Friday, May 30, 2008

Spain, Part One

Everybody probably has their own approach to vacations. Ours is generally urban: we like cities, and we like visiting new cities (or revisiting old favorite cities). To keep things a little interesting, we’ll throw in a little countryside every few days for variety. Some people like to go sit on the beach for two weeks; I can sit on the beach for, easily, two minutes before going totally insane. Given that the Day Job is fairly filled with reading books that most people save for the beach, I’ve already got that part of the deal covered. I don’t need yet another [insert name of popular fiction author here] on the proverbial two weeks off. I do read, of course, on vacation, but always stuff that I don’t normally get to, like SF or classics, or need some time for. Over the last few weeks it was Snow Crash (too didactic, the exposition overwhelms the action), Anansi Boys (better than I expected), The Longest Journey (a disappointing early Forster), and Dewey’s Art as Experience (which I am still working through). So it’s not that I don’t read on vacation, but I don’t want to spend all day doing it. I can get that the rest of the year, and get paid for it. (I know: it’s a dream job. I don’t disagree.)

The preferred day in one of these vacation cities begins with a lollygagging morning, getting up as late as possible, which for someone trained by decades of waking at 6:00 a.m. is, maybe, 9:00, I’ll take what I can get. Usually we’re on the road around 10 or so, never later than 11. This works well in countries that don’t have breakfast, like Spain. You get up, you infuse some coffee and maybe something little but deviously sweet, you go about some business, you maybe infuse some more coffee, you wrap up your business, then at around 2:00, you eat lunch. Our business these mornings tends to be of the intellectual nature. I love art, and I love great museums, but I appreciate them best when my brain is at its peak, first thing in the day. So on the average day, the first thing we do is take in a museum, or something similarly cultural. To some, this would be the kiss of death, analogous to my feelings about lying on the beach. Chacun a son gout, as no one ever says on the Iberian peninsula.

Spain, as you probably know, still adheres to a siesta schedule. From 2:00 to 5:00 almost everything shuts down, and everybody goes and eats. From everything I had read in advance, one ought to plan one’s big meal for this stretch, and that proved to be good advice. After putting away a large amount of food, we’d stumble back to the hotel for a real siesta. That I liked. I’ve always liked naps, since the day I was born. I take them whenever I can. Come into a tab room at about 2:30 on a Saturday, then you’d better tiptoe and keep it quite, bub. Anyhow, after recharging one’s consciousness, one heads out to walk the streets with every other person on the peninsula, with maybe a stop or two for dessert or tapas, until, FINALLY, it’s time for dinner. Now, I’ve been to countries where they eat late, but this place takes the cake. Unless you went to a restaurant you wouldn’t want to go to, you couldn’t find anywhere that had anyone in it before 9:00. We could stretch it to then, or maybe a little later, but not much beyond that. I gather people really eat at 11:00, and I will vouch that when we were leaving restaurants around that time there were usually people waiting to be seated. Good grief! And why aren’t any of these restaurants open in my home town so the Sailors and I would have somewhere to go on our return from tournaments?

As a general postprandial rule, after more strolling about amidst the teeming multitudes, we’d make it back to the hotel room and have lights out around 1:00 a.m. I have to admit, it did not take long to get the personal system in accord with this schedule. We certainly didn’t always have those big lunch meals (especially in the beginning, when we were still getting used to the place), but we certainly did eat.

As I think of them, more details on some of this stuff to come—the nature of the art and architecture, the nature of the people, the nature of the languages (note plural), the nature of the food, general observances, etc. You may or may not come away thinking Spain is a place for you to prioritize visiting at some point (if you haven’t already). We had a great time, though. You can draw your own personal conclusions over the next few entries.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'd settle for a comb-over; the writing stuff; vintage whines; Bullpup hostelry; plus the odd et of the cetera persuasion

I will have a bunch to say on Spain shortly, because it’s an interesting place worth talking about. Of course, I think that almost every place is an interesting place worth talking about, but some are more interesting than others. As a case in point, we are talking about the one country in the world where the mullet is not merely not dead, but in fact rules. As my personal mullet days are far behind me (see my photo on the right if you need some explanation for this), you can imagine how this might have affected me. Anyhow, we’ll do detail travel stuff over the next few weeks. What else is there at season’s end, right?


