Category Archives: Bricklyn History

Understanding the Federal Council

by Eric Tiler Corman, Politics Correspondent for The Bricklyn Eagle.

Summary of Article ➤ The Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn (FCRB) is the national governing body. Gain an appreciation of the FCRB’s responsibilities under the Bricklyn Constitution, as well as the contrasting role of the King.

Warning to readers. As a reporter, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but unless you’re a political or comparative government junkie, or a reporter like me, you may find some of the following a bit dry to read. In that case, just focus on the material I’ve highlighting in bold!

The Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn (FCRB) came into existence on the day of the Realm‘s founding: May 14, 1961, following an advisory referendum put to all citizens of the three cities of Bricklyn, South Bricklyn, and Bricklyn Junction to: (1) disassociate from the Danish Realm; (2) associate to create the Tripartite Realm of Bricklyn; and (3) adopt the draft Constitution for Bricklyn.

The citizenry of the three cities by a 3-1 margin voted in support of the three questions. Voters also elected their representatives to the newly formed FCRB.

Given the relatively small population of the three cities making up the Realm of Bricklyn — at the time of founding in 1961, just 21,755 citizens (36,054 today) — Bricklyn’s founders did not see the need for a large legislative body. Instead, federal level decisions are made by the seven member FCRB, whose members are elected to three year terms.📍

📍There has been a regular tug and pull between federal and local responsibilities which are beyond the scope of what we’re covering today. Suffice it to say, all “foreign affairs,” including relations with both Inland🌀 and Outland🌀 communities are within the purview of the FCRB.

Six of the seven Council seats are allocated by a population-based formula. Since the founding of the Realm the allocation has not varied, with Bricklyn having three seats on the Council; South Bricklyn having two; and Bricklyn Junction one seat. We should note that even the smallest of the three cities is guaranteed at least one seat on the Council.

The seventh seat, however, is the most important one, as that Councilor is elected by a vote of the entire Realm — that is, of the residents of all three cities. It is comparable to what can be called an “at-large” seat. But there is one critical distinction. The at-large Councilor is also designated the President of the Council. Since 2012 at-large Councilor Hilma Plater-Zybrick has served as President.

The Role of the Council President

The President of the FCRB, like all other Councilors, has only one vote on the Council. However, she also has several other key responsibilities, one of which is serving on certain Special Committees set out in the Constitution as having the power to make key appointments. For example, the appointment of the Realm’s Chief Prognosticator🌀 is made by a three-member Special Committee consisting of the Federal Council President, as well as the Realm’s Principal Historian and the Realm’s Chief Scientist.

Photo from the 2012 coronation of YMK Brickburger, which occurred shortly after both his election as Mayor of the City of Bricklyn, and the election of Hilma Plater-Zybrick as Federal Council President (back left with orange hair). Also visible in photo: Chamber of Council President Thomas Brickorti; Chief Magistrate Ruth Plater Kinsburg; and a member of the Realm of Bricklyn Guard.

The Constitution also gives the Federal Council President the power to appoint the Chief Counsels for Inland and Outland Affairs, as well as the position of Chief Magistrate and several other key federal positions.

However, the Constitution does provide that these and other appointments are subject to consent of a majority of the Council (in other words, four Councilors, including the President as Councilor, must vote to consent.

Each member of the Council is also assigned to head one of the Realm’s departments. Assignments (or reassignments) are made by the Federal Chancellor in consultation with Council members:

  • ➤The Department of Outland Affairs (headed by the President)
  • ➤The Department of Inland Affairs (headed by a Council member)
  • ➤The Department of the Environment (headed by a Council member)
  • ➤The Department of Transportation (headed by a Council member)
  • ➤The Department of Commerce (headed by a Council member)
  • ➤The Department of Environmental Protection (headed by a Council member)
  • ➤The Department of Justice (headed by a Council member)
    • ➤ note: The Department of Mediation is headed by the Federal Chancellor in his/her capacity as Chief Mediator.

Is Malter Thurnbrick the Real Decision Maker?

Federal Chancellor Malter Thurnbrick in the Federal Council chambers (which also serves as the Royal Hall when needed for the King’s ceremonial duties).

