Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Well, after much contesting back and forth, it does appear that my university will be represented at the upcoming ADMU IVs (see link on left). It's one hell of a hassle, though, trying to secure tix and all but the chance to spar against M'sian and Filipino teams proved irresistible. Until we get our asses kicked.

Just a note to all those in the ASEAN - get your bloody free trade agreements sorted out fast. For a start, get some bloody open skies agreement - it costs $700 to fly to Manila. WTF?!?!?!?! The flight's less than 4 hours! #@%#%@%@%#@ (Hokkien swearing available upon request).

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Celebrity Debaters Feature #1

See where debating can get you in life? Haha. According to somebody, this character playing Championship Manager is a lie though. This is what they mean by you not being able to trust the media. :)

Who says we shouldn't talk about sex

By Wong Kim Hoh

HOMOSEXUALS were put in the spotlight recently when Dr Balaji Sadasivan said that Singapore might face an 'alarming Aids epidemic' if increasing HIV infection rates were not checked.

The Senior Minister of State For Health singled out homosexuals and straight men who have casual sex in other countries as two key groups that need attention.

He also criticised Action For Aids (AFA), a non-governmental organisation dedicated to fighting the disease, for not being tough enough in educating gay men about the dangers of casual sex.

The number of new infections has hit a record high, with 257 cases reported in the first 10 months of this year, compared to 242 new cases reported for all of last year.

The debate that ensued prompted National University of Singapore law student Paul Tan to write to The Straits Times.

The frequent Forum page contributor argued that the fight against Aids was failing because of 'our refusal to break down the attitude of Singaporeans that sex is a deep, dark, sinful affair better kept in the shadows of one's bedroom than embraced openly as part and parcel of everyday life'.

Mr Tan, who says he has had 20 letters published in the Forum pages, is a debater who has represented his school, university and Singapore in many regional and international competitions. He spent two terms at New York University's Law School as an exchange student. While there, he served as associate editor for the International Journal Of Constitutional Law.

His parents used to be teachers and he has a younger brother who is studying law at Cambridge University.

Asked why he is so outspoken and passionate about his views, he says: 'I love Singapore immensely and that is why I take a keen interest in what happens.'

Whether he's straight or gay, he says, should not affect the way his arguments are viewed.

'In the last eight years, I've had more than 40 articles and letters published in different newspapers and magazines. I've consistently argued for the rights of women, the elderly, racial and religious minorities, and persons accused of crimes. I've even written about soccer and obesity.

'I'm a 24-year-old Chinese male of Catholic faith who only plays Championship Manager, hasn't seen the inside of jail and weighs less than 50kg. If we seek change only because we are personally affected, then we are not a gracious society. It should concern all of us even if it's one poor, uneducated, lonely HDB dweller dying from the disease.'

Q : What's happening in the gay community that the number of HIV infections is on the rise?

A : First, let's not confuse the increase in detections with an increase in infections. The statistics probably reflect the twofold increase in the number of homosexuals being tested in the last three years. Let's think positive. It's good that people are being tested. I suspect this is due to the greater liberalisation allowed under former prime minister Goh Chok Tong. Homosexuals don't feel as persecuted, so they're more willing to identify themselves. The last thing we should do is use these statistics to justify suppression of the gay community. Then we close off any connection and trust we have with them. The problem goes underground. That's when it becomes an epidemic.

Q : Would you say that men who are promiscuous and engage in unsafe sexual practices are giving the gay community a bad name?

A : Promiscuity always carries emotional resonance with socially and religiously conservative segments in society, so homosexuals who are promiscuous make themselves an easy target. The perception that Aids is a 'gay disease' comes from society's own stereotyped perceptions because, clearly, not all homosexuals behave the same way. But I do think homosexuals owe it to themselves to be socially responsible.

Q : How do we reach out to them?

A : You can't tar everyone with the same brush. Individuals differ as to why they don't practise safe sex. Some think they won't get it; others don't know about HIV and how it is passed on. Generally though, there has to be a concerted educational effort.

Q : Do you agree with Dr Balaji's statement that Action For Aids has not done too well in educating gay people on the dangers of casual sex?

A : I spoke with my friend, an AFA volunteer. He tells me they do a lot of good work. They organise educational campaigns. They go online to IRC chatrooms to offer safe-sex advice.

