Constitutional Crisis: Week 2

Today the students took over and began convening as a convention. Several students have experience with Model UN and/or Model Arab League, and they immediately proposed that “the ancient text of Robert’s Rules” be used as their procedural rules. So far so good.

There was actual debate over the issue of a chair and a scribe (the term the delegate/student used). Ultimately it was decided to have the chair be the scribe, and to select a new one each day. I think that’s not a good method, other than that it limits any one delegate’s ability to get too powerful. We’ll see how it works out for them.

It was then proposed and agreed to that the delegates would go around the table, introduce themselves, and express their state’s main concerns. The disputed borders that some states share immediately emerged as one of the top concerns.

Following this there was a lull, and I wrote in my notes that everyone seemed at a loss as to what to do next. Side conversations were beginning, and initially I thought they were just chatter. And perhaps initially they were, but as I listened, I realized they were quickly becoming serious discussions between 2 or 3 delegates. To my right two delegates were discussing the internal control problems of the one’s state (Vandalia, which has uncontrolled mountainous areas, where clans raid into neighboring states), and what might be done about it. To my left, the student from Champlain, which has competing governments, was pleading for support for his claimant government in winning the civil war against the other claimant government. Every delegate present was involved in a conversation except for that one, who I’ve never been pleased to have in a class–who was texting and entirely unengaged, after having arrived late.

Another delegate asked for a 5 minute recess, which the chair granted, and the two of them then hurried out into the hallway to caucus in private, only to return in a few minutes, grab another delegate, and return to the hallway.

I admit I didn’t know just what was going on, and was a bit bemused that they weren’t working as a body. But just before the day’s session ended, two delegates at the far end of the table announced they had signed a written agreement to resolve their border dispute. Sangaman (comparatively well consolidated politically, and with some extant industry) would keep their trans-Mississippi territory, and Nodaway (wholly lacking in industry and electrical production, and not yet politically stabilized) would drop its claim. In return, Sangaman would provide industrial consultants, use some of its industry to produce windmills for Nodaway, and would provide peacekeepers to help with the upcoming election, to ensure its fairness.

Meanwhile, the delegates in the hall returned for the adjournment of the session, and in talking to others revealed they also had been working on resolving a boundary dispute. They had not completed a deal yet, but it looks as though it will involve an agreement to draw the boundary down the the middle of the disputed territory, and some other exchange of value, not all of which I caught, but part of which included access to Chesapeake Bay ports.

This is smart of the delegates to get some items off the table so they don’t bog down the convention, but I hadn’t anticipated it. And I intend to put a bug in Nodaway’s ear about whether he’s really comfortable letting another state insert troops in his state. This could return as an issue if they start talking about a joint, union-level, military.

As the session concluded, the delegates agreed to meet Thursday, despite my absence. I like that.

I wonder what I’ll miss.

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6 thoughts on “Constitutional Crisis: Week 2

  1. And I intend to put a bug in Nodaway’s ear about whether he’s really comfortable letting another state insert troops in his state.

    Passed note says that a patrol of Sangaman troops on the border called in an air strike on a zombie hordelet but mis-read the map coordinates and inverted them, and the air strike blew up a wedding party of Nodaway citizens.

    They were likely to be attacked/killed by the zombie hordelet, so some significant members of Nodaway are inclined to let it go, but “Insert Named NPC Character Here” is agitating some populist anger about the incident.

    Be prepared to bring up “Insert Named NPC Character Here” in a couple of weeks, if you can engineer him/her back into the storyline during a later session.

    Or maybe have “Insert Named NPC Character Here” assassinate the Nodaway representative :)


  2. It sounds like they learned of the usefulness of back-channels, but lack the people to actually do the back-channelling.

    , and would provide peacekeepers to help with the upcoming election, to ensure its fairness.

    This sounds like a good idea that would never actually happen. Anyone who was genuinely selected to represent Nodaway’s interests would be the kind of person who would find it laughable that their elections were anything but fair. And to invite a rival to come and keep track of things sounds like something that Nodawayans would find a violation of their sovereignty and hugely embarrassing. I think this delegate probably should be talking to one of the other countries to seek asylum rather than head back home.


      • To paraphrase one of the Perl slogans: electricity makes easy things easier and hard things possible. To pick an example, my great-grandfather owned a small-town-scale woodworking shop. Power was provided by a donkey engine outside, that drove a line shaft that ran the length of the shop. Individual tools were powered by leather belts that were pulled tight by a lever to deliver power from the shaft to the tool. Here’s a picture of a shop of that type. Compared to using electricity to distribute power, line shafts are inefficient, unreliable, and more dangerous in several ways.

        One of the things that I have thought is weak about Prof. Hanley’s scenario is the broad lack of electricity. That’s not a serious criticism; electricity haves and have-nots is an excellent way to create states with different interests. Nevertheless, a modest-sized suburb contains tens of thousands of generators of various sizes, more motors than generators, and hundreds of thousands of miles of already formed wire. “Scavenger” cultures following a collapse are a relatively common theme in science fiction. Given a source of running water, or wind, or something to burn to make steam, village-level electricity ought to be possible very quickly. Keeping it going over decades is harder, as scavenged stuff wears out, but that’s why you save some engineers.

        It’s amazing how many different ways science fiction authors have used to preserve some engineers (and engineer knowledge). Engineers as monks. Engineers as a guild. Engineers as slaves. Engineers as privileged slaves. Engineers as wealth and currency (“It was a bad harvest, we’ll trade you a young engineer trained in electricity for six tons of rice.”). It probably says something about the authors that three messages always seem to be floating around below the surface: (1) almost all engineers are male, (2) provide them with enough food and sex and they’ll be happy, and (3) engineers have a compulsion to engineer; don’t let them do it and they’re miserable.


  3. Is one of the working assumptions that the delegates are empowered to make binding decisions for their government(s) back home? Or are things like border decisions simply “simplifying assumptions”? That is, let’s you and I agree on a potential border resolution and move on, but the Big Bosses back home will have to approve it before it’s really settled.


    • I probably haven’t made that clear enough to them, but theoretically they have to get everything approved back home. Of course in reality there is no back home, just them, so the theory has limits as a motivator.


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