The Lone Star State Of Emergency | Crooked Media
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September 08, 2021
What A Day
The Lone Star State Of Emergency

In This Episode

  • A law that effectively banned abortions in Texas after the sixth week of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest took effect last Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block it. We spoke to Leah Litman, an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan and cohost of the podcast “Strict Scrutiny,” to get a better understanding of how the law was designed.
  • Also in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a voting restriction bill, yesterday, that bans 24-hour voting and drive-through voting, institutes onerous vote-by-mail ID mandates, and more.
  • And in headlines: the Taliban announced the formation of its interim government in Afghanistan, President Biden visited New Jersey and New York to survey the damage caused by Ida, federal unemployment benefits expired, former Trump advisor Jason Miller was briefly detained in Brazil, and Jamie Spears filed a petition to end Britney Spears’ conservatorship after 13 years.





Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, September 8th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the audio equivalent of the red pill from the Matrix, but the good original version and not the bad men’s rights activist version.


Gideon Resnick: It’s very clear Morpheus and Neo, both feminists in the original text. I think we can all agree on this point. On today’s show the Taliban announces the makeup of its interim government in Afghanistan. Plus we assess whether a duck is really speaking English and a rediscovered recording.


Priyanka Aribindi: You’re going to want to stick around. But first, the latest on all things Texas, starting with the state’s new anti-abortion law. Whatever your plans were over the long weekend, you probably didn’t get far enough away from the news to miss what’s going on in Texas.


Gideon Resnick: That’s definitely true. So before we dive into the latest developments, can you give us all a little background on how we got here?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, definitely. So back in May, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 8, a law that effectively banned abortions in the state after the sixth week of pregnancy. I’m sure most of you have heard this by now, but in many cases, that is before people even realize that they’re pregnant, and if they have figured it out, it gives them very little time to do anything about it. But the Texas law doesn’t stop there. Aside from banning abortions after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest, this law also encourages private citizens to sue basically anyone who is involved in helping a patient receive abortion care.


Gideon Resnick: Jeez. And how are legal scholars themselves viewing a law like this, that basically encourages vigilante justice?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So for that, we spoke to Leah Litman. She is an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan and a co-host of Strict Scrutiny, a podcast about the Supreme Court. She was so helpful in explaining all of this, but especially why that vigilante justice component is actually a critical part of how this law is designed.


Leah Litman: So usually when the state prohibits certain conduct, say, prohibiting abortions on people more than six weeks after their last period, some state official will be charged with enforcing that lawsuit. The Texas law, by contrast, says no state or local official will enforce the law. Only private citizens can. If this law allowed a state or local prosecutor to bring a lawsuit against an abortion provider, there’s no question, no question, that a court would have prevented the state from enforcing it, and all the plaintiff would have had to do is name the state official charged with bringing that lawsuit and enforcing the law. But Texas knew,, well, let’s create enough uncertainty to make it difficult for plaintiffs to identify the right defendant and to give courts essentially an excuse to say, well, we don’t know whether this lawsuit is proper and that would give them an excuse to allow the law to go into effect.


Gideon Resnick: Dear Lord.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, like evil masterminds. But the law took effect on Wednesday of last week after the U.S. Supreme Court went against precedent and refused to block it.


Gideon Resnick: Right. And Litman also spoke about what this actually means for Roe v. Wade and abortion access broadly in the US.


Leah Litman: This is the five-alarm fire drill that people were worried about. It ultimately doesn’t matter whether the Supreme Court issues an opinion that says Roe versus Wade is overruled or not. As a result of their decision, abortion providers in Texas are not performing abortions on people more than six weeks after their last period. Whether or not the Supreme Court says Roe is overruled or not, that functionally ends almost 90% of abortion access in the state of Texas. So, yes, this is absolutely making Roe practically inaccessible for people in Texas, who can’t afford to leave the state.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and people across the country have been responding appropriately. They have been protesting in front of the Supreme Court. They have spammed the anonymous tip line. The site that was actually set up for these anonymous tips has been removed from the Internet twice so far. And it is not just people on the Internet who are fighting back. President Biden spoke out forcefully against this law on Thursday after the Supreme Court decision. And earlier this week, the Justice Department said that they will continue to protect women who are seeking abortions in Texas and that they will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. I should add that it’s unclear how much power the DOJ will ultimately have with this based on how the Supreme Court has positioned itself on this issue.


