The Scientific Council (publication of transcripts) Bill

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The Scientific Council (publication of transcripts) Bill

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[b:leoly25q][u:leoly25q]The Scientific Council (publication of transcripts) Bill[/b:leoly25q][/u:leoly25q]

[i:leoly25q]A Bill to mandate the publication of full transcripts of meetings of the Scientific Council[/i:leoly25q]

1. The Scientific Council shall record and retain a full transcript of the whole of any meeting of the Scientific Council, whether or not it is sitting as a court.

2. The Dean of the Scientific Council shall cause to be published the entirety of all transcripts made of all meetings of the Scientific Council no later than seven days following the meeting of which any transcript was made.

3. Section 2 above shall apply in respect of any meeting, notwithstanding that the meeting was held before the passing of this Act.

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Post by Jon Seattle »

This bill seems problematic to me. Some of the proceedings of the SC may include private deliberation, unreliable evidence, personal details, or slander against an individual. Under your proposal all of this is made public within seven days. This means that the SC could be used to legitimize rumors or slander, and that the members of the counsel cannot freely discuss their decisions. It also means that in the case of, for example, sexual abuse or threats, the victim's personal life will be spread publicly across the forum.

A much better approach is to require that the SC keep transcripts of their proceedings under seal for a period of time and set reasonable guidelines for releasing that material if there is a question about its content.

I am curious about the context of this bill. Are there particular transcripts that you are trying to make public? A case you want to make against the SC?

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Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Jon Seattle":1wssbf02]This bill seems problematic to me. Some of the proceedings of the SC may include private deliberation, unreliable evidence, personal details, or slander against an individual.[/quote:1wssbf02]

I cannot imagine why proceedings of the Scientific Council sitting in its capacity as a council should contain any of the above. In what context had you imagined that arising? How is it any more likely to arise in the Scientific Council than the Representative Assembly?

When the Scientific Council is sitting as a court, of course, the principle of judicial openness applies, and it is vital that justice is fully public, as it is in any civilised country. In that instance, the principle applies equally to the Court of Scientific Council as it does to Courts of Common Jurisdiction.

[quote:1wssbf02]Under your proposal all of this is made public within seven days. This means that the SC could be used to legitimize rumors or slander, and that the members of the counsel cannot freely discuss their decisions. It also means that in the case of, for example, sexual abuse or threats, the victim's personal life will be spread publicly across the forum.[/quote:1wssbf02]

Firstly, are you familliar with the important principle of priviledge in defamation law? Secondly, when will the Scientific Council ever be discussing sexual abuse or threats?

[quote:1wssbf02]I am curious about the context of this bill. Are there particular transcripts that you are trying to make public? A case you want to make against the SC?[/quote:1wssbf02]

See [url=http://forums.neufreistadt.info/viewtop ... 1:1wssbf02]here[/url:1wssbf02].

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Post by Beathan »

Most governments have the ability to deliberate in private (in closed session) along with a duty to make its decisions in public (in open session) and to provide public explanations for those actions so that the citizenry can understand and, when appropriate, challenge the decisions. This dichotomy is not hard to do or to set up. The SC seems like a body that requires such a dichotomy.

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

I don't object to the dichotomy. I am concerned however, that opacity has now become the rule rather than the exception at the SC.

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

We like opacity ;)

Seriously, if this bill passes, what this simply means is that the SC will have to meet elsewhere — through emails, with alts, on other private places in SL, on IRC or webchats — when it needs to make deliberations while needing some privacy, and then stage "mock" councils where everything is previously rehearsed to make sure that all records of the transactions are then publicly published properly.

The right to privacy is still a basic human right. All the SC is supposed to do is post a journal of the proceedings, listing what people decided, who voted on what, etc., and having an open door during those meetings when someone wishes to drop by and listen.

For the conspirationists among you, I would then suggest that the next step would be to forbid the SC to exchange emails or appoint a National Censorship Bureau that would intercept all the SC's members' emails to make sure they're not meeting in secret :)

I hope I have made my point. Insisting on this will only force the SC to "go underground" to discuss serious issues, instead of the current model, where meetings are still open and public to attend to whomever wishes to drop by and listen to what we're discussing.

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Post by Aliasi Stonebender »

[quote="Gwyneth Llewelyn":2sw15zbb]
The right to privacy is still a basic human right. All the SC is supposed to do is post a journal of the proceedings, listing what people decided, who voted on what, etc., and having an open door during those meetings when someone wishes to drop by and listen.
[/quote:2sw15zbb]

On the other hand, there's absolutely nothing stopping anyone [i:2sw15zbb]else[/i:2sw15zbb] from posting a transcript, so long as you maintain that open door policy. While no one can stop the SC from meeting privately elsewhere, the SC refusing to publish a transcript does not equal "no transcripts get published".

(Granted, this is one of those SL Community Standards-violating things if it's done without consent. OTOH, proving a given transcript came from any specific person is difficult now that chat-logging ability is in the SL client itself...)

I'm not making any statement in support of either way, just saying that all concerned can make like Vizzini the Sicilian and outsmart each other all day, here.

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Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

Would it not be better for the Scientific Council to publish all transcripts except where there is a specific topic discussed that falls within pre-defined categories entitling it to be a topic in closed session, the reasoning for which should be posted publicly in the journal?

After all, the Scientific Council, in its capacity as a council (rather than in its capacity as a court), is a political body just as much as the Representative Assembly, and the rule is that the Representative Assembly always publish its meeting transcripts unless there is a specific reason why it should meet in closed session. That does not prevent individual members of the Representative Assembly from contacting each other via e-mail, etc., but it ensures greater transparancy than a system in which transcripts are [i:28tlde5j]never[/i:28tlde5j] published. It is somewhat bizarre and contradictory that the Scientific Council meets in public, yet does not publish its transcripts: what is the point of that? If something is sufficiently requiring of secrecy to withhold a transcript, why is not not equally requiring of secracy to prevent public access to that part of the meeting at all?

As to the Scientific Council not having the time to draft the rules on the matter, it could just copy the rules wholesale from the RA's rules on closed session.

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

I can only assume that this will be discussed by the RA in a bit, but sadly I won't be able to be attend the whole meeting, so I think I should give you some thoughts on this matter.

There is some "confusion" (deliberately so) between "transparency" and "privacy". "Transparency" is [i:2w3y53ix]traditionally[/i:2w3y53ix] defined as "posting a full transcript of the session" just because most citizens of the CDS do not remember a time when this wasn't the norm (I do :) ). Neither the RA nor the SC used to publish the transcripts at the very beginning, but just a journal. The RA started first to post them after establishing it in its internal procedures — and since this is in effect for almost two years, it is a very long "tradition" in CDS terms.

The SC is only required, constitutionally (Art. III, Section 5), to:
[quote:2w3y53ix]The SC shall keep and publish a journal of its proceedings. All
individual votes of the members of the SC on any question shall
always be entered in the journal, along with a statement regarding
their personal philosophy on a given vote.[/quote:2w3y53ix]
Early SC meetings were very informal, and not even public (ie. they were unannounced), but its decisions were duly posted in public. For a time, however, we felt that the trouble of writing a journal would be saved by posting a full transcript, and that's what we did.

Some members of the SC, however, believe that a full transcript does violate the SC member's freedom of discussing whatever it pleases them. In many of those cases, these are issues that are discussed first before they are validated in terms of being appropriate under the SC's mandate. An example is, say, to discuss if the SC has the power of removing a Judge from office. After a brief discussion, it might be found out that the SC does not, in fact, have this power.

When posting the whole transcript, however, any person can see that individual members [i:2w3y53ix]might[/i:2w3y53ix] be suggesting that the SC is overstepping its defined powers, and advocate that overstepping. Technically, this would give the public the wrong idea that [i:2w3y53ix]some[/i:2w3y53ix] members, during certain periods of time, are announcing (even if speaking only for themselves) ideas and concepts that are unconstitutional, and grounds for impeachment. With a fully-functional Judiciary, these can subsequently be used as evidence on the [i:2w3y53ix]thinking process[/i:2w3y53ix] of individual SC members as being contrary to the laws and regulations establishing their mandate. However, this might not be so.

Effectively, along the road, what this means is that the SC would lose its capacity of being what it is — a "philosophic branch" that tossed ideas and concepts around, many of which might, at some point, be deemed unconstitutional/illegal, until a decision is made to make a public announcement about a certain aspect. While the decision part is peaceful enough — one expects that the SC is consistent in its pronouncements — the [i:2w3y53ix]process[/i:2w3y53ix] of reaching that decision can (and often does) border on the limitations set upon the SC, even if only on a limited basis, and could be used, as said, as evidence against specific individual members of the SC.

Clearly, the SC, when in a meeting, has to be much more formal if their words during that process have legal binding, no matter what the ultimate decision is. Up until recently, we used the other approach: meetings are informal — thus allowing the public to participate, to comment things on the spot (unlike the RA, where any citizen can present any bill and discuss it, there is no such thing in the SC — but during all meetings the SC has allowed and encouraged this interchange, because we felt that the citizens should always have a saying), to informally complain, or even to influence (through good rhetorics) the opinion of the SC. This ensured transparency and encouraged citizen participation. Both are very worthwhile and important for us — it's one of the ways the SC can see who is willing to participate in such meetings, and has good requirements to become a member of the SC in the future — but it also means that the current SC meetings are way too informal. Only the decisions — the published journal! — are truly formal, final, and binding. The process of reaching those is not.

The solution that we found to allow citizen's full participation on the official SC meetings, keeping an informal style, allowing the freedom to discuss everything in whatever manner individual members feel best without fear of getting sued for defamation/libel [i:2w3y53ix]or[/i:2w3y53ix] having the words used on a subsequent impeachment process (ie. "witchhunting"), [i:2w3y53ix]and[/i:2w3y53ix] still produce a valid, formal, binding pronouncement, is the following:

1) All SC meetings are open to the public, publicly announced, and open to participation by anyone who wishes to attend them.
2) No transcript is taken, and no transcript is allowed.
3) A journal of the proceedings, containing in detail all issues discussed, voting (if any), and personal philosophy behind those votes, will be published, as per the constitutional requirements.

Aliasi, you know perfectly well that taking a transcript and "publishing it elsewhere", without permission, is a violation of the LL ToS/CS, and thus could lead to Abuse Reports — besides being, as of now, a violation of the SC procedures which can be enforced under the CDS Judiciary (and believe me — it will :) ).

So what will be the consequences of the above The Scientific Council (publication of transcripts) Bill?

First, it requires a constitutional amendment, since it explicitly removes the SC the right to define its own procedures (Art III, Sec. 4) and amends the text of Art III, Sec. 5. It also establishes some of the functions of the SC Archivist and thus clarifies NL 5-7 in regard to that role. These comments should be added to the bill to make sure what its consequences are.

Secondly, it will effectively move all SC meetings into the "underground". Since the decision processes cannot be done as before — ie. because they're subject to public scrutiny during the decision phase — they will most certainly be moved to emails, IM chats, or held elsewhere, without any official status, and without any citizen participation. The "officially" announced meetings will thus be staged farces — where the members of the SC read from pre-written notecards only for the purpose of complying with this Act. In effect, what they will do, is to read publicly the journal of the "internal" meetings, to have this recorded as a transcript. Interested parties in the [i:2w3y53ix]discussion process[/i:2w3y53ix] of the SC deliberations will sadly be left out. They will get a pre-canned stream of chat lines that have only final decisions, not deliberation processes. In essence, this will "lock out" any willing citizen to actively participate, with the SC members, in the deliberation process — thus ensuring [i:2w3y53ix]less[/i:2w3y53ix] citizen's participation and [i:2w3y53ix]less[/i:2w3y53ix] transparency, not more, as it is otherwise claimed.

Thirdly, it establishes a strong precedent — that the SC is not an autonomous branch, able to work in a [i:2w3y53ix]different[/i:2w3y53ix] way than the RA, which was one of the [i:2w3y53ix]original[/i:2w3y53ix] requirements of the CDS Constitution. There was a good reason to have each branch organise itself differently — it was agreed that this was a [i:2w3y53ix]better[/i:2w3y53ix] way to ensure that each branch could work autonomously and thus act as a system of [i:2w3y53ix]true[/i:2w3y53ix] checks and balances between themselves.

By removing the SC's constitutional right of establishing its own procedures — procedures that were approved to give citizens a [i:2w3y53ix]safehouse[/i:2w3y53ix] where they could discuss, argue, and ramble about whatever they liked, in an "official" meeting, where it was guaranteed that their opinions would not only be heard, but nobody would be able to use their words against themselves — if this Act gets approved, the SC's ability to work as a neutral, impartial, and important (in the sense of having a place in the CDS Government) branch of the CDS is effectively removed. In effect, the SC would become a "Constitutional Committee", under the puppet strings of the RA. While a "constitutional committee" is, for any purposes, a [i:2w3y53ix]good[/i:2w3y53ix] idea, it was never the purpose of the SC. It's also far too dangerous to have a body under the control of the RA — a control that is exercised by determining the procedures of the SC — with the veto powers on that very same RA.

