The Nov/Dec, 2016 Lincoln-Douglas Debate topic is controversial: “Resolved: The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.”
Lincoln-Douglas debaters should read widely on the police/citizen clashes over the last year, and consider values including, of course, justice and safety.
Police working in high-crime neighborhoods are under pressure and deal with many difficult situations. But life can be difficult and tense too for the people who live day-to-day in high-crime neighborhoods.
But just as most property crime and violence in high-crime neighborhoods is caused by a small minority of young men, most incidents of police misbehavior is caused by a small minority. (Link to 2015 Brooking Institution post.)
Shikha Dalmia in “How police unions actually hurt police officers,” (The Week, July 18, 2016) argues these “bad apples” are protected by union procedures designed for other purposes. Part of the challenge, Dalmia writes is lack of reported data on police/citizen incidents:
The Crime Control Act of 1994 asked the FBI to annually compile and publish data about the use of police force in all instances so that the country could keep track of trends of police violence, identify problematic precincts, or catch enforcement bias. But union representatives of law enforcement agencies successfully lobbied the feds to make reporting optional. So most departments now simply plead poverty and refuse to comply.
This is a huge problem. In the absence of good data, it is impossible to say definitively if racism is driving police abuse in black communities. And because it is impossible to identify the size and scope of this problem, it is impossible to craft and enact a solution to it — a solution, mind you, that would not only better serve and protect minority communities, but also keep police safer, too.
This is but one example of police unions going to eye-popping lengths to protect rogue cops at the expense of citizens (and the many decent cops who are tainted as well). Consider the binding arbitration that has become a standard feature of virtually all police contracts, which are often negotiated in secrecy. Binding arbitration allows cops to appeal any disciplinary action taken by their superiors to outside arbitrators such as retired judges. In theory, these folks are supposed to be neutral third parties. In reality, they are usually in the pockets of unions and dismiss or roll back a striking two-thirds of all actions, even against cops with a history of abuse and excessive violence. The upshot is that police chiefs are powerless to clean house, even as community complaints pile up. This is exactly what was happening in Baltimore when Freddie Gray died during his ride to the police station last year.
Students are encouraged to read the article for more on Dalmia’s argument on the role police unions play in protecting the minority of police involved in violent or aggressive incidents with the public that appear unjustified after review.
For more, see Conor Friedersdorf, “How Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep Abusive Cops on the Street,” in The Atlantic (December 2, 2014)
Police institutional procedures like binding arbitration clauses and procedures in union contracts should allow fair evaluation of complaints about violent incidents between police officers and the public.
And more directly on the LD topic, Evan Bernick, Assistant Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice, has this May 6, 2015 article in The Freeman, “To Hold Police Accountable, Don’t Give Them Immunity,” drawn from his April, 2015 remarks to the US Commission on Civil Rights.
Critics of these reform proposal and the focus on police misconduct point to dramatically increasing violence in many inner-cities, and police pull back. (Murder Rates Rising Sharply in Many U.S. Cities (New York Times, August 31, 2015.) Murders have increased through 2016 in Chicago and other cities.
Economist Thomas Sowell draws from The War on Cops for his National Review article: “The Race War No One Can Win” (National Review, July 13, 2016)
Reason magazine’s critical review of the book: “There Is No War on Cops: A new book from a prominent right-wing commentator fails to make the case.”
And New York Times review article of “The Problem With Modern Policing, as Seen From the Right and From the Left” (June 27, 2016).
Chinese firms marketing goods and services in the United States focus on customers and the cities they live in, rather than Congress, the President, or the Department of Commerce.
Both Americans and foreign businesses benefit from known and predictable legal institutions protecting property rights and contracts. Both the Chinese and U.S. central governments disrupt and distort trade relations between U.S. and Chinese firms and consumers.
U.S. firms investing in and marketing goods and services in China work with provincial and cities leaders and with local businesses. If local government officials have a reputation for corruption or incompetence, international businesses invest instead in other regions with better governance.
Similarly, economic growth is strongest in those U.S. cities and states with less corrupt and heavy-handed government.
