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Richard Stallman Was Right All Along (osnews.com)
731 points by thomholwerda on Jan 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 226 comments



This article doesn't seem to give any examples of specific predictions Stallman made that have turned out to be correct. All the article seems to be saying is that Stallman seemed paranoid, and present events seem to justify paranoia.

(Incidentally, people always feel that.)

Can anyone give some examples of specific predictions Stallman made that seemed surprising at the time, but that have come true? I'm not saying there haven't been any, just that such a list would be more useful than this article.


"Right to read" http://falkvinge.net/2011/06/03/stallmans-the-right-to-read-... (Related: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20069648-264/richard-stall... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Right_to_Read)

Here's a lot more in the articles: http://stallman.org/#politics

Edit: IFSO: Richard Stallman: The Dangers of Software Patents; 2004-05-24 (transcript) http://www.ifso.ie/documents/rms-2004-05-24.html

Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF) https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-and-globalization.h...

2nd edit: You are a Terrorist (Du bist Terrorist) German, English Subtitles - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdIA0jeW-24


Can you give me some examples of specific predictions he made that you feel are most prescient?


From the "Right to Read" 1997-02...

"Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing." -> Streaming content, DMCA tech

"It was also possible to bypass the copyright monitors by installing a modified system kernel." -> Jailbreaking

"But not only were they illegal, like debuggers—you could not install one if you had one, without knowing your computer's root password. And neither the FBI nor Microsoft Support would tell you that." -> trusted computing

"But ordinary users started using [free debugging tools] to bypass copyright monitors, and eventually a judge ruled that this had become their principal use in actual practice. This meant they were illegal; the debuggers' developers were sent to prison." -> DeCSS, Sony

----

From "The Dangers of Software Patents" 2004-05-24...

"Copyright covers a work of authorship. A patent covers an idea. ...... But a patent is an absolute monopoly on the use of an idea. Even if you could prove that you had the idea yourself, that would be irrelevant: you're still not allowed to use it." ->

Apple filed U.S. application Ser. No. 10/842,862 entitled “Multipoint Touchscreen,” filed on 2004-05-04 and published as U.S. Published Application No. 2006/0097991 on 2006-05-11.

---

From "Copyright and Globalization" 2001-04-19... (Selected bits that were interesting to me)

"In the ancient world, books were written by hand with a pen, …… you could copy a part of a book, then write some new words, copy some more and write some new words and on and on. This was called “writing a commentary” — that was a common thing to do — and these commentaries were appreciated. …… Now copyright was developed along with the use of the printing press and given the technology of the printing press, it had the effect of an industrial regulation. It didn't restrict what readers could do; it restricted what publishers and authors could do. …… copyright law no longer acts as an industrial regulation; it is now a Draconian restriction on a general public. It used to be a restriction on publishers for the sake of authors. Now, for practical purposes, it's a restriction on a public for the sake of publishers. …… To enforce it requires surveillance — an intrusion — and harsh punishments, and we are seeing these being enacted into law in the U.S. and other countries." -> NAFTA which is mentioned in the talk, SOPA, Protect IP, etc


Predicting DRM phoning home in 1997 does not seem startlingly prescient. Nor locked down systems; those already existed.

The only novel idea I see here is the point that copyright, which was originally a restriction on publishers, has now become a restriction on consumers. But that doesn't seem so dystopian. Everyone is a publisher now.


> But that doesn't seem so dystopian. Everyone is a publisher now.

When you think it through, it does seem dystopian. Imagine that e-ink matures, and paper isn't that useful any more. That we no longer purchase dead-tree copies of our books, magazines, and so on. I think that can happen. I read right now a novel on my electronic reader, even though I have a dead-tree copy, because my reader is lighter and slimmer than my book.

Now, how do I lend you a book for which I have no dead-tree copy? I can't give you such a piece of dead-tree (and naturally lose it for myself). All I can do is make a copy and give it to you. And then I'm a publisher. And then what I'm doing is forbidden. And then I can't even lend you my book.

(One could imagine laws/DRM that would erase the copy I own if I ever give another copy to someone else. However, I don't think the IP Lords would want even that. They'd say it harms their revenue.)

But that's not dystopian enough. True dystopia is when the means of enforcing it kick in: the only know way right now is a "total surveillance" regime, where free software itself is forbidden.


> Now, how do I lend you a book for which I have no dead-tree copy? I can't give you such a piece of dead-tree (and naturally lose it for myself).

Why can't you lend it to me on the good faith I'll return to it you when I'm done?

Edit: Aha, I misread your comment! I think because in the proceeding paragraph you mention the case of having a dead-tree book but preferring e-ink. Of course, if you don't have it you can't lend it (assuming DRM prevents you).


""""Now, how do I lend you a book for which I have no dead-tree copy? I can't give you such a piece of dead-tree (and naturally lose it for myself). All I can do is make a copy and give it to you. And then I'm a publisher. And then what I'm doing is forbidden. And then I can't even lend you my book."""

So the "dystopia" is the artificial disability to lend books?

How about the counter-balance that millions of books are now available everywhere with an internet connection, instantly obtainable, with no real trees sacrificed and much cheaper than print editions (that one could get better, though). And you can even get 1-2 chapters for free to check if you want to buy the book (in Amazon kindle at least). Plus, everyone can become his own publisher for his own work (no copyright problem in this case) with easy worldwide distribution and no mediators.

So, yeah, you can't lend your book (almost, see below). But you can lend your ebook reader to others in the family. And how common is dead-tree book lending anyway? How about your friend buys a digital copy for himself (possibly after downloading the free sample chapters?).

"""(One could imagine laws/DRM that would erase the copy I own if I ever give another copy to someone else. However, I don't think the IP Lords would want even that. They'd say it harms their revenue.)"""

One doesn't have to imagine. iTunes store allows you to share your songs (haven't checked about books) with 5 other accounts.

And Kindle permits you to lend books to others for 14 days: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=2...


> So the "dystopia" is the artificial disability to lend books?

No, that's not bad enough. But it sure leads to a dystopia. Quoting myself: "True dystopia is when the means of enforcing [copyright] kick in: the only know way right now is a "total surveillance" regime, where free software itself is forbidden."

By the way, it still applies even when Big IP do permit you to share with a few friends.


"So the 'dystopia' is the artificial disability to lend books?"

It is the inability to communicate freely.


Didnt the Kindle and Nook come with some way of sharing books with friends? I also seem to remember that the Xune let you share music too.

You have to admit that going digital introduces problems that aren't clear cut. If you were to reproduce a physical copy of a book and give it out en masse for either free or a fee you'd be called a bootlegger. But when that same book or movie or whatever is a digital copy then the difference between lending out a copy innocently and distribution which violates copyright gets blurred. Lending something out used to mean one copy gets passed between people. Now it means there's a copy for each person you want to share with.

I think we're just going through some growing pains. I really don't see how anyone can say any one side is right. Theyre just competing interests that we will hopefully find a happy middle ground for soon.


They come with rather neutered implementations of lending that might as well not be there at all since IIRC publishers can and do simply disable the feature in the permissions for their books. Ditto for the feature on the Kindle that reads a book aloud (which was never put into the Nook since the publishers had realized they hated the feature by the time the Nook came out).


> Predicting DRM phoning home in 1997 does not seem startlingly prescient.

Since when was being prescient the sole marker of an ideas value?

What's interesting about Stallman is that he's been repeating the same material since the 80's, and it only gets more relevant. He might be a paranoid weirdo but he does seem to at least be paranoid about something that has it's roots in reality.

We might have increasing equality, and perhaps some additional freedom over our own bodies, but at the same time the wide spread deployment of mass surveillance tech has come at the same time.

> But that doesn't seem so dystopian. Everyone is a publisher now.

This is only not a dystopia if those publishers have sufficiently uncorrelated output and distribution channels. I'm not sure that's the case.


Stallman's arguments are not strictly against market forces. He also attacks authoritarianism, which has a long history of using any justification to control information; so long as we have an authoritarian impulse in our politics, his dystopic vision holds weight.


Yes. Laurence Lessig (in his book 'Code') argues that market forces is what paves the way for locked systems, which naturally leads to abuse.


Didn't market forces lead the iTunes music DRM to be eliminated?


