SCOTUS Checks In | Crooked Media
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June 24, 2021
What A Day
SCOTUS Checks In

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court ruled that President Biden had the authority to remove the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, who was appointed by the former Trump administration. Other SCOTUS rulings from yesterday protected a high school cheerleader’s free speech on Snapchat, barred a union from organizing workers at their worksites, and banned police from entering homes without a warrant to arrest misdemeanor suspects.
  • The Delta variant now accounts for one-fifth of recent COVID cases in the U.S., predominantly in unvaccinated areas. If the variant persists, it could cause another COVID surge this fall or winter.
  • And in headlines: Nikole Hannah-Jones refuses to join UNC without tenure, Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy publication shuts down, and no tuna DNA found in Subway’s tuna sandwich.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, June 24th. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we support critical race theory being taught in pre-K.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, let’s radicalize them kids with just the truth about this country. See what happens. Maybe they’ll not tear down the Capitol.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that would be what we want. It’s the first lesson in pre-K: do not tear down the Capitol . . . do not do a white supremacist insurrectionist march, please. [laughs]


Akilah Hughes: There you go. On today’s show, the dangerous Delta variant spreads in the U.S., posing a risk to unvaccinated people. Then we’ll have some headlines. But first, the latest.


Gideon Resnick: It was a big day for the Supreme Court, right before it wrapped up the term for the summer. There were a bunch of different SCOTUS rulings yesterday, with some cases that we’ve mentioned before on our show and others that we have not. So we’re going to go ahead and dove in and give an overview of these big cases and what precedent they may or may not set going forward.


Akilah Hughes: All right. So first up is a case that could have implications for housing affordability. So what happened there?


Gideon Resnick: Yes. So this one’s a little bit wonky, but the case involves the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—drags cigarette, have not heard those names in years. Dear Lord.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: The Supreme Court determined that President Biden had the authority to remove the head of this agency who was a holdover from the Trump administration.


Akilah Hughes: Yay yay.


Gideon Resnick: So the prior head has now been dismissed and we are waiting to see who the replacement is going to be. Now, this could end up being a bigger deal soon, when it comes to the administration’s priorities for housing. We’ve discussed this kind of burgeoning housing crisis that has been accelerated by the pandemic. And, of course, the federal eviction moratorium is set to end next week as well—although there is some reporting out there that Biden wants to extend it for an additional month. But I talked with Mark Joseph Stern, who covers the courts for Slate, and he noticed something interesting about how the court was deciding these kinds of cases recently. He said last year the court ruled that the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could be fired as well.


[clip of Mark Joseph Stern] And so I do wonder if the conservative justices are like a little bit angry about the fact that they finally achieved this long-held conservative, like wet dream of just totally abolishing independent agencies and creating a unitary executive, and the guy who benefits from it most immediately is Joseph Robinette Biden.


Akilah Hughes: We love to hear the hard ‘R’ Robinette. [laughs] Then there is a case we’ve talked about before, a high schooler who is mad about not making varsity cheer squad.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. So as a reminder here, this case pertained to Brandi Levy, who back in 2017 was a high school student in Pennsylvania. At the time, she was in a local convenience store—i.e. not on school grounds—when she sent a Snapchat that said, quote “F school F softball, F cheer, F everything”—that is my best impression of high school—with a pic of her and a friend with their middle fingers up. This was because she did not make the varsity squad.


Akilah Hughes: Relatable.


Gideon Resnick: So then another student screenshotted it and showed it to her mom who is a coach—real lack of solidarity there—and then the school suspended Levy from the JV cheer squad for a year.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, that’s wild. I wonder if she had posted something nicer if she could have just gotten back on the team. I don’t know.


Gideon Resnick: It’s possible. She sued the school district, though. And in an 8-1 ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court determined that the district had actually violated her First Amendment rights. There is a caveat here, though. That doesn’t mean all things that students post or say while off campus is free from regulation. Justice Breyer said that the same rules, for instance, don’t necessarily apply in cases like bullying, harassment, threats, and more. And Levy’s case was special because her post wasn’t directed at any specific person. Here’s Stern, again:


[clip of Mark Joseph Stern] The court didn’t try to establish like a grand unified theory of free speech at school or off campus. It just said: look, this kind of speech is clearly protected by the First Amendment and we’ll deal with the ramifications of our decision some other day.


