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Author Topic: Federal Definitions Topic Paper  (Read 24242 times)
ScottyP
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« Reply #45 on: May 03, 2013, 01:38:21 PM »

Unless I'm totally misunderstanding what you mean by "mechanism" your point about treaties/sanctions seems way off. Other than georgias ratification process CP, basically none of the debates on treaties were about the mechanism- i.e. how treaties get ratified. There was no "unified" neg ground other than the dumbass "multilat crushes heg" da no one read- all strategies were treaty specific, which worked becuase there were only 3. Similarly, unless pics are a "mechanism" strategy (which I think they clearly are not) sanctions was not about mechanisms.
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Adam Symonds
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« Reply #46 on: May 03, 2013, 01:53:18 PM »

It was not my intent to say that either treaties or sanctions produced debates about the mechanism. Only that each resolution demonstrates a viable approach for the mechanism to limit the scope of the topic such that the specific debates the neg needs to be prepared for are manageable. Definitions has the literature necessary for these mechanisms to successfully shape the topic.
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FrancesWoodworth
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« Reply #47 on: May 03, 2013, 05:37:57 PM »

I agree with what dheidt said, but even if a topic like this drives affirmatives to be "topical" I'm still not sure its possible for the negative to engage the "policy". And when the negative gives up and starts reading actor or process counterplans with asinine low risk extinction impacts, with a CP that solves all the aff do we expect affirmatives to continue to be topical?

We may need to think about a broader topic. But I think it has to be more of a controversy than this one. There at least has to be a way to defend the status quo for the negative, and forget the lack of unifying mechanism to negate, I'm just not convinced most of these areas rise to a political controversy where we can get good debates. Likely the Neg will read process counterplans and the aff will get frustrated with offense/defense and risk times magnitude and stop being topical.

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dheidt
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« Reply #48 on: May 03, 2013, 06:20:06 PM »

A few responses to Adam:

1. Broad topics with narrow mechanisms encourage substantially less clash than narrow topics with narrow mechanisms.  'Affirmative flexibility' is a code word for 'lets catch the negative unprepared' (also, 'stale debates' is code for 'I'd prefer to avoid debating the major controversy in this topic when I run my aff because it's so much better for me when the neg lacks predictable ground').  Treaties and sanctions weren't good topics just because of the mechanism; that was part of it but a more important reason was that there were only 5 affs on each topic (another example of a mostly good topic: Europe, for the same reason, despite lacking anything resembling a coherent mechanism).  They were 5 big affs with a lot of advantage ground and took a lot of work to prepare for because the literature base was great, but the limitation to 5 affs was a big part of why those topics worked.  Adding a few more treaties or countries to either topic would have made the debates on them worse because almost every aff on each topic had a huge literature base already.  The debates on those topics were higher quality than every other topic because every debate involved a fully prepared negative team.  Add more affs to either one and the depth of preparation suffers.

2.  the argument that policy teams choose to debate the topic proves that critical teams will as well is unpersuasive to me.  My argument is that affirmatives, both policy and critical, have every incentive to avoid as much clash as possible so that they maximize their chance of winning - they will not give the negative ground in the interest of pursuing better debates.  Affirmative altruism does not exist and no one should pretend otherwise.  The existence of topical policy affs doesn't disprove this claim, because topicality is a check that potentially reduces a team's chance of winning.  If topicality weren't a credible threat of being a voting issue, there wouldn't be many topical policy affs.  Many critical teams have decided they win the impact part of a topicality debate, and that their chances of winning that are greater than their chances of defending their aff against whatever topic-specific arguments the negative might have.  

Designing a topic to accommodate teams that have made the choice to not defend the topic is foolish.  If the design is successful, and produces relevant negative ground that is capable of beating critical teams as reliably as other generics can beat policy teams, then the critical teams have every competitive incentive to not defend that topic either.  If the design is unsuccessful in producing predictable negative ground, then the topic is an unmanageable mess for everyone.

3. The design is highly likely to be unsuccessful.  My argument for why more teams might choose not to defend the topic was my second point on uniqueness in the earlier post: affirmative interpretative flexibility means they can get away with quite a bit more and they won't lose on framework if the neg can't win a convincing link to it.  Affirmatives have every incentive to push the limits of a topic, especially towards the end of the year. Providing them greater interpretive flexibility is just about the worst thing you can do, if the goal is to encourage good debates.

