[eDebate] Standards for Evidence/Skarb

Rahul Jaswa rahul.jaswa
Mon May 11 15:42:57 CDT 2009

A teammate pointed this out to me on the high school debate website and I
was pretty shocked so I left some commentary. I didn't realize this was on
edebate as well--i'm copying and pasting my thoughts here.

First, this is completely unethical.

1) No attempt was made to inform the community that such an article was
written. Given that it was produced by a debate coach instructing students
during the current season, that seems to be minimally appropriate.

2) The article is obviously written for strategic benefit. It has several DA
and CP solvency arguments without appropriate data, and draws on
"non-intrinsic" arguments which would be largely inappropriate for any real
"peer-reviewed" journal. Citing 2 references and attempting to then publish
an article would be laughed at by any journal submission board.

Some examples:

?every dollar spent on solar satellites will not be spent on terrestrial
research and commercialization?. Unfortunately, it is these very programs
that may be critical to preventing a deepening of the current economic

"the problem with DOD investments in SBSP in the short term is that the
military will end up having to pay not only for its traditional energy
supplies but will have to also carry the extra burden of funding SBSP
research and development costs. With readiness, maintenance, and procurement
accounts already stretched thin, this is simply a situation the DOD can not
afford. In a worst-case scenario, a mandate to pursue SBSP research and
development could force the military to drastically scale back, if not
cancel entirely, critical weapons programs to pay for an energy system that
it will not be able to use for decades."

"If there were such a thing as a money tree and the American economy were
not in dire straits it would make perfect sense for the government to embark
upon an all-out path towards the development of space-based solar power.
Unfortunately, money trees only exist in our dreams and, quite simply, the
nation currently has better uses for the money that would need to be spent
by funding SBSP research and development. Fortunately, however, there is a
more moderate path the government can take, agreeing to purchase commercial
power beamed from space, which does not require any federal outlays in the
near-term but will effectively help speed the development of SBSP. This is
one case where we might be able to have our cake and eat it too."

3) Why was a name other than Skarb's ever cited? Marburry is Skarb, as we
know, and saying that Skarb helped "research" is even more unethical because
it blatantly redirects credit for the article from an actual person to a
fictitious person.

4) This was in the comments section, posted under the name "norman
ornstein," coincidentally... I wonder how that would sound in a debate
round? Plan derails lost--Ornstein yesterday

"It seems clear, however, that DOD serving as an anchor tenant for
commercial power beamed from space would drain the last drop of Barack
Obama's finite reserve of political capital that he is currently using to
persuade key senators and moderate Republicans to pass the Law of the Sea
Treaty. That treaty is up in the air right now, but if the status quo is
maintained it seems very likely to pass, due to Obama's focus on spending
political capital there. Space is a controversial issue in these times, as
poll after poll attest to, and DOD action would surely be perceived as part
of Obama's green energy plan, which would engender backlash from the same,
interestingly enough, senators he's co-operating with to pass LOST."

5) Published 2 days before the TOC

6) Did Damien teams debate this case at the TOC? If not, I don't think that
"we didn't read these cards is an appropriate defense." The onus is clearly
on them.

7) It pollutes the existing research base which is constituted by the
writings of researchers who have no vested interest in producing
oversimplified debate arguments.

8) When is the next "socio-political" foray into space based energy going to
be published? I'm anxious to hear more from the newest topic expert. After
all, Arizona State's political science, history, and political communication
departments are world renowned for their classes on space based energy. And
your master's research, i'm sure, required you to devote your time and
thoughts to learning the intricacies of DOD weapons programs, the details of
agency fiscal discipline, and the workings of the imaginary "money tree"
which guide the future of such a program--most importantly, how they would
interact given immediate funding of such a program.

9) The bottom line is that this activity is meant to promote quality
education among students. Even if Damien's coaching doesn't believe that
debate is more than a game, there are a slew of people, apparently more
wise, who recognize the importance of keeping debate clean. EVEN IF there
were arguments in defense of this behavior (there are not), this was clearly
approaching questionable territory and instead of erring against it, or at
least diffusing the problem by proactively taking measures like informing
the community that such an article had been written by your program, you
decided it was more important to have another strategic tool.

Second, addressing other people's rationalizations.

1) "I'd say that it's fairly important to take into consideration the
credentials of the author. If you're a coach with a major in engineering or
something of the sort, there's no problem with you publishing the article
and having debaters card from it."

This is nonsensical--just like how qualified global warming researchers used
to be paid money by thinktanks to publish articles supporting their side of
the debate. Except this is worse because it affects a strategic game.

2) "you should email them directly instead of asking for responses on a
public forum known for devolving into keyboard wars."

Please, own up. I know you're young and proud and feel the need to defend
your program--this obviously deserves "community" attention, and the fact
that I, a UC Berkeley debater with essentially no ties to high school
debate, heard about it, is clear evidence that this sort of discussion has
far-reaching influence.

Right or wrong, relegating this to the private sphere is obviously an
inappropriate way to deal with a phenomenon which directly affects the way
that debates take place on a community-wide basis. More importantly, the
longer this goes without

It was published two days before the TOC. There was no effort to tell the
whole community that this article was available. The article obviously cited
no research to backup the vast majority of its assertions.

3) "What if the coach is an expert in the field. For instance, what if the
coach is, say, the chief scientist at the JPL, and he/she coaches debate in
their spare time - would anything that the coach writes be off-limits
insofar as debate is concerned? Even if they were the main solvency author
in the field?"

Well that is certainly not the case here, and this imaginary coach/field
expert would certainly not publish articles in an obscure hybrid between
community blog and public discussion of "published" articles.

More importantly, this article wouldn't be written from an oversimplified
argumentative perspective with shallow analysis and exclusively debate
arguments. "Peer-reviewed" in academia/policy analysis doesn't just mean
that someone else read and approved it, it means that reputable
academics/analysts within your subdiscipline read and approved it. Please,
submit this to a scientific journal and send us the response, i'd be glad to
read it. Or, if you prefer, an economics journal, or the economist, or the
New Yorker even.

4) "if they are writing for peer-reviewed or edited journals, etc., then I
don't think their writing is off-limits. you can't say that we can't have
subject matter experts coaching debate, and if you're lucky enough to get a
subject matter expert coaching you, then their writing should be fair game -
as long as the writing is from legit sources.."

At minimum, there needs to be specific practice to protect the
community--people need to be made aware of the existence of such an article
from the author/debate coach; in this case it is inappropriate to say that
the burden is on the researcher because, among other things, this is
ingenuine research and artificially benefits the team making the arguments.

Their writing should not be fair game as evidence, their opinions should
help direct your research/argumentation so that you can find people who
don't have a vested interest in your winning that support your findings.
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