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Author Topic: Topic Ballot  (Read 23271 times)
antonucci23
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« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2012, 05:32:19 PM »

This sub-thread is surely annoying everyone.  I'm aware of that.

Can this potentially be discussed on a distinct thread or moved to backchannel?  I'm starting to fear for my safety if I make another comma post, but I do think that this should probably be addressed.

I'll address your first concern.  That's all the energy I have remaining on this issue, and I'm curious as to whether you're engaging in good faith.

A concise list of the grammatical concerns:

-Both commas as a whole are wrong because they offset an essential/restrictive clause

Even though and/or can mean either one or the other or both, if you read the sentence without the and/or clause it has completely different meaning - that part of the sentence cannot be safely omitted even if one of the options suggests a choice between two alternatives.

Really?  

Essential clauses are adjectival.

Kuswa's word group is not an adjective clause.  

It does not modify or restrict the meaning of the previous clause.

It is "essential" in the sense of "important" - but not in the grammatical sense.

This objection is a non sequitur.
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psadow
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« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2012, 05:55:42 PM »

Well, strictly speaking it is neither essential nor nonessential because it is a part of the verb phrase. Both of those grammatical categories refer to phrases which expand upon the description of a noun NOT phrases which are involved in the actions taken by the subject. Since everyone else seemed to be conflating the two I thought I would try.

It seems to me that a verb phrase clearly meets the definition of essential/limiting because it does limit the meaning of the sentence in a very real way. In any other context involving a sentence with multiple actions attributed to the subject, the meaning would be completely different if one of the verbs was eliminated.

Ex. The man ate the food and spat it out. If you omit either one of the two halves of that sentence it becomes either "the man ate the food" or "the man spat it out" - each of these is not commensurate with the intent or meaning of the root sentence. This is why it makes the most sense to read the and/or as an and and not an or for grammatical purposes.

However, even if we do read it as an or (which you and Kuswa contend makes it non-essential) it still would not make sense to include commas.

Ex. "The man ate the food, or spat it out" is incorrect because the phrase 'spat it out' is NOT an independent clause. Much like the phrase
"substantially increase financial incentives," spat it out here is dependent upon the original subject "the man". As such, the correct way to write it would be "the man ate the food or spat it out."

-

I also took the liberty of posting a thread titled "Comma Placement" to move this discussion/future posts.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 06:02:55 PM by psadow » Logged
Malgor
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Posts: 220


« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2012, 06:01:15 PM »

I don't think nuked the fridge is a strong enough term.  It does not quite encapsulate the degree of absurdity that has gone down in the last week.  I will +1 scotty's post regardless.
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stables
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« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2012, 01:19:32 AM »

Scott - Sorry you feel that way. We have a process this distinct from high school and I think that there are meaningful differences in what the high school and college community expect from resolutions. Perhaps I am mistaken on that point, but with all of our representatives elected from the community there is a simple solution to your concerns. If the work of the committee does not represent your interests you need to make that known. Each member school is represented by three at large members, three CEDA officiers, a student rep and additional reps for the NDT and ADA. We also add a two-stage process of writing open to anyone to ensure that both controversies and wordings are open to discussion. Anyone is welcome to submit wordings, regardless of your place in the community and you are not even obligated to attend the meetings. I would contend this is a far more transparent process than the high school model.

I guess I would just offer one more observation to folks who believe the topic process is broken. We are a community of folks who are trained to prove that we are right. The challenge of writing topics is not finding someone in debate who believes they can author better topics. You are all very eager to explain how much the committee just doesn't seem to understand. The challenge is crafting topics that also appeal to other people, especially those who might not share your view of debate.

