27 February, 2008

Attitudes to Communism and Facism

I long supported the idea that a person who describes people such as Stalin, Mao Zedong, Lenin, Fidel Castro etc as 'heros' or 'good men' is no better than the person who would say the same about Hitler.

People such as Stalin and Mao killed far more people than Hitler. They selected their victims on the basis of who their parents were (in an attempt to eliminate a 'class enemy' gene, one assumes), visiting the iniquities of the father on the child. They deliberately created a state of fear for those who weren't directly thrown into an environment of starvation, forced labour, disease, brutality and deprivation. Those who wear the hammer and sickle, or the Che t-shirt should hang their heads with the shame we would expect them to feel if they were forced to wear a Swastika.

Here is an article which I feel articulates my feelings very well. Alex Deane (debater) wrote a similar article a while ago, too.

Intellectual Property and Taxation

If intellectual property is actually property, why isn't it taxed?

"In a response to the LA Times editorial on copyright which we discussed a week ago, the paper published a response arguing: 'If Intellectual Property is actually property, why isn't it covered by a property tax?' If copyright maintenance involved paying a fee and registration, this would keep Mickey Mouse safely protected by copyright, while ensuring that works that are no longer economically relevant to the copyright holder pass into the public domain, where the residual social value can serve the real purpose of copyright: to enhance the progress of science and useful arts. Disclaimer: the author is my father."

The original article, from the LA Times is here.

(Thank you, Ben Morrow)

Interesting debate, I think. "THBT IP should be taxed the same as normal property"?

26 February, 2008

Evolution and Morality

Interesting Economist article on evolution and morality:

..."Dr Wilson suspects that the liberal package of individualism and confrontation is the appropriate response to survival in a stable environment in which there is leisure for learning and reflection, and the consequences for a group's stability of such dissent are low. The conservative package of collectivism and conformity, by contrast, works in an unstable environment where joint action, and thus obedience to their group, are at a premium. It is an interesting suggestion, and it is one that plays into the question of how morality actually evolved."...

Judging Guidelines II

Here is a copy of a set of judging guidelines that I drew up based on experience:

Judge in the following order:

  1. Role fulfilment: were there any reasonably significant screw ups? (think of why we have roles (to make the debate better and fairer), a significant screw up is where the lack of role fulfilment impacted negatively on the debate.)
  2. Quality of argument. (e.g. Analysis)
  3. Content (e.g. Examples)
  4. Strategy and teamwork
  5. Style

The most important bit of the order is that a person who fails to fulfil their role really should be penalised. There is no automatic fourth, just things that take a speaker much, much closer to it.





A combination of Jesus, Churchill and Henry V. If they had just said white was black, you would have believed them. Unlikely.


Very good

A very good speech. Almost no flaws. You probably enjoyed listening to it and/or learned something from it. This is a break round speech.


High Average

Generally a good speech. Few flaws. This is where analysis etc really come in.


An average speech at a normal IV.


Low Average

Not a bad speech. 5 minutes or more, generally structured, generally had teamwork, no major flaws. You were just left wanting a bit more from the speech.


Not bad

The speaker probably spoke for over 4 minutes but had one or more of the following flaws: no analysis, really bad analysis, no structure, possibly slight internal contradictions, but not enough to be massively bad, no examples/knowledge.


Poor Speech

You probably fell asleep. Possibly more than once. If you didn’t fall asleep it was because you were writing humorous notes to your co-judges. They probably spoke for less than 4 minutes AND stabbed, repeated their partner verbatim, just didn’t make sense etc etc


Actively bad

They did any, or all, of the following: vomited, cried, left the room saying ‘I just can’t do this’, made rape jokes in a debate about the EU, spoke in a language other than English, would be part of a great debating story if only anyone else had seen it. Bluntly, these marks are rare. A person is required to be actively bad. This mark usually requires justification to the CA or is simply banned outright.


· Each speaker must bring in new information (except summary)

· Summary speakers should not be penalised for not summarising thematically

· Analysis motions exist as a statement, and teams have to argue whether the statement is either true or not.

· To argue whether a statement is true the proposition should provide criteria for which the motion should be judged on. The opposition need to argue that those criteria are either irrelevant or not strong enough.

Judging Guidelines I

Here are the judging guidelines based on what Rita gave me of this year's guidelines at Euros:

Rita’s version of the Euros judging brief

The order of criteria on which you judge

1. Role fulfilment

2. Quality of argument

3. Content

4. Strategy and teamwork

5. Style

Adjudication must be done in this sequence. A team cannot win a debate if they have failed to fulfil their role on the table.


