Capitalism Teamed Up With Global Warming To Increase Rent

Last week, I talked about what “collapse” looks like in something as complex and dynamic as an ecosystem. A change in one part of the system ripples outward as all the connected parts adjust in response, triggering changes in their connected parts. Rather than the system simply falling like a Jenga tower, it changes shape, shrinking to fill vacuums. As far as I can tell, this is a property of any dynamic systems, and that includes our political, economic, and social systems.

For all of the years that I’ve been writing about climate change, one of the most consistent predictions has been that the worst harm will fall disproportionately on the poorest people. Most of the time the examples given have been poor nations, mostly former colonies, with some focus on poor communities within rich nations, like the minority communities hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This makes perfect sense. Poor people and poor nations have fewer material resources with which to prepare for or recover from disasters, or with which to move away from high-risk areas. This has always been the case, which is why you’ll find people living in so-called “sacrifice zones“, where they are routinely poisoned by industrial waste of various sorts. The status quo, absent climate change, already made life more dangerous for poor people, and climate change just adds to the pile. In fact, climate change can multiply those dangers. Flood waters can carry stored chemicals throughout a region, wildfires can fill the air with poison, and poorly stored materials can poison drinking water.

Today, however, I want to talk about a different way that climate change affects people at the lower end of the income range, at least in the United States: access to housing.

While I still hope to own my own home some day, I have to admit that it feels less attainable every year. Having rented since I left college, I’ve seen rent skyrocket, and have had to move several times just because the landlord decided they wanted to charge more, a pattern that’s likely to continue for the rest of my life. Every time I have to move, it requires another big chunk of money beyond rent, and the new place is likely to be charging as much as the old place before long. The whole process might as well be designed to prevent renters from building up enough wealth to buy their own home, without even touching how big landlords use their wealth to buy more homes, driving up prices.

So what happens when we add in the effects of a rapidly warming planet? What happens when a hurricane hits a city? Buildings are damaged, and some homes are rendered uninhabitable, and in need of repair or rebuilding. And the renter? Well, they’re left to find another place if they can, or to live in a hotel. If they’re lucky, federal disaster relief can cover those costs, but that only goes so far, and in the meantime that damage means that rental stock has gone down, and landlords’ expenses have gone up.

So the rent goes up too.

Dr. Kelsea Best of The Ohio State University and her colleagues analyzed how the frequency and intensity of a hurricane correspond to changes in median rent and rental housing affordability over time. They found that median rents rise in the year following more intense hurricanes due to declines in housing availability. Their results also suggest that the occurrence of a hurricane in any given year (or in the previous year) reduces affordable rental housing. This was especially true for counties with a higher percentage of renters and people of color.

More than one-third of the American population (44 million households) live in rental dwellings. Renters have less access to post-disaster government aid programs and to benefits from federal mitigation programs such as home buyouts. In addition, people of renter status are more likely to be underinsured, with only 57% having insurance policies as of 2022 (Insurance Information Institute). “Most federal post-disaster assistance programs are targeted to homeowners,” says Best. “Our study shows that deliberate attention must be given to renters – especially low-income and minority renters – in recovery efforts immediately following a disaster event and in subsequent years.”

She suggests that future local, state, and federal policies should provide explicit protections and support to renters after disasters. These could include eviction moratoria, limiting late fees on rent payments, increasing access to emergency rental assistance, and freezing rent increases. Additionally, efforts that prioritize affordable and stable housing supply with up-to-date market rent price monitoring could provide a critical reference for policymakers to understand and respond to renters’ struggles, especially during post-disaster periods.

“Without such deliberate consideration of rent and renters, disaster recovery risks exacerbate the affordable housing crisis for some of the most vulnerable populations,” says Best.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. See, hurricanes don’t just hurt infrastructure, they hurt businesses. They close for repairs, or they can’t get customers because of infrastructure damage, and so what do they do? Same thing they did during the pandemic – they cut costs by laying people off. Suddenly, because of a disaster beyond their control, there’s a group of people who no longer have the money to pay rent, and so evictions go up.

Another threat that renters may face following a disaster is eviction due to either loss of income or the lack of effective rental assistance when the housing supply tightens during the recovery phase.
Dr. Qian He of Rowan University and her colleagues investigated how disasters and post-disaster federal aid contribute to renters’ eviction risks. They found that hurricanes corresponded to higher eviction filings and eviction threats by inflating market rent the year of and one year after the hurricane. Counties receiving higher amounts of aggregated federal aid (both post-disaster and hazard mitigation aid) were associated with lower eviction filings and eviction threats two years after the disaster.

Because remember – the point of the housing market, in the US at least, is to make money, not to house people. Coming back to the collapse of dynamic systems, the motives involved matter. In an ecosystem, everybody’s just trying to survive, so the system as a whole changes based on what organisms do in pursuit of survival and reproduction. Our system revolves around the desires of a tiny minority of people, whose ability to think clearly has been severely compromised by their own extreme wealth and power.

This is part of the feedback loop I’ve dubbed the Age of Endless Recovery, in which we’re caught spending more and more money trying to recover for disasters that keep getting worse as the planet warms. Those at the top are insulated from the damage, and those further down in the hierarchy are forced to pay even more of their hard-earned money to people wealthier than themselves, thanks to the way those at the very top have fought to prevent any real climate action.

