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The debate debate

RT -

Not surprisingly, almost all who argue that it has (college administrators, professors, and populist politicians) are deeply invested either ideologically or financially in the system itself. More objective observers see a bureaucratic, inefficient, and hopelessly out of touch ivory tower that is bleeding the country of its savings, and more tragically, its intellectual acuity.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the demise of collegiate debate. This once courtly rhetorical sparring ground for class presidents and lawyers-in-training is supposed to be forum for ideas, proofs, and conclusions. And while traditional debates did not typically offer high drama, they did teach students how to produce objectively superior arguments, a skill that many types of potential employers would value. But more recently, debate has succumbed to the worst aspects of moral relativism, academic sloth and politically correct dogma that have transformed it into an unintelligible mix of performance art and petty politics. It's not a debate, but we pretend it is.

The 2014 National Championship of the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA), one of collegiate debate's governing bodies, made headlines as the first to include two all-African-American finalist teams. The winning team, from Towson University in Maryland, was the first ever comprised solely of African-American women. The results were heralded as a triumph for minority achievement in a field traditionally dominated by white "elites." But this success has come at a great cost: A dramatic change in the rules of the game. The championships, as well as dozens of the CEDA sanctioned debates and championships, are easily found on YouTube. I challenge anyone to watch any of those "debates" and describe the ideas and arguments that participants are supposedly addressing.

At this year's championship, the actual debate question concerned the wisdom of restricting the war powers of the U.S. president. But instead of addressing one of the most important U.S. foreign policy questions of the past half century, the two teams focused exclusively on how the U.S. was supposedly "at war" with poor black people. Although these arguments were clearly off-subject, it seems that the topic did not matter. The "debate" came off as a mix of rap, personal invective, speed talking, soapbox harangue, and explicative filled rants. When one contestant's time expired, he "brilliantly" yelled "F-ck the time!" As was the case in 2013, when another African American team took the championship, the arguments of the winners completely ignored the stated resolution, and instead used personal experience to challenge the "injustice" of the very notion of debate itself. But subjective arguments have been traditionally dismissed as poor rhetoric. "I won the lottery" is not a good argument in favor of the lottery system.

But in recent years, logic and objective analysis have come to be considered "white" concepts. In an Atlantic Monthly article (Apr. 16), Osagie Obasogie, a liberal law professor from University of California, is quoted as saying "Various procedures - regardless of whether we're talking about debate formats or law- have the ability to hide the subjective experiences that shape these seemingly 'objective' and 'rational' rules. ...This is the power of racial subordination: making the viewpoint of the dominant group seem like the only true reality." In other words debates, like much in society, was devised by white people to favor white people. This idea, which is the essence of affirmative action, may make professors and students feel good about themselves, but it simply means that minorities have license to underachieve.

Creating an alternate set of rules for people of different backgrounds creates huge problems. What would have happened to Venus and Serena Williams had tennis officials drew up a special set of rules for them to compensate for their background? While they may have won more tournaments, they would not have been pushed to achieve their true potential and their victories would have been empty achievements. While it's true that they faced more obstacles than privileged players from the suburbs, changing the rules to allow for their subjective experiences would have prevented their ultimate success.

That is exactly what is happening today, not just in debate tournaments, but across universities in general. Excuses are being made and rules are being bent in order to account for our personal differences, race, gender and sexual orientation in particular. This trend is producing a generation of marginally skilled, professionally unprepared graduates. The poor quality of our higher education means that we can't compete with other nations who insist on educating their young people through "objective" and "oppressive" systems. This can also be said of our economy. Dumbed down and subjective criteria allow us to pretend that our economy is growing even as living standards are falling, the labor force is shrinking, savings are evaporating, and opportunity is more and more elusive. Rather than admit the obvious, that we have a remedial economy, we have consistently redefined success downward with revisions to tools we use to measure our economy like GDP, inflation and unemployment. See a deeper analysis of this trend in may latest special report, Taxed By Debt.

