The Last Harvard: Extempers 3 & 4

All right, so apparently Food was the semis and Energy was the quarter finals topic, as A HALF DOZEN ANAL RETENTIVE EXTEMPERS felt the need to share with me last evening.   Mea culpa!

Carrying on with the increasingly disappointing source check, however:

Speaker 3

Q.   Is drug legalization in the US a viable strategy for reducing drug-related violence in Latin America?

Answer: Nope!


Missed the first citation in the intro; speaker rushed by it.   However, the claim was that legalization, by making drugs readily available, would lower the demand?   Did I hear this right?   NB seems the rest of the speech says the opposite, so I bet I did hear it right, or it was one of those cases when debaters arguing aff conclude by saying “I urge a neg ballot…I MEAN AFF!”

1st subpoint: Legalization would increase cartel revenue, leading to more violence.

1.   NYT 2.2.09       Revenue providing for weapons for cartels come from US consumers.


The article does not provide evidence for the claim that most of the drug cartel money comes from US consumers.   Now, this claim is true, and honestly doesn’t really need a citation to back it up; it’s common knowledge.   So this fudging of a source might really be about racking up more totals in source counts, not really fabrication.   Still, that’s shady if that’s what’s going on here.

Reuters 2.10.09 use this money to buy weapons.

OK, I had a hard time tracking this down exactly.   There was a 2.10.09 Reuters article that didn’t mention guns.   There’s a 2.26.09 article that talks extensively about this problem, but also came out after the tournament.   However, finally I did track down:

So I’ll give a pass on this one; the claim again is not a hard one to support.

This doesn’t mention, however, the fact that this point is broken and doesn’t help the case; the assumption that illegal cartels would benefit from legalization is a stretch.

Point 2: Would harm US/Mexico relations

Council on Foreign Relations 11.20.08: Attempts to limit drug violence between US and Mexico means closing off the border.


OK, it’s possible that I got the claim down wrong; honestly this speaker wasn’t very clear; I think probably due to nerves, which I totally understand and sympathize with.   It’s a common problem among finalists, and one of the reasons why semis are often better rounds than finals.   However, the article does not support the claim that the border is closing tighter because of the drug war; it simply mentions the not-very-revelatory fact that drug operations are cross-border in nature.

Economist 1.22.08   US government doesn’t give Mexico much respect; policy change would confirm that.

This one is old.   Also, it was under the Bush administration, which changes everything.   He may have gotten the date wrong; in fact I hope the speaker did because I can’t find it.   I did find this:

It was June 19th, 2008, which is much more in range than Jan 22nd, which puts it far into the realm of “honest slip”, especially since citing the earlier date hurts the case; it’s not like the speaker was trying to conceal the age of the source.

However, that kind of citation is exactly the sort of loose, citing conclusions that I find ineffective.   “The US respects Mexico” is not a fact, it is a thesis, and if you’re going to present that in a speech, even from a respected publication, it cannot be as a fait accompli.   The Economist has been wrong in its conclusions before, as has every other major publication; and it’ll be wrong again.   You can cite a fact, and I’ll trust that the paper has fact checked it as much as is reasonable (not always safe, but we have to draw the line somewhere.)   But an argument or a position doesn’t work like that; no matter who said it, it has to be defended, and proven, not simply cited.

However, that criticism is more in the realm of “what I’d write on my ballot, were I judging.”   It’s style points, not rule violations.

May/June Foreign Affairs Kauffman   — Legalization would be disaster; can’t control cartels or terrorist groups without int’l controls and cooperation

OK now my sympathy has flown out the window.   There is no article in Foreign Affairs in all of 2008 about drug legalization.   There is an article in May/June Foreign Affairs by a guy named Hoffman, whose thesis is that Al Qaeda remains a threat to US security; Hoffman doesn’t even talk about international cooperation being a way to combat terror groups.   He doesn’t talk about drugs, Mexico, Latin America, or anything related.

I can’t prove a negative.   I can’t say that the speaker didn’t have an article in some other journal that had a similar name that did talk about this issue in the way that he says.   But, given how specific the citation was — how many other journals publish on a bimonthly basis? — I strongly suspect the speaker didn’t.

And you know, I’ve been giving speakers a pass for muddling the date and the publication a little, but that makes me wonder — why have them give dates and titles at all, if they’re all going to flub it up?   The root problem here isn’t that it’s impossible to memorize 7 sources perfectly, it’s that we shouldn’t be expecting 7 sources in the first place.

