Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Night time lectures with Laurance Paul Strait

When students come back to the dorm and still have debate questions, LPS (Doctoral Candidate - USC Annenberg School for Communication) is there to answer! Outside his door is a list of topics that any student can request. Whether it’s rebuttal redos or writing 2AC/1AR blocks, LPS will be there to help you after the day is done.

Here is an example of one of his evening seminars:

Judge Adaptation – Optional Evening Seminar

10:40 PM, 15th Floor Lounge

Please feel free to come, or not come. You may arrive late and/or leave early if you wish. This will not be a traditional lecture; rather, it will be more of a guided discussion. Topics include:
-what are the different types of judges?
-what are the most important things to know about a judge?
-how to adapt to each type of judge
-how to read a judge philosophy

We will examine the judge philosophies of several of the faculty, and discuss how to adapt to each.

Don't forget to propose topics to me for future evening seminars. The next seminar will cover advanced theory issues, and the next after that will cover various philosophical traditions and their utility in debating kritiks on either side.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Critical Theory Versus Peacebuilding

For your consideration: a couple of interesting cards we’ve found that support an anti-imperialism-based affirmative.

First, the problem-solving approach of current peace building efforts takes the world as they find it. The neg’s appeal to pragmatism inhibits a larger reconstructive agenda that challenges current notions of common sense and prioritizes the listening to the dispossessed.

BELLAMY, Pf of Peace & Conflict Studies @ Queensland and WILLIAMS, Pf of Security Studies @ Birmingham, 2004 (Alex J. and Paul, International Peacekeeping, Spring, Vol.11, No.1, Spring)

Problem solving theory takes the world as it finds it and aims to make the relationships and institutions found therein work smoothly by dealing with particular sources of trouble. As we discuss in greater detail in the concluding essay, such theories are far from socially or politically redundant but must be seen as limited in their perspective and as identifying and dealing with problems in a particular manner. In this collection, several contributors argue that the theory and practice of peace operations and conflict resolution have been shaped by a problem-solving epistemology. This has resulted in managerialist solutions based upon the prevailing definitions of common sense that privilege particular types of knowledge and experiences as relevant, and draw spatial and temporal limits around the remit of peace operations. Although such approaches may mitigate particular violent conflicts they do not challenge or seriously reflect upon the global structures that contribute to human suffering and, sometimes, violent conflict in the first place. Moreover, problem-solving approaches define certain forms of action as relevant, identify particular lines of causality and render certain practices legitimate at the expense of others.

Critical theory on the other hand aims to reflect upon the characteristics and structures of the prevailing world order and asks how that order came about. Critical knowledge calls into question existing institutions and social power relations by enquiring into their origins and how and whether they might be in the process of changing. In relation to peace operations, a critical approach seeks to investigate who benefits from certain types of practices, what linkages exist between local actors and global structures, and why certain voices and experiences are marginalized in policy debates.24

But critical theory is not solely concerned with developing critiques of past and present thought and action. It is also fundamentally concerned with proposing reconstructive agendas based on possibilities immanent within the current global order. The first step in any reconstructive agenda, however, is to challenge prevailing conceptions of common sense and listen to what Edward Said called ‘the poor, the disadvantaged, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the powerless’.25 Reflecting upon the epistemological assumptions behind current peace operations is thus a necessary part of thinking anew.

Second, condition CPs are a form of the neoliberalist urge to engineer. We need to accept the defeat of peacebuilding.

