"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pax in our time

Having devoted a considerable amount of effort here to the pursuit and verbal crucifixion of my old arch foe Caeso Fabius Buteo Modianus, I think it both noteworthy and fair to record the fact that we both have decided to declare a state of pax. There are bigger issues at stake in Nova Roma than those which divided us in 2004.

Currently Modianus has joined the merry band of "outcasts" in the Back Alley, something which required a fair degree of spine and fortitude given the vitriol that was catapulted from that locale onto his head. He has survived unscathed, despite the occasional ball of flame.

Modianus has also held his own in quite a few tense debates, underscoring the point that he obviously didn't join that "nest of vipers" in a moment of self-flagellation in order to silently endure the pain of thirty or so "snakes" crawling up his pant leg and stinging him with the "venom" of recriminations or triumphal crowing.

It's good to see him there, for it underlines the closing of one era in Nova Roma and, hopefully, the commencement of a better future.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nova Roma Reborn

As we approach a new year it is clear, sadly as much as it was in past years, that there is no firm plan that has been, is, or is currently likely to be pursued, to put Nova Roma on a path to success.

Maybe now is the time to consider implementing a plan, and dealing with some of the issues that seem complex but in reality can be easily solved.

For those that haven't read the document below, it outlines a plan for rebuilding Nova Roma, and addresses a wide range of issues.

Nova Roma Reborn - A discussion paper

Thursday, December 02, 2010

In the forum, on which laws raise concerns

My real concern lies with actually creating a list and proceeding to eliminate the legislation without first checking how the disappearance of a particular law can affect other legislation. It is, sadly, not as easy as checking to see whether the law you want to eradicate is cross referenced by name in another lex. Oh that it were that simple.

The problems really start when a set of circumstances conspire to create an unforeseen situation, which wouldn't have occurred had you not eliminated the targeted lex in the first place. So how do we prevent that? By carefully examining the legislation, line by line, section by section, looking to other leges to determine if the removal of that content would affect them, by consultation, by trying to predict crisis points, and generally proceeding with caution.

As I said before the praetors are unlikely to be the driving force for the elimination of say the legal code in Nova Roma. Practically the consuls drive that particular bus, determining their legislative agenda and priorities.

You can rest assured though that if elected I will expect the consuls to fully involve myself and my colleague in a through consultation process, not to be swayed by demands and expectations to eliminate this or that lex immediately, to procure the advice of the senate so as to allow for the experience of former consuls, praetors and all our senatorial colleagues to be utilized.

On those items that require constitutional changes it will be necessary and prudent to ensure that the proposed change can command the requisite support in the senate BEFORE the matter is taken to comitia. That will ensure precious legislative time is not wasted on bringing such items without warning to the comitia, passing them, only to find they fail inside the senate. On such significant constitutional items the consuls might do well to commit to the senate to seek a senatus consultum prior to seeking a comitia vote.

Additionally promoting this approach to the senate will mark a change in the way in which it has been used, and promote and develop, hopefully, not only a degree of independence of thought but also an expectation that such a practice would become common place in future years.

Negotiation to ensure passage of significant items has been sadly lacking in the last few years, for it wasn't seen as necessary when one faction or another commanded sufficient voting muscle to push items through. Times have changed, and should change and I would hope our colleagues would place any proposals for legislative amendments, especially the wholesale eradication of legislation, under intense scrutiny, and that the consuls afford them the chance to do so. If they don't, then nothing will have been learnt from the crises of recent years and they, and future consuls, may find their legislative proposals die a painful death on the floor of the house.

Anyone in management, be it in government or business, will tell you that simply tearing up policies, or in our cases leges, without doing the due diligence necessary to ensure that the situation doesn't become far worse, as well as ensuring that replacement legislation is ready and has been equally scrutinized, is a recipe for disaster. I am not advocating no change or prevarication, but measured caution, and not charging in like a bull at a gate, repealing this or that lex, only to find we need it later, especially if we could have predicted such a need by taking a measure of time more.

