In This Episode
- President Biden’s previous plan to combat crime by tightening the reins on gun sales and empowering the DOJ to target firearm traffickers has got a major update. He suggested states use $350 billion from the COVID relief plan to hire more police officers and strengthen crime prevention programs.
- Democratic state representatives from Texas went to Washington D.C. to break quorum and apply more federal pressure to pass voting rights legislation. A great escape like this hasn’t happened since 2003 when Democrats were stopping a redistricting proposal, and it’s unclear how Republicans might retaliate in this current case.
- And in headlines: Cubans protest for food and vaccines, England’s Black soccer players face racism, and Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence’s kids are Instagram-official.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, July 13th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast that received a 15-minute standing ovation at Cannes.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and that’s pretty amazing because that means the applause went almost as long as the podcast.
Gideon Resnick: Importantly, I just want to say it was only one person clapping. It was a guy driving near the film festival in his car.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. He was really going for the record, we stan. On today’s show, Texas Democrats flee the state to try to stop voter restrictions from passing. Plus, we’ll have headlines.
Gideon Resnick: But first, the latest:
[clip of President Biden] We recognize that we have to come together to fulfull the first responsibility of democracy: to keep each other safe. And that’s what the American people are looking for when it comes to reducing violent crime and gun violence. And I think this truth is illustrative of what we need to get put together.
Akilah Hughes: So that’s President Biden yesterday presiding over a meeting with people like Attorney General Merrick Garland, New York Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams, and more to pitch his plan to tackle crime and gun violence.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it’s a plan that he introduced late last month, which included empowering the ATF to better track guns that flow across state lines and funding community programs. But what appears to be new from yesterday is that Biden also wants to refund the police?
Akilah Hughes: Yes. So he wants states to spend $350 billion passed as part of the COVID relief package on things like hiring more police officers. So there’s this perception that there is more crime happening right now, but it’s complicated. So on the one hand, a May report by the Council on Criminal Justice said homicide rates spiked last summer. Then at the beginning of 2021, those rates declined in most places. But Gideon, if you take the long view of the stats, Americans overall are way less likely to be killed now in 2021 than they were in the 90s.
Gideon Resnick: That is good, to me at least.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it seems like best case. And the homicide rate across big cities is still close to half what it was just a quarter century ago. So up-to-date crime data won’t be available until September, which makes it hard to say for sure. But that hasn’t stopped a wave of media coverage about how scary and dangerous the U.S. currently is. And that news might be why Biden was forced to seem more tough on crime by calling for yesterday’s meeting.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it definitely also plays out on a local level. That issue and perception of crime, which can differ, is clearly important to voters. At least that’s what came up in some conversations around the New York mayoral race when I was having those. And Eric Adams, as you mentioned, a former police captain, just won the Democratic nomination in that race, in part by steering directly into this issue.
Akilah Hughes: That’s true. And it’s clear that Biden is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. So on the one hand, progressive voters who are the future of the party aren’t excited to see more money flow to police organizations, and they also see half steps on gun control as a loss. And on the other hand, people are voting on this issue and they’re clearly voting with more centrist views in mind. So while we want Biden to be a beacon of progress and actually reforming systems, yesterday he advocated giving a big blank check to police without strongly talking about police reform either. And police departments across the country have refused to reform themselves this whole time. So I’m prepared to be wrong, but it seems like the only problem he’s actually solving is getting his own poll numbers up regarding crime, because right now they’re in the toilet. An ABC poll from earlier this month found that just 38% of adults approve of how he’s handling this issue. So that’s his major announcement. I know that the survivors of all these mass shootings we keep having would love a more detailed plan on how to stop the madness, but I guess we’ll have to keep waiting. Turning now to some state political news, Gideon. Last week, we talked about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calling this special session of the state legislature to pass a number of bills, including voting restrictions. But there’s been a big turn in the story. So what’s going on?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is pretty crazy. So yesterday, most of Texas’s Democratic lawmakers actually got up and left the state. They are out of there. At least 51 out of the 67 Democratic reps in the legislature flew from Austin to D.C. yesterday afternoon without booking a return flight. Very dramatic in a cool way. The intent here is to break quorum. So their absence means that when the Texas House reconvenes today, there will not be enough members to actually conduct House business per the rules. And this is basically a more extreme version of the walkout that these Democrats staged in late May to block a prior bill from passing. CBS Austin caught up with one Democrat before he boarded a chartered plane to D.C. Here’s Representative Trey Martinez Fischer.
