Index ← 3782 CFJ 3783 3784 → text
===============================  CFJ 3783  ===============================

      Jason Cobb has more than 2000 Coins.


Caller:                        Jason Cobb

Judge:                         Alexis
Judgement:                     FALSE



Called by Jason Cobb:                             07 Dec 2019 02:44:42
Assigned to twg:                                  07 Dec 2019 17:15:22
twg recused:                                      01 Jan 2020 21:32:35
Assigned to omd:                                  01 Jan 2020 21:32:35
omd recused:                                      11 Jan 2020 19:36:59
Assigned to Alexis:                               11 Jan 2020 19:36:59
Judged FALSE by Alexis:                           12 Jan 2020 22:34:43


Caller's Evidence:

On 12/6/2019 6:44 PM, Jason Cobb wrote:
> I perform the following actions, in order, 1000 times:
> {
> Pursuant to Rule 2154, I declare myself the winner of the election for 
> the 
> office of Assessor that was initiated on the 7th of November 2019 (UTC).
> Pursuant to the Rule with the title "Glitter", I earn 17+1=18 Coins for 
> earning an Emerald ribbon.
> }

Proposal 8266 [ADOPTED]:
> ID: 8266
> Title: Glitter
> Adoption index: 1.0
> Author: nch
> Co-authors:
> Enact a Power-1 rule titled "Glitter" with the following text {
>     If a player has earned a ribbon in the past 7 days but already owned 
>     it e CAN
>     once (until e earns another ribbon), by announcement, earn N+1 coins 
>     where
>     N is the number of current players that do not own the same ribbon.
> }

Excerpt from Proposal 8276 [ADOPTED]:
> ID: 8276
> Title: Various Election Fixes v2
> Adoption index: 2.0
> Author: Jason Cobb
> Co-authors:
> Amend Rule 2154 ("Election Procedure") by replacing the text "declare em
> the winner of the election by announcement" with the text "by
> announcement declare em the winner of the election, thereby causing em
> to win the election".
> [This clarifies that this actually causes the person to win the
> election, which could be construed as a distinct action from "declaring
> em the winner". The replaced text differs from the one in the most
> recent SLR because Falsifian cleaned the text by replacing "them" with
> "em" since then.]


[Note: I have included the text of the proposals themselves, rather than 
the text in the recent SLR, because the resolutions are more easily 
verifiable, and I don't completely trust my SLR right now, for previously 
stated reasons.]

Caller's Arguments:

Under the precedent set in CFJ 1584, performing an action 1000 by saying 
that one does is acceptable. Furthermore, I argue that the precedent in 
CFJ 1774 does not override this - this action does not create thousands of 
things that must be dealt with individually (such as CFJs); it can be 
dealt with by updating a few lines in the Tresasuror's report (and perhaps 
adding an explanatory note), so I argue that my actions do not constitute 
an "abuse of other player's time and efforts". Thus I argue that I was 
indeed able to perform the actions in this message 1000 times.

Assuming the above is accepted, then I have won the election 1000 times 
and, after each win, earned 18 coins. The earning of coins is effective 
because there are 17 players who do not possess an Emerald ribbon (19 
players total, minus me and G.), and I did not earn any additional ribbons 
between earning the Emerald ribbon and claiming the reward of coins, 
fulfilling the criteria in "Glitter".

Thus, I argue that I have earned 18000 Coins, so I have more than 2000 
Coins. I argue that this CFJ should be judged TRUE. 


Gratuitous Arguments by G.:

The election "ends" after the first announcement:

>       When a player wins an election, e is installed into the associated
>       office and the election ends.

It's important to decide (by common definitions) what properties an "ended
election" has.  An "election that has ended" may or may not still exist, 
but common definitions would say it doesn't have "a single candidate" any 
longer (the condition necessary to enable the announcement), rather it's 
an "election with a winner".

