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Monday, August 23, 2004

Battle Arms - Judges' Comments

The closings are posted, the cases have been made, Battle Purpose of Arms is ovah!

On the Panel this week:

On the Left, Joel Caris of Nightmares for Sale.

On the Right, Chris in NH, an Iron Blog regular and two-time Challenger.

And from the Center, Johnny R of The Moderate Voice.

Let's see what the Judges have to say!

Opening Arguments

Joel: This opening argument has a good argument behind it. The Challenger goes right to the gun violence statistics, which is a strong move. He hammers home the sheer volume of guns in our society and the violence that they are used to commit. However, he fails to address any of the potential flaws in his argument. The post wander at times, feeling somewhat unfocused and utilizing some poor transitions. On the other hand, the writing is clear and easy to understand. The post may be a bit unfocused, but it is not confusing for the reader. The sourcing and linking is very good, with The Challenger backing up his statistics with sources and providing unbiased, informative links.

The IBL is working with some good arguments, but he could present them in a much better manner. The structure of this post is clear and, for the most part, the IBL is straightforward in what he is arguing. However, there are some poor transitions and the second point is somewhat confusing. An initial summary of his contentions would have likely made this post more clear. I also had a problem with the IBL definitively stating that the threat of violence from a greater proliferation of handguns has reduced the crime rate. He backs up this assertion with a link to John Lott giving a brief summary of his study, but does not give us the actual data. Furthermore, we are not told how or even if Mr. Lott showed causation rather than correlation. Mr. Lott’s conclusions may be fair, but they are certainly not proven to be true from the link the IBL provided.

Johnny: Good opening; good writing style. Good historical background on why handguns exist and Sam Colt quote. Awesome presentation on handguns (and I am NOT a fanatic against them by the way; I just took my nephew Greg, 13, to the shooting range today so he could begin working on bb target practice). Truly awesome research on gunfights in the old west. Some incredible and imaginative links truly make his case impressive and FUN TO READ and work through. (He's giving me a lesson on how better to do my blog...and I will be visiting and blogrolling him!) Barely attacked the other side. Well writtten. Wonderfully linked....inspired me to work harder on my blog with the writing and linking!

Not as moving as the other one but he begins OK..but does not blow me away (no pun intended). Quotes about violence have validity; I've done some assigned writing and projects for a nongovernment group that has done research on chimps and the aggression is there as well. It is a fact of life. But he's losing me. Maybe I'm just not bright enough to follow his logic, and I hope this isn't heading into an argument such as "we're born to be violent so we can have guns" since that would cheapen the issue (and would suggest he is a mole for anti-NRA groups). I will read on: Good point on risk of reciprocal violence, but not well backed up; all the stuff before is clumsy and convoluted (to me). This is an awkward post to read. I just put a post on my site that someone sent me -- my first Guest Voice -- and although I didn't agree with it and it wasn't perfect, it flowed naturally. This is a jumble of ideas that don't connect that well at times -- but it isn't an attack post with ideological crap so it's not bad. Just ineffectual. Even if I hadn't read the first one, I would conclude this...and I tend to agree with THIS GUY more than the first one (as usual I'm in the middle but not sure removing handguns is the answer). So this contest puts me in an intersting spot -- I'm impressed by the argeument and presentation of the person who I would usually not agree with totally and less impressed and almost wishing I can get a lifeline from the present one I'm reading, who is not making his case all that well. Tepid ending. It's not a bad one. But it doesn't tie in as well with the theoretical stuff he presented earlier. This post is a well intentioned jumble with some organizational problems Writing is not bad. But it misses its target.