One thing I noticed in that WTF thread on disclosure (to which, btw, I’ve posted my notes, at O’C’s request, which means I can never look at the thread again) was that someone commented that virtually no $ircuit debaters were writing their own cases, a point which no one challenged. I’m shocked—shocked!—to hear it. One of the favorite rounds I ever judged was of a young debater running for the first time a case his college-student coach had written for him, which he understood practically none of. When we discussed it later in the day, he said that as he ran it more often, he was starting to get the hang of it. This particular debater went on to great debate fame and fortune, and as far as I’m concerned, he is still some schmuck running a case he was handed that he didn’t understand, and his coach was more of a puppeteer than a coach. I wonder if they do this in, say, high school baseball. Do the coaches throw the pitches for the kids? Or do they bat for them, because they’ll be better batters than the kids would be? I’m rather religious on this subject. I certainly believe in working with my team to develop arguments on a resolution, usually as many arguments as we can think of. We talk about them all, then they go off and work out the ones they like to make cases out of. They will, therefore, learn to think about the material and then learn to write about the material. I do edit it, but as you know, I’m a professional editor, and one thing we do if we’re doing our job well is get the writers to do the writing; we don’t do it for them. I point out areas in a case that I think need work, and occasionally suggest what that work should be in some detail. I do not do it for them. And I certainly don’t tell them what arguments to run. Quite honestly, I think that if I wrote cases, they’d be pretty good. Hell, I’m a published author and a publishing veteran and relatively intelligent: how bad would I be? But I’m sorry, you couldn’t pay me to write a case for a student. Oh well, one person’s religion is another person’s bull-ogna, and vice versa. If I were to convert, and somehow get the money for travel, it is not inconceivable that I could field a lot more $ircuit debaters. But as I’ve said over the years, if TOC didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have invented it. Time has not eroded my views on this subject.

On the other hand, I like CatNats for a variety of reasons, always, however, excluding their topics. CP’s recent blog (it’s flogged on the Feed, which you should be following religiously if you really consider yourself a serious member of the VCA) explains that in fact the Cats solicit topics from the membership at the beginning of the year, and offers some possible reasons why no one seems to know about this. He will make some effort next year to publicize this solicitation, and perhaps eliminate all the whining about the topic (a breed of whine of which I am a connoisseur). Kudos! In the race for forensic sainthood, CP has, as you know, already achieved my venerable and beatified states for his work in normalizing the college universe. If he can tame the Catholics as well, he’ll be shaking Mother Teresa’s hand in heaven any day now (metaphorically speaking).

But then, on the other other hand, not long ago Chris sent out a notice about Yale explaining that the hotels were filling up—nay, in many cases, had filled up—and that we’d all better get our reservation acts together. So I started calling my usual venue for the last few years, the La Quinta, and got nothing but no replies and leave-a-message messages. I talked to the desk, and they promised action, and then I went to Spain thinking that maybe action would ensue in my absence, but I returned to no action whatsoever, and started calling again, and FINALLY got a human being who told me they were sold out. Feh! So I liked La Quinta because of the shuttle, but I figured at a cheaper price I could bring a bus and driver and get an extra room, so my next step was a cheapo Days Inn up the road, and I talked to someone there of the totally useless persuasion who took some information and told me that the manager would call me back in an hour. Unfortunately, this was not an hour by my watch, so I decided to bite the bullet and go for the Clarion, which also has a shuttle but is a shot or two more expensive. Lo and behold, the person who answered the phone (yes, there was a person who answered the phone) was professional and seemed to have some knowledge of and experience in the hotel business. Working with her was a pleasure and I am now happy to say that my rooms are secure. But oy, what a pain in the patoot. No wonder I’m not writing cases for my team. I’m too busy making (or failing to make) hotel reservations.

