Month: October 2007

Topic Brief: High Oil Prices

By Logan Scisco

Extempers receiving questions on the price of oil and its relationship to the United States economy just keep coming.  In fact, I can hardly remember a tournament that I attended in high school that didn’t have a single question on the price of oil, OPEC, and/or what the United States could do to reduce its dependency on foreign oil.  Why do extempers get asked these questions a lot?  The answer boils down to a combination of question writers needing to think of questions that most people can answer and most judges will have some knowledge about and also the fact that high oil prices (which lead to higher gas prices) affect the vast majority of Americans in some way, shape, or form.

High oil prices are one of those unique issues that tends not to divide along partisan lines.  Sure, the GOP accused the Clinton administration of never having a real energy policy for the country, but the same was said of George W. Bush’s administration until this year when an energy policy was finally crafted.  Americans may differ in their views about abortion, gun control, gay marriage, etc. but when more and more of their income is going to gasoline then they become quite angry.

However, in light of how high oil prices tend not to be a partisan issue they due spark controversy over energy policy.  Conflicts emerge between the poor, who are most affected by a price increase of gasoline, and the rich, who for the most part can still afford to drive their cars or fly their fancy jets although they may have to cut back on it.  Conflicts also emerge between environmentalists who want cleaner, renewable sources of energy that will benefit America in the future and businessmen who want more supplies of oil on the market that will benefit America in the present.

This brief is an attempt to briefly show why the price of oil has risen, the economic impact of high prices, what can be done to combat the influence of OPEC (a topic that never seems to want to go away), and a brief explanation of some types of renewable energy sources.

Topic Brief: Iraq

By Michael Garson

To provide a description of why understanding Iraq is important in extemp would be highly unnecessary.  Yet, the issue is so massively popular that it has oversaturated the intellectual market. Since Iraq is the international topic that is the most significant to average American’s lives, there has been a call to simplify the issue such that it is easily digestible. While Katie Couric and the Associated Press admirably cater to the needs of John Smith and Jane Doe, they fall short in providing “extemp-worthy” analysis. Hopefully, this brief will supply a crash course in the necessary facts and logical links of Iraq. I will not pretend to have the answers on how to fix Iraq, or if it even needs fixing. This brief is filled with sufficient information to allow the critical thinker to draw his/her own conclusions to understand the ramifications of America and the world’s actions, past, present, and future.

Topic Brief: East Asia — Japan and Korea

By Michael Garson

During the “Asia” round at most major tournaments, extempers will be eagerly preparing their analysis of China’s rural poor or how the United States can limit Chinese economic power. Fifteen minutes the prepared extempers will have to do nothing but chuckle as they hear, “Who the hell is Yasuo Fukuda?” Contrary to popular belief, East Asia extends beyond Chinese borders. Indeed, the world’s second biggest economy and the world’s second biggest surreptitious nuclear program provide more than enough fodder for question writers. It is very important to maintain focus on the Korean peninsula and Japan throughout the year. North Korea and Japan occasionally hit the headlines with the latest news of a missile attack or bank collapse. However, these countries never fully disappear. Filing these countries regularly may be difficult, but not impossible. As “second-tier” issues, many IXers will ignore them. However, those who want to be well-rounded extempers that can handle any question on any topic already have at least a basic analysis of the region. Therefore, this brief hopefully will provide the foundation to a deeper understanding of Japan and the Korean peninsula. Specifically, Japan’s near future under Mr. Fukuda and North Korea’s short-term and long-term destiny with itself and the world are of particular interest.

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