Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interesting but unfair debate

Yesterday, after attending a "required" general meeting of The Music Connection in 60 Evans, I went over to 10 Evans to see whether or not the debate on Proposition 19 was still in progress.  Proposition 19 will be on the California ballot in the upcoming general election.  If passed, it will make it legal (under state law) for persons over 21 to use marijuana and to possess small quantities of it.  California voters passed another proposition (215) in 1996 that legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  Marijuana is still banned under federal law.

When I arrived to Room 10, I found that the debate was still in progress.  After a couple minutes, they stopped for a short intermission at which point I took a seat.  The debate was between Dan Rush (apparently a representative of some union), who argued in favor of Prop. 19, and Ron Allen (a black pastor who goes by the title "bishop" and is with a group called the International Faith Based Coalition), who argued against the proposition.  The flyer (of which I have a copy made up of two mismatched pieces I found on the floor--people had torn flyers so that people could use them to write questions for the debaters) states the names of the cosponsors of the debate:
  • Students for a Sensible Drug Policy
  • Students for Liberty
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Cal Democrats
  • College Republicans
Since I am a member of Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), I found out about the debate from the email the club sends out each week.
    Not long into the second half of the debate (which for the most part consisted of the debaters speaking on issues brought up by written questions from members of the audience), I commented on my own Facebook Status: "Is it just me, or are the majority of the slides on the background screen pro-19 slides?"  Throughout most of the exchange, slides played on a screen behind the debaters and moderator.  The slides contained various pieces of information and ideas on various issues related to the legalization of marijuana. Many of the slides displayed the logo of the pro-Prop. 19 campaign in the upper right corner of the screen.  A man stood to the right of the stage near a laptop.  Often when the topic switched, he would find a slide appropriate to the issue.  Sometimes, he scrolled through several slides in an effort to find the right one.  For example, when Bishop Jones talked about the hidden societal costs of marijuana, the man found a slide which stated that the costs are much lower than those of tobacco and alcohol.

    After the debate, I saw Ben Goldblatt talking to the man about the unfairness of the slideshow.  Ben pointed out to the man that someone who is against the proposition could have come up with a whole slideshow of facts that were against the proposition. After Ben left, I talked with the man about it myself.  He was of the position that Bishop Jones was lying during the debate.  The slides which he put up contained "facts" that were supposed to give people correct information.

    I didn't know it at first, but it turns out that the man who operated the PowerPoint show is Mauricio Garzon.  He is the director of the "Yes on Prop. 19" campaign.

    Overall, I enjoyed the part of the debate that I heard.  However, the slideshow thing was very unfair.  So whose fault was this?  Was it Garzon's fault?  I think the organizations that sponsored the debate should have acted to keep the debate fair.  Why didn't BCR or Cal Dems or one of the other campus groups do something to preserve the fairness of the debate.  I believe that in the future, if BCR sponsors an event, it should designate someone to monitor the event to ensure that such things do not happen again.

    Edited: Sunday, October 24, 2010 for punctuation, grammar, formatting, and addition of a parenthetical appositive.

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