NSD Video Chat: Jan/Feb Topic Discussion

Bethesda, MD/Birmingham, AL/Chicago, IL–Emily Massey, assistant coach at Walt Whitman and 2009 Bronx Champion, and 2011 TOC co-champions Jeff & Larry Liu chat with Ari Parker on the new January/February Lincoln-Douglas Resolution:  Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

Topic Analysis: 00:26-15:06
Grant’s Question + Jeff’s thoughts on determinism: 15:07-21:10
Guidance for younger debaters: 21:10-25:45
Post-round confrontations and questioning judges post-RFD: 25:50-end

  • Mike_Spirtos

    I was called a strug for the first 3 years I debated. It’s not an insult, it’s an evaluation. You get better because of it, don’t coddle people. Jeff, like no name said, was commenting on a specific performance. I don’t know why Jake and everyone are getting in a tizzy about this. Debate has always used this term, Strugfest 2013.

  • No Name

    We weren’t planning on posting a response to the complaints against Jeff because we thought Jeff’s response was directly on point. But given this new wave of complaints, as current debaters we feel motivated to say something.

    Jeff does not coach us, but he has judged us both numerous times and we worked with him at camp this past summer. He has helped us both become better debaters and we think his dedication to the debate community is invaluable and almost unmatched. This is why it is upsetting to read posts that publicly insinuate that Jeff is anything but devoted to the improvement of debaters on the circuit. We are not claiming that any individual is beyond criticism; only that in this case the continued and public backlash is unwarranted. Jeff has already apologized and he isn’t a politician or public figure– he’s a college student and people should be mindful of the difference. Regardless of whether or not you find Jeff’s strug comment ‘offensive’, it is irrefutable that he cares a lot about the debate community and that people owe him the courtesy of confronting him in person rather than on a public Internet forum.

    Moreover, we would like to clarify that Jeff has called both of us strugs and neither of us have found it particularly offensive. Nor do we feel marginalized in any way by criticism, even though we are female competitors. Also, we can’t think of a time where Jeff just called one of us a strug and walked away. He normally gave us some sense of how we could improve whenever he told us we were struggin (in fact, in the video he went on to explain how a strug could beat the shmikler ac). Additionally, not only was it clearly not maliciously intended, but also it was not an insult to the debater, only a comment on their performance in one round. No debater is free from mistakes and we all “struggle” in rounds. The reason we have coaches, mentors, and judges is so they can point out our mistakes and we can learn to fix them. Debaters aren’t in the activity to get a self-esteem boost, nor are they in the activity if they can’t handle criticism. It’s a necessary part of debate as well as life, and there shouldn’t be this much backlash to the use of a mild word like the word “strug.”

    Specifically in response to Bob Bobson: Given how much Jeff cares about debate it seems unnecessarily hurtful to publicly talk about how bad he is for the debate community. If you are still convinced he is a bad influence, we are positive he would be completely open to discussing his behavior from 3 years ago if you contacted him through means other than this open forum. But, just to be clear, if you are set on judging Jeff by his behavior 3 years ago, then remember he is not the highschooler he was 3 years ago anymore. He is no longer a fierce competitor but rather a respected coach and educator. Given that people change, your views of them should probably change as well.

  • I.am.Big.Bob

    I don’t think calling someone a “strug” is bad. It is actually kind of funny. BUT the real thing we should be talking about here is why Big Schools are bad.

  • anondebater523


  • I.am.Big.Bob

    When are these going to start again?

  • Prince Hyeamang

    What are important articles to look into?

  • I think this is an awesome idea & am glad y’all are doing this! However, did you really just call a debater a strug on something which you’ve publicly posted on the internet? I get that it probably wasn’t the best round or whatever, but that sounds fairly exclusive of kids not on the top tier of the national circuit when you just talked about a single “good” debater by name and then disregarded the other.

