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Author Topic: Federal Definitions Topic Paper  (Read 24105 times)
jonahfeldman
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« on: April 22, 2013, 10:16:26 PM »

attached

* Definitions Topic Paper.docx (152.91 KB - downloaded 1964 times.)
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Malgor
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 11:44:56 AM »

so can we just put enemy combatant in there and debate this instead of executive authority?
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JustinGreen
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2013, 08:26:31 AM »

Just wanted to put in a quick plug for the topic and get a pulse of what others were thinking. 

Why did we write this paper? We want to move debate forward in a way that allows all to have quality research grounded in the topic.  What do words mean, how do they function?  This is the heart of rhetoric, legal interpretation, and policy formation. 

How do we feel we can achieve this with this topic?
- Great Policy Debates - Economic Growth, Human Rights, Poverty, Legal Precedents and Scientific advances are all harm areas with strong internal links accessed through discussions on campaign contributions, Medicare/Social Security, gay marriage, trans-humanism, among others.
- Quality Critical ground on the Affirmative - The critical literature is extremely rich and diverse directly about the words in the topic.  Feminists, Critical Race Scholars, Libertarians, Anarchists, have extremely diverse and internally-differing perspectives.  This topic is debated critically, extensively by others.  With this critical ground also comes a double-edged sword.  Teams that wish not to engage the topic at all will likely face ire from many judges in the middle; the one's in the 40-60% range at national tournaments that get placed in the "clash debates".  We have gone down the liberalist role-playing path that leaves little room for differing interpretations of debate before, many, many, many times - let's try something slightly new.
- Make a legal topic engaging; it's time to go legal. 
- Timely - Supreme Court decisions and Federal Congressional Action are being debated on the topic.  We appreciated this stream of new information with the possibility of change.
- We made sure the Federal Government is the locus of the discussion. 
- It effects everyone - We will all work, we were all born, all of us have been effected by societies conceptions of marriage, we all feel the effects of various federal spending.
- It's a training ground for everyone - Future lawyers, activists, policy wonks, rhetoricians, philosophers and others all have a place on the aff and the neg in this topic.  We all learn about something that helps everyone.

Fears:
- This looks like the Europe topic, some Frankensteinian beast of a list.....We suggest USFG should change its definition of one of the following:.....We also acknowledge that in a community-wide vote the word "broaden" is more likely to be chosen than the word change.
- Common neg ground....This is no different than treaties.  Trying to define person, marriage, retirement age - there will be a political firestorm.  The question of legal focus allows for common critical ground.  Changing definitions involves a number of process oriented questions that allows for counter-plan and disadvantage ground.

Thanks for your time,
Justin Green
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jregnier
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2013, 09:18:37 AM »

"Broaden" seems like it would be an odd choice for a few of the terms.  While it makes sense for marriage and family, it has problems with the other words.

One of the best reasons to debate "person" would be the controversy surrounding corporate personhood, which wouldn't be possible with "broaden."

It seems like a misuse of the "broaden" to say that you are "broadening the retirement age."  More accurately, you would be "raising" or "lowering."  Maybe you could say that you are "broadening eligibility for retirement benefits"

There's a similar issue with poverty.  Does raising the poverty line "broaden the definition of poverty?"  That also seems like a slight misuse. At best, it is a change that has the effect of increasing the number of people who are considered poor.
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tcram
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2013, 09:26:15 AM »

I think this is a very creative way to consider changing up the parameters of topic construction, and a REALLY creative way to do a legal topic that helps to skirt some of the issues encountered with previous courts topics.  Some basic questions that I have for Justin or any of the authors:

- Are changes in definition 'self-executing' for lack of a better word?  In other words, if the affirmative has license to change USC1, does the affirmative get guaranteed implementation of bringing affected statutes into compliance with the definition?

- Do you see more opportunity or danger in the various pics that exist for some of the definitions?  This was a thought that came to mind when reading the retirement section- it seems like there are A LOT of different programs that use retirement requirements differently which suggests a lot of different PIC options.  Do you think there is enough balance to pressure the aff to be creative without making core cases non-viable?

