Monthly Archives: December 2010

The START DA Is Now A Thing Of The Past

One of the most popular politics disadvantages of the first semester is no more. After intense negotiations and political wrangling, the Senate this afternoon finally ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. From the Washington Post:

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a new nuclear arms-reduction treaty with Russia, the broadest such pact between the former Cold War foes in nearly two decades.
The Senate ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, by a vote of 71 to 26, easily clearing the threshold of two-thirds of senators present as required by the Constitution for treaty ratification.

The final vote came after Senate Democrats accepted two amendments designed to placate Republicans who had qualms about the treaty. The amendments, which passed on voice votes with bipartisan support, emphasized the administration’s commitment to a limited missile-defense program and to continued funding to modernize the aging U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

The amendments were to the resolution of ratification accompanying the treaty, a nonbinding statement that codifies the Senate’s understanding of the pact but does not directly affect its language. Republican efforts to alter the treaty language were defeated, with supporters of the pact arguing that such changes would have forced new negotiations with Moscow and effectively killed the treaty.

Thirteen Republicans joined all of the Senate’s Democrats in voting for ratification, helping to exceed the 67 votes required. Three senators – all Republicans – were not present.

As we discussed on the latest podcast, the political landscape in Washington is changing in a way that will make traditional “political capital” disadvantages difficult to construct. Debaters that relied on the START DA as their core negative generic will need to find a new position for the second semester.

Becoming A Better Debater: 10 Ways For Students To Improve Their Interactions With Coaches

Students attending schools that provide them with competitive debate opportunities are fortunate. Those that are provided with access not only to debate but also to instruction from a professional debate coach are even more fortunate. But having a coach is not enough: students need to make the most of their interactions with coaches to truly reap the benefits that they can provide.

Previous installments in this series discussed general strategies for improving at debate and specific suggestions for developing a personal debate curriculum. This time, the focus shifts from out-of-the-classroom improvements to tangible ways that students can better utilize the expertise of their coaches inside the classroom. For those fortunate enough to have access to a professional debate coach, the following ten tips will help students maximize the value of their interactions with them.

Continue reading

Legitimate or Illegitimate? A Politics DA Hypothetical

Suppose that the 1NC presented the following politics disadvantage shell:

  1. Obama will get START ratified in the status quo.

  2. The plan kills Obama’s political capital so he can’t get START ratified.

  3. START ratification increases U.S.-Russia relations, decreases the risk of terrorism, and decreases proliferation.

  4. Proliferation causes war.

Continue reading

Topic Updates

After the last podcast a few people asked me about what kind of things they should be reading to try and keep up to date with the topics development. So from time to time I will post some links that I think are relevant/would be useful to read under the banner of topic updates.





Cleaning up debates

Let’s talk about how to make debates cleaner. By clean, I am referring to organization: a messy debate is one where arguments are poorly organized and not grouped together logically. A clean debate is where the debaters make a conscious effort to sort like arguments together.

Why is this important? A clean debate

1. Makes giving your speeches easier-it allows you to avoid repetition by putting all related arguments close to one another. It allows you to strategically “view” the debate much easier as you don’t have to flip back and forth between sheets to get the big picture. It helps you assess priorities. It makes it easier to not drop things.

2. It makes judging debates substantially easier. One of the hardest things about judging (assuming the judge is attempting to limit intervention) is evaluating a debate where the crucial issue(s) lack clash. What I mean is lets say the debate’s central question is whether or not to evaluate consequences or just look at the motives of an action to determine whether or not the plan should be done. These debates can often devolve into “two ships passing in the night” whereby each team spends all their time explaining their arguments and no time responding to the other teams arguments or  engaging in comparisons. This is often a direct result of messiness: the 1AC will have a contention about morality, the neg will read some cards on their disad about why consequences should be evaluated, and while these two sets of arguments are responding to one another that they are occurring on different sheets  acts as a kind of psychological barrier to the students debating- they refuse to compare them. This is often the case in debates where both the 1AC and the negs go for disad have the same impact- for example war on the Korean peninsula. The central question of these debates is not magnitude because both impacts are basically the same. Probability is the most important factor- and it should be assessed in terms of what is the relative risk of the adv vs the risk of the da. Negatives do slightly better here usually because they have been trained to emphasize disad turns the case, but there is never the kind of comparison judges really need.

Enough on that, take my word for it, cleaner debates are better. That being  said here are some general tips in no particular order for cleaning up debates. Most of them relate to road mapping and the process of deciding where to put arguments, so these are things you can instantly do without needing a lot of prep- and after talking to some fellow judges recently I can say these are definately the kind of thing you want to be doing if you are looking to improve your points.

Continue reading

Fixing The "White Screen" Problem With The Wiki

The problem that some people have been having when trying to edit pages on the NDCA Wiki is a result of formatting errors. When a large wiki page contains formatting problems (lots of “span” tags, incorrect nesting of bold tags, and other syntax errors), the “Visual Editor” chokes when trying to process the page and crashes. In some browsers, this produces a “Script Has Stopped Responding” message; in others, it just results in a blank white page being displayed. The problem seems to be most pronounced in Chrome and for computers with slower processors, but it has effected users of other browsers, too.

There are two ways to resolve this issue:

Continue reading

Intelligence Squared Features Expert Debate About Afghanistan

Intelligence Squared recently featured an Oxford-style debate regarding U.S. military presence in Afghanistan:

Has the surge in Afghanistan failed, and is it time for the U.S. to admit defeat and start pulling our troops out? Nine years in, what have we accomplished in Afghanistan? Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama ordered an additional 17,000 troops in February and another 30,000 at year’s end in the hopes of staunching a rapidly deteriorating situation. Has the surge failed, or does it need time to take its course? Critics of the war are advocating everything from withdrawing our troops and concentrating on covert forces, to saving the north and abandoning the south to the Taliban. Only one thing is certain—there are no good options, but can the U.S. afford to abandon Afghanistan?

Matthew Hoh and Nir Rosen represented the affirmative and Max Boot and Peter Bergen represented the negative.

Prepare For The Rest of the Season With The Latest Podcast Episode

As promised, the latest episode of The 3NR Podcast was recorded today. From the description on the Podcast page:

As the first semester draws to a close, this episode of The 3NR Podcast assesses the evolution of this year’s topic and provides practical advice for students as they prepare for the rest of the season. The news is chock full of stories that are relevant to debates about U.S. military presence: the Lisbon NATO Summit, the North Korean attack on South Korea, and the Wikileaks disclosure are just the tip of the iceberg. What do these recent developments—and more, including the state of President Obama’s agenda in the new, split Congress—mean for the topic? How can students maximize the benefits of their Winter Break preparation? The discussion weaves into several other topics including the wiki, disclosure norms, and the “Warm Room” tabulation concept and concludes with (not so) rapid-fire responses to questions submitted by listeners.

Head over to to download the new episode or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.