    • Bob Bobson

      I think the whole “strug” issue is even
      worse than you make it seem. Not only do we have a very prolific coach and
      former TOC champion (someone who I think would undoubtedly be considered a
      respected and influential member of the community) belittling debaters without
      circuit experience, we have this adult doing so on an instructional webcast.
      These webcasts are designed for debaters without circuit experience to have
      opportunities to improve and receive ideas about the topic from prolific
      circuit coaches. There is a section devoted to “younger debaters”.The kinds of
      people who the webcasts are designed for are exactly the “strugs” that Mr. Liu
      has decided to humiliate. What are they supposed to think about themselves and
      about the community? Are we intending to make them feel like they’re bad, like
      they don’t matter, like they’re the butt of everyone’s jokes? As if that
      weren’t enough, we have this community leader singling out and humiliating a
      high school student on the internet, where everyone in the community will view
      it. Debate may be all about winning to some people, but for others it’s an
      opportunity to be part of a community that’s accepting of them. I personally
      stuck with debate because of friends in the community: debate was a safe haven
      from a very difficult home situation, and I felt welcomed even though I was far
      from a TOC-caliber debater. To have someone representing the community say that
      these people (and it’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about
      people, not just school names with initials attached) don’t matter makes a big
      difference. One of the most prominent memories that I have of debate, and
      certainly of the offender in question, was when I overheard him talking to
      other prominent community members about how I was an “easy win” and how I got
      “shit-kicked”. I will admit that I was not a good circuit debater, but that
      does not take away the pain of being demeaned, embarrassed, and insulted by an
      adult whose opinion is widely respected. Furthermore, because of Mr. Liu’s
      standing in the community, I was afraid to confront him about it. I was just a
      “strug”, an “easy win”, what right did I have to say anything? I was incredibly
      hurt by a conversation with two other people: Mr. Liu has now singled out a
      debater, a person, and humiliated them on the internet for ostensibly the
      entire community to see. I’m sorry to call you out, but the only way to
      describe this is bullying – maybe you don’t view it that way and maybe you
      weren’t trying to hurt people’s feelings, but the callous, indifferent way that
      you said what you did makes it even worse – this is not a normal way to talk
      about people. I think you owe whoever it was an apology and I think you owe the
      community an apology. If you want to talk that way about people in private,
      while I would hope you would be kinder, go ahead and do what you want. But
      remember that your status in this community gives you the responsibility to be
      a person of integrity, and you have no business holding public shamings on the
      internet. You’re better than that.

      • YouDamnFunny

        calm down, bro. I think complaining about these comments online is pretty futile. Instead of using Mr. Liu’s words as an opportunity to complain,that kid should use it as an opportunity to get better.

        • And the slaves should’ve used their slavery as an opportunity to win freedom. Right.

          (Note – This is a joke. Just checking.)

      • I think that you are right that jeff or larry (idk which one used that word) should avoid using the word strug. I also think you are overstating the negative intentions they have…both of em are pretty competitive people and demarcating skill through “s/he’s good”, “s/he’s decent”, “s/he’s a strug” is something natural to a competition. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find two people more helpful to “strugs” at camps. Just wanted to chime in and say that the lius aren’t as terrible as ya’ll are making em out to be

      • I understand why you feel that the outrage in response to this should be more than I initially commented – However, and perhaps this is just my own approach/wanting to avoid a passionate flame ware, I am aware as the others have commented that this sort of language is often used without such direct malicious intentions. But that of course doesn’t make it ok, and individuals, especially those in positions that are representative of and can have impacts on the community, should think about and be aware of the exclusive nature that the debate lingo we use in our own little national circuit crowds can portray, and that it is indeed reflective of the exclusive nature of the activity and continues to perpetuate that. The simple fact that it can incite such oppositional feelings should be enough food for thought.

      • Rebar Niemi

        Sigh. Probably sure whatever. Better than that sure. Yeah good values + practicing what you preach sure. Hurtful experiences are bad, yes. It is upsetting to have a superior/educator insult you. They probably shouldn’t do that, yeah. Status = responsibility, yeah. Conflict doesn’t breed good communities, yeah.

        I am proud of the fact that even though debaters do not often “do the right thing” they clearly are capable of identifying what it is and pointing it out sanctimoniously on the internet. Legitimately proud! That is much better than most people can do.

        Once upon a time, we called each other far meaner things on the internet and in person, and not a single anonymous post complained. They just flamed harder. Whether or not those were better days, I ain’t qualified to judge. But it really feels like that’s over now. The internet is no longer everyone’s private rage-sanctuary.

        • What are you talking about? The internet has been my private rage sanctuary since Bush was president.

    • It also concerns me that this comment was so highly upvoted but nobody else bothered to point this out until I commented over a week after this was posted. Perhaps y’all should recognize that kids may be a bit intimidated to call people out because of the very way you view them.

