip of President Biden] I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on the terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon? Why? Why? Ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines that will go 100 rounds. You think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests? Look, repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued. The only one.
Priyanka Aribindi: So Biden is clearly pro-gun control. But as you heard in that clip, some of the ideas he ran on, like universal background checks and closing loopholes in gun sales, haven’t happened with our current Congress. He also went on to highlight policing as a solution to this violence, saying quote, “The answer is not to defund the police, it’s to fund the police.”
Gideon Resnick: I think our guest has some comments on that assertion. So on that note, how did gun reform activists react to this portion of the speech?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, they want to see more from the president. Activists have been calling for more comprehensive strategies, not these quote, “one-off policies” as they call them, and they want to know that this is a priority for Biden. March For Our Lives, the organization founded by student survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting, released a statement following the speech, saying that in the wake of the 50,000 gun deaths during his presidency, Biden hasn’t treated this like the quote, “emergency that it is.” They said quote, “advocates have frankly been disappointed by the president’s first year in office, and we worry that this next year will prove no different.”
Gideon Resnick: And to better understand gun reform activists’ view of Biden and the speech, as well as where the country is in terms of reform efforts, we spoke to one of the co-founders of March for Our Lives, David Hogg. We started by asking him for his reaction to the State of the Union.
David Hogg: You know, I’m happy that he talked about it at all, but there’s still a lot more that the president could have said. We’re disappointed that he keeps passing off piecemeal policies as comprehensive, instead of a unified national plan. We need something that is holistic and addresses this issue once and for all so that there isn’t another generation that grows up with these horrific instances of violence in their classroom or in front of their house on a daily basis. His only real executive-level commitment is to increase police funding. We don’t believe we can criminalize our way out of this crisis. If just funding the police more worked, gun deaths wouldn’t be the highest they ever have been, with nearly 50,000 died since Biden has taken office. You know, if having the most funding for police officers did make us safer, I wouldn’t be talking you right now. Gun violence will be an issue in the United States if we were able to incarcerate our way out of it, because we have one of the highest incarcerated populations in the world. We still need the President to live up to his campaign promises to do everything in his power to end gun violence. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children. We’re losing a generation, and the president has yet to throw the full weight of government behind to address this epidemic. Although this administration has done more than any administration ever has in American history in his first year to address gun violence, there is still a lot more that they can do.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to shift gears for a second to sort of another part of the broader fight for gun reform, this effort to sort of hold gun manufacturers accountable for mass shootings. Recently, the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims reached the settlement of $73 million with the Remington Arms. That’s the company that made the AR-15 style rifle that was used by the gunman. What are your thoughts on that? Did it give you any sort of hope that other manufacturers could be held accountable?
David Hogg: What you realize after talking to anybody that knows even a little bit about how this actually ended up working was that these families from Sandy Hook won this on a technicality. It’s the exception, not the rule. There’s a state loophole in Connecticut that allowed them to do it that was around essentially marketing of materials that advertise doing illegal activities. On the federal level, the Protection of Lawful Commerce and Arms Act, otherwise known as PLCAA, prevents any other family or victims from doing the same thing and getting justice if their state doesn’t necessarily have one of those technicality rules. So although it may be seen as a victory in the media, it’s really not because it is just an exception and not the rule, when the actual victory would be having PLCAA completely repealed, which is not going to happen because of the filibuster, at least currently. But that’s what real victory would look like.
Priyanka Aribindi: So what other congressional or state policies do you feel are needed right now to advance gun reform? And what, you know, if our listeners listening to this right now want to get involved and support, what can they do ahead of, especially ahead of the midterm elections?
