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Author Topic: 2012-2013 CEDA Topic Ideas  (Read 13943 times)
anindac
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« on: March 04, 2012, 02:20:09 AM »

Although it could be premature to discuss the topic for next year, this discussion may be a fruitful one as we prepare for the latter tournaments this season and reflect on the Arab Spring topic. What do you want the 2012-13 CEDA/NDT topic to be?  

In my humble opinion, I think we should debate about Latin America. While we have debated topics such as immigration, nuclear weapons, agriculture, courts, China, energy, treaties, and Africa, the collegiate debate community hasn't debated about Latin America in nearly two decades since the 1982-83 NDT topic - "Resolved: That all United States military intervention into the internal affairs of any foreign nation or nations in the Western Hemisphere should be prohibited." Although, the high school community did debate about Latin America in the 198788 topic - "Resolved: That the United States government should adopt a policy to increase political stability in Latin America." - it's been a while!

An article published in the March/April 2012 edition of Foreign Affairs (http://losriosdebate.blogspot.com/2012/03/latin-america-us-relations-article-from.html) delivers a thorough analysis of past US foreign policy towards Latin America and the new direction it's now heading. In a nerdy, policy sense, the stars have aligned - what better time to debate policy in a time when there's a paradigm shift among policymakers? This topic will offer a litany of solvency advocates and plenty of literature for critical debate from many Latin American scholars. As a community, we have not debated this topic since the Cold War. Today, Latin America is fervent with rising powers and regional institutions building their positions in the international politics. Also, new trading partners, namely, Russia, India, and China, are competing for influence as the US attempts to find itself in a brave new Western hemisphere where the age-old Monroe Doctrine will be put into question.

I am interested to collaborate with anyone/team that would like to co-author a Latin America topic paper. I am also interested in other ideas for the topic next year. Cheers!


-Aninda Chowdhury, Los Rios Community College District Policy Debater
« Last Edit: March 04, 2012, 02:23:36 AM by anindac » Logged
kevin kuswa
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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 04:27:20 PM »

Aninda, good post and Im all for a Latin America topic.  From having debated the political stability topic in high school I agree its definitely overdue for a college resolution.  I also think we should explore the possibilities of an Occupy/wealth redistribution topic area, perhaps building off of the financial reform topics areas that Kathryn and Malgor submitted last year.  Id be willing to jump in on some of those efforts if there is a push for it.  I also think the financial reform issues might be ripe for the passive voice, a construction we used to debate fairly regularly prior to the hegemony of the USFG agent.  Perhaps something like one of these could be the basis for a solid controversy paper:

R: That more comprehensive and equitable wealth redistribution should be substantially implemented in the United States.

R: That corporate control and influence should be dramatically challenged/reduced/curtailed/limited (in the United States).

R: That more progressive policies of social justice should be adopted and enacted (in the United States).

Obviously these need a bunch of fleshing out, but something to get out there early to begin percolating.

kevin
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Hester
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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2012, 05:50:05 PM »

more than ANYthing else, next year's Topic Selection process needs to account for the problems which have hindered good debates the last two years:

in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, the community voted for a Topic (Immigration, Arab Spring) that was touted as a unique opportunity to tackle timely public controversies, only to preclude the most in-depth debates about these current events by then choosing Resolutions (Visas, Democracy Assistance) that missed the best parts of those topic areas. For example, we decided to debate H1 visa eligibility expansion rather than Border Security. that was dumb and completely contrary to the notion that we wanted to debate Immigration because it was such a big policy controversy.

And now we're almost through a topic supposedly about the Arab Spring, trying to pretend that military strikes in Yemen and NGO expulsions in Egypt don't moot our debates because we chose resolutions that place those issues outside of the realm of AFF ground.

WHATever topic area we choose to debate next year, we should remember the lessons of the last two years and admit that
a) we cannot predict with enough accuracy in June/July what may be happening on the ground to construct our Resolution too narrowly; and
b) if we want to debate a cool public policy controversy, we HAVE to allow the AFF the ground to really do the kind of comprehensive policy reform that any issue worth researching requires.

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dylanquigley
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« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2012, 07:40:08 PM »

A couple quick things:
-I would love to debate Latin America. I have serious concerns about a coherent mechanism for such a large and diverse area esp. if we don't wanna debate trade or assistance again.

-I'll probably write a short energy topic paper. Doesn't need much justification as an area. But I wanna talk to folks about the mechanism that we used last time and what could be done to improve it since I didn't debate that one.

-Very much agree with Hester that we gotta allow the aff "to really do the kind of comprehensive policy reform that any issue worth researching requires." I think that one way to help address this is by heavily encouraging people before the topic paper writing process begins to focus far more on the verb/mechanism and solvency lit than the title noun of the resolution.
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Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2012, 08:06:26 PM »

In general, its hard to get a topic through the process where there's a lot of latitude for what the aff can do.

We chose democracy assistance rather than promotion because there was too much one could do under promotion. Now everyone is just praying another major agenda item comes up but doesn't pass so there's a DA at the NDT.

We chose visas rather than more comprehensive immigration reform...why, exactly? Visas certainly wasn't too damned big.

Nukes, still worked out ok, but we ended up with a fairly restricted list of affs compared to what you could've done in the overall literature (no CTBT, no START, no FMCT). No one really thinks that topic was too bad, but I also don't think it would've been any worse if we added a few of those core area affs which mostly seemed to draw fire because they added an international element. (An international element, it should be noted, that was debated no matter what, but as a pitiful "do it multilateral" style CP compared to the rich tableau of aff options available otherwise).

Agriculture--that was fine. For an ag topic, couldn't have been much better. Considering how few affs there were in some of the categories, a few more commodities wouldn't have proven that unmanageable but, it was aiight.

Middle East--constructive engagement was a good phrase. The aff really could do a lot of different stuff, especially as far as Iran was concerned. Seems like the advantage of these resolutions that pick a bigger rather than smaller "term of art" is well, the aff can do more! All the gnashing of teeth about how the affirmative will run ragged over the negative because of topicality rarely seems to amount to much more than a hill of beans.

Courts--by December that year, I think the community would've greenlighted adding another three cases. The chief problem of the overrule mechanism constituting something that was rarely if ever advocated in the literature was fairly typical. In that case, though, if distinguishing had been topical, an already fairly pitiful array of negative arguments would've become even more clownish.

China--dont really remember well enough if there was an available alternative formulation. I do think locking the aff into pressure might not've been the best but, you could do a lot of different kinds of pressure, with varying effects.

Anyway, we all know what will happen.

"Lets debate giant space lasers powered by nuclear engines"
"Holy shit thats badass! I agree."
"Ok. Whats the mechanism?"
...

Energy was great the last time. Its hard to screw up energy.
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Adam Symonds
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« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2012, 08:43:01 PM »

Middle East--constructive engagement was a good phrase. The aff really could do a lot of different stuff, especially as far as Iran was concerned. Seems like the advantage of these resolutions that pick a bigger rather than smaller "term of art" is well, the aff can do more! All the gnashing of teeth about how the affirmative will run ragged over the negative because of topicality rarely seems to amount to much more than a hill of beans.

The lesson that I think we should take away from the Sanctions, Middle East, and agriculture topics is that one broad mechanism combined with one narrow "floor" mechanism can balance the concerns of advocates of both broad and narrow resolutions. Sanctions worked, not because there was a "list," but because affs were required to remove sanctions (narrow) as part of their Constructive Engagement (broad). Negs had guaranteed ground built around the removal of sanctions, but affs were able to function fairly broadly within Constructive Engagement in order to match what solvency advocates were discussing at the time.

To make our current topic similar, it would have asked the aff to engage in some form of Democracy Promotion toward the Arab Spring while, at a minimum, enacting a particular type or segment of DP. Democracy assistance could have been that narrow mechanism within DP. Countless other mechanisms within the Lappin-spectrum of Democracy Promotion could have served as that narrow mechanism as well. Imagine if all the terrible affs on this topic (no one who's read any DA literature thinks these affs actually solve any of their advantages) were able to expand their mechanisms to incorporate what people are actually advocating? Combined with a specific sub-mechanism to guarantee link ground, I think this topic would be much improved.

