In the minutes of the FSFE 2021 annual meeting, they admit that they have lost some of the €150,000 donated in a bequest by a fellow who died. It was not even FSFE's money to lose, it may belong to the real FSF.
Handling of financial reserve
The Council explained the current situation for the financial reserves. The members acknowledge that the FSFE currently loses money due to negative interest rates and inflation. The members do not require the Council to take any proactive steps to change the current situation, but the Council may make reasoned recommendations to the GA.
No secret vote requested.
Result: 16 for, 0 against, 0 abstention
As Fellowship representative, I had tried to start a discussion about these funds at the 2017 annual meeting. I put forward several motions for discussion. Each motion was submitted as a separate topic for the meeting agenda. Spitefully, the FSFE president, Matthias Kirschner, merged all the motions into a single motion and had the group vote it away.
One of the more startling things about this screw up is the way Herr Kirschner presented the motion in the meeting minutes. He has placed my first name in brackets after each motion that I put forward. He seems to be giving people some kind of hint to insult me.
Yet it reveals more about Herr Kirschner himself. In German, you would typically write Herr Pocock (Mr Pocock) or Herr Kirschner (Mr Kirschner). Moreover, any serious meeting minutes would put the names of the mover and seconder in the regular font size underneath the title. Kirschner has chosen to use my first name, as if he was addressing a child, and to put it as big as possible as an insult. Germans only seem to use first names like this for children and for foreigners.
Ironically, the next motion on the agenda was the discussion of a Code of Conduct, the FSFE CoC. The Code of Conduct fallacy has already been examined in another blog.
Seeing my name insulted like that by Herr Kirschner and FSFE reminded me of another one of those ugly practices from the Third Reich. Hitler ordered all Jewish citizens to use first names from a special list of Jewish first names. This was insulting to their real birth names.
FSFE's financial blunder is hardly an isolated example. When we were organizing DebConf13, there was some concern about how to ensure the sponsorship revenues in US dollars would match the expenditures in Swiss Francs.
This is the type of problem where an accountant or financial consultant would typically help the organization to develop a strategy for exchange-rate risks and credit risks. For example, a very simple strategy is to price all the sponsorship packages in Swiss Francs. This shifts budgeting risks from the conference to the sponsors.
Yet the response from Didier Raboud was to simply ask the Postfinance to tell us when would be the best time to convert the money. This was incredibly naive. If a bank knows in advance what is going to happen to the exchange rate then they wouldn't give that information to the customers, they would use the information to trade for their own profit. The LIBOR scandal comes to mind as a more extreme example of this phenomena. Investigators published a lot of the chat discussions from the traders. Nothing in the chat history suggests they were thinking about how to help customers.
Subject: Re: [Debconf-sponsors-team] SPI - USD 26500 -> CHF ? Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2012 23:05:07 +0100 From: Didier 'OdyX' Raboud <email@example.com> Organization: Debian - The Universal OS To: firstname.lastname@example.org Le lundi, 10 décembre 2012 21.56:22, Raphaël Walther a écrit : > hug, can you ask postfinance about the exchange rate they would provide > us for this amount ? I suggest to get advice from PostFinance (if that makes sense at all) about "when" would be a good time to get it done. They probably have experience in that and would know about "things everyone in banking knows" (like, I don't know, things like "after Santa came, the USD goes down"). Cheers, OdyX _______________________________________________ Debconf-sponsors-team mailing list Debconfemail@example.com http://lists.debconf.org/mailman/listinfo/debconf-sponsors-team
Both of these situations give an insight into the origins of conflict in FSFE & Debian.
What we see here is that the key people live in a bubble. They won't involve an accountant in the discussion because the accountant won't work for free as an unpaid volunteer. So they just go with their gut feeling or put their trust in Postfinance.
At the same time, both of these groups are highly intolerant of ideas from people who are not part of their inner cabal. They see the rest of us as slaves who are there to do work for them without speaking. Snubbing somebody is their gut instinct, managing financial reserves effectively is not.
There is a combination of racism, arrogance and Tall Poppy Syndrome that makes some of the more entrenched FSFE & Debian people completely unable to see the possibility that anybody outside their clique might be even remotely competent.
Snippet from a reference letter from one of my financial services projects: