Monthly Archives: July 2009

Throwdown- Pics Bad

As per request, the next throwdown will be on pics bad. There can be a lot more nuance to this than consult I think- whether agent CP’s are pics, pics that compete off the text (word pics) vs the implementation (exclude native americans) etc. I will try and keep this as broad as reasonably possible.

So here is a quick pics bad 2AC, post comments defending pics or attacking these args for the throwdown

PICS are illegitimate
A, They artificially inflate the worth of bad disads by creating any risk of a link analysis
B, They steal aff ground – they change the way we debate every argument by effecting which parts of the plan we can leverage as offense
C, Not predictable- they create an infinite regress to a penny saved is a penny earned style of arguments
D, alternatives solves- they can run the net benefit as a disad or use a different mechanism

This is a voting issue- the damage to 2AC strategy is done, rejecting the argument creates a perverse incentive for them to abuse us

My Problems with T persons in Poverty

1. It serves no limiting function- the exact same cases are topical- its only the scope of them (how many people they effect) that changes. It seems (based on my limited knowledge) that this would require most cases to effect less people than the authors discussing them intended. Forcing the affirmative to change the scope of their cases so that they no longer reflect the real world discussion should not be done absent a compelling fairness concern for the negative.

2. No Neg ground loss- no disad hinges on affecting only 100% of poverty line vs 135%- if anything the opposite is true- the broader the scope of the plan the more likely there will be a unique link to negative topic generic disads like spending/tradeoff etc. Critiques of poverty do not hinge on strict definitions or the plan affecting only 100% exactly.

3. Not predictable- the majority of existing federal programs do not meet this strict interpretation- Stefan does an excellent job demonstrating this so I will not rehash but I think this is the most crucial point. The strength of the negatives argument relies on the idea that their definition comes from the government and is therefore imbued with a higher level of predictability/credibility. That the gov itself does not strictly follow it directly refutes this claim. More importantly a distinction must be drawn between the predictability provided by a definition and the predictability of the definition itself. In this case the negatives definition is itself highly predictable, however the affirmative cases it would allow are not very predictable given that there are few examples that meet and that for the majority of cases in order to meet they would have to radically alter the plan from that advocated by their authors.

4. On this topic affirmative ground must outweigh negative ground- there is a serious shortage of quality affirmatives, the aff must be given leeway to find viable cases. While on other topics it may have been a good idea to help the neg out by throwing some more T vicotires their way to balance the scales this is definately not one of them.  If the debate truly comes down to “our definition is from the government- most predictable/precise” vs “our definition sets a much broader limit- but is the only hope for a viable affiramtive case” then the aff should win every debate.

T persons in Poverty

This seems to be shaping up as a dominant T arg on this topic, Stefan posted a pretty insightful article about it over at planet debate (

I will post some more thoughts, but right now have to gear up for whirly ball.

Consultation Throwdown

First I want to say that most of these debates revolve around absurd hyperbole. Consulting NATO over whether or not we should give the homeless mailboxes is clearly not what was intended when the NATO charter was drafted. However, that this was not intended does not deny the fact that NATO and other international actors do in certain circumstances expect (and have a legal basis for doing so) consultation. Similarly, conditioning homeless mailboxes on democracy reform in Tanzania is similarly ludicrous, whereas conditioning public health assistance on that assistance being implemented in transparent and democratically accountable ways is definately something real world policy makers consider. I bring this up becasue I do not think you can draw a brightline theoretically and say “consultation is acceptable in this instance, but not in this other instance” in terms of “is it fair to debate”. If the nature of a certain type of CP, say it includes the whole plan, is illegitimate then it should not matter in what instance on what topic or supported by what evidence.

Lets start off with the Kerpen article

1. The lumping together of all these CP’s as “plan contingent” is flawed for a number of reasons-most notably a delay CP fiats the implementation of the plan as a guarantee. Consultation and condition counterplans do not- the affirmative can make solvency arguments about whether or not the plan would be implemented.

2. This distinction is meaningful- the states CP can claim to result in the plan through federal modeling- that is not a fiated outcome, it is a possible outcome.

3. Kills topic education- umm, turn? This topic is the worst- if you told me I could go to two different tournaments

A. Debate about the poverty topic

B. Consult counterplans and impact turns to their net benefits

I would chose B every time.

And now to deal with the rest of the posts, Cyrus Ghavi:

The problem with the way consultation is debated today is that everybody just writes them off as “stupid counterplans” without having a discussion about why that is true.  The result is that there are multiple generations of debaters that have irrational knee-jerk reactions to the counterplan, saying it is illegitimate when they can either give no reason why or can only make arguments about why it is at a very basic, shallow level.  If this is not true and if consultation counterplans are really that bad, then there is literally no reason why the affirmative would not be winning every single consultation debate on either theory or substance.