- I have Europe Topic trauma.  Even operating as a consortium between 2 small schools then, our negative for two or three of the areas was basically a sheet of paper that had 'lol...you wish' written on it.  I am not a 'limits uber alles' type of thinker, but I am also a realist.  The question I have is, IF we want to de-Eurofy this topic, what definitions should be placed in the life-boat and which could be left behind? (setting the unfairness and melodrama in this question aside)

« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 09:27:46 AM by tcram » Logged
JustinGreen
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2013, 12:48:19 PM »

Elaboration on a few questions asked....

Self-Execution:  This would be a debate just like in any legal debate.  Most definitions considered are created by acts of Congress or Supreme Court Decisions and not merely agency interpretation.  For instance, it would be debatable as to whether or not changing the definition of person to exclude corporations (Citizens United) would have effects on other areas of law.  Does legal change create precedent?

A fairly limiting option: The Federal Definitions Act.  From p 8 of the paper - I think Jonah wrote this section, but he's off in Italy right now. "One final possibility to consider is a resolution focused on the dictionary act.  The dictionary act is Title 1 of the United States Code and in determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise, the dictionary actís definition controls.  This would create a very limited and predictable set of definitions for the affirmative to change.  The dictionary act does include a definition of person, and marriage, but it does not include poverty, retirement, or family."

The PICS problem: is more of a "is this topic too big problem".  Change the definition of person would not require the federal government to change the definition of "poverty" in all instances, just in the area of the plan.  Just like we might decide which treaties to include if that topic won, we might be more or less narrow as a community when determining words to include. 

Verbs: Jason raises a good point that a singular directional verb might not be appropriate for all of the terms.  Several ways to deal with this: 1) use change and recognize this past year was proof that directionality need not exist for there to be good negative ground...2) pick words that have similar directions "USFG should broaden its definition of marriage, person, and those considered in poverty." 3) AND/OR - We could say: USFG should broaden its definition of one of the following: AND/OR narrow the definition of one of the following:..... 4) room for negotiation - It is also possible that if this topic won and someone had a better term to use than broaden, narrow or change, it could be in the spirit of the paper.  I am also confident that someone else will chime in on the verb choice question.

Travis, just like I am not about to pick my favorite child and proclaim it publicly,  it was a collaboration and while I am advocating, I am unable to declare who makes it on the boat.  The point of the paper was to say here are some examples of words we think would work.  How big or small is the list?  There's a vote and a committee for that.   

Justin
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RW Evans
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2013, 01:06:36 PM »

I would really like to encourage the community to consider change over the other alternatives.  Change allows flexibility on how to affirm.  What potentially makes this topic superior to its alternatives is that the requirement of change allows for multiple predictable ways of affirming such that the affirmative can't really complain being forced to be topical and the negative still has stable ground.  When the topic merely requires you to change the definition without dictating the direction of your relationship to the topic (increase government power or decrease government power) you have less of a complaint when it comes to framework.  I will admit that I think of this as an openly queer topic because it doesn't dictate the affirmative team's orientation to the resolution.  Yes, that means that there is some bi-directionality, but this is an irrational phobia.  It shouldn't matter whether the affirmative makes an argument or the negative makes an argument, if you have to have it in your box the research burden is the same and setting a reasonable research burden should be the primary concern.  We should move past overly restraining how one can affirm, for these are the very conditions that make affirmation untenable for certain individuals.  So, as you evaluate and compare topic options you should ask yourself what does it mean when you tell someone that "there is a topical version of your aff."  What options have you given them in how to affirm?  This topic, with the simplicity of the word change, has something for everyone.

-RW Evans
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tcram
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2013, 01:19:50 PM »

Justin, there's no doubt it was a loaded question and I hope you don't think I was asking for you to speak for anyone.  It was simply an invitation for any of the authors, having a greater degree of familiarity than a reader, to suggest possible ways of paring down or shoring up to avoid the Europe problem.