I also hope that if there is actually merit in legislative change that its timetable is not dictated by the desire to "achieve" something in one's consular year at the expense of it running over into the next year and thereby ensuring full due diligence is done. If the senate so wishes it can pass a senatus consultum to require the next year's consuls to continue the work, so change need not be mandatory within a twelve month period and must not be driven around consular ambition. This is a general comment, and not directed at the current candidates for consul.

Change for change sake, or just because it is popular, or change without due diligence is a very bad thing. We should proceed in a measured and cautious way.

Friday, November 26, 2010

In the forum, asked on laws to repeal or change

Whoever is successful in the election for praetor will have to, to a large extent, follow the lead and legislative program of the consuls for next year. Praetors do not have a free hand amice, as you know, at implementing a legislative program of their own.
That said, what laws do I want to repeal you ask. Any law that is so badly written that it cannot be salvaged without  a total rewrite, any law that is irrelevant to the current and foreseeable circumstances of the res publica, and any law that conflicts with the constitution to a degree that it could not be salvaged without a total rewrite.
As to changing laws, the same criteria as above, especially in respect of laws where only a small percentage of the overall law is contradictory.
A reasonable time frame is a subjective judgment, which is going to be affected by numerous factors, but if the work is started immediately in January there is no reason that I can see that would prevent the process being completed by December 31st.
Now, I am sure for some the burning issue is the fate of the Lex Salicia poenalis and Lex Salicia iudiciaria. Put simply the system they outline has not worked, does not work and will not work, with the degree of universal support necessary for a legal code. The reason being, that on all sides of the spectrum there is recognition that the practical application of trials do not match the expectations of justice and the goals of the drafters.
However, having reviewed some suggestions for replacing them, I note that some suggest total abolishment and for others the solution is a simplified trial process. The issue goes deeper than that. I believe it is completely impossible to find citizens that will be widely accepted as neutral in their assessment of the evidence. It doesn't matter if they can be neutral; it is the perception that counts, which influences the level of support for the system.
Additionally there are sections of the current leges which it would be absolutely vital to retain if a simplified trail process was adopted, namely temporal limits of Nova Roman authority. That is just one example. Simple and short when constructing a legal code is not necessarily best. leaving the process to be decided by the sitting praetor will without question be a source of dispute, as it was before. The real question is do we need an internal justice system? Add to that, should we even attempt to construct one with such a small population base, where charges of bias will run rampant against those comprising the court?
The easy thing to do in response to your question is to produce a shopping list of laws to replace, repeal, but the issues run far deeper than knocking a few unpopular ones off the books, only to discover that the price of popularity is an even bigger mess. Any changes to our legal code have to command near universal support, they need to be well mooted and discussed at all levels, ideally they should be modeled "in action" to see how they perform. It maybe the popular thing to do to stake the legal code, but I as praetor would be obligated to ensure that I didn't promote a popular cause and create a legacy of a huge mess for someone else to have to deal with next year, or in the years to come.
So amice, I won't give you your shopping list of laws for the axe, but I will state that if I am elected I will assist immediately in any law reform they undertake, and to give politically neutral and constructive critical comments, and generally assist the process - which must be community based as it is the people's legal system - of review.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In the forum, on cake and the Hospitality list

I often heard the complaint that the ML is a terrible place, some find it intimidating, there are reports of citizens and prospective citizens throwing in the towel after one heated debate or the other.

Various attempts have been made to rectify this, from overbearing moderation masquerading as a public order technique, but to some having more to do with the suppression of free speech and silencing opponents, to periods when the more frequent posters from all "sides" swore off discussion of politics to put to the test the claim that a surge of creative posting was being prevented by the political atmosphere.

These attempts at political non-discussion produced only silence, maybe because people were only too aware that any post they made might end up being judged on its content as to whether creativity and genteel valuable discussion had flourished.

