Follow-up on the Coinbase corporate version of Florida

A year ago, the CEO of Coinbase paid employees who were the most passionate about social justice and political causes to leave. See “Coinbase is a mission focused company” and also “Taking a Stand Against Social Stances” (NYT, 9/29/2020). (If he’d been a Southerner he might have said “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the butt on your way out.”)

In other words, he was trying to create something like the Florida that we’ve experienced. After nearly two months here, I have seen exactly one Black Lives Matter message (bumper sticker on a black (not “Black”) Toyota Prius as we were on an excursion to Miami (IKEA, Guitar Hotel, and Marlins baseball game)). Supposedly there are a lot of people here who voted for either Trump or Biden, but there is no evidence of that from lawn signs or bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are display at perhaps 1/200th the rate compared to in Maskachusetts and the most common type of bumper sticker is school-related.

What happens at a company without on-the-clock activism? Discrimination against those who identify as Black, according to the NYT… “‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups” (11/27/2020):

One by one, they left. Some quit. Others were fired. All were Black.

The 15 people worked at Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. cryptocurrency start-up, where they represented roughly three-quarters of the Black employees at the 600-person company. Before leaving in late 2018 and early 2019, at least 11 of them informed the human resources department or their managers about what they said was racist or discriminatory treatment, five people with knowledge of the situation said.

One of the employees was Alysa Butler, 25, who worked in recruiting. During her time at Coinbase, she said, she told her manager several times about how he and others excluded her from meetings and conversations, making her feel invisible.

“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said Ms. Butler, who resigned in April 2019. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”

(Wikipedia says Coinbase is “remote-first”, so how do employees know anything about the race IDs of other employees? See Achieve college student skin color diversity via image processing? as well)

How did it go for Coinbase from Management’s perspective? The CEO who wanted people to fight their social justice and political battles on their own time followed up with a Twitter thread:

It’s been about a year since my mission-focused blog post. It wasn’t easy to go through at the time, but looking back, it turned out to be one of the most positive changes I’ve made at Coinbase, and I’d recommend it to others.

We have a much more aligned company now, where we can focus on getting work done toward our mission. And it has allowed us to hire some of the best talent from organizations where employees are fed up with politics, infighting, and distraction.

One of the biggest concerns around our stance was that it would impact our diversity numbers. Since my post, we’ve grown our headcount about 110%, while our diversity numbers have remained the same, or even improved on some metrics.

Several people told me this would never happen when I circulated the original draft internally. It turns out that there are people from every background who want to work at a mission focused company.

If he is putting employees into buckets based on skin color in order to get “diversity numbers”, isn’t he himself engaging in a social justice cause at work? There was no legal requirement for Coinbase to gather these data, right? (Let me guess right now that age is not one of the axes of diversity for which Mr. Armstrong is anxious to get numbers!)

In other diversity news, the guy who stirred up hatred at University of Chicago (see “Geophysical Sciences Grad Students Call on Faculty to Denounce Videos By Department Member” 12/2/2020) got literally canceled at MIT, where he had been scheduled to give a lecture. From the Daily Mail:

…. after outraging ‘totalitarian’ Twitter mob by arguing that academic evaluations should be based on merit not racial ‘equity’

Dorian Abbot was denied the opportunity to give the Carlson Lecture, which is devoted to ‘new results in climate science’ and hosted by MIT’s Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

The lecture was scheduled to be delivered on October 21, but Abbot learned over the weekend that EAPS would be canceling his talk.

In August, things took a turn when Abbot co-wrote an opinion piece for Newsweek in which he argued that the ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ (DEI) initiative embraced on many college campuses nationwide ‘violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.’

DEI, according to Abbot and co-author Professor Ivan Marinovic, ‘treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.’

Abbot and Marinovic instead proposed ‘an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.’

(But who decides “merit”?)

It is kind of exciting for alumni when MIT can share a newspaper with Joe Biden’s $2.5 million granddaughter.

What would Dorian Abbot have talked about? He seems to be at least a little interested in Snowball Earth, one of my favorite geology subjects ever since reading an awesome book on the subject. He’s also interested in exoplanets, which fascinate everyone far more than how their Windows 11 computer or iPhone work. Maybe if Professor Abbot can get Elon Musk to blast him off to Gliese 273b (shouldn’t take that long to go 12.2 light-years in a Plaid Edition rocket), his critics will forget about him?

