In This Episode
- Canadian police began arresting those who were part of the ongoing so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests, yesterday. It’s been almost a week since demonstrators blocked the Ambassador Bridge between the U.S. and Canada as an objection to vaccine mandates for truckers doing business across the border. We recap what led us to this moment.
- The U.S. has reduced its Ukrainian embassy to a skeleton crew and continues to draw down national guard troops stationed in Ukraine, in the likely scenario that Russia invades. Several world leaders have taken a turn trying to talk Vladimir Putin down, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, but none have dissuaded Russia’s leader in his quest to flex his old man muscles.
- And in headlines: Fully vaccinated Walmart employees will no longer have to wear masks while at work, Rudy Giuliani is expected to cooperate with the January 6th House committee, and Erin Jackson made Olympic history when she won the gold medal in the women’s 500-meter speed skate.
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, February 14th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, and this is What A Day where we’re challenging you to find us on the huge map of L.A. that everyone was dancing on during the Super Bowl halftime show.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I won’t say where we are on the map, but I will say that at one point in the show, we got stopped on by Kendrick Lamar.
Erin Ryan: Honestly, it was an honor.
Tre’vell Anderson: It was the best part of my life. On today’s show, tensions continue to mount over Ukraine. Plus a historic Olympic gold for American speed skater Erin Jackson.
Erin Ryan: Watching her win gold was incredible. Made me so happy. It was one of the best moments of the whole weekend. But first, yesterday, Canadian police began arresting demonstrators who were part of the ongoing so-called “freedom convoy”—freedom being used in a way that I don’t normally use it—protests that have been blocking the Ambassador Bridge, which is a vital border crossing to the United States between Ontario and Detroit. Tre’vell, can you recap what led us to this moment?
Tre’vell Anderson: Of course. So it’s been almost a week since the bridge has been blocked by folks in opposition to vaccine mandates for truckers doing business across the border. In that time, it’s affected an estimated $393 million a day in cross-border transactions, creating what Windsor, Ontario Mayor Drew Dilkens called quote, “a national economic crisis.” Yesterday’s arrests came only after the Ontario Superior Court ordered the protesters to leave last Friday, after the city and lawyers for auto parts makers successfully argued that the protest was not only disrupting the flow of the busiest border crossing to the U.S., but also forcing the auto industry on both sides to roll back production. As of yesterday afternoon, barricades remained in place, awaiting police and border agencies to formally reopen.
Erin Ryan: Yikes. And what was happening at the Ambassador Bridge is an offshoot of a broader anti-vax movement that began in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, a few weeks ago, where the New York Times reports little intervention has taken place thus far—I wonder why. What’s the latest there?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, on Saturday, the protests there featured thousands of supporters. But there was also a sizable group of counter-protesters. Over the last week, counter-protesters have been trolling the so-called freedom convoy using a walkie-talkie app called Zello to interrupt communications between protesters with the song “Ram Ranch” by Grant McDonald, which goes a little like this:
[song] “18 naked cowboys in the showers at Ram Ranch. Big hard driving [bleep], wanting to be sucked. 18 naked cowboys wanted to be [bleep]. Cowboys in the shower at Ram Ranch on their knees wanting to suck cowboy [bleep]. Ram ranch really, really rocks.
Erin Ryan: Oh, my goodness. I am not currently wearing pearls, but I feel like I should go run off to the nearest place to buy some so that I may clutch them.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, that song, in case you were wondering, was written by MacDonald after a Nashville radio station wouldn’t play LGBTQ-themed songs. He told Rolling Stone in an interview quote, “I’m just elated, totally elated that my song could be used to stand up for science.”
Erin Ryan: You know, I’m not a betting person, but I would bet that when MacDonald wrote that song, he wasn’t like, One day it will stand up for science. But, you know, life throws curveballs at you and you just got to take a swing at him. So what’s also been going on with the protesters’ fight for donations?
Tre’vell Anderson: So recently we also mentioned that GoFundMe took down a crowdfunding campaign meant to support the anti-vaxxers after it reached $10 million. That prompted the protesters to turn to the Boston-based GiveSendGo, which has decided not to adhere to a Canadian court order to freeze the 11 million Canadian dollars raised on the platform thus far. Meanwhile, TD Bank froze two personal accounts in which $1.1 million had been deposited to support protesters. But as we mentioned on a previous show, this protest has reverberated throughout Canada in at least a dozen cities, as well as overseas and Europe and New Zealand, because, like the coronavirus itself, ignorance is contagious. And speaking of New Zealand, authorities there have been blasting Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, as well as the Macarena in hopes of deterring anti-vax demonstrators outside their parliament.