What concerned me about the DA topic process is that we were 1000% locked into the phrase democracy assistance in the controversy paper, even though it was not a term that we had debated before or had a significant conversation about going into the topic meeting. Given the relative dissimilarity in all of the topic states at the time, it seemed prudent that we consider other phrases that could cope with the differences as well as the reality that things would inevitably change during the year.

The fault clearly lies with all of us for consistently voting for the smallest topic year after year. But we can easily remedy this by looking at the most successful mechanisms of the last decade - broad mechanism to allow the aff maneuvering space, combined with narrower, specific sub-mechanism to guarantee a floor of negative link ground. It's a win-win.
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joe
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« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2012, 10:08:24 PM »

agree with all the calls to let the aff actually do stuff.  the neg always already has enough ground if you aren't dogmatic about the whole policy/k thing. 

it'd be fun to do a high school style resolution every once in a while. 
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V I Keenan
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2012, 09:20:39 AM »

Back on Latin America-

 ... the immigration topic in part came about from people attempting to debate Latin America because it was difficult identifying a mechanism that was US policy based.  (I will also add that I don't think visas was entirely the wrong focus.  Yes, adding border control would have been nice, but given that basically 1/2 of those who are considered living here "illegally" entered legally in the first place, visa reform had the potential to address both legal immigration AND question of "illegal" entry in a way that border control did not, and is actually the more nuanced end of the conversation.  Just because the media and the politician focus on the visible question of borders does not mean that it is the best topic understanding the fundamental questions of immigration reform - we don't need to win votes or appeal to viewers in our framing of the issue.  I think selecting a Res that excluded the DREAM Act was our bigger mistake by far, not learning that our postdoctoral colleagues from other countries have drawbacks with their J-1s, and that there are a finite number of H-1's contributing to that).

Anyway ... yes, many of us would like to debate "Latin America" ... but, as noted, you can't debate "Latin America".  We'll ignore the totalizing rhetoric issue.  It's simply not practical for a mechanism to debate and substantive policy discussion.  We CAN start by debating South America, Central America, the Caribbean .. we can start with debating trade policies, tariff policies, security issues (which then feels repetitive to some, which is why we never get a paper that goes there) ... we can debate The USFG should substantially reform economic policy with one or more of the following:  Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, etc. or the USFG and security concerns in Guatemala, Colombia, Cuba, etc.; or the USFG humanitarian aid in Haiti, etc .....

I know the reaction is "well, duh Vik, that the process of writing the topic paper".  But the reason we haven't successfully submitted a Latin America topic paper in the past was because it was trying to identify all of the above in one paper, or because we recognize this approach is probably necessary and say "we just debated econ and trade policy on China".  Instead, I think there needs to be 1 paper that focuses on one mechanism that is most distant for debaters (and China was a while ago) and a few alternate countries, OR there needs to be 2-3 Latin America papers, each focused as above on econ, security, or aid policy as a mechanism, with the most appropriate countries included for analysis.

There is another alternative, which is to identify resolutions in the Organization of American States that the US is the holdout on (such as CTBT), as to phrase the Res as "the USFG should ratify and accede to one or more of the following from OAS agenda:  CTBT, etc....".  The US doesn't need to be the only holdout, because there are definite policy articles that discuss how the US vote would pull along others. [This was my suggestion to the Topic Committee a few years ago on a way to begin to engage in the elusive Latin America topic].

Basically - don't write "Latin America", because you can't.  Figure out which area of policy analysis makes the most sense within Latin America and write that.  That also solves some of the clear mechanism issues that are also being discussed.