It certainly has the power to do both and the usual course of action is indeed to jump into closed systems only to open them up later. That's all fine and well if we're only talking technology, but a number of companies increasingly invest in a dual strategy where they also make governments do their bidding when it comes to technology - that started out with software patents (clearly a pandoras box, opened, now) which are already harming innovation and is now leading into things like SOPA where, transparently, policy is proposed to 'fix' the technological empowerment that we have enjoyed on the Internet for so long in favor of protecting the deep pockets of a few corporations.

Remember - technology is only a tool and what happens with that tool is always guided by the ones who yield the most power. It was possible for Apple to eliminate DRM only because they maneuvered themselves into a position of power where media corporations were being lead by Apple and not the other way around. I think the actual reason why DRM was abandoned was because it was just not feasible, for music - remember the horror stories with Windows DRM for music, for instance. Removing DRM was both damage control by Apple and a 'hip' thing to do in the wake of consumer dissatisfaction. I have yet to see a similar push in any other field than music - extremely restrictive licensing and DRM are still alive and well in proprietary software and video content, respectively, and it doesn't seem like there is any change to that on the horizon. It probably helps that the Apple->Jobs->Pixar->Disney link is a very strong one and that video content is used fundamentally different compared to music.

Anyhow - it's always both - big corporations do have to pay attention to the market and both follow the will of the consumer and what is best for their own bottom line, which sometimes overlap. But sometimes they get weary of that and short circuit the system through politics (although that is often initiated by companies that are not primarily in technology). That's where any degree of authoritarianism is quite an asset.


All consumers are publishers now, so there appears to be room for a phase transition. We collectively have a choice, like two Nash equilibria. IP vs Free.

I imagine we would save a lot of man-hours from defining and fighting man-made statutory IP laws that may not be beneficial after all. See the inefficiencies of the patent system, and the brilliant minds wasted(?) on circumventing man-made restrictions. Not to mention the potential for abuse by regimes, as chipsy mentions.

I believe the Free equilibrium point has a lower potential energy. Therefore I advocate it. Where the modern entrepreneur programmer fits, I'm trying to figure out.


I think the point is not so much that he was prescient, rather that he drew attention to these issues early on, well before they began to threaten the free exchange of information and ideas.

One could say RMS is simply pointing out the obvious, the already demonstrated. Especially technical people like you and I. But remember, RMS has been ridiculed for these positions, by folks much like the author of this article who admits to dismissing RMS as a paranoid fanatic.

The salient message in this story is that the author's opinion has changed. The world has progressed further along this path and it is now quite obvious that the scenario RMS depicts is not only possible, but in some degree has already taken place.


> But that doesn't seem so dystopian. Everyone is a publisher now.

saying that is ignoring the core problem. Since early on everyone wrote notes on textbooks and shared that. Everyone shared articles. in the 80's everyone hand out mix tapes. heck i did some movie nights at my place with more attendance than some illegal simpsons episodes get on some streaming sites.

my point, everyone always were "a publisher". That's a fallacy to ignore the main problem. it helps real publishers, i.e. someone who makes a living of that sharing/distribution, that failed to adapt to the times.


what you think he said about copyright he said about pretty much everything else. fair use, openess, freedom, etc.

right, closed systems and draconian DRM already existed, fine. but neither were essential for our everyday lives in the way he put it back them. now it's obvious, of course. and apathy has already even ruled out anything wrong with it all.

heck people still thinks doctorow is clever for rewritting pretty much what stallman wrote years later.


While not a specific claim to prediction of form X will happen in the year Y, it is a bit unsettling how since its original publication in 1997, RMS's "Right to Read" [1] has almost served as a playbook for the intellectual property lobby (1998's DMCA + UEFI's Secure Boot, trusted computing, etc). especially in light of the author's notes [1] that demonstrate that the laws required to create that dystopia are either available in some form already or have been proposed in the past, or are actively being worked on (SOPA, Protect-IP).

Ultimately it's not one particular statement that is eye-opening, but rather taking a holistic view of how the landscape of law and the aspects of what general-purpose computers (and programmers) can do and how that will continue to step on more and more industries' toes as pointed out by Cory Doctorow [2].

It's not so much that he's some sort of prophet as it is the unfortunate fact that his paranoia is increasingly justifiable with every new law creating new IP restrictions and laws dealing with civil liberties (PATRIOT, NDAA, etc). It's a self-perpetuating negative feedback loop.

[1] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [2] http://lwn.net/Articles/473794/


When he was vocally making the rounds at USENIX in the mid 80's telling everyone that soon you'd be able to get UNIX with source code for free instead of paying AT&T five figures I don't know anyone who thought he would pull it off and there were a lot of jokes.

Even though his project got bogged down lots of other activity sprang up. BSD dropped some code in '89 and then things went crazy in the early 90's.

I'm sure you meant about security, though. I doubt the blog spammer had anything in mind, he was pretty uninformed on the subject.


I do not believe that the article was about specific predictions and maybe not even about predictions at all. The main thesis of the article was that he was right, not that he is prescient.

Stallman's position has always been that it is bad for you not to have full control over the software you run. This is admittedly not very specific but I do not think it needs to be. It is a political view after all, not a scientifically verifiable hypothesis.

The article enumerates some cases of that badness which were not present when Stallman started his movement but are present now. That does not make him a prophet - it is just some new evidence that supports his views.


I agree the title and wording in the article is not very specific.

However, I think it's mostly just the general point that Stallman makes about free software (the 'prediction' is just that this is important). At the risk of hypothesizing how this point is relevant: freedom to modify software is an inalienable right, which increases the chances of people not taking advantage of other people with technology. Not in any absolute sense (it only increases the chances). But it just makes coming up with solutions to centralized, non-democratic uses of technology (SOPA, etc.) a lot more easy.


His paranoia was based on knowledge that only free software, free access and freedom are ways to live your life. You will find very few people who are ready to go to lengths that he went to do what they preach.


"I, too, disregarded Stallman as way too extreme... Only a short while ago I would've declared this as pure paranoia - but with all that's been going on recently, it's no longer paranoia."

I considered him extreme until I thought more about it, then came to agree with him on most major points...

... that was in 1993.

Glad to see others here.


http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

That essay is what made me a firm supporter.


Okay, he wrote a scary story.

What has he done to promote laws to prevent what he fears, and to fight laws that lead to what he fears?


He co-authored a license that anyone can use to share software, prose, and other copyrightable material.

That license, and others derived from it, are at the root of most non-proprietary software and many types of user-created content. Using the internet means you've used software that likely could not have been created without such licenses. Wikipedia is another example of something using a license derived from the one he helped create.

Helping create flourishing communities of people legally sharing each others' work, collectively creating great works, influences legislation. Imagine if no licenses existed for people to legally remix each other's work without explicit permission. Disney, the MPAA, the RIAA, and others would have had greater ability to lengthen copyright terms, increase penalties for infringement, and so on.

Microsoft had a strong play for extending from the desktop to servers when Unix was fragmented. I wonder what might have happened if apache didn't exist to compete with Microsoft -- how much more influence Microsoft might have had over U.S. legislation.

He's done a lot more than just help write the GPL, but that alone contributed a lot.


Yes, but what has he done that has been directed towards US laws, regulations, and policies, to protect the right to read?


While I don't agree with the parent, as the BSD license and BSD-licensed software would have happened anyway, the GPL is the perfect example of what hackers can do against awful legislation.

You see, the GPL takes the copyright system and turns it on its head. That's why it is named a copyleft license, an obvious pun.

How does it do that? Well, copyright prevents distribution. The GPL rides this restriction and says that you may not distribute GPL-licensed software unless (1) you distribute it with no extra restrictions + (2) the distributed binary is either accompanied by source-code or the source-code is available on request. The GPL COULD NOT demand this if it weren't for the copyright law and in regards to freedom / protecting users rights, it works out great because nobody can abuse the GPL without legal repercussions.

It's actually beautiful if you think about it and innovative - it enabled open-source / free software to really disrupt the software industry, creating the equivalent of the public commons. And this movement went viral and moved to books, music and movies. And this would have happened without the GPL, but on a much lower scale. The GPL is the spark that started the fire.

