Month: March 2008

Extemp Questions for the Week of March 26th-April 1st, 2008

1. Has the Jeremiah Wright controversy doomed Barack Obama’s campaign?

2. Why have Islamic parties lost ground in Pakistan?

3. Is Mugabe losing his grip on power?

4. Should the U.S. government put a cap on gasoline prices?

5. Why is there a growing rift between the U.S. and Belarus?

6. How can John McCain seize control of the economic agenda?

7. Is Washington D.C.’s handgun ban unconstitutional?

8. Are riots in Tibet only a glimpse at what is to come?

9. Would a Democratic ticket led by Al Gore diffuse the divisions in the Democratic Party?

10. Should the NCAA men’s basketball tournament be expanded?

Topic Brief: Bear Stearns


So, Bear Stearns… There’s a lot of messy economics surrounding this one, but it’s all over the news.  This brief is going to break it down into what you need to know and how to explain it without a lot of economic jargon. Here is the back story:  Bear Stearns is one of the world’s largest securities and brokerage firms.  In June of 2007, the firm found itself in financial trouble when the hedge funds and securities it held in the subprime mortgage market had lost nearly all of their value.  Over the coming months the firm posted a 61% net loss and severely damaged its credit.  In March of this year, the bank was on the verge of being insolvent.  On March 14, 2008, JP Morgan Chase and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York provided a loan to prevent Bear Stearns from insolvency, fearing the impact such an announcement would have on broader markets.  Two days later, the Fed helped subsidize a JP Morgan merger with Bear Sterns, allowing the stock to be traded at two dollars a share.  In a bid to boost investor and market confidence and gain support for their acquisition of the company, JP upped the share price to ten dollars on March 25.  This rise, combined with Morgan’s assertion that they will buy newly released Stearns stock, means the company will end up purchasing 39.5% of the company at an average of $65 a share.  This percentage, plus the influence of the current board, should give JP Morgan the influence it needs to gain control of the failed firm.

Extemp Questions for the Week of March 19th-March 25th, 2008

1. Will Spitzer’s resignation reflect poorly on Democratic candidates in November?

2. Is China’s growing power threatening international stability?

3. Should the U.S. be concerned about recent job loss numbers?

4. Has Sarkozy’s opportunity to reform France passed by?

5. Should the world be more vocal about China’s response to recent protests in Tibet?

6. Is the UMNO’s setback in recent Malaysian elections good for the country?

7. Should the Georgia-Tennessee border be redawn?

8. How effective has Brazil’s AIDS program been?

9. Is Keny’a political peace afford falling apart?

10. Should the GOP be concerned about Dennis Hastert’s congressional district’s recent change to blue?

Topic Brief: Tibet Protests

Protestors: Free Tibet! Free Tibet!

Peter Griffin: I’ll take it!

[He runs to a nearby phone booth]

Peter Griffin: Hello, China? I have something you may want. But it’s gonna cost ya. That’s right. All the tea.


While hardly a new issue, a week of violently suppressed protests has brought Tibet back to the political forefront.  Specifically, Tibetan monks started non violent protests in the city of Lhasa on March 14th.  As the protests grew in size and intensity, the government response got increasingly heavy handed. This issue is especially timely considering its proximity to the Olympics and Taiwanese elections.  Ever since Chinese Communists occupied the independent nation of Tibet in the 1950’s there has been struggle between the Chinese government and Tibetan separatists.  Tactics that have been used to quell separatism have ranged from the outlawing to Buddhism and closing of regional boarders (both now discontinued), to the violent suppression of all dissent and cultural imperialism. Further the responses from international governments tend to be inconsistent and ineffective.

Extemp Questions for the Week of March 12th-March 18th, 2008

1. Who should John McCain choose as his running mate?

2. Was Russia’s presidential election fair?

3. Why did the socialists prevail in recent Spanish parliamentary elections?

4. How should the DNC handle Florida and Michigan’s delegates?

5. Is the construction of a US-Mexican border fence a violation of international law?

6. Have poverty prevention programs in the U.S. been a failure?

7. Should the Pakistan People’s Party impeach Musharraf?

8. Are we on the eve of a new intifada?

9. Would an ANC split be good for South African politics?

10. Should Spitzer resign?

Topic Brief: 2008 Democratic March Primaries


It’s time for another domestic briefing. With the general news cycle being slow and the elections going insane, it is time to reexamine the primaries and really go into some of the things that will give extempers an analytical edge in the inevitable “who will win” round.  So we are going to briefly recap the March primaries, look to the major issues in the forthcoming states, and add some theoretical reasons to explain why things are as close as they are.

Extemp Questions for the Week of March 5th-March 11th, 2008

1. Is a long Democratic primary race already reaping benefits for John McCain?

2. Why is Thailand’s Muslim insurgency worsening??

3. How should the U.S. respond if Venezuela invades Colombia?

4. Can Simba Makani defeat Robert Mugabe in this month’s Zimbabwe presidential election?

5. What is the next boom sector of the global economy?

6. Can mandating the purchase of health insurance create a successful universal health care system?

7. What would be an ideal plan that would lead to the unification of Cyprus?

8. Has education fallen off the political radar?

9. Why is South Korea’s newly elected president Lee Myung-bak off to such a poor start?

10. What is the legacy of President Putin?

Topic Brief: Somali Politics


When Somalia’s government suffered an insurgency in the early 90’s, the United States engaged the country in a disastrous military operation most people know of through Black Hawk Down.  Unprepared to deal with a multisided urban war, the US mission found itself being bested by insurgents and warlords at every turn. After the failed undertaking, the US withdrew from Somalia and–leaving the country in shambles–without a functioning government for nearly two decades. However, this changed last year when the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) appeared poised to take power in Somalia and establish a stable government.  However, as the CIC gained control of the capital of Mogadishu last January, providing the first hope for peace in decades, the United States backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, providing the money, weapons, and air strikes needed to topple the CIC.  Since then, Somalia’s situation has deteriorated from minor political hotspot to incomparable disaster.

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