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Re: SP going to WIP or DRAFT?

Chronological Thread 
  • From: Philipp Dunkel <p.dunkel AT>
  • To: cacert-policy AT
  • Cc: Ian G <iang AT>
  • Subject: Re: SP going to WIP or DRAFT?
  • Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2010 17:46:20 +0200
  • Authentication-results:; dkim=pass (1024-bit key) header.i= AT; dkim-asp=none

Hi Mark,

I have to say that I am a bit astonished by your "reading" of the PoP. I for one truly believe that following your interpretation would be plain wrong. I will make clear why I think so below (For the hurried: I intersperse my comments between Mark's analysis and will then summarize below)

On Mar 31, 2010, at 2:45 , Mark Lipscombe wrote:
"Policy" is not the same as "policy document"
You are right: "Policy" is the content of a "Policy Document"


A policy document, such as the Security Policy, is a collection of policies, able to be distilled into "units" of policy.  Under this theory, the board may therefore use its veto to strike down any policy that "effect[sic] the running of CAcert Inc.".

If we accept this reading, we then have to decide what a distinct "unit" of policy is -- is it:
 (a) SP bulletpoint 5 ("Board") (the narrowest unit)
 (b) SP - Background Check Procedures - Coverage
 (c) SP 9.1.4 - Background Check Procedures
 (d) SP 9.1 - Staffing
 (e) SP 9 - Administrative

There are substantial advantages to this reading, in that it narrows to the smallest possible focus the authority of the board veto, to strike only at individual "policy units" which affect the operation of CAcert, Inc.

It also allows CAcert, Inc. to use it's veto with the smallest amount of fallout necessary to satisfy its obligations.
The consequences of defining the veto the way you did may all be well and true, however they are just not to be found in the PoP. As a matter of fact they are contrary to the PoP, because there are instances where the PoP does in fact refer to such Policy Particles and the veto is simply not one of them. In PoP 5.3 it says that parts of a policy that is being changed may have a different state and that in such a case only that part is marked as DRAFT. So the PoP did in fact foresee the partial treatment of policies. The fact that the PoP did not do so in PoP 4.6 when specifying the veto of the board, means that there was no intent to allow the vetoing of only a part of a policy.

Now that was just the simple literal interpretation. But there is also a teleological interpretation.

Teleologically the intent of PoP 4.6 was to permit the board to prevent policies from going into effect that run counter to legal obligations that CAcert Inc. has. This was to prevent policies from being written that would bring CAcert Inc. into automatic and unavoidable conflict with either the policy or the law.
However the intent of the veto provision was not to give the board of CAcert Inc. a method to alter or construct policies. However simply removing parts of a policy would in fact give CAcert Inc. such a method.
Imagine for example the following sentence to be passed into policy: "An Officer of CAcert is to be paid no more than $100 annually by CAcert Inc. to cover expenses."
And now imagine the CAcert Inc. board had the power to selectively veto certain parts such as the word "no". Then the Sentence would read "An Officer of CAcert is to be paid more than $100 annually by CAcert Inc. to cover expenses.".

Now this is admittedly an extreme example and one that is purely invented, but it clearly shows that the PoP had no intent to give this type of power to the CAcert Inc. board.

CAcert, Inc's veto applies only to CAcert, Inc.

CAcert, Inc's veto may be reasonably construed to be merely a veto of it's obligations under the policy.

In the absence of any conflicting policies and the distinct lack of contemplation on what happens next in the PoP, it's not a big leap.

The community through its association membership, still retains an effective method of overriding that veto, through the use of a special general meeting.  An arbitrator would also be entitled to look behind the reasons for doing so, on the basis of CAcert, Inc being a party to the CCA and a member of the community, and rule on the validity of the veto.
Again, I find your interpretation appealing, but I cannot find it supported in the PoP. In fact the PoP states clearly that:
4.6 During the period of DRAFT, CAcert Inc. retains a veto over policies that effect the running of CAcert Inc.
This clearly states that CAcert Inc. has a veto over policies. Not parts of policies, and not over obligations pertaining to CAcert Inc, but rather over whole policies. But only if they "effect the running of CAcert. Inc."