Like with our deteriorating educational system, our economy no longer measures up to previous standards of performance. In education, you can see the difference through comparison to a century old Jr. High School test that I believe would stymie most of today's college graduates. Our economic deterioration can be seen in our high trade deficits, big budget deficits, high public and private debt levels and the explosion in the number of people who rely on government assistance be it in the form of welfare, food stamps, or disability.

However, according to many economists, none of this is cause for concern as it is simply the way things work in our new "consumer-based," "service-sector," economy. Instead of growth through savings, capital investment, and production, we now rely on money printing, asset bubbles, leverage, and consumer credit. Inflation, which was once acknowledged as being bad, is now considered good. Persistent trade deficits, once a sign of economic distress, are now considered signs of strong domestic demand. Instead of dealing painfully with intractable problems, we have redefined our liabilities as assets and declared victory.

In the end, will awarding debate championships to undisciplined, barely comprehensible minority students really help these individuals succeed in life? No law firm or corporation will look to hire debate winners as the competitions have now lost all relevance. Similarly, dumbing down standards to whitewash our poor economy performance will only worsen our problems. Fortunately the Supreme Court last week, with its decision to support Michigan's campaign to end race-based selection practices at state universities, took a tiny step in dismantling this lunacy. But we must be on the lookout for much lower profile aspects of the same confrontation. The front lines are everywhere.

Peter Schiff

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show.

Mini Gaming PCs — Promising, But Not Ready

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes "Ars has reviewed an AMD-powered mini gaming rig made by Gigabyte. The box itself is small and solid, and it runs a pretty beefy video card for its size. The manufacturer even claims Linux support, though the device ships with Windows 8.1. Unfortunately, reality lags a bit behind their plans — Ubuntu boots OK, but driver support is a mess. SteamOS won't run at all. The box is also limited by a mediocre CPU, which is itself limited by heat and power constraints. The review says the machine was 'intriguing and frustrating in equal measure' because 'its ambition is rarely matched by its execution.' It concludes: 'With some time and some different components, a little desktop that can deliver a great gaming experience will surely follow.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Congo president: Africa needs Russia

RT -

“We plan to develop co-operation in all areas: hydrocarbons, agriculture, minerals, logging and education and training,” he said to RIA Novosti.

Sassou Nguesso, who first became the leader of his country in 1979, was originally a committed Marxist, and relied on the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

He still thanks the USSR “for fighting for the freedom of the people of Africa,” and speaks warmly of the thousands of Congolese who studied and married in the Soviet Union. However, he realizes that the relationship had to be rebuilt anew, following wide-scale political and economic transformations in both countries.

Sassou Nguesso believes the foundation was laid during an official meeting with Vladimir Putin in November 2012.

“These extraordinarily important talks allowed us to re-launch our partnership,” he said. “A new stage has started and in the coming month an inter-governmental Russia-Congo commission will meet. As a result of these sessions we hope to establish new concrete aims and projects.”

The veteran politician, who won his fifth presidential term in 2009 and will be in office until at least 2016, is encouraged at the idea of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) providing an alternative source of support for the continent’s growth, apart from the IMF and the World Bank.

The five countries recently announced plans to start a development bank that will offer funding for African states.

Sassou Nguesso, who served two separate terms as the chair of the African Union, two decades apart, speaks warily of “colonialists” and believes that only through closer integration with each other will African powers be able to project a voice onto the world stage.

“All countries are trying to join large blocs, and Africa, which was divided by outside forces, cannot ignore this process.”

But for the moment, his focus remains on bringing prosperity to his own country, with a population of 4 million. It endured a devastating civil war in the late 1990s, and is nestled next to the troubled Central African Republic.

“Our country holds all the cards we need to modernize. Now, me and my countrymen must make sacrifices and make an effort to realize that potential,” said Sassou Nguesso.

Trans-Atlantic global leadership at stake in Ukraine – Kerry

RT -

John Kerry delivered the confrontational call in a speech to the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, DC. He said the stand-off in Ukraine presents a “uniquely personally-driven set of choices” and is “a wake-up call” for NATO. He added that now the military bloc must turn the page on two decades of focusing on expeditionary operations and take a stand against “Putin’s Russia.”

