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Author Topic: Federal Definitions Topic Paper  (Read 24141 times)
jregnier
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« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2013, 09:38:40 AM »

If an affirmative chose to change the current federal definition of marriage by no longer considering it binding upon themselves (without actually getting married), wouldn't they have an affirmative with personal benefits that the negative lacks the social location to engage, a solid perm for Paul's K (reject the concept of marriage in all cases), and a social movement localized enough not to have a measurable effect on most questions in the broader literature base?

I've judged A LOT of critique aff rounds, and I cannot recall a single one of them where the aff's advantages were "personal benefits."  Planning a topic to stop it is like all these sex & race selective abortion bills being passed around the country.

I have seen rounds where the advantages were "local."  But local doesn't mean particularized to individuals.  I'll admit that the agent is not well defined in many of these debates, but its vagueness is precisely why it avoids over-individualization.  Even when affs say that "individuals" should act, "individual" operates as a generic term, which means that you can get links to it.  With regards to Paul's K, teams will obviously be able to make link-out arguments about context, but that's a debate.

As for the social location issue, I feel like this is getting too much into specific arguments that teams could run rather than addressing the reasoning of the topic selection itself.  Yes, teams could say that.  But teams could (in fact, they do) make arguments concerning social location on the current topics.  But social locations are categories, not persons, which means there is debate to be had.  In fact, there are disads against politics based on social location.
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kevin kuswa
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« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2013, 10:04:39 AM »

Quote of the day from Olney:

"Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I really do think if we (for once in a lifetime) built a topic designed to accommodate a degree of non-policy space we would all be pleasantly surprised."

Quote of the day from Regnier:

"I've judged A LOT of critique aff rounds, and I cannot recall a single one of them where the aff's advantages were "personal benefits."  Planning a topic to stop it is like all these sex & race selective abortion bills being passed around the country."

Quote of the day from Phil Rockstroh

"Life, as lived, moment to moment, in the corporate/consumer state, involves moving between states of tedium, stress, and swoons of mass media and consumer distraction. Therein, one spends a large portion of one's economically beleaguered life attempting to make ends meet and not go mad from the pressure and the boredom. Where does a nebulous concept such as freedom even enter the picture, except to be a harbinger of an unfocused sense of unease… that all too many look to authority to banish?...

Although we are convinced we experience anxiety due to the unpredictable nature of life and the impossibility of apprehending the future, what we are often anxious about is the nettling knowledge that the world we cling to is subject to ineluctable forces of change. Often, the greater the imperative to view the world with new sight, the more blinkered and myopic one's vision becomes. We clutch a handful of dust. Rather than revisiting and remaking the world anew, we spend our hours in desperate devotion to constructing and dwelling in a crumbling mausoleum of doomed conceptions."

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/26-3

Quote of the century from Søren Kierkegaard:

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”




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JustinGreen
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« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2013, 10:33:07 AM »

The discussion of USFG as the actor seems to be slightly different question (although intertwined) than which topic is the best.  The authors do think that the federal definitions topic could be one that allows us to break the mold of "The USFG should" with solid ground on both sides.  But, there would be a community-wide vote on which resolution is best.  If this topic won several resolutions on the ballot would say The USFG should..., some potentially not.  

Some have expressed concern about what a more traditional USFG version of this topic would look like for policy ground.

- The most limiting version of the topic would say:  "The USFG should change (or other verbs previously discussed) the definition of one of the following in the the federal definitions act: (words listed in topic)."  This act applies in the instance where no other specific legislation is written to define one of the words.  Congressional action would certainly be normal means.  The words we chose are polarizing.  The "we will re-defined marriage only in this small instance" will still stoke a larger debate.  