PUGH, Director of the Plymouth International Studies Centre, 2000
(Michael C., Regeneration of War-Torn Societies)

Clearly, however, a conceptual emphasis on process may neglect outcomes. Events may inexplicably overturn peacebuilding, or reveal the transformation as cosmetic. Indeed, processes of democratisation, for example, can contribute to the outbreak of violent conflict.1 And, as Wayne Nafziger and others suggest, the resources brought to bear on regeneration can restore the kind of neo-liberal development policies that perhaps contributed to the conflict in the first place.2 The difficulty is that judging outcomes is bound to be elusive, since 'success' can be neither absolute nor readily measured. Benchmarks, such as 'fulfilling a mandate', are subject to interpretation and the quality of success is more often a matter of propaganda than substance. From a historical perspective, it is even doubtful whether one can determine a meaningful timescale to judge outcomes, as suggested by the question: 'was the Bolshevik Revolution a success?'. The more meaningful difficulty may be in recognising flaws in peacebuilding and adjusting policies accordingly – including, perhaps, accepting defeat. In practice, actors are inclined, quite reasonably, to test indicators on an incremental and comparative basis: 'have incidents of political violence declined since last week/year?', 'how many people accept what we are doing?' and so forth. Another problem, then, is for participants to gain some idea of the strategic picture and to avoid getting hooked into short-term, sectoral projects divorced from, and perhaps counteracting, other peacebuilding efforts. Interaction at the grassroots cannot replace top-down initiatives since, as Peirce and Stubbs argue in chapter 9, international agencies can more readily exert strategic influence at national and international levels. However, issues of benchmarking, impact assessment and disparate projects are not the only, or even major, dilemmas to be recognised.

The conceptual baggage of peacebuilding has included the assumption that external actors wield the power and moral authority to bring about the peaceful change that communities have so signally failed to do. Indeed, for local actors, the resort to violence was certainly regarded as an essential process to secure a change in their destiny. If international diplomacy had failed to prevent the onset of conflict, then, so the presumption follows, external actors should at least make concerted efforts to pick up the pieces and regenerate societies in ways that will inhibit relapses into violence. These hubristic assumptions are not sufficient, however, to endow external actors with superior techniques for dealing with peaceful change. Nor does the evident destruction and dislocation they confront represent a tabula rasa on which external scribes can write a peaceful future. External involvement in peacebuilding seems to figure, however, as an 'urge to engineer', whether at international or community levels. It is based on technical fixes in the form of disarmament, law and order programmes, 'hard' reconstruction projects, refugee returns and elections. Such an approach is less concerned to interact with local norms and hegemonic relationships at the grassroots, than to produce inventories of measurable outputs or, at a strategic level, to make way for integration of war-torn societies in the world economy. It promotes a pattern of development that is determined by dominant democratic and neo-liberal, capitalist ideology.3

A veritable industry involving international institutions, regional organisations and NGOs for integrating lives and livelihoods in societies emerging from civil war into relative peace has evolved. This is not necessarily a manifestation of direct control. On the contrary, state policy-makers that accept the responsibilities of intervention are reluctant to get trapped in recurrent cycles of violence and foreign commitment of the kind that bedevilled Somalia and Angola. Nor has the institutionalisation of peacebuilding been other than sporadic. It grew reactively from the enterprises and debates that marked an evolution of aid intervention and peacekeeping in the 1990s.

Humanitarian aid and military peacekeeping were not enough. They did not address the root causes of conflict or secure social development beyond emergencies.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Debate Synergy at UTNIF Session 2

The crunch is inevitable, but will the transition to paperless debating be smooth?

Texas debater and inventor of the paperless debating application Debate Synergy, Alex Gulakov, will be giving tutorials on paperless debating and how to manage workflows.

Alex's Bio:

Alex Gulakov hopes to add technological proficiency to the pedagogical values of debate through Debate Synergy, his software for research and for paperless debate. He has given lectures at a number of schools and camps on how computer proficiency simplifies the debate preparation process. He recently helped coach St. Mark’s to TOC finals, after being coached by St. Mark’s to NDCA semi-finals in the prior season. He currently debates for Texas. You can reach him at alexgulakov@gmail.com for debate or technology questions.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Deprogramming the Cult of Realism Part III: Continuing The Strategic Diagnosis

