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TOPIC COMMITTEE => Archive => 2012 - 2013 Topic => Topic started by: kevin kuswa on November 16, 2012, 06:20:21 PM

Title: time is up
Post by: kevin kuswa on November 16, 2012, 06:20:21 PM
As change is in the wind and we are coming up on a bit of a break before January (I know there are still a few tournaments, but it's sort of down time), it's time to re-open the conversation on a convention of debate that really needs to be re-visited:  the USFG agent problem.

USFG, USFG, USFG, USFG, X 10

That's how creative we are with our topic agents.  You should not have to ride the Imagineering Figament to know this is stale and embarassing, let alone pedagogically unsound.  Creative thinking is being muted because of misplaced fears even though one of the best things debate is designed to encourage is creative thinking.

What do we need to have a viable controversy paper with the possibility for a non-USFG agent?  Is it possible to re-work the economic inequality paper?  Another area?  Specify the non-USFG agent instead of arguing for the passive voice?  A paper that only details the passive voice and does not leave open the option for both passive constructions and the USFG?

Other thoughts here?

Would also like to hear from those schools or voting members of squads that would never ever ever vote for a controversy area that entertained a non-USFG agent.  Why is that your feeling?  Is there any space for change despite the fact that you fall in the "never ever ever" category?

Maybe the upcoming Courts/legal topic (at least once over the next three years) is a chance for a relatively benign non-USFG option?

Let's get some thoughts out there if possible--hoping to do some planning and work so that there are some options put together before the last minutes after NDT prior to the topic deadlines. 

Any sort of sharing--even secret backchannels--would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Kevin
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: joe on November 16, 2012, 07:08:17 PM
People will never give up their politics DA and hege debates.  Although personally I'd be willing to be down for trying something new, I doubt this goes anywhere.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: KKernoff on November 16, 2012, 08:38:33 PM
Charles Olney floated the idea over the summer of writing a topic paper for a resolution along the lines of Resolved: The United States Constitution should be amended as a possible middle ground (since there are clear and limited processes for amending the Constitution) and a legal topic.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: charrigan on November 16, 2012, 09:07:01 PM
I wouldn't say never. An OK way to get political support for change might be to retain a focus on public policy but utilize a non-USFG agent. The topic could be passive voice, but would probably be more likely to be chosen if it used the States, EU, Canada, or another English-speaking country as the actor.

I'm not saying this is my preference (actually still like USFG as actor) but more of a suggestion if the goal is to put together a topic that stands a reasonable chance of winning.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: antonucci23 on November 17, 2012, 06:58:11 AM
I wouldn't say never. An OK way to get political support for change might be to retain a focus on public policy but utilize a non-USFG agent. The topic could be passive voice, but would probably be more likely to be chosen if it used the States, EU, Canada, or another English-speaking country as the actor.

I'm not saying this is my preference (actually still like USFG as actor) but more of a suggestion if the goal is to put together a topic that stands a reasonable chance of winning.

An idea along similar lines:

Given a significant constituency for non-usfg topics, it seems reasonable to include this is a topic option on any topic slate.  (I believe one super listy topic should be included for similar reasons, even if that's not my preference.)

Kevin, it might be worthwhile to encourage paper authors to include a non-usfg option without committing them to an entirely non-usfg paper.  I'm not sure what the non-usfg version of this topic might have been (IAEA?  Just China?  China agent topics would be kinda spicy), but it seems on principle that there should be latent international issues in most any topic.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: Ryan Galloway on November 17, 2012, 11:44:22 AM
I tried this by submitting the IMF topic paper the year the nukes topic won.

The IMF paper (which had the IMF and World Bank as the agents) came in last.  I'm happy to try this experiment again, but I don't see evidence of the constituency that Kevin envisions for a non-US agent.

RG
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: DarrenElliott on November 17, 2012, 12:03:29 PM
What about a non-specified agent topic?
Resolved: The prison system in the United States should be overhauled.

Resolved: International trade restrictions should be loosened.

Resolved: The United States legal system should overturn laws restricting one or more of the following: same sex partner benefits, race-based standards for collegiate admissions, women's reproductive rights, health care.

Gives you a domestic option, an international option, a courts option.
All options allow flexibility over the agent which is good (problem area debate is good for the community).
Forces creative thinking on what agents are best.
Preserves disad ground for politics folks. Just forces more and better link cutting :)

Not sure why we have to specify the agent in the topic if creativity and flexible debating is something we mostly all can agree is a good thing.

