In This Episode
- Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice on Thursday, and the first former public defender to sit on the high court. Three Republicans crossed party lines to support her, including Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah.
- The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report this week saying that global emissions need to peak by 2025 at the latest in order to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. Amy Westervelt, an investigative climate journalist and co-host of Crooked’s “Hot Take,” joins us to discuss these findings and what they mean.
- And in headlines: The trial in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will be relocated from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, nearly 500,000 people are without electricity in Puerto Rico, and Alabama’s state legislature approved a bill to criminalize gender-affirming medical care for trans youth.
- Crooked’s Hot Take – https://www.crooked.com/podcast-series/hot-take/
- Amy Westervelt – https://www.amywestervelt.com/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, April 8. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, where we’re making it known that if we suffer a life-changing injury like Tiger Woods, we might not continue podcasting.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we admire his resolve. We don’t want to make any guarantees until we talk to a doctor.
Tre’vell Anderson: That mic will still be there for us when we have recovered. And so will you, dear listener.
Gideon Resnick: I’d say show, a power plant fire knocked out electricity for more than a million in Puerto Rico. Plus New York’s attorney general moved to hold Trump in contempt of court.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first:
[clip of VP Kamala Harris] On this vote, the ayes are 53, the nays are 47. And this nomination is confirmed.
Tre’vell Anderson: That is the sound of Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday, reading out the vote tally that makes Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson the first Black woman to be a Supreme Court justice. She will also be the first former public defender to sit on the High Court.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I missed the actual historic moment when this was happening.
Tre’vell Anderson: There’s YouTube. You’ll be fine.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I’ll catch up. But I did watch the confirmation hearings that did feel quite contentious at times. So how did the vote end up going?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So at first, Republicans did their best to paint soon-to-be Justice Jackson as a liberal extremist and someone who has coddled criminals, in hopes of derailing her nomination. But when it was all said and done, three Republicans crossed party lines to support her, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and the one-and-only Mitt Romney of Utah. As the votes were cast, President Biden and Judge Jackson watched together from the White House’s Roosevelt Room. The pair are set to attend an event today to mark her confirmation, though her actual swearing in won’t happen for a few months. She will officially become Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson–which is a whole lot to say, you have to take a deep breath before you start–when Justice Stephen Breyer retires at the end of the court’s session this summer.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, and we will all be thrilled until 40 years from now when we are begging her to retire. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We will definitely keep you updated on all of that. So moving to other news, we want to do a deeper dive on a story we mentioned earlier this week: there was another report issued from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Like the others that have preceded it, the report’s prognosis on the health of our planet was not good. In fact, among the findings of the hundreds of scientists involved across many, many countries is that global emissions need to peak by 2025 at the latest in order to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 Fahrenheit. That, of course, is just three years from now. If you have not heard much about this report, you can be forgiven because a lot of the political capital in D.C. this week was spent on effectively urging oil companies to drill more at this moment. So for more on the report, the fossil fuel executives who seem to run our lives and the cognitive dissonance of watching the world burn and doing next to nothing, we caught up again with Amy Westervelt. She is an investigative climate journalist, the creator of the climate change podcast Drilled, and one of the hosts of Crooked’s Hot Take. Welcome back to What A Day.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Gideon Resnick: So we wanted to talk about some of the news of this past week. The last time we spoke was after the prior IPCC report, actually.
Amy Westervelt: Yes.
Gideon Resnick: So what were some of your takeaways from this new one?
