Category Archives: Research/Links

Tips For Competing As A Small School

The October issue of Rostrum—the National Forensic League’s monthly magazine—features an excellent article written by Josh Brown of Homewood-Flossmoor High School about competing in policy debate as a “small school” (pdf). It echoes much of the advice provided by Dr. David Cheshier in a 2002 Rostrum article, “How Very Small Debate Programs Can Achieve National Success” (pdf). Both articles are worthwhile reading regardless of the size of one’s program.

Some Good cites

An interesting new study about Util and public policy makers that is going around the blogosphere:


Most of us seem to be placing too much value on the wrong characteristics. Our preferred candidates are able to “connect” with the public. We want to like our leaders; we favour candidates who we’d be comfortable having a beer with. But according to the study, this isn’t the type of candidate who will give us utilitarian outcomes. If we really want the greatest happiness of the greatest number, we should be electing psychopathic, Machiavellian misanthropes.



Since it seems implausible that we are best off governed by Machiavellian psychopaths, I take the findings of Bartels and Pizarro–that those attracted to utilitarianism tend toward the psychopathic and Machiavellian–as prima facie evidence that utilitarianism is “self-effacing,” that it recommends its own rejection.

And some global conflict U for K debates

(all pilfered from the dish)

Tetlock Interview

Can be found here

Relevant college topic teaser

Lehrer: Can non-experts do anything to encourage a more effective punditocracy? Should I feel bad about watching Meet the Press?

Tetlock: Yes, non-experts can encourage more accountability in the punditocracy. Pundits are remarkably skillful at appearing to go out on a limb in their claims about the future, without actually going out on one. For instance, they often “predict” continued instability and turmoil in the Middle East (predicting the present) but they virtually never get around to telling you exactly what would have to happen to disconfirm their expectations. They are essentially impossible to pin down.

If pundits felt that their public credibility hinged on participating in level playing field forecasting exercises in which they must pit their wits against an extremely difficult-to-predict world, I suspect they would be learn, quite quickly, to be more flexible and foxlike in their policy pronouncements.

Space Policy Day Hosted By Houston Urban Debate League

The Houston Urban Debate League is hosting Space Policy Day on August 1 from 8:00AM to 2:30PM. Of interest to students and coaches who are preparing to debate this year’s space topic, the event will feature discussions of space policy by experts in the field. The event will be webcasted live at Questions can be submitted in advance by emailing; they will be read live during the event. For more information, please visit

Demo Debates

Here are some demo debates I partook in at the Emory debate camp, turnabout being fair play feel free to unload the criticism in the comments/post mocking RFDs.

There are 2 more that may be eventually uploaded to the wiki.


Substance Debate- Phillips/Turner vs Berthiaume/Herndon

K Debate- Phillips vs Turner 


Herndon/Phillips vs Cambre/Gordon 


Student Challenge Debate Herndon/Phillips vs Lab champions 





Evolution and cooperation

A recent article in the Harvard Business review offers some good responses to AT: K args about human selfishness:


The biology of cooperation draws our attention because it speaks with the authority of the most reliable way we know how to know: science. If we simply say the word empathy, it sounds mushy. If a scientist like Tania Singer shows, using fMRI scans, that women’s brains light up in three places when they get electric shocks, and that when their partners are shocked, their brains light up in two of the same three places, we understand empathy not as a hard-to-define feeling but as something that people experience in a physical sense. This phenomenon was originally discovered by neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti, who also found that our brains mirror not only pain and motor movements but pure emotions as well. When Rizzolatti and his colleagues showed subjects videos in which people were expressing disgust on their faces, the same neurons fired in the subjects’ brains as the ones that had been activated when they themselves were exposed to disgusting smells. Cognitively and emotionally, we may be able to “feel” what others are feeling.

New Seidenfeld 94

From the future-


BRYAN W. MARSHALL Miami University BRANDON C. PRINS University of Tennessee & Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy  Power or Posturing? Policy Availability and Congressional Influence on U.S. Presidential Decisions to Use Force  Presidential Studies Quarterly 41, no. 3 (September) 2011

