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December 2, 2008

A different kind of “political science”
Posted by Patrick at 02:28 PM * 175 comments

Commenting on the previous post, Yorkshire Ranter Alex contributes to our understanding of Canadian parliamentary procedure—specifically, “the critical paths involved in an unplanned change of government in a Westminster-type constitution.”

…In normal working prorogation is just the precondition to dissolution, which ends one parliament. Dissolution causes the writ of election to be served, which requires a general election to be held within two months. The general election creates the new parliament, which then convenes to hear the Queen’s speech, which contains the legislative programme for the next year, and take a vote. Formally, this vote is what prevents a PM with no majority governing, but in practice it never gets that far.

(Told you it had a flavour of telecoms engineering, if not a biological signalling cascade :-) )

If the prime minister wants to call an election, he or she has to ask their local distributed queenship node for prorogation and therefore dissolution. Once (year - year_lastelection)== 5, the prorogation subroutine executes automatically.

Things get interesting, though, in the case of event-driven prorogation. The PM, and the Government, serve at the pleasure of their local queenship node and during the confidence of a majority in the lower house of Parliament. In the event they lose one of certain types of parliamentary votes (either an explicit vote of confidence, or one on the budget or on the use of already-committed public funds), this condition is no longer satisfied and signal NOCONFIDENCE is raised.

At this point it gets complicated! Not much after that is set down in the documentation for the Westminster API, and it is left up to the implementation. In practice, the canonical version (Westminster 1.0) works like this:

The PM stays PM until he resigns or is ordered out by the local queenship node, thus guaranteeing continuous government.

This means that a PM who trips a NOCONF signal can have a second attempt to form a coalition government (Ted Heath tried this in 1974) or talk the rebel MPs round (John Major did this in 1993). It is necessary to successfully call a confidence vote in this case.

If this fails, however, the Leader of the Opposition is called by the local queenship node to try to form a government FIRST, if it thinks it is possible. If not, or if the Opposition tries and fails, we go to the prorogation subroutine. It is also possible for the PM to ask for a new election, but this is only granted if the PM has attempted to govern with the existing parliament.

As a general rule in all other cases, the largest party is called first.

The Australian implementation differed substantially until its LDQN experienced a partisanship segmentation fault in 1975 and refused PM Gough Whitlam a dissolution after the upper house blocked a supply bill, choosing instead to call Malcolm Fraser, whom it promptly granted the dissolution to. The Australians later legislated to disconnect the malfunctioning LDQN and fix the bug.

I would think that if Harper thinks he can just prorogue and then dis-prorogue without initiating the election process, he’s deluded, and is suggesting a grossly unconstitutional act. I would hope the LDQN functions correctly :-)

Comments on A different kind of "political science":
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 02:51 PM:

I assume that the LDQN is normally referred to as the GG.

Did the Australians fix the bug and reconnect their LDQN, or have they simply bypassed that service entirely?

#2 ::: Zvi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Wonderful.

Minor nitpick (a static value was changed in the code -- should probably be a declared variable):
"Once (year - year_lastelection)== 5, the prorogation subroutine executes automatically."

== 4 in Canada, as we now have semi-fixed election dates.

An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (formerly Bill C-16) received royal assent on May 3, 2007.

Bill C-16 introduced the following amendments to the Canada Elections Act:

* Subject to an earlier dissolution of Parliament, a general election must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following a previous general election, with the first general election to be held on Monday, October 19, 2009.

http://www.elections.ca/content.asp?section=loi&document=amendc16&dir=leg/fel&lang=e&textonly=false

#3 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 02:59 PM:

Yay on Patrick for promoting this!

I was just thinking it would be a good way to approach structural reforms in general....

#4 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 03:05 PM:

Xopher @1 here in the UK the LDQN is HM.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 03:10 PM:

But that's quite rare as LDQN-having systems go, yes? So it's

if (country == UK)
   LDQN = HM
else
   LDQN = GG;
Correct?

#6 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Xopher @5 --

Well, no; it's not quite that simple.

if (country() == UK )
LDQN = HM
elseif
( member(@COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS,country())
and location(HM) == $HERE )
LDQN = HM
else
LDQN = GG;

Note that it's actually more complicated; as a legal entity, there is a Queen of each Canadian Province who is not the Queen of Canada, frex. This is because each instance of a Westminster Parliament has to have its own LDQN in order to function correctly.

The definition of COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS isn't utterly straightforward, either.

#7 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 03:44 PM:

So we first need to lookup our locale and from that we can determine the value of LDQN. Internationalization is easy if you build it in from the beginning; hard otherwise.

#8 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 03:46 PM:

IHNC, IJLTS: "Local Distributed Queenship Node".

Wait, I do have a comment: that should be Local Distributed Monarchial Node, for when Charles (or conceivably William) becomes the instantiation of the global monarchial node, so that this web article thingy doesn't become hopelessly outdated, and then, later, charmingly of a certain period, because We Would All Hate That.

#9 ::: Roger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:03 PM:

A bit of wisdom from Wikipedia might be helpful:

"A session of Parliament, having been formally opened, continues until a "prorogation" brings about its conclusion. Prorogation is generally achieved by a proclamation of the Governor General, again issued on the advice of the Prime Minister. Having been prorogued, each House does not conduct any further business until the Governor General issues another proclamation for a new session.

Each Parliament, after a number of sessions, comes to an end, usually by a "dissolution"."

Recent parliaments and their sessions:

39th Canadian Parliament: April 3, 2006 -- September 7, 2008. Sessions: two.

38th Canadian Parliament: October 4, 2004 -- November 29, 2005. Sessions: one.

37th Canadian Parliament: January 29, 2001 -- May 23, 2004. Sessions: three.


Hopefully that makes it clear that:

1. Prorogation ends a session, but does not dissolve the government.

2. Elected governments have requested prorogation in the past and received them, without incident, and without triggering new elections.

3. The only person who can actually prorogue the government is the Governor-General; it may be technically possible for Her Excellency to engage in "grossly unconstitutional acts", but is seems unlikely.

#10 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:12 PM:

I'm not sure what you mean by COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS, but I think I was assuming Canada. Still, we do have to account for the presence of HM, so good correction on that. But your code has the result of making the GG the LDQN for the United States, since the value of member(@COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS,country()) is FALSE.

Assuming COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS includes the UK itself, I think we need

if (member(@COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS,country()))
   if (country() == UK )
      LDQN = HM
   elseif ishere(location(HM),*Parliament_Location_array)
      LDQN = HM
   else
      LDQN = GG(parliament);
else
   return(NOT_COMMONWEALTH);
...where Parliament_Location_array is a list of all the places the parliament in question covers, and where HM could be. This takes care of the provinces as well. I've assumed that each province has its own GG, hence I've made GG a function that returns the person who is the GG in each particular instance.

#11 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:16 PM:

More serious question: if HM is out of the country, is there anyone who can open the UK parliament? Is there a rarely-used LDQN for that circumstance?

#12 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Xopher in 10 and 11:

GG the LDQN for the United States

Well, technically, should the rebellious parts of British North America renounce their disobedient state...

(This is the kind of technically that has some rocks in the Channel belong to the Queen because she's the Duke of Normandy.)

COMMONWEALTH_DOMINIONS does not include the UK. It's a subset of COMMONWEALTH, which is pretty complicated. Can't even use CELEBRATES_VICKIS_BIRTHDAY, because I am not sure the Australians or New Zealanders do that.

So far as traveling monarchs go, these days, it doesn't come up, because the travel is rapid and by air, but HM can delegate vice-regal power in the expectation of a long absence.

It was very rare before rapid travel and instantaneous communication; one sent the heir around the Empire, but once crowned they stayed home.

GGs for provinces are Lieutenant Governors.

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Xopher #11: Certainly. In the case of the incapacity of the monarch, precedent exists for Parliament to create a regency. If by 'out of the country' you mean that the monarch has done a bunker, there's an even earlier precedent (the Glorious Revolution, it's called) for Parliament to declare the throne vacant and offer the monarchy to the person it deems qualified to succeed to the throne.

If, on the other hand, the monarch is out of the country on some normal occasion, the state opening of Parliament would probably just be delayed.

In most dominions, there exist provisions for an office of Acting Governor General (in one case known to me, a role generally played by the Chief Justice) in the event that the GG is absent or incapable.

#14 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Wasn't that the Australian problem a result of the GovernorGeneral class being derived from the Monarch class instead of from ConstitutionalMonarch? When the unusual circumstances resulted in a call to the running object's should-have-been-deprecated method dismissGovernment(), it executed - much to the surprise of the system designers.

Watch those class hierarchies, programmers!

#15 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:47 PM:

I was actually thinking that the distributed head of state protocol is better thought of as similar to DNS. Each LDQN is authoritative for their own zone, and this includes the ability to subdelegate authority to smaller zones. The root zone DQN is an old lady from Windsor; however she is also the authoritative LDQN for the UK.

This is constitutionally quite accurate, as all executive power is theoretically delegated from your LDQN, and if you're an LDQN, from the root DQN. It's also possible to CNAME the source of authority - Canadian provinces theoretically look up the root zone DQN first but are CNAMEd to their LDQN, as do Australian states. (If the federal state was to vanish, presumably this provides redundancy.)

The Statute of Westminster and the various 1970s Australian and Canadian legislation which fixed the anomaly under which the UK could still legislate for Australian province are rather like the process of carving out the national TLDs from the US root zone.

To be more specific, authority originates in the Crown in Parliament, which in this case is kinda similar to Jon Postel. Note that the Crown is not enough - you've got to have Parliament as well.

After all, the British monarchy is not based on the divine right of kings, or on who seized the Roman governor's palace and persuaded the bishop to back him, but on an Act of Parliament, specifically the Act of Settlement - in a sense it's a Germanic elective monarchy with an unusually long time-to-live value. The requirement that the root DQN operator be defined by the Protestant succession of the Electress Sophia of Hannover in the male line is entirely legislative.

(Yes. Hannover. Electress. Yes. It's weird. You want 25 to 31 dreadnought battleships depending on serviceability rates with that?)

