The War On Standards Comes to College Debate [with comment by Paul]

shutterstock_153531818Paul has been writing about the war on standards in various aspects of our society, generally as a means of advancing the interests of minorities (or purporting to advance them, anyway). Now it appears that the decline of standards–indeed, the abolition of any standards at all–has come to the world of college debate. The Atlantic reports:

These days, an increasingly diverse group of participants has transformed debate competitions, mounting challenges to traditional form and content by incorporating personal experience, performance, and radical politics. These “alternative-style” debaters have achieved success, too, taking top honors at national collegiate tournaments over the past few years. …

On March 24, 2014 at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) Championships at Indiana University, two Towson University students, Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, became the first African-American women to win a national college debate tournament, for which the resolution asked whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted. Rather than address the resolution straight on, Ruffin and Johnson, along with other teams of African-Americans, attacked its premise. The more pressing issue, they argued, is how the U.S. government is at war with poor black communities.

In the final round, Ruffin and Johnson squared off against Rashid Campbell and George Lee from the University of Oklahoma, two highly accomplished African-American debaters with distinctive dreadlocks and dashikis. Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like “nigga authenticity” and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during Lee’s rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. “Fuck the time!” he yelled.

It sounds as though academic debating has come to an end. Debating is all about logic, and what these folks are doing is not logical. In some instances, new-style participants reject the proposition that they are supposed to be debating:

In the 2013 championship, two men from Emporia State University, Ryan Walsh and Elijah Smith, employed a similar style and became the first African-Americans to win two national debate tournaments. Many of their arguments, based on personal memoir and rap music, completely ignored the stated resolution, and instead asserted that the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students.

It is hard to believe that such tired cliches could win anything, but when you abandon normal standards of judgment, I suppose anything is possible.

The assertion that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students” is puzzling. By “privileged,” the writer apparently means that these are the people who have been good at it. Historically, most college students have of course been white and middle-class, but so what?

When Paul and I were debating in the late 60s and early 70s, all kinds of people were good at the activity. There were not a lot of African-Americans on the circuit, but there were a few, some of whom excelled. There were, of course, lots of women. Most of us were “middle-class,” but some were rich and some were poor. One prominent West Coast debater was the son of a pornographer who claimed that his summer job was writing one-paragraph descriptions of pornographic books for his father’s company’s catalogue. One of our Dartmouth teammates worked in sewers during the summer; his only prosperous relative was in the Mafia. Another of our teammates had returned to college after being shot up in Vietnam. Was everybody straight? Hmm, no one made an issue of it at the time, but I doubt it. So–in short–the world, including the college debate world, has always been a more interesting and diverse place than these obtuse kids realize.

One of the nice things about debate was that anyone who had talent and worked hard could succeed. I was a nerdy kid from a small town in South Dakota, but I was pretty good, so no one cared. My partner and I won the Northeastern intercollegiate championship twice.

College debate has always been an eccentric activity, and it attracted a lot of eccentric people. The activity did most of its participants a lot of good, I think. But that value apparently is now being lost, as standards have disappeared, logic is out the window, and bullshit about race is replacing actual argumentation. The loss of college debate is relatively minor, I suppose, compared to other assaults on our culture. But for those of us who laid the foundations of our careers in the rigorous give and take of debate, it is sad to see the activity come to an end.

The lights of our culture are going out, one after another, under the attacks of the know-nothings. This one is a relatively small loss, perhaps, but it hits close to home for Paul and me.

PAUL ADDS: The subtext here is the same as the subtext for much of the war on standards. College debating, it seems, has been radically transformed in ways that make it easier for African-Americans to succeed at it.

As for the notion of “privilege,” it is now clear that the debaters of our era were privileged in a limited but important sense. We were required to take the activity seriously and to meet high standards in order to succeed. For example, we did not have the privilege of ignoring the time limits on speeches, much less of blowing them off with obscenities. We took this for granted at the time, but it turns out to have been a privilege.

We had a debate coach, Herb James, who wanted us to obtain the full benefit of the activity and, through hard work and respect for the activity, become the best debaters we could be. As a college student in a tumultuous era full of distractions, I sometimes disappointed my coach. But we were privileged to have a coach who held us accountable and whom we could disappoint.

We were also privileged to be judged by adults who held us to knowable standards, and we were privileged to debate serious opponents. Not all of our opponents fit this description, but at least we could count on them not to break into song or inject their alleged “personal stories” into the proceedings.

I think John would agree that our efforts to meet the standards applicable to debating during our era helped us later on to meet the standards applicable to successfully litigating law suits. Will meeting the standards, if any, that apply to debating as performed by the showmen whose exploits are described above help them succeed in any serious profession outside of the entertainment industry? Will meeting these “standards” help them become serious adults?

