Free Software Charities

I believe we have reached a point where it is time to discontinue donations to the Free Software Foundation, in light of the outrageously poor judgment shown by its board of directors in reinstating Richard Stallman to the board. I haven’t seen other free software community members calling for cutting off donations yet. Even the open letter doesn’t call for this. Edit: I’ve been pointed to the line “We urge those in a position to do so to stop supporting the Free Software Foundation,” which surely implies a call to stop donating, so I was wrong about that.

I have no doubt there will be follow-up blog posts explaining why cutting off donations is harmful to the community and the FSF’s staff, and will hurt the FSF in the long-term… but seriously, enough is enough. If we don’t draw the line here, there will never be any line anywhere. Continued support for the FSF is continued complicity, and is harming rather than helping advance the ideals of the free software community. So, where should you donate instead?

The Software Freedom Conservancy is a great choice. It hosts many member projects you’re probably familiar with, including Outreachy and git, among many others. It does some GPL compliance work and takes a strict view on software freedom. For US donors, it is a 501(c)(3), so your donations may be tax-deductible. This is where I send my free software donations not directed to GNOME. Read its statement on recent events at the FSF.

Another good option, especially for people in the EU, is the Free Software Foundation Europe, an independently-run sister organization of the FSF. If you’re not familiar with FSFE, think of it as a more moderate version of the FSF, with a special focus on Europe. It shares the same goals as the FSF, but with more reasonable leadership and much less popcorn. Read its statement on recent events at the FSF.

Most people reading this blog are likely GNOME users. Contributing to GNOME is a great way to support the desktop you use to get things done. Monthly sustaining donations are especially appreciated. Despite the historical association between GNOME and GNU, GNOME has had little to do with GNU for a long time now. The GNOME Foundation is run independently and has formally signed the open letter calling for the resignation of the FSF’s board of directors. For US donors, it is a 501(c)(3). (If you use KDE, donate to KDE here.)

It should be obvious, but this is a personal blog. None of the above organizations have endorsed cutting off donations to the FSF, to my knowledge. They would probably find it to be in poor taste to abuse a crisis to solicit funds. But I doubt they’d object if you send some money their way.

On Ignorance, Intolerance, and Bigotry

It seems incredible that lawful permanent residents of the United States are stranded abroad, prohibited from boarding flights home, for such a capricious reason as being unfortunate enough to be traveling at the wrong time. (This is not even to mention the plight of millions of innocent refugees fleeing violence and terror, who are no less deserving of justice.) And yet, here we are.

Who do you know who is affected by Friday’s executive order?

One of my friends in college was of Iranian descent. Years ago, he joined the US army and risked his life fighting for our country in Iraq. Later, he visited his extended family in Iran, fearful that the government would imprison him if it discovered he had served in our army. Now he cannot go back, due to Iran’s entirely-justified reciprocal ban on Americans. When will he be able to see his family again? Will this really only last 90 days?

Who do you know?

I should not have had to detail my friend’s military service or present him as a sympathetic character. It should not matter. Equality is supposed to be one of the uniting principles of our country. We have a long history of failing in this regard, but it has mostly been a history of progress in the right direction. Clearly, that is no longer the case.

So who do you know? If you do not know anyone affected by yesterday’s executive action, perhaps you should think twice before voting for ignorance, irrational fear, hate, and bigotry. Of course I mean that you should think twice before voting for the Republican Party. If you still, after this weekend, do not believe that is what the party now stands for, then you are long overdue for a reality check.

The great irony of the just and tolerant society is that it must refuse to tolerate intolerance. At this, we have failed.

I have never before today been so ashamed of my country. It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. We have brought it on ourselves via a legitimate democratic election (of which, absurdly, only the winner contends was marred by massive fraud). Donald Trump campaigned on his Muslim ban, and he is only delivering as promised.

Things are going to get much, much worse before they get better, but at least we have some reason for hope. The United States is fortunate in that it has a strong, independent judiciary. It is nothing short of amazing that lawyers representing victims detained at US airports have been able to win multiple injunctions barring their deportation in just one day. (If you’re not already a proud supporter of the ACLU like me, you should fix that right now.) That strong judiciary also protects our First Amendment rights (which do not, by the way, extend to my personal blog; hateful comments here will not be approved). As we enter the post-truth society where Republicans believe a separate set of “alternative facts,” it remains to be seen what all speech can still accomplish, but now is surely the time to find out. Do not remain silent. If you use social media or have a blog, you have a duty now to express your dissent. Do your part to move the needle of public opinion.

You know, you don’t need to know anyone to see that this is wrong.