[clip of Tx Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer] We’re fighting for our democracy. We’re using every tool in our toolbox. And when Republicans get real and they want to be pragmatic and they want to have a real discussion about voting rights in America, we’re happy to have that talk. But if they want to silence our voices, suppress the vote across the state, then we’re going to stand up and we’re going to fight. We’re going to fight back. And that’s what we’re doing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. The New York Times actually caught up with some of those Republicans in the state legislature who dismissed the whole move as, quote unquote “political theater.” That has written a number of ways. But it does speak to the fact that much of this comes down to delay tactics here, given how Republicans just dominate the legislature in Texas.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, absolutely. It seems like a lot of just, you know, passing the buck. And has something like this actually happened before, you know, like Texas lawmakers skipping town who aren’t named Ted Cruz?
Gideon Resnick: [laughs] He is the major example, but there is one other example. In fact, there was a whole incident in 2003 where Texas Rangers and state troopers were dispatched to go and find a group of Democrats who were effectively on the lam, I guess. At the time they were looking to stop a redistricting proposal and there were all these great anecdotes about finding them in a Denny’s in Oklahoma, etc. and so forth. Very buddy comedy elements there. We have a link to an old story on it in our show notes. But with the Democrats who have fled the state at this moment, officials are able to seek out legislators and bring them back to the Capitol if they remain in Texas. But once they leave, that jurisdiction ends. Though Abbott recently reportedly said they would be arrested when they got back.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and these Democrats that are using this tactic also made the point to turn this back to the federal government and pressure federal lawmakers to pass voting rights protections finally. So what response have we seen so far?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so those state Democrats reportedly met, or are going to meet with some Democrats in D.C., but it’s sort of unclear if that is going to end up including a White House visit. The AP talked to some White House officials who say there are no current plans for that at this time. However, here’s Vice President Kamala Harris talking about their efforts before they boarded their flights yesterday.
[clip of VP Harris] I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans and all Texans, to express their voice through their vote unencumbered.
Gideon Resnick: And today, Biden is going to go to Philadelphia to deliver a big speech on voting rights. That follows major activist pressure on the administration. So that’s yet another part of the agenda that is taking shape in addition to gun violence this week.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and there is some mounting frustration from civil rights leaders, activists and more, feeling that the White House has been somewhat passive on voting rights.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, just a few days ago, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a major Biden ally, told Politico that the president should support a kind of carve out for the filibuster on election reform. He said that should a pair of voting rights bills not reach the president’s desk, quote, “Democrats can kiss the majority goodbye.” Yeah. We’ll keep you up to speed on all of this, what the president has to say today, and the next moves for Texas Democrats. But that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and today we are doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. In Minnesota, local officials are dealing with a problem every community dreads: overgrown goldfish in lakes and ponds that are allegedly the size of footballs. Goldfish make good house pets, but when their owners dump them in natural waterways, they can outcompete native species and churn up bottom sediments and uproot plants. Freed from the confines of their tanks, they can grow away as much as four pounds and measure over a foot long. And removing populations of huge invasive goldfish can be costly, with one county in Washington saying in 2018 de-goldfishing one lake would cost them $150,000. So for the problem of wild giant goldfish, here is the solution:
Akilah Hughes: OK, so we need to create the world’s first fish influencer that is very body negative to set unrealistic standards of beauty for the huge goldfish. The destructive power of filters, Photoshop and bewitched camera angles has been well-documented in the human community, getting inside everyone’s head and making us think our bodies need to be smaller in some places and bigger in others. So far, these tactics have never been used to manipulate goldfish. And of course, no innocent sea creature who wants to eat plants and make kissy faces all day deserves to be subject to the same pressures as anyone who unlucky enough to have an Instagram account. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and football goldfish are the definition of desperate times. By introducing a goldfish influencer who is constantly going viral for their ads promoting weight-loss fish teas, we can pressure oversize goldfish to get smaller, or at the very least make them so sad that they’re less likely to reproduce. This approach will require us to drop tons of mirrors in the lakes and rivers where the huge goldfish live, so they are always looking at themselves, like their human peers. It will also require us to develop the technology that allows fish to use and understand cell phones. It won’t be easy, but no good solution ever is. And if it doesn’t make the fish smaller, we’ll at least have created a successful fish influencer who can sign lucrative endorsement deals with Fish Fashion Nova.
