Monday, October 29, 2012

LD 2012 Health Care Worlds

For a complete analysis of the health care topic start by clicking here.

The Philosopher and the Pragmatist

This weekend, we will begin our varsity debate season and this tournament is usually a very challenging one featuring competition from across the state.  This evening in our debate practice class, we were reviewing the cases written by the LD debaters and trying the best we could to prep them for some of the different points of view which they may face.  As a coach, I find it challenging because I would love to take some of them far deeper into the philosophical arguments than they could probably bear and I confess, some of my personal ideas are unconventional to say the least.  Therefore, one must find a suitable balance between philosophy and pragmatism in order to avoid swamping some of the students in potentially confusing concepts which may in the long run prove to be of marginal value if the ideas cannot be adequately expressed to the judge.  One particular young man is trying to make the transition from Policy debate to LD because his partner decided debate was not in his future.  Whereas, policy debaters are frequently exposed to philosophical points of view, it has been a struggle for him to remember, a plan text is not exactly well-received in our conservative Lincoln-Douglas district.  Tonight our assistant coach made a very interesting comment to him, "in LD one can debate utopia". 

Utopian Health Care

The "utopia" remark, got me thinking specifically about the universal health care topic.  The resolution allows the Affirmative to take a kind of Utopian position.  When affirmative claims, the United States ought to guarantee universal health care, it permits one to create an evasive case which avoids a lot of the potential bothersome arguments one may expect from the Negative.  For example, I may claim, "I am advocating a world in which universal health care is guaranteed but I am not claiming anyone should take advantage of it".  Indeed, until someone actually does take advantage of the guaranteed health care, many of the disadvantage scenarios of the Negative can not occur; no resources are consumed, no one is coerced or dehumanized, no rights are infringed and no one is denied equality nor equal access.

Pragmatic Health Care

An idealized world where universal health care is guaranteed but no one takes advantage has no practical real-world value.  It offers no practical advantages in which individuals actually receive treatment for their ailments, have their quality of life improved, nor can the state itself claim any particular advantages.  In other words, there is no solvency for the harms which we assume exist in the status quo.  Therefore, from a purely pragmatic point of view, the only health care that matters is one which has solvency and solvency comes at a price.  In the pragmatist's world view, health care requires resources, in terms of commodities, services, personnel and time and all of these things cost money and governments only have so many ways to pay for the practical solution and maintain a universally accessible system.  It is in this world, where the practical realities of solvency generate disadvantages and advantages that are measured in "real" gains and losses.

Affirmative Fiat

Somewhere between the two extremes the cases will fall and somewhere between the extremes the judge will take up a position of forced neutrality.  I doubt too many debaters will take up a kind of Utopian position in which health care availability exists but no one uses it simply because the advantages are mainly negative in that they avoid disadvantages but there is little practical reason to support the position other than it meets the resolution on a superficial level.  Nevertheless, I think it very reasonable to expect that some Affirmatives will advocate a world which fiats the impractical aspects of universal health care.  For example, one may simply claim they provide universal health care and the resources needed to guarantee solvency are somehow provided.  This position will argue the issue is not how to solve real-world problems of providing the care rather the philosophical question of whether nations have a duty to protect their citizens.  This kind of fiat power in LD debate can be abusive because if the Affirmative can fiat solvency then the best Negative can do is try to frame a pre-fiat case against a hypothetical world or try to convince the judge there is no pragmatic reason to assume the Aff will solve without triggering real-world disadvantages. Fiating solvency is a theory issue and needs to be argued as part of the over-all Neg case.

And So...

I guess for me the bottom line is to be on guard for Affirmative cases which create hypothetical worlds or philosophical frameworks and try to avoid disadvantages by either ignoring solvency or by fiating solvency.  If nothing is solved, then why advocate for the Affirmative in the first place?   Even in a philosophical framework which purely addresses the duties of nations, a pragmatic, real-world harm necessitates the duty to provide health care and so Neg should be able to find plenty of ground for debate.  But, if Aff tries to avoid disadvantages by fiat, Such a position will steal your ground so make sure you have a strategy for answering this kind of case if Aff attempts to make it.

For other LD topics and information, click here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PF 2012 Proposed December Topics

UPDATE (Nov. 1, 2012) :
The coaches have voted and decided our students can successfully convince judges that raising taxes is preferred over spending cuts.  Good luck with that one!

The December topic is : Resolved: The United States should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts.

My analysis of the topic begins *HERE*

The TOPIC AREA for the month of December is, "After the election, what's next? The budget." The two resolutions from which advisers may choose are as follows:

Resolved: The United States should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts.

Resolved: The United States should prioritize preserving entitlement benefits over reducing deficit spending.

The first proposed resolution may be appealing on one level, because I think most high-school debaters understand, what is a tax increase and what is a spending cut?  But, I think one must look at this topic from a debate point of view and consider, is it really possible to support tax increases in a  public forum debate?  Is it possible to convince a citizen judge, such a policy is the best course of action for America considering economic conditions sure to be in place in December?  The term "tax increases" is ambiguous.  It could mean across the board increases, middle class increases or increases for the top 'x' percent.  Given these possibilities, it may be possible to leverage the generally popular idea the wealthy should pay more taxes, but usually this rhetoric targets eliminating tax loopholes and deductions as opposed to actually raising tax rates.  Tax increases may also refer to federal income taxes or any of a plethora of other kinds of taxes including state/local taxes and taxes on services and commodities.  Though the resolution does not say "federal" taxes, that is almost certainly the intent of the resolution.  I think Pro, either way, will have a tough time with this topic.

The second resolution, is probably less understandable to high-school debaters who may not have a good understanding of entitlement benefits so it is a chance for students to learn something.  However, there is huge potential for debate over the definition of entitlement benefits.  For example, some will argue, social security benefits are entitlement benefits and certainly there is significant political debate over the viability of social security in the United States.  Some will argue, that social security is not an entitlement since individuals pay into it.  Regardless, the term is broad and therefore potentially difficult to pin-down to specifics.  Nevertheless, it may not be necessary to get too specific depending on how the case is framed.

I have not researched either of these topics at all.  I am basing my comments on a very general knowledge of the topics arising from experience and personal knowledge.  I have my initial idea of which to vote for, but I will do some preliminary research before making a final choice.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 2012 Novice Debate

Preparation and Procrastination

Two schools in our district traditionally hold novice tournaments the last two weeks of October.  The first of those tournaments was held this past week-end.  Each school has decided the interests of the local debate community are better served by having the novices debate the November topics, even though it is still October.  It gives the first-timers little time to prepare; barely two weeks, but the varsity debaters should be working on the same cases, so they can benefit from the varsity lead, or so one would think.  In fact, my varsity teams are pretty much masters at procrastination.  Being on varsity for some, means they have enough experience to know exactly how long it takes to research, write cases, and get ready and some have figured out how to compress that into a two-week time frame.  Not that they aren't working.  They are "researching" and have no problem showing you their collections of files and cards.  But generally speaking, many will not start to compile a case until the last minute, no matter how much they are encouraged, pushed or cajoled.  Indeed, for many, debate is just one of several activities and may not be the most important.  Granted, for me that thought is borderline outrageous, but I have learned as the years go by there is only so much "leading to water" one can do before the horse begins to buck and rear.

Debate? Yeah Right!

As coaches, we know (and the varsity supposedly knows) the best way to prepare a case is to debate it and that means time must be allocated in practice so the cases can be run, and the coach can watch and offer critiques.  Nevertheless, that never goes as smoothly as we like.  Our team is not really big and this year it is smaller than it has been in some time.  Making debates actually happen in practice can be much more difficult than any of us would like.  Sometimes, one member of a team is present but the other is not and quite often one never knows who will show up, due to band, cross country, wrestling, volley ball, choir, college visits, S.A.T. and A.C.T tests and all manner of extra-curricular events.  Sometimes, two debaters that can potentially go head-to-head in practice both have just the Aff or just the Neg case prepared so we can't debate.  As a coach, we understand how important it is to know who will be absent from practices on certain days so activities can be planned accordingly.  But students don't seem to have the same sense of priorities such that when they do remember to let you know of absences in advance, there is a mistaken tendency to believe you are actually impressing them with the importance of proper scheduling and time-management.  That false sense of accomplishment rarely holds through the following week.