It's also true that the editors of Erskine May are probably the only people who know how it works. We must be the only nation on earth whose constitution is not only unwritten but privately owned. No. I just looked him up on Wikipedia and it doesn't seem at all clear who currently edits it. OK, we must be the only nation on earth whose constitution is distributed, only partly canonical, of unclear ownership, not necessarily maintained, and poorly documented. It's an open-source project!

(Yes, it's weird. You want an estimated 200 Trident MIRVs with that?)

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:47 PM:

Spoken like a true tester, Xopher.

#17 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:50 PM:

When I was small, I heard "Lieutenant Governor" as "Left-handed Governor" which as a young left-hander, I thought was awesome - a position only lefties could fill!

Alas, this is not how qualifications for the position are assessed...

(This won't make sense to Americans, who grossly mispronounce "lieutenant"... use the British/Canuck/ANZAC pronounciation to get the joke.)

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:51 PM:

Alex #15: It's also true that the editors of Erskine May are probably the only people who know how it works. We must be the only nation on earth whose constitution is not only unwritten but privately owned. No. I just looked him up on Wikipedia and it doesn't seem at all clear who currently edits it. OK, we must be the only nation on earth whose constitution is distributed, only partly canonical, of unclear ownership, not necessarily maintained, and poorly documented. It's an open-source project!

You might want to add 'and contains jokes' (e.g., anent 'the Speaker's Chop').

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:53 PM:

Graydon #12: The Caribbean Dominions don't celebrate Victoria's Birthday either (though they do tend to have public holidays around the former Empire Day, e.g. Jamaican Labour Day).

#20 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 04:59 PM:

I think the Australians legislated to set down the procedure for dissolving Parliament more explicitly after the 1975 kernel panic. I believe it still uses an LQDN.

Explicit is, as they say, better than implicit. Which is a horrible thought. In that case there is a *lot* of refactoring to do.

#21 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:08 PM:

Actually, I don't think of the GG as being a DNS server; more like a filtering proxy server (to keep Brenda from having to do everything in person). But yeah, it's a nice metaphor we're growing here.

Apropos nothing, Reuters coverage is evolving, but their post on the subject earlier this evening was woefully biased in favour of Harper.

#22 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:29 PM:

It's traditional that when the ruling party loses a 'three-line whip," then the PM has to submit his resignation and call new elections. Legend has it that Ted Heath tried to brazen it out after losing such a vote, and was called to the palace and told by the Queen that he *would* resign...

#23 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Roger @9 --

You request the Governor General prorogue the current session when you've either given up on, or have completed, the legislative agenda set out in your throne speech.

The government is whomever a majority of the MPs say it is. It is not in any inherent way held by the party that happened to get the most votes in the most recent election.

So if you request that parliament be prorogued to avoid a confidence vote, you are admitting you've lost the confidence of Parliament but are trying to avoid having the actual vote happen so you can still claim to be in charge. That won't do; the proper options if you've lost confidence are to go and tell the Governor General that you have done so.

The Governor General then, by hallowed tradition, asks the leader of the opposition if they can form a government with the confidence of Parliament. In this case, as is rarely the case, the answer to that is yes.

Only after the Leader of the Opposition says no does the Governor General call an election.

Harper is trying to avoid step one and pretend step two doesn't exist. He doesn't get to do that.

#24 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:35 PM:

What are the scoping rules on LDQNs? If HM sets foot in Canada, for instance--presumably she outranks the GG, right? Assuming a faulty LDQN, would it be a viable hacking strategy to lure HM to $commonwealth and *then* raise NOCONF?

#25 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:46 PM:

Nicole @24
PM Gough Whitlam reportedly tried to bypass the rogue LDQN in 1975 in Australia, by contacting HM direct and asking her to disable the LDQN before he could act to ask the Opposition Leader to form a government. Meanwhile, Labor members of the Senate were trying to use arcane parliamentary procedure to get the budget bills passed while conservative Senators thought their party was about to be in power. It didn't work, because HM declined to intervene.

We also have local LDQNs in the States, called Governors. One of them has dismissed an elected government too, in 1932, when the Premier of NSW decided to forgo payments on British loans. That was a very clear case of LDQN activity in the interests of Great Britain and not New South Wales. When our Governor General is away, a State Governor steps up into the position.

#26 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:47 PM:

I see this was implicitly covered in the DNS analogy; which, if I'm understanding things right, means that HM, after her zone transfer, would be the new master LDQN in Canada.

Never mind...

#27 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:51 PM:

Emma@25: It didn't work, because HM declined to intervene.

I suspected that would be the case--smart monarchial move, really--but was trying to work out if HM was locally or globally scoped.

Thanks for the update on sub-GG level LDQNs.

#28 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:52 PM:

Thank goodness I now know enough OOP to follow the jokey goodness herein. Knew all that education I've been cramming into my head recently was good for something....

#29 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:53 PM:

Nicole TWN --

If the Queen is here, the Governor General ceases to function as the Governor General, and indeed royal visits often involve opening parliament by the actual royal.

It's not so much outranks the governor general as the governor general is an instance of the monarch which does not operate in the presence of the monarch, because that would be silly.

I have a lot of trouble imagining the sort of situation that would result in a Royal Visit -- they are planned well in advance -- and a non-confidence vote. If it did happen, the person making the call on what to do would be the monarch, rather than the governor general. (Well, possibly; it might involve kernel panic on the part of protocol advisers, too.)

One of the things that hasn't come up in these threads is that Harper has issues with women. Michaelle Jean is bad enough; having Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, show up and tell him he's not allowed to do something would constitute a rare spectacle.

#30 ::: Roger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 05:59 PM:

Graydon @23:

It's purely the GG's call as to whether to prorogue the parliamentary session or not, and it's purely her call whether to call for an election or not.

These things cannot be pinned on Harper. They are outside his bailiwick.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:07 PM:

abi 16: Spoken like a true tester, Xopher.

*bows*

You can take the boy out of the testing job but you can't take the testing job out of the boy.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:14 PM:

Note that HM can also have interesting effects on the courts, since judges derive their authority from the same root node.

The Regency Act 1937 provides for situations where the monarch is absent from the UK or incapacitated. The accession of Queen Elizabeth is complicated.

#33 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:15 PM:

If Her Majesty the Queen is in the Dominion, then the Governor-General becomes redundant, but Her Majesty the Queen has all the same rights and duties as the G-G would.

Therefore, HMQ is exactly the same as the G-G, no matter what -- excepting faults, in which case you resort to the off switch, and start from scratch. (See 1688 and 1649.)

The really good bit is when HMQ crosses the Scottish border; she then stops believing in Bishops, while still being the Queen of Great Britain. This is much stranger than the normal Queen of x distinction.

The one difficulty is the Whitlam case, which involved incredibly dodgy goings-on.

The other fun part is that the Queen has some rights which she only exercises on advice of the Ministers, and some rights she personally exercises. People sometimes have difficulty telling them apart.

#34 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Legend has it that Ted Heath tried to brazen it out after losing such a vote, and was called to the palace and told by the Queen that he *would* resign...

No - you need to look at the comments to the code.

Heath called Parliament.dissolve() in February 1974, and the LDQN returned True. The arguments passed to $citizen were "Who governs Britain?" with SUBTEXT set to "Please say: Not the National Union of Mineworkers". $citizen returned "Not you, but we're not sure who".

This resulted in Heath attempting to stay in power and form a coalition government with the Liberals and the Ulster Unionists in order to avoid a NOCONF. Correctly, the LDQN permitted this, and after talks between Heath and the Liberals broke down, it set PrimeMinister=(LeaderOpposition). The situation was complicated by the fact that the Opposition didn't have a majority either, although they were the biggest party.

However, it is true that the rather thin specification of class ChangeGovernment in this context nearly caused trouble, and the system administrators (the Cabinet Secretary and the Queen's Private Secretary) had to watch the process closely. In the event, Wilson ran a minority government for some months, helped by the fact that

while Month in (July, August, September):
..Parliament.sleep()

and then called Parliament.dissolve(), which resulted in a small majority. The rest is history.

#35 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:43 PM:

There is an interesting corner case; what if the Root DQN is located in a particular LDQN's zone when something occurs that invokes event-driven prorogation?

After all, if Liz 2 had been in Australia at the time of the Whitlam/Kerr crisis, she would have been legally authoritative. This might have prevented the highly illegal outcome (after all, the last two uses of LDQN political functionality in Westminster 1.0 both ended in a Labour Government) but it might have been...tasty in terms of public opinion.

Oddly, the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland didn't disturb the system at all. All of these instantiated new LDQNs within the UK zone - the Presiding Officer of the respective parliaments has LQDN-like functionality. They have experienced coalition and minority governments, without anything strange happening. This is probably because they have all subclassed the default ChangeGovernment to provide a more explicit ruleset.

#36 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:52 PM:

Australia's new(ish) government is likely to try and break the connection to the root DQN, by moving towards a republican constitution. We tried this once before, and it failed, largely because the anti-monarchy forces were divided over how to replace the LDQN. It now seems that the monarchy here is likely to last until the current incumbent shuffles off the mortal coil, and arrangements will then be made to replace the LDQN, with an elected or appointed ceremonial parliament-opening officer, with no real powers. This seems pretty popular, although the difficulties of changing the Australian Constitution remain (it requires an absolute majority of voters, in an absolute majority of states, which is very hard to achieve, and gives the smaller states huge leverage).
I can't do the programming talk to describe this solution, but maybe someone else can.

#37 ::: KeithM ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:54 PM:

The Statute of Westminster and the various 1970s Australian and Canadian legislation which fixed the anomaly under which the UK could still legislate for Australian province are rather like the process of carving out the national TLDs from the US root zone.

Note also that the Westminister programming guidelines dictate that a change in the Master (Mistress?) LDQN requires a check against the COMMONWEALTH entities where the LDQN has a role. Specifically, a Monarch.Change() carried out by entity UK which falls outside the established routine Crown.NextInLine() does not immediately propagate through the network unless each applicable COMMONWEALTH entity returns True. If the return is FALSE, then for that section of the COMMONWEALTH code, Crown.NextInLine() still executes and is in effect regardless of what Monarch.Change() produces.

