[eDebate] Ledewitz terrorism link to Morrison

trond at umich.edu trond
Thu Sep 7 18:14:26 CDT 2006

As presently articulated your assertions about Josh?s solicitation and 
publicizing (via e-debate) email conversations with Ledewitz are 
incoherent or just plain weak.  I must assume there is something else 
to your concerns that you have not yet developed.

The only non-trivial issue (I turn away from the term ?argument? given 
your presentation) you raise is whether or not something posted on 
e-edebate constitutes ?publishing? for the purposes of debate evidence. 
  But that is a generic concern that arises whether or not we are 
considering the posting of e-mail exchanges.  If your concern is 
whether or not a particular email exchange is ?real? there are obvious 
remedies (?A colleague claims you said ?X? in an email.  Is that 

ELLIOT: ?There is a distinct difference between seeking clarification 
from an author for "education" sake and seeking "clarification" to 
secure a strategic advantage in debate competition?.

Indulge me.  What is the bright line you use to clearly distinguish 
?education? from ?clarification? in order to gain a strategic advantage?

Perhaps I am jaded, but I think that many things debaters do - in and 
out of rounds - are motivated by a desire to gain a strategic advantage 
(though not usually for that reason alone, at least I hope).  You do 
not strike me as one who is troubled by the desire of debaters to gain 
a strategic advantage (subject to various constraints, e.g. academic 
honesty).  If anything, by publicizing this exchange Josh has tipped 
his hand and reduced whatever strategic advantage his teams might have 
initially enjoyed.

ELLIOT: ?Your key response is that because you "published" the 
conversation on e-debate, it is now somehow "fair" or democratic.?

I do not think Josh claimed it was fair or democratic.  Josh just 
reported his version of an exchange he thought was interesting.  You 
don?t even explicate your red herring.

Relative to a scenario in which his students sprung the substance of 
this exchange during a semis round at Harvard, I would say Josh?s 
approach is ?fair.?  Particularly given that in such a context raising 
an argument about an author?s real intent could lead to some 
undesirable places.

ELLIOT: ?I disagree. It is unfair because the teams relying on evidence 
published without solicitation are now being hammered by evidence that 
was produced for the specific purpose of winning debate rounds.?

First, there are a number of operative purposes, including a better 
understanding by the community of the intent of a potentially widely 
used author.  I find it really hard to believe that can be a bad thing. 
  You have a very simple-minded view of debater and coach motivations, 
it seems to me.
  Second, any email exchange involves at least two parties with 
potentially dissimilar purposes.  Do you doubt that Ledewitz?s purpose 
in the exchange was to explain his argument?  Do you doubt that Josh 
faithfully reported the exchange?  Either way, try the remedy suggested 

Third, when you debated, did you focus on evidence that was useless for 
the purpose of winning debate rounds?  I?m not impressed by your boogie 

Fourth, one must generally experience harm to enjoy legal standing.  
Your claims are merely hypothetical (and rather strained, in my view).

ELLIOT: ?Answer me this, but for the debate proposition and the fact 
that the evidence in question could be used against your team in a 
round, would you have asked for the ?clarification???

Transparently, the answer is ?no?.  But only as one of a thousand 
things Josh and other coaches will choose to do over the next eight 
months that would not occur but for the existence of the topic.  What 
is your point?

What evidence is not produced ?for the specific purpose of winning 
debate rounds??  I grant that authors do not (or rarely) have that as 
their purpose, but I suspect that still holds for Ledewitz in this 
email exchange. Again, what is the principled argument you are making?

I agree with you that coach and debater solicitors should declare the 
reason for their request.  That's just simply courtesy and 
transparency, though I think they would not be obligated to put it 
quite the way you suggest.

ELLIOT: ?Example: So, my hypothetical team is getting pounded round 
after round by some pretty sweet cards. Let's say it is a card saying 
the Supreme Court has overturned Quirin on the precedent that is the 
link to all of your advantages and/or disadvantages (nevermind that 
Scalia said it too). So, in effect, 1/4 of the affirmatives are now 

I trust you understand the legal force of a dissent (more than zero, I 
grant).  (As an aside, for all his alleged intellectual firepower, 
there are many in the SC bar who would argue that his long-term weight 
will be relatively minor because of his quixotic theories about the 
constitution and his particular form of judicial activism, i.e. the 
iconoclast so extreme he typically can only get brain-dead Thomas to 
join his opinion.)

ELLIOT: ?So, I then e-mail the author for a "clarification." She 
responds, "Well, of course the Supreme Court did not technically 
overrule Quirin." Now I have a specific indict to all of your no 
link/inherency arguments. It is a way of ginning up an answer to win a 

Assuming you make the contents of the email widely available, what, 
precisely, is the problem here?

ELLIOT: ?That you published it for others to use does not remove the 
taint. Rather, it just furthers the results of the original unethical 

Claim without a warrant.  In fact, a claim without the pretense of an 
echo of a memory of a warrant.

