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Re: GRs, irrelevant amendments, and insincere voting

On Sat, Nov 01, 2003 at 07:01:00PM -0600, Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> On Sat, 1 Nov 2003 15:14:06 -0500, Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> said: 
> > I think that's a hasty conclusion.  Let's recall how much time
> > passed between the first big flamewar on this subject and the time
> > of the actual vote.  I think at least three factors were at work in
> > making Proposal A seem like the "safe, conservative" option.
> 	You seem to assume that the vast majority of the electorate are
>  sheep who blindly follow the latest demagogue to wax forth on any
>  subject.

This statement seems a total sequitur.  I have no idea how your
statement has anything to do with the one it's ostensibly replying to.

Is it just something you wanted to get off your chest?

>  You have concluded, despite the past track record to the
>  contrary, that people shall not vote with the best interest of Debian
>  at heart,

This is a straw man argument.  I have stated no such conclusions and I
don't actually hold that opinion.  I think our developers have
different, and sometimes conflicting, notions of how to best serve the
interests of the Project.

>  and in an effort to come to common ground, and cooperate
>  with each other, rather than push their own agenda in exclusion of
>  any others.

I think it is wise to ensure that we have mechanisms in place that
insulate us from the actions of those who will push their own agendas to
the exclusion of others.  Of course, such measures often have a cost,
and we should reject them if we have to trade away something we consider
even more valuable -- hence my outright declaration that I didn't have a
solution for the problem I perceive, and my solicitation of thoughts on
how we might collectively deal with it.

Instead, from you, I have gotten only veiled personal attacks and crude

>  However, you continue to imagine that people have in it for you, or
>  any proposal you come up with,

Another straw man.  You cannot possibly know the contents of my mind,
and I do not in fact feel this way.  Of course, people are free to
believe *that* statement, or not, because they can't see into my mind
anymore than you can.

Would you care to posit some falsifiable hypotheses for a change?  Or
are you enjoying yourself too much?

>  and the
>  determination we make is merely the result of which charismatic
>  person spoke to us about it. Like we have no brains.

This doesn't follow from my speculative "sabotage scenario" at all -- it
depends not upon the charismatic appeal of a proposer, but strictly upon
the appeal of the irrelevant amendment that is unnaceptable to the
proposer (because it is not germane to the issue being decided).

> 	You certainly have come forth with a fair deal of
>  convoluted reasoning

Here you levy a charge of "convoluted" reasoning without illustrating
how it is convoluted.  For example, I don't think there is anything
subtle or difficult about the fact that the author of the Constitution
did not come down from his mountain to clearly announce his intentions
regarding the language in question for over three years, and that this
long-standing lack of clarification might have led people to form their
opinions without the benefit of that information.

If you think there is something subtle or difficult about that, perhaps
it is *you* who are insulting the intelligence of our electorate.

>  to explain why people voted as they did -- including the fact that
>  that they did so because certain people did not fight the option that
>  won; the parsimonious explanation, though, is that perhaps they
>  really p;referred the option? Not because it was conservative, or
>  not,  but because it was in line with their own (gasp) opinion?

You appear to be confusing the issues in this thread.  Nowhere did I
accuse people of voting insincerely for Proposal A; in fact, I don't
think they did.  There weren't any irrelevant options on the ballot, so
in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I am -- parsimoniously,
even! -- treating each ballot as a sincere expression of preferences.

People don't vote for a "conservative" option because it's
"conservative", they vote for "conservative" options because the option
reflects their "conservative" values.  The question is what is being
conserved.  I posit that because we've never changed the Social Contract
since we adopted it; because we had a previous Project Secretary who
ruled the Social Contract immutable; and because you've kept up a steady
drumbeat in favor of your Founding Documents proposal for the past year
or so, that the unchanging nature of the Social Contract is something
that people got used to.

Moreover, an "originalist" reading of the Constitution that holds the
Social Contract as emendable by a simple majority, even if that was the
original intent (which, if we accept Ian Jackson's claims, it was), can
come to look like an "activist" approach.  There have been many, many
examples of this in U.S. Constitutional jurisprudence since the
mid-1970s, when Rehnquist joined the court.

Therefore, I do not really understand the shrillness of your response.
By using terms like "conservative", "activist", and "originalist", I am
attempting to be descriptive.  If you read some sort of opprobrium into
one or more of those terms, then I surmise that it is your own biases at
work, not mine.

> 	I think, despite your protestations to the contrary, we can
>  still come to an agreement,

Straw man #3 (or is it more than that?  I've lost count).

I have not posited that we "cannot come to an agreement".  I have
posited that there exists a mechanism for potentially sabotaging
agreement on a particular issue, and that the procedural remedies for
that mechanism do not appear to be formally defined.  I have posited
that as a result of such unchecked mechanisms, we can either A) come to
a sincere agreement around an irrelevant option if we vote strictly
sincerely; or B) vote insincerely, regarding the irrelevant options as
noise injected by miscreants.  (I suppose there is an option C), "ignore
the problem or argue that it doesn't exist", which might be the one you

It saddens me a little that we'd need to actively promote insincere
ranking of ballot options as a remedy for abuse of the voting system,
but if that turns out to be the medicine with the gentlest side effects
for the ailment, then so be it.

But what *really* saddens me is that my open speculations on this
subject have provoked such vituperation from some quarters, including
your own.  You are failing to really argue the points, having raised the
issue of the last vote as a counter-example of nothing in particular
(since its ballot contained no options irrelevant to issue being
decided), and launching a volley of straw man attacks with a strong
whiff of critique of my personality.

If we are the harmonious, well-oiled machine that you claim I think we
not, is your indulgence of such rhetorical tactics really a good
reflection of your thesis?

>  that we are still reasonable people who
>  are trying to create the best operating system possible; and
>  discussion are not a bitter fight to the end to have our own way or
>  the high way.

Indeed, which is why I wonder why you are fighting my meditations on the
properties of our Standard Resolution Procedure so bitterly.

If people are disinterested in my fearful scenario, they can simply
elect to not respond to messages on the subject (that's one reason I
changed the Subject header in this subthread).  I fail to see why anyone
who thinks it is an impossible -- or laughably improbable -- scenario
would need to spend much effort ensuring that we don't pre-worry it.

G. Branden Robinson                |     When I die I want to go peacefully
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     in my sleep like my ol' Grand
branden@debian.org                 |     Dad...not screaming in terror like
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     his passengers.

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