NCFCA Debaters: Check out the Advanced Debate Camp

What have I been up to this summer? What has been so important that I’ve ignored my blog? Well, apart from working at Castle Media Group, attending NCFCA Nationals, and Patriot Academy, I’ve been volunteering for the Austin Rhetoric Club, and I can’t help but give a shameless pitch for the Advanced Debate Camp:
Debate Camp

Calling All NCFCA Debaters! You have one more week to register for the most intensive two days of debate training to hit Austin! Meet the Advanced Debate Camp. Coming to Austin, Tx August 19-20.

Daniel Gaskell, Alex MacDonald, Thomas Umstattd, Shaney Irene, yours truly, and many other names you might recognize will be lending their expertise. You are going to learn a lot from these experienced instructors; they are some of the best NCFCA alumni and coaches.

But this is a camp; not one long lecture. The whole philosophy behind the Advanced Debate Camp is to 1: learn from experience (teachers) and 2: learn by experience. That means you’re going to grow through hands-on practice and coaching. In fact, one of the goals of this workshop is to put together a student-created sourcebook. Cool, hu?

Interested? Go ahead and register today. This is literally the best debate camp you’ll find for the price.


“Determined more”: the missing LD key

Anyone who has debated the NCFCA LD resolution has run into the same problem: what in the world is “legitimacy?” The biggest problem is that even if both teams agree to a definition of “legitimate government” they can still disagree about how to apply it. Looking for a way to get around bad wording? This is the post for you.

Resolved: A government’s legitimacy is determined more by its respect for popular sovereignty than individual rights.


…is usually defined as “conforming to high standards”, “meeting the original purpose”, “widely accepted”, or sometimes simply “good.” The problem is how do any of these allow you to clearly distinguish legitimate from illegitimate governments?

So, I was thinking about this road block and trying to find a detour in the resolution. I was walking to the fridge when the most random insight hit me. There’s a loophole! One specific word in the resolution…


I asked a simple question: is it possible to answer “is ___ more important?” without answering “what is ____?” I came up with yes. Here’s the skinny:

Something is more important that something else if it doesn’t have a substitute.

Imagine you’re baking a cake (not something I do often…) and now imagine you’re an LDer or a philosophy major and you’re into answering useless questions (like this year’s resolution). 🙂 The question is: what ingredient is MORE important to the cake?

In this scenario, we have the same problem: what do you mean by “important?” All the ingredients are important! But the one that you need least is the one that you could substitute. You don’t desperately need to get a carton of milk if you have powdered milk in the fridge. Simply put, the irreplaceable ingredient is the most important not matter what idea of “importance” you’re using!

Excited? Because I was pretty excited about this. Ok, now back to how it relates to LD…

Does popular sovereignty have an alternative?

I think that you could easily say “no” (as affirmative) by arguing the word “respect.” There’s no way to respect the “will of the people” without respecting it!

Application: before the American revolution, the English elites had the idea in their head of “virtual representation.” Namely, even though we didn’t get a voice our taxes, the mother country understood the colonists and had their best interests in mind. That seems pretty stupid, doesn’t it? Needless to say, we had a revolution over it and rejected England’s legitimacy over us.

On the other hand, the British did it right in other cases. Entirely without democratic elections, the empire created rules in Hong Kong that made it one of the most prosperous and least corrupt cities in the world. So, by pointing out the complexities of the “people’s will” (there’s more than just one), you could easily argue (as Negative) that there are ways to do what’s best for people (and what they arguable will want) without caring about popular sovereignty.

Is there an alternative to individual rights?

Yes. If you haven’t yet, every LDer needs to read Frederick Bastiat’s The Law. His idea is that if Individual Rights are the point of government, then people will gradually demand more and more rights until they start taking rights from others.

That’s why he believes in negative law. Instead of saying “you have a right to life”; the law says “you don’t have a right to murder.”[*] Debaters facing this idea on negative might say: a little nit-picky?

Perhaps. There’s some room for interpretation. Can denying someone rights be “respect for individual rights”? Does “respect” carry over the “and”? There’s some room either way. But there will still be clash! That’s what makes debate fun.