Chris: Well, I disagree with this guy, but hey- the scoring won’t be changed! First off, I admire his ability to admit that guns can be fun… it does a lot to relax the mood on an issue that will no doubt leave people on both sides bitter, no matter the outcome. But wait a minute.. wait just a gosh darn minute… where have I seen this opening argument before? Who else admits to owning guns, and is even a member of the NRA (our challenger isn’t, but I’m going to continue anyways)? Where did I see that guns can be fun, but are used solely to kill, and because of that, it doesn’t matter whether or not they can be useful (read: Frank J’s “nuke the moon” essay) as a deterrent… where did I..? Ah! It was in Bowling for Columbine! Though it’s a nice opener, its one that has been used before, and is used tirelessly by many people that I talk to on a day to day basis, and is ubiquitous amongst “intellectual” liberals, I still would like to see something new. However, his entire post wasn’t “preaching to the choir,” so he’ll get more than 2 points. HOWEVER: I do not like incontinuity of logic, and I don’t like the Challenger implying, or trying to make a connection with homicide and legal gun purchase. If someone is going to commit a pre-meditated murder, I don’t think they’re going to be too worried about breaking another, less punitive law. I don’t buy it for a minute. If someone is going to kill, they’ll find a way to do it. A gun is a tool, not a cause. Also, a small nitpick: a $20 .22 cal pistol is most likely an air gun, not a gun that fires rounds powered by gunpowder witha full metal jacket.. though it will penetrate the skin, it probably will not have enough force to penetrate the sternum of a man, and for that reason alon, i don't buy it. Another issue I have with the logic is the “immunity for gun manufacturers.” It’s like trying to sue McDonald’s if you get fat… oh wait.. that happens. Other than that, he states his position, instead of endless tirades about how guns are no good, and he (pardon the HORRIBLE pun) sticks to his “guns” such as the Brady Bill and statistics and covers his bases where the numbers are concerned.

Now, I may be libertarian, but that only means I’m going to be a bit harder on Vinod. Here we go: “and avoid the statistical barrage that characterizes so many gun debates.” Eek. That’s pretty early to have a problem, but I’m not going to bury him before he’s dead. "1.Violence is an intrinsic part of human nature 2. In some cases, violence can only be countered with reciprocal violence 3. Even disproportionate reciprocal violence has social value 4. Individuals can be / are trusted to use this violence appropriately 5. Government can NOT be trusted with a monopoly on necessary violence." Nice and easy, direct, and sound… Though the philosophy department left a lot to be desired… for one thing, he attacked Rousseau (by quoting Pinker and his attack on the “noble savage” theory of said Frenchie) who influenced the founding documents of these United States quite considerably, with the theory he attacked!! Also, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is outdated, and doubt has been cast on it’s validity… Though I suppose it is useful with a few people, it is by no means Truth. However, he does not say this, and it is up to the Challenger to find these chinks in his armor. Also, he needs to use Utilitarian literature like i did in Battle Torture to drive his point about +/- of guns home.

First Rebuttals

Joel: The Challenger needed to do a much better job of rebutting the Iron Blogger Libertarian in this first rebuttal. He does a great job casting doubt upon John Lott, but this post is otherwise lacking. He makes some good points, but leaves the reader without much in the way of backing data or other sourcing. He dismisses Pinker, for instance, without giving us a single reason why we should dismiss his work as “junk science.” The post reads well, is easy to comprehend and uses humor very well, but it does a poor job of challenging many of Vinod’s points in his opening argument. This first rebuttal needs more sourcing and clearer refutations.

The IBL does a good bit of rebutting here and comes away with a much stronger case for it. He counters many of The Challenger’s arguments quite effectively, particularly in the cases of anarchy, human nature, and looking at a variety of different countries that have low crime rates despite high gun ownership. I felt like the IBL did some statistical massaging, though, that was not even necessary. Particularly, the ethnic breakout of statistics seemed pointless, showing some intriguing correlation but not even beginning to take into account a wide variety of other information that would cause questions about causation. Furthermore, the comparison of DGUs to homicide rates rather than overall gun crime seemed misleading and disingenuous. In the sense of style and substance, this post did a great job of being well-organized, clear, coherent and easy to read. The sourcing, as well, was excellent.

Johnny: Opening isn't really an attack. INteresting that he had same reaction I did to the libertarian post....Good junk science link...Excellent response to if they're all so violent why should we arm them...Pretty well demolishing what was to me a bit of a stunningly bumpy post...Knock out on John Lott as an expert. Based on what he shows, Lott is highly predictable...He demolishes Lott. But all the while he is NOT launching an attack on his debate foe....STRONG ENDING AGAIN. Not nearly as elegant as his first, but quite well done. solid.

AHA! He has a very good beginning...But it's going downhill again. He is basically giving almost a feminist argument: "People are PIGS!" (not in the law enforcement sense). Link on Japan is interesting but doesn't really say much about why we should have handguns. Sorry. It didn't sell me. Lots of blahhhhhh stuff here that seems more like a mental exercise than progress.BUT he does WELL in noting that we have lots of guns but we're not a society in anarchy (unless you use as your model Walmarts the day before Xmas). Good points on the penalties... EXCELLENT use ot stats on registration, intra-US differences, crime rates, etc. Interesting state on blacks... GOOD in making case here (in this post) guns for self defense.

