Accused fraudster Sam Bankman Fried did what every prosecutor hopes a defendant will do: start a blog. Researcher Molly White annotated his first post:
Sam Bankman-Fried has apparently decided to fill his time spent confined to his parents' Palo Alto home with blogging, perhaps in the hopes that he can just blog his way out of the massive criminal and civil penalties he's facing.
Although many of his statements here repeat things he's said elsewhere, I think it is useful to be able to analyze some of the story he's trying to spin all in one place, rather than cobbling his narrative together from multiple sources.
It's remarkable the extent to which SBF outright lies, or at the very least twists his version of events to distort reality in his favor. I don't intend to annotate further posts from him—which I suspect will be many—but instead hope that this will be sufficient to give some idea of just how thoroughly misleading his statements are.
If I was going to try to pick out a crypto firm that suffered large losses in an attempt to say "look, it was happening to everyone!", I might not pick the one whose founders have allegedly been in hiding for the last six months.34
It's clear that SBF's definition of "accurate" differs from most people's. SBF seems to think that if you tell someone that you have $1,000, and then later you say "...in monopoly money", it was still an accurate and defensible statement.
You know, I'm beginning to think 2023 will be the year people lose patience with lying fraudsters.
I'm on hold with my bank trying to sort out a transaction they seem to have deleted. I've also just sorted through a hundred or so stories in our project backlog, so while I'm mulling over the next 6 months of product development, I will read these:
And my bank's customer service finally got back to me with the sad news that the thing I wanted them to fix was, and we are so sorry, it turns out, your fault. Fie.
I got a lot done today, mostly a bunch of smaller tasks I put off for a while. I also put off reading all of this, which I will do now while my rice cooks:
- The EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service determined that 2022 was the fifth-hottest year on record, once again making the last 8 years the hottest on record. As North America sees record warmth and record-low snowfall this winter, we can guess how 2023 will end up.
- In no small irony, Illinois was actually cooler than normal last year. I've said before, Chicago will look better and better as the world looks worse and worse.
- Loathsome creep Andrew Tate lost all four of his appeals to Romania's appellate court, so will remain in the country until his trial for human trafficking.
- A report by INRIX Research put London and Chicago at the top of the list of cities with the worst car traffic. Oddly, in a related study, London also ranked 10th and Chicago ranked 20th of cities with the best public transit.
- Delta Airlines' "free" wi-fi reminds passengers of the adage, when someone else pays, you're the product, not the customer.
Finally, I've mentioned heading to San Francisco this coming weekend, has gotten some rain. By "some" I mean over 350 mm of rain in the past 15 days, making it the rainiest two weeks since 1866. The weekend forecast does not look encouraging: rain likely, highs around 12, lows around 9, and yet more rain likely. I have never taken an umbrella to California before. First time for everything, I guess.
And now my rice is done.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has lost his seventh bid for Speaker—nope, eighth—while Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has amassed more cumulative votes for the office than anyone except Sam Rayburn. Things in the House have become surreal, even without a bad lip reading for levity. As Tom Nichols puts it,
What all of these GOP members do seem to have in common is a shared belief that they should be in Congress in order to make other people miserable. Usually, those “other people” are Democrats and various people on the generic right-wing enemies list, but lately, the targets include the few remaining Republicans who think their job in Washington is to legislate and pass bills and other boring twaddle that has nothing to do with keeping the hometown folks in a lather, getting on television, and getting reelected.
And yet, the XPOTUS remains absent from the proceedings, with both sides of the Republican Party basically ignoring him. His "wishes, feelings, threats, anger and really anything else about him are just completely absent from this entire drama. In a way that is the biggest story here."
Meanwhile, back in the real world:
Finally, the most recent defense authorization bill the outgoing Congress passed last week included a provision promoting Ulysses S Grant to General of the Armies. Only George Washington and John J Pershing have held that rank (O-11).
One of the most loathsome, talentless personalities on the Internet self-pwnd yesterday after going 0-for-2 against 19-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, and it was beautiful. Actor George Takei sums it up:
Oh my, you have that right, George. MSNBC has the details on the accusations against Tate:
On Thursday, [Romanian] prosecutors said that they found evidence that six women had been sexually exploited “using physical violence and mental constraint” by members of the group.
The women had been forced into making pornographic content for distribution on social media for financial gain to the group, they said.
And the New York Post enlightens us about how Tate got caught:
Tate and his brother Tristan were detained on kidnapping and rape charges Thursday after the controversial social media star tweeted a video response to one of Thunberg’s tweets.
In it, Tate asks someone off-camera to bring him pizza and “make sure that these boxes are not recycled” as he’s handed two pies from Jerry’s Pizza — a local chain in Romania.
