[eDebate] Skarb-researched Article

Michael Antonucci antonucci23
Mon May 11 12:34:40 CDT 2009

I'd defend both the writing and the deployment of that particular article.

I think some of the above comments, however, miss the mark.

I don't think anyone is "calling out" Justin Skarb.  I'm certainly
not.  The only possible unethical action in such a situation is
deception, and that didn't happen.   Skarb exerted a good deal of
influence over the content of that article, and the lead author
clearly attributes his influence.  Everything's above the table.

The larger question isn't one of "qualifications."  It couldn't be, in
this case.  The lead writer (not Skarb) has a master's in political
communication.  Since he's writing spending and politics links, he has
subject-appropriate qualifications.

The real question's one of competitive bias.  The publication of the
article coincided with the high school "Tournament of Champions."
Skarb pretty clearly had a direct vested interest in publishing great
cards that delineated a net beneficial counterplan against Solar Power

He might be more qualified and intelligent than a staff writer
(although I think their craft gets unnecessarily pooped on in these
conversations.  Tampa Tribune writers need love too!)  A staff writer,
however, doesn't have any direct vested interest in making very strong
claims about relative solvency and net benefits.

None of these factors militate against the use of this evidence, IMO.
It certainly calls the quality of that evidence into question,
however.  Climate studies funded by oil companies are pretty suspect,
as are Skarb cards about different Solar Power Satellite proposals.

I think the debaters can largely debate that out, though.  We debate
about financial or institutional bias all the time.

There's some risk that debaters would use that particular card
deceptively, by citing the lead author without making the attribution
clear.  That would blindside a team pretty badly, and probably cross
some sort of line for me.

To echo some of Mr. Ellis' sentiments, it seems that this might
produce some positive benefits as well:

a. Isolation bad - the debate community should, ideally, be an
interdisciplinary nexus between several different fields, which
dynamically generates new material instead of confining itself to raw

b. Claims prolif good - if all arguments are supported by claims as
good as Skarb's, the focus of evaluating competing cards must
necessarily shift to warrants.  It becomes the only relevant basis for
distinction.  I think that's a good thing.  I remember a longish post
by Branson a while back that bemoaned debate's perverse over-valuation
of strong claims that, in any other context, would only serve to
reduce the author's credibility.

Skarb's article drives that point home; that practice reproduced en
masse would force judges to alter their card-reading ideology in some
positive ways.

Michael Antonucci
Debate Coach
Georgetown University
Mobile: 617-838-3345
Office: 202-687-4079

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