In This Episode
- Consumer prices are up 9.1% over this time last year, according to new inflation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the highest inflation rate in 40 years.
- President Biden landed in the Middle East on Wednesday and will be there until the end of the week. His administration is focused on building support among Israeli leadership for the Iran Nuclear Deal.
- And in headlines: School surveillance video of the Uvalde school shooting was released, Sri Lanka’s freshly ousted president fled his own country, and Microsoft joined forces with Netflix as business partners.
- Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning, is available in medium and dark roasts. Wake up with your own bag at crooked.com/coffee
- NY Times: “What Has 6 Legs, 2 Eyes and 158,500 Votes? This ‘I Voted’ Sticker.” – https://nyti.ms/3ANXJAT
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Erin Ryan: It’s Thursday, July 14th. I’m Erin Ryan.
Abdul El-Sayed: And I’m Abdul El-Sayed, and this is What A Day, where we didn’t take advantage of Prime Day deals even though there was a discount on a fully-produced episode of a daily news podcast.
Erin Ryan: Yes, we could have had Amazon do our jobs for us, but it would have been ethically wrong.
Abdul El-Sayed: That being said, there’s always next Prime Day. On today’s show, we explain how President Biden’s trip to the Middle East this week all comes back to oil. Plus, a New York County’s new mascot for voting could be a Technicolor man/bug with the potential to haunt your nightmares forever.
Erin Ryan: I cannot wait. I want to talk about this, and only this for the rest of the day. But first, it’s rough out there right now for the American consumer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new inflation data on Wednesday that show that consumer prices are up 9.1% over this time last year. That’s the highest inflation rate in 40 years. Helping push that number up is an eye-popping 41.6% increase in the cost of gas. We’ll get deeper into that later.
Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. I tried to buy a gallon of milk, which is the most stereotypical thing to buy and the prices were through the roof!
Erin Ryan: Would it be cheaper at this point to fuel our cars with gallons of milk?
Abdul El-Sayed: It’s kind of weird, because I fuel my baby with a gallon of milk.
Erin Ryan: A gallon of milk!? You must have an enormous baby. This is a bigger spike in the consumer price index than analysts expected. The markets–as markets are want to do–freaked out a little bit and all of the major indices fell on the news. But these numbers might also signal more of a squeeze on consumers ahead.
Abdul El-Sayed: That’s not great, considering that we all kind of already feel squeezed. So what’s the federal government doing in response? Because this isn’t great.
Erin Ryan: So the Fed is scheduled to meet later this month, and members of its board have indicated that they’re not happy with the direction that things are headed. Atlanta Fed Branch President Rafael Bostic indicated yesterday that he’d be open to raising interest rates an entire percentage point! When inflation feels like a threat to the economy, the Fed takes steps to try to reduce the amount of money in circulation by making it more expensive to borrow money. That means that consumer loans like newly-minted mortgages, car loans, and student loans will get more expensive, and borrowers will have to pay more interest over the life of the loan. Businesses will also have to pay more to borrow money, so they might put plans to buy new equipment, build new facilities, or otherwise expand, on hold until rates go down.
Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like the Fed’s response to this is like, Oh, you don’t like inflation? Here, take some recession. So the million dollar question, will this move fix things? Will the rate hike stop? Will things feel less expensive again?
Erin Ryan: So actually, with inflation, the $1 million question is now the $1,100,000 question–it’s more expensive now, over the last year. It’s impossible to say right now if the Fed’s plan to slow inflation down will work right away, but what will happen right away is that it will become slightly more lucrative to save money in a savings account or to put money into debt instruments like CDs or bonds–kind of not that comforting for those of us who are dealing with like mortgages, student loans, things like that. And for what it’s worth, those crazy gas prices I mentioned earlier, they’re actually coming down, which could be a good sign that inflation may not be far behind. So a little bit of silver lining, I guess.
Abdul El-Sayed: Well, it’d be a lot better if you had some gold lining, considering where we are. But speaking of gas and oil, we’re going to turn to the Middle East, where President Biden will be until the end of this week.
Erin Ryan: He landed yesterday. So where was his first stop?
Abdul El-Sayed: Israel, where he spoke about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel in a speech from the tarmac after his arrival.
[clip of President Biden] Greater peace, greater stability, greater connection–it’s critical. It’s critical, if I may add, for all the people of the region.
Abdul El-Sayed: If that wasn’t a hint-hint, nod-nod, I don’t know what is. The President mentioned his support for a two-state solution, though the administration has been less than aggressive on driving that forward. As Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group “J Street”, said in a Washington Post op-ed, and I quote, “While campaigning, candidate Biden committed to reversing many steps taken by President Donald Trump that undermined prospects for a two-state solution and America’s potential to mediate the conflict. But a year and a half into Biden’s term, his administration has yet to follow through on those promises, such as to reopen the U.S. consulate dealing with the Palestinians.”
