Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I need to spend some more time rereading Dakinikat’s Monday offering. I came down with a stomach virus yesterday and I was too nauseated to deal with serious news; but I read enough to know that it was a very good post. Why must we continually be forced to clean up the messes created by America’s greedy millionaires and billionaires?

Here’s some breaking news on the SVB story:

The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department, SEC Investigating Silicon Valley Bank’s Collapse.

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, according to people familiar with the matter, after the California lender was taken over by regulators last week amid a historic run on its deposits.

The separate probes are in their preliminary phases and may not lead to charges or allegations of wrongdoing. Prosecutors and regulators often open investigations after financial institutions or public companies suffer big, unexpected losses. Shares in SVB Financial Group SIVB 0.00%increase; green up pointing triangle, which formerly owned the bank, fell 60% last week and have been stopped from trading since Friday.

The investigations are also examining stock sales that SVB Financial’s officers made days before the bank failed, the people said. The Justice Department probe involves the department’s fraud prosecutors in Washington and San Francisco, the people said….

Before SVB failed last week and was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., it catered mainly to the insular world of startups and the investors who fund them. Its deposits boomed alongside the tech industry, rising 86% in 2021 to $189 billion.

The bank fell victim last week to a run on deposits. Customers tried to withdraw $42 billion—about a quarter of the bank’s total deposits—on Thursday alone. The flood of withdrawals destroyed the bank’s finances. It had poured large amounts of deposits into U.S. Treasurys and other government-sponsored debt securities whose market value declined as the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates over the past year.

SVB Financial cautioned in its latest annual report to investors that its business was heavily focused on lending to newer companies in the technology, life-science and healthcare industries. “Our loan concentrations are derived from our borrowers engaging in similar activities that could cause those borrowers to be similarly impacted by economic or other conditions,” it said.

Mr. Becker expressed optimism days before his bank collapsed, saying at a conference last week that it was “a great time to start a company.” He said at a different conference last month that the bank’s focus on those industries didn’t create the risk of too much concentration, citing clients’ different specializations and the bank’s business overseas.

This is interesting:

Securities filings show Mr. Becker and Mr. Beck, the chief financial officer, both sold shares the week before the bank collapsed. Mr. Becker exercised options on 12,451 shares on Feb. 27 and sold them the same day, netting about $2.3 million.

Mr. Beck sold just over $575,000 worth of shares on Feb. 27, roughly one-third of his holdings in the company.

Both sales were done under so-called 10b5-1 plans filed 30 days earlier. These plans allow insiders to schedule share sales in advance to allay suspicion of trading on nonpublic information. The SEC recently tightened rules for the plans, which include a 90-day waiting period before sales can be executed. The new rules went into effect on Feb. 27, the same day the executives sold.

There’s a bit more at the link, but that’s the gist of the story. I didn’t encounter a paywall.

This is insane. Republicans are trying to claim that SVB is a “woke” bank and that explains the collapse.

This is from Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The Boys Who Cried ‘Woke!’

As soon as it was clear that Silicon Valley Bank would not survive the weekend, conservative influencers and Republican politicians had a culprit in sight.


“They were one of the most woke banks,” Representative James Comer, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said during a segment on Fox News.

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, also spoke to Fox News about the collapse of the bank, and he also blamed the bank’s diversity programs. “I mean, this bank, they’re so concerned with D.E.I. and politics and all kinds of stuff. I think that really diverted from them focusing on their core mission,” he said.

A Saturday headline in The New York Post declared, “While Silicon Valley Bank Collapsed, Top Executive Pushed ‘Woke’ Programs.” And over at The Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler wondered if “the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.”

On Twitter, a number of prominent conservatives took this message and ran with it. Donald Trump Jr. said that “SVB is what happens when you push a leftist/woke ideology and have that take precedent over common sense business practices.” Stephen Miller, a key White House aide to Donald Trump, accused the bank of wasting its funding on “trendy woke BS.” And Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, complained that “these SVB guys spend all their time funding woke garbage (‘climate change solutions’) rather than actual banking and now want a handout from taxpayers to save them.”

Can you believe this shit? Well known right-wing libertarian Peter Thiel is the one who recommended that companies should pull their money out of SVB and sparked the bank run.