Chief
KCKCC
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: ScottElliott on November 17, 2012, 01:19:32 PM
What about a non-specified agent topic?
Resolved: The prison system in the United States should be overhauled.

Resolved: International trade restrictions should be loosened.

Resolved: The United States legal system should overturn laws restricting one or more of the following: same sex partner benefits, race-based standards for collegiate admissions, women's reproductive rights, health care.

Gives you a domestic option, an international option, a courts option.
All options allow flexibility over the agent which is good (problem area debate is good for the community).
Forces creative thinking on what agents are best.
Preserves disad ground for politics folks. Just forces more and better link cutting :)

Not sure why we have to specify the agent in the topic if creativity and flexible debating is something we mostly all can agree is a good thing.

Chief
KCKCC

All of those have the U.S. federal government, or the state governments, as agents of action...unless, of course, you want to allow the Affirmative to argue the Government of Fiji should relax its trade restrictions. And, the negative will just choose the USFG as the counterplan ground. So, I do not see how it really advances anything to exclude the USFG from the agent of action. It just makes the affirmative even more shady and negatives will just run heg, etc. on the negative as a net benefit. Unless you are going to debate things like, "Resolved: bright orange is preferable to burnt orange," there is always going to be an agent of action.  I can already see my first affirmative case on the "prison system reform" topic: Plan: the state government of North Dakota will build a sweat lodge inside its state penitentary. (there is actually a court case about this). Its much better to at least hope the affirmative is tied to one agent of action.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: DarrenElliott on November 17, 2012, 06:19:47 PM
And this is why 2 people on the topic committee from the same school should not be a big concern (that amendment failed the Business Meeting anyways).

Being tied to an agent does not prevent aff "shadiness" nor does it prevent people from running Heg.  If those are the only 2 disads, they are non-unique and no topic process will set out to prevent those (especially the Heg as a strat one). 

Yes, Aff's will have to defend an agent of action.  My argument for why the topic should be problem focused and not agent focused is the flexibility it allows.  If the risk is some debates devolve to USFG as the CP, then it's marginally (at the very least) better than all Aff's having to defend the USFG when a large component of the community understands the value of agent debates and exploring options that are not USFG.  Also probably important to understand how agents besides the US Congress work.  Virtually none of our debaters will end up in Congress.  Understanding how lobbyists work, how other governments work, how lower courts work, how state governments work, how individual people approach topics are all beneficial and mostly foreclosed by the squo.

Maybe the answer is the "list" problem/issue we face is the alt.  Have an agent list with a broad topic area.  Though I still think the topic without the agent is not a doomsday scenario.

People should embrace large topics and not be scared.

Finally, and this may immediately scare some away, a non agent focused res would allow people to approach the topic from their own personal perspective/location.  Yea, yea framework decides this question in many debates and look where that is leading us.  On the question of switch side, personal politics allow you to switch "sides" on a problem area while not forsaking your convictions.  Something else the community should at least be open to.  Perhaps.

Define a problem.  Allow creativity and flexibility (Steinberg and Freeley in 08) and allow debates to become organic. This is much more in line with opposing the mentality to predict all NDT affs that you, Scott, feels is one of the biggest drawbacks to the topic process.

Worst case, we do it one year, it's a failed experiment, and we return to the squo.

chief

Title: Re: time is up
Post by: cramhelwich on November 17, 2012, 06:50:12 PM
This argument implies that there is a dichotomy between "agent" focused resolutions and "problem area" focused resolutions.

There is no dichotomy. These are only two elements of resolution construction.

In my experience, many (if not most) "fix a problem" topics quickly devolve into "agent" topics--see any "problem" focused high school topic from the last 15 years.

Resolutions produce the best debates when they force debaters to pick sides on the most salient controversy (or controversies) in the literature. Given consensus on the existence of many "problems" (at least among folks that the vast majority of the debate community deems credible), controveries often center on *how* we should address those problems.

Such how questions sometimes involve matters of agent. More often they revolve around questions of mechanism (which sometimes, but not always, imply agent questions).

This is not an argument for or against "alt agents" (I think they are fine as long as a) they actually have a literature base that can sustain a season of debate and b) they are relevant to lives of coaches and debaters). I shudder at the thought of "fix it" resolutions.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: spurlock on November 17, 2012, 11:26:45 PM
My vote-
Resolved: Syria. 

Title: Re: time is up
Post by: spurlock on November 18, 2012, 02:11:23 AM
Or Resolved: Iran to avoid recent topic overlap. 
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: ScottElliott on November 18, 2012, 08:04:01 AM
My vote-
Resolved: Syria. 
 I wish cedaforums had a "like" button.