The legal profession is changing; so is the concept of a serious adult. But they aren’t changing nearly fast enough to make debating as practiced by these showmen an experience with meaningful carryover benefits in the real world.

Keystone: The Fierce Urgency of Delay

It’s not just any old Friday afternoon, but Good Friday, and so why are we surprised that the Obama Administration chooses late in the day today to make this announcement:

Administration Again Delays Keystone Pipeline Decision

The Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps pushing back a final decision on the disputed project until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a tweet that officials are reviewing some 2.5 million public comments, and that agencies need to more time to assess the impact of a pending lawsuit in Nebraska over the pipeline route.

Republicans (and some Democrats) who support the pipeline denounced the delay — placing the blame on President Obama — while environmental groups hailed it as a sign that the project will not move forward. . .

Tom Steyer is clearly getting his money’s worth.  (Or more likely the fear that Steyer will cut off campaign money before November is a main factor in this decision.)

Keystone Thoughts copy

Move On? Not Just Yet

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama accused Republicans of being obsessed with Obamacare. He said the law is here to stay, and it is time to “move on.” This is silly on a number of levels, some of which Paul pointed out this morning. I want to add just one more.

It is absurd for the Democrats to say that Obamacare is secure and we should stop talking about it, when the law has not even been fully implemented. The employer mandate, in particular, has been put off to 2015. Why do you think the Obama administration unlawfully deferred implementation of various major portions of the ACA? Obviously, because they knew the effects of those provisions would be unpopular.

There is no way anyone can assess the impacts of Obamacare, let alone declare it a success, when an element of the law as important as the employer mandate has not even taken effect. In 2010, the Obama administration predicted that the employer mandate, on account of its restrictive grandfather clause, would cause more than one-half of all employer-sponsored group health insurance plans to terminate. Such plans are, of course, the most common way Americans get health insurance. When half or more of all employer-sponsored plans become illegal under Obamacare, the effects will be felt by tens of millions of people. One of two things will happen: either the employer will simply terminate the plan, pay a much less expensive penalty, and dump employees onto the Obamacare exchanges; or the employer will adopt a new, Obamacare-compliant plan. Such a plan will be more expensive than the prior, non-conforming plan because it will include all ACA-mandated coverages.

So, beginning in late 2014 and continuing through 2015 and 2016, tens of millions of Americans will lose their group health insurance entirely, or else see it become more expensive. Millions will be thrown onto the exchanges, which the Obama administration will no doubt trumpet as another great victory. Whether the millions whose health care arrangements have been disrupted will share that view is doubtful.

So, to those who say Obamacare is riding low in the polls, I say: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In the court of King Barry…

is where we seem to be with Obama’s declaration that the debate on Obamacare is over and he won. Is there a red-blooded American who doesn’t recoil at such talk? Someone in a position of authority really ought tell him to stuff it, someone like the citizenry ’round about election day this year.

At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Anderson provides a useful reminder of what is important in this context:

[I]n truth, all of this talk about enrollment numbers is beside the point. Back when the Democrats defied public opinion and rammed Obamacare into law using the Cornhusker Kickback, Gator Aid, the Louisiana Purchase, and all the rest of the unseemly gimmicks they employed, opponents of Obamacare didn’t claim that the reason why the health-care overhaul would be bad was because it wouldn’t hit the coverage numbers the CBO projected. (If anything, opponents argued that Obamacare would surpass those numbers, as employers would dump people into the exchanges against their will, thereby costing American taxpayers even more than the CBO was projecting.)

No, Obamacare isn’t bad because it didn’t hit 9 million in Obamacare-compliant exchange purchases, nor because it didn’t include 39 percent young adults among its purchasers. It’s bad—horrible, actually—because it requires private citizens to buy a product of the federal government’s choosing for the first time in our nation’s entire history; because it funnels unprecedented amounts of power and money to Washington, D.C. and away from everyday Americans; because it incentivizes employers not to hire people and to cut hours for millions of people they’ve already employed; because it bans millions of people’s health insurance policies (except when Obama lawlessly un-bans them); because it causes people who like their doctors not to be able to keep their doctors; because it raises health costs; because it requires young people to subsidize maternity coverage and pediatric dental care for 60-year-olds who have no need or desire for such coverage; because it effectively bans doctors from expanding existing doctor-owned hospitals or building new ones, makes it difficult for doctors to stay in private practice, and tries to corral them into hospitals where they can more easily be controlled; because it will raise federal spending by a projected $2 trillion over its real first decade; because it will cut projected Medicare funding by a whopping 10 percent over that same decade, siphoning that money out of Medicare to (partially) pay for Obamacare; because it particularly goes after Medicare Advantage funding; because it stifles medical innovation; because it disrespects religious freedom; and because it mandates communal funding of abortion.