Related:

  • “Tesla must pay $137 million to a Black employee who sued for racial discrimination” (NPR, 10/5/2021), in which we learn that the article doesn’t match the headline. The now-rich elevator operator worked for a contractor to Tesla and was never directly employed by Tesla. (electrek has a more accurate headline: “Tesla is ordered to pay ex-worker $137 million in racial abuse lawsuit, releases blog about verdict”: Mr. Diaz never worked for Tesla. He was a contract employee who worked for Citistaff and nextSource. Mr. Diaz worked as an elevator operator at the Fremont factory for nine months, from June 2015 to March 2016. There was no witness testimony or other evidence that anyone ever heard the n-word used toward Mr. Diaz. Even though Mr. Diaz now complains about racial harassment at Fremont, at the time he said he was being harassed, he recommended to his son and daughter – while they were all living together in the same home – that they work at Tesla with him.)
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How relevant is diversity and inclusion to AT&T?

Our Internet provider here in the Florida Free State is AT&T. I was trying to contact them about changing my name on the bill to “Greenspun” from “Greenstun” and somehow landed on about.att.com. Here’s what’s at the top:

If they stand for equality, should we infer that they don’t stand for equity?

As a child of the 1960s, of course I am all in favor of equality, e.g., Equality Feminism. Nonetheless, this is not why I am an AT&T customer. If I scroll down a little, I find out that the company gives equal weight to “Internet & Fiber” and “Diversity & Inclusion”.

I’m assuming that this is a profit-maximizing behavior, but I wonder why. Are American consumers equally interested in diversity and inclusion from an Internet provider as they are in the Internet service itself? Is it that regulators might stumble on this page and a lot of regulators are themselves affirmative action quota-fillers?

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Victimhood Certification Industry

Here’s a form recently received as part of getting set up to be paid by a private corporation.

Some highlights…

We embrace the minority, women, small business and LGBT businesses we partner with in the mutual goal of delivering superior quality and service to our customers while assuring future growth for both parties. We are required by a number of our customers to report our Diversity spend dollars.

The next page:

This is the part that caught my eye.

Suppliers must submit current and renewal MBE/WBE/LGBT/DOBE certificates

The victimhood certification enterprises must be engaged regularly (annually?) to renew victimhood certificates. This is an annuity!

Separately, I wonder how the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) determines that a business owner or shareholder is truly LGBTQIA+ and how their process is superior to self-certification as LGBTQIA+. Will there be a Barbra Streisand (2016: “I’ll move to Australia or Canada if Trump is president”) quiz for the would-be LGBTQIA+ person, as in the movie In & Out?

Peter: What was Barbra Streisand’s eighth album?

Howard: Color Me Barbra.

Peter: Stud!

Howard: Everybody knows that!

Peter: Everybody where? The little gay bar on the prairie?

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The one actual Black guy talks to the white diversity say-gooders

A friend is the One Black Guy at a Maskachusetts tech company. The white say-gooders in management describe their heartfelt yearning for more diversity at the company. Business is great now that so many non-online things have been rendered illegal by state governors. Thus, it is time to hire some entry-level programmers. Management described plans to recruit from elite schools such as Harvard and Yale. One Black Guy: “If we’re serious about making this company more diverse, why not hire someone from Bunker Hill [Community College] who might turn out to be great? It’s only an entry-level job and we can’t know whether someone from Harvard is actually going to do well.” This suggestion turned out not to be helpful…

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How can Starbucks be thriving without any indoor sit-down space?

“Starbucks sales miss estimates, shares drop despite rosier forecast” (Reuters, April 27, 2021):

U.S. sales returned to pre-pandemic levels, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said during a call with analysts.

How is this possible? If Mx. Johnson was talking about sales in the first quarter of 2021, that’s a time period when all Starbucks had closed down indoor dining, when the weather in most of the U.S. was uncomfortably cold for sitting outside, and when many American downtown offices were still vacant. How can his/her/zir/their company be selling just as much coffee as when people had the option to come in, share the bathroom with the local homeless, and sit down with the SUV-driving single moms?

If indoor dining turns out to be worthless, from a business point of view, how could Starbucks not have figured that out years ago and thereby saved itself a ton of cost? They would never have gotten into the bathroom dispute that forced “Starbucks Closes More Than 8,000 Stores Today For Racial Bias Training” (NPR) because they wouldn’t have had public restrooms.

I guess one answer is that the U.S. has changed. Customers used to demand and pay for the indoor dining space, but now they don’t want it nor are they willing to pay for it.

I’m kind of amazed that Starbucks is popular in its take-out-only configuration. So many Americans are sitting at home all day. Why do 15 minutes of driving to get coffee that takes 5 minutes to brew at home? If you’re on a long car trip, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop at McDonald’s where the dining room is open so that you can go in and use the bathroom?

