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Author Topic: Requests for the Topic Committee  (Read 7255 times)
gabemurillo
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« on: May 31, 2013, 10:29:40 AM »

I will be traveling this weekend and will be unable to follow the broadcasts and notes from the topic committee until after the fact so I thought I'd post two requests here:

1) Please include passive voice options on the resolution ballot. This would not only show an important concern for a multiplicity of styles of debate, but would also, in my opinion, produce a topic which focuses more on the legal issues involved with the topic. If we are going to enforce topic rotation it makes sense to me to make every effort to make this as much of a legal topic as possible. It would also help affirmatives avoid the "slayer" negative arguments that have been discussed on these forums in favor of in-depth debates about the justifications for war powers. So if your major concern is avoiding an amendment cp style debacle or your concern is about a more open community a passive voice makes sense.  In addition if we want to give our students a variety of educational experiences and diversity in researching skills (which I believe is the point of topic rotation) it would make sense to focus this legal topic on legal reasoning. I would strongly urge participants to push topic committee members on the educational benefits of their decisions, after all only a small number of our students will be competing for a spot in late elimination rounds at the NDT, but all of our students will hopefully be learning from the topic. Lets not forget the vast majority of our students when we construct this topic.

2) I'm not sure if this is the norm or not but I would love to know specific voting breakdowns. Not just vote counts but how specific committee members voted on each question. Transparency and accountability are things that the CEDA organization should advance in all areas including but not limited to these topic votes.

Thanks and good luck!

gabe
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Jim Schultz
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2013, 11:42:53 AM »

1) I would like to echo Gabe's call for inclusion of a passive voice option on the ballot. In the past the ballot for the resolution has had little distinction between the list of resolutions. Passive voice was done before, debate actually had higher numbers of participating schools and teams then. Really, the sky won't fall. 2) If not passive voice, can we at least get more than one "stem" on a list of resolutions? If the ballot has 5 choices that all share a common stem but change which WP's are tacked on, then this allows very little meaningful choice.
3) transparency is good.
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antonucci23
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 12:01:25 PM »

I strongly agree with all points by Gabe and Jim.

-- A passive voice wording is the best route to actual legal debates.  The CEDA membership voted for topic rotation.  Committee members should function as representatives.

-- A passive voice wording enjoys the support of a substantial portion of the community.  Stripping the passive option from the ballot would do a great deal of violence to the ideals of "meaningful choice" and "democratic inclusion" frequently (and, IMO, sincerely) espoused by members of the topic committee.

"Disenfranchisement" is a strong word.  If the topic committee opts to exclude this very meaningful choice, I believe it would be an appropriate one.
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RW Evans
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 12:23:43 PM »

Passive voice is bunk.

First, it would devastate negative ground by stripping it of important CP ground, specifically agent CPs.  In addition, it would devastate K ground if the AFF doesn't have to defend the state, or specifically the USFG.  And to the extent that the actor cannot be easily predicted beforehand, it would be potentially limitless with the host of individual and international actors that could act to reduce thew president's war power.  And, if these are not options...the what is the point?

Second, passive voice is the best way to avoid the central legal question regarding who ought to be empowered to make certain decisions related to war power and not the larger public policy question of whether limitless detention, wiretapping or drones are good or bad.  Passive voice would essentially focus the debate on those questions, which has nothing to do with presidential power and everything to do with government power period.  This is why both agent and amendment CPs are absolutely essential to the legal questions surrounding this topic.  

Third, passive voice does nothing to alleviate concerns regarding compulsory role play or diversity.  The resolution doesn't require role play, judges do.  It's a judge made rule.  Take the USFG out of the resolution and the negative will still make the normative argument that the Aff should have to defend USFG action.  Alternatively, they will argue that, at a minimum, the affirmative has to specify an agent, which will result in a proliferation of theoretical arguments in a time when we need less.    

Lastly, including a passive voice option does not increase meaningful choice and cannot ensure inclusion, especially when the topic itself was selected to limit choice and exclude.  Democracy is not the path to meaningful choice here and transparency is a joke.  These are all process arguments that largely ignore that we are getting exactly what the community wants and that all these calls for democracy and transparency only highlight this.  If you want better options, certain people should be left out of the process and certain options must be denied.

