FOR FREE PEOPLE

Follow The FP on Instagram!

FOR FREE PEOPLE

Days after Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse—the second largest in U.S. history—customers line up to retrieve their funds. (Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

TGIF: Death of the Tech Bro

RIP SVB, Facebook NFTs, 10,000 Meta employees. And say hello to reparations in San Francisco.

→ SVB goes BUST: Silicon Valley got its very own bank run. And it destroyed their industry bank and just about set off a national panic. Basically, Silicon Valley Bank made a bad bet: they bought a lot of government bonds, but then the Fed hiked interest rates, which made those bonds worth a lot less. So when founders came calling for cash...you know the rest of the story. The bank run might have been started by a newsletter from influential tech writer Byrne Hobart, who pointed out, casually back in February: 

Also in today’s newsletter: Silicon Valley Bank was, based on the market value of their assets, technically insolvent last quarter and is now levered 185:1. I don’t expect a bank run; banks don’t technically *need* equity, they just need depositors to have a good reason not to flee, and an equity cushion is a great reason. On the other hand, pretty weird situation.

Weird indeed, Byrne. The group Signal chats lit up. The prolific tech tweeters began to tweet about how this was DEFCON 1. And suddenly they had themselves an ole bank run.

Liberal New York media was generally pleased with the run. It was finally a comeuppance for all those tech bro jerks. Here’s Slate’s very popular and level-headed take on the situation: “Venture capitalists are parasites who couldn’t be trusted with the financial institution that held up their industry, let alone the direction of our technological development. Euthanizing them is imperative if we want a better world.”

Conservative New York media was also pleased with the run. It was finally a comeuppance for all those Bay Area wokes who love to hire womxn. Here’s the sober Wall Street Journal on the situation: “SVB notes that besides 91% of their board being independent and 45% women, they also have ‘1 Black,’ ‘1 LGBTO+’ and ‘2 Veterans.’ I'm not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.”

Banks do use faux progressive nonsense to shield themselves from criticism and generally distract the public—it’s true. Semafor has great reporting on this: The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the primary Washington regulator for SVB, was “pushing climate change as a financial risk, holding conferences and writing papers on the issue,” instead of, like, regulating the banks. And yes, Signature Bank’s boss–that bank was shuttered last Sunday—led a seminar on gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze” and “hir” in the fall. Being theatrically woke didn’t cause the bad investments though. And eventually not even neopronouns can save you. 

Here’s the bottom line: These banks lobbied to be deregulated. They wanted to be able to take bigger risks and won the right to in 2018. Well, risks are risky. Anyway, the Federal Reserve either bailed everyone out or did the right thing and made depositors whole–depending on which side of this you’re on.

Silicon Valley media personalities who spend their days railing against big government but spent last weekend begging for government intervention were safe in Mother America’s arms. As the writer Eric Newcomer pointed out: “No atheists in a foxhole. No libertarians in a bank run.”

→ In other tech news: Meta, Facebook, is laying off another 10,000 people, while CEO Zuckerberg is mulling the end of remote work. Plus, they’re shutting down their Facebook NFT effort. It’s sad when fun scams fall. NFTs were like the basement-dwelling scammer pretending to be a Nigerian prince, who really made it for a while and it was like, wow, look at him go. NFT buyers were throwing away (ahem, investing) life savings into GIFs. 

Okay, fine. Was there a moment of deep weakness when I considered buying a Bored Ape? That’s very personal. All I know is that we should remember these moments:

→ On top of it all, Wuhan double-charged us: I didn’t know that it became okay to admit that the U.S. was sending money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. I must have missed that announcement. We’re way past that now. CBS News is here to tell us that not only did we fund the labs that were doing the Covid research that probably screwed up and released the virus that killed millions, but we got double-charged for it! 

From the report: “What I’ve found so far is evidence that points to double billing, potential theft of government funds. It is concerning, especially since it involves dangerous pathogens and risky research,” said Diane Cutler, a former federal investigator. 

