SCOTUS Strikes Down POTUS | Crooked Media
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July 05, 2023
What A Day

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program and limited protections for LGBTQ+ people in the United States on Friday. The two decisions were 6-3 down ideological lines.
  • A Boston non-profit filed a civil rights complaint against Harvard, alleging that the university’s legacy admission practice violates the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against students of color. This comes a week after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in a case that involved the university last week.
  • And in headlines: A federal judge blocked Biden officials from communicating with social media companies about protected speech, thousands of hotel workers in Southern California are on strike demanding higher pay and better benefits, and this week marked the hottest day ever recorded in global history.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, July 6th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we just want to know who left the cocaine in the White House on Sunday y’all, come forward please. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just fess up. I mean, I’m sure there are several consequences to doing so, but the world wants to know so just reveal yourself, please. 


Juanita Tolliver: It’s giving yikes. It’s giving concern for the user. But also we’ll have fingerprint results soon. So stand by for more. [music break] On today’s show, thousands of hotel workers in Southern California are on strike, demanding higher pay and better benefits. Plus, we’ve just this week experienced the hottest date ever recorded in global history. Let that sink in, it’s burning. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we hate to see it. But first, something else we hate to see. We have to talk about the Supreme Court. If you thought that we were finished with this, that you could head out early on 4th of July weekend. They very quickly proved you wrong. On the very last day of their term, Friday, June 30th, the court issued two monumental six three decisions, the first of which blocked President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program and the second limited protections for LGBTQ+ people in the United States. 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like we need to categorize this as the conservative right wing crazies on the Supreme Court issued monumental decisions. But let’s– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: –break down these cases and discuss what happens now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is absolutely true. Let’s start with the student loan decision. So as the kids of TikTok would say something not so chill happened. The court’s conservatives blocked the Biden administration’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loans for millions of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, saying that the decision here was not about what was being done, but about who has the authority to do it. Basically saying that Congress would need to forgive student loans. Biden couldn’t do it on his own under the 2003 Heroes Act as he was trying to do with this program. 


Juanita Tolliver: And we know this spells bad news for, you know, people who look like me, Black and Brown, who, you know, are women who suffer the most from these wage gaps that perpetuate wealth inequality. But let’s talk about specifically what this means for the borrowers who were expecting a little something, something on their loans to be forgiven through this program. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This plan would have provided relief to one in eight Americans. For half of those people, it would have wiped out their student debt completely. So, like, we just cannot overstate the impact that this plan would have had. So the fact that this isn’t happening anymore, it’s an understatement to say it’s a huge disappointment. It will certainly leave people feeling disillusioned. It will certainly have major financial impacts on their lives. It’s really not good. And because it’s not happening, this will mean that borrowers will have to start repaying their loans once again, actually somewhat soon. According to a spokesperson for the Education Department, student loan interest will resume on September 1st and payments will be due again starting in October. These loans, as a reminder, have been on pause since the pandemic started in 2020. So this is a big change after a long period of time, and it’s set to happen relatively quickly. For some, this will actually be the first time that they are repaying their loans. Roughly 7 million borrowers are 24 years old or under. Many were still in school when the pause in payments started and others haven’t logged on to do this in three years. Their loan servicers may have changed. They may not have their passwords handy to log in. It’s a logistical nightmare waiting to happen on top of, you know, being just a devastating decision. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I know the Biden administration has a backup plan. What’s the next move here? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, they do have a Plan B here. It is based on the Higher Education Act of 1965 that gives the Education Department the ability to, quote, “compromise, waive or release loans,” which is rather broad. But the details aren’t exactly clear yet. We don’t know how much debt this will aim to cancel or how the plan will work exactly. But obviously, we will continue to keep you updated as we learn more details. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on this plan. 


Juanita Tolliver: I just want to shout out the Congress members who were like, this is what we told you to do in the beginning. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 


Juanita Tolliver: But here we are. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: So that was just the first big decision the court made on Friday. Let’s talk about the other big one impacting LGBTQ people. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So on this very last day of Pride month, the court decided to side with a web designer who refused to design wedding websites for same sex couples. The case was known as 303 Creative LLC, v Elenis, and the decision was once again six three, with the court’s conservatives siding with the designer. In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the First Amendment allowed the designer to refuse to provide her services for same sex weddings. 


Juanita Tolliver: And this decision was the worst kind of pride surprise. So let’s talk about the larger implications here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, they basically opened the door here for businesses to discriminate against already vulnerable communities while stripping the protections that those communities have legally. It’s harmful. And like so many of this court’s decisions will only pave the way for more harm as more people and businesses try to push the limits on the protections that exist for other vulnerable groups in our society. Try to push the protections that remain in place here. People will keep trying to push the limits. We know how this is going to go. It’s not going to be good. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that this decision signaled a return to a time when communities of color and others faced open discrimination. She wrote that the court was taking steps backwards. 


