Lazy Caturday Reads

V. Rumyanzev

Painting by V. Rumyanzev

Happy Caturday!!

I’m really late getting going today, so I’m going to get right to the latest news. Dakinikat posted in the comments about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank yesterday. There was a run on the bank by nervous customers, many of whom had huge deposits that wouldn’t be covered by FDIC insurance in case of a bank failure. The limit for FDIC coverage is $250,000.

CNN Business: Silicon Valley Bank collapses after failing to raise capital.

Silicon Valley Bank collapsed Friday morning after a stunning 48 hours in which a bank run and a capital crisis led to the second-largest failure of a financial institution in US history.

California regulators closed down the tech lender and put it under the control of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC is acting as a receiver, which typically means it will liquidate the bank’s assets to pay back its customers, including depositors and creditors.

The FDIC, an independent government agency that insures bank deposits and oversees financial institutions, said all insured depositors will have full access to their insured deposits by no later than Monday morning. It said it would pay uninsured depositors an “advance dividend within the next week.” [….]

The wheels started to come off on Wednesday, when SVB announced it had sold a bunch of securities at a loss and that it would sell $2.25 billion in new shares to shore up its balance sheet. That triggered a panic among key venture capital firms, who reportedly advised companies to withdraw their money from the bank.

The company’s stock cratered on Thursday, dragging other banks down with it. By Friday morning, SVB’s shares were halted and it had abandoned efforts to quickly raise capital or find a buyer. Several other bank stocks were temporarily halted Friday, including First Republic, PacWest Bancorp, and Signature Bank.

The mid-morning timing of the FDIC’s takeover was noteworthy, as the agency typically waits until the market has closed to intervene.

“SVB’s condition deteriorated so quickly that it couldn’t last just five more hours,” wrote Better Markets CEO Dennis M. Kelleher. “That’s because its depositors were withdrawing their money so fast that the bank was insolvent, and an intraday closure was unavoidable due to a classic bank run.”

More from CNBC: Silicon Valley Bank is shut down by regulators in biggest bank failure since global financial crisis.

Financial regulators have closed Silicon Valley Bank and taken control of its deposits, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. announced Friday, in what is the largest U.S. bank failure since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

The collapse of SVB, a key player in the tech and venture capital community, leaves companies and wealthy individuals largely unsure of what will happen to their money.

Napping Buddies, Carol Jenkins

Napping Buddies, Carol Jenkins

According to press releases from regulators, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation closed SVB and named the FDIC as the receiver. The FDIC in turn has created the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Santa Clara, which now holds the insured deposits from SVB.

The FDIC said in the announcement that insured depositors will have access to their deposits no later than Monday morning. SVB’s branch offices will also reopen at that time, under the control of the regulator.

According to the press release, SVB’s official checks will continue to clear.

The FDIC’s standard insurance covers up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank, for each account ownership category. The FDIC said uninsured depositors will get receivership certificates for their balances. The regulator said it will pay uninsured depositors an advanced dividend within the next week, with potential additional dividend payments as the regulator sells SVB’s assets.

Whether depositors with more than $250,000 ultimately get all their money back will be determined by the amount of money the regulator gets as it sells Silicon Valley assets or if another bank takes ownership of the remaining assets. There were concerns in the tech community that until that process unfolds, some companies may have issues making payroll.

Why did these individuals and companies put all their eggs in one basket? Would it have been smarter to use more than one bacnk for these huge deposits? Maybe Dakinikat can explain this.

The New York Times broke another story about the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation of Donald Trump and his $130,000 payment for Stormy Daniels’ silence about their sexual relationship. You’ll recall, this payoff happened in 2016 shortly after the release of the “grab them by the pussy” tape and just before election day. The investigation is exploring whether Trump was deliberately trying to conceal the payment from voters.

The New York Times: Michael Cohen to Testify at Grand Jury as Likely Trump Indictment Looms.

Michael D. Cohen, the former fixer who for years did Donald J. Trump’s dirty work, is expected to testify before a Manhattan grand jury next week, a sign that prosecutors are poised to indict the former president for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has already questioned at least seven other people before the grand jury hearing evidence about the hush money deal, according to several other people with knowledge of the inquiry, potentially making Mr. Cohen the last witness.

Once he has testified, nearly every crucial player in the hush money matter will have appeared before the grand jury — with the exception of the porn star herself, Stormy Daniels, who may not be called to testify.