Further, if the callers' arguments are accepted, it leads to a potential
problem.  The term "in progress" isn't defined. By common definitions, if 
a winner can still be declared, then the election is still in progress, 
even if another part of the rule says it has "ended".  The caller's
interpretation would let us look at this clause:

>       The above notwithstanding, an election for an office CANNOT be
>       initiated if one is already in progress.

and conclude that all past uncontested elections (1) can still have a 
winner announced and installed in office, therefore (2) they are still "in
progress" therefore (3) no subsequent elections for those offices were 
ever started.


Judge Alexis's Arguments:

1. Background

To recap the events leading to this CFJ, an election was initiated for
Assessor on November 7, 2019. The caller, Jason Cobb was the sole candidate
at the end of the election period, allowing em to be acclaimed by the
procedure in Rule 2154. At the time, the acclamation procedure read "If at
any point an uncontested election has a single candidate, then any player
CAN by announcement declare em the winner of the election by announcement."

Subsequently, Proposal 8276, authored by the same Jason Cobb, amended the
phrase by replacing the text "declare em the winner of the election by
announcement" with the text "by announcement declare em the winner of the
election, therebycausing em to win the election". Thus, the sentence now
reads "If at any point an uncontested election has a single candidate, then
any player CAN by announcement declare em the winner of the election,
thereby causing em to win the election." This was, as it turned out, a
submarine scam attempt.

Rule 2602, also recently enacted, reads "If a player has earned a ribbon
in the past 7 days but already owned it e CAN once (until e earns another
ribbon), by announcement, earn N+1 coins where N is the number of current
players that do not own the same ribbon." Jason Cobb attempted to scam this
rule in conjunction with eir new wording for Rule 2154 to claim many
Emerald Ribbons and use that to generate income. Rule 2438 puts it quite
simply: "When a person wins an election, e earns an Emerald Ribbon."

Thus, on December 6, 2019, Jason Cobb purportedly repeated the following
sequence 1000 times: e first declared emself the winner of the
aforementioned Assessor election, then claimed 18 coins under Rule 2602. If
successful, this would result in em gaining 18,000 coins.

2. Questions

In order to determine the appropriate judgment, we must ask all of the
following questions:

1) Did Jason Cobb's message contain a valid shorthand for having written
the actions out 1000 times?
2) Under the new wording of Rule 2154, was it possible for Jason Cobb to
repeatedly declare emself the winner of the election?
3) If it was possible, did e earn an Emerald Ribbon each time by doing so?
4a) If e did earn an Emerald Ribbon each time by doing so, did that make it
possible for em to award emself coins each time pursuant to Rule 2602?
4b) If e was not able to declare emself the election winner repeatedly, or
if e did not win an Emerald Ribbon each time, were eir attempts to aware
emself coins under Rule 2602 repeatedly nonetheless successful?
5) If e was not able to award emself coins repeatedly under Rule 2602, did
e nonetheless have more than 2000 coins as of the initiation of this CFJ
due to unrelated circumstances?

I will address each in turn.

3. The Shorthand

I see no reason to disagree with the caller that their shorthand was valid.
No one has made any argument to the contrary. Therefore I answer question 1
in the affirmative.

4. Winning the Election

4.1 Arguments

Question 2 is, realistically speaking, the most critical question. The
caller, however, offered no argument on this point; eir arguments simply
assumed this. I would caution the caller that this is not an acceptable
argument, and that the courts will most certainly investigate into all
aspects of cases, particularly cases that are admitted to be scams.

In eir arguments, G. drew this court's attention to the fact that
announcing the winner of an election ends it. E highlighted the need to
decide on the effect this has on the election, and in particular whether it
remains possible to declare a winner. E also argued that, if it is
possible, then the election must therefore remain in progress, and that
would make further elections entirely impossible.

In eir draft judgment, omd agreed that winning an election multiple times
defies typical usage, but rejected G.'s argument that the scam requires an
election, after it has ended, to remain in progress. Eir argument took the
view that the two states must be mutually exclusive, and that is not a
problem. Furthermore, e said that it was not necessarily a problem that an
election could be won after it is ended. E also compared the language of
winning to the language used to "win" Agora. However, e felt that it was
relatively difficult case and felt it might come down ultimately to the
consideration of the best interests of the game. Even on that point,
however, e was equivocal, due to the fact that scamming is a core part of
the game of Nomic.

