kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
At the third and final Main Business Meeting on the last day of Worldcon 75, we considered (and ratified/adopted) six constitutional amendments, and for the most part we breezed right through them. In the process of doing so, I repeatedly allowed the introduction of motions to "suspend the rules, end all debate, and adopt the motion immediately" as ordinary motions to Suspend The Rules, requiring a two-thirds vote. This was wrong.

WSFS Standing Rule 5.5 reads, in part: "The motion for the Previous Question (also known as the motion to 'close debate,' 'call the question,' and 'vote now') shall not be in order when... either or both sides of the debate have yet to speak to a question." Previous Question requires a 2/3 vote ordinarily anyway, which is the same vote as Suspend the Rules. Therefore, this standing rule must be protecting a minority smaller than one-third. I think that this rule must be protecting a minority as small as a single individual present at the meeting (not absentees), because it says you can't end the debate unless at least one speaker from each side of the question has had the opportunity to speak. (It doesn't require that a speech actually happen, just that both sides get an opportunity to do so.)

In parliamentary law, there is a hierarchy of rights in the rules. For example, the majority has rights, which surprises at least one person I spoke to this past weekend, who looked at me with a confused, blank expression on his face when I told him that super-majorities of two-thirds generally have the right to not have their time wasted. Furthermore, some rules can't be suspended at all: a rule that protects absent members can't be suspended.

A rule protecting a minority of a given size cannot be suspended except by a larger majority. What that means is this:
A rule that protects the right of an individual member can only be suspended by unanimous consent.

This doesn't mean that there is an unlimited right to debate. If at least one other person has spoken to your side of the question (and the other side has had an opportunity to speak, regardless of whether they actually do so), the meeting can then vote (2/3) to shut off debate, and your right as an individual to speak can be overridden. But if your side hasn't spoken at all, you as an individual member have the right to stop the entire rest of the room from shutting down your side's debate until you get a shot at it.

Thus, the motion as it was first made by John Pomeranz was correct, as it was to "suspend the rules and adopt by acclamation," which is to say unanimous consent. But in such a case, if even one member objected, the motion should have failed, and both sides of the question should have been given the opportunity to speak to the matter if they choose to do so. After that, the motion for the Previous Question (end debate, 2/3 required) would have been in order.

Please be mindful that I'm not saying we should have "sham debate" where people take the floor to say one or two words to just barely meet a technical requirement for debate. That's foolish. But it was wrong of me to allow a motion that protected individuals (a minority of one) to be passed on anything less than a unanimous vote.

Now, my mistake doesn't invalidate the actions of the meeting. Someone, anyone could have made a Point of Order about this. Nobody did, and thus the result stands. But I don't want to make that mistake again, and I want others to learn from my mistake so that it doesn't get repeated.
kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
Ben Yalow has pointed out to me that, in the context of a discussion that happened a few days ago about when WSFS Constitutional amendments take effect and the somewhat esoteric and nearly theoretical question of whether a vote in favor of ratification can be considered, the following Ruling of Continuing Effect, from 2002:

CH-2002-4: The Chair ruled that amendments to the Constitution become part of the Constitution at the moment of ratification, although they generally do not take effect until later; therefore, they are subject to amendment as any other part of the Constitution.
So what does this mean in practice, particularly regarding the YA Award with its problematical blanks and provisions, up for ratification this year? I've been argued around to the following:

1. If the YA Award as it currently stands is ratified, it becomes part of the WSFS Constitution the moment it is ratified, but it does not take effect (including its provision) until the end of Worldcon 75.

2. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

3. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

4. I would rule an amendment to strike out the special provision in the YA Amendment to be a reduction of scope and thus subject to immediate ratification. That's not because it reduces the number of words in the proposal. (You can increase the scope of change while simultaneously reducing the word count of a given proposal.) It is because striking out the special provision brings the proposal closer to the existing Constitutional rules; that makes the scope of change smaller, and we can ratify anything between the existing Constitution and the fully-scoped proposal up for ratification.

Now CH-2002-4 is a Chair's Ruling that has never been overturned either by a contrary ruling, a Standing Rule, or a change to the WSFS Constitution; therefore, it has significant binding force over WSFS procedures, although the Business Meeting could decide to set it aside. As part of the body of "Customs and Usages of WSFS," it has higher precedence than the parliamentary authority, Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, although in fact I contend that it's quite consistent with RONR anyway.