#38 ::: JayBlanc ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:59 PM:

What confuses me in the current SVN development branch for Canadian-Parliament 7.0.41 is that someone is trying to cast party.nat.bloc as both a member of government.coalition and parliament.opposition at the same time.

#39 ::: Emmet ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 06:59 PM:

You don't need a Queen.

The Republic of Ireland has an elected parliament on something like the Westminster model with an elected President with seven-year terms in lieu of a monarch. In 1982 there was a hung Dail (parliament split exactly such that nobody had a majority) in which the then-President had to choose between calling another election or saying "look, form a government anyway", a situation very similar to the current one in Canada. The then-President chose the latter course, and the subsequent government wooed one Tony Gregory, an independent from a very poor part of Dublin, who wagged the dog for his constituents' benefit thereafter.

(The longer lasting impact of this on Irish politics is that the then-deputy-Prime-Minister, Brian Lenihan Sr., ran for President in 1989, was accused of having tried to influence the President to call another election in 1982 in the hopes of getting an overall majority, and denied this vigorously. And just after the nominations for President closed, a political science grad student produced tapes of interviews with Lenihan from his thesis in which Lenihan admitted making said calls; so he basically got fired as deputy PM and Minister for Justice by a party which had no choice but to try to support him for President anyway. Hence Ireland electing Mary Robinson as President instead, a truly great day for a recovering theocracy.)

#40 ::: JayBlanc ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 07:09 PM:

While you can operate a Westminster parliamentary operating system without a LDQN, those that do are unauthorised forks of the source code, and may by very unstable until fully developed. Always take care on upgrading the democracy of your production nations.

#41 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 07:12 PM:

On mature recollection*, I think I agree with Emmet. If it comes to a disagreement in court, the rest of ye can go and shite**.

*Actual key phrase in legal controversy involving Deputy X, real name Brian Lenihan, but don't let on I told you.

**May not be a legal term***

*** But you might be surprised!

#42 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 07:28 PM:

OK, we must be the only nation on earth whose constitution is distributed, only partly canonical, of unclear ownership, not necessarily maintained, and poorly documented. It's an open-source project!

This isn't quite true; New Zealand has essentially all that, and has half the constitution residing in another country.

#43 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 07:28 PM:

The really good bit is when HMQ crosses the Scottish border; she then stops believing in Bishops

The Scots don't have Bishops? Ur, I don't suppose you would care to explain this...

#44 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 07:30 PM:

I will point out the problems of pronunciation are purely in relation to an oddity of ranks between the Navy and the Army/Royal Marines, and the prickly natures of the Senior Service.

As I have been told (and my association with various persons in the various services has supported) the Navy pronounces the word as it is spelled, and the intrusion of the "f" is to make it plain to Royal Marines: and the officers of other services, who hold the rank which is spelled the same as that most potent rank conferred by Her Majesty's Navy on those Midshipmen who manage to pass the tests requisite to grant them, at the Admiralty's pleasure, the actual command of a Vessel, that such rank is in no way commensurate to the greater skills and responsibilities needed to excercise the rank of that name in the Royal Navy.

(We shan't even address the quiddities of the word lieutenant being both French in origin, and used by officers of foot long before it was used by the Navy, saving only that the Navy was formalized first, and so had pride of place.)

I have no idea what the excursion in Canada to having exactly the same names and ranks in all services did to local pronunciation of the rank of those persons who are commissioned Lieutenant in the RCN.

#45 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 07:56 PM:

The Australian implementation is intended to operate in accordance with the spec, but was not adequately coded and its exception handling failed spectacularly in 1975. The Oz constitution says all executive power is vested in the Monarch and exercised by the GG. No mention of the Exec Council, the PM, Ministers, Cabinet etc. It's all 'hallowed tradition', which conservative parties naturally chuck out the window as soon as it suits them.

Alex@20: There's been *no* change to the Au GG's powers since 1975, it's still all implicit and most commentators agree it's not possible to codify the GG's existing powers (which are probably more extensive that those of HM in the UK).

Emma@25: Whitlam never tried to dismiss the GG, but it seems clear the GG was afraid he would which is why he dismissed the PM *without warning*. (Another serious weakness in the Au system. The GG holds office at the pleasure of the PM AND the PM holds office at the pleasure of the GG. Don't blink. Just. don't. blink.) The Speaker of the House did contact London immediately after the Dismissal seeking HM's intervention, but was advised HM had no authority as all her Executive powers are exercised by the GG.

Alex@35: The GG is not demoted when HM is in Australia, HM is promoted by statute (The Royal Powers Act 1953) so that she can exercise all the powers of the GG *but* only on the advice of the Federal Executive Council (ie a subcommittee of Cabinet). The uncodified reserve powers remain with the GG.

d

#46 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:00 PM:

The Church of Scotland has no Bishops -- part of the Reformed aspect.

(The Scottish Episcopalian Church does, but the Queen doesn't worship with them when in Scotland.)

Instead, the Church has a presbyterian government, and tends to incite civil wars if the King gets too uppity about installing Bishops.

There isn't much to it, really.

#47 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:04 PM:

Lizzy @44: When the Queen is in Scotland, she is a Presbyterian. As James I / 1066 And All That said, 0 Bishop == 0 King.

The "Anglican" Church in Scotland is the Episcopal Church, which has Laudian roots but is not established. The Church of Scotland is established, but Presbyterian. (There are non-established Presbyterians there as well, such as the Free Church of Scotland and the Wee Frees.)

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:09 PM:

Lizzy L. #43: The (Established) Church of Scotland is the Presbyterian Church which has no Bishops, but does have a General Assembly and a Moderator. The Episcopal Church of Scotland, has Bishops and a Primus (who is, confusingly, not a stove, but is not established (though it is connected to the Establishment). The Head of the Church of Scotland is the same person as the Head of the Church of England -- the reigning monarch. The Church of England has Bishops, both diocesan and suffragan, and archbishops (both in England being Primates, one the Primate of England, the other the Primate of All England). In Wales, there is no Established Church, but there are an awful lot of chapels, look you.

The Church of Scotland and Church of England, in addition to being administratively different, are also doctrinally different. As a result, Brenda, when she is in England subscribes to the Thirty-Nine Articles, and when she is in Scotland to the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

There is a switch at Gretna Green to control this, I believe.


#49 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:20 PM:

Is Mozambique the only Commonwealth member without an LQDN?

#50 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:25 PM:

Wee Frees?

Graydon 12: Last time I checked, the UK's LDQN was at the same address as Normandy.duchess

#51 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:27 PM:

Sorry, we're getting waaay off track here, but are you sure the Church of Scotland is Established? Also, the British Monarch is not the Head of the Church of Scotland. It's presbyterian, it doesn't have anyone in a position of governing authority.

#52 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:30 PM:

#51 - the Church of Scotland is amongst, other things, a feudal landlord. (Or was, I understand some things have changed since I left there.) My father paid "feu duties" of around UKP 50 per year, to the Church of Scotland for the land our house stood on. We owned the house - but not the land.

#53 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Vicki@49: No, only 15 of the 53 member states have LQDNs. Thirty-two are republics and five have independant Crowns (Eg the King of Tonga)

d

#54 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:41 PM:

#49 -- lots of the Commonwealth nations are Republics. The Queen of the UK also holds the office of Head of the Commonwealth, but that's different from being the Head of State of any given Commonwealth nation.

I can bore for New Zealand on the Commonwealth, ever since reading a book by Patrick Gordon Walker on it.

Lots and lots of fun legal fictions around everything.

#55 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Tony @50 --

You're quite correct that monarch.uk and duchess.normandy resolve the same; this is a relatively recent (I believe post Hitler's War) development, because someone wanted to know who had title to some small channel islands.

The answer took but a moment -- those belong to the Duke of Normandy.

Figuring out who the Duke of Normandy was, well, that took more than a moment, but the legal types involved very calmly went back to King Henry the Fifth, noted that nothing legal or formal had ever been done about his claim to the French Crown (and indeed, nothing had!) and noted that, since the line of the Dukes of Normandy was extinct, it reverted to the Crown of France which, at present, means there is a significant precedent for monarch.france and monarch.uk to resolve to the same address.

Not as good a precedent as there would be if the French had taken Churchill up on his offer of a co-monarcy, mind, but one can only have so much weirdness at one time.

I don't believe that particular group of legal experts was let near anything resembling a territorial question after that.

#56 ::: Morgan MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 08:52 PM:

JayBlanc@38: Actually there are two agreements involved, a coalition agreement between Liberal and NDP, and a policy agreement involving all three parties in which the Bloc, as a member of the Opposition, agrees to support the coalition government for a specific period of time while the current economic crisis is being dealt with.
(mMy coding abilities are about two decades out of date, so I'll try to do this in English instead)

party.nat.bloc is not a member of government.coalition. However, as a member of parliament.opposition, party.nat.bloc has rewritten its voting process such that for each member of the party sitting in the House at the time a vote is taken:

if the property of nonconfidence is true for the current bill,

and

if the current date is less than July 1, 2010,

then

the member's vote must be in support of the government.

#57 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 09:25 PM:

I love you guys.

#58 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 09:45 PM:

morgan macleod: shouldn't that be "if the property nonconfidence is false", since so long as there is confidence, they are in support?

#59 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 09:50 PM:

Re #58:

Not all votes are votes of confidence. In this case, if the vote is a vote of confidence/no-confidence, the agreement is that they will vote "confidence" to keep the government running. If the vote isn't considered one of "confidence" they can vote as they see fit.

The property is in the nature of the issue voted on, not in the mindset of the MP voting.

#60 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 10:21 PM:

ok, I was reading it differently (I know that not all votes are votes of no-confidence). I misunderstood it was an agreement to vote for the gov't in all case of confidence related voting.

Now it's all clear.

#61 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 10:39 PM:

Roger #30: It's purely the GG's call as to whether to prorogue the parliamentary session or not, and it's purely her call whether to call for an election or not.

