The Last Harvard: Extempers 5 & 6

The final round check continues.  NB, I’m getting emails about this series of posts, surprisingly to me — I wasn’t aware I had readers.  I haven’t read them yet, explicitly because I want to finish this and my comments on it first.  The emails may well explain and correct some omissions, but I’m building evidence for a broader point here, which isn’t the one I bet you think it is, and then I’ll respond to the thoughts contained in the emails.

Speaker 5

Q.    Is Mexico in danger of becoming a failed state?

Answer:  Nope.


Harvard International Review 5.20.08     Characteristics of failed states is lack of civil, econ, social structures

I wasn’t able to find this reference.  This claim is a broad enough that it might have been definition in the bottom of an article about something else; it’s a straightforward definition of a failed state.  In fact, it’s rather self-evident, not really requiring a citation.  I’m also curious about the citation; Harvard International Review is a seasonal publication, so 5/20/2008 is awfully precise.  Perhaps this was the wrong publication name.  It’s possible the speaker’s pulling one here to get a Harvard name into the Harvard final round, which would get a big glare from me, but not a DQ if I were tournament director.

1.    Reform in Mexico is occurring, and the government wants it.

CSM 1.19.09  Calderon held a contest to identify the most useless bureaucractic procedure in the Mex gov’t.  points to reform minded.


Got the date wrong by a couple of days, but the facts and story are substantiated by the article.

Economist 1.24.09  Calderon authorized a 3% of gdp stimulus into the mex economist.  That large of a stim represents a nonfailed state.


Again, off by a pair of days, but the facts clear out.

2.    Attitude to democracy is not failed

Economist 11.15.08 50% of Mexicans feel democracy is better than any other form of gov’t.  higher than Latin American avg view towards democracy.


The speech seems to have a standard 2-3 day margin of error going on here, but it’s doing just fine when it comes to the truth of the claims.

M. Delal Baer; some book — Mexico is a nascent weak democracy but among mexicans there’s a strong attitude in favor of democracy.

M Delal Baer — it took me a little while to find the correct spelling — is a fellow of the Mexico Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  It’s hard to source check a book remotely, since I’m not going to go out and buy every book he’s written, since they all seem to be about Mexico.  But it’s a non controversial claim attributed to someone who’d probably have an opinion on this subject.  However, I wonder a little why the speaker felt the need to include it, given that the Economist reference said much the same thing.

3.  US power will not allow Mexico to fail.

John Raskin book The New World of Intl Relations — since the advent of NAFTA the US/Mex economy are intertwined.  the US/Mexico relationsip means Mexican chaos means US losses.  US auto makers would be screwed.

Book (I think):

That’s Michael Roskin (and Nicholas Berry).  Again, it’s a book, but again it’s a noncontroversial claim; I might have preferred that the speech instead give some numbers and prove this point on its own, but the ethics of the source are probably sound.  Hell, the speaker may even have gotten the author right; the book looks like the type that might contain a bunch of sub-essays or something.

FT 1.4.09    The US auto industry retains vast political power within the US.

Today I discovered that even the website of the Financial Times is pink.  I did not, however, discover this article; I looked a couple days backwards and forwards.  They did have a bunch of articles on the car industry around early January; it was when the automakers were asking for a bailout, so I’m guessing that it was some line about how despite the car maker CEOs being embarrassed and made to kneel in obeisance before Congress, they still maintain lobbying power etc.

This line of reasoning wasn’t really necessary to this speech; I mean, it’s good to make a link and all, but asserting that the main reason that the US would not let the Mexican government collapse is that US Auto would suffer is a bit like saying we only like a stable Canada for the hockey; kind of misses the overall significance.  But ah well.

Current History:  2.08 Mexico has a long way to go; econ growth is stagnant, etc etc.


Current History doesn’t make its archival articles freely available, but despite that the title of the article makes it clear that this claim is warranted.