“After two decades of focusing primarily on our expeditionary missions, the crisis in Ukraine now call us back to the work that this alliance was originally created to perform,” Kerry told the audience.

NATO’s original purpose was to oppose the Communist Soviet Union, giving the West the military backbone to the ideologically-driven stand-off with the East. Kerry described it as “to defend alliance territory and advance trans-Atlantic security.”

“Today, Putin’s Russia is playing by a different set of rules,” the secretary stated. “Through its occupation of Crimea and its subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe.”

“Together we have to push back against those who try to change sovereign border by force. Together we have to support those who simply want to live as we do,” he added.

Kerry didn’t mention NATO’s own operations against Yugoslavia, which helped change sovereign borders in Europe. But he said NATO must not allow the situation continue to develop as it is, because Russia is challenging the position NATO members held since the end of the Cold War.

“Our entire model of global leadership is at stake. If we stand together, if we draw strength from the example of the past and refuse to be complacent in the present, then I am confident that NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance, can meet the challenges, can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis,” he stressed.

Kerry suggested three points on how trans-Atlantic partners can preserve their leadership and contain Russia. He said all NATO members must comply with alliance’s benchmark of 2 percent GDP defense spending, which is not observed by many European members of the alliance, including European economic powerhouse Germany.

“Clearly, not all allies are going to meet the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of GDP overnight or even next year,” Kerry said. “But it’s time for allies, who are below that level to make credible commitments to increase their spending on defense over the next five years.”

NATO members must also help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy and develop economic ties with America by speeding down the pipeline the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, Kerry said.

The agreement would certainly give more access to European markets to some US corporations, as it would require freeing up European regulations on things like fracking, GMOs, copyright and finance.

Kerry’s policy remarks are in line with those made recently by some other members of the US political establishment. For example Senator John McCain, one of the most vocal critics of Russia, went on the same lines of presenting Russia’s stance on Ukraine a personal choice by President Vladimir Putin and calling for more defense spending in Europe in his speech at Vilnius University, Lithuania, on Wednesday last week.

“Considering what President Putin is doing right now in Ukraine, it is more important than ever for every NATO ally to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense,” McCain said. “I'm pleased that Lithuania has pledged and is planning to do this, and the sooner you follow through on that commitment the better.”

The US and Russia have been trading accusations of meddling with Ukrainian crisis lately. Washington says Moscow is sowing dissent in eastern Ukraine, fanning up anti-government protests there. Russia says the US sponsored the February coup in Kiev, which brought into power the current Ukrainian central authorities and has been playing a dominant role in defining the policies of the new government.

CryptoCon – Sydney & Singapore Bitcoin Expo – July

Bitcoin Magazine -

Austral-Asia Bitcoin Expo

The Asia-Pacific is about to be served up a slice of crypto heaven.

Enthusiasts in Europe and the Americas can take their pick of exciting events. For those on the other side of the world, well, it’s slim pickings. This July CryptoCon aims to bridge the gap.

Broadly the event will focus on Cryptocurrency as ‘The Internet of Money’. This means developments on higher-level blockchain technologies will also be showcased.

The dialogue in the space is moving rapidly, so the event will give fair weight to both Bitcoin and the next chapter of blockchain technologies.

The events will be held:

  • Sydney: July 24th – 25th at the Park Royal Hotel, Darling Harbour.
  • Singapore: July 28th – 29th at the Rendezvous Hotel.

The Speakers:

CryptoCon, in association with Bitcoin Australia, will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, developers and enthusiasts from both sides of the equator. Some of the speakers include:

Many more have confirmed. Full speakers lists are here.

Events Format:

With Bitcoin ATM’s opening up across the region, Bitcoin IPO’s on the Australian Stock Exchange and a flurry of startup activity regionally, Bitcoin is on a direct path to the mainstream.

This event will look at the opportunities stemming from Bitcoin and its core innovation, the blockchain.

This technology opens up a world of possibilities and a wealth of opportunity. It represents the birth of a new Internet.

The present activity is SE Asia and Australia is dynamic. CryptoCon will showcase the most inspiring parts of this regional space.

The post CryptoCon – Sydney & Singapore Bitcoin Expo – July appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.


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