Akilah Hughes: Right. And next on the docket, the court ruled on a big case that affects unionization that stems from a California farm.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so quick context here: the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, organized over 50 years ago to basically push for better rights for agricultural workers in California. And since then, the state has allowed union organizers to meet with workers on a limited basis at their work sites, for instance during lunch breaks. But one company, the Cedar Point Nursery in Northern California, sued state officials in 2016 because it didn’t like that an organizing effort was happening on its own property. And so yesterday, in a 6-3 ruling with the liberals all dissenting, the Supreme Court sided with that company. The justices equated union organizing on the property with, quote “taking it” and said that the state’s law violates the Fifth Amendment, which prevents the taking of private property “without just compensation.” When I talked to Mark Joseph Stern, he said this goes way beyond this particular place of work. He wrote this really, really good piece we can link to about how this could actually have ramifications for other unionization efforts in the country. So, for instance, think about what a company like Amazon may or may not do now.


[clip of Mark Joseph Stern] We know that union representatives and union organizers do often get access to the workplaces they’re trying to organize or bargain for. And I think we’re now going to see employers, including Amazon, try to argue that every time a union organizer takes a step on their property, if the state allows it, then that’s a taking and the government’s going to have to pay Amazon for the pleasure of simply allowing unions to basically exist on their property.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, if there’s one thing amazon needs, its more money. And one last final ruling to go over, what did the Supreme Court have to say about the powers of the police?


Gideon Resnick: Yes. The court basically determined that police officers can’t always enter the home of a suspect without a warrant if the person is suspected of a misdemeanor. And this came from a 2016 incident in which a guy in California was apparently in his car playing loud music and honking his horn—generally vibing, I guess, as one does. Officers pursued him for violating a noise ordinance. So then the guy goes home, claiming that he didn’t really know he was being pursued, and a cop basically forces the guy’s garage door open with his foot. The officer did not have a warrant and then ended up arresting the guy on the DUI after smelling alcohol on his breath. Mind you, in his own home. Crazy. So the justices ended up sending this one back down to the lower courts in light of this ruling. So that’s a quick overview of the full Supreme Court press yesterday. And I really do encourage everyone to read Stern’s writing and check out more on the cases. But turning to the pandemic now, we’ve been talking and hearing quite a lot about the Delta variant spread, including here in the US. So Akilah, what is new on that front?


Akilah Hughes: All right. So the Delta variant first ravaged India in recent months, and it accounts for more than 90% of COVID cases in India and the U.K., and has been found in over 80 countries. But in America, it now accounts for a 1/5 of recent COVID cases, according to a CDC report yesterday. And according to their research, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work well against the strain, and while they expect the J&J single shot to work well, too, they still have to study its effectiveness.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, hopefully everybody that is vaccinated is protected. So 1/5 of U.S. cases are now this more transmissible variant. Where are those actually popping up?


Akilah Hughes: All right. So unsurprisingly, it’s mostly happening where people aren’t vaccinated. Again, if you can, please get vaccinated. But for example, Missouri is now leading the country in new infections. And that surge is happening in the politically conservative farming region where in one county, vaccination rates are as low as 13%.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Akilah Hughes: The Chief Administrative Officer at Mercy Hospital in Springfield told the Associated Press that he hopes the rest of the country can learn from their plight, saying, quote “We will be the canary.” He was obviously talking about a coal mine and not like a sanctuary, it’s really bad. And I think Republicans honestly should feel bad about politicizing the vaccine because a lot of these deaths are preventable and it is their own constituents that are getting sick. Charles Gaba, a health care policy data analyst, has been charting the numbers of vaccinated people by county based on who they voted for in the 2020 election. And without exception, the lowest vaccine rates countrywide are in major Trump territory. The Delta variant doesn’t care about our politics, so it’s very maddening that it’s gotten so bad.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and if this stays out there and spreads, there’s always a possibility for something worse that can arise. And so cases are on the rise again in Arkansas, Nevada and Utah as well, where less than half of the eligible population has had at least one vaccine dose, right?