Comments:  This speaker passed also with flying colors; that surprised me a little bit, honestly, because I didn’t like this speech very much; it would have been the clear 6 on my ballot.  I’d have to confirm that the book cites were legitimate, but really, it seems very clear to me that they would.  I didn’t think it spun a convincing analytic story, but instead plugged together sources and ideas in a way that was a little implausible, and didn’t show much knowledge of the deeper workings of these issues.  The speaker was, however, very comfortable and fluent, even if the humor fell a little flat.  But then, most of the audience was extempers, and extempers are a humorless bunch.

I tend to mentally associate dodgy sourcing with speakers I don’t like, particularly the kind of speaker who seems to get there on speaking without much underlying analytic ability.  I’m not one of those people who thinks extempers should sound and speak horribly to prove their analytic bona fides, but I do dislike pretty words with no substance more than anything.  So honestly I was most disposed to think this speaker would be bad at citations, and despite me being a complete cynic, the speech actually demonstrated excellent ethics.  The speaker would probably be a good analyst with just a little more focus on it; I hope it happens.

Speaker 6

Q.    Can Barack and Raul thaw the icy relations that existed between George and Fidel?Answer:  Yes We Can.

Intro:  A limerick.  It didn’t scan (big whoop) but it did rhyme and got applause.

1. Ending bitterness makes sense for Raul Castro

1.4.09    NYT low/no economic growth in Cuba, food troubles:


Yes.  Date was wrong; looks like the speech switched dates with the below article.

1.2.09    Fidel used to handle this by blaming the US.


Yep, the article supports the claim.

1.30.09 Independent Obama is more popular in Cuba while Raul gets some resentment (so the charge may not stick this time).

This is the closest I could find:

This one is a little dicey and difficult, though it might not be the right source.  It’d be hard data to acquire.  After all, it’s not like Cuba conducts opinion polls, so data on how popular the Cuban regime is or isn’t, or how Obama is seen, is going to by necessity always be the sum of anecdotes.  I think I would have, at the very least, phrased this assertion differently.  There’s plenty of reason to analyze on one’s own how Raul will have to tread carefully; among other things, the biggie being that he’s not Fidel.   So I’m giving a guarded C- on this use of a citation, but I don’t think it’s actually treading into DQ grounds.

2.    Obama victory sets up someone who wants to do it.

2.7.08    Econ’st Many Obama proposals fly in the face of what Intl Comm wants.

I think this is the one:

The date is off, and it’s a little weak of a reference, and it cites a conclusion, but it’s there in a reasonably defensible manner, and I know it to be true enough otherwise.

NYT sometime — UN condemns trade embargo

Ok, I didn’t find the exact source (“sometime” is a bit hard to track, but that’s my omission, not the speaker’s) but this definitely happened in the time frame of most files:

Lexington Inst Anya Landau French -> cuba is low hanging fruit, an easy fopo victory.


The article supports that, yes.

3.    US domestics open to the idea

12.15.08    CSM    Cuban americans, esp the young, no longer see the Castros as vicious enemies.  open to negations


Yes, that checks out fine.

Florida Int’l U polling outfit some poll    55% want better relations with Cuba.

Poll document is here:

Yes, this is supportive.  I’m pretty certain the speaker’s referring to the 55% majority who oppose continuing the embargo.

“The Nation that Dared” Maria Sanchez Cubans are more open to capitalism; potentially beneficial force.  Raul has to introduce reforms to appease his people.

That’s “The Island that Dared” by Dervla Murphy.  I have no idea where either the speaker or I got “Maria Sanchez”.  But whatever, the book is a travelogue of Cuba that I’ve actually read, and it’s supportive of that assertions.

Comments:  This speech wasn’t letter-perfect the way that Speaker 4 was, but it passed easily as well.  The speech sort of pulled a style point fail on one of them, and the other was possibly the wrong article or a big stretch, but it still passes.