Erin Ryan: If he’s less focused on Palestine-Israel peace, what was his focus?
Abdul El-Sayed: And this, my friend, is where it all gets back to oil and gas. The administration’s real focus is on building support among Israeli leadership for the Iran nuclear deal. You’ll remember that Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal and initiated sanctions on Iranian oil. That, of course, led Iran to break the terms of the deal, too. But the U.S. desperately needs oil right now, which puts the administration in an awkward position. In order to get Iranian oil, the U.S. has to end the sanctions, which it can only do if it reenters the deal. But Israel, which considers Iran its worst enemy, has opposed the deal. In an interview with a local Israeli television channel, Biden said this:
[clip of President Biden] The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now, is an Iran with nuclear weapons.
Erin Ryan: Why do I feel like we are living inside of a prequel to the Mad Max franchise? You know how like Star Wars Episode 1 is like, “and then there was a treaty that was broken”, and you’re like, Okay, come on, get to the point with like the Jedi and stuff. We’re like at the broken treaties and failed diplomacy part of like, living on guzzoline and driving homemade murder motorcycles through the Australian outback.
Abdul El-Sayed: Feeding your baby with gallons of milk.
Erin Ryan: Yes. Also that, because milk will be cheaper. Biden will be in the region until Saturday. Where else is he going on this trip?
Abdul El-Sayed: Next stop, Saudi Arabia, where he is set to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS–who Biden roundly condemned while on the campaign trail. The CIA has concluded that MBS not only knew and approved of, but ordered the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in a Turkish consulate. Worse, MBS has led the effort to perpetrate a bloody civil war in Yemen that has led to 230,000 deaths.
Erin Ryan: Wait, so why is Biden going there?
Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, I think all of us should be asking this question. And yet again, it goes back to oil. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s biggest producers of oil, and is one of the most influential members of the oil cartel, OPEC. Given the boycott on Russian oil, the administration sees more Saudi oil as a key antidote to record-setting gas prices. But even though this meeting is an embarrassing about-face for Biden, experts don’t even think it’ll solve the problem. Saudi Arabia benefits by keeping oil prices high, and even if they wanted to, most experts don’t think they could ramp up production fast enough for it to make a difference. Some even think it would unsettle markets, just as prices are starting to come down.
Erin Ryan: Wow. So it really does all go back to oil and gas. Is there a way out?
Abdul El-Sayed: Not immediately. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn the lesson we should have learned a long time ago when we started two terrible wars over oil–that we really ought to invest in renewable energy so that we’re not beholden to murderous monarchs for oil. And maybe we can do something about climate change, that other global threat, too. But then that would require us to elect enough Democratic senators to make coal baron, and Senator, Joe Manchin’s vote obsolete. We’ll have more on all of this quite soon, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Erin Ryan: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Abdul El-Sayed: We’ll start with the latest on the police response to the Uvalde Texas massacre, that happened back in May. On Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman newspaper released a school surveillance video it obtained of when the shooting was going on. This is the first visual evidence that shows the police’s delayed–and for lack of better words–failed response to the gunman, who killed 21 people, mostly kids at the school. Throughout the 82-minute long video, we don’t see any victims, and the newspaper edited out the sound of children screaming before publishing it. But what we do see is mostly footage from inside the school hallway, including when the gunman entered the classroom. Three minutes later, we see police officers showing up, waiting over an hour before storming in. At one point, one of them uses some hand sanitizer. There have already been complaints about the botched police response to the shooting, but this video further fuels the scrutiny and this could lead to repercussions for law enforcement officers who are involved.
Erin Ryan: It’s just a horrible story. Sri Lanka’s freshly-ousted president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled his own country on Wednesday, amid the escalating anti-government protests against him. Rajapaksa officially stepped down yesterday amid calls for him to resign over the country’s economic crisis. Then he wasted no time making a run for it. He was soon spotted in the Maldives Islands, where he was immediately met with more protests. People across the islands marched with signs that said “Go home, Gota” to protest the ex-president’s arrival, and pushed back against the Maldivian government’s choice to take him in. Back in Sri Lanka, things haven’t gotten much better. Rajapaksa left. His prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe in charge as acting president, going against the public’s demands that his entire government be removed from office. The Prime Minister ordered a nationwide curfew to calm the chaos after protesters stormed his home yesterday, and he told the country’s military to, quote, “do whatever is necessary to restore order.”
Abdul El-Sayed: You’d think he should know better by now.