- Even a broader res "The USFG should change one of its federal definitions" would either have to be done at the Congressional or Supreme Court level.  Unlike with restrictions last year, an Executive agency rarely sets definitions of words in the topic paper.  The circuit court acting was/will be much easier to do on energy, patents or even executive authority.  Just like last year, it is possible to have the Supreme Court be the actor in the plan, but very few teams would likely choose to do so.  The ground it gives the negative in terms of counterplans and disads made it not a hugely popular option, despite the fact that a large number of policy Court options existed.  The Amendment CP becomes the check on Court Affs.  Negatives against "The USFG should" would be easily able to win that Congress is normal means in the vast majority of instances.

- Generic ground: Can't really remember the last time a topic allowed for a generic disad that always linked well.
...The problem is that even when the topic identifies an object (ex. increase energy production or reduce executive authority) an affirmative rarely effects enough of that object set (total energy production/exec. authority) to guarantee a link to a generic topic disad.  Smart affirmatives towards the middle/end of the year did not effect overall energy production.  My guess is that in the instance of patents or executive authority the same would happen.  Treaties seems to be similar to this topic in its lack of specific generic ground and, instead, insists preparation surround the objects of the topic.  
...the question of whether or not legal changes/focus can create societal change would guarantee some negative ground against more critical approaches.  

Justin
« Last Edit: April 28, 2013, 10:35:04 AM by JustinGreen » Logged
lgarrett
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« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2013, 11:07:04 AM »

Treaties seems to be similar to this topic in its lack of specific generic ground and, instead, insists preparation surround the objects of the topic.  

I will say that this is true and a reason to favor treaties over patents and prez powers, I feel treaties captures a larger effect by the AFF in terms of both substance and signal which increases the ground for both sides.

Not sure anyone has actually answered Cameron's question. He is looking for the central pivot points. Seems like the two things intrinsic to any object of any resolution is going to be you make people mad who want the opposite of the plan and expanding definitions probably maybe cost some money. Anything else sounds like an impact turn and while some people enjoy pursuing that strategy and it should be on the table I wouldn't say it is a great core approach to a topic.

I agree with Justin's comments about generic ground. The presumption seems to be that topics should allow teams to cut like 10 files that link to everything and still be competitive. This isn't and shouldn't be the case. But c'mon. Seems a consensus forming that being NEG against expansion of marriage would be tough. No evidence footnoted in the retirement NEG section. Corporate influence good under the corporate person hood section. Read family visa DA's from the immigration topic.

What's the DA?
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kelly young
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« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2013, 11:08:57 AM »

- Generic ground: Can't really remember the last time a topic allowed for a generic disad that always linked well.
...The problem is that even when the topic identifies an object (ex. increase energy production or reduce executive authority) an affirmative rarely effects enough of that object set (total energy production/exec. authority) to guarantee a link to a generic topic disad.  Smart affirmatives towards the middle/end of the year did not effect overall energy production.  My guess is that in the instance of patents or executive authority the same would happen.  Treaties seems to be similar to this topic in its lack of specific generic ground and, instead, insists preparation surround the objects of the topic.  
...the question of whether or not legal changes/focus can create societal change would guarantee some negative ground against more critical approaches.  

Since several posters feel obligated to make assertions about the ground that exists on Executive Authority, I'd like to point out in response to the this particular argument that our paper actually addresses this with evidence that both small and radical restrictions of prez authority generate links. In the instance of our paper, the link ground is secure because the generics we highlight are based on the power/authority that is the object of the resolution. Obviously some affs link and others, but they link nonetheless. I'm not going to argue that Definitions has any more or less link ground, I simply want to clarify this misconception.
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dheidt
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« Reply #35 on: April 29, 2013, 08:49:46 AM »


However, given the current method of writing topics, there is very little incentive for K teams to construct affs that encourage such clash.  The closer you get to defending a topic, the hassle of being aff goes up exponentially.  Given this, many teams have very reasonably decided that if they're going to be stuck debating T/framework, they might as well avoid some links, generate a more powerful 1AC, and *really* debate framework.

A topic which provided actual, serious space for the affirmative to talk about the stuff they care about in the fashion they value would do a lot of good.  In that world, I have faith that a lot of 'policy' teams would recognize that you can debate against a 'non-USFG' aff quite easily as long as it's organized within a structure that generates meaningful clash.


