Marcela Trust 2017: where's the charity spending?

In my vast fields of free time, dear reader, I scour the accounts of the Marcela Trust so that you don't have to. The accounts for 2017 make interesting reading.

Long story short, the Marcela Trust is steadily burning through the money from OMC Investments, which in turn came from the wind-up of Nissan UK. As of the start of their 2016-2017 financial year they had £86 million; after a bunch of losses on the property market they were left with £81 million at the end of the year. This doesn't seem like a wonderful record for the year for their five trustees:

  • Jeanette Franklin MBE (of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, MBE for fundraising for them)
  • Dawn Pamela Rose (Marcela Trust stalwart)
  • Brian Arthur Groves (Marcela Trust stalwart)
  • Mark Robert Spragg (Marcela Trust stalwart)
  • Paul Hotham (conservationist, also of Flora and Fauna International which has graced these pages in years past)
and yet the indications are that the trustee remuneration wasn't that much reduced from 2016 accounts. Dawn Rose trousered about £200K in total compensation (down from £270K last year) and Brian Groves got £80K rather than £100K last year. We don't know directly about a couple of the other trustees as they are paid out of a subsidiary company, but the pattern we can see is about a 20% payment reduction from 2016.

Now, the natural temptation is to ask the trustees how they can justify their salaries based on a £5 million loss over the year, but that's not fair - the value of investments can go down as well as up. We should evaluate them on how they manage the charity's spending on charitable causes - after all, that's what a charity is all about. And the accounts note specifically that the trustees do not actively fund-raise - although why they recruited someone with an MBE for fund-raising as a trustee is a bit of a mystery.

The Marcela Trust charity spent a bit over £12K on charitable activities in 2017. Last year it spent £4.8 million - but then, it got £4.75 million in donations.

One is left (per William of Ockham) with the hypothesis that the Marcela Trust trustees view their job as spending the minimum of money on charitable causes that they have to, while personally benefiting from the slowly diminishing OMC assets. I certainly don't know how they can look at this year's figures with a straight face and claim that they should be paid anything beyond a nugatory amount for their efforts.

The theme emerging from the last few years is that someone on the trustees is using the OMC funds to build a steadily growing property empire: among other investments, The Queen's Head Hotel ("QHH Limited"), the Old Post Office in Leeds, something referred to as Greyfriars Colchester which I assume is the eponymous luxury hotel, and now Castel Salbek which "acquired a property in Transylvania which is proposed to be developed into a small luxury hotel." What is a UK-based charity doing investing in a random small hotel in Transylvania? Your guess is as good as mine, but it doesn't seem to be a core focus for the charity, which makes me wonder which trustee has directed this investment, and how they (or their friends) expect to benefit from it.

If I were the Charities Commission, I think I'd be looking over the past few years of accounts and starting to ask some pointed questions about how exactly this entity is behaving as a charity in terms of fundraising for and investing in charitable causes, as opposed to being just a vehicle for speculating in (mostly hotel) property.


Blacklist your master, and whitelist your slaves - Silicon Valley word police

Working in Silicon Valley ("putting the crazy into California!") is always an education; there seems to be a Shepard tone of neuroticism in and out of the workplace. Every time you think you've seen the craziest thing you can imagine, something nuttier comes along shortly afterwards.

In the world of global-scale computing, big services like Facebook, Twitter and Gmail are very strongly interested in what happens when a machine in their service infrastructure fails. (This is relevant, I promise.) If only one machine knows how to handle data from user Joe, then Joe is going to be very upset when that machine reboots for an OS upgrade (5-15 minutes downtime), or worse becomes permanently unavailable because a data center technician accidentally bridged the rack bus bar onto the hard drive with her [1] screwdriver because she was paying too much attention to the shapely arse of the technician fixing the next rack over.

The natural solution is that you have multiple machines - maybe in multiple datacentres - which know how to handle data from Joe, and there's some kind of load-balancing across them which knows which of those machines are healthy, and which aren't. But out of all of those machines, you need to have at one which has the canonical state of Joe's data, and which all other machines agree to take data from. Otherwise you end up in the state where there are two or more different views of Joe's data, and can't tell which is valid. In that case, the machine with canonical state is known as the "master", and the other machines receiving state from it are known as "slaves".

I think you can see why this terminology has started to become "controversial" to the Usual Suspects:

The term Master in Master Components is potentially offensive to people of color and women, and I suggest we use a more inclusive synonym.
Proposed Solution:
Suggest renaming to "Primary Components" or "Leader Components"

(By contrast, when the failure occurs at a higher level in the software, you end up writing garbage to all copies of the data - on both masters and slaves. If you've overwritten previous data, your only hope is to bring it back from an earlier system state snapshot - witness this Gmail inbox wipe-out from 2011.)