In discussions centering on the supposed absolute power of the British Monarch, an important constitutional document should be remembered. One of the joys of an uncodified constitution is getting to call shit like that constitutional documents...

Niall #8: Wait, I do have a comment: that should be Local Distributed Monarchial Node, for when Charles (or conceivably William) becomes the instantiation of the global monarchial node, so that this web article thingy doesn't become hopelessly outdated, and then, later, charmingly of a certain period, because We Would All Hate That.

Largely irrelevent side note: Charles will, barring the unforeseen, become King, but "Charles" won't, as I believe he has announced an intention to take the regnal name of George. He'll rule as George VII. William hasn't said anything on the matter (since he's not first in line it would be quite premature), but I suspect he will use his given name.

#62 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 10:42 PM:

Crap, I was sure that worked in preview. Link goes here.

#63 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 10:48 PM:

Lizzy L: This is why, when I need to explain why I wear trifocals, I say that my eyes refuse rule by bishops.

#64 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2008, 11:36 PM:

Graydon: Interesting. I'd thought that the Channel Islands had been the one part of Normandy the French hadn't taken over around the end of the Hundred Years' War, so they had always belonged to the Duchess of Normandy.

(One wonders... when they conquered the place, did the French put up their own claimant to the title, or did they just split it up into smaller units?)

#65 ::: ianracey ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Keir @33: Minor nitpick, but that seems merited in a thread about precise constitutional distinctions: she's not Queen of Great Britain, but rather Queen of the United Kingdom, to stress the unitary nature of "Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

#66 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:09 AM:

Tony --

As I recall, this is not the Channel Islands; this is some much smaller rocks that became important over territorial waters issues. The Channel Islands did stay possessions of the English Crown when continental Normandy was lost.

The French Crown sometimes used "Duke of Normandy" a bit like the British use "Prince of Wales", as a title given to the heir; it also got given to various Stuarts by the French Crown.

They also, didn't, quite, conquer the place; lots of people changed fealty to the French Crown after Bad King John murdered his nephew, Arthur, Duke of Brittany, and the English Crown never really got Normandy back.

#67 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:24 AM:

65 -- yeah, strictly. Imagine I was talking about Anne, would you?

#68 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:51 AM:

Don't worry - Al Haig is in charge.

#69 ::: whump ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:38 AM:

Is there a reference implementation in Erlang?

#70 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 04:34 AM:

If, on the other hand, the monarch is out of the country on some normal occasion, the state opening of Parliament would probably just be delayed.

I think the relevant call in the UK is something like:

if (monarch.unavailable())
if not(exists_regency())
if not(exists_revolution())
Lord_chancellor(monarch.delegates_powers(parliament))
Parliament.prorogue(Lord_chancellor)

I imagine similar implementations exist for GGs in the other 14 states affected.

#71 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 05:21 AM:

Regarding the Canadians and their coalition agreement, what they have implemented is the distinction between confidence and supply votes on one hand, and all others on the other.

if Vote.hasKey(confidence) == True:
...coalition.whip(lines=3)
elif Vote.hasKey(supply, Commons) == True:
...coalition.whip(lines=3)
elif Vote.hasKey(supply, Lords):
...ldqn = LDQN.get(legal_opinion)
exceptionhandler(ldqn)
finally:
...coalition.whip(FreeVote)

# this may result in a BETRAY and possibly a NOCONF

They've also incorporated some exception handling in the event of an InternalCohesion or BETRAY error; the agreement says that no party to it will call Parliament.dissolve() unless there has been a NOCONF or the automatic prorogation has been triggered, or all parties have agreed.

This is to deal with the corner case where a faction in the coalition gets a majority in the coalition and ousts the PM, then tries to call an election to consolidate their position.

Essentially, they're trying to spooge some features from Grundgesetz 1.1 over into the Westminster 2 codebase; as you know, GG 1.0 was designed in part by Westminster 1 developers, so there are superficial similarities.

Specifically, during the 1990s GG 1.1 introduced a Coalition type called Duldung (Toleration), under which a Party which is a member of parliament.opposition agrees with parliament.coalition to return Yes to votes with the Confidence or Supply flags, and if desired, further user-specified arguments.

This is useful if you need the support of a disagreeable Party but don't want them in government. I think this is a first for the Westminster project.

Although, you don't want to even think about what went wrong with Westminster 4, which operated reasonably well until 1948 and then got p0wned by a variant of the Fascism virus. Took 46 years to fix. And some of the 1950s implementations...well, unstable isn't quite the word.

For example, there was one install that underwent a major constitutional crisis shortly after going live, was infected by the Fascism from W4.0, disconnected itself from the LDQN and the root DQN whilst claiming to be the valid root DQN, and was eventually rebooted in 1980. That involved the first and only case of a Westminster reverting to using the root DQN.

However, after 20 or so years of acceptable performance under an independently defined DQN it went badly out of kilter in 1999 after a bad update, and it's currently behaving more like Kleptocracy 1.0, despite recent efforts to fix it. Actually, 50s installs seem to have a serious Klepto exploit, and quite a lot of users in Asia installed Bureaucracy 23.9.1 over theirs.

#72 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 05:53 AM:

Graydon @55 – “if the French had taken Churchill up on his offer of a co-monarc[h]y” – there've been several notable Churchills in British history, was this the most recent one?

#73 ::: Alex G ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:04 AM:

The UK has several procedures for dealing with the absence or incapacity of HM.

1. Short-term absence, known about in advance: HM activates the Council of State, who collectively act as the LDQN for a subset of the royal functions. Under the current system there are five counsellors, who in groups of two or more are allowed to carry out essential but non-controversial business. The exact parameters vary (they are set out in the letters patent for each activation), but the Council is never allowed to dissolve Parliament or create peers, unless instructed in each specific instance by the absent Queen herself. The Council of State consists of HM's spouse (if there is one) plus the four people next in line to the Throne (exceptions: if they will also be absent from the UK, they are not appointed; they must be UK resident, adult, and not disqualified from the succession).

2. Regency: Any three from {HM's spouse, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls} can cause the DQNship to temporarily be held by the next in line. This can be done more than once (declare HM incapable, then the Regent, then the Regent^2, ...). They can also pop the DQN stack if they believe the previous holder is capable once more. All royal powers are passed on, except that the Regent cannot assent to any law changing the succession, or the presbyterian nature of the Church of Scotland. Medical evidence must be sought if incapacity of a medical nature is being asserted.

3. Abdication, voluntary: Based on the Edward VIII precedent: a law is passed to remove the present monarch and pass on their authority in the same manner as if they had died. This only applies to the state functions vested in the monarch, not their private possessions and so on. The new HM might have to buy a few palaces from the previous one, for example, if these belonged to the person and not the Crown: there has been a 'demise of the Crown' but not of the head that wore it.

Involuntary permanent removal of the reigning monarch has been done, but in each case has been a bit exceptional, so there is little real precedent in a legal/constitutional sense.

#74 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:14 AM:

72: Winston Churchill suggested setting up an Anglo-French Union as a way of persuading the French not to surrender in June, 1940. The idea came from Jean Monnet, who headed the French war economy liaison group in London and was later a kernel developer on the alpha version of the European Union. (He invented the Commission element of it, which was then called the High Authority. Smart guy.)

#75 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:27 AM:

Involuntary permanent removal of the reigning monarch has been done, but in each case has been a bit exceptional, so there is little real precedent in a legal/constitutional sense.

AFAIK, the last time this was done, Parliament responded by initiating the development project which led to Westminster 1. If a comparable malfunction recurred, they would presumably implement a replacement.

#77 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:59 AM:

Slight correction to Emmet and Niall above:

No Irish President has ever refused to dissolve the Dáil, although they have that power under the Constituion . In 1982 the outgoing Taoiseach was Fine Gael's Garret Fitzgerald, leader of a Coalition government. Fianna Fáil wanted President Hillery (former FF politician) to refuse a dissolution after the Government lost a budget vote (the "VAT on children's shoes" budget, IIRC). It would have suited FF leader Charlie Haughey to be able to form a government and if necessary call an election a few months later. The ostensible justification was that there had just been a general election in 1981. President Hillery, a very principled man, refused to take the phone calls of Lenihan and others. In the end there was not just one but two general elections in 1982.

The Irish implementation is also slightly different, in that the President, while they can refuse a dissolution, cannot call in the leader of the opposition and invite them to form a government.

#78 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 07:29 AM:

Darryl #51: The Church of Scotland is Established, but you're right that its Head is not the reigning monarch. In presbyterian principle, the only Head of the Church is Christ (who, in Protestant principle, does not have a Vicar on Earth). The top post in the Church is the Moderator, annually elected by the General Assembly (of ministers and elders). There are at least two other presbyterian churches in Scotland that have left the Established Church but uphold the establishment principle: the Free Church and the Free Presbyterian Church. All three Moderators get invited to the Queen's garden party in Holyrood every summer.

Henry #52: Feudal tenure in Scotland was abolished years ago. Four years ago, to be precise.

I think the study of the British Constitution as a programming problem is long overdue, so I apologise for going slightly off topic.

#79 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 08:11 AM:

The Church in Wales has also been disestablished (by Lloyd George*) despite a certain amount of antidisestablishmentarian** sentiment, so since 1922 the LDQN stops believing in bishops when she visits Wales too.

* (knew my father***).

** Yes, it may be gratuitous, but isn't it a lovely word? Somebody was saying on Tor.com just the other day that you shouldn't use words just to get attention but because they're necessary. I'm sure that's one of the ones they meant.

*** Not really. It's a song. But since it's impossible to think the words "Lloyd George" without adding "knew my father", there you go. Eventually, Lloyd George will be entirely forgotten except by specialist historians (of the disestablishment of the Welsh church and/or the Gallipoli mess, probably or, considering) but the song will go marching on. This will be a *good* thing. See also Goebbels, no balls at all.