Your response that you aren't defending a loosely worded topic is...confusing.  Passive voice and the word 'change' are two of the prime examples of a loosely worded topic to me.

4. I don't think the goal of voting for the broadest topic and then letting the topic committee sort it all out is a worthwhile one.  No disrespect to the TC, but 3 days simply isn't enough time.  The 'restrictions' wording in the energy topic led to very foreseeable problems, but the desire to remain faithful to the scope of the original paper meant it stayed in (and maybe actually became broader, applying a fossil fuel restrictions wording to every energy source).
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Adam Symonds
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« Reply #49 on: May 03, 2013, 08:52:50 PM »

Thanks for the continued discussion....I'm getting something out of it even if no one is reading. I have one more round in me:

A few responses to Adam:

1. Broad topics with narrow mechanisms encourage substantially less clash than narrow topics with narrow mechanisms.  'Affirmative flexibility' is a code word for 'lets catch the negative unprepared' (also, 'stale debates' is code for 'I'd prefer to avoid debating the major controversy in this topic when I run my aff because it's so much better for me when the neg lacks predictable ground').  Treaties and sanctions weren't good topics just because of the mechanism; that was part of it but a more important reason was that there were only 5 affs on each topic (another example of a mostly good topic: Europe, for the same reason, despite lacking anything resembling a coherent mechanism).  They were 5 big affs with a lot of advantage ground and took a lot of work to prepare for because the literature base was great, but the limitation to 5 affs was a big part of why those topics worked.  Adding a few more treaties or countries to either topic would have made the debates on them worse because almost every aff on each topic had a huge literature base already.  The debates on those topics were higher quality than every other topic because every debate involved a fully prepared negative team.  Add more affs to either one and the depth of preparation suffers.

There's a lot of abstractions here about broad topics. My earlier post illustrated why I think that definitions topic is not in fact broad. I disagree with the characterization of "5 affs" on sanctions or treaties. CTBT was bidirectional. ICC was bidirectional. In either direction, there were a number of justifications the aff could have made for ratification. Sanctions had even more affs, given that the aff could implement any number of CE steps that mitigated the negative link arguments to the removal of sanctions (particularly if any qpq was involved). The argument that "any more affs" would have made those topics suffer is an assertion that can't be proven (which hints at the fact that we are close to an ideological impasse, but I think we saw that coming).

And if Treaties is a good example of a topic, despite there being radically different advantages and issues under each treaty, then why are we afraid of affs having several different ways at getting to multiple different impact areas? All we're adding is a few solvency claims in each area - hardly a recipe for disaster.


2.  the argument that policy teams choose to debate the topic proves that critical teams will as well is unpersuasive to me.  My argument is that affirmatives, both policy and critical, have every incentive to avoid as much clash as possible so that they maximize their chance of winning - they will not give the negative ground in the interest of pursuing better debates.  Affirmative altruism does not exist and no one should pretend otherwise.  The existence of topical policy affs doesn't disprove this claim, because topicality is a check that potentially reduces a team's chance of winning.  If topicality weren't a credible threat of being a voting issue, there wouldn't be many topical policy affs.  Many critical teams have decided they win the impact part of a topicality debate, and that their chances of winning that are greater than their chances of defending their aff against whatever topic-specific arguments the negative might have.  

Designing a topic to accommodate teams that have made the choice to not defend the topic is foolish.  If the design is successful, and produces relevant negative ground that is capable of beating critical teams as reliably as other generics can beat policy teams, then the critical teams have every competitive incentive to not defend that topic either.  If the design is unsuccessful in producing predictable negative ground, then the topic is an unmanageable mess for everyone.

The bold here is a strawperson. No one is defending topic appeasement. The definitions literature is deep and well defended on both sides. Citizens United is an incredibly heated debate with strong arguments for both sides and impacts on democracy. Marriage reform is hotly debated at every level of government. I don't think the other areas lack for credible controversy and multiple sides either. What is being advocated is a hot topic that is controversial and has a well defined base and, as a side benefit, provides more ways for affs to find themselves in the topic. Do I think this will cause a mass shift towards the topic? Not at all. Could it encourage more debates on the topic and more judges to have a higher bar for non-topical affs? yeah, it could.