Title: Re: time is up
Post by: ScottElliott on November 18, 2012, 08:34:35 AM
So, in the world of "problem" focused areas, negatives get to negate the following problems/topic areas?:

"oppression is bad"
"poverty is bad"
"environmental destruction is bad"
"prisons need some type of reform"
"international trade is unfair, problematic"
"human rights good"
"same sex partner benefits,"
"women's reproductive rights,"
"health care"

I disagree with Kevin that there are "controversies" within the judging/debate community. Outside of a very limited set of critique authors, most people already agree with one side of each of the so-called controversies listed above. The only issue is how to solve those problems, the mechanism. Take this year's topic controversy area. Under this agentless/no mechanism format, I guess it would be, "United States energy policy should be changed," or "Energy policy in the United States sucks, it should be changed, by somebody, or something, in some way." 

By defining them as "problem areas" from the jump, the debates are already skewed. Few people would want to be on the wrong side of these debates.....especially if the affirmative gets to choose any mechanism she wants to solve the problem.

I read Darren's post, and his example of personal politics is exactly what I fear the most. Imagine a world in which many teams, quite topically, and within the framework of an agentless resolution, get to say, "I am personally resolved that women should have reproductive rights [insert personal narrative about being a victim of sexual assault, and being grateful to be offered a morning after pill in the emergency room]........your turn to go negative." 
Or, how about, "I personally am resolved that homosexuals deserve equal rights. I am gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender [pick one], and my dad called me bad names when I came out of the closet.......your turn to go negative." 

Or, a real example from my life: "Poverty sucks. I am resolved that people should not live in poverty. I was homeless my freshman year of college and it sucked.....your turn to go negative."

Finally, to use Chris' example of "Resolved: Syria."  "Man, shit in Syria just got real, I am not down with that.....your turn to go negative."

What ground, other than a few kritiks, does the negative have in the world of these debates? Even if I run, a counter-plan, the USFG should do your advocacy, the affirmative can easily 1) permute it and 2) read some pretty compelling disads about personal agency.

Its not about predicting what will be run in semifinals NDT [my pick of power generation in Guam has already been run this year]; my issue is fair division of ground. Darren is right that I think people obsess over limiting affirmative choices. But, the proposed solution seems to go too far in favor of the affirmative.
The problem areas cited by agentless topic advocates so far are not fair division ground.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: Ermo on November 18, 2012, 09:49:47 AM
The problem areas cited by agentless topic advocates so far are not fair division ground.

Here is another way to think about the topical ground question:

"No Link" & "perm" are affirmative's version of topicality. If it is harmful (for variety of reasons) to require the affirmative to uphold the resolution, it is harmful (for similar reasons) to require the negative to affirm the antithesis of whatever resolution can be teased out of the 1ac.

Arguably it is worse, because the non-topical resolution which the 1ac suggests as a replacement is usually suffers from one or more of the following problems which would preclude it from receiving majority support on a year-long topic ballot:
a. It is self-serving and imbalanced
b. It varies by the team, leading to tens or hundreds of resolutions instead of one. If this approach were widely accepted, what we've seen thus far is logically just the tip of the iceberg.
c. It may descend into the personal (who am I to tell you what strategy you 'ought to' use to deal with personal issues in your life?)
d. It is strategically ambiguous
e. It often differs in important ways from the literature base supporting it, such that refutations of that literature base are not presumed relevant

The edifice of 'affirmative choice' stems historically from resolutions written so that any (one or more of the following) single topical plan could logically prove the whole topic. I recall reading an article once about the use of "existential qualifiers" (a/an/one or more of the following). The logic of such a resolution would allow alternative justification approaches, but limiting the affirmative to a single topical case came to be preferred over A/J or counterwarrants on the assumption that a deeper debate is a better one. The epistemological unhinging of 'affirmative choice' from these roots is widely practiced, but rarely scrutinized except through the limited perspective of topicality.

Instead of asking "why should we demand that the affirmative be limited to defending a topical case," we should ask "why should we demand that the negative be limited to defending a topical case" (by which 'topical' means 'competitive with the affirmative case').