This seems more than a little naive to me.  Every affirmative team, critical or otherwise, has every incentive to avoid meaningful clash, or at least direct that clash in the direction that is the most advantageous for them to control.  There is very little incentive for K teams to construct affs that encourage clash, but that has nothing to do with the current method of writing topics and everything to do with the fact that there's a ballot to be won.

If teams can currently successfully win that they don't need to defend a resolution, why on earth would they start defending a resolution that gave them more flexibility than current topics?  It seems like it would still be strongly against their competitive interest because the neg (presumably) would be able to develop a competitive strategy.  It's still much easier for the aff to just prepare for a framework debate and not otherwise link to anything.  The aff is never going to just give the neg ground out of the goodness of their heart. 
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Ermo
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« Reply #36 on: April 29, 2013, 09:13:12 AM »

This seems more than a little naive to me.  Every affirmative team, critical or otherwise, has every incentive to avoid meaningful clash, or at least direct that clash in the direction that is the most advantageous for them to control.  There is very little incentive for K teams to construct affs that encourage clash, but that has nothing to do with the current method of writing topics and everything to do with the fact that there's a ballot to be won.

If teams can currently successfully win that they don't need to defend a resolution, why on earth would they start defending a resolution that gave them more flexibility than current topics?  It seems like it would still be strongly against their competitive interest because the neg (presumably) would be able to develop a competitive strategy.  It's still much easier for the aff to just prepare for a framework debate and not otherwise link to anything.  The aff is never going to just give the neg ground out of the goodness of their heart. 

I agree. The assumption seems to be that judges would become more stringent about topicality if the topic were more flexible. It would take a LOT of judges planning to do so to have a significant effect on case construction, and thus far I'm unable to identify even one judge who has indicated they plan to do so. I feel like a more flexible topic solves for ONE of the reasons sometimes cited for why people should not have to strictly defend the topic, but ONLY one - and there are many. My expectation is that teams who try to be topical would continue to do so, but would have a lot more options - and that teams who aren't concerned with being topical in the strict sense (yes, I get there is usually a counter interp in the front line) would continue to do so for a mix of strategic and personal reasons.
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jregnier
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« Reply #37 on: April 29, 2013, 10:34:10 AM »

This seems more than a little naive to me.  Every affirmative team, critical or otherwise, has every incentive to avoid meaningful clash, or at least direct that clash in the direction that is the most advantageous for them to control.  There is very little incentive for K teams to construct affs that encourage clash, but that has nothing to do with the current method of writing topics and everything to do with the fact that there's a ballot to be won.

If teams can currently successfully win that they don't need to defend a resolution, why on earth would they start defending a resolution that gave them more flexibility than current topics?  It seems like it would still be strongly against their competitive interest because the neg (presumably) would be able to develop a competitive strategy.  It's still much easier for the aff to just prepare for a framework debate and not otherwise link to anything.  The aff is never going to just give the neg ground out of the goodness of their heart. 

I think the key point here is that all Affs direct the clash to the area that is most advantageous to them.  I can't speak for all teams that read critical Affs, but I can talk a little about what the reasoning behind the construction of the Affs at Concordia for the past couple of years.  These were Affs that didn't defend traditional notions of fiat/implementation.  I can tell you that they weren't written to avoid clash, but to make the scope of clash manageable. 

Because of the norms of debate evaluation, most critical affs run into a strategic problem concerning impact and solvency.  I mentioned this earlier as stemming from minimax disad reasoning.  I'm not sure if this is the only cause, but it's certainly a prominent one.  Critique affs have a tremendously difficult time weighing against the logic of a traditional disad, especially when negatives can also run a PIC that "solves" large portions of the aff.  This limits the strategic options for that Aff.  Either they can go the equivalent of the "big stick" route and just decide to answer and/or K all the disads, which for most teams is simply not a sustainable strategy, or they opt out of the notion of fiat that enables the links to those disads, which forces the debate onto the aff's ground.  But then, to justify that move, they have to replicate their own kind of minimax reasoning and frame the aff to garner big offense against framework, which then leads to these repetitive "debates about debate."