Claire McKinney

Scenario 2: Terrorism Affirmatives
So your aff claims to avert terrorism in some way. Unlike last year, where people could claim not to stop terrorism, but rather could diminish its impact through public health measures, this year, the aff can either claim to remove a target for terrorism (which, while true, is probably going to be less likely- terrorists striking US troops doesn’t carry near the risk of a massive retaliation as an attack on US soil) or can claim to remove the reason for terrorism: the presence of US troops that degrade the territorial sovereignty or religious sanctity of a particular region. The relationship between realism and terrorism is a little more complicated than the relationship between realism and multinational institutions. There are several reasons for this. First, realism is a theory of state interaction and thus does not have a theory of terrorism or how to stop it. Realism’s state-centrism is either the result of or precludes the consideration of non-state actors having any definitive effect on the international system. This does not preclude the influence of terrorists in the state’s calculation to engage in violence, but it does mean that a theory of realism has nothing to say about terrorists. This is good for the aff who reads realism to answer the kritik, insofar as you do not have the same problems as the alliance-centric advantages. However, the presence of terrorism could undermine the claim that the world is realist, which would severely compromise realism as offense against the kritik.
There are two primary reasons the rise of international terrorism challenges the assumptions of realism. The first is the constitution of balance of power. According to realism, a state’s material properties determine its absolute power in the system. Material properties include economic success, military materiel including troops and weapons, and amount of territory. States, according to realism, will not initiate a war with a state that has more relative power than it has, because it is almost assured to lose and thus greatly increases the risk of its death. The problem with terrorism is that if it is a pervasive phenomenon, this calculation no longer holds and there is no promise of international security. Terrorists are never materially superior to its state targets. Traditional means of risk calculation make no sense against terrorist because there is no fear of state death and in some circumstances, notably, suicide terrorism, no fear of individual death. Furthermore, the weakest states in the system now become the most threatening because the weakest states are often the ones who cannot exercise sovereign control, which allows for terrorist cells to operate with immunity. Realism cannot explain these developments nor create predictions of how states will act given these conditions. The presence of terrorism means realism is neither inevitable nor an accurate theory of the world.
Second, and this is hinted at above, terrorists are often irrational actors. Suicide terrorism is irrational because someone annihilates the possibility of enjoying any of the benefits accrued by one’s actions. Let me note here that rationalism in this sense and in realism is economic rationalism, that is, based on rational choice theory. Rational choice theory makes very thin assumptions about individuals: they are utility maximizers (that is, they engage in cost-benefit analysis in order determine their action) and they have ordered and fixed preferences (that is, they prefer A to B to C, and will always prefer that as long as conditions remain the same). While in one sense, suicide terrorists could be rational (they believe they will receive a reward in the afterlife that they would not receive without martyrdom that outweighs the amount of life they forego by killing themselves), in a material sense, they are irrational because their political achievements on earth will never be enjoyed by them. Just as a state did not fear state death would absolutely disturb the predictions of realism, so to does an irrational non-state actor absolutely destroy the ability of a state to act qua other states based on the assumption of rationality. This is why the war in Afghanistan is so intractable. It is absolutely irrational, under realism, for the United States to stay in Afghanistan; the risk of the state being a threat to the US is near zero. However, because there are irrational non-state actors within Afghanistan that could use a failed state to cover illegal activities, the United States must stay to protect its security.
A famous footnote in Meershemier’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics summarizes the improbability for realism to actually explain or predict action within the system of international relations which is magnified by the presence of terrorism. From Meersheimer: “My theory ultimately argues that great powers behave offensively toward each other because that is the best way for them to guarantee their security in an anarchic world. The assumption here, however, is that there are many reasons besides security for why a state might behave aggressively toward another state. In fact, it is uncertainty about whether those non-security causes of war are at play, or might come into play, that pushes great powers to worry about their survival and thus act offensively. Security concerns alone cannot cause great powers to act aggressively. The possibility that at least one state might be motivated by non-security calculations is a necessary condition for offensive realism, as well as any structural theory of international politics that predicts security competition.” (414, emphasis mine) That is, the fact the some state is not motivated by security (and thus is ultimately irrational because it threatens it sown existence) is necessary for the theory to work. To state it more theoretically, the theory relies both on its assumptions to be true and not true in order to function. This means that realism, as an answer to the kritik, merely confirms that the world cannot be predicted or controlled by rational intervention.
Finally, a word about retaliation. Even if a terrorist attack were nuclear, chemical, or biological, presuming that the attack itself did not cause extinction or the destruction of the United States’ entire population, anything but conventional retaliation would probably be irrational under realism. A nuclear attack on Afghanistan would not destroy the material capability of Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda is not territorially bound. And a nuclear attack anywhere in the earth would probably cause massive balancing against the United States, which would overall diminish its relative power in the international system, which would destroy its regional hegemony.