3. The design is highly likely to be unsuccessful.  My argument for why more teams might choose not to defend the topic was my second point on uniqueness in the earlier post: affirmative interpretative flexibility means they can get away with quite a bit more and they won't lose on framework if the neg can't win a convincing link to it.  Affirmatives have every incentive to push the limits of a topic, especially towards the end of the year. Providing them greater interpretive flexibility is just about the worst thing you can do, if the goal is to encourage good debates.

Your response that you aren't defending a loosely worded topic is...confusing.  Passive voice and the word 'change' are two of the prime examples of a loosely worded topic to me.

I think the point of confusion is that I have not defended passive voice (at all) or change (unless the areas were narrowed substantially). I haven't pushed for interpretive flexibility. I have, however, argued for a topic that includes a greater diversity of ideas, rather than another topic where the aff has many ways to reach the same advantages every round. Definitions as a controversy has that.

4. I don't think the goal of voting for the broadest topic and then letting the topic committee sort it all out is a worthwhile one.  No disrespect to the TC, but 3 days simply isn't enough time.  The 'restrictions' wording in the energy topic led to very foreseeable problems, but the desire to remain faithful to the scope of the original paper meant it stayed in (and maybe actually became broader, applying a fossil fuel restrictions wording to every energy source).

I think what is happening now is that the TC operates under the FW that since 3 days is not enough time, we should be afraid of what we haven't thought of. The renewables conversations last year centered around the infinite number of random tiny renewables that the aff could read. The "fear of the unknown renewable" DA foreclosed any discussion of including renewables as a phrase.

In response, the TC now appears to be coming from the opposite direction: let's only include the few things we were able to map out by now. The result is not enough affs. Not enough room for affs to find things that a cursory glance at google didn't reveal in an incredibly short period of time. This fear is driving a topic process that cannot possibly evolve.

This is why I posted my shpiel about having a topic floor and ceiling -- the aff should have some creativity... we shouldn't be trying to understand and plan the entire topic by the end of the TC meeting. The result has been topics that are far too narrow.
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lgarrett
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« Reply #50 on: May 03, 2013, 10:16:26 PM »


The bold here is a strawperson. No one is defending topic appeasement. The definitions literature is deep and well defended on both sides. Citizens United is an incredibly heated debate with strong arguments for both sides and impacts on democracy. Marriage reform is hotly debated at every level of government. I don't think the other areas lack for credible controversy and multiple sides either. What is being advocated is a hot topic that is controversial and has a well defined base and, as a side benefit, provides more ways for affs to find themselves in the topic. Do I think this will cause a mass shift towards the topic? Not at all. Could it encourage more debates on the topic and more judges to have a higher bar for non-topical affs? yeah, it could.



This is an issue that has been glossed over. Think the description of negative ground has been vague and based in assertion. I understand the impulse to argue that this would have a positive impact on clash of civ debates because no one is gonna win a vote campaigning on the NEG to gay marriage. Corporate personhood good, running back the immigration topic, taking the less optimal aspects of the poverty topic, sticking it to old people, why are these areas ripe for debate?

Seems like this topic takes NEG ground to mean you can say the opposite of the AFF. Think this conflation between impact turns and actual disadvantages overly favors the AFF and encouages the side stepping dheidt talks about.  The option to link or impact turn the AFF is available on every topic, it is not core, unique or interesting strategy. A topic needs more to sustain a year of debates.
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Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #51 on: May 04, 2013, 09:35:07 AM »




[/quote]

This is an issue that has been glossed over. Think the description of negative ground has been vague and based in assertion. I understand the impulse to argue that this would have a positive impact on clash of civ debates because no one is gonna win a vote campaigning on the NEG to gay marriage. Corporate personhood good, running back the immigration topic, taking the less optimal aspects of the poverty topic, sticking it to old people, why are these areas ripe for debate?

Seems like this topic takes NEG ground to mean you can say the opposite of the AFF. Think this conflation between impact turns and actual disadvantages overly favors the AFF and encouages the side stepping dheidt talks about.  The option to link or impact turn the AFF is available on every topic, it is not core, unique or interesting strategy. A topic needs more to sustain a year of debates.
[/quote]

I think at least one animating difference between what you're describing here as more or less settled matters i.e. gay marriage, poverty reform are considerably less settled though perhaps "settled" according to a certain two sides logic (for example the centrist consensus that we need a welfare state against the same hackneyed Heritage foundation papers suggesting tax cuts, etc). What is ripe for the debate in this case is the set of assumptions that drive the left-progressive political agenda, a set of assumptions that get backgrounded as long as the frame is the admittedly seductive but perhaps overly simplistic "two sides" framing that we often get in topic papers, committee meetings, etc. It would require folks dip into a pretty different literature base as their main one, I think...

