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Re: Master James

At 2:10 PM 3/28/96, Kate Spears wrote:

Greetings from Yaakov.  I appologize for the delay, but Passover
approaches!  I shall be out of contact for the next several days, although
by that time my responsemay have shown up on this list :-).

>Good Gentle Yaakov--
>Your comments about Master James' concerns about the proposed revisions to
>the Banishment rules inspired me to write back in response, and to post to
>the Merry Rose (something I almost never do).  Please note that I am writing
>as a member of the Society, NOT as Seneschal of Ponte Alto.

Understood, and I am grateful you cared enough to respond and share your
thoughts with us all.

>I take great exception to your referring to the Board of Directors as a "self
>selecting" and therefore self-serving group of people.

I do not believe I said they were self-serving.  They are, however, most
definitely self-selecting.  Only the Board of Directors can select another
director.  This is, by definition, self-selecting.  The membership has some
advisory input in the form of the nomination list, but the Board is in no
way bound by that list.  I remind you that two years ago, at the height of
the BoD crisis, the Board chose to go outside that list and appoint a
former director, Liz Johnson.

My primary point is that the Board is not answerable or accountable to the
membership at large.  They wield far more power than any king could hope to
wield.  Their terms last up to two years, not merely six months.

I am not denigrating the honor or integrity of individual Board members.
Even during the BoD crisis, there were members whose policies I bitterly
opposed but whom I felt conducted themselves honorably, doing what they
thought was in the best interest of the Society.  Good intentions, however,
are not enough.  Aside from the adage as to which road they pave, the Board
members are thrust into an incredibly complex and stressful job with
virtually no training beyond 'learn as you go.'  The Board selects for a
variety of criteria, but relevant mundane training and experience does not
appear to be a decisive factor.

All of this is somewhat irrelevant to the main point of this thread.  There
are other places to discuss BoD reform.  I merely wished to caution James
(and others) that relying on the Board to check the power of kings is not
justified either by structure, since the Board is not anymore directly
accountable to the Society at large than a king, or by history.

>Yes, there were some
>problems that many people had with some decisions of (or methods used by)
>past BoDs.  But there are those of us who feel the "Committee to Save our
>Society" was as dangerous and destructive as the evil they were supposedly

Of course.  There are those who thought we were evil incarnate, those who
thought we were champions of righteouosness with the courage of our
convictions, those who thought our goals admirable but deplored our
methods, and a gamut of opinion in between.  I did not wish to revist old
wounds.  I merely wanted to show my own biases and experiences so that
everyone who read my words would know what went behind them and before

>Also note that the person you referred to by name (Mr. Provine)
>was not, in fact, a member of the BoD, but rather an employee.

I did that deliberately to avoid an arguement over which, if any, Board
members personally bore the blame.  I have written at great length on the
subject elsewhere, including several poems.  This is not the time or place
to revist that particular battle.

>The Board members I have worked and met with (and there have been many) have
>been nothing less than very hard working, dedicated individuals, who truly
>try to make the best decisions they can with the information available to
>them.  If mistakes were made, they were not due to any malicious intent.

Nor did I ever say there was malicious intent.  I said, as I will say
again, that the Board is not directly answerable to the membership.  I
believe the governing structure of the SCA is fundamentally flawed.  This
has nothing to do with the people involved.  Perhaps it is a disease of my
mundane employment (I'm an attorney) but I put my trust in process rather
than people.  I would not swap my flawed democracy for Voltaire's benign
enligthened despot, even if I think such an enlightened despot would do a
better job than our current crop in Washington.

>Now on to the issue at hand, the proposed changes:
>So long as there is an umbrella organization for the thirteen kingdoms to
>operate with, that governing body should be available to hear and mediate
>disputes.  Royalty, like everyone, are human and subject to making mistakes,
>including mistakes in judgement.  When those potential mistakes in judgement
>affect the ability for someone to participate, there should be a review
>procedure available.  For that not only protects the subject (banishee) from
>a capricious monarch, but also protects a monarch (banisher) from being
>accused of being capricious.
>If your wishes (as expressed in your letter) come true, and the Kingdoms
>individually incorporate (or otherwise dissolve the SCA, Inc structure) there
>will need to be a similar organization on that level.  The governing body of
>the Kingdom (as opposed to the ceremonial Royals) could perform that
>review/appeal function.

