Apr 30

Friends of Armed & Dangerous 2019

Once again I will be at Penguicon and hosting a party for all friends of this blog. This coming Friday evening, room number not yet known, it will be posted at the con.

Those of you who participated in the design of the Great Beast may be interested to know that I expect to receive its successor at Penguicon – a Greater Beast built from a 64-core Threadripper chip. The machine might well be at the party.

UPDATE: room 507, 9pm, Friday

Apr 30

Spotting the wild Fascist

The term “fascist” gets thrown around a lot by people who have no actual clue what Fascism was about. I know what it was about because when I was about 11 or 12 I read Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of of the Third Reich and became fascinated by the question which has driven my study of politics and history for all of the fifty years since. Which is: how do we prevent the genocidal horrors of the Nazi regime from ever recurring?

In the process of trying to answer this question I have read deeply about Naziism, Italian Fascism, Francoite pseudo-Fascism, Marxism, Irrationalism, and several political tendencies related to these. I know their theory, I know their history, and I know what Fascists believed about themselves. Most of all I think I have a pretty firm grasp on how a revival of Fascism in the 21st century would look. And it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, either…but if it happens, it’s not going to come from where most people currently throwing around the term “fascist” expect.

Hence, a field guide to spotting the wild Fascist. And avoiding false alarms.

Continue reading

Apr 28

Gun voodoo and intentionality

There’s a recent article about gun violence in Haiti that features the following quotes:

But the anthropological lesson from Haiti is that the truth is more complex. It isn’t just the technological lethality of guns that makes them dangerous: They also exert a power on human agency. They change us. It is both the technology and the symbolism of a gun that can encourage someone to shoot.

[…] There is a lesson to be gleaned from understanding the supernatural potency of guns. We cannot think about guns and people as separate entities, debating gun restrictions on one hand and mental-health policy on the other. The target of intervention must be the gun-person composite. If we are to truly understand and control gun violence, we need to accept that guns have potent technological and psychological effects on people – effects that inspire violent ways of being and acting in the world.

This article has come in for a great deal of mockery from gunfolks since it issued. Representative bits of snark: “Apparently, the ‘magic’ of a professorship can turn you into an imbecile.”, “Gun owners in US- approx 100 million. If this bozo was right, everyone would be dead.”, and a picture of an AR-15 with speech balloons saying “Pick me up…Shoot me at unarmed people…you are powerless.”

I’m probably going to startle a lot of my readers by asserting that the article is not entirely wrong and gunfolks’ dismissal of it is not entirely right. In fact I’m here to argue that almost the entire quoted paragraph is exactly correct, and the last sentence would be correct if it replaced the word “violent ways” with “both violent and virtuous ways”.

So keep reading…

Continue reading

Apr 17

Contributor agreements considered harmful

Yesterday I got email from a project asking me to wear my tribal-elder hat, looking for advice on how to re-invent its governance structure. I’m not going to name the project because they haven’t given me permission to air their problems in public, but I need to write about something that came up during the discussion, when my querent said they were thinking about requiring a contributor release form from people submitting code, “the way Apache does”.

“Don’t do it!” I said. Please don’t go the release-form route. It’s bad for the open-source community’s future every time someone does that. In the rest of this post I’ll explain why.

Continue reading