Erin Ryan: You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about what music could be played to deter me from a protest. Like not that I would ever be one of the truckers out on the bridge, but if I were, what music would make me say, Oh, you know what? Not worth it. I got to get out here. And I honestly think radio hits from the Y2K era, which was when I was in high school and early college. It was bad. Everything but Outcast from that era was bad, and being reminded of how much I liked it would send me into a shame spiral and I would have to leave.
Tre’vell Anderson: What a tactic, OK?
Erin Ryan: I mean, it would be advanced, but it would be effective. While the truckin’ assholes protest loses steam, there’s another group that would give just about anything for access to the vaccine and that’s US parents of children under five. So I wanted to mention the news that on Friday, Pfizer announced that the long-hoped for COVID vaccine for wee ones was delayed yet again as the FDA wanted more information on a three-dose jab when Pfizer couldn’t present data that a two-dose jab would be effective. Reports had previously speculated that the shots could be rolled out for kids ages six months to five years as early as February 21st, but now that’s delayed at least two months. Pfizer now plans to submit data on a three-shot regimen in April.
Tre’vell Anderson: Sorry for all the parents out there, but I know you will figure out a way through this. So tell me, Erin, what’s this meant for parents? Because you’ve been hearing from your own circle of friends I hear.
Erin Ryan: Yeah, for parents of little kids, the inability to vaccinate them has meant a child care nightmare, and this kind of ongoing, never-ending hope and disappointment cycle that really can sort of break a person if it goes on for too long. Positive cases usually shut down daycare centers for at least a week, which leaves parents scrambling to balance work and family. I know my college friends group chat lit up with sadness the second it was announced because the last two years have been so hard on all of them. My friends are losing their damn minds, and as the parent of a three-month old baby, I’m not looking forward to the vaccine whiplash myself, but I guess I could start teaching her how to babysit herself.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, kids these days are super advanced, so I’m sure your child will pick up on it right away. So that’s the latest on vaccine protesters and the vaccine approval process for young kids. Erin, let’s turn now to Ukraine for an important update there.
Erin Ryan: Yeah, some more bleak news from Ukraine. The U.S. has reduced its Ukrainian embassy to a skeleton crew and continues to draw down National Guard troops stationed in the country in the likely scenario that Russia invades. President Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday that the U.S. will have Ukraine’s back in the event of a Russian invasion. This came after an hour-long phone call between Biden and Vladimir Putin, which led to no progress over the weekend. And that further escalated tensions that have been building for years, but have kicked into high gear in recent weeks when Russia has executed military exercises along the border and amassed 130,000 troops on three sides of Ukraine.
Tre’vell Anderson: Joe Biden talks to Vladimir Putin on the phone more than I talk to my own mother, which either says a lot about them or says a lot about me.
Erin Ryan: You know what? We are the not-talking-on-the-phone generation. But to be fair, my mother and probably your mother is rarely on the verge of kicking off the largest European military skirmish in decades. You know, you have to keep your mom’s close, but you’re Vladimir Putin’s closer.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Erin Ryan: Anyway, according to The Washington Post, officials say an invasion may be imminent, which is to put it lightly not ideal. Several world leaders have taken a turn trying to talk Putin down, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. But none have dissuaded Russia’s leader in his quest to flex his old man muscles. This week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet Putin in Moscow. Some observers say that Germany’s close economic ties to Russia might raise the stakes for the country’s longtime leader. But Putin is standing firm on his demand that Ukraine be permanently banned from joining NATO, which is something that NATO leaders won’t agree to. So as always, we’ll keep bringing you the latest on the situation in Ukraine, and that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Olympic organizers have been pumping out machine-made snow for the last two weeks to set the mood for the Winter Games. But yesterday, Mother Nature finally decided to get off her steadily warming ass and help them out. Real snow fell in Beijing over the weekend, prompting Chinese officials to issue a blizzard warning amid high winds and heavy snowfall. But the snow, real or human-made, didn’t stop American speed skater Erin Jackson from making history when she took home the gold in the women’s 500-meter race. Would they finish time of 37 seconds, Jackson became the first Black woman to win an individual medal in her sport. Jackson’s win comes after she almost missed her chance to compete in the games. The world-renowned speed skater had slipped during the qualifying trials last month, but one of her teammates, Brittany Bowe, gave up her own spot on Team USA so that Jackson could compete. After crossing the finish line, Jackson told reporters quote, “I cried immediately. It was just a big release of emotion, a lot of shock, a lot of relief and a lot of happiness.”