Finally, we don't need a SMALL topic for Lat Am, but we do need one with a clear enough focus to allow the breadth to also have some depth in discussion.  That is why beginning the paper with the KIND of policy action we are looking at Lat Am would be particularly beneficial, so I will second the "focus on the verbs" and not the nouns suggestion. 
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Malgor
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2012, 03:34:39 PM »

Part of this is the sense that the topic paper can exclude things from consideration from the topic committee.  This is not a rule anywhere in the topic procedures, it's merely a guiding process or norm that the committee has adhered to.  On both topics the committee refused to consider anything else because the immigration paper recommended against "comprehensive immigration reform" and the MENA paper limited the mechanism to "democracy assistance."

I think this is a huge disadvantage of the 'controversy' process that needs to go.  I'm fine with controversies, but not fine with the community voting on a mechanism etc before the committee even convenes.  It makes no sense that the limited, preliminary research a few people do to write a topic paper becomes a limiter on what the committee can do.  The topic committee has become much more open, and people participate and help members with research and input throughout the meeting.  It makes no sense that we would use ideas constructed with fewer people, resources, and a limited understanding of the literature to exclude ideas that emerge when there are more people, doing more research, and uncovering more of the literature area. 

Simplest solution:  topic papers can specify inclusion, but not exclusion.  It's not perfect but it is a middle ground if people think the controversy process is vital.  so, for example, this year the topic committee could have added promotion, but they would have had to say "the usfg should substantially increase its democracy promotion, including a substantial increase in democracy assistance, for one or more of the following......."
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stables
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2012, 05:24:38 PM »

As always, the community can vote to create any overall change to the topic process. The community sets the standards that the committee follows. For example, I will be soon discussing the new topic rotation amendment which was produced in response to community feedback. The full item is on the CEDA site for your review at http://cedadebate.org/node/977

To Malcolm's specific point, the committee can now add to the current controversy. The committee very much now has the authority to keep the core controversy and provide the optimum way to express it. For example, we did discuss adding a broader sense of democracy promotion to democracy assistance. There was not support for that step because people were uncertain about how to move beyond just democracy assistance and still provide some limit to the topic.

If you haven't read Hester's posts, I would encourage everyone to read it. To me, as the chair, it seems an annual rite that the voices in the summer are in favor of narrow wordings and the voices in the spring are interested in broader wordings. The great part about our process is that if someone has a wording topic proposal we will be happy to address it.

What we cannot do now is what you cite in your other example, immigration reform. The controversy paper was very clear that comprehensive immigration reform was not the optimal route to take. It instead recommended liberalization of immigration policies in a number of approaches. The committee could not have moved away from liberalization and gone back to CIR. This puts the power in the community's hands and narrows the scope of our mission.

I agree with Malcolm's assessment of the tremendous outpouring of community support for the topic process. The challenge is not, however, a lack of input, but too much input in a short period of time. Problems framing the Native American topic and the China topic, for example, stemmed from great ideas, delivered by very smart and hard working people in a compressed timeline. If the committee is not able to procedurally declare some approaches off-limits to their work it forces a consideration of too many concepts in too short of a period of time to correctly review that material. I do not pretend this topic (or any topic) is perfect, but I would always prefer our shortcomings be measured in terms we review and accept their limitations. I fear we do the greatest disservice when we guide an entire year of debates by terms we didn't carefully discuss.

Malcolm's suggestion of searching for the best idea is always right in theory, but we need to find a balance between those goals and the reality of framing a topic. I welcome any suggestions to that end.

Going back to the specific topics - I appreciate Kevin's brainstorming and encourage more work on those ideas. I also want to emphasize Vik's and Aninda's interest and framing of the Latin America topic. Latin America always struggles not because we fail to appreciate the significance of the region, but because we have little common interest in what it means to debate Latin America. Those folks who want to debate drug legalization and those who want to debate trade or reform (political or economic) rarely have a common perspective. Like the Failed States topic, I am happy to help anyone interested in these (or other) controversies make the ballot.

More soon about the rotation amendment and next year's process. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share their perspectives.