And finally, in that catching-up category, tonight we’re going to see Indiana Jones. For the first time. O’C tells me he saw it 38 times just last Sunday alone. Maybe I’m never going to catch up. Thank goodness.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Liberte, egalite, et...some...other te.

There is one basic theme that underlies most good LD topics. And there are two ways to look at it. First, it is the conflict of the sphere of the individual against the sphere of the community. What rights and privileges and responsibilities are those of each, and what do we do when they are in conflict? When they are not in conflict, then neither matters much objectively. I don’t care what some other individual does if it only affects that individual, or at least I shouldn’t. Live and let live, in other words. (There are those who don’t respect this claim of privacy, usually for religious morality reasons, but we are not looking at religious ethics but social ethics, if for no other reason than that religion does not make for good debate while social engineering is quite arguable.) Similarly, if society as a whole somehow takes actions that don’t affect individuals—maybe things like when the Senate declares the National Muffin—it is of no consequence objectively (aside from the time wasted when they could be solving the Iran/Iraq/Africa/Whatever situation).

The second way to look at the basic theme of the good LD topics is liberty versus equality. One of the pieces I posted to the Coachean Feed recently asserted that in the democratic universe at large, individuals prioritize the latter over the former, and that may indeed be true. Perhaps the concept of justice is merely the attempt to balance the two: when liberty and equality are in balance, we have justice. For that matter, when the individual and the community are in balance, we have justice. Same thing, albeit through different mechanisms of thinking. Justice, for once, however, is not the manifest derivative value of the resolution, so maybe we can put that aside.

Like many people, I firmly believe that you need to have something to say before you start saying it*. In debate terms, that means being able to boil down your case succinctly in such a way that if I were to ask you what you are running, you could answer in one sentence that would, indeed, indicate to me what you are running. I’ve never heard any writing instructor (or almost any kind of instructor of anything) telling a student to complicate what they’re doing. Simplify. Always simplify. If you can’t boil it down, there’s something wrong somewhere. Or if you don’t have a starting point to work from, you’ve got that same something wrong problem. You can see my thoughts on this clearly in the how-to-write-a-case material on my team website. Start first with the idea, then elaborate that idea, or thesis, into a case. If you haven’t got the idea yet, keep striving for it, but don’t start typing quite yet.

The point of all this noodling is just to provide another way to look at the NatNats LD rez. While the topic is asking you about the issue within a specific arena, i.e., economics, it could not be any more clearly a conflict of liberty versus equality. Each side is asked to claim that theirs is the one to be prioritized (except of course for the schmegeggie who runs that neither should be prioritized, which, when you think about it, is a bad approach absent the fact that it tries to preempt both sides of the rez and eliminate the conflict: societies probably should prioritize one over the other, although maybe some societies, say the developing nations, need a different approach than an industrialized nation—interesting stuff that probably is beside the point). If you’re still have trouble getting your mind around the rez at this late date, then just start with that. It’s liberty versus equality. Obviously the words are (virtually) already in the resolution, but that doesn’t mean everyone sees them that clearly. For that matter, when you’re listening to your opponent in the round, make sure that this is what they are talking about too. Resolutionality is rather smiled on at NatNats (and rightly so); if your opponent is non-resolutional, you might be able to pick up a win right off of that.

And on to other things. I’ve got pictures to sort, stories to tell, motel rooms to book. Thank God I’ve got you to tell my troubles to, they being so many and varied: we should be able to get through the off-season without a scratch (especially once WTF starts sending hourly updates on the mystery meat they’re serving at the camp cafeteria et al).

*Readers of this blog may disagreed, but who needs you anyhow, you yabbo!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You show me yours and I'll show you mine

One thing I looked at as I tried to catch up with the universe’s activities in my absence was the thread over at WTF on prepping out and case disclosure. Or at least that’s how the thread seems to have started out; over its course, it’s covered many other things as well. Interesting stuff, although the thread itself, like any long and complicated discussion, has a lot of chaff to wheat your way through. Still, some thoughts.