So, the whole concept of this post is that you can answer the resolution by talking about more determined and not legitimacy. Hope some of you take this idea and run with it. If you figure out how to do something with this concept, let me know in the comments. I’d love to see this idea actually become something. It might make a good affirmative (or maybe a negative…) case.

[*] Alexander Hamilton argued the same thing in the Federalist 84: “I go further, and affirm that bills of rights… are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. …Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?”

The Case that won Region IV 2009

Well, NCFCA Nationals is coming up, so I figured it was my duty to give every bit of advice I can to those moving on to this higher level of competition. Anyway… here’s the case that won finals at last year’s Region IV tournament.

A super extra lot of credit goes to my super awesome former debate partner Toni Maisano. Maybe she’ll share some of her wisdom with you on why this case worked as well as it did.

This was a long time in the making. If you’re interested, you can read an earlier version here. Maybe I’ll post a little later on why we made the changes we did. Three specific things I think were done well in this case (and made it interesting):
a) support: evidence; not solid quotes.
b) SHORT taglines.
c) stories.

Feel free to ask questions and let me know what you think.

Aff1.1 – FA006

Imagine that there’s a poor man on the side of the road. He informs you that he can’t feed his children and desperately needs money. You’re feeling generous, so you give him a hundred dollars, telling him to use it wisely. He assures you that he will, turns around, and takes off his brand new Porsche.

After investigating this strange character, you learn that only 5 out of the 100 dollars you gave him actually went to feeding his family. You also, to your dismay, discover that he owns shares in the mortgage on your home. Now, knowing just how apparently irresponsible your last decision was, I have to pose the question: The next time you go past his corner, will you give him another 100 dollars? Or will you take that money and use it toward paying that mortgage you owe that strange “poor” man?

The way our government hands out aid to India is very similar to this analogy, and it is why we must affirm: That the United States Federal Government should significantly change its policy toward India. Today we will be showing you the similarities, and presenting a plan to phase out our irresponsible program to aid India.

But before we can do this, we need to make sure we’re on the same page in:

1) Definitions

Sources and further definitions are available upon request. Here are a couple to get us started:

United States-“country North America bordering on Atlantic, Pacific, & Arctic oceans; a federal republic”

(“United States of America.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. States of America )

Significantly-“Having or likely to have a major effect; important”

(American Heritage Dictionary,

Change-“to undergo a modification of ”

(Merriam-Webster Online Dict. 2008,

Policy-As foreign policy consists of ‘decisions and actions which involve to some appreciable extent relations between one state and others’, it can be defined as ‘the actions of a state toward the external environment and the conditions under which these actions formulated’.

(Prof. Mustafa Aydin (professor of International Relations at the Faculty of Political Science, Ankara University, Turkey; as well as at the National Security Academy, Ankara, Turkey; was Research Fellow at the Center for Political Studies, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor) 2006, “Turkish Foreign Policy at the End of the Cold War; Roots and Dynamics”, Turkish Yearbook of International Relations, /1_mustafa_aydin.pdf)

Toward-“With regard to; in relation to”

(American Heritage Dictionary,

India-“A country of southern Asia covering most of the Indian subcontinent.”

(The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition,

Foreign Aid-“assistance (as economic aid) provided by one nation to another”

(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary,

In this case, we will be focusing on one goal. That’s the second point we want to make:

2) Goal: Responsibility

So, in this round, we would encourage you to look at our policy on foreign aid and see if it is truly responsible. We want to start by showing you two reasons that foreign aid is not a responsible policy in:

3) Harms

This case specifically addressed economic aid, both in cash and in kind. According to the Congressional Research Service, we are sending India $74.1 Million annually.

How is this money being uses irresponsibly? Our two harms are debt and waste.

Thomas Lum (Specialist in Asian Affairs Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division). “U.S. Foreign Aid to East and South Asia: Selected Recipients.” October 8, 2008. Congressional Research Service, RL31362.

a) Debt

Interestingly enough, the Department of the treasury reported that while giving India foreign aid, we also owed them about $38.2 Billion in Treasury Securities.