Now you gave the following reason for your veto over the SP: The veto was because requiring background checks for board members would be in conflict with the association rules and infringe on rights and procedures (the running of the association) established there.
Now when I read that, I thought to myself that I am very pleased with the fact that the board decided to use its veto power. As a matter of fact I think that there could have been rarely a better occasion for the use of the boards veto power that this.
Quite clearly SP 9.14 was exactly the type of situation that the PoP had in mind when granting CAcert Inc. its veto power. So let me say well done.

The question is what happens now. First of I think I can claim rough consensus on the fact that the Policy Group has simply accepted your veto and your reasoning for it. So there is right now no need to do anything further regarding that. As a matter of fact it is now up to the policy group alone to fix the situation.

Policy group could vote to return to DRAFT upon change to WIP

The policy group could seek to establish rough consensus prior to the veto motion coming into effect, deciding that the document return to DRAFT with the section that CAcert, Inc. objects to being struck.  This would remove the problem of any actual or perceived "vacuum" of policy.
Well actually that is not an option, because the veto motion has already gone into effect. So we are too late for that. Now if the board had contacted the policy group with their intent to veto before hand, that could have been a feasible alternative, but now the die are cast. And as a matter of opinion, I much prefer that the board acts the way it has acted in this case, because this simply strengthens the balance of power and the rudimentary checks and balances system we have in place.

DRAFT-in-VETO quasi-status

Occam's razor isn't irrefutable.  It may well be that we are not yet beyond necessity.

Given the lack of direction given for this situation in PoP, it could reasonably be argued that a new DRAFT-in-VETO "quasi-status" is created through the use of the veto, allowing the policy group some period of time in which to "fix" the policy before it would otherwise revert to WIP.

The DRAFT policy that is vetoed already meets all the requirements to be in DRAFT contained in PoP, and it has previously satisfied all the tests needed to pass through WIP status.  How can it make sense to return to a WIP status that it bounces immediately past anyway under PoP?
Well you are sort of right in this. Except that no such  no status is actually needed. In practice the arbitration is free to consider any WIP as a guideline to what the policy is likely to be in the future. This is even more true if the WIP in question has actually been DRAFT in the past. So while there is formally no binding policy, a WIP is still a very good guideline until the policy group moves the altered SP back into DRAFT.

We're all doomed, it's law of the jungle

Just the same as you could reasonably read the things above into the vast open space that is the PoP's description of what happens now, you can also read it to mean, as some already have, that the only way forward is to throw out the SP, start again, and let the law of the jungle rein free in the meanwhile.
I have actually not heard anyone suggest that we throw out the entire SP and start fro scratch and as I explained above, even WIP policies have a guiding force for arbitration. So that there is a "law of the jungle" now, is simply ludicrous.

If it's this reading that becomes the consensus, then future policies should be built with this in mind, and broken down into smaller policies, so that the baby doesn't get thrown out with the bath water.
That could be an option. Whether that makes sense and how far we want to take this may be left up to the policy group. It is the best qualified to judge here.

In closing, given that the PoP lacks even the most basic of guidance for this situation, I would submit we should read it in the light most favourable to the intent of the instigators of the action at hand.  This does not preclude the drafting of amendments to clarify future action under PoP, even if those amendments are the polar opposite.
In closing :) , the PoP does not lack guidance here at all. It is actually quite straight forward. There is a clear procedure to follow in this case, and I think it would be very prudent of the board of CAcert Inc. to let that process continue as it should. Right now there is now need for hasty actions.


The PoP is actually a concise and quite clear policy that has my full respect, because it is able to deal event with this difficult situation. The board of CAcert Inc. has spoken, and it has spoken in a well reasoned manner. Now it is the task of the policy group to deal with the consequences. I truly believe that CAcert's legislative body is quite well up to this task. So I fear not chaos and strife, but rather foresee that this will be a shining example of how governance can work in a democratic organisation.
All I ask is that the policy group be permitted to do its job without unnecessary doomsaying and interference. There will be clear proposals for a revised SP in short order and the policy group will then put forward a new SP into DRAFT status.

Regards, Philipp

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