[eDebate] malcolm/courts topic thoughts

Josh Branson harobran
Thu May 18 12:38:14 CDT 2006

I haven?t cut any cards or ever debated the courts so I know very little 
about them, but I will say that I think that the topic committee should 
focus on protecting the AFF as they draw up this topic. The reasons
1) The ?bias? has shifted---I have done no systematic research on this, nor 
am I really inclined to, but my feeling is that the general advantage in 
terms of sides has shifted from the aff to the neg, and pretty heavily so. 
I?m not entirely sure about the reason for this. One is obviously the K, one 
is the prevailing neg theory bias on so many bullshit CPs, and I think part 
of it is also the explosion of the internet and the proliferation of 
?qualified? sources to which people have access, so you find one dipshit 
writing some one-word PIC and the aff is hosed.  But I do think the 
cumulative impact of these is substantial. I know that I lost 6 times more 
aff debates than neg debates last year. And even debating with Tristan two 
years ago, arguably one of the top 2 or 3 2AR?s ever to debate, we still 
lost over twice as many affs as we did negs. Most of the elim debates that 
involved flips that I was aware of involved a frantic race to flip neg. I 
think that this can be addressed through our topic wording. I think one of 
the reasons that that negs have been so good in recent years is that we 
write topics with the presumption that the affs are the ones that have the 
advantage, and we obsess about stable neg ground. I think that maybe we 
should worry more about AFF ground. Shift the presumption.

2) I think a broader topic for the aff is not only more fair (see #1), but 
A) Allows for *good* T debates. One of the complaints people have about the 
treaties topic was the lack of T debates. While I waver on the direction of 
the impact to this (especially after Klinger and his pal QPQ singlehandedly 
ruined my life the past year), I do think that on a legal topic, T debates 
are more educational than normal. Questions of jurisdiction, definitional 
precision, even limits etc are extremely important to the court, and I think 
having some T debates would be good for us, especially since it seems like 
the one way to provide an *impact* to some of the more finer points of 
definitions etc (since we all know those sorts of ?you misuse court 
precedent? DAs get you nowhere in the face of some contrived nuke war).

However, as I think we?ve all learned from the China topic, PLEASE make sure 
that the words in the rez are ACTUALLY terms of art. I have no idea what 
happened at the meetings last year, and I?m not faulting anybody for it, but 
I know that I and pretty much everyone else I talked to figured out after 
day one of reading that ?diplomatic and economic pressure? was pulled out of 
thin air.

That means that before just throwing the classic debate phrases into the 
rez, you should scrutinize phrases like ?in the area of? and ?to? and 
?substantial? to make sure that we can actually have some good, evidenced T 
debates, and not just have dictionary.com and your 5 stupid Aspec-esque 
ground arguments. I?m not enough of a legal scholar to know what phrases the 
court actually uses to limit the scope of relevant concerns, but I think it 
would be ideal if someone did a search for the key topic word along the 
lines of ([topic word] w/5 (defin!)) and got over 100 hits. Unlike last 
year, when you got zero.

B) Diversity

The killer argument here is that I think topic diversity is inevitable, it?s 
just a question of the quality of it. Last year, there was aff 
diversity---it was just bad diversity. Because there were so few cases that 
actually had robust solid defenses (IPR and currency and CITES, honestly, 
and even currency was pretty stupid), affs were forced to run to some pretty 
bad questionable ideas, and the result was bad debates with terrible 
evidence etc. I think if you protect the aff with some actually defensible 
ideas, the result will be better debates all around. I think the quality of 
the debates start with the quality of the affs. If you force affs to defend 
shitty ideas the whole year, it increases their willingness/propensity to 
proliferate the bad affs, which starts the downward spiral.

Basically, I think that the literature should create the topic wording, not 
the other way around. Last year, it was our stupidity in writing the topic 
that created good evidence, as random goofballs (like Klinger's QPQ 
definition author, and yes I'm just a sore loser) suddenly became sweet 
authors who wrote great ev. Someone randomly used the phrase diplomatic 
pressure and suddenly we had a sweet solvency card. Instead, lets make sure 
we follow the literature.

C) It addresses the K thing on both sides.

I think one of the big problems that a lot of ?policy? people have with the 
K affs is that a lot of them are, well, pretty stupid and not predictable. I 
think that if you protect the aff and allow for some flexibility within the 
grounds of the topic, that fewer wacky teams are going to run away from the 
topic. I obviously think that a hard-working and smart kid can find a K aff 
on any topic, but I think if you preserve some flexibility *in* the topic, 
it will decrease the number of framework/you-must-have-a-plan debates. And I 
think that?s one thing that everyone on every side would love to see 
eliminated. I don?t foresee this being as much a problem on an overturn 
topic, if that is the direction everyone is going, but still something to 
keep in mind.

3. How do you give rise to good affs?
A) Make sure that there are a number of affs in which the literature base is 
deep on both sides. If the literature base is deep, those are the most 
likely to survive the wanky neg strategies that arise during the year. The 
best aff I ever had for surviving deep into the year was de-alert. I also 
think that?s why the IPR case did so well last year. Yes there was a ton a 
neg, but there was also a ton of aff, and the evidence quality was good on 
both sides, which couldn?t be said for a lot of cases. That doesn?t mean 
that there is evidence about the TOPIC that is deep on both sides (that is 
almost always true, that was the case for China). It means that the base for 
SPECIFIC AFFS is deep on both sides. I think that?s a crucial distinction.

B) Make sure that there are some actually big advantages. I?m not really 
speaking from experience here, but from what I?ve heard about the Indians 
topic, one of the problems was the Bush DA outweighed every case. Now I?m 
sure there are those of you who just love the politics DA and think that?s 
the best form of debate?.but for those of us who like real, actual, 
well-evidenced disads and case strategies, you?ve got to allow the aff the 
tools to beat the shitty process disads. That means there should be a few 
national security or economic type cases on any list/area you come up with, 
because I think an exclusively rights-oriented list could give rise to some 
bad debates.

One last note---
I do think it should have some area that could accommodate race/gender 
concerns. I?m obviously one of the last people to speak for 
Louisville/Fullerton etc, but I think that if we had one area of the topic 
that explicitly allowed for a discussion of race/gender/personal type 
issues, it might decrease some of the animosity in debates. I?m not sure 
what it would look like, but it seems easier on this topic than most. Now 
obviously not everyone is going to be happy, as I thought that an inclusion 
of Roe might be sweet to actually allow for a discussion of gender without 
teams having to invent new treaties that they claimed should have been on 
the list (CEDAW) or just say T is sexist/racist/genocidal (which, if 
dropped, is still a reason to vote aff, Greg), and that still pissed people 
off. But I think there should be one area

Even for those of you anti-K people, this seems to be a strategic move on 
your part, because I definitely think it would strengthen your case in going 
for framework if your defense of the topic as an alt had some way to solve 
their exclusion DA.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I know a lot of people normally don?t like 
posting to edebate or engaging in these discussions, and I am one of them, 
but I agree w/ Malcolm, if you want to prevent a bad topic, now?s the team 
to speak up. If not, don't whine. Plus it's a boring time of year in between 
playoff games and this is more entertaining than studying.


More information about the Mailman mailing list