Amy Westervelt: Two completely opposite takeaways. One, wow. We’re in a really bad place. I think that they all but said, good luck keeping warming to 1.5 degrees. That’s not great news. They also came out with the news that in the last decade, we’ve actually emitted more than previous decades. So like in the time that we’ve known the most, we’ve only ramped it up, baby! So, that’s depressing. But you know, once you kind of make it past the very, very bad news, there is also some really, really interesting–for lack of a better word–visioning happening in this report, where they included for the first time a chapter on what they call “demand services and social impacts of climate”, which actually means, Let’s talk about how the economy works, shall we?–in a very interesting way. I mean, they’re like, OK, we assume that people need energy, but in reality, what people need are services, right? They need to be able to like, get to work. They need to be able to cook their food. They need to be able to turn the lights on. So how do we solve these things in a low carbon way? And they looked at it from every which way and they came up with: if we actually shifted our thinking and focused on services rather than energy, and particularly fossil fuel energy, to lift people out of poverty and make their lives work, that actually we could cut emissions by up to 80%.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, wow.
Amy Westervelt: We could give everyone a good quality of life at half the energy use that we’re currently using.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now I feel like every time a report about the climate comes out, we end up finding out that the window to act is already significantly diminished.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: In this case, there’s the warning in this report that global emissions need to peak by 2025 at the latest.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m wondering how you would describe kind of, the disconnect with that kind of warning alongside what seems to be a lack of urgency from the folks who are in power?
Amy Westervelt: Yeah, it’s really depressing. I mean, at the same time that we hear, We have a three year window here for emissions to peak–I mean, we have a congressional hearing about gas prices where Democrats are arguing for increased oil and gas production. And actually, this was an interesting part of this IPCC report process too, so whenever they put out these reports they have a summary for policymakers that comes out too. It’s like the 65-page condensed version of this 3,000 page report. But the summary for policymakers is where government representatives get to weigh in on what they think should be in the report and what they think should be out of the report. And one of the things they thought should be out of the report this time was any mention of vested interests, which basically means not just the fossil fuel industry, but any other industry that might be worried about how regulations impact their bottom line. So I think what we’re seeing now is actually the result of those vested interests really having total control of our democratic process. And so you have this total disconnect between what actually needs to happen for humans, and the way that politics gets played.
Gideon Resnick: Right. I feel like that one, one and a half degree Celsius marker has been kind of fixed in my brain for a really long time, and it now seems like we’re sort of maybe baking that into the cake. So what does that mean if we do fully bake that into the cake? What does that mean in practical terms?
Amy Westervelt: First, I think it’s important for people to understand that, like if you’re just going by science, actually zero degrees of warming is what you want. Like, 1.5 was already a political compromise. That’s not like, Oh, at one point five, everything’s fine. We’re already seeing that right now, right? We’ve already seen warming and we’re seeing what it’s doing to the planet. We’re going to see problems with hunger, you know, being able to feed people with less and less arable land and with more and more drought. I think that you’re going to see a lot more migration happening. And none of that is planned for. We’re looking at a pretty tough go of things from about 2050 onwards, and increasingly difficult times from now until then. I don’t want to be a total climate doomer here, because again, there are things that can be done that are not even that expensive. That was another big thing in this report, was like, we can do these things at a very affordable cost, or even no cost. It’s just requires a shift in perspective. But getting the sort of political will together to make that shift is proving to be the big obstacle.
Tre’vell Anderson: I also want to ask you about, earlier this week, we saw the Supreme Court reinstated a Trump-era environmental regulation that impacts the Clean Water Act. What are some of the ramifications of that?
Amy Westervelt: This is terrible news for a number of reasons. One, I think it shows us where the Supreme Court is at on environmental stuff in general. Not a great place to be to. The Clean Water Act is like one of our traditional bulwarks of environmental regulation in this country, so seeing that be weakened for the first time really since the ’70s is very bad news. And I think that you’re going to see fewer and fewer restrictions on things like that as a result of this. And I also think Clean Air Act is next. If they can get at the Clean Water Act, they’re going to go for lots of other things. And the goal of the Republicans for a long time has really been to get rid of the EPA altogether. So I think that this is a step along that path.
Gideon Resnick: Well, thank you so much again, Amy, we really appreciate your time.
Amy Westervelt: Thank you so much for having me.
