Category Archives: Theory

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.

The States CP

As is becoming an annoying trend, Stefan has beaten me to the punch on a how to debate the states CP post- you can read it here

For an aff perspective here are some posts I made last year

Bahls Makes Me Think: An Interesting Judging Hypothetical And How I Resolved It

A big part of the magic of high school policy debate is that one truly never knows what is going to happen. While most contest rounds follow a similar script, every now and then a debate challenges its participants—both contestants and critics—to think—really think—about some of the fundamental theoretical underpinnings of our game. Sometimes these debates occur between the best of the best in high school or college debate. And sometimes they occur in debates between rising sophomores at a summer debate institute in Ann Arbor. This is the story of one of these latter debates. It is dedicated to Alex Bahls of Wayzata High School, a debater that has challenged me to think about debate theory more thoroughly and creatively during the last three weeks than perhaps any student I’ve ever worked with. This one’s for you, Bahls.

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Fiat, Math, and Political Process Disadvantages

There are a couple of interesting threads on that discuss the theoretical underpinnings of political process disadvantages. In particular, Ankur Sarodia has developed a mathematical model that seeks to demonstrate that certain political process disadvantages are not legitimate considerations when determining whether the affirmative plan should be enacted. In this guest post, Dylan Keenan—debate coach at Emory University and the Westminster Schools—provides a rebuttal to the Sarodia model.

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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

There Are In Fact Stupid Questions

And stupid people who ask them.

1. What does dispositionality mean? If you are asking this question, or are answering with anything other than “if you make a permutation or a theory argument other than dispositionality bad we can kick the cp” you are stupid. I don’t know when or where someone had the idea that it was ok to just make this mean whatever you want it to mean like “if you read only offense” or “if you straight turn the net benefit” but I would bet it happened in stupidville.  The meaning if dispo is logical- it stems from the idea of opportunity cost. Since competition is the link to the cp, if you challenge the link we can kick it just like if u challenge the link to a disad and then impact turn it. So from now on, if someone asks “what is the status of the CP” instead of saying “its dispo” say “its stupid and arbitrary nonsense-acality”.

2. “What is the status of (any part) of the K”. Once someone reads a K it should be obvious that they are a sneaky trickster and you should be making theory arguments anyway. Even if the alternative is “unconditional” that doesn’t mean anything because even though they are stuck going for “it”, the “it” they go for in the 2NR will bear little/no resemblance to the “it” of the 1NC cx. Please stop wasting all of our lives. I did some math:

I judge around 130 debates a year (excluding camp which would make this ridiculous).

50% involve a K= 65.

I would say at least 1 minute is spent in those debates cxing or asking during prep time about the alternative, so say 65 minutes (this is conservative).

Things I would rather do with that hour

-watch an episode of Golden Girls and Keeping up with the Kardashians back to back

-Have my tonsils removed sans anesthesia

-be hunted by another human a la the most dangerous game

-be warmed by the innards of a tonton while Han set up the shelter, and I thought they smelled bad on the outside…

That means every year I am wasting an hour of my life listening to inane cross x questions that are totally unnecessary. So for everyone out there, I will answer them all now

“Does the alternative solve the case?” -Obviously not chuckles, but we will make a string of stupid arguments about why it does and you will drop them

“who is the agent of the alternative”- I can’t tell you till the 2NR because I don’t know what the alternative will be untill then- but probably everyone on earth holding hands, so I would say all hands.

“what is the status of the alternative” -Its “dropisitional”- if at any point you drop a 2 word argument about the alternative we will then claim u dropped our floating pic/fiat world peace/make war impossible alternative”


3. Does your link assume….- no , it obviously doesn’t assume anything let alone your plan. This applies to all disads/anything with a link. If links assumed things we could just insta sign all ballots neg and dispense with the silly debates. Obviously no cards talk about anything becasue debate is contrived and stupid.

4. “what does your 1NC have to say about this 2AC argument”- no explanation needed.

5.  Silly rhetorical questions used to begin a K- again, no explanation needed.

Learning From Your Elders: How To Find and Use Published Scholarship To Improve Your Theory Debating

Policy debate is a specialized activity with a unique vocabulary and a rich history. Its evolution has been shaped in large part by the broader developments in argumentation and rhetoric that have taken place in the academic field of communication. For many years, this connection between contest round debating and the academy from whence it spawned was made explicit by the frequent publication of scholarly articles about debate theory and praxis. Communication scholars, many of whom served as directors of the nation’s leading debate programs, contributed to the development of the activity by authoring texts about the major issues faced by competitors, coaches, and judges.

While the heyday of academic scholarship about competitive debate has passed, its voluminous legacy remains a vibrant source of inspiration and knowledge for contemporary students. Tapping into this rich history of debate scholarship is a fruitful way for students to deepen their comprehension of key theoretical issues while improving their overall ability to debate them effectively in contest rounds.

This article provides advice for students wishing to leverage debate theory research toward improvements in their debating. First, it provides an overview of the sources accessible to most debaters. Second, it provides a list of suggestions for making use of these articles. It is my hope that this article will give interested students the basic guidance they need to dive head first into the world of academic debate scholarship.

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Debate and Change

Since back in the day when I started sp debate kids have been saying the same thing over and over again

“Oh sp, your a genius and I totally agree with XYZ, however judges don’t like that so untill judges change I will just keep doing the losing thing that I have been doing kthnxbai”.

Most recently Anshu’s sock puppet echoed these sentiments in regards to making arguments about evidence. So lets clear this up once and for all: this is not a chicken/egg thing, debaters drive change- not judges. Let’s look at this logically with 2 examples: K’s and CPs. Here is how debaters caused CP’s to happen

1. Debaters on the neg hated losing

2. They thought “hmm, let me see… how can I … “counter” if you will… all these aff plans…

3. They read some CP’s

4. Judges were like “uh this is weird, don’t know how I feel about this”

5. Bad ass debaters were like “tough I am gonna keep reading this”

6. Judges were like “ok”

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