I don't think critique affs are primarily about avoiding clash.  K debaters don't sit up at night pondering what they can do to avoid the resolution.  They're about making certain kinds of ideas (that the debaters are interested in intellectually) strategically viable given how judges tend to evaluate impacts.
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ozzy
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« Reply #38 on: April 29, 2013, 10:36:35 PM »

The aff is never going to just give the neg ground out of the goodness of their heart. 

 Cry

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Kade Olsen
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« Reply #39 on: May 01, 2013, 09:03:59 PM »

I think the "judges will vote on topicality more" if the topic changes argument is somewhat persuasive. Of course, certain judges will ideologically vote against topicality when a set of teams are aff. Those judges don't concern me.

I believe there are a large number of judges that believe A) switch side debate is good (education, fun, etc.) B) teams should be topical C) there are too few people of color in debate. At least I thought this was true from my own experience judging and when I filled out pref sheets.

For these judges, I think that critiques of switch-debate generally are very unpersuasive.  But critiques of the types of topics we picked were somewhat persuasive.  I voted against topicality in may debates about race mostly for this reason. However, I think my voting record would have been very different if affirmatives refused to endorse a topical affirmative if the topic read "One of the following USFG definitions . . ."

That's not to say that every team would suddenly feel the need to be topical with a different resolution structure. But I do think that teams that refused to engage the resolution would lose one or two more rounds a tournament.  And while the market doesn't always work quickly, it usually works sooner or later.



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Adam Symonds
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« Reply #40 on: May 02, 2013, 03:13:16 PM »


However, given the current method of writing topics, there is very little incentive for K teams to construct affs that encourage such clash.  The closer you get to defending a topic, the hassle of being aff goes up exponentially.  Given this, many teams have very reasonably decided that if they're going to be stuck debating T/framework, they might as well avoid some links, generate a more powerful 1AC, and *really* debate framework.

A topic which provided actual, serious space for the affirmative to talk about the stuff they care about in the fashion they value would do a lot of good.  In that world, I have faith that a lot of 'policy' teams would recognize that you can debate against a 'non-USFG' aff quite easily as long as it's organized within a structure that generates meaningful clash.


This seems more than a little naive to me.  Every affirmative team, critical or otherwise, has every incentive to avoid meaningful clash, or at least direct that clash in the direction that is the most advantageous for them to control.  There is very little incentive for K teams to construct affs that encourage clash, but that has nothing to do with the current method of writing topics and everything to do with the fact that there's a ballot to be won.

If teams can currently successfully win that they don't need to defend a resolution, why on earth would they start defending a resolution that gave them more flexibility than current topics?  It seems like it would still be strongly against their competitive interest because the neg (presumably) would be able to develop a competitive strategy.  It's still much easier for the aff to just prepare for a framework debate and not otherwise link to anything.  The aff is never going to just give the neg ground out of the goodness of their heart. 


The assumption here is that critical teams would rather "give the neg" framework and T ground rather than substantive ground under a broader topic. I don't believe this assumption holds true under such a topic. By definition, a topic that provides critical space affs want to defend means that the "topical" neg strategies directly engage the affs. By the same token, this means the aff has a topical literature base to draw on to respond to the neg. It would not be surprising, then, to see teams that have frequently opted to force the neg into framework choose instead to force the neg into topical ground they think they can beat. This is the same strategic calculus that policy teams make when they choose between defending T or linking to "the topic DA." Believe it or not, many critical teams are also tired of framework debates. It's not a goodness of their heart issue, it's a question of whether or not the topic provides defensible ground against the generic neg strategies. And the uniqueness, as they say, only goes one direction here. There is no chance that a bigger topic encourages more teams to dis-engage the topic. There's ample reason to believe there will be movement back towards the broader topic. Obviously, we can't know unless we try.
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Malgor
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« Reply #41 on: May 02, 2013, 07:56:08 PM »

try or die for broader topic.  uniqueness for "teams not topical now" only goes one way.

passive voice is not my cup of tea, but the opinion that judges just won't adjust how they evaluate debates if the resolution is passive voice....well, if that's the case then what the hell are all these  portable decision making and advocacy skills i hear about?  the skills are so portable we can't even use them to change our approach to debate!