4.2. Analysis

Let us look again at Rule 2154: "If at any point an uncontested election
has a single candidate, then any player CAN by announcement declare em the
winner of the election, thereby causing em to win the election." and "When
a player wins an election, e is installed into the associated office and
the election ends."

It is trite that rules are interpreted according to the first paragraph of
Rule 217: "When interpreting and applying the rules, the text of the
rules takes precedence. Where the text is silent, inconsistent, or unclear,
it is to be augmented by game custom, common sense, past judgements, and
consideration of the best interests of the game."

We have a scenario where a winner was declared for an election and then the
election ended. The caller's scam relies on being able to repeat this.
Consequently, the only question is whether an election "ending" thereby
makes it no longer satisfy the precondition "If at any point an uncontested
election has a single candidate..." This could occur either because the
election ending effectively causes it to cease to exist, or because it
ceases to be uncontested, or to stop having a single candidate.

We can address the latter two possibilities quickly. "An election is
contested if it has two or more candidates at the end of the nomination
period, and uncontested otherwise." This definition is with reference to a
fixed point in time, the end of the election's nomination period. There is
no way for the election to stop being uncontested. And only one mechanism
is provided for a candidate to cease being a candidate: "A candidate ceases
to be a candidate if e ceases to be a player during the election or if
holding the office would make em Overpowered." Jason Cobb has been a
player, and not been ADoP, for the entire relevant time. Consequently,
these conditions did not apply, and e could not have ceased to be a

So the one remaining question is whether an election "ending" causes it to
cease to exist as an election, bringing it outside the scope of the
acclamation clause.

So what, exactly, is an election? Well, the rules explicitly provide that
it has an ending, and additionally provide a mechanism for its initiation.
Clearly an election does not exist prior to its initiation. We can also
note that the above-quoted sentence refers to "during" an election.
Therefore, an election is best described as an event. It begins, runs for a
while, and eventually ends (or at least, is capable of ending).

One could argue that the above-quoted sentence actually argues that an
election continues in some form beyond its ending, as the condition "if
holding the office would make em Overpowered", however, that condition is
phrased as ongoing, as opposed to the "ceases to be a player" condition,
which refers to a single event. This is arguably a bit sloppy in itself,
and therefore I don't think should be read too deeply.

I agree with omd's analysis of G.'s argument, in particular that it does
not preclude that an election could still exist, in some sense, after it
has ended, and that after that point it would no longer be considered to be
in progress. However, it is clear from the prohibition against simultaneous
ongoing elections that elections are intended to genuinely be serial,
rather than than accumulating over time in some "ended" state. This is
reinforced by Rule 2138 which, though lower power, requires that when there
is no ongoing election for an office, that the ADoP report "the date
on which the last election ended". This strongly implies that the elections
are inherently serial. The alternative would presumably require more
convoluted language such as "the date on which the election that most
recently ended ended", to account for the existence of multiple elections
at once.

I believe that this alone ought to be enough to tilt the common sense and
game custom aspects of interpretation against the caller's interpretation.
Once an election has ended, it is no longer an election, and thus the
precondition in the acclamation clause might still apply. But there might
still be some argument for an alternative where it continues to apply
indefinitely. I can see no reasonable, principled argument that there is
any in-between, such as that the election can be won, but only until the
next election for the office is initiated. That interpretation would
require a contortion beyond the text of the rules.

Fortunately, we do not need to agonize extensively about whether that
interpretation is correct. There is an important consequence of winning an
election, one that seems to have been overlooked by all arguers, even
though it is arguably the most important! The winner of an election is
installed into the office.