Now that there is some sense as to why realism does not play well with your advantages, you are probably wondering what effect it has against the kritik. I will lay out the most common was (I think) of answering the kritik and how realism diminishes the capacity of either one as a winning strategy.

The Perm

The perm has definitely become an ascendant strategy in answer the kritik nowadays. The reason why is complex, but there are a few features of how people think of the kritik currently that make the perm so viable. First, kritik debates have caved into the notion that they need an alternative that does something besides engage in criticism. This is good for the aff because as soon as the negative takes a positive stance about reconstructing the world, the affirmative can make arguments as to why its action is compatible with those positive visions of the world that, ostensibly, resolve the link debate. On this year’s topic, where the aff’s action is essentially negative (remove military or police presence), the affirmative can very easily recast its action as a reversal of the sort of adventurism the negative’s kritik assumes. Second, kritik debaters are often less versed in the specifics of the aff’s scenarios and the intricacies of international relations and American Foreign Policy. This means that the aff can often articulate a net benefit to the permutation (but in THIS case, we HAVE to ACT!) better than the negative can articulate a specific link with an impact to the aff’s specific mechanism (sure, constructions of terrorism are bad, but Al Qaeda is real, right?). Third, kritik debaters have become willing to spot the affirmative their impacts and fiat, which means that the perm has this weird status as combining a theoretical worldview (the kritik) with a possibly incompatible policy action (the aff), but the two worlds never seem to interact in any robust sense. Even if none of these conditions hold in any given round, many affs are still likely to see the perm as their preferred first option. But if you read realism, you have made the negative’s job in winning the perm extremely easy.
First, realism generates philosophical mutual exclusivity. While the aff might subscribe to a worldview that is incompatible with the kritik, that must be proven by the negative. Most affirmatives speak about the world without making their assumptions explicit. This benefits the affirmative that wants to permute because their 1AC could be compatible with many different assumptions about how the world works. But as soon as the affirmative reads realism, they have destroyed this strategic ambiguity. Now, in the world where the aff read realism, all the negative has to prove is that realism is incompatible with the kritik. They can concede that the aff is realist and then win realism can’t coexist with the alternative. The pragmatics of the plan become of secondary importance in this scenario. Furthermore, the above discussion about how realism disproves the aff’s impact claims also means that the negative can create a strategic double bind for the aff; either the aff is realist, which means it cannot solve its advantages (defense, I know, but it’s an important defensive argument when weighing the K versus the advantages), or it is realist, in which case, the aff links (offense).
Second, if the affirmative reads realism, the negative no longer has to win specific links to the aff. If the negative wins that realism makes bad predictions about the world and believing in realism leads to more violence, then you have given the negative grounds to win a new kritik that implicates all the rest of your answers to the kritik. If the aff also reads predictions good, now the negative can say that realism deforms prediction such that we get the Iraq War. If you say threats are real, the negative can say that the only real threat to the US under realism is a rising power and the only rising power is China, so you don’t have any advantages; furthermore, the historically most often way to deal with a rising power is preemptive war, so your impact is inevitable. And if you say realism is inevitable, this becomes a new link to the kritik because you are so indebted to a single ontological and epistemological viewpoint that you foreclose any alternatives, which is why rejecting the aff is a prerequisite for any alternatives to form.
There is a scenario where you would want to read realism, and that is if you just planning to impact turn the kritik, in which case, granting the aff new links is not a problem. If this is your strategy, realism can be a handy tool. If not, it is more of a liability than an aid.
The Fourth and last post in this series will discuss possible alternative theories of international relations that do a better job of conforming with the 1AC and a permutation-based strategy against the kritik.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Deprogramming the Cult of Realism Part II The Strategic Diagnosis