First of all, as an aside, isn’t there something slightly wrong with the admission that a third to a half or $ircuit rounds are so fast that most of the judges don’t understand what is being said? This is ascribed as much as anything else as bad speed, rather than speed per se, and that may be true. One of the worst aspects of LD since as far back as I can remember is its rather inept cooption of various aspects of policy, and this would seem to be another example of that. I’ve watched policy breaks at TOC that I could flow, because there’s more to it than just talking fast. At any rate, I question the value of a speaking event in which the speaking is literally removed from event’s evaluative context. If an aff is going to spew at such intolerable speeds that we have to eliminate (or, excuse me, “flex”) CX so that the judge and opponent can read the cases to find out what was said, we’ve got a problem.

But the issue is prepping out and case disclosure. One needn’t be a professional mathematician to figure that a large organization will be able to scope out cases better than a small organization. If I have four or five judges and some loose coaches and whatnot, I can pretty quickly get a bead on all the major competition at an event. If I don’t have that vast backup army, I won’t be able to collect as many flows. So the advantage goes to the already advantaged, obviously. But case disclosure eliminates that advantage (or at least lessens this particular aspect of that advantage). If the goal of a debate is to argue ideas, and not win the round at any cost, then it makes sense that we would want to know that Debater A is running an aff based on such-and-such and so-and-so, or that Debater B is running a kritik based on this-or-that. We wouldn’t need the whole song and dance, of course, but enough so that every opponent goes into the room prepared for the subject matter at hand.

Aaron T sets a simple paradigm that this sort of thing can be done or not done by any tournament that wants to do it, and he will therefore do it at his. This makes sense to me. Given the number of $ircuit folks who travel down to his venue for that Octos bid, there is a logic to their being placed on as level a playing field as possible. And I’m sure the mechanics of the thing, as he’ll do it, will make sense; it’s funny how many people seem to want to quibble about implementation, as if this hasn’t been going on one way or another in Policy for the last thousand years. At the MHL, Kurt was kicking around not only disclosure but limiting novices to a handful of case approaches, simply to train them to figure out what the hell they were doing in the round, without having to worry about prepping out on an infinite number of case possibilities. The point was education, not victory; that would come later.

Most LD venues I’m a part of, I think, wouldn’t really lend themselves to AT’s approach, because the events are informed by other interests. That is, certainly a lot of people go to Yale or Lex or Bump looking for a bid, but the vast number of people are there for something else. The judge pools are good, but they’re not mostly $ircuit. People travel from around the country to the Texas tournaments and to Emory and Glenbrooks, and the field numbers at those tournaments are limited, and it’s a pretty special situation, and it’s a major financial investment. You can send exactly 2 LDers to Emory, by plane, for about the same price as sending 5 varsity LDers to Lexington, plus a herd of your novices, by bus. We tend to be looking for a different debate experience with these events. Not that they’re better or worse, but they’re different. To expect that all tournaments must aim at the same goals would be a rather limited view of the activity, regardless of what goals you would want those to be.

So I wouldn’t suggest that all tournaments be somehow “required” to have a disclosure process, but that some tournaments might require disclosure makes sense to me, especially if they are at the top tier of national events. A more parochial tournament might wish to do this too, and more power to them, but it’s not my particular cup of tea, and I certainly can’t imagine it at a novice or JV level. It probably does make sense that all round robins set up a disclosure process, however, given the nature of those events, their competitors and their judge pools.

So as far as disclosure goes, I’m all for it, where it makes sense. The element of surprise is the only thing gained by running something for which your opponent is unprepared. That’s not debate; it’s an ambush. Even if you win the round, you haven’t done so because you’re a good debater, but because you’re a sneaky s.o.b. Where’s the glory in that? And a level playing field of disclosure makes all teams potentially equal. I can’t argue with that either.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Do what I tell you to do, you yabbo!

There is some joy to being carded at CatNats. Of course, it would have been more fun to hear myself quoted if I had actually been sitting in judging the round, which I gather happened to O'C. There's a conflict for you. How do you evaluate somebody obtuse enough to quote you (from your blog, of all places), when on the one hand, your opinion has no warrant whatsoever, whereas on the other hand, you know you're always right? Tough call. Not the first time it's happened, actually, although usually it's some misguided novice who hasn't yet separated the wheat from the chaff rather than a national qualifier. Then again, I do understand that seven or eight people at TOCs were running flex affs, that virginity is now the standard response to Baudrillard (regardless of what Baudrillard happens to be talking about), and that 62% of the people polled on the question stated that Jon Cruz is a member of the Irish nobility. (In other breaking news, the Irish actually have a nobility?)