For what it is worth, I agree with Rashad that 'change' is good for flexibility and creativity, but I think that magnifies the need to triangulate which definitional areas represent the best-evidenced controversies and also occupy intersections of literature that some of the other definitions might not.  While bidirectionality is not the debate-killer that the average theory block makes it out to be, finding that 'reasonable research burden' will require some things to be left behind.  Rather than leaving it up to the committee and I wanted to get that conversation going early.
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FrancesWoodworth
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2013, 07:26:33 PM »

Thanks for the paper, I do have several concerns;
 

1st, regarding the marriage section specifically, the paper identifies two distinct arguments which will still be "unique" for the negative if the Courts issue a piecemeal ruling on marriage; federalism and stare decisis. The affirmative rebuttal to this arguments will be strong criticisms of prioritizing state rights and precedents over civil rights issues, and Iím concerned these disads will fail to win debates for the negative, especially in light of minimized uniqueness.  Can you talk more about other options available to the negative in the event the court makes what many expect to be a ruling expanding the definition of marriage?  My gut feeling is this may be one of those areas that is a controversy in the political arena, but not really a controversy in the literature, nor one that leads to fruitful, case specific debates, and without generic negative uniqueness arguments, I would be concerned about including it.


Along those same lines, could you expand on the negative ground section for "family definitions"? I would bet many affirmatives along these lines would expand immigration to spouses regardless of gender status (same-sex family immigration).  My concern once again is this seems like a controversy in the political arena only, not a controversy in the literature.

 
Finally, what would aff answers look like to the constitutional amendment CP?  I worry that this topic would bring back all those nightmares from the Courts topic.  Obviously a CP that changed the constitution to define person / marriage / family / etc. in the direction of the aff would suck up a lot, if not all, the offense this topic paper identifies as affirmative ground.  The process of the mechanism is clearly the direction affs would have to go, but Iím not sure what kind of process advantages affirmatives could claim that would outweigh the disad.

 
I agree it is would be a unique and different way to approach a legal topic, and thank you for submitting it and I appreciate the work that went into this paper.
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RW Evans
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2013, 11:32:51 PM »

To answer the marriage question, I think you underestimate the nature of the controversy.  The SCOTUS would have to make a profound announcement in order to even declare same-sex marriage a civil right.  This would most likely be done under the equal protection clause where the SCOTUS would have to declare that bans on same sex marriage violate the equal protection clause because (1) there is no rational basis upon which to treat the two groups differently or (2) because gay is a protected class and legislation targeting gays and lesbians deserve extra scrutiny.  Even if you agree that gays should be allowed to marry, that does not mean that you think (1) there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, or that (2) gay should be elevated to the level of protected class.  

If the supreme court avoids or fails to find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, while striking down DOMA on federalism grounds, the courts DAs to a quick reversal and the uniqueness and link to the federalism DA would be really strong.  These are actual considerations in the gay marriage discussion and have always been included in the strategic discussions around whether and when to pursue change through the federal courts.  In addition, this will be an actual concern going forward.  There will be strong arguments against marriage that don't rely on being anti-gay.  For instance, there is a debate within the queer theory literature about whether seeking inclusion through institutions like marriage is desirable strategy for queers.  Similarly, when it comes to many of these questions I think that you will find that changing the definition of any of these words will raise new questions of exclusion.  Whenever you define what something is you define what it is not.  That will almost always create negative ground.  These debates will hardly be one sided.  

The constitutional amendment CP should not be that big of a problem.  In most instances the constitutional amendment will already be the plan, so the CP won't be competitive.  In other instances, a constitutional amendment will be insufficient to solve the affirmative because the SCOTUS's policy making ability is limited.  In other instances, the CP will serve an important limiting function to limit out bad/weak affirmatives.