Chris: Worry about backing up your points WITH SOURCES rather than song lyrics before you attack an IB. Not impressed at all. Each point the challenger attacked did not have a source that could have refuted the points. Now that we’ve gotten the ball busting out of the way, here’s an easy example of what I mean: Point 1: the easiest thing to do would be to quote religious documents, because those are the only things defending the inherent morality of man. Science points elsewhere. Religion is something most people are uncomfortable dealing with. 2: Cite an example of a failure of violence to solve problems, i.e. the Balkans, or the Chechen conflict. 3: Forget about Lott, Lott was ONE SOURCE- attack the point using positive language by pushing a point of your own here- you can use the utilitarian argument (which is part of Vinod’s foundation in this case) against him, and earn bonus points. Don’t fall for bait, you’ll waste your rebuttal. 4: I see no sources. Saying something is so does not make it that way. SOURCE!! 5: Shot in the foot. Read up on your history before typing… The Nazi party DID enforce a gun ban, and Iraq is not incredibly relevant to this debate. Lay out simple, concrete reasons why Vinod is wrong, and offer analysis with information to back it up… I see none.

I busted balls with Ralph, and Vinod won’t escape it either. I’m mad that he didn’t expand on Hobbes, and I’m annoyed that he spurned his greatest theological asset: Utilitarianism. Education-wise, he’s made us all a bit dumber by teaching us to disassociate the purpose of firearms with social purpose, and that doesn’t fly with me. Granted, he did do a good job in pointing out that stats vary, and can’t be trusted always, but as far as the philosophy behind the concepts go, he needs to whip out some Jefferson, or at least delve into the theories, because this is really costing him big time in the education department. As for the links… yeah, they were alright, but some were questionable, and others were simply non-sequitirs.

Second Rebuttals

Joel: The Challenger nails it with his second rebuttal. He actively challenges
almost every argument from the IBL’s first rebuttal and does so in an effective and persuasive manner. He even turns some of the IBL’s arguments against him, particularly in the case of Canada’s gun ownership and crime rate. He strengthens his own case at the same time, with the persuasive look at the correlation between the rise in handgun sales and the rise in U.S. crime—though this is only correlation and not causation, a point I noted. I was hesitant with some of The Challenger’s early anger toward the IBL, as I felt like he probably was mischaracterizing some of the IBL’s arguments, but there is no doubt that anger fueled this rebuttal in a very effective manner and sharpened The Challenger’s focus. As such, this is a great post stylistically that is very compelling, flows well and is easy to read. Finally, the sourcing was excellent, with solid links from respectable sources that backed up The Challenger’s arguments.

The IBL does a good job of rebutting and countering The Challenger’s accusations of racism and intellectual dishonesty, which felt somewhat overblown. The IBL also helps bolster his own case with the comparisons between countries, cities and states, as well as the nice statistic showing a higher nongun murder rate in the U.S. than the overall murder rate in most other countries. However, this post feels pieced together and sloppy. There is too much slang—“lemme”, “cuz”, “Achance meeting b/t”—and too many unclear sentences. Many of the IBL’s links lead to conservative and pro-gun websites and some of the statistics are unsourced or sourced with broken links. The IBL was strong in his arguments but poor in his execution.

Johnny: Uh, oh. Personal attack. When we get to labels it's a problem. I don't mind lack of humor but they lose me (let's leave the Swift Boats/Kerry Military record style debates away from The Iron Blog..) Reading on...he makes sense about saying men are violent then arming them to the teeth....Good comments on Japan...but isn't he veering terribly off course here??? NOW I can see why our presidential campaigns suck so badly -- no one can FOCUS and stick to THE ISSUE. TRULY SAD...the intellectual dishonesty part here is OK but the link is predictable and almost cliched in this case and it's moving into an attack on the PERSON rather than a discussion of THE ISSUE. Hard to believe this is the guy who wrote that absolutely perfect first post! "Once again, my opponent’s distortions are obvious. He somehow assumes that each defensive use of a gun somehow prevented a homicide. This is clearly not the case." EXCELLENT point that almost -- but does not -- make up for the stuff before it. Whole ending is quite good, makes sense, is done cooly. The first part of his post was not quality stuff. I personally can't see what he was so upset about...