The Varsity Beast

In our district, beginning in November, the novices will be thrust into the shark infested waters of varsity debate.  There is no such thing as a novice or junior varsity tournament around here, so first-timers are forced to go toe-to-toe with experienced debaters.  Generally speaking, it works out well since the two, prior novice tournaments tend to condition most of the first-timers pretty well.  Our novice policy debaters are not as lucky.  Unfortunately, their first tournament is a slug-fest, sponsored by a regional university populated by teams hoping to pre-qualify for the state tournament.  The novice tournaments represent a chance to lick their wounds and realize, everything the coach said was true after-all.

As it turns out, there is a far worse situation than throwing novices into a varsity debate and that is putting them up against a varsity debater from their own team during practice.  This seems to be a particularly troubling scenario in which the varsity students feel it their duty to shred and otherwise destroy novice debaters.  Varsity team-mates are viewed as beasts in the first place.  They use unfamiliar language, they exude confidence, and they can unleash a devastating verbal torrent, unrehearsed for what must seem like hours on a single breath of air.  I think varsity debaters tend to function under the creed that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger so they are doing the novice kid a favor by burying them alive.  Additionally, some varsity debaters harbor a certain sense of resentment they must "lower" themselves to debate a novice as they feel they reap little benefit from the encounter.  Not all of them beat up novices, but it happens.  It is my job as a coach to watch for unnecessary roughness.  It is easy to spot, when novice enthusiasm turns to a kind of fear which says, "oh no, I am going to be humiliated in front of my peers".  Then it's time to intervene on behalf of the least experienced and turn it into a learning experience.

Debate in the "Real" World

I will say, in my years of judging debate in the "real" world, which I still thoroughly love to do, I have rarely seen a varsity team shred a novice from another school.  It happens occasionally, but a remarkable quality of most varsity debaters is adaptation.  They seem to naturally adjust themselves not only according to the judges they face but also in response to their level of competition.  In a kind of instinctive act of energy conservation, the varsity debater, tends to reduce her intensity to a level necessary to match the skills of the novice plus some incremental amount sufficient to ensure victory.  As a coach and judge its a beautiful thing to recognize.  The varsity team moves on, the novice teams emerge with a sense of respect rather than fear and respect encourages emulation.

Respect for the Novice

I have a particular sensitivity to the needs of the least experienced debaters.  What they must do in such a short period is remarkable, much like a young child who in a very short space of time, develops the skills to read and write, novice debaters must quickly develop skill sets which only a few weeks before were totally alien to them.  We then dress them up, so to speak, and herd them into these novice events, unprepared, anxious, wide-eyed and fearful and force them to adhere to orderly standards of behavior demanded by traditions and rules they have not yet comprehended.  Finally, it ends, and on the bus ride home one senses a transformation, of sorts.  They have become members of a community and partaken of a tradition, while not fully comprehended, it is one that imparts a real since of unique accomplishment.  I think it is easy in the zeal to develop the varsity strategy for the season to overlook the remarkable effort exerted by these first-timers.  So, I urge you my fellow coaches, let's give the novices our utmost respect and attention.

So It Begins...

Our first novice tournament is now done and this week we are prepping for the next as we continue to encourage, push and cajole our varsity members into completing their cases and doing practice rounds.  And so it begins, a yearly cycle which starts anew each autumn and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

PF 2012 Middle East Policy - Evidence

For part 1 of the topic click here


There is no analysis in the post.  I am not sure how much analysis is required for debaters including novice to understand this topic.  It is fairly straight-forward and easy to understand.  I mean, either current middle-east foreign policy undermines national security or it does not.  A perfect delineation of the Pro and Con positions.  It is simple and clean.  What is not so simple, it cutting through the rhetoric and political grand-standing and finding good evidence.  Opinions are many and facts are few, but I think that is to be expected.  Not only because we are near the closing phase of a national election but because the nature of the subject: national security.  It is wrapped in a veil as that is actually part of the strategy to ensure security and because of the sensitivity of the topic, words matter greatly since much of "security" is often people's perception of feeling safe.  I mean, no administration would ever want to expose the failures or weakness of the nation's security.  So, we are left with conjecture, "expert" opinion, and the historical record.

In addition, because of the politically charged atmosphere, and other reasons, Con evidence is scarce.  There is a pragmatic argument that the homeland has been free of terror attacks since 2001, but one can not claim the same with respect to American interests abroad.  So below are the results of two specific searches.

First, I keyed my search on the word "blowback".  It is a common buzzword of the pundits and has proved fruitful in a google search.  Next I did a search through EBSCOhost.  There you will not find links, but the evidence should be obtainable through many schools or library computers. Enjoy.


Blowback is defined as “an unforeseen and unwanted effect, result, or set of repercussions,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Drone Attacks
Middle East Policy Council
Drone Warfare in Yemen: Fostering Emirates through Counterterrorism?
Leila Hudson, Colin S. Owens, David J. Callen
In the case of drone use in FATA, we identified five distinct forms of blowback, all of which are directly applicable to the use of drones in Yemen. The first, purposeful retaliation is typified by the events of the 2009 Khost bombing of CIA Camp Chapman and, more recently, an al-Qaeda attack earlier in 2012 on a liquid-natural-gas pipeline running through Yemen's Shabwa province. The motivation behind both of these attacks has been cited as the unremitting presence of, and specific attacks from, U.S.-operated drones. ... " - see the article for the remaining four

The Drone Blowback Fallacy
Strikes in Yemen Aren't Pushing People to Al Qaeda
Christopher Swift
July 1, 2012
(The article full text can be found here:
Religious figures echoed these words. Though critical of the U.S. drone campaign, none of the Islamists and Salafists I interviewed believed that drone strikes explain al Qaeda’s burgeoning numbers. “The driving issue is development,” an Islamist parliamentarian from Hadramout province said. “Some districts are so poor that joining al Qaeda represents the best of several bad options.” (Other options include criminality, migration, and even starvation.) A Salafi scholar engaged in hostage negotiations with AQAP agreed. “Those who fight do so because of the injustice in this country,” he explained. “A few in the north are driven by ideology, but in the south it is mostly about poverty and corruption.”

Washington Post
The inevitable blowback to high-tech warfare
By Walter Pincus, Published: October 15
Hasan Nasrallah, secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, confirmed that his organization had launched the drone it had assembled from Iranian manufactured parts....Nasrallah has made it clear that his use of drones isn’t over. “This flight was not our first, will not be our last, and we give assurances we can reach any point we want. We have the right to dispatch recon planes over occupied Palestine at any time,” he said Saturday.
In short, while armed drones have for years been a growing U.S. military and CIA weapon of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, other countries have been quietly but quickly getting into the game.

Washington Post
The inevitable blowback to high-tech warfare
By Walter Pincus, Published: October 15
In a speech Thursday on cybersecurity, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta described as “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date” the Shamoon computer virus that in August virtually destroyed 30,000 computers belonging to the Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco....What crossed my mind was the Stuxnet virus, which has been described as a U.S.-Israeli collaboration that, beginning in 2009 and for at least a year, affected software associated with Iran’s nuclear program. In February, the Iranian Fars News Agency quoted a Tehran intelligence officer as saying that 16,000 computers in Iran had been infected by Stuxnet.
Earlier, there was Flame, another intelligence-gathering virus that focused on Iranian and other Middle Eastern computers. International computer security companies reported that Flame had some of the same characteristics as Stuxnet and apparently the same U.S.-Israeli origin.
Should we be surprised that Iran may have been behind the attacks on Aramco and probes of U.S. banks?

The State Press
US presence around globe intensifies anti-American sentiments
By Carlos Alfaro
September 18, 2012
As attacks and protests spread throughout the Middle East, everyone will ask how the U.S. will respond. Unfortunately, U.S. foreign policy for most of the 21st century and actions taken by the current administration point to more of the same: more military aid, more war and more military presence all over the globe.
The Middle East’s disdain for America is an obvious threat to our national security. Under the guise of security and good will, the U.S. government is the major culprit in cultivating the anti-American mentality.


EBSCOhost Sources

UANI Applauds President Obama, U.S. Lawmakers for Sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank By: United Against Nuclear Iran, Business Wire (English), 01/02/2012
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) President, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s signing of new sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank and financial sector.
We applaud President Obama for signing into law sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, which were passed by Congress with UANI’s support, research, and analysis. UANI has, since its founding, consulted with members of Congress to devise and introduce legislation to compel corporations, firms, and financial institutions to choose between doing business with the U.S., or Iranian entities including Iran’s Central Bank. If effectively implemented, these sanctions will be the toughest to date, and force banks and firms to take responsibility for their business decisions by choosing between doing commerce in Iran, or with the U.S.
As UANI noted in its letter to President Obama last month, sanctions against Bank Markazi are one of the best options the U.S. has for pressuring the Iranian regime to change course. UANI urges the Obama administration to fully implement and follow through on these sanctions, and will continue to devise measures that show the Iranian regime that the U.S. and international community will under no circumstances allow a nuclear-armed Iran.