It is unclear whether these conservatives are working from the same memo or just have the same narrow obsession. Regardless, there is no evidence that any diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives were responsible for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. It is nonsense. And while it shouldn’t be taken seriously on its own terms, this deflection is worth noting for what it represents: the relentless effort to mystify real questions of political economy in favor of endless culture war conflict.

The real story behind the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has much more to do with the political and economic environment of the previous decade than it does with wokeness, a word that signifies nothing other than conservative disdain for anything that seems liberal.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Mike Pence is in the news, and not in a good way. He gave a speech at the Gridiron Dinner a couple of days ago, and the headline from that was that he weakly criticized Trump, indicating history should deal with his crimes instead of law enforcement actions in the present. Today, Pence is also being criticized for a “joke” he told about Peter Buttigieg at the dinner.

CNN: White House calls on Pence to apologize for ‘homophobic joke’ about Buttigieg.

The White House on Monday called on Mike Pence to apologize for his remark that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had gone on “maternity leave,” saying that the former vice president’s “homophobic joke” at the Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday was “offensive and inappropriate.”

“The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Pence delivered the line Saturday evening at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, DC – an event bringing together some of the city’s most prominent journalists, including from CNN, and the government officials they cover. It traditionally features politicians making jokes about notable Washington figures.

The former vice president quipped that if President Joe Biden doesn’t run for reelection, “there’s Pete Buttigieg, who’s an old friend of mine.”

“When Pete’s two children were born, he took two months maternity leave, where upon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, airplanes nearly collided in midair,” Pence said. “I mean, Pete Buttigieg is the only person in human history to have a child and all the rest of us get postpartum depression.”

Mike Pence is vile trash. Buttigieg’s husband fired back.

MSNBC opinion writer Zeeshan Aleem on Pence’s remarks about Trump: Mike Pence’s latest fighting words are not in fact fighting words.

Speaking Saturday at the Gridiron Dinner, a white-tie event organized by journalists in Washington, Pence delivered his sharpest break from Trump to date. “History will hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6,” Pence said. “Make no mistake about it: What happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way. President Trump was wrong. His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”

The Washington media received Pence’s remarks as “biting” and as an “unexpected twist.” Given that Pence was attending a dinner with journalists, it’s clear he was trying to launch a new narrative about his relationship with Trump and about his own willingness to stand up for what he apparently believes is right.

But Pence’s comments stand out as much for what they don’t say as for what they do. Who exactly is meant to hold Trump accountable? In Pence’s account, justice is delegated to the ethereal forces of “history,” instead of, say, the GOP, the American public or the criminal justice system. Pence’s calling for accountability but ruling out its meaningful pursuit reveals how his Trump challenge is affective in nature, not substantive.

Pay close attention, too, to how Pence frames Trump’s behavior. Trump was “wrong”; his behavior was a “disgrace”; acknowledging this is as matter of “decency.” Pence’s language carefully limits his criticism of Trump to a matter of personal misconduct. What’s missing is a reckoning with the political mechanics of what was happening — an authoritarian rejection of the democratic process. And while Pence talks about the lives of Pence’s family and lawmakers at the Capitol, he doesn’t talk about the ongoing threat posed to democratic life. The central question facing the GOP as it evolves in the age of Trump is whether or not it will choose to reject full-fledged denialism of empirical reality and the legitimacy of democratic institutions. Pence has nothing of significance to say about that question.

Yesterday Trump was in Iowa and he responded to Pence’s remarks about him.

From the WaPo piece:

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Donald Trump on Monday sharply rebuked Mike Pence’s assertion that history would hold him accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, telling reporters that his former vice president should shoulder the blame for the violent riot that day by Trump’s supporters.

“Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways you can blame him for Jan. 6,” the former president said, referring to Pence’s refusal to reject the electoral college votes in Congress as Trump wanted him to do that day. “Had he sent them back to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, the states, I believe, number one, you would have had a different outcome. But I also believe you wouldn’t have had ‘Jan. 6’ as we call it.”

A pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on that day following months of false claims by Trump that the election was stolen from him. He also used incendiary and false rhetoric about the election at a rally at the Ellipse near the White House shortly before the rioters stormed the Capitol.