Also, I wonder if this kind of business transformation will result in further fragmentation of American society. Due to its outrageous prices relative to quality, Starbucks had a somewhat upscale clientele. Nonetheless, it was a place where one might see a wider variety of people than one would see by driving in a private car from point to point. If Americans don’t see each other in common spaces, how will we know what our fellow residents of this stolen land are like?

November 2019, Hangzhou:

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Small business autopsy

Looking for a place to rest in between practice helicopter instrument approaches last month, I stumbled on Mike’s Runway Diner at the Auburn/Lewiston Airport (Maine). From the restaurant’s Facebook page….

We are a family owned business that offers Americana comfort food at a reasonable price. Our portions are huge and everything is prepared fresh and you can sit along the runway and watch the planes. (318 Likes; 334 followers; 230 check-ins)

March 8, 2020: Happy Sunday. Come out and enjoy this great day at Mike’s Runway Diner. Sit along side the runway and watch the Planes take off and land while enjoying a great meal.

March 18, 2020: As many of you have heard we had to close the Restaurant due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We will be open tomorrow Thursday from 7am to 11am for to go orders only. We will keep the page updated as to when restaurants can open again. Remember to isolate and wash your hands

April 17, 2020: Mike and I are still unable to get certain provisions to run the restaurant. We will keep every one updated on when we will be able to open back up. Stay safe and indoors.

May 14, 2020: Good morning. As of now Mike’s Runway Diner is on track for opening at the beginning of June. We will keep our page updated . Thank you for all the support we have received during the closure. Mike and I look forward to seeing our favorite people (our customers). See you soon 🙂 Mike and Heather

July 5, 2020: We are still working on trying to open back up. Waiting on the restrictions to lift. We look forward to seeing everyone again soon. Mike and Heather

July 29, 2020: Well the time has come to say good by. Corona got the best of our restaurant and we were not able to move forward. Mike and I thank everyone for your business, love and support. We will cherish everyone and the memories for ever. Thank you and we will miss you all. Mike and Heather

(Minor corrections made to the above for readability.)

A partial screenshot:

Related:

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Profiles in Corporate Courage

Happy Pride Month! I would love to hear everyone’s plans for celebration. We have a two-car garage here in Maskachusetts and, for compatibility with neighbors’ yard signs, I had thought about painting one door in a rainbow flag and the other in a permanent Black Lives Matter sign, but now that we’ve sold the house (signed P&S) and are moving to Jupiter, Florida I am not 100 percent sure that the new owner shares my commitment to social justice.

I’ve never wanted an Apple Watch (an iPhone in the pocket is embarrassing enough), but the company’s courageous commitment to Pride is tempting me to “celebrate all year long”. From the U.S. site:

A detail page:

Some text underneath:

Weaving together the colors of the Pride flag, the Pride Edition Braided Solo Loop band features a unique, stretchable design that’s ultracomfortable and easy to slip on and off your wrist. Created by weaving 16,000 recycled polyester yarn filaments around ultrathin silicone threads using advanced precision-braiding machinery, then laser cutting the band to an exact length for a custom fit. The band offers a soft, textured feel and is both sweat and water resistant.

Apple is proud to support LGBTQ advocacy organizations working to bring about positive change, including Encircle, Equality North Carolina, Gender Spectrum, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG National, the National Center for Transgender Equality, SMYAL, and The Trevor Project in the U.S., and ILGA World internationally.

This Pride Edition watch/band is not available from Apple’s United Arab Emirates page, otherwise a mirror image of the U.S. page. Perhaps folks in UAE don’t need to hear the Good News about Rainbow Flagism? From “LGBT rights in the United Arab Emirates” (Wikipedia): “Male homosexuality is illegal in the UAE, and is punishable by the death penalty under sharia law.”

See also, from Titania McGrath, a comparison of major corporations’ Pride Month displays in non-Muslim versus Muslim regions.

Brush your teeth with pride and shave without toxic masculinity (P&G owns Gillette)….

“We prefer to think of it as the Blue Screen of Pride”:

From diversity.google: “The Gayglers is comprised of LGBTQ+ Googlers and their allies. The group not only leads the way in celebrating Pride around the world, but also informs programs and policies, so that Google remains a workplace that works for everyone.” Apparently, “around the world” does not include Arabia:

Should we ask Melinda Gates to fund a project to help these companies translate their Pride Month messages into Arabic, Urdu, Indonesian, etc.?

Related:

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Why not tiered real estate commissions?