THE STRATEGIST. By: Zakaria, Fareed, Time, 0040781X, 1/30/2012, Vol. 179, Issue 4
Columnist Walter Lippmann once wrote that "foreign policy consists in bringing into balance, with a comfortable surplus of power in reserve, the nation's commitments and the nation's power." From 2001, the U.S. went though a decade of massive foreign commitments and interventions, which proved enormously expensive in blood and treasure--and highly unpopular around the world. This overextension was followed by an economic crisis that drained American power. The result was a foreign policy that was insolvent. Obama came into office determined to pare down excess commitments, regain goodwill and refocus the U.S. on core missions to achieve a more stable and sustainable global position.
Obama can take credit for having achieved much along these lines. But to leave a more lasting legacy than one of focus, effectiveness and good public diplomacy, he will need to build on his successes and conceive and implement a set of policies that promote a vision of a better world--more stable, more open and more free. Good foreign policy Presidents (like Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush) managed a complex set of challenges expertly, making few costly errors. Bad ones (like George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson) made mistakes that cost America in lives, treasure and prestige. But great foreign policy Presidents (like Harry Truman) created enduring structures and relationships that produced lasting peace and prosperity. Obama has been a good foreign policy President; he has the opportunity to become a great one.

Middle East buildup refutes Obama's critics By: Walter Pincus, Washington Post, The, 08/14/2012
Here are some facts that should be considered by those who criticize the Obama administration for "leading from behind" in the troubled Middle East.
A steady buildup in the number of U.S. ships and aircraft available for possible new military action in the Middle East has been underway for months, and the Pentagon has done little to hide it from the leaders of Iran and Syria.
...On another level, U.S. intelligence agencies are also at work. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton referred indirectly to this at her news conference Saturday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.
"We are providing $25 million in nonlethal aid, mostly communications, to civil society and activists," she said. "And I don't want to go into any further details as to how we are helping people, at the risk of endangering them at this time."
In an analysis published Thursday on al-Jazeera's Web site, Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, gave this authoritative view of the assistance: "Such [communications] equipment would have the dual benefit not only of improving intelligence flow to, and tactical coordination among the armed rebel units, but also of facilitating the flow of information from inside Syria to the providers of this assistance."

For more on Public Forum topics, click here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

LD 2012 Health Care - Arguments and Values

For part 1 in the series click here


It's been a while since I've posted anything new on this topic so I thought it is due for some further discussion.  It has been very intriguing watching how my own LD debaters work with this topic.  From novice to senior, it is providing a fairly rich stream of diverse ideas from the extremely pragmatic to the abstract.  Several of my debaters are concerned I will reveal the premises of their cases on this site and somehow that will leave them exposed or vulnerable.  As pointed out often by our assistant coach, the novelty of a case will typically last about two tournaments before everyone in the district has written Neg frontlines against the arguments.  National circuit debate is well known for disclosure and seems no less competitive as a result.  Nevertheless, my approach to laying out positions or revealing arguments is based upon my own ideas as if I were I writing the cases, so I have no trepidation about freely expressing my opinions.

Running the Value Framework

As a quick review, the case framework can be thought of as a justification for your stance.  It basically explains, in summary fashion, why you will take the position you intend to debate and this provides one or more standards by which the judge can evaluate the quality or value of your position as opposed to your opponent's position.  By standards, I mean, the guidelines the judge may use to determine if your position truly is superior or you actually achieve the value you choose to defend.  Its sort of like saying, judge, let's use a scale of one to ten where ten is 100% of the citizens in the U.S. receives life-sustaining health care and the case which comes closest to that ideal wins.  Generally, in LD the standards are a little less pragmatic in that, the case which saves more lives wins, or which is most just wins.  Often, competing frameworks result in a clash of values when Neg reads her case.  Neg's framework may establish a standard with an additional claim such as, "my opponent's value is life, but my value of justice should be preferred because a life without justice has no value."  I think it is important to remember that when values clash, your case burden doubles.  Not only must you prove you achieve your value, you must also prove your value is superior and what I see more often than I like, the debater will get caught up in the value clash and forget to uphold her own value.  At the end of the round, even if you prove your value is superior, if you fail to achieve your value, you have lost the round to an alert judge.  Another strategy by either side is to subsume the opponent's value.  This literally means absorb the opponent's value and it is a common strategy in value debate.  For example, Neg may say, "my opponent's value is life and I also protect life, but I do it better because only through the justice my case provides, can the lives of the poor be protected."  Of course, now you must prove your case uniquely does what the opponent's cannot do in order to successfully subsume the opponent's value.  I have seen many cases, run this way and some were masterfully presented.

Definitions Matter But...

I asked one my debaters, when this resolution says the "United States ought" does that mean the U.S. federal government or does it mean the collective state or local governments?  Does it matter?  Obviously it matters a great deal if one wants to claim, the United states has failed to uphold the resolution because one person in some remote corner of the nation is not receiving health care.  Of course, the resolution does not say the U.S. must provide health care, but merely says guarantee it and if one claims "universal" refers to the degree of coverage, does it truly mean 100% of the individuals or does it merely mean universally available even if some choose not to take advantage of its availability.  I think it is obvious the definitions you choose can be essential to the framework you wish to establish and critical to helping the judge understand how you are achieving your value. 

There is an enormous potential for clash over definitions.  Please don't go there.  It makes for an ugly debate which consumes a lot of time and achieves little unless the intent is to try to win the debate on a topicality argument.  My advice, is choose your definitions carefully if they are essential to establishing your case framework.  This usually means, if you think, for example, a narrow and specific definition of some word, like "universal" is a necessary part of your case strategy, then choose it carefully, be prepared to defend it if necessary, but do not get caught up in making it the principle thesis of your case.  Generally speaking, I think if you feel it necessary to research and cut a lot of evidence and spend a lot of time defending a definition, you should probably rethink your case and choose a different approach altogether.

For you debaters who think a topicality argument is justified (sometimes it is because an opponent is intentionally trying to gain advantage through over-limiting or over-broadening a definition) then run the topicality argument as part of a multi-pronged attack and run it to completion.  By this I mean, run topicality but not just topicality.  You must still make your case advocacy and if possible, attack the opponent's case because if the judge rejects your topicality argument you may still win on the strength of your other case arguments.  When I say run it to completion, I am of the opinion that once you make the decision to run topicality you better be prepared to carry it to the end of the debate.  Dropping an apriori argument hurts your credibility and risks the ire of the judge.

Societal Values

Prior to discussing specific values, I want to point out what may already be obvious to some.  Regardless of the value chosen, it is often possible to address the principles as they relate to individuals or to society as a whole.  Each of these requires very different arguments which still meet the resolution since U.S. citizens may refer to the individual members of a class or may refer to the class itself.  Therefore cases which broaden their perspective to focus on achieving values for the collective are still resolutional and need not get bogged down in the particulars of dealing with comparing one individual to another.  Why do this?  I think one good reason for taking the societal approach is it is compatible with how democratic nations function and it is compatible with general principles of social contract theory.  Individuals, give up certain rights or privileges for the common good.  As a result, the individual becomes less important than the collective but that is desirable in order to have cohesion.  Therefore, the nation operates in a utilitarian framework.  What we see in the United States, generally speaking, is a narrowing of the focus of government duties as one goes from top to bottom.  As we go from federal to state to local government we go from broad-based measures toward approaching a much more community-based approach to governance and some degrees of paternalism (e.g. New York state banning certain sizes of soft-drinks, school districts placing restrictions on the content of school lunches).