BTW - to change the world you don't need to change the laws. The alternative is to make them obsolete and technology has a habit of doing that ;-)


You mentioned BSD and I'm wondering what's wrong with BSD? A lot of FOSS people are all about hating anything that isn't GPL but let's not forget that these licenses serve a purpose. GPL has its place but I personally distribute things I make under BSD all the time. I don't mind and in fact encourage people to take my source, close it up and make a bunch of money off it if they want or take it and give back better code. I like the idea that both of those very things happen under BSD. I understand that closed source can mean various nefarious (rhyming kind of on purpose) things go on but it isn't necessarily so.


I haven't said there's anything wrong with BSD. Where did I say that? As you said, it serves a different purpose.


Apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order and a legal document designed to protect the right to read and modify and a philosophy that has influenced an entire generation of creators...?


The Free Software Foundation, among other things, sponsors some "political" campaigns against DRM and software patents.


From what I understand, RMS has spent a large fraction of his working life in the last 20 years traveling the world to speak to people about free software. He could be dismissed as too extreme, but dismissing him as someone who hasn't fought for his beliefs is way off.

His speaking schedule is often published in the FSF newsletter; he appears to speak to a group about free software around once per week.


That's just it, he spoke about free software, not these larger issues. And getting people to adopt free software is an orthogonal issue.

Even if GPL software had 99% market share in the US, and everyone in the country were running the same kind of computer as Stallman, the government could still step in and pass all kinds of draconian laws.

Getting regular people to adopt the GPL ethos is fine, but if the ethos doesn't permeate government as well, Stallman might as well be touring around promoting the Spice Girls for all governments will be prevented from doing intrusive things.


Are you seriously expecting Stallman or any one person to "fight" the government and prevent it from passing some draconian law. You seem to thoroughly misunderstand how a modern democracy operates. It's up to the people to prevent a government like that by not electing politicians that have draconian views on the subject. And the only way people can ever do that is if they are aware of all the issues. And Richard is doing a lot to make us all aware of the issues. In my mind he is doing all he can do, and at the right level of involvement, where he has the most know how to influence the minds of "regular" people.


Compare the FSF to the EFF.


They do different things? That are both needed and important?


Richard speaks about more than just free software per se; recent speeches include Copyright vs Community, A Free Digital Society, and The Danger of Software Patents.


The point is to make such laws unworkable through practical measures, not to generate political anger in the uncertain hope that that will balance the efforts of proprietorial lobbyists and state security extremists indefinitely.


> That's just it, he spoke about free software, not these larger issues...

What's larger than freedom?


There are many freedoms. I suspect Stallman would be happy if he achieved all his free software goals, even if he lost freedoms that most other people consider more important.


I think you completely misunderstand RMS then, I think you would find that he would argue that all freedoms are necessary and worth fighting for. In many speeches I have heard him give he has said that he could fight for other freedoms but the freedom he could do the best job of fighting for are software freedoms. I would suggest you read more of RMS's work and listen to more of his talks.


Yes, exactly.

Let's assume Stallman had qualified as a Medical Doctor rather than a Computer Programmer.

Perhaps he would be making the same argument about pharmaceutical patents?


It isn't that he wrote a scary story.

It's that his story looked much less plausible in 1997 than it does now. I remember reading the story at that time. I thought it had something going for it, but was very far-fetched and unrealistic. 14 years later, it seems way more plausible.


He was and is a major inspiration for the international pirate party movement, which if the power of the MAFIAA is to be destroyed, is the most likely actor to do it by political means.


same for me, except around 2003. RMS is a difficult guy but he tends to be right.


RMS is difficult because he is consistent, because he is right about difficult topics, and because people have a natural tendency to be comforted by authoritarians. But the issues RMS writes and speaks about are fundamental to human rights, and to the continued ability to create and innovate and create value without getting prior permission.


I think RMS is difficult because he is not cooperative with people who don't share his views in their totality and because like many socially-awkward engineers, he has a penchant for making some really offensive and petty statements over what should simply be an ideological disagreement.

I agree with Stallman in many ways but I also have some important and major disagreements. I am sure that he would call me an enemy to free software, even though I regularly contribute to it, and that he would therefore consider my actions absolutely immoral and inexcusable. But I don't think it's immoral and inexcusable to charge money for things in a meaningful way (i.e., a way that actually generates money), at least not in the current context. I've read Stallman's arguments and don't find them particularly convincing.

I also don't believe that GNU is entitled to a prefix every time a complete system that uses the Linux kernel and GNU toolchain is mentioned.

So where does that leave me? As far as I can tell, Stallman would refuse to work with me, disavow any relationship with me, and consider me an immoral provocateur that harms free software no matter how much good I do for it in actuality (due to my disavowal of freedom 2 as an essential element in moral software).

That kind of hardcore, unyielding, exclusive ideology makes it really hard to get anywhere with people. You can't show someone the error of their ways if you refuse to associate or cooperate with them.


No, there are lots of authors who do that and still have a following.

1. As an advocate, RMS scores own goals far too often.

RMS seems to go out of his way to present himself as an eccentric who has no comprehension of social norms.

I've also seen an entire roomful of people who were ready to eviscerate a new Microsoft technology (this was back when trusted computing was being introduced) suddenly flip around to sympathy with the Microsoft guy when Stallman weighed in.

2. Being RMS' friend is almost as bad as being his enemy.

He will condemn someone who has a slightly different position, or has made compromises, with equal vituperation as someone who is directly opposed.

I also know someone who got into trouble with his own repressive government due to RMS being unable to keep his mouth shut on issues he didn't understand. (Please don't ask for details.)

It's sad because, like the OP, I think RMS is fundamentally right about these issues.


I think those are true, but I think it's basically RMS's personality, so you get the bad with the good. I don't think he's really going out of his way to present himself as such; as far as I can tell he really doesn't have any real comprehension of social norms. I hear similar tales from MIT alumni about even casual encounters with him in hallways or elevators being pretty weird.


Consider me in, since 2012-01-02.


Better late than never.


Since you recognised this issue so long ago, I'm sure you have some recommendations regarding how we can solve it?


I'm not sure which issue you mean by "this issue," because the freedoms involved in free software touch many issues.

I also can't recommend for others not knowing their needs and interests, but I can tell you some things I do. Maybe some things will translate to what you do.

I use free software as much as possible, running gnu/linux on my computers since 1996. I stopped dual booting about ten years after that.

I give some time to support freedombox -- http://joshuaspodek.com/tag/freedombox -- when I can.

I keep apprised of activities of Stallman, Eben Moglen, and a few others.

I attend conferences when I can, like Debconf.

I hardly code, but I've released a bit GPL'ed.

I support and contribute to Wikipedia.

I talk about free software to people who want to know more.

My art pieces -- http://joshuaspodek.com/tag/unionsquareinmotion and http://joshuaspodek.com/new_bryant_park_in_motion_videos -- run free software.

There's a short list. I'm not trying to save the world all by myself, just to avoid infringing on other people's freedom. All of the above together adds up to a modest amount of time and other resources. I have other priorities for most of my time, but, as I mentioned, I think by making myself aware of the issues, I've reduced how much I'd infringe on others' freedoms.

If you're looking for suggestions, I think asking the questions you asked in an open-minded way will start you off. I expect the more you do, the more you'll learn you can do.


Whatever the poster's ideas might be, I have to point out that it is a fallacy to imply that the person recognizing the problem necessarily can come up with the solution or has an obligation to come up with the solution - even if the person has recognized the problem for a long time.


I'll tell one thing which won't solve it: religious zealotry and advocations for everyone in the world to commit to FSF purity.

Open software advocates should treat closed and controlled systems in the same fashion that techies implore content creators to treat piracy: an unstoppable force of nature that must be accepted and competed with, rather than feared and demonized.

Also underlying both issues: the need for improved business models to sustain free software and open content. People like to get paid, and t-shirts + donations doesn't always cut it.


Disclaimer: I'm no RMS fanboy by a long stretch of the imagination.

What you're saying is that they should throw their arms up in the air and say "welp, that's how the real world works in reality, so might as well give up and accept it".

But I think you're being unfair. The normal open advocates don't fear and demonize closed source. They may secretly pity it, they may secretly hate it, I don't know.