The embarrassing thing about having to have CH-2002-4 pointed out to me is that I'm the one who made the ruling back at the 2002 WSFS Business Meeting. Oops. Oh, and because I'm the one who wrote the procedural end-run about naming, I'm setting myself up to, in effect, overrule myself. It wouldn't even be the first time that I, as WSFS Business Meeting Chair, have overruled an action that I, in some other role, took in WSFS.

Nothing I have said in this post should be taken as my expressing an opinion on the merits of a WSFS-sanctioned YA fiction award, or on the merits of any name (or lack of a name). I'm neutral on the merits. I'm only interested in making sure the process is correct.

Oh, and I still don't think you can reconsider an affirmative vote to ratify a Constitutional amendment.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
I note that when the Vice President had to use his casting vote in the US Senate today to confirm a Secretary of Education who I don't think in her heart believes in the concept of universal public education, there was someone standing there with a cue card for him. My guess is that the VP knows so little about this "presiding officer" stuff that the Senate Parliamentarian had to write it all out for him to read off a card.

As WSFS Chair, I don't have a "casting vote" (that is, can only vote to break a tie), but the more subtle "can vote whenever it could affect the result," because I'm a member of the organization, not just its presiding officer. (The US VP is the nominal presiding officer of the Senate, but is not actually a member of it.) This means that I can vote to break or make ties. (Ties lose.) I could also vote if it would affect various sorts of super-majorities like 2/3 or 3/4.

In the years that I've presided over WSFS meetings, I'm trying to remember if I have ever been in a position to use my vote. I think it may have happened once, and in the particular case, I think I elected to not vote and to allow the vote to stand as it was. I have a feeling that if I ever vote to make a tie (and thus defeat a motion), there will be a lot of confused people who think the Chair only votes to break ties because that's what "sandlot parliamentary procedure" says.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
Today was the Lyon County Democratic Party Convention. The delegates selected through the party caucuses earlier this year (a total of 168 total countywide delegates, including me) were called to gather at the high school in Silver Springs. (The site is more or less centrally located within Lyon County, meaning that the people from Dayton, Yerrington, and Fernley all had to travel, but we all had to travel approximately the same distance. Only the relatively few people from Sliver Springs had the short drive.) It was an interesting, if at times frustrating experience, and I can say that I am certain that we had better organization at the WSFS Business Meetings in Spokane last year.

The net result of the convention was that Lyon County will send a total of 55 delegates to the state convention in Las Vegas later this year: 34 pledged to Bernie Sanders and 21 to Hillary Clinton. But it took quite a while to get to that conclusion, and led to a lot of people sitting around frustrated waiting for things to get to a decision, as I'll explain below.

My Day in Democratic Politics )

After the opening speeches and letters, we received the initial report of the Credentials Committee, which reported that only 107 of the 168 elected delegates had registered. Delegates still had until Noon to actually register, so while the convention was quorate, they didn't want to proceed with the major business (selection of delegates for the state convention) until everyone had a chance to register and then alternates seated. With a quorum present, the convention elected the Temporary Chair as the Permanent officers, and then we went into a long recess for over an hour.

(Incidentally, one woman with some meeting experience of the wrong kind in my opinion kept trying to correct "recess" to "suspend," even though there is no motion to suspend. "Recess" is the correct term.)

Read more... )

So we finally got all of the delegates to the county convention sorted out, and the delegates to State managed to agree to get it to where we didn't have to hold an election to fill 34 seats simultaneously. But business wasn't done yet; unfortunately, many people had to start leaving, and were not happy that they didn't get to participate in the platform process.

County Party Platform )

The convention was now adjourned, but I had a few people who wanted to complain at me about how not everyone who wanted to speak did so. One older gentleman in particular complained that as Parliamentarian I should have done something to get the Chair to recognize that young man who so much wanted to speak.

Running by the Rules Sometimes Means You Don't Get What You Personally Want )

Now, despite some of the bad feelings (for which my low blood sugar could not have helped), I did get a number of people coming up to me thanking me for my explanations, and one woman said, "After you explained it, I realized that even I could speak."