The subsequent steps of totally reducing the powers of the SC to virtually zero will be introducing procedures (once they start to be randomly assigned by the RA, there is a good precedent for doing it again) on the allowed cases when the veto can be used. And then it will also define which laws can be analysed by the SC, and which can't. And finally, the impeachment powers will be removed, and the SC will just be a worthless institution, void of interest to the CDS, and will be just a simple "constitutional committee" that can be safely ignored.

By limiting the powers of the SC through the Judiciary Act, the SC was already very crippled in its ability to act as an effective check on the other branches of government. For instance, [i:2w3y53ix]before[/i:2w3y53ix] the Judiciary Act was in force, the SC was able to deliberate beyond a literal interpretation of the Constitution or the Laws. This was done purposefully — adding a moral and ethic element to our democracy is not necessarily a terrible thing. Ethically, for instance, the above Act would be vetoed immediately — on the grounds that if the Constitution says that each body should have its own internal procedures, it says so for a very good reason: it established that the branches of government would need to have sufficient autonomy to be [i:2w3y53ix]different[/i:2w3y53ix] branches to act as checks and balances, and not become mere puppets at the hands of an over-powerful RA that can, indeed, change [i:2w3y53ix]everything[/i:2w3y53ix] to their whims.

After the Judiciary Act was passed, however, the SC cannot exercise its former role of "protector of the founding spirit of the CDS". It can only apply literal interpretations of the constitution. In this case, nothing in the Act violates the constitution in the letter (only in the spirit), and the SC has no power to veto it.

So this Act will effectively move the whole SC into underground meetings where the deliberations will be decided in advance without any public consulting and "façade meetings", staged for the purpose of complying with the Act. I find this a very sad day in the history of the CDS, and anxiously expect the next measures that will remove all remaining powers of the SC and turn it into a puppet "constitutional committee" very soon.

I think it's pointless to discuss, at this point, [i:2w3y53ix]why[/i:2w3y53ix] there are needs for checks and balances in virtual nations like the CDS. As a matter of fact, strictly reading the current legislation that removed most "interpretative" powers of the SC, I'm not even entitled to speak as Dean of the SC when recommending that these checks and balances be kept (or at least replaced by others)! I still can address the issue as a [i:2w3y53ix]citizen[/i:2w3y53ix], and intend to be very vocal speaking in my own personal name and not in my public capability as Dean. At least until there is a new Act coming out intending to prevent holders of public offices to open up their hearts and speak their minds :) That would be the obvious next step — restricting the freedom of expression of anyone who holds a public office :) I hope that day may not come, since, again, I fear that the SC might not have enough power to prevent that. But only time could tell, and we'll deal with that whenever it comes — it's pointless to argue about the future, when we already have enough issues to consider in the present.[/i]

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

Gwyn,

I believe much of this uproar is about the SC's current lack of documentation. Consider that:

* The SC has yet to publish an announcement of its decision not to publish transcripts. The meeting in question took place more than three weeks ago.

* You mentioned this morning at RA that a decision related to the judiciary was unpublished.

If the SC were more conscientious about fulfilling its constitutionally mandated reporting requirements, I imagine the demand for verbatim transcripts would be less than it is.

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Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

I am also concerned that agendas are not published in advance to give interested parties a chance to attend the meetings and make representations.

There has been much discussion of late of judiciary oversight, but little of oversight of the Scientific Council. The Scientific Council doesn't (or if it does, certainly oughtn't) have the power to make any decisions except (1) to veto or not to veto an Act of the RA; (2) when sitting as a court, to determine impeachment proceedings; and (3) when sitting as a court, to determine any appeal from any Court of Common Jurisdiction.

The idea that the Scientific Council might meet, unannounced, and decide, without announcing such a decision, or the basis of it, or giving anybody any realistic chance of making representations, an issue (such as the question of the powers of the judiciary when there are judicial vacancies, as it appears to have decided in secret), which then might influience it in making future decisions, for example, on appeal from a Court of Common Jurisdiction is utterly abhorrent. Beathan has written extensively recently about pre-judging cases and, although I do not agree with his views on the particular issue of the qualification questionnaire, he is definitely right that it is wholly wrong for judges to decide actual cases before having heard the arguments on the issues by those who might be affected by them.

If recent events suggest that the judiciary needs to be composed of more than one person, recent events also strongly suggest that the powers of the Scientific Council, and, in particular its procedures, need to be far more rigoroulsy controlled and restricted.

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Post by Aliasi Stonebender »

[quote="Gwyneth Llewelyn":2bmsv0qf]
Aliasi, you know perfectly well that taking a transcript and "publishing it elsewhere", without permission, is a violation of the LL ToS/CS, and thus could lead to Abuse Reports — besides being, as of now, a violation of the SC procedures which can be enforced under the CDS Judiciary (and believe me — it will :) ).
[/quote:2bmsv0qf]

Remember the Eleventh Commandment, Gwyn. Which is to say, if the crime is difficult to detect, it is difficult to prosecute. (Quick example: someone grabs a standard library object and edits the scripts and a notecard in such a way as to preserve the Linden creator tag. Then deed the resulting object to a group with many members. No way to tell on our end, and while the Lindens might be able to, I surmise it's a bit of effort for the barely-CS-breaking action of a transcript of a [i:2bmsv0qf]public meeting[/i:2bmsv0qf]. LL can't keep the gray-gooers from registering another alt and doing it again, we're a bit lower on the urgency list!)

I'd like to note I'm not saying anyone [i:2bmsv0qf]should[/i:2bmsv0qf], simply countering your own "requiring the SC to meet in public just means we'll meet in private!". Many RL jurisdictions have 'sunshine laws' that can be worked around - yet they exist nonetheless, requiring all decisions to be held in a public meeting - and I suspect the change from a usual SC meeting full of debate and a bit of humor to a cold, dry recitation of already-determined facts would be quite obvious. By the same token, pulling out the SC and LL bansticks won't necessarily stop anyone. Therefore, instead of wasting time on this electronic chest-beating we could, instead, try and reach some realistic compromise.