Sorry to not meet your standards. We had two sessions this weekend on how to improve the topic process. I look forward to your ideas, especially those that relate to reaching agreement across this divergent community.
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
kevin kuswa
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Posts: 345


« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2012, 07:32:06 AM »

the fridge is not nuked, it's not even radioactive.  the topics are fine, the committee and a bunch of others worked hard to come up with some good options.  these options will work, we will have good debates, take it easy.
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ScottyP
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« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2012, 06:49:52 PM »

Gordon/Kevin,

If you want to take what I said as a personal attack on those who worked on the committee that is fine. Criticizing the resolutions doesn't deny that there were people who did work to produce that list. I have often worked very hard to produce lists of things only to realize those lists sucked.  There are an enormous amount of people who do not like the way debate resolutions have been crafted and the trends that have emerged (and/or in every topic, silly lists, the word substantially 15 times). People don't criticize because whenever they do the people involved come back with "we work hard, you contribute nothing blah blah blah". You can characterize it as if my post was saying I have my own set of arbitrary set of standards and I am chastising you for not pleasing the great Scott Phillips(I do like to think of myself as the Rosa Parks of debate topics after all).

Transparency/democracy are goals, producing a good topic is another goal. These goals clearly conflict- each year the committee meets and tries to balance divergent viewpoints and produces a middle ground that pleases no one. If you think the overall sentiment for the last say decade of debate is that people are pleased with the way topics have been formed then as I said earlier, I don't know what to tell you. If you believe that the topic wordings of the last 5+ years have produced good debates as opposed to good debates occurring in spite of them, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe we just talk to different people. But every year I post something about the topic since the original battle of whether or not to have a courts topic I get dozens of emails from people saying "thanks for saying something, I would but I don't want to piss off XYZ".

As for suggestions, abolish the topic committee. Let 4 or 5 topic proposals be authored, each of which includes a specific resolution instead of an area, and let people vote for those resolutions instead of areas. I would prefer that no democracy be involved at all but if need be let the 4 or 5 proposals be weened from a larger list through some kind of voting. Then if group A wants to produce and/or/substantially/or/and resolutions they can put them to a vote vs another group who produces a different kind of resolution.

One last note, topic democracy doesn't work for much the same reason democracy in the US doesn't work- people don't really understand and vote their interests. They vote for topics based on the false belief that they will somehow be in a tough neg round (or more accurately their students will) and so they need to constrain the aff as much as possible, much like poor rednecks malgors from Missora vote for republicans because they dont want taxes to be high since they will someday be rich. Except its not 1980 anymore. Negs don't meaningfully debate the case in 90% or greater of debates. The very idea of a list topic is obsolete given what negatives are able to get away with/how they now prepare for tournaments. Look at the track record

Arab spring- goodish area, bad mechanism, neg relied on pics
Immigration- great area, general displeasure about wording/things like excluding actual immigration issues like comprehensive reform, neg relied on pics
Nukes- Great area, similar anger over wording/things like excluding ctbt, neg relied on pics
Ag- mediocreish area, silly list/bad debates about what topic mechanism meant, neg relied on pics


note- the website kept auto refreshing during my writing of this and would delete all/some of the post (im sure part of the topic committees black helicopter powers) so there may be sentences that end in the middle/dont make sense but I am rage quitting trying to fix it at this point.

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antonucci23
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Posts: 138


« Reply #21 on: June 06, 2012, 07:30:48 PM »


Transparency/democracy are goals, producing a good topic is another goal. These goals clearly conflict- each year the committee meets and tries to balance divergent viewpoints and produces a middle ground that pleases no one. If you think the overall sentiment for the last say decade of debate is that people are pleased with the way topics have been formed then as I said earlier, I don't know what to tell you. If you believe that the topic wordings of the last 5+ years have produced good debates as opposed to good debates occurring in spite of them, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe we just talk to different people. But every year I post something about the topic since the original battle of whether or not to have a courts topic I get dozens of emails from people saying "thanks for saying something, I would but I don't want to piss off XYZ".


I want to take a short break from Commafest 12 to partially answer this.

Every year, we issue a topic.

