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Topic Brief: Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Part II)

by Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson competed in college for Western Kentucky University (WKU) in extemp, debate, impromptu and other events during the early 1990’s.  Mr. Thompson was WKU’s first national  finalist and first champion in limited prep at a national tournament.  Thompson started coaching high school extemp in 1993 and has coached extempers to four state championships and numerous state finals.  In the last decade he has had extempers in numerous national elimination rounds and had a student finish in the top six at the MBA Round Robin.  In his daily life he is a case manager at a teen shelter for homeless/runaway/abused youth in Louisville Kentucky.  DMC and MI are topics that he deals with daily and is passionate about.  Questions about this brief can be sent to mobilemrbill@gmail.com or feel free to approach him at a tournament to discuss these or other extemp issues. 

Part I of this topic brief can be found here.
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Topic Brief: Disproportionate Minority Confinement (Part I)

by Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson competed in college for Western Kentucky University (WKU) in extemp, debate, impromptu and other events during the early 1990’s.  Mr. Thompson was WKU’s first national  finalist and first champion in limited prep at a national tournament.  Thompson started coaching high school extemp in 1993 and has coached extempers to four state championships and numerous state finals.  In the last decade he has had extempers in numerous national elimination rounds and had a student finish in the top six at the MBA Round Robin.  In his daily life he is a case manager at a teen shelter for homeless/runaway/abused youth in Louisville Kentucky.  DMC and MI are topics that he deals with daily and is passionate about.  Questions about this brief can be sent to mobilemrbill@gmail.com or feel free to approach him at a tournament to discuss these or other extemp issues. 
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Topic Brief: 2013 Judicial Issues

by Logan Scisco

Judicial issues is a topic area that United States extempers face, usually at NFL Districts and the NFL National Tournament, although it is also a topic that can find itself used at local and state tournaments as well.  The judicial branch is one of the three branches of the U.S. national government and plays a vital role in defining the U.S. Constitution and weighing in on heated political, social, and economic issues.  This topic brief will break down some of the major issues that extempers might have to discuss on the judicial issues topic area and things they want to keep in mind when answering these questions.
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Top Five GOP Presidential Contenders to Watch

Once the midterm elections end, the next big political campaign will be the 2012 presidential election.  While President Obama will likely be nominated by the Democrats for a second term, the Republican opposition has no clear frontrunner.  Based on the midterm election cycle, the GOP presidential primary might be one of the most thrilling and competitive in years and might see a bloody civil war between social and fiscal conservatives.  Such a battle has the potential to either strengthen the party and the candidates involved or devastate the GOP’s 2012 chances.

This brief list will discuss some of the top contenders for the 2012 nomination, with some facts that extempers should consider when weighing in on 2012 topics.  Polling agencies like Gallup, the Pew Research Center, and Rasmussen provide regular polls on the 2012 field and extempers would be wise to cut them.  One useful Gallup poll that was released today can be found here.  I would highly recommend that extempers cut it and place it in their files.
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Topic Brief: French Pension Reform

by Logan Scisco

In the United States, the Democratic Party is attempting to paint the Republican Party as mean spirited and warning voters that if the Republicans take control of Congress this November they will privatize Social Security. This tactic is meant to rally elderly voters, who vote more than any other group, to the polls on Election Day. Social Security is referred to as the third rail in American politics because it is such a deadly issue for politicians to confront. However, all experts agree that without changes in its structure, Social Security and America’s dreams of a government pension in old age are likely to go the way of the dodo.

Like the United States, government pensions were seen by European nations and their citizenry as sacred trusts whereby the government would provide for elderly citizens in their old age. Politicians who dared question the sustainability and cost of these pension programs were seen as anti-elderly and insensitive. However, rising budget deficits and crushing national debt burdens have finally forced European nations to deal with their aging populations. Some, like Great Britain, are confronting the problem voluntarily while others like Greece have been forced to reform their generous pension systems.
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Topic Brief: Healthcare Debate Update, Part 2

Yesterday, we began our discussion of the current Healthcare Debate in the first part of our topic brief.  As we wrap up your week of preparation for The Glenbrooks, we dive in further to help you better understand some additional complexities concerning the debate.

by Logan Scisco

Abortion Debate

While the Republican Party fought a small civil war over the 23rd New York House district a couple of weeks ago, Democrats are gearing up for their own civil war over the abortion issue.  One of the misconceptions made in the healthcare debate is that the Republican Party is pro-life and the Democratic Party is pro-choice.  While it is true that it is hard to imagine the Republican Party rallying behind a pro-choice candidate (just ask Rudy Giuliani) or the Democratic Party rallying behind a pro-life candidate, both parties have a mixture of ideas about the abortion issue in their camps.

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Topic Brief: Healthcare Debate Update, Part 1

By Logan Scisco

Since the summer, the Obama administration has attempted to push healthcare reform through Congress.  With 46 million Americans uninsured, the administration and its Democratic colleagues have emphasized the urgency of passing healthcare reform that would provide insurance to these individuals who do not possess insurance because of choice, their economic condition, or because a pre-existing medical condition excludes them from obtaining quality health insurance.  The current economic situation in the country, where the official unemployment rate is the highest in 26 years at 10.2% (some have the actual number of unemployed at 17%), would seem to help the administration pass this reform.  Another added advantage of the administration going into the healthcare debate is that the Democrats control both houses of Congress and have a crucial filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

However, Obama’s initial push to pass healthcare reform by the end of the summer bit the dust and when representatives went back to their constituents they faced hostile town meetings.  While the media debated the merits of these meetings, they showed how divisive healthcare reform can be as violence was reported at some of the town halls and one man even had a finger bit off.  Furthermore, although the House of Representatives succeeded shortly after the 2009 elections in passing a healthcare bill, the Senate is facing a series of complications in ensuring healthcare reform can clear its chamber.