Department of the Treasury/Federal Reserve Board. May 15, 2009. “Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities”

In other words, we’re donating to our creditor. Our children are the ones who will have to pay for it. This is anything but a responsible policy, especially when you consider that much of our foreign aid has been wasted in India’s system.

b) Waste

A team of three Indian researchers decided to see what kind of effect foreign aid had on their government. They used a computer generated model to predict government spending with and without aid, comparing it to real data. Their conclusion was published in the:

Vinaya Swaroop (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India), Shikha Jha (Ph.D. in economics, Development Research Group, World Bank), and Andrew Sunil Rajkumar (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India).
September 2000.
“Fiscal effects of foreign aid in a federal system of governance The case of India.” Journal of Public Economics 77.3 (2000): 307-330. Accessed via ScienceDirect.

“This paper models fiscal effects of foreign aid in a federal system of governance. Our main innovation is to incorporate the inter-governmental fiscal link in examining economic fungibility of foreign aid. The model is applied to the expenditure decisions of the central government of India. The two main findings are: (i) Foreign aid merely substitutes for spending that the government would have undertaken anyway; funds freed by aid are spent on non-development activities, and (ii) In passing earmarked external assistance to states, the central government makes a reduction in its transfers to states. These findings indicate that the central government’s expenditure choices are unaffected by external assistance. The implication for donors is that even though their development projects may be associated with very high rates of economic return, they could be assisting the central government in financing something very different at the margin. For the state governments, the finding indicates that they may not be reaping the full benefits of externally procured assistance.”

Non-development activities. So, major studies have shown that foreign aid doesn’t help India build roads or feed the poor; those projects have been done anyway. In fact,

The Financial Times.
23 2008.
“Western donors wrestle with the contradictions of rising India.” By Jo Johnson (B.A., M.B.A., Financial Times’ South Asia bureau chief).

India does little to solicit aid and, sometimes, much to deter it. Ahead of Mr Brown’s visit, Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress party politician, hinted at the extent of corruption, claiming that only 5 per cent of development funds reached their intended recipients, down from 15 per cent when his father was prime minister.
“His warning coincided with the release by the World Bank of a report that found “systemic fraud and corruption” in a flagship health programme and “suggested that other projects had been similarly compromised”. The bank in the year to June 2007 provided $3.7bn in new loans to India, its largest borrower.”

95 percent of aid somehow gets sidetracked. It gets spent on “non-development:” activities that are nice, but don’t actually help people. Well, like what? For example, while millions are going hungry, India is working on a two billion dollar space program.

The Guardian.
22 October 2008.
“Over-reaching for the stars” by Randeep Ramesh (the Guardian’s south Asia correspondent).

Summarized it well:
“But with precocity can come a hubris that is hard to shake off in later life. Perhaps the country would do well to direct some of its remarkable talents to the more obvious, acute problems it faces on earth, rather than inventing reasons to reach for the stars.”

Our funding allows them to gloss over their people and keep their head in the clouds.

That man with a Porsche can feed his children, he’d just rather let others do it. India is the same way. A very similar analogy is used by

Professor Deepak Lal (D.Phil., M.A., B.A., Professor of International Development Studies, University of California, LA, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy, University College London, former consultant to the Indian Planning Commission, Economic Advisor and Research Administrator to the World Bank, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute).
April 6, 2006.
“Reply to Easterly: There is No Fix for Aid.” CATO Unbound.

He adds: “[Professor William] Easterly clearly thinks that there might still be some form of escape from what will appear to the world’s great and the good as a defeatist and gloomy conclusion. But the very example he cites—the role played by accountability and evaluation in the Mexican Progressa education program as a prototype for future aid projects—shows up why foreign aid is unnecessary for such programs. This was a Mexican program not funded by foreign aid. In fact in all the currently fashionable “soft” areas—health, education, democracy, gender etc.—favored by aid donors, there is no need for foreign money. Countries which subscribe to the worthy objectives of the aid donors do not need foreign money to do the right thing; they today have enough domestic money for these purposes. It is the ineffectiveness of this expenditure in meeting these objectives that leads to the observed dismal outcomes. Thus India spends a fair amount on public education but as official report after report has documented, this expenditure is wasted as the teachers do not turn up to teach, the school buildings are not built, and there are no books for which expenditure has been sanctioned. It is the will to do the right thing that remains in question in achieving even these modest objectives favored by Easterly. Foreign aid will make no difference, for as the adage has it: “You can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make him drink”.”