Anyhow, we're back from Spain. So far all I've done is sorted through the junk mail to get to the handful of good stuff, and the world does not seem to have ended, nor even come close. I'll restart the Coachean Feed shortly, mostly starting from here rather than trying to catch up, except with one or two strings I've been following, especially the series on aesthetics. I will have a lot to talk about regarding the trip, but I'll just stir it in when it makes sense to do so. Mostly it was great fun, good weather, good food, a good experience overall. The high point is that the hotel we stayed in in Madrid gave away free plastic shoehorns. I lost a shoehorn a couple of years ago, and have been waiting for something like this to happen. Which means that if you see some guy wearing loafers, it's probably me.

Next step: sorting out the photographs.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The NatNat rez

Resolved: Limiting economic inequality ought to be a more important social goal than maximizing economic freedom.

Rob—Zombie? Lowe? Petrie?—asks about NatNats, and I’m happy to (marginally) comply. Of course, you won’t have Coachean Life to kick around in a day or two, as I’ll be on vacation, so I can’t wrestle this one around for day after day after day, but there’s not much we can do about that. Fortunately the topic is so elemental in LD terms that there isn’t much one has to say to have said enough.

Governments exist, at their most basic level, to do a handful of things. Most importantly, and universally, they establish order among individuals. Governments create and enforce rules, which establish order. John Locke talks eloquently about doing this in what has become the democratic model, with representative government enacting legislation, an executive enforcing the legislation, and a judiciary interpreting the legislation. But it is done as well by a totalitarian government. Rules are set, people follow them. The difference is that in the totalitarian state, the people have no say in setting the rules.

Secondly, governments provide a synergistic ability to perform what individuals cannot perform. Governments, by their nature and size, are able to provide infrastructures, for example, things like roads or reservoirs, that serve their citizens beyond what the citizens could have done for themselves. Once humans develop large societies from small tribal groups, a relatively new phenomenon in the history of our species, the individual no longer is able to provide for self and family. Distances become greater, specializations become common, and government steps in to provide what we once provided for ourselves. Pre-societal humans, if they wanted water, plopped down next to a river. Nowadays we turn on the faucet. In other words, governments provide services to individuals that they cannot provide for themselves.

Thirdly, and again derived from nature and size, governments are able to deal meaningfully with other governments. We’ve talked about sovereignty in the past, and that subject is not relevant here (but feel free to listen to the Parsippany Ritz podcast if you’re interested).

And that would be about it. Establishing order, providing organization beyond the individual level and dealing with other comparable polities are what governments universally do, one way or the other, well or poorly, regardless of the type of government.

The NatNat rez looks mostly to the second area of what a government does. One government differs from another government in many ways, including how it provides services to individuals that they cannot provide for themselves, and in what services it provides. And it is important to keep in mind that any government runs on the support of the individuals it governs, in the form of taxes. Money goes in, money comes out. Again, differences exist: a thieving dictator’s handling of the money is different from a democratic socialist state’s handling of the money. In any case, only a government can “limit economic equality.” So we have to be looking at describing the nature of governments in the rez.

Resolved: Limiting economic inequality ought to be a more important social goal than maximizing economic freedom.

The most extreme limiting of economic inequality would be a Marxist system in which there is no such thing as private property. The most extreme maximizing of economic freedom would be a laissez-faire state with no regulations on capital whatsoever. Historically, Marx and his followers were responding to the extant situation, where big forces of capital did whatever they wanted without controls, and pocketed all the profits. The idea of eliminating private property would, of course, theoretically eliminate the big forces of capital, but would also eliminate one of the cornerstones of the West’s received wisdom of Rationalism. Property, many believed, was an inalienable right. The conflict, in other words, was clear.

