In This Episode
- The GOP-led Florida state legislature gave the final stamps of approval to a pair of proposals on Thursday. The first redraws Florida’s Congressional voting map in a way that would eliminate two majority Black districts. The other revokes Disney Corporation’s special tax status around Disney World.
- In headlines: The U.S. will provide $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, the Supreme Court ruled that residents of Puerto Rico aren’t eligible for some federal aid programs, and CNN+ announced its closure.
- We also talk with Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt, the hosts of Crooked’s “Hot Take,” to discuss how Earth Day got away from its origins in protest and activism.
- Crooked’s “Hot Take” – https://crooked.com/podcast-series/hot-take/
- The “Hot Take” Newsletter – https://www.hottakepod.com/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, April 22nd. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, and this is What A Day where we are cutting down on our carbon footprint by continuing to work from home, no matter what anyone tells us.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, in honor of Earth Day, I am staging a sit-in on my couch
Erin Ryan: And my butt sends solidarity from my couch.
Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, the hosts of Crooked’s “Hot Take” are fed up with the green washing of Earth Day.
Amy Westervelt: I would love to see Earth Day become a day of massive protest, versus a day of massive consumption.
Tre’vell Anderson: Plus, CNN Plus is getting subtracted from existence.
Erin Ryan: But first, we’re talking about Florida once again due to their governor’s nutjob histrionics. On Thursday, the GOP-led Florida State Legislature gave their final stamp of approval to a pair of proposals. The first redraws Florida’s congressional voting map in a way that would eliminate two majority Black districts and lock in a Republican supermajority for their congressional delegation. All signs point to this being very bad. The other revokes Disney Corporation’s special tax status in the state. The effects of this one are a little less clear, but it’s fair to say that Republican elected officials are using the power of the state to retaliate against a private business that didn’t break any laws—probably sets a bad precedent. Both proposals are now headed to Governor Ron DeSantis desk. He’s expected to sign them because they were his idea.
Tre’vell Anderson: Of course they were, and of course, it is a whole bunch of foolishness and absurd. So the fuckery has accelerated so fast that state experts are still trying to figure out what this could mean for the local economy. Can you walk us through that?
Erin Ryan: Sure. So here’s the quick and dirty: Walt Disney World and the other five resorts Disney runs outside of Orlando operate as a special tax district known as Reedy Creek. The company’s status means that it’s responsible for things like its own fire department, but also that it doesn’t need to wade through local government red tape to do things like get permits to build roads or haunted mansions or space mountains. You need a permit to build a space mountain in Miami, is what I’m saying. The state of Florida is now poised to revoke that special status in retaliation for Disney pausing political donations in light of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay Law.
Tre’vell Anderson: So Florida is probably one of the most petty states, maybe. Because this is absurd and it doesn’t make any sense and yet they’re doing it anyway.
Erin Ryan: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: But tell me, what does all of this even mean?
Erin Ryan: I mean, taking a step back from this and being like, Yes, and so the governor of America’s third most populous state is in a fight with Goofy because he doesn’t want a third grader in Dade County to know that sometimes Heather has two mommies. And that’s where we’re at. It is patently absurd. But this is where we are. So it almost certainly means that taxes will go up for the Floridians who live in the areas surrounding Reedy Creek. This during a time when inflation is already bad and the government of Florida has done nothing to help out with the state’s still-growing affordable housing crisis. One CNBC report says that the move could saddle local taxpayers with more than a billion in bond debt—that is a lot of dollars. It also notes that local governments now might have to find money to provide the services that Disney used to pay for itself. It also means that DeSantis is publicly taking on his state’s largest employer and one of its largest drivers of tourism during a reelection year. But beyond that, nobody knows yet what the final impacts will be, if any, on Florida’s or Disney’s bottom line. Although Disney’s stock price did end the day down 2%. Now this bill won’t take effect until June of next year either, so it could be undone if DeSantis and Mickey kiss and make up—gross.