The RMS vision of open source, when you get right down to it, is that of two sandpits. In one sandpit, everyone shares their toys. In the other sandpit... who cares what they do?

If someone comes from the closed source world and wants to play in the open source sandpit, they have to play by the rules (sharing and openness).

I think RMS gets frustrated sometimes, because he doesn't want the other people playing in the open playpit giving their stuff away to the people in the selfish (no sharing) playpit. I think his thinking is that it would mean that there is less incentive for them "over there" to examine and repent of their selfish ways.

Sometimes the people in the no-sharing playpit have rich relatives that buy them nice toys for Christmas. But RMS views that as okay, if the open playpit turns out to have a need for one of those, he is confident that the open source people have the ability to make something even better, if they can be bothered to do so.


I am, admittedly, attacking a straw man, though in the case of RMS and a few others, it's not far off from reality.

> In one sandpit, everyone shares their toys. In the other sandpit... who cares what they do?

That's the attitude I mean. The fact is, a lot of people care: engineers, customers, and investors are making really interesting things happen in that sandpit. For FOSS advocates to avoid the development happening there is a hindrance to progress, not in aid of it. Maybe if RMS let himself own an Android or iPhone (perhaps with SIM removed), he would understand why these new platforms are a big deal, and be better equipped to create truly open equivalents, instead of insisting on living in his purist tech world of the 70's (wget-ing web pages? really?).

Closed source isn't evil. It's selfish. And we expect a certain level of selfishness from both individuals and companies. I fully support shifting our values in tech and elsewhere to a greater esteem for community and the commons. But calls for all software to be open and free is unrealistic: many people can't or won't create value without a selfish incentive. Time spent advocating against closed platforms is better spent making open platforms better.


I think that RMS is quite happy to cut all ties with the closed source world in order to build a brave new one that is an idealised programmers paradise. I look at the GPL and it seems to me the clear intent there is to have this separation, this "software apartheid" if you will.

You and I on the other hand, might look at it and say "okay, but how do these brave new programmers eat? Who pays their rent?" Back in the day, RMS used to just do some hand waving and point out that if (sorry: "once") the economic benefits of open source are realised that companies will do this because they realise it is in their best interests.

I'd be delighted to be wrong, but it seems that only a tiny minority of Open Source developers are actually hired by enlightened companies to work on their Open Source projects full time. Google being an obvious big contributor in that regard. But here's the thing with RMS, he is such an extremist that even Google's contribution isn't enough. He doesn't want a measly couple of buillion dollars worth of commitment, he wants it all, the heart mind body and soul must be dedicated to the cause or you are unworthy.

The sandbox metaphor breaks down when we look at one of the things that RMS objects to about Google, that they use Open Source, and they provide 'free(ish)' software services in return, but because those web/software services sit behind the "big-iron" curtain Google are never obligated to release their changes and improvements. Hence the GPL becomes ineffective in that scenario.

The problem of course is the risk of ghetto-isation of the open source developers. You and I might be reluctant to leap in boots and all because of petty economic concerns and so keep at least one foot in the closed source world. This lets us see lots of exciting things happening there. But don't forget that there is lots of stuff happening in the open source world. Closed source may look more exciting now, but RMS is taking the long position that in the end his legions of trusty hackers working together will create something much better than the corporations all doing their own small secret things.

And something genuinely spectacular happened last year. Last year was (finally) the long predicted, long awaited year of Linux hitting the mainstream. Except of course it wasn't Linux on the desktop, but Linux on mobile (Android).

Unfortunately, as open as it might be, it seems to me that Android is deeply flawed as far as alignment with the GNU philosophy of openness, what with the carriers doing all kinds of horrible things (some behind the scenes, some brazenly out in public). I hear stories of Microsoft making more money off Android than the do off Windows mobile (or whatever it is called this week), simply by threatening legal action, and patents of dubious parentage. Not to mention some of the openness being more open than others (e.g. Google releasing the code to some partners but not others, and not the public)


Stallman is a good extreme, in that he creates and lives by an idealized system (call it "pure" if you want), which enables a lot of less ideal, more real-life versions to exist in between his and the "commercial software" world, without any negative side-effect to the world at large.


I used to think this too, until I realized something I didn't thoroughly understand until I read the OP. The reason Stallman wants a "pure" system with no closed source code is because if there's even one proprietary bit of executable code, you can't guarantee your system isn't spying (or capable of spying) on you. Or tracking you or restricting how you use your data.

Seen through the argument I just made, when you say closed and controlled systems are an unstoppable force of nature and must be accepted, what you're really saying is digital spying/tracking/restriction is an unstoppable force of nature and must be accepted. It really is an all or nothing proposition at this point.


I'd like to remark that your argument is not valid: To know that your system won't spy on you, all you need is open code (transparency). You don't need it to be free.

Theoretically, you can have a completely unfree system that is completely open at the same time.


I don't see how that invalidates my argument. I don't mention paid vs unpaid at all, just closed and open.


I didn't mention paid vs. unpaid, either. I was speaking about 'free' as in 'free software' vs. proprietary. My point was that you can have a proprietary system that is open.

For reference, this was the argument I was replying to:

> … if there's even one proprietary bit of executable code, you can't guarantee your system isn't spying (or capable of spying) on you.


Via the technological route, or the political route.

The technological route involves software to enable darknets, and hardware/software to enable ad hoc mesh networking.

The political route involves electing representatives that care about these issues, which the Pirate Party have had success doing, e.g. in Germany and Sweden.


Agreed - Stallman was right all along. What's working against Stallman though is that his doomsday predictions are being delivered in piecemeal fashion. Each slight erosion doesn't seem too bad by itself. Only in retrospect does the magnitude of the problem reveal itself. Governments and corporations have evolved processes to change laws in such effective manners as to evade most human observation.

tldr; No one tells you the plane's not coming - they just tell you it's 20m late, perpetually...



I think the main flaw is that, no matter how popular GPL software becomes, it doesn't stop the government from saying "your machines need to run this closed-source software in order to be used or sold in this country".


That would be a difficult law to enforce without declaring martial law. If smartphones are any indication, it's difficult to design a device that cannot be convinced to run unauthorized code.


You're saying something different. "can run unauthorized code" is different from "must run this closed-source software". Both could be true at the same time.

What good is your free, open, secure channel if your phone is also a running mandatory rootkit, containing a GPS tracker and keylogger? See also: Carrier IQ.


Here's an easy way: promote the use of a security cryptographic communications protocol. Fund development of a plugin for Windows. Advocate or even pass a law that banks, the IRS, and other organizations support it. Ignore requests that the code be published and/or available for other OSes. Ta-da! You've effectively discouraged use of free OSes.

Okay, it's still possible to have a system without proprietary software. Just much harder, and not worth the frustration to most people.

See the links from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEED as an example of that scenario in action in South Korea.


It would be reverse engineered pretty quickly.

Reverse engineering code is pretty hard - but that sounds like a lot of motivation.


Did you read the link? "Unfortunately support for SEED alone is not enough to allow for secure transactions with Korean web services."

There's motivation, but still something missing.


What's missing? The wiki page doesn't say.


Strange! I go to "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEED, I search for "not enough" and it's on the end of the first paragraph.


"If smartphones are any indication, it's difficult to design a device that cannot be convinced to run unauthorized code."

True, but you could require that the device have a little semi-autonomous widget attached that monitors the rest of the device, can't be controlled by software on the main device, and can't be removed or deactivated without seriously reducing functionality of the device.

The government would simply have to say "put this in your phones, and require devices on your network have it enabled, or you don't get FCC approval."


"""That would be a difficult law to enforce without declaring martial law."""

I seriously doubt that.

There are current laws in practice that would have needed martial law declared to be enforced (or even passed) a century of even a few decades ago.

And we're talking about "detain anyone for any period" and such laws, so in comparison the general public could care less about an "only run state-sponsored non Open Source software" law.


I've heard that North Korea does something similar. People can buy software at Universities, etc. without question, but to get a computer they must go through the government.


yes, or it could even be open source spyware that you have to run anyway to be compliant with the law.