    • First and foremost, I want to apologize to “Bob Bobson” and the anonymous “strug” mentioned in the video log. I did not intend to offend anyone, but I did make a mistake and should be accountable for that. “Bob,” I want to personally apologize. Shoot me an e-mail at liujeff1 [at] gmail.com. I don’t want to exclude anyone from this community, and I think debate is a valuable opportunity for motivated high school students to learn and compete. It’s why I volunteer and judge at local novice tournaments, why I write articles and make free video-logs for this website, and why I’ve answered countless debate questions from debaters I do not coach—my policy has always been that any student should be able to message me and expect an adequate response. So to the particular individuals I’ve offended—I’m sorry. But let me be clear: I don’t owe this community an apology.
      Amyn, for you to compare the act of calling someone a “strug” to slavery is laughable. Quite frankly, I’ve become increasingly fed up with this idea of debate as some sort of buddy-buddy community where everyone loves each other. Look—not everything we say or do to demonize an opponent or to demarcate talent is “exclusive.” It is a natural part of competition. Debaters will improve when coaches take efforts to provide inexperienced students with honest assessments of their current capacities. I would hope that debaters have greater mental fortitude than to quit the activity just because an opponent or coach called them a “strug.” For me, this activity will become less enjoyable for everyone involved when the competitive aspect of the game has become so watered down that we have to tip-toe around on egg shells—when smack talk, legitimate debate rivalries, and genuine dislike of opponents are frowned upon. Debate is fun because it is competitive.

      • I couldn’t agree more with the last part of Jeff’s post. Calling someone a strug just means you don’t think they’re very good at debate. This says nothing about whether they “matter” (of course they do) or should stay in debate. Jeff would be the first to admit that he was a strug at one point–so were we all. He would also be the last person to be offended by honest criticism (my family has actually complained that hanging out with Jeff makes me more brutally honest than usual), which helps explain why he doesn’t mean anything mean by the “strug” remark. Debaters should use losses, criticism, and rivalries as motivation to work really hard, as Jeff did. You can be competitive without being mean.

        • Emily, you’re right that you can be competitive without being mean. But calling someone a “strug,” it seems to me, IS mean. I certainly would have been upset if, at any point in high school, a prominent coach called me a strug. It is belittling. And it’s not equivalent to constructive criticism. Also, for all you know, the “strug” could be a senior who has debated for years, or a sophomore with self-esteem issues. A huge factor in debate success is confidence. I have seen lots of debaters who were hindered by a lack of confidence. And if you think we should just tell them to grow a pair, sack up, or gain some mental fortitude, then you really DO thing they don’t matter. (Note: I doubt you think they don’t matter. So I doubt you really think that is the appropriate response to the situation.)

          But maybe I’m not a competent user of the word “strug.” That doesn’t matter, though, since I agree that Jeff’s intentions are totally in the clear. You should at least agree that a LOT of people would interpret “strug” the way I did, and the way Amyn did, and the way others did. And, for that reason, you shouldn’t encourage students to call each other strugs. That is why, as I told Jeff at MBA, I think he did owe the person an apology, and why I disagree with Ellen: I think he owes the community an apology, because when coaches belittle students, debaters get the impression that it’s okay (or even cool) to belittle students. The cycle continues.

          In fact, I think that’s exactly what has happened. Jeff was not born calling debaters strugs. He picked up this habit from older students and coaches who did it. So let’s use this opportunity to try to curb the cycle.

          (If you really want to go for the impact turn here, then we have a lot more to talk about.)

          • I agree – you are not a competent user of the word “strug.” I’m not really sure when this became the most offensive thing a coach could say to a student.

            You say that you “certainly would have been upset if, at any point in high school, a prominent coach called [you] a strug.” I think this is certainly a case of someone taking themselves too seriously. Everyone is a strug at some point (perhaps you are an exception here, Jake), and I appreciate Wade and my lab leaders for being honest with me and telling me when I was “struggin.” It made me better.

            Suppose I had instead said “I just debated someone egregiously bad” or “my opponent was inept.” Would either of those substitutions have been any less offensive? I don’t think so. I am sorry for my use of the word “strug” here, because it is not my place to disparage any student I do not coach, especially in a video designed to provide guidance to younger debaters. I should not have said anything at all. But to make such a hullabaloo about it, or to suggest that there is anything intrinsically wrong with calling someone a “strug,” is over-the-top.

