SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had an interesting year so far.
In January he overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for the first time in the horse race for hoarding wealth. Then he got himself mixed up in the r/wallstreetbet Gamestop insanity, boosting the movement with his "Gamestonk!!" tweet, and has remained a part of the similarly strange speculation around the meme "currency" known as Dogecoin.
Bought some Dogecoin for lil X, so he can be a toddler hodler— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1612969691.0
Then in early February Musk announced that he was taking a (short-lived) break from Twitter following a major recall of Tesla vehicles and the explosive landing of SpaceX's SN9 rocket — the second test to end in flames in a matter of weeks. But now there are once again some positive headlines for Musk to bask in, as Tesla has turned some impressive profits in February — not from its car sales, but from a major investment in bitcoin.
Just two weeks after Tesla filed paperwork on its January purchase of $1.5 billion in bitcoin — as well as their decision to accept the cryptocurrency as payment — the price of bitcoin has risen by more than 50%, reaching an all-time high of more than $58,000 on Sunday. It has since waned from that peak, but the highly volatile digital currency is still valued well above the price at which the car company bought in.
Depending on when in January the car maker made their purchase, they might have nearly doubled their money. One analyst noted that, if Tesla had sold their bitcoin at the peak price, they would have realized around a billion dollars in profit — more than they netted in the entirety of 2021 from the sale of elctric vehicles and solar energy equipment. With that said, why would a company that ostensibly exists to make cars be investing in cryptocurrency in the first place?
Responsible Investment or Shady Business?
According to their filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, they made the purchase in pursuit of "more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash." But is that really what investors gave them that cash for?
If Tesla shareholders wanted to invest in bitcoin, they might have done so directly. And if they wanted someone to be using their money to make prudent investments, they could have given it to an investment firm. Surely they invested in Tesla because they believed in the company itself and in the future of the solar energy and electric vehicle industries.
So why mess with something like bitcoin, which is so far outside their supposed field? One answer is in the increasing financialization of the economy at large.
Noam Chomsky - Financialization of the Economy www.youtube.com
The value of publicly traded companies is increasingly divorced from any product they make or any service they provide to customers. Instead, their stock becomes their true product, and they boost the value of that product by buying it back from investors, leveraging their assets to receive loans, and pumping as much money as they can into profitable investments.
While those profitable investments can include expenditures for new equipment, factories, and employees, there is a limit. There are only so many people looking to buy electric vehicles and solar roofs. If the value of Tesla stock has risen so much that investing that money in manufacturing would outpace the market, then they owe it to their investors to find somewhere else to turn a profit.
This opens the question of whether they should still be considered a car company, or if they're now just an investment firm with heavy ties to the solar sector. But apart from that, there's still the question of why they chose bitcoin above other investments —especially when Musk has staked his claim on a more environmentally friendly future, and bitcoin mining wastes as much energy a large country.
Considering the currency's general upward trend — despite dramatic shifts — part of the reasoning might have to do with providing some cushion now that they're accepting bitcoin as payment. If a bitcoin millionaire buys a fleet of Teslas when the currency is at a peak, Tesla could end up losing a lot of that value by the time the cars are delivered. But if that's folded into a larger bitcoin investment that can (probably...maybe) be expected to continue increasing in value in the long term, it's not a big deal.
That would make a certain amount of sense. But if we were being less charitable, we could look at Elon Musk's personal history of using his social media to influence investment and the price of cryptocurrency, in particular.
In 2018 Musk was sued by the SEC, who alleged fraud over a series of false tweets in which Musk said he had secured funding to take Tesla private at a price of $420 per share. At the time, Tesla was valued at closer to $350 per share, and Musk later acknowledged that he chose the figure of $420 as a "funny" reference to cannabis.
Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1533660493.0
That dumb joke led to a 14% jump in Tesla stock, amounting to hundreds of millions in value for Musk. But even that doesn't compare to what Elon Musk has been able to do with the value of cryptocurrency and meme stocks.
Over and over his tweets have sent their values soaring. And Tesla and SpaceX, there is no concrete output of cryptocurrency. There are no cars that can be recalled and no rockets that can blow up.
While Tesla and other companies can put some distance between their profits and their actual productive output — relying more on investments, stock value, and hype — there are still real-world products at the core of the operation. When sales are down or one part among thousands is revealed as faulty, the company can take a major hit. That's not an issue with bitcoin.
While some cryptocurrencies have a value tied to a recognized asset, bitcoins only value lies in its perceived worth. And, unlike the dollar and other fiat currencies, it's not even tied toward a government's ability to collect taxes.
@PeterSchiff An email saying you have gold is not the same as having gold. You might as well have crypto. Money is… https://t.co/Ci7r8Q38Qc— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1613801271.0
When more people want to buy it, the price goes up, when fewer are willing, the price drops, and there are no quarterly earnings or product reviews attached to it. Short of an undiscovered fault in the blockchain technology at bitcoin's core, the price is purely subject to hype. And that is an area where Elon Musk thrives.
With more than 47 million followers on Twitter — in the top 25 of individual users on the platform — musks often inane, memeified thoughts are guaranteed a wide audience. And when he sends some of that attention toward a meme stock like Gamestock, or toward a cryptocurrency like dogecoin, he can be sure that the value will see a spike.
Lately, however, he has been casting doubt on dogecoin and shifting his attention toward bitcoin. Perhaps he wants to see how far he can push the power of his hype.
