[eDebate] topic thoughts

Ryan Bach solistus
Sun Apr 6 20:54:13 CDT 2008

I like the Russia topic.  Callum and others have done a fine job explaining the primacy of the US-Russia relationship to so many aspects of international relations, economics, both countries' domestic politics, etc.  As far as a "traditional" fopo topic goes, you'd be hard pressed to beat the topic area of US-Russian relations.  Whether the topic is big or small in terms of mechanism and area limits, it would be hard to write a Russia topic that WOULDN'T kick ass...  Everything from some of the most credible scenarios for great power wars and nuke extinction to the origins of many relevant Ks, all rolled into one.  This topic area is so sweet, I might even run a policy aff (occasionally).

Latin America could be good, too.  Cuba provides tons of great and timely ground with Castro's resignation and early signs of a thaw (e.g., lifting bans on some consumer goods).  Chavez is also a particularly interesting case; there's a lot of speculation about what will happen to US-Venezuela relations with Bush gone, as the relationship has been almost entirely defined by Chavez' hatred of Bush for the past 8 years.  I'm not sure why some people think aff ground on this topic would be lacking; debating Latin America in 2008 is a far cry from Mexico in the 90's.  This would be a fine option too, provided that interesting countries were included (Venezuela, Cuba and Brazil should be auto-includes IMO).

A race topic would be great, but I think reparations is too narrow; I agree that it sounds more like a