Monthly Archives: August 2009

Politics Post on Planet Debate

Stefan has posted a brief 411 on the politics disad for the start of the year.

I agree with his sentiment that if you are going to read an Obama good disad you should read healthcare so I won’t belabor that point. But I do think the article was a little light on where the disad will most likely get pushed- which is Obama bad disads. Nothing is gonna pass, there is way to much division in the democratic party. The amount of link cards written for a winners win style Obama needs to take command link is ridiculous.

Fairness Impact

I found this going through a bunch of old files of “misc” stuff that I never organized into an actual file.

Larry Cata Backer* Executive Director, Tulsa Comparative & International Law Center, Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law; B.A. 1977 Brandeis University; M.P.P. 1979 Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; J.D. 1982 Columbia University University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review Summer, 1999

Our goal must be fairness. Fairness is a condition with perhaps an immutable definition but with a complex and transitory application. Fairness tolerates difference, but fairness ought not to tolerate disadvantage, either within a group or between groups. Fairness can be a trap and a cover for promoting separation. I mention only one problem here, that of the measure of fairness. Much has been made of the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of result. n105 Both contain within them culturally significant risk. Equality of opportunity as a measure of fairness contains strong leanings toward sameness. It suggests unity and minimizes difference yet provides little in the way of mechanisms for mediating situations where difference has an effect on the quality of opportunity. It can provide less protection against abuse by the dominant in a society of difference. At its limit it can suggest implosion of difference and provide a potent cultural weapon for involuntary assimilation n106 and disappearance.  n107 On the [*875] other hand, equality of result as a measure of fairness contains strong leanings toward difference. It suggests separation and minimizes sameness yet provides little in the way of mechanisms for mediating situations where difference would overcome any sense of meta-group cohesion. It can provide less protection against abuse by non- dominant groups and can result in reverse hegemony. It suggests the power of cultural veto by the smallest minority. It thus contains the danger of providing little protection against the unfairness of the smaller (instead of the larger) groups. At its limit it can suggest explosion of difference and provide a potent cultural weapon for separation.  n108

Fairness requires that we be willing to acknowledge as part of our cultural common sense that we all are part of the same group. Without a master unity, our differences can overcome us. Concentrating on what pulls us together as a group vitiates the strength of what distinguishes us as people. This is no task reserved solely for the group suffering disadvantage, but is the greatest challenge to the group imposing disadvantage on others. To suggest that no such meta-commonality exists is to suggest separation and disunity. Without a commitment to cultural unity, there is no point in engaging in dialog.

The penalty for rejecting an affirmation of sameness is the loss of the means of speaking in culturally significant ways; the ultimate penalty for rejection of sameness at some level is separation. Unless we acknowledge our differences within a context of shared culture at some meaningful level (and not at some abstract level of meaninglessness) we increase rather than decrease the separation effects of difference. Groups listen in culturally significant ways only to “family.” If your are not family, then you have nothing culturally significant to say. At its limit, rejection of sameness at a meaningful level suggests that as a result of difference we cannot [*876] speak the same cultural language. Babel and recent world history instruct us that the consequence is a scattering.

Basic Evidence Comparisons

Not an exhaustive list, but some of the ways to compare evidence and the reasons they are important.

1. Recency- certain uniqueness arguments, like the economy, can change rapidly. Having the most recent card on an issue is important if some event has occurred that will change forecasting or indicators.

Lets pause of a second and discuss the types of uniqueness evidence:

A. Snapshot- this is the world as it is right now. There ARE 60 votes for healthcare now is a snapshot.

B. Trend- how are things moving- in what direction. There WILL BE 60 votes for healthcare come vote time.

Now obviously you can have comparisons between Snapshot and Trend as well- and arguments about which to prefer. In general, dates affect both kinds of uniqueness, but snapshot in a larger way. The stock market may fluctuate from day to day, but those fluctuations do not necessarily deny that the TREND is going in a particular direction.

What does a complete argument using this look like? Unfortunately most people stop at “our card is newer and thus better”. This is a claim without a warrant. A complete argument would be something like “Their healthcare won’t pass evidence is prior to the death of Kennedy, his death has created a movement to get reform done, prefer our more recent evidence because it takes this pivotal event into account”.

2. Qualifications. There are basically 3 ways a piece of evidence can be “qualified”

A. It is written by an expert in the field- the field being what the card is talking about.

B. It can quote someone who would pass the test established in A. This is dicier- many cards quote someone qualified and then go on to make unqualified conclusions based on that quote.

C. It can site data-this is similar to B but the card is not necessarily “quoting”someone in the sense of having a sentence uttered by another person in the card. Instead it reports on data published by an individual or organization.