Rent keeps going up for a lot of reasons, but if you actually trace them, it all comes back to rich people putting their own misguided interests ahead of the entire species. As the study’s authors say, the problems they outline can be addressed with things like better government support for renters, when disaster strikes, but fundamentally, the problem will not go away until the point of our housing system is to house people, rather than making money off of people’s need for housing.

Bezos Aims to Divide the Working Class with New Real Estate Scheme

Shortly before Tegan and I decided to leave the United States, hopefully never to return, we considered buying a house. Mortgage payments are generally less than rent, and we’d both had a succession of rich and/or corporate landlords who did as little as humanly possible to keep their properties habitable, so we wanted to try for something better. Additionally, home ownership has long been presented as a pathway to financial security, and some sense of stability. Because rents will keep rising, year after year after year, renters tend to have to keep moving, which is a huge expense and a huge disruption all by itself. We wanted out of that trap. We didn’t have a lot of money, but thanks to intergenerational wealth, we did have enough for a down payment on something small. The problem was, for every place we looked at, There was some big landlord or house-flipper who was willing to offer more than the asking price, with cash on hand. Our landlord at the time owned dozens of homes in the area, and so we were competing with him and his ilk, while he used the money that we gave him every month to outbid us. For that and other reasons, we ended up deciding to gamble on being able to escape the US and find a way to make it work in a country where, if nothing else, we’d have access to a real healthcare system.

That future is still uncertain, but given that the pandemic would have robbed both of us of our incomes had we stayed, we would have burned through that “nest egg” anyway. Add in the far lower cost of health coverage and treatment, and I’m still comfortable with the choice we made. The thing is, the problem of landlords is not unique to the US. We’re still forced to send huge amounts of money, every month, to someone who we’ve never met, who lives on the other side of the country, and who views us as a source of passive income, nothing more. The role of the landlord, in our society, is a parasitic one, and those of us playing “host” often have no real option other than to find ways to provide for ourselves and our landlords, lest we be violently forced into homelessness.

Considering all of that, it makes perfect sense that Jeff Bezos, perhaps the biggest parasite on the planet, is getting into the business.

In this wonderful capitalist society, homes aren’t actually places for people to live. They serve that purpose, of course, but that’s secondary to their real function, which is making money for whoever owns them. That’s why having a housing shortage is beneficial to those at the top – it helps keep rents high, and for all they like to insist that they prefer having tenants and the income they bring, they’re known the world over for keeping homes empty rather than lowering rents to fill them.

The innovation in parasitism that Bezos is backing now, is a fantasy of getting in on the landlord grift even if you don’t have the money to buy a home. He’s offering to let people buy shares of homes, so that they can get a share of the rent:

About Arrived Homes

Arrived is the first SEC-qualified real estate investing platform that allows virtually anyone to buy shares in single-family rental properties with investment amounts ranging from $100 to $10,000 per property.

The company acquires rental homes and allows individual investors to become owners of the properties by purchasing shares through the platform. Arrived Homes manages the assets, while investors collect passive income through quarterly dividends in addition to earning a return through appreciation.

The company quickly gained the attention of several high-profile investors during its seed round in 2021, getting investments from Jeff Bezos, through Bezos Expeditions, Inc founder Marc Benioff through Time Ventures, former Zillow Group Inc CEO Spencer Rascoff and Uber Technologies Inc CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

I’m not surprised that this is getting attention from “high-profile investors”. Our entire economic system revolves around finding ways to funnel money from working people to those at the top, from the conventional exploitation of the workplace, to straight-up wage theft, to price-gouging, to finding ways to get money from the government, to using the government to erect barriers for normal people, then charging to have those barriers temporarily removed. The greed of those at the top has been making it more and more difficult for people to actually own their own homes, and so they’ve “innovated” a way to make people feel like they’re owners, without actually being owners, or having any of the rights that come with ownership.

It reminds me of how a great many people own stocks, at a very small level, either through personal investment or through retirement. Whenever I see people talking about laws to reign in the stock market, someone will inevitably pop up to insist that that would be bad because a majority of Americans own stocks. Stocks, they say, are how everyday working folk can get ahead in life (since just working clearly isn’t enough anymore). There are even people who will oppose regulation, because they’re worried about their tiny portfolios, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of shares in the US – 81% as of 2021 – are owned by the richest 10% of the population. As with white supremacy, it’s a way to trick people in the middle and towards to bottom into identifying with those at the top.

The result is that now, in addition to competing with mini-Trump figures like my former landlord, anyone looking to buy a home just to use as a home is also now competing with the richest people on the entire planet, who can spend hundreds of millions buying homes for no purpose other than to get richer, and in this case, to siphon even more money from poorer people, by getting them to invest, so they can hang out in the dining room, and get a few scraps from the table.

And the profits they make from this will be used to oppose any efforts to actually make housing (and life in general) affordable.

As I’ve said with many other issues, this won’t end until it’s forced to end. Wealth and power will keep accumulating at the top, leaving less and less for everyone else, until something is done to deliberately reverse that process. It’s also worth noting that any effort to solve this problem will be treated as the end of the world. Throughout history, every time anything is done to improve life for those at the bottom, those at the top will insist that what’s being proposed is the worst sort of crime against humanity. Weekends? They’ll cause the economy to crash and everyone will die. Minimum wage? It’ll cause the economy to crash and everyone will die. Workplace safety? It’ll cause the economy to crash and everyone will die. Affordable housing? Limits on Wall Street? Taxes for the rich? Universal healthcare or even a public option? It’ll cause the economy to crash and everyone will die.