Erin Ryan: Yeah.
Abdul El-Sayed: The Department of Health and Human Services said yesterday that pharmacies nationwide cannot deny people access to their prescribed medications. This sounds like a no-brainer, but the new guidance comes amid reports of pharmacies refusing to fill certain prescriptions in states that have outlawed abortion because they could be used to terminate a pregnancy. We’re not just talking about actual abortion pills. We’re talking about any drug that poses a risk to a fetus, like heartburn meds and cancer treatments, that people need for other purposes. The department said that refusing a patient seeking these meds could be considered a violation of their civil rights.
Erin Ryan: This is a not-very-promising road that we’re going down right now. A beautiful collaboration is unfolding between Silicon Valley elders and newcomers, as Microsoft joins forces with Netflix to make Flo from Progressive interrupt your viewings of Bridgerton. As we’ve talked about on the show, the streaming platform is working to create a new subscription tier that costs less and includes ads. Yesterday, Netflix announced that it has enlisted Microsoft to be its partner in that effort.
Abdul El-Sayed: I’m just imagining a different take on that line, “I burn for you”, when it’s actually your car.
Erin Ryan: [laughs] I am not going to buy that car.
Abdul El-Sayed: But if Regé -Jean Page was in the car.
Erin Ryan: Maybe then yes.
Abdul El-Sayed: Deal. And then like Flo’s in the background being like, I can save you a lot of money on your car.
Erin Ryan: She’s got a lot of appeal. I think that she’s great.
Abdul El-Sayed: Democracy is in action in Ulster County, New York, where a child’s drawing of a humanoid spider monster has pulled way ahead in a contest to design the official “I Voted” sticker. Only about 2,000 people voted in the County Board of Elections-hosted contest last year. But right now, the work of 14-year old Hudson Rowan has 175,000-vote lead over the next runner up. And it’s not because of voter fraud, but rather because the whole Internet fell in love with his nightmarish purple monster next to the words, “I voted” written in what can only be described as a serial killer scrawl. Asked about his design by the New York Times, Hudson said, quote, “I feel like the creature that I drew kind of resembles the craziness of politics in the world right now.” We’ll link to a picture of the sticker in our show notes so you can see the masterpiece for yourself.
Erin Ryan: This “I Voted” sticker is so funny to me that I can only look at it for a few seconds before I feel like I’m going to have to get up and calm myself down from laughing so hard. It’s just so the zeitgeist. [in scary voice] “I voted.” Like, it’s amazing.
Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like it’s how people think about our democracy from abroad.
Erin Ryan: And domestically. It is the moment. And finally, far-right Colorado Congressman Lauren Boebert is using her new memoir to correct the record about a story many of us in the fake news media have uncritically spread. No, her husband did not exposed himself to a minor in 2004, as many have claimed, including her husband in a court of law when he pled guilty to doing that. According to Lauren, Jason Boebert only, quote, “acted like he was going to unzip his pants” in front of the 17-year old bartender of a bowling alley, and then took a plea deal, quote, “instead of fighting for his innocence in court.” We’re grateful Boebert had the courage to defend her husband’s honor here, and congrats to him for nailing what we now know was a performance in the role of belligerent sex offender. Um, why was a 17-year old tending bar in a bowling alley!?
Abdul El-Sayed: And why was her husband pretending to flash her in a bowling alley?
Erin Ryan: There are so many questions. And why did Lauren Boebert write a memoir? Who wrote Lauren Boebert’s memoir? Why is she pretending to write a memoir? Let’s be honest. She did not write that. No, a ghostwriter wrote it, and I would like to meet that ghost writer.
Abdul El-Sayed: Actually, her husband wrote it. [laughs]
Erin Ryan: Her husband pretended to, she pretended to write it. Everybody pretended to do the thing that they definitely did. That’s the Boebert way. And those are the headlines.
Abdul El-Sayed: One more thing before we go: on this week’s Pod Save The World, Tommy and Ben are joined by Daniel Russel from the Asia Society Policy Institute to discuss the shocking assassination of Japan’s former prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Listen to new episodes of Pod Save The World each Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.
Erin Ryan: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, design a scary “I Voted” sticker, and tell your friends to listen.
Abdul El-Sayed: And if you’re into reading, and not just the excerpts of Lauren Boebert lightly fictionalized memoir like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Abdul El-Sayed.
Erin Ryan: I’m Erin Ryan.
[together] And we love you, Flo!
Erin Ryan: I feel like that could go so many different ways. I guess, just maybe working in, like, the women’s media space for as long as I have, flo has a different meaning.
Abdul El-Sayed: Mmm. Fair.
Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producer is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.