Both B and C are also prone to mis-reporting. Quotes can be taken out of context, data misreported or misused etc. So similarly to “primary” vs “secondary” sources, many scholars would say A is better than B or C. One thing debaters do frequently is to get a piece of evidence that is very qualified to make claim X, but then primarily use the piece of evidence to make claim Y, for which there is not a qualification. So qualifications arguments made by both sides should be scrutinized heavily.

The types of qualifications arguments:

A. Experts vs non experts- this is simple- your card comes from a staff writer, mine comes from a Nobel prize winning economist.

B. Biased vs unbiased- your evidence is written by someone with a financial or political agenda and is therefore suspect.

C. Reverse biased- my author has an incentive to say the opposite of what this card says, therefore that they is saying it proves it must be more true

D. Peer reviewed- similar to expertise but also separate- here an expert has been reviewed by other experts and had their conclusions (and more importantly their methods) found to be accurate.

3. Indicts and prodicts

These are arguments about whether a person or organization is qualified/unbiased in their assessments of things. These are obviously related to 2, I separate them out because they present their own set of arguments.

A. Ad Hom- X person is stupid or their organization sucks- the most common type of indict read. These are basically warrantless and I personally don’t think should be given much weight, particularly because if someone is taking a position on something they are going to generate a certain amount of hate mail.

B. structural- the school this person attended or the organization they work for structurally biases their claim. Examples of this would be “The Shock Doctrine” and its critique of Chicago school economics. These are generally better than A, but fall victim to the “this doesn’t indict the specific thing we have used this author to say” criticism.

C. Conduct- this is not really A or B, but close to both. Basically an author or institution has done something that would cast doubt on its objectivity- like accept oil money or some such thing. While accepting oil money does not in and of itself definitively prove that an organization is incapable of objective reporting on the issue of global warming, for most it does cast some doubt.

D. Methodology- probably the best kind of indict. This does not directly refute the claims made in a piece of evidence, but instead says that the way the author went about researching/testing those claims is flawed, and therefore their conclusions are also flawed. This is the most “academic” kind of indict because it requires someone to invest the time to dissect the claims of another.

E. Explicit refutation- this is the rarest form of indict and usually only occurs when someone writing evidence is sufficiently famous in their field to garner detractors. This would be something that says for example, “Zizek’s arguments about metaphoric condensation are wrong because…”

Prodicts generally follow the same logic

A. General props- this author is legit.

B. Structural props- they went to X or work for Y which have good reputations.

C. Conduct- they have won awards

D. Methodology- this study was sound

E. Specific praise- Their notion of XYZ is true and wonderful because….

Now if you read a prodict and the other side reads an indict, you want to similarly make comparisons about the class of arguments you are making, something along the lines off:

“Their indict is just an ad hom- it has no academic basis. Extend our prodict- this author has won numerous prizes for their economic writing. Prefer the prodict- it is very difficult to win awards like these, whereas we all know there are haters everywhere we go.”

Public Domain Books

There is a big google project that recently launched to make over a million public domain books available free to download. Though a version of this has been around for a while, new readers/formats (that are open source) will make it a lot more accessible.  While you won’t be finding any politics updates in these, those of you who like to read old school nihilism ev may find this useful. There is also a ton of classic fiction you can now get for free to read in the van or after you got knocked out of the doubles by a team reading a poem and you want to fight back…

The books are all in EPUB format which requires you to get either a reader or a program capable of reading them.

Thoughts on Paperless 2

1. You don’t need to see your opponents evidence until after the speech- I’m sure this will be controversial as every time I mention this in polite conversation I’m blasted for it. People seem to be very concerned with how paperless squads will get evidence to the other team for reading/if they give it all to them at the beginning won’t the other team cheat and look ahead etc. I think it should work like this: at the end of your speech, you hand the other team either a jump drive with the speech on it, or a computer with the document open (they can pick). Here are my arguments for this system:

A. There is no “need” to immediately read the other teams evidence- even for the next immediate speech (2NC) you can read them during CX or prep time. To prep a speech you generally need to flow, right some responses, pull some evidence, and read the other teams ev(not in that order necessarily). You can’t do them all at once. Why would you want to do the reading of evidence part during the speech? I guess the “logical” claim would be “you should read the evidence before you formulate answers”. I think that you only need to do this if

-the other team tags their evidence poorly

-the other debater is unclear so you can’t hear the tag/evience

If neither of those happens you should have a good enough idea to start formulating your responses. So do the other parts of prep, and read the cards later.

B. Every time I hear a discussion of which way someone is going to flip, can they flip left, no they don’t like flipping left, ok now wait while I move a chair to flip stuff onto blah blah blah it makes me die a little bit inside. Seriously it should not be that difficult to move the sheet of paper you already read to a new spot so that you can read the next sheet. Even if you debate on paper I think just flip wherever you want, hand it to them when you are done. People who are in your face about taking evidence away the nano second that you finished reading it need to take some stress management classes.

