In This Episode
- A shooting at Michigan State University Monday night left at least three students dead and five others critically injured. It came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, and has, once again, renewed calls for Congress to take on gun control.
- California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she will not seek re-election in 2024. As the oldest sitting member of the Senate, Feinstein’s pioneering political career spanned decades – though some have questioned her ability to serve in recent years.
- And in headlines: the first U.N. aid convoys have arrived in rebel-controlled northwest Syria to help with earthquake relief, the Democratic-led Senate confirmed President Biden’s 100th federal judge, and France said its troops were misrepresented in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
- Gun Violence Archive – https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/
- San Francisco Chronicle: Tracing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s career, from S.F. to D.C. – https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2023/dianne-feinstein-timeline/
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning, is available in medium and dark roasts. Wake up with your own bag at crooked.com/coffee
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, February 15th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where Nikki Haley’s new campaign ad has us inspired to find exciting new ways to use heels.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. For example, aside from kicking leftists, you could also use the shoes to hold your morning donut. You got options.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, something tells me this is going to be a long primary season. [music break] On today’s show, the first United Nations aid convoy arrived in Syria to help with earthquake relief. Plus, a former colonial power said its troops were misrepresented in Wakanda Forever, somehow not buying that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. But first, the latest on the mass shooting at Michigan State University. At least three students are dead and five other students were critically injured after a gunman opened fire in two buildings on MSU’s campus in East Lansing on Monday night. The 43 year old suspect, who was not affiliated with the university, was found dead after a self-inflicted gunshot wound early Tuesday morning. At this time, his motive is still unknown. This is the 67th mass shooting this year. We are still, as a reminder, only in the second month of this year. And according to Axios, at this rate, America will see more than 600 mass shootings by the end of 2023.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s just sickening, Priyanka. Like I just got to emphasize, we’re 35 days into the year and nearly double that in terms of number of mass shootings. Only in the United States. Unfortunately, the story is absolutely not new to us.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we are no stranger to this type of violence in our country, in our schools. We have talked through so many school shootings on this show that, you know, hasn’t even really been around that long. But we’ve done it and I am sure we will continue to do it based on what is happening, but is not happening at the levels that we need it to be happening. Uh. Tuesday also happened to be the fifth anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That shooting left 17 people dead, intensified a wave of student led protests and action, calling for gun reform and an end to the school shootings that have continued to plague this country. And if that wasn’t enough, a 21 year old MSU senior Jackie Matthews posted a video on TikTok talking about how this is the second mass shooting that she has lived through. She was a student at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 when a gunman killed 26 people, many of them her own classmates.
[clip of Jackie Matthews] My heart goes out to all the families and the friends of the victims of the Michigan State shooting. But we can no longer just provide love and prayers. It needs to be legislation, it needs to be action. It’s not okay. We can no longer allow this to happen. We can no longer be complacent. I will forever be Sandy Hook strong and forever be smart and strong.
Juanita Tolliver: God, that’s heartbreaking.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s horrific that the inaction of our lawmakers have allowed this to happen to this girl not once, but twice.
Juanita Tolliver: And only 21 years old. She is a emerging adult, barely an adult. And this is–
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly.
Juanita Tolliver: –the trauma she’s dealing with.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. By Tuesday morning, the university’s iconic rock was painted with the question, how many more?
Juanita Tolliver: I think that question needs to be repeated across the country. And I know it’s a question that Michigan Attorney General Nessel pointed out today while speaking on the air and to press. And she emphasized like, we need to show that we love our children more than we love our guns. And this is someone who had two children on MSU’s campus during the shooting. All of this begs the question of where are we on gun violence prevention legislation, Priyanka?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, lawmakers, as we have learned over the years, have a truly endless supply of thoughts and prayers. But President Biden, who has issued executive actions of his own on this topic, continues to push them to do more. He said, quote, “Action is what we owe to those grieving today in Michigan and across America.” In a statement, he called on Congress to enact common sense gun law reforms, which include background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, requiring safe gun storage and closing loopholes in background check systems. I like to repeat that because they all are very, very basic. You would think these are things–
Juanita Tolliver: So basic.