            Should we tell high school football teams to stop “fabricating
            rivalries”? Should we tell the Lakers to stop hating the Celtics? These are acceptable features of most competitive activities, and those activities are more enjoyable because of it. Why not debate?

            Ellen and Jake, I am genuinely curious. Why do you think debaters, in particular, should be coddled? Middle school basketball coaches curse out their players, bench them for making bad plays, and generally treat them like garbage. Debate is a competitive activity. Sometimes what a student needs to hear is that they are a “strug,” that they need to motivate themselves to get better. Some students react better to negative reinforcement (I do). Obviously I would not say this to a student if I recognized that the particular student lacked confidence or needed to be built up, and it is self-evident that this is not the appropriate response in the situation you envision. But have I told Carlton and Ram that they are “scrubs” and that they need to “sack up” (and many other worse things)? Of course. I don’t think they took that to mean that I thought they “didn’t matter.” And neither should other debaters.

          • Maybe it’s okay to be rough on your own student, if you know them and know they can handle it. But I don’t think coaches should be mean to other coaches’ students, especially students they don’t know. If someone publicly called a Greenhill student a strug for no good reason (regardless of their skill level or age), I think the following people would be upset: the student, me, Noah, and Aaron Timmons. And I think we would all have a right to be upset.

            I never said it was the most offensive thing to say to a student. I can think of a lot more offensive things than that…

            And I never said that I was never bad at debate. I said I would have been upset if some prominent coach who doesn’t know me publicly called me a strug — or inept, dumb, egregiously bad, or anything else. Those substitutions would not be any better, because they are still mean.

            Dude, what rivalry are you talking about? You had no horse in the race. You have no real or imagined rivalry with the kid you were talking about. You don’t even know who he is. There is no need to be mean to him. (I also happen to think that you shouldn’t be mean to your opponents, but you don’t need to agree to that to see that I’m right.)

            I never played a sport other than debate, so I have no idea about the basketball thing. I don’t think debaters should be “coddled.” I just think coaches should, in general, not say mean things about students. Maybe there are exceptions, like when someone is your own student, you know it will make them improve, and they will be okay with it and appreciate it. But that is the exception, not the rule.

            Apparently you call your own students strugs or scrubs or whatever BECAUSE you care about them. That’s cool, I get that you love in your own way. Not my style, but whatever. But your reason for calling this anonymous kid a strug was clearly NOT to make him improve. So, no, I don’t think it is a service to the community, and I think coaches should set a good example by not being mean to students with whom they have no connection.

          • Dude, who are you arguing with? I never said calling people strugs provides a “service to the community.” I have said now, multiple times, that I should not have called anyone a strug in the video. I agree that coaches should not be mean publicly to students with whom they have no connection. The rivalry point was not directed at you — see Ellen’s post. And thank you for agreeing that none of those substitutions would be any better; question was rhetorical, but I’m glad you felt the need to chime in. I’m also glad that you agree that “strug” is one of the milder insults and that it is appropriate given the right situation. I don’t think we disagree about much.

          • I think we disagree about whether you owed the community an apology. You agreed that you shouldn’t have said it, and that you owed the kid an apology. But you emphatically denied that you owed the community an apology. I said you did owe it to the community because it’s bad *for the community* when coaches belittle other kids’ debaters, because that sets a precedent for future coaches.

          • I agree that it doesn’t seem like there’s any ill intent in this case but I do think the broader issue is something that is worth addressing. So this is more of a response to the question of whether it’s an issue that the community is being too “watered down” or smack talk is a primary
            component of the activity being enjoyable. Yes, competition is a big part of what makes debate fun, and rivalries might add to that. But there’s a
            difference between pre-round trash talking or in-round aggression between people who are friends/on good terms with each other when the round ends (still not something I’m personally a fan of seeing or judging, but I can understand the enjoyment of it) and one-sided mocking of another debater, especially a younger or less experienced one, who isn’t a willing participant or also enjoying the experience.

