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Monday, February 06, 2006

More Doves! // NYU Tournament

I noted this earlier, but I hate the Dove ad campaigns. They had another one during the Super Bowl, where they flashed pictures of people (mostly young girls) and had "Wishes she were X," where "X" is anything from "Blonde" to "Thinner" to whatever. They then asked for donations to the Dove "Self-Esteem" fund.

At first, I assumed that the fund went to fix the things that the girls wanted to change about themselves - breast implants, liposuction, or hair dye. But apparently, they'd rather just throw the money down the drain by teaching self-esteem and fighting eating disorders and crap.

Honestly, I'm over the indignation I initially felt about the whole thing. Dove loves you for you, as long as you don't have split ends, cellulite, acne, dry skin, or body odor.

This weekend was the NYU debate tournament. I usually don't post after one of these, since the vast majority of the people I know are "totally over" APDA, and many of the rest were never "under," but hey, don't read if you don't care.

The tournament was actually a lot of fun. I went with Shauro, which usually means I can run whatever I feel like. But the weekend ended up being sort of stupid for reasons totally beyond NYU's control, or our own.

First round, we got stuck opposing a Columbia/Princeton team who ran the case "You are Hermionie's parents, don't let her go to Hogworts." Shauro was LOing, and hasn't read any of the books, making specific examples somewhat hard to come by. I decided to try and create an actual round and tried to create the analogy to inner-city athletes, or third-world immigrants. Whatever.

Second round, we debated my hazing case (Universities should never ban Frat/Sorority hazing) against two Smith girls I have never met before. They actually gave us the best round of the tournament, and the only one I thought we legitimately could have lost.

Third round, we opposed the following case: RHA, a subdivision of HUD, currently has a program where low-middle income families can apply and have the RHA cosign for a mortgage on a house for up to $150,000. If the families default on their payments, the RHA pays the balance of the mortgage to the bank (or finances the mortgage themselves, it's both unclear and unimportant) and then auctions off the house after it's on the market for a period of time. Sometimes these houses sell for $1. We propose that the US government subcontract the sale of these homes to private realtors.

Now, ask yourself for a moment, does this sound like something that you would enjoy discussing with your friends? Even if you're very intellectual, can you fathom sitting in a class, having this sort of plan come up, and it sparking a lively discussion for sixty minutes? No? You're not a robot? I understand that people want to "win" debate rounds, and propose cases like this in order to do it, but seriously - there's never going to be a time where this makes for an entertaining or engaging discussion.

Fourth round, Shauro let me run "Domestic terrorism is never justified." This is the case that everyone I've talked to seems to believe cannot win under any circumstances. The LO called it 'snug.' Apparently, stating that a rebel group cannot use violence to topple an oppressive or genocidal regime is not contentious, and comes down on the side of continuing to be oppressed. Note also that this is a 3-0 round, meaning that the other team is supposedly in a position where they could break at a 110 tournament.

Fifth round, we opposed a case about werewolves. Namely, assume there is a society with werewolves. They proposed that the government should force everyone to be bitten by werewolves, to protect themselves against werewolves. We, I think reasonably, pointed out that it would probably be safer to just get rid of the wolves, or to imprison them for one night a month. This was a 4-0 round.

Quarterfinals, we opposed "minimum-wage laws should be abolished." Because it's worked out so well for Malaysia, I guess. I think this was a circumstance where hte other team, knowing the libertarian tendencies of NYU judging, decided to run a bad libertarian case rather than a good nonlibertarian case. The irony is, there was only one person on the panel who is libertarian, and she is way too smart to be tricked into picking someone up for agreeing with her.

Semifinals, we opposed "The US should stop doing joint-exercise special forces training with Indonesia." We dropped this round on a 4-3 decision. Now, not to be an ass, but among the three judges who picked us up, there were a cumulative total of about 70 final round appearences, two national championships, and a whole lot of experience. Among the four judges who dropped us, there was a sum total of ONE final round appearence. Welcome to judging.

The reason I give this whole recap is because this weekend summed up every bad thing about collegiate debate.

1. Bad cases. If your case is about voting in any tangible way, the word "draft" is involved, you would feel uncomfortable running it opp-choice, or it relies heavily on fact, it's not good. Harvard has a case: "In the US, communities should use housing vouchers rather than public housing." They claim that it is less expensive. If this is true, then there is no particularly compelling opposition to the proposal. (I realize this is not literally true, but typically it's going to involve taking on a larger burdon than the gov team in order to do it.) Debaters are terrible at deciding what a good case is, and also at writing them, with few exceptions.

2. Lying. In semifinals, the other team claimed that Indonesia is a majority-Christian country with an oppressed Muslim minority. Typically, when someone says something I don't think is true, but I'm not certain, I just roll with it as fact-disputation never leads to a good debate. In this case, of course, they were clearly lying - Indonesia is very much Muslim. I'm not generous enough to believe that they simply didn't know, as twenty-five or so Yale kids helped them prepare. So either Yale is a very bad school, or the other team blatently lied in order to secure an advantage. This is not the first time I've lost by giving the other team the benefit of the doubt.

Last year, after having a lot of rounds that were made worse or lost in this way, I developed a set of cases I could run specifically against teams who do things like this (the idea being, I have no problem fighting fire with fire. Or in this case, slime with slime.). Needless to say, I'm pretty sure I know how to run a tight case and get away with it. And I'm pretty sure I've written at least twenty - for example, the Nauru case.

Nauru is a country that, at one point in time, had the highest per capita GDP of any country in the world. Wikipedia has an article about it, if you want a lot more information, but the general point is: in 1968, they gained independance and quickly stripmined their island of phosphates. The phosphates ran out in 1990, leaving them with zero industry or natural resources, so they set themselves up as a sort of South Pacific version of the Cayman Islands, and became the major pointmen for ex-KGB and Soviet officials who wanted to profit from the fall of the USSR. Vast amounts of offshore banking and money laundering occurred. In 2001, pre-9/11, the US offered them a deal whereby the US would build fisheries and desalinization plants if Nauru increased banking transparency, illegalizing offshore banking altogether, and allowed the US to use their consulate in China to assist with defecting North Koreans. Nauru took the deal. The case is, don't take the deal, with such points as: the US will screw you (they did), the Russians and terrorists whose assets will be basically seized will kill you, and so on and so forth.

Good luck on opp.

3. Bitching. It's one thing to complain about a case when it bears on the round. If the case violates the rules, it should be pointed out. But when people say "This case is 'snug'" it's meaningless. "This case is snug" translates to me as "I am not very smart, and would prefer for you to adjudicate the round against a point spread since I am incapable of creating my own position."

4. Judging. This is the fifth or sixth time I've lost a close outround decision where the judges are divided along experience lines in my favor. If you do not have the judges to have a 7-member panel, don't have a 7-member panel. Large tournaments consistently create panels where the majority would not be allowed to judge a 3-1 round, yet they are given the ability to decide the outcome of a semifinal round. People who are not good at debate are very, very rarely good judges of debate. The converse, by the way, is not true - lots of good debaters are terrible judges; though usually, if you put three good debaters together, even if they're individually bad judges, they will come up with the correct decision. This latter phenomenon is because good debater/bad judge types are that way because they have a bias towards specific types of arguments, and will reward them to an unusual degree.

cranked out at 5:08 AM | |

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