In short, it’s bad because it raises health costs, undermines liberty, costs jobs, and seeks to put American medicine under the control of the same folks who brought you

And then there is this:

It might seem surprising, therefore, that Obama would have chosen to declare victory yesterday, imperiously proclaiming that “the repeal debate is and should be over.” In reality, however, his words might actually be true—just not in the way he intended. The American people hated Obamacare even before the Democrats willfully passed it, they hate it now, and they never stopped hating it in between. There’s strong evidence that the debate is, indeed, over—and that Obama and his allies have lost.

According to Real Clear Politics, since July 4, 2009, 458 polls have been taken on Obamacare. Twenty have shown Americans liking it, five have shown ties, and 433 (95 percent) have shown them disliking it. Perhaps even more strikingly, 299 (65 percent)—including the five most recent polls—have shown Americans opposing Obamacare by double-digits.

Anderson invites the customary thought experiment: “Imagine if Republicans were so stubbornly pushing something that was so evidently unpopular—and then had the gall to declare the debate over (in their favor).” My imagination isn’t that good, and I doubt yours is either.

2016 presidential dark horses — a look at John Kasich and Mike Pence

After the 1848 revolution in France, the slogan of the non-socialist revolutionaries, lifted from a speech by Lamartine, became “the tricolor [flag] has gone around the world; the red flag [of socialism] has only gone around the Champ-de-Mars [a large park on the Left Bank of Paris].”

These days, portions of the Republican base are partial to conservative presidential hopefuls who, so to speak, have only gone around the Champ-de-Mars. Think of the enthusiasm for the relatively inexperienced Sarah Palin in 2008 and Marco Rubio and Chris Christie after 2010, and for the political novice Herman Cain in 2011 before allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.

The tendency is understandable. Candidates who have not gone around the political world are almost blank slates. They are largely free to take whatever positions will play best in the moment, without fear of contradicting past actions. And conservative voters are largely free to ascribe their beliefs to these candidates.

Candidates who have been around the track a few times (to shift the metaphor slightly) are a different proposition. If they served a full term or more as governor, they probably raised a tax or two in order to balance the budget. If they served in Congress for an extended period, they probably cast votes that, though perhaps not heretical to conservatives at the time, now seems so to some.

John Kasich and Mike Pence, both governors of substantial Midwestern states, have been around the track many times. Both served with distinction in Congress. Kasich was a congressman from 1981 until 2001. He was a key player during the heady Gingrich days during which he became Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Pence served in Congress from 2003 until 2013. Like Kasich, Pence was an influential member, as evidenced, for example, by his stint as head of the Republican Study Committee.

Kasich was elected governor of Ohio in 2010. His early days were rocky, but polls now show him to be comfortably above water in this swing state, as Ohio experiences strong economic growth (in January, job creation in Ohio was second only to Texas). As John Miller points out, Kasich “has turned a deficit into a surplus even as he has lowered income-tax rates and wiped out the state’s death tax entirely.”

Pence was elected governor of Indiana in 2012. After a year in office, he remains popular.

Kasich and Pence both receive mention from time to time as 2016 presidential contenders. Allahpundit discussed Pence’s prospects here. John Miller of National Review profiled Kasich here.

Although they are similar in terms of their political trajectories, their presidential prospects raise somewhat different considerations. A Kasich candidacy for the Republican nomination would likely suffer from his having been around the track so many times. For example, as a congressman Kasich supported the assault weapons ban passed by Congress in 1994. That same year, he helped pass a crime bill that contained restrictions on firearms.

As governor, Kasich accepted the Medicaid expansion for Ohio. He has cited his Catholic religious belief in helping poor people as the basis for this decision. Paul Ryan is sometimes called Kasich 2.0, and the similarities extend beyond the fact that both are budget hawks.

On the other hand, Kasich is the popular governor of the quintessential swing state, where he has put together a solid record of achievement. And his willingness to deviate from conservative orthodoxy might help him in a general presidential election if he were somehow to win the nomination.

Pence came to Washington shortly after Kasich departed. He quickly became a leading conservative voice in Congress. Even so, his positions aren’t fully immune to conservative criticism.

Pence’s “no amnesty immigration reform” drew fire from some who called it “stealth amnesty.” And his hawkish foreign policy positions, though welcomed by most conservatives at the time, are not in step with the views of an increasingly influential conservative faction today. So too, arguably, with his strong socially conservative views.