This article is just a complete non sequitur. The Stallman angle has nothing to do with any of the problems it cites. Free software wouldn't prevent Obama from signing an indefinite detention bill, it won't stop the government from forcing ISPs and DNS roots to do harmful things — the benefits of free software are completely different things.


Stallman has been talking about and focusing about a hell of a lot more than just free software for a long time.

Check out the short story, "The Right To Read" by Stallman. People used to think these sorts of warnings were crazy... now they are practically reality.


Stallman might, but the article doesn't mention that. The article basically says, "These two recent laws are scary, so support free software."

If it sounded like I was criticizing Stallman, that's unfortunate, because that wasn't my intention. I was criticizing the article, because it invokes Stallman's name but fails to actually deliver any relevant wisdom from Stallman.


A lot of your life is supported by technology, small computers that run some software. If you don't have any control over those devices (e.g. like the iPhone), then a lot of your life is controlled by their creators. Some things you will not notice, like when your phone recommends you a restaurant. Some things might hurt you, like being monitored by a government (w/o the voluntary support from corporations controlling your device) in order to detain you if you speak against it.

Free software, as visioned by Stallman, is just a line of defense for your general freedom rights. And I disagree with you, the article is pretty clear on the matter.


The article specifically mentions two laws to support its argument: SOPA and the NDAA. Neither of these has very much to do with the software on your phone or any other consumer device. The primary damage from SOPA is much lower in the food chain — in fact, it's at the level where free software is already dominant — and the NDAA has precious little to do with computers. The link to free software is tenuous at best.


Pretty much, Even with everyone running 100% FOSS the government could still pass a law that said "commits made by government agencies to any source code repositories must immediately be merged into all branches, compiling a binary without these modifications being intact is a violation of federal law" or something to that effect.

It would make such things easier to spot, but spotting them in itself doesn't seem to be the biggest problem.


It wouldn't just be easier to spot, it would be immediately known, and thus no one would use it, which is why no government will (almost certainly) ever try. Plus, the code could just be hosted in another country (there are already tons of mirrors of the major FOSS projects).

The security that open source provides is like installing a camera security system in your business. You don't actually expect to catch people in the act of stealing, since they know it's there too. 95% of what it does is deterrence.


That's true. Of course they could obfuscate to some extent but that might not be effective.

My point more is that if the government felt draconian enough they could easily hijack anything, if it's literally illegal to use a computer without government approved spyware installed then the best meaning license in the world can't help you.

They could also embed this in hardware device firmware instead.


One example: the free software movement should lead to a better DNS system where governments and corporations will have no control over how and where we access information online. I continue to support the EFF and groups like it in order to have funds directed into research on critical issues like this. Would you prefer a GPL DNS or proprietary?


I don't really see how GPL enters into it, as the problems are with laws, policies and regulatory bodies.

The problems with the DNS system that I assume you're alluding to aren't due to the software or the software's license. It's the data the system runs on, and the people with the power to influence that data.


Yes, that's understood, I realise I used the terminology incorrectly. I've just been reading up on DNS and regulatory control and now more deeply understand that DNS is an extremely difficult problem to solve so that it outside of overt disruption by both governments and rogue attacks. However I do hope to see in my lifetime a system implemented where DNS is no longer affected by a single country's politics.

As bad_user comments above: "to change the world you don't need to change the laws. The alternative is to make them obsolete and technology has a habit of doing that".

Back to Stallman: if anyone could help us imagine an truly democratic DNS system, I'm sure he could point us in the right direction.


The current DNS system is based almost entirely on GPL software...


free software, yes. GPL software, no. BIND is ISC liscensed...


  > Would you prefer a GPL DNS or proprietary?
False dichotomy. Apache, Firefox, Google Chrome, OpenSSH, and many others have all done quite well and are neither GPL nor proprietary.


Yes, you are correct. I used the wrong terminology here to express my argument.


At least it would allow us to enjoy different implementations of the DNS blocks etc.


One problem with software you don't have control over is that anything is subpoenable. We don't have to wait for the government to impose their own tracking mechanisms, because as soon as they get probable cause, that's it (which includes missing a finger, having >7 days food supply at home, if you believe Rand Paul anyway). Or just look up Google's government transparency report[1]. When you don't have control over your data, it's just a warrant/polite request away from the government.

Not all government access to private data is bad. After all, it's needed to stop things like child prostitution/pornography rings, and yeah, terrorism. But what I liked so much about this article was putting the slippery slope into perspective. It's easy enough to quote the transparency report, "The number of user data requests we received increased by 29% compared to the previous reporting period." and go "well - just 29%" but that's one year. I'll make the surprising bet it doesn't go down. Compare to three decades ago, and a lot of what's happening now seemed draconian then.

[1] http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/


There's no control over what is bought for customers, or if they're nice, they allow opening it up but there's an automatic gag order. Thanks to anti-circumvention laws among others. Part of the powerful copyright lobby.


I think we are giving the government and Obama far too much credit for being stupid/naive/uncunning.

Of course the NDAA funding auth is going to be passed. It must be - thus, they throw on insidious clauses like the detainment, and Obama is the lucky guy who just happens to be in the unfortunate position where he must sign it even though he opposed certain items.

Here is an idea: require all laws to be single subject, single focus. If it is a funding measure, it cannot expand powers/modify any existing laws other than to either increase or decrease funding. If it is a law, such as one that is focused on the detainment of [whomever] then that should be a singular law stating under which circumstances this law shall be applied.

This is the number one source of corruption in the government, the ability to abuse the structure of the legal system.

By doing this one thing, you will cripple lobbying, create transparency and create accountability (you'll be able to understand where each rep is on each issue)


You make sound like the administration did not want the powers granted by the bill. This is incorrect. The administration initially opposed the language because they believed it restricted powers they already had to detain indefinatly.

"the authorities granted by the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, including the detention authority, are essential to our ability to protect the American people... Because the authorities codified in this section already exist, the Administration does not believe codification is necessary and poses some risk."


No, I am saying the administration is expertly farking with public perception.

I am aware of their want to ensure their power was protected.

I am saying that most people are being played to think that obmama expressed "concerns" but was painted into a corner where he needed to sign this. The fact is they ADDED / ENSURED the clauses they wanted were in there, then played the perception of the signage to make it look like they were the VICTIM rather than the perp.

There is a very very good reason obama is a constitutional lawyer as potus.

Hint: it is not to ensure your freedoms.


"Here is an idea: require all laws to be single subject, single focus."

The problem is that this goes against a parliament's ability to make deals. Each party has its own priorities, and is willing to compromise on other issues to advance these priorities.

Putting unrelated laws in one bill is essentially a way of formalizing a compromise so that congress can vote on it (with time a complexifying factor that can serve both sides depending on the situation). Do you really want to take this away?


Richard Stallman may have been right about the issue but that doesn't mean is approach to solving these issues nor his philosophy are in the same bucket.

I'd say he's always been right to a point since what he said years ago was true then and happens to be true now at a larger scale. It's not necessarily prophetic, just keenly observant. Likewise we have more free software options today than we did in the past.

My personal opinion is that it'd be wrong to get rid of either end. Eliminating freedom from software ecosystems would be disastrous. Likewise, I don't think free solves all of our software problems either (one could possibly abstain from many things but that's avoiding not solving the problem). SOPA needs to be stopped but lets not assume that non-free software needs to be limited because of this. Live and let live (and never let your guard down).


I just don't see the relationship between government overstepping the mark... and buying a proprietary product form a company you respect, because you want to use the product and are willing to sacrifice the desirable but non-essential quality of unfettered access to its innards.

...OK, actually I do see the connection. The suggestion is probably that if the technology is not totally open, you don't know how much power you're giving away (the manufacturers could be cooperating secretly with the authorities). But if you really feel like this, all you need to do is refrain from using your iClosedDevice for any type of work or communication that you wouldn't trust in the hands of the manufacturers/authorities.

... And OK, I see the point that we need to support the alternative methods or else their won't be any when we need them. It's just the either/or sentiment that bugs me.


How about printers that secretly record tracking info on each page you print? Or the code in PhotoShop that makes sure I can't scan money? We know about these now, but only because they were discovered. I'm not sure if it is even possible to buy a printer with out this "technology".