-RW Evans
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 11:38:33 PM by Topic Talk » Logged
Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2013, 09:09:25 AM »

Not capable of anything like an "exhaustive" view of everything but for what its worth:

If we had a topic about whether or not the definition of a certain term/way of life should occur through institutionalized legal avenues vs. through the performative iteration of discourses by subjects who may or may not already be imbedded in structures: by the end of that season the quality and clashity of a certain kind of popular critique debate would be radically, structurally, and globally improved by an awful lot. And it would probably carry over into future seasons...

The literature base for a lot of these questions is quite deep and very robust/clashy. Take, for example, several different kinds of debates about "person":

A) is "person" too overdetermined by liberalism/capitalism to be utilized as a weapon for progressive politics?  is it severable from notions of individualism? are certain versions of radical "personhood" from hyper-leftist academics actually not very different from a libertarian fever dream?

B) Starting from "person" rather than "people" in the political imaginary....well, thats a big thing.

C) are persons humans? cue the biopolitics (and in a more in-depth debate then simply rereading Dean 2000 and Dicksinon 2004 and saying to ourselves "Hmm, I guess we ARENT that Nazi-ish...")

I actually think the Amendment CP is the most salient objection, given the tendency of offense/defense frames to swallow us like some humongous blob...
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Adam Symonds
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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2013, 12:05:23 AM »

I dig this controversy.

To extend one narrow slice of the conversation: Where Jason is worried that "broaden" and "narrow" don't work with the areas in the paper, I think that can be resolved fairly neatly by changing these terms to the function they are designed to achieve: either include or exclude more people from X category. Instead of broaden, couldn't we use a phrase like "change one or more of the following federal definitions to include/incorporate/enfranchise/add/cover more individuals: personhood, marriage, family, retirement age, poverty"? This dictates a direction, but does not seem to harm aff flexibility much.

One other thing I want to chime in on: concerns about bidrectionality, too expansive a topic, core negative ground -- these concerns are more aptly posed during the wording process. In fact, as I've mentioned on other threads, I think we are far better off starting with a broader controversy to account for the reality that the committee will only narrow the papers in an effort to maintain fidelity to what the community voted for. Although some of the papers say portions of their lists are not exhaustive, the committee has consistently made the topic smaller in the wording process, not larger. On democracy assistance, when concerns were raised about the very narrow nature of the mechanism, the committee didn't want to broaden the term because it was beyond the scope of the controversy paper. The author was in the room and asking if anyone supported pursuing a broader term... no takers.



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olneyce
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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2013, 02:06:21 AM »

I made an account just to comment on this thread, so I could say: this is a great topic and everyone should vote for it.  I would, in particular, strongly urge people to seriously consider the passive voice phrasing.  It strikes me that this topic is particularly well-suited to gaining some of the advantages of that approach without generating serious chaos.  I don't see it making significant differences for those who want to affirm the topic 'instrumentally' (or whatever we're calling policy debate these days), but I think it generates real space for those who want to approach the topic differently.

I can really see this permitting serious and considered debates that transcend the normal 'clash of civilizations' framework.  That is: I think that it provides enough access to a wide range of topical affirmatives that engage a different style of politics, but which still can invite serious and meaningful disagreements about content and objectives from even the most straight-laced policy team.  This gives the aff topical ground to argue in favor of movements, in favor of bottom-up cultural critique, etc.  Against that, policy teams should be ready to simply defend a different CONTENT of the change.  The CP/alternative-strategy to push for a different meaning of the term is clearly competitive. 

I think it would even improve debates for those teams who would still resist the constraints.  If your argument is that we should look to our communities rather than to the FG, it becomes far easier for the negative to make their 'framework' arguments as serious and meaningful CASE arguments.  All the debates about the value of engaging with systems of oppression, about the value of policy training, about the importance of legal reasoning, etc. feel far more concrete when it comes to questions like this.  In most debates where the neg tries to respond to arguments about exclusion by saying "topical version of your aff," the whole room knows that the "topical version" would get destroyed if anyone actually read it.  With a resolution like this, that argument would be a lot stronger.  Not because such affs HAVE topical versions, but because the difference between the T version and the not-T version is clear, and provides an extremely important locus for clash.