None of this precludes a topic constructed to address concerns of whiteness, blackness, or other issues worthy of concern. In fact, a topic designed to facilitate a debate with balanced ground on those issues might be the only way to assure in-depth discussion of those issues. I don't promise to vote for such a topic, but, if someone wanted to persuade me to do so, demonstrating a way to construct it which allowed balanced ground would be a great start. I might also be more willing to spend a tournament on such a topic as an experiment than committing to it for a full season. Unless one is concerned about sanctioning for points, I see no barrier to someone offering to host an invitational committed to a different topic or a different type of topic. But that possibility is distinct from my primary thesis, which is that "no link" and "perm" arguments achieve much of the same effect for the affirmative as topicality does for the negative - they all serve to signify which arguments you expected to answer and which ones you are not obligated to refute.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: ScottElliott on November 18, 2012, 10:10:48 AM
Kevin, please give three examples of agentless topics. I would like to see what you really mean and then see how affirmative case would or could be constructed.

Scott
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: kevin kuswa on November 18, 2012, 07:01:54 PM
Scott,

No problem.  I like the ones Chief submitted but his third one still has an agent (just a sub-set of the USFG).  Other examples include:

1. the 1988 NDT topic.  R: That US foreign policy toward one or more African nations should be substantially changed.

In that case the object was still connected to the USFG (obviously), but the agent was not specified.  This topic opened up space for topical counterplans as well as affs that would have other countries change US foreign policy.  I believe Kansas ran a Libya aff that acted (in part) through France.  There were also plenty of US affs.  Baylor and Emory ran a version of sanctions on/off South Africa.  There were some international affs dealing with population growth and other areas.

2. the 1992 college topic.  US Court decisions recognizing the constitutional right to privacy should be overuled.  Again, given the specificity of the object, the agents were almost always from the USFG, but there was a rigorous debate involving the Court as an agent (including rule-making), Congress using the Morgan Power, or both (if you simply said USFG in the plan).

3. R: That economic inequality should be substantially reduced (in the US).  See the topic paper from last year's slate.  There is a big section on passive voice and a 100+ page paper to go with it, including a lot of commentary on the theory behind passive voice (aka agentless topics).

4. Other options--take your pick.... R: That intercollegiate policy debate in the US should be dramatically restructured to increase diverse participation.

R: That secondary education should be significantly reformed.

R: That corporate influence in the US should be substantially restrained.

R: That global arms sales should be curtailed.

etc.

thanks to all for the notes on this so far...I think there may be a large enough constituency emerging to at least give it a try.  It won't be as bad as the Indian country topic.

Kevin

Title: Re: time is up
Post by: kevin kuswa on November 18, 2012, 09:21:28 PM
A few replies to Scott Elliot, although I think he is badly mischaracterizing the potential for non-USFG agents and many of his arguments are more about how some problems are hard to debate if your only argument is "this is insignificant."  Most negatives have more to say than that.  Also, keep in mind that no one is suggesting a literal topic of fact (oppression is bad)--instead it would be "R: oppression should be radically tackled in the United States" or "R: violent state-based oppresion should be resisted by all means possible."  More specifically:

1. Debating how a problem should be addressed is important and provides good ground.

2. The aff would not be able to permute every argument the negative makes. 

3. We have had non-USFG and passive topics in the past and the potential horror stories did not come true.

4. Give it a try--current topics often get sidelined in favor of bad generics and we can do better.  In other words, all these fears apply more to the squo.

5. Debate is personal now--opening some topical space to talk about personal issues might even provide a better balance.

6. "New cases" is a common straw person and should not stop innovation.

7.  "Energy production should be increased in the United States" would not be terrible and might reach the corporate actors that really matter on the topic better than the current incantation.  The topic paper, however, was tightly limited to the USFG so there wasn't any wiggle room.  That's why it is important to start now and possibly move forward from Antonucci's suggestion that we get these options into topic papers (such as Galloway's IMF topic).

More in response to Ermo's post.

Kevin
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: kevin kuswa on November 18, 2012, 09:35:12 PM
Could you flesh this out a bit more?  I think I see where you are going with the "perm" argument, but it's a bit unclear in the context of topicality.  In terms of the topic being self-serving, that's Elliot's argument answered in an earlier post.

In terms of debate getting too personal, that is a benefit, not a risk.  Debate is personal now.  At least topicality becomes a better equalizer in a passive construction.  How can the personal really be bracketed in debate?  Some space for personal arguments (in terms of what it seems you think those are) is not a bad thing.  Codifying the view from nowhere is not that great either.

In terms of strategic ambiguity, you'll also have to go a bit further.  That seems to be inevitable and not always bad--especially if the non-agent parts of the topic can actually strengthen the function of those limits.

In terms of the literature base, there is more than just one foundation for literature and to project a single obelisk onto the community through decades of USFG agents is the problem here.