Gideon Resnick: Right. And this is already having huge implications in Texas itself. But Texas is also kicking off this trend for other states trying to pass legislation or restructure legislation that is similarly worded and structured to the Texas bill. Here’s Leah Litman again:


Leah Litman: Florida has already reportedly been considering a law similar to Texas’s. And I would not be surprised if other states do as well, given that the Supreme Court has effectively told them if you regulate abortion providers this way, will let you do it.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s really terrifying to take in, and an extreme contrast with what’s happening right across the border in Mexico. So in a country with one of the world’s largest Catholic populations, abortions were just decriminalized yesterday. They’re moving in a really different direction than we seem to be and that’s not a good thing for us. And Leah Litman says she only sees two scenarios where the Texas law is struck down. One is if an abortion provider is charged according to this law, but sues and the case makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But she said that that’s unlikely since providers have stopped providing abortions to people more than six weeks after the last period. And second, if opponents of the law were able to name the right defendants in a case. But Litman says here it’s unclear if the Supreme Court would agree with a lower court’s decisions.


Leah Litman: So it looks like this case is not going to result in this law being taken off the books and this law not being able to be enforced. And it’s also unlikely that there will be actual cases that would allow abortion providers to challenge this law if and when they are sued. So those don’t seem to be realistic options.


Gideon Resnick: Oh, that is tough to sit with.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and I know anti-abortion law isn’t the only big news out of Texas. This also happened in Texas yesterday:


[clip of Gov. Abbott] Election integrity is now law in the State of Texas. [cheers, applause]


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Okay. That was Abbott again signing this voting restriction bill that we’ve been talking about. It is known as SB 1, and that is formally now law, as you said. This comes after the much-followed efforts by Democrats in the state to prevent this very scenario from happening, including as listeners will likely remember, a group actually fleeing the state at one point. And this law takes effect three months after the special legislative session that just ended, i.e. in time for 2022 primary elections.


Priyanka Aribindi: Greg Abbott, back to back. Awful, awful job. Let’s remind people once again what this law actually does, because it is wild.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s a lot of things. But to highlight once more, it bans 24-hour voting and drive-through voting, which is largely aimed at Harris County where Houston is. Those options were quite popular in the last election, given the pandemic, among other things, trying to keep people safe. There are more onerous vote by mail ID mandates, and it is now a literal felony for a local election official to give out unsolicited applications—just the applications—for mail in ballots. The new law also allows the, quote, “free movement” of a partisan poll watcher at a polling location, short of being able to actually watch a voter cast a ballot. There’s also reportedly training for them, which I guess was negotiated in this bill, and the ability for them to be kicked out of locations if they do break the law.


Priyanka Aribindi: None of this, none of this is particularly good. It is, wild to think that it’s actually happening. So I am assuming that there are tons of legal challenges going on because all of this is nuts. What do we know with those?


Gideon Resnick: There are many. To start, there are two federal lawsuits were actually filed last week in Austin and San Antonio, respectively, before this was actually signed into law. And those plaintiffs are made up of organizations like the League of Women Voters of Texas, the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas, and Harris County itself as well. They say that SB1 is in violation of many laws, the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and more. And yesterday, three more lawsuits in both state and federal courts were filed after SB was actually signed into law. Those plaintiffs included civil rights groups, disability rights groups, nonpartisan “get out the vote” groups and more. A lot of people seem to be on the same page here. But Abbott, for his part, contended yesterday that the lawsuits will not prevent the law from taking effect and that it will inevitably be held up in court. We’ll keep following all of that soon, but that is the latest for now.