What I Should Have Done )

And that was my day as a Democratic Convention Parliamentarian. I could have done better. But we could have done worse as well. And if I do decide to get more involved in local county politics, maybe by the next time this rolls around we'll be able to conduct a meeting of this size with a bit better organization so that there's less waiting and more time spent on substantive debate.
kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
Today is the final day to submit new business to the WSFS Business Meeting. You need at least two sponsors (both of whom must be supporting or attending/YA/military members of Sasquan). See the New Business Submission section of this year's Business Meeting web page.

Also recently added to the site is the WSFS Cheat Sheet, a two-page handout listing the most common procedural motions used at the Business Meeting, with their specific WSFS implementations. The Business Meeting isn't a seminar on parliamentary procedure, so we can't always stop to go into minute detail about every possible rule; however, this handout covers the more common motions we use. If you have questions about how things work, you need to ask. The rules are meant to facilitate decisions, not serve as barriers to participation.

There also are panels at 1 PM on Thursday and Friday of this year's Worldcon where we'll discuss "What Just Happened" and the technical aspects of the Preliminary and First Main Business Meetings. If you have an interest in what the rules are and why they work the way they do, you should plan to attend these sessions.
kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
This year's WSFS Business Meeting sees a new procedural motion available to members during the Preliminary Business Meeting only: Postpone Indefinitely.

Why It's Not Just Objection to Consideration With a New Name )

Postpone Indefinitely (PI) is the lowest-ranking of the procedural motions. It can only be made when nothing but the main motion is pending. If it passes (2/3 vote required by WSFS rule), the targeted main motion is dead for the duration of the current Worldcon. Because it's not a direct vote on the main motion, it can be made at the Preliminary Business Meeting. (By WSFS rule, it can only be made at the PBM.) This means that the PBM retains, as part of its agenda-setting authority, the ability to kill new business before it gets to the Main Meeting.

Unlike OTC, PI can be made even after amendments or debate on the main motion, as long as nothing is currently pending or nobody else has the floor. Also unlike OTC, PI is debatable. The motion to Postpone Indefinitely (by WSFS rule) has four minutes of debate time, evenly split between those who think we should consider the main motion, and those who do not want to even discuss it at the Main Meeting. This means that the proponents of a proposal will have at least two minutes to make the case for why we should consider their motion. They won't be squashed before they even got to make an opening argument. They may well still lose and see their proposal killed before the main debate, but they will have had at least one chance to make a case. In all but the most obnoxious proposals, I think that's fair.

If anyone moves a PI this year, it's my intention to first recognize the person who made the PI motion, who will have up to two minutes to say why we shouldn't consider the proposal. I will then recognize the lead sponsor present of the targeted proposal, who will have up to two minutes to say why we should consider it. I will then put the question in the form of "Shall [the targeted proposal] be considered? Those who think we should consider it, raise your hands... hands down. Those who think we should not consider it, raise your hands... hands down." (Putting it in this form means you vote in favor of or against the main motion, rather than having to invert your choices. It's also the way we voted on OTC, so regular attendees will recognize it.) If there is a two-thirds vote against consideration, the main motion is postponed indefinitely and is thus dead for the duration of the current Worldcon.

Note that Postpone Indefinitely in practice is likely to apply only to new constitutional amendments. It can't be applied to amendments awaiting ratification, and there are few circumstances in which it would make sense to apply it to resolutions, since the PBM can take a direct vote on them.

I hope that this reborn motion to Postpone Indefinitely puts a stop to the unseemly jack-in-the-box behavior of people leaping to their feet to shout "Objection to Consideration" to all new business, since there is a much more civilized way to clear the agenda without making newcomers to the Business Meeting feel that they're being deliberately shut up and told to Go Away.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
I'm going to surprise some people here with my opening statement: Robert's Rules of Order is too complicated.

Background )

So if I dislike RONR that much, why am I such a champion for it? Because I tried once to introduce a simpler manual, and the members rejected it. Specifically, the book currently known as the Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure. (Hereafter TSC.) This book, previously known as Sturgis' Code, is a simplified form of American parliamentary procedure. In my opinion, it's actually closer to what the members of WSFS and Westercon want, with one big exception: Objection to Consideration. A fair chunk of the Worldcon Business Meeting Standing Rules modifies RONR to be closer to TSC.