Tre’vell Anderson: We can only hope that they kiss and make up!
Erin Ryan: I don’t want DeSantis to kiss anybody. Kissing releases oxytocin, and I don’t want him to experience joy.
Tre’vell Anderson: That is understandable. But on days like today, I feel bad for Texas Governor Greg Abbott. He doesn’t have any Disney World or Disney Lands to attack.
Erin Ryan: Oh, if he had them to invade, he would. But you need a reliable electric power grid to operate a theme park that big and Texas doesn’t have the range.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely does not have the rage. OK, so onto that bill about gerrymandering. That led to some tense moments on the floor of the state’s legislature.
Erin Ryan: Yes, this is probably the more aggressively evil of Florida’s two new proposals, the one that redraws Florida’s voting districts. The new map would eliminate two majority Black districts entirely, and could hand Republicans four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives during this fall’s midterms. As you know, Democratic majority is already razor thin. Democrats in the state legislature were so outraged by the proposed new map that three of them staged a sit-in on the legislative floor yesterday. Here’s that moment:.
[yells, and claps].
Erin Ryan: We got a chance to talk with Democratic State Representative Fentrice Driskell, who stood in solidarity with those protesters, and she explained why this matters.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell: We only do redistricting once every 10 years, it affects Florida’s nearly 22 million residents, and it was cutting Black representation in Florida’s congressional districts by half, so it was a really big deal. I think it was kind of like a perfect storm of all those factors.
Tre’vell Anderson: And by a perfect storm, they mean a whole lot of foolishness. OK?
Erin Ryan: Yeah. I mean, Florida knows perfect storms. They get hit with them from time to time. But politically? Perfect storm. Representative Driskell also described the map as unconstitutional and vows that it will be challenged in court. So we’ll be watching out for that. And despite the daunting task ahead, she and other Democrats fighting an uphill battle in Florida have hope for their state’s future.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell: There was prayer that happened today on the middle of the House floor. You know, I know the cameras were cut off and you didn’t get to see that, but it was peaceful. There were singing of hymns, where we’re really just trying to pray for the soul of our state and to get it back on track.
Erin Ryan: So that’s your update on Florida’s foolishness.
Tre’vell Anderson: Lots and lots and lots of foolishness. More on all of this very soon. But that’s the latest for now. Let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: An update on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed victory over Mariupol yesterday, saying that Moscow has quote unquote, “liberated” most of the embattled Ukrainian city. While President Vladimir Putin called the attack on Mariupol a quote unquote, “success” on Thursday, the US rejected this claim and said Ukrainian forces still held some ground in the city. Also yesterday, President Biden announced that the U.S. will provide an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, as well as $500 million to the Ukrainian government. This comes after Russia announced a new phase of its invasion earlier this week by targeting the eastern region of Ukraine. In his remarks, Biden said this:
[clip of President Biden] Our unity with our allies and partners and our unity with the Ukrainian people is sending an unmistakable message to Putin. He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine. That will not happen.
Tre’vell Anderson: Biden also announced that the U.S. is set to ban Russian ships from American ports as further punishment for Moscow’s actions.
Erin Ryan: The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories don’t have a constitutional right to some federal aid programs. Specifically, they’re not eligible for Supplemental Security Income, a program for folks who are over 65 years old, blind, or disabled. The ruling faced immediate backlash from Puerto Ricans over how it will hurt the territory’s most vulnerable citizens. For context, Puerto Rico residents are exempt from most federal income taxes, but they do pay federal payroll taxes that go towards things like Medicare and Social Security. So the decision to exclude them from this specific federal aid program was not well received. Legal analysts also worry that the ruling will open the door for Congress to exclude U.S. territories from other federal benefits when they already lack representation in the legislative body. The Supreme Court vote was nearly unanimous, with eight justices voting in favor. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, was the lone dissenter. In her dissent, she said quote, “There is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens living anywhere in the United States so differently from others.” Why is she the only good Supreme Court justice right now?