It would be highly unusual for a prosecutor in a high-profile white-collar case to go through a weekslong presentation of evidence — and question nearly every relevant witness — without intending to seek an indictment.

Mr. Cohen’s testimony is the second strong indication that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will ask the grand jury to indict the former president, possibly as soon as this month. The first came when Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors informed Mr. Trump’s lawyers that if he wanted to testify before the grand jury, he could do so next week, people with knowledge of the matter said. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is close.

In New York, potential defendants have the right to answer questions in the grand jury shortly before they are indicted, but they rarely testify, and Mr. Trump is likely to decline the offer.

Sandra Bierman

Painting by Sandra Bierman

There’s also this piece on the multiple investigations of Trump at The Washington Post. I’m not a fan of the top two authors–Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey–who tend to focus on gossip rather than serious issues, but I guess it’s worth a read. They suggest that Trump may be in trouble with voters.

The Washington Post: Trump in growing legal and political peril ahead of 2024.

The Manhattan district attorney has invited former president Donald Trump to testify next week before a grand jury, potentially signaling a significant development in the ongoing investigation into Trump’s business affairs.

An Atlanta-area district attorney investigating whether Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia could announce in coming weeks whether charges will be filed in that case.

Andsome former allies of Trump, as well as some Trump voters, haveexpressed a desire for a different 2024 Republican standard-bearer — most specifically, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has privately indicated he plans to seek the White House.

Trump — who stoked an insurrection trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and is running again in 2024 — finds himself in growing peril, both legal and political. Multiple investigations into him and his actions are entering advanced stages, all while many in the Republican Party — in private conservations and public declarations — are increasingly trying to find an alternative to him.

On Friday, former congressman Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), one of Trump’s earliest backers in 2016, took to Twitter to say that he and Tom Marino, another former Republican representative from Pennsylvania, were urging DeSantis to formally enter the presidential fray.

“More than ever our country needs strong leadership, someone that gets things done & isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right,” Barletta wrote. “So Tom Marino & I are calling on our former colleague @RonDeSantisFL to run for president in 2024. Come on Ron, your country needs you! #NeverBackDown.”

On Thursday, a new pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, also disclosed that it will be led by Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration official. In a statement, Cuccinelli touted DeSantis as “a fighter with a winning conservative track record” with the ability to marshal “an unmatched grassroots political army.”

Read more at the WaPo.

Fox News’s problems from the Dominion lawsuit are still in getting plenty of attention and there are some new interesting stories today.

This is from former trial lawyer Katie Phang at MSNBC: The true cost of Dominion’s devastating Fox News bombshells.

In the Dominion versus Fox News defamation case, Fox is now trapped in an ever-worsening spiral of lies of its own creation. Time and time again, Fox allegedly trafficked in lies and falsehoods. And the result just might be a financial death penalty for the network.

Bag Ladies, Steve HanksAs we’ve seen put forth in the thousands upon thousands of pages of evidence released during the discovery process in this case, people at Fox News allegedly knew the channel was repeatedly peddling lies. But it didn’t care. Because, according to the lawsuit, profits were more important than the truth. Because, as in the words of Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, Fox did not want to “antagonize [Donald] Trump further,” and he wanted to keep Trump’s supporters as viewers, even as he admitted under oath during his deposition that he “never believed” that Dominion rigged the 2020 presidential election.

In its most recent filing, Dominion alleges that Fox has now conceded that what it put out for its viewers to consume about Dominion was lies. “Fox has produced no evidence — none, zero -supporting those lies.” Dominion goes even further and argues that Fox could have ultimately reported the truth, but it chose not to do so. Fox also could have retracted those lies, but it chose not to do so….

Armed with thousands of pages of texts and internal chats and emails by and between Fox hosts, producers and executives, Dominion now seeks to convince a Delaware judge that a jury no longer needs to hear the case because, as a matter of law, there is no work left to be done to decide whether Fox defamed Dominion. On March 21, both sides will appear in court for oral arguments. As Dominion has argued, “It is the rare case to grant summary judgment of actual malice, but it is also the rare case where direct evidence of actual malice exists, as it does here.”

