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Free Bassel, Mr. Ambassador

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

A few days ago, when talk started about activities around observing the first anniversary tomorrow (March 15) of Bassel Khartabil’s imprisonment in Syria, I thought about what more could be done. First, let me be clear about this. I am not saying that the tireless work people have put in around the world has come up short. On the contrary: Clearly bringing Bassel’s plight to the forefront has gained momentum as an increasingly successful endeavor, which will become fully successful once he is given his freedom.

But I wondered if there wasn’t more that could be done.

Thinking back to my days as a peace activist in decades past (several decades past), I recalled petitioning various members of the U.S. Congress to advocate for our positions. The drill was simple: A “delegation” — the fancy term for a group of people representing a group or even themselves — would ask for time with a member of Congress and, in every case, end up speaking with an aide, and we would present a letter and a short outline of why we were there and ask for action to be taken.

So it occurred to me: Why not take the same steps with the Syrian embassy? Oh wait: The United States doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Syria, so there are no embassies or consulates to visit. However, which country is Syria’s most powerful ally which has diplomatic relations with the U.S.? That would be the Russian Federation which, conveniently for me, has a consulate in San Francisco.

As such, I’ve taken up the hospitality of the Mozilla Foundation in using Etherpad to draft a letter/talk to give to consuls and diplomats, should I or anyone else choose to meet with them. Meanwhile, I am looking for folks in the San Francisco area to join me in visiting the Russian Federation consulate sometime soon and present a letter seeking their help in urging the Syrian government to release Bassel.

Please help me write it: The etherpad is here and you’re welcome to submit your input.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software in his individual consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

What’s really important

March 13, 2013 5 comments

So . . . I had written a blog post addressing the remote hope that I’d at least get a postcard from the vacation from reality that Canonical’s self-appointed hubris-monger Mark Shuttleworth has recently taken, while urging those in the various *buntu communities do some soul searching when your project leader says, “If you’ve done what you want for Ubuntu, then move on.”

Then I sat on the blog post for a few days, wondering if it was too incendiary. I took walks. I had coffee with friends. I bounced the theme of what I was writing off a few people. I embarrassingly lost a huge Tetris smackdown to my darling daughter at the arcade at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

In that particular item, comparisons were made: The Mark’s emulation of Steve Jobs speaks volumes about the danger that lies ahead for freedom and real progress in that particular community; to say nothing of Shuttleworth’s detatchment from reality — what Jobs observers used to call his “reality distortion field.” This fantasy world tries so hard to be branded as “innovative” when echoed by the zombies populating the Ubuntu Apocalypse but, in all reality, it’s just regressive. Additionally, the prevailing attitude displayed by the Ubuntu/Canonical leadership raises the arguable point that those in its community could very well be — if they aren’t already — the FOSS equivalent of battered spouses who need to get out of that relationship with all speed.

Canonical is rapidly becoming Canonisoft: Realize that and you know what you need to do, Ubunteros.

But late last night, I decided not to post it. I deleted it to replace it with what you’re reading now because there are far more important things going on in the world at this moment; things that need immediate attention because lives are at stake.

Let’s take a look at Syria, for example: Bassel Khartabil, who some of you may know as Bassel Safadi, will have been imprisoned in Syria for exactly a year on Friday. Bassel, 31, specializes in open source software development, and is known worldwide for his strong commitment to the open web, teaching others about technology, and contributing his experience freely to help the world. Bassel is the project leader for an open source web software called Aiki Framework, and he is a dedicated volunteer to major Internet projects like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, and Sharism.

Find out more about Bassel here and watch the video on that page — it’s short but informative. Then read more about his plight on this page, and sign the letter to support freeing him as soon as possible.

Also, there are various actions taking place on Friday — the anniversary of Bassel’s detention — and there are things you can do either by your physical or digital presence, which are listed here. To post information about any action or ideas you might have, go here.

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know I’ve written about this before. I’ll keep writing about it, just as I keep fasting on Fridays until Bassel is free.

But the fact remains: What’s really important here — in the wider world — is not stroking the ego of a self-important, self-appointed “leader” who laughably claims to be an innovator, but saving the life of an important contributor to the FOSS paradigm locked away in a Syrian prison, nearly for a year so far without charge.

Now, if you’ll excuse me for a few moments, I need to go back to the arcade and practice Tetris for the rematch.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software in his individual consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

J’accuse

January 13, 2013 1 comment

Despite knowing his remarkable work and reading about him — and reading things he’d written — in various tech media from time to time, Aaron Swartz and I have never met.

Nevertheless, what we share is a distant kinship — however remote — bound by both a deep and appreciative admiration on my part of Aaron’s accomplishments joined by advocating Aaron’s positions and philosophies on digital information’s use and availability.

As a FOSS advocate, you also share these same things with Aaron, to whatever degree you knew him, or didn’t know him.

So I’ll let the others who knew him personally take care of the rememberances and the eulogies; like his family, Lawrence Lessig here and here (especially the latter), as well as the folks at Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I’m happy to remember Aaron’s many accomplishments — a far wider scope of accomplishments than nearly all of us will ever achieve — and I’m inspired by the work he did during his short lifetime. My sincerest hope is that others remember Aaron and his accomplishments; and in remembering the man and his vast contributions for the general good of all they are inspired to the same degree, if not more.

However, this paragraph from the official statement from the family and partner of Aaron Swartz speaks volumes:

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”

So to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts and to MIT, I so state: J’accuse.

UPDATE: There’s a petition on whitehouse.gov to remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz. Sign it here. Now. Also, Democracy Now! has Lawrence Lessig on talking about Aaron Swartz here.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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