We need to make a change, and we need to understand that no matter what change is being made, if it gets in the way of the all-consuming greed of the elite, they will respond as though we’re coming to torture them to death in front of their families. A similar argument is often made against doing anything to dismantle white supremacy – whatever it is, it’ll cause “hordes” of Black people to come out of the cities, and start ravaging the countryside, and you know that’s true, because Fox News and similar organizations spend a huge amount of time and money saying so.

We’re surrounded by messaging – not just from bullshit factories like Fox – that constantly tells us that things can’t get better, and that any effort to make things better will inevitably fail and make them worse. We’re going through a version of that now with the effort to force people who’re currently working at home to get back to the office. We get people like Lauren Boebert using a congressional hearing to whine about how lazy workers are, and how they have to be forced to work every second of the day, and so telecommuting must be stopped. At the same time, we get articles about how working from home threatens the investments of landlords who rent out offices, as though we ought to be shaping our laws and our lives around what guarantees the best return on investment for the rich.

I suppose at its most over-simplified, that’s what capitalism is – a system in which laws, customs and human lives are shaped and distorted around the wants and whims of the rich. Governments are overthrown, wars are waged, and lives are destroyed, all in service of supporting the capitalist class that has been granted ownership of most of the world, and feels it’s owed ownership of all of the world.

When I talk about climate change, much of my motivation revolves around how the rising temperature is making it increasingly difficult to survive on this planet. That’s also why I talk a lot about capitalism. Even without its numerous and horrific environmental impacts, it is making live increasingly difficult for growing portions of the population, and looking at history, there is no point at which that will naturally end or reverse itself. They’re bringing back black lung in Appalachia. They’re trying to bring back company towns. The idea that we somehow “learned” from the horrors that led to the labor movements a century ago is an absurd lie. The only reason capitalists pay anyone at all, or spend any money on workplace safety, or allow people to have any free time, is because they are forced to do so.

In that regard, it’s encouraging to see a rise in unionization and union successes. Unions, by themselves, won’t fix everything, but they can take us a long way in the right direction, especially when they coordinate with each other, and work together for the common good. I expect that the primary reason big investors are so excited by Bezos’ real estate scheme is because it looks like a new way to make money while also complicating and obscuring ownership, and therefor responsibility.

But I think another reason is that, as with the decision to move retirement funds into the stock market, it’s a way to trick people into identifying with their rulers, rather than with each other. Efforts to lower rents will suddenly have new opposition from folks who bought a share in a few rental homes, and see that as an attack on the pittance of extra income they get from that. People who survive by working for a paycheck will see themselves as capitalists because they get a little rent money from “their” rental properties, and so they’ll fight to keep that money flowing, even if it hurts them more in the long run.

Solidarity is, I believe, something that naturally forms between people. I think those at the top share my belief, which is why they put so much effort into building and maintaining systems designed to undermine and suppress that part of human nature. Unfortunately, that means that however much cooperation comes naturally to us, we need to actually put in time and energy to build and maintain solidarity in the face of that ongoing assault. Right now, labor unions seem to be our best tool for that job, and the uplifting end to the point is that a growing number of people seem to be recognizing that.

Sorry for skipping a week, things have just been feeling a bit overwhelming, and for some reason I find fiction writing to require more effort and energy per word.  I’m still aiming for one post here per week, but that depends a bit on how much progress I make with other things that currently feel more important than this blog.

Déjà Vu Isn’t a Glitch, It’s the Matrix Working as Designed

So, in pursuit of posting something weekly, I started writing about a recently published study on Greenland’s glaciers. The main take-away is that over the last twenty years, they’ve doubled their rate of retreat, with a couple possible exceptions in the far north. This was expected. Greenhouse gas emissions have not meaningfully decreased, and so their concentration in the atmosphere has continued to rise. The mechanism by which the planet is heating has increased, so of course the rate of warming has increased. The temperature has increased, so of course the rate of ice melt has increased. That’s all there really is to say about it, and it’s not really news to anyone reading this blog.

It’s the same sort of thing that’s been written countless times by countless people all around the world, and still, nothing meaningful is being done. There’s widespread support around the world for doing something about it and there has been for ages, and still, nothing meaningful is being done.

The politicians that claim to be the ones who accept the seriousness of the problem very clearly do not, as they continue supporting new fossil fuel extraction, and they keep increasing the budget of the US military, one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It seems pretty clear, from their actions, that the goal of the rich and powerful is to stay the course, and use violence to suppress any effort to steer us away from the cliff. They seem to actively want to make the world as uninhabitable and chaotic as they can, while holding on to their wealth and power. Looking at their actions, it’s hard to see anything other than murderous intent.

Elon Musk is increasingly displaying his own white supremacist beliefs, for example, even supporting the message of the Illinois Nazis from the Blues Brothers, and it’s increasingly clear that he’s far from alone in that belief, within his class. Wherever there’s a change that would benefit most of humanity, you will find billionaires spending their obscene wealth to create opposition to it, and to demonize those supporting it. If you want a cease-fire in Palestine, that means you’re antisemitic, even if you’re Jewish. If you want to end fossil fuel use, that clearly means that you want to keep the world’s poor in their poverty by denying them coal-generated electricity, even though those at the bottom are the hardest-hit by the warming climate, and the least able to withstand those blows.

It’s probably pretty easy to develop bigoted views about those “beneath” you, when you’re part of a class that’s wholly detached from human concerns. Many of them have never worried about having enough to survive in their lives, and it’s far easier to blame those who do struggle, than to actually face the injustice built into their luxurious and destructive lifestyles.