And some legal experts agree: Dominion doesn’t just have the upper hand, it has the truth on its side. If Dominion is successful, then all that would be left to determine is the amount of damages that Dominion is entitled to receive. That’s where the numbers become astronomical. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in lost profits and reputational harm. But it’s also seeking punitive damages, which are not capped under New York state law and could also be in the billions of dollars.

This is from the Future Tense Newsletter at Slate: The Misinformation Is the Point.

The evidence is overwhelming: There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about a foreign-backed influential media platform undermining faith in America by leveraging its hypnotic hold on its audience to spread misinformation harmful to our social cohesion and democracy.

TikTok, you ask?  Nah—Fox News.

Future Tensers aren’t prone to the type of xenophobia peddled on a daily basis by Fox News. But if we were to turn the tables and go all Fox News on Fox News, we could make much of the fact that in order to launch and control the Fox broadcast network that would later beget the cable news channel without running afoul of foreign ownership limits on broadcasting licenses, Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media tycoon, became a naturalized American citizen. Isn’t it interesting, as any number of Fox News hosts might sneer, that this supposedly “American” outlet that goes to such lengths to wrap itself in the flag has made so much money by dividing Americans and sowing mistrust in our institutions?

The extent to which Fox knowingly spreads falsehoods harmful to the country has become abundantly clear (contrary to its claims that it was just reporting one campaign’s allegations) in the treasure trove of evidence coming to light thanks to the $1.6 billion defamation suit brought against the network by Dominion Voting Systems. Network officials and on-air talent, we now know, were variously annoyed and concerned that their since-ousted election data analysts called Arizona for Joe Biden on election night.

Frederick the Literate, by Charles Wysocki

Frederick the Literate, by Charles Wysocki

This accurate call, which appeared to seal Trump’s electoral fate, triggered an existential crisis for the network because loyal Fox News viewers were woefully unprepared to accept that Trump could lose the 2020 presidential election fair and square—precisely because they were loyal Fox News viewers. Their sense of reality had been so hopelessly distorted by a news channel whose business model has long been predicated on convincing its aging, conservative audience that disdainful, know-it-all cosmopolitan elites are preying on their decency, credulity, and patriotism to conspire against American greatness. Under Fox’s proven formula (adopted from right-wing talk radio), Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, and other hosts become America’s last line of defense, decoding the vast conspiracies targeting them—conservative network and audience alike. The cultish hold Fox developed over its viewers was akin to the bond binding besieged combatants who’ve shared a trench or a bunker.

Now, the water hose of incriminating evidence emerging from the lawsuit proves that the disdainful know-it-all conspirators preying on viewers’ anxieties were actually their Fox News trenchmates.

Read the rest at the Slate link.

And here’s a tidbit from The East Bay Times: Rupert Murdoch: Fox News fired Kimberly Guilfoyle for ‘inappropriate behavior.’

After Kimberly Guilfoyle mysteriously left Fox News in the summer of 2018, she found herself vehemently denying news reports that said her departure was due to allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior.

But her former boss, Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch, has apparently confirmed that he wanted her gone because of the allegations, which were detailed in a 2020 report in The New Yorker. Murdoch’s concerns about Guifoyle, a former top campaign aide for Trump, were revealed in a trove of texts and emails that were recently leaked in Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News.

Murdoch said in an email, sent in the wake of the 2020 election, that he had “insisted” Fox News fire Guilfoyle “for inappropriate behavior.” The 91-year-old executive also ripped into his once-popular Fox News host in other ways, according to the email, which was shared by Semafor media reporter Max Tani.

While Murdoch’s note mistakenly called Guilfoyle “Kimberly Strassel,” an opinion writer for the Wall Street Journal, he clearly was referring to Guilfoyle when he wrote about her association with Newsmax. The rival news network was known for pushing even harder than Fox News to promote debunked conspiracy theories that Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden was due to widespread election fraud.

“Newsmax not good people!” Rupert wrote in the email. “Being advised by Don jr’s girlfriend Kimberley Strassel who I insisted we fire for inappropriate behavior. Not one of our people will join her. Newsmax desperate for money. Scoured the world, so far without luck.” [….]

The idea that Murdoch wanted Guilfoyle gone adds weight to the New Yorker report, published a month before the 2020 election. The report suggested that Guilfoyle had to leave Fox News, where she had worked since the mid-2000s, because of sexual harassment allegations made by a former assistant. Before the New Yorker report, the popular explanation for Guilfoyle’s departure from Fox was that she wanted to avoid conflicts of interest posed by her new romance with Trump Jr.