The debate about Covid’s origins has zoomed past the pesky China issue and settled into a place we can all agree upon and enjoy: complaining about getting overcharged. 

Fauci needed to get some dads on the payroll. Midwestern types who get to the airport eight hours early and every time a bill comes, they joke: “Who got the filet?!” Your job is to give a little chuckle. They will do this joke every time, but they will save this country billions, and it will be worth it. 

→ Republican front-runners stake out skepticism on the Ukraine war: Fox News this week asked for Republican takes on the Ukraine–Russia war, which Tucker Carlson then read on air. Here’s Ron DeSantis: “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.” A territorial dispute!

I don’t have anything funny to add about the war. I read about Russia sending female prisoners into battle, and it made me so sad. 

Let’s kick to David Mamet, the only one who can save us:

→ Speaking of wild quotes from Republicans this week: Mike Pence has really been letting loose on Trump and January 6. Here’s Pence speaking to the white-tie Gridiron Dinner attendees this week: “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.” 

Poor Mike Pence. He’s really in a bind. All he wanted was to be a good, happy evangelical conservative, closing down drag brunches and getting upset about Disney princesses showing their shoulders. But he had to ride to power on Trump, who never saw a Disney princess he didn’t want to see a little more shoulder from. So maybe Pence could find comfort on the left, along with the other Trump defectors? Maybe he can please the Gridiron Club folks? The trouble is, Mike Pence is a true believer. He can never pretend that, actually, he wants transgender turtles in the next Pixar movie. Now he’s teasing a presidential run, and we must all watch him suffer more. God, can you just take him to wherever you are storing Tim Kaine? 

→ Let’s feed kids even worse food: Kraft Heinz has struck a major deal with the U.S. government to provide Lunchables as official school meals. 

The goal of the movement that says there’s no such thing as unhealthy food is to sell us more junk food. And it’s working beautifully for adults. The holy grail, though, is getting even more children eating junk food, since that gets their taste buds set on it for life. This meets perfectly with the movement to spend less on public school food. And from this unholy matrimony of trash, the school Lunchable is born. 

When I’m the fascist leader, everyone involved with this deal will be sent to Lunchables-affiliate jail. There’s no joke here. Just cold hard jail time, as cold and hard as a Lunchables mini pizza. 

→ San Francisco Board of Supervisors backs $5M reparations to every black resident: A city-appointed reparations panel brought their proposal to the Board this week and was met with unanimous support. The reparations plan includes “$5 million to every eligible Black adult, the elimination of personal debt and tax burdens, guaranteed annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years and homes in San Francisco for just $1 a family.” The reparations panel now continues its work and will return with a final proposal in June. 

There’s a lot that’s weird here. San Francisco history is by no means perfect—I’m thinking of the underpaid Chinese railroad workers; I’m thinking of Japanese internment camps. But San Francisco never had slaves. Which means that many people whose ancestors never had slaves are now going to pay people whose ancestors never were slaves. 

The plan would cost an estimated $600,000 per household. Just out of morbid curiosity about what literally happens to the city if this plan goes through, I’m in favor. Also, after the exodus of people fleeing to avoid this new tax, there’ll be a lot of nice properties around for cheap. I’d like one of those. So let’s do this. 

→ Abolish prosecution: Abolishing the police was too politically toxic. But abolishing prosecution is quieter and just as effective. Abolishing prosecution is just a nice plan between nice lawyers, who all agreed at Yale that prosecuting crimes is bad. That’s what’s happening in Washington, D.C., where prosecutors are simply choosing not to prosecute at all. Here I’m pulling from a great site called DC Crime Facts

Remember kids, it’s only a crime if someone is willing to try you for it. 

→ Salute to a one-man registration tags army: The writer Matt Yglesias has been on a crusade for cops to crack down on traffic law violators. He wanders around taking pictures of license plates without proper registration tags, or plates that have plastic covers that block speed cameras. He then posts those pictures. It’s an unpopular activity, to say the least. 