In our debate class, we spent some time considering some of the broader aspects of health care at the federal level, such as the protections provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"The FDA serves as a consumer watchdog—it makes sure that safe and effective drugs are available to improve the health of patients who need them. The FDA evaluates new drugs before they can be sold and ensures that prescription and over-the-counter drugs, both brand name and generic, work correctly and that the health benefits outweigh known risks. The FDA’s review of new drug applications not only prevents unsafe drugs from entering the market, but it provides doctors and patients with the information they need to use medicines wisely.
In addition, the FDA continues to actively monitor and ensure the safety of drugs after approval. Among its post-marketing activities, the agency analyzes reports of adverse reactions submitted by companies and health care practitioners, and in some cases requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to conduct additional post-marketing testing (Phase IV trials) to evaluate long-term effects of approved medicines."
(src: see:
Much or EPA's literature cites its purpose in protecting the health and well-being of human beings as a key motivation for its existence and research: "EPA’s Motivations, Increasing recognition that our health, well-being & economy depend on functioning ecosystems" (src: ) (Also see and

These are two examples of U.S. federal government regulations guaranteeing some aspects of health care without a national insurance plan or individual treatment plans which Neg may easily argue are beyond the scope of the U.S. government on several levels.  The regulatory role of providing health care is an approach to possible solvency while avoiding many of the debt, cost and tax arguments expected from some Neg positions.  

Other Kinds of Health Care

Some definitions of health care tend to be very specific, citing the treatment and prevention of physical illnesses while others are more generalized citing the maintenance of health: the condition of being of sound mind, body or spirit.  Such open definitions allows the exploration of alternative health care Affirmatives which focus on mental, emotional, social or spiritual well-being, either of which can have direct spill-over effects on physical well-being.  That leads into all kinds of -er- squirrelly - or maybe I should say - non-standard affirmatives, in which churches and spiritual enlightenment centers are a form of health care; social media can be a form of health care; recreation centers, golf courses, and swimming pools are a form of health care.  Another variant of that theme, is a strong military is another form of health care since, dying by nuclear attack or suffering from terrorist attacks are certainly non-conducive to a healthy life.  Admittedly, this is using a broad definition to allow one to focus on a narrow aspect of the resolution and one could certainly say it is far from the framers intent for the resolution, or so we presume.  I don't know what you can do with such positions, but I thought I would throw them on the table just to stimulate your thought processes.  In policy debate, these could be expanded into valid positions, but LD is not exactly policy debate is it?  Take it for what its worth.

The Common Values

Quality of Life
The value of quality of life will no doubt be seen in many cases.  There are many aspects to the "quality of life" which addresses the general well-being of individuals.  One may make the obvious claim and say the quality of life is protected when the individual can be free of disease or at least be provided treatment for disease or other aspects of health.  There are obvious approaches to achieving the value through mandating universal health care as a form of insurance or health industry services.  But, I think the best cases focus on the duty of the state (U.S.) to provide for the well-being of its citizens and thus provide for a better quality of life.  The justification for state support of well-being may be legal in a broad interpretation of the constitutional mandate to provide for the general welfare or a philosophical framework based on some interpretation of the social contract.  If you run social contract (as a contention, not a value nor criterion), choose the correct theory.  Locke's concept of social contract is decidedly different than Rousseau's.  Take time to understand the differences.

Defending the value of life may be a no-brainer based on evidence that many U.S. citizens die prematurely from lack of affordable health care.  The "ought" of the resolution can be framed as a moral imperative to prevent avoidable death.  While, like the quality of life, cases may look to the duty of states on a legal or philosophical basis, a straight-up pragmatic argument for moral duty is possible.  However, when running this value, do not allow yourself to be trapped by arguments which may claim your position requires a coercive or paternalistic approach to protecting life.  You simply want to extend the guarantee of health care to all who would be willing to accept it.

Of course, if you see above, the moral imperative to protect life, morality itself is a valid value position implied by the word "ought" in the resolution.  There is evidence to support the position states have a moral duty to provide for the health of their citizens.  Possible standards (criteria) include; minimizing suffering, protection of life, helping the poor, etc.

There are several really good variants of the value of justice which can be applied to this resolution. Of course, there is the old tried and true, "giving each her due" which addresses themes of proportionality, just desserts and fairness.  Certainly, the victims of inadequate health care are often those who are poor or under-insured due to no fault of their own and states which value justice seek to reduce inequities which cause harms.  This leads to a second and perhaps more resolutional application of justice built around the concept of distributive justice espoused in the philosophy of John Rawls.  It is discussed specifically in relation to this topic in many sources, including the resources suggested by the National Forensics League so I am sure many debaters will be running it.

Equality could be another value upheld by some cases.  Equality can be an independent value but it often overlaps or is discussed in conjunction with other values, such as justice.  I think it is tough to argue each individual is entitled to the same things.  For example, if one person works very hard and acquires wealth it does not mean others should also be given wealth to promote equality.  The strength of the equality value lies in the the concept of equal opportunity.  Therefore, the state promotes equality when all citizens have the opportunity to receive health care if they make good personal choices.  The difficulties of this value and distributive justice lies in the fact some people end up in bad circumstances only because they are unlucky and not due to any choices they have made or from lack of opportunity.

Autonomy / Personal Freedom
This will, more than likely, become a Negative value and will argue that a national health care plan violates personal choice and freedom.  There are many ways to make this case.  Health care requires someone be forced to pay.  Health care requires someone be forced to provide the service.  Health care required everyone to participate or it is not universal.  All of these positions will advocate coercion by the state harms autonomy (whether the word coercion is used or not).

Quality of Life as a Neg Value
QoL is a versatile value and can also be used to support the Negative side of the resolution.  Again, arguments will focus on state coercion, forcing, intrusion and claim these harm the QoL.  These arguments will extend to dehumanization, biopower, slavery, and other forms of extreme degradation.  These arguments can be effective in undermining Affirmative values so be prepared.

For links to other LD topics, click here

Monday, October 8, 2012

LD 2012 Health Care - Neg Positions

For part 1 in the series click here


As with the Aff, I see many possible avenues of argument for the Neg and this article will explore a few of them.  As I mentioned previously, there are plenty of critical arguments to be made as well and hopefully I will find time to run through these in more depth in a future post.  In this article, I would like to explore some conventional but hopefully compelling arguments which address, what I expect to be contrary to many Aff positions.

There is no right to health care
Sade 1997:
The basic rights define personal spheres of action, within which one is free to act without interference from others. They include rights to life, liberty, and property. The obligations they impose are negative: to refrain from violating the rights of others. Because they are metanormative and provide no guidance to ethical behavior, they can impose no positive obligations toward others. Positive obligations do exist, but only insofar as they are created by voluntary agreements made within moral territories. In the health care field, this means that there can be no rights to health services other than those attaching to voluntary agreements or contracts. There can be no right to health because health is a personal responsibility and cannot, even in principle, be provided by others.11 Legal systems that attempt to guarantee health services to some, many, or all at the expense of others, as was true of the Clintons' and most of the other health system reform proposals in 1993-1994, violate basic rights in imposing predetermined hierarchies of values on unconsenting others.

Government can not mandate UHC without coercion.
Cleveland 1994:
To examine the morality of the proposed health reform we must ask the following questions: What is the role of government and what are its moral bounds? Also, how do these bounds apply to the current health-care reform debate? If, in this examination, it is discovered that government has no proper authority to insure the availability of goods and services generally, then all health- care reform proposals seeking to establish the provision of health insurance should be rejected.
The uncritical acceptance of the proposition that a major purpose of government is to insure the provision of some goods or services is related to another popularly held proposition. That notion, either conscious or unconscious, is that government can miraculously generate resources to provide for people’s needs. But, how is that possible? Can government actually create material prosperity where none existed beforehand? Can it cause by fiat an increase in the number and kinds of products produced without harm? It should be self-evident that the answer to these questions is no.

Government cannot create by mandate. It relies on its power of taxation and coercion to provide material benefits to selected citizens. In order for it to provide some benefit for an individual it must impose a cost of equal or greater value either on that individual or on someone else. Nevertheless, the mythical concept that government can provide cost-free benefits continues largely on the basis of wishful thinking and covetousness.

Federally mandated UHC undermines federalism
Wertz 2012:
In modern, less black and white issues such as universal health care, the federal government's attempt to induce (or coerce, in the Court's opinion) uniform legislation is essentially assimilating various ethical, political and social views into one homogenized approach to each of those topics. And of course, these national definitions are determined by the current majority and prevailing views of the times. John Calhoun, the greatest proponent of ante-bellum state sovereignty, wrote extensively on the perils of the tyranny of the majority, and saw individual state sovereignty as a way to ensure that Americans of all differing beliefs had a state in which their views prevailed.