Every year, there are a set of complaints.  These complaints are largely based upon the inelegance of the topic sentence.  This process is entirely cyclical and inevitable.  Every armchair analyst looks at the topic, sees that it's unlikely to win a Pulitzer, and issues noises of collective disgust.  (This is partially just the social dynamic of haterism, but I won't address that at much length.)

I enjoy concise and elegant speech.  I am generally a fan of Strunk and White.  You will soon (probably fail to) see how much I value precision, as I'm writing a decision in the comma debate that will be as long, impassioned, and doomed to complete obscurity.

All of these concerns are almost entirely irrelevant.

The topic isn't a poem, folks.  You aren't submitting it to the New Yorker and you aren't reading it in your slam poetry festival.  It is much more analogous to a contract.  You have probably read contracts at some point.  You've signed a lease or blazed through Apple's terms and conditions.  You'll recall that those contracts are lengthy, clunky, and awkward.  They also help parties avoid or resolve litigation.

At the national championships, no one cares if the topic is elegant.  They care about the ground it allows both sides.  Clearly delimiting that ground frequently sacrifices elegance for detailed precision.

Contract - not poetry.  Contract - not poetry.  

High school topics are quite elegant.  They're as elegant as a Cecil B. DeMille production.  Unfortunately for the stylists, we largely think that these elegant topics would provide insufficient limits at national championship tournaments.

The nuclear topic was a stylistic mess.  At the end of the season, however, it held up.  Very few poor debates resulted from that ugly wording.

That's the gold standard.  

The question is not: how does this resolution make me feel inside?  

The question is instead: what sort of debates will this resolution produce?

Your complaint seems geared to one of these questions, while remaining entirely silent on the other.

PS: What percentage of NDT elim debates about the Arab Spring were decided on PICs?
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 08:04:26 PM by antonucci23 » Logged
stables
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Posts: 334


« Reply #22 on: June 06, 2012, 08:14:14 PM »

Scotty - Not a problem. I don't see your emails as personal. You, like all community members, should articulate their concerns and ideas. Elected representatives have to be able to take criticism and I enjoy the conversation.

Ultimately I think we might agree about some of the importance of straight-forward topic wordings, but we disagree fundamentally about how topics should be constructed. I am pretty much on record over the last few years as trying to promote more democratic engagement, more transparency and more community involvement. I think you are right that democracy can certainly be messy, but I think it would be a mistake to make the process less accountable.  I am sure you have made a lot of lists, but my question relates to our challenge - how you define a concept that you need to get agreement from other folks as well? Rejecting democracy is one way to go, but it doesn't seem very helpful when you have to make collective decisions.

You are certainly within your rights to propose an amendment removing public input and making the committee more powerful to make decisions. I think there are some concerns with that approach, but it is up to you to build support for this idea.

I am heartened by discussions with a number of folks who have given thought to other reforms. I really encourage the community to move past seemingly easy conclusions (like everyone agrees with X sentiment about topics) and start looking for ways to build topics across different opinions. I would prefer that kind of reform, rather than an insular model, but these are all choices for folks to make.
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
ScottyP
Jr. Member
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Posts: 52


« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2012, 09:01:23 PM »

Nooch,

your post is utter nonsense. I never asked for a poem, there are obviously more options than poem and 20 semi colons
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kevin kuswa
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Posts: 345


« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2012, 09:10:08 PM »