Some years ago (during the Spokane Westercon, as it happens), I pushed hard to get TSC adopted as the parliamentary manual for Westercon business meetings. The rules on amending the Westercon bylaws were easier then, and I managed to get my way, by a single vote. But the following year, I wasn't able to attend the Westercon in Hawaii, and the Meeting changed things back to RONR. I usually know when I'm defeated, and there are limits to how many times I'm prepared to invest effort in a losing cause. The people who show up and vote voted to stick with the older, more complicated rules, probably because they already know how they work, and they feared any change that might require them to learn anything new, even if it was easier. I understand that. Westercon and WSFS Business Meetings tend to be fundamentally conservative in the sense of "reluctant to change," not in the US political philosophy sense.

So change comes slowly and incrementally. Abuse of Objection to Consideration, and the unseemly behavior of people deploying it against every single proposal, led to the WSFS Business Meeting agreeing to make OTC a higher hurdle (3/4 vote instead of 2/3) and allowing the use of Postpone Indefinitely (previously banned under WSFS rules) as a motion with limited debate, allowing for a short debate about why something is worth discussing, but allowing 2/3 of the members to kill the proposal after that short debate.

WSFS rules are complicated because the people who attend the meetings have effectively voted for complexity, but also because some of the complexity is required to protect the rights of members, both individually and in groups, and including the members who aren't even at the meeting. If you have a better way for deciding how we should run things, the onus is on you to propose something. As long as you just complain that "it's too complicated," without proposing something both easier and workable, don't expect to be taken seriously.
kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
Thanks to people pointing out typographical errors in the captions, I've created and uploaded a revised version of the Business Meeting Basics video:

Giving you the (Revised) Business )

Because you can't replace an existing YouTube video, and people will have seen the earlier link, I've left the original in place and put a note on it pointing people to the corrected version.
kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
An conversational exchange I had recently showed that some people think that everything related to the WSFS Business Meeting requires two consecutive years' votes to take effect. This is not true.

Don't Make Me Use This! )

Changing the WSFS Constitution requires the vote of two consecutive years' WSFS Business Meetings. The second year's meeting may change what the first meeting passed, as long as the changes do not increase the scope of the amendment. (Deciding what represents an increase in scope is not always obvious.) The WSFS Constitution includes the definition of the Hugo Award categories and the process for administering them, the mechanism for choosing future Worldcon sites, and a bunch of other, smaller things that I need not go into here.

WSFS Constitutional Neepery and Resolutions )

I suggested to the 2017 bidders that they may want to jointly propose a resolution to this year's Business Meeting giving themselves a bit more "headroom" to raise their Supporting Membership cost, possibly as high as $60. So far, I've not heard back from anyone, so I guess they're content to stick to not more than $50, which is what MidAmericon II is charging.
kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
In my mailbox on Friday was a package containing this book, which I was unable to buy in person at any bookstore in Reno/Sparks that I checked.

The Latest Edition )

RONR 11, as the book is abbreviated, is 669 pages of main text not counting the index, a 50-page introduction on the history and development of parliamentary law, and a 48-page procedural supplement. I'm now in the process of re-reading the whole thing cover-to-cover, which I have not done in some years.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
Because of a comment on the File 770 web site, I find that I'd better write about the subject of when the Business Meeting in Spokane will or might consider specific items, because it would appear some folks are taking this spot as the journal of record on such things.

Parliamentary Neepery about Business Meeting Scheduling )

So it's possible for the meeting to put off consideration of proposals until Day 5, the morning after the Hugo Award Ceremony. How could it do this?

Agenda-Setting Mechanisms )

I hope this explanation makes sense. It gets into a number of the finer points of parliamentary detail, but given the complexity of the tasks we may fact this year, I think it important that people understand what tools they have at their disposal.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
The 2014 WSFS Business Meeting page on the Loncon 3 web site has the current draft of the agenda including all of the new business submitted. Popular Ratification is there, but so are a whole lot of other proposals. When you throw in the number of items up for ratification, we may find that we will have to use the Sunday Business Meeting for more that just ceremonial functions. There's even a non-zero chance that we could end up using the Monday "overflow" session.