They have over 100 volunteers. They also run the only clinic to offer anonymity to those who visit for HIV testing and counselling. For an NGO with no government support - and which often faces obstacles in propagating safe-sex messages to homosexuals - they do really amazing work.

Q : What is the most important hurdle that we have to cross so that we can tackle the problem?

A : The biggest hurdle is in seeing the problem for what it really is. Until we do, our proposals are going to be superficial. HIV is not just like any other infectious disease you can tackle by 'contact tracing' or immigration control. It is symptomatic of deeper structural flaws in the makeup of our society.

Q : You say diseases are symptomatic of larger socio-economic and political forces. Why?

A : Recently, Dr Balaji spoke of homosexuals and blue-collar bachelors as those forming the most 'at risk' groups. The common denominator is that these are groups marginalised by society and governmental policies.

Studies show that those most likely to take high risks sexually are those who feel they have no stake in society or who are not in an otherwise meaningful long-term relationship.

Q : The authorities have a lot of reservations about promoting condom use for fear of offending 'conservative people'. What is your take?

A : Any government would be wrong not to stress that abstinence is the best way to avoid spreading Aids. But that cannot be the only message when you know some people are not going to abstain. I ask these conservatives: Is it more offensive to talk about condoms or is it more offensive to have a young man robbed of his life because we refused to tell him about condoms?

There is a difference between talking about morality and doing things that produce morally just outcomes. Public policy should be based firmly on the latter.

Q : Do you think Singaporeans are pathetic in their knowledge of current affairs and apathetic about the world around them?

A : Obviously an overstatement, but true to some extent. I see two problems. One is that we're very suspicious of people who appear to undermine our assumptions about life - those who propose anything from casinos to safe sex.

The second problem is that I think we have a misplaced sense of nationalism that automatically rejects anything 'foreign'. I spent a year at New York University and found that a lot of the issues we face in Singapore are also issues Americans struggle with. We blind ourselves to a lot of insights when we dismiss ideas as being 'liberal' or 'Western'.

Q : You say you're often labelled a 'left winger'. You seem to suggest that you're misunderstood.

A : I think liberalism is misunderstood. Liberals are not amoral just because we believe in individual choice. We believe in family and religion as much as conservatives do. I know I do.

Labels are misleading and people spend too many words arguing about them and too little time thinking about how their policies affect people. I think the only question a policymaker should ask is this: Would you, if you were the target of that piece of legislation, accept it as fair, just and respectful of your worth as a morally responsible adult? The touchstone is equality, and not liberalism or conservatism.

Q : Would you accept if you were 'invited to tea'?

A : Public service has always appealed to me. If the opportunity presents itself, I will consider it. I think the most important criterion for me would be whether, by then, the party and its people share my fundamental concerns.

Motions from the Oxford IVs (12-13 November, 2004)

Updated 28th November.

Round 1: THW exempt from prosecution armed police in the line of fire.
(Here are some links which help to indicate the issue that appears to be driving this:

Round 2: THBT the developing world should not be held at the same environmental standards as the developed world.

Round 3: THW abolish state pensions.

Round 4: TH supports the use of truth and reconciliation commissions instead of war crimes tribunals in Iraq.

Round 5: THBT the systematic harassment of individuals is a legitimate means of protest.

Novice Final: THW criminalise smoking when pregnant.

Quarters: THW give the Palestinian Authority a vote in the UN General Assembly

Semis: THW privatise the BBC.

Final: THW ban reporting of hostage taking in Iraq.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Things not to do less than 12 hours before your exams

I'm so jobless. Here's a forum for everyone to bitch about what they want to.

Debate Ramblings

Thought of the Day

This is one of the occasional good articles that comes out of the Straits Times. I'm not sure if it can be linked to debate per se but it does make for some good reading and background information on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It doesn't appear to have any typical slant that has been associated with the Government (yes, capital G!) too!

Nov 21, 2004
Yasser Arafat
Master tactician, failed strategist He succeeded in creating the Palestinian nation against all enemies but failed to define its goal
By George Friedman

THAT Mr Yasser Arafat's death marks the end of an era is so obvious that it hardly bears saying. The nature of the era that is ending and the nature of the era that is coming, on the other hand, do bear discussing. That speaks not only to the Arab-Israeli conflict but to the evolution of the Arab world in general.

In order to understand Mr Arafat's life, it is essential to understand the concept 'Arab', and to understand its tension with the concept 'Muslim', at least as Mr Arafat lived it out.