-RW
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 12:40:03 PM by Topic Talk » Logged
jonahfeldman
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2013, 01:19:40 PM »

I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around what a passive voice resolution would mean.  If folks who are in favor could help clear this up it would be useful for everyone to know what they're voting for (at least, in theory).

Is the idea that if we had a resolution which said "The war powers of the President should be restricted" that there would be a discussion in the abstract of whether or not the war powers of the President should be restricted that would occur without a discussion of what it would happen if the government actually acted to restrict those war powers?  What would that look like?

Is the purpose to:
a) Avoid a discussion of the politics DA
b) Avoid a discussion of other disads/kritiks/counterplans that are based around the consequences of the government acting
c) Have an alternate agent who restricts the President, for example saying something like "we as individuals should be restricting the government"
d) All or none of the above?

Why would this mean more focus on legal debates?

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antonucci23
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 01:28:12 PM »

It could mean a lot of things.  Debates would have to resolve that question.

There was a resolution like this before, in 93-94.  (Debate didn't explode.)

I think that teams who prefer to discuss the topic without defending a course of action by the USFG could potentially find more space to do so under such a resolution.

Of course, teams invested in discussing policy proposals could and would do so under such a resolution.  Almost all CINC debates were traditional policy debates. There would be a negative T argument that "restriction" means "codified restriction" as well.

A passive statement - "should be restricted" - allows for actual legal debates, because legal debates don't revolve around normative policy prescriptions.  They often revolve around whether certain cases were correctly decided.  Will Mosley-Jensen hit this one out of the park in a previous post.

The counterplan question throws this distinction into sharp relief.  The relative superiority of constitutional amendments have no bearing at all on the legal question of whether war powers should "be restricted".
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 01:41:58 PM by antonucci23 » Logged
jonahfeldman
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 01:43:54 PM »

"It could mean a lot of things.  Debates would have to resolve that question."

It's a reasonable expectation that the actions taken by the topic committee should have an intended effect on the experience of the debaters.  There will, of course, always be a disconnect between what the topic committee intends and what actually happens, but that doesn't mean we should operate under the strategy of "we don't really know what this means but lets find out." I'm not looking for exact play by plays of every single speech that will happen on the topic, just a general idea of how you're thinking this will go down.

"There was a resolution like this before, in 93-94.  (Debate didn't explode.)"

a) Debate was very different in 93/94.  
b) I think it's unlikely that anything will cause debate to explode, but resolutions can make the experience of the debaters better or worse.  You think passive voice would make resolutions better, and I'd like the voters to understand what changes in debate will happen under a passive voice resolution to allow those improvements to occur so they can decide if those changes will be successful at meeting those goals and whether or not they might make things worse.

"I think that teams who prefer to discuss the topic without defending a course of action by the USFG could potentially find more space to do so under such a resolution."

That much is clear.  How and why?

"Of course, teams invested in discussing policy proposals could and would do so under such a resolution.  Almost all CINC debates were traditional policy debates. There would be a negative T argument that "restriction" means "codified restriction" as well."

If that's true then I'm not sure what's changed.  It seems like in policy vs policy debates people will act as if the resolution says USFG should.  In non-policy vs non-policy debates the teams will not focus on what would happen if the USFG acted.  In policy vs non-policy debates the neg can still say framework (especially if they can say restriction means codified restriction)  What's different?

"A passive statement - "should be restricted" - allows for actual legal debates, because legal debates don't revolve around normative policy prescriptions.  They often revolve around whether certain cases were correctly decided.  Will Mosley-Jensen hit this one out of the park in a previous post."

So you're saying debates will revolve around questions like "what's the precedent on this issue" or "does X ruling accurately reflect constitutional doctrine?"


« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 02:06:29 PM by jonahfeldman » Logged
antonucci23
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2013, 02:07:05 PM »

"It could mean a lot of things.  Debates would have to resolve that question."

It's a reasonable expectation that the actions taken by the topic committee should have an intended effect on the experience of the debaters.  There will, of course, always be a disconnect between what the topic committee intends and what actually happens, but that doesn't mean we should operate under the strategy of "we don't really know what were doing but let's find out!" I'm not looking for exact play by plays of every single speech that will happen on the topic, just a general idea of how you're thinking this will go down. 