I immensely respect the openmindedness here, especially at the end of the post.

Kevin 

The problem areas cited by agentless topic advocates so far are not fair division ground.

Here is another way to think about the topical ground question:

"No Link" & "perm" are affirmative's version of topicality. If it is harmful (for variety of reasons) to require the affirmative to uphold the resolution, it is harmful (for similar reasons) to require the negative to affirm the antithesis of whatever resolution can be teased out of the 1ac.

Arguably it is worse, because the non-topical resolution which the 1ac suggests as a replacement is usually suffers from one or more of the following problems which would preclude it from receiving majority support on a year-long topic ballot:
a. It is self-serving and imbalanced
b. It varies by the team, leading to tens or hundreds of resolutions instead of one. If this approach were widely accepted, what we've seen thus far is logically just the tip of the iceberg.
c. It may descend into the personal (who am I to tell you what strategy you 'ought to' use to deal with personal issues in your life?)
d. It is strategically ambiguous
e. It often differs in important ways from the literature base supporting it, such that refutations of that literature base are not presumed relevant

The edifice of 'affirmative choice' stems historically from resolutions written so that any (one or more of the following) single topical plan could logically prove the whole topic. I recall reading an article once about the use of "existential qualifiers" (a/an/one or more of the following). The logic of such a resolution would allow alternative justification approaches, but limiting the affirmative to a single topical case came to be preferred over A/J or counterwarrants on the assumption that a deeper debate is a better one. The epistemological unhinging of 'affirmative choice' from these roots is widely practiced, but rarely scrutinized except through the limited perspective of topicality.

Instead of asking "why should we demand that the affirmative be limited to defending a topical case," we should ask "why should we demand that the negative be limited to defending a topical case" (by which 'topical' means 'competitive with the affirmative case').

None of this precludes a topic constructed to address concerns of whiteness, blackness, or other issues worthy of concern. In fact, a topic designed to facilitate a debate with balanced ground on those issues might be the only way to assure in-depth discussion of those issues. I don't promise to vote for such a topic, but, if someone wanted to persuade me to do so, demonstrating a way to construct it which allowed balanced ground would be a great start. I might also be more willing to spend a tournament on such a topic as an experiment than committing to it for a full season. Unless one is concerned about sanctioning for points, I see no barrier to someone offering to host an invitational committed to a different topic or a different type of topic. But that possibility is distinct from my primary thesis, which is that "no link" and "perm" arguments achieve much of the same effect for the affirmative as topicality does for the negative - they all serve to signify which arguments you expected to answer and which ones you are not obligated to refute.
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: ScottElliott on November 19, 2012, 09:28:07 AM
Kevin,

No disrespect intended, but I just see a lot of problems with the so-called agentless resolution. First, the term is misleading because most of your examples do, in fact, specify an agent of action. And, either they do, or they allow affirmatives so much leeway that negatives are going to constantly be stuck on the bad side of debates.

Most of the "agentless" resolutions you list, do in fact have the Untied States federal government as your agent of action. Appears to me that all the aff gets to do is specify its agent within the government. Have I missed the rash of ASPEC and OSPEC throwdowns going on? Under the current USFG topic, teams are specifying their agents---S. Court, Congress, Executive order, Dept. of Defense, U.S. Patent Office, EPA, and DOI have all been specified in plan texts using "United States federal government" as the agent of action.

Taking your examples:
1. "U.S. foriegn policy,"  that is almost always going to be defined as the USFG. Any other interpretation gets us back to teams being able to choose one corporation (e.g. Plan: Hostess should sell its trademarks in twinkies and ho ho's to a corporation in mexico [do a quick google news search on this point]; or the City council of San Francisco issuing its own declaration toward Israel (they do it all the time); or, "Plan: I am going to be more sympathetic to the plight of Ethopia," and claim empathy toward others is good.

2. U.S. court decisions. This is not agetless, so I am not sure why you bothered to include it in your list.

3. "Economic inequality should be reduced." This is exactly what I am talking about. This is an example of an agentless topic. Negative ground is what, economic inequality good?  Think of all the plans the affirmative could run under this topic, affirmative plans I would certainly consider researching and writing: (a) Give all my personal assets away and claim Janism as my advantage; (b) have China forgive the U.S. national debt; (c) give back the land; (d) any immigration reform; (e) the Cap K on the aff, with every K alt in existence as my solvency cards; (f) de-development or the Civilization k on the aff., (g) any personal advocacy toward charitable works, helping the poor (what's the neg ground there? Ayn Rand, charity bad?); (h) have Russia take over the U.S.; (i) Black Nationalism; (j) the Salvation Army needs to give more blankets out this year; (k) religious organizations should do more to be in line with their respective faith's tenets regarding charity; (l-o) state, local, federal agencies reform; (p) Every U.S. Supreme Court case that ever had an impact on economics in America [plan: repeal the Wheat case of 1892]; (q) every congressional act that has ever impacted the economy; (r) Executive branch actions. This is just a few minutes of thought. Multiply this times a 1,000 students, all yearning for competitive success.