Gordon





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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
RGarrett
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2012, 06:02:40 PM »

I think that the statement that your interpretation of controversies is open to broad mechanisms is somewhat disingenuous especially given the current topic.  Here are some quotes from last year:

"We agree democracy promotion is a large, basically incoherent set of policies.  DemoPromo could include anything such as invading another nation, providing aid, withdrawing support for a government. Just about anything.

Luckily that isn't the topic. The controversy paper specifies democracy assistance which is a smaller and more coherently organized set of policies."

That was said very early and pretty clear laid out what the position was on widening the mechanism. 

Here is more of the same strongly worded rhetoric:

"As we move into the wording phase of the topic process we will be guided by the controversy paper, even as we explore specific issues that need additional exploration."

Again this seems to indicate that exploring things beyond the original controversy is not the aim of the topic committee. 

Here is the statement from Gordon that I think makes all of this last post entirely contrary to the record he said this back on immigration:

"The biggest issue here is that the controversy paper specifically rejects comprehensive reform. The authors' position is that comprehensive has its own set of issues and that the single direction of reducing a barrier to immigration is preferable.  The committee as such is not looking at these broader options.

This is a big part of the controversy process. The choice is found in the author's decisions and in the community vote. If folks like a subject matter but not the controversy, that is an important part of what you need to consider.

I know there is disagreement about the role of the 2nd vote, but in our short window (3 weeks or less) of time our primary task is to make sure we have solid wording options related to the winning controversy. It is not (and should not be) to produce the single greatest set of choices that are any way related to the original subject matter. "


I think this is a silly restriction, and it has already been said we could have crafted some broader resolutions to include in the resolution voting for immigration and middle east.  On nuclear weapons there was a range of options, a list, a restricted but broad topic and a very broad topic.  All three wordings were quite different, but they allowed the community to choose, the community went with the middle road and despite any problems at least everyone in the community got to vote.

The problem is that when a topic win by maybe 2 or 5 votes at the controversy stage it means half the community never liked that controversy paper.  Those people should be allowed to freely craft resolutions, the worst thing that will happen is the people who voted for the controversy originally will just vote their idea out at the resolution stage. 

There needs to be a clear rule that broadening is not just possible but encouraged otherwise history doesn't support the idea that the topic committee embraces the broadening idea.
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stables
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2012, 07:57:30 PM »

Ross,

Honestly your post explains why people have a hard time with topic selection. People confuse the process for the results you prefer. I completely empathize with the perspective wanting a broader topic, but I have a responsibility to balance all of our interests.  I don't pretend that my decade of service on the community counts for much, but I would hope that my efforts to make the process more accountable and more democratic is at least worth being engaged in a serious conversation without being called disingenuous.

You cite a couple of public posts where I clearly outline that democracy assistance, not democracy promotion, would be the core of our efforts. I stand by those as our core task, which is why I wrote them in this public forum. I think Malcolm's post was clear in asking to move beyond the core mechanism. I will apologize if anyone read the paper or followed the meetings and didn't think we would consider topics that including democracy assistance and other items. I would hope that people at the meetings would attest to that our formal agenda and our deliberations exactly discussed such possibilities. In short, perhaps we can clarify that we will happily accept topics that utilize the core wordings and include other items. We cannot, however, think we are functioning in good faith with the voters if a topic paper rejects a bidirectional and large option (such as comprehensive immigration reform) and then the committee pursues that option.

The larger problem, that you identify as a "silly restriction," is the restriction to the scope of the task at the meeting. I have tried to be very clear up front that the search for the perfect topic becomes the enemy of a workable topic. The controversy requirement was designed to prevent the very real examples of how we debated "increase pressure" on China and "increase control of Indian Country." In each case folks made the exact arguments that you and Malcolm have offered about why the committee should be unlimited in their search for the best topic. The ugly reality is that when dozens of idea (some great, some not so great) get provided to the committee in the short window it is much easier for ideas that are not vetted to make it onto the ballot. I understand that folks who didn't vote for immigration then had to debate it, but your concern is with the community's decision not the committee. As I indicated to Malcolm, I think we are all open to other ways to address this problem, but it is not very helpful to ignore past experience of this concern.