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Claude, you're right, and I do apologise for neglecting my duties. Unfortunately, nobody in the SC has enough time to do all what is supposed to be required of it. We have been struggling for almost a year to get the position of a SC Archivist approved, and we even have a willing candidate for that role (Ranma Tardis was the last one to apply for it). But we have not even managed to write a detailed job description for that role!

Aliasi, you're obviously right as well. Nobody would go on a witch hunt if a oh-so-secret transcript would be published anywhere. It would be a matter of principle, of binding people, upon their honour, not to publish them without consent — in the same way that LL does "enforce" their ToS — and people publishing unauthorised transcripts would be just violating their good reputation by refusing to accept that request. So I hardly expect these to be worth of a judicial action. Also, doing a recitation of a notecard on the "official" meetings will be boring and completely meaningless (I might get a script to do so), but if that's what is required by the new laws, that's what the SC will do. Also, I should add that while I [i:3vsksrwu]personally[/i:3vsksrwu] have no issue about transcripts (I'm used to having my friends email me saying "but you defended a contrary position in 1993, and I have an email to prove it!", to which I always counter with "I still have the right to change my mind after 13 years"), since this is something that was agreed upon by the SC sitting in an official meeting, I will not only abide by it, but defend the SC's decision, while still complying with the law, whatever it might be. I don't have to [i:3vsksrwu]like[/i:3vsksrwu] it, though.

Ashcroft, the "powers of the SC" are so much curbed, controlled, checked, limited, overseen, commented, disregarded, ignored, publicly contested, grumbled at, protested publicly and privately, that the SC, in effect, almost hasn't any margin to do anything whatsoever of what were its [i:3vsksrwu]intended[/i:3vsksrwu] purposes — to serve as a balance of powers.

The new roles roles that are now given to the SC are basically administrative ones, mere trivial things, like, say, setting up an election booth, anonymising applications, appointing people here and there, and basically fulfilling this or that irrelevant task that is needed in every Government, but that should neither be given to an "elected" (political) body or a "administrative" body (civil service). The SC, in effect, is useful for all these tasks where an "arbiter" of some sort is needed — one that is neither elected, nor appointed/employed by the State. Naturally, if that's the citizens' will of the new roles of the SC, the SC has no other choice but to comply with that will and accept it.

But that doesn't mean that the SC has to [i:3vsksrwu]like[/i:3vsksrwu] the new roles. Consider the following argument: the SC has, through the Judiciary Act, been appointed to a lot of new roles and tasks to serve as a Court. It has been given new procedures, new forms of interaction, new positions, new obligations, and new responsibilities.

But it has not effectively [i:3vsksrwu]gained[/i:3vsksrwu] new roles! These were all [i:3vsksrwu]existing[/i:3vsksrwu] powers the SC already had — as well as formerly having the role of overseeing the whole Judiciary. [i:3vsksrwu]And[/i:3vsksrwu] interpreting the laws in any case that they were unclear. And finally, to act as an Ethical Commission that regulated alleged abuse of powers and the establishment of new regulation and legislation, by drawing from the experience, know-how, and moral integrity of its members.

All this is now in the past — all these powers have been removed, diluted, redistributed, weakened, checked, and made insignificant. So don't talk to me about having "more rigorous control and restrictions" about the powers of the SC! There is hardly anything left to control and restrict the SC, while at the same time still claiming it has a valid, autonomous, independent, and functional role in Government.

Effectively, I fear that the SC will simply be abolished, like the AC, since it has been slowly emptied of any practical purpose over time.

I'm not saying that the is "good" or "bad", or even "unnecessary". It's not for me to discuss what the citizens' will [i:3vsksrwu]is[/i:3vsksrwu]. It has been made clear, over time, that the citizens prefer and are more comfortable with a limited SC with as little (or possible none) power as possible. The SC only has to adapt to the citizens' will in that.

However, if my last act as member of the SC is expressing my opinion — so far as I can still express it without being subjected to more "controls and restrictions" — the [i:3vsksrwu]whole setup of the SC was that it is [/i:3vsksrwu]not[i:3vsksrwu] subject to these processes[/i:3vsksrwu]. Yes, the whole notion of the SC is to be "abhorrent" in the eyes of many: whereas the RA is democratically elected, the SC is a meritocracy. Where the Judiciary requires professionals in their legal areas, and strict procedures to work, the SC is an ad-hoc group that draws from ethical and moral imperatives to work, and the requirements for its members are quite different. While the admission to the decision system is regulated, complex, and bureaucratic, the SC is the place where the citizens are supposed to go when they have nobody else to listen to, and find there a friendly environment to voice their complaints, free from either political struggles or judicial bureaucracy.

This was felt, by the founders of the CDS, when it was a much smaller and less complex system, to be a [i:3vsksrwu]necessary[/i:3vsksrwu] branch of Government: the one that defends the minorities (even the minority of one) because it doesn't need to follow a majority vote to make a decision; the one that can hear the complains about the ones who don't have time or patience to go through a complex system to make their voices heard, and has enough power to intervene; the "island of sanity" that can step forward in times of need (while staying in the background, vigilant and observant, when everything is running smoothly) when everything seems to be dragged downwards into a spiral of chaos and fragmentation.

Some nations have instead a figurehead like a President or a Monarch which fulfills that role — an independent body that has little to do with governance, legislation, or bureaucracy, but that can "oil" the gears of governance when the machine gets stuck into a dead end, and point it back into the correct direction. That's why the SC was organised as it stands in the Constitution. That's why it has so strange powers and functions, and requires a different mindset than the other branches — neither a politician's mind, and much less a jurist's mind, but mostly common sense and a knack to point people towards a grander vision when they seem to be stumbling upon details and not moving ahead.

It can be argued that this role is not necessary any more, and that the original founders worried too much about these things, while in essence things go rather well today if they're left to their own devices without interference. Thus, the SC might simply be artificially fulfilling a role that actually is not necessary any more (or, one might argue, never was). It's perfectly possible that these arguments are correct; some countries, for instance, never felt the "need" of having a similar branch in Government, and are today vibrant and successful democracies.

While the description of the role of the SC is "to interpret and enforce the Constitution", I always argue that the important bit about any body or group of people is exactly [i:3vsksrwu]what kind of people[/i:3vsksrwu] there are in the group. And what the SC has is a set of members, from which is "[...] required to draw upon their individual fields of expertise to solve complex social issues." Thus, the role of the SC as an "arbitrator" of "complex social issues" was fundamental in its genesis, and for that to be possible, it was given a rather different structure from any of the other branches in Government — or the State — and this was rather consistent with its intended goals. And one of the powers granted to the SC to be able to deal with "complex social issues" was a rather strong veto — the ability to apply a conservative and moderate approach to a society that wishes for too many changes in too short a time.