Reporter Jane Mayer detailed allegations in a 42-page draft complaint, which said that Guilfoyle showed lewd photos of male genitalia to colleagues, regularly discussed sexual matters at work, urged the assistant “to submit to a Fox employee’s demands for sexual favors,” and exposed herself to the assistant while asking for a critique of her naked body.

Adrie Martens

By Adrie Martens

A few days ago, I wrote about how Twitter had a serious outage because Elon Musk has decided to charge outside researchers who want to use Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API). Now we know the price Musk wants to charge, and it’s sky high.

Wired: Twitter’s $42,000-per-Month API Prices Out Nearly Everyone.

SINCE TWITTER LAUNCHED in 2006, the company has acted as a kind of heartbeat for social media conversation. That’s partly because it’s where media people go to talk about the media, but also because it’s been willing to open up its backend to researchers. Academics have used free access to Twitter’s API, or application programming interface, in order to access data on the kinds of conversations occurring on the platform, which helps them understand what the online world is talking about.

Twitter’s API is used by vast numbers of researchers. Since 2020, there have been more than 17,500 academic papers based on the platform’s data, giving strength to the argument that Twitter owner Elon Musk has long claimed, that the platform is the “de facto town square.”

But new charges, included in documentation seen by WIRED, suggest that most organizations that have relied on API access to conduct research will now be priced out of using Twitter.

It’s the end of a long, convoluted process. On February 2, Musk announced API access would go behind a paywall in a week. (Those producing “good” content would be exempted.) A week later, he delayed the decision to February 13. Unsurprisingly, that deadline also slipped by, as Twitter suffered a catastrophic outage.

The company is now offering three levels of Enterprise Packages to its developer platform, according to a document sent by a Twitter rep to would-be academic customers in early March and passed on to WIRED. The cheapest, Small Package, gives access to 50 million tweets for $42,000 a month. Higher tiers give researchers or businesses access to larger volumes of tweets—100 million and 200 million tweets respectively—and cost $125,000 and $210,000 a month. WIRED confirmed the figures with other existing free API users, who have received emails saying that the new pricing plans will take effect within months.

“I don’t know if there’s an academic on the planet who could afford $42,000 a month for Twitter,” says Jeremy Blackburn, assistant professor at Binghamton University in New York and a member of the iDRAMA Lab, which analyzes hate speech on social media—including on Twitter.

Read more details at the link.

I’m going to wrap this up, but I’ll probably post a few more links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll also share your thoughts and your recommended reads.

14 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice weekend, everyone!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:
    • bostonboomer says:

      In one of its most consequential climate decisions, the Biden administration is planning to greenlight an enormous $8 billion oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska, according to two people familiar with the decision.

      Alaska lawmakers and oil executives have put intense pressure on the White House to approve the project, citing President Biden’s own calls for the industry to increase production amid volatile gas prices.

      But the proposal to drill for oil has also galvanized young voters and climate activists, many of whom helped elect Mr. Biden and who would view the decision as a betrayal of the president’s promise that he would pivot the nation away from fossil fuels.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Musk is supposedly considering buying SVB.

    • quixote says:

      SVB has most of its not-immediately-needed capital in government bonds. Not exactly junk. (Although Repubs are working on it.)

      Bonds obviously aren’t doing great with Powell yammering about raising rates every week.

      So I gather the run was about a few Me-Me-Me-First venture capital “investors” who were afraid that the reduced liquidity meant they might not be able to get all their money out overnight if they wanted to back a new hot startup that had just invented faster than light travel.

      There was never any question that SVB had enough money. Only that they couldn’t turn it into cash overnight.

      Which is making people point out that a takeover by somebody with deeper pockets (Chase was mentioned. Not Musk. Gawd. Musk. Barf.) would neutralize the whole issue.

      I guess we find out Monday??

  5. davisesq212 says:


    div dir=”ltr”>So it appears the bank run was necessary because many of the customers had huge deposits th

    • quixote says:

      Seems like you had the same comment as mine just now to bb’s Musk stuff higher up, except the wp formatting ate it.

      Yes indeed. People had absolutely stupid amounts of money in that bank that they seemed to think could move around like some kind of high frequency arbitrage. I wonder if SVB gave them that impression to get their deposits?