Sunday, July 29, 2012

Infrastructure - Review of Cases - Part 5

For other Policy Debate postings, including an analysis of the Infrastructure topic follow the links here.

Freight Rail Infrastructure
High Speed Rail

Case Reviews
Since camp cases are emerging, I have decided to scan through select case Affirmatives and deliver some summaries. While I will be looking at specific camp cases, I intend to summarize the general advocacy without reference to specific files. So, if several camps put out a high-speed rail case, for example, I will generally summarize the case plans, advantages, etc. without referencing a particular file. Now for sure, some of the reviews will be one particular file, if no other camp puts out a similar case.

This series will spread out over several postings as I find time to review the cases. In general, the posts will be short, the comments will be brief and they are strictly my opinions. If I say I do not like a case, it does not mean you should avoid looking at it, especially since sometimes the files are updated and improved.

The case files, I review will be taken from the National Debate Coaches Association, Open Evidence Project.

Freight Rail (Multimodal) Upgrade
The freight rail system is in serious need of upgrade as demand is outpacing capacity.

Only the fed can spark the needed work with a massive investment.  Once that happens, everyone jumps on the band wagon, emphasis will shift from trucks to trains and the carbon dioxide levels start to drop.

The economy needs a shot in the arm and investing in transportation infrastructure is a way to boost the economy. In particular if the freight rail logjam is cleared, goods will flow to market quicker.  Adding freight rail jobs has a spillover effect in the overall job market.  A slow market, recession economy, will, according to ... yep, Kahlilzad, leads to global wars.

Global Warming
Since global warming is anthropogenic (just accept it so we can move on in this debate), unless freight rail is upgraded, there will be more reliance on vehicular traffic to move the goods and that means more greenhouse gases. Rail pollutes less. By the way, I don't need to enumerate what the impacts of warming are because no doubt every policy debater since Al Gore was VP has heard the claims.

Coming off the econ advantage is an internal link to a possible terrorism advantage.  The evidence in the case suggest a sort of repression of terror and conflicts as a result of U.S. leadership/heg.

Alt Fuels (Ethanol)
Freight rail could potentially stimulate the ethanol fuel industry as the principle means to move the commodity across the nation.  A strong ethanol based energy system has multiple impacts on energy, economy and environment.

Coal is another alternate fuel that is moved by rail and has benefits to the economy, and energy sectors.

The Good
The case is good, evidence is good, claims are valid, especially the amount of emissions with respect to tons shipped.  The file provides good depth extending into to 2AC and beyond.

The Bad
There is not a lot bad with this case.  I think it could be improved by perhaps expanding the intermodal advantages.  The terrorism/heg internal link should be strengthened and run as an advantage, otherwise it seems like an, oh, by the way... claim which is not taken seriously enough.  There is little on the safety aspects of rail freight and that needs covered.  Rails are vulnerable to sabotage and derailments can be environmentally devastating to regions.

While it may argued that for every 'x' rail jobs added, 'x' times 'y' additional jobs are added in the general economy.  It may be true but I advise caution. In fact, upgrades to intermodal systems focus on high levels of automation which ultimately reduce transportation jobs.  Nevertheless, I think there should be no problem showing a net benefit to the economy and jobs in particular.

I really like this idea and think it has good potential for teams of all levels of experience.

High Speed Rail
I reviewed several HSR Affirmatives and they all have pretty much the same basic advantages.  Plan texts do vary and a proper plan text can be critical.
The basic idea of the plan is build HSR in metropolitan regions to alleviate the transportation gridlock that exists in such regions.  One of the files, introduces the concept of megaregions which I think is absolutely essential to support the pressing need in the SQ. But, I do have a caution about the megaregion concept as argued in one of the cases I reviewed which I will discuss in the summary of this analysis.

HSR will require Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Federal investment is key to inspiring investor confidence in the private sector.

HSR is an enormous project which directly and indirectly spurs job creation and generally stimulates the economy according to the evidence presented in the cases.  The usual impact of economic collapse and global war is avoided.

HSR relieves congestion and provides an emissions and fuel efficient way to transport masses of commuters.  If we don't stop emissions you already know polar bears will go extinct and that means no more National Geographic specials featuring cute polar bear cubs.

Links are important for this advantage so beware.  The basic idea is, HSR contributes generally to increased U.S. competitiveness which translates to leadership which translate to hegemony which potentially reduces terror and global conflicts.

HSR means more efficiency by reducing the fuel consumption per passenger mile.  This reduces our dependency on fossil fuels which are already expected to disappear soon and then watch the wars break out everywhere.

The Good
In general the evidence is good, links are adequate, and some extensions and answers are available.

The Bad
I would caution about using any of these cases as seen in the files I reviewed.  They are incomplete and don't go far enough in answering some the questions Neg is likely going to ask.  While I think this Aff can easily stand up to topicality, the evidence in the files I reviewed do not address it very well. I have the same criticism for states and private actor counter-plans.

These cases need more development and I think one possible way to do that is through the concept of megaregions.  Megaregions are a fact of life in the SQ and the problems they have will only get worse in the near future.  Megaregions also span state boundaries which very clearly puts them into the realm of federal management under provisions of the Commerce Clause.  Affs do not want to get into advocating megaregions as a kind of model for the future economy.  It will be hard enough running the HSR advocacy without adding the megaregion burden to the case.  Nevertheless, I think the idea is not only reality, but essential to justification for HSR.

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