Juanita Tolliver: And there have also been some rumblings about the original gay couple at the center of this case. What’s that all about? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Okay. So people have been raising questions about a form that was supposed to show that a gay couple tried to seek the help of the designer, in this case, Lorie Smith. But the man whose name is on the form had no idea about any of this. He said he never asked for a wedding website. He was totally unaware that his name had been used until reporters called him up and tried to ask him about it. He’s also been married to a woman for 15 years. So I mean, very confusing as to how this happened. And I mean, it’s all very fucked up that this was part of this woman’s case for discriminating against these gay couples and didn’t actually happen. But sadly, this detail probably won’t change anything about the result. You know, this wasn’t the basis of the original suit. She didn’t sue because a couple had come to her that she denied. The appeals court that saw this case before SCOTUS did found that she did have the grounds to sue. And, you know, the couple in question wasn’t cited by SCOTUS as a factor for ruling in her favor. 


Juanita Tolliver: Still beyond fucked up and a reason to ask a lot more questions here, but–


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 


Juanita Tolliver: In a different key Supreme Court decision. We’ve got the best uno reverse move I’ve seen in quite some time. Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston nonprofit, filed a civil rights complaint against Harvard University this week, alleging that the legacy admission practice discriminates against students of color by giving preferential treatment to children of donors and alumni, and that the practice violates the Civil Rights Act. Of course, this claim comes in response to the atrocious Supreme Court ruling that ended affirmative action last week. And I truly hope that predominantly white institutions like Harvard didn’t think that this issue was simply just going to go away. Like in what fucking world? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Especially when you consider that 70% of Harvard’s donor related and legacy applicants are, you guessed it, white. And being a legacy student makes an applicant roughly six times more likely to be admitted. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, this is very exciting. I feel like we’ve been watching this conversation. This has been a point that’s been made for years now. And finally something is happening about it. I don’t like, you know, what brought this to the forefront here like, what happened was the stripping away of affirmative action, which is what prompted this in the first place. But this is very interesting. What else do we know about this complaint? 


Juanita Tolliver: Lawyers for civil rights filed the complaint on behalf of the Chica Project, the African Community Economic Development of New England and the Greater Boston Latino Network. And the complaint was submitted to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which may have already been preparing to investigate since President Biden said that he would ask them to examine practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity after the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action. The complaint states in part, quote, “A spot given to a legacy or donor related applicant is a spot that becomes unavailable to an applicant who meets the admissions criteria based purely on his or her own merit.” And the complaint also posits that more students of color would be admitted to Harvard if the legacy and donor preferences did not exist. And the true gag for me in particular came when the lawsuit quoted the Supreme Court’s majority in the affirmative action ruling, which said, quote, “College admissions are zero sum and a benefit provided to some applicants, but not to others, necessarily advantages the former at the expense of the latter.” So in a nutshell, there’s the case essentially. And Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights and one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said it succinctly when he told reporters, quote, “As the Supreme Court recently noted, eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it. There should be no way to identify who your parents are in the college application process,” and the complaint calls for just that. A complete removal of familiar relationship in the admissions process, an investigation into the use of donor and legacy preferences and a federal ban on the practice. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Okay. Huge. What has Harvard said so far about this case? 


Juanita Tolliver: Chile, nothing. A spokesperson wouldn’t even comment. And– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Ah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Let’s be real. Even though Harvard is keeping quiet, advocates and organizations are lining up to support this case, including the NAACP. When the complaint was announced earlier this week. The NAACP put out a call to 532 public and 1134 private colleges and universities to end legacy preferences, eliminate racially biased entrance examinations and more. And the public is clearly not into legacy preferences either. As a Pew poll last year found that 75% of the public doesn’t believe it should be factored into admissions decisions, but we’ll just have to wait and see what a potential Department of Education investigation and this complaint could yield. Of course, we’ll keep following the story and bring you all more on all of this very soon. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Biden officials from communicating with social media companies about content that includes protected speech. The injunction by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana prohibits certain government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI, from talking to social media companies for, quote, “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression or reduction of content containing protected free speech.” The ruling comes after Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri filed a lawsuit last year alleging that the government overstepped when it tried to get social media platforms to address posts that could have contributed to vaccine hesitancy during the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as topics about election security. The move, which includes social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and more, could impact efforts to reduce the spread of misinformation and disinformation online. Tuesday’s injunction, however, still allows the government to alert social media companies about posts that involve criminal activity or national security threats. The Biden administration will likely appeal the ruling, and the White House has said that the Justice Department is reviewing the injunction and evaluating options. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now, some labor news. In Southern California, roughly 15,000 hotel workers are on strike to demand higher pay, better benefits and more manageable workloads. The strike kicked off on Sunday when bellhops, housekeepers and cooks represented by Unite Here Local 11 walked off the job. And many workers on the picket line spoke to reporters about barely making ends meet even while working 40 hours a week. And they asked guests to show their support by finding other places to stay while negotiating with their employers. On the national level, UPS and the Teamsters Union failed to come to an agreement after a marathon bargaining session yesterday, increasing the possibility of a nationwide delivery worker strike in the coming weeks. Brace for them delayed packages, but it’s for good reason. This comes after both sides reached a deal to install air conditioning units in UPS trucks, which is fucking ridiculous as the earth is burning. They should have AC in the year of 2023, they’re just now getting that? Fucked up. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Crazy, crazy. 