There are a pair of proposals coming out of the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee (think of it as a kinder, gentler Rules Committee) that I helped author:

1. Raise the kill-without-any-debate vote requirement on Objection to Consideration from 2/3 to 3/4.

2. Modify the currently banned (but available by suspending the rules by 2/3 vote) Postpone Indefinitely so that it's allowed at the Preliminary Business Meeting, requires 2/3 vote, and has 4 minutes debate time.

These two proposals are loosely linked. The NPSFC thinks that Objection to Consideration (which can interrupt someone else who has been assigned the floor at the initial introduction of a new proposal) is over-used, but recognizes the need for the Preliminary Business Meeting to weed out obvious non-starters from consideration at the Main Business Meeting.

Postpone Indefinitely is an incidental motion that kills whatever it's applied to for the duration of that meeting (which in WSFS's case means that Worldcon because all of the meetings at a single Worldcon are considered one legislative "session" for procedural purposes). In its ordinary form, it's debatable and requires only a majority vote. However, it was apparently commonly used in the days of WSFS meetings before I arrived in 1984 to give opponents of a motion who had exhausted their right to debate additional cracks at a proposal, and therefore is banned by WSFS standing rule. You can however move to "suspend the rules and postpone indefinitely," which requires a 2/3 vote and is not debatable. We've done this occasionally, but most WSFS regulars seem more entranced with the 16-ton parliamentary weight of Objection to Consideration, and there are individual members who appear to take positive delight in jumping to their feet and screaming "Objection to Consideration!" at almost every new proposal.

I would like to see these two rule changes pass so that OTC can return to being something used only against proposals that could be actively harmful to WSFS to even discuss, not simply used as a way to suppress proposals that are unpopular. Allowing two minutes debate for and against Postpone Indefinitely at the Preliminary Business Meeting would, in effect, give one person the chance to say why the proposal is not worth encumbering the limited debate time of the Main Meeting, while one other (presumably the primary proponent) would have one two-minute shot at making a case for the consideration of the proposal.

Despite those people who seem to believe I'm there to obfuscate and confuse and keep people out with exclusionary actions, I really am sensitive to the complaints that newcomers are coming to the Business Meeting in good faith and are then coming away feeling like they've been hit over the head by a bunch of old fogeys who won't even listen to a single word about why we should consider a proposal. On the other hand, I am impatient with those people who think that every single attendee should have the right to speak for a minute or two on every proposal, "Like at a city council meeting," when those people don't seem to realize that (a) we'd have a twelve-hour-long Business Meeting if that happened and (b) This is a Town Meeting, not a city council: the people up on the head table aren't the ones making the decisions — every single person in the room is part of the legislative body. There's a fundamental difference involved here that I think shoots over the heads of people not familiar with direct democracy and only familiar with lobbying elected officials.

Majorities have rights just like minorities do, and one of the rights a super-majority (2/3 or more of the voters present) has is to not have their time wasted. One of the challenges of parliamentary rule-making is to balance the rights of majorities, minorities, individuals, and absentees. I think that allowing a brief debate on whether a given proposal is worth even discussing in full balances the rights of individuals to propose business against the right of the majority to not subject themselves to a pointless debate on a proposal that clearly is going to fail by a super-majority.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
Yesterday, in my proposal to subject all Hugo Award categories to periodic re-ratification, I made a point of saying that when such proposals are submitted to the members (including the non-attending WSFS members), there is no minimum vote requirement. To be ratified, you simply have to get more yes votes than no votes. At least one person appears to be troubled by this and suggests a minimum number of votes be required. Here's why I object to all such requirements:

Parliamentary Philosophy Ahead )
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
Yesterday I wrote about Objection to Consideration and how it lands on new business like a 16-ton weight. It is particularly jarring to newcomers who haven't been to previous meetings and have a tendency to take it personally when a bunch of Usual Suspects jump up and yell "Objection" the moment their proposals come to floor, before they've even had a chance to make their opening argument. As I pointed out yesterday, that's because you must object at the very first chance or you can't do it at all, and we end up mis-using the motion (which really is supposed to only be used against personal attacks and issues that might be harmful to the organization to even debate) because it's the only tool left in the WSFS parliamentary bag for dealing with proposals that have little hope of ever passing and are likely to clutter the agenda needlessly.