Erin Ryan: Tre’vell, can I confess something to you right now?
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s do it.
Erin Ryan: OK, so I turned on the Olympics this weekend and I saw the blizzard conditions that were happening during a skiing event and I thought, Wow, the Chinese are really committed to their fake winter. I thought it was part of the fake winter, but then real winter came in anyway. I need to get with the program. Vaccinated workers at Walmart will get to roll back their masks effective immediately. The company announced in a memo on Friday that employees who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to wear masks while at work unless it is required under local or state rules. Last week, a number of states announced their own plans to ease mask restrictions—it makes sense that they’d inspire an announcement from America’s unofficial 51st state: District of Walmart Supercenter. Unvaccinated employees will still have to wear masks until further notice, and face coverings will also be required for workers in departments like pharmacies and other clinical care settings. You know, places you wouldn’t want people coughing on your stuff. Walmart also said in its memo that vaccinated workers can still mask up if they please, writing quote, “We support and respect an individual’s choice to continue wearing one.” Walmart is the nation’s largest private retailer, so this change affects about 1.6 million employees in the U.S.. The company was also an early adopter of mandated masks back in 2020.
Tre’vell Anderson: Everyone’s getting rid of mask mandates. Why not Walmart as well? The creature that appears when you say Dominion Voting Systems three times in the mirror, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is expected to cooperate with the January 6th House Committee. The panel subpoenaed Giuliani last month, and over the weekend, The New York Times reported that he is in talks with them about testifying, unlike several other members of Trump’s inner circle who have refused to comply with subpoenas. On CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, GOP representative and committee member Adam Kinzinger said this:
[clip of Rep. Adam Kinzinger] We fully expect that in accordance with the law, we’ll hear from Rudy. But look, regardless of when we hear from Rudy or how long that interview is, we’re getting a lot of information.
Tre’vell Anderson: Giuliani is still working out when he will speak to the committee, but if that actually happens, this could be a real turning point in the investigation. The panel said that Giuliani quote, “actively promoted claims of election fraud on behalf of the former President and sought to convince state legislators to take steps to overturn the election results.” That’s a pretty impressive resume, but Rudy’s agents would be mad if we didn’t also mention that he starred in Borat 2.
Erin Ryan: You know what? I’m a little bit mad that Rudy Giuliani was snubbed in the Oscar nominations for his supporting role in Borat 2.
Tre’vell Anderson: He’ll get it next time. It’ll be fine.
Erin Ryan: He’ll get it next time. I hope so, because it was egregious. In a classic case of mistaken rocket identity, it has now been discovered that the rocket on track to hit the Moon next month does not belong to Space X, Elon Musk’s aerospace company. The astronomer who’s been following the rocket since 2015, Bill Gray, ID’ed it as a space ship last month, but revised his theory yesterday in a blog post. While a number of factors had led him to believe the rocket was one of Elon’s, NASA eventually sent him data that disproved his theory. Gray is now quote, “fairly convinced” it’s a leftover piece of an old Chinese rocket that launched in 2014, a scenario that wasn’t even on his radar before because of how China tends to keep its space missions under wraps. Whatever the object may be, it’s face-to-face day with the Moon is still set for March 4th. Sadly, that’s well before Tom Cruise is expected to shoot his big movie in space, otherwise, it’s basically a given that he’d be able to kick, punch, or shoot it off its trajectory. And he would do it himself because he does his own stunts.
Tre’vell Anderson: What a real movie star. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Erin Ryan: They don’t make them like they used to. He broke his ankle doing that stunt on that Mission Impossible movie, which is a thing that every straight guy in the theater told whoever they were with when it happened. I witnessed it.
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, punch space trash to defend in the Moon, and tell your friends to listen.
Erin Ryan: And if you’re into reading and not just corrected Oscar nominations that include Rudy Giuliani like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Erin Ryan.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Both: And put us on more maps!
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Erin Ryan: No. Fewer maps. I don’t want people to know where I am. Take me off the map.
Tre’vell Anderson: Hiding out. Yes, don’t do it.
Erin Ryan: We’ve never been anywhere and we’re never going anywhere, and that’s how we’re going to keep it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Sounds like a pandemic. Love story.
Gideon Resnick: 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.