We argue that the more important effect of Congress occurs because presidents anticipate how the use of force may affect the larger congressional environment in which they inevitably have to operate (Brulé, Marshall, and Prins 2010). It may be true that presidents consider the chances that Congress will react to a specific use of force with countervailing tools, but even more importantly they anticipate the likelihood that a foreign conflict may damage (or advantage) their political fortunes elsewhere—in essence, the presidential calculus to use force factors in how such actions might shape their ability to achieve legislative priorities. To be clear, presidents can and do choose to use force and press for legislative initiatives in Congress. Taking unilateral actions in foreign policy does not preclude the president from working the legislative process on Capitol Hill. However, political capital is finite so spending resources in one area lessens what the president can bring to bear in other areas. That is, presidents consider the congressional environment in their decision to use force because their success at promoting policy change in either foreign or domestic affairs is largely determined by their relationship with Congress. Presidents do not make such decisions devoid of calculations regarding congressional preferences and behavior or how such decisions may influence their ability to achieve legislative objectives. This is true in large part because presidential behavior is motivated by multiple goals that are intimately tied to Congress. Presidents place a premium on passing legislative initiatives. The passage of policy is integral to their goals of reelection and enhancing their place in history (Canes-Wrone 2001; Moe 1985). Therefore, presidents seek to build and protect their relationship with Congress.


And possible winners win type card from the next paragraph

Presidents rely heavily on Congress in converting their political capital into real
policy success. Policy success not only shapes the reelection prospects of presidents, but
it also builds the president’s reputation for political effectiveness and fuels the prospect
for subsequent gains in political capital (Light 1982). Moreover, the president’s legislative
success in foreign policy is correlated with success on the domestic front. On this
point, some have largely disavowed the two-presidencies distinction while others have
even argued that foreign policy has become a mere extension of domestic policy (Fleisher
et al. 2000; Oldfield and Wildavsky 1989) Presidents implicitly understand that there
exists a linkage between their actions in one policy area and their ability to affect another.
The use of force is no exception; in promoting and protecting U.S. interests abroad,
presidential decisions are made with an eye toward managing political capital at home
(Fordham 2002).

New Monkeys throwing darts!

And its sweet

In an unprecedented “forecasting tournament,” five teams will compete to see who can most accurately predict future political and economic developments. One of the five is Tetlock’s “Good Judgment” Team, which will measure individual differences in thinking styles among 2,400 volunteers (e.g., fox versus hedgehog) and then assign volunteers to experimental conditions designed to encourage alternative problem-solving approaches to forecasting problems. The volunteers will then make individual forecasts which statisticians will aggregate in various ways in pursuit of optimal combinations of perspectives. It’s hoped that combining superior styles of thinking with the famous “wisdom of crowds” will significantly boost forecast accuracy beyond the untutored control groups of forecasters who are left to fend for themselves.

Other teams will use different methods, including prediction markets and Bayesian networks, but all the results will be directly comparable, and so, with a little luck, we will learn more about which methods work better and under what conditions. This sort of research holds out the promise of improving our ability to peer into the future.

But only to some extent, unfortunately. Natural science has discovered in the past half-century that the dream of ever-growing predictive mastery of a deterministic universe may well be just that, a dream. There increasingly appear to be fundamental limits to what we can ever hope to predict. Take the earthquake in Japan. Once upon a time, scientists were confident that as their understanding of geology advanced, so would their ability to predict such disasters. No longer. As with so many natural phenomena, earthquakes are the product of what scientists call “complex systems,” or systems which are more than the sum of their parts. Complex systems are often stable not because there is nothing going on within them but because they contain many dynamic forces pushing against each other in just the right combination to keep everything in place. The stability produced by these interlocking forces can often withstand shocks but even a tiny change in some internal conditional at just the right spot and just the right moment can throw off the internal forces just enough to destabilize the system—and the ground beneath our feet that has been so stable for so long suddenly buckles and heaves in the violent spasm we call an earthquake. Barring new insights that shatter existing paradigms, it will forever be impossible to make time-and-place predictions in such complex systems. The best we can hope to do is get a sense of the probabilities involved. And even that is a tall order.

Human systems like economies are complex systems, with all that entails. And bear in mind that human systems are not made of sand, rock, snowflakes, and the other stuff that behaves so unpredictably in natural systems. They’re made of people: self-aware beings who see, think, talk, and attempt to predict each other’s behavior—and who are continually adapting to each other’s efforts to predict each other’s behavior, adding layer after layer of new calculations and new complexity. All this adds new barriers to accurate prediction.

When governments the world over were surprised by this year’s events in the Middle East, accusing fingers were pointed at intelligence agencies. Why hadn’t they seen it coming? “We are not clairvoyant,” James R. Clapper Jr, director of national intelligence, told a hearing of the House intelligence committee. Analysts were well aware that forces capable of generating unrest were present in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. They said so often. But those forces had been present for years, even decades. “Specific triggers for how and when instability would lead to the collapse of various regimes cannot always be known or predicted,” Clapper said.