From this blog in 2005:

People who sell $1 million condos often complain that paying a 6 percent standard (read “fixed by collusion” among realtors) commission is too much ($60,000 for what might only be a few days of work). Economists who have studied the real estate market, however, find that in some ways the commission is too low because realtors don’t work very hard to sell clients’ houses compared to their personal houses. In other words they sell a customer’s house relatively cheap so that it will sell quickly rather than work for many weeks to get the best price and 6% of the extra.

Why haven’t we seen anyone propose a commission structure that says the realtor gets a 25% commission… but only on the amount above the assessed value of the property? Your typical $1 million NY or Boston apartment is assessed at maybe $850,000 and could be sold for that price with almost no effort in a few days so the commission paid on such a sale shouldn’t be more than $1000. If a realtor could sell the place for $1.2 million via clever marketing, however, she should be entitled to a fat commission.

In the intervening 16 years, various Internet services have made it easier for owners to sell their own houses. We can assume that realtors add value, since most people still do hire realtors, but they’re adding value on top of an easy-to-establish base, e.g., 10 percent below the Zillow Zestimate. Presumably a “for sale by owner” (free) listing on Zillow could easily sell a house at 90 percent of its Zestimate. (5 minutes of marketing effort!) If so, the structure that would align sellers’ interests with agents’ interest is a commission that was 0 percent of the first 90 percent of expected value and 15-25 percent of the sales proceeds above that.

How can it still be case that an agent who does a terrible job, selling a house for 95 percent of its value, gets paid almost as much as an agent who does a superb job, selling a house for 115 percent of its value?

This is the kind of question I am pondering as we declutter and pack up for Jupiter, Florida!

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Animated and illuminated BLM yard art? (or Rainbow Flagism displays?)

Our neighborhood has gone from Bleak Maskachusetts Winter to Yet Bleaker Maskachusetts Winter due to folks having taken down their epic yard displays, e.g.,

What about cashing in on the latest trends in righteousness, and making American suburbs far more beautiful in the process, by offering animated and illuminated BLM yard art analogous to what one can buy for Christmas? The Christmas season is short, but the BLM season can last continuously for decades!

Americans have demonstrated a commitment to BLM yard displays by purchasing signs, but generally these are not illuminated. This should give us some confidence that some containers of night-time BLM yard displays would fly off the shelves.

Readers: What should the illuminated and animated displays depict? Let’s refer to the Wikipedia timeline of BLM for a few starter ideas:

  • animatronic Karen Amy Cooper with camera and image recognition software that can identify Black passersby and harangue them
  • an inflatable burning Minneapolis Target store, commemorating the mostly peaceful protests of 2020

What if we adapt the idea to the religion of Rainbow Flagism? Would would the nighttime lawn scenes look like then?

Related:

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I was proved wrong about Goldman Sachs

From How to steal $billions (September 2019), regarding the combined exploits of Jho Low and Goldman Sachs as chronicled in Billion Dollar Whale:

Despite connections to the Obama White House, things do begin to unravel for Mr. Low. I don’t want to spoil the suspense, though. The worldwide civil and criminal litigation is ongoing, but it seems safe to say that Goldman gets to keep all of its fees!

Turns out that I am wrong yet again… “Goldman Sachs Malaysia Arm Pleads Guilty in 1MDB Fraud” (NYT):

Goldman employees, the bank said, took part in a scheme to pay $1 billion in bribes to foreign officials. The bank, in turn, arranged the sale of bonds to raise $6.5 billion that was intended to benefit the people of Malaysia but was instead looted by the country’s leaders and their associates.

In the end, the scandal, which netted the bank a relatively paltry $600 million in fees, will cost Goldman and its current and former executives dearly. The bank itself will pay more than $5 billion in penalties to regulators around the world, more than it had to pay for peddling bonds backed by risky mortgages a decade ago. And it has moved to recoup or withhold more than $100 million in executive compensation, a rare move for a Wall Street bank.

(It is fascinating how the NYT characterizes a 10 percent fee for selling bonds (more typical is less than 1 percent, according to the book; the super high fees Goldman was able to get made it obvious that fraud was involved, said the author) as “relatively paltry”)

This is a good time to check in with Malaysia. Like Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the country has enjoyed a low death rate from Covid-19:

“Amid coronavirus surge, Malaysia asks what went wrong as Muhyiddin and other politicians take brunt of criticism” (South China Morning Post, two weeks ago):

Three months after an initial strict lockdown ended, the country faces a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases

Wikipedia has Malaysia down as 85-percent masked, as of August 9, compared to 90 percent in renewed-plague Spain, 83 in renewed-plague France, 75 percent in the always-plagued U.S., 65 percent in Germany, and 4 percent in Denmark.

Related:

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