Point 3.   Would increase cross border violence between USA and Latin America

WaPo 1.4.09   Drug culture in the US is hidden but no less violent elsewhere.   Doesn’t depend on ready availability but effects on the human psyche.   Violent drug culture would increase and has nothing to do with illegality

I was not able to find this article despite searching through a lot of results in the Washington Post for both January and February.   I find this a little disturbing, since these claims are central to the argument; this citation should have been clear above all others.   Without this citation, which should be very easy to find, a lot of his logic falls directly apart.   If the speaker didn’t have this cite on source check, it would be a clear DQ.

NYT 2.2.09 Loosening drug policy would mean more people crossing borders and thus under no one’s control.

Same article as listed above.   This statement is not supported by the article either; it refers to things like “borders” and such but does not support this claim directly.


This speaker didn’t seem to actually understand the question, and I feel that might have contributed to a lot of the questionable use of sources in this speech; so the lapses may not be ethical in nature, but simply the combination of nerves and an unfortunate draw. In some cases I can pass that by, but honestly, if the Foreign Affairs article cited was the Hoffman article I found, that would be no defense against my wrath if I were the tournament director presented with this evidence.

He also didn’t answer the question.   As a result, I feel that the speaker may have done a lot of bending his sources to fit a flawed view of the question itself; which is still a severe ethical lapse, but one borne from ignorance, not shenanigans.   Or maybe ignorance with a side of shenanigans.

However, the bottom line is, unless the speaker produced some true miracles from the files, this speech would not have survived a source check.

NB: The note about Michael applies here too; I coached Matt very briefly at that same UTNIF a few years ago, and have chatted with him a few times since, and have a general impression of “good kid, likable guy.”

Speaker 4

Q.   Should the US Government restore suspended trade benefits to Bolivia?

Answer: Nope.


1.25.09 NYT   Bolivia approved a new constitution with 60% vote.   Strips rights from some of the population, very big and complex


Yep that’s fine.   Though the bit about stripping rights is implicit, not explicit.

1. Bolivia has failed to guarantee basic economic rights

2.4.09 CSM Bolivia has world’s largest reserves of lithium.   They’re not being accessed by int’l community b/c Evo says no.   Bolivia tried to harvest it themselves with big investment but held up by bureaucracy.


This is a textbook example of a good cite.   The speaker cited the exact facts and built original conclusions off of them.

1.22.09 Economist Bolivia limiting land holdings to 12,400 acres.   the large landholdings are efficient and experienced.   bad for the nation since limiting them means less food.


So far, perfect.   This article makes exactly those claims.

2.   Bolivia is not making political progress

1.22.09       Economist (again) indigenous communities in the north vote by community not by individual.   Gov’t looks the other way.   boosts Evo’s numbers.

Article (repeat):

Yes, the article listed above also supports this statement.

12.8.08 CSM       Bolivia is divided.   North indigenous at odds with capitalistic industrialized south.

Oh man, we were on such a roll; I can’t find this article.   I think it’s probably a cite flub, or a recording flub on my part, since this division is well known and well documented; in fact a different CSM article refers to it:

3.   Bolivia is failing USA on the war on drugs

3.08 Council on Foreign Relations.   60k acres of coca in Bolivia to become exports of cocaine in the US.   Bolivia makes eradication voluntary.   The growers are Evo’s support base, so he won’t move against them.

I wasn’t able to find this report either.   However, the facts are abundantly confirmed by the Internet at large, though most of them are a little old.   So there’s a chance here that’s the speaker’s postdating a source to make it seem more recent, but new reports on foreign affairs often have to rely on older data, since new data on many countries is sometimes untrustworthy or nonexistent.

For example, most of the facts are listed here in a Reuters article:

12.8.08 Washington Post Bolivia evicted drug agents of the US.

I noted in my margins that I screwed up the date on this one; so I wasn’t able to find the article exactly; at any rate the expulsion of the DEA by Morales is well documented; the only Post article I could find was this one, but it’s fair enough, and the speaker may have had a better one:


I wasn’t hugely impressed by this speech at the time.   The speaker didn’t explain the instrument by which trade policy is the best mechanism, or even a good mechanism, to right the wrongs that listed above, and that holding back open trade would convince Morales to toe the line instead of just retrenching further.   The speech didn’t talk about trade much at all.

However, the citations were nearly perfect.   It flubbed very few dates, and it’s perfectly possible that the mistakes are mine in transcriptions, not the speaker’s own.   None of the claims were based around loose conclusions or thoughts; every one of them described facts or events that he then used for his own analysis.   Pass, with flying colors.