Though many politicians and pundits blame China for America’s slow recovery since the 2008-2009 “Great Recession,” Texas and other states with lower taxes and lighter regulation have flourished. It is the high-tax states where the recovery has been unusually slow.
Texas, Florida, and other states across the south have seen steady economic growth, seemingly unhampered by imports from China. (This April 29, 2015 Brookings Institution article and paper looks at recent research on the influence of tax policy and state-level economic growth.)
In “The Texas Miracle Isn’t All About Oil” (The Federalist, June 9, 2016), Vance Ginn writes:
Since the last national recession started in December 2007, Texas has created 36 percent of all civilian jobs added nationwide in a state with less than 10 percent of the country’s population.
Just as Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio lead the robust Texas economy (see “Fastest growing U.S. cities: Texas is king“), so in China it is dynamic major cities, not the central government, that are engaging the world economy.
In “China’s Key Cities: From Local Places to Global Players” (December 1, 2015), Xiangming Chen notes Shanghai (population estimate: 24 million!) is “the country’s financial and trade centre, largest port… and gateway to China’s huge domestic market.” Xiangming continues:
Besides Shanghai, a variety of other cities have become more important for China, and the world economy, for that matter. A number of these cities are well known for their significant historic and contemporary economic and cultural roles such as Guangzhou and Xi’an. Other cities have risen from unknown origins to prominent economic centres like Shenzhen.
In “Globalization Goes National,” (BloombergView, September 15, 2016) economist Tyler Cowen writes:
The Chinese economy has had a tendency to cluster around megacities, such as the Beijing-Tianjen-Hebei, Shanghai-Nanjing, or Guangzhou/Shenzhen/Hong Kong clusters. In the past, a Chinese port might have had better trade connections to Korea or California than to many parts of the Chinese interior. But these days the story in China is the rise and extension of national brands. The internet is bringing the whole country’s economy together through Alibaba, WeChat, and other services that ease the online purchase, shipping, and advertising of goods at the national level.
Cowen argues that as Chinese brands improve, Chinese consumers purchase more locally and this may register as a decrease in globalization:
The more economically integrated China becomes, the more it may retreat from some kinds of global trade. If a Chinese customer can buy a smartphone or pharmaceutical from the domestic market, she may stop looking for foreign imports. That will register statistically as a decline in globalization, but actually it is an increase in efficient economic integration. Some parts of the Chinese economy were prematurely hyper-globalized at the same time domestic economic integration lagged, and now that state of affairs is being remedied.
As people in China continue to prosper, demand for name-brand U.S. goods and services will also continue to grow. Americans might not think of McDonald’s or Pizza Hut as high-end dining, for hundreds of millions of Chinese just joining middle income levels, these American restaurants will long be popular.
By 2022, our research suggests, more than 75 percent of China’s urban consumers will earn 60,000 to 229,000 renminbi ($9,000 to $34,000) a year.
In purchasing-power-parity terms, that range is between the average income of Brazil and Italy. Just 4 percent of urban Chinese households were within it in 2000—but 68 percent were in 2012.
China’s middle class is already bigger than the U.S. middle class (“China has a bigger middle class than America,” (CNN Money, October 14, 2015)
Still, China has a long way to go, and is still both a developed and developing economy. “Here’s What China’s Middle Classes Really Earn — and Spend,” (Bloomberg, March 9, 2016), reports:
China’s average annual wage was 56,360 yuan ($8,655) in 2014, and Goldman Sachs estimates that 387 million rural workers — half the working population — earn about $2,000 a year.
The average Chinese consumer spends $7 a day, according to Goldman Sachs. Food and clothing make up nearly half of all personal spending, with 9.2 percent allocated to recreational activities like travel, dining out, sports and video games. The average American spends $97 a day, 17.3 percent of it on recreation.
Though U.S. politicians often blame Chinese firms for U.S. job losses and income stagnation, and paint China as an opponent of the U.S., Chinese consumers with fast-growing disposable income mean surging sales of international goods and services.
