On 9 March, when I was the only member of the Debian community to submit a nomination and fully-fledged platform four minutes before the deadline, I did so on the full understanding that voters have the option to vote “None of the above”.
In other words, knowing that nobody can win by default, voters could reject and humiliate me.
My platform had been considered carefully over many weeks, despite a couple of typos. If Debian can’t accept that, maybe I should write typos for the White House press office?
One former leader of the project, Steve McIntyre, replied:
I don’t know what you think you’re trying to achieve here
Hadn’t I explained what I was trying to achieve in my platform? Instead of pressing the “send put down” button, why not try reading it?
Any reply in support of my nomination has been censored, so certain bullies create the impression that theirs is the last word.
I’ve put myself up for election before yet I’ve never, ever been so disappointed. Just as Venezuela’s crisis is now seen as a risk to all their neighbours, the credibility of elections and membership status is a risk to confidence throughout the world of free software. It has already happened in Linux Foundation and FSFE and now we see it happening in Debian.
In student politics, I was on the committee that managed a multi-million dollar budget for services in the union building and worked my way up to become NUS ambassador to Critical Mass, paid to cycle home for a year and sharing an office with one of the grand masters of postal voting: Voters: 0, Cabals: 1.
Ironically, the latter role is probably more relevant to the skills required to lead a distributed organization like Debian. Critical Mass rides have no leader at all.
When I volunteered to be FSFE Fellowship representative, I faced six other candidates. On the first day of voting, I was rear-ended by a small van, pushed several meters along the road and thrown off a motorbike, half way across a roundabout. I narrowly missed being run over by a bus.
It didn’t stop me. An accident? Russians developing new tactics for election meddling? Premonition of all the backstabbings to come? Miraculously, the Fellowship still voted for me to represent them.
Nonetheless, Matthias Kirschner, FSFE President, appointed one of the rival candidates to a superior class of membership just a few months later. He also gave full membership rights to all of his staff, ensuring they could vote in the meeting to remove elections from the constitution. Voters: 0, Cabals: 2.
My platform and photo for the FSFE election also emphasizes my role in Debian and some Debian people have always resented that, hence their pathological obsession with trying to control me or discredit me.
Yet in Debian’s elections, I’ve hit a dead-end. The outgoing leader of the project derided me for being something less than a “serious” candidate, despite the fact I was the only one who submitted a nomination before the deadline. People notice things like that. It doesn’t stick to me, it sticks to Debian.
I thank Chris Lamb for interjecting, because it reveals a lot about today’s problems. A series of snipes like that, usually made in private, have precipitated increasing hostility in recent times.
When I saw Lamb’s comment, I couldn’t help erupting in a fit of laughter. The Government of Lamb’s own country, the UK, was elected under the slogan Strong and stable leadership. There used to be a time when the sun never set on the British empire, today the sun never sets on laughter about their lack of a serious plan for Brexit. Serious leadership appears somehwat hard to find. Investigations found that the Pro-Brexit movement cheated with help from Cambridge Analytica and violations of campaign spending limits but the vote won’t be re-run (yet). Voters: 0, Cabals: 3.
It is disappointing when a leader seeks to vet his replacement in this way. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez assured everybody that Nicolas Maduro was the only serious candidate who could succeed him. Venezuelans can see the consequences of such interventions by outgoing leaders clearly, but only during daylight, because the power has been out continuously for more than a week now. Many of their best engineers emigrated and Debian risks similar phenomena with these childish antics.
The whole point of a free and fair election is that voters are the ultimate decision maker and we all put our trust in the voters alone to decide who is the most serious candidate. I remain disappointed that Lamb was not willing to talk face-to-face with those people he had differences with.
In any other context, the re-opening of nominations and the repeated character attacks, facilitated by no less than another candidate who already holds office in the Debian account managers team would be considered as despicable as plagiarism and doping. So why is this acceptable in Debian? Voters: 0, Cabals: 4. If you ran a foot race this way, nobody would respect the outcome.
Having finished multiple cross countries, steeplechases and the odd marathon, why can’t I even start in Debian’s annual election?
In his interview with Mr Sam Varghese of IT Wire, rival candidate Joerg “Ganeff” Jaspert talks about “mutual trust”. Well, he doesn’t have to. I put my trust in the voters. That’s democracy. Who is afraid of it? That’s what a serious vote is all about.
Jaspert’s team have gone to further lengths to gain advantages, spreading rumours on the debian-private mailing list that they have “secret evidence” to justify their behaviour. It is amusing to see such ridiculous claims being made in Debian at the same time that Maduro in Venezuela is claiming to have secret evidence that his rival, Guaido, sabotaged the electricity grid. The golden rule of secret evidence: don’t hold your breath waiting for it to materialize.
While Maduro’s claims of sabotage seem far-fetched, it is widely believed that Republican-friendly Enron played a significant role in Californian power shortages, swinging public mood against the Democrat incumbent and catapulting the world’s first Governator into power (excuse the pun). Voters: 0, Cabals: 5.
If the DAMs do have secret evidence against any Debian Developer, it is only fair to show the evidence to the Developer and give that person a right of reply. If such “evidence” is spread behind somebody’s back, it is because it wouldn’t stand up to any serious scrutiny.
Over the last six months, Jaspert, Lamb and Co can’t even decide whether they’ve demoted or expelled certain people. That’s not leadership. It’s a disgrace. If people are trusted to choose me as the Debian Project Leader, I guarantee that no other volunteer will be put through such intimidation and shaming ever again.
After writing a blog about human rights in January, it is Jaspert who censored it from Planet Debian just hours later:
Many people were mystified. Why would my blog post about human rights be censored by Debian? People have been scratching their heads trying to work out how it could even remotely violate the code of conduct. Is it because the opening quote came from Jaspert himself and he didn’t want his cavalier attitude put under public scrutiny?
This is not involving anything from the universal declaration of human rights. We are simply a project of volunteers which is free to chose its members as it wishes.
which is a convenient way of eliminating competitors. After trampling on my blog and my nomination for the DPL election, it is simply a coincidence that Jaspert was the next to put his hand up and nominate.
In Jonathan Carter’s blog about his candidacy, he quotes Ian Murdock:
You don’t want design by committee, but you want to tap in to the wisdom of the crowd…. the crowd is the most intelligent of all.
If that is true, why is a committee of just three people, one of whom is a candidate, telling the crowd who they can and can’t vote for?
If that isn’t a gerrymander, what is?
Following through on the threat
If you are going to use veiled threats to keep your developers in line, every now and then, you have to follow through, as Jaspert has done recently using his DAM position to make defamatory statements in the press.
If Jaspert’s organization really is willing to threaten and shame volunteers and denounce human rights, as he did in this quote, then I wouldn’t want to be a part of it anyway, consider this my retirement and resignation and eliminate any further questions about my status. Nonetheless, I remain an independent Debian Developer just as committed to serving Debian users as ever before. Voters: 0, Cabals: 6.
I remain ready and willing to face “None of the above” and any other candidate, serious or otherwise, on a level playing field, to serve those who would vote for me over and above those who seek to blackmail me and push me around with secret evidence and veiled threats.