            The basic issue in my opinion is that there’s a lot more harm in making someone feel crappy/marginalized/excluded than there is in not getting to experience the joy of trash talking. That’s not to say everyone needs to be friends, but it does seem reasonable to suggest that we do what we can to make the community welcoming such that people who would otherwise enjoy the activity aren’t driven away because they’re made to feel stupid or inadequate. People learn in different ways and it’s great if Jeff took being called a strug as a motivation to improve; I don’t think that kind of treatment by coaches (or by other adults in the community) would have ever made me feel anything other than inadequate and discouraged. I don’t think this has anything to do with taking oneself too seriously. I think it’s a lot to expect that all high school students will just shrug it off and work harder when an adult they respect says they’re no good at something they probably put a lot of effort into.

            Again, I think this isn’t as much about Jeff’s particular use of the word strug in this context as it is about norms of behavior and treatment in the community. I think the notion that kids should be by default expected to enjoy taking what can be pretty harsh criticism isn’t reasonable. If you coach a kid and know they benefit from a particular kind of motivation, that’s one thing, but it seems better for the default to be giving kids positive encouragement unless you have reason to think there’s a better way to help them learn/improve.

            To some extent I would bet that this breaks down along gender lines. I haven’t played basketball since I was about 10, but I would guess that most coaches of high school girls’ basketball teams don’t talk to their students in the ways you’re describing. To verify that my thinking here makes sense, I did some quick browsing and read a YMCA guide for men coaching girls’ sports teams, which includes:

            “A 1990 study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) showed that 60 percent of elementary school girls are “happy the way I am”, only 29 percent of high school girls feel the same way. Support for this study was provided by a1992 AAUW study that found that as children progress through schools boys do better and feel better about themselves and girls’ self esteem, opinions of their sex and scores on standardized achievement tests all decline. Girls place a greater value on what others think than boys do.” And, particularly in the coaching context: “The leadership style that you use to motivate men and women are distinct. … female athletes want to experience a coaches humanity. They need to know that … the coach cares about them personally. Whereas with males, the consistently successful men coaches usually have strong personalities who lead with a powerful presence and will.”

            I don’t intend to say that all girls need to be “coddled”, or that no guys need positive motivation, but Jeff, I do think that it’s worth considering that your experience is different from that of many competitors. Since it seems like it does more harm to belittle kids who will take it the wrong way than to be overly nice to kids who could deal with aggressive treatment, so it just seems like nicest is the best default treatment. I’m not sure to what extend we really disagree on this point, but I think that the “aggression is what makes debate fun” type mentality is a dangerous one given the number of people it risks excluding.

          • To clarify, I do agree that Jeff shouldn’t have called this person a strug in the video – it wasn’t constructive criticism. And Jeff apologized, so I hope we can put the matter to rest, now about 3 weeks after the fact.

            My post aimed to defend Jeff’s intentions (I’m glad we agree about them) and also to criticize what I thought was a disproportionate backlash, not only against the strug comment but also against Jeff’s saying he “shit-kicked” his opponent 3 years ago. I don’t think either of those actions warrants an apology to the community, and I don’t think the latter even crosses the line of bad sportsmanship, especially when you take into account Jeff’s intentions (which I take to be quite relevant to interpreting what he said).

      • I didn’t compare being a strug to slavery…I was very clearly (disclaimer anyone?) making a joke about the terrible logic of the comment I was responding to. That was not directed at you.

        And here’s the thing – I pretty much agree with you. I understand what you do for the community – my first comment began by thanking y’all for doing this & I don’t wish to convey that this video should be destroyed or something absurd. I didn’t write some rant about you using the word “strug” means you’re a terrible person or something; I just said that it sounds exclusive (even if it is a common term in the debate community, I still think it’s not appropriate for this kind of video discussion) and that kind of language should be considered, if anything for the simple fact that it upsets people (which as I said, is probably reflective of it being problematic language).

        • It was kind of Jeff to apologize, but I’m not convinced there is anything wrong with calling people strugs. He was even gracious enough to not mention the strug by name. Stephen A. Smith would never do that. Why do we have an obligation not to say things that upset people? The whole concept of bringing out sensitivity police any time someone gets their feelings hurt is, in my view, an unfortunate modern development that is strongly associated with a watered down society infested with weaklings. This is especially true when it’s a really weak insult – Jeff never insulted the strug’s family or questioned their character. Anyone offended by being called a strug should fight back, tell Jeff that he sucks at basketball, and that his card tricks are all lame. If you still think calling someone a strug is a big deal, perhaps we should construe it as fighting words. In that case, the strug could challenge Jeff to a duel on pain of him losing his honor if he declines.