As Lal advocates, we will next propose a plan that will address these two harms by phasing out this wasteful program and using the money to pay off our debt.

4) Plan

Our plan is really pretty simple. Here’s the specifics:

the Agency and Enforcement: of this plan is the Federal Government of the United States. There are two mandates that this agency will implement:

Mandate 1: Phase Out. Current government non-military aid sent to the India will be phased out. Discretionary funds shall be terminated, contracts shall not be renewed, and no new commitments shall be made. According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) service, this currently includes CSH (Child Survival and Health), DA (Development Assistance), and P.L. 480 Title II Grants (In-kind food aid).

Mandate 2: Funds Redirected. Funds freed shall be redirected to pay off Indian Securities.

Next, the Timeline: This plan will be phased in as possible over the next two fiscal years.

Finally, we reserve the right to clarify this plan as needed.

The fifth and final observation of this case is how this plan pays off and restores responsibility:

5) Advantages

a) Exponential Savings

See debt doesn’t just increase at a constant rate. It is also accumulating interest, so it grows exponentially, a lot like cancer. Consequently, we are able to save exponentially by paying it off. So, starting with just $ 74.1 Million,
-In 10 years, we will not save $ 741 Million, we’ll save almost a billion dollars.
-And in 20 years, we won’t save $ 1.4 Billion, with interest we’ll save 2.5 Billion.
Formula Used:
Where A is the amount after t years, P is the principle (74.1 Million), r is the interest rate (estimated to be 5% for the purposes of this calculation), and e is an irrational mathematical constant approximately equal to 2.71828…

The longer we save, the more we save. So now is the time to start making this long term investment. But there is anther reason to adopt this plan.

b) Responsibility

This policy is not only frugal on our part, but also promotes responsible policy on all sides. Let’s look at history to illustrate this point. In 1998, India tested nuclear weapons and, in response, the United States cut off foreign aid. So, did people die? Was the Indian economy thrown into turmoil? Interestedly enough, the exact opposite happened. At the time, an article was published in:

The Lancet (Leading Medical Journal, established 1828, currently ranked number two in general medicine).
June 13, 1998.
[Was entitled] “India to raise health spending to counteract foreign aid sanctions.” by Sanjay Kumar. The Lancet, Vol 351 (1998): p 1794. Accessed via ScienceDirect.

“Defying the sanctions placed on the Indian economy in the wake of nuclear test explosions, the BJP[Hindu nationalist]-led government has proposed large budget increases for health care, education, and public welfare. The central health and family welfare budget for 1998–99, now being debated in parliament, is proposed to increase by 34% above last year’s allocation. The education spending would rise by 50% and welfare by 91%.”

So, when we stopped funding irresponsible politics, India released that they really did have money for healthcare. Looking back, the CATO Institute points out that this historical president shows that:

CATO Institute.
Cato Handbook for Policymakers. 7th Edition (2009). Ch 63. “Foreign Aid and Economic Development.” pg 660.

Far more effective at promoting market reforms is the suspension or elimination of aid. Although USAID lists South Korea and Taiwan as success stories of U.S. economic assistance, those countries began to take off economically only after massive U.S. aid was cut off. As even the World Bank has conceded, ‘‘Reform is more likely to be preceded by a decline in aid than an increase in aid.’’ When India faced Western sanctions in 1998 in response to nuclear tests there, the International Herald Tribune reported that ‘‘India approved at least 50 foreign-investment projects to compensate for the loss of aid from Japan and the United States’’ and that it would take additional measures to attract capitalIn the end, the countries that have done the most to reform economically have made changes despite foreign aid, not because of it.”

To recap this case, you could just use one sentence. We don’t have the money for a wasteful program when there are valid alternatives to it. History shows that when we stop propping up their irresponsibility, India will rise to the challenge. Similarly, Americans can donate to worthy causes through effective charities, who aren’t in the same financial predicament as our government. It is the time to do the responsible thing.

So we urge you to vote affirmative. Thank you.

The Economics of Freedom

Hayek vs. Keynes

This is one of the best videos on this economic debate. It also happens to be a pretty good rap.