Claire McKinney

As already alluded to in the introduction of the first blog post, the problem with using realism to answer the kritik is that while it does, and often successfully, undermine the foundational assumptions of the kritik, it does the same thing to the affirmative and makes other offense against the kritik untenable. In this post, I’ll outline a couple scenarios where it undermines the affirmative, then a scenario where it undermines the capacity to answer the kritik strategically. Again, this is not to suggest that no affirmative should ever read realism good. There are scenarios where the affirmative is realist (such as an off-shore balancing affirmative focused on averting great power war) where realism is a strategic and offensive strategy against the security kritik. The purpose of this post is to disabuse debaters of the notion that just because the affirmative talks about war, the best strategy to answer the security kritik is realism. In most instances, this is actually a bad strategy.

Scenario 1: Security Alliance Affirmatives
As discussed in the first blog post, any affirmative that argues something about why the collapse of a security alliance, such as NATO or JASA, not to mention the collapse of any other international institution, such as the UN, WTO, trade pacts, etc, causes global nuclear annihilation is making claims contrary to realism’s position. Realism is highly individualist in that it argues that states are not constructed by outside forces but rather are independent actors who are behaviorally constrained by the structural form of international relations but are not constitutively changed by the form of international relations. To simplify, for offensive realists, security institutions are created and maintained because states, materially pre-determined actors, find it in their interest to do so. However, as soon as their interests dictate that these alliances are constraining, rather than maximizing their power, they will abandon the alliance. The alliance itself has no effect on the material determinants of a state’s power.
This means two things for your security alliance advantage. Either A) both states understand that the collapse of the security alliance would diminish their power, in which case, the danger to the alliance is a chimera (Witness, for instance, the political career of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who broke his campaign promise to move the Okinawa base. Hatoyama campaigned on a strong condemnation of the military relationship with the United States, but in the end refused to take any material action to endanger that relationship. This could be read by realists as a confirmation that maintaining a military alliance with the US is more important to Japan than mollifying domestic political pressure because Japan can only maximize its power by maintaining its alliance with the United States). Or B) The security alliance has outgrown its utility for at least one power, and so because states are individualist and act in order to maximize their power, they will leave the alliance regardless. This is probably truest for the United States in most of these alliances. But, and this is important, because the United States is a hegemon and because the international sphere is an anarchic, the alliance has no effect on constraining United States action in the first place. One could probably make a stronger claim that security alliances have no effect on constraining other states either because what they are really constrained by is fear of being taken over by the regional hegemon. Regardless, the security alliance’s survival probably has little to nothing to do with your affirmative. Either there is no impact or you don’t solve because of realism.

More of the "Strategic Diagnosis" will appear tomorrow...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Still Accepting Applications

Its not too late! We are still accepting applications for CX Marathon Session 1 and 2 and CX Experienced Session 1 and 2. Get your application soon in to reserve your space.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Deprogramming the Cult of Realism Part I The Practical Diagnosis

(Pope JP2, MJ, Magnum PI courtesy of Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum)

Claire McKinney -

So in 2010, debaters are returning to consideration of America’s place in the world. And, for the first time in many years, the focus is on the United States’ military posture vis a vis the world. The first critical argument on everyone’s mind will of course be the Security Kritik. And every aff’s first response will be to grab 4 or 5 realism cards.