So, in pursuit of posting every week, I started writing about the growing gap in wealth, power, and life experience between the rich, and everyone else, and how wealth and privilege twist the human mind in ways that virtually guarantee this outcome. It’s the same sort of thing that’s been written countless times, by countless people, and yet the problem keeps getting worse. Rents keep rising, along with other expenses, even though there’s plenty of everything to go around.

So, I started writing about organizing – a topic on which I’m still fairly ignorant, because its the one area where I can find at least a little hope. Interest in unions has risen dramatically in the last three years, and major strike actions have proven successful, as workers and bosses both realize the power that the workers have, when united.

This hasn’t resulted in real climate action, or real change to the political/economic system that has brought us to this point, but in a capitalist society, where money is power, the ability for workers to claw back even a little of the wealth that they generate with their labor is far from nothing. Less material desperation means more time and energy for living life, and for further collective action. These wins also act as a proof of concept – nonviolent collective action, aimed at the flow of money, can get real results.

The question is, how far does that go? How much are unions able to do to repair systemic harm? How much can we claw back before the powerful turn to violence to keep the rabble in their place? I don’t see a way around finding out, because as I’ve said many times, those at the top are clearly willing to let the world burn, if they get to rule the ashes. Hell, I think some of them want the world to burn, because they know that increased desperation at the bottom makes their exploitation much easier. If you look at the edges, like the effort to stop Atlanta’s “cop city”, you begin see the violence inherent in the system. Look past the borders, at the bottom of the global economic system, and you will find a level of violence that we in the rich nations of the world were taught had been left behind. You’ll discover that that violence has always been an integral part of the system. From there, it’s not exactly hard to believe that those whose billions stem from that violence would be willing to turn it on their subjects in wealthy nations, if that’s what it took to protect their power.

There’s no easy way out of this, from what I can tell. There’s no point at which those in power will say, “Ok, we’ve clearly messed up, let’s try actual democracy for a change”. They’re convinced that the only reason things are bad anywhere, is that they don’t have enough power. They’re a class of would-be dictators or oligarchs, who all think that they would be the kind of ruler the world needs, and any effort to empower those at the bottom just proves that the rabble need to be ruled.

I think that things like unions, strikes, and direct action are our best path forward, and I think that the world as a whole urgently needs these things to happen in rich and powerful nations. Time and time again, efforts at systemic change in the former colonies have been met with genocidal violence, backed by wealthy nations that know they’re safe from any retaliation. There’s no reason for the rulers of those nations to stop doing that, unless the people of those nations take action to make them stop. We are inside the fortress, in a manner of speaking, which means that we have the ability to change things here, without having to get past the walls and armaments. I sometimes wonder if that is why there’s so much effort to demonize immigrants, and to create and maintain societal segregation between groups. It keeps people from working together, and it keeps the citizenry of wealthy nations from understanding how the world works, and how their own problems are part of the same system that’s causing so much death and misery “over there”.

This isn’t a guaranteed victory. The people, united, can still fuck up. We can still perpetuate bigotry, and maintain injustice. There’s no guarantee of victory, but I think it’s fair to say, at this point, that without revolutionary change, there is a guarantee of defeat, for humanity as a whole.

A health/blog update, and some thoughts on Israel and Palestine

I had a heart-related health scare today, and spent most of the day in the hospital getting checked out. Some results are pending, but it currently seems that I’m OK. That said, the illusion of imminent mortality was a bit tiring, and also very slightly perspective-shifting. I want to work more on fiction and on some other things in my life, so for the rest of this year, at least, my posts are probably going to be less. I had intended to write a somewhat in-depth post about Israel and Palestine, and I may still do that, but for now I’ll just say this:

Even if we were to assume – which I believe we should not – that “both sides” have an equal right to live on that land, the power dynamic, which has existed for longer than I’ve been alive, makes it clear what’s going on. De-escalation cannot happen without a commitment to it by the more powerful party, and there is zero question that Israel is more powerful. They’ve lowered the life expectancy in Gaza to the point where fully half the population are children, who have only ever known occupation and oppression.

Hamas, as an organization, also do evil things, and their attacks on civilians are inexcusable. That said, Hamas is also Israel’s chosen enemy, and was aided in their rise to power, just as more reasonable governing authorities were undermined. The only way for peace to happen, is for Israel to choose to end the cycle of revenge. The Palestinians cannot end it, just as the people of every other occupied territory cannot.

If Israel wants peace, they must end the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, and the attacks on mosques and worshippers, and the deliberate killing and maiming of protesters and journalists. They must demonstrate goodwill by providing the resources that they’ve kept from Palestinians for longer than I’ve been alive. They must stop destroying olive groves and wells.

If Israel wants peace.

As it stands, they very clearly do not.

It is heartbreaking to see this brutality and death, and it is horrifying to see people around the world cheering on Israel’s dehumanization of Palestinians, and their escalating campaign of genocide. I desperately want it to end, but that has no bearing on what will happen. The death toll is going to keep climbing, for weeks if not months, and at every step of the way, we will be told that all the Palestinian deaths are justified, including the children, because of Hamas. They will claim that the children are “human shields”, and apparently we’ve come to a point where a lot of the world believes that when someone uses a human shield, you’re supposed to kill the victim, blame the person behind them, and move on.