Ethnic Arabs populate North Africa and the area between the Mediterranean and Iran, and between Yemen and Turkey. This is the Arab world. It is a world that is generally - but far from exclusively - Muslim, although the Muslim world stretches far beyond the Arab world.

To understand Mr Arafat's life, it is more important to understand the Arab impulse rather than the Muslim impulse. Mr Arafat belonged to that generation of Arabs who visualised the emergence of a single Arab nation, encapsulating all of the religious groups in the Arab world, and one that was secular in nature.

This vision did not originate with Mr Arafat but with his primary patron, Mr Gamal Abdul Nasser, the founder of modern Egypt and of the idea of a United Arab Republic.
Mr Nasser was born into an Egypt ruled by a weak and corrupt monarchy and effectively dominated by Britain. He dreamt of uniting the Arabs in a single entity, whose capital would be Cairo. He believed that until there was a United Arab Republic, the Arabs would remain the victims of foreign imperialism.

Mr Nasser saw his prime antagonists as the traditional monarchies of the Arab world. Throughout his rule, he tried to foment revolutions, led by the military, that would topple these monarchies.

Nasserite or near-Nasserite revolutions toppled Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan monarchies. Throughout his rule, he tried to bring down the Jordanian, Saudi and other Persian Gulf regimes. This was the conflict that overlaid the Arab world from the 1950s until the death of Mr Nasser and the rise of Mr Anwar Sadat.

It is important to understand that for Mr Nasser, Israel was not a Palestinian problem but an Arab problem.

In his view, the particular Arab nationalisms were the problem, not the solution. Adding another Arab nationalism - Palestinian - to the mix was not in his interest. The Zionist injustice was against the Arab nation and not against the Palestinians as a particular nation. Mr Nasser was not alone in this view.

The Syrians saw Palestine as a district of Syria, stolen by the British and French. They saw the Zionists as oppressors, but against the Syrian nation.

The Jordanians, who held the West Bank, saw the West Bank as part of the Jordanian nation and, by extension, the rest of Palestine as a district of Jordan.

Until the 1967 war, the Arab world was publicly and formally united in opposing the existence of Israel, but much less united on what would replace Israel after it was destroyed. The least likely candidate was an independent Palestinian state.

Prior to 1967, Mr Nasser sponsored the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) under the leadership of Mr Ahmed al Shukairi.

It was an ineffective organisation that created a unit that fought under Egyptian command. The PLO was kept under tight control, carefully avoiding the question of nationhood and focusing on the destruction of Israel.

After the 1967 war, the young leader of the PLO's Fatah faction took control of the organisation.
Mr Arafat was a creature of Mr Nasser, politically and intellectually. He was an Arabist. He was a moderniser. He was a secularist. He was aligned with the Soviets. He was anti-American.

Mr Arafat faced two disparate questions in 1967. First, it was clear that the Arabs would not defeat Israel in a war, probably not in his lifetime; what, therefore, was to be done to destroy Israel?

Second, if the only goal was to destroy the Israelis, and if that was not to happen anytime soon, then what was to become of the Palestinians?

Mr Arafat posed the question more radically: Granted that Palestinians were part of the Arab revolution, did they have a separate identity of their own, as did Egyptians or Libyans? Were they simply Syrians or Jordanians? Who were they?

Asserting Palestinian nationalism was not easy in 1967, because of the Arabs themselves.

The Syrians did not easily recognise their independence and sponsored their own Palestinian group, loyal to Syria.

The Jordanians could not recognise the Palestinians as separate, as their own claim to power even east of the Jordan would be questionable, let alone their claims to the West Bank. The Egyptians were uneasy with another Arab nationalism.

The growth of a radical and homeless Palestinian movement terrified the monarchies.
Mr Arafat knew no war would defeat the Israelis. His view was that a two-tiered approach was best.

On one level, the PLO would make the claim on behalf of the Palestinian people, for the right to statehood on the world stage. On the other hand, the Palestinians would use small-scale paramilitary operations against soft targets - terrorism - to increase the cost throughout the world of ignoring the Palestinians.

The Soviets were delighted with this strategy. Their national intelligence services moved to facilitate it by providing training and logistics. A terror campaign against Israel's supporters would be a terror campaign against Europe and the United States. Mr Arafat became a revolutionary aligned with the Soviets.

