Monthly Archives: June 2009

Throwdown #2: Consultation Counterplans – The Challenge

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

The Consult CP is now the official black sheep of the debate family, hating on it is so hot right now. To try and stem the tides of arrogant unilateralism, this Throwdown will be defending the Consult CP and will have a guest appearance by US-Japan relations expert Cyrus Ghavi. So post your objections here- you can copy and paste your 2AC block or write out a more long winded rant but this will be limited exclusively to non permutation issues- so you can argue that the CP competes artificially for example, but this will not be a response to all the various consult permutations.

Another Interesting Quote re: The K

there is a difference between epistemological rationality and instrumental rationality. epistemological rationality relates to discovering what is and is not true about reality given the available evidence. instrumental rationality, on the other hand, relates to finding the best strategy given your goals and the rules of the game you’re playing, and very often will require you to abandon beliefs that are epistemologically rational.


most people do not know what decisions or decision-making processes (“intrapsychic institutions” or “self-regulations”) are in their long-term best interest. they don’t know how decisions made today will affect tomorrow’s preferences, or how a series of goals achieved will affect their internal reward systems and future well-being. there is ample evidence that human beings aren’t very good at managing their internal ”pleasure economies” or ”well-being marketplaces” due to the inherent uncertainty of great complexity. we seek our own happiness (much of the time) in the dark.

with that in mind, what makes anyone think they’re in a position to advocate alternative social institutions that will (ostensibly) increase the well-being of the entire population? what evidence is there that having no government accomplishes the weighted goals of the population better than having government (most evidence, including its very existence, strongly suggests otherwise)? how do we know that unregulated markets produce more desirable (tricky word) outcomes than regulated markets? how would you even answer the god damn questions (well-being isnt measurable; the relative importance of diff utility functions isnt determinable; the goals are constantly changing, but some goals may not be in the long-term best interests of those defining them, etc.) ? like, words fail me. we cant even define the problems we’re trying to solve with any degree of precision.

it’s funny: the best at assessing what is and is not true are very rarely among the best at convincing others of their assessment. this is almost always the case in any domain where the truth or falsity of statements cannot be precisely determined (convincing people we dont know very much spoils the fun by forestalling the signalling games that inevitably spring up around the unknown; it is actually, i think, in everyone’s best interest to ignore/fight those who advocate neutrality, but this would be a curious place for such a tangent), and it is frequently the case even in areas where we can.

PB is basically saying ACists dont have solutions because they dont know what they need to know to have solutions. he isnt saying he has solutions: he’s saying no one has solutions. that is a very reasonable position because it is obviously true. whether or not believing it is in your best interest is best left to.. you (although, if you ask me, it probably isnt)

Logo Contest Extended

We are extending the log contest- a lot of the submissions were very very similar- basically soem kind of colored font. Let’s see some creativity people- use paint/photshop to edit a picture etc- pics with explosions a plus.

Interesting Quote re: Politics

Recall that Kennedy’s successor, with far more political capital than Kennedy had, promised to defeat poverty. Historian Steven Hayward notes that in 1966, Lyndon Johnson’s commander in the War on Poverty, Sargent Shriver, told Congress that the White House believed poverty in America would be eliminated within 10 years. “Why,” Hayward wryly asks, “should social science be more difficult than rocket science?”

I don’t know that one is more difficult than the other, but I do know that they are not interchangeable. Physics is good at figuring out how to split atoms. Sociology, not so much.

Reading Author Qualifications Aloud: A Response To The Critics

Several readers provided thoughtful commentary about my recent essay about evidence analysis, “Nudging Evidence Analysis In The Right Direction: The Case For Reading Author Qualifications Aloud In High School Policy Debate.” This post is an attempt to further develop the arguments advanced in the initial article while addressing the concerns of critics.

1. Normalizing the verbal citation of author qualifications will “nudge” the debate process in the direction of the development of new “metrics of scholarly authority.”

Much of the feedback regarding the article has centered around the competitive outcome of this change in the norm about evidence citation: how will debates about qualifications be resolved?, what qualifications will be preferred?, etc. This largely misses the point: the function of this change in norm is to emphasize the importance of these discussions and encourage debaters and judges to address them explicitly.

Nick Bubb highlighted many of the issues in a thoughtful comment:

[M]any people perceive authors’ opinions to be a politically motivated response to a given issue, rather than an independent evaluation of the truth. … For example, do we minimize Howard Dean’s opinion on health care reform because he’s a democrat and advocates for health care reform? Or do we prefer his analysis because he knows the policy? Or minimize his opinion because he stands to gain politically from the enactment of health care reform? Or do we prefer his opinion because he’s a doctor? What about his opinion on the political implications of health care policy? There are fair arguments to be made on all of these questions, but the structure for interpreting who is qualified to speak to the truth of a given issue is difficult. Certainly some individuals are more qualified than others, but how can we answer that question? If you are to believe some aspects of a hermeneutical process, authors’ qualifications are really their biases and we as the listener have biases for/against their experiences. We can be jaded and dismiss them or we can listen to their reasoning. But which action corresponds with finding the truth? The answer can’t be as simple as to listen to everything, because that degrades back into the problems you’re attempting to address: the prevalence of questionable evidence quality.