I want to end on this: However much disinformation you think you have seen about current events, you’ve almost certainly seen more. I have seen old videos of Palestinian children held in cages by the IDF, described as Israeli children being held in cages by Hamas. I have seen videos of munitions in the sky over Ukraine being described as IDF use of white phosphorous on Gaza. The lies are everywhere, and while I believe that the vast majority of them will continue coming from one side, I’ve learned by now that there are people within every movement who are perfectly willing to make shit up in support of their cause. Use caution, and insofar as you are able, use patience. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when so many people have been exposed to so much dishonest propaganda, and I fear it’s only going to get worse.

Be kind, be skeptical, and stand in solidarity with the oppressed.

Video: Leeja Miller on the GOP’s Extremist 2025 Project

Every four years, Americans who value human life, and see the ills caused by capitalism, are pushed to vote for the Democratic Party, not necessarily because they like the Democrats, but because the GOP is so evil and destructive, that it makes a great deal of sense to go with the lesser evil. It makes sense, but because political participation in the United States rarely goes beyond voting, it means that the Democrats have spent decades apparently trying to be as much like the Republicans as possible, while still retaining a tiny pile of moral high ground. As I’ve mentioned a couple times now, 2024 looks to be different, in that the Dems have actually been doing some things that are actively good for the people, and for democracy.

Unfortunately, the GOP has been doing bad things. I’ve considered the GOP to be a fascist party for a while now, and while there’s currently some infighting, I think that assessment still holds. While both parties have historically been fine supporting fascists in other countries, the Republicans are actively working to enact fascism in the United States, and I am not exaggerating. Project 2025 is basically the conservative answer to The American Prospect’s Day One Agenda, except that their goal is to dramatically expand presidential power, outlaw pornographic material and criminalize anyone involved in it (and remember, they classify all things sex ed or LGBTQIA as pornographic), and to dramatically scale up fossil fuel extraction and use. This vision of the future was crafted around Trump and his time in office, but the plan is to put it in front of the next GOP president.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that democracy is on the ballot, and unfortunately, that will continue to be the case for as long as our current system exists. That’s why political action needs to go beyond voting, if we want real change. Regardless of how you end up voting, I think it’s good to know what’s at stake, so here’s Leeja Miller breaking down the GOP’s plan for America:


NFTs Were a Wasteful, Destructive Scam

Do you remember NFTs?

Do you remember how they were consistently, credibly called out as an obvious con?

Do you remember the stories about how much energy was going into powering the computers running that con?

Pepperidge farm remembers, and so do I.

An article went around not long ago, about the fact that NFTs are mostly completely worthless now (as though they weren’t worthless from day one), and it got me thinking.

I like the idea of a society in which people can try things just to see if it’ll work, and I think we should be focusing more on increasing carbon-free energy production than on restricting people’s ability to use energy. I also think that that only goes so far. I want more nuclear power, for example, but I’m not on board with people building reactors in their back yards, and I’m not on board with turning an increase in nuclear power plants into a speculative bubble.

And I’m not on board with allowing vast amounts of resources to go into powering something like NFTs, simply because there’s a lot of money involved. The technology involved is interesting, and I’m sure it has great uses, but in my inexpert opinion, the value of crypto-stuff in general has been greatly overblown, and NFTs seemed a thousand times worse. A lot of people with a lot of money pushed really hard to make that bubble happen, and I’m sure they made a lot of money from it. I’m sure a small number of lucky working people also made fortunes, but as is usual in capitalism, I think that was a small minority.

I don’t know how many people lost money from NFTs specifically, or how many were convinced to invest cash they couldn’t afford to lose, but given the state crypto overall, I’m willing to bet it was a lot.

At the start of 2022, the Super  Bowl featured celebrities like Tom Brady, Larry David and Matt Damon in  commercials for crypto companies. Logos for crypto companies like FTX  could be seen plastered on multiple sports arenas and a new wave of  crypto influencers emerged, garnering hundreds of thousands of  followers. Cryptocurrency was everywhere.

It was supposed to be an alternative to traditional finance.

Instead  of exchanging money through a third party, like a bank, cryptocurrency  allows users to transfer digital currency directly. However, unlike  traditional forms of currency such as the U.S. dollar, the government  does not insure deposits and federal agencies have taken limited steps  to regulate the crypto industry.

But  the major crash of the crypto market last year has brought headaches,  fear and anger among the millions of people around the world who  invested their savings and are left wondering whether they’ll ever see  their money again.

Curt Dell, a father of three from California, told ABC News’ Rebecca  Jarvis that he’s lost over $200,000 in Bitcoin after the digital crypto  lending company Celsius went bankrupt last year.

“It robbed [my family] of so much potential,” said Dell, a California resident who works in sales. “It’s such a bad situation.”

Sam Bankman-Fried is currently on trial for his alleged crimes, but I have a sneaking suspicion that as with Madoff before him, his punishment will distract from the vast majority of those whose actions created the bubble.

There are those who argue that bubbles, including the crypto bubble, are actually good things, because they generally follow new technology, which is later adopted. I think there may be a good point in there somewhere, but the people who make such arguments tend to ignore or dismiss the people harmed by those bubbles, and that’s just the surface.

I’ll admit that I find it a little hard to feel too much sympathy for someone who had $200,000 to invest in such an obvious con. If Dell had that money lying around, I think he and his family will be OK for its loss. A lot of other people, who invested far less than that, will probably suffer more for it, but made the investment because they felt it was their one shot to escape poverty in a rigged system.

