Category Archives: Topicality

T Combat Troops

I wanted to get a discussion going as I think this could potentially have a really negative effect on the topic.

At least at Umich there has been a lot of discussion over the T arg that “military presence” excludes combat troops. This would obviously extremely complicate a chunk of Iraq/Afghanistan affirmatives. IMO, the topic was largely crafted to discuss just those two areas- that is where the most up to date and broad research is being conducted in the world right now- they are the hot topic if you will.

So in my mind, in a debate where it came down to the negative having a more precise or field contextual definition vs the aff argument that such an interpretation would exclude a really big part of what people thought they were getting when voting for this topic, the aff is in pretty good shape.

I will leave it at that for now and let people discuss amongst themselves a little, but I am interested to hear what people think.

UPDATE- Per request, below the fold are some of the cards in question

Continue reading

Changing The Federal Poverty Measure: A Viable New Affirmative at the TOC?

One of the affirmatives that was produced during the summer at both the Baylor and Northwestern institutes advocated a change in the Federal Poverty Measure in order to provide more needy individuals with access to means-tested social services. To the best of my knowledge, however, no teams have consistently read this affirmative during the season—at least not on the national circuit. Will this be a popular new case at this weekend’s Tournament of Champions? A few thoughts about the viability of this affirmative are below the fold.

Continue reading

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.

Defining Social Services

Many debaters are under the misguided notion that the resolution has some objective meaning. Either you are a policy debater and you think the topic provides a set of core arguments/cases to debate about implementation of a government policy, or you are a K debater and you think the topic is objectively nonsense. Few people understand just how malleable debate resolutions are.

Focus on that word- malleable. Thats a term from metalurgy – it literally means how something can be hammered out. In debate this means that what the resolution means is not fixed- it is hammered out. What that means is that teams literally create the topic by pounding on others- either by reading a certain set of cases or by going for topicality against a certain set of cases to exclude them. The skills and preperation of individual teams establish the bounds of the topic. A few examples

  1. DADT – this has never been topical on any high school resolution in the last decade, yet it has been a hugely popular case on all of them.
  2. Alternative energy includes nuclear- no, no it doesn’t, and yet somehow this year it did thanks to a minute long T contention in the 1AC
  3. Any and all subsets args (must be throughout the US, must be all kinds of energy, must be all SSA etc)

Continue reading