“We convene this meeting of the B.org Board of Directors at 0930 EDT on May 10, 2075. The log counts all members present and online. Secretary Clarkson will take the minutes. Are there preliminary motions?”
There comes the usual motion to waive reading of the minutes from last week’s meeting.
Seconded, motion carries.
Now @Hentzler moves, for the nth time, to conduct the meeting in a DRE. “We should sit face-to-face when we do our business,” she says, “and look each other in the eyes.”
“Waste of money,” I say, playing my usual role. “That’s overhead paid to render the boardroom, more overhead to render everyone in the boardroom, and then the org pays for each of us to process all the sensory inputs.”
“Not so much money,” @Hentzler insists, in her charming German accent. “Render tech grows cheaper by the day.”
“Slippery slope,” I say. “Starts with a boardroom, ends with elaborate weekend retreats to fake Bermuda.”
The motion fails 5 to 3, and the tally shakes out the same as always. There is a contingent of cheapskates in this group, and they comprise a reliable voting bloc.
@Fukuda calls for last licks on motions. Then seconds pass, and @Fukuda speaks again. “We meet today outside of the ordinary meeting cycle to discuss the admission of Jean Woolsey as a Level 2 member with perpetual funding.”
I text @Violet: It’s what we thought. The Board calls an ad hoc meeting, outside of cycle, with no advance written agenda provided — at least, not to me. Only one noteworthy event could have prompted it, and that was @Jean’s discorporation. I need to take charge of this:
“Brothers and Sisters, what is there to discuss? She’s on the List.”
@Klein-Ellis jumps in. He’s probably the driver here. @Fukuda is a stand-up guy and wouldn’t pull this shit. “We have just a few concerns, Henry. She passed over much earlier than we would have expected. Her assets in the PhysWo are not significant —”
“She’s on the List. She gets full Level 2 status. Period. Jean paid her way through college and law school. Borrowed and paid back loans and was earning. She’ll have —” I check my notes — “roughly $70,000 in assets when the accounts are settled. Under the by-laws, she buys in with half her assets, at $35,000. And if she had nothing to contribute to the endowment, not one cent, she would still have paid-into-perpetuity status, contributing half of zero, because she’s on the List.”
@Fukuda chimes in. “We understand that, Henry. What Charlie means to say is that right now, given the state of our accounts, the volatility in the financial markets, and the commitments we’ve made on a number of our projects, we anticipate that Jean’s arrival will necessarily place additional strain on our budget —”
“If that’s the case, Hiro, then I might have thought you’d open the meeting by saying we’re here to discuss our operating budget, and not Jean’s admission. Maybe we can rewind five minutes and start over?”
@Fukuda doesn’t answer.
@Klein-Ellis does: “I only note that ordinarily a Board member puts a spouse or his or her children on the List — persons who have survived longer in the PhysWo and so will have more assets to contribute to the endowment.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. “Let me stop you there, Charlie. Spouses and children on the List are as likely to die bankrupt and penniless as any granddaughter. And in any case, the by-laws are clear. As a founder and Board member of this organization, I am entitled to designate three persons of my choice to receive core carrier services from B.org into perpetuity, upon payment of a lump sum buy-in of half their assets on the date of their discorporation. @Jean was on my List. The matter is settled.”
“The by-laws are the by-laws, Charlie,” @Hentzler says. “If we don’t follow them, where are we?”
“Better off than if we go broke and have to shut down our operations,” is @Klein-Ellis’s answer.
“Vivek, are we going broke?” I am asking our treasurer, @VivekAshram. “Have the accounts changed dramatically from what you presented to us last week?”
“There have been no materially adverse events affecting the endowment, and no noteworthy additions to the liability sheet.”
“As yet,” @Klein-Ellis says. “With your permission, Hiro, I move for an emergency moratorium barring admission of any further non-revenue bearing PCEs to the carrier rolls, until such time as the organization’s cash reserves exceed ten million dollars.”
“Hiro, this is bullshit. There is no financial crisis. The endowment is up 6% over the last twelve months.”
“Vivek, how much money do we have in cash reserves right now?” @Fukuda asks.
“Nine million, eight hundred fifty K.”
@Fukuda: “So we could settle this matter right now for $150,000?”
Now I see this for what it is, and I text @Violet: It’s a holdup. Hiro, Vivek, and Charlie. “That’s one way this could go,” I say. There are too many undercurrents here: let’s put everyone’s hands on the table where we can see them. “The other is, I refuse, you dare to take this ludicrous motion to vote, I raise holy hell, and people start losing their jobs.”
@Klein-Ellis answers: “As president and treasurer, Hiro and Vivek serve at the pleasure of the membership, not the Board. It would take a two-thirds vote of our full carrier base to remove them.”