The real world has gone a great way since Marx’s day in resolving this conflict. On the one hand, the purely capitalistic libertarian state is now subject to government regulation at many levels. On the other hand, the urge to hold private property has proven hard to suppress, and purely Marxist governments do not really exist, and the legacy of totalitarian states devolving out of communism may have demonstrated in the laboratory that these governments never could exist. That, of course, is moot. Still, many socialist ideas have been incorporated into many otherwise capitalistic states, most noticeably in the area of health care, even in the US. So the deep background here, which is what we’ve discussed so far, is that the extremes have for all intents and purposes existed, and we’ve evolved into some middle ground. But that middle ground is vast. Take a look at these ratings: This is the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom. The amount of income tax is pretty telling from country to country. You could do worse that diving into these figures with notepad in hand.

But we haven’t really addressed the resolution yet, that “limiting economic inequality ought to be a more important social goal than maximizing economic freedom.” If we are going to limit economic inequality, we are presumably going to have either a redistribution of wealth after the fact, i.e., the richer subsidizing the poorer to some extent, or we are going to have a distribution of the wealth before the fact, i.e., the public possession of the wealth and the elimination of private property. One could easily run a completely pro-communist aff, in other words, and be resolutional. I don’t think that is a terrible debate: far from it, the study of capitalism v. communism is very enlightening, and it wasn’t all that long ago that, indeed, cap v. com was literally the NatNat topic. This could be seen as a variation on the theme.

As I say, however, to some extent history has already resolved the cap v com debate, and while just because something happened doesn’t make that something inevitable, I wouldn’t want to be defending communism after looking at those figures. Freedom, it would seem, equates pretty straightforwardly with free capitalism. And freedom is an awfully strong benefit of any system, not to mention a system that allows you to keep most of your wealth. An attractive picture, unless you’re destitute in Hong Kong. Or, a couple of notches down, the US.

So what other debate is there? Well, the first thing I thought of when I heard this topic was not cap v com but Rawls v Nozick. (I very recently posted a Feed piece on these two yabbos that NatNatters ought to take a look at.) The chief question that Rawls poses, the way I see it, is going back to that second purpose of government discussed above, that governments provide services to individuals that they cannot provide for themselves. Given that, in our complex modern society, we seem to be unavoidably faced with a class of economically deprived, for whatever reason, what responsibility, if any, does government, and by association tax-paying individuals who make up that government, have to that underclass? There’s an awful lot of leeway in answering this question, and that leeway could make for a good debate. Rawls tells us that we need to create a society that provides a certain minimum benefit for the least privileged. That is, as we “create” a society, we must fashion it in such a way that the least privileged are getting what they consider to be a fair deal. To achieve this end, we must do our societal creating behind a veil of ignorance: we cannot know our own position in the society, as that might corrupt our decision-making. Not knowing our position will lead us to this minimum benefit for the least privileged position, because for all we know, the least privileged might be us. Needless to say, if we were absolutely fair and incorruptible, we would come up with exactly the same decisions; the veil of ignorance is merely an insurance policy against the fact that, unfortunately, we are not angels.

The end result of Rawls’s thinking is a fairly robust support system for the underclass, and his ideas are associated with liberalism, i.e., a large government system running a lot of programs for the public weal. This kind of system can be seen as prioritizing limiting inequality. Keep in mind that the logic of Rawls is not manifest, and you just can’t walk into a round, say “veil of ignorance” and walk away with the ballot. The V of I for Rawls is a philosophical determining mechanism, not an end in itself. But reading the first hundred pages or so of Theory of Justice should be enough to get your head straight on what the man was talking about. After these pages he goes into the math; I, for one, was not equipped to go with him.