David Hogg: Yeah. Well, the number one thing that you can do is vote in the first place, to vote for candidates that are not supported by the NRA and take an overt stance against them. And the second thing that people can do is show up at their state capitols with any of the numerous gun violence prevention organizations that are out there. If you’re a younger person, March For Our Lives is basically the largest youth-led gun violence prevention organization in the country, and we lobby a lot at state capitols and that’s one of our most effective tools that we have been able to use. In the wake of the shooting in 2018 we got hundreds of students to go to the state Capitol and lobby the Republican House, Senate, and Governor at the time, and we’re actually able to pass laws because we showed up so immediately after everything happened. And the most impactful thing that anybody could do beyond voting is just showing up. The reason why the NRA wins is because they show up constantly and they are very consistent, persistent, and annoying to these legislators. Our policies are centered around three things, and it’s basically one, we have to address how people are getting their hands on a gun in the first place. That involves things like advocating for licensing, universal background checks, it involves things like high-capacity magazines bans. The second part is addressing why people pick up a gun. That goes into talking about community-based violence intervention. That can be a very effective strategy to help reduce gun violence that gets therapists and counselors in hospital rooms so that when a family shows up after having a loved one that’s been shot, they can have mental health support so that it reduces retaliation, because one of the biggest predictors of who ends up perpetrating gun violence is whether or not you or somebody you know has been shot before, because it’s retaliation. The third one is talking about how we hold the gun industry accountable, and that’s really around PLCAA, to make sure gun companies are doing everything they can to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands. We’re fighting to make sure that kids literally aren’t dying at their schools and communities on a daily basis. And the fact that we can’t get more people to show up there and realize the importance of this is really sad. And I think it shows how, unfortunately, many people don’t realize the power of state capitals to create change, in comparison to Congress where we have the filibuster. At the state level is really where this change is going to come from.
Priyanka Aribindi: You mentioned the NRA and I want to talk to you a little bit about that as well because they have kind of been in this state of turmoil for a little while now. And I’m curious about if that has had any impact on your efforts, you know, has organizing around gun control improved in recent years? And then do you see a time where the political and lobbying impacts of groups like yours are actually more powerful than those at the NRA?
David Hogg: Yeah, I mean, we saw in recent years the first time ever that gun control and gun violence prevention advocacy groups actually outspent the NRA. It’s a monumental moment. It’s been just over four years since the shooting in Parkland. In 2018 and March For Our Lives filed a complaint with New York Attorney General Leticia James to look into the NRA’s finances and other illegal activities, sparking a massive investigation. Two years later, on August of 2020, Leticia James filed a motion to dissolve the NRA, an historic move towards dismantling the corrupt organization on the basis of some of the ridiculous ways that they’re spending charitable donations, led by insanely expensive Italian suits, things like private jet rides. In 2018 as well, we defeated more NRA-backed candidates in the midterms than ever before in American history. Young people turned out at such a high rate, in fact, that we’ve been credited with helping to elect around 10 seats for pro-gun violence prevention candidates that otherwise would not have been elected in the House of Representatives in Congress. And in these past four years, we passed over 50 gun laws at the state level, including the Florida State Legislature, which no one, including basically every journalist that I’ve talked to in the four years since thought was possible. But we did it. So things have progressed forward. But I’m going to be completely honest, the past almost three years now since COVID started have made things really, really difficult. It’s hard to organize things in person. It’s hard to get younger people on a Zoom call after they’ve been on Zoom all day at school. Many movements across our space have unfortunately lost some momentum because of COVID. But I think if you look at it on the whole, we’ve made some major progress with some of the highest youth voter turnout in American history, actually the highest ever in 2020, and some of the highest ever in 2018.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. Do you and March For Our Lives at this point in time have any plans to meet with Biden on this issue?
David Hogg: I have not personally met with the President. Nobody, to my knowledge, in March For Our Lives has, at least since he’s been elected. But we continue to work with the White House and try to play this game of how do we acknowledge that this is the best White House in terms of addressing this issue that we’ve ever had, but know that the precedent that they are setting is critically important for the future so that we can set it even higher.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. David, thank you so much for joining us.
David Hogg: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me on. And for anybody that’s interested in supporting March For Our Lives, the best thing that you can do is make a monthly donation of whatever you can at Marchforourlives dot com, or by texting “action” to nine five four nine five four.
Gideon Resnick: Thanks, David. We appreciate it. Talk soon.
David Hogg: Thank you.