It's all guessing.  yes, people ideologically opposed to K affs are going to assume that those teams will just cheat more and more (give 'em an inch, they take a mile!).  yes, people ideologically accepting of those K affs will assume it's all going to be a meadow of perfect clash, rainbows, and candy mountains as far as the eye can see!

i don't believe either side, but that's just a reason to not reject it out of hand.  if those against it do so because they don't think debate can cope with the evaluative changes that may be necessary, then put down your stupid framework impacts, it's all lies, brah.

i prefer a usfg agent, and so does the community-rest assured on that one.  opposition to passive voice is not a reason to vote against one of the most salient and creative topic ideas i've seen in a while.  surely one of these definitions undermines our hegemony, and policy v policy teams will have a hoot engaging in their hege wargys.

skeptics, embrace your cynicism, assume we will scorch the earth no matter what area is selected-just vote for the one that's not boring as hell.
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dheidt
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« Reply #42 on: May 03, 2013, 10:00:37 AM »


The assumption here is that critical teams would rather "give the neg" framework and T ground rather than substantive ground under a broader topic. I don't believe this assumption holds true under such a topic. By definition, a topic that provides critical space affs want to defend means that the "topical" neg strategies directly engage the affs. By the same token, this means the aff has a topical literature base to draw on to respond to the neg. It would not be surprising, then, to see teams that have frequently opted to force the neg into framework choose instead to force the neg into topical ground they think they can beat. This is the same strategic calculus that policy teams make when they choose between defending T or linking to "the topic DA." Believe it or not, many critical teams are also tired of framework debates. It's not a goodness of their heart issue, it's a question of whether or not the topic provides defensible ground against the generic neg strategies. And the uniqueness, as they say, only goes one direction here. There is no chance that a bigger topic encourages more teams to dis-engage the topic. There's ample reason to believe there will be movement back towards the broader topic. Obviously, we can't know unless we try.

The underlying assumption is actually just that affirmative teams want to win.  This means they have a motive to avoid as much clash as possible, and control what they can't avoid in their favor.  If there are good negative strategies that can engage the aff, the aff's risk of losing debates is greater.  Some will engage thinking they can win, and will continue to do so until they lose, and then they'll switch to something that links to less.  This isn't about critical teams; policy teams also do this all the time as well.  Any conversation that assumes that participation in a competitive activity occurs primarily for reasons other than competition is hopelessly naive.   There are other, cheaper, and less time-consuming fora that could engage a much larger audience if anything other than competition was the primary goal.

Re: "Believe it or not, many critical teams are also tired of framework debates. It's not a goodness of their heart issue, it's a question of whether or not the topic provides defensible ground against the generic neg strategies".  Yeah, I don't believe it.  And given aff win percentages, it's quite likely that every topic so far except maybe courts provided defensible ground against the generic neg strategies.  Nobody is forced into not defending the topic; it's a choice.

Re: uniqueness for topic engagement.  Some teams will inevitably avoid the topic, regardless of its wording - this occurs now, and I think it will continue even under a very broad topic that didn't force an aff to defend the USFG.  But the conclusion that this broader topic has a chance of encouraging greater clash by bringing some teams into the fold of topic engagement is completely backwards:

1. Broader topics, by definition, discourage more topic-specific clash than narrower topics.  This is true regardless of whether the debates are critical debates or policy debates.  Topic engagement is greatly determined both by how predictable affirmatives are, and by how much change they are required to defend.  The sanctions and treaties topics, for example, involved a substantial amount of direct clash in virtually every debate that occurred under them (even with the critical affs) - the affirmative only had a limited selection of affs, they had to defend large changes that linked to a lot of arguments, and they were all very predictable for negative preparation.  The energy topic, by contrast, with its incredibly asinine 'restrictions' wording, was far more about clash avoidance: it allowed affs to regularly write new affs, among hundreds of possible restrictions, and they didn't link to anything and were not required to increase energy production (see the list of new affs at the NDT and check out their win percentages for proof).  Or the democracy assistance topic, which had a terrible but amazingly broad mechanism, the affirmative mostly dominated using weapons like link uniqueness, and tiny plan mechanisms, and new affs (the conventional wisdom on this forum was that it was a bad topic for the aff, but actually looking at the results data that year shows otherwise with exception of two tournaments).

2. The assumption that there is 'no chance that a bigger topic encourages more teams to dis-engage the topic' depends on what you mean by 'disengage'.  A very loosely worded topic gives credibility to a variety of aff strategies where they will pretend to be topical but in reality have nothing to do at all with the topic.  This occurs now (putting the res in their advocacy statements, advocating it as means for something not about the res, as a metaphor, as a monad, etc) but it is fairly easy for a neg currently to at least win the link to a framework debate, by defining terms such as 'USFG' or other words in the resolution that would support a more narrow reading of the topic.  If you're willing to accept a resolutional wording that gives the aff an enormous amount of interpretive flexibility, then the sham aff of 'we endorse the resolution as a means to not endorse it or whatever other dumb thing we can convince you tools to vote for' becomes much more viable. 

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Kade Olsen
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« Reply #43 on: May 03, 2013, 12:50:13 PM »

At least for me, there is a difference between an alternative topic construction and a broader topic:

As David said, extremely broad topics are pretty miserable.  After the first few tournaments, policy teams will run small affirmatives and argue that the generic mechanism disadvantages are non-unique.  Negative teams then must extend the following in the 2NR: 1) A generic critique related to the topic 2) A process counterplan 3) A generic topicality violation (Pressure, Restrict, Include, Constructive Engagement) or 4) An agent counterplan and politics.  Even if an affirmative is "big stick," the clash in those debates are pretty mediocre: Intelligent negative teams will prepare extensively to extend the four negative strategies listed above out of fear of debating new affs; the negative team can easily read one of those four strategies against large affirmatives. As a result, if the topic read something like "The United States Federal Government’s definition of one or more of the following should be changed: Marriage, Person, Retirement age, Family, Poverty," that would be insane.  The word poverty is used 615 times in the U.S. Code, and I assume it is used even more in the Code of Federal Regulations. Of course, this problem can also happen on small topics with a terrible mechanism. (E.g., the Courts topic).

But I think the debate community could try a limited topic area with a passive voice structure. For example, "The United States Federal Government’s definition of Family should be expanded" is both limited and provides an alternative mechanism for debate.  The arguments why the current debate practices are racist would be substantially less persuasive.  Because the topic allows affirmatives to bypass process questions and does not require affirmatives to identify with the oppressor, critiques of "old" debate practice would not apply. The "go compete in APDA debate and Original Oratory, or become a speech writer" argument should win debate rounds.

I admit that some affirmative teams may argue that limits are generally bad for some philosophical reason. But teams that win with this type of argument would have performed better reading a topical affirmative -- they won debate rounds because they were talented, not because their arguments ever passed a gut check.



« Last Edit: May 03, 2013, 12:56:50 PM by Kade Olsen » Logged
Adam Symonds
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« Reply #44 on: May 03, 2013, 01:19:33 PM »

