[eDebate] Skarb's "Apology"

David Marks dgm2109
Fri May 22 23:11:56 CDT 2009

Skip to what interests you, if any:

I. Assessment of Skarb?s ?apology.?

II. Why Skarb had the requisite ?intent.?

III. Conclusion ? A failure in ethical vocabulary.


Mr. Skarb, your array of arguments all either (1) avoid the issue, or (2)
are implausible.

You suggest you "never" believed people would cut these cards. This is an
impossible claim and a blatant attempt to avoid the issue. Here's four
undisputed facts that prove you knew that people might read the cards: (1)
You admit that when you learned the essay would "be published prior to the
TOC," you immediately "asked the editors of The Space Review to include my
name in the article." (2) You admit that you were contacted by numerous
coaches regarding this evidence. (3) You admit that the blog is actually
widely read, and that the comments on the blog by respected experts prove
it's highly qualified and a material part of the space literature. (4) You
admit that you reposted the article under your name because you wanted
debaters to know. (5) You admit that your own coaching staff intervened in
Damien's space neg to ban Damien from reading this evidence.

You suggest that if you had never made your involvement known, you would
never have been accused of cheating. It shocks me that you actually think
this shows you were ethical. (1) The fact that you admitted to doing
something does not mean it was ok to do it. Are you really suggesting that
someone who fabricates evidence is only "ironically" accused of cheating
when the fabrication is discovered by the fact that he admitted to it later?
(2) You're missing the point - it's that you lied about the authorship. In
fact, you specifically told the editor at Space Review to make you a
contributing researcher, and that it would be "fine" if he didn't add your
name at all. http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2009-May/078844.html.
(3) In emails before and after TOC, you maintained the deception - one that
harms all those who unwittingly cut the cards for their neg strategies. (4)
It is admitted by Damien students that the other coaches were the reason you
included your name at all! It is why there was a ban and why you were forced
to email the editor to correct your made-up mistake in attribution.

You say no Damien team read the evidence. This misses the point. (1) Damien
was BANNED from reading the evidence because of ethical concerns by the rest
of its coaching staff. A ban only makes sense if there's something to ban.
(2) Other debaters cut these cards innocently. Other debaters may have seen
this article and thought they could stop researching SPS budget links and
could move on. You focus on whether Damien would read these cards while
ignoring the consequences in non-Damien debates (such as the one that did in
fact happen at TOC). (3) The harm isn't just from lost debates. It's from
lost trust: the submission of evidence in circumstances like this harms the
community's integrity and our ability to trust each other. No win/loss harm
does not mean no foul. If I fabricate and read evidence and lose for
unrelated reasons, there is still wrongdoing worth calling out because those
actions pollute the activity.

You discuss your non-compete clause. Let's stop and think about this for a
second. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Fortune 500 company you work
for "7-11"? Your clause, as you posted on cross-x.com, actually just says
you can't steal your employer's corporate opportunity. I know you're not in
law school. But in what crazy world is an uncompensated blog post about
space based solar power a corporate opportunity for 7-11? But let's say you
used the pen-name because if you used your real name, you'd be violating
your contract. We're supposed to forgive a debate deception because it was
necessary for you to deceive your employer and steal from them? Is that
really your argument? Really?

You suggest that "the real problem" is that card cutters have low standards.
That's no excuse in your particular case. (1) It has nothing to do with your
email deceptions. Debaters were entitled to know the author so they could
make a "your author is biased" argument IN ADDITION TO a "blogs are silly"
argument. The "bias" argument has special weight against power-worded cards.
(2) Low card standards means you have higher obligations ? there?s fewer
alternative safeguards.

You say that evidence written in debate language should not be banned.
That's a scarecrow argument. The problem is that you insulated your article
from bias arguments.

You say it isn't true that you fabricated your qualifications. No one claims
you did. But it?s admitted that you fabricated the author's impartiality by
pretending you weren?t the author.


Mr. Skarb says no one can know his intent. This mirrors some other comments,
as well as the general way that many debaters/coaches discuss ?intent.? I?ll
focus on two key questions: (1) burden of proof, and (2) culpability.

Burden of proof: in debates, we have a high standard to prevent excessive
ethics challenges in a constrained format - that's good, but also
under-inclusive. We're not limited by such constraints outside rounds and we
should not be; otherwise ethics violations will routinely be under-policed.
In civil cases, the threshold is "more likely than not." The facts present
here would lead me to conclude that it is more likely than not that you had
the requisite intent. In criminal cases, the standard is "beyond a
reasonable doubt." That does not include speculations. That does not require
any of us to believe you when you say you didn't intend to deceive anyone,
but provide little to no credible PROOF of this assertion. Even at this high
standard, and even though I am not certain, I would still find for an ethics

Culpability: The requisite intent need not be that you acted with a
"purpose" that envisioned this whole set of events. At the least, you should
have known that the actions you took could create serious problems. Maybe
it's a defense that you didn't have alternative actions (which you did), or
that you were forced to do this (which you weren't), or that you didn't
foresee ethical objections (which you did). None of those defense, however,
would answer the fact that you acted recklessly. You can act with knowledge
of the likely consequences of your actions, even if you believed those
consequences were not objectionable.

Maybe these conclusions on intent are premature ? I?m certainly open to
being persuaded otherwise. But even if people disagree, we still need a more
nuanced vocabulary to explain what we really mean by ?intent.? Which leads
me to:


Mostly I'm sad this is even an issue. It's sad that this community doesn't
have the vocabulary to discuss evidence issues without the extremes of
"absolute ethical challenge" and "completely innocent, can ONLY attack the
quality of the evidence." This dichotomy is a result of inadequate evidence
discussion, and it is the reason any of this came up the way it did. It?s
why people were afraid of saying things in public even though they had
suspicions ? even though public discussion before TOC could have prevented
this from exploding.

This is prior to the community?s acceptance of bad cards. The dichotomy is
why people don?t see as much responsibility to avoid bad cards, but it?s
also why we don?t have enough ethical-based criticism of questionable cards.


*As a side note, I also dislike the term ?ethics,? but I suppose it?s a
useful term right now.
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