There were two operational principles. The first was Mr Arafat himself should appear as the political wing of the movement, able to serve as an untainted spokesman for Palestinian rights.
The second was the groups that carried out the covert operations should remain complex and murky. Plausible deniability combined with unpredictability was the key.

Mr Arafat created an independent covert capability that allowed him to make a radical assertion: that there was an independent Palestinian people as distinct as any other Arab nation. Terrorist operations gave Mr Arafat the leverage to assert that Palestine should take its place in the Arab world in its own right.

If Palestine was a separate nation, then what was Jordan? The Hashemite kingdom's people were Bedouins driven out of Arabia. The majority of the population were not Bedouin, but had their roots in the west - hence, they were Palestinians.

If there was a Palestinian nation, then why were they being ruled by Bedouins from Arabia? In September 1970, Mr Arafat made his move. Combining a series of hijackings of Western airliners with a Palestinian uprising in Jordan, he attempted to seize control of Jordan. He failed, and thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered by Hashemite and Pakistani mercenaries.
Mr Arafat's logic was impeccable. His military capability was less than perfect. He created a new group - Black September - that was assigned the task of waging a covert war against the Israelis and the West.

The greatest action, the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, defined the next generation. Israel launched a counter-operation to destroy Black September, and the pattern of terrorism and counter-terrorism swirling around the globe was set. Neither could score a definitive victory.

But Mr Arafat won the major victory. Nations are born of battle, and the battles that began in 1970 and raged until the mid-1990s established a principle - there is now, if there was not before, a nation called Palestine.

This was critical, because as Mr Nasser died and his heritage was discarded by Mr Sadat, the principle of the Arab nation was lost. It was only through the autonomous concept of Palestinian nationalism that Mr Arafat and the PLO could survive.

This was Mr Arafat's crisis. He had established the principle of Palestine, but he had failed to define what that Palestinian nation meant and what it wanted.

The latter was the critical point. Mr Arafat's strategy was to appear the statesman restraining uncontrollable radicals. He understood that he needed Western support to get a state, and he used this role superbly. He appeared moderate and malleable in English, radical and intractable in Arabic. This was his dilemma.

Mr Arafat led a nation that had no common understanding of their goal. There were those who wanted to recover a part of Palestine and be content. There were those who wanted to recover part of Palestine and use it as a base of operations to retake the rest. There were those who would accept no intermediate deal but wanted to destroy Israel.

Mr Arafat's fatal problem was that in the course of creating the Palestinian nation, he had convinced all three factions that he stood with them.

Like many politicians, Mr Arafat had made too many deals.

He successfully persuaded the West that he genuinely wanted a compromise and that he could restrain terrorism. But he also persuaded Palestinians that any deal was temporary, and others that he wouldn't accept any deal.

By the time of the Oslo accords, he was so tied up in knots that he could not longer speak for the nation he created. More precisely, the Palestinians were so divided that no one could negotiate on their behalf, confident in his authority. Mr Arafat kept his position by sacrificing his power.

By the 1990s, the space left by the demise of pan-Arabism had been taken by the rise of Islamist religiosity.

Hamas, representing the view that there is a Palestinian nation but that it should be understood as part of the Islamic world under Islamic law, had become the most vibrant part of the Palestinian polity. Nothing was more alien from Mr Arafat's thinking than Hamas. It ran counter to everything he learnt from Mr Nasser.

However - and this is Mr Arafat's tragedy - by the time Hamas emerged as a power, he had lost the ability to believe in anything but the concept of the Palestinians and his place as its leader.
As Hamas rose, Mr Arafat became entirely tactical. His goal was to retain position if not power, and towards that end, he would do what was needed. A lifetime of tactics had destroyed all strategy.

His death in Paris was a farce of family and courtiers. It fitted the end he created, because his last years were lived in a round of manoeuvres leading nowhere.

The Palestinians are left now without strategy, only tactics. There is no one who can speak for the Palestinians and be listened to as authoritative.

Mr Arafat created the Palestinian nation and utterly disrupted the Palestinian state. He left a clear concept on the one hand, a chaos on the other.

He succeeded in one thing, and perhaps that is enough - he created the Palestinian nation against all enemies, Arab and non-Arab. The rest was the failure of pure improvisation.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for something a little different

This motion is from the Singapore Police Force. Really.

"Singapore needs stronger opposition parties."