Scotty P,

You and anyone else should feel free to argue against the topics and the process all you want.  Criticism is possible now because of the transparency that has been added and both of those things (criticism and transparency) are good.  I will continue to join you in attempts to think outside of the USFG and other ossifications, but I think working with others is a better way to get there when compared to banning the committee or making arguments against community input.  I hope folks are willing to say "these topics suck" when they think that's the case.  My position is that these topics could be better, but they could also be a lot worse.  I also think the process is helpful and extremely open and fair.  Fairness outweighs the risk of imperfection.  Personally I believe the community has had some wonderful topics in the past and some OK choices recently, having gone through the low points of the Indian country topic and the Europe topic.  Why did those topics "nuke the fridge"?  In my opinion it's because they went way too far in trying to prescribe the aff plan texts and ended up stringing together bad micro-topics into one larger monster.  Fortunately we have moved away from that trend a bit and are starting to seek more balance between efficiency and readability, precision and elegance, streamlining and detail, and creativity and focus.  We could move further in certain directions depending on the topic area and the wording papers, but we also value voting and the sentiments of the community.  This is not an argument that "working hard justifies bad topics," and if you re-read the forums you won't find that argument expressed very often except by people who haven't read very carefully and assume committee members are relying on work to mask bad choices.  My suggestion to you would be to/two fold: come to a topic meeting and participate before the slate is written; and, secondly, embrace your fear of PICs so that you stop blaming certain strategies on topic wordings.  Looking forward to continued improvement and debate.
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ScottyP
Jr. Member
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Posts: 52


« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2012, 09:35:27 PM »

Scotty - Not a problem. I don't see your emails as personal. You, like all community members, should articulate their concerns and ideas. Elected representatives have to be able to take criticism and I enjoy the conversation.

Ultimately I think we might agree about some of the importance of straight-forward topic wordings, but we disagree fundamentally about how topics should be constructed. I am pretty much on record over the last few years as trying to promote more democratic engagement, more transparency and more community involvement. I think you are right that democracy can certainly be messy, but I think it would be a mistake to make the process less accountable.  I am sure you have made a lot of lists, but my question relates to our challenge - how you define a concept that you need to get agreement from other folks as well? Rejecting democracy is one way to go, but it doesn't seem very helpful when you have to make collective decisions.

You are certainly within your rights to propose an amendment removing public input and making the committee more powerful to make decisions. I think there are some concerns with that approach, but it is up to you to build support for this idea.

I am heartened by discussions with a number of folks who have given thought to other reforms. I really encourage the community to move past seemingly easy conclusions (like everyone agrees with X sentiment about topics) and start looking for ways to build topics across different opinions. I would prefer that kind of reform, rather than an insular model, but these are all choices for folks to make.


To me there are instances where there is no meaningful agreement. Take this year- some people want increase domestic FF, some want renewables. These are 2 separate camps, and a compromise to do both pleases no one nor does it produce a unified topic with clearly divided ground. Everyone I've talked to, regardless of which side they support, agreed the compromise was the worst option for crafting a good resolution. I think it was ermo who had a post about what people thought they were getting when they voted for an area, and that is a big part of the problem- the area is broad and means different things to different people so what gets produced by the committee can't fulfill the vision of everyone.
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ScottElliott
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Posts: 148


« Reply #26 on: June 07, 2012, 07:59:05 AM »

The topic process was not democratic and if it was it was some Jim Crow democracy.  The visual of the room itself highlighted this fact.  Thanks for that transparency.

Although, it did mirror democracy in this country in that it was dominated by special interests.  Sponsored by Bracewell Guilianni and their oil clients.  Similar to how the Nuclear Weapons topic came about.  That reducing incentives and/or increasing restrictions for oil companies is almost explicitly not allowed is telliing.

The topic process is not the problem, the people are the problem.  You can change the process they will still manipulate that process to produce the results they want.  Look at how arbitrary the committee maintains and abandons fidelity to the topic paper and look at how they tortured words and grammar to achieve the debates they wanted.    

The resolution is not a contract.  A contract requires mutual assent by the party that the contract is to be enforced against.  Mutual assent assures that both parties agree as to the meaning of the words in the contract.  The resolution is more similar to a constitution and should be drafted to reflect diversity and recognize progress.  

Perhaps the resolution should be read in a slam poetry jam or at least lend itself to that.  I certainly shouldn't have to contact a linguists to understand what the thing means like Dr. Kuswa.