On the other hand is not really Nozick, as the aforementioned article explains, but conceptually we think of it as Nozickian. Ayn Rand, of all people, supported charity for the poor, as a sort of noblesse oblige aspect of the possession of wealth. The botto line of libertarianism is not, therefore, letting the poor rot. Rand is as much a libertarian as Nozick, and not that I’d ever suggest anyone torture themselves by reading Rand’s prose, I will say that once you get her drift, you will understand the neg. The position opposite to limiting economic inequality is one in which the government does not directly take on the responsibility of seeing to its underclass. This is not done out of meanness or parsimony, but out of the belief that the best system for the growth of capital is the system that least attempts to control that growth. Short of crippling monopolies or unfair business practices, including the unfair treatment of labor, the belief is that, since everyone is equal and has an equal opportunity to create their own wealth, it should be their private business to do so, and the government’s job is to keep away from it. In other words, the government is obligated to be laissez faire, because the laissez faire system will result in the most wealth for the most people. The very idea that wealth is obtainable to one and all acts as an incentive, as compared to the welfare-ish Rawls state, where the dole acts as a disincentive. Look, for instance, to the unemployment situation in the UK. At the point where unemployment is about as attractive as low-level employment, you run a large risk of finding a large group who opt out. Why work when you don’t have to?

I think the very interesting ideas of capitalism are in this construct. Despite the fact that I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal—I know, you’re shocked, shocked to hear it—I think there is reasonableness and potential in that small government, every man for himself idea. I mean, didn’t it work in the US? Doesn’t it potentially build the most prosperous nations, the most vivacious, the most exciting? Where is the financial excitement in the world today? Outside of China (which may be too important to posit an “outside of” argument), it’s in the freewheeling capitalist nations.

Anyhow, this just scratches the surface. And because of the wide open nature of the rez, it’s far from inclusive. It’s merely the starting point of one evening’s aimless noodling.

And now I’ve got to go get Tik (pronounced teek) out of my suitcase.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Leavin' on a j.p.; Guamacites; pre-Pups planning already?

I am now ready to pack. The goal is to bring as little as possible, so I’ve brought the smaller bag down from the attic, and done my best to keep Tik (pronounced teek) from stowing away in it, and begun laying things out. Not clothes, of course. Clothes are easy. A couple of these, a couple of those, and with any luck I won’t be arrested for disturbing the fashion peace. No, I’m thinking assorted chargers and international plug connections, games for the DS, juiced and loaded iPoddery (music, podcasts, audiobooks, video), camera (with manual, in case I want to get creative), teensy tripod for same, magazines, travel materiel, and of course, books. I’m limiting it to John Dewey on art, an early Neal Stephenson (the Baroque Cycle would mean never leaving my hotel room), and a easy-reading player to be named later (either Gaiman stories or a Jeeves novel). As you can tell, I definitely have my priorities straight. All those hours in airports and on planes require weeks of planning. An idle brain is the devil’s workshop…

Speaking of the devil’s workshop, every debate site this side of Guam (which just caucused for Obama, by the way, by a handful of votes; in other news, Guam has caucuses despite the fact that they don’t have electoral votes, and the inhabitants of the place are called Guamanians, not Guamwegians) has been posting minute-by-minute updates on the TOC. I have not bothered reposting them through the C-Feed. Enough is enough. I’m glad to see that Malis is now in their hall of fame, though. He’s a good guy, and has done some seriously clean tabbing for years now. More power to him.

Tomorrow is the last official/unofficial/you-name-it confab of whichever Sailors want to confuse Good Old “Alli” even more thoroughly before CatNats. And then we’re off the charts. After vacation I’ve got a ton of catch-up stuff that I’d like to do before the new season starts. That some of this catch-up is left over from last summer does not bode well, however, so breath should not be held. Still, I’m already thinking of Bullpups signups, and feeling that I’ll stick with the same hotel. It is off-campus, but there’s a shuttle and it’s a nice place and you don’t have to do the Street Criminal Night Obstacle Course to get to it.

I’m almost outta here!

Friday, May 02, 2008

The latest theory arg put to the test; topic envy; pre-ciao

This weekend dozens of debaters at TOC will be attempting for the first time to employ the flex aff in their competitive strategies. My prayers are with them.