The original intent of the three-branched system was to have two branches with conflicting goals (and a third one to execute these). The RA is the harbinger of change — change that comes from having the power to transform society. New citizens demand new things. Growth implies a change of structures to deal with expansion. New things become possible just because there are people, resources, money, or, in the case of SL, new technical features — and the role of the RA is to tap these people, resources and money, and employ them successfully to adapt the system to work for the citizens demanding change. The SC works as a moderator in this process — pinpointing those changes that don't lead to a successful, reachable, attainable goal, except through too radical changes, which will mean that citizens have either to "adapt or die" (ie., leave). By working in tandem, a liberal, optimistic, energetic, and resourceful RA will promote change for a better CDS, while the SC will channel that optimism, energy, and resources in a way that nobody gets hurt in the process. You might find it not so surprising that the SC has been mostly "dormant" during the past year — in fact, the RA has been so successful in its self-moderated enthusiasm, as well as working always with compromises, that the SC could only cross its collective arms and watch and rejoice at the turn of the events, which was deemed to be positive, encouraging, and, above all, successful — as our growth can only attest.

It does not mean that the SC has abandoned its role during this period — it means that the amount of compromise between the two extremes was so positive, that the SC could simply give the RA, always reasonable, a [i:3vsksrwu]carte blanche[/i:3vsksrwu] to go ahead.

But this doesn't mean that it'll always be the case. Under a [i:3vsksrwu]good[/i:3vsksrwu] RA — and we have had excellent ones so far — the role of the SC is, and always will be, secondary, to the point of total non-interference. The role of the SC becomes only important if the whole society starts to derail from the Constitution's original intents.

By effectively abolishing the ability of the SC to "draw upon their
individual fields of expertise to solve complex social issues" (which was abolished by the Judiciary Act), the whole role and purpose of the SC has become negligible — since now it lacks one fundamental set of arguments for "interpreting and enforcing the Constitution". The only arguments left are clear violations of the letter of the Constitution, but these get weaker by the day. It seems now clear that the SC will not even be able to pronounce a law to be unconstitutional — effectively, from what I understood from the spirit of the Judiciary Act, the Judiciary is now in a position not only to apply the law (as intended), but to [i:3vsksrwu]interpret[/i:3vsksrwu] it (unchecked), applying it according to a Judge's own interpretation, and establishing a precedent that will effectively be used by further legal actions as what was [i:3vsksrwu]meant[/i:3vsksrwu] by the law. Since this is the practice of common law systems, it's not a terrible situation (half a billion people in the world are used to it every day). But it violates one aspect of the whole spirit of the Constitution — that the RA, and only the RA, are the ones that establish legislation and its intended application. Under the provisions of the old Constitution before the Judiciary Act, any attempt to undermine the RA's exclusive right of establishing legislation would be deemed unconstitutional and vetoed — under the current Constitution, however, the SC has no such power (the Constitution does not state that the legislative process is exclusive to the RA [i:3vsksrwu]explicitly[/i:3vsksrwu], and any interpretation of the contrary is always implicit, since it was not written down).

Again, this is [i:3vsksrwu]not[/i:3vsksrwu] 'terrible'. The only problem at this point is that the only people who might, indeed, contest an interpretation of the law is the PJSP — which has no requirements for its members to have the knowledge and the skill be even able to understand the issues (although many of the people volunteering for the PJSP do, indeed, excel in those areas of knowledge). Of course, there is still the RA left. If a law passed by the RA is so misinterpreted that it is consistently misapplied, and the precedent used to establish [i:3vsksrwu]de facto[/i:3vsksrwu] new legislation, the RA can repeal a law and pass a new one, hopefully differently worded, to avoid further misinterpretation. Still, I don't like [i:3vsksrwu]a posteriori[/i:3vsksrwu] tweakings of a specific law, as a matter of principle. It's not something bad by itself — it happens all the time in RL countries! — but that doesn't mean I have to [i:3vsksrwu]like[/i:3vsksrwu] it. I accuse myself of being biased by civil law systems — where the legislative branch creates the laws, the judiciary applies them, and the interpretation is left to a third branch. The CDS, so far, has been a common law system where [i:3vsksrwu]only[/i:3vsksrwu] the RA did legislate — a [i:3vsksrwu]lot[/i:3vsksrwu] of discussion around that had established, if not [i:3vsksrwu]de jure[/i:3vsksrwu], at least definitely [i:3vsksrwu]de facto[/i:3vsksrwu], that [i:3vsksrwu]no other entity in the CDS, beyond the RA, has the power to change the laws[/i:3vsksrwu]. This is now the past.

All this, as said, would not be possible to approve under the [i:3vsksrwu]intended[/i:3vsksrwu] system of checks and balances provided by RA and SC working in tandem to deliver a coherent set of legislation to the citizens.

Thus, if the original role of the SC is not needed any more (as some might argue, and the best argument for it is "the citizens don't want that role to exist any more"), I would strongly recommend that the SC gets abolished soon.

Please don't misinterpret my words. Nothing of the above should be considered to criticise any aspect of either the RA or the new Judiciary. This is not necessarily a [i:3vsksrwu]worse[/i:3vsksrwu] system than before. It is, however, a [i:3vsksrwu]different[/i:3vsksrwu] system, and one that has [i:3vsksrwu]not[/i:3vsksrwu] been intended originally. Since the CDS [i:3vsksrwu]has[/i:3vsksrwu] to adapt to changes, and this means changing the system by itself, I also claim that this can't be argued to be "a bad move". It's a [i:3vsksrwu]necessary[/i:3vsksrwu] move — and again I mention that people elected the current RA because they [i:3vsksrwu]expected[/i:3vsksrwu] some of these changes, and the citizens are, at the end of the day, who decides what system they want to live under. In a sense, and risking a cliché here, this is what a democracy means — any system should be deemed to be "good" if it is a system that the citizens want to have, and take steps to implement it. It is also a [i:3vsksrwu]better[/i:3vsksrwu] system if [i:3vsksrwu]more[/i:3vsksrwu] citizens are willing to participate in the change (either actively, or at least publicly supporting it).