You probably haven’t heard much of Malter Thurnbrick. After all he’s only a “humble civil servant” (as he calls himself) who directs the Federal Council’s staff of seven.

Yet his position as Federal Chancellor is often extremely influential in developing federal policy positions for the Realm, especially in its dealings with Burlington as well as other Outland and Inland cities.

The Federal Chancellor is a position set out in Bricklyn’s Constitution:

Article I, Sec. 5. “The Federal Chancellor shall be appointed by the President of the Council for a three-year term, subject to the consent of a majority of the full Council. The Federal Chancellor shall: (a) provide staff support to the Federal Council; (b) have the right to table motions of the Federal Council for up to 30 days; (c) be responsible, after consulting with Councilors, for assigning or reassigning Councilors as Department Directors; (d) serve as the Chief Mediator of the Realm; and (e) have such other duties and responsibilities as the Council sees fit as specified by majority vote of the Council.”

Some savvy, well-traveled readers may already have noted several similarities between Bricklyn’s Federal Council and the Federal Council of Switzerland. One such parallel is in the role of the Federal Chancellor. As Federal Chancellor Malter Thurnbrick told us: “Yes, for sure there are lessons Bricklyn’s founders took in drafting our Constitution. They drew not just on their Danish heritage, but also looked at Outland countries such as Switzerland, and, of course, took heed of their new homeland within the State of Vermont.”📍

📍Vermont’s influence can more deeply be seen at the local level, and in particular, in the practice of town meeting. More on that in a future post.

Walter Thurnherr, Federal Chancellor of Switzerland. Photo from Chancellery web site. Of course, his lack of a beard clearly distinguishes him from Bricklyn’s Malter Thurnbrick.

As Malter Thurnbrick continues: “The Bricklyn Federal Council certainly draws on aspects of Switzerland’s Federal Council, as does my position as Federal Chancellor. My ‘counterpart’ in Switzerland, the curiously named Walter Thurnherr, nicely described his role as Federal Chancellor with these words: ‘I don’t see myself as the eighth federal councillor, but rather as the most senior civil servant. My power is limited, but I do have a certain influence. My role is to mediate, offer guidance and coordinate, and I can make proposals.’ … I couldn’t have said it better myself!”📍

📍See “The Federal Chancellery” on the Swiss Federal Chancellery FCh website.

… and What Role Does Bricklyn’s King Play?

Yes, Bricklyn does have a King. Today, that is YMK Spiro Brickburger. However, his role is primarily ceremonial, and to serve as a “goodwill ambassador” to other Inland and Outland communities. Let’s quickly take a look at how Bricklyn’s Constitution defines the role.

Article II, Sec. 1: The King or Queen of the Realm of Bricklyn shall be the then elected Mayor of the City of Bricklyn, that City being the capital city of the Realm, unless such Mayor declines to accept the appointment as Queen or King, in which event the Queen or King shall be appointed by majority vote of the Federal Council for a term of three years. 📍

YMK Brickburger after being crowned KIng of the Realm of Bricklyn

📍By traditional Bricklyn practices of modesty, most past Mayors of the City of Bricklyn have declined being simultaneously appointed King. However, YMK Brickburger chose to accept the Kingly role, saying it would “strengthen the impregnable bonds of comity throughout the Realm.” Political analysts have still been trying to understand the meaning of Brickburger’s remark.

Photo of YMK Brickburger after being crowned; holding the sacred foundation tile of Bricklyn.

Article II, Sec. 2: The King or Queen’s principal responsibility is to promote the values of unity, conciliation, honesty, and kindness in the Realm of Bricklyn, and to represent these values in dealings with other Inland and Outland communities.

If Necessary, as a Last Resort

The King, as well as all elected officials in the Realm, whether serving at the federal or local level, are subject to removal from office. As the Constitution provides:

Article II, Sec. 3: “All elected officials, whether at the federal or local level, as well as the King, can be removed from office before the end of their term if a majority of voters of their jurisdiction so vote at a special election. Such special election shall be take place within 45 days of the receipt and verification by the Chief Clerk of the appropriate jurisdiction of a petition signed by at least 20 percent of the registered voters of said jurisdiction.”

We’ll soon be turning our attention to some heated developments related to the current King, WMK Brickburger, including a recently initiated petition effort to simultaneously oust him as King of the Realm and as Mayor of the City of Bricklyn.