Trump was responding to Pence’s remarks on Saturday, where he said unequivocally that Trump had been “wrong” to demand he overturn the election, something Pence maintained he had no power to do. “His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day,” Pence said during a speech at the white-tie Gridiron dinner in Washington. “And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Trump suggested that Pence’s condemnation was driven by his single-digit showings in recent surveys of potential 2024 Republican presidential contenders. (Pence has not officially announced his candidacy, even as he has made moves toward entering the race.)

“I guess he figured that being nice is not working,” Trump said. “But, you know, he’s out there campaigning. And he’s trying very hard. And he’s a nice man, I’ve known him, I had a very good relationship until the end.”

Ron DeSantis was in Iowa yesterday too, and he expressed opposition to the U.S. supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

From NBC News:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate, broke with many in his party Monday and told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital” national interest for the U.S.

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis wrote in a questionnaire response Carlson posted on his Twitter feed.

“The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges,” DeSantis continued.

He argued that “peace should be the objective” for the U.S. and expressed his opposition to sending “F-16s and long-range missiles” to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

The response aligns DeSantis with former President Donald Trump — who leads many GOP primary polls — and against many congressional Republicans who have supported aid to Ukraine. It signals the growing power of isolationist sentiments within a party that has long advocated for an active U.S. presence in global affairs. And it is likely to be an issue in the party’s presidential primary.

I really can’t stomach the idea of watching a primary fight between Trump and DeSantis. I’m still not feeling so hot and that notion is making my symptoms worse. Take care, Sky Dancers!

22 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice Tuesday, everyone!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Another response to the GOP “woke banks” claims.

    • quixote says:

      Christ on a Pharisee destroying tear. How do they even _think_ of these things.

      Although a better response than a polite pooh! pooh! would be an equally constant repetition of “Woke? Sure. Thiel woke up to Trump letting banks bankrupt us again.”

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. dakinikat says:

    Hi, I’m just over-the-top sleepy today. Trying to work and teach tonight

    This has me worried:

  6. dakinikat says:

    And this pisses the hell out of me.

    • quixote says:

      It’s the WSJ op-ed page. They’re pro-slavery, so long as you name it something else. You’d hardly expect anything else. I mean, it’s well known that no banks have ever failed so long as they were led purely by white men, right?

  7. MsMass says:

    Hey BB, feel better.
    Did you see Hampshire College offers transfer option to New College students in Florida? tee hee hee. Not Martha’s Vineyard, but close!

  8. NW Luna says:

    Mike Pence was tasteless, but the Buttigiegs bought their twins. Twins are high-risk to the mother who grows, carries and births them, and the infants have high risks of complications in utero and early childhood.

    • bostonboomer says:

      What’s your source for this? Pete Buttigieg wrote on Medium that they got the twins through a “surprise adoption,” not surrogacy. I tried to post the link but it didn’t work. I’m not a fan of surrogacy either.

      • quixote says:

        I don’t follow Buttigieg’s family news much, so I could easily have a mistaken impression. At the time, I remember the news talking about surrogacy. I don’t remember any talk of adoption. It seems like the latter only started once people pointed out the exploitativeness of paid surrogacy and egg donation.

        If the babies were adopted, it’s strange they don’t just point to the adoption papers. Not sure why it has to be a big mystery. Obviously, there’s reasons to keep the data confidential, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t say “Here’s the legal certificate of adoption.”

        The fact that there’s a vanishingly small chance of newborn twins being available to adopt is not such a big deal, I think. Yes, it’s small, but if you have the resources to scour the country for a woman bearing twins she won’t be able to support, I’m sure you can find her in a country as big as the US.

        DNA would answer the question, too, of course, but like adoption papers, maybe they feel that’s nobody’s business.

        • NW Luna says:

          I went from surrogacy to talking about how risky twin pregnancies are when I didn’t mean a direct connection. I should have made that clear. What bothered me was the Buttigieg’s holding up “their” premature infants as a response to Pence when they should have attacked Pence on the necessity of parental leave. Not all parents have premature infants but all parents of newborns need parental leave.