Gideon Resnick: More on this important topic very soon, but that is the latest for now. Let’s get to some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The 2022 midterm elections officially kicked off on Tuesday in Texas. GOP Governor Greg Abbott secured the Republican nomination in his quest to snag a third term. He is going to face Democratic nominee, and somebody that I occasionally see on a running app that we both use, Strava heads, if you know, you know: Beto O’Rourke. This is an uphill battle for Democrats because Texas has not elected a Democratic governor in more than three decades. Other primary races will be decided late May during the runoffs. One of those includes the Republican Attorney General race, where incumbent and prominent Trump supporter Ken Paxton failed to get 50% of the vote, and he is going to go up against Land Commissioner George P. Bush—yes, that’s the family, Jeb Bush’s son. Another is the Democratic runoff for Texas’s 28th congressional district. The 28-year old immigration attorney and friend of the show, who we talked to this week, Jessica Cisneros, will go head to head against incumbent and the more conservative Henry Cuellar. And switching gears to other news coming out of Texas, yesterday, a district judge blocked the state from investigating the parents of a trans teen over gender-confirmation treatments. With all of the horrible news coming out over the treatment of trans kids in Texas, this is a step in the right direction but notably, the judge did not prevent the state from looking into other reports about children receiving similar care, which is deeply troubling.
Priyanka Aribindi: Deeply. I am also deeply curious about the details of this running app. I’m going to ask you for more info on Beto offline.
Gideon Resnick: Sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: The White House unveiled its new coronavirus response plan yesterday, following President Biden’s State of the Union address. It’s called the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, and this is what Biden said about it on Tuesday:
[clip of President Biden] I know some are talking about living with COVID-19, but tonight I say that we never will just accept living with COVID-19, we’ll continue to combat the virus as we do other diseases. And because this virus mutates and spreads, we have to stay on guard.
Priyanka Aribindi: Constant vigilance. The roadmap for living with the virus outlines how to protect against and treat COVID, how to prepare for and handle new variants, how to avoid shutdowns, and the ways to fight the virus abroad. Additionally, White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients said yesterday that the administration will be ready to quickly distribute vaccines for children under five once they are authorized. All of this sounds good and fun, until Congress gets involved, and the plan requires funding from lawmakers. Earlier this week, the Biden administration told key congressional officials that it could need an additional $30 billion in relief aid. But given Congress’s track record with Build Back Better and more, we imagine there might be some pushback. For now, you can enjoy your light reading of the 96-page document outlining the plan that the White House just put out.
Gideon Resnick: There is a huge page that just says “Deer” and plans to deal with deer with COVID, I am assuming.
Priyanka Aribindi: I can’t even get into it.
Gideon Resnick: I have not checked it out, so that is a big fib. Or it could be true. We don’t know. The pressure just got cranked up for paper straws to get their shit together because the United Nations agreed to make the world’s first global plastic pollution treaty. Yesterday, the UN Environmental Agency, or UNDA, described it as the most significant deal of its kind since the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The treaty will not only aim to improve the recycling and disposal of existent plastic waste, but could also regulate plastic production using measures like a ban on single use plastics. The details have yet to be negotiated, and obviously not everyone is on the same page about what steps should be taken. But one 175 signatory nations are on board to have your proposal ready by 2024—just in time to see how much more plastic waste we can accumulate before then.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I feel like I’ve heard these caveats a few times from the UN, but it’s, it’s OK. I’m choosing to be optimistic for now. It is a big week for two of this nation’s C-list Republican governors who are tired of hanging out in Ron DeSantis’s big square shadow. First, reports emerged that Montana’s Greg Gianforte hunted a mountain lion that was chased by hunting dogs into Yellowstone National Park back in December. The kill was legal, in the same way that installing truck nuts on your car is legal and still doesn’t make you a man. There are some questions about the particulars of Gianforte’s hunt, like whether the governor and his friends illegally detained the mountain lion in a tree using dogs—horrifying. Gianforte notably also killed a wolf in Yellowstone last year and also pled guilty to quote, “body slamming” a reporter for the Guardian back in 2017—yes, this is the same man. Meaning that if we want any mammal to take down Gianforte, they need to be very big, like the size of an elephant. Moving on from animal attacks to financial ones, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds was ordered to return nearly $450,000 in misused federal coronavirus relief funds. She paid her staff with the funds, which the Iowa state auditor said was improper since their salaries had already been included in a budget written prior to the pandemic. She also allegedly tried to conceal these expenditures. The state auditor first ordered Reynolds to return the money back in October of 2020, but she didn’t, leading him to repeat his recommendation this week.