Akilah Hughes: That’s right, and experts believe that if this variant persists and vaccine rates remain low, it’s possible those areas will be in for another surge this fall or winter. I really don’t want to go back. So please, if you know people who can get vaccinated and haven’t, talk to them. We’ll let you know how things shake out over the next few months, but that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are discussing new frontiers in reality dating shows. Yesterday, Netflix released a trailer for a show called “Sexy Beasts”—Good God—which will send contestants on first dates while wearing deeply unsettling facial prosthetics that make them look like dolphins—that one was the worst—foxes, scarecrows, aliens, and other creatures that will burrow in your brain and appear in your nightmares when you least expect it. The idea is that the contestants have to fall in love based on personality alone, which I don’t know that that’s all that is. Like, I think you have to really fall in love with a lot of things [laughs] like the little nubbin on the head of the Dolphin. Anyway, Netflix described the show as Love is Blind meets The Masked Singer. It comes out next month. So Giddy, my question for you: did you see the trailer and are you going to be watching?


Gideon Resnick: I saw the trailer and I saw enough.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: That’s my personal perspective on this. Listen, I think that they have done an amazing job getting people to pay attention to this and talk about it. And, you know, I’m sure we will all be talking about a clip of, you know, a dolphin finding love with a fox at some point down the road. And perhaps it will be beautiful and we’ll think of it in different terms than we do now, but I have personally seen enough at this particular stage. How about you?


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I got to say, you know, this one’s a miss for me. You already know I don’t watch a lot of reality TV. No shade to anyone who does, I just have a hard time being invested in people I don’t know and we’ll never know and don’t respect because I don’t know, and whatever else.


Gideon Resnick: True.


Akilah Hughes: But I definitely think adding a layer of prosthetics makes that worse for me. Like, now they’re not even people I’m supposed to care about. [laughs] Unscripted dolphin-hybrid humans, a woodchuck, whatever. They’re all kinds of scary things happening in that. I didn’t like the teeth. I didn’t like the eyes. They have these blinky eyelashes, like scary baby dolls. I just it was too much for me on a visceral level . . .


Gideon Resnick: Yup.


Akilah Hughes: of the kinds of thing I can handle. Like, the, I think the furthest I can go with talking animals is Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy, or like cartoons of animals talking. That’s it. So that was my long-winded way of saying: hell no, I’m not saying that.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, if we want to see charming animals, we have Pixar, we have fantastic Mr. Fox—like our bases are covered, quite frankly.


Akilah Hughes: Right. I talk my dog all the time. I just pretend that I know what his voice sounds like and I’m talking, and that’s great. Like, that’s better. [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: And you know that he’s not going to take makeup off and there’s a human underneath, so that’s a plus.


Akilah Hughes: Oh my God, if that happened, I would literally move to the sun. [laughs] And just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, make sure your dog’s not a person, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes:   Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: The last pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong published their final edition today. Wow. Apple Daily started off as a celebrity gossip tabloid in the mid ’90s, but it later grew into an outlet for criticism of mainland China and Hong Kong’s governments. The Chinese government began their crackdown in the paper last week, freezing over two million dollars of its assets and arresting several top editors and executives. It was the first time the government used its controversial national security law to target journalists for something they had published. Speaking of that law, the first person to be tried under it pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of terrorism for riding through police lines with his motorcycle. So far, over 100 people have been arrested under the law, which continues to silence many pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong.


