[eDebate] The Harrison '06 Court = Politics Link Card

Josh Branson harobran
Sun Mar 4 12:15:22 CST 2007

While I agree the issue of author intent raises some serious issues and I 
agree w/ Scott (and JP and others) that it should be respected, my honest 
opinion is that the arguments presented in favor of not reading it (other 
than the fiatted 'author doesn?t want it to be read' DA) are weak.

1. Lack of qualification/not 'legal scholarship'

Well no kidding. I think a lot of people, especially coaches, bemoan the 
general decline in author quality being read in debates. But on a topic 
where honestly the newspaper staff writers and JD Candidates probably 
outnumber the law professors being read, I think it's safe to say that 
reading one more card that does 'not qualify as legal scholarship' is hardly 

Especially in the context of a Politics debate....I mean, Lindsay I know 
you've judged/debated a ton of these DAs, how many cards read on Bush DA's 
do you think EVER qualify as 'scholarship?' Hell, how much debate evidence 
in GENERAL could be seriously characterized as real empirically solid 
scholarship? Less than 50% for sure. In fact, debate tends to create 
incentives for evidence that strays from solid scholarship, b/c we obviously 
want evidence that strongly and clearly words things in perhaps a hyperbolic 
fashion....which is why your card was being read in the first place.

This argument is to me a reason why debaters should maybe make 
qualifications arguments more aggressively (and IMPACT them instead of the 
much-used and similarly much-ignored 'our evidence is more qualified', 
moving on judge). You have presented arguments for why perhaps your evidence 
is a bad piece of evidence, why it's not qualified, why its claims should be 
treated skeptically, but certainly NOT a reason it should be rejected out of 
hand. Because if so, then we just eliminated Bush DAs (or at least most of 
them) from debate.

2. Questions of peer-review.

This is a little more interesting, and thought-provoking, but also pretty 
non-unique. For one, how many Bush DA cards are 'peer-reviewed?' For that 
matter, how many econ uniqueness cards, relations links/uniqueness cards , 
Roberts DA uniqueness cards, etc etc are peer-reviewed? Obviously close to 
0. I guess that these cards are mostly still edited by somebody at the 
newspaper, but to pretend that most debate evidence goes through 
'peer-review' is not true.

Secondly, while I guess we could set a standard of 'only evidence that is 
edited by somebody else is allowed', that certainly has not been an 
agreed-upon norm up until this point. And in terms of education, do I really 
think that having the assistant politics editor of the Sacramento Bee give 
some uniqueness card a quick glance-over at 2AM will greatly improve the 
quality/reliability of that evidence vis-a-vis a blog post from a smart 
woman who is a law lecturer and former debater? Probably not.

The arguments raised here are no different than the ones I thought that were 
raised by the public interviews that Ross et. al. sponsored a few years back 
with the CTBT expert....except that when that interview was posted, 
everybody read the cards from it in debates and it was pretty much 
celebrated as a great advancement in topic knowledge, despite the fact that 
Chellaney's posts were not edited by anybody. That is an example of 
something that must be done away with by your standard of evidence.

If indeed we want to disallow all evidence that isn't edited by somebody, 
there are obviously some infinite regress-type questions we'd have to deal 
with such as, 'can Lindsay's law school friend edit her blog and have that 
meet the test' etc...I think it would be an absurd and fundamentally 
arbitrary test to impose on people.

And again, at the baseline, this doesn't seem like a 'you should prohibit 
the card' argument, it seems like maybe just an indict of the quality of the 
evidence. Because make no mistake, there are a lot of strong blogs out there 
written by some serious scholars (Lewis' armscontrolwonk blog, for instance, 
is read everyday by a bunch of senior CSIS people and is taken seriously in 
the nonprolif community, Drezner's blog has a bunch of good IPE stuff on it, 
just to name 2 examples), and to wholesale eliminate them because they're 
not 'edited' by people who probably would in any event be dumber/less 
qualified than the bloggers are, seems extreme.

3. ?I do not necessarily advocate any of the ideas as my own?

It seems your own post contradicts itself here. At the beginning of your 
post, you say 'I
started the blog because, in judging debates on the topic, I was frustrated
by what I saw as misunderstandings of the legal system by many in the debate

Given that statement, one can only presume that your intent with this blog 
was to help spread your own conception of the correct understandings of the 
legal system. But then you don?t want these new understandings to be treated 
as your opinion? I understand that maybe you didn't intend for your evidence 
to be read, but as Scott pointed out, no author does. In fact, most authors' 
motivations behind writing are
1) To further their own career
2) To educate the scholarly community/masses

Obviously being read in college debate is not high up on the wish-list of 
anyone (other than evidently Stratfor). Does this mean that they shouldn't 
ever be read in debates? In fact, after being involved in at least the IR 
field this year, I've noticed that often-times the stuff that gets written 
is only partially congruent with the authors' beliefs, it's structured by a 
whole bunch of other bullshit that has little to do with the pure pursuit of 
'argumentative truth.' But obviously we still read evidence from places like 
CSIS, and people will continue to. Otherwise, we'd have to contact every 
author individually and ask them if its ok that their evidence be read in 
academic debates.

Moreover, I think there's a fairly strong link turn to this 'intent' 
argument which is that people are much more likely to be forthright with 
their true beliefs/ideas than they are in some other forum where they have 
to cater to superiors/editors/the public/institutional donors etc. 
Especially a DEBATE blog such as yours, where you have tailored your legal 
knowledge specifically to the debate community. In fact, going back and 
reading your very strongly-worded evidence from the blog, it seems highly 
dubious that you did not mean what you said. In fact, my main argument in 
favor of why your evidence IS qualified is that you're the only legal author 
that actually understands the peculiar contexts of the Bush DA, and thus can 
actually apply legal knowledge to the very strange animal that is a debate 
politics DA, something about which Caldeira and Epstein and all of the 
others posesses zero expertise.

4. 'I consider it to be taken out of context.'

I think that Scott has already covered this. This claim is my motivation for 
writing this, b/c I think the allegation that evidence is taken out of 
context is a strong one, one that I've thought since my first lecture from 
David Baker back in 8th grade as one that qualifies the person-in-question 
as a cheat and a liar and someone that should be punished with a loss and 0 
points. And I'll be honest, I wrote a politics DA for NU this year and cut 
your card as the link, and our teams read it in several big debates, and I 
just want to stick up for them (and myself), because I think what we did is 
FAR from evidence fabrication/'out of context' evidence. And yes, I did 
write a block to 'you shouldn't allow the Harrison card in debates' that was 
fairly sophisticated and had some of these arguments, along with some 
peer-reviewed evidence about the potential academic merit of blogs as 
contributing to the public sphere. And THATS what I think this should boil 
down to, like Steve said, a discussion of evidence standards, not context 
issues. Now yes, although we should probably respect your request to not 
read your evidence similar to a reporter's promise to keep someone off the 
record, I do think that saying its 'out of context' is frankly bullshit.

Finally, if I recall correctly, when you wrote an aff for greenhill for the 
TOC less than a year ago, you wrote a 1AC for them in which you included a 
card from your own blog. So pardon me if your whole rant now seems a bit 


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