Abolish the Death Penalty

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Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A recent Gallup poll found that Americans are still largely supportive of the death penalty, with 6 in 10 in favor as punishment for murder. Legal in 32 states, it has come under renewed scrutiny in light of several botched executions in 2014. At the heart of the debate are many complicated questions. Within a flawed criminal justice system, is it possible to know every person’s guilt with a sufficient degree of certainty? Does the fear of death reduce crime? Are there race and class biases in sentencing? Are some crimes so heinous in nature that punishment by death is the only appropriate measure, or is capital punishment always immoral? Should we abolish the death penalty?

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The President Has Exceeded His Constitutional Authority by Waging War Without Congressional Authorization

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Illustration by Thomas James

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The President has launched a sustained, long-term military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But did he have constitutional power to do so? The Constitution carefully divides the war powers of the United States between Congress and the President. Article II provides that “The President shall be Commander in Chief.” But Article I provides that “The Congress shall have Power … To Declare War.” In this case, Congress has not declared war; the President ordered the attacks unilaterally. Did he exceed his authority and violate the Constitution?


Presented in partnership with The Richard Paul Richman Center at Columbia University and the National Constitution Center.

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The President Has Exceeded His Constitutional Authority by Waging War Without Congressional Authorization - Edited

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The U.S. Should Adopt the 'Right to Be Forgotten' Online

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Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In 2014, the European Union’s Court of Justice determined that individuals have a right to be forgotten, “the right—under certain conditions—to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them.” It is not absolute, but meant to be balanced against other fundamental rights, like freedom of expression. In a half year following the Court’s decision, Google received over 180,000 removal requests. Of those reviewed and processed, 40.5% were granted. Largely seen as a victory in Europe, in the U.S., the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. Was this ruling a blow to free speech and public information, or a win for privacy and human dignity?

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The U.S. Should Adopt the 'Right to Be Forgotten' Online - Edited

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The U.S. Should Adopt the 'Right to Be Forgotten' Online - Unedited

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Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity On Campus

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Illustration By Gillian Blease, Getty Images

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What is college for? For many, it’s a time for personal and intellectual growth, to meet new people, and to explore ideas and philosophies that challenge their beliefs. Or is it? Recent cancellations of conservative speakers, rescinded honorary degrees, and scrutiny of certain campus groups have heightened perceptions that there is pervasive liberal intolerance on campuses. Are liberals shutting down speech and debate on campus? Or is this theory a myth, based on the preponderance of liberals at universities rather than intentionally discriminatory actions?

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Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity On Campus - Edited

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Declinists Be Damned: Bet on America

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Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

America owes $6 trillion to China, our sprawling military complex often appears helpless against disparate threats abroad, and the War on Terror has stripped us of the moral high ground. Washington is paralyzed by bitter partisanship, our children are falling behind their international peers, and our middle class is no longer the world’s most affluent. But we’ve been warned about America’s decline before. Remember Sputnik? Yes, times are tough, but America is recovering from the Great Recession faster than almost any other advanced country, an energy boom could add billions to the GDP, we’re still a leader in technological innovation, and our military strength and geopolitical advantages remain unrivaled. Are our best days behind us, or should the world still bet on America?

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Special Podcast: David Carr Tribute

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Upon hearing the news of the sudden passing of The New York Times's David Carr on February 12, 2015, we assembled this remembrance. David appeared on our stage on October 27, 2009 arguing against the debate motion: Good Riddance to Mainstream Media.

Special Podcast: David Carr Tribute

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Amazon Is The Reader's Friend

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

In late 2014, Amazon and the publishing house Hachette settled a months-long dispute over who should set the price for e-books. In Amazon’s view, lower prices mean more sales and more readers, and that benefits everyone. But for publishers, the price of an e-book must reflect the investment made, from the author’s advance to a book’s production. The conflict, resolved for now, has only raised more questions about the value of books, Amazon’s business practices, and the role of publishers. Is book publishing an oligopoly, a dinosaur in need of disruption? Is Amazon, which accounts for 41% of all new book and 67% of all e-book sales, a monopoly? Who is doing right by readers and the future of books?

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Special Podcast: Retrospective on Freedom of Speech

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With the world outraged by the attacks on satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, last week in Paris, we think back to our debate from 2006 on the motion: Freedom of Expression Must Include the License to Offend.

The debaters were Philip Gourevitch, David Cesarani, Christopher Hitchens, Daisy Khan, Signe Wilkinson, and Mari Matsuda. The complete debate can be heard at here.

Special Podcast: Retrospective on Freedom of Speech

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