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Re: First call for votes for the Lenny release GR

On Wed, Dec 31, 2008 at 12:01:06PM -0800, Steve Langasek wrote:
> While I understand the desire to add additional checks and balances in
> response to figures exercising power in ways we don't approve of, I think
> the fundamental problem with this latest vote was that the Secretary was
> asserting a power that was *not* his under the letter of the constitution.

I still maintain the Secretary was within his Constitutional powers.  You have
a different position.  Both of us are convinced that we are correct.
Unfortunately, we cannot both be correct.  

In past times, we might have resolved this problem in a duel to either injury
or death - nowadays, one of us might sue the other in some court of law.
However, I would consider it a major problem if any internal Debian dispute
spilled over to the courts.

What we need is an oracle that says: "this is the correct interpretation of the
Constitution".  The oracle needs to be respected by both of us so that we could
agree, in advance, to yield to the oracle's decision whichever of us it favors.
(That is, in fact, what the courts are - and if one doesn't respect the
decision of a court, the system has the means to enforce the decision.)

The Constitution, as I read it, clearly specified that this oracle was meant to
be the Secretary.  It is clear that this approach does not work - you didn't
trust the previous Secretary as the oracle.

The one main problem I see with the Secretary as the oracle, weakening
his ability to maintain the trust of the developers is the following:

The Secretary is an officer with executive responsibilities (namely, he acts as
a chairman of the developers by way of general resolution, in fact but not in
name), but he also serves as an administrative judicial officer in interpreting
the constitution.  This forces him to judge his own actions, and it is very
hard to respect an oracle who has personal stake in the problem.

A lightweight solution might be to add a rule of secretarial recusal - require
(either by custom or by a constitutional amendment) the Secretary to delegate
the adjudication of any constitutional dispute in which he is, himself,
involved in.  Unfortunately, it would be the Secretary himself who decides who
the delegate will be - will everybody trust a delegate chosen by the Secretary,
in a dispute in which the Secretary is involved in?

> Splitting up the constitutional powers doesn't really prevent the Secretary
> from acting counter to the constitution or counter to project consensus, if
> they're inclined to do that.

No, but it does create the possibility of appealing the Secretary's actions.
We currently already have such an appeal possibility for every other officer
(not that it has ever been used, I think).

> It has been quite apparent in this latest vote that Manoj considered himself
> bound by a higher duty than either the letter of the constitution or the goal
> of consensus-driven decision-making in Debian.

I disagere most strongly with this assessment.

Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho, Jyväskylä, Finland

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