#80 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 09:13 AM:

Betimes t'was I planned a post about the 1932 Game-Lang contretemps, but, y'know, Life Gets In The Way. Here's a small linkodump on it:

From Australian Dictionary of Biography site:
Lang, John Thomas (Jack) (1876 - 1975)
Game, Sir Philip Woolcott (1876 - 1961)
Dismissal of a Premier - The Role of Governor Game (Dept of Education & Training)
Dismissal of Jack Lang (Interactive schooling, Year 10)
Dismissed From Office Lang Government (Original newspaper report, The Age, 14th May, 1932)
Microphone, Reiss (Reisz) carbon granule, 1925 (not FDR's ccigarette lighter … from Powerhouse Museum collection, explained there).
The Story of JT Lang by R. Dixon (1943) (somewhat partisan publication, from an interesting resource)
The Australian Republic Issue (Other Relevant Papers)
Library Catalogue record Dismissal of a Premier - the Philip Game papers by Bethia Foott [sic]
Dismissal of a Premier: the Philip Game papers by Bethia Foote [sic] (Library Catalogue record 2)
January 2008 was 200th anniversary of the 'Rum Rebellion' – aka Bligh Mutiny II: McArthur's Return (or was it ~: Johnston's Revenge? they blur) – our peculiar version of the Glorious Revolution. Another linkodump:
Captain Bligh's other mutiny (newspaper article)
'The Rum Rebellion' (in same paper, multimedia piece with links elsewhere)
The Significance Of The Integrity System (Acessible by this page linking to PDF versions of speeches.) Compare The coup of 1808 and the rule of law, an edited combination of two related speeches by NSW's Chief Justice.
"The Governor's Man", a book by JHM Abbott – historic fiction (~1919).
Someday, someone somewhere may find these useful.
Oh, Alex @76 Trying to view the live webcast, us auslanders see: "Sorry, this media is not available in your territory."

#81 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 09:16 AM:

51 and 78: It is highly questionable whether the Queen is Head of the Church of England. The parliament of Henry VIII passed an act affirming that the monarch was Head of the Church. The parliament of Mary I repealed it. The parliament of Elizabeth I passed an act which restored some of the provisions of Henry's act, but did not use the phrase 'Head of the Church'. Nor did it, as is commonly alleged, use the phrase 'Supreme Governor of the Church'. The nearest it gets to that is 'supreme governor of this realm, and of all other her Highness's dominions and countries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal'. These words form part of an oath, to be taken by the clergy, which has since been abolished.

There is no doubt that the Queen has, in England, some kind of special authority over the Church, but as far as I can see the idea that she has a special title marking that authority rests on a mistake.

#82 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:12 AM:

79: Welsh Disestablishment was the subject of impassioned debate, leading to a rather wonderful Chesterton poem, which I will now bore you with.

"A Bill which has shocked the conscience of every Christian community in Europe."-Mr. F. E. Smith, on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill.

Are they clinging to their crosses,
F. E. Smith,
Where the Breton boat-fleet tosses,
Are they, Smith?
Do they, fasting, trembling, bleeding,
Wait the news from this our city?
Groaning "That's the Second Reading!"
Hissing "There is still Committee!"
If the voice of Cecil falters,
If McKenna's point has pith,
Do they tremble for their altars?
Do they, Smith?

Russian peasants round their pope
Huddled, Smith,
Hear about it all, I hope,
Don't they, Smith?
In the mountain hamlets clothing
Peaks beyond Caucasian pales,
Where Establishment means nothing
And they never heard of Wales,
Do they read it all in Hansard -
With a crib to read it with -
"Welsh Tithes: Dr. Clifford answered."
Really, Smith?

In the lands where Christians were,
F. E. Smith,
In the little lands laid bare,
Smith, O Smith!
Where the Turkish bands are busy
And the Tory name is blessed
Since they hailed the Cross of Dizzy
On the banners from the West!
Men don't think it half so hard if
Islam burns their kin and kith,
Since a curate lives in Cardiff
Saved by Smith.

It would greatly, I must own,
Soothe me, Smith!
If you left this theme alone,
Holy Smith!
For your legal cause or civil
You fight well and get your fee;
For your God or dream or devil
You will answer, not to me.
Talk about the pews and steeples
And the cash that goes therewith!
But the souls of Christian peoples...
Chuck it, Smith!


#83 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:34 AM:

Reminds me of the recent research I've been doing on Raymond Lull. He pioneered electoral systems math.

#84 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:38 AM:

#76, Alex: Sadly, that streaming media plays only where INSIDE-UK=TRUE.

That Chesterton poem is thunderous when read aloud. (Have just verified this empirically.)

#85 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:44 AM:

Josh, a 14th century Catalan mystic pioneered electoral systems math? More, please!

#86 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:47 AM:

Almost all Chesterton sounds awesome aloud. I well remember the first time I read Lepanto. I immediately checked the book out of the library and rushed off into the middle of a field so I could read it aloud, with the kind of shifty desperation of a secret drinker.

#87 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:51 AM:

Alex, 71: This is a marvel of pithiness and I'm completely lost. Grundgesetz 1.1? Westminster 4?

This New York native briefly understood the rules of cricket at one point, so these arcana are not over my head as a rule, but you're awfully cryptic here.

#88 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:55 AM:

Graydon @55, Figuring out who the Duke of Normandy was, well, that took more than a moment, but the legal types involved very calmly went back to King Henry the Fifth, noted that nothing legal or formal had ever been done about his claim to the French Crown (and indeed, nothing had!)

I think you're wrong there- as far as I know, the claim to the French Crown was openly kept for centuries (one example here)* and then, it was formally renounced in 1801. I think (but I'm not sure) that might be the reason why ambassadors to Britain and France used to be called ambassadors "to the Court of St. James" and "to the Court of Versailles"- both were ambassadors to someone claiming to be monarch of France, so you had to get more specific.

Alex @71 Essentially, they're trying to spooge some features from Grundgesetz 1.1 over into the Westminster 2 codebase; as you know, GG 1.0 was designed in part by Westminster 1 developers, so there are superficial similarities.

Specifically, during the 1990s GG 1.1 introduced a Coalition type called Duldung (Toleration), under which a Party which is a member of parliament.opposition agrees with parliament.coalition to return Yes to votes with the Confidence or Supply flags, and if desired, further user-specified arguments.

To get pedantic, that hasn't been done on the federal level yet, so as of now, it's only a feature of some implementations of the landesverfassung standard.

Although, you don't want to even think about what went wrong with Westminster 4, which operated reasonably well until 1948 and then got p0wned by a variant of the Fascism virus. Took 46 years to fix.

Allthough that kind of depends of what you mean by "operated reasonably well"; while some of the malfunctions after 1948 were caused by the virus in question, others had been there all along, but started to be seen as bugs afterwards when more attention was paid to bug reports from parts of the user base whose bug reports had been mostly ignored before.

Chris Quinones, that's kind of the point of this whole exercise, starting with the comment that started this thread.

#89 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:05 AM:

So the Continental Congress was an exploit based on the Kaminsky bug? Or was it an insecure workaround an intentional DoS from the root LDQN?

#90 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Westminster 1.0 is obviously the UK; 2 is Canada (1867), 3 Australia, 4 South Africa, 5 Ireland, which later stopped using the DHSP, then you get a load of versions of W6 in the 1950s starting with India in 1947, which dropped the DHSP in 1950. Westminster 1 underwent major revisions in 1911, 1931, 1948 and 1999, so it's probably more accurate to say it's Westminster 1.4.

Hold on - I've forgotten New Zealand...

#91 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:20 AM:

88: In as far as it concerned taxation, it was arguably an applications layer issue. but the Root DQN's attempt to do a global find and replace on the Thirteen Colonies' governments was frankly irresponsible.

#92 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:24 AM:

Fragano, thank you. I am now walking around the house giggling, imagining a Scots Order of the Holy Stove (Disestablished.) "I now dub thee Knight of Most Honorable and Puissant Order of the Holy Stove!"

Puissant is, of course pronounced with a silent U.

Monty Python much?

#93 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:34 AM:

89. You also forgot Newfoundland (1907). Arguably the original Dominions are best regarded as W2.x (1...6), with versions of W3.x implemented by the Statute of Westminster, 1931. W4 would be the "new Commonwealth" dominions, and possibly W5 (or W3.1.1 [why does that look horribly familiar?]) for the expanded Canada of 1949.

#94 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:44 AM:

Alex #89: You're forgetting the modifications made in the 1930s in Malta and Ceylon (as it was then as well, which might well be called Westminister 1.1.x (and so on).

New Zealand's version was a modified one from the beginning lacking an upper house, and now with German-model electoral system, it might well be called a Westminster/Bonn* model. Perhaps Westminster/Bonn 1.2.1.


* Or should that be Westminster/D'Hondt?

#95 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:03 PM:

JayBlanc@40: I'll say. We tried to write our own, way back when--it was intended to be a clean and simple implementation of Athens 7.0.36 (a system so old that it was written in hex, but with some great democracy primitives), incorporating some of the nicer modern features of Westminster.x. Fast forward a couple hundred years: the code's developed just as much cruft as the Westminster system that we thought was too baroque, all those years ago, and we're still working the bugs out.

At least the designers wrote a really good spec...

#96 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Alex@90: The source of conflict was about the applications layer, for sure, but I was thinking more about the mechanism for hijacking root DQN authority.

#97 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:23 PM:

Raphael @87 --

The claim of the Kings of England to be the Monarch of France persisted until William IV dropped it on ascension.

The story as I remember it is that there these rocks in the Channel; they are, officially, islands, being above water at high tide. It is a matter of import, after World War II, who has territorial claim to those rocks because a lot of things like navigation rights and territorial waters are being formalized/normalized, and the captains of ships become incensed when you leave bits of their charts blank.

The lawyers involved are French; they conclude that, based on really old -- some pre-Bastard William -- rolls and documents, those are the Duke of Normandy's rocks. That was easy; now, who, in about 1950, is the Duke of Normandy? (The King of France is, legally, the President of France. Since there are still some agreements in force that name the King of France, this is important. But the equivalence doesn't extend to being Duke of Normandy, which was not a title of the Kings of France.)