C. Flowing is a dying art- as is line by line. I won’t go on a rant here as others can do it better than I- but you can see people not flowing as they read the other teams evidence during the speech. There seems to be a huge assumption amongst debaters today that they can just “get the block” and reconstruct the speech later without flowing. As a result I have seen a lot of people drop arguments that weren’t on the block, answer arguments that are on the block but weren’t read, and in general not have anything close to the order the 2AC said them in.

2. Standing while speaking- I think this needs to go the way of the dinosaurs. I tried to think of what the arguments where for standing while speaking and I couldn’t come up with many:

-its tradition/it seems more formal- lame

-You sound better/breathe better etc- I have to disagree here on all counts. Prof. musicians who play wind instruments do not stand when they perform. I tried looking for some kind of study or something that would offer insight into my intuition here but didn’t find anything really useful so I am just going to assert this- if you sit up straight you can breathe as well and project your voice as loudly as if you stand. Here is why standing is stupid

A. People have a million annoying tics like dancing around and banging tubs etc. While this could continue while sitting, I don’t really remember anyone who sits while speaking doing these things (ok not true I do remember 1). Obviously people will say this isn’t a causal thing but I think it is- when you are sitting you are more relaxed, you aren’t pacing etc.

B. Time spent constructing speaking stands- seems trivial. But in college debate there are serious discussions about making tournaments have less rounds because the days are getting to long. So this summer I judged about 80 debates. When I remembered (which was only about 10) I opened an extra timer and counted up all the time that was spent with stupid crap like making speaking stands, looking for evidence and lost flows etc. It averaged to about 17 minutes*(side note below). 17 times 4 is 68. That means at a 4 round /day tournament you are making your day an hour longer with these shenanigans.

C. A table has way more surface area than any stand. This allows you to spread out and organize things if you use paper, or to use a full size mouse and not be cramped if you are reading off a computer.

People of various heights (esp the tall) may have an objection about this but they are lame- every day when you use a computer its at the same height it would be when you are reading from a computer in a debate.

An ancillary benefit of paperless related to this is tournament hosting- if every debater sits when speaking, and is paperless there would no longer be a need to re-arrange rooms or pick up a crapload of trash.  This is significant as anyone who has ever worked at at tournament knows- literally thousands of hours of people’s time are spent every year cleaning and fixing rooms. The opportunity costs to this are huge.

Also- as a judge- the sheer fact that paperless means you never have to sit there waiting for people to find evidence that is lost (either to give it to you or the other team) is pretty awesome.

3. Not really a point about paperless but just something to throw out there- more HS tournaments should have wifi. When this started becoming the norm in college I found I was cutting additional cards before virtually every debate either because I knew there was something we didn’t have answers to or because we needed newer uniqueness etc. With corporations like comcast willing to sponsor tournaments and provide it for free there seems to be no downside. But more than that, a lot of schools already have it but don’t give out codes at their tournaments which seems silly. Obviously there are downsides/potential problems- but college clearly shows that it is workable and no major incidents have arisen.

4. Group buys- if we could somehow organize enough people I bet we could get big discounts on netbooks/jumpdrives/power strips the way we get hotel block discounts for rooms now. Either state organizations or even the NDCA/NFL – groups with large memberships- would have some leverage when buying 500 laptops at a time the same way schools do. This could even be combined with some kind of charity effort like the OLPC give one get one program (which currently is on pause but I read is coming back).

*sidenote- I also added up the amount of “stolen” prep in about a dozen debates. I counted time when no one was using prep or speech time or cx(where a lot of teams seem to think they can ask several questions before officially starting cx) and this was about 12 minutes per debate, so almost 2 hours of lost time during the debate.

New Scanner

Tired of that Cannonscan thing taking so long?  Using the copier still takes too long?  Here’s the newest scanner, oh how easy it makes scanning books.

Probably a more hopeful idea then paperless debating

Throwdown- Pics Bad

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

This post will be in more 1AR form than nuanced explanation.

Extend our offense- pics artificially inflate bad disads by creating any risk of a link analysis which skews research and pre round prep focus. We’ll defend the whole plan, but forcing us to defend isolated parts in a vacuum is unpredictable and doesn’t reflect real world literature. There is no logical limit to pics- they can change the scope or implementation of the plan in unpredictable ways.

AT: Fix your plan

-no plan is immune to pics, you can’t just “fix” it. Fixing involves making the plan as vague as possible like “provide water africa” a la the hooch 2 years ago that are bad for education.

AT: You were just defending consult

-This is a blog about switch side debate.

AT: Who runs these 1 penny counterplans

-Lots of people run CP’s like grandfather 10% of the permits that the aff is never prepared for, they have solvency advocates and people win on them.