The examples of good "clash" resolutions that you give--Treaties and Sanctions--are the ones that I am defending. These are representative of diverse aff literature from which to defend the resolution while simultaneously providing predictable negative ground. I had a whole post about the important takeaways from the sanctions topic (http://www.cedadebate.org/forum/index.php?topic=4798.0). Both of these examples are quite good analogues for the Definitions topic. Like Treaties, Definitions specifies a singular mechanism--change--which is then applied to quite varied areas. What held Treaties together was the mechanism combined with a deep and wide literature base surrounding the treaty itself. The areas selected in Definitions have the same depth/breadth advantage that Treaties did. The mechanism in the controversy paper is not as limited as "ratify x," but it's actually not that far off either. The aff has to codify a definitional change in federal law, which is the central pivot point in each of the areas identified in the paper. Moreover, a little nudge to force the aff to "include more people" or "include less people" (in the case of Citizens United) now bifurcates the topic such that it is the functional equivalent of "ratify x." And as I've stated throughout this thread, the committee inevitably applies a more narrow wording to the areas that we select. Beginning from a broader controversy avoids the problems of visas where we wind up with many mechanisms and virtually no difference in the advantages that can be run.

Sanctions is another apt analogue for definitions because it can be structured in the wording phase to force a minimum aff action and allow a ceiling of aff action. Sanctions did not seek to limit the aff to 1 particular behavior towards each of the topic countries. Instead, it used Constructive Engagement to establish a framework under which a great number of aff ideas could operate. The negative was still assured of ground through the removal of sanctions. The conception of neg predictability being pitted against aff flexibility is a false choice and an unnecessary one. What could a floor/ceiling approach look like on Definitions? Well, if one of the ballot options is designed to incorporate all of the areas that seek more inclusive definitions, the resolution could force the aff to change the definition in the definitions act cited in the paper (floor) while allowing the aff to change the definition in any specific areas relevant or even to all of federal law (ceiling).

At any rate, mechanism shouldn't be the primary concern at the controversy stage of the paper. I think your post and mine were employing distinct definitions of "broad." My fault for introducing the term without explaining further. The breadth of debate ideas in the Definitions topic makes it far more interesting than the other papers. The mechanism can be whittled down appropriately. This topic will still allow for affs to find a more diverse range of advantages that pique their research and competitiveness interests. By broader, I do not mean to say that we should have "loose mechanisms." However, I would say that a "loose mechanism" is perfectly justifiable if the committee chooses to limit the topic instead by cutting back the number of available areas for the aff to change. 2 of the areas with "change" as the mechanism is perfectly defensible. There's obviously a balance to be struck between the breadth of the areas and the breadth of the mechanism.


The assumption here is that critical teams would rather "give the neg" framework and T ground rather than substantive ground under a broader topic. I don't believe this assumption holds true under such a topic. By definition, a topic that provides critical space affs want to defend means that the "topical" neg strategies directly engage the affs. By the same token, this means the aff has a topical literature base to draw on to respond to the neg. It would not be surprising, then, to see teams that have frequently opted to force the neg into framework choose instead to force the neg into topical ground they think they can beat. This is the same strategic calculus that policy teams make when they choose between defending T or linking to "the topic DA." Believe it or not, many critical teams are also tired of framework debates. It's not a goodness of their heart issue, it's a question of whether or not the topic provides defensible ground against the generic neg strategies. And the uniqueness, as they say, only goes one direction here. There is no chance that a bigger topic encourages more teams to dis-engage the topic. There's ample reason to believe there will be movement back towards the broader topic. Obviously, we can't know unless we try.

The underlying assumption is actually just that affirmative teams want to win.  This means they have a motive to avoid as much clash as possible, and control what they can't avoid in their favor.  If there are good negative strategies that can engage the aff, the aff's risk of losing debates is greater.  Some will engage thinking they can win, and will continue to do so until they lose, and then they'll switch to something that links to less.  This isn't about critical teams; policy teams also do this all the time as well.  Any conversation that assumes that participation in a competitive activity occurs primarily for reasons other than competition is hopelessly naive.   There are other, cheaper, and less time-consuming fora that could engage a much larger audience if anything other than competition was the primary goal.

At no point have I tried to refute the claim that affs want to do anything but win. But the belief that this inevitably produces non-topical affs makes no sense to me given the millions of examples of topical policy affs that we have both seen after over 20 years in this activity (good lord we're old). "This isn't about critical teams; policy teams also do this all the time as well." This statement does not square with the rest of the paragraph. A vastly greater percentage of policy teams are topical than critical teams. So it cannot be as simple as "competitive drive means nontopical affs, QED." Clearly something else is influencing critical teams to "abandon" the topic and choose to debate framework instead. I'm only suggesting that one of the secondary considerations influencing such a choice is the incredibly narrow manner in which we have been constructing topics (both mechanism and areas). I don't see anything naive about that position.