          Also, since when does criticism become illegitimate just because it is videotaped? There is a famous TV show called First Take, and I believe that you would find it very offensive. See for yourself if you don’t believe me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5-A8Ao47nU

          • Should have posted the video of Stephen A. blasting Scottie Pippen

          • Erik Baker

            The Stephen A. comparison is spot on. And “strug” is definitely better than “bona fide scrub.” Although, to be fair, it’s probably a bit harder to hurt someone’s feelings by insulting their lack of talent when that lack of talent is making them 8 million dollars a year.

          • Erik Baker

            An illustrative point: Kwame managed to produce negative win shares for the Pistons in 2009-10 despite making over 4 million.

          • Rebar Niemi

            Har Har. Heah Heah.

            As a Seahawks fan, I consider trash talking to be not only essential to all competition, but a character building experience and a valuable skill.

      • I don’t think you owe the community an apology or anything like that – this is just in response to the kind of debate culture it sounds like you want to preserve at the end of your post and what it sounds like a lot of people have
        been talking about lately. The topic just strikes me as something worthy of discussion.

        I agree debate has a lot of value because it is a competitive activity. But I
        also think “smack talk, legitimate debate rivalries, and genuine dislike
        of opponents” is a pretty shallow understanding of competition. The valuable
        part of competition is in the motivation to win and get better through practice
        and preparation. Getting high school students excited about “genuinely
        disliking” someone or “smack talk” doesn’t seem all that important to the
        educational value or even fun parts of debate. Just about every competitive
        activity involves a level of mutual respect… aka sportsmanship.

        But even if you think that’s what competition should look like, it seems odd not to consider how that influences other people’s experiences in debate. You seem under the impression that this is why everyone loves debate, (“For me, this activity will become less enjoyable for everyone involved when…”) and maybe I’m way out of the loop but I’m pretty sure a lot of people hate that part of debate culture and it does influence their involvement in the activity. Maybe we’re all “weaklings” or lack the necessary “mental fortitude,” but I think you can be hyper-competitive and motivated without wanting to hear teachers talk about how dumb you are or spend your time fabricating rivalries. And maybe others ARE extra sensitive for whatever reason and can’t handle the aggressive nature of the activity that you like.

        It seems messed up to just say, “if you don’t like it, leave” when they would like to engage in and benefit from a really valuable activity without becoming upset. I understand we can’t and shouldn’t accommodate everyone’s feelings or else we wouldn’t hand out losses, but not demoralizing or antagonizing someone seems like a reasonable expectation. I can understand a little smack talk to motivate a timid student before a round and I’m not saying we have to all go out of our way to be extra friendly, but not being mean (towards someone or behind their back) and not fostering hate and anger based on five minute interactions seems like a good standard. And I think statements about intelligence or debate ability can be mean and hurtful even if they’re accurate. Lots of times those “strugs” are seniors or folks who lack the resources (or even natural ability) to improve. People react to criticism differently and that’s something to be aware of. I very well may be misreading what kind of behavior you think is okay in which case that’s my bad, but also something that might be worth you clarifying.

        Finally, I get that a lot of debaters can handle the more aggressive nature of the debate community (whether they should have to or not), but it seems important to recognize there are pretty young people involved in the activity too. From my experience, novices do not thrive in the kind of debate environment you’re describing. I think as coaches, judges, and older students in the activity, there’s an obligation to keep it a positive and welcoming space so as to motivate students and set an example of appropriate conduct for the real world.

  • Jamie

    How do you determine if a certain mixed theory (rehab + retribution, or partial retribution, Byrd’s theory, etc…) is Aff or Neg ground- is there some sort of brightline? And what about other theories of punishment besides rehab/retribution (e.g. Restorative Justice)- whose ground are those?

  • I.am.Big.Bob

    Why no Trutil in this analysis? come on.