Juanita Tolliver: But the rest of the Teamsters demands have yet to be met. If no agreement is reached by the July 31st deadline, 340,000 UPS workers could walk off the job as soon as August 1st. And finally, SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers extended contract negotiations through July 12th, temporarily averting a possible actors strike. The expiration date for their current contract was initially set for midnight, June 30th. But after both parties failed to come to an agreement, SAG-AFTRA said it will give the alliance a few more days to either meet their demands or watch them join Hollywood writers on the picket lines. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Strike everybody strike! Get what you need. Get what you deserves. And especially, I just want to shout out the most important people in hotels, the bellhops, the housekeepers and the cooks. Because– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Hell yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: You deserve more. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you do. And if you need to strike to get it, we support you. Solidarity. A two day offensive from Israeli military forces left 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier dead in the occupied West Bank, marking the worst attack that the region has seen in 20 years. The assault began on Monday when Israeli troops invaded the refugee camp of Jenin to crack down on Palestinian militants, many of whom are known to reside in the area. Thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes as Israeli forces destroyed the camp’s roads, opened fire on civilians and seized thousands of weapons for two days straight. The devastating attack has reawakened tensions between Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, the governing body of Palestinian areas in the West Bank. The authority has long faced scrutiny for allowing Israeli forces to operate freely on Palestinian land, and residents showed up to the authority’s headquarters in Jenin yesterday, accusing officials of failing to protect them. 


Juanita Tolliver: Protests have started to ease in France after days of unrest following the police killing of 17 year old Nahel M, a teen of North African descent in a Paris suburb last Tuesday. Police claim that the teenager drove into the two officers, but a video from the scene later revealed that neither cop was in immediate danger and both were standing next to a stationary car with one officer pointing a gun at the driver. The recent death has reignited conversations about overpolicing of marginalized communities in France, and thousands took to the streets, some burning cars and setting fire to buildings to protest the recent police shooting. Since the protests first erupted last week, more than 45,000 police were deployed across France and more than 3000 protesters were detained. French President Emmanuel Macron has blamed social media for making organizing easier for protesters, and he threatened to cut access to social media. It’s giving dictator. It’s not a vibe. You are not Erdogan. Please don’t go down this path. Yesterday, the French government tried to backtrack on Macron’s statements by saying that the president wasn’t threatening a general blackout of social media, just occasional temporary suspensions like, sir. Sir, you’re already trying to raise the retirement age and you saw what that got you. Now you’re trying to take away social media because they organize so good, like, get the fuck out of here. Don’t do this to yourself. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s not okay. I mean, it’s not okay when other countries do it, but, like, come on. No, that’s just a no. And finally, Monday’s average global temperature reached 62.62 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the August 2016 record of 62.46 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that this is according to data collected by the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which only dates back to 1979. The increasing average temperature in the last several decades is hugely indicative of human induced climate change, but it’s also likely affected by the natural climate phenomenon El Nino, which tends to bring warmer temperatures. But experts warn that this most recent record could be broken several more times this year. And I feel like a broken record saying this, but you should know by now that climate change means that this extreme heat that we’ve been seeing in the American South and in other parts of the world is only going to get more frequent and more severe. 


Juanita Tolliver: At this point, I think we’re all the dog in the burning house cartoon, right? This is fine. It’s actually not. We’re all going to burn. I mean, the earth is burning already. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it is absolutely not fine. Very alarming also that we hit the new high today and will probably continue hitting highs this year when we haven’t since 2016. Like, that’s quite a while, actually. That shouldn’t make us feel good. 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like we also got to shout out all those climate deniers who are lawmakers and policymakers who still will block any effort to rectify the situation. So– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Fuck those guys. 


Juanita Tolliver: There’s that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Make sure not to cross the picket line and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just how to lessen the impacts of climate change like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And this is not fine. No, no, no. 


Juanita Tolliver: We literally have nonstop fires to the north. We have ocean rising on both coasts like we got tornadoes and hurricanes in the middle. There is no running or escaping this fucked up reality. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Is that why all the rich people are going to space and the bottom of the ocean? [laughter]


Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla, Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. Our intern is Ryan Cochran, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.