Maybe, in a world with a solid social safety net, and no climate crisis, it would make sense to allow bubbles like this to just happen, both as a way to test the bounds of a technology or concept, and as a way to root out scammers, and limit their ability to scam people. Unfortunately, we live in a world where losing money to a scam can be devastating, and the bubble in question actively added to the climate crisis.

According to artist Memo Akten, minting an Ethereum-based NFT alone requires 142 kWh of energy. This is the equivalent of about 100,000 Visa transactions,  said Dexter Baño Jr., an advocate for environmental protection and  technological advancements. To further illustrate how huge that figure  is, he noted that in 2019, American households only used an average of 30 kWh of energy per day.

“This means that you can power a house in the United States for 4.7 days with the energy being used to mint an NFT,” he said.

Now, if you’re in the mood for some math:

“Based on data from the Energy Information Administration, there are 0.85 pounds of CO2 (carbon dioxide) released into the air per kWh of electrical energy used. Multiplying this by the amount of energy spent on each mint transaction on Ethereum, that snowballs to 120.7 pounds of CO2 for every NFT creation. This is 6.16 times the CO2 output of burning one gallon of gasoline,” Baño said.

It’s  important to note that this only covers the creation of one NFT. The  process of buying and selling each NFT involves more transactions that  need to be verified—mined—and therefore even more energy that goes into  all that extra computer activity.

“Since  NFTs are getting mainstream, more people are transacting on Ethereum.  As long as proof-of-work still exists in that chain, the environmental  impact is still high,” said Angeline Viray, who trades and invests in  cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

This isn’t good. To me, it feels like the way this bubble played out demonstrates pretty clearly that we are nowhere close to taking global warming seriously, as a society.

We have to use fossil fuels to replace fossil fuels, and using energy for bullshit like this is, in my view, unacceptable. It’s also absolutely going to keep happening, in all sorts of ways, for as long as we are governed by the current system.

I don’t really have a policy prescription here, other than to say that we ought to be making climate action the central focus of our economy, to the same degree that we currently center greed. There’s something broken when waste and fraud at that scale is simply… the way things work.

Video: Olayemi Olurin on the many reasons to hate Eric Adams

There’s a line that I often here from conservatives, about all the crime and poverty in “Democrat-run cities”. Leaving aside the fact that gun deaths are higher, per person, in rural areas than in urban ones, this argument makes rather a lot of assumptions about the Democratic party as a whole, and about the Democrats running cities, in particular. I’ve made my gripes with that party and its leadership known on this blog, but when it comes to mayors, there are all the normal corporate pressures, plus pressure, and even threats, from city police departments. In general, mayors and city counsels are more likely to serve the interests of those with power, than of their constituency.

And then you have people like NYC mayor Eric Adams, who IS a cop, even though it’s been a while since he was actually on the force. There also doesn’t seem to be much reason to believe that he was one of those mythical “good cops” we keep hearing about. As you’ll soon hear, he seems to have been drawn to policing for the power, more than anything else. I’ve talked before about this guy, and his horrific policies, but there is a lot more to cover, and thankfully we have Olayemi Olurin, movement lawyer and news commentator, to break down all the reasons why she hates Eric Adams, and why you should too.

Biden Is Tying Himself to Unions, and That’s a Good Thing

There’s a subset of left-wing people on Twitter, who seem to have fallen for the seductive trap of cynicism. Unless you’re an accelerationist, if you’re on the left and you want to see the world get better, an increase in union strength is a good thing, and actions by people in power that aid that empowerment are also good. I don’t think that Joe Biden is a reliable ally of unions, but it is, without question, a good thing that he showed up at the picket line. Even if you think it’s a cynical ploy, it should be celebrated, because the more Biden and the Democrats see their success as tied to unions, the more likely they are to support them, and maybe even get over the scare that Reagan gave them.

When I wrote about the Cemex decision this time last month, I closed by saying that it’s important to take advantage of the current pro-union climate while it exists. There is zero doubt in my mind that the federal government will turn hostile to unions once again, and the stronger they get now, the better they will be able to fight back against efforts to break them. If we want to the favorable conditions to last as long as possible – which I do – it would be good for Democrats to win in 2024.

It’s nice to be able to say that without much of a caveat. On some issues, it’s more about opposing the GOP agenda of destruction, but at the moment, the Democrats are actually enacting policy that benefits worker power. Standing still is better than going in the wrong direction, but right now, we’re actually making progress. Most of that is due to workers dedicating their limited free time, energy, and money to building a labor movement, but some of it is absolutely due to changes made by the Biden administration, and it’s pretty clear that if Trump gets back into power, he’ll be just as anti-worker as he has always been:

Trump’s appointees were far more pro-business than pro-worker. He named a string of corporate water carriers to the National Labor Relations Board who often seemed to see their role as undermining unions and making it harder for workers to unionize. Trump’s NLRB appointees said, for instance, that gig economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers should be considered independent contractors, not employees, thus preventing them from unionizing under federal law.

Trump’s appointees to the supreme court have shown scant sympathy toward workers and outright hostility toward unions. Remember that Neil Gorsuch once ruled that a truck driver deserved to be fired for disobeying his boss’s order and leaving his broken-down vehicle in sub-zero weather – a move that probably saved the driver’s life. It was Gorsuch who delivered the deciding vote in the 5-4 Janus v AFSCME case – the most important anti-union decision in decades. In that ruling, the court’s rightwing majority said that teachers, firefighters and other government employees couldn’t be required to pay any dues or fees to the unions that bargained for them and won raises for them.