Gideon Resnick: That was the solution. We’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Thousands of people in Cuba came out yesterday and over the weekend to participate in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations the country has ever seen. Cuban authorities shut down Internet yesterday afternoon in response. Dissatisfaction with food shortages and high prices in the middle of a nationwide COVID surge led protesters to demand change from their government. The country is going through one of its worst economic crises, a consequence of decades of U.S. sanctions and trade embargoes, most recently imposed under the Trump administration. A White House official expressed the Biden’s administration’s support for the protesters. But Cuban officials and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded, saying the US should end its economic embargo of Cuba if it really wanted to help its people.
Akilah Hughes: Black players on England’s national football team faced a storm of racist messages and posts online following the team’s loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final. Police investigations revealed that a majority of the abuse came from abroad. But it’s hard to believe when English fans boo the players whenever they take a knee in solidarity against racial discrimination. Prince William publicly condemned the violent slurs, but many people online were quick to point out the hypocrisy of his defense of the royal family when his sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, opened up about the racism that she experienced in Buckingham Palace. England’s Football Association said in a statement yesterday that the racist backlash from fans was disgusting and that social media companies need to step up and take accountability for abuse on their platforms. Hear, hear.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yeah. When, is the question. In Detroit yesterday, some of the most creative minds in the field of voting machine fanfiction got some credit for their work. A federal court held a hearing on whether to impose sanctions on Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others over their involvement in baseless voter fraud lawsuits in the state following last year’s presidential election. The judge in the case expressed heavy skepticism of the voter fraud claims, and a lawyer representing the city of Detroit said the lies the pro-Trump team spread helped incite the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. You know, like any legal scholar of integrity, Lin Wood defended himself by saying he actually wasn’t involved in the Michigan voter fraud lawsuit, despite everything in our physical world indicating that he was, including, for one, his name on court documents and previous statements he himself has made. According to Politico, the judge’s tone indicated that at least some sanctions for the pro-Trump lawyers are likely. Those could include a legal disbarment in the state of Michigan.
Akilah Hughes: Man. Fuck around and find out. All right, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence are collaborating on an exciting new project: romantic Love, between two of their adult children. Murphy’s son, Eric, and Laurence’s daughter, Jasmine are in an Instagram-official relationship, with Jasmine posting to celebrate Eric’s birthday this weekend. This couple has enough box office power in their DNA to immediately end the era of nonstop superhero movies and bring back big-budget comedies about weird teachers and police officers. No pressure. But based on simple genetics, their child would have what it takes to make America laugh within days of leaving the neonatal unit. Congratulations to the happy couple and their hilarious dads. At WAD we want to go on the record as being extremely anti-eugenics, but extremely pro-comedy, superbaby hybridization. You know, we have to.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we’ve all been waiting for that Shreck-Bad Boys crossover, and now it’s time.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Shrek Boys for life. And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go: this week on America Dissected, host Abdul El-Sayed is joined by actor, comedian and host Wayne Brady, to discuss his journey with mental health and how toxic masculinity changed the course of his career. Listen to new episodes of America Dissected every Tuesday. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, create a comedy superbaby, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just voting-machine fan fiction like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And get small, goldfish!
Akilah Hughes: Before we are supporting you, but honestly, you’re taking up a lot of space.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. You know, you, there’s a thing about big fish in a small pond, everybody wants to be one. You can’t all be one. You know?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, choose.
Gideon Resnick: Choose wisely.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.