ELLIOT: ?This simple one sentence statement solicited by a debate 
coach, debater, can have huge impacts within a debate round. For 
example, the affirmative can argue that they are technically topical 
and technically have inherency in order to claim X small advantage. 
However, because Quirin was effectively overruled three months ago, all 
of your substative law based disads are not unique. Have a nice day, 
game over. (Example: Quirn's precedent no longer is recognized in 
status quo, but it was not officially overturned. Plan specifically and 
publicly overturns Quirin--this increases/decreases Bush's credibility, 
etc. The plan does not really change the law. But the effect of the 
plan would have politcal consequences.)

I have been out of debate too long to decipher the foregoing.  It seems 
to me your concern is that affirmatives might be clever.  To this point 
it appears that in your world, and given your example, we can prevent 
the horror of affirmatives cleverly using an author?s intent only by 
allowing inaccurate applications of an author?s intent.  Do I have that 
right?  You argue earlier against motivations based on the pursuit of 
victory, yet here you whine about teams losing unless they are able to 
use evidence that runs contrary to the meaning intended by its author. 
Do I have that right?

ELLIOT: ?Let's say that I have a high school debater come to me and ask 
me to write him some great cards on the public service topic. So, in 
response to his request, I write an opinion article in the Dallas 
Morning News or in the Dallas bar Journal. In the article, to please 
the student, I make flaming comments like ??we must have mandatory 
public service in the U.S. or the planet will implode.??

First, that is not exactly what happened, as best as I can see.  I 
believe Josh?s motivations were (in your framing) clarification and 
publication for strategic gain and not fabrication for strategic gain, 
as in the scenario you sketch of your potential motivations.

Second, that would be a stupid argument, if that was truly your intent 
as an author.  Whatever your motivations, I would not be afraid of that 
argument (that?s sarcasm; I know you are speaking in shorthand).

Third, a debater could email you to confirm if you were in fact this stupid.

Fourth, I think anything published in the DMN or the DBJ should, on its 
face, be potentially useful as debate evidence.  They are "legitimate 
sources" whatever the motivation of an individual author.  In a given 
round, those who think your article on behalf of your team in those 
sources could (probably should) make an argument about its 
applicability, your intelligence, etc.

ELLIOT: ?Now the student did not write the article and it is published. 
Is it ethical for him to use it to win debate rounds? Similarly, I have 
plenty of colleagues, former professors and ex-collegues who are 
experts on the law. If I were coaching, would it be ethical for me to 
call them up and say, "hey, i need you to write an article on Quirin 
that says X." Assuming she actually writes it and it gets published (no 
different than responding to an e-mail in my mind), is it ethical for 
me to use the evidence in a debate round?

Assuming she publishes it under her name and stands by the article, why 
not?  You truck in incomplete arguments.  ELLIOT: ?We all know from 
public opinion polling 101 that a person can easily shape a response 
based on the way a question is asked. Thus, the argument that one is 
merely asking for a "clarification" is bogus.?

In some way more than the biases at play in cutting cards and bending 
them to your will?  In some way more than stringing together disparate 
authors unlikely to agree to construct some catastrophic disadvantage?  
Surely there is some limit to the ability to of question framing to 
produce given responses.  There is an effect, not always trivial, but 
not unlimited.  And, again, there is an obvious remedy.

ELLIOT: ?the way the question was asked can easily result in an answer 
that supports my competitive position. I am sure that if I wanted to, I 
could frame a series of question to professor Ledewitz  that would lead 
to an opposite conclusion--that VAWA IS necessary to stop global 
terrorism. Example:  Wouldn't you agree that how America treats women 
under the law effects our international human rights leadership? Yes. 
Wouldn't you agree that VAWA sent a clear message that the USFG cares 
about stopping violence against women? Yes. I read an article that said 
other countries were thinking of modeling our VAWA before it was 
overturned. Wouldn't you agree that if other countries were trying to 
model VAWA, that VAWA was having some influence on other countries 
human right policies? Yes. Wouldn't you also agree that if the U.S. has 
more influence with other countries, there is a greater likelihood that 
we can get more cooperation from them on a range of issues such as 
human rights, the war on terrorism and women's issues? Yes.

First, and I know this is obvious, but it must be stated: This is you 
answering for another party, i.e. fabricating evidence.  This is not 
what Josh did, even granting your point about questions shaping answers.

Second, unless you have some mechanism to return to DARPANET circa 
1973, this public email cat is out of the bag.  There will be email 
clarifications by coaches and students and they will use the knowledge 
they gain (if not the text of the email or transcript of the 
conversation) for strategic gain.  Is it not better that the substance 
of these exchanges are publicly available?  Shouldn't we at least 
praise Josh for publishing his exchange (though it would be better if 
he forwarded to the list instead of excerpting).

ELLIOT: ?Now, I have just ginned up my own little link story and got a 
professor to agree with it.?

You have ginned up the link story, the professor, and the crisis.

Trond E. Jacobsen

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