Tre’vell Anderson: Because she is one of the only rational ones that we have there.
Erin Ryan: Thank goodness for her. Honestly.
Tre’vell Anderson: Advocates are calling for a halt to the planned execution of Melissa Lucio, who received the death penalty in Texas following a murder conviction that many now believe was made in error. Lucio was convicted of killing her two-year old daughter in 2007. She confessed to the crime after officers used a controversial interrogation technique that critics say often produces false confessions. In her trial, prosecutors withheld evidence that likely would have swayed the jury, including testimonies from Lucille’s other children who said she had never been abusive. Considered all together, Lucio’s lawyers say the evidence supports the conclusion that her daughter fell and was the victim of an accidental death. Lucio’s execution is scheduled for April 27, and her attorneys are calling on Texas Governor Greg Abbott for clemency. In more positive news about our terrible justice system: a federal judge in Illinois has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, must provide gender-affirming surgery to a transgender woman named Cristina Nicole Iglesias, who is currently incarcerated in Florida. As you can imagine, this victory didn’t come easily, with the GOP refusing to cooperate with years of requests from Iglesias. According to the ACLU, she is now expected to be the first-ever federal prisoner to receive gender-affirming surgery.
Erin Ryan: That is a small sliver of good news amid a lot of bad news.
Tre’vell Anderson: We get one every now and again.
Erin Ryan: I know, I know. We’ve got to accept the crumbs and be like, Yes, more crumbs are coming. Another streamer has gone the way of Quibi, putting hundreds of journalists, producers, engineers, and programmers out of work. The newly-launched platform “CNN-Plus” announced its closure yesterday, following a launch that cost its parent company nearly $100 million. CNN-Plus will shut down on April 30th, just one month after its March 29th debut. The move has been framed as a casualty of the merger between Discovery Inc and CNN’s old parent company, WarnerMedia. Once Discovery’s leadership took over a couple of weeks ago, they decided that CNN-Plus was a bad idea, and the platform’s low viewership didn’t help. According to the New York Times, the number of people using the service was consistently below 10,000.
Tre’vell Anderson: Which is nothing.
Erin Ryan: Ugh, all that work, all those people, so little payoff. Well, you know, there’s a certain Jake Tapper-minded news consumer whose appetite for CNN is insatiable, but part of the issue was that the content from CNN’s cable channel couldn’t be accessed on CNN-Plus. Due to non-compete deals with cable distributors the app could only feature original shows along with previously-aired CNN documentaries and specials. CNN hired 700 people for its launch, and according to The Washington Post, 350 of them are likely to be laid off—that is so many jobs. That sucks.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.
Erin Ryan: Corporate mergers aside, there may be others who have streaming app blood on their hands. Some have pointed to the consulting firm McKinsey, which closely advised CNN executives leading up to the launch.
Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, the writings were on the wall maybe.
Erin Ryan: Who could have guessed? Who could have guessed a bunch of MBAs with no media experience would have bad advice to give to a giant media company.
Tre’vell Anderson: And now, 350people are out of a job.
Erin Ryan: Terrible. What a waste.
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. Coming up, we talk about Earth Day with the hosts of Crooked’s Hot Take, and how it got away from its origins in protest and activism.
Mary Annaise Heglar: In my experience, Earth Day never felt like anything for me.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s coming up after some ads.
Tre’vell Anderson: Happy Earth Day, WAD squad. Today, we’re going to wrap up with a little history lesson about how this annual occasion came to be, and also how to get it back to its roots in protest.
Erin Ryan: Yeah. Tre’vell, how and why was Earth Day first created in 1970—and under Richard Nixon, may we add?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so it took a major environmental disaster. In 1969, one of the worst oil spills ever took place off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Three million barrels of oil leaked out into the ocean, and it was so troubling that folks were mobilized to seriously consider our impact on the planet in such a way. The next year, 1970, environmental activists organized the first Earth Day and an estimated 20 million people participated across the country. It was the largest planned demonstration in American history.