4. Intercollegiate policy debate reform ..... I will take that as a topic. "Plan: blow up the NDT."

5. Secondary education should be reformed: not much of a problem with this. I mean is you want to listen Pedagogy of the Oppressed all year, I guess its a great representation of an agentless topic.

6. Corporate influence. I think it opens up the door to the very problems I have had with the others. What is the negative ground to a team saying, "I am personally going to restrain corproate influence by buying my friuts and vegatables at local farmers markets.....your turn to go negative. If you think this is an "insignificant" problem. I think you should take a step back and look at what some of the top teams in the country are doing already. As it stands now, they know that once they win the framework/topicality debate, it is pretty much over. Why? Because it is difficult, to almost impossible, to debate against an individual's personal beliefs and personal statements. Organic intellectualism, or making statements from your personal experiences and stand point is important to civic engagement. But, in a competitive activity such as policy debate, it is almost impossible to defeat because it devolves into attacking the person, attacking their validity as a person, rather than criticizing an argument.

Example: I stand up and talk about how corporations run fast food. I explain, with some evidence, that by the time I reached the age of 18, I was exposed to 50,000+ fast food commercials. I talk about how addictive fast food is. How I was addicted to fast food. How I am now obese and have type II diabetes. My "plan" or "advocacy" is that I am going to restrain corporate influence in my life by refusing to watch fast food commercials and refuse to eat at fast food establishments. What is the negative ground? Are you going to deny my story has relevence? That it has no value?

And, this is not a crazy example. Last year at the NDT, I voted for a team that ran, essentially, the following advocacy: "Vote for us, my partner was a soldier in Iraq, now he has PTSD." I see similar types of cases here in D3 all the time.

7. Global arms sales should be curtailed. Are you kidding me? So, the affirmative gets to run, "Plan: the Russian mafia should stop selling small arms to African countries and stop selling nuclear weapons components on the open market;" or "Plan, North Korea should voluntarily stop selling nuclear weapons technology;" or "Plan: Al Queda should stop selling weapons to other terrorist groups;" or "Plan: the government of Fiji should stop selling spearfishing equipment; or "Plan: China and Russia should stop selling weapons;" or "Plan: the corporations that sell 'saturday night specials' to urban gangs in Chicago should voluntarily stop selling those guns;" "Plan: Syria's government should not sell its chemical and biological weapons." This resolution points out just how problematic it would be to allow the affirmative to exercise their creativity to the point of absurdity. What's my ground, weapons proliferation (of all types) good? Combine the power of affirmative fiat, with no manageable agent, and you virtually guarantee an affirmative win among equally matched opponents.

Scott
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: tcram on November 19, 2012, 11:57:22 AM
Could you flesh this out a bit more?  I think I see where you are going with the "perm" argument, but it's a bit unclear in the context of topicality.  In terms of the topic being self-serving, that's Elliot's argument answered in an earlier post.

Maybe Ermo can explain further if he meant something different than what I interpreted, but what I took away was this: It will be difficult to simply alter the agent-wording (or to create a 'problem area' rez) while accomplishing the goal of improving the content of debate discussions without rethinking the contemporary evaluative grammar of the negative's burden of rejoinder.  Just as topicality brackets off discussion through a procedural screen, the embedded assumption that the negative must 'compete' with the affirmative either requires the negative to impact turn the affirmative (because permutations create a procedural screen just as topicality does, limiting strategies that are not the direct antithesis of the aff case) or it will require the community to more carefully think through what a sustainable burden of rejoinder would look like in an agent-less or problem-oriented world.  So, in addition to being able to demonstrate balanced ground on these possible resolution, I think Ermo has suggested we should also consider what tenable strategies exist that aren't impact turning or various dueling 'first priority' kritiks.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that I will not earnestly and fairly evaluate non-agent alternatives because I agree with you Kevin that the starting point for our topics could use some creativity.  I just want to be sure that by addressing one thing, we don't map over competitive assumptions onto a new argumentative world where those assumptions would be poorly suited to encouraging a quality debate.  And lurking within all of these may be an argument for why we just need to change our competitive assumptions (as for the how... I do not know)
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: kevin kuswa on November 20, 2012, 08:22:44 AM
Tcram,