Tre’vell Anderson: We will include some links to Amy’s work in our show notes, and of course, subscribe to Hot Take and her other shows. More on all of this soon, but that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The trial in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will be relocated from Turkey to Saudi Arabia. Yesterday, Turkish judges agreed to the move, which was requested by Saudi Arabia because none of the suspects were in Turkey’s custody, but it is a blow to human rights advocates, as well as Khashoggi’s fiancée, who argued that a trial in Turkey would shine more sunlight on the case. Activists also suspect the move happened for political reasons. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to improve relations with his Saudi counterparts. Back in 2018, a Saudi hit squad killed Khashoggi while he was en route to get paperwork for his wedding. Saudi Arabia already convicted eight of the suspects involved, but a lawyer for Khashoggi’s fiancée said their case would likely fizzle out in a quote, “country with no justice.”
Tre’vell Anderson: Over a million people were without electricity yesterday in Puerto Rico after a fire at a power plant shut down the island’s entire power grid. Officials had no choice but to cancel school, suspend public transit, and shut down government offices while residents waited for the electricity to be restored. Thursday’s blackout is the latest power outage to illustrate how fragile Puerto Rico’s electric infrastructure is after Hurricane Maria destroyed most of it in 2017. The incident also reignited residents’ frustration with Luma Energy, the company that took over the territory’s electricity system last year after the U.S. forced Puerto Rico to privatize its power grid. Ever since then, Luma Energy has faced backlash for corrupt dealings, price hikes, and bankruptcy. As of our recording at 9:30 Eastern Thursday night, nearly 500,000 customers in Puerto Rico are still without power, and Luma Energy CEO says it could take weeks for the company to find out what sparked the blaze that led to this blackout.
Gideon Resnick: Jeez. And now a few updates on conservative lawmakers favorite pastime: limiting the rights of people who aren’t straight cis men. So let’s start down south. Yesterday, Alabama state Legislature approved a bill that would criminalize gender-affirming medical care for trans folks under the age of 19. The provision would make it a felony to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones or perform gender-affirming surgeries. If signed into law, any of these acts would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Moving over to Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have banned trans girls from competing in school sports that align with their gender, but the GOP-led state legislature will likely override the governor’s veto next week and make it law–because they clearly have nothing better to do with their time. And finally, in Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit yesterday asking a state court to recognize the right to an abortion under the state’s constitution. In the same lawsuit, the governor also asked that the court reverse a century-old abortion ban that may take effect again if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Whitmer, who is up for reelection this year, is filing the suit to ensure that abortion remains legal in her state even if she is unseated by a Republican in November.
Tre’vell Anderson: The man who is the subject of a million lawsuits but never comes within a million feet of a courtroom, former President Donald Trump, could have some new legal trouble in New York. The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, filed a motion yesterday asking a judge to hold him in contempt for refusing to turn over documents. The documents are needed for the AG’s civil investigation into Trump’s business practices, and she wrote in her request that they’ve been requested eight times. Either Trump spam filter has no chill, or those requests are being intentionally ignored–I’d like to go with the latter. James is also asking the judge to fine Trump $10,000 a day until he begins to comply. And as far as the criminal case against Trump in Manhattan, there was an update on that yesterday too. The Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. said the case is ongoing and prosecutors are reviewing new evidence, contradicting speculation that the case was closed following the departure of two senior prosecutors earlier this year. Bragg told CNN quote, “investigations are not linear, so we are following the leads in front of us and that is what we’re doing.” The cases of the New York AG and the Manhattan DA both concern allegations that Trump’s company falsified financial documents to secure tax breaks and loans, leaving many people to ask why we can’t do his interesting crimes first?
Gideon Resnick: I just can’t imagine being on the legal team for this man in any capacity whatsoever. Like, you don’t even know what paperwork is which at this point.
Tre’vell Anderson: They’re not reading it anyway, so it’s fine. It’s totally cool. Easiest job ever.