Rather than using that power to manipulate Tesla's stock — which got him in trouble before — he could be using his considerable corporate control (with minimal personal liability) to shift his company's value into an area where he has more freedom to comment, speculate, and drive interest under the cover of "humor." That would certainly explain some of his bizarre, s***posting of late.
Heard a rumor some crypto coin was pegging the dollar 🤣🤣— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1613854376.0
If so, the experiment has already paid off. Along with recent developments like the addition of bitcoin to Apple Pay, Tesla's bitcoin announcements on February 8th — along with a lot of dumb tweets — have contributed to the currency's steep rise.
Of course the alternative is that the richest man in the world is genuinely about as smart as the average redditor...which is as upsetting as it is plausible. Tough call.
Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.
In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.
In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.
But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.
Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.
In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.
Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.
Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:
1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan
2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.
3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.
4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.
5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.
Here are charities offering support in Haiti:
1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.
2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.
3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.
4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.
When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.
Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.
The aesthetics were undeniably luxe and historic. The campaign showcased the rarely-seen Basquiat painting Equals Pi (1982), which the brand acquired for the background's proximity to its distinctive Tiffany blue. Also notably historic is that Beyoncé was the first Black woman to wear the 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond.
Before Beyoncé, the only other stars to wear the yellow diamond were Mary Whitehouse, wife of American diplomat Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse, Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn, and singer Lady Gaga.
"Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the epitome of the modern love story …. Love is the diamond that the jewelry and art decorate," said the press release accompanying the campaign.
The campaign, titled "About Love," is stunning and has both classic and contemporary references. The image of the couple posing in front of high art recalled the iconic stills from their "APESHIT" music video, for which they famously rented out the Louvre and posed in front of the Mona Lisa.
THE CARTERS - APESHIT (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Their "APESHIT" photo made a giant cultural impact for its juxtaposition of Western beauty and Blackness. Tiffany's campaign seemed to have similar goals — showcasing Beyoncé and Jay Z as the peak of luxury, this time juxtaposing the Basquiat and the Tiffany diamond.
As a Black couple, their appearance in such a luxury campaign was a big move for representation, but in a post 2020 landscape, there was an outcry of criticism.
Despite the aesthetic beauty of the image, the high capitalist undertones didn't sit right with some on the internet — largely younger demographics. Though this campaign was an effort by Tiffany's to appeal to younger audiences and make the brand feel more relevant, Twitter's verdict was clear: a blood diamond wasn't the way to go.
The diamond, which was mined in South Africa in 1877, comes from origins laden in the implications of colonialism. The practice of mining in South Africa at the time was exploitative and destructive, eschewing the livelihoods and safety of African miners and their communities for... what? Money? So Tiffany could try to sell us some dream of affluence using Black celebrities as to "Blackwash" the history behind their treasured piece?
The Washington Post also had some choice words, saying: "Its campaign does not celebrate Black liberation — it elevates a painful symbol of colonialism. It presents an ostentatious display of wealth as a sign of progress in an age when Black Americans possess just 4 percent of the United States's total household wealth. If Black success is defined by being paid to wear White people's large colonial diamonds, then we are truly still in the sunken place."
Alongside the campaign, Tiffany & Co have promised to donate $2 million to HBCUs to fund scholarships and internships. But this measly amount (considering the multi-billion dollar net worth behind LVMH) is not enough to cover up that, despite their performative efforts to promote "diversity," Tiffany's is entrenched in a colonial history that neither beauty nor Beyonce can make us ignore.
While Black representation has been increasing over the past few years, the question of how we are represented is starting to be considered with more nuance. And as we examine the structures of wealth and hierarchical values, many people are starting to ask whether these should be the standards we aspire to anymore.
Jay Z and Beyoncé have come under fire before for their promotion of Black Capitalist values — which the kids don't seem to want. Jay Z especially seems invested in the trappings of traditional (read: white) success and wealth. His cannabis line recently unveiled a campaign based on the work Slim Aarons — which was famously focused on "attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places" — and its unashamed opulence raised some eyebrows.
Images like this aren't as revolutionary as they once might have been since they reinforce the status quo and tell marginalized people to reach for the same luxuries and lifestyles deemed aspirational by the people who have oppressed them.
Anti-capitalist theory has been around as long as capitalism has, but younger generations are more likely to question the status quo — even when it comes packed with Basquiat and Beyoncé.
The conversation about the Tiffany campaign is indicative of how Gen Z thinks differently about money and what it means to them. They are less likely to be seduced by the luster of the aspirational, and more receptive to relatability.
No more does financial literacy seem restricted to the pretentious or the elite — we get it, finance bros; you love capitalism. With Cleo, understanding your money is something that can align users with their values.
And those values don't look like blood diamonds or corporate pandering.
- Sorry, Beyoncé, but Tiffany's blood diamonds aren't a girl's best friend - Washington Post
- The Black-white wealth gap left Black households more vulnerable — Brookings
- The Unashamed Opulence of Jay Z's Luxury Cannabis-Themed Slim Aarons Photoshoot — Popdust
- ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE DOING ATTRACTIVE THINGS IN ATTRACTIVE PLACES WITH SLIM AARONS — Elle Decor
Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.
From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.
1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance
If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.
2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping
All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.
camping road tripConde Nast Traveler
If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).
3. Bring Food From Home
Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.
Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.
4. Avoid Tolls
Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).
You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.
Road TripThe Orange Backpack
5. Save on Gas
Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.
6. Get a National Park Pass
All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.