First Prop

· No squirreling

· Clear definition

· For analysis motions a model is not required

First Opp

· Must oppose the case stated, even if it is messy

· Does not have to rebut everything mentioned by prop

· Should bring up key issues of the opposition side

Second Prop

· Must provide new substantative matter

· Summary speech may include some new material

· Summary speech should include rebuttal of previous speaker

Second Opp

· New matter brought in summary must not be considered


· Each speaker must bring in new information

· Summary speakers should not be penalised for not summarising thematically

· Analysis motions exist as a statement, and teams have to argue whether the statement is either true or not.

· To argue whether a statement is true the proposition should provide criteria for which the motion should be judged on. The opposition need to argue that those criteria are either irrelevant or not strong enough.

Speaker points

Lowest mark: 50

Highest mark : 90

75 is the average for the competition.

These are guide marks but to go above or below these marks the CA would have to be consulted.

50 – 60 poor speech

60- 70 average speech but with some large flaws

70-75 good speech with some problems

75-80 good speech

80-90 great speech – expect to get to break rounds.

90 exceptional, to be seen in a World’s final

DNA database

I personally don't like a DNA database, but my reasons tend to start with government incompetence and continue through to people being rubbish and corruptible. On the other hand, the case for it isn't wholly without merits (here).

25 February, 2008

You get what you pay for

...Or why providing public services free at source may make them less efficient and effective as people see them as being worthless. Here.

17 February, 2008

Leeds IV

I wasn't able to go to Leeds IV in the end, but it was a spectacular success for the MDU. The break was to semis and 4 MDU teams broke. From that, Dan B and Dan J reached the final and won it. Further, Dan B won Best Speaker on the Tab and Dan J was the Best Speaker in the Final.

Woo hoo!

14 February, 2008

MDU FP: Pakistan and India

Courtesy of Ben Morrow and the rest of the people who attended the first MDU master-class in foreign policy organised and run by him. This document is the result of their finding from that session.

MDU FP+IR Master Sessions:

Crib Sheet I.i: Pakistan

Full name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan


President: Pervez Musharraf

General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 which was widely

condemned and which led to Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth until 2004.

His military career began in 1964 and included spells of training in the UK. He became head of military operations when Ms Bhutto was prime minister, and then head of the army in 1998.

He shook off his pariah status and gained foreign acceptance after he backed the US-led campaign against terror following the attacks on America on 11 September 2001

In 2002 General Musharraf awarded himself another five years as president, together with the power to dismiss an elected parliament. The handover from military to civilian rule came with parliamentary elections in November 2002, and the appointment of a civilian prime minister.

He held onto his military role, reneging on a promise to give up his army post and to

become a civilian president. In October 2007 he won the support of most parliamentarians in controversial presidential elections. However, the Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the winner could not be formally announced before it had ruled on whether General Musharraf was eligible to stand.

Comparative Population:

Population: 161.1 million (UN, 2005) Half the size of the USA

India is 1.1 billion (UN, 2005) (10x The size!)

Geographical Notes:

Largest city: Karachi Area: 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding

Pakistani-administered Kashmir (83,716 sq km/32,323 sq miles)

Important Regions:


Tensions with India over Kashmir remain and have fuelled fears of a regional arms race. However, an ongoing peace process has brought the two nuclear-armed powers back from the brink of renewed conflict.

Historical Notes:

Created to meet the demands of Indian Muslims for their own homeland, Pakistan was originally in two parts. The east wing - present-day Bangladesh - is on the Bay of Bengal bordering India and Burma and the west wing - present-day Pakistan - stretches from the Himalayas down to the Arabian Sea.

War with India over the disputed northern territory of Kashmir came shortly after

independence - the two countries fought again in 1965. The break-up of the two wings came in 1971 when the mainly Bengali-speaking east wing seceded with help from India.

Important Cultural Notes:

Civilian politics in Pakistan in the last few decades has been tarnished by corruption,

inefficiency and confrontations between various institutions. Alternating periods of civilian and military rule have not helped to establish stability.

Religious Context:

Major religion: Islam

About 97 percent of all Pakistanis are Muslims. Official documentation states that Sunni Muslims constitute 77 percent of the population and that adherents of Shia Islam make up an additional 20 percent. Christians, Hindus, and members of other religions each account for about 1 percent of the population.

International Relationships Notes:

Nuclear Power, gained nuclear weapons in [_____], particularly considering the value of nuclear weapons in relation to India.

Economic Details:

Monetary unit: 1 Pakistani Rupee = 100 paisa

Main exports: Textile products, rice, cotton, leather goods

GNI per capita: US $690 (World Bank, 2006)

Recent Items of note:

## Recent Elections Controversy resulting in the death of Benazir Bhutto.

Crib Sheet I.ii: India


President: Pratibha Patil

Pratibha Patil became India's first female president in July 2007, after being voted into office by members of state assemblies and the national parliament. Mrs Patil, the candidate of the ruling Congress Party, was previously the little-known governor of the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan. She drew criticism during the campaign over scandals involving family members, and over controversial remarks.