The interesting thing was that it was republican French lawyers who concluded that the Duke of Normandy had to be the Queen of England, from the point of view of the French legal system. Nothing to do with the status of the claim from the English side (which the English monarchs had dropped a hundred and fifty (almost) years before, and presumably nothing to do with the Ancien Regime's numerous wars disputing that point.

Epacris @72 --

Yes, the most recent one, as Alex notes. The implications for post-war Europe go off in all directions.

#98 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:58 PM:

Of course, a lot of Westminster code ended up in the OpenRepublic framework so widely used in the 90s - like Django with politicians. The Non-Executive Presidency Module in OR is really just an elective LDQN.

Come to think of it, if we had to do it again, we'd probably customise an OpenRepublic instance..

#99 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 12:59 PM:

The Chesterton works very well as vaudeville, with piano flourishes at all full stops, which is how I heard it in my head just now and I blame Jo "Lloyd George (knew my father)" Walton for that.

@92 It's difficult to track all the forks of an open source project when there's no globally recognised repository.

#100 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 01:01 PM:

91: Personally, I was more entertained by Fragano's offhand remark that both English archbishops are primates.

Well, you'd rather expect that, wouldn't you?

Unless there was some sort of Archbishop Incitatus in the Church's history? Appointed by Queen Elizabeth just to emphasise the point that she was in charge of the church now, she got to pick the Archbishops, and it didn't matter if the Archbishop was a horse as long as it was her horse... or, as she would have said in Latin, mare nostrum.

#101 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 01:10 PM:

So when Supreme Chancellor Valorum lost his vote of confidence in the Galactic Senate, why didn't they hold new elections before choosing a replacement? Why did Founding Parent-Sentiences of the Republic design their constitution this way?

#102 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Alex writes: "...OK, we must be the only nation on earth whose constitution is distributed, only partly canonical, of unclear ownership, not necessarily maintained, and poorly documented. It's an open-source project!"

Send a delegation to San Francisco for IETF 74. There might still be enough time for you to get a BOF added to the agenda.

#103 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Fragano Ledgister (#48): The Episcopal Church of Scotland, has Bishops and a Primus (who is, confusingly, not a stove)...

He's probably also not a killer bass guitarist (but wouldn't it be cool if he were?)

#104 ::: SKapusniak ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 01:47 PM:

I now find myself intrigued by the fact that it seems only to be the French who explicitly embed the version numbers in the formal naming scheme (Second Empire, Fifth Republic etc.), whilst everyone else seems to hide the information from the user.

I guess Germany might also have been doing it back before the emergency deployment of Grundgesetz 1.0, but I'm not sure whether the blackhats who rooted the box and installed their 'Reich 3.x' back in the 1930s, were actually following any previous naming scheme that was *real*, or they just made that whole thing up as part of the phishing scam they used to get the login credentials.

#105 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:00 PM:

Ajay@99: there was a famous incident on the British Who Wants to be a Millionaire, when a contestant was asked 'The Archbishop of Canterbury is also known as: the Primate, the Amphibian, the Reptile or the Marsupial?'. She chose 'the Marsupial'. As she left the studio, the presenter assured that she had the sympathy not only of those present but of his Grace the Marsupial of All England.

#106 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:04 PM:

The Austrians do this as well - they are on the 2nd republic, having reinstalled it from backup. (True story; the monument to the 1918 revolutionaries in Vienna was taken down after Dollfuss installed an experimental Clerical Authoritarian system. But it wasn't destroyed - just put in storage, where it remained during the Nazi period. In 1945 they dragged it out of the warehouse and put it back up.)

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Seth 100: As well ask why the Naboobs elected a teenage queen*, or how it is that she has absolute power AND Naboo is a democracy.

To make sense of Lucas endeavor not. Madness that way lies.

*the monarch kind

#108 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:18 PM:

Nicole TWN @94:
We tried to write our own, way back when--it was intended to be a clean and simple implementation of Athens 7.0.36 (a system so old that it was written in hex, but with some great democracy primitives), incorporating some of the nicer modern features of Westminster.x. Fast forward a couple hundred years: the code's developed just as much cruft as the Westminster system that we thought was too baroque, all those years ago, and we're still working the bugs out.

Well put, but a little oversimplfied

We implemented an early beta version first, but found that it had several crashing bugs on installation. So we developed a second version, which was still in testing when we had to write the first patch (late design requirement for a civil liberties module; typical customer behavior).

It ran pretty well for a good while. We had to patch the system a few times, nothing major.

Then came the Great Unauthorized Code Fork; part of the project wanted to optimize functionality in one direction, while the rest was hoping that stuff would be dead code soon. That was a major stress test for the implementation (I hate testing in production. It's messy and risky.) That fork was abandoned, and we ended up patching the code to eliminate the contentious execution path altogether.

We patch the core code from time to time, as edge cases turn up and highlight weaknesses (the term.count <= 2 patch comes to mind).

There is a good deal of cruft in the overall implementation: patches, additional modules, helper functions, undocumented features, etc. We hold regular user group meetings to try to keep things going in the right direction. The meetings are sometimes sparsely attended, but the last one was a humdinger.

#109 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:20 PM:

As others have noted (and isn't relevant here): third-level LDQNs (at least in Canada and Australia) are LGs, not GGs.

71 Alex: one minor point - in this Accord implementation, %s/Lords/Senate/g. We've even given up on the HEM Honours list (as seen in the abrupt transition of our PM.list.title from "Sir" to "", and was one of the more amusing parts of the Sir Conrad Black saga, both on the way up, and on the way down), so there isn't a Lord to our name (officially, at least).

And yes, Canada ∉ COMMONWEALTH.DOMINIONS since 1982 (except as a purely theoretical exercise). Not that that means much.

I am enjoying the "We won the election! What do you mean we don't get to govern? That's not Right! We need another election (which we'll do better in because the other parties have no cash, a position we took the first opportunity we had to try to make permanent. Oh, did I just say that aloud?)! If the Law says otherwise, it doesn't actually mean it!" rhetoric of my fellow Conservatives (what can I say? My MP won by majority, not just FPTP. Just because *I* didn't vote for him, doesn't mean they're not my fellows).

#110 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 02:52 PM:

87: Duldung is not ready for top-level implementation yet, as the Ypsilanti-Hesse problem this spring showed. It may only work in the subset of states that were part of East Germany. (And is the absorption of the former GDR, along with the formal end of the German Reich as a subject of international law (much of western Poland, for example, was "under Polish administration" from 1945 until Poland and reunified Germany signed a treaty on the matter post-1990) enough of a change that we're up to Grundegesetz 2.0?) Further, the delegation from Washington had rather more to do with the development of GG1 than the Westminster faction.

93: Given the business with the Electress, maybe it's better to think of NZ as Hannover/Herrenchiemsee X.whatever. (The latter being the palace where the balance of GG1 was hacked out.)

#111 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 04:02 PM:

For the most concise, amusing precis of the situation, try
http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2008/12/03/what_is_happening_in_canada.html#comments

Until she posted today we were sending her readers here. Tag-team information.

#112 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Nichole TWN @ 94

At least the designers wrote a really good spec...

But they neglected to comment the code well, so there's been a lot of disagreement on exactly how the code implements the spec. And local subdomains have had a tendency to implement code for new requirements that affects the intersubdomain protocols, causing any number of esoteric protocol exceptions.

Replacing York 0.1 with Philadelphia 1.0 and almost immediately upgrading that to Philadelphia 1.1.1 through 1.1.10 had the effect of consolidating the distributed "black box" model as against the more common "hierachical object inheritance" model common in Westminster x. In addition to the frequent protocol errors, this often results in implementation exceptions when TLD protocol requests are implemented incompatibly in different subdomains.

#113 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 05:13 PM:

#107: Unfortunately a known bug in the system combined with a series of stress factors to create a runaway executive process that, in combination with a cascading series of failures in other modules, came close to crashing the entire system altogether (and still may yet). Users have been assured that an upcoming release two months from now will improve production, as this November's input data did not trigger the bug, but the bug has not been repaired nor have any limits on the possibility of process overrun been added.

The IT staff have (as usual) suggested switching to Linux.

#114 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:00 PM:

I kept wanting to sing that Chesterton poem to "She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes." It looks like it'll work at first, but it doesn't.

#115 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:01 PM:

The IT staff have (as usual) suggested switching to Linux.

Still debating Windows, are they?

#116 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:07 PM:

Ah, but NZ has a bunch of weird features -- like the Treaty of Waitangi and explicit Maori seats, and Ministers outside government. (That one was really, really, odd.)

Although we did have a bicameral legislature, but it was a waste of space, so we got rid of it in the 40's or 50's.

Arguably, the Crown in New Zealand isn't strictly sovereign, but is rather bound by the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi. Quite what that means is a bit up for debate, to say the least.

Strictly, I'd call it Waitangi 1.0, running a customised Westminster/Bonn system in emulation.

#117 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:25 PM:

SKapusniak #103: IIRC, the Second Reich was Kaiser Wilhelm's, 1871-1918, and the First the Holy Roman Empire (yes yes I know, neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire...)

#118 ::: Cynthia Gonsalves ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 06:27 PM:

Let's not even get started on the .ca.us subgroup's propensity to implement significant code changes on the basis of a bare majority of users providing input. Many of those changes have to get post-release QA and patches.

#119 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Just watched Harper and Dion addressing the nation via streaming video on cbc.ca. Layton and Duceppe are coming up later.

Harper was practically vibrating with barely restrained anger, and I think there may have been at least one lie - I'll have to check a transcript later.

Dion was painfully earnest in his appeal. There was repeated use of the phrase "your parliament."

I should make popcorn.

#120 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 07:45 PM:

...the .ca.us subgroup's propensity to implement significant code changes on the basis of a bare majority of users providing input.

Hey now.. most of the time, those changes are limited to userland and leave the [admittedly, bloated and horrible] kernel alone. We do have a mechanism for applying security hotpatches to the kernel by simple majority when the normal software update procedures are inadequate. The recent Prop 8 jumbo kernel patch added a huge, new, controversial and problematic feature, and it was therefore a clear violation of established protocol; system administrators are on the case, and we expect the patch will be rolled back soon. In the meantime, your forebearance while we are experiencing technical difficulties are appreciated.