“I’m well-known and well-liked by our members.”
“Members who donated the entirety of their estates and took on extensive service commitments to B.org, in order to access our carrier services. How supportive do you think they will be of your rights to have your granddaughter jump the queue at half-price?”
This is a fair point. A reply text arrives from @Violet: Pay them, Henry. Don’t be stubborn.
And so I start to give ground. “Full freight for Jean would be another $35,000. How do we get from there to one hundred fifty?”
@Klein-Ellis: “Let’s revert to first principles, Henry —”
“Yes, let’s,” I interject, even though I don’t know where he’s going.
“We formed this organization to prove the concept that a nonprofit PCE carrier, fully funded by member contributions and managed by its membership, can provide a more sustainable and superior quality of life to PCEs than the for-profit carriers, with their various monthly, pay-as-you-go, and lock-in contract models.”
Other than that he hit the word sustainable pretty hard in the telling, I have no beef with this characterization.
“Now that’s the mission, but there’s more to it than simple proof of concept, isn’t it?” @Klein-Ellis takes a breath and continues. “The dream is to grow and expand access to our services, until anyone, regardless of who they are and what they’re worth, can join us and have the benefit of our model. And when the for-profits are no longer able to justify their abuses in terms of simple economics, they will either conform to the new values — our values — or be left in the dustbin of history, with the slavers and the mine owners and health insurance companies.”
Henry, pay them!
“Now as hard as we try to bring storage and processing costs down — and we will always try — our model will always require wealthy members to subsidize the underresourced, and significantly. As a result, what we’re doing here carries more than a whiff of socialism. And history tells us that prior socialist projects failed in no small part because the elites that managed them played favorites and lined their own pockets, at the expense of the Cause —”
I check the time: it’s almost 9:45.
“I’m going to stop you right there, Charlie, because, whatever you meant to say, it sounds like you just called me corrupt. And all I’ve done is ask this organization to hold to the commitments it made, in its by-laws, to its founders. You talk like I’m some Party apparatchik, trying to wheedle my granddaughter a no-show job and a dacha on the Black Sea. The truth is I — and she — give heart and soul to this project every day. I’ll note, too, that we’ve already exhausted the three names on your List. I didn’t hear anyone at this table making Soviet graft analogies when your wife and kids came over.”
Quiet on the line, while we all sulk. Ten minutes too late, I am coming around to @Hentzler’s view on running these meetings in DRE. If these crooks are going to extort me, they should have to look me in the eye.
@Hiro speaks. “If we can return to regular order, I believe Charlie was making a motion. Madam Secretary, can you read it back?”
@Lillian Clarkson: “Director Charles Klein-Ellis: ‘I move for an emergency moratorium barring admission of any further non-revenue bearing PCEs to the carrier rolls, until such time as the organization’s cash reserves exceed a million dollars.’”
“Seconded,” @Vivek says.
“Shall we vote?” @Hiro asks.
Much as I am on the side of right, I am not feeling the love here. @Charlie, @Vivek, and @Hiro will vote in favor and bring three more votes with him. @Hentzler hasn’t signaled one way or the other. Our ninth member, Th@ch, isn’t in the room. And now @Violet is calling me on a private line.
“Seventy-five,” I mutter.
“I’m sorry?” @Hiro says.
You should be. “Seventy-five. I make a onetime donation to the Fund, and Charlie withdraws the motion.”
“How about it, Charlie?” @Hiro asks, and I know I’ve won. Or I’ve only half-lost.
“I’ve run the numbers,” @Klein-Ellis says. “Since we’ve been administering the List, the average buy-in payment for Level 2 members has been two hundred grand. Your granddaughter is a remarkable woman, Henry, but as a fiduciary of this organization I can’t let this go at $75K.”
“It’s one hundred ten, counting her contribution.”
“Even so, Henry, I’m sorry. This has to go to a vote.”
“In that case, I suggest amending the motion to change ‘a million dollars’ to ‘$925,000.’”
@Hiro: “Seconded.” Bam. “Read it back, Lillian.”
“Motion as amended: I move for an emergency moratorium barring admission of any further non-revenue bearing PCEs to the carrier rolls, until such time as the organization’s cash reserves exceed $925,000.”
And we vote on the Woolsey amendment to the Klein-Ellis motion. The three backbenchers, @VanDuesing, @Clifford, and @Ishii, do their usual work as @Hiro’s pawns: they sit quietly through the meeting and vote alongside him. The count shakes out seven to one in favor. Motion carries as amended. Eat it, Charlie.
“Is this all that’s on the agenda,” I ask, “or were other hostages taken?”
“So bang the fucking gavel already, Hiro, before I say something I can’t unsay.”