Any policy team who goes into a debate on this topic hoping to go for T USFG - rather than simply arguing about why it's important to engage the USFG on the issue the aff has raised - will be in a bad place.  And that can only be good for the community. 

Right now, we've got two sides who are starting to realize that the other side was never quite as full of bad-faith as they thought.  Policy teams have spent years complaining about K teams, but I think even the most die-hard folks have been persuaded that the infrastructure of policy analysis is too closed.  On the other side, K teams have spent years complaining that policy teams want to exclude them.  But I think they're starting to realize that it's REALLY HARD to structure debates in a fashion that permits both sides to speak about what they value without destroying the value of clash. 

With a topic like this, which encourages folks to move toward a slightly more accommodating space in between these extremes, I would like to think that folks might continue this process.  And even maybe realize that we all have stuff to learn from each other.

I do have two concerns.  1) It feels a little big.  The issue of 'person' alone seems like it could produce a pretty decent sized topic. That said, I agree with Adam that it's probably smart to vote for a big controversy are and let the topic committee whittle it down. 2) While I very much do hope the FG changes its definition of marriage, I worry that this would be too good of an aff.  There is VERY little defense of the SQ definition, outside of politics.  And even that is pretty weak sauce.  I'd be scared of going neg in that area.
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Ermo
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2013, 11:27:42 AM »

I think the "USFG should" version of the definition topic could be a good topic - particularly if expanded to include race. That said, expanding the topic to non-USFG action is a designed to be a powerful "no link" argument to topicality, and framework is less compelling without the T component.

Against that, policy teams should be ready to simply defend a different CONTENT of the change.  The CP/alternative-strategy to push for a different meaning of the term is clearly competitive.  

Many, many, many, many judges have voted that this is NOT competitive - even when the negative argued that abandoning federal policy action was an explicit choice of the 1ac. I don't see how making the aff topical would stop judges from doing so.

  In most debates where the neg tries to respond to arguments about exclusion by saying "topical version of your aff," the whole room knows that the "topical version" would get destroyed if anyone actually read it.  With a resolution like this, that argument would be a lot stronger.  

It would be a lot WEAKER, because the 1ac was a topical version of the aff.

Right now, we've got two sides who are starting to realize that the other side was never quite as full of bad-faith as they thought.  

More evidence requested.

Policy teams have spent years complaining about K teams, but I think even the most die-hard folks have been persuaded that the infrastructure of policy analysis is too closed.  

More evidence requested.

On the other side, K teams have spent years complaining that policy teams want to exclude them.  But I think they're starting to realize that it's REALLY HARD to structure debates in a fashion that permits both sides to speak about what they value without destroying the value of clash.  

Destroying clash is a time tested affirmative strategy, whether articulated as 'no link' or 'permutation.' I don't see why affirmatives would stop doing what works, or why judges would dramatically change the way they judge debates. More evidence requested.

(2) While I very much do hope the FG changes its definition of marriage, I worry that this would be too good of an aff.  There is VERY little defense of the SQ definition, outside of politics.  And even that is pretty weak sauce.  I'd be scared of going neg in that area.

Hence it would be a very strong and thus popular aff. Plus, your version of topic means the aff probably doesn't link to politics.
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Adam Symonds
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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2013, 12:26:30 PM »

Against that, policy teams should be ready to simply defend a different CONTENT of the change.  The CP/alternative-strategy to push for a different meaning of the term is clearly competitive.  

Many, many, many, many judges have voted that this is NOT competitive - even when the negative argued that abandoning federal policy action was an explicit choice of the 1ac. I don't see how making the aff topical would stop judges from doing so.

Focusing on whether or not there is competition based on the FG misses the boat. Charles's point is that definitions literature is so deep that you can have competitive content and the question about aff relationship to the FG is largely irrelevant. The statement that judges vote for the perm when the aff is non-USFG action and the neg says USFG action good has nothing to do with this claim.
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