But Why Don't We Have Those Other Tools? )

Can't We Just Table That? )

I have been persuaded that WSFS has gone overboard in its zeal to suppress business-killing motions, to its detriment. Consequently, I'm thinking of introducing a rules change to next year's Business Meeting to allow Postpone Indefinitely to be made once again, at least in a limited form.

Give Speech a Chance )

I do not think that giving proponents of a motion two minutes to make their basic case for the mere consideration of a proposal is going to cause WSFS to fall apart. Furthermore, there's a chance that if such a process had been in place this year, the proponents of the YA Hugo (who appear to have taken the most offense over being OTC'd) could have said, "We'd like to refer this to a committee to report back next year, but the rules won't let us do so until the Main Meeting, so could you please give us that much of a chance?" Having their motion killed without even being able to tell people, "We know this needs more work and would like to work with the rest of you to study it further" might have seemed a lot less intimidating and threatening than the FOAD way that Objection to Consideration appears to a newcomer. Veterans of the Business Meeting have come to understand that OTC is a standard hazard of new business and try not to take personal offense at it, but I'm not sure it's that reasonable to make an implicit assumption that you shouldn't even dare participate until you've attended four or five years' worth of Business Meetings.

Here's something else that my proposal would require, and it's not something that can easily be done by rule, but by persuasion and by the Chair clamping down on the misuse of OTC. If Postpone Indefinitely is once again legal at the Business Meeting, people who have gotten used to using OTC to kill motions would need to learn a new process and accept that proponents can have at least one chance to make the case for the consideration of their proposals. OTC would (and I think should) be restricted to reprehensible and personally objectionable proposals like the "Chris Carrier" motions I discussed yesterday. That's not easy to do, but I know that if this rule change passes this year in London, I would make it clear that as the 2015 Business Meeting Chair I will consider most OTC attempts to actually be motions to Postpone Indefinitely. The meeting could of course overrule me, but it's difficult to prevent "runaways" when the meeting is packed full of willful people.

I know that not all of you are WSFS rules geeks like I am. Did this explanation make sense? Does the proposal sound reasonable to you? I floated it yesterday on the List That Shall Not Be Named, and got a mixed reaction on both substantive and technical grounds. I mostly reject the technical grounds except to add the phrase "(Strike from the Agenda)" as an alternative name for Postpone Indefinitely the same way "Call the Question, Close Debate, or Vote Now" are all alternative names for the parliamentary term of art "Previous Question." Yes, it might take a little bit of time for the Usual Suspects to get used to new procedures, but they reacted badly to Filling Blanks and Serpentine Voting the first time those ideas were shown to them, whereas today we take such things for granted.

I think we can afford to concede people two minutes in return for not looking like a bunch of pompous, arrogant, hidebound conservatives with wax in our ears.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
The WSFS Business Meeting is taking a fair amount of abuse for using a parliamentary rules manual (Robert's Rules of Order, the most common, but not the only such manual) for its formal decision-making process.

WSFS actually manages only two things of significant importance: The Hugo Awards rules and the rules for selecting future Worldcon sites. (There are other things, which I can detail upon request.) Everything else about how Worldcons are run is done by the individual Worldcon committees.

So, before I hit the road for El Paso, I leave this question before you all: Direct Democracy as WSFS practices it is extremely messy. If you were allowed to change things to suit yourself (other than simply saying, "I'm King and You'll All Required to do what I say when I say it"), how would you change the governance process for the Hugo Awards and Site Selection rules?

Come up with a better system that doesn't have the flaws you perceive are present in the current system. Please.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF Zone)
Although LoneStarCon 3 starts two weeks from yesterday, the deadline for submitting new proposals (constitutional amendments or other resolutions) to the WSFS Business Meeting is fourteen days before the Preliminary Business Meeting, which in this case means today is your last chance to further muddy the parliamentary waters. The Business Meeting Secretary (acting to clarify the deadline) has set the end of today her time (thus one minute after 23:59 PDT August 16, 2013) as the deadline for sending proposals to the 2013 WSFS Business Meeting (instructions there for how to do so; you send the document to a specified address).