UHC does not solve
Zinser 2008:
Contrary to claims that government-imposed “universal health care” would solve America’s health care problems, it would in fact destroy American medicine and countless lives along with it. The goal of “universal health care” (a euphemism for socialized medicine) is both immoral and impractical; it violates the rights of businessmen, doctors, and patients to act on their own judgment—which, in turn, throttles their ability to produce, administer, or purchase the goods and services in question. To show this, we will first examine the nature and history of government involvement in health insurance and medicine. Then we will consider attempts in other countries and various U.S. states to solve these problems through further government programs. Finally, we will show that the only viable long-term solution to the problems in question is to convert to a fully free market in health care and health insurance.

Some Philosophical Positions

At the heart of a philosophical framework for the Neg can be an examination of some of the ideas behind the welfare-state, caring for the needy and more importantly distributive justice, which deals with principles of a kind of egalitarianism.  Recall Rawl's veil of ignorance in which resources are distributed so as to favor the least fortunate.  The idealistic principles of distributive justice, while just in providing resources in accordance with situation, does not adequately address the inequalities which arise from personal choice.  Certainly, unless the United States implemented a totalitarian approach to UHC, people will have the option to choose not to avail themselves of the care or they may choose a life-style that is detrimental to their own well-being. These choices could one day force them to seek the services they could have had all along and possibly avoided the need for expensive intervention (surgeries, expensive treatment regimes, etc).

Theories of redistributive justice are unfair because they do not account for personal responsibility.
Arneson 2007:
Consider a simple stylized example. Smith and Jones have identical native talents and equally favorable childhood socialization experiences. Over the course of their lives, Smith chooses a life plan that gives her an expectation of a high level of income and other resources over the course of her life, whereas Jones chooses a life plan that gives her an expectation of a much lower resource level, which happens to place her among the Rawlsian worst-off class. The Rawlsian difference principle will recommend institutions such as a tax and transfer policy, which redistributes resources from a group that includes Smith to a group that includes Jones. But Jones has freely decided to pursue life goals that do not involve maximizing her resource holdings, either because given her values, prudence does not lead her to choose this form of maximization or because she chooses to pursue life goals other than those dictated by prudence (for example, she may choose to sacrifice her earnings prospects in favor of service to a worthy cause). In either case, the transfers recommended by the difference principle are unfair. The conclusion to be drawn from the discussion to this point is that neither the difference principle nor the canonical moment difference principle adequately incorporates responsiveness to individual responsibility in the theory of distributive justice.

Utilitarian redistribution of welfare favors the rich
Hurley 2007:
..According to utilitarianism, you should allocate each unit of resource to the person who will get the most welfare from it.  To allocate a unit of resource to someone who will get less additional welfare from it than someone else would have treats the former’s welfare as more important than the latter’s.   Allocating each unit of resource to the person who gets the most welfare from it maximizes total welfare.   In this way the non-favoritism ideal can motivate the aim to maximize welfare.

However, this way of thinking has unattractive implications concerning some unhealthy or disabled persons.  Consider someone who is blind and, to be mobile, maintains a guide dog.  Or someone who needs regular dialysis. It seems that many such persons would get less welfare from any given allocation of income than would someone bursting with health.  A substantial part of a resource allocation to an unwell or disabled person may have to be spent raising her to a minimal level of welfare, which healthy persons take for granted:  on buying food for the guiding dog, or on dialysis.  If so, a healthy person will get more extra welfare from each additional unit of income allocated to her than would an unhealthy or disabled person.   It seems that health usually generates welfare out of resources more efficiently than lack of health.

But utilitarianism treats health conditions, along with others, merely as means to more or less welfare.  Thus the utilitarian aim, to allocate each unit of resource where it will produce the most welfare, will direct resources away from the unhealthy and disabled in favor of the healthy, to the extent the healthy are more efficient generators of welfare. As a result, the unhealthy and disabled achieve lower total levels of both resources and of welfare than do the healthy.

For more on Arguments and Values, click here

For links to other LD topics, click here


The Freeman
The Immorality of Government-Mandated Health Care
Paul A. Cleveland
November 1994, Volume: 44, Issue: 11

Sade RM. The moral foundations of health services reform: a critique of H.T.
Engelhardt, Jr. Reason Papers, No. 22, Fall 1997, 85-95

The Atlas Society
Is There a Right To Health Care
David Kelley, 1993

The End of Federal Coercion:
How the Supreme Court May Have Opened the Door for 21st-Century Federalism
Frederick Wertz
July 16, 2012

Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care”
The Objective Standard
Winter 2008-2009 Vol 2, No 4
Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh

Rawls, Responsibility, and Distributive Justice
Richard Arneson

Hurley S. 2007. The ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of Distributive Justice and Health. In:
Holtug N, Lippert-Rasmussen K. Egalitarianism: New Essays on the Nature and
Value of Equality. Oxford University Press.
(Word doc can be found on the internet)

Responsibility and Distributive
Justice: An Introduction
Carl Knight and Zofia Stemplowska

Sunday, October 7, 2012

PF 2012 Middle East Policy - Con

For part 1 of the topic click here

"There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be."  -President Barack Obama, May 19, 2011


Creating a base for the Con position is exacerbated by the abundance of political campaign rhetoric which is filling the journals, commentary and Internet sources.  The evidence will show there has been a decided shift in U.S. policy since the election of President Obama beginning with the "A New Beginning" speech delivered in Cairo, Egypt in June of 2009. (src:  The general reaction to the speech was favorable and some favorable changes in the policies of Middle Eastern groups may have occurred as a result of the perception that U.S. policy was moving in a acceptable direction.  Understanding this shift and its impact is vital to both sides of the debate.

Framing the Con

Overall, it appears the direction announced by Obama in 2009 was favorable in fostering an attitude of sound policy but attitudes do not translate to national security.  Many Middle Eastern leaders are not impressed by words.  Actions have much more meaning. Over the next several years, the Obama administration withdrew troops from Iraq and begun the same process in Afghanistan.  But, the explosion of the so-called Arab Spring movement in North Africa and several countries of the Middle East has challenged current policy positions.

Despite the volatile situation and the many, many criticisms levied against the U.S., mainly from partisan or politically motivated sources, the Con needs to demonstrate that current U.S. foreign policy is not harming U.S. national security.  As the U.S. draws down its military operations in the region, the need to support those operations obviously diminishes. Nevertheless, in my opinion, there are two key areas of vital interest: the most important is the oil and the second is the region's strategic importance to commerce.  Keeping goods and military resources flowing, for example, through the Suez canal is very important to the world's economic and defense security overall, not just for oil.

Pro will need to clearly show how current U.S. policies harm these interests and Con is wise to question, how does regime change in a nation like Syria or Libya harm the most important U.S. interests.  I think if Con presses Pro on this question, many Pro cases will reveal their lack of foundation.  Of course that is not to say Pro does not have legitimate grounds for their cases.  I think a fair number of them will depend on the superficial opinions of pundits which will fold under scrutiny.

The current volatility is key to a valid Con position.  The current U.S. policy is not some chiseled megalith which is expected to stand unaltered like the pyramids of Egypt.  It is a dynamic, ever-evolving approach to protecting the interests of the U.S.  So while the particulars of the policy, especially with respect to individual nations or groups may change to meet the current situation, the overall policy is framed in broad statements which remain fairly immutable, for example, our commitment to the protection and security of Israel, our commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia, and our commitment to prevent anyone from blockading or interfering with the flow of commodities through vital ports, roads or passes in the  region.

The recent tragic death of Ambassador Stevens in Libya is used to criticize the current policy as inadequate to protect citizens and national interests in the region.  Con can view that tragedy as an example of the strength of U.S. policy since the oil still flows with minimal economic impact and policy adjustments are already being proposed as a consequence of the embassy attacks.

Bottom line for Con: Given the flux and volatility of the region, is U.S. policy really hurting national security?  At present it may be too early to tell.   But, Con, ask yourself this question about the Pro side...what is their alternative and how do they know it is not even more dangerous to U.S. security?

The Evidence

Here is some evidence to get you started.  One of the keys to the evidence I present is the idea that U.S.policy is responsive and adapting to the current situation and not rigidly holding to old alliances.  The argument can be made, this feature of U.S. policy protects national security.