What affirmatives think they accomplish when answering the security kritik with realism is that they have explained the world in such a way to make the kritik untrue and the alternative impossible. Realism begins with the assumption that world is material; the way we speak about the world has no effect on how the world functions because of two “facts”: 1) Actors in the world have an immutable nature (rational and motivated by fear) and 2) Actors act in predictable ways based on their material capabilities. Because humans, and thus human creations, states, are inherently rational and motivated primarily by fear, then there is no use criticizing what cannot be changed based on this worldview. Thus, the only option is to cope with the world as it is rather than trying to transform it. States will always try and secure their interests through the threat of force because they fear their own death (state death, in the realist literature, is either a complete loss of sovereignty or a loss of territorial integrity. Thus, Germany from 1945-1989 is an example of state death, as is Czechoslovakia 1936-1945.). What this allows the affirmative to do is challenge several premises of the kritik: 1) The world is socially constructed 2) The idea of security produces proliferating insecurity, which requires the ever-escalating use of force 3) If we think about the world differently, we can change the cycle of state violence.

The problem with using realism in this way is that it artificially constrains the type of affirmatives you can advocate and the other types of offense you could generate against the kritik. Because realism is a systematized way of seeing the world, you cannot proffer other contrary ways of seeing the world alongside it. This does not mean that teams are not successful reading mutually contradictory evidence (such as reading a Soft Power advantage which assumes ideas are critical in balance of power alongside realism, which argues that ideas are mostly irrelevant.). What it means is that those teams will be outfoxed by negatives that know more about realism than they do. Basically, reading realism gives the negative an advantage because if they can prove the aff is not realist, then those cards become wasted 2AC time.

Using realism to answer the Security Kritik (and every other kritik, whether it applies or not) is a relic from a different era in debate when impact-turning the kritik was an ascendant strategy. Now, as the perm becomes more important as a tool, realism should have lost its sheen. Yet it hasn’t, which is puzzling as a debate strategy. But the move to realism is even more puzzling given this year’s topic; realism may actually put the aff at a disadvantage. Why?

1) If the World is realist, we don’t need the Aff.
2) Most affirmatives on this topic are most likely not realist (or at least, not offensively realist).
3) Realism hamstrings your ability to make better permutation arguments persuasively.
4) There are better, truer theories of international relations that will put the aff at a competitive advantage.

1) If the World is realist, we don’t need the affirmative. You might find this to be a silly argument, but it is actually one of the persistent charges about realism in the academic world. Realism purports to be a descriptive theory about how the world works, but realist theorists find it necessary to make normative policy suggestions.

Affirmatives on this topic are most likely not realist. Why? Well, because this year’s topic, in terms of hegemony, will most likely rely on some form of alliance argument to argue why a withdrawal of troops and bases will not destroy United States Hegemony. Let’s take Meersheimer as an example. . John Meersheimer’s realism has the following 5 assumptions:

1) The international sphere is anarchic (no international law).
2) States are unitary actors (no domestic politics govern state international relations)
3) States are rational (they act in their own self-interest)
4) States have offensive military capabilities
5) States are uncertain of other states’ intentions.

If these assumptions are true, then there is no reason to say that a state needs to change their current Grand Strategy. They cannot change the structure of the international realm and are already acting rationally within it. Why do we need normative suggestions if states are already acting rationally? To argue that the current United States Grand strategy is irrational (eg will cause nuclear war) violates the assumptions of realism, and therefore means that our theory of the world is wrong.

2) Most affirmatives on this topic are most likely not realist (or at least, not offensively realist).
I can imagine two opitions for most affs, one non-realism and one realist.
Option 1: Security Alliances
Japan, Iraq, and Afghanistan all have obvious alliance advantages: Japanese-American Security Alliance (JASA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are both implicated by United States Grand Strategy. Some articles suggest that JASA is under stress by domestic Japanese opposition to US bases in Japan and NATO has recently taken command of almost all US forces in Afghanistan. Thus, it is highly possible many affs will claim to revitalize these organizations specifically or multilateralism more generally. If this is the case, THE AFF ISN’T REALIST.