#121 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 07:48 PM:

...is appreciated. (Kill me.)

#122 ::: Cynthia Gonsalves ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 08:19 PM:

re: #119

Hell, I don't even know what revision the Sacramento implementation is at now. The usual software update procedure seems to be horribly b0rked and the funding source has dried up.

#123 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 08:26 PM:

KeithM @ 37: So what you're saying is that changes to the specs of Crown.NextInLine() require unanimous signoff from each domain unless someone wants to fork the Commonwealth.

Graydon @ 96: "The King of France is, legally, the President of France. Since there are still some agreements in force that name the King of France, this is important." One of them is pertinent to today's discussion. The President of France is one of the dual roots for Andorra.

#124 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 08:28 PM:

Chris @ 86: Grungesetz = Germany, 1948 = South Africa, 1980 = Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

#125 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 08:44 PM:

Over in .ny.us, what gets into the kernel seems rather odd. The last-but-one kernel patch was a swap of one acre of forest land for 12 acres nearby. A perfectly plausible move, but it is now in the kernel and the patch history forever that the town of Long Lake has this bit of land instead of that.

And the governor is rumored to be looking for a backdoor to a kernel patch from the 1970s.

#126 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 09:01 PM:

The recent Prop 8 jumbo kernel patch added a huge, new, controversial and problematic feature, and it was therefore a clear violation of established protocol; system administrators are on the case, and we expect the patch will be rolled back soon.

Your keyboard to God's eyes, buddy. Me, I think undoing said patch will prove extremely problematic and causing much social disruption. Not that I think it shouldn't be rolled back, mind you.

#127 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Someone needs to remind Harper that goose.isSauce() == gander.isSauce();

#128 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Can someone explain the semi-fixed election dates? I can see that they're adapted from Philadelphia 1.0, but I don't see why. I thought that the somewhat unpredictable election dates are a feature not a bug. They limit the length of time that the thrashing of an election campaign can monopolize much of the system's resources. Canadians wil rightly complain if they have two elections within a few months, but the campaign we just finished here in the US lasted more than ten times as long as one of yours.

#129 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:05 PM:

The general practice is for the government to call an election when they think they will do well. (Or if some issue more or less requires an election, or they've run out of time.) Chretien did a very good job of this -- three successive majorities -- and this annoyed the Reform Party enormously. It also annoyed their oil company sponsors, since it's hard to set things up on a regular schedule if you don't know when an election will be held.

Note that the CPC started running election attack adds well before actually calling an election this time around, and that they didn't keep their own fixed election rule. Harper really thought he'd get a majority, and if it weren't for the timing on some bad economic news, he might well have.

I am hoping that the coalition will see fit to remove the fixed election rule; it doesn't work with Westminster systems.

#130 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 10:23 PM:

Alex, 89, and Allan Beatty, 123: Thank you, that does help.

Raphael, 87: Oh, I know, and I was following up to that point!

rams, 110: Thank you for that. Very enlightening. Harper, then, is trying to run a minority government as though he had a mandate, and the opposition called bullshit? Why couldn't someone have tried that down here at some point this millennium?

#131 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:48 PM:

#78 - does that mean that the Middle Ages are actually over? Or, can I hang my claims on the continuance of bank-issued (private) banknotes in Scotland? Declining, as I think that there are now only three issuing banks. My father used to bank at the British Linen Bank. In those days there were about seven banks issuing money in Scotland.

There's something truly exotic about getting Bank of Scotland (private) notes out of a BoS ATM. Kind of like borrowing from a Rothschild. (Also still possible.)

#132 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:50 PM:

#127 Alan - we still have time for a full Canadian federal election campaign before the US Inauguration.

#133 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2008, 11:58 PM:

Pat Greene: I fear you are right.

But it *will* be removed. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year ... but there's an entire generation of gay people who will not rest until it is removed.

#134 ::: Cliff ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:32 AM:

SeanH @ 61 writes: "I believe [Charles] has announced an intention to take the regnal name of George."

Did anyone else read this and think of the line where Hugo the Abominable Snowman meets Bugs Bunny: "I’m gonna hug him and pet him and call him George"?

Also, while Googling for the exact quote I learned that it comes from Of Mice and Men. My childhood cartoon watching may have been more educational than I realized at the time.

#135 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 07:09 AM:

Henry #130: Scottish bank notes are not really private banknotes in that they are somehow pegged to the Bank of England. (I understand that gold used to be physically shifted back and forth between London and Edinburgh every so often.) OTOH the notes are not legal tender: anyone can refuse to accept a payment in them.

The Bank of Scotland is now Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) having been taken over by a de-mutualised building society, the Halifax. It went into crisis in the credit crunch and was going to be merged with Lloyds TSB (a bank formed by merging a private insurance company with a formerly mutual bank, the Trustee Savings Bank) but that's now off. The Royal Bank of Scotland now owns NatWest, and is in turn 'owned' by the UK govt through a large shareholding as of last week.

As you can see, I'm not really keeping up with this but the BBC Business news website has all the turns and twists.

The whole mess has a lot to do with what happens when mutual institutions are allowed to turn themselves into commercial and/or investment banks and run riot. (See also under Northern Rock.) That was a most unconservative Conservative implementation that is now near impossible to roll back.

#136 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 08:07 AM:

Graydon @29:

I have a lot of trouble imagining the sort of situation that would result in a Royal Visit -- they are planned well in advance -- and a non-confidence vote. If it did happen, the person making the call on what to do would be the monarch, rather than the governor general. (Well, possibly; it might involve kernel panic on the part of protocol advisers, too.)

Actually, it's obvious what would happen. Since the problem is due to a clear case of Trying it On, HM would re-instatiate the suspended GG in a sandbox, and then follow that advice. Being funny doesn't make it the wrong answer.

#137 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 08:10 AM:

Ken, I think you've confused Lloyds Bank with the insurance marketplace.

Lloyds Bank was one of the big four UK banks, with Barclays, the Midland, and National Westminster.

The Midland was taken over by HSBC--the Chinese--in 1992, and switched to the HSBC name in 1999.

I don't recall there being any particular concerns about their operations.

#138 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 08:23 AM:

John @135,

A PM who tried that trick would be not only Trying It On, he'd be discovering, the hard way, what an LDQN who can impress Winston Churchill can do.

#139 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:16 AM:

Dave Bell #137: The Midland was taken over by HSBC--the Chinese--in 1992, and switched to the HSBC name in 1999.

Holy crud, you're right! HSBC apparently started from The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. At least it doesn't appear to be nationalized by the PRC or the People's Liberation Army. Or is it?

#140 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:30 AM:

No, HSBC is a listed company... and it's not really Chinese either, it's headquartered in London. It's always had a big focus on Asia, as the name suggests, but it's not Chinese. (Founded by a Scot, of course.)

#141 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:35 AM:

Ken, #135: The whole mess has a lot to do with what happens when mutual institutions are allowed to turn themselves into commercial and/or investment banks and run riot.

My, doesn't that sound familiar! See also, US Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980s, orchestrated by a lot of the same people who have caused the current situation.

#142 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:39 AM:

And re Scottish banknotes - the trick is that every Scottish note issued by a Scottish bank has to be matched by a Bank of England note held by the bank in its vaults. That's what prevents any of those issuing banks from just printing money and driving inflation - the Bank of England still has the final say over how much paper currency is in circulation, it's just that the Scottish banks have the right to replace it with their own on a one-to-one basis.

This means, I think, that the Scottish banks have wads of £1 million and £100 million notes in their vaults.

#143 ::: Jasper Milvain ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:44 AM:

To continue a tangent, HSBC also has the honour of being the bank that once employed PG Wodehouse. There is a "New Asiatic Bank" in Psmith in the City.

#144 ::: ianracey ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:31 AM:

SKapusniak @ 104 & Jakob @ 117: Yeah, the terms "First Reich", "Second Reich" and "Third Reich" were invented by proto-Nazis in the 1920s. (Well, they were certainly revanschist and nationalist, but I don't know enough about their other politics to know if "proto-Nazis" is fair.) I've read both that there was a desire to emulate Mussolini's "Third Rome" rhetoric, and that "Third Reich" has millennialist connotations, but I don't have cites for either of those. Then there's also just the general mysticism the number three has in the European consciousness.

#146 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:20 PM:

ianracey @144: There's also the long-standing Russian tradition that Moscow is the Third Rome, and that there will not be a Fourth.

(And the country's history itself is a study in the contrast between theoretical nondistribution of the Tsarship Nodes, and the practice that, as another adage has it, "The Empire is large and the Tsar is far away.")

#147 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:43 PM:

ajay 140: Of course. <meta author="Bowser and Blue" comment="Buy their stuff, it's really good.">

(Dragging the topic back to Leftpondia).

#148 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:57 PM:

Christ! The LDQN's gawn nonlinear!

This really needed more testing...

#149 ::: Scott Martens ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Ken@135: "OTOH the notes are not legal tender: anyone can refuse to accept a payment in them."

I had to look it up to be sure, but in Scotland, a creditor is obligated to accept any reasonable form of payment, subject in principle to court decision as to what is reasonable. So there is no legal tender in Scotland nor legal need for one. I assume that any effort to dispute that regularly circulating Scottish pound notes constitute reasonable means of payment would likely not impress a judge.

#150 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 02:22 PM:

Allan Beauty @128, Can someone explain the semi-fixed election dates? I can see that they're adapted from Philadelphia 1.0, but I don't see why.

Another possible source is grundgesetz 1.0.

but I don't see why.

Some people find it undemocratic when the government routinely calls elections simply because it is up in the polls.

Graydon @129: I am hoping that the coalition will see fit to remove the fixed election rule; it doesn't work with Westminster systems.

What makes you think so? It seems to work well with some non-Westminster parliamentary systems that aren't that different from the Westminster systems.