I do not believe I expressed any such wishes.  I said I did not accept, a
priori, James' contention that the Board was necessary to keep the kingdoms

I will state a few beliefs of mine:

1) I believe there is a place for the Board of Directors.  It should
protect the medieval side of the game from the mundane side.  It should
noty involve itself in kingdom matters, or serve as an appelate court.
Instead, it should limit itself to handling IRS, group insurance, and
facilitating coordinated efforts in the mundane arena (such as my proposal
last year on how creating a database which would collect both success
stories and problems SCA groups have with local communities).

2) I believe the current governing structure is flawed in that the Board is
not directly accountable to the membership of the Society.

3) I believe the Board makes a poor appelate body.  It is structured to
make global decisions for the Society, not decisions affecting indivduals.
It leaves no record of its deliberations or reasoning, therefore serving as
a poor guide to future conduct. It does not rely on precedent, making its
judgments erratic.  It is also a certainty that none of the people making
an adudication are expert in the circumstances or relevant kingdom law,
since Board members recuse themselves from adjudications involving their
own kingdom.

4) I believe the kingdoms should have autonomy to make their own rules in
the medieval setting.

5) I believe the Board could serve a role as neutral mediator, rather than

>As for the problems James outlines being solely Atlantian, I beg to differ.
>Yes, there are very large differences of opinion of the role of Royalty here
>in Atlantia.  But in all Kingdoms you will find people who both like and
>dislike their currently reigning Royalty, which is why Kings and Queens are
>limited to six-month reigns.

Kings and queens are limited to six months by virtue of historical
accident.  The West, for example, has four month reigns (a superior system,
in my opinion, since it gets more people involved and prevents burnout).
James cited specific Atlantian monarchs and abuses of power of a sort I
have not seen in the East Kingdom.

Despite the illusion that the SCA kingdoms are all alike, there are radical
differences in the way SCA kingdoms work.  In the East, the king is
relatively weak, the peerages and the local barons and senschals have more
significant impact on things than a given monarch.  In the Middle, Curia is
supreme over the king and most of the decision making power is in the hands
of the Seneschalates and curia.  OTOH, the Kingdoms to the South and West
have never heard of Curia.  The West theoretically operates on "the Kings
Word is Law," but mitigates this through social custom.  Atlantia, as near
as I can determine, retains some of the trappings of its Eastern heritage,
but has degenerated into an autocracy where the king rules with little
formal restraint.

Ex: After the revocation of "pay-to-fight," the Midrealm included
pay-to-fight in its kingdom laws.  This took an act of the Midrealm curia,
duely published in The Pale.  In Atlantia, the MOL at the time of the
revocation simply decided it made things administratively easier if
Atlantia kept pay to fight and unilaterally decided to keep it.  Said MOL
then left to become princess, so her successor maintained the policy.  To
the best of my knowledge, it is still the policy.  Yet it has never been
formaly entered into Atlantian law by whatever process is used here for

>And in all the Kingdoms, there is the
>possibility (however remote) that errors in judgement, both on the parts of
>subjects and royalty, can occur.  Banishing from the "Royal Presence" (Level
>I), would not need a review, as it's easy enough for folks to avoid each
>other for six months, even in a Kingdom as small as Atlantia.  If, however,
>Royals are willing to take on the job of banishing someone they feel is
>damaging/endangering the way of life of the people of their Kingdom, to the
>point of removing them from office and/or other activities (Level II), they
>should be comfortable enough with their decision to have it reviewed by a
>third party.  The current "third party" is the BoD, and it should stay that
>way.  If the decision can't stand up to an independent review, perhaps they
>should make a different one that can.

as others have noted, the Board has rarely challenged a sitting monarch's
decision to banish.  I have listed some of the reasons why the Board makes
a poor appelate body above. Furthermore, the Board suffers because there is
no intrinsic respect for its judgments and, frankly, it has no enforcement
power short of suspending someone's membership.  This leaves the Board in
the unfortunate position of only having elephant guns when it wants (and
needs) a fly-swatter.  James' initial post contained a perfect example of
the impotence of the Board as an appelate body for reviewing banishments.

>Yours in Service,
>Aislynn Fyrlocc

Wishing all a happy holiday,
Mar Yaakov HaMizrachi

Harold Feld
Yaakov HaMizrachi

"Do not ask 'Why are these days not as good as the days of old?' This
question is not prompted by wisdom." -Eccl.