[eDebate] Some thoughts about topic wording and ballot options
William J Repko
Thu Apr 12 15:16:22 CDT 2007
1. I am a little concerned that airlines will move down to 1 checked-item
per ticket. Take a read.
2. Be careful about conflating frustrations about the 2006-7 topic.
Was the problem topic SIZE or QUALITY of Aff ground ?...
...The honest answer is probably a little of both.
While I wished the topic had been 2-3 cases larger, I'll still contend that
the real sources of frustration (for affs) on the legal topic were
ground-related, not size-related. Specifically:
a) Struggling against some generic cplans
b) Inability to easily access a security advantage (in policy rounds)
c) Structural variables that are not going to change soon (Negs get
specific K, generic K, specific policy hits, generic policy hits).
Better put -- I think the topic was a *little* too small -- but not
radically too small. If the 4 legal cases had been CTBT-style Aff biased,
2A's would have been sizably more satisfied.
Larson statistics notwithstanding, we can comfortably agree that a lot of
2A's were highly annoyed during the course of this season.
But, I am weary that this will cause an over-compensation effect. If this
were whiffle-ball and we could have a "do-over", I think the logical
extension of these frustrations would be either:
a) to have 2-3 more cases (8-10 more holdings) built into the topic, or:
b) to not have a legal topic at all.
I don't think it would be to have a wording that would accomodate 30-40 more
policy affs, in addition to 10-15 K Affs that ignore the topic alotgether.
3. Why does topic size matter at this stage ?...
In fairness, it may not.
Any of the 4 areas could win, and the community could -- in the next phase
-- craft very narrow or very broad wordings.
I mention it at this stage b/c I think the weapons posture (dubbed "prolif")
topic has a good vision for navigating the balancing act between topic size,
neg bias, and (already limited) tub space.
I did not craft that topic -- but I like the following 3 features:
a) It appears to help the Aff not by providing the Aff MORE ground, but
instead BETTER ground. The central controversy (should Bush remain a
hard-ass about weapons posture and international norms) is one that TILTS
AFF -- both on the K and in the policy literature. Experience with the China
topic suggests that Affs would rather have 3-4 more GOOD/Durable Affs than
30 more mediocre ones.
b) A wording can easily be crafted that has some limits.
There *is a reason* the community voted for a 4-case topic. Several
interests converge here. Some folks d/n want an overwhelming caseload
(school, etc). Some think the MSU BH vision of tons of new Affs makes for a
lot of bad/shallow debates. Some hope to return to an era where the neg
engaged the Aff to a larger degree -- and view "small" as "manageable".
Increasingly, I am straight-up concerned with logisitics.
How do we get our damn tubs there ?... How much file-sharing and last-second
computer-printing is healthy/wise ?... What if we we seriously see the
airlines further limit checked-luggage ?...
The Topic Committee probably does need to help the Aff -- but I would hope
they'd keep these concerns in mind.
c) The central controversy is stable -- at least for the next 19 months.
This is an issue in modern topics. "Pressure" and (to a lesser-degree)
"Overrule"/Raich/Hamdan were a a little in flux during the course of the
season. At times this hamstrung the neg, but at times it simply hamstrung
One thing that I feel makes for a strong topic is WHEN THE CENTRAL
CONTROVERSY (or list item) IS A CLEAN DEVIATION FROM THE STATUS QUO. A
decent vision for a topic is one that can't easily include the "pressure
Straight-up, I do not think our overall weapons posture will change in a way
that will complicate the uniqueness for advantages or disadvantages.
For this reason, I like debating this topic while this President is still in
office. I'd rather not "sit" on THIS topic -- I think it could grow less
stable after the next Presidential election. And, I think the other areas
could grow more stable/inherent in time.
4. A concluding note on topics other than weapons posture.
While this post is clearly designed to influence voting at this stage, it's
more designed to encourage the Committee's wording options at the NEXT
I think ANY of those topics could win and still accomodate most of the
concerns expressed in this post.
Personally, I can see a narrow version of all four topics.
It *may* also be the case that narrow can be also be pulled off with an Aff
bias and an inherent mechanism in mind.
I have more concerns about this -- although I am sure the committee will
try. I worry that "restriction of genetic engineering" or "constructive
engagement/aid to the Middle East" may be in more flux than other ballot
options. I think "Democracy promotion to BAD ALLIES" can be made pretty
stable/inherhent (though maybe neg leaning).
I should also mention that I think Middle East or Genetic Engineering could
win and alternate/additional mechanisms could be placed as ballot options.
But, overall, I currently have the most faith that the weapons posture topic
best navigates all three concerns (Aff ground, still narrow, still stable).
I thought I'd post to that effect as people were reaching their decisions.
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