Good beginning. Some sentence are neoacademic in style. Good point about US non-murder rate. Good that he reminds reader of challengers own statement about blacks. But he goes off a little on the deep end about this...good quote from cdc (I see that source is instapundit) weak on non lethal weapons. Am unconvinced by argument he makes here. And the ending peters out! TERRIBLE ENDING! So...this guy does better at the beginning, then buries the reader in a ton of stats (I am VERY SUSPICIOUS of that and it induces ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ)...then has a virtual non-ending. Was it deleted by mistake?

Chris: FINALLY!!! The challenger has brought his war face and started to bust Vinod’s chops for shortcomings in his argument. He dissects the sources well, and provides information of his own to counter, pushing his point further. However, he did jump to conclusions a bit when calling Vinod’s post racist. Statistics are not racist. Numbers have no feelings. Also, Vinod did not accuse Japan of valuing conformity and submission, Bill Whittle did. The challenger just passed this over and made a blanket claim that racism was thoroughly present in Vinod’s rebuttal, and for the most part, it wasn’t. Intellectual dishonesty? He used the argument well, but it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. He even turns a point against himself when he bring up the Hollywood robbery. By saying the police needed to arm themselves more appropriately, the logical deduction from that prompt is: “Police aren’t armed enough,” not necessarily that “we need to disarm.”

Vinod is wonderful with words. In one rebuttal, he properly defends himself from accusations of racism, and intellectual dishonesty. He also pulls in more stats and started using more irrefutable sources, such as the CDC. He did a nice job with the rebut which nabs him points, and did well to do overkill on his arguments against the Challenger’s assertions. HOWEVER (ever present, isn’t it?) I would have liked to see even more structure, and as for the interest value… I have a gallon of coffee right next to me in hopes that I’ll stay awake long enough to complete my judging of this notably boring debate.

Closing Arguments

Joel: The Challenger nails his closing argument. He does a great job of casting doubt on the IBL’s case by countering many of the IBL’s argument with his own counterarguments, casting his own case in a very flattering light. He does an excellent job of summarizing his previous posts while making the case seem fresh. The post is written in a forceful and persuasive manner. The paragraphs flow into one another and everything here is very clear and coherent, without ever becoming wordy or indulgent. There is a great passion in this writing that shows the issue is important to The Challenger and fuels the certainty of this closing argument in a manner that is clearly conveyed to the reader. Well done.

The IBL summarizes his case well in this closing argument. He also leaves aside the statistics for the most part and instead reminds us of certain compelling cases that seem to contradict The Challenger’s arguments. The post is structured well and does a nice job of bringing together the original points and arguments and arranging them into a coherent and compelling argument. In particular, the IBL makes a strong case for the need for self-defense and the desire for individual sovereignty. The post, however, is not as clear as it could be, with certain sentences being somewhat confusing or just poorly structured. The post feels as if it could have been streamlined and made more clear.

Johnny: Excellent beginning. He gets right down to it and quite effectively shows flaws in the other's argument. His arguments about his opponents "flawed logic" are, in reality, virtual knock out punches. Very well done. Very much to the point. Very focused and specific. Not really personal. Excellent ending. Not as good as the first one he did but you could hold this one up as a model for others on the left and right to emulate. He closed the sale....but after this I read the NEXT one...and he could open and close it in HIS favor. (This is the one I do first).

I have to be honest. This is a TOUGH post to judge. The opening is so convoluted. It is "on message" but it's the kind of piece of writing where someone seems to be trying to write something that looks like good intelligent writing -- when simple declarative sentences and concepts that flow from each other would be MUCH more productive. I almost don't know what to do with this as I read it...but I will read on: The opening reminds me of a political science teacher I had who spent 40 minutes of a 45 minute period talking about the methodolgy he'd use. The bell rang 5 minutes later and he said:" What? So soon?" And we whispered: "Not soon enough." I finished reading. This is one of the weakest closing statements I have read on the site.

Chris: This closing seems to be a “seether” if you will… By that I mean, the challenger goes back to statistics that he provided, and points that he made as if they were gospel, and carries an irritated and bad mood to it. The Challenger does, however use sources to back up his arguments that he and Vinod used before, and he did do a good job of “sticking to his guns.” Not a bad closing, but my coffee maker still hates both combatants.

The case was refreshingly easy to read, and it was short, sweet, and to the point. It wrapped up the argument well, and addressed the debate itself and the directions it turned. It did not use nearly enough sources to back up points, and relied too much on humorous anecdote to push a point instead of sourcing. Mildly entertaining rebuttal, but what it makes up for in re-read value, it loses in informational value.

Strong words to both Combatants from our Judges. Now only the Verdict remains!

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