Blanchard 2012:
Members of Congress and Administration officials are now considering these issues as they debate U.S. policy options regarding the Syrian crisis. At the strategic level, the United States has faced the choice of seeking an immediate end to violence to protect civilians or embracing the opposition’s calls for regime change in Syria as a guarantee of longer-term stability. The prospect of weakening Iran’s regional influence also makes regime change attractive to some policy makers. The Obama Administration and some in Congress have already made the strategic choice to call for Asad’s resignation and a political transition in Syria. While regime change in Syria may benefit the United States and its allies by weakening Iran, seeking it also may complicate efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire and protect Syrian civilians, because it could encourage Syrian authorities and their allies to take a zero-sum approach to the crisis. However, the Asad government’s rule in Syria has long been based on the actual or implied use of violence to suppress political opposition. As such, seeking an immediate end to the conflict may not defuse the domestic political crisis or end the threat of violence against Syrian civilians. Key policy questions at present concern how best to minimize threats to Syrian civilians while achieving political change conducive to stability in Syria and security in the region.

Officials may view the Syria conflict as more of a humanitarian problem than as a direct threat to U.S. security as long as fighting in Syria remains somewhat contained...

Now, as the world changes in the Middle East, the United States, at least, seems quite ready to adapt to change and even welcome it. The Obama administration's foreign policy in the region is based on two fundamental assessments:

• the region is important, but few developments in it are potential threats to American vital interests;
• multilateral responses to middle-range problems, even if imperfect, are much preferred over the direct and public commitment of U.S. military resources.

The Obama administration displayed agility in its calibrated response to Libya and its differentiated responses to unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. This stands in sharp and, historically speaking, ironic contrast with the responses of key regimes in the region faced with upheavals and transformations that render old policies and stances irrelevant and even dangerous.

In a broader context, the Iran case signifies that the United States is finding it easier to adapt to the disappearance of the old order in the Middle East than are local allies whose fundamental political logics are contradicted by twenty-first-century winds of change. Under this president, the United States is neither paralyzed against action out of fear of error, nor misled into a simplistic and dangerously uniform "doctrine." For evidence of the agility of American policy in the Middle East under the Obama administration, consider the degree to which policies in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria have been specifically tailored to the challenges, opportunities and constraints those very different settings present, much as the administration's approach to the Iranian nuclear issue has been.

• In Iraq, the Obama administration skillfully implemented the Bush administration's agreement with Baghdad on the withdrawal of American forces. In the face of calls from discredited Iraq War hawks in Washington to set the agreement aside, the administration appropriately let the Iraqi political process, as messy as it is, work the issue out itself. Trying to impose a continued American military presence on a reluctant, democratically elected Iraqi government would have been the height of folly in the new Middle East of the Arab Spring.
• In Egypt, a truly revolutionary but still uncertain political transformation required simultaneously delicate processes: disengaging from our longstanding but increasingly counterproductive relationship with the Mubarak regime; standing in support of reformist change by the secular-liberal minority in Egypt that Americans naturally identify with; constraining the instincts of Egyptian generals reluctant to cede their economic and political dominance; and breaking new political and diplomatic ground by establishing working relationships with the Muslim Brothers, who will shape the long-term meaning of Egyptian democracy.
 • In Libya, the administration successfully trod a narrow path between a too-forward, overly American, effort to take charge of events and a mushy multilateralism. It would not have worked had it not been for the kind of behind-the-scenes leadership that Washington alone could exercise.
 • In Syria and in the United Nations Security Council, the administration faces the kind of blockage of international action in protection of outrageous policies by Russia and China that the world is accustomed to experiencing at the hands of American vetoes regarding Israeli actions. Be that as it may, forceful and multilateral diplomacy by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is showing some on-the-ground results and is sending appropriate signals to the world, to the Syrian opposition and to the Asad regime. The message is this: the regime cannot rely on Russian and Chinese vetoes to protect it forever; the civilized world will find ways to empower the Syrian opposition; but only a united opposition in Syria, capable of offering assurances to regime supporters, will be capable of achieving its goals.

Wittes 2012:
...the fact remains that in the space of two and a half years, between the president’s Cairo speech and the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in Iraq, the administration completed a major policy pivot. This shift enabled the United States and the Arab world to engage as the Arab Spring unfolded in ways that would likely have been impossible had the uprisings occurred while the United States was still surging in Iraq. While counterfactuals are impossible to evaluate, were it not for the Obama administration’s determined and disciplined approach to reorienting U.S. policy in the Middle East from 2009 to 2011, there would be little room today for a positive American role in Arab democratic transitions.

For random evidence, click here.

 For more on Public Forum topics, click here.


Pundits Whiff on the Middle East
Micah Zenko
September 18, 2012

Michael Eisenstadt
David Pollock
The Washington Institue for Near East Policy
How the United States Benefits from Its Alliance with Israel

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Obama’s National Security Vision
Confronting Transnational Threats with Global Cooperation
Matthew Levitt, Editor
Policy Focus #107
October 2010

America and the Regional Powers in a Transforming Middle East
Middle East Policy Council
F. Gregory Gause, III, and Ian S. Lustick

Brooking Institution
Three Key Challenges in Confronting the Arab Awakening
September 25, 2012
Tamara Cofman Wittes

Congressional Research Service
Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response
Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
Christopher M. Blanchard, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
July 12, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

PF 2012 Middle East Policy - Pro

For part 1 of the topic click here



Developing Pro specific positions can be a little difficult, as I found out while looking a little deeper into this resolution.  Much of the evidence will show the volatility and current unrest in the Middle East possibly threatens U.S. national security and if there is any fault in U.S. policies, it is the lack of responsiveness to the rapidly changing landscape brought about by regime changes and shifting alliances.  Nevertheless, there are some sources who believe the dynamic situation could have been foreseen and so the failure of U.S. policy to address the looming changes results in a dangerous situation today.  There are also some sources which say the current Middle East volatility is a consequence of U.S. policy.  Personally, I think this position is less tenable but if you want to run with it, the idea can possibly be supported (at least until properly scrutinized).  Additionally there are lots of well respected opinions about how future policy should be shaped so as to avoid undesirable consequences in the coming year and beyond.  While interesting, I don't think Pro can go there because the resolution specified current policy, not future policy.

I also want to clarify another point prior to trying to set up some Pro advocacy.  I am intentionally avoiding the North Africa region as much as possible, except where there is spill-over effect into the Middle East region.  The only legitimate reason for excluding places like Libya and Egypt is to remain true to the definition I established in the first part of this analysis.  It goes without saying, if you find a definition of Middle East that includes all or parts of North Africa, then you can expand your evidence search to include those nations.

The Current U.S. Middle East Foreign Policy

The first thing I want to do is lay this on the table because there are no doubt many opinions about what are the U.S. policies for the region as opposed to specific nations.  I think this is a pretty good source and a nice summary of current U.S. Mid-East policy.

Blanchard 2012:
U.S. policy goals in the broader Middle East are generally understood to include:
  • Discouraging interstate conflict that can threaten allies (including Israel) and jeopardize other interests;
  • Preserving the flow of energy resources and commerce that is vital to the U.S.,
  • regional, and global economies;
  • Ensuring transit and access to facilities to support U.S. military operations;
  • Countering terrorism (CT);
  • Stemming the proliferation of conventional and unconventional weapons; and
  • Promoting economic growth, democracy, and human rights.

Some Problem Areas

Much of the research I did, focused on four major areas of potential trouble for U.S. policy.
First is the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people.  This strife has failed to yield a lasting peace treaty since the 1948 recognition of the state of Israel by the U.N..  The U.S. continued support of Israel without any kind of peaceful settlement with the Palestinian people fosters a lot of division in opinions which harms overall U.S. standing in the region. 
Second, the so-called Arab Spring movement in North Africa and parts of the Middle East (including possibly Syria) is having a profound impact on U.S. relations which may or may not be harming our national security.  For years, the U.S. has maintained relations with stable regimes which in some cases abused or repressed their own people.  Some of these regimes have been toppled by popular uprisings, encouraged by the U.S. and in some cases, directly aided by the U.S. without any assurance of continued cooperation by the emerging governments.  There are two principle effects from this.  One, there is the risk the new governments will be uncooperative with the U.S., and two the emerging governments may not have the same relationship with neighboring nations as the former regimes and so the shift in alliances may not be in the best interests of the U.S. 
A third potential problem for U.S. policy is the situation in Syria.  A popular uprising is threatening the existing regime which is fiercely resisting change.  Many feel the U.S. needs to directly intervene.  There are mixed reports of certain kinds of U.S. involvement, and spill-over from that conflict has already resulted in the shelling of a village in neighboring Turkey and accusations of Iran and others providing weapons to the Syrian government.  There is believed to be a major cache of chemical weapons in Syria and there is the fear of those weapons being used, "lost" or otherwise uncontrolled. 
Finally the fourth and most important trouble spot is the fear of Iran developing nuclear weapon capability.  Israel's President, Benjamin Netanyahu has recently visited the U.N. and several countries calling for a "red line" to be drawn as a threshold for a pre-emptive strike on Iran nuclear materials production.  Currently the U.S. is claiming, "there is still time" to reach a peaceful solution even though we have supported extreme economic sanctions against Iran.