“It’s Make Believe”
Both the US-Japan Alliance and NATO have codified prior and binding consultation mechanisms. While it’s true that these mechanisms are limited to security issues, it does prove that the concept of consultation is not a “fantasy of the debate world.” The mere mention of consultation in these institutions means that it is less “fantasy” than most common counterplans (e.g. Lopez/States) or disads (e.g. relations/politics/economy).

While your argument is largely made moot by official international documents regarding consultation, there are also definitely cards written about it. Mochizuki, for example, specifically discusses prior consultation in which Japan “gains the right to say no.” Also, if you’re right about this, then the aff would win all of these debates because there would be no evidence that binding consultation is key, so the permutation would solve the net benefit.

If your argument is that “it would never happen,” then you are both overlimiting and wrong. Most plans and counterplans would never happen in the real world, that’s why we’re able to debate about them. Your standard is not pretty arbitrary given that the entire point of debate is to discuss what we “should” do about a problem as opposed to what we “would” do. The Bush v. Kerry presidential debates in which the “global test” issue was prominently featured also shows that this issue can actually be at the forefront of American foreign policy decisions. In a rapidly changing world in which the U.S. has substantially less soft power, policy-makers consider consultation as an option to bolster goodwill abroad.

Finally, I’ll just appeal to rationality:  why do you think the people that write disads to consultation,
namely hegemony, make those arguments? To answer non-existent consultation advocates? I don’t think so.

As an aside, you didn’t even impact this argument anyways. Discussing only policy mechanisms that are common or traditional encourages intellectual stagnation and provides a disincentive for debaters, and even policymakers, to explore new possibilities or at least understand why certain alternatives are a bad idea.

“Impossible burden”
First of all, it’s important to understand that the burden is squarely on the negative when it comes to “say yes” vs. “say no” debates. If there’s a decent shot that Japan/NATO will say “no,” then the aff will win because they solve the entire case and outweigh the net benefit by itself.  The affirmative is not “expected” to have case-specific evidence, but if they have it they are probably going to win.

Cutting “say no” cards is not an impossible burden given that there are only a couple consultation counterplans with the binding consultation evidence required to win.  Also, it’s their plan – the affirmative is in a much better position to have evidence specific to the case.  More importantly, your argument about “say yes” evidence that is tangentially related to the resolution cuts both ways. If the neg is relying on generic “say yes” evidence then the affirmative can use equally generic, tangentially related evidence in the debate.

Your “Japan cares about food” example, you should have pointed outthat the card only proves Japan cares, not that they would say yes. If you made arguments why they wouldn’t like the plan, you probably would have won. You don’t need absolute defense. If you win they’ll say no, you will win the debate.
This argument is also infinitely regressive because politics disads and other generics all use tangential links to the plan, and just like in consultation debates, the negative is more likely to win when they have specific links and the affirmative is more likely to win when their link takeouts/turns are more specific (analogous to “say no” cards in this instance).

Even if you are right about the “say yes” vs. “say no” debates, the affirmative can still beat consultation without ever making a “say no” argument. There are several generic consultation disads that can be read, go for perms, impact turn the net benefit, or use a short-term advantage to outweigh the net-benefit.

Not surprisingly, I’m offended by your argument that the neg will “leave debate only knowing how to cheat and not how to research or strategize.” That could only be true for bad consultation debaters. In order to win these debates consistently at the highest level debaters have to do a lot of research and be learn to execute the argument near-flawlessly. This is particularly true if a team gets a reputation for reading a consultation counterplan (as I did) because the affirmatives will start to do a substantial amount of research in preparation for these debates. In order to win in these circumstances, good debaters need to do the same things necessary in any big debate: prepare new responses to the litany of attacks the circuit comes up with and keep a constantly updated file — from CP
uniqueness and disad answers to say yes evidence and add-onb advantages.

Your cheapshot aside, the education argument has other problems. First, it begs the question of what the plan’s mandate is. Consultation doesn’t require passage of the plan, so it’s not the same as the plan. It’s also not immediate, as the plan mandates. If you don’t that a plan mandate then you are also eliminating all agent counterplans, which is another debate altogether.

Second, many accepted debate arguments are similar in terms of education.  I’ll go with the politics example again.  It’s a stock negative strategy that is often a crutch for 2N’s that requires non-topic related research.  You’ll say that at least they have to do research before the tournament, but good consultation debaters will do the same (uniqueness updates, say yes updates) and I don’t think that research for the sake of research is a good standard by which we exclude or include arguments in the community. Politics disads are only specific to the aff via their link argument, just like consult counterplans are specific to affs with their say yes evidence.

It is also short-sighted to argue that these debaters will ignore the topic completely.  No one reads one-off consultation counterplans.  You have to have a strategy outside of the 90 seconds it takes to read you Mochizuki cards.