It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s Temp check, we are talking about birds who simply cannot be bothered. A recording from 35 years ago seems to capture an Australian musk duck saying, quote, unquote, “you bloody fool,” indicating that this species may be capable of vocal learning and poor manners. The audio was discovered by a professor of animal behavior in the Netherlands who published his findings this Monday, many years after the event occurred. Parrots and songbirds have been known to mimic their owners’ speech but this is the first documentary evidence of a talking duck—that is apart from Daffy, Donald and Scrooge McDuck, who, I’m really sorry to break it to you, a deep fakes. The magical Australian talking duck also was able to mimic the sound of a closing door. The Priyanka anyone can say they know a talking duck, but not everyone can back that statement up. So let’s play the clip and decide for ourselves whether this bird really says, you bloody fool.


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. I’ve never heard this before. I’m excited to judge


[duck recording]


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s a duck!? There is no way that’s a duck.


Gideon Resnick: I’m saying, I’m saying I have a lot of questions about this.


Priyanka Aribindi: I. yeah. So that does not, that sounds like a human to me. Yes, I hear the words, but like, I don’t even, I seem to be more like a quacky style.


Gideon Resnick: Right. You actually hear the words though? Or you hear the words because we were told by big science to hear the words? I’m not doubting science, I’m—


Priyanka Aribindi: I was told by big producers of this show what to expect. I heard, I at least heard you bloody and then like fool, instead of the l, like it, it’s like “foo.” But that’s what I heard. Like same to you Gideon. What do you think of this talking duck. Is this real.


Gideon Resnick: I mean I think it’s real. I don’t know that it’s saying what we’re being told it’s saying. I think this whole thing has been reverse engineered for us to believe that “you bloody fool” is the word that’s being said here. When—


Priyanka Aribindi: You don’t hear that though?


Gideon Resnick: I hear I, I hear it because I want to hear it, I’ve been told to hear it—I hear duck noises. But just like that, we have checked our temps. If you can communicate with ducks or you have more tapes of ducks communicating, please send them to us. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Priyanka Aribindi: The Taliban announced the formation of its interim government in Afghanistan yesterday. The new cabinet is made up of senior Taliban members, including one of its founders, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who was chosen to be the acting prime minister. He is notoriously been on the Taliban’s ruling body and was deputy prime minister during the group’s last power grab over 20 years ago. Not a single woman was named for a cabinet position or included in talks about the government, despite Taliban leaders initially saying women will play a significant role in the country—old enough to remember when that was, yeah, not what they are saying. In fact, under the Taliban in recent weeks, women have been told to stay home and forced to leave their jobs. Meanwhile, as more Americans in Afghanistan try to flee the country, veteran rescue groups say that the Biden administration’s estimate that less than 200 citizens remain in the country is deeply inaccurate. They say that hundreds of other American citizens and permanent legal residents remain in Afghanistan


Gideon Resnick: 10 days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in the US, 378,000 customers in Louisiana were still without power as of yesterday. That is according to Entergy, the state’s primary energy company. But over the weekend, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said power should return to the whole city by this week and encouraged residents who evacuated to start returning to their homes. Recovery efforts outside of the city, however, remain bleak, and some of the hardest hit areas, such as Lafourche parish, may not have power again until the end of this month. Dear Lord. Meanwhile, President Biden visited New Jersey and New York yesterday to survey the flood and tornado damage that was caused by Ida when the storm careened towards the northeast late last week. You don’t need to hear it from me, but I can confirm it was quite bad. During his remarks, the president emphasized climate change was to blame for Ida’s devastation and mentioned experts warning of natural disasters only becoming more common.


[clip of President Biden] A storm in the Gulf, as you’ve now figured out, can reverberate 10 states away. Supply chains and crop production get interrupted, driving up cost, devastating industries all over America. This is everybody’s crisis, everybody’s crisis.