The resolution doesn't divide ground.  This is an outdated view of debate that doesn't make any sense.  The resolution might provide an outer limit (parameter) on what to expect but negative ground is dictated by the plan and not the resolution.  If the negative appeared at a tournament ready to debate the resolution and not the plan they would lose every single debate.

This topic is as good or bad as all the others.  By straight white men, for straight white men.  The resolution does divide that ground.  Pick a plan and read your economy and hegemony impacts and every once in a while read a country specific oil advantage.  Who wouldn't vote a debate that simple considering you are all already experts in it!

BUT, it's fun watching you all fight over how to get this resolution and process straightened out.



What would your alternative be? I do not recall you writing a topic paper or drafting a proposed resolution. Your K needs an Alt.
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antonucci23
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Posts: 138


« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2012, 08:26:15 AM »

Perhaps the resolution should be read in a slam poetry jam or at least lend itself to that.  I certainly shouldn't have to contact a linguists to understand what the thing means like Dr. Kuswa.

I certainly wouldn't mind that.  I'd gladly coach and judge single word resolutions.  Some of the resolutions I've hypothesized in the past include

RESOLVED: DEMOCRACY
RESOLVED: RAGE
RESOLVED: REVOLUTION
RESOLVED: SINGULARITY
RESOLVED: BEING

I can imagine affs and negs that would sustain a full year of debates under those topics.  I'd enjoy those debates.  They'd be innovative.

I don't think, though, that we'd be able to engineer sufficient community support to ensure passage of my RESOLVED: REVOLUTION topic.

My point is just that once you're in it - you're in it.  Claiming that there's a real qualitative difference between the 12-13 resolutions and the resolutions of Scott Phillips' glory days doesn't make a lot of sense.  Both sets of resolutions subscribe to the underlying view of the resolution as a contract, not a poem.  Although our initial standpoints differ, I suspect we agree on that.

I'm happy to hear dissent from that view, both within and outside of debates.  (My voting record probably speaks for itself.)  It seems counter-intuitive to endorse the resolution as a limit, though, and then get all worked up over its (lack of) eloquence.

Responding to your other points would take a long time, and I'm probably not the most qualified to do so.  I'd quickly mention that you may be choosing the wrong point of condensation or contestation.  Dissent, frustration, and even antagonistic viewpoints within/toward debate make sense to me.  Presuming that the topic committee *generates* those structural antagonisms seems less sensible.
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ScottElliott
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Posts: 148


« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2012, 08:34:07 AM »

Actually, I don't.  We are talking about you, not me.

But, you can see some of my other thoughts here:  http://www.rwesq.com/intersectional-debate/
This is where my jv debaters pull out the " vague alts bad" blocks. I am no fan of the topic process, but at least I offer alternative mechanisms and alternative topic papers. Good or bad, at least they are alternatives to be examined. You offer nothing.
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jzhawk
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Posts: 52


« Reply #29 on: June 07, 2012, 08:45:58 AM »


Sponsored by Bracewell Guilianni and their oil clients.  Similar to how the Nuclear Weapons topic came about.  That reducing incentives and/or increasing restrictions for oil companies is almost explicitly not allowed is telliing.



Although I appreciate the absolute certainty you use to try to disguise your bluff, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about here.  None.  The notion that B&G, our clients (which are not even oil, btw.  Why wouldn't we also be working to advance the interest of our wind, geothermal, and solar clients, which are numerous?), had an interest is either sponsoring or influencing the topic process is laughable and incorrect.

Rather than taking swings at imagined enemies, you are insulting specific people.  People like Ana and Dylan who gave their own time to research and construct the topic paper. The effort to participate in the process was not part of some conscious or unconscious effort to distort the topic, it was an effort to interact and participate in an activity that we all care about at a personal level.

People are certainly free to disagree with our perspective and arguments, but to presume some nefarious motive connected to our clients is flatly absurd.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 08:54:56 AM by jzhawk » Logged
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