Granted it’s not the same, but there is also much to learn from reading consultation counterplans, and indeed I feel that I have. In my research I have become educated on Japan’s population, political structure, extended deterrence, military alliances, etc. Also a benefit that people might not realize is that when looking for say yes evidence it requires you to delve into the policy specifics of affirmatives, giving you a detailed look at what the affs are all about.

Also, consultation forces better education. The secret to beating consult is combining a decent “say no” argument with an affirmative with a short-term advantage. The delay in the counterplan becomes its worst enemy — that means that consultation encourages affirmatives with timely advantages/impacts so that we actually debate the IMPORTANT issues in the topic, not just the random squirrly cases.

And let’s get rid of the blinders and make one thing perfectly clear about debate: people are there to win.  How many times to you remember walking into a round, seeing your opponent and thinking “gee, I really I hope I get to learn something new in this debate!” Highly unlikely, I think most debaters are busy thinking about how they are going to beat their opponent into submission.
“Aff Ground”
Give me a break. Side bias is a dumb argument generally, but when you make these generic whiney claims it actually makes sense. YOU’RE THE AFF. You get to pick your plan, which means you can take a little bit of time to research some say no cards OR a short-term impact to your plan OR some consultation disads OR some uniqueness cards against the counterplan.

Your neg bias argument is another example of bad consultation debate. No good neg is going to win with Consult Costa Rica. There are not infinite consultation actors, you need real, legit evidence if you are going to win — and that basically limits it down to Japan and NATO. I could also say counter-interpretation, only consult coutnries in which there is a treaty-based mechanism to do so (Japan and NATO) – much less arbitrary than your interp.

I’m not sure what you mean by the argument that the aff will be rejected if you make a “say no” argument. That would only be true if you had a Japan advantage to your aff — in which case, I think you
should probably be ready for the CP since it’s pretty relevant.”

Going Paperless: Can High School Programs Effectively Make The Transition?

Whitman’s nationally recognized debate team fundamentally changed what debating looks like this semester by ditching their 40 pound plastic tubs and thousands of pages of evidence for sleek dell laptops. Whitman’s team is the first college to fully transition to paperless debate.

— Gary Wang, The Pioneer

While the University of Denver was the first team to go paperless way back in 2006, Whitman College’s decision to make the switch during the 2008-2009 college season has once again brought the issue of paperless debating to the attention of programs throughout the nation. Thus far, the bulk of the conversation has centered around the needs and concerns of college squads that compete in NDT and CEDA tournaments; the unique needs and concerns of the high school policy debate community have remained largely unaddressed. This article is an attempt to remedy this shortcoming.

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Bad Cards #1: The “South China Morning Post ‘96” Disease Impact

Many of the pieces of evidence that students frequently read in debates are unquestionably terrible. Often, the desire to bolster an impact’s magnitude and raise it to extinction-level leads debaters to rely on evidence with a host of problems including but not limited to:

  • evidence used to advance arguments outside its intended context;
  • evidence citing unqualified, (functionally) anonymous, or even nefarious authors;
  • evidence culled from (typically internet or tabloid) sources that are at best unedited and at worst contemptible;
  • evidence advancing hyperbolic arguments supported by vitriolic and/or over-the-top language;
  • evidence so old that it no longer makes sense given subsequent events or changes in the topic it discusses; and
  • evidence which must be liberally interpreted in order for it to be used to support the desired conclusion.

The “Bad Cards” series is an attempt to highlight some of the most egregious examples of poor-quality evidence that is nonetheless commonplace in high school policy debates. It is not the author’s intention to “scold” or “shame” those who have read these pieces of evidence in the past or who will do so in the future. Instead, it is an attempt to influence the way that evidence is selected for inclusion in debate arguments by arming opposing students with the tools they need to defeat bad cards.

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The Layne Kirshon Hypothetical: Resolving Un(der)-discussed Impacts

I was first introduced to this hypothetical scenario at NFL Nationals by Will Thibeau of Glenbrook South. Originally proposed by Layne Kirshon of the Kinkaid School (although probably not for the first time), it provides an interesting litmus test for an individual’s judging philosophy.

The Hypothetical:

The affirmative reads a topical plan and argues that its adoption will trigger nuclear conflict. The 1AC isolates several internal links but does not articulate a terminal impact — their only contention is that the plan will trigger nuclear conflict. The 1NC “link turns” the case for eight minutes, answering the affirmative’s internal links and advancing several internal links of their own contending that the adoption of the plan will prevent nuclear conflict. The rest of the debate is narrowly focused on this nexus question: does the plan cause or prevent nuclear conflict? At the conclusion of the debate, the judge determines (based on the arguments advanced by both teams) that the plan’s adoption will in fact cause nuclear conflict (and thereby sides with the affirmative). Should s/he vote affirmative or negative?

Post your answer in the comments along with the reasoning that brought you to it. Many people have already spent hours discussing and debating this hypothetical, so it seems like a perfect way to kick-off the return of The 3NR after a much-needed vacation. Ready set go.