Key Council Rulings

The Bricklyn Eagle has already provided you with information on two key FCRB rulings: the recent ruling finding Facebrick guilty of antitrust and privacy law violations; and the Council’s landmark 1992 ruling limiting network access within the Realm. Given the central role that the FCRB plays in Bricklyn, you’re sure to be hearing more about their decisions in future posts.✥

When Bricklyn Pulled the Plug

by Brenda Softbrick, The Bricklyn Eagle’s culture & history correspondent, and Samantha B. Fortune, health & science correspondent

Summary of Article ➤ Did the landmark 1992 ruling of the Federal Council limiting computer network connectivity set Bricklyn on a smarter course? A look back at the ruling and the controversy over The Exchange.

➤ Note from Bricklyn Eagle Editor Walt Brickman: We had not planned on running this article by reporters Softbrick and Fortune until next week, but given the announcement yesterday of the Federal Council’s ban on Facebrick, we asked them to complete this article asap, as it will give you a basic understanding of The Exchange 🌀 — Bricklyn’s link to Outland 🌀 computer networks and databases — as well as the key role the Realm’s Chief Prognosticator 🌀 often plays (as happened again in yesterday’s Council ruling).

One of the most profound and far-reaching decisions ever made by the Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn (FCRB) 🌀 occurred on May 15, 1992.

On that day, the FCRB by a 6-1 vote pulled the plug on the growing expansion of computer networks. For better or worse, that decision has shaped Bricklyn’s subsequent history and set the City on a very different path from its twinned City of Burlington, Vermont, and from virtually all other Outland communities. What’s more, it sparked a movement among other Inland (LEGO) towns and cities 🌀 to follow Bricklyn’s lead.❖

Of particular note, the Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn issued three key mandates as part of its ruling:

(1) that any inter-business and inter-governmental networks only be allowed under strict criteria to be drafted by the Bricklyn Science & Humanities Board (BSHB). These criteria were promulgated the following July, and approved by the FCRB;

(2) that societally beneficial limitations be placed on the use of computer networks by residential users, under rules to be developed by the BSHB. More in a future article on some feel the adopted rules were circumvented by Facebrick.🌀

(3) that one location, open to the public, be established in the City of Bricklyn as a single point of connection to external networks being developed in other Inland/LEGO cities. This facility, called “the Exchange” in honor of Ursula Le Guin, was opened in November 1994.

Report on the Future of Networked Computers in Bricklyn

Cover of the landmark report by the Office of the Chief Prognosticator, relied on by the Federal Council in issuing its three mandates on networked computers.

Heavily influencing the Council’s decision was an in-depth report prepared by the Realm’s then Chief Prognosticator, Ray Brickbury, in consultation with Chief Scientist Mike Strassman (who still holds that position) and then Chief Historian Joseph Tiler Bellis.

“A Report on the Future of Networked Computers in the Realm of Bricklyn” predicted that computer networks would ultimately display a dangerous vulnerability, where the welfare of businesses, residents, and essential public services could be at risk from being dependent on the stability and security of the networks.

“It was very fortunate,” Plater-Zybrick adds, “that the Realm back in 1992 could call on — and then listen to — the wisdom of Chief Prognosticator Brickbury and his colleagues.”📍

📍Brickbury retired in 1999, and was replaced by Mary Plater Campbell. David Bricks was appointed to the position in 2014 .

Brickbury also foresaw that computer networks would enhance the already addictive nature of computers for young people, lessening the resilience of this generation of Bricklynites.

A young Ray Brickbury, then an Assistant to the Chief Prognosticator, in 1981. In front of the Prognosticators offices in the Corner Garage building (LEGO 10264). The building has since been dismantled).

➤ From the pen of Ray Brickbury’s human doppelgänger, Ray Bradbury: “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.” Quoted in “Fahrenheit 451 becomes e-book despite author’s feelings”BBC News. November 30, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2021.

❖ As policy analyst Barbara Plater McQue has written, “the bold decision of the Federal Council moved Bricklyn to a leadership position among Outland communities around the world, a surprising outcome for a Realm of relatively small size, and geographically isolated from the principal LEGO realms.” From Bricklyn’s LEGO Community Leadership & How It Came About (Lost Hinge Press, 2019).