My doubts come only from "feeling the pulse" of some of the citizens in the street, and while everybody's opinion on the streets might be contradictory, I'm not so sure that everybody [i:3vsksrwu]agrees[/i:3vsksrwu] with this model at all. Having to rely upon social pressure to get people to "volunteer" to certain roles in the "New Government" is for me a sign that things are not so rosy and cheeky as one might argue that they are. But, as said, it is not the role of the SC any more to provide either advice, comments, suggestions, or even ideas on how to deal with the "complex social issue", since this "power" was removed from the SC. I have to rely upon myself only as a citizen to raise the question and my doubts.

In any case, if even "stronger and stricter controls on the action of the SC" are indeed called for, and implemented as new Acts, these will effectively render the SC worthless and void of purpose in our Constitution, except as a convenient placeholder to throw everything into it that doesn't fit elsewhere. If that happens, I will then resign my post as a Dean, since it's quite clear that I cannot fulfill my role and duty, when I've solemnly affirmed to "defend and uphold the Constitution", without any real powers to either defend or uphold it any more — it would be very hypocritical of me to "pretend" to fulfill a role that I've affirmed to do, without effectively having the [i:3vsksrwu]means[/i:3vsksrwu] to do so. Remember that for the [i:3vsksrwu]current[/i:3vsksrwu] members of the SC the Constitution is not simply a "set of rules" or "guidelines for a legislation" (which is a jurist's view of it) but a written document that [i:3vsksrwu]embodies the spirit of what the CDS ought to be[/i:3vsksrwu]. Defending and upholding the Constitution is far more than simply verifying if it's spelled correctly; it's defending and upholding the ideals for a democratic society that this document embodies. I've always scorned the concept that the Constitution is somehow "holy" or "written in stone" — like everything else created by humans, it should be adapted to changes — but what is important for me is the [i:3vsksrwu]ideals[/i:3vsksrwu] the Constitution establishes: a model for a democratic society. [i:3vsksrwu]That[/i:3vsksrwu] is what I affirmed to "defend and uphold", not a page on the Wiki with some spelling mistakes. Also, not surprisingly, the [i:3vsksrwu]requirements[/i:3vsksrwu] for being a member of the SC were exactly to "defend and uphold" these ideals — the Constitution with a capital C. Obviously, with these changes, a new set of requirements will need to be established to validate future members of the SC.

In conclusion, if the SC is emptied of all its original purpose and delegated to the task of being a "constitutional committee" to aid the RA in the legislative process — a very valid and important task, IMHO — I will naturally resign as Dean of the SC and offer myself to participate and help in the establishment of this constitutional committee, and work with the RA to do my best in that area instead. There have been informal talks on the streets, meetings organised by Rudy and a few others, which gave me the impression that a "constitutional committee" would actually fill a niche in the organisation of the CDS where I feel that my little spare time and my skills could be employed in more constructive ways.

"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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The function of the Scientific Council and the rule of law

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[b:28k2hquz][u:28k2hquz]The function of the Scientific Council and the rule of law[/b:28k2hquz][/u:28k2hquz]

Gwyneth argues that the abolition by the Judiciary Act of the clause in the constitution that permitted the Scientific Council to, "[i:28k2hquz]draw upon their individual fields of expertise to solve complex social issues[/i:28k2hquz]", and providing that the Council is "[i:28k2hquz]not bound by a strict and literal interpretation of the Constitution[/i:28k2hquz]" renders the powers of the Scientific Council negligible and will ultimately lead to the abolition of the Scientific Council. I must disagree.

The Scientific Council, as presently constituted, has three [i:28k2hquz]kinds[/i:28k2hquz] of functions: (1) the quasi-legislative; (2) the judicial; and (3) the administrative. Under the first falls the power to veto legislation for being unconstitutional. Under the second falls the power to hold impeachment hearings and allow appeals from Courts of Common Jurisdiction. Under the third falls the miscellany to which Gwyneth refered in her post. Each of those functions are important.

The quasi-legislative function is an important check on the power of a unicameral legislature operating against the background of a legal system that has no power to disapply its legislation. The Scientific Council can veto any legislation that is unconstitutional, or violates the "founding documents", which seems to mean the Linden Lab Terms of Service and Community Standards, and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. This is an important power, since it is, in our system, the only way of ensuring that the legislature obeys the constitution. If our written constitution is to have any effect as a supreme document governing our government, then there has to be a means to enforce it. In many countries, that is left to the ordinary judiciary: if a purported piece of legislation is unconstitutional, a court may simply disapply it. The Supreme Court in the USA works on that principle. That, however, has disadvantages. Firstly, it may be a long time before any case comes to court about the piece of legislation in question. Between the time that it is passed and the time that a court declares it unconstitutional, there could be a great deal of uncertianty, or, even worse, people could just assume that it is valid. Secondly, in order for a case to get to court at all, people have to have the wherewithal to bring a case, and a specific thing to bring a case about. Parties bear the risk of losing, and possibly criminal sanctions if the putatively unconstitutional legislation creates criminal offences. Thirdly, it gives to the ordinary judiciary a power which, when combined with the power of a common law judiciary in interpreting and applying the law, excess power, such as to enable it to act almost as a quasi-legislature. It can say "this piece of legislation is unconstitutional, and therefore void. Now, filling in the gap that the legislature has left by passing an unconstitutional act, the law is actually [i:28k2hquz]this[/i:28k2hquz]...". It is never wise to give ultimate law-making powers to non-elected bodies. That is a very different thing to the common law with a supreme legislature, as the legislature can always over-ride any common law precedent, and frequently does.

The judicial function is also highly important. The Court of Scientific Council is the CDS's constitutional court. It holds impeachment proceedings, and can allow appeals from Courts of Common Jurisdiction on the ground that they have acted outside their jurisdiction as conferred by the text of the constitution. As with its power over the legislature, the Scientific Council's power over the individual holders of all public offices (in impeachment proceedings) and over the judiciary (in appeals) is a power that ensures that all the elements of the institutions of state abide by the rules provided for in the document that is our constitution. If a public official acts unconstitutionally, he or she can be impeached. If a Court of Common Jurisdiction acts outside its constitutional jursidiction, its decision can be overturned.

The administrative functions are also important. In organising elections, for example, the Scientific Council ensures that the control of elections is not left to people who have any interest in the outcome of elections: the members of the Scientific Council are not elected, but selected on merit, and so it is in their interests to ensure that elections run well and fairly, rather than favour any given person or faction. In turn, fair elections are of critical importance for democracy: again, in discharging its administrative functions, the Scienitfic Council is making the constitution do what it says that it does.