AT: Solvency Advocates check

-Empirically denied- judges are unwilling to firmly hold the neg to this standard- just having a link card is usually good enough. Proliferation of internet blogs (and law review footnotes) allow cards to be found for anything

AT:If solvency advocates exist and net benefits exist, then maybe it’s a real question in the literature.

-“real question” does not equal- far and good for debate. There are lots of “real questions” like how are we going to pay for this that in debate we chose to ignore

AT:The counterplan tests whether the Aff would be a better idea if done slightly differently

-If your disad is not enough to outweigh the case, it sucks. Why should we give the neg a mechanism to make crappy arguments round winners? Sounds a lot like you are defending a K JC…

AT:The damage to the 2AC strategy is done? What strategy are you talking about?

-a good 2ac will not read offense solved by the pic because that would be a waste of time, if the negative then has the CP go away due to theory the aff is left without some of their best arguments

AT:Reciprocal – they inflate the solvency deficit to the same degree. If you can’t win that this outweighs the disad it means either the CP isn’t competitive or you deserve to lose.

-This is false- its easier to construe a net benefit with an impact “including roy in the HC provided by the plan is unpopular” then it is to win a solvency deficit “providing for roy is key to solve”.

AT:A strong 1NC barrage of defensive case arguments and DAs that turn the case accomplishes the same effect

-Yes it does, it takes 10X as much time as reading a 1 sentence cp text which makes it different

AT:This argument also justifies banning all CPs because they force you to make certain solvency deficit arguments and not others

-False, you can use your whole plan as offense against non plan inclusive cps

AT: This neg ability to focus on a specific part of the plan is justified by the aff ability to set the focus of the entire debate

-It does not logically follow that because the aff picked X the neg gets to pick a subset of X-this is a claim without a warrant

AT: See above – aff gets to choose their side in almost every PIC debate. “penny saved” counterplans aren’t viable because the neg can’t win that the DA outweighs the solvency deficit

-This is empirically denied- gfather example above, font pics, word pics, exclude a state, exclude a sub group like natives the list goes on an on

AT: Roy’s counterplans are stupid for reasons other than that they’re PICs, they’re either only textually or not competitive. This logic is the equivalent of banning DAs because you think politics is stupid

– you are hinting at some standard for competition that “only allows the good ones” but you conveniently leave it out because it doesn’t exist. This is the classic problem with PICS, one out of 100 is good/fair/the center of the debate about that aff- the rest are nonsense.

AT: “Using a different mechanism” is the same as a PIC+an additional plank

-No-  USFG do cap and trade vs Japan inject iron oxide into oceans. I think you are trying to say “including the agent makes it a pic” which I think is arguable- it includes none of the plan ACTION. I don’t think if a cp that has a different agent doing a different action includes 1 word or 1 letter or is in the same font as the plan that makes it a pic.

AT: the alternative energy PIC is an example of a “different mechanism” CP.

-Its the exact same mechanism, it just uses a different name


Running the net-benefit without the CP is overly constraining – proving that the plan is sub-optimal and that a viable, competitive alternative exists negates the aff. To answer this statement you’d have to argue neg fiat bad, and that (or even just no PICs) would regress us to 1960s, Greg Varley era debate where the aff always wins.

-It “overly constrains” bad arguments with low probabilities, true. PICS bad does not logically rely on no neg fiat, you have no warrant for that claim.


(to use a real world analogy, the argument that the fact that the plan is an improvement over the SQ is a sufficient reason to merit adoption would hold no water. see the health care debate – rational policymakers don’t adopt policies if better alternatives that are smaller than the plan exist. If the public option PIC succeeds, Obama loses.)

-Yes look at the real world- these kind of minor counter proposals suck and guarantee nothing ever gets done. But more importantly there are constraints in debate like the topic and time which make this model a bad one to import.

Topic News

Some links

Hey, Big Spender by Alan Reynolds

A recent New York Times editorial sermonized on the need to fight health care inflation. It declared that the Obama Administration “seems headed in the right direction to finally slow the rate of growth in health care spending.” That is nonsense.

Unemployment, Deficits To Be Far Worse Than Stated: White House

from Politics News and Opinion on The Huffington Post by The Huffington Post News Editors

2 people liked this

WASHINGTON — The federal government faces exploding deficits and mounting debt over the next decade, White House officials predicted Tuesday in a fiscal assessment far bleaker than what the Obama administration had estimated just a few months ago.

Young Obama Backers AWOL from Health Care Fight

Employer-Provided Health Care Costs Expected To Rise 10.5% In Next 12 Months

from Politics News and Opinion on The Huffington Post by The Huffington Post News Editors

Dr. Frank Lipman: True Health Care Reform: 10 Missing Pieces