There’s also something odd about needing qualifications to speak to an issue. You don’t need a degree from Harvard to talk about poverty. A narrative from a poor person may be equally as powerful. I suppose the “qualifications” can change depending on the context, but then what do qualifications mean?

[A]s a judge, I wouldn’t know how to handle comparative claims. Do I prefer evidence from an economics professor about poverty policy or is it more important to listen to the people that the policy affects?

This is exactly my point: these issues are difficult, but they are also important. In a world where students are exposed to ever-expanding volumes of information, learning to intelligently separate the good from the bad is essential to informed citizenship.

I do not pretend to know the answers to the questions that Nick has posed. I can offer no mechanism for cleanly separating the intellectual wheat from the chaff. But the current model we have adopted in debate is certainly subject to criticism: “if it’s published, it’s evidence” has absolved us of our responsibility to take these issues of scholarly credibility seriously and of teaching students to intelligently navigate through the maze of information at their fingertips.

Effectively determining whom to believe—and more importantly, why to believe them—is arguably the most essential life skill that debate can teach. Perhaps better than any other activity, debate can effectively train students to think critically—to question others’ arguments and to evaluate their claims with skepticism. Working through the complicated business of analyzing sources and comparing qualifications is part and parcel of this facet of debate pedagogy.

The current norm—evidence should be verbally cited only by author’s last name and date of publication—hamstrings our ability to emphasize this aspect of critical thinking and in fact actively undermines it by framing the issue of qualification as separate from instead of intrinsic to the evidence itself.

As I argued in the article, this effect occurs at two levels:

  1. Excluding qualifications from verbal presentation implicitly de-values their importance when considering the quality of a piece of evidence. If the author(s)’ qualifications are not important enough to read aloud, after all, how important can they really be? …

  2. Requiring students to locate the qualifications of a given piece of evidence “privately”—during speech or prep time—prevents the judge from considering qualifications as part of their initial understanding of the evidence as it is being presented.

Shifting the norm to require verbal citation of author qualifications uniquely addresses these concerns.

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Throwdown #1: Affirmative Framework Choice – Scott's Response

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

First, as clearly explained in the original post this is not a question of “policy focus”- fort hays can just as easily say the aff should get to chose as wake forest can. A good majority of responses totally missed the boat on this so yeah for reading comprehension. I will give a few cursory defenses of “policy only” but its not really my bag as I think it’s stupid as explained in previous blog posts.

Second, this post is more of a hybrid between rant and speech than just “speech” like I said it would be. I felt like going a tad more in depth to alleviate confusion in some spots, so obviously just copy and pasting this into your 1AR block would be disastrous (well for many reasons).

“Aff Choice is arbitrary”

-Arbitrary means done without principle or logic- aff choice is the only logical option- we have to talk first. You can’t give a speech and make arguments without implicitly selecting a framework. Since frameworks are often mutually exclusive the framework we select is the only non arbitrary one- the negative does not logically need a new framework to refute ours, therefore lack of affirmative choice is arbitrary.

-Debating the “merits” of alternative frameworks trades off directly with topic education- this should be self evident. You can productively decide whether to eat at McDonalds or Burger King without a metaphysical debate about western capitalism.

-Alternative frameworks avoid clash- they sidestep the central questions posed by the affirmative. You can easily clash without needing your own framework.

“Negative frameworks are relevant opportunity costs”

-if frameworks trade off so to speak, that proves our point-the negatives framework will exclude 8 minutes of affirmative arguments, which is unfair (obviously done for strategic benefit) and anti educational (since the 1AC is the only thing close to being about the topic in most debates)

-Impact framing solves offense- if there are logical kritik arguments that respond to the 1AC you should not need a new framework- i.e. if threats are not real, that is a substantive response to the china war advantage, the only reason you need an alternate framework is to artificially inflate the worth of bad arguments and exclude reasonable affirmative claims with argumentative sleight of hand.

-There are many opportunity costs, not all of which are relevant- reading mead 92 instead of Bearden is a tradeoff- that doesn’t mean the neg should win if they convince the judge bearden is a better card. This theory of opportunity costs logically supports one of my least favorite arguments deployed with the reps K- do the plan but for different reasons. Debates, like economic hypotheticals, are improved when we assume away many tedious questions to focus on more interesting issues.