To clarify something else I saw today: The Preliminary Business Meeting can amend proposals that come before it, and proposed amendments need not be merely technical. They can, as in the case of the proposed amendment to Lisa's Publications amendment be opposed to the maker's intent. There is also no such thing as a "friendly" amendment. Prior to a motion coming before the meeting, the maker can modify it. After it reaches the floor, it doesn't belong to the maker anymore. (We sometimes still call something, "Ms. H's proposal" for convenience, but she doesn't own it.) The meeting has to agree to any changes. Such changes need not be done in full-blown amendment form. Small changes or easily-understood technical changes commonly can be handled by unanimous consent, particularly if it's blindingly obvious that nobody objects and everyone understands that the change is to make a motion clearer. But in any event, once the motion is on the floor, the fact that the maker dislikes any proposed changes to it makes as much difference as any other member's opposition.

I hammer away on this point because so-called "friendly amendments" are a part of "sandlot parliamentary procedure" that I wish would go off and die. They may be well-intentioned, but they send the completely wrong message that somehow the maker of a motion has special rights to control the content of his or her motion. The maker of a motion has exactly one right: priority in recognition. That is, the maker of a motion is entitled to be the first person to speak in favor of the motion. However, once s/he has used that right, s/he does not have any special right of recognition thereafter. I will admit that, debate time permitting, I have suggested that the makers of motions "close" their argument, giving them a second shot at the debate, but I only do that when there is enough time for it and when nobody else is asking for the floor to debate the motion.

Incidentally, while debate at the Preliminary Business Meeting is not intended to be on the merits of a main motion, when anyone is proposing a substitute or an amendment that reverses the intent of a proposal, by its very nature, the debate on the subject is going to have to go into the merits of the original proposal, but only because when you speak against the amendments to the main proposal, you are generally speaking for the original proposal, and you have to make a case for it. What you can't do is go off on tangents into areas not touched by the proposed change. For instance, Lisa's Publications amendment says that Worldcons need not provide paper publications in a membership, but must provide paper publications upon request and at a reasonable cost. The foreshadowed amendment strikes out the requirement to provide paper publications. Debate on whether or not paper should be required upon request is germane. Debate on what sort of formats of electronic distribution would be acceptable, or whether it's a good idea at all to give Worldcons the freedom proposed by the original proposal, is not germane and will be called out of order.

Yeah, I know, it's complicated. But since we don't have a Strong Man of Fandom who makes all of the decisions for you, we have to have a method of debating changes that gives everyone a chance (within reason) and plays fair. Making laws and sausage, however, is not always pretty.
kevin_standlee: (WSFS Logo)
I have formally submitted the Decoupling Publications Amendment to the 2013 WSFS Business Meeting on behalf of its lead advocate, Lisa Hayes. As I hope y'all know by now, it removes the requirement that Worldcons must provide paper versions of their publications by default, but requires them to provide paper copies (at approximately their production and distribution cost) to members who request them.

I'm informed that there will be an amendment introduced to it at the Preliminary Business Meeting to strike out the words that it adds to the Constitution; that is, if the amendment passes, then all that will be left is striking out section 1.5.3. This would allow (but not require) Worldcons to drop paper publications as part of a membership's default package, but would not require them to provide paper publications if they decide to go all electronic. It would not require conventions to discontinue all paper publications, but it would permit it. Like many other things having to do with Worldcons, it would be up to the Worldcon to decide whether or not to do it.

Personally, I can live with it either way, and indeed, my original suggestions in this matter was do do exactly what this does: delete 1.5.3 and leave it up to Worldcons to decide what to do. But this motion is actually Lisa's, and she's concerned that Worldcons would immediately scrap all paper publications and say to people who don't have computers and e-mail, "Who cares? Stop bothering us." I don't know how she'll react to it.

I know that I will vote in favor of either the motion I've submitted on Lisa's behalf or the version that would be there if the amendment to be laid onto it passes, although as an interim transition to a speculated no-paper future, I think the proposal as it initially is written is better.