Nonetheless, only the most finicky conservative would find Pence an objectionable presidential candidate on ideological grounds. The greater concern might be that, unlike Kasich, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush, Pence has never shown an ability to win swing voters. His electoral success has been confined to a conservative congressional district and a reasonably Red state.

On balance, Scott Walker looks like the Midwestern governor of choice in 2016. Compared to Pence, he has greater potential to win over swing voters (while still holding the base). Compared to Kasich, he is unburdened by past positions with which most conservatives will quarrel.

Walker has only “been around the Champ-de-Mars,” though it was an eventful and invigorating run.

But Pence and Kasich are both worth keeping an eye on.

The lies of Obamacare: victory lap edition

President Obama says that 8 million people now have signed up for Obamacare. Apparently, the extension of the enrollment deadline helped boost the final figure to well in excess of the administration’s publicly declared target of 7 million.

Obama also claimed that 35 percent of those who have signed up for Obamacare are younger than age 35. However, that number includes children.

The key figure in terms of Obamacare’s viability is the percentage of enrollees who are between the ages of 18 and 34. This, of course, is the healthiest demographic and its members are expected to subsidize the old and the sick.

According to the Washington Post, only 28 percent of enrollees belong to this key demographic. That number falls well short of the administration’s target. Accordingly, we should probably a spike in the cost of premiums.

Two other important numbers remain unknown, or at least unstated: (1) the percentage of those who signed up for Obamacare but haven’t paid their premiums and (2) the percentage of those who signed up that had insurance but lost it thanks to Obamacare.

Despite the mixed bag of numbers and the uncertainty resulting from those that are unknown, Obama declared victory. “This debate is and should be over,” he insisted.

This is yet another lie of Obamacare. Republicans are building their 2014 campaign — one that most experts predict will be successful to one degree or another — on opposition to Obamacare. Clearly, the debate is not over.

In addition, significantly more Americans oppose Obamacare than favor it. In a democracy, this means the debate should not be over.

But Obama’s understanding and appreciation of democracy has always been rather limited.

Thoughts from the ammo line

Our friend Ammo Grrrll is back in the ammo line:

After my first post, Responder Pete Parks (Salisbury University) said, “Finding ammo is a pain.” Es verdad, Pedro, es verdad! Bilingual Arizona talk for “Yes, Pete, it’s true!”

But, fear not, for Ammo Grrrll is here to tell you all you need to know about succeeding in the difficult world of scarce ammo: Find someone who already HAS ammo and offer to pay double for it or to put a hurtin’ on ‘em unless they share. You’ve GOT a gun, right? Ho, ho, ho.

Just a little harmless Wacky Gun Nut humor, there.

But, seriously. All you need is pretty much unlimited time, a fair amount of money, a relentless obsessive pursuit of your goal, and some good networking and intel. Nothing to it!

For more than a year there, ammo was so scarce that all the regular outlets limited customers to 3 boxes of ammo, and in some cases, even a single box. We Ammo Line regulars speculated that soon the poor clerk would auction off single bullets on a little velvet pillow.

Walmart’s prices cannot be beat. Find out from the Sporting Goods Department manager what days and time new ammo is put on the shelves. Be very nice to these people. Cookies and homemade Lemon Bars help. The ammo drought is not their fault and they don’t appreciate being verbally abused.

Did you know that Walmart has a phone app that will tell you what is in stock? Sadly, my technological skill level is below that of the average 3-year-old. I’m the only woman in America who cannot reliably take photos with my own Verizon Crap Phone, or even answer it without it going all meshuggah on me and whimsically dialing a conference call in Guam. But I have friends who aren’t intimidated by an app who will share intel. (See: Cookies and/or Lemon Bars.) Some of these friends will check 4 or 5 different Walmarts in the Phoenix metro area every day. That’s where the unlimited time part comes in. And the obsessiveness.

If you learn from the app that 225 round boxes of Remington .22LR Golden Bullets are coming to Casa Grande, and will be put on the shelves at 7:00 a.m., then get there at 6:30 or earlier. (Once, to secure 3 thousand-round boxes of M-22 Winchester ammo, one determined, insomniac buddy and I got there at 2:00 for my first all-nighter since college. It was less fun than I remembered. Not to mention that the ammo does not reliably go “Bang.” You might as well throw it at the target.)

Gun shows used to be a good place for bulk ammo, but the last one I attended had .22LR ammo for 35 cents a round, more than you’d pay for 9 millimeter. I pay between five and ten cents a round at Walmart for .22s. So, thanks anyway, but no. Nothing against a fair profit.

But there’s such a thing as karma, pal. Just sayin’.