Gideon Resnick: I can’t even. It gives me a headache to think about all of that. It’s absolutely insane. Those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with the emotional roller coaster that is the story of the Capitol Hill Fox.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we were talking about politics and woodland creatures, and what happens when they intersect. In D.C. this week, the city fell in love with a red fox that was biting random people on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol–my kind of Capitol rioter. Then came a period of mourning as the fox was euthanized on Tuesday, and later a period of acceptance, as it turned out that the animal had tested positive for rabies–this was a journey for me. The fox’s behavior fit with that of a rabid creature. As one expert told The Washington Post, it is normal for mother foxes to defend their young and their immediate surroundings, but this one was quote, “traveling blocks to attack people.” Determined. One of the people who was attacked was Representative Ami Bera of California, whose wounds did not appear to break the skin but is still undergoing treatment. And if your reaction to this is like my initial one, i.e. what harm would it have been to look the other way and let one rabid fox go free? Here is word from a friend of the podcast, director Jon Mackey, who is maybe bit once by a raccoon and asked a doctor what the stakes were.
[Jon Mackey] It’s funny. I don’t think a lot of people understand that rabies is like a death sentence. It’s 99.9% fatal or something like that. And I didn’t know that until I went to the hospital after breaking up a fight between a dog and a raccoon, and getting a little scratch on my hand, but I thought maybe came from the raccoon, and the doctors were like, Well, it’s lottery odds that you actually did get rabies from this raccoon, but if you do have it, it’s a death sentence so you can get the treatment which is based on your weight. And the doctor says to me, Well, you’re 285 pounds, which would mean roughly we’d need X amount of treatment, which would equate to 17 shots you’d have to get today.
[Jon Mackey] And then over the course of the next few weeks, you’ll have to get more of those shots. I said to him, I think I would rather die of rabies than get 17 shots in one day.
Gideon Resnick: I have so many questions, beginning also with how the interruption of the fight happened, and what the actual fighting actually looked like between those animals. I’m glad that Jon is OK. So Tre’vell there is a lot to discuss here, but getting back to our late, beloved rabid fox at the U.S. Capitol, what are your thoughts?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, so first and foremost, I’m grateful to have this information from Jon about how deadly rabies is, but I can’t help but to feel sorry for the fox. If you think about it, this all was woodland first before it was the U.S. Capitol, so the fox is just trying to, you know, reclaim its time, you know, in the words of Maxine Waters, right? And we are the one interloper being on the fox’s space.
Gideon Resnick: It’s really true.
Tre’vell Anderson: But this is why those of y’all who just like to go petting random animals, this is why you need to stop. OK?
Gideon Resnick: But it seems like our biggest concerns as humans, based on the sources that we have at this current juncture are, you know, raccoons and foxes. That it seems like they move relatively quickly, they could both bite, and they seem like they both have a relatively high chance of rabies.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, this is why I don’t leave my house. I don’t have to worry about none of that, OK?
Gideon Resnick: I hope you never do. Seeing a fox from afar feels like a treat, but maybe they should stay far away because they might bite you.
Tre’vell Anderson: You must not have ever watched Dora the Explorer because the fox is the one that steals the stuff.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, that’s true. And in this case, it was attempting to steal the health of our members of Congress, and steal their lives. We hope that everybody avoids rabies. Just like that, we have checked our temps. They are normal because we have yet to be bitten by a rabid animal. Seventeen shots!
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s a lot.
Gideon Resnick: And there were more after? That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, support podcasters who choose not to podcast, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading, and not just Trump’s interesting lawsuits like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And peace to all woodland creatures!
Tre’vell Anderson: We are sorry for taking over your land.
Gideon Resnick: We are very sorry for many things. For destroying the planet as well.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh yeah.
Gideon Resnick: You know, this could have been a retribution act in that sense as well. Who knows?
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s all our fault.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is. 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.