#151 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Andrew Willet @ 145

And the backoff interval has been set at almost 2 months, which is bound to cause a lot of packets to pile up. So, I'm curious: the first bill to be presented after the backoff times out appears to be budgetary; does that make it a supply bill which can trigger NO_CONF automatically? And come to think of it, will the beginning of work in Parliament constitute a new session and require a new Throne Speech, or will it be a continuation of the existing session?

#152 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 03:05 PM:

For purposes of completeness, we must mention the other note issuing bank in Scotland: Clydesdale Bank, which has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Australia Group for some years now.

#153 ::: The Observer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 03:28 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 151
A call to Parliament.prorogue() deletes the session. A call for a new Parliament.session automatically requires a Throne Speech initializer. In the current situation, this will be followed the next day by a call to Parliament.budget(). A vote against either automatically raises the NO_CONF flag, and this time there will be no avoiding it.

#154 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:02 PM:

I wonder what information was passed from node PM to LDQN, and whether LDQN has error-checking and data-verification routines available to it.

#155 ::: Giorgio ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Ah! Another example of the fundamental idiocy of the "we-don't-need-to-write-everything" Westminster System.

Closing down the Parliament to avoid a motion of no confidence, that's completely absurd. It would be considered a full-blown coup in most Parliamentary democracies.

#156 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:13 PM:

So, the Conservatives are saying that they completed all their intended business of Government after the last election, and it's safe to send the MPs home for two months?

Remind me about this example of their judgement come election time, please?

#157 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:19 PM:

Jo@79:

What odds that Bonar Law will eventually be best remembered for the Round the Horne sketch?

#158 ::: Chris Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:28 PM:

Graydon @6: The situation is rather more complicated and bizarre than you suggest. While the provinces do have their own Crowns, they share the same Queen (unlike, I believe, Australian states): there is no Queen of Ontario, for instance. Rather, there is Queen of Canada, in Ontario. Similarly, their LGs are not representatives of the Queen; they're actually representatives of the GG. See ss. 59 and 90 of the BNA'67 for details.

Graydon @29: The Governor General does _not_ cease to function as such if the Queen's present. Almost all of the powers in the BNA'67 refer to the GG in contrast to the Queen, and the Letters Patent explicitly delegate all powers to the GG regardless of presence. In short, the Queen has no more power when she's in the country than when she's not. This is, however, not true for many of her other realms.

Allan Beatty @123: Yep, forking happens unless everyone agrees.

Bruce Cohen @151: The Parliament.Session() constructor will automatically create a Thronespeech instance. But because of a race condition, the Budget.accept() test will execute before the Thronespeech.accept() test.

#159 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:06 PM:

Dropping the jargon for a moment, can anyone give me a somewhat reasonable guess as to what in the name of all Trickster Gods Harper thinks he's doing? What makes him think that the he won't lose the first vote out of the chute, getting a no-confidence that the GG is very unlikely to want to set aside? Unless he's planning to fire a few artillery rounds at Parliament Hill, the way Yeltsin called in artillery on the Duma. In which case for his sake I hope he has his bags packed and fast car idling in the drive.

#160 ::: tw ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:21 PM:

I think Harper is trying to con us over Christmas that he is right and the opposition is wrong so if the election option is used after the non confidence vote he's more likely to get a real majority at the polls.
Or he wants the time to pull a few distracting shinnies out of his ass to make the opposition look bad and have us voters go "what issues?"
Maybe he needs to time to go through the yellow pages for cheap assassins.

#161 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:38 PM:

My guess... he thinks that the pause will let him wheedle some of the other MPs to supporting him, and that a couple of months of playing the "this isn't fair" schtick in the press will cause the populace to tell their MPs to avoid the coalition.

His interesting choices in the differences between the English and French versions of his speeches makes me think this a little more.

It's also possible he thinks that he can threaten people with, "The time it would take to have a new election isn't something we can afford to add" because he's suspending any action on the economy for two months.

#162 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Coming in late on the Australian system:

The fault in the Australian system wasn't actually due to bugs in the LQDN. It was due to faults in the process for filling casual vacancies in the senate.

The whole mess started because during the Whitlam years, a Labor senator from Queensland died. Our constitution states that the premier of the state of origin of the senator is the one who can declare the replacement. The convention (unwritten) was that the premier would replace the deceased senator with one from the same political party; however, since this is not specified in the constitution at the time, there was nothing to stop the then Premier of Queensland (one Joh Bjelke-Petersen) from filling the vacancy with a member of a different political party (ie not Labor)

This changed the composition of the senate from having a small margin in favour of the ALP to being a hung senate, and created the conditions whereby the conservative parties (the Liberals and the (then) National Country Party) could block supply. This triggered a whole heap of problems, resulting in a complicated cascade of errors which wound up causing a system halt which could only be rectified by a double dissolution of parliament (or in other words, a reboot - the "Washminster" parliamentary operating system we use appears to be a version of Windows).

The bug fix involved specifying that in future casual senate vacancies, the replacement had to belong to the same political party as the prior senator. A further precautionary measure involved having the next three or four LQDN incumbents being constitutional lawyers. Currently our system appears to be stable, having been given its last periodic reset about a year ago.

#163 ::: Chris Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:03 PM:

Bruce Cohen @159: he seems to be betting that the coalition will splinter (which seems to be right so far) and that the Liberals will eventually fold and support (or at least arrange to have enough MPs absent like they did last Parliament) his budget rather than try to put together a cabinet while weakened and still trying to replace Dion.

Initial polling, btw, still puts the CPC well in the lead for voter preference: 45% to the Liberals' 24% to the NDP's 14%, nationally. Who knows whether that will stick.

#164 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:30 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 159: He's bought himself a 7-week reprieve, and a lot can happen in seven weeks. He might die. All of the opposition members might die. There might be some disaster so great that the whole thing becomes irrelevant (O, the embarrassment). And maybe the pig will learn to fly.

#165 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:52 AM:

Joel Polowin @ 164

Yeah, that was my guess, especially the last part, about flying. Or maybe he's hoping for a chance to use the Wookie defense.

#166 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:33 AM:

Harper: Oh, hi, George. Say, didn't you bring a bunch of soldiers home to, uh, curb possible civil unrest? I might have a bit of a problem here.

Bush: Uh, sorry, no habla ingles. <click>

#167 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:26 AM:

Say, didn't you bring a bunch of soldiers home to, uh, curb possible civil unrest?

This has been gone over before, but, no, he didn't, and who would imagine he would need to go all the way to Iraq when he could call upon some of the tens to hundreds of thousands of servicemen stationed in the US all the time?

#168 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:32 PM:

Re the soldiers: He did, and he didn't.

1BCT/3ID

The short answer is, there are a bunch of troops being trained to do internal security. They are being headquartered in a place which gives me some pause.

I am also of the opinion the Armchair generalist is making the mistake of trusting what we are told the mission of the troops is, as opposed to what it might become.

The comments in LGM, to which Armchair Generalist refers are pretty good (though to be honest, I make one of them, so I might be a little biased).

#169 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 12:29 AM:

Terry, I agree with you. Considering how rigid rules have become for protesting, it's not hard to imagine that the internal security troops will have us in the houses by 8pm. If the troops would go along with a coup (and they will be stationed at Colorado Springs where they will be plied with religiousity), we could see the middle of the nation break away.

#170 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 02:54 AM:

Terry Karney @ 168

I am also of the opinion the Armchair generalist is making the mistake of trusting what we are told the mission of the troops is, as opposed to what it might become.

That's the way I read it too. IMO it's somewhat naive to assume that the standing orders and mission statement of a command either tell you everything you need to know about how the unit will be used and how it will react in a given situation, or that they will remain static, unchanging, and interpreted in just the one way for the lifetime of the command.

And while this is, technically, not a deployment, to my knowledge it is the first time that a permanent command has been established with the sole and explicit purpose of training combat troops for, and directing operations against, US civilians. I was assigned to a task force set up on standby in case of civil disorder in the late 60's, but it was a dwell time operation for the 82nd Airborne and associated support units, with command firmly rooted in the chain through 82nd Division HQ and 3rd Army, not a specialized command structure.

#171 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 08:51 PM:

Marilee: When we add things like this (about the RNC, and who was involved in the collection efforts on protesters):

Many federal, state and local organizations were mentioned in this document, a number of which the ACLU did not know were involved. A number of these agencies are military based, which may directly conflict with Federal law that prohibits the military from engaging in domestic intelligence gathering.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is one of the organizations that is mentioned in the report that is particular cause for concern. NGA provides mapping tools and imagery intelligence that are obtained from the United State's military spy satellites which are controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office. In other words during the RNC, these top spying tools could have been utilized to gather intelligence on the homes of activists and media workers who were a part of the demonstrations. That information could have then been relayed to local officials.

A second agency that was involved in the planning is the Pentagon's Northern Command, NORTHCOM. Having NORTHCOMM at the table, assisting in the planning is troubling because it could mean that the military was involved in the crowd control strategies and dealing with potential civil unrest. According to a report in Army Times, it said that an active military unit has been deployed by NORTHCOM in the United States. This deployment marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment within U.S. Borders. (ACLU.pdf)

Looking at that I am much less sanguine. Colorado Springs doesn't worry me for the troops sake, but for the command staff.

#172 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 07:33 AM:

'If the troops would go along with a coup'

Genuine UsMil brand gear has a pretty good record of not generating spurious hardware interrupts. Just make sure you get the real thing, not some third-party clone or OEM knock-off.

#173 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 09:30 PM:

Lee (#697), re Stephen Harper, kitty-hero = good, trustworthy, strong-but-with-a-heart, &c, O yes. Maybe even more than picture with young child, that's a bit cliched these days.

Ken MacLeod (#78), on the midday news here, Sark (one of the States of Guernsey) is now also abandoning feudalism and having a General Election [by the residents] for the office of Conseillers of the Chief Pleas. Lucky for them there were no reports of WMD.

#174 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2008, 09:51 PM:

Aiee! That comment #173 is s'posed to be on Open thread 116, now up to comment #715. Too many tabs. I'm breaking for lunch & a cuppa.

#175 ::: Sandy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 07:06 AM:

I especially like the comment on "the otters return, and they're on fire": "I am dealing with some of these issues as well."

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