Makes sense and I agree with your read.  As I think you are hinting, this view still gives too much credit to aff permutations (especially when they are formulated as cryptically as they usually are).  The negative should be able to answer those--and the crowd-out turn to the perm is easier to win in the context of the agent debate.  In addition, this seems like a good place to run a counter-permutation to get back to the question asked by the counterplan (there may be instances where the perm + the CP makes sense and is better than just the perm).  Overall, the main answer is that the negative still has immense room to make solvency arguments and critique the aff in an agentless world.  Also, keep in mind that the agentless status of the topic may change after the 1AC because the aff can (and will) specify in many instances--at that point we won't have that many differences.  The main distinction will be that we can avoid bad "must be the USFG" topicality debates and re-focus on the controversy.  Sounds like you agree that would be a good thing if we can make sure the negative receives some ground in exchange.  I think that depends a bit on the wording and on the way the negative can impact answers to solvency.  Thanks for this post as well as your earlier one--this helps a lot to see where various perspectives are coming to the question.  Kevin


Could you flesh this out a bit more?  I think I see where you are going with the "perm" argument, but it's a bit unclear in the context of topicality.  In terms of the topic being self-serving, that's Elliot's argument answered in an earlier post.

Maybe Ermo can explain further if he meant something different than what I interpreted, but what I took away was this: It will be difficult to simply alter the agent-wording (or to create a 'problem area' rez) while accomplishing the goal of improving the content of debate discussions without rethinking the contemporary evaluative grammar of the negative's burden of rejoinder.  Just as topicality brackets off discussion through a procedural screen, the embedded assumption that the negative must 'compete' with the affirmative either requires the negative to impact turn the affirmative (because permutations create a procedural screen just as topicality does, limiting strategies that are not the direct antithesis of the aff case) or it will require the community to more carefully think through what a sustainable burden of rejoinder would look like in an agent-less or problem-oriented world.  So, in addition to being able to demonstrate balanced ground on these possible resolution, I think Ermo has suggested we should also consider what tenable strategies exist that aren't impact turning or various dueling 'first priority' kritiks.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that I will not earnestly and fairly evaluate non-agent alternatives because I agree with you Kevin that the starting point for our topics could use some creativity.  I just want to be sure that by addressing one thing, we don't map over competitive assumptions onto a new argumentative world where those assumptions would be poorly suited to encouraging a quality debate.  And lurking within all of these may be an argument for why we just need to change our competitive assumptions (as for the how... I do not know)
Title: Re: time is up
Post by: kevin kuswa on November 20, 2012, 08:37:29 AM
Scott,

No disrespect perceived.  I respect and appreciate your willingness to engage.  No line-by-line on this one, but I must say that there are debates to be had in some instances where you think it would be "over in favor of the aff."  Your example on the NDT, just to take one, would not be a win for the aff.  In fact the negative would probably win most of those rounds if not all of them.  I am also a strong believer that an affirmative's advocacy is part of the whole speech, not just the bumper-sticker representing the plan.  Thus, how the aff is defended should provide more ground for the negative.  If you want to take one of the situtations you lay out below (even on arms sales) and provide some defenses for it, I bet we could have a pretty good debate.  I can think of some very strong negative positions against the things you are articulating in order to scare folks into believing the aff would always win.

In many ways, giving the aff the ability to fiat the USFG is far more of an advantage to the aff than a majority of your examples below, but the aff still only wins about half the time.  Debaters are very good at responding effectively to arguments that seem obvious at first glance. 

Finally (for now), if fiat and negative counterplan/critique ground shifts a bit with the passive voice, many of your examples would not be automatic wins for the affirmative.  The thought-experiments you are pursuing, however, are actually defenses of a new approach to the agent.  Kevin

Kevin,

No disrespect intended, but I just see a lot of problems with the so-called agentless resolution. First, the term is misleading because most of your examples do, in fact, specify an agent of action. And, either they do, or they allow affirmatives so much leeway that negatives are going to constantly be stuck on the bad side of debates.

Most of the "agentless" resolutions you list, do in fact have the Untied States federal government as your agent of action. Appears to me that all the aff gets to do is specify its agent within the government. Have I missed the rash of ASPEC and OSPEC throwdowns going on? Under the current USFG topic, teams are specifying their agents---S. Court, Congress, Executive order, Dept. of Defense, U.S. Patent Office, EPA, and DOI have all been specified in plan texts using "United States federal government" as the agent of action.