I also want to say that David Heidt's earlier point about competition is very well taken: we can't eliminate that aspect of debate without radically changing its appeal, content, who participates, who coaches...I suspect that without a competitive element the demographic would change substantially but probably not in ways that are more positively aligned with our broader conversations about diversities of both style and demographics.

But I am uncomfortable with an assumption behind David's argument, namely that teams are just out to win and thats it. Winning is a big part of it but, I don't think its ALL of it. I have certainly judged some debaters whose critiques of topicality "seemed" strategic rather than earnest. I have also judge some whose critiques of topicality/framework are some of the most earnest, convincing, and moving moments I've seen in debate. A topic that was considerably different than our norm, I think, might provide us with more data about the motivations of people involved in debate. And whats the disad, really?  A bad year (for some people) at the office? I'm not trying to be flippant, but it seems to me here are the outcomes:

1. It sucks for everyone. #NeverAgain
2. Its pretty sweet and we do it more #awesome
3. its somewhere in the middle and we discover that the incommensurability thesis that has driven so much handwringing (in many quarters) about the state of debate, diversity of styles and participants, etc., was always a lot more about US and maybe needs a little revision.

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kevin kuswa
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« Reply #52 on: May 04, 2013, 09:36:48 AM »

Thanks for the continued discussion....I'm getting something out of it even if no one is reading. I have one more round in me:

it's a good discussion--worth reading for sure.  on the other hand, some arguments are mis-characterized and the phantasm of "broad vs. narrow" still hides the points adam and others are making about creativity and diversity.  malgor also had a great point about uniqueness that is yet to be answered (we should try something different because the polarization in approaches to the topic cannot get much worse).

i'm hoping we can get into a few more of the specific controversies on the table and do some direct comparisons.  i am often wrong with these votes, but i sense that the voting is going to come down to war powers vs. definitions.  at that point, the question is: are there are War Powers supporters that would entertain a switch in favor of Definitions or vice-versa?  if the die is already cast, than it doesn't matter, but if there are still some squads deciding how to vote--especially on those two controversies--what variables are you using?  how are you deciding?  let's talk it out.

for us there is a question about what we would like to research and learn about.  War Powers is interesting and recent surges in the drone program and a few other examples of the imperial presidency are troubling to say the least and would be a good area to debate.  the risk there, however, is that the XO counterplan would not "evolve" as people hope, but would instead swallow up a lot of the creative affs.  there is a risk, even if small, that war powers would become a process cp topic.  there is a larger risk that the impact areas would become somewhat repetitive (with each other and with previously debated topics).  i know these concerns have been addressed quite well by the controversy authors (not to mention by a great paper), but there are only so many ways to dress up a "restrain the militarism of the President" topic.

the federal definitions topic does not include these risks--it is fresh, creative, rooted in lots of literature, and involves the usfg and therefore allays concerns that we are only going to debate about ourselves (not really a justified fear, but still floating out there).  it is big enough at this point that the topic committeee can come up with some meaningful wording choices.  the other ironic thing about the discussion thus far is that we are debating about how to make topicality a more robust tool and simultaneously bring some of the alterantive approaches back under the wing of the topic.  one reason we want to do that is to expand our definitions of the topic phrases in order to deepen the focus on topic literature.  federal definitions will do that automatically because the core of the topic is just that: definitions.

i'm looking forward to either one of these controversies, but feel like we have a real opportunity to move forward with a debate about federal definitions and avoid some innovation bog-down risks that are small with war powers, but real.
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kelly young
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« Reply #53 on: May 04, 2013, 11:17:04 AM »


i'm looking forward to either one of these controversies, but feel like we have a real opportunity to move forward with a debate about federal definitions and avoid some innovation bog-down risks that are small with war powers, but real.


So, mini-max evaluation is terrible for evaluating debate rounds but is a-okay for controversy paper evaluation? Interesting.