Supporters hailed her election as a victory for women, but critics wondered how much influence she would have.

Prime minister: Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh became prime minister in May 2004 after the Congress Party's unexpected success in general elections. The party's president, Sonia Gandhi, the widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, shocked her supporters by declining the top post, apparently to protect the party from damaging attacks over her Italian origin.

Comparative Population:

India is 1.1 billion (UN, 2005) Just Smaller than China (around 1.3bn)

Geographical Notes:

Most-populated city: Mumbai (Bombay)

Area: 3.1 million sq km (1.2 million sq miles), excluding Indian-administered Kashmir

(100,569 sq km/38,830 sq miles)

Historical Notes:

The vast and diverse Indian sub-continent - from the mountainous Afghan frontier to the jungles of Burma - was under foreign rule from the early 1800s until the demise of the British Raj in 1947. But the subsequent partition of the sub-continent sowed the seeds for future conflict. There have been three wars between India and its arch-rival Pakistan since 1947, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Important Cultural Notes:

India launches its own satellites and plans to send a spacecraft to the moon. It also boasts a massive cinema industry, the products of which are among the most widely-watched films in the world. But the vast mass of the rural population remains illiterate and impoverished. Their lives continue to be dominated by the ancient Hindu caste system, which assigns each person a fixed place in the social hierarchy.

Religious Context:

The vast majority, about 80%, of the Indian population is Hindu. The second most popular religion in India is Islam. Other popular Indian religions include Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Janism, and Zoroastrianism. Communal, caste and regional tensions continue to haunt Indian politics, sometimes threatening its long-standing democratic and secular ethos.

Economic Details:

Monetary unit: 1 Indian Rupee = 100 paise

Main exports: Agricultural products, textile goods, gems and jewellery, software services

and technology, engineering goods, chemicals, leather products

GNI per capita: US $720 (World Bank, 2006)

Political Details:

The world's largest democracy and second most populous country has emerged as a major power after a period of foreign rule and several decades during which its economy was virtually closed. A nuclear weapons state, it carried out tests in the 1970s and again in the 1990s in defiance of world opinion. However, India is still tackling huge social, economic and environmental problems. A peace process, which started in 2004, has stayed on track despite tension over Kashmir and several high-profile bombings, such as the attack on Mumbai's train network in July 2006 which police blamed on Pakistani militants and a banned Indian group.

Recent Items of note:

Secret Service details

13 February, 2008

Pakistan backgrounder

Courtesy of Usama Rehman.



1. Politics in Pakistan

There are three main players in current Pakistani political scenario

President Mushraff:

  • Came to power after overthrowing Nawaz Sharif’s government. A strong Western ally because of the support offered in the ‘war against terror’. Mushraff although still very popular in the West has been loosing popularity within the country because of the deteriorating law and order situations , and laws seen as increasing his own powers and curbing the media.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP):

  • PPP has been a very influential party since the country’s independence in 1947. Benazir Bhutto the leader of the PPP was recently assassinated while campaigning for upcoming elections. Benazir Bhutto twice served as prime minister of the country, each time her government was sacked on corruption charges. The Party’s new co-chairmen are Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari, also know as ‘Mr. Ten Percent’ for the alleged kickbacks from deals he received while his wife served as prime minister. The other co-chairman is Benazir’s 19 year old son Billawal, who is currently a student at the oxford university. The party although accused of mass corruption during power is favoured by the west because of its liberal approach to all aspects of life.

Nawaz Sharif:

  • Leader of another of Pakistan’s most important political party. He has twice served as prime minister, the first time his government was dismissed on corruption charges whereas the second time he was overthrown by Musharaff in a military coup. Lived about 8 years in self exile in Saudi Arabia after the military coup.


  • Alliance of religious parties in Pakistan. The MMA is considered by the West as a threat to moderate Islam. The party is supposed to support strict religious laws enforcement in the country.

2. Religious Extremism:


· One of the major concerns for the West. Pakistan is thought to be a haven for the Taliban and other religious extremists, especially the border regions with Afghanistan.


· Efforts are being made to bring the ‘madrassahs’ (religious schools) in line with the national schools, with their curriculum monitored. Some madrassahs, usually in the area bordering Afghanistan, promote religious extremism.


· The regions along the Afghan border face another issue of abuse of women’s rights. These border regions tend to follow a strict code of conduct for life leading to women not being granted rights and freedom they enjoy in the developed cities and most parts of the country. In many of these areas, the customs which are followed, as regards to women, are the same as those in Afghanistan.