Note, however, that I haven't acted as if it were "shenanigans" to move amendments to the proposal I co-authored. I even consulted with the person who will be making the amendment to see if we can get it into the simplest parliamentary form. While the amendment is "hostile" inasmuch as it significantly changes the original proposal (to the point that it is possible the proposal's original author would vote against it), there's nothing unethical or underhanded about doing so. I say this because the author of the motion now titled "No Representation Without Taxation" accused me of "shenanigans" when I suggested amending her proposal to also include the deletion of 1.5.3 because I considered the two subjects deeply linked. She also informed me that it was all about my ego.

I make no secret that I will use the rules to attempt to get my way, and that I will encourage people who agree with me to come and support me. I will offer compromises to try and get some of the things I want in exchange for giving people some of what they want. But if your attitude is, "I don't have to compromise, because I Am Right" or somehow consider all forms of negotiation to be "politics," with the implication that "all politics of any form whatsoever is Evil," then you end up setting yourself up for all-or-nothing battles. Personally, I think that's a bad idea, but maybe you'd rather have no loaf than half of one.
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
Because I've seen various misunderstandings of what a majority is, I'm going to write about it here, to suit myself.

It's not 50% + 1 )

You can of course adopt your own special rules that give special definitions for how many votes it takes to pass something or for someone to be elected, but the figures here are the defaults in general parliamentary law, and when you use any of the words in an unqualified way, this is what you should be expecting.
kevin_standlee: (Not Sensible)
The blog post to which I'm responding has a title of "To the Hugo Defenders: Check Your Financial Privilege at the Door" that is easily searchable. I won't link to it because it would appear that links are triggering malware detectors for reasons unclear to all concerned, but you can find it.

I'm also trying to avoid answering every single point raised over there because that's apparently "flood posting" and part of the "policing the discussion" and "discouraging participation" thing. But this is my LiveJournal, so me writing stuff here is not flooding someone else's site, only my own, for which I've paid. (I'm a Permanent Paid LJ account holder, which is why I'm reluctant to move.) I shall even put the bulk of the post behind a cut-tag, so if you're fed up with this annual discussion, you're welcome to scroll right past it.

Misunderstanding what 'democracy' means. Warning: I do ramble on quite a bit here. )

In essence, being a resident of Science Fiction Fandom does not make you a citizen of the World Science Fiction Society, any more than my being a resident of Fernley made me a citizen of Nevada.
kevin_standlee: (Not Sensible)
I find myself wondering what Jonathan McAlmont and Danny O'Dare do to put bread on the table, and musing over whether whatever that is compared to my Day Jobbe is one of the reasons we are talking past each other to the point where I have taken Mary Kay Kare's advice about saying anything else over there. (In short, I am "Just [letting] people be wrong on the Internet…", as he asks.)

My Day Jobbe, which I should be doing right now and will be again in a few minutes, is a computer database programmer. I primarily write and maintain Microsoft Access-based small database application for quick deployment. (Warning: People who snark that Access isn't a "real database" will be considered discussion derailers and treated accordingly. I'm allowed to do that on my home turf, evil person that I am.) Being a programmer gives me a certain view of how I approach the world, process-wise. The character traits that led me into computer solutions engineering possibly are what drew me to an interest in parliamentary law, which is also a large rule-set that a knowledgeable person can "program" to accomplish certain tasks. I find satisfaction when the rules have been followed and everyone has had their say within those rules, even if I don't necessarily get my way. (Besides, if I lose, I often have a way to come back another day when the conditions have changed.) That doesn't necessarily mean I like the result, but if the decision was legal, I have no grounds for attacking on that basis.

(Example: the Mark Protection Committee's decisions in Australia in 2011 2010 were legal within the rules framework, even though their substance infuriated me. I therefore worked within that same framework to overturn the decision legally. I never claimed the decision was illegitimate, only ill-advised, and I'd have a very difficult time having a meaningful discussion with someone who doesn't see the difference.)

Not everyone thinks rules are worthwhile. That doesn't make them inherently evil (c.f. the Dungeons & Dragons "chaotic good" alignment; I'm probably lawful good on that scale, recognizing that paladins and their ilk can be a right pain to be around), but it often makes it nearly impossible for me to have a useful debate with them, on account of we differ so badly on basic assumptions. It's as though I brought a golf club and they have a tennis racquet, and we're standing in the middle of cricket pitch trying to play the game. (Of course, being adverse to rules, they probably aren't interested in any competitive sports anyway, but that's another story.)

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