New trade barriers on Chinese goods would not only disrupt global supply chains key to U.S. manufacturing, but would also disrupt demand of U.S. goods and services in China.
The NSDA September/October Lincoln-Douglas Debate is: “Resolved: Countries ought to prohibit the production of nuclear power.”
Nuclear power concerns include:
The pronunciation problem… see this short Ask the Editor video for guidance.
Safety concerns from Hollywood’s Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas in The China Syndrome (1979). The movie premiered just twelve days before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
Safety concerns from three real world nuclear power accidents:
Total deaths from these and other nuclear accidents are hard to measure. Online sources say 56 direct deaths from Chernobyl accident and “no confirmed casualties” from Fukushima, nor direct deaths from Three Mile Island. The debate over increased mortality from radiation exposure caused by these accidents is complex. Radiation exposure risk, like poisons, is a matter of dosage. Exposure to small amounts of radiation doesn’t seem to be harmful.
Jon Basil Utley, in his July 6, 2014 article, “Raising the EPA Radiation Limit Will Save Thousands of Lives and Billions of Dollars,” reports:
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has recently insisted that the EPA establish realistic limits in accordance with the latest science. …
… After the catastrophic meltdown at the Japanese nuclear power plant in 2011, some 130,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes in accordance with strict radiation standards. This resulted in the unnecessary and unfortunate deaths of some 1600 elderly and ill persons. Yet no residents died—or even became ill—from the radiation. Even so, Japan closed down 48 nuclear plants and Germany announced it would close all of its plants. The cost to their citizenry in higher electricity prices—and higher carbon emissions—is staggering.
All energy production is dangerous, as is walking, swimming, driving, rock climbing, and jumping out of airplanes even with a parachute.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lists fatalities per year in the coal mining industry. From 1960 to 1982 fatalities fell gradually from 325 per year to 122 per year. Annual fatalities continued to fall most years, dropping below 50 in 1993, then to 20 and below since 2011.
Oil and gas workers also face risks, with 142 deaths in 2014. Fatal oil and gas injuries listed in this 2015 article (Oil And Gas Worker Deaths Rise In 2014) were at 98 or higher almost every year since 2004.
Critics of nuclear power can counter that risks from a potential nuclear accident are far higher than alternative energy sources, and can argue that we’ve been lucky to avoid bigger nuclear disasters so far.
Related concerns are the complexity and age of U.S. and other nuclear power installations: The average age of U.S. commercial reactors is about 35 years. Most people understand that driving a 35-year-old car is risky because key component are worn out or wearing out. And both cars and nuclear plants designed and built decades ago lack today’s safer designs and features.
Additional nuclear power concerns include political, engineering, and economic problems with transporting and storing nuclear waste. However coal production also involves storing waste. This 2009 Economist article discusses problems with coal ash waste from coal-powered energy production:
A worrying loophole in America’s rules was revealed in December of last year when a collapsed dyke sent a billion gallons of toxic sludge pouring into 300 acres of rural Tennessee. The sludge, a mixture of water and ash from a coal-fired power plant, contained significant amounts of poisonous heavy metals. Officials say the local drinking water is still safe, although the spill has killed fish in nearby rivers. The utility concerned, the Tennessee Valley Authority, says it is spending $1m a day on the clean-up.
That coal-ash pond in Tennessee is just one of about 1,300 similar repositories across America. The EPA believes that lax disposal of coal ash has led to the contamination of groundwater in 24 states. But under pressure from utilities it had previously dropped plans to classify coal ash as hazardous waste.
So all energy production (including installation and operation of onshore and offshore wind mills plus molten salt and rooftop solar power) involves costs and risks. Lincoln-Douglas debaters calling for prohibiting nuclear power are calling for increasing energy production from fossil and renewable fuel sources.
Interestingly too, this 2007 Scientific American article claims Coal Ash Is More Radioactive Than Nuclear Waste
… the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.