Defending the Federal Council’s Ruling

Hilma Plater-Zybrick at her home.

As can be imagined, the Federal Council’s decision also placed a demanding burden on the Bricklyn Science & Humanities Board, then Chaired by Hilma Plater-Zybrick. As many readers will know, Plater-Zyberk later went on to be elected to the Federal Council from South Bricklyn in 2008. She then ran and was re-elected as for the at-large Council seat in 2012, thereby becoming President of the Council.📍

📍The at-large Council member is automatically named President of the Council. For more on the Federal Council.

Plater-Zybrick, in a recent interview with this paper, noted that “the heavy, and growing, dependence that much of the Outland places on computer networks, puts individuals and businesses at the mercy of increasingly common service interruptions, viruses, or attacks.” But Plater-Zyberk cautions that “the even graver risk is that whole countries are now realizing that their basic infrastructure, including electric grids, is at grave risk.”

📍 From “Plater-Zyberk reflects on the Outland’s SolarWind Attacks,” (The Bricklyn Eagle’s Inland-Only Edition, June 15, 2021).

➤ See also, for example, reports on the recent SolarWinds attack on CBS news (“SolarWinds: How Russian spies hacked the Justice, State, Treasury, Energy and Commerce Departments“) & in many other publications, including The New York Times (“As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm“).

Controversy Over “The Exchange”

The Exchange was originally located in the third floor suite of the Corner Garage Building in this 2007 photo — interestingly enough in the same building as the Office of the Chief Prognosticator. As previously noted, the Garage Building has since been dismantled, and the Exchange relocated.

Some critics of the Federal Council’s mandate for a separate facility to connect to networks in Inland communities across the globe said it seemed to emulate what they called the “bizarre fantasy novel,” Always Coming Home, by Outland author Ursula Le Guin.

In Le Guin’s telling, computer networks in Kesh communities were made available in buildings called “Exchanges” (or “Wudun” in the Kesh language) and not in peoples’ dwellings or places of work.

Defenders of the Council’s ruling argued that Le Guin’s imagined society offered a “perfectly sane approach” to allowing for the growth of knowledge (through connections between the Exchanges and enormous databases in the “City of Mind”), while at the same time “diminishing the negative societal impacts of networked computers.”

Yes, as a result of the policies resulting from the Council’s decision, life in Bricklyn can at times seem quite backward compared to Outland cities, or to even quite a few other Inland communities.

Yes too, there has been occasional griping from the business community about the “wonders of technology” Bricklyn is missing out on — though those critiques have lessened as the vulnerability of Outland networks has become more apparent.

But polls show that the vast majority of Bricklynites still strongly support the Council’s 1992 ruling and see little reason to revisit it.📍

📍 Polling from the Prew Institute for Public Research indicates that 55% of Bricklynites still think “highly positively” of the 1992 Council ruling; 20% view it “positively;” 10% view it “negatively;” 2% highly negatively;” and 13% either “have no opinion” or “have never heard of” the 1992 ruling.

Neo-Luddism?

Bricklyn’s path forward has some parallels to the slowly growing Neo-Luddism movement among Outlanders. Even those who profess not to be Neo-Luddites can attest to the benefits of lessened dependence on the Internet and world-wide networking in this age of damaging hack attacks.

➤ As Brett Frischmann writes in Scientific American’s blog (“There’s Nothing Wrong with Being a Luddite” (September 20, 2018): “The good thing about Luddism is that it enables critical reflection and evaluation of the world we have built and are building. At times, we need to break away, to deconstruct the systems within which we find ourselves embedded and to evaluate how the technologies we take for granted influence who we are and can be.” ✥

Illustration of the Great Wall of China

The “Great Wall” of Bricklyn

by Brenda Softbrick, The Bricklyn Eagle’s culture & history correspondent

Summary of Article ➤ Understanding the Great Wall of Bricklyn is essential to understanding Bricklyn itself. A brief primer on the Great Wall.

One of the most puzzling aspects of Bricklyn to outlanders🌀 is the fact that only a small portion of the Realm of Bricklyn🌀 can be seen. While we know it is there, it is blocked from view by the Great Wall of Bricklyn.

