Author Archives: Scott Phillips

Kids Today

Kids today is a segment where blah blah blah lets do this.

1. Start speaking English. Seriously. I largely blame coaches/lab leaders for this. There are not enough people yelling clear or requiring their students be clear. Yes kids today don’t flow because they just look at the speech document- but guess why they do that? Because no one can understand what the other team is saying. I am starting to agree with all the people who hate fast debate because fast debate is starting to suck. And even when I say “clear” people totally ignore it. Here is what it means when a judge says “clear”:

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Common Mistakes

After judging and scouting at a few tournaments this year I would like to address a set of common mistakes people have been making that relate both to strategy conception and preparation.

1. Stimulus bad- this is a good argument assuming the aff is a stimulus. Evidence about a “stimulus” is talking about things like Obama’s 700 billion package, not building a single road. A stimulus is generally where people decide “we need to spend a ton of money…. we will figure out on what at a later date”. They allocate the funds, and then people lower down the government food chain make important decisions about what projects get funded and how much etc. This is where arguments like “data cooking” come in- this argument assumes someone is tasked to select between competing projects and will be influenced by manufactured statistics into picking the wrong one. When the aff does something specific , spends little money etc these arguments fundamentally don’t link. Similarly, links like “crowd out” are linear to a point, but the impact has a threshold. When the aff is smaller than multiple recent government spending projects it is extremely difficult to prove your linear link crosses any meaningful impact threshold due to the plan.

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Sick FW Article/Test Post

check it out, hopefully this article doesnt collapse my computer


The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”

It was the careerists who made possible the genocides, from the extermination of Native Americans to the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians to the Nazi Holocaust to Stalin’s liquidations. They were the ones who kept the trains running. They filled out the forms and presided over the property confiscations. They rationed the food while children starved. They manufactured the guns. They ran the prisons. They enforced travel bans, confiscated passports, seized bank accounts and carried out segregation. They enforced the law. They did their jobs.

GOP Debate

They are about to debate going to space in case you aren’t watching


Andrew Sullivans comment from the dish

8.56 pm. I’m sorry but space policy puts me in an instant coma. But they all sounded fine. I can’t imagine anything they are now saying will have any impact in even the tiniest way on anything in the actual world. The best answer was Santorum’s.

Reader Q-Speech Doc Ethics

I recieved the following email from a reader on a subject I feel strongly about so I wanted to post the answer here.


At a debate at the Glenbrooks a team got angry with me for having several, maybe 6 or so, cards in the 2AC speech document that I didn’t read, and to be fair it was at least 1 per block. The way I usually organize blocks is with debate synergy headers, and I just transfer the whole block over to the speech doc. Do you think this is a problem/if it is, what do you think is a good solution?


Another similar problem is that teams will like, answer an add on that was in a 2AC speech doc that I didn’t get to… is this something that needs to be addressed in CX/after 2AC should I tell them/just explain that in the 1AR. Seems a bit awkward when teams spend a minute of reading asteroids defense against a non-existent add on.”


Answer to 1- The other team should flow. Period. They should know what you read, this isn’t an issue just with paperless debate. When debating on paper people would bring up more than they got to or just read 1 card of a page with multiple cards etc. It’s the other teams responsibility to pay attention. Usually when I say something like this someone will say “but the other team could add a million things to the speech doc to confuse us/waste our time”. True, but someone debating off paper could bring a million extra sheets up to confuse you as well. They dont because it makes finding what they DO want to read harder. And if you have a good flow you can sift through things pretty quickly. If it’s really a problem start of CX by saying “mark what you read” and get a new speech doc. This should take under a minute. Judges have a problem with this when debaters want time like this to not come from cx/prep but instead to be “free” time, and rightly so. This should come from the team who didn’t give the speeches prep since they are the ones who need clarification. “But now they are wasting our prep…” Flow. You can win 99% of your debates by preparing in advance and flowing well WITHOUT ever reading the other teams evidence so quit complaining.


As for part 2 I think there are really 2 answers. From a strict “fairness” perspective I don’t think you are under any obligation to assist the other team when they make a mistake. Again, flow. But there is also the “don’t be a douche” standard, and from that perspective you saying “didn’t read that” would certainly help your debate karma. So chosing between the 2 is a personal choice, and I would probably decide based on the other team- if they were bad at debate or nice I would tell them. If it was a competitive round and they were jerks I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.


Consulting the Judge


This arises out of a few things, one of which is a post I made earlier about judges speaking up during debates. Another is this college thread about judges following along with evidence in a round.


If we take the premise of both threads to be true- judges can follow along with evidence during the debate, and can speak up during the debate, would rounds be better if debaters could interact with judges during them(after all, judges do now have the right to choose)?

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Debating Statistics

Statistics… suffice to say- not my strong suit. But one thing I know about debating them is that they are usually BS. The way I often teach students to think about statistics is that they are generally calculated in social sciences using a 95% confidence interval- which in shorthand is a way of saying “we are 95% sure this is correct” (obviously not the technical definition).

If we conduct 1,000 studies and publish the results, and 95% of them are likely to be correct, that means we will have 50 studies that are probably incorrect. These studies make up the oddball news items like “drinking soda makes you live longer” and other weird things you see that have “statistical” support.(Credit to Sklansky on this one)


Those 50 also probably make up a disproportionately large percentage of statistics used in debate. The reason is obvious- they are crazy and debaters gravitate towards crazy arguments. As people are taught more and more to rely on peer reviewed quality sources it should be remembered that just because something has some math behind it doesn’t necessarily mean its “true”.


In that vein here is an interesting link

At long last, regressions were run and… no result. No relationship between price shocks and conflict, even in the most generous scenarios. I shrugged and thought, “Well, so much for that.” My committee said, “Huh, what about that child soldiering project we told you not to do?” And off I went on my career as micro-conflict man.

In the meantime, lots of papers that did see an impact of economic shocks on conflict or instability did get published. The conventional wisdom grew: Rising incomes made the state more attractive to rebels as a prize, and falling incomes made it easier to recruit rebels. No matter that these two ideas ran in apparently opposite directions.

Meanwhile, I met other academics that had run the same regression as me. Famous ones you have probably heard of. Their reaction was the same as mine: “Oh, I found that result,” several said, “but I’m worried there’s nothing there because my data have problems, and the specification wasn’t quite right. So I left it out of the paper. I’ve been meaning to get back to that.”

Let’s follow a simple decision rule: run your regressions with inevitably imperfect data and models. If you get the theoretically predicted result (any of them), publish. If not, wait and look into your data and empirical strategy more.

The result? As in the natural sciences, most published research findings are probably false.