Gideon Resnick: I’m going to stick with the Greg part of the headline for a second, and just say this is a pretty harrowing experience for these dogs. We’re putting dogs through a lot, OK? And I’ve made this stance clear before. I don’t think that they should be employed. They should be around to hang out and have fun, not to be afraid of their lives, trying to get a mountain lion out of a tree.
Priyanka Aribindi: They’re pets or they can like herd sheep. I know they’re sheep dogs who do that, and that’s the only job they’re allowed to have. That I will allow. And guide dogs. That’s also allowed.
Gideon Resnick: Those are the headlines. We are going to be back after some ads.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hey, WAD squad, we are going to wrap up today with something a little bit different. We are doing a short entertainment block featuring some of the latest and most perceptive music and cultural criticism. Today we are featuring a rock journalist who you may know from his other career as the most unbearable person in right-wing media. His name is Ben Shapiro, and here is something that he said on his show yesterday:
[clip of Ben Shapiro] Joe Biden is the Kurt Cobain of politics.
Gideon Resnick: OK.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. The voice takes a second to adjust to, every time. I cannot quite fathom what he means by this at all. What do you think he means?
Gideon Resnick: I guess it would be like in his mind, they both have corrupted the nation’s youth at certain times, or some sort of right-wing thing along those lines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m like when I think of Kurt Cobain, I’m like, OK, he was cool. Like, is that not what we all think? I don’t know about Ben Shapiro. I don’t think that’s what he’s trying to say. But like, that’s what I think.
Gideon Resnick: I would be surprised if he does. So we’re going to find out. We’re going to play the full clip of Ben on his show. Buckle up because it is not what most of us would call a cool or normal thing to say.
[clip of Ben Shapiro] Everything bad that has happened over the last 14 months is a completely self-inflicted wound. Joe Biden is the Kurt Cobain of politics. He put a shotgun in the mouth of the American body politic and then pulled the trigger, and the brains are on the wall. The President of the United States is really, really bad at this.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my god.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Like, first of all, it’s obviously crazy on its face. But if you flip this around and you were like, somebody is like the Trump of music or whatever, you might say, they were bad at music, right? Like, there is some qualitative analysis you’re making about what they actually did, not like, how they died. That’s the part that seems like weird here. There’s no—
Gideon Resnick: —assessment of like Kurt Cobain prior to death. Yeah, I don’t understand the connection.
Priyanka Aribindi: But he probably thought he was really cool for making a reference, which is even worse.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, he thought he killed it, and he did not.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was our music and cultural criticism corner. Please, somebody cut Ben Shapiro’s mic.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, thank you in advance.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go: are you worried about how Republican efforts to restrict voting are going to affect you at the polls? Let us know. I want to hear your questions about how to cast a ballot, how to find information on the candidates and more. We will be answering all of them as we head closer to November. Tweet them at me at priaribi. Maybe not all of them. I realize that is a big promise to make, but @ them anyways.
Gideon Resnick: You can hand-deliver your questions to my associate, who will meet you at an undisclosed location at an undisclosed time. That is how I would prefer to communicate. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, train a large mammal to battle Montana’s governor, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just invitations to birthdays and trucker convoys like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we believe in you, paper straws.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, you’re really our only hope so . . .
Priyanka Aribindi: You know what, I actually like, like a metal straw that you have yourself. I like those.
Gideon Resnick: I do as well.
Priyanka Aribindi: They’re pretty nice.
Gideon Resnick: I do as well. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.