These are only examples: how about when we find that the government has not only been tracking us via our cellphones, but also activating the mic and activly collecting data? It just is not possible to "choose" not to be spied on, unless you know all the ways the spying is done.


I fail to see how that Stalman quote applies there. I may be missing something, but how the question what openness or closedness of software has really (I mean really not some hypthetical "possibly maybe somewhere in the future") to do with SOPA. I thought Internet runs pretty much on open source… Or is this now fashionable to bring Stallman into anything even remotely related, because he is like bible "open to interpretation"?


> the manufacturers could be cooperating secretly with the authorities

They might not be doing it now, but there's no telling if they won't start doing it later, when the government will ask for data or surveillance because of terrorist threat or <insert the hottest fear-words at that moment>.


... And OK, then you saw the point of the article, after all.

EDIT: Lesson to self. Don't post while you have a cold, and pounding headache as a result. It'll get you downvoted.


But the point of the article seems slightly different from Stallman's stance. The article said 'support Linux, even if you use Windows' - whereas IIRC the FSF says 'never use Windows' or something to that affect.


That is true, and I agree with it. If that's what you meant, I apologize. My post came more out of annoyance that you kept adding more info with the "And OK"-label, which partially changed your initial stance.


Rather it's only use proprietary software if by doing so you are able to make it more free.


Good article but I disagree that supporting "Android (not Google) even though you like IOS" is a valid strategy for openness. android is all about monitoring and datamining the user. Sad to see the good old openmoko project die.


The difference is that I have the source for Android, am running a kernel I compiled myself and have explicit control over all the processes running on it. The only flaw in it is that I have to rely on a closed binary blob for the radio as writing my own would be illegal (FCC etc). It can be treated as a closed circuit though. That's the compromise the openmoko projects are using. Also check out Replicant, Stallman's Android project.


Even if writing your own firmware would be illegal (would it be, really?), what prevents manufacturers from releasing the code for examination?

Also, radio firmware isn't the only one missing. I think drivers for video and other hardware are not released for no particular reason.

All this contributes to the fact that one cannot build firmware for any Android device from source. Accompanied by the fact that Google gets to do their mining on your data, Android looks just a little more open, compared to iOS. And it's a shame that there is no alternative in sight.


"Even if writing your own firmware would be illegal (would it be, really?) "

For a radio module I would say so. It's one of the reasons cited by the openmoko successors from not doing it. Radio devices have to be tested and certified that the device stays within FCC or EC standards. Changing the firmware changes behaviour.

"what prevents manufacturers from releasing the code for examination?"

Patents, security... I'm sure they have their reasons.

"Accompanied by the fact that Google gets to do their mining on your data, Android looks just a little more open, compared to iOS."

Not if you use your own ROM or root your phone and stop all Google applicatons.


even maemo and meego were a large step in the right direction.


In Sec. 1021 (the one about indefinite detention power), it clearly states:

(e) AUTHORITIES.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

So, how does this give the president the supposed power to detain US citizens? (The oft quoted 'slippery' line about not requiring detention Americans is from the NEXT section, which is specifically about requiring detentions in some cases.


Ok. I see now how this can be abused. Is it saying:

(A) United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the US, or (any other persons who are caputred or arrested in the US)

OR

B) (United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the US, or any other persons) who are caputred or arrested in the US

If one reads this as B, then once a citizen accused of being a terrorist steps foot outside of the country, they are screwed.


"If one reads this as B, then once a citizen accused of being a terrorist steps foot outside of the country, they are screwed."

Seems like they already are.


How much do these provisions of the NDAA really matter? They are still trumped by the Bill of Rights, which clearly forbids indefinite detention of citizens without trial. (The Sixth Amendment, in particular.) And the Bill of Rights can't be superceded except by a new amendment to the constitution. I still wish these provisions weren't there, because they seem insane to me, but I'm wondering if they're really of very much practical consequence.


I agree that the bill of rights supersedes and I also think that the court would most likely assume that the intended interpretation of the clause above is (A). But, I feel bad for the guy waiting in jail while the case runs through the court system...


If this applies as you say, what's the purpose of Obama's signing statement? It seems like it would be unnecessary.

(You're right that this is in the bill, as I just verified here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr1540enr/pdf/BILLS-11...)


Because the president says so. Seems to be the justification for a lot of things.


"His only computer is a Lemote Yeelong netbook, because it's the only computer which uses only Free software - no firmware blobs, no proprietary BIOS; it's all Free." Interesting that it's made in China. I'm trying to reconcile the implications of that... http://www.lemote.com/en/products/Notebook/2010/0310/112.htm...


And how does he know there are no "firmware blobs"?


Because he can close his eyes and wish, I suppose. It's a netbook, there are microcontrollers. The microcontrollers have firmware.

Besides which, I somehow doubt that all the relevant microcircuitry is open source.


He's OK with that kind of firmware - as long as the code can not be updated the circuit is considered a black box.

He doesn't ask for open source hardware either, so firmware directly tied to hardware is considered hardware.


Seems a wee bit arbitrary. And convenient.


He explain more here: http://www.fsf.org/news/freebios.html

Or better, here: http://blog.reddit.com/2010/07/rms-ama.html search for "microwave".


Not surprising. Everything is made in China these days. ;-)


It's worth noting that Obama, upon signing, issued a signing statement that said that he was against the indefinite detention provision, and importantly, that he would not indefinitely hold Americans without trial:

"Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law."


"Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten." (Nobody has the intension to build a wall) - Walter Ulbricht

Less than two months after that statement was made the work on the wall that separated Germany for decades started.

Never should a citizen have to trust a representative. The moment you have to democracy becomes impossible.


Yeah, great. Even if you believe him, that might mean as little as a year. What about the next administration? What about the administration after that?

Laws last much longer than the administrations under which they are born.


But remember this was just one provision of a larger bill, and I don't think line-by-line veto is possible anymore.


Then you veto the entire bill - explaining why.


Your explanation will be edited down to two-second soundbites by the media that manage to miss your point entirely. The opposition will completely ignore your argument completely and repeatedly tell the party faithful that you vetoed the bill that would have given the hard-working American servicemen and women their deserved salaries.

(If you're really lucky, you'll be accused of "flip-flopping"--because Real Men stake out a position of being Pro-X or Anti-Y and never, ever budge.)

There is no such thing as a nuanced opinion in Washington politics today.


He would have, but this bill included the funding for salaries of military personnel. He actually said, at the time that he signed it, that Congress had forced his hand.

Edit: OK I don't really know if he would have. But he did say that.


It doesn't matter. You don't dismantle the Bill of Rights just because you have to delay the military salaries for one month, until Congress rewrites the bill.

The problem with Obama is that Congress knows he's, for lack of a better word, a coward. So they know that they can push his hand how much they want, because he won't do anything dramatic to react and fight back. That's why Obama has kept losing all his negotiations or he always "compromised" for the other side's sake.

So bottomline, he should've taken a stand and vetoed it, and let that be a lesson for Congress for next time. But he didn't do that. And if you're going to say "but Congress would've passed it anyway with 2/3 of the vote" - well then, even more of a reason to veto it and show his supporters that at least tried to stop it, but Congress was solely at fault for passing it. Since he didn't, Obama doesn't get to have any excuses in this case.


You are being played. The Obama administration requested the indefinite detention provisions. What Obama actually means, albeit couched in very clever legalese, is that his problems with these "regulations" is that they even exist at all. He would rather his ability to prosecute the "war on terror" be completely unchecked.


"The Obama administration requested the indefinite detention provisions."

[citation needed]



The clip at 0:25 he's referring to is Senator Carl Levin (Democrat from Michigan and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee) speaking in front of the Senate, as broadcast by C-SPAN. So it seems to be quite credible.


Thanks scott_w.


thank you.


He still should have vetoed it. Once Congress knew he was willing to go that far, Congress would have been up against the wall and had to drop it in order for the paychecks to continue.


It's extremely likely, given the criticality of the legislation to the military, that his veto would have been overridden by Congress. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to pick your fights.

Then again, I'm extremely angry at him about this, too, so... Yeah, whatever. Heh. Though really I'm angry about the overall civil liberties history of the administration. This is just the proverbial straw.