Re: "Believe it or not, many critical teams are also tired of framework debates. It's not a goodness of their heart issue, it's a question of whether or not the topic provides defensible ground against the generic neg strategies".  Yeah, I don't believe it.  And given aff win percentages, it's quite likely that every topic so far except maybe courts provided defensible ground against the generic neg strategies.  Nobody is forced into not defending the topic; it's a choice.

Agreed it is a choice. A choice which is being made now. I have yet to hear an argument about why a topic with more topical ideas engaging more literature would make more teams make said choice. I am offering a theory as to why it might make less teams make that choice.

Re: uniqueness for topic engagement.  Some teams will inevitably avoid the topic, regardless of its wording - this occurs now, and I think it will continue even under a very broad topic that didn't force an aff to defend the USFG.  But the conclusion that this broader topic has a chance of encouraging greater clash by bringing some teams into the fold of topic engagement is completely backwards:

1. Broader topics, by definition, discourage more topic-specific clash than narrower topics.  This is true regardless of whether the debates are critical debates or policy debates.  Topic engagement is greatly determined both by how predictable affirmatives are, and by how much change they are required to defend.  The sanctions and treaties topics, for example, involved a substantial amount of direct clash in virtually every debate that occurred under them (even with the critical affs) - the affirmative only had a limited selection of affs, they had to defend large changes that linked to a lot of arguments, and they were all very predictable for negative preparation.  The energy topic, by contrast, with its incredibly asinine 'restrictions' wording, was far more about clash avoidance: it allowed affs to regularly write new affs, among hundreds of possible restrictions, and they didn't link to anything and were not required to increase energy production (see the list of new affs at the NDT and check out their win percentages for proof).  Or the democracy assistance topic, which had a terrible but amazingly broad mechanism, the affirmative mostly dominated using weapons like link uniqueness, and tiny plan mechanisms, and new affs (the conventional wisdom on this forum was that it was a bad topic for the aff, but actually looking at the results data that year shows otherwise with exception of two tournaments).

Disagree with point 1 entirely. I think this depends on the definition of "broader." Broader in the sense of more topical ideas is distinct from "OMG no mechanism." We can have a broader topic that is designed to force clash through the mechanism. Alternately, we can have relatively little mechanism, but limit the number of areas. Either way, I think this avoids the criticism levied here. And as for energy - the problem was that topic (a) was the direction of the sq and (b) was not controversial. Definitions is the opposite on both counts. If you are worried about small affs that don't link, I just don't think that is possible with the definitions identified in the paper. I'd be willing to have that debate in a separate thread.

2. The assumption that there is 'no chance that a bigger topic encourages more teams to dis-engage the topic' depends on what you mean by 'disengage'.  A very loosely worded topic gives credibility to a variety of aff strategies where they will pretend to be topical but in reality have nothing to do at all with the topic.  This occurs now (putting the res in their advocacy statements, advocating it as means for something not about the res, as a metaphor, as a monad, etc) but it is fairly easy for a neg currently to at least win the link to a framework debate, by defining terms such as 'USFG' or other words in the resolution that would support a more narrow reading of the topic.  If you're willing to accept a resolutional wording that gives the aff an enormous amount of interpretive flexibility, then the sham aff of 'we endorse the resolution as a means to not endorse it or whatever other dumb thing we can convince you tools to vote for' becomes much more viable.  

As stated above, not defending a loosely worded topic unless we have a smaller number of areas. I also think there's virtually no chance the committee would produce a loosely worded topic given recent attempts to restrict the mechanism, do you? I am not calling for interpretive flexibility so much as breadth and diversity of ideas available for the aff. Those can be sculpted without being so frickin narrow.
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