3. Military Dictatorships:

Military dictators have ruled the country as long as if not more than the elected governments. Whilst the usual caveats of dictatorships being bad apply, military dictators in Pakistan have tended to bring stability in the country, improve the economy and improve law and order. The periods of military rule have usually had high levels of development and progress.


  1. Relations with India

Relations with India have mostly been strained since independence. The biggest thorn in the relations is the dispute of Kashmir. Kashmir stands to be a flash point for the two nations. Pakistan supports the UN resolution in regards to Kashmir (i.e. hold a plebiscite and let the Kashmiris decide their own fate). India, on the other hand, claims that it has rights over Kashmir because it was ruled by a Hindu dynasty at the time of independence.

Both nations, although struggling to cope with poverty, continue to increase defence budgets each year to maintain the military along the borders especially across the regions in Kashmir.

Recently, the train service between Pakistan and India has been resumed as a result of a thaw in relations between the two powers.

  1. Relations with Afghanistan

The border regions with Afghanistan seem to be the biggest problem for Pakistan at the moment. Taliban are thought to use the mountainous border to promote religious extremisms and terror activities within the country. The border is very hard to patrol because of the terrain but efforts are being made in conjunction with the US military now to increase surveillance on the border.

  1. Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)

Ever since Independence Pakistan and India have traded allegations blaming the other nations intelligence service for the terrorist activities happening in their countries. These accusations are often a cause of bad relations between the two nuclear nations.

  1. Nuclear Power

Pakistan is the only Islamic nuclear power of the world. It is not a signatory to the NPT. The West has some concern over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal – less because it has one than other factors such as India and extremism etc. However Pakistan claims that its nuclear arsenal is safe from threats such as extremists.

Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist was accused of proliferating the technology. Pakistan maintains, and international enquiry concluded that this was an act of an individual.

11 February, 2008

Risk, the law and human behaviour

'Dangerous' activites are often banned by law to try and make people safer. So, for example, driving without a seatbelt is more dangerous than driving with a seatbelt, therefore the law makes it mandatory to wear one.

The law, therefore, is trying to act as a substitute for our awareness of risk. However, it would seem that humans are pretty good at analysing risk and often compensate in such a manner that risk is 'constant'. To continue the seatbelt analogy, there is evidence that when wearing seatbelts drivers drive more dangerously and at greater speeds than without a seatbelt. The reason they do this is because the seatbelt makes them feel safer so they feel they can take the risk. I assume the same logic applies to bike helmets etc.

It also seems we do a similar type of compensation for diet. So diet coke may not be as effective as we thought when trying to lose weight.

07 February, 2008

Gender and competitiveness

I take the view that there are VERY minor differences between men and women at birth, but by the age of adulthood, we have become very different because of gendering. On a 'natural
level, therefore, I would argue that there is greater difference within the groups over a particular behavioural trait than there is between the groups.

I was therefore quite interested in this Freakonomics post which compared competitiveness as it related to gender in a traditional patriarchy (the Maasai in Tanzania) with the nearest equivalent they could find to a matriarchy(the Khasi - a matrilinial society in India).

The result? Competitiveness would seem to be a social construct rather than anything innate.

Saudi Arabia and cultural relevatism

The Muttawa in Saudi Arabis (KSA) have recently arrested a woman who was sitting in Starbucks having coffee with an unrelated, male business partner.

For background, all public restaurants in KSA have at least two areas. One is for single people, the other for families. In the family area, mixing is allowed so long as it is between men and women who are within the permitted levels of relationship. The muttawa are the Saudi religious police - their full title involves the words 'vice' and 'virtue' which is probably all you need to know!

I don't quite know how to respond to this. Whilst I think a law prohibiting mixing is silly, and whilst I think that if a country thinks that such a law is required should have merely given the woman a verbal warning and/or asked her to sit elsewhere in the restaurants, I am left asking what on earth was the woman doing? She's lived in the ME for a while; from the sounds of it, she comes from a Muslim background; I cannot believe that anyone doesn't know that KSA is completely crazy over things like this and last time I checked, there were signs up in most of the restaurants explaining the crazy law.

The gender apartheid in KSA is utterly unacceptable, but you have to question what on earth teh woman was thinking of.

On the same story, the above link is to the Times. This one is Arab News. I find the different reporting styles interesting.

01 February, 2008

Sport: A unifying factor?

I've usually taken the attitude that sport can unify people from different backgrounds, but seeing as they are unified mainly in hating a different, equally arbitrary, group, I wonder if there is actually any benefit in the 'artificial' unity.

When this is applied across countries, (England v Germany) for example, it merely seems to magnify differences which already exist. More interesting, therefore, is the impact of the success of a national sports team on a nation which is internally split. In this context, the African 'Cup of Dreams' is quite interesting.