All of those three functions have one thing in common: they are important safeguards of the rule of law. Specifically, they are all important safeguards of the rule of our [i:28k2hquz]constitutional[/i:28k2hquz] law: in each case, the three kinds of powers of the Scientific Council (legislative, judicial, administrative) are all aimed at making sure that the [i:28k2hquz]rules[/i:28k2hquz] established by the constitution are effectively obeyed. If the rules are broken by the legislature, the legislation can be vetoed; if the rules are broken by an office holder, he or she can be impeached; if the rules are broken by the judiciary, its decisions are overturned; and it stops the rules from being broken in the first place with repsect to elections. That function is extremely important, and wholly consistent with the Scientific Council's constitutional definition as a body whose function is, "[i:28k2hquz]to interpret and enforce the constitution[/i:28k2hquz]".

The rule of law entails that the exercise of governmental power is channelled through abstract rules, the application of which is distinct from the creation of the same. The legislature has a great deal of power, for example, but it can only exercise that power by making [i:28k2hquz]rules[/i:28k2hquz]: it cannot simply say "I want to get L$5,000 out of the citizens - let's threaten to kick out some random ones unless they pay us"; it has to pass a law requiring that all people pay a tax. The executive can exercise power otherwise than by creating rules, by making direct, executive decisions, but its power is checked by the power of the legislature to make rules about what the executive may do. The judiciary cannot make any rules, and can only exercise any powers in relation to deciding individual disputes in specific cases, and is bound to follow the rules created for it by the legislature. All of those institutions, in turn, are bound to follow the rules set out in the constitution: the rules that the Scientific Council is so instrumental in interpreting and enforcing.

The primary function of the Judiciary Act was to strengthen the rule of law in the CDS. Despite what Gwyneth writes about the original function of the Scientific Council being to "[i:28k2hquz]draw upon their individual fields of expertise to solve complex social issues[/i:28k2hquz]", and "[i:28k2hquz]channel that optimism, energy, and resources [of the legislature] in a way that nobody gets hurt in the process[/i:28k2hquz]", the way in which the constitution of old permitted the Scientific Council to operate was a way that was inconsistent with the rule of law. The clause permitting the Scientific Council, for example, in discharging any of its functions, not to be "[i:28k2hquz]bound by a strict and literal interpretation of the Constitution,[/i:28k2hquz]", combined with the Council's powers to veto [i:28k2hquz]or rewrite[/i:28k2hquz] the legislation of the legislature gives the Council effectively [i:28k2hquz]carte blanche[/i:28k2hquz] to over-ride the will of the elected legislature, and substitute its own decision instead. Under the old scheme, the Scientific Council was not only a body that could enforce the [i:28k2hquz]rules[/i:28k2hquz] of the constitution over the collective beliefs of the legislators about what laws should be passed: it was a body that could enforce [i:28k2hquz]its members' own views[/i:28k2hquz] about what laws ought be passed, how they ought be interpreted and applied.

The whole point of a democracy in which the rule of law prevails is that, where there is a dispute about what people should do, it is resolved by applying rules, where there is a dispute about what rules that there should be, it is resolved by a popularly elected legislature, and where there is a dispute about what powers that a popularly elected legislature should have, it is resolved by a set of super-rules, themselves modifiable by a popular process (either by a supermajority of the legislature or by referendum) called the constiution. The importance of [i:28k2hquz]documented[/i:28k2hquz] rules is that the documents exist independently of the mind of any person, yet multiple people can understand what they mean, and, more or less (and more in proportion to the extent to which the document is precise and detailed) understand the same thing by what they mean. [i:28k2hquz]Written[/i:28k2hquz] rules are important because the medium of the rules is constant, and not something that is motivated to, or capable of, changing them otherwise than by the formal means provided for by other written rules. Having written rules which are so vague, and/or can be interpreted so broadly, that the little of the real meaning of the rules is contained in what is written is just as bad as having no written rules at all. It hardly needs stating that [i:28k2hquz]written[/i:28k2hquz] laws are essential to the rule of law: when any soceity in history attained the ability to write its laws, historians mark it as an important milestone, and for good reason. Giving the Scientific Council the power to adopt a non-literal interpretation (i.e., that is, an interpretation other than in accordance with the "letter", the written text) gives it the ability to exercise power otherwise than by rules that stand independently of any individual's mind.

The importance of a soceity that functions in the way described above is graphically and eloquently demonstarted by our own Rudy Ruml in his works on the democratic peace. The Scientific Council of old had the power to work [i:28k2hquz]outside[/i:28k2hquz] the rules, and exercise power, not by making rules, but by bypassing the delicate mechanism of dispute resolution and meta-dispute resolution described above, and just substitute the personal beliefs of its four or five members, chosen on the basis of who the people who were chosen by the people who were chosen by the people who founded the CDS in the first place as being the most meritous in understanding and being committed to the constitution for the judgments of anyone else.

Gwyneth might argue, as she hints at doing in the post above, that that is not a problem, and indeed, is beneficial, as long as the people discharging those powers are genuinely meritous and good people, who really [i:28k2hquz]do[/i:28k2hquz] know better than the legislaure and the citizens who elected it about what shoudl be done. That, however, is as much of an argument for a dictatorship or an oligarchy as it is for a Scientific Council with wide discretionary powers. The point is that, as Aliasi has commented in the past, governmental institutions should always be designed with the premise that there is a very real possibility of any given post or set of posts being filled with bad people who are merely in government to serve their own ends, will acquire as much power as their exsting powers will allow, and do whatever they can to further their interests come what may. As Rudy starkly puts it, "[i:28k2hquz]power kills[/i:28k2hquz]". Nobody is going to be killed, as such, by a SecondLife dictatorship or oligarchy, but the over-concentration of power can still cause real harm in the terms in which real harm can be caused to communities in SecondLife. The only way to avoid that is to have a truly democratic soceity in which the rule of law prevails. That entails a (relatively) supreme legislature, a truly independent judiciary, and a constitution whose rules are obeyed and can be enforced if necessary. It is that latter function that is served so importantly by the Scientific Council.