Framing the Pro Advocacy

There are plenty of opinions the current U.S. policy in the Middle East is not good for U.S. interests and I will give you some of the sources.  In my opinion, it is not enough to read the "cards" so to speak.  The evidence needs to be framed into a more complete argument which will require you to explain how the evidence relates to the current U.S. policies which are aimed toward national security interests which include the protection of our economy (including the energy interests), military operations, counter-terrorism, and weapons proliferation.  Failure to close that loop to national security will leave your case vulnerable.

The Evidence

Having laid down some background I guess I will get to what you really want anyway...the evidence.

Keck 2011:
The voices calling on the Obama administration to give greater attention to human rights abuses in Iran have been forceful and diverse. A Washington Post editorial from last month, for instance, told the administration to "bet on a renewed popular uprising in Iran" and advocated increasing U.S. aid to Iranian dissent groups. Then, after the European Union placed sanctions on 32 Iranian officials for human rights abuses, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to "designate President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad as an Iranian human rights abuser" and to enact sanctions against other Iranian officials. More proactively, two prominent think tanks have formed a joint task force to generate recommendations for how the United States can place democracy and human rights at the forefront of its Iran policy.

These arguments, however well-intentioned, are misguided. The Iranian government's violent repression of dissidents certainly stands in direct contrast to democratic values as well as to the professed values of the Islamic Republic itself. But putting overt pressure on the Iranian government for its human rights abuses risks alienating the domestic opposition from the Iranian population and would almost certainly unify an increasingly fractured Iranian leadership.

Lobe 2012
Last month, experts at the RAND Corporation, a think tank closely tied to the Pentagon, summarised the findings of two of its recent reports by concluding that “an Israeli or American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would make it more, not less, likely that the Iranian regime would decide to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Such an attack would also make it more, not less, difficult to contain Iranian influence…”
“In fact, a post-attack Middle East may result in the worst of both worlds: a nuclear-armed Iran more determined than ever to challenge the Jewish state, and with far fewer regional and international impediments to doing so,” the report stated, adding that Washington “should support the assessments of former and current Israeli officials who have argued against a military option”.

Jentleson 2012:
A significant number of Israelis increasingly doubt that the United States understands the gravity of the threats their country faces, while concerns are raised increasingly in the United States about the extent to which support for Israel serves American interests. These differences have been particularly acute over the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In the last few years the Israeli leadership has resisted concessions toward the Palestinian leadership and fears, above all, the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear program.94 Meanwhile, the Palestinians have insisted on a settlement freeze as a precondition for talks, following the Obama administration’s assertion that a freeze should be a precondition. While continuing to work closely with Israel, Obama administration officials have spoken of the toll the failure to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace takes on U.S. interests. “Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in the region, GEN David Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command, stated in his March 2010 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region].”

Lynch 2012:
Finally, some are calling on the United States government to arm the opposition, providing advanced weapons, communications equipment and other support to even the balance of power and would enable the Syrian opposition to defend itself and take the fight to Assad. This is often presented as the least intrusive path. But in fact it might be the worst of all the options. Providing arms to the opposition would not likely allow it to prevail over the Syrian military. The regime would likely discard whatever restraint it has thus far shown in order to avoid outside intervention. What is more, the Syrian opposition remains fragmented, disorganized and highly localized. Providing weapons will privilege favored groups within the opposition, discredit advocates of non-military strategies, and likely lead to ever more expansive goals. It could further frighten Syrians who continue to support the regime out of fear for their own future, and make them less likely to switch sides. Arming the FSA is a recipe for protracted, violent and regionalized conflict. It would be foolish to assume that an insurgency once launched can be easily controlled. It should also be sobering that the best example offered of historical success of such a strategy is the American support to the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, which led to the collapse of the Afghan state, the rise of the Taliban, and the evolution of al-Qaeda.

Gengler 2012:
The death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials in Libya last Wednesday should serve to draw much-needed attention to an increasingly untenable contradiction in U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Even while it seeks to recover from this latest attack by Islamic radicals, the United States continues to support or tolerate the mobilization of adherents of that very same ideology elsewhere in the region, most clearly in Syria and in Bahrain. There, U.S. policymakers should expect equally frightening results.

Indyk 2012:
In a period of revolutionary turmoil, it is easy to get distracted by the crisis of the moment. Today, our attention is focused on the assault on the American diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya. These attacks certainly deserve the attention they are receiving from the highest levels of our government.
Amid the turmoil, however, we must remind ourselves that it is Iran—not al Qaeda and certainly not Salafism writ large—that represents the paramount strategic threat to the United States. This is so, because the Islamic Republic is a state sponsor of terrorism that is developing a nuclear weapons capability. In addition, it leads an alliance system, the self-styled “Resistance Bloc,” which is dedicated to undermining the influence of the United States, its Arab allies, and Israel.
The Arab Spring has deeply complicated the American-Iranian contest. It has, among other things, empowered new actors—such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis—who pose independent challenges to the authority of the United States.
As Washington contends with these, it risks losing sight of the fact that the major allies of the United States—the Israelis and the Saudis—do not actually believe President Obama when he says that he will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Repairing this lack of confidence is the issue that should be at the top of the American agenda.

FPI 2012:
For its part, the Obama  administration’s Middle East policies, to date, have seemingly favored short-term fixes over securing long-term U.S. interests.  In June 2009, the President stood silently as protestors were beaten and shot in the streets of Iran.  In early 2011, he waited weeks to intervene in Libya as citizens were slaughtered by the Qaddafi regime and its loyalists.  In early 2011, he vacillated as protestors took to the streets to protest in Egypt.  Since February 2011, he has refused to take any meaningful actions to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad despite the deaths of an estimated 20,000 people by his regime.
The truth is that efforts either to double down on the President’s misguided regional approach, or to prematurely wash America’s hands of the Middle East, would harm—not protect—the national security interests of the United States and its partners in the Middle East.  Egypt and Libya show that it is not enough to simply rid nations of brutal dictatorship or tyrants.  Rather, it is critical that the United States play a decisive and ongoing role in helping post-dictatorial states to build representative governments that respect peace with their neighbors, the impartial rule of law. To this end, there are a number of steps the administration and Congress should take.

For the Con position, click here.
For more on Public Forum topics, click here.


Change in the Middle East: Implications for U.S. Policy
Christopher M. Blanchard, Coordinator, et al
March 7, 2012
U.S. 'Human Rights' Stance on Iran Would Weaken Opposition
World Politics Review
Zachary Keck, on 06 May 2011

Attacking Iran Likely Counter-Productive, Think Tank Warns
Interpress Service News Agency
Jim Lobe
Jun 7 2012

Strategic Adaptation
Toward a New U.S. Strategy in the Middle East
Bruce W. Jentleson, Andrew M. Exum, Melissa G. Dalton and J. Dana Stuster
June 2012

Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
Prepared Statement of Dr. Marc Lynch
April 25, 2012

The dangerous U.S. double standard on Islamic extremism
Foreign Policy
Justin Gengler Monday, September 17, 2012

Around the Halls: Has the Arab Spring Made the World a More Dangerous Place?
Martin S. Indyk, Daniel L. Byman, Bruce Riedel and Michael Doran
September 13, 2012 2:00pm

Dangerous Isolationism
by Stefano Casertano — 20 Sep 2012

The Foreign Polict Initiative
FPI Bulletin: Responding to Recent Events in Egypt and Libya
September 21, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

LD 2012 Health Care - Aff Positions

For part 1 in the series click here


There are many avenues Aff can pursue in arguing for the support of UHC.  There is a financial justification based merely on the loss of productivity due to preventable or treatable illness.  There is a historical precedent in cases where the government, in full support of the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered mass inoculations against small pox.   The USFG has mandated seat-belt laws and forced certain manufacturers of harmful products like cigarettes to display warnings to consumers.  These are all forms of national health care initiatives aimed at protecting the health and well-being of the American people. Then, besides the pragmatic arguments, there is a vast array of philosophical as well as ethical/moral justifications of health care.  A fundamental argument can be, is health care a right, a privilege or a simply a commodity to be bought and sold?  Aff should really have little problem finding evidence for any of these areas of contention.