Those Who Know of the Outland

The Great Wall of Bricklyn
The Great Wall of Bricklyn rises to the West of downtown and the Bricklyn Harbor, blocking outlanders’ views of much of Bricklyn.

Within Bricklyn itself, those told of the Wall (and of the existence of Bricklyn’s “twinned” city of Burlington, VT) include:

  • the Chief Cosmologist,
  • the Mayor of Bricklyn,
  • the Chief Prognosticator,
  • the Seven Councilors on the Federal Council of the Realm,
  • the Chief Justice,
  • the Principal Historian,
  • the Chief Scientist,
  • the Principal Psychologist,
  • the President of the Legotary,
  • officials in the Realm’s Inland & Outland Consulates,
  • select staff at the Bricklyn Chamber of Commerce, and
  • carefully vetted reporters for The Bricklyn Eagle, myself included.

There are several hundred other Bricklynites who are also part of the “Samfundet af de kyndige” (usually simply referred to as The Samfundet🌀). This is translated from Danish as “the Community or Society of the Knowledgeable Ones.” These “Kyndige“🌀 Bricklynites were (for reasons we are not authorized to publish) initially contacted by the Samfundet📍 and then made aware of the existence of the Outland world.

Suffice it to say, there are severe penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of being a Kynidge and part of the Samfundet to those who are not.

The vast majority of Bricklynites remain in blissful ignorance of how living “ud over muren” (beyond the Wall) shields their lives from the “prying” eyes of outlanders — or, to put it more positively, from the fascinated glances of tourists visiting Bricklyn!

Scientists Still at a Loss to Explain the Great Wall

Image of ghost walking down the street
No, Bricklynites are not like ghosts walking down streets or through walls!

What still cannot be explained by the Bricklyn scientific community is why residents of the Realm of Bricklyn can neither see the Great Wall nor be affected in the least by it In their daily lives.📍

📍 For a look at a somewhat analogous phenomena, see The City & the City.

Bricklynites truly seem to be able to walk through walls! Yet we know they are not ghosts!

So what is hidden beyond the Great Wall? Most significantly, all of South Bricklyn (including the airport; the regional high school; and the medical center) and the small historic enclave of Bricklyn Junction. A substantial portion of Bricklyn itself — including most residential and commercial districts — is also shielded from visitors’ view by the Wall.

graphic of the Great Wall of China
Some have drawn parallels between the Great Wall of Bricklyn and the Great Wall of China. While both have the goal of protecting their population — whether from curious outsiders for Bricklyn or invading hordes for China — the Great Wall of Bricklyn is truly an invisible presence for all but a select few citizens of the Realm of Bricklyn.

What remains inside the bounds of the Wall, and is thus visible to outlanders like you?

Key areas visible to visitors include:

  • the downtown (where you’ll find government offices; the courthouse; city hall; the library; the museum; and the central railroad station);
  • Bricklyn Harbor and its ferry docks;
  • Lake Bricklyn;
  • portions of the Bricklyn Canal;
  • the railyards; and
  • the southside neighborhood.

Dating the Construction of the Great Wall

Eastern wall of Bricklyn
Bricklyn’s new rail yard abuts the Eastern Wall. As you can see from the photo, the Eastern Wall is much newer than the other Walls and constructed of different materials (block versus stone). Winny Tiler Jackson, Bricklyn’s Principal Historian, has dated the Eastern Wall to circa 1980. It’s amazing to realize that the construction workers laying new track can’t even see that they’re working next to the Great Wall !

The Great Wall is actually comprised of four adjoining walls encircling Bricklyn on the East, West, North, and South

Again, these Walls delimit those parts of Bricklyn which can be viewed by outlanders, and those which cannot.

Winifred (Winny) Tiler Jackson, Bricklyn’s Principal Historian, says that the Western, Southern, and Northern Walls date back to 1892, and have their origins in house construction occurring in the City of Burlington, Vermont, at the time, while the Eastern Wall (see photo on left) was much more recently built. ✥

There’s another “wall” in Bricklyn, but one that prevents most Bricklynites from seeing into the neighboring Outland City of Burlington, Vermont. For more on this mysterious barrier.