Priyanka Aribindi: –that would already be in place. You would think that’s something that we’d all want, especially after the decades of gun violence that we as a country have lived through.
Juanita Tolliver: And I think I need to emphasize though Priyanka, the country wants that. Polling shows all of these are popular provisions. It’s Republicans on the Hill, it’s Republicans across the country who don’t. So I think that’s important, too.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. It’s disgusting is really what it is. And separately, the Department of Justice is sending more than $200 million dollars to states in order to help them enforce red flag laws that temporarily remove guns from people who display potentially violent behavior and other crisis intervention programs. This is all part of the bipartisan gun legislation that Congress passed last summer. So we will see what, if any, results that has. But still a lot to be done.
Juanita Tolliver: And considering this most recent traumatic mass shooting. What is the state of Michigan’s gun laws? Like what’s happening on the ground there?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So The Washington Post has called Michigan’s own gun laws a mixed bag. So getting a gun in Michigan requires a background check. They don’t allow concealed weapons on school or college campuses. Very, very basic stuff. But according to the gun violence prevention organization Everytown, they are missing several key factors. For example, assault weapons and high capacity magazines are still allowed to be purchased and domestic abusers and stalkers are still allowed to have guns. So not good. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer had already pledged to tighten the state’s gun laws before this and after the shooting that process could be fast tracked. In the last elections, Michigan Democrats actually ended up capturing a trifecta. They flipped both state legislative chambers and Whitmer won reelection. That was unexpected. So this is the first time, you know, this has happened in decades. And it’s a real chance to see what change can come of this. You know, the right people have been elected to make change happen. They have a real shot to show us what this can be like, what this could look like.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. I really hope Michigan leaders take this opportunity to become a standard for the country. So let’s see what they do with it. But–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: When it comes to advancing gun violence prevention policies, one of the architects of the assault weapons ban in 1994 was the one and only Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who announced yesterday that she will not seek reelection in 2024. And with all due respect, Senator, finally, like genuinely, I appreciate it. Her announcement is not only long overdue, but it comes after two Democrats have already launched campaigns to replace her and another is set to jump in the race any second now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s been messy for a few months now.
Juanita Tolliver: A mess.
Priyanka Aribindi: Things are getting cleared up a little bit, so that is at least nice. But tell us more, the backstory of how we got here.
Juanita Tolliver: Look, after months of speculation about the future of the California Senate seat and after years of Democratic colleagues raising concerns about Feinstein’s cognitive abilities, we finally have the news. In the announcement, Senator Feinstein made it clear that she has every intention of serving out her current term, which ends in December 2024. And she thanked the people of California for allowing her to serve them. But when reporters approached Senator Feinstein at the Capitol yesterday about the announcement, she reportedly replied, “I haven’t made that decision. I haven’t released anything”. And her staffers promptly reminded her that they put out the statement like it was a big yikes moment reading that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Oof. I need to cover my face. That’s tough. That’s not really helping any of the things that people–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –are saying about her. You hate to see it. You really do.
Juanita Tolliver: Hate to see it. And for context, Senator Feinstein is currently the oldest member in the U.S. Senate, at 89 years old, and she has served for 30 years. She will be 91 years old on Election Day in 2024. And it’s important to remember that Feinstein’s retirement has had a bit of a buildup, especially after she stepped down from her ranking position on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2020 after Democrats questioned her awareness and abilities after she praised South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at the conclusion of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing. So that was a moment.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that was a bad time. We did not like that. So this announcement has been a long time coming. But let’s take a look back for a second through Senator Feinstein’s storied career, because she really has had one over the years she’s been around. Can you walk us through some of her biggest moments and her accomplishments?