F.A. Hayek was one of the pioneers in the Austrian school of economics, a school of thought that held the government is not knowledgeable or motivated enough to try to steer the economy in the right direction. He received the Nobel prize for his work. It believed in total economic liberation and that the only legitimate use of government was to protect people from violence. Mises called it “liberalism”; today, we might say it’s “libertarian.”

John Maynard Keynes was an English economist who completely changed the profession of economics with his ideas about how government could put the economy on the right track. His ideas included spending money you didn’t have through debt, discouraging saving, and legal plunder. All of this so that money would continue to cycle and get stuff done. He is the founder of modern economics, and provided the economic theory for the stimulus package.

Liberty or Regulation?

What about that video? Now, how ’bout the ideas behind it? Should the government spur the economy?

See this video for a little more:
Hayek doesn’t even trust government to have a monopoly on the money supply. He believes there should be competing currencies. Do you agree the government should have so little to do with the economy? Would the free market have avoided the crash?

Now time for Milton Friedman quotes! Another liberty-leaning school of economics was the Chicago school of economics, the most famous member was probably Friedman, also a Nobel Laureate. He said:

“The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want.”

“‘Fair’ is in the eye of the beholder; free is the verdict of the market.”

So, what do you think?

I should post something…

But I won’t… because I’m not feeling inspired.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
~Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)

Sorry, that’s all I got… But the words of God are sufficient, no?

I Made a Mess of Me…

Thank goodness for the grace of the Lord. If you know where that line came from, you might be interested to know that “Mess of Me” from Switchfoot can now be downloaded for free. Here’s how:

Free Christian Music Blog: Free Switchfoot, Family Force 5, Leeland, & More!

Now you can rock it out to this and all it involved was a quick sign up. Very nice. There are a few downloads available, but this song is what caught my attention:

Advice… take it from a Freshman

Yup, I’m just a freshman, but I thought that, while waiting for the results from my semester, I’d share with y’all my reflections.

The UT South mall on September 11. One flag for each victim… It was a surreal moment for me. It seemed like the clouds felt the same way.

First, I compiled a few great sayings that I’ve picked up that are useful through… all life.

Potential: What you can do

“…90 percent of your potential is not only untapped and unused, but also undiscovered.” – Tim Hansel, qtd: Urban 7.

Passive people: “Bad stuff happens to me.”
Proactive, effective, people: “I happen to bad stuff.”

Understanding: Potential in your brain

Don’t try to make yourself understood, try to help others understand.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Steven Covey

Priorities: Unleashing understanding

There are lots of things out there that are really cool – that’s why I let OTHER people spend their time on it.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah.
I don’t think he was talking to the gardeners here. Connection:
Grass = basic food. Stuff you see (and need) every day.
Flowers = beauty. How long does that REALLY last?

Sigh… :Is imagining misquotations of that statement: for the record: Brian does not eat grass, but maybe Isaiah did. Oh well, I’ll resign myself to this fate.

Urgency: the appearance of being important. Skip urgent stuff for the important stuff.

If you want to procrastinate, put your deadlines in a calendar with dates.
If you want to get them done, put them on a list to tear up when you’re a good boy!

Fads last a week, knowledge lasts a lifetime, but people will last even longer.

Responsibility: Responding to whatever got released

“The Beauty of Grace is that it makes life not fair.” -Relient K

Giving God control doesn’t mean loosing control. It means having complete control.

“Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional” – Tim Hansel

Now… for what no one has been waiting for…
College Specifically

In school, you pay to spend time with teachers. At college, that stops. Now I’m paying to be with really, really smart people.

Who might be teachers, but probably not. That’s the main difference: you have to LEARN proactively, not expect to be TAUGHT.

One hour of study followed by an hour of sleep sure beat two hours of study.

Stay away from dark, scary allies.

While we’re at it, stay away from Greenpeace. They want to talk about whales, not economics. :sheepish grin: Oh yes I did.

Scientists analyse what it, but engineers get to create what has never been.

So I guess that’s all the wisdom I can think of and fit in one post. Oh well. I honestly don’t know what else to add. Lookin’ forward to another semester. And I still want to be an engineer. And, believe it or not, my sense of humor survived. 😉

I have a great future to look forward to. Just check this out: PHD Comics: Motivation.