This topic brief will provide an updated focus on the healthcare debate.  It will examine the future of the public option, the new controversy involving abortion in the healthcare legislation, and the chances of the Democrats getting a healthcare bill through the Senate.

As a side note, I cannot recommend enough that extempers read as much as possible about the healthcare debate, looking at medical journals such as the American Journal of Medicine and other publications to get a sense of the problems that effect American healthcare.  It would also be wise for extempers to read about other “national” healthcare systems that exist in Canada, Great Britain, and France because comparisons in speeches are never a bad idea.

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Topic Brief: New Jersey Governor’s Race

New Jersey governor's race candidates, from left, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, independent Chris Daggett, and Republican Christopher Christie. / New Jersey Star-Ledger Photo Composite (nj.com)

by Logan Scisco

Although most of the country’s political attention is focused on potential Republican challengers to President Obama in 2012 or how the economy will impact the Democratic Party’s chances in midterm elections next November, there are two races extempers need to focus on next week:  the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.  Elections in “off years” often are the red haired step child of political campaigns, never quite attracting the attention they deserve.  This year marks a stark contrast as the frustrations of the first year of the Obama administration and the national economic climate, not to mention the poor fortunes of the Republican Party as of late, make these two races a critical barometer for 2010.

When he assumed the chairmanship of the Republican Party in 2009, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele said that he was focused on winning the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s races.  At the time, sweeping both races looked to be an impossible task because of Democratic gains in Virginia, which now has two Democratic senators and has an outgoing Democratic governor, and because New Jersey has typically been reliably Democrat for in-state politics over the last decade.  However, with healthcare reform bogged down in Congress and President Obama’s standing looking increasingly vulnerable, there is a real possibility of a GOP sweep next week in these two races.  Virginia’s outcome looks certain with Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds trailing former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell by double digits in some of the latest polls.  New Jersey’s race, though, has seen incumbent Democratic Governor and former U.S. Senator Jon Corzine close the gap with his Republican challenger Chris Christie over the last several weeks to the point that the race is now too close to call.

With the Virginia election reaching a near certain outcome, this brief will zero in on the New Jersey gubernatorial race and discuss the major issues in the race, the candidates involved and their platforms, the major issues in the race, and finally what a Democratic or Republican victory may mean for 2010 and beyond.

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Topic Brief: Kerry-Lugar Bill

By Logan Scisco

Since September 11, 2001, the Pakistani government has been a friend to the United States.  Although Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) organization helped to establish the Taliban and was friendly to the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the Pakistani government under Pervez Musharraf made an about face after that date.  Musharraf’s cooperation helped to secure billions of dollars in military and civilian aid for his country and also helped to silence Bush administration officials who might have otherwise been angry at the Musharraf regime’s handling of human rights issues (not to mention a lack of true democracy being practiced in the country).

In August 2008, Musharraf stepped down as President of Pakistan and was replaced by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.  Under his leadership, the Pakistani government has gradually adopted a harder line on Islamic militants inside of the country (after first trying to accommodate them) and Pakistan’s resolve has been in contrast to the current U.S. position in Afghanistan that looks indecisive and shaky.

However, U.S. officials have always been wary of Pakistan.  The army acts as an independent force from the government and has been known to meddle in political affairs.  The army has participated in three coups against the Pakistani state.  With this backdrop, U.S. officials have wanted to tighten conditions for aid that is sent to Pakistan and this is where the Kerry-Lugar bill, passed last month by Congress, comes into play.  This brief will describe some motivations of the Kerry-Lugar bill, the Pakistani people’s reaction to it, and how it could damage US-Pakistani relations.

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Topic Brief: Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize

Before we jump into this week’s topic brief, check out the official video from NobelPrize.org’s YouTube channel on their rationale for the selection of Barack Obama as a 2009 Nobel Laureate.

By Logan Scisco

When people first heard the news about Barack Obama being awarded the Noble Peace Prize they probably thought it was some kind of joke.  I can admit to having this reaction.  The reason is not that Obama is a failed president or I have some type of anti-Obama bias.  It is simply because the Nobel prize traditionally has awarded individuals based on their actions, citing concrete achievements and progress as opposed to hopes for what might happen in the future.  With President Obama having been in office for only nine months and without any significant changes

The Nobel Peace Prize is an award that comes from the estate of Alfred Nobel, the creator of dynamite.  Nobel created five awards, given for peace, chemistry, literature, physical science, and medicine.  The peace prize and these other awards are determined by a Norwegian committee.  The criteria given for the peace prize, which carries with it a $1 million reward is the following:  that a person should “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Obama’s victory in the prize came as a shock to many and has prompted a debate over the merits of the prize and sparked a small political controversy in the United States.  The controversy might be the only thing that unites conservatives with Hamas and Hugo Chavez.  This brief will examine the justification behind Obama receiving the award, the reaction of the globe and fellow politicians in the U.S., and how this prize could play a part in Obama’s future agenda.

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