Juanita Tolliver: Right. Senator Feinstein has had a formidable career. I mean, when it comes to breaking barriers for women. She did that and she did that many times over. She became the first woman to serve as mayor of San Francisco in 1978 after the tragic assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. And Feinstein was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 alongside former Senator Barbara Boxer during the historic year of the woman. As I mentioned earlier, she was key to advancing the assault weapons ban in 1994. And as Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, she oversaw a multiyear investigation into the CIA’s torture practices and spoke about how the agency misled policymakers. Senator Feinstein is a force to be reckoned with, and many of her colleagues emphasized that when her retirement was announced. California Senator Alex Padilla said, you can’t tell the story of California politics or the story of American politics without the trailblazing career of Dianne Feinstein. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, Dianne Feinstein is a titan in the United States Senate with a record that stands among the finest in history. And California Governor Gavin Newsom referred to Feinstein as a, quote, “mentor and a powerful champion for California”. And I’m sure we will hear many more of these sentiments as Senator Feinstein serves out the next two years of her term.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. And I mean, we’ve looked back a little, but now I want to look ahead to 2024. I know there are a bunch of people who are vying for Senator Feinstein’s seat. Tell us more about who is running to replace her.
Juanita Tolliver: Right Priyanka this is a hot seat and we know that Representative Katie Porter wasted zero time throwing her hat into the ring in January, making a not so subtle call for fresh and new energy. Porter also released polling information that showed exactly how well-known and how competitive she will be in a statewide race. Representative Adam Schiff launched his campaign for the coveted Senate seat just weeks ago, and at least he was a little bit more deferential as he stated that he spoke to Senator Feinstein weeks before announcing his 2024 Senate bid. Schiff also enjoys the early endorsement of Nancy Pelosi. But we should also expect to hear a formal announcement from Representative Barbara Lee any second now, as you might remember. Last month, Representative Lee told members of the Congressional Black Caucus that she will be entering the race and I’m sure she won’t be the last candidate to participate in this wide open Senate race. But for now, these candidates can proceed without any caution or that weird awkwardness as the race officially kicks off. We’ll be sure to bring you more updates on California’s Senate race as it unfolds. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after a quick ad break. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: The first U.N. aid convoys have arrived in rebel controlled northwest Syria more than a week after a massive earthquake in neighboring Turkey rocked both countries. This comes after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to open two border crossings with Turkey to help deliver shipments of food, medicine and other supplies to people who have been impacted by the quake. The crossings will remain open for the next three months, and this is a huge deal because throughout the course of Syria’s civil war, Assad has only allowed aid deliveries in areas controlled by his own government. Meanwhile, the death toll from the earthquake continues to climb. As of Tuesday evening, more than 40,000 people in Turkey and Syria have died. The magnitude of this earthquake is just truly unimaginable.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. White House officials said yesterday that the three unidentified flying objects shot down in North American airspace over the weekend were likely used for commercial purposes and did not pose a threat to national security. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that U.S. intelligence officials do not believe the objects are tied to China’s spy balloon program. But he added that these are only their preliminary findings. Debris has yet to be collected or examined from any of the three objects because they were all shot down in remote locations. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials briefed senators on their findings behind closed doors yesterday. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said afterward that President Biden should share more information with the public, but it’s clear there’s no more information to share with the public.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. We will be staying tuned on that one.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s the hmm for me? [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know. What’s out there? And some good news from Washington. The Democratic led Senate confirmed President Biden’s 100th federal judge yesterday. They voted in Gina Méndez- Miró to serve as a U.S. district court judge for Puerto Rico. She is also the first openly LGBTQ American federal judge in the territory’s history. A lot to celebrate. That means the Biden administration is currently outpacing the number of judicial confirmations made during the Trump years. Keep it going. We want more. And they are also more diverse of Biden’s 100 nominees. 76 have been women and 68 have been people of color. We love it. Keep it going.