That was silly enough, but now the common terminology of "whitelist" (allow these items, but not others) and "blacklist" (allow all items except these) has come under attack:

Per https://twitter.com/dhh/status/1032050325513940992, [Tweet by Ruby-on-Rails founder] I'd like for Rails to set a good example and tone by using better terminology when we can. An easy fix would be to replace our use of whitelist with allowlist and blacklist with denylist.
We can even just use them as verbs directly, as we do with the former terms. So something is allowlisted or denylisted.
Obviously the narrative here is that "black" is associated with negative connotations ("block") and "white" associated with positive connotations ("allow"). So I'd be fascinated to know why they continue to allow Code Pink to seize a positive affirmation space for people of the predominant Western European ethnicity, and refuse to attack the use of "yellow" for cowardice.

It's not just limited to colour of skin - there are a long-term crusades to stop people using "guys" as a generic term for a group of familiar people, "handicapped" for people who are disabled, and "innumerate" to describe Diane Abbott.

It's clear that this is a concerted effort to control the use of language in order to shape ideas - if you're forced to use an approved (restricted) vocabulary, you can't easily express concepts that are regarded as unacceptable by the vocab approvers. And if you think it's going to stop here, I have a bridge to sell you.

I don't have any intrinsic objection to using alternative terminology for master/slave, or for blacklist/whitelist. But I've scrutinised the people calling for this change, and I'm going to keep using the original terminology because civilised people should not yield an inch to these totalitarian fuckers.

If I were tired of employment, I'd be tempted to make a traditional English dish and bring it to my next group potluck. "Oooh, these are tasty, what do you call them?" "Faggots." It would be worth it just to hear the sharp intakes of breath and see the (put-on) outrage. I could even double down: "Are you saying my cultural heritage is offensive?" although of course I'd lose badly by the rules of intersectionality and Victimhood Poker.

[Complete tangent - traditional English terminology for the testicles of an animal is "fries", so you can have "lamb fries", "pig fries" etc. Therefore when someone from an older generation asks you "do you want fries with that?" you might get more than you bargained for.]

[1] All the recent training examples I've seen have had women take a dominant role as problem-solvers, and men nearly exclusively doing the stupid / illegal / morally dubious actions. In the spirit of gender equality, this is me trying to redress the balance.


BBC shilling for illegal immigration AGAIN

I don't want to claim that this is a trend but they have recent history in this area.

Today Ms Taylor Kate Brown, DC-based BBC reporter temporarily reporting from Mancos CO, reports on the plight of Rosa Sabido who's sheltering from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the local United Methodist Church who have decided to provide sanctuary to anyone breaking the law as long as it's just related to immigration. Anyone familiar with today's UMC will not be falling off their chairs in surprise.

I searched for the word "legal" in the article, and the only instance relevant to her actions was reported speech from an ICE spokesman:

She entered the country illegally and ignored multiple orders to depart
which, I note, nothing in the article tries to refute apart from a quote from Ms Sabido:
I've been trying all this time to become a citizen... I just tried to do the legal thing and in the end all I get was an order of deportation
The "legal thing" - presumably ignoring the (repeated?) deliberate illegal immigration into the USA which was the root cause of the pending procedures?

At least Ms Brown is honest about the motivation of Ms Sabido:

It is an extreme option and one that extracts a high and potentially lasting price.
Really? What "price" are we talking about? Presumably by Ms Sabido's calculations, it's worthwhile - what benefit might she be anticipating?
Rosa keeps busy but her time in the church is about waiting - waiting for a new Congress, waiting for a potential private bill, waiting for a different president.
Basically, a broad amnesty for people already in the US illegally. How nice to have a substantial fraction of a foreign government working directly for your benefit without any thought of payment - save, perhaps, a future vote in their direction?

However, I find the hints about the church itself of particular interest:

But sheltering Rosa was never the original plan. The church had spoken to a nearby organisation that believed there were a handful of families in the area at risk of deportation, all of whom had lived there for at least 10 years.
"They were our brothers and sisters," he says.
A few people left the church over the decision, but more have joined in support of Rosa, says Paschal.
Aha. I'm sure. So the pastor led the congregation into approving the sanctuary policy in support of a few people that they knew, but it turned out to be available to anyone in the neighborhood. Who knew?

Here's the church. Total congregation: 70. That means fewer than 30 people turning up regularly for services. In a town of 1500 with a total of 5 churches that doesn't look like a particularly successful church, and honestly I don't know how 30 people's contributions are funding a full-time pastor. One assumes that the United Methodist Church - or rather, their national congregational contributions - are covering the deficit. So the pastor doesn't have to have much local buy-in, he gets the $ from the mothership. Nice job, if you can get it.

Anyway, Ms Brown is officially no longer reporting for the BBC:

so this is presumably her swan-song. If she's moving out west in a career growth move, it's almost certainly to California so presumably this article is a final burnishing of pro-illegal-immigration credentials...