September Policy Digest

September is the busiest month of the debate season. If you got wrapped up in the whirlwind of tournaments and missed all the exciting news on space policy, catch up below with over 100 links to free advice, evidence and major stories.  

September Thought Piece: Speaking Clearly

In response to what some term a “crisis of clarity,” our September thought piece compiles advice from some of the most successful speakers and coaches in the country. A huge thanks goes out to Brett Bricker, Nate Cohn, Michael Greenstein, Eli Jacobs and Stephanie  Spies for taking the time to respond with such great advice during the busiest part of the debate season.

Free Evidence

The latest Free Card Friday features a series of politics links that are so good your opponent will go for theory! There’s also a couple follow-ups to our last topic, American hegemony, which was published in our inaugural issue of the digest in August.

Chris Thiele, a very talented and successful former debater, generously donated a collection of his college files. Thanks, Chris!

 A New Season Begins

For 16 of the nation’s most talented teams, the season started at the Greenhill Round Robin in Dallas, Texas. These were their affirmatives. Debate Central was there for all the elimination debates and will post additional content soon!

Full results from high school tournaments held at Greenhill, Wake Forest and Grapevine are also available.

Want to follow along with the newest arguments? Many teams post the citations to their arguments on large “wiki” sites. These are like Wikipedia, but organized by debate team instead of by subject matter. A little known feature of the high school and current and former college wiki cite collection sites is the ability to see pages that were recently changed. For instance, I’ve been following along with the Kentucky Round Robin at the University of Kentucky in college by following the recent changes page of the college wiki.  You can track the changes to the high school wiki as well!

The college season is underway! Elimination round results and speaker awards from Gonzaga as well as elims and speakers from Georgia State are up!

Surviving the start of the season requires enormous willpower. Those who started well have to maintain momentum and those who started slowly still have to build it. To quote the season-opener of popular show The Office: “Winners, prove me right. Losers, prove me wrong.”

Space Weaponization

One of September’s hottest topics, both in the debate and space policy communities, was space weaponization. Many worry that America’s development of the Space Launch System makes weaponization more likely.

It should come as no surprise to readers of this website to note that such sentiments were strengthened by the launch of the Tiangong-1 by China. To counter this, the United States has developed an impressive array of space warfare technology.

However, many caution that the best way to win a war in space is to avoid fighting it. Others experts note that the Tiangong-1 launch is overblown and doesn’t mean an immediate march towards a space race. Either way, China has won unlikely support from some within NASA. Other NASA scienists view it as a death knell for U.S. leadership.


A discussion of the most common politics disadvantages. We predict that Reid’s China Currency Pressure legislation will soon reach that list as well.

Space policy probably won’t be the deciding factor for very many voters. It doesn’t appear to be a hot-button issue in Congress, either.

Then again, some space issues may be in the news for the wrong reasons. Consider the intersection between the Solyndra solar power incident and solar-powered satellites as one area where a big news story merges with a big debate story.

Even if the plan is popular, the devil is in the details.

Obama is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Nearly three out of every four voters say the country is headed in the wrong direction. Will low approval ratings depress his fundraising prospects? Meanwhile, the GOP continues to build their war chest before the 2012 Election.

In case you missed it above — politics was the topic of our latest Free Card Friday!

Thinker’s Corner

Two policy experts engage in an excellent policy debate over the Obama Administration’s new Space Launch System (SLS).

Does new evidence from neurobiologists help explain the prevalence of utilitarian reasoning? Is there tension between those claims and the ones made in this study suggesting humans seek cooperation beyond utilitarian need?

Scientists may have made the most important Physics discovery of the last 50 years. More on the unbelievable potential of neutrinos is being discovered daily.

Debaters are fond of making predictions: not shockingly, most are incorrect. Most of them are related to risk assessment. As an awesome follow-up, Tetlock has created the predictions-equivalent of March Madness.

Speaking of famous debate authors, Mead and Mearsheimer are involved in a contentious dispute.

Will the next century’s great wars be fought in cyberspace?

Was there once a planet five times the Earth’s mass in our Solar System?

One interesting aspect of competitive debate is performance philosophy, or the study of what enables one to perform best in high-stress moments. One athlete who understood this very well, Michael Jordan, summarized the lesson well in this piece on winning and losing.

About.Com has recently started up a free philosophy section.

Affirmative Ideas

Obama has been very active in space policy, creating troubles (though probably not irrecoverable ones) for negative link uniqueness. This helped smooth over talk that Obama was attempting to sabotage space policy.

Meanwhile, the private industry has been less active in space recently, and some expect it to stay that way because of market pressures.

The “offsets” counterplan is a popular negative argument on any topic that requires increasing government funding. New evidence about the current political climate helps the Affirmative quite a bit.

A popular negative argument is that the economic benefits from space exploration are zero sum and American ventures hurt Russian aerotech. Affirmatives can argue that Russian aerotech couldn’t be much worse off. Others say things aren’t quite so bad, especially with the recent Proton-M launch. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, as even the Roscomos head recognizes the need for change.

Michael Griffin, one of the most well-respected Professors of Aerospace in the country, took to Congress to make the affirmative case for space. He was joined by several colleagues who criticized Obama’s approach of “leading from behind” on space. Ot

Teams defending Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) will surely note that major operations like TacSat-4 have been successful, particularly in battlefield operations. This could bode well for the future of military satellite technology.

All you wanted to know and more about the James Webb Space Telescope from a Nobel Laureate!

Think your Space affirmative is a great idea? If the Coalition for Space Exploration likes it you could win an iPad 2.

Negative Ideas

Several teams have read advantages about finding exoplanets — the only problem is that we just found a ton of them. Or did we? Hear more about the debate in this podcast and read the latest developments.

We’re running out of plutonium-238, a necessary ingredient for several space technologies.

Can the affirmative still save satellites in an era of solar flares?

Japan has unbelievable space capabilities — are they better suited to space exploration than Western powers?

Obama proposed to break the mold by mining asteroids — did China beat us to it? Would test missions be a reasonable American alternative? New information from the NEO-WISE telescope sheds new light.

Come hell or high water, we’re determined to get to Mars. However, that involves several hurdles. Notably, what do we do about all the methane? And how do we prevent our astronauts from going blind? Another difficult question relates to the possibility of extraterrestrial disease, as shuttles risk becoming microbe lifeboats.

It has been a long time since we’ve heard any good news about the ISS.

Beware Falling Objects!

One of the more interesting developments in September was the ongoing news that the now defunct six ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite would plummet towards Earth. People were warned to watch out for falling satellites! Of course, the odds anyone would be hit were  1-3,200 and over 1 in 1 trillion that it would hit any particular human. Wondering what it feels like to be hit by space debris? The only human ever to take the hit describes the experience. Wondering where it landed? So are scientists! If you missed out on the action, don’t worry; the German satellite ROSAT plummets towards Earth next month.

Of course, as satellites plunge towards Earth, Domino’s Pizza is making moves towards the Moon. You could try to catch a ride on a new space taxi. You can even watch the show as the satellite falls.

About Lauren Sabino

Lauren Sabino is the Director of Youth Programs at the National Center for Policy Analysis. She currently administrates Debate Central, the largest free online debate resource.
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