All this makes clear that Trump’s claim that he “always” has workers’ back is laughable. Labor leaders should issue a warning: workers of the world, unite against Trump’s con.

What else would you expect from a capitalist born into a real estate empire? More than that, the conservative agenda that’s currently making waves, Project 2025, would be an unmitigated disaster for working people, and probably the world:

In truth, the program laid out by Dans and his fellow Trumpers, called Project 2025, is far more ambitious than anything Ronald Reagan dreamed up. Dans, from his seat inside The Heritage Foundation, and scores of conservative groups aligned with his program are seeking to roll back nothing less than 100 years of what they see as liberal encroachment on Washington. They want to overturn what began as Woodrow Wilson’s creation of a federal administrative elite and later grew into a vast, unaccountable and mostly liberal bureaucracy (as conservatives view it) under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, numbering about two and a quarter million federal workers today. They aim to defund the Department of Justice, dismantle the FBI, break up the Department of Homeland Security and eliminate the Departments of Education and Commerce, to name just a few of their larger targets. They want to give the president complete power over quasi-independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies that have been the bane of Trump’s political existence in the last few years.

And they want to ensure that what remains of this slashed-down bureaucracy is reliably MAGA conservative — not just for the next president but for a long time to come — and that the White House maintains total control of it. In an effort to implement this agenda — which relies on another Reagan-era idea, the controversial “unitary theory” of the Constitution under which Article II gives the president complete power over the federal bureaucracy — Dans has formed a committee to recruit what he calls “conservative warriors” through bar associations and state attorneys general offices and install them in general counsel offices throughout the federal bureaucracy.

They very much intend to end any semblance of democracy in the United States, and I can’t fault people for wanting to vote against that. Fortunately, Biden is also, currently, giving at least some real reason to vote for him. This is not an endorsement, and I don’t think the UAW should endorse him until well after they’ve won their current strike action. Biden’s still bad on a number of issues, from fossil fuel extraction, to water privatization, to debt, but I think it’s important to recognize that Biden has actually been attempting to live up to his boast of being the most pro-union president ever, and that’s turning out to be a good thing for everyone.

His appearance at the UAW picket line was an easy thing to do, but it’s something none of his predecessors have done, and it loaned the “bully pulpit” of the presidency to Shawn Fain and the workers. More than that, his NLRB is actually wielding power on behalf of workers, and his FTC is suing Amazon for building a monopoly. The Democrats will not give us revolutionary change, but it seems indisputable that they are currently making it far easier to do the work of getting it for ourselves.

If you think that I should be paid better, you can help with that at It’s currently my only source of income, and while I am forever grateful to my patrons, the “crowd” part of my crowdfunding is looking a bit thin. Even a small monthly contribution helps!

Have Patience: Finding Facts in a Flurry of Fakes

I may have another post up today (people are coming to work on my roof, so we’ll see), but I saw this video from Beau of the Fifth Column, and thought I should share it. The basic overview is that a number of news outlets fell for one or both of a couple fake news stories. One was a photoshopped billboard supposedly saying “Glory to Urine” with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and the other was an AI-generated video of Rand Paul showing up to work in a bathrobe (on a Saturday) to protest changes to the senate dress code. While the billboard isn’t necessarily new technology, the video is, and fakes of both media, and of audio, are getting better very, very quickly.

This is already a factor in our politics, and you can safely bet that there are organizations generating fake media for the purpose of influencing politics in the US, and around the world. What’s an honest skeptic to do? Well, there’s probably no guaranteed way to see through all of these fakes, but Beau makes the very good point that for anything sensational, someone’s going to dig into it, and if there’s reason to think it’s a fake, that will come out a little while after the media buzz has convinced a bunch of people that it’s real. That means that step one is to wait a day, and see what follows. There’s good reporting out there, but it generally takes time. Patience is a virtue, and when you’re constantly being subjected to misinformation and propaganda, it’s also an essential tool for those trying to figure out what’s going on.

United Auto Workers Outsmarted the Bosses, Amid Widespread Popular Support

As my American readers are no doubt aware, the “big three” auto companies have been refusing to negotiate with United Auto Workers (UAW) in good faith, and so UAW declared a strike. The important backstory here is that until the 2008 crash, auto workers were guaranteed an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their pay. This was a hard-won victory, and it meant that the workers could expect a consistent standard of living for their work, despite inflation. In 2008, the big auto companies were in danger of going out of business, and so in addition to the government bailout, the workers agreed to a temporary suspension of their COLA – making a sacrifice for the good of everyone. Since then, the auto companies have refused to restore the adjustment, and have created a new “employment track” in which new workers will never get the same benefits or pensions as older workers. All this, despite making record profits, and spending billions on stock buy-backs, which are basically direct transfers of cash to shareholders. The 40% raise that the UAW is asking for (and that the CEOs are saying is so unreasonable) would move workers’ wages to where they would have been had COLA been in place since 2008. The money is absolutely there, and anyone claiming this would bankrupt the companies is lying.

And so, the union decided to strike, and they have made a couple brilliant tactical moves.

The first, which I initially didn’t understand, was to only strike at some factories, at first. I think when I first heard about this, it was framed as being a bit feeble, when the goal is to force auto makers to realize how much they need their workers to choose to work for them. The reality is that this was a strategic move to conserve resources. As I’ve said before, a strike is a siege. It’s the workers trying to “starve out” the bosses, by hurting production and thus profit, while the bosses try to literally starve out the workers, and force them to give up their demands to avoid homelessness and starvation. In any siege, it’s a question of who can make their resources last longer, and strike funds exist to help workers pay their bills while on strike. Only striking at select factories allows them to extend their strike fund, and gives them room to increase the pressure as time goes on.