Though the notes above and sources quoted are critical of coal as an energy source, modern coal-power plants pollute far less than in the past. A recent Wall Street Journal article reports General Electric is investing billions in new cleaner coal power production (GE Wants to Bring More Life to Coal, August 17, 2016).
Wired magazine’s March 25, 2014 cover story, Renewables Aren’t Enough. Clean Coal Is the Future makes the case for technology innovations to supply inexpensive yet clean power from coal. Charles Mann argues that coal is as key an energy source today as in the 19th Century:
Because most Americans rarely see coal, they tend to picture it as a relic of the 19th century, black stuff piled up in Victorian alleys. In fact, a lump of coal is a thoroughly ubiquitous 21st-century artifact, as much an emblem of our time as the iPhone. Today coal produces more than 40 percent of the world’s electricity, a foundation of modern life. And that percentage is going up: In the past decade, coal added more to the global energy supply than any other source.
And Mann notes that coal is key to China’s ongoing industrialization:
Nowhere is the preeminence of coal more apparent than in the planet’s fastest-growing, most populous region: Asia, especially China. In the past few decades, China has lifted several hundred million people out of destitution—arguably history’s biggest, fastest rise in human well-being. That advance couldn’t have happened without industrialization, and that industrialization couldn’t have happened without coal. More than three-quarters of China’s electricity comes from coal, including the power for the giant electronic plants where iPhones are assembled.
We should look also to the billions in the developing world working for a more prosperous future. The mortality rates attributed to coal and other fossil fuel exploration, mining, drilling, transporting, and processing are tiny compared to the mortality rates attributed to not having access to electricity. The World Health Organization (WHO), February, 2016, reports:
Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.
Nuclear power and fossil fuel power production do involve risks: radiation exposure and particulate matter pollution, plus risks from waste storage. But these risks are much lower than the risks to children face living in homes without electricity and relying for cooking and heat on wood, dung, and coal stoves.
Bjorn Lomborg, in Why Africa Needs Fossil Fuels (January 22, 2016), notes:
More than 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity at all. … All this is not because Africa is green, but because it is poor. Some 2% of the continent’s energy needs are met by hydro-electricity, and 78% by humanity’s oldest “renewable” fuel: wood. This leads to heavy deforestation and lethal indoor air pollution, which kills 1.3 million people each year.
Apart from the deaths caused by lack of access to electricity is the burden lower-income women across the world bear without enough electricity for washing machines. Swedish statistician Hans Rosling explains in his famous TED video: The magic washing machine (now viewed over 2 million times).
Many advocates for nuclear power were mainly concerned about U.S. dependence on oil imports from the Middle East, Venezuela, Nigeria, and other unstable regions and countries. However, the astonishing production increases in recent years from Canadian oil sands and U.S. shale oil and gas fields have made US and Canada major oil exporters.
Here is the U.S. Energy Information Agency August, 2016 Drilling Productivity Report For key tight oil and shale gas regions (pdf)
So where can affirmative debaters look for values supporting ending nuclear power production? One possibility: the U.S. has strongly opposed Iran’s efforts to it develop and generate nuclear power. The concern follows the dual use of technologies that enable refining high-grade uranium fuel supplies. These technologies and knowhow can also provide uranium for nuclear weapons. That seems are reasonable concern, and probably the strongest among the various issues with nuclear power production and waste storage.
Also, a search of the NCPA website for “nuclear power” returns various studies and Debate Central evidence files.
To prepare for the upcoming CX debate topic, Debate Central has compiled a list of topic overviews that address certain aspects of the resolution. The tenth topic overview explains China’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Prepare yourself before the season starts by reading our topic overviews which contain historical analysis, arguments, and handy evidence to help you write cases and briefs!
CX Topic for the 2016-2017 year: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.
To prepare for the upcoming CX debate topic, Debate Central has compiled a list of topic overviews that address certain aspects of the resolution. The ninth topic overview explains China’s relationship with Iran. Prepare yourself before the season starts by reading our topic overviews which contain historical analysis, arguments, and handy evidence to help you write cases and briefs!
CX Topic for the 2016-2017 year: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.