"It's extremely likely, given the criticality of the legislation to the military, that his veto would have been overridden by Congress. "

Maybe. Or they could drop the problematic bit and redo it. Either way, the paychecks would go out.


You have to understand that the system isn't that simple. Bills do not exist in a vacuum. You cannot view these things as independent and completely unrelated to everything else going around it.

Yes, the President could veto the bill but then the next few months becomes about him veto-ing a military appropriations bill. He would then need to explain to the American public why the freedoms it eroded were unacceptable and that their loved ones serving this country couldn't buy milk for a month. It would consume a significant amount of time and resources.

Like shadowfiend, I'm not defending the decision to make civil liberties a lower priority than other issues (I am vehemently against that), but if you want to be someone that is more than a whiner then you need to first understand and then work to change it.


> You have to understand that the system isn't that simple.

No, see, you are the one failing to understand. We understand what you are saying. We still disagree with it. At some point, someone has to stand up and say "No, this is wrong."

Someone has to call out Congress and the President for using the military's pay check to erode our rights. The President could have done this. He didn't. He elected to accept the measure, despite disagreeing with it.


"He would then need to explain to the American public why the freedoms it eroded were unacceptable"

Why is this a bad thing?


It's a good thing if the public understands. If they don't, you're hosed, because the bill passes anyway (there were 2/3s margins in both houses of Congress) and you get a Republican president, who is highly likely not to apply the already sad principles set forth in the signing statement.


"Yes, the President could veto the bill but then the next few months becomes about him veto-ing a military appropriations bill. He would then need to explain to the American public why the freedoms it eroded were unacceptable and that their loved ones serving this country couldn't buy milk for a month. It would consume a significant amount of time and resources."

Sure, but running against Congress is often a very good thing. Especially when their approval ratings are so low. And much of Obama's putative 'base' would have preferred he veto it.

Obama could probably make the case by going on Fox and asking if he should have the power to send Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity to prison without a trial for an indefinite amount of time. "Stop me before I send Glenn Beck to Gitmo".


What hammerdr said. But in addition, I'll add: if Congress can override the veto (this bill passed both houses of Congress with greater than 2/3s of the vote, so it's unlikely they couldn't), then they most likely will.


Obama the candidate opposed the use of signing statements.

http://technorati.com/politics/article/signing-statements-re...


It's important to note that Obama makes clear in both his campaign assertion and his official memo that he does not consider signing statements to be problematic in and of themselves. Rather, he argues, their use should be limited in scope and reach, clearly stating that President Bush went overboard.

From Politifact's extensive discussion: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/pr...

Politifact consulted 5 experts, 4 of whom (at the time of consultation) felt he has kept his promise. Politifact itself has currently rated the promise as "compromise", meaning partial fulfillment.


Politifact isn't exactly the beacon of truth it purports to be either: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politifact - the SNL business was particularly odd


I agree that they've made errors, but they seem deserving of their fairly good reputation (not as high as, say, NYT).


I would imagine the same people and groups that have problems with Politifact also have problems with NYT much like the other side has problems with the WSJ and Fox News.


Sometimes I really wished they had elected that guy instead of the other Obama.


The signing is pure politics. He has to pick his battles and by making a point on civil liberties and playing up to the libertarian crowd he is not going to win a vote. He is more likely going to "make a point" on social issues aka health care, welfare and so on - things that play well with his electorate.


"playing up to the libertarian crowd is not going to win a vote"

It sells music: http://money.cnn.com/2011/12/30/news/kelly_clarkson_ron_paul...


It does, but Obama's focus has been on social issues i.e. pushing for the healthcare bill at all cost but at the same time supporting the post 911 security machinery and paying only lipservice to civil liberties. Just imagine the outcry a Bush/Cheney government would have drawn by signing a "no trial for Americans" act and adding a "but I won't eat the cookie, promiiiiiise" reservation.


This is even worse: all I hear is that it is a virtue to apply "our most important traditions and values as a nation" when speaking of first-class beings (citizens of our great nation), but we are not bound by anything to extend the same courtesy to others. Embarrassing, humiliating, and sad.


Because tyranny has never been delivered by leaders speaking soothing reassurances.


The apparent mindset that the grandparent manifests is antithetical to the very principles that USA is founded upon. This is not a nation of personality cults; our system is based on checks and balances. (That was the whole point!)

The fact that he signed it and issued that anti-American --- see above -- statement makes the act even more repugnant.


It kind of says everything is fine, for now. It's disappointing and scary he signed it - like I said a couple days ago, very bad legislation is contagious and some idiot will propose a similar provision elsewhere.

And, since this stupid idea is the law now, consider very carefully who you vote for. Whoever sits in the oval office after your next presidential election will have much more power than usual.


Then he should send a powerful signal, rally his base and do something right for a change:

Not sign the fucking document.


Stop listening to Barack Obama talk. Obama talks likes FDR, but Obama's actions have way way to the right. Obama's not way right like Cheney but he is closing in on Reagan. Obama invaded more countries than Reagan, Reagan cut taxes more than Obama. Obama has kept extending Dubya tax cuts. Obama and Mittens borrowed ObamaCare from Bob Dole. Reagan never executed American citizens without trial. Actually, Obama's a bit right of Reagan now.


You may trust him, but, being signed into law, such provisions requires you to trust each and every successor of his until a contrary provision becomes law.


The Act is called "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012". Is this something that is passed every year? Could the indefinite detention clauses be removed in the 2013 "version" ?


Certainly they could. How often does government give up a power like that though?

Another possibility is that if used, the law could (and likely will) be challenged on constitutional grounds.


"We have always been at war with Eastasia."


It's worth noting that indefinite detention is legal now, regardless of what Obama says his administration will do.


As a citizen of a country very strongly allied with the US, but not an American citizen myself, that statement scares me.


http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/trust-me-is-no...

"Trust me" is not enough of a safeguard, says Amnesty International, as President Obama signs the NDAA into law

This holds especially true with Obama given how he's almost complete reversed his positions on law-and-order type of issues after he was elected.


> It's worth noting that Obama, upon signing, issued a signing statement...

He originally promised not to sign it at all.

Obama has no cred.


He threatened to veto it because it threatened his power. The Obama administration claimed that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists Act of 2001 already gave him the authority to detain citizens, and that the original act confused that (by requiring military custody). There is a section that says that the requirement for military custody does not apply to US citizens, but that does not mean that US citizens cannot be detained by the President in civilian custody. This is the section that a lot of people are getting hung up on and saying, "Well, it says right here that US citizens can't be detained." No, it says that US citizens aren't required to be held in mandatory military custody.


How exactly is that note worthy?


I can't make out if you mean noteworthy or note worthy?


You have to counter the forces against freedom with an array of approaches, free software being only one of these. Without having a clear understanding of the economic and political understanding of the driving forces behind the ratcheting up of state control, resistance will be pretty much futile, I fear.


Of course he is right when he writes about fundamental issues. He's very smart and knows the implications of laws and licenses.

However, he allows no room for dissent, no transition path, no concessions for the real world. His followers are the same.

For this reason, I will never use the GPL for any of my projects (I prefer wxWidgets and MIT licenses).


Rarely have I come across an article that promised such a ringing endorsement in its title only to find it peppered with bits of snarky back handed compliments.

So it doesn't come as much of a surprise that there wasn't much there even for the mostly uninitiated, still good(?) press is good press.

Surely, I thought, now that we've declared the imminent death of the Liberty and the Internet and its subsequent rescue by Saint Rick we must have hit bottom.

In the fine tradition of the showman the best had been saved for last. Never fear, he says, because Stallman's had our backs all along - it may have taken a long time but thankss to Richard we have Free and Open platforms like Android* that will protect us in the dark days ahead.

* resist temptation, remember: boot locks, carrier installs, 3rd party spyware, location tracking, cloud storage, baseband, drm everything, few security patches, etc.


I've often thought that Stallman was too prickly as spokesman or organisational leader, but I've never regarded him as being too extreme from a free software, ideological perspective. His thinking along those lines has always been meticulously careful and he generally sought out and found extremely competent legal advise. His basic mode of argumentation is to point out various legal exploits and note that there was no good reason to assume that government and industry won't abuse them if given the right set of circumstances.