However, with the importance of those functions comes a very great responsibility. If the Scientific Council is to have administrative functions, it must be [i:28k2hquz]efficient[/i:28k2hquz] and [i:28k2hquz]competent[/i:28k2hquz]: it is no use having unbiased people running the elections if they cannot ensure that the votes are counted accurately. A randomly wrong election result is almost as bad as a fixed election. If the Council is to have legislative functions, it must be [i:28k2hquz]accountable[/i:28k2hquz]. That means holding its deliberations on legislative matters (i.e., whether to veto an Act of the Representative Assembly) in public, announcing in advance that it is going to do so, so that citizens can come along and participate, letting citizens come along and participate, and then publishing a full transcript at the end of it. Whatever concerns have been expressed about people's privacy that have been expressed in this thread cannot conceivably apply to [i:28k2hquz]legislative[/i:28k2hquz] discussions, and the point about infinite regress of secrecy could apply equally to the Representative Assembly as to the Scienitific Council, but it does not work that way in practice, at least partly because citizens can come along and ask questions and challenge members of the Representative Assembly.

Finally, if the Scientific Council is to have [i:28k2hquz]judicial[/i:28k2hquz] functions, it must maintain the highest standards of ethics, maintain political independence, have a through understanding of our constitution and the principles of the operation of the common law system of which it is a part, and generally act in such a way as is consistent with the important task of deciding the application of constitutional law to individual cases. This means, amongst other things, that decisions of substance on issues such as the powers of the judiciary (which are part of the Council's appellate jurisdiction over Courts of Common Jurisdiction) are taken only in the context of a [i:28k2hquz]particular case[/i:28k2hquz], argued before the Court of Scientific Council, in open court, where both sides of the argument can be prepared and presented by the parties themselves or professional legal advisors, and where a judgment is given after careful reflection on those arguments, setting out in detail the reasons for coming to the conclusions that it reaches. It is wholly inconsistent with the function of the Scientific Council as a judicial body that it takes a decision of substance on a matter that could, in theory, form part of an appeal from a Court of Common Jurisdiction in a case of great importance to its parties, even if not to anyone else, in a secret meeting that was not announced (and therefore gave nobody the opportunity to prepare arguments, attend the meeting, and make representations on the point), and where the [i:28k2hquz]fact[/i:28k2hquz] of the meeting, let alone the detailed reasoning behind the decisions involved, was not published.

It is actions of that sort that create a pressing need for the way in which the Scientific Council exercises its powers to be regulated, to ensure that it does not purport to make decisions other than according to procedures which ensure that the decisions are taken fairly (especially when they are, or are effectively, judicial decisions), and are taken duly accountably, when they are legislative decisions.

Quite contrary to what Gwyneth suggests, therefore, ensuring that the powers of the Scientific Council are discharged only in accordance with strict procedural rules [i:28k2hquz]enhances[/i:28k2hquz], rather than detracts, from the Council's function as the body which interprets and enforces the constitution, or, more to the point, the rule of constitutional law, and, specifically, the rule of [i:28k2hquz]written[/i:28k2hquz] constitutional law. Both the removal of the Council's power to "[i:28k2hquz]draw upon their individual fields of expertise to solve complex social issues[/i:28k2hquz]" instead of adopting a literal interpretation of the constitution, and requiring it to adopt rigorous procedures is [i:28k2hquz]more[/i:28k2hquz] consistent with the Council's ultimate function of upholding the rule of constitutional law. Far from rendering the Council irrelevant and its powers negligable, therefore, the Judiciary Act reforms, and the establishment of procedural rules for the Council enhances the rule of law in the CDS, and ensures that the Council makes better decisions. Ultimately, given what I have written above about how important that the Council is, the thing that is most likely to lead to the Council's abolition is not that its powers are seen as irrelevant, but that it, as an institution, is seen as dysfunctional (for, for example, meeting unnanounced and effectively in secret to decide an issue that might arise for determination by the council in its judicial capacity, and then not even publishing the decision or the reasons for it). Proper procedural rules for all aspects of the discharge of the Council's powers will ensure that it is not so dysfunctional. No doubt, if the Council were to get itself together and draft some such rules in the near future, the legislature might be somewhat less inclined to intervene than if the present sitution continues much longer.

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Thank you for your thorough proposal for the New Scientific Council, Ashcroft. It is quite clear now to me that there is absolutely nothing in common with what you think the Scientific Council is supposed to do, and what the Scientific Council has done (or what its intended role was supposed to be) until the Judiciary Act was approved.

I fear that, although [i:3c9y4cxj]part[/i:3c9y4cxj] of the proceedings of the SC (when acting as the Court of the Scientific Council) were indeed clarified by the Judicial Act — in the sense that it provided a much needed reform on the whole procedural scheme related to "having the Scientific Council sit as a Court", none of your remaining interpretations of what your concept of the Scientific Council is, or is supposed to be, or what its whole purpose is, were addressed by the Judicial Act (or any other). This should be addressed as well.

I would thus suggest — assuming you have the time and the patience for that, of course — that the whole [i:3c9y4cxj]Article III - The Philosophic Branch[/i:3c9y4cxj] is removed in its entirety from the Constitution (except for the parts already amended by the Judiciary Act), and, similar to what has happened with the Executive Branch as a replacement of the Guild in the same roles, a new set of functions, regulations, and procedures are established for a new branch.

I will, however, be very adamant in refusing the new branch to be called "the Philosophic Branch" or "the Scientific Council", in order to make clear that it's a completely different branch of Government, with different goals, purposes, and objectives, as well as a different set of requirements of participation. Continuing to pretend that it is a "reformed branch" using an outdated name is pointless. Let's call it the "High Council" instead (since its new functions will not be restricted to a "High Court") or something.

As always in the past, I eagerly embrace any changes that lead to better government, more fairness, and a respect of the citizens' wishes. It's now clear to me that there might be no further point or purpose in the existence of a branch of Government that defends and upholds our ideals, when a better approach is to replace it by a branch that supervises the application of the rule of law. Democracies emerged by abolishing old, functionless structures and replacing them with coherent and well-defined ones, which would be able to work better for a more fair system.

After your argumentation, it seems to be safer to establish a system that defends and ensures that the [i:3c9y4cxj]rules[/i:3c9y4cxj] are obeyed (which seems to be a more concrete and rational approach), than one that defends and ensures that the [i:3c9y4cxj]ideals[/i:3c9y4cxj] are obeyed (which is naturally a totally subjective and emotional approach, one that is drawn by morals, ethics, and common sense, and not strict rationalism). I guess that the time for idealism is gone — we'll have to assume the mantle of pragmatism and discard the old ways, making way for the new ones.

So, I would like to encourage you to write a proposal for the new "High Council". I think that simply formulating your post with your arguments in a "bill" form would be enough — your arguments, minus some personal comments, can be used as a good preamble to explain and clarify the purpose of the new "High Council".

"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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