Juanita Tolliver: Count it, count it. [laughing] The Cherokee Nation, the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S., is set to use money it’s received from opioid settlements to build an $18 million dollar substance abuse treatment center for its citizens. Drug makers like Johnson and Johnson have paid the Cherokee Nation a total of $98 million dollars in recent years for their role in the opioid epidemic’s disproportionate impact on Native American communities. And now that money is being put to use by tribal governments. The facility will be built in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where the tribe is headquartered. It will provide drug treatment and prevention resources to citizens of the Cherokee Nation at no cost. According to tribal officials, this is just the first step in the nation’s plan to put its settlement money to use. Another 5 million will go toward an endowment fund to support Cherokees studying to become therapists and medical professionals in order to work at the facility. Another 73 million will go toward building more treatment facilities across the tribe’s reservation.
Priyanka Aribindi: What has happened here is tragic, but this is some really hopeful news and, you know, funding that will go to this community and hopefully help them rebuild.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: If you were watching the Super Bowl on Sunday and you were not expecting to go to church, you’re not alone. Two ads promoting Christianity that ran during the big game fueled speculation over who actually bankrolled the pricey TV spots. Because um we don’t know if Jesus was paying for his own ads. [laughter] It turns out the He Gets Us ads came from a subsidiary of the Kansas based nonprofit Servant Foundation. This is a group that, from 2018 to 2020, donated more than $50 million dollars to anti-abortion activism and anti LGBT legislation. So if you were one of those people saying that the Jesus ads won the Super Bowl, shut your fucking mouth. They did not. [laughter] And one of the major backers of the campaign is Hobby Lobby founder and billionaire David Greene, who has a long history of funding conservative causes. And while some evangelicals were split over whether the ads were biblically accurate, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this objectively accurate observation, quote, “Something tells me Jesus would not spend millions of dollars to make fascism look benign”.
Juanita Tolliver: Is this like a resurrection of what would Jesus do bracelets like? I feel like this is a moment.
Priyanka Aribindi: A little bit. A little bit. We didn’t sign up for it, but we’re here.
Juanita Tolliver: When it comes to best picture nominee, Black Panther, Wakanda Forever. It seems the French are how you say mad. France’s minister of armed forces, Sébastien Lecornu, took to Twitter this weekend to, quote, “strongly condemn the film for its depiction of French soldiers.” In the film, a group of French speaking soldiers dressed similarly to French troops deployed in Africa’s Sahel region are brought before the United Nations in Geneva after attempting to steal vibranium, a fictional rare metal from a Wakandan outpost in Mali. Lecornu condemned the representation, calling it false and deceptive. Out of respect for the French, we’d like to debunk a few more dangerous myths perpetuated by the Hollywood machine. One. Leo never drew any French girls, y’all. [laughing] Like period. Two, your girl, Emily. She’s not in Paris.
Priyanka Aribindi: Nope. [laugh]
Juanita Tolliver: And three, little rats are not the top chefs at the best Parisian restaurants.
Priyanka Aribindi: We’re calling bullshit on that.
Juanita Tolliver: I I I take issue with the third one.
Priyanka Aribindi: Nope, sorry I refuse to believe it.
Juanita Tolliver: When I tell you Ratatouille is pretty amazing. I did watch it this weekend. But let’s be real. I don’t want any mice on French cook’s heads.
Priyanka Aribindi: You mean, the documentary about French cuisine that is 100% fact. [laughing and clapping from Juanita] I’m sorry.
Juanita Tolliver: You are going to get Ratatouille banned from France at this rate.
Priyanka Aribindi: I uh came to the restaurant to have my meal cooked by a rat chef. So I don’t know what you’re talking about. [laughing] And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Debunk a superhero movie and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just the going rate for vibranium like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And Ratatouille is real.
Juanita Tolliver: Truly.
Priyanka Aribindi: Ugh.
Juanita Tolliver: Documentary beautifulness. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: Stunning. No notes. No notes. [laughter] A perfect film. M3gan and Ratatouille. Those are my two pics. [laughter]
Juanita Tolliver: 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 Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.