Gideon Resnick: In total, at least 71 people have died because of Ida across those states, as well as Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland.


Priyanka Aribindi: The US celebrated Labor Day by cutting off enhanced unemployment benefits to millions of people this Monday. Federal unemployment programs have been a lifeline for people who lost their jobs under the pandemic, with things like weekly bonus payments of $300. Now that those programs have expired, over seven million people will no longer get any unemployment benefits from the government or their state, despite the Delta variant causing another surge in COVID cases and disruptions to many industries. There are a huge number of job openings across the country, with a record 10.1 million positions hiring as of this June, but many people still aren’t ready to go back to work due to child care and health concerns. Ending unemployment benefits probably won’t change this. Republican governors, who shut down their programs early to encourage people to get jobs have not seen a spike in hiring in their states.


Gideon Resnick: Wouldn’t you know it. Checks out. The man who’s devoted his life to helping white men with goatees express themselves on the Internet, former Trump adviser Jason Miller was briefly detained yesterday morning in Brazil, where he had been attending the country’s Conservative Political Action Conference. I did not know that that was the thing in other places. Miller is the founder of Gettr, the right-wing Twitter clone conceived following Trump’s removal from every social media site. After the US, which is the Gettr epicenter, Brazil has the largest population of Gettr users. That makes sense, considering Brazil has also its own Trump in president and perpetual COVID haver Jair Bolsonaro. Miller’s detainment is probably linked to a constitutional crisis in Brazil that Bolsonaro created after a Supreme Court justice ordered the arrests of multiple Bolsonaro supporters, the president said he will no longer abide by that justice’s rulings. One source told The New York Times that the same justice asked for Miller to be questioned. Miller was released after three hours.


Priyanka Aribindi: But you guys can keep him. We don’t need him back. The Free Brittney movement is one step closer to victory with the news last night that Britney Spears’s father and conservator of her estate, Jamie Spears has filed a petition to end her conservatorship after 13 years.


[clip “It’s Britney, bitch.”]


Priyanka Aribindi: The filing cites Britney’s repeated objections to the arrangement and says, quote, “If Miss Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should have that chance.” Yes, she should. A hearing in this case had previously been scheduled for September 29th. Hopefully, Britney will be in charge of her life again by that point and will be using her freedom to record a blistering diss track aimed at her dad.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we need stuff that is not 90-minute rap albums, I will say.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And if it’s Britney Spears singing pop, I mean, I’ve never heard—have I ever heard a pop diss track? I don’t know, but I’m ready for it.


Gideon Resnick: I’m ready, nonetheless. And those are the headlines.


Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go. California—voting is underway for the September 14 recall election and the polls are close. The only way to block a Republican takeover of California is to vote “no” on Question 1: should Gavin Newsom be recalled?


Gideon Resnick: If you are a registered voter, you should have received your ballot in the mail. You can mail it back or you can drop it off at a drop box before 8pm on Election Day, September 14th. You can make your plan, but you got to do it ASAP! And tell your friends. You can also vote in-person early or on Election Day, and register the same day you want to vote in certain locations. Just visit VoteSaveAmerica dot com/California to learn more.


Priyanka Aribindi: Fun legal disclosure: what we just said was not authorized by a candidate or committee controlled by a candidate. They are not in contact with us. You know where to find us if you want to, but they, no one’s knocking down our doors.


Gideon Resnick: And that is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, come forward with any evidence you have of talking ducks, and tell your friends to listen.


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just petitions from Jamie Spears like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Gideon Resnick: And I’m, Gideon Resnick.


[together] And take the red pill but good!


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh God.


Gideon Resnick: That’s going to get edited.


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s going to get me cancelled. I don’t want to get canceled for this.


Gideon Resnick: It’s going to get, it’s going to get put on Rogan.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s reported in mixed by Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.