It's a mystery why every ten years we have to have this discussion about whether we've entered a new age of ethical business and responsible government, where we somehow think that human nature and human organisations have changed permanently (through technological innovation!) in some egalitarian way.


People latch onto the word 'terrorist' and think it doesn't apply to them, but we are all 'terrorists' in one way or other because our thoughts and actions do not completely submit to the state. Indeed this is never possible.


Excerpted from Volume 43 of How To Boil Frogs by P. Latanna:

  *ribbit*

  To be sure the water is warmer this year but 
  surely it is only 9.943 degrees hotter and not 
  10 degrees like the author claims.

  *ribbit*


Very few people actually dispute the crux of most of his arguments (at least those that have more than a surface awareness), but his dogmatism and often shrill OCD about slapping the GNU-prefix on things and poor social and personal hygiene have resulted in an image of a wildly paranoid crank which has made it easy to write him off casually by many of those who should be listening to him.


From the "Yeeloong Notebook" page:

"If you prefer warm interpersonal dialogs in solving problems, you can dial our hotline. Technical personnel will provide help in the first time."

Now I can understand Mr. Stallman!

On a more serious note, the only question is: How much worse do things have to get, in order to start getting better?

Besides, the Yeeloong thing coming from China, I wouldn't be so sure it doesn't contain a bit of tracking circuitry.


This is why you should support Android (not Google, but Android), even if you prefer the iPhone. [...] There's going to be a point where being Free/open is no longer a fun perk, but a necessity.

Stallman on Android: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/android-and-users-freedom.htm...


This whole "Stallman doesn't carry a phone" thing is BS.

I spent a couple days with him in Hawaii. He most definitely has a cell phone.


And don't talk about his laptop, how nowadays you can still use that kind of laptop?!


To what extent can utilities like DTrace make proprietary software free? I know this is kind of a broad question, but can we detect hidden functionality in proprietary software without fully reverse-engineering it?


Sorry, but the part about picking Android over iPhone is just bullshit. Android is totally open source and it still came preloaded with Carrier IQ on it. I agree with the sentiment, but let's not be stupid, okay?


I can't find a news article saying that NDAA has been used to detain Occupy protesters, only that Occupy protesters have protested NDAA and some were arrested for failing to leave when ordered.


'Richard Stallman Was Right All Along' Is this really news anymore?


I love what Bob Dylan said in a song "...instead of learning to live, they are learning to die". That really summed it up for me


Invoking Godwin's Law.

Saying Stallman "was right all along", just because he's not completely wrong all the time, is a bit like saying "hitler was right all along". Complete and utter bullcrap.

Stallman is a tit. Being an unwashed dick is his god given right, I won't dispute that. In spite of his undoubtedly good intentions, however, the man has such a poor image that he's done "his" FOSS cause more harm than good. He should go away. Or at least shut up.


And I predict everyone on this planet will die at some point in time!

... ...

I guess that means I was right all along!


Just because you're paranoid/doesn't mean they're not after you.


I can't like this enough


Of course he was right all along. As we will all soon discover to our enormous cost.


Take note who signed it.


A Nobel Peace Prize winner? The man who promised to close down Guantanamo Bay and has still yet to manage to do so? Whose election campaign promised "Change" yet whose only significant move in that way so far, in office for 3 years, is the repeal of DADT? The man who I (along with so many liberals) want desperately to believe in, but who just makes it too hard for us?

Yes, that man.


The guy who also oversaw an economy that returned 401Ks to at least sane levels from -40% in 2007-8; the guy who actually said and then did get bin Laden; the guy who pushed for and signed a law that is as close to healthcare reform as anyone has gotten since Medicare was enacted almost 50 years ago; the guy who pulled us out of Iraq when the Republican candidate in 2008 said we should be there for 100 more years; the guy who has kept or compromised on over 200 campaign and administration promises?

You can talk of "change" like it's some concrete label you can bend to whatever cares you want, but remember you voted for a President, not a King.


> we should be there for 100 more years

You make several good points, but I'd like to remind you that pulling out of Iraq now is very risky. If Iraq becomes a theocracy (either through a civil war or - gasp - free elections), the US will probably be compelled to invade it again. By now, it seems that the cycle of invasion-rebuild-pullout is more profitable to the political-military-industrial complex than a single continuous invasion.

It's a war that should never have been started. Saddam Hussein was not a complete idiot and I am quite sure a negotiated transition over, say, 20 years, to a democratic society would have been possible.


I believe that post pull out, whenever it came, would be a time when Iraq reset itself politically. And it would be very messy time.

It will take a cycle or two of elections before Iraqis feel they have their country back. Might as well get that cycle started as early as possible. If the Iraqis go to an Islamic system that will be their political choice.

From a geo-political perspective, if the US wanted a non-Islamic state and, as a bonus, a buffer to Iran, then they seriously miscalculated when they overthrew the previous regime.


It's miscalculations like this that create most of your enemies. The US needs to act more responsibly.


> the guy who actually said and then did get bin Laden

I'm fairly sure that Obama himself didn't "get" bin Laden. The army worked to get information on his whereabouts, and the opportunity presented itself to the President. I'm fairly certain that, aside from discussions about tactical moves, all Obama did to "get" him was give the army the go-ahead for the operation.

> the guy who pushed for and signed a law that is as close to healthcare reform as anyone has gotten since Medicare was enacted almost 50 years ago

Which was itself mostly a sleazy compromise like DADT, barely worth celebrating.

---

Perhaps I was too hard on Obama. But his administration has been a failure on the whole, especially compared to the FDR-like, sweeping political moves promised during his election.


FDR-like, sweeping political moves require not only an FDR-like President, but a corresponding Congress and popular support. For reference, FDR won 57% of the popular vote, while Obama got 52%. And when things didn't immediately improve after the 1932 election, the Democrats maintained their majority in 1934.

Compare the dominance here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1932prescountymap.PNG to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2008prescountymap.PNG

In short, the circumstances of the times did not allow for the kind of complete shift that the Great Depression triggered.


Obama deserves credit for giving the army the resources needed to catch bin Laden. Under Bush, most of those resources were diverted to Iraq.

At the moment, this is the only relevant article that Google is pulling up for me: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/05/03/163155/bush-did... (I know how sketchy a news source called "thinkprogress.org" looks--if you care enough to want a more reputable citation, you'll need to dig a little more on your own.)


He could have vetoed NDAA. He could have not extended the Patriot Act. Those are decisions he alone made. They are solely on him and no one else. If he was one tenth what he said he would be, he would have made the right decision.


I am so glad that we voted for a President because now we can vote his ass out.


And, vote in what exactly? Another person who'll usher in 2007-8 Economics Redux? Another war drum beater, this time in Iran and N. Korea? Another tax-breaking, deficit-piling theocratic nincompoop?

Or maybe Ron Paul?

Just remember, just a couple months ago, the only viable alternative to run against Obama was a Pizza guy who continuously ran infidelity trains on whatever thing slunk in wearing a skirt. You think "pizza pizza" was going to make everything all better?


Maybe Ron Paul. Why not. He is the best candidate out there. Better than Obama.


The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed"a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/31/progressives_and_the_ron_pau...


"pulled us out of iraq"? sorry but you are just making shit up.


People that claim to be disillusioned with Obama don't seem to really grasp that this type of "change" is impossible to manufacture when Congress actively opposes you. The President is just one branch of the federal government; the voters don't elect a dictator for four years.

If you want these type of changes, you need to vote for the people that represent it in each election - presidential, midterms, local elections, all of them. You can't give up on the entire idea because the first guy you get really excited about and who actually wins fails to implement all of it in the first three years.


If you see a better option, please, let us know about it. We all need hope of a better future.


Interesting take. I read the parent comment to mean, 'note who signed the OSnews article', which is Thom Holwerda, whose name I'm sorry to admit I'm unfamiliar with.


This is exactly who I mean. People seem to have short memories.

"A Nobel Peace Prize winner?"

For doing what exactly? This actually makes me question the entire Nobel Peace Prize program.


It will probably be a while until they give it to a president of a nation in war again.


It was questionable when Henry Kissinger won it.


"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lehrer#Departure_from_the_m...


Also when when Havel didn't.




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