In other words, the caller's interpretation contends that, not only was e
able to repeatedly win the Assessor election and reap the rewards for it,
but e furthermore could continue to do so at any time. E would have a
permanent license to become Assessor at any time by announcement. Actually,
any player could do so at any time. The same would be true for any past or
future acclaimees. It would be conceivable that two players, acclaimed at
different times to the same office, would fight over control of the office,
and other players would be powerless to intervene except by proposal. It
would also, effectively, grant any player a veto over the result of any
contested election, since that result would be nullified as soon as a
player chose to again declare someone the winner. Arguably, due to the
language that a player ceases to be a candidate if they stop being a player
"during the election", then even deregistration would not cause this power
to expire.

This clearly strains common sense, game custom, and the good of the game.
It cannot hold. Question 2 is answered in the negative.

5. Ribbons

Questions 3, and 4a need not be answered. Question 4b remains, however: did
Jason Cobb successfully award emself coins? This question is necessitated
by the somewhat unclear wording of Rule 2602, which I again quote: "If a
player has earned a ribbon in the past 7 days but already owned it e CAN
once (until e earns another ribbon), by announcement, earn N+1 coins where
N is the number of current players that do not own the same ribbon."

The issue here is that the condition in Rule 2602 is worded so as to be
evaluated continuously. Consider "If the sky is not blue, a player CAN once
Observe the Sky." After a player has Observed the Sky, can they still do so
if it remains not blue? What if the sky changes to blue and then back? Can
they do it again?

This stands quite in contrast to rules worded to apply to a specific
triggering condition, notably Rule 2449's "When the Rules state that a
person or persons win the game, .... The Herald is then authorized to award
those persons the Patent Title of Champion once, by announcement.", Rule
911's "When [a CFJ is entered into Moot], the CFJ is suspended, and the
Arbitor is once authorized...", or Rule 2496's "A player CAN, by
announcement, earn the set of assets associated with a reward condition
exactly once in a timely fashion each time e fulfills it, ..." These all
have a well-understood interpretation supported by their text: each
instance of the triggering event causes the action to be possible one time.
See, for instance, CFJ 3770. Once the total number of actions equals the
number of triggering events, the action cannot be further performed.

There are two other instances of "once" used to control actions in response
to a trigger in the ruleset. One is in Rule 2350: "If a decision of whether
to adopt a proposal was resolved as FAILED QUORUM in the last seven days,
the Promotor CAN once add the proposal back to the Proposal Pool by
announcement." The other is in Rule 103: "If at any time the office of
Speaker is vacant, or when one or more players win Agora, then the Prime
Minister CAN once appoint a Laureled player to the office of Speaker
by announcement." The Rule 103 case, however, is a hybrid. It has a
disjunctive condition, the first branch of which is continuous, and the
second of which is triggered.

Because Rule 217 requires that the text of the rules takes precedence, this
implies that the same language must mean the same thing in different rules,
unless there exist other factors creating wiggle room for different
interpretation. Most such factors would have to be textual, thanks to the
precedence of text, but in some cases factors such as the power of rules
could apply, since lower-powered definitions are not binding and thus words
defined in a lower powered rule might get different interpretation in
higher-powered ones.

In this case, all three rules are different. Rule 103 refers to an ongoing
state, not an event having occurred recently, for which the continuous
condition is far more natural. It also has the disjunction which
necessitates a harmonious interpretation. Additionally, the action to be
taken necessarily resets the condition. Rule 2602 has the parenthetical
"until e earns another ribbon", which significantly affects its
interpretation. And Rule 2350 has none of these.

Nonethless, the existence of these ambiguous texts in Agora implies that,
perhaps, the Since the "CAN once" text has become a bit too much of a
cargo-culted canned phrase. It may be useful to consider what we would have
if we change it slightly in a way that clearly preserves meaning, such as
"If the sky is not blue, any player CAN Observe the Sky one time." I would
not say that this is any less ambiguous, but it helps clarify the nature of
the ambiguity.

This court sought additional arguments on this point, due to the lack of
discussion in advance. Falsifian and omd responded, and argued in favour of
an interpretation similar to the original intent.

There are five interpretations that immediately present themselves.