Realism undermines the idea that alliances can be at all useful or binding on states because of its assumptions about state action. Realist theories of international relations rely on several assumptions of state action

The aff’s impact claims of alliances being good violate the first, third, and fifth assumptions because they presume that the alliance structure has some exogenous effect on state interaction that constitutes some sort of law, binding states in obligation to one another. The United States, as a hegemon, actually has very little interest in maintaining any alliance structure if it diminishes its unitary hegemonic power. This security institutionalism is more closely allied with a school of thought called Liberal Institutionalism than with Structural Realism. Structural realists would argue that cooperation is the function of the balance of power and that institutions such as alliances are neutral in their effect on cooperation. There is no incentive for a state not to cheat their institution if realism is true.

Now you might say my aff is JASA Bad, or NATO bad or Afghanistan Instability Good! Of course, if your affirmative shares the assumptions of realism, you should not feel compelled to abandon realist theoretical assumptions or justifications. However, if your aff is JASA good, NATO good, unilateralism bad, etc., then you have a theoretical and a strategic problem on your hands.

Option 2: Off Shore Balancing
Kuwait, Turkey, and South Korea affs all have less to do with existing security institutions and have more to do with transforming the United States’ Grand Strategy from Power Projection to Off-Shore Balancing. Off-shore balancing is a strategy that relies on allies to constrain rising states regionally as opposed to maintaining bases oneself globally. This is a move within realist thought, and thus is the time when using realism to answer the security kritik makes sense theoretically, although perhaps not strategically.

Those are the theoretical issues with Realism, but there are strategic issues as well. Part II will consider those strategic issues.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who is this man and why is he looking at me with those steely blue eyes?

Worst Case discussion at the 3nr.

There's a good discussion going on over at the 3NR over how best to answer "predictions good" claims on the Negative. Scotty says that the "predictions fail" arguments negative's usually read, like the monkey's throwing darts cards, aren't good enough because they aren't offensive. For me, the predictions fail cards don't HAVE to be offensive if they succeed in delegitimizing the methodology upon which the Affirmative rests, but I guess that's why I'm just a stock issues judge in disguise. I happen to think its the affirmative's burden to prove that their predictions of an impending harm as well as their predictions of the beneficial "solvent" effects of the plan are actually likely on the basis of some sort of data/scientific/social scientific grounds. That ain't K-centric, its just taking policy debate into the realm of the logical. In any case, Scotty's advice is good nonetheless. Having an OFFENSIVE argument against worst case scenarios would be a boon to debaters questioning the Aff's predictions. Check out the post and the discussion below it. Here is a bit of the card, written by the man in the picture above this post, that Scotty cites as moving in the right direction:

Frank Furedi, a sociology professor at the University of Kent, writes: "Worst-case thinking encourages society to adopt fear as one of the dominant principles around which the public, the government and institutions should organize their life. It institutionalizes insecurity and fosters a mood of confusion and powerlessness. Through popularizing the belief that worst cases are normal, it incites people to feel defenseless and vulnerable to a wide range of future threats."

Even worse, it plays directly into the hands of terrorists, creating a population that is easily terrorized -- even by failed terrorist attacks like the Christmas Day underwear bomber and the Times Square SUV bomber.

When someone is proposing a change, the onus should be on them to justify it over the status quo. But worst-case thinking is a way of looking at the world that exaggerates the rare and unusual and gives the rare much more credence than it deserves.

Report from the bowels of the Marathon foundry...

Yes, the UTNIF Marathon Division, the one of a kind curriculum that provides students with rigorous work in actual debates from Day 1, takes a lot of preparation on the part of the UTNIF teaching staff. Students in the division are given 3 Affirmatives, each with a different type of Negative strategy that answers it. From the very first day students are immersed in in-depth debates about the topic. Students are always curious about what the Aff's in the Marathon division will be, so we've decided to offer a little preview here. The affs/negs are still in the process of being written, but it looks like one of them will move troops who are stationed in Okinawa at Futenma base, to Guam. There is a lot of controversy in Japan right now because a new base being built in Okinawa to hold the remaining troops there, has had seriously damaging environmental consequences. Another issue is that the people of Okinawa are opposed to the US presence on the island. The advantages will be centered around the environment and US Japan relations based on domestic support from Okinawa.