Akilah Hughes: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times correspondent Nikole Hannah-Jones has announced her refusal to join the faculty at the University of North Carolina unless she is granted tenure. Her appointment as the chair in Race and Investigative Journalism drew a lot of opposition from conservatives because of her role in the 1619 Project, an essay series that reframed American history through the lens of slavery. Hannah-Jones’s lawyers implied she was denied tenure because of Walter E. Hussman, a massive UNC donor who is critical of the 1619 Project and is the ‘Hussman’ in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media where she was set to teach. 1,619 UNC students and alumni signed a petition last month demanding that Hannah-Jones be given tenure, but if the resistance continues, she is considering filing a discrimination suit.


Gideon Resnick: More like Walter E. Suss-man, to me.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, he’s a suss-man. [laughs] We tried. We tried.


Gideon Resnick: We tried and we got him. Guess who formally requested an end to the abusive-court ordered conservatorship that has allowed her dad to control her life for over a decade?


[clip] It’s Britney, bitch.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Every time.


Gideon Resnick: Every time. Thank you again, Charlie, for keeping that clip at the ready. Please never delete it from the hard drive or your soul. Britney Spears addressed a Los Angeles court yesterday petitioning to end her conservatorship without the condition of her clearing a health evaluation. She also requested to have her remarks heard by the public. And in a heartbreaking testimony, Ms. Spears said that she had been traumatized by the binding legal arrangement that led her father, Jamie Spears, be the sole conservator of her estate. She shared a series of abuses by her parents, including being forced to go on tour in 2018 and being put on lithium against her will after announcing her hiatus. Spears told the court that the conservatorship was abusive and that she just wants her life back. This is the first time that she’s spoken in court since her lawyer filed to suspend her father as a conservator last year.


Akilah Hughes: Free Britney. I feel bad, I was at that concert in 2018. New science has come in that could win the Nobel Prize for destroying my trust in fast-food sandwiches: it’s a report published this week in The New York Times that found no tuna DNA in tuna sandwiches from Subway. Shut up, Gideon! [laughs].


Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Yup, yup, yup.


Akilah Hughes: We know that I said I like that sandwich and it still tastes good anyway.


Gideon Resnick: Live your truth.


Akilah Hughes: The groundbreaking work [laughs] comes on the heels—no—of a class action lawsuit filed against Subway in California. That suit alleged that customers have been overpaying for subway tuna, seeing as it was made entirely of a, quote “non tuna mixture.” Whatever it was, I like the flavor. Uh, the Time’s report used a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to analyze the, quote unquote, “fish” from three Los Angeles Subways. And according to the lab that ran the test, the result pointed to either tuna that was so processed it couldn’t be identified—I’m betting on that one—or no tuna sample at all. Of course, Subway vigorously defends its alleged tuna and says the PCR isn’t the right test for this application. For what it’s worth, a report by Inside Edition did find tuna in Subway tuna earlier this year, and several experts and Subway sandwich artists interviewed by the Times said the facts just don’t add up to Subway trying to trick us with a tuna bait-and-switch.


Gideon Resnick: Listen, I will just say everybody can eat their own sandwich except this one. This is the one that is gross. [laughs] That’s my first look: is it tuna or not?


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. All right. Well, you know, I’m glad that you feel comfortable saying that. I think it’s, I think it’s tuna. But what do I know? I’m not a scientist. And those are the headlines. [laughs] I’m dying on this [hill].


Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go: this week Lovett Or Leave It presents “Out of the Closets, Into the Streets” a live Pride extravaganza filled with games, comedy sets and, of course, gay news.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, Lovett makes this return to the live stage with an amazing lineup, including Ronan Farrow, Jared Goldstein, Hannah Einbinder, Ira Madison III, Brendan Scannell—go cats—Brendan and more.


Akilah Hughes: Out of the Closet, Into the Streets will stream live on June 24th at 4:00 p.m. Pacific on Crooked Media’s YouTube and Twitch pages. Plus will be fundraising for the Trans Justice Funding Project, so we really hope you’ll join.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, remove your prosthetic dolphin fin, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: Do it for me. And if you’re into reading, and not just proof of fish DNA like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And free Britney Spears!


Akilah Hughes: She deserves everything. She gave us everything.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah.


Akilah Hughes: Leave her alone.


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.