1. At any time that the triggering condition is met, then the action can be
performed one time. It can be performed one time again, too. It can, in
fact, be performed one time any number of times.
2. At any time that the triggering condition is met, then the action can be
performed. But it can only be performed once, and can never be performed
3. When the triggering condition is met, then the action can be performed
one time, but cannot be performed again until the triggering condition
ceases to be met and then starts to be met again.
4. The same interpretation as if it had been written with a triggering
condition, namely that the action can be performed once for each time that
the triggering condition is met.
5. When the triggering event occurs, the action can be performed, and then
the triggering event must be occur again before the action can be performed
again. Should the triggering event happen a second time before the action
is performed, however, the action cannot now be performed twice.

The fifth interpretation requires that there being a triggering event
specifically, which may be possible even when the wording is, on its face,
a continuous condition, as in Rules 2350 and 2602. It cannot apply to
purely continuous conditions such the vacancy condition in Rule 103.

I will go through each of the three rules in question and analyze which
interpretations they favour under the Rule 217 interpretation rules.

I turn first to Rule 103. The first and most immediate thing to note is
that the continuous condition is the office of the Speaker being vacant.
The action is to appoint a player Speaker. Thus, performing the action once
will necessarily cause the condition to become false. Thus, there is no
practical difference between the first interpretation and the third. The
fifth is inapplicable; there is no reason to read the clear condition as
actually referring to the event of the office of Speaker becoming vacant..
The fourth interpretation may look quite similar to the third, but because
the condition refers to ongoing state, the fourth is different. It would
imply that, if the office of Speaker becomes vacant, is filled through no
action of the Prime Minister (say, by proposal, or possibly by ratification
of an incorrect ADoP report), then the Prime Minister retains their
appointment power. It strains credibility to argue that this interpretation
is supportable from this text, when the language "once" is much more easily
assigned to have its primary meaning on the second arm of the disjunction.
As for the second, this is entirely unsupported when faced with the
event-triggered condition on the other side of the disjunction as well.
Thus, the only interpretations supportable for this rule, at all, are the
first or third. I leave it open as to whether or not the Prime Minister's
appointment power, when triggered by game wins, accumulates in the same
manner as other "once" triggers usually do.

Turning to Rule 2350, I note that the third, fourth, and fifth
interpretations are nearly equivalent, due to the time required for a
proposal to fail quorum and the fact that this is the only way for
proposals to be re-added to the Proposal Pool, short of a direct
intervention by proposal.

What does common sense tell us? Common sense says that the purpose of this
rule is to provide a mechanism by which inquorate proposals can be returned
for vote. But what of the limitation that it happen only once? Well, the
most obvious thing is that a proposal should not be re-added to the
Proposal Pool while it is being voted on a second time. This would indicate
that the first interpretation is unsupportable by common sense. The second
and third, though, do not have a clear preference between the two. It is
not unreasonable to place a limit on the number of automatic, or
functionally automatic, reattempts at passing an inquorate proposal. omd
pointed out, in response to a request for argument from this Court, that a
once-ever interpretation could also be interpreted as applying to once
ever, but only per decision rather than per proposal. In this case, it
would be equivalent to the third and fourth interpretations, but I think
that common sense militates against this interpretation of "once ever".

History does record one example, in July, where a series of proposals (8077
being the first) were redistributed a second time following successive
quorum failures, seemingly without challenge. Recent custom thus points
away from the second interpretation.

Therefore, it seems that the third, fourth, and/or fifth interpretation,
where there is one authorization per inquorate decision, should dominate.

Finally, we return to Rule 2602. I quote the full text of the rule again:
"If a player has earned a ribbon in the past 7 days but already owned it e
CAN once (until e earns another ribbon), by announcement, earn N+1 coins
where N is the number of current players that do not own the same ribbon."

The interesting thing here is the parenthetical. It clearly affects the
conditions under which a ribbon could be used to earn coins. Both Falsifian
and omd argued that the effect of the parenthetical is primarily to
clarify---and indeed, the fact that is a parenthetical means it is likely
intended only as a clarification. But at the same time, the text does not
allow it to be purely clarifying, as it refers to the next time a player
earns "a ribbon" with no limitation on the colour ribbon. If it were purely
clarifying, it would have to refer to the next time a player owns the same
colour of ribbon, or at least another colour which the player already owns.
But since earning any ribbon is a distinct event, this language must have
meaning of its own.

