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Drag queen "Pickle" reads from a book during Drag Queen Story Hour at the West Valley Regional Branch Library on July 26, 2019 in Los Angeles. (David McNew/Getty Images)

TGIF: Of Drag Queens, Gas Stations and Crypto Banks

Everything you need to know from another chaotic week in America.

→ Inflation is the only story: Until Biden can get this under control, there’s nothing to talk about but inflation, which is wreaking havoc on every American. This week inflation hit 8.6%, the fastest annual pace in 40 years. Consumer sentiment fell to an all-time low. Grocery prices rose nearly 12% in a year. Rents are soaring—up 15% and the average cost of a rental across the U.S. hit $2,000 a month. The stock market is down 21% from its highs, and we’ve officially entered a bear market. Biden meanwhile still blames everyone but himself and his party: Inflation is “the Putin Price Hike” and “ultra MAGA” politicians (i.e.: how they refer to most Republicans) are mucking things up. Elizabeth Warren is still blaming rapid onset greed. Biden’s approval has fallen below 40%. The Federal Reserve just raised interest rates by .75%, the sharpest hike since 1994. 

Meanwhile, the mainstream press would like you to know: Things are great! Any complaints about 40-year-high inflation are a bunch of right-wing naysayers. Here’s how an MSNBC host responded to the economic pain Americans are feeling:

→ Tail between the legs, the White House heads to Saudi Arabia: Gas prices are up about 50% from a year ago. Biden promised throughout his campaign to stop all future drilling on federal land here in America. Here he was in 2020: “No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill. Period.” Biden also promised to crack down on Saudi Arabia for human rights violations (namely, brazenly dismembering a writer). Well, things have changed. Now, Biden is slamming oil companies for not drilling enough. Next month, Biden will head on a tour of the Middle East, popping into Israel to reaffirm the Abraham Accords and schmoozing with the Saudis.   

→ Crypto, oh crypto: The thing about the wild west is there are no rules—and there’s no one to complain to when you get robbed. Crypto investors are finding that out the hard way. This week, another crypto service —Celsius—appears to be melting down. At one point it oversaw over $12 billion in funds for nearly two million users, advertising that users could withdraw and trade whenever they wanted. Now? They are stopping users from making any withdrawals or transfers.  

Celsius calls itself a lending platform. Round these parts we usually call em’ banks. But as we’re now reminded: Celsius doesn’t have the investor oversight and legal protections that banks do. As the WSJ put it: “Individual investors might not have realized when they put money in Celsius that they were giving the company an unsecured loan with little legal protection.”

→ A bipartisan gun deal looks ready to go: The Senate has surprised us all with a pretty reasonable compromise gun safety deal, which Senate Republicans and Democrats are getting behind. It would put in stronger background checks for 18-21 years old looking to buy a gun; encourage states to implement red flag laws; and strengthen prohibitions on domestic abusers owning guns. The absolutists on the right are critical of it, citing red flag laws as a slippery slope, but now an interesting twist: The American far left isn’t sure if they like it either. This bill means tighter rules around guns and more ways to break those rules. Which means more ways for the police to get involved. So here’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on CNN: “I am disappointed to hear a focus on increased criminalization and juvenile criminalization instead of having the focus on guns.” 

→ Ginni Thomas is very determined: Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was very, very active around the 2020 election. She emailed 29 Arizona lawmakers urging them to reject Biden’s victory as fraudulent—“stand strong in the face of political and media pressure,” she wrote, in asking them to ignore the will of the voters. Oh Ginni.

It might not be fair, but her activism is hard to peel away from the fact that her husband sits on the Supreme Court and has a role in our election security. It isn’t just the Roe v. Wade leak that has harmed the court’s credibility. 

→ What was that about parental rights? Gov. DeSantis hinted at using state power to punish parents who take their kids to raucous “kid-friendly” drag shows. “We have child protective statutes on the books,” DeSantis said. “We have laws against child endangerment.” Republican lawmakers in Arizona and Texas have proposed similar bans. And a group of conservative men stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour in San Francisco, allegedly shouting “pedophile” and “tranny.” 

Personally, would I take a kid to a drag show? Kids are bad at learning Abba choreography and that would be embarrassing to me, so I’d rather go on my own, thanks. But I disapprove of lots of things. Do I approve of Toddlers and Tiaras competitions? No, sir, I do not. Large, elaborate strollers? Raising your child as a vegan? Making kids wear body armor to rollerblade? Not in my house. 

But this is America. And the bar for getting the state involved in private parenting decisions is and ought to remain very, very high. When we’re talking gender-reassignment surgeries for under-18s, that’s a fair debate (though even then the conversation should be structural and about medical policies, not about randomly punishing individual families). But back to drag shows: If DeSantis believes in parental rights and wants to run as that kind of presidential candidate, then he better believe in them no matter which political direction the wacky goes in. 

In related and bizarre news: New York City has spent $200,000 on drag shows in city schools. Private citizens going to drag shows is one thing, but the city paying for this? New York City’s mayor said: “Drag storytellers, and the libraries and schools that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that is core to what our city embraces.”

→ Mayra Flores and the new conservative Latino vote: A Texas district that voted for Biden has flipped red with the election this week of Mayra Flores, the first Mexico-born congresswoman in American history. Another first: She’ll be the first Republican in the U.S. House from the Rio Grande Valley since 1871. Her easy win (51% of the vote v. the runner-up’s 43%) looks like the start of the big swing right that pollsters have noticed among Latino voters. Instead of paying attention to what these voters might be saying, the press has been busy explaining that Latinos are important nodes in white supremacy. After Elon Musk said he voted for Flores, New York congressman Jamaal Bowman said this vote for the first Mexico-born congresswoman was “supporting white supremacy.” Interesting. 

→ Oh god, now they want to nationalize Tinder: According to the socialist magazine Jacobin, dating apps “shouldn’t be under the control of unaccountable, for-profit companies.” Because people are biased, you see, and sexual desire is always deeply unfair, and all the ghosted girls deserve their day in court. “Individual preferences make designing socially just dating algorithms tricky.” The solution is clear as day: The state will assign you a life partner. Mazel tov!

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