  • Great idea, and great video chat! I especially enjoyed all the SLP/Shmikler “shout-outs”, and the discussion of thoroughgoing vs. partial retribution. At times, it felt like I was a member of the panel, except of course when I tried to add my two cents and no one would let me speak :/

    On the brief discussion of determinism – Leaving the objection that determinism is itself incompatible with moral obligations aside, I don’t follow the discussion about how determinism is not a viable AC position. According to Jeff, a retributivist holds that people should be punished according to what they deserve, and a determinist says that no one deserves punishment. I think both these views are accurate. However, if we’re assuming the ‘aim of punishment’ view, and we’re assuming that deterrence isn’t neg ground (which I acknowledge are both assumptions), Jeff’s argument that retribution and determinism are still somehow compatible doesn’t make any sense to me, based purely on what the two concepts analytically entail. I think there are great potential responses to a determinism AC, but it still seems to make sense on face. It’d be great to hear more from Jeff, and other like-minded individuals, about why there isn’t an incompatibility result between retributivism and determinism.

    • Jeff’s argument, which seems right to me, is that if determinism’s true, then retribution would require giving everyone zero punishment.

      Is your argument that retribution requires some amount of punishment? Because that’s not true. Consider what retributivism says about people who are wrongly convicted: since they’re innocent, they deserve no punishment at all. Determinism just makes everyone innocent.

      • Oooooooooh, sneaky! This argument makes more sense to me now than it did during the video, but I still think it’s false. We’ve all agreed that retributivism is a concept grounded in desert and that determinism undermines desert. It seems plainly true, then, that if determinism is true, retributivism is false. I don’t think this position hinges on the face that retribution requires some amount of punishment (although I think that might be true). Rather, I think it hinges on the fact that retribution requires coherent notions of desert/deserving. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be valued.

  • great discussion, and great idea

  • You guys are amazing, especially Ari!

  • What does the phrase “in the US CJS” modify?

    • It modifies the word “retribution.” I asked a grammarian.

      • Though he also said “I could argue that it modifies rehabilitation and retribution, but it is gramatically diagramed off of [r]etribution. A prep phrase can only modify a noun or a noun clause. The res is not a noun.”

        • Does that mean we evaluate rehabilitation in the abstract and retribution contextualized in the us cjs? That seems counter-intuitive

          • Strict textual grammar isn’t the only argument to be made in a T debate. Make up an interp you like and beat people.

        • Did you skip 5th grade English?

          Prepositional phrases can modify nouns, verbs, phrases, and clauses. For example, in the sentence “I swam through the lake,” the prepositional phrase “through the lake” modifies swam, which is a verb.

          Here’s a neat source: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/prepositions/Prepositional-Phrases.html

          • No, Bob, I didn’t skip English. I do not, however, consider myself an expert, which is the reason I asked someone qualified to make a judgement regarding it. I was not joking when I said I asked a grammarian (I know one), and none of what I said is my own conclusion. Don’t be an ass.

          • Ya, no need to get aggressive Bob. I know absolutely nothing about grammar and prepositional phrases because I’m pretty stupid. So I find this discussion pretty interesting. It doesn’t require sarcastic digs.

          • Also, the difference is prep phrases functioning as adverbial or as adjectival – it modifies a noun if adjectival and if it modifies any of the other stuff it’s adverbial.

          • Oh, and in case you skipped 5th grade English like I did, prepositional phrases (as a general rule) modify what they immediately follow. As such, the clearest interpretation via that rule is that the prepositional phrase modifies “retribution.”

      • I disagree with your grammarian. While an adjectival prep phrase typically comes right after the noun it modifies, not all prep phrases that immediately follow a noun are adjectival. The most common example is when the prep phrase appears at the end of a sentence — as in the resolution. It often makes sense to put adverbial prep phrases at the beginning or end of a sentence, for the same reason that it often makes sense to put an adverb in those places.

        Another example is, “You ought to drive on the left side of the road in the UK.” The best way to read that sentence is the same as, “In the UK, you ought to drive on the left side of the road.” Similarly, the resolution expresses the same proposition as, “In the U.S. criminal justice system, rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution.”

        But I, too, am not a grammarian, so don’t take my word for it.

        • To clarify, I also disagreed with him. I just posted this because I’m not an expert and had someone else’s feedback.

        • grammar flexin

        • Can I call my band The Grammarians?

  • What do you think a good definition of retribution/rehabilitation is? Any specific authors you have in mind?

  • Hope y’all enjoyed this week’s episode. If you have questions that you’d like Ari Parker, Eric Palmer, and John Scoggin to answer next week, you should leave a comment below!

  • hahahahahahahahahahahahahh the ari glasses