Erin Ryan: But if we’re being honest, Earth Day was and still is kind of problematic. Why?
Tre’vell Anderson: A little bit of problematic—maybe a lot of problematic. Mainly because some of the most important people were and continue to be left out: people of color, people who are statistically hurt the most by climate change and pollution. So, Erin, earlier this week, I got into what Earth Day has become with Mary Annaise Heglar and Amy Westervelt, the hosts of Crooked’s Hot Take. Their very first episode of Season 2 and on the Crooked’s network is out today with the amazing, unreal title: The Real F&#!bois of Fossil Fuel.
Erin Ryan: I would listen to an entire season of that.
Tre’vell Anderson: It is so good.
Erin Ryan: Oh, my gosh.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s so good. And we will get more into that title in a bit. But I started off by asking Mary why Earth Day might not be so great.
Mary Annaise Heglar: Earth Day from its roots was modeled on the civil rights movement, so that demonstration that you describe in Santa Barbara was modeled on the freedom schools of Mississippi. It was all about putting the blame for environmental degradation on the corporations who caused the damage. So actually, at its roots, Earth Day is pretty fucking cool. It’s sort of what it sort of turned into later on—in my experience, Earth Day never felt like anything for me as a Black woman, as a person from the South. It felt like this very hippie dippy sort of thing that I felt very much excluded from. Like I would go to Earth Day events and it was never like a protest and it sort of just seemed like a whole bunch of people who didn’t have any problems. And I couldn’t relate.
Amy Westervelt: I don’t know. I would say the biggest bummer to me about Earth Day in the last 20 years is just that it’s become a total consumer holiday. It would be cool to see Earth Day actually returning to a social justice-focused protest against what these companies are doing and how they’re really using resources that belong to all of us and abusing resources that belong to all of us.
Tre’vell Anderson: Amy, I want to ask you, Dennis Hayes, who was one of the main organizers of the original Earth Day, looked back on that first day and told the BBC that that was when Congress began taking it seriously. And then over the next decade, it passed all of this legislation aimed at cleaning up the nation’s air, water, and other natural resources. But tell me, where did all of that progress, all of that energy seem to go after that point?
Amy Westervelt: In the year that Earth Day happened you have the EPA forming, you have the Clean Air Act passing, the Clean Water Act. You got the government really starting to move on a lot of policy. And then you get the oil crisis of the 1970s, which has everybody freaking out about the price of gas—sounds familiar to what we’re dealing with today. So, yeah, I feel like every time we start to make progress on this stuff, like even during the oil crisis in the ’70s, there was this huge momentum behind renewable energy, and the oil companies were doing a lot of research on climate change, and all these things and then you get to the end of that decade and you had the ’80s and you’ve got a glut of gas, so prices are coming down. Oil companies are saying, Oh no, we’re not making enough money, how do we, you know, make this all work? And then you have Reagan coming in with a bunch of pro-corporate anti-regulation policies. So you see in the ’80s and ’90s this big swing against the social movements of the ’60s and ’70s.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, Mary, when Earth Day came around back in the day, the U.S. was entrenched in a Cold War with Russia, a pretty hot war with Vietnam. Today, Russia is doing what it’s doing in Ukraine—we all see that. One major impact of war is environmental destruction. I’m wondering if you can walk us through why times of war, right, are so bad for the environment.
Mary Annaise Heglar: Those bombs are not clean. Right? Like there’s a lot of carbon that comes from bombs. There is no war that’s not fueled by fossil fuels. There is the emissions from the actual war games, and oil can play a unique type of role in different types of wars. It plays a different type of role in the Russia-Ukraine situation than it did in Iraq. In that case, like, people want to go get someone else’s oil. And in the case of Russia, Russia is so powerful because it has so much oil.