The video was all authorities needed to pinpoint the former kickboxer’s location and make the arrest.
The back-and-forth between Tate and Grunberg just adds to the Schadenfreude one feels at his arrest. Tate on Wednesday:
And then yesterday evening, after Tate's arrest:
Chef's kiss, Ms Thunberg.
Oh, by the way, you can't recycle pizza boxes—at least not in Chicago, unless you do it very carefully. The oils from the pizza ruin the cardboard.
The world continues to turn outside the Chicago icebox:
Finally, dog biologist (?) Alexandra Horowitz explains how dogs tell time with their noses.
What a delight to wake up for the second day in a row and see the sun. After 13 consecutive days of blah, even the -11°C cold that encouraged Cassie and me to get her to day care at a trot didn't bother me too much.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast says a blizzard will (probably) hit us next weekend, so I guess I'll have time to read all of these stories sitting on the couch with my dog:
Finally, one of my college music professors died this month. Herbert Deutsch co-created the Moog synthesizer and taught at Hofstra University for 40-plus years.
Argentina just won the 2022 World Cup by lining up and taking free kicks at a French goalie in a fitting end to one of the most corrupt and deadly sporting events in history. At least the 2026 World Cup will take place in countries with (reasonably) strong institutions and existing infrastructure.
All the expense, the hype, the scandal, the drama...and in the end, it came down to penalty kicks. It's like having track meet decided by guys jumping one hurdle at a time, or by putting a guy on 2nd base at the top of the 10th inning in a desperate attempt to make baseball more exciting. (Oh, wait...)
France didn't win, but Argentina didn't either, really. Nor did the 6,500 dead construction workers, the athletes, the gay fans, or the 90% of the people living in Qatar who will never have citizenship because, like most petro-states, the Qataris have a form of Apartheid that FW de Klerk could only dream of.
So who really won this evening? FIFA officials, of course. The Qatari elite (for now; in 10 years they will look upon their works, and despair). The bribed European officials who didn't get caught. And probably Lionel Messi, who gets a better send-off this evening than Zidane did, I suppose.
The only appropriate response to FIFA is not to watch. Even John Oliver conceded as much, before admitting he'd watch. Everyone's individual choices make corruption on this scale work. I just wish people would internalize that.
But in Qatar, the lone and level sands stretch far away.
I can't quite draw a line between all of these stories, but it feels like I should:
Finally, a million-liter aquarium in a central Berlin hotel collapsed spectacularly today, causing millions of euros of damage. No people were hurt but 1,500 tropical fish drowned or froze to death in the aftermath.
Theodore Schleifer examines the intellectual and ethical upbringing of Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old indicted yesterday for perpetrating one of the biggest frauds in history:
Of all the potentially unanswerable riddles underpinning the Sam Bankman-Fried saga—why did Sequoia invest in a mop-topped kid who played video games during a diligence call; were Alameda and FTX ever really separate?—perhaps the most vexing is how the mastermind of this whole legal and ethical imbroglio was the offspring of two beloved legal scholars who were obsessed with ethics, in an effective-altruist Petri dish focused on analytical rigor, civic-mindedness and, crucially, consequences. How could a family so committed to doing the greatest good for the greatest number end up depriving so many people of so much happiness—and then see their son get arrested?
The optics are complicated for Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, who flew to The Bahamas amid the collapse of FTX and have remained there to counsel their son, almost as if he were a therapy patient or a legal client. Meanwhile, people on The Farm have been gossiping about how neither parent has any courses at Stanford next year: Joe canceled the one class he was slated to teach over the winter semester, and Barbara is listed as an emerita professor. (She has written that she “hopes” to make a return to teaching in the future.)
Sam has gone out of way to absolve his parents of any culpability in his financial misdeeds, telling Andrew Ross Sorkin at last month’s Dealbook conference that they “bore no responsibility” for the collapse of FTX. “Anyone close to me, including my parents and employees and co-workers who fought with the company to push forward, they were hurt by this,” he said. “I feel really grateful for the support my parents are still giving me throughout all of this.”
And yet the truth is that both parents, whether they bear responsibility or not, are deep in the barrel with Sam. As Reuters has reported, official property records show that Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried were the named owners of a $16.4 million beachside “vacation home” in Old Fort Bay, part of a broader real estate portfolio owned by FTX and senior executives totalling hundreds of millions of dollars. “They may have stayed there while working with the company sometime over the last year,” Sam told Sorkin, though he denied knowing any details about the $300 million worth of real estate that FTX and his parents bought in the Bahamas. (Joe and Barbara have said they’ve been working to return the property to the company for some time.)
I mean, all the ethical rigor in the world won't help if your son is a sociopath.