It will have an effect.  Attempts to micromanage those effects, however, have met with general dissatisfaction.  There's a good argument for letting the community decide what their resolution means, which I believe.  This isn't just deliberate opacity on my part.

I hope my comments successfully steer between the Scylla of overly precise prediction and the Charybdis of your caricature.  I just want to leave space for people who may alternate ideas of how these debates proceed, and insert a small caveat about the futility of overly detailed prediction.

Finally, it is just not really the committee's first job to dictate the terms of debates.  It's their job to provide the community with meaningful choice, which is related to but clearly different from straightforward management of debates.

YOU made a claim that it's the best route to legal debates.  Can you please explain why that is and what you're talking about?

I did, in an edit.  I'll run through examples:

A. Citizens United was wrongly decided <- legal, debated in courtrooms
B. Citizens United should be overturned <- not legal, normative policy question

A. War powers should be restricted <- legal
B. The USFG should restrict war powers <- not legal

The relative desirability of a constitutional amendment is not a legal question.  It would be irrelevant to the questions posed by A, but all-too-relevant to the questions posed by B.

"There was a resolution like this before, in 93-94.  (Debate didn't explode.)"

a) Debate was very different in 93/94. 
b) I think it's unlikely that anything will cause debate to explode, but if we're looking for a change in the resolution I'd just like the voters to understand what that change is trying to accomplish and how it accomplishes it. 

I think I provided that, although it was in edits.

"I think that teams who prefer to discuss the topic without defending a course of action by the USFG could potentially find more space to do so under such a resolution."

That much is clear.  How and why?

Certain versions of passive voice topics would not include the USFG as an actor?

"Of course, teams invested in discussing policy proposals could and would do so under such a resolution.  Almost all CINC debates were traditional policy debates. There would be a negative T argument that "restriction" means "codified restriction" as well."

If that's true then I'm not sure what's changed.  It seems like in policy vs policy debates people will act as if the resolution says USFG should.  In non-policy vs non-policy debates the teams will not focus on what would happen if the USFG acted.  In policy vs non-policy debates the neg can still say framework (especially if they can say restriction means codified restriction)  What's different?

Maybe nothing, but if some people think it's meaningful, inclusion wins in a push, certainly?

The negative can certainly argue framework, and say that the negative should be forced into a non-resolutional constraint.  Such arguments, though, help focus the debate on the normative question of what debate should be - as opposed to topicality, in which the negative can simply defer to the more straightforward question of relevance.

If a team wished to discuss the broader question of the legitimacy of presidential war powers, as opposed to a specific legislative roadmap for their rollback, I certainly think they'd have more space to do so under these resolutions.  The negative would still have a framework argument, but they would have to make a more concerted effort to defend their impacts than they would in a topicality debate.  Topicality (often) allows the negative to sidestep these impact questions entirely.

I hope that clarifies.
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jonahfeldman
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2013, 02:28:12 PM »

I re-edited too, which has created some confusion.  Can you respond to the last part of the re-edit about legal topics:

"So you're saying debates will revolve around questions like "what's the precedent on this issue" or "does X ruling accurately reflect constitutional doctrine?""
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yackob
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2013, 03:02:20 PM »

Quote
A passive statement - "should be restricted" - allows for actual legal debates, because legal debates don't revolve around normative policy prescriptions.  They often revolve around whether certain cases were correctly decided.  Will Mosley-Jensen hit this one out of the park in a previous post.

Quote
I did, in an edit.  I'll run through examples:

A. Citizens United was wrongly decided <- legal, debated in courtrooms
B. Citizens United should be overturned <- not legal, normative policy question

A. War powers should be restricted <- legal
B. The USFG should restrict war powers <- not legal

I agree that Will brought up an interesting point about what actual legal debates look like versus what policy debate calls legal debates.

But I'm quite skeptical that writing a war powers resolution using the passive voice would lead to more quality legal debates. It seems like what would happen is:

Aff: the executive shouldn't have X war power because that was a bad interpretation of the constitution or X line of precedent.