I know I speak for a few of the War Powers paper authors in stating that we are well beyond frustrated with the nature of the discussion on this forum and the god-awful monstrosity known as the NDTCEDA Tradition FB page about our paper. Contrary to some rather asinine claims made about our paper and us personally, we did not write this topic paper is some EVIL attempt to undermine critical debate or to maintain some ideological status quo. We saw several great articles over the course of a year on presidential war authority and thought to ourselves, "hey, this would make for a sweet controversy area." 

Additionally, we have provided a rather lengthy controversy paper and several responses (with evidence) to the claim that our topic will die to XO Cps. Since the two or three most vocal people on this forum and the NDTCEDA Tradition page largely dismiss our claims without warrant, there doesn't seem like much reason to rehash this debate yet again only to have the same responses repeated. Bruce Najor, John Koch, and I have provided some detailed discussion of this issue on the "War Powers" thread and we encourage you to review those posts.

Given how polarized this debate has been on CEDA forums and the NDTCEDA Tradition page, I really don't think a last minute push for votes is going to matter all that much. However, if you are still undecided on your vote, all that I ask is that you reread the excellent papers that have been offered by each set of authors and carefully read through the discussion on this forum and do some additional reading of the literature on your own.

We aren't going to offer a point-by-point comparison of our controversy paper to the Definitions paper. That's tacky, defeats the purpose of writing a good controversy paper in the first place, and should be something those left undecided should do for themselves.
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kelly.young [at] wayne.edu
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kevin kuswa
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« Reply #54 on: May 04, 2013, 01:19:55 PM »

Kelly,

Don't take it personally.  I'm not on FB and don't know what you are referencing, but I do think you wrote a very solid paper--in fact one of the best I've seen having read all the papers that have been submitted over the past five or six years.  Great job--seriously.  The point was simply this: in my opinion the debates about the federal definitions of some diverse concepts would be more invigorating, interesting, different, creative, and open to alternative forms of debate on the aff and neg than would executive power.  That's it.  It is ok to disagree and debate about these things--that's sort of the point.  I have no doubt that many folks would rather talk about executive power than about the meaning of personhood or poverty, I'm just not one of those folks and am doing a little lobbying for a season about concepts that does not drone on like a maze of he(d)ges Smiley.   Thanks for the wonderful paper, though--it was a pleasure to read and it will probably win.  Kevin 
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Malgor
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« Reply #55 on: May 04, 2013, 01:49:30 PM »

Kelly's playing for keeps.  it's getting real in here.
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kelly young
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« Reply #56 on: May 04, 2013, 02:26:25 PM »

Kelly,

Don't take it personally.  I'm not on FB and don't know what you are referencing, but I do think you wrote a very solid paper--in fact one of the best I've seen having read all the papers that have been submitted over the past five or six years.  Great job--seriously.  The point was simply this: in my opinion the debates about the federal definitions of some diverse concepts would be more invigorating, interesting, different, creative, and open to alternative forms of debate on the aff and neg than would executive power.  That's it.  It is ok to disagree and debate about these things--that's sort of the point.  I have no doubt that many folks would rather talk about executive power than about the meaning of personhood or poverty, I'm just not one of those folks and am doing a little lobbying for a season about concepts that does not drone on like a maze of he(d)ges Smiley.   Thanks for the wonderful paper, though--it was a pleasure to read and it will probably win.  Kevin  

I dont take debating about these issues personally - if you had seen a couple of the posts on NDTCEDA Tradition suggesting that we are personally driven by an ideological desire to kill critical debate and that we wrote rather detailed discussions of aff/neg critical sections "admittedly as a joke", then you would understand why I am beyond done with much of this discussion. However, it is a little frustrating to see the same assertion about our paper made over and over and over again like it's a certainty with no regard for our arguments in response.

The debate about these things grew stale days ago. An assertion was made that XO Cps would kill our paper. Several of us said "no" and explained why and provided evidence. People followed up by asserting that we were wrong. We said "no." Repeat. Then repeat again. I'm really unclear why another round of posts repeating these exact same claims will add any further knowledge to someone still looking to make a decision. If you are curious to know about this debate, read the posts already made on this matter. For that matter, read the ones that also argue the advantages/disadvantages of the Definitions paper. Unless you have something new to discuss other than: (1) our topic is stale/boring; or (2) XO Cps will kill our topic, then this ground has largely been covered in the paper and in length on this forum. We can only repeat ourselves so many times across two forums.
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kevin kuswa
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« Reply #57 on: May 04, 2013, 03:25:43 PM »

One thing that happens in a focus on line-by-line debate is that we become convinced that "ink = persuasive answer."  That is not true.  Just because a response has been made, does not mean that the response is accurate or even very good.