Back to the process-product distinction - no one needs to believe or agree with me. All of these approaches can be amended by community vote. Several folks on this forum have correctly identified the overall low level of participation in voting. If you feel there is a better way to make the topics I encourage you to confer with those folks who have lived through it and then craft an amendment. If that fails, lobby your NDT, ADA or CEDA representative to make sure topics that you prefer are included in the controversy or wording ballot. You can also lobby them to select a new chair.

We are a democratic body and it is easy to call us disingenuous and victim of silly reasoning in March, but much harder to craft topics in the summer knowing that this community, which can't even agree on the core aspects of debate, will be satisfied with your work. That is why I emphasize a transparent process that allows the community of voters to have meaningful choices that the committee will respect.


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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
Whit
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2012, 08:11:03 PM »

Last year's topic meeting started off with a giant chart listing all of the things that fall under democracy promotion, and a discussion of a good way to create a meaningful limit on that.

No one, at least vocally, wanted to debate 'democracy promotion' as a whole.

There were discussions about including 'positive conditionality,' if I recall correctly, but they went nowhere.

Did Gordon make a case for why limiting the topic to democracy assistance would be good? Yes. Did he twist any arms or impose any mandates? No.
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cramhelwich
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2012, 09:06:02 PM »

Part of this is the sense that the topic paper can exclude things from consideration from the topic committee.  This is not a rule anywhere in the topic procedures, it's merely a guiding process or norm that the committee has adhered to.  On both topics the committee refused to consider anything else because the immigration paper recommended against "comprehensive immigration reform" and the MENA paper limited the mechanism to "democracy assistance."

I think this is a huge disadvantage of the 'controversy' process that needs to go.  I'm fine with controversies, but not fine with the community voting on a mechanism etc before the committee even convenes.  It makes no sense that the limited, preliminary research a few people do to write a topic paper becomes a limiter on what the committee can do.  The topic committee has become much more open, and people participate and help members with research and input throughout the meeting.  It makes no sense that we would use ideas constructed with fewer people, resources, and a limited understanding of the literature to exclude ideas that emerge when there are more people, doing more research, and uncovering more of the literature area. 

Simplest solution:  topic papers can specify inclusion, but not exclusion.  It's not perfect but it is a middle ground if people think the controversy process is vital.  so, for example, this year the topic committee could have added promotion, but they would have had to say "the usfg should substantially increase its democracy promotion, including a substantial increase in democracy assistance, for one or more of the following......."

I agree with Malgor. However, the problem we need to guard against (and what, if my memory is correct, contributed mightily to the adoption of this norm) is the topic committee drafting topic options that diverge strongly from the "intent" of the winning paper (and presumably the will of the electorate that selected a particular topic area).
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Hester
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2012, 09:18:40 PM »

Last year's topic meeting started off with a giant chart listing all of the things that fall under democracy promotion, and a discussion of a good way to create a meaningful limit on that.
No one, at least vocally, wanted to debate 'democracy promotion' as a whole.
There were discussions about including 'positive conditionality,' if I recall correctly, but they went nowhere.
Did Gordon make a case for why limiting the topic to democracy assistance would be good? Yes. Did he twist any arms or impose any mandates? No.

as an active participant at the extravagonzo that was last summer's topic meetings, i recall it fondly. shout out to my lab! and the whole camp cut some good cards and no one got pregnant or busted, so kudos to everyone!  Kiss

whoever makes Gordon quit has to take over all the work he was doing; you break it, you buy it.

Gingerfucius says "looking backward makes going forward more difficult." (translation: let's keep the focus on making next year better)

Adam Symonds nailed it. The majority response in our community is to reach for the most narrow resolution - the votes don't lie: unless you think Jarman is rigging the ballot box and i'll tell you right now, Jeff Jarman is a class individual and if this forum is going to degenerate into slandering one of the finest representatives Wichita State could ever want, then count me out! love ya Jeff!  Wink

let's all just get back to prepping for nationals folks. eyes on the prize, etc

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