The obvious fact is that this list and its struggles and strife is a reflection of part of our societal issues and this fact seems to have raised the question as to whether a prospective citizen should be shielded from this discord. Well, this list is the equivalent of a virtual arena at times, where virtual body parts are scattered around in one argument or another. It always seems to have been so reading previous years' posts. Now many say that this list is not all that Nova Roma is. That is true, in theory, but since political issues dominate, this list is actually about the key issues of the day. Returning to the frequent claims of how ghastly this list can be, and how many citizens it has cost us, if that is so and given the failure to alter that my one means or another, over the course of years and years, then logic dictates that the prospective citizens should not be exposed to this "vileness". After all, you can't have your cake and eat it.

The new list will give prospective citizens a chance to be exposed to the other side of Nova Roma, that many have complained never gets to truly flourish on this list. Why would we, if those claims are true, not want to present the best side of Nova Roma to prospective citizens? There will be time enough if they join us for them to be corrupted by all the terrible horrors that occur on this list, and take their place in the stands, popcorn in hand gawping at all the verbal duels to the death and egos and arguments hitting the sand here.

Come now, all of you who have made almost careers out of denouncing what goes on here, why would we not want to protect those valuable and vulnerable assets, prospective citizens, from all this wickedness here?

Of course I don't believe that this place is terrible, and I do think that some people among us have used these scare tactics to "political" ends, to steer new citizens to the purity and light of one faction or another.

Well now we have an opportunity to remove from this list non-citizens bent on participating in political debates that only concern the citizens of Nova Roma (would the ancient Romans have tolerated a Greek for example standing on a soap box yelling about how rotten Rome or some of its politicians were, or would he have been manhandled about and tossed out the gates?)and at the same time answer once and for all all these endless complaints about what a detrimental effect the atmosphere on this list has on prospective citizens.

Since we have proven we don't seem to be able to change the nature of this list, then let us remove the non-citizens and the vulnerable prospective citizens, so that all of us seasoned veterans can either return to arena watching, or be down on the sand clubbing each other over the head.

Cake anyone?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In the forum, on candidature for praetor

I announce my intention to stand for Praetor.

There are potentially three main challenges facing any praetor. Firstly the somewhat confused nature of the wording of some of our laws and the constitution. Secondly, dealing with potential trials under the current legal system. Thirdly, moderating this forum.

The first, wording of laws and constitution, requires a collaborative effort on the part of consuls, praetors and other magistrates and senate. I am currently appointed to the senatorial committee on reviewing the bylaws of Nova Roma. I have macronational experience through my job in preparing and reviewing provincial legislation.

The second, sadly, is somewhat of a feature of Nova Roman life. Until such time as the process for trials and prosecutions is changed, the system has to be administered in a fair and efficient manner. That means conducting any trial according to the law of Nova Roma as it is written. I have assisted the advocatus in one trial and have first hand experience of the pitfalls and risks of deviating from following the written law. However potential litigants should be aware that if elected I will make the responsibility of the person commencing the prosecution to work hard to just get his or her case accepted, and I will encourage alternative remedies and offer to mediate or arbitrate a dispute outside of a formal trial process, if all parties agree to it.

Lastly, the moderation of this forum. This has proved, to say the least, an explosive issue at times. My stand is simple. The constitution and laws of Nova Roma limit a praetor to only moderate or remove posting rights when a clear and imminent danger exists. Most times posts that are explosive don't risk destroying Nova Roma. I think we need far less restriction, more trust, and we also need to stop taking a rather patronizing attitude that some people inherently can't be trusted and have to be moderated for eternity. That is a sentiment I have heard over the years, and I simply don't accept it. If someone crosses the line by swearing, making threats or other wording which either breaches Yahoo TOS, Nova Roman law, or since Yahoo operates in the US, federal US law, then I will deal with it. Posting objections to my actions, other magistrates, the senate, does not constitute a threat to Nova Roma. Being held to be annoying and irritating isn't an offense, fortunately since many of the regular posters (myself included) would be on moderation.

Good fortune to all candidates and success in office to those that win.