Revisiting the Question of Insurance

Some claim the United States has one of the best health care systems in the world in terms of facilities, technology, medical research, innovative treatments, etc.  Nevertheless there is a cost to obtain access to this system and in some it can be said that access to the best treatments and standards of care is a privilege of those that can afford to meet that cost.  Even the most basic services have a cost.  Whether free-clinics or emergency room service someone, somewhere must bear the cost and quite often those are borne by all U.S. consumers.  If the major barrier for people to access care is cost, then insurance can be a legitimate means to an end as a "plan" for achieving the solvency of UHC.  Indeed, much of the economic justification for health care is centered on the issue of insurance coverage and if you choose an economic framework then providing insurance may be a legitimate solution in meeting the resolution as long as your case defends a government mandated or managed insurance system or alternative insurance for those who can not afford private insurance.

Duty of States

I think it would interesting to look at the resolution in light of one simple question.  If we are going to Affirm that a state such as the United States ought guarantee some something, then we should ask ourselves why?  Why ought the United States guarantee UHC to its citizens? (An interesting follow up for the Neg, would be, why limit to the United States as opposed to any state? More on this when I look at the Neg positions.)  In our definitions we suggest "ought" implies a duty, so what determines the duties of a state?  How many times in the last twelve months or for that matter the last twelve years has LD attempted to answer that question?

The Duty of the state is any function the members agree so long as it does not violate moral law
Spencer 1851:
"morality stands towards government only in the nature of a limitation—behaves negatively with regard to it, not positively—replies to all inquiries by silently indicating the conditions of existence, constitution, and conduct, under which alone it may be ethically tolerated. And thus, ignoring government altogether, the moral law can give us no direct information as to what a government ought to do—can merely say what it ought not to do. That we are left with no precise knowledge beyond this, may indeed be inferred from a preceding chapter. For if, as was shown, every man has a right to secede from the state, and if, as a consequence, the state must be regarded as a body of men voluntarily associated, there remains nothing to distinguish it in the abstract from any other incorporated society—nothing to determine its specific function; and we may conceive its members assigning to it any function that does not involve a breach of the moral law"

Internationally, the right to health care is a basic human right
Gostin 2008:
"The International Bill of Human Rights, as well as numerous U.N. and regional human rights treaties, proclaim the right to health.15 Many countries have also incorporated a right to health or health care in their domestic law.16 In affirming that human beings are entitled to the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” Article 12 of the ICESCR lists elements that are necessary steps for its realization: 
  • reduction in stillbirths and infant mortality;
  • healthy development of the child;
  • improvement in environmental and industrial hygiene;
  • prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, and occupational diseases; and
  • creation of conditions to assure medical services in the event of sickness.
The ICESCR, therefore, defines health to include both physical and mental health and lists a range of objectives that need to be achieved in cooperation with the international community."

Economic Justification

Lack of health care impacts the nation's GDP
Davis, et al 2005:
Investing in the health of workers and the prevention of disability and serious illness could have an economic payoff.The U.S. labor force would expand, with the potential for a significant increase in the nation’s standard of living and economic output. Even valuing lost work-time at the minimum wage, the nation gives up $185 billion each year in economic output because of its workers’ health problems.

Functional limitations resulting for poor health care impacts productivity
ACP 2004:
It has been estimated that lack of health insurance leads to the death of 18,000 adults ages 25 to 64 each year—making it the sixth-leading cause of death in this age group, ahead of HIV/AIDS or diabetes. (1) Furthermore, uninsured people with chronic conditions report worse health and more functional limitations and are three times more likely not to get needed medical care compared to those who are privately insured. The vast majority delay or forgo needed care because of the cost...
Functional limitations brought on by poor health can adversely affect workforce productivity and carry large economic costs. The report, Sicker and Poorer: The Consequences of Being Uninsured, commissioned by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, notes that the combination of less ability to work and lower productivity resulting from poor health has been estimated to reduce earnings by between 10-28%, depending on race and gender, over a ten-year period.

Lack of UHC results in high-priced consumer products
Chua 2006:
Health insurance costs are built into the prices of American products. Because businesses in other industrialized countries are not responsible for shouldering most of the costs of employee health insurance, American companies are at a competitive disadvantage globally. General Motors reports that every car it makes is $1,500 more expensive because of health care costs, far more than what Japanese and German automakers have to pay.

The Precedence for UHC

State mandated health initiatives are legal
Malone (undated):
Analogously, a community free of an infectious disease because of a high vaccination rate can be viewed as a common. As in Hardin’s common, the very existence of this common leads to tension between the best interests of the individual and those of the community. Increased immunization rates result in significantly decreased risk for disease. Although no remaining unimmunized individual can be said to be free of risk from the infectious disease, the herd effect generated from high immunization rates significantly reduces the risk for disease for those individuals. Additional benefit is conferred on the unimmunized person because avoidance of the vaccine avoids the risk for any adverse reactions associated with the vaccine. As disease rates drop, the risks associated with the vaccine come even more to the fore, providing further incentive to avoid immunization. Thus, when an individual in this common chooses to go unimmunized, it only minimally increases the risk of illness for that individual, while conferring on that person the benefit of avoiding the risk of vaccine-induced side effects. At the same time, however, this action weakens the herd effect protection for the entire community. As more and more individuals choose to do what is in their “best” individual interest, the common eventually fails as herd immunity disappears and disease outbreaks occur. To avoid this “tragedy of the commons,” legal requirements have been imposed by communities (in recent times, by states) to mandate particular vaccinations.
In Jacobson, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had enacted a statute that authorized local boards of health to require vaccination. Jacobson challenged his conviction for refusal to be vaccinated against smallpox as required by regulations of the Cambridge Board of Health. While acknowledging the potential for vaccines to cause adverse events and the inability to determine with absolute certainty whether a particular person can be safely vaccinated, the Court specifically rejected the idea of an exemption based on personal choice.b To do otherwise “would practically strip the legislative department of its function to [in its considered judgment] care for the public health and the public safety when endangered by epidemics of disease” (197 U.S. at 37, 25 S.Ct. at 366). The Court elaborated on the tension between personal freedom and public health inherent in liberty: “The liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members” (197 U.S. at 26, 25 S.Ct. at 361).

Protection of health requires collective action
Leonard 2009:
The Institute of Medicine articulated a classic conception of public health: ―Public health is what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy.  As that definition suggests, public health goals typically cannot be achieved through individual action, but require collective, coordinated interventions. Often, that ―we, the organizer of public health efforts, is the government. In addition, the benefits accrue to the people—the community, the body politic, the public. ―The government‘s concern . . . is not . . . for this or that individual but . . .for all individuals[,] . . . the welfare of the community. Collective action and public benefit are hallmarks of public health interventions.

For Neg positions, click here.

For links to other LD topics, click here


Public Health Law in a New Century
Health Law and Ethics
Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, LLD

Herbert Spencer, Social Statics: or, The Conditions essential to Happiness specified, and the First of them Developed, (London: John Chapman, 1851). Chapter: CHAPTER XXI.: the duty of the state. on 2012-10-03

The Duty of States to Assist Other States in Need: Ethics, Human Rights, and International Law
Lawrence O. Gostin and Robert Archer
O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law Scholarship, Research Paper No. 7, February 2008

Universal Health Care, American Pragmatism, and the Ethics of Health Policy: Questioning Political Efficacy

Mamdouh Gabr Professor of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Egypt

State and Federal Roles in Health Care
Rationales for Allocating
Health and Productivity Among U.S. Workers
Karen Davis, Sara R. Collins, Michelle M. Doty, Alice Ho, and Alyssa L. Holmgren
The Cost of Lack of Health Insurance
American College of Physicians, (ACP), A White Paper

The Case for Universal Health Care
Written by Kao-Ping Chua
AMSA Jack Rutledge Fellow 2005-2006
Updated by Flávio Casoy
AMSA Jack Rutledge Fellow 2007-2008
Vaccination Mandates: The Public Health Imperative and Individual Rights
The Public's Right to Health: When Patient Rights Threaten the Commons
Washington University Law Review
Elizabeth Weeks Leonard