“definitions prove the aff must defend”

-This argument is interesting but I think would result in the most generic and irrelevant kritiks being unbeatable (like the “the”pic). I don’t think that because the affirmative defends the resolution, they must defend each word in a vacuum. If the resolution said “we should fight Nazis” and the neg read a k that argued Nazis were evil and we should not use that word, that would seem to miss the point of the resolution entirely, but if the aff is forced to defend the word nazi without reference to the rest of their 1AC it is pretty dicey. Obviously an extreme example, but is kind of what happens in a lot of instances I can think off where the resolution is “change X” and the neg K says “traditional notions of X are bad” and the aff is all like “uhh, but we change that” and the neg is like “but you don’t get your plan!”. Now this is certainly not every k debate ever, maybe its like 20-30% of them at most. But those debates are so annoying they stick out in my mind. One step further, if the neg had a sweet K of the word should or substantially they would own every topic (btw- why is substantially in every topic- in some of the proposed college wordings its in there like 12 times- does substantially have lobbyists that wine and dine the topic committee? What is the deal…). I may go into this more in depth later because I do think this is the most interesting of the arguments, but I will stop here with superficial top level analysis and absurd analogies.

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The U.S. Constitution's "Speech or Debate" Clause


Bracewell & Giuliani partner Scott H. Segal dropped some weighty material during last Sunday’s closing session of the National Debate Development Conference (NDCC) held at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. Segal, former Emory debater and now one of the Beltway’s top “Hired Guns” cued conferees’ attention to the “Speech or Debate” clause of the U.S. Constitution:

Article I, Section 6: “The Senators and Representatives […] shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.”

Segal announced plans for the NDCC alumni networking working group to lead an effort aiming to establish a “Speech and Debate Caucus” in the U.S. Congress, beginning first with surveys of members, proceeding to formal enactment of the caucus. This represents an exciting development for American academic debate communities, something that would give us a formal political presence in the nation’s leading deliberative body. What exactly might this mean? Segal hinted at the possibility that a Speech and Debate Caucus would be positioned to advocate for Urban Debate League funding, and press to restore the federal government research assistance program, where in previous years the Government Printing Office would publish a detailed sourcebook on that year’s high school and college debate topics.

But this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Segal also referenced an important U.S. Supreme Court case, Gravel v. United States (408 U.S. 606, 1972). Here, the Court broadened the scope of the Speech or Debate Clause by extending its coverage to legislative aides (not just members of Congress):

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant senator filed motions to quash subpoenas in a grand jury criminal investigation, asserting that requiring witnesses to testify violated his privilege under the Speech or Debate Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, ß 6, cl. 1. The United States Court of Appeals for the First District affirmed the district court’s denial of the motions but modified the protective order. Plaintiff United States appealed.

OVERVIEW: The U.S. petitioned for certiorari challenging the ruling that aides and other persons could not be questioned with respect to legislative acts and that an aide to a member of Congress had a common-law privilege not to testify before a grand jury with respect to private publication of materials introduced into a subcommittee record. The senator also petitioned for certiorari seeking reversal of the court of appeals’ decision insofar as it held private publication unprotected by the Speech or Debate Clause and asserting that the protective order of the court of appeals too narrowly protected against inquiries that a grand jury could direct to third parties. The Court held that the Speech or Debate Clause applied not only to a member but also to his aides insofar as the conduct of the latter was a protected legislative act if performed by the member himself, but did not protect illegal conduct. The Court noted that the courts had extended the privilege to matters beyond pure speech or debate in either house, but only when necessary to prevent indirect impairment of such deliberations. The Court vacated the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

OUTCOME: The Court vacated the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the matter to the court of appeals for revision of the protective order in accordance with the Court’s opinion.

Consider some implications of the “indirect impairment” doctrine established here. Does this doctrine mean that any person or organization taking actions that indirectly impair speech or debate in the U.S. Congress are potentially violating the U.S. Constitution? How far would this extend? What forms of injunctive relief might be available? Such questions are certainly ripe for research and reflection. While these are fascinating abstract issues, a more concrete aspect of the issue involves a resolution adopted later in the day at the NDDC conference:

The NDDC endorses the establishment of a U.S. Congressional Speech and Debate caucus and encourages that caucus to foster debate research and scholarship, including the publication of a CRS topic area packet, and support of a participatory design process oriented toward refinement and development of an open source digital debate archive.

This resolution reflects NDDC conferees’ sense that a digital debate archive (facilitating a transition to paperless debate and generation of “authority 3.0” metrics) should be built with open source code, using a participatory design process. These objectives may conflict with other plans soon to be unveiled, as rumors circulated during the NDDC conference that a commercial entity may be on the brink of releasing proprietary software designed to deliver archive functionality to academic debate communities. It is likely that such a commercial venture would feature “Big Design Up Front” development, conforming to the “Waterfall model” of software engineering.