The second move – and I love this one – was to mislead the companies as to which locations would be striking. The UAW didn’t say which plants would be striking, and the companies tried to guess, and to preemptively shut down those plants by having their parts shipped elsewhere, and shifting the production schedule. Basically, they tried to dodge the strike. What happened instead, was that they inadvertently shut down several of their own plants, because the workers know more about car production than the bosses. Not only did the UAW extend their strike fund, they managed to trick the companies into effectively striking against themselves:

Brandon Mancilla, a director for the UAW’s Region 9A, which spans New England and the Northeast, told The Intercept that the auto manufacturers are creating more problems for themselves than they would have faced had they come to an agreement with the union before the contracts for its 150,000 workers expired last week. “Instead of bargaining in good faith and understanding our demands and meeting us at the table,” Mancilla said, “these companies are conducting strikes on themselves.”

The UAW did not announce the plants where it intended to hold work stoppages until just before the strike deadline last Thursday night. The targeted facilities — GM’s Wentzville Assembly Center outside St. Louis, Stellantis’s Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, and two divisions of Ford’s Michigan plant — were not among those that workers reported companies making preparations at. So far, some 13,000 workers are on the picket line, affecting the production of classic American cars like the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Bronco, with more to follow if the union’s contract negotiations are not concluded by week’s end.

In the run up to the strike, UAW members at auto plants from Georgia to Tennessee to Ohio took to Facebook and Twitter to share accounts of partial plant closures and faulty information from plant managers leading to chaos on shop floors across the country.

Scott Houldieson, a worker at the Ford assembly plant in Chicago, told The Intercept that company bosses seemed to have no idea where planned strikes were going to take place. “Our local plant management started emptying out vehicles from paint ovens and dip tanks. If they leave cars in there, they get ruined so they start emptying those out and preparing to shut the ovens down. So that’s what was happening here because they thought that our plant was going to be one that was called out,” Houldieson said. “The plant chairman was telling me that ours was the one they were going to strike.”

Houldieson said that other automakers had transferred parts from plants elsewhere in the country, including one in Tennessee. “At GM in Spring Hill, they loaded engines to send to Wentzville because they thought Spring Hill would be the target. Turns out Wentzville was where they struck, so there was a lot of disinformation out there that really put the company on their heels,” he added.

In other words, the company had moved product from a plant that was not striking and to one that did. (The GM spokesperson said that “there’s been no work interruption at Spring Hill as a result of the Wentzville strike.”)

Stellantis admitted that it was caught off guard and took preparations at plants that were not ultimately affected by the strike actions.

There are a number of ways in which the class war can be seen as a literal war. It’s also a very one-sided war. I’ve talked before about how lives are taken to further the interests of the capitalist class, but it doesn’t go the other way. The working class are the only ones whose lives are at risk, almost entirely because workers are allowed to keep so little of the wealth they generate. That means that every move that extends limited resources is a very real victory. Everything I hear from UAW president Shawn Fain indicates that he has a similar view on the nature of this conflict, and so he’s going to use any trick or stratagem that will bring the union closer to victory.

For all my talk of “the class war”, I want to be clear that this strike is not a revolution. The UAW is not trying to take over ownership and management of auto companies, nor do they have the power to do so. It is, however, an important moment in the current labor movement. Support for unions and strikes is incredibly high right now, and if the UAW, and SAG-AFTRA, and the WGA manage to win their strikes, it will be proof of the effectiveness and usefulness of organizing. It will be proof that putting time, money, and effort into unions, is a worthwhile investment.

Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, while I always knew pro-union people, and grew up listening to old labor songs, I also was aware of a general hatred of unions, both among conservatives, and in mass media. They were portrayed as corrupt, and largely ineffective – a burden on workers and bosses alike. I think it’s fair to say that every institution has the potential for corruption, and it should be obvious that the corporations tend to be entirely corrupt, pretty much by design. That’s also why I think the “time and effort” part of investing in unions is important. From what I can tell, democracy is something that requires constant maintenance and improvement, especially in the presence of massive wealth inequality. Unions are not, and never will be perfect – no institution or system can be – but how good they are seems to be far more under workers’ control than are the companies for which they work.

The current support for unions and for these three big strikes is something of a victory all by itself, and I’m hopeful that winning these strikes will solidify that support, and show Americans the good that can come from collective action. Political participation in the US tends to be pretty low. There are a number of reasons for that, but I think one big one is the belief that there’s not really any point in participating. It’s just a waste of limited free time, all to elect someone who’s just going to keep serving the rich. I think when people say that politics don’t matter, it’s less that they don’t think the things done by politicians matter, and more that they don’t believe anything they do can actually affect what the government does. It’s a very understandable reaction to the world as it has been throughout my life.

Obviously, I also think that it’s a misguided reaction. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. My big hope from these strikes, in addition to the ways in which they stand to make life better for millions of people, is that they will convince more people that the problem isn’t with political participation. It’s with the kinds of participation that were offered to them as the only options. There are other ways to fight for change that have nothing to do with elections and political parties, and that are much harder for the rich and powerful to corrupt, and turn to their own ends. Collective action isn’t a panacea, but I think it offers a real chance at a better world.