Anyone who thinks I’ve been ranting too much over the CatNats topics (LD: education ought to be imbalanced; Pfffft: Native Americans ought to get off their lazy butts) might wish to compare them with the recently released NatNats topics. If you are a non-New Yorker you may not realize that, as a general rule, NatNats are quite problematic here, because they interfere with required Regents exams and/or graduation, which, if not required, is usually recommended for most high school students at the end of their fourth year. People do attend NatNats, but it is an enormous hassle, and often students just don’t bother because of that hassle. But every year it’s the same thing. Topics are released and those of us who will not be at NatNats (and yes, not even going to Las Vegas could overcome the inertia of Regents/graduation) sigh and wish we could debate those topics, or prep for them, or just touch the hem of their garments. Lucky #^$&#s! All we get is CatNats. About which I will now stop whining. (And I have continued to feed education articles to the Coachean Eaters in the audience. There’s plenty of stuff out there. Little of it is relevant to the topic, but at least it’s about education per se. Thence you shall derive your cases.)

This weekend is my final chance to get organized for my vacation. I don’t feel at all ready, but I never do until I return. I’ll be shutting down all Coachean communications, of course, for the duration. Two weeks without an internet. That I’m ready for!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Declaimers versus the Heavyweight Wrestling team; the Platonic K; And you call yourself a Replicant?

For the third time now I’ve heard debate cited as the juxtaposition against athletics in the CatNats resolution. Including forensics in the fine arts is a stretch, to put it mildly. No one defining fine arts in a vacuum, or enumerating the fine arts, would naturally include debate. Of course, even if it were one of the fine arts, it wouldn’t be particularly useful to argue it in this rez, I would imagine, because it would be the fine art most like athletics vis-à-vis its competitive essence, and therefore the least useful for making any distinction between the two sides. Nevertheless, I point this out because it could be something you hear in a round or two, and far be it for me to want to see you taken by surprise.

I got back onto the Cat Track from listening to the latest Loquitor interview this morning. Yet another disinterested observer couldn’t get his mind around a conflict between the two sides, seeing both as essential to secondary education. Which makes one think, wait a minute, what we have here is the absolute, quintessential critique possibility. (And if I remember correctly, JV commented something along these lines as he applauded himself for not having any LDers going to CatNats.) Fine arts and athletics are both requirements for good education. Forcing a choice between the two requirements would be, therefore, bad for education. Hence, accepting the premise of the resolution is bad for education, and presumably the CFL is bad for education, and if you can’t make the quintessential K out of that then you’ve been watching too way many episodes of “American Idol” lately and your brain just isn’t doing the job anymore. This is, of course, different from the abstention neg: the ab neg actually believes that the non-choice position is a true reading of the resolution, and, as I’ve said, a self-delusional clever-devil reading at that. It is more than likely that the clever devil ab neg has, in fact, also watched way too many episodes of “American Idol” and would therefore not know a kritik from a tire iron. Not that I would ever recommend running a K, of course, even when, for once, it is the absolutely correct neg strategy, but I will point out that in this case, despite the perfection of the concept, running that K is a virtually guaranteed loss. Sure: let’s run a case saying that the CFL is anti-education, in front of a panel of three CFL educators. That ought to turn out well.

On another note altogether, I listened this morning (it was a long morning) to a couple of Philosophy Bites. I hasten to point out that it’s Philosophy Bites and not Philosophy Bites. In any case, Stephen Muhall on film as philosophy went into great detail on “Blade Runner,” making it a shoo-in for the O’C iPod. I also listened to Richard Tuck on Free Riding, which is about an area of vagueness that, unlike the frustratingly twee episode I listened to on free will, is both totally impossible and wonderfully fascinating at the same time. I now know what the Sorites Paradox is, or more to the point, I know a heap about the Sorites Paradox. Occasionally philosophy doesn’t bite at all. And remarkably enough, they’re claiming on their website that they’re in the iTunes top 30. You’ve gotta love podcast listeners, if that’s true. If there were more of us there’d be fewer Howard Sternses. And if that’s not an admirable goal, I don’t know what is.

Oh. Wait. I forgot to count down to the TOC. Okay. Here we go: 22. Whew. Almost forgot that. The VCA would kill me in my sleep if I were to be so lax. Coming tomorrow: 21!