It is perhaps even the case that patent protections held by the corporation commercially marketing digital debate archive software could establish a legal basis for exclusivity, potentially blocking development of the participatory design process called for in the NDCC resolution. To date, commercial debate ventures utilizing electronic archiving (e.g. Planet Debate, Evazon) have not advanced aggressive exclusivity claims to quash open source efforts that might infringe on its patents. But this day may be coming soon, especially if a new profit-driven commercial entity enters the playing field. Members of the academic debate community would do well to start deliberations regarding this contingency, which would likely shape the trajectory of speech and debate in contexts far beyond the U.S. Congress for years to come.

[Cross-posted on eDebate]

Announcing The 3NR Logo/T-Shirt Competition

As we near the one month mark since the founding of The 3NR, the site’s growth continues to impress—in the month of May, we averaged 719 visits per day (a total of 18,335 visits and counting). While our publishing schedule has lightened over the past few weeks, we remain committed to this site for the long-term. With NFL Nationals less than two weeks away and summer institutes gearing up to prepare students to debate next year’s poverty topic, we plan to publish a substantial amount of content during the upcoming summer months.

In hopes of better promoting the site, we are soliciting help from our readership. Please continue to spread the word about The 3NR to your friends and teammates; these word-of-mouth recommendations have been almost completely responsible for the growth in our audience, and for that we are profoundly appreciative.

In addition to publicizing the site, we are turning to our readers to create a logo for as well as T-shirt designs to promote the site. Basically, we need a cool logo and at least one cool T-shirt design. Unfortunately, our MS Paint and Photoshop skills leave much to be desired. It is up to you, dear readers, to make up for our shortcomings.

What are the rules? Submit as many logos and designs as you’d like by June 15th. At that time, we will decide the winning logo and T-shirt design(s). If you win, you will be credited with a shout-out on the site and will receive an assortment of prizes yet to be determined—probably a free shirt and some evidence, but we’ll figure that out later. To submit your logo or design, email Roy Levkovitz (see the About The Authors page).

If you haven’t done so already, you should also become a fan of The 3NR on Facebook. We will post updates about this contest on our Wall so that readers can follow along and provide feedback to designers.

Thanks for your continued support of The 3NR and good luck with your designs!

Nudging Evidence Analysis In The Right Direction: The Case For Reading Author Qualifications Aloud In High School Policy Debate

The State of Evidence Evaluation In Debate

The recent discussions of evidence quality in high school policy debate have highlighted the need for debaters, coaches, and judges to revisit the prevailing assumptions about the proper role of cited material in our activity. While a drastic shift in the community’s approach to the evaluation of evidence remains exceedingly unlikely, there is an emerging consensus among debate educators that improving this facet of our pedagogy is both possible and necessary.

What is the problem? In short, the explosion of content enabled by new media has shattered traditional constraints on what constitutes “published” scholarship. While debaters in past decades were limited in their research to published books, journals/magazines, and newspapers, the debaters of today have access to a nearly limitless stream of information—all at their fingertips, and searchable in ways never before thought possible. As Gordon Mitchell describes in “Debate and authority 3.0,” the resulting information abundance has created a need for new ways of separating the good from the bad.

Publication, previously a one-to-many transaction, has become a many-to-many enterprise unfolding across a complex latticework of internetworked digital nodes. Now weblogs, e-books, online journals, and print-on-demand book production and delivery systems make it possible for a whole new population of prospective authors to publish material in what Michael Jensen (2008), National Academy of Sciences Director of Strategic Web Communications, calls an “era of content democracy and abundance.”

In content abundance, the key challenge for readers and referees has less to do with finding scarce information, and more to do with sorting wheat from the proverbial chaff (the ever-burgeoning surplus of digital material available online). The pressing nature of this information-overload challenge has spurred invention of what Jensen (2007) calls “new metrics of scholarly authority” – essentially, new ways of measuring the credibility and gravitas of knowledge producers in a digital world of content abundance.

Policy debate’s “metrics of scholarly authority” have developed slowly—changes in dominant assumptions about what constitutes “good evidence” have occurred over decades based on the organic back-and-forth of the contest round. At the high school level, the influence of summer debate institutes and the trickle-down from intercollegiate competition have played a major part in this evolution. While regional differences remain, the vast majority of those that participate in policy debate on the “national circuit” hold remarkably similar views about what makes a piece of evidence “good”. Indeed, the dominant conception of “good evidence” has become so normalized that it is often framed as self-evident: good evidence “speaks for itself”.

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