But I, too, am a car safety freak. I require 15 minutes to tug vigorously on all the straps and levers on the car seat before I’m ready to start the engine. I don’t speed up to “make the yellow light.” On freeways, I keep it slow and steady in the right-hand lane. And I salute Matt. 

→ Comedy break: The Nigerian brothers Jussie Smollett hired to fake his hate crime return to the—er—scene. I cannot believe anyone ever believed this. 

→ Wellesley student body votes to abolish itself as a women’s college: The Wellesley student government voted this week to abolish all language of being a women’s college—and to use gender-neutral terms like students or alumni instead of women. Also: to scrap all women’s specific admission criteria and open instead to all gender nonconforming peoples. Yes, they voted to open admissions to transmen. Now, if transmen are men (full stop) as the activists argue, then this doesn’t really make much sense, but no matter. 

They make an interesting argument that basically the school should be a place for all people who have trouble with their gender (i.e., anyone who is not a male currently wearing pants). Here’s Ailie Wood, class of 2024, who helped author the proposal: “Wellesley was founded as a women’s college because they wanted to create a safe and supportive learning environment for people who were marginalized based on gender. Such a place should welcome and support trans women, trans men and nonbinary people as well. Past, present and future trans and nonbinary students at Wellesley should feel like the College has their back, acknowledges their identity, and supports their access to a Wellesley education.”

The referendum is nonbinding (I will not make a chest binder joke here, as my outrageous copy editor just suggested). But it’s a sign of what is to come, which is the end of women’s colleges in America. 

Across the pond, the lesbians are having none of this. They have begun to organize, lining up by shelter dog size and getting ready to march. Yes, this week The Lesbian Project launched. It is “a new initiative that highlights and champions the experiences, insights and sensibilities of lesbians in all their diversity.” Please do not highlight lesbian sensibilities too closely. Bari and I share a pair of Tevas. They are platforms, so they are technically heels. America doesn’t need to know about that. 

Connected to all this is a brilliant clip from the author Germaine Greer that’s making the rounds. 

 

→ Okay fine, I’ll give the baby wine! Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan last week had this to say about medical sex changes for minors, which have fallen sharply out of favor across Europe but are just gaining steam here: “This is life-affirming and lifesaving healthcare. When our children tell us who they are, it is our job as grown-ups to listen and to believe them. That’s what it means to be a good parent.”

As a mom, this is so comforting. Every night when I pour a glass of red wine for myself, our daughter desperately reaches for it. Yes. My six-month-old is a wino (wow it feels good to say it). Listen to babies telling us who they are! Mine is saying “Pass the cab, I’ve had a day.”

→ Stanford deans get in on the action: What are all the overpaid college administrators supposed to do all day? One Stanford University dean, Tirien Steinbach, is answering the question. She’s busting into student events, taking the mic, and talking about “harm.” Yes, you see, Fifth Circuit appellate judge Kyle Duncan, a conservative, came to speak to some students, and the dean did not approve. I highly recommend watching this video of Dean Steinbach finding her time to shine at the mic and blocking students from hearing the judge.

The head of Stanford Law apologized to Judge Duncan. And in response, hundreds of Stanford students donned masks and black clothes and stood in the hallway outside the head of their school’s office so she’d have to walk past them all. Spooky and fun. Read the great David Lat for more.

→ The Pretendians strike again: Another week, another university leader who pretended to be Native but pretty much isn’t. Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland President Vianne Timmons has long claimed Mi’kmaw identity, but a CBC investigation reveals it is more or less fraudulent and that the president’s closest indigenous ancestor was ten generations past. President Timmons includes Native heritage on her CV and has received an Indspire Award (“The Indspire Awards represents the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people.”) She is now on leave, surely consulting her elders (whoever the oldest person is at her coffee shop that day). 

This post is for paying subscribers only

Subscribe

Already have an account? Log in

Latest