Taking your examples:
1. "U.S. foriegn policy,"  that is almost always going to be defined as the USFG. Any other interpretation gets us back to teams being able to choose one corporation (e.g. Plan: Hostess should sell its trademarks in twinkies and ho ho's to a corporation in mexico [do a quick google news search on this point]; or the City council of San Francisco issuing its own declaration toward Israel (they do it all the time); or, "Plan: I am going to be more sympathetic to the plight of Ethopia," and claim empathy toward others is good.

2. U.S. court decisions. This is not agetless, so I am not sure why you bothered to include it in your list.

3. "Economic inequality should be reduced." This is exactly what I am talking about. This is an example of an agentless topic. Negative ground is what, economic inequality good?  Think of all the plans the affirmative could run under this topic, affirmative plans I would certainly consider researching and writing: (a) Give all my personal assets away and claim Janism as my advantage; (b) have China forgive the U.S. national debt; (c) give back the land; (d) any immigration reform; (e) the Cap K on the aff, with every K alt in existence as my solvency cards; (f) de-development or the Civilization k on the aff., (g) any personal advocacy toward charitable works, helping the poor (what's the neg ground there? Ayn Rand, charity bad?); (h) have Russia take over the U.S.; (i) Black Nationalism; (j) the Salvation Army needs to give more blankets out this year; (k) religious organizations should do more to be in line with their respective faith's tenets regarding charity; (l-o) state, local, federal agencies reform; (p) Every U.S. Supreme Court case that ever had an impact on economics in America [plan: repeal the Wheat case of 1892]; (q) every congressional act that has ever impacted the economy; (r) Executive branch actions. This is just a few minutes of thought. Multiply this times a 1,000 students, all yearning for competitive success.

4. Intercollegiate policy debate reform ..... I will take that as a topic. "Plan: blow up the NDT."

5. Secondary education should be reformed: not much of a problem with this. I mean is you want to listen Pedagogy of the Oppressed all year, I guess its a great representation of an agentless topic.

6. Corporate influence. I think it opens up the door to the very problems I have had with the others. What is the negative ground to a team saying, "I am personally going to restrain corproate influence by buying my friuts and vegatables at local farmers markets.....your turn to go negative. If you think this is an "insignificant" problem. I think you should take a step back and look at what some of the top teams in the country are doing already. As it stands now, they know that once they win the framework/topicality debate, it is pretty much over. Why? Because it is difficult, to almost impossible, to debate against an individual's personal beliefs and personal statements. Organic intellectualism, or making statements from your personal experiences and stand point is important to civic engagement. But, in a competitive activity such as policy debate, it is almost impossible to defeat because it devolves into attacking the person, attacking their validity as a person, rather than criticizing an argument.

Example: I stand up and talk about how corporations run fast food. I explain, with some evidence, that by the time I reached the age of 18, I was exposed to 50,000+ fast food commercials. I talk about how addictive fast food is. How I was addicted to fast food. How I am now obese and have type II diabetes. My "plan" or "advocacy" is that I am going to restrain corporate influence in my life by refusing to watch fast food commercials and refuse to eat at fast food establishments. What is the negative ground? Are you going to deny my story has relevence? That it has no value?

And, this is not a crazy example. Last year at the NDT, I voted for a team that ran, essentially, the following advocacy: "Vote for us, my partner was a soldier in Iraq, now he has PTSD." I see similar types of cases here in D3 all the time.

7. Global arms sales should be curtailed. Are you kidding me? So, the affirmative gets to run, "Plan: the Russian mafia should stop selling small arms to African countries and stop selling nuclear weapons components on the open market;" or "Plan, North Korea should voluntarily stop selling nuclear weapons technology;" or "Plan: Al Queda should stop selling weapons to other terrorist groups;" or "Plan: the government of Fiji should stop selling spearfishing equipment; or "Plan: China and Russia should stop selling weapons;" or "Plan: the corporations that sell 'saturday night specials' to urban gangs in Chicago should voluntarily stop selling those guns;" "Plan: Syria's government should not sell its chemical and biological weapons." This resolution points out just how problematic it would be to allow the affirmative to exercise their creativity to the point of absurdity. What's my ground, weapons proliferation (of all types) good? Combine the power of affirmative fiat, with no manageable agent, and you virtually guarantee an affirmative win among equally matched opponents.

Scott