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Re: Open source - Free software

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: Open source - Free software
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 13:52:01 +0200

Barry Margolin wrote:
> While it may be a shame, they've been using the phrase for about 20

And 20 years back... (quoting Michael Zeleny, you should recall him,

As a personal note, back in 1985, I was deceptively expelled from the
Free Software Foundation, to which I gave its name, by the underhanded
dealing of Richard Stallman, whose allies took exception to my argument
that "Free" meant just what it said.


is most gratifying to see the open source movement finally outgrow the
ideology of Frenetics, which was the name RMS had originally favored
for his private charity. 

Here's more from Zeleny: (hey dak, ">" below is you, uh veteran retard)

Once upon a time, RMS wanted software to be as free as air.  Based on
this claim, I suggested that he name a repository for the same, "Free
Software Foundation".  Had I known that "free as air" meant something
else altogether, our misunderstanding would have been avoided.  But
absent a preambulary distinction between "free beer" and "free lunch",
which in fact came much later, you cannot fault a reading based on the
standard meaning of words. 

What you deem a red herring is directly relevant to your grandiloquent
assumption that Stallman's personal philosophy strikes fear into men's
hearts.  I do not wish Stallman any harm.  His crusade is useful as an
object lesson in the perils of fundamentalism.  My only desire in this
matter is for truth in advertising: let "free" mean free and nothing
but free, and "charitable" mean charitable and nothing but charitable.
Running a private lobbying organization in the guise of a public
charity is both deceptive and illegal. 

Not liking someone for betraying oneself is a personal reason.  Not
liking someone for hypocrisy, which constructs an appearance to betray
the truth, is a very principled reason.  I have a problem with people
restricting the use of their property in the name of freedom.  I have
a problem with people shutting off their autocratic organization from
the voice of their community in the name of public service.  I have a
problem with people striving to acquire possessions and charging for
their goods in the name of charity.  If you think that I am advancing
frivolous objections, read the FSF doctrine alongside the US tax code. 

>The GPL is not intended as a tool for increasing the number of true
>saints on Earth.

I am not sure about Germany, but in the United States many people
loudly and effectively complain about tax funding of welfare.  The
proportion of single jobless mothers among them is rather beside the
point of their argument's merits, such as they might be.  So if you
are angling for a reductio ad absurdum, you will have to try harder.
Even so, bringing in the social policies raises an interesting issue,
since the FSF is registered as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity,
which is not allowed to operate as a private foundation or engage in
overt political lobbying.  Nevertheless, its policies are formulated
to foster and leverage non-negotiable ambitions of a single man in a
transparently political manner, which in turn entails that they are
not principally charitable, educational or scientific in nature, as
required by the U.S. law. 

No surprise there.  Stallman is the man least conscious of his impact
on the others that I ever met in my life.  Our final conversation
revolved around his apology proffered for "stabbing me in the back."
I never managed to explain to him the absurdity of such a request.

"On n’est jamais excusable d’être méchant, mais il y a quelque mérite
 à savoir qu’on l’est ; et le plus irréparable des vices est de faire
 le mal par bêtise."

I have no problem with uncompromising adherence as such.
Uncompromising adherence to blithe hypocrisy is a very different matter.

ObBook: Baudelaire, Le Spleen de Paris 

I would be the first to disclaim an interest in, and an aptitude for,
following an administrative lead.  But RMS originally issued his call
in terms of following an idea, and no idea can be followed without
sublating its followers' egos.  And the first thing one learns from
personal interaction with Stallman is that he would not know where to
begin doing that.  Any discussion with him goes through arbitrarily
many stages of Richard's creative paraphrase of his initial position,
with absolutely no new content added to each successive iteration.
Just as Weizenbaum's Elisa operates on an illusion of responding to
its interlocutor by suggestively transforming his statements into
questions, so RMS has learned to sustain the illusion of interacting
with his audience by adapting his leitmotif to their queries and
concerns.  But the song always remains the same.

As I mentioned before, I was not the first to be frustrated by this
discursive solipsism.  But whereas Chuck Wegrzyn did the smart thing
by cutting his losses early on, I had invested too much time, effort,
and resources into wrapping up all my work in Los Angeles and riding
across the continent on the promise of having a say in an enterprise
beguilingly represented as driven by belief in free exchange of ideas,
to do likewise.  So I stuck around LMI and MIT AI Lab for six months
writing press releases, doing legal research, and sending out emacs
distribution tapes.  One thing that stuck in my mind was that while I
sent out the software on behalf of the FSF, Stallman did so only for
his own sake, explaining his actions by pointing out that everyone was
equally free to copy and resell GNU distributions as he saw fit.  In
retrospect, I cannot understand ever having believed the philanthropic
rationalization of his behavior.  The only idea Stallman is capable of
serving is that of his being infallibly, indubitably, and unimpeachably
right on everything that counts. 

But now that we bring up our memories, here is another tidbit.  After
Wegrzyn's departure from the FSF ranks when I was the only remaining
member of its provisional board to voice any objections to Stallman's
plans of copyleft, Jerry Sussman asked me in private to relinquish my
stand against requiring all derivative software products to fall under
our proprietary licensing terms.  He explained that he viewed his own
backing of the planned charitable foundation as a personal favor to
Stallman, who at any rate has shown himself constitutionally unfit to
deal rationally with any opposition to his ideology.  In return for my
cooperation Sussman promised to support my proposal for free software
licensing terms unencumbered by any restrictions on redistribution, if
and when the copyleft distribution model that Stallman so inflexibly
favored proved impractical.  I politely refused, explaining that my
considered understanding of Stallman's position as a gross travesty of
freedom we were claiming to uphold was a matter of moral principle,
and though I would always yield to the majority rule of the corporate
board of directors, my conscience required me to make my objections on
the record as persuasively as I could.  Shortly thereafter, FSF was
incorporated behind my back with my name stricken from its roster,
notwithstanding Stallman's original promise to include me as a board
member, which had motivated my traveling across the continent and
spending six months of my life and several times the amount of my
savings in the service of the idea of free exchange of information. 


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