Amy Westervelt: The one thing that we’re seeing now is just how much it’s being used as an excuse to double down on fossil fuels. There’s all these things that are being proposed as sort of short-term fixes to the Russia gas situation that are going to lock us into fossil fuel infrastructure for at least another decade.
Tre’vell Anderson: Amy, you already mentioned how companies now regularly use this annual celebration as a way to like, promote their green products and services, which just turns them into like these greenwashing campaigns. Can you explain a little bit of the disinformation that’s attached to Earth Day,’ and really everyday life for us?
Amy Westervelt: There is just an endless kind of stream of greenwashing bullshit right now, starting with, you know, the oil companies ‘net zero’ claims, which don’t mean anything. Like that term doesn’t mean anything. I mean, there’s reports coming out all the time showing that the fossil fuel companies are underreporting their emissions. I think this is like a really critical subtlety of the whole like, individual versus systemic action debate that comes up in the climate space a lot. People have a lot of power around kind of pushing for better policies and better behavior from companies. I mean, even protest, that’s an individual action, like get out in the streets, you know? I would love to see Earth Day become a day of massive protest versus a day of massive consumption.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mary, looking ahead to the future of combating climate change, just last week Four H and the Harris poll published a survey that said 8% of teens believe climate change needs to be addressed now. We always talk about how you know, the children are the future and all of that. I’m wondering if you think Gen Z will help spark real change as it relates to climate change discussions.
Mary Annaise Heglar: I think Gen Z already has done that. They’ve done remarkable, remarkable work. I don’t take that as a sign of hope. I take that as an indictment on the previous generations, but in particular, the previous generations of politicians—who unfortunately are actually still in power. We say the children are the future, but what we need to start saying is that the children deserve a future. And it’s just criminal that Gen Z has had to carry the burden that they have had. And I think, you know, people like to say that the kids are all right—they’re not! How on earth could they be? Are you? Who is? Them kids are not OK and they deserve help.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.
[speaker] Yeah, it’s depressing.
Tre’vell Anderson: Before I let you all go, I need to talk about this title of your very first episode of this season, of your show. I want to know who are some of the real fuckbois of fossil fuels, who do we need to be talking about and paying attention to Amy?
Amy Westervelt: Well, I think the king fuckboi that we name in this episode is ExxonMobil.
Mary Annaise Heglar: Spoiler alert! I don’t know. I don’t know. Exxon still hasn’t won my vote is the worst one yet. I still, it’s just BP brings something out of me viscerally.
Amy Westervelt: That’s her oil bae. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar: But wait. Tell them why Exxon topped your list for the episode.
Amy Westervelt: Oh, because Exxon is the one that’s most like, Yeah, I’m a fuckboi, what? Like, that’s their whole attitude about everything. In some ways, I respect, I’m kind of like they do not pretend to be like on top of climate. They like, make fun of other oil companies for having that [unclear].
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, what I love about just this little exchange here is that y’all are making these climate change discussions really interesting and fun. And for me, as someone who typically this isn’t my thing, I’m interested to listen to the podcast and I hope everyone else is as well. Thank you both for joining us, Mary and Amy. Be sure to check out Hot Take Season 2 wherever you get your podcasts.
Amy Westervelt: Thank you.
Mary Annaise Heglar: Thank you.
Tre’vell Anderson: And Erin, that was my conversation with Mary Annaise Heglar and Amy Westervelt, the hosts of Crooked’s Hot Take. Be sure to check out new episodes that drop every Friday wherever you get your podcasts. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, go green but for real, and tell your friends to listen.
Erin Ryan: And if you are into reading, and not just signs that Earth Day protests 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.
[together] And we’ll miss you, CNN-Plus.
Tre’vell Anderson: We hardly knew Ye.
Erin Ryan: I didn’t even know it had launched.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, now you don’t need to have known.
Erin Ryan: I will miss the anticipation of thinking it was about to launch, when in fact it already had.
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.