Source: Random Inspector-to-be.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Motions from the SMU IVs (2-3 October 2004)

I remember we had lots of other institutions screaming about the motions. You gotta give it to the adjudication team for setting some motions that really messed everyone (folks from SMU inclusive) up.

Round 1: THW welcome Turkey into the EU.

My team-mate ended his speech by saying that "and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Turkey should remain a Thanksgiving dish."

Round 2: THBT eugenics is justified.

Round 3: THW allow all residents in the country to vote.

Round 4: THW choose economic growth over social stability.

Semis: THBT the right to privacy in death overrides the right to free press.

Final: THBT democracy is self-defeating.

Motions from the Northeast Asian Championship (Held sometime in Nov 2004, I think)

This tournament followed the Asians format - 3 motions per round, the teams decide on the motion to be debated. The Northeast Asian Championships is targeted mainly at Korean and Japanese universities (I think). Given the shortness of debating history in that region, it's quite no surprise that these are very classic motions, it seems (at least to me).

Round: Practice
1. THW allow condom vending machines in schools.
2. THS minimum quotas for women in Asian politics.
3. THW cancel 3rd world debt.

Round 1: China
1. THW not support internet censorship in China.
2. THBT we need another military superpower.
3. TH supports the 3 Gorges Dam (I am quite clueless about this).

Round 2: Sports
1. THW permit performance enhancing drugs at the Olympics.
2. THW ban all fighting sports.
3. THW equalize prize money for male and female athletes.

Round 3: Law and Order
1. THW legalize prostitution.
2. THW punish government corruption with the death penalty.
3. THW protect whistleblowers.

Round 4: Science
1. THW ban genetically modified food.
2. THB that space exploration is a waste.
3. THW prohibit human cloning.

Round 5: Terrorism
1. THBT the US led War on Terror has made the world less safe.
2. THB that Putin should talk not shoot.
3. THW grant immediate statehood to Palestine.

Round 6: Human Rights
1. THB that child labour is justified.
2. THW legalize gay marriage.
3. THBT pharmaceutical patents should not be enforced in Africa.

Round 7: Religion
1. THB that China should not restrict religious freedom.
2. THBT the churches should allow gay clergy.
3. THW include religious teaching in public schools.

Quarters: Energy
1. THBT the Kyoto protocol needs US ratification.
2. THW build nuclear power plants.
3. THW provide public transportation for free.

Semis: Northeast Asia - Economics
1. THW protect local film industries through screenquotas.
2. THW relocate the capital of Korea.
3. THW support a free trade zone in Northeast Asia.

Finals: Northeast Asia - Military
1. THW withdraw South Korean troops from Iraq.
2. THB that North Korea has the right to develop nuclear weapons.
3. THB that US bases should get out of Northeast Asia.

Source: YahooGroups E-mail from Jason Jarvis, Lecturer at Kyung Hee University.

Motions from the Philippines 6th National Debating Championship (Oct 24-29, 2004)

Round 1: That an effective population management program must include the 2-child policy.
Round 2: TH would exchange cash for disarmament by the Iraqi insurgents.
Round 3: TH would grant access to racist literature on campus.
Round 4: That a true European identity can only be formed through Turkey's accession into the EU.
Round 5: That fast food companies should be held liable for the problem of obesity.
Round 6: That Darfur justifies a Western presence in Africa.
Round 7: TH supports the re-regulation of the Philippine oil industry.
Octos: TH would grant asylum to US army deserters.
Quarters: That the UN should hire PMCs (Private Military Companies) for peacekeeping.
Semis: That secularism has failed to accommodate religious tradition.
Final: TH regrets the feminization of the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW).

Jesus Christ, these Filipinos are insane. Cash for disarmament?!?!?! Yeah, I'm sure that's why Al-Zarqawi hasn't been turned in by his friends, despite the US$25 million on his head...


In the tradition of debaters with over-inflated egos and who want to reach out to an audience other than the sad souls that have to put up with their garbage on the debate floor (or perhaps not so sad since everyone else has an over-inflated ego there too), yours truly has decided to create a blog devoted to his debating adventures. Ho hum.

Actually I thought I'd keep a blog here to maintain a list of interesting motions and other comments about debates, so that I don't forget them. This is mainly to help my research for future debates (I think). Once in a while, I think I'd comment on issues to appear pseudo-intellectual (as is the case with all debaters, really).

Erm, that's all. What were you expecting?

Oh yeah, with exams in 3-4 days, this is really not a very bright idea, actually. Hmmm.