Month: September 2007

Topic Brief: Western Europe

By Michael Garson

European relations have been at the forefront of American foreign policy since before the United States declared its own independence. With recent shifts of power in France and England, Western Europe is back on the front-page. The cultural and political similarities that extend from across the pond keep this region significant. However, it appears that Europe now has to deal with an identity crisis. Demographic, political, and economic pressures have forced the action on the area’s policymakers. Each country now has to choose how it deals with an increasingly complex world and moves forward into the 21st century.

This topic brief will provide a description of the problems currently facing Western Europe and how it can address them. Any countries of particular significance will also be explored and their individual circumstances will be analyzed. As Europe attempts to consolidate power and rival the Untied States, it may be falling apart from the inside out.

Topic Brief: The Middle East (sans Iraq and Iran)

By Michael Garson

With Iraq and Iran dominating the headlines on a daily basis, many extempers insist on using these two countries as templates for a proper understanding of American-Middle East relations. Unfortunately, these two countries are examples of little more than international relations gone horribly, horribly irrational. It is imperative to look at how the entire Muslim world is moving on in light of increased American involvement.

While every tournament will have Iran and Iraq questions, understanding the Middle East on the whole will help not just with these areas, but also benefit your analysis of other countries in particular. Whether it is political pressure in Pakistan or another failure in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, even the slightest of changes in the Middle East gets five-star treatment by major publications and extemp question writers.

Topic Brief: United State’s Economic Credit Crunch

By Logan Scisco

In August the economic crisis fuelled by the growing worldwide credit bubble was finally set in motion.  Extempers have been focusing on this growing credit bubble for years and some of the readers of this brief might have already given a speech about credit conditions in the United States economy.  These speeches most likely focused on America’s housing market, which has boomed over the last several years.  However, this housing boom was built on a risky foundation of adjustable rate mortgages and subprime loans.  Public forum debaters who also do extemp may also be familiar with the credit conditions in the United States due to a March resolution concerning the limitation of credit last season.

The recent credit meltdown in the United States economy has been felt across the world.  It has been fuelled by a rise in home foreclosures and a hesitation by lenders to keep funneling money into economic institutions.  Tightened credit standards have started to restrict the flow of money into the economy and financial markets, which have been boosted for the last several years on the free flow of money for investment and business acquisitions, have been jolted.

The credit crisis that is unfolding is something that extempers should start reading about soon.  Understanding the complexity of hedge funds, pension funds, private equity firms, and the lending practices done by banks can be difficult, especially for beginning extempers.  However, the more reading extempers do on these topics the more familiar with them they will be.  Knowing about the workings of these different economic areas can help extempers feel confident about economic rounds and will also help them understand the current credit crunch.

Due to the fact that a presidential election is on the horizon, the U.S. economy is bound to play a role.  How big a role it will play, though, will depend on how the economy is performing as we near November 2008.  The economy under George W. Bush has grown at a continual rate of three percent but it has been criticized for leaving working class Americans behind.  Furthermore, the credit crunch at the moment is prompting calls for the federal government to intervene in the economy and help those homeowners who are facing foreclosure.  Therefore, knowing more about the current credit crunch can aid in your knowledge of how the 2008 presidential election will play out.

This credit crunch topic is also important for extempers because it is the first economic crisis that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has had to confront.  How he handles this first crisis will determine how markets will perceive his leadership and will also go a long way towards defining his legacy at the Federal Reserve.

Due to the reasons mentioned above I felt that it was important to dedicate one of the extemp briefs for September to this credit crisis.  Within this brief extempers will learn how the current crisis developed, Bernanke’s leadership of the crisis, and the economic fallout of the current crisis on the United States and the global economy.

Topic Brief: Iowa Caucuses

By Logan Scisco

This is a “transition” year for domestic politics questions in extemporaneous speaking.  What I mean is that this is the last full season extempers will have to read about the Bush presidency.  When the 2008-2009 season begins, extempers will only have to deal with the Bush presidency until the Montgomery Bell Extemp Round Robin at the latest.  After that point, all questions about the Bush presidency will become more evaluative in terms of his performance over eight years in the White House and extempers will have to study and learn the names of a new batch of administrative officials, not to mention the ideology and temperament of a new president.

However, the first step in this “transition” year for domestic extempers is to focus on the presidential primaries.  This is a unique election season because it is one of the first times in recent memory that a sitting vice-president is not contending for his party’s nomination.  As a result, the Republican Party has been thrown into chaos and has been divided in its attempt to fight off a rejuvenated Democratic Party in the 2008 elections.

For many presidential contenders all roads to the White House go through Iowa.  Its unique caucus format, which will be explained in this brief, tests the skills of presidential contenders in terms of fundraising, building a solid support team, and their ability to charm voters.  Iowa is the first presidential contest on the primary calendar and the candidate who is able to harness a victory in the state has the ability to use that victory to enhance their position in the race.  Just look to John Kerry’s reversal of fortune after he won the Iowa caucus in 2004 to get a glimpse of that.

Since the Iowa caucus is the first presidential primary contest it will receive a large amount of media coverage for the first half of the 2007-2008 season.  Although the date of the Iowa caucus has not been set, political pundits are forecasting an early January date, if not a date in late December.  Extemporaneous speaking questions on the Iowa caucus are bound to arise and even if extempers do not confront a question about the Iowa caucus directly they will need to include an analysis of Iowa in almost every question dealing with presidential contenders and their chances of winning the nomination of their respective party.

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