A few forums posts and FB messages that try to wiggle out of the inherent connection between the (old) XO CP and a war powers resolution are not sufficient.

In other words, no one has "definitively closed the debate" no matter how forceful they are in their posts.  The War Powers authors should be proud of the paper and the fact that they have brought an important controversy to the table.  They cannot, however, change the way process debates take place on resolutions like this...period.

Take the risk that I am wrong and vote for War Powers...maybe you will be pleasantly surprised.  In the meantime, do not get too upset if certain arguments are repeated a few times here and there.  Repetition happens...often because those arguments have merit.  By the way, as a reminder, the War Powers controversy still risks a version of the XO counterplan taking over AND it still boils down to a few impacts that we debate almost every year and have become a bit moldy.

The answers to the XO will "suck the air out of the room" presented in this forum simply show how the XO and the answers to it can get a little more sophisticated.  Sure, but that just proves the point--it will be a big part of the debate season.  The answers in this thread I just re-read simply prove the initial argument.  Even if object-fiat and some of the solvency deficit questions evolve, it is still about the evolution of bingo in the rocking chair, not a fresh set of arguments.  If I made an argument that the Courts CP might take away from a particular topic and the response was "no, the case-in-controversy debate and some new Supreme Court Justices mean the aff and the neg will have new ways to talk about the Courts CP," that does not answer the original objection.

Don't get angry about it, just admit that the XO is in play with that topic and embrace it.  It terms of answering the argument that the impacts (with a few exceptions) are overdone, just contend that debate should be about warfare when at all possible.

 
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BrianDeLong
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« Reply #58 on: May 04, 2013, 04:54:57 PM »

I want to go back to a discussion that T-Cram brought up on the first page, will changing a definition result in the government executing the definition by changing contradicting law? Can we find some historical evidence where this has occurred?

Marriage: If a definition is changed where marriage is now defined as between two human beings meeting X criteria, in whatever legal code that may be, will the affirmative also be able to alter the US tax code, or will the tax code change as a result of the plan? Could the negative's strategy vs. marriage be to leave the definition in 1 USC 7 alone, rule against states for not allowing gay marriage, and then provide tax benefits to anyone who has joined in a state defined marriage? Does the code (definition of terms) determine the legality and implementation of laws?

Next question, what is the United States federal government's definition of X word? The family example in the controversy paper seems to suggest that there is a lack of uniformity with a lot of these issues across agencies. Would "change" USFG definition of (word) constraint the affirmatives to change ALL definitions, or would the affirmative be able to pick and choose agencies? Would we have to put an adjective like substantially to allow for affirmative flexibility on this question?

Personhood
In terms of "person," I question whether it would be a good idea to vote for this topic if the goal is to debate about corporate personhood & Citizens v. United. Here is a long article explaining why: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/6095:the-problem-with-citizens-united-is-not-corporate-personhood.

Conclusion of the paper: "Without the corporate personhood and constitutional amendment diversions, Sen. Sanders, Rep. Deutch and an aroused public can demand that Congress use its existing constitutional powers under Article III, Section 2 to restore the traditional limits on court jurisdiction over the political question of private money in elections. Then Congress will be free to pass legislation abolishing corrupting private finance of elections. While substantial public pressure is still needed for Congress to pass this legislation with ordinary majority votes, the barrier to success is far lower than the third-thirds vote in each house and ratification by three-fourths  of the states required for a constitutional amendment. This direct route to restoring government of, by and for the people addresses the actual constitutional problems raised by the court, removes court power to find other creative vehicles to corrupt election  and is available now without a constitutional amendment."

The majority of the literature on Cit. V. United in the topic paper are not from legal scholars who would use the terms with precision.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2013, 04:57:59 PM by BrianDeLong » Logged
RW Evans
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« Reply #59 on: May 04, 2013, 08:19:35 PM »

I would like to address some of the questions raised throughout the thread.  I don't have much to add because the conversation is already so rich, but there are a few additions I can make to the discussion.

Generic DA Ground.  While I agree with others who have suggested that good generic DA ground (thats not politics) across all affirmatives is a difficult request for any topic, let alone the Defintitions topic, this topic is still better than most.  I will offer two generic disadvantages that should link across the board:  (1) business confidence and (2) court clog.  Changing any federal definition (including the ones identified in the paper) will result in regulatory confusion that will be consequential for business and courts.  The paperwork and legal fees for compliance alone will be costly for business.  Figuring out exactly what the new meaning is and means in a practical sense will require litigation.  Considering the sequester, backlog of federal appointments and other constraints, court clog is a legitimate concern.  These are generic disadvantages that you cal roll with that link to *changing federal definitions* and feel confidence.  Specific link work helps of course, but these two disadvantages apply no matter (1) the word, (2) direction of change, or (3) agent of change.  

The Amendment CP.  First, to the extent that the community is widely concerned with agent CPs it should consider (1) a passive voice topic and (2) which one of the topic papers presented is most suitable for a passive voice topic.  I submit that the federal definitions topic is such a topic because the heart of the topic still remains how oughtt the federal government define us, if at all?  How we get there is incredibly important in many ways, but it's not the only important question.  This topic allows debaters to engage the policy question of how should the USFG define us without requiring a discussion of the details that would get coopted by things like the amendment CP or courts CP, etc.  Further, the amendment CP is always an option on every topic if you want to CP out of the aff and run politics.  Con-Con was run on the treaties topic (leaving out by whom).  Importantly, this topic isn't only about constitutional issues, but also important policy concerns that can't or out not be addressed through a constitutional amendment.

Will teams be topical?  This can't be a reason to reject this topic.  First, we should attempt to be as inclusive as possible in the topic process no matter.  That people will break the law no matter what is not an argument against making the law as just as possible.  In other words, you should strive to select the most inclusive topic because it's an important goal of the community, not because you think everyone will now be topical.  I will say this:  certain topics increase the likelihood that teams will be topical and others dramatically reduce the chances that teams will be topical.  Certainly, the more restrictive the resolution is the more valid the critique against being required to be topical is.  For instance, I think the presidential war powers topic will create unique critical ground for Black debaters to critique the resolution and topic.  What will happen when the negative reads cards that this discussion is important because "Obama's gone wild."?  Similarly, If I were a woman and making a feminist based argument, I would feel confident on my framework answers to a topic that mandated that I role play as USFG and talk about war.  I am not certain what the offense is against:  you made me talk about people? You made me talk about family?  You made me talk about poverty?  The resolution can either assist the negative ("you ignore poverty") or it can assist the affirmative ("you only want to restrict the presidents war powers because he's Black").

The execution question.  I thought I addressed this previously.  I am confused by the concern.  If the government changes how it defines a word that is the government executing it.  The meaning of the word has changed.  The change requires compliance by the government and non-government entities.  

Brian's marriage question.  The tax code would change as a result of the plan.  The Definitions act defines what the federal government means whenever it uses the word marriage.  To the extent that marriage is mentioned in the tax code you have to look to the definitions act to determine what that means.  This is all it means.

Picking & Choosing.  I want to reserve opinion on this.  I would prefer this be left to topicality debates.  I do think that the burden ought to be on the aff to establish what the federal government's definition ox X is.  Such is required to make the case for change.  I think a healthy debate could ensue between definition and interpretation.  This is likely important topicality and counterplan ground.

Personhood.  First, note that debating person is about more than citizens united.  Second, it is correct that citizen's united was mainly about the first amendment right of the public to receive political communications from corporations and not the right of the corporation to speak.  However, important to the holding is that corporations are people and therefore entitled to the same protections as any other citizen.  Citizen's United certainly raises the question of whether corporations should be entitled to the same rights and legal protections as other citizens.


http://prospect.org/article/dont-blame-corporate-personhood

"The profound problem with our current law is the idea that free speech has neither nuanced variations nor underlying values. The Court in Citizens United claimed that corporations either must have no free-speech rights or must have precisely the same free-speech rights as natural persons do. There is a middle position. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens explained it to TV host Stephen Colbert in January. “For some purposes, corporations are persons,” he said. “As with natural persons as well as corporate persons, some have different rights than others do. The same rights don’t apply to everyone in every possible situation."

-RW Evans
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