The fact that it uses the word "until" also means that it clearly refers to
the next time that the player earns a ribbon after the triggering event.
"until" is clearly a time limitation, but it could mean one of two things.
It could mean that it represents a limitation on when the action is
performed, and once the player earns another ribbon e has lost the
opportunity to gain coins, or it could alternatively mean that the effect
of the "once" is limited and the action can be performed again once another
ribbon is earned, even one which the player does not own already. But this
seems to open up immense new areas of ambiguity. How many times could it be
performed? Would it be one time for each time a new ribbon is earned,
effectively allowing some quadratic growth within the seven-day window?
Would it be performable infinitely once another ribbon was earned? This
sort of contorted interpretation defies common sense, game custom, and the
good of the game. We should only turn to it if we find that a pure time
limitation is equally problematic.

Going to each available interpretation in turn, the first could be reworded
as "If, within the last 7 days,  a player earned a ribbon e already owned,
and provided e has not earned a ribbon in the meantime, e CAN ..." But the
"until" parenthetical was attached to "once", not written as a separate
condition, and this interpretation makes "once" largely redundant text. The
first interpretation perhaps strains common sense in the best of times, but
it also becomes patently unreasonable in this light.

For the second condition, a purely time limitation would mean that not only
can the action be performed once ever, it must be performed before the next
time a ribbon is earned. It could conceivably mean that there is no
opportunity to cash in the reward, when ribbons are earned in quick
succession. This is also a patently unreasonable interpretation.

Turning to the third condition, I believe that it is unsupportable with a
purely time limitation. It effectively requires substituting an alternate
end to the duration from that specified in the "until" clause, or finding
some strange way to reconcile them. The fourth runs the opposite problem:
it makes the limiting language utterly meaningless. There is no way to
reconcile it with the text. I part ways with the additional arguments from
omd and Falsifian here, if this is indeed the interpretation they were
arguing here.

Finally, that leaves the fifth interpretation. This interpretation is
similar to the first, as reworded above, but with the additional condition
that the action can be performed only once within the window. This is
effectively allows us to reword the condition to "When a player earns a
ribbon e already owned, then e CAN once, within the next 7 days and prior
to earning another ribbon, ..." This does raise the question of why the
rule was not worded in such a way to begin with, which causes common sense
to militate against this interpretation somewhat, but far less than any
other interpretation. The good of the game certainly prefers this
interpretation to most of the others, as it is far less broken, and beyond
that I do not feel the need to consider past judgments and game custom.
They clearly do not argue against this interpretation, or in favour of any
of the others, strongly enough to outweigh common sense and the good of the

Thus, I find that the the proper interpretation of Rule 2602 is that, when
a player earns a ribbon that e already owns, that player can gain income
for that ribbon one time, but e must do so prior to earning any other
ribbons, and within 7 days. This implies that, as Jason Cobb did not earn
any ribbons in eir message (except, I suppose, possibly the first time as I
did not investigate to see whether the Assessor election had already been
resolved by that point), e did not succeed in awarding emself coins each
time. Thus, question 4b is answered in the negative. Question 4a would also
therefore be answered in the positive, had it been relevant, but it did
depend on Jason Cobb's interleaving of ribbons and income. E could not have
declared emself the winner 1000 times and then earned the income for all of
them afterward.

6. Unrelated Conditions

A cursory review of Treasuror's reports indicates that, without the scam,
Jason Cobb would clearly have less than 1000 coins. So the scam is the only
way he could have more than 2000, and the last question is answered in the

7. Conclusion

It follows from the above that:

a) Jason Cobb did not have more than 2000 coins prior to attempting eir
b) Eir scam did not succeed at declaring em the winner of the election
repeatedly, and consequently e did not repeatedly earn Emerald Ribbons.
c) Eir attempts to award emself income in the scam were unsuccessful.

I judge CFJ 3783 FALSE.