Neg: who cares, those powers solve nuke war

This definitely wouldn't make debate explode. We have these debates now. They're in LD and they're terrible.

Perhaps nuke war shouldn't trump other considerations to the extent it does in debate. But I think most of us know it does now and has yet to be defeated by much better ethics arguments.

Perhaps the "this case was wrong decided" cases could develop better advantages based on shifting to a better line of precedent. But those would just be advantages to affs under a traditional usfg should resolution so those cases wouldn't really be instances of the passive voice expanding the scope of what is debated.    

Is there something I'm missing? Or are we just talking about getting rid of the amendment CP?
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 03:44:32 PM »

"So you're saying debates will revolve around questions like "what's the precedent on this issue" or "does X ruling accurately reflect constitutional doctrine?""

I can give an example from the 2006-2007 courts topic. One of Andy and my affirmatives defended a passive reading of the resolution. We advanced two arguments

1) the legal reasoning behind the original decision was wrong and served as a justification for campaigns of violence
and
2) we should change what we consider acceptable evidence in legal debates

We were still able to advance arguments about legal precedent having consequences (ie the war on terrorism) without being beholden to debates about the courts political capital or different political actors. The negative still had ground to advance several arguments including (but not limited to)

1) the legal reason was correct
2) we should limit the evidence in legal debates
3) the war on terrorism is good

From that experience I can imagine debates being about the legal reasoning and logic of executive war powers - and to me that's what legal debates are about. I think other people want debates about the politics of the law - but I think that's completely different. If we voted for topic rotation for educational reasons it makes sense to me to have legal topics that force students to research the legal logic and reasoning instead of prescribing political solutions to legal problems, and I believe the passive voice topic achieves this.

That being said - I think these questions about the passive voice are great and this is a debate to be had - but I would hope the uncertainty of some does not serve as a justification for blanket rejection of a passive voice OPTION on the ballot. Give people the option - let them reject it, but certainly there is a sufficient group of people who believe that a passive voice makes a better legal topic.

gabe
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jonahfeldman
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« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2013, 04:35:15 PM »

If we voted for topic rotation for educational reasons it makes sense to me to have legal topics that force students to research the legal logic and reasoning instead of prescribing political solutions to legal problems

Its an interesting arg, but im not sure passive voice actually forces those debates.  If thats what were trying to do lets be explicit about it and make the topic something like "Based only on arguments acceptable in a court of law the war powers of the president should be restricted"

My concern is that the amount of flexibility provided by agentless passive voice topics will actually move debates away from legal discussions
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2013, 04:55:31 PM »

Its an interesting arg, but im not sure passive voice actually forces those debates.  If thats what were trying to do lets be explicit about it and make the topic something like "Based only on arguments acceptable in a court of law the war powers of the president should be restricted"

That's fair - force was probably the wrong term, maybe "facilitates" or "encourages" would have been better words.

My concern is that the amount of flexibility provided by agentless passive voice topics will actually move debates away from legal discussions

Although I disagree, I can see where you're coming from but I also think the fact that some people will move away from legal discussions with passive voice is not unique - certainly the courts topic proves that given the opportunity most debates devolve to courts politics da + amendment cp, and I think that attempts to do legal topics in traditional form encourages this move away from the legal issues being debated. I will admit that my opinion is perhaps overdetermined by my experience with the courts topic, but in that experience engaging the topic through the passive voice facilitated more debates about legal logic and reasoning (which were my favorite debates ever) and engaging the topic in a more traditional form led to moving away from the legal questions of the topic (which were not my favorite debates ever).


 
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jonahfeldman
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« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2013, 05:05:42 PM »

Im with you on the problems that traditional resolutions have had in prioritizing legal debates, but then why not craft a resolution that gives people less outs (along the lines i suggested) instead of more outs?
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2013, 05:37:20 PM »

I'm not tied to any particular passive voice construction - I think it'd be ideal to have multiple passive voice options on the ballot - one more restrictive and one more broad. I think there are some disadvantages to being overly restrictive (for example "based only on arguments admissible in a court of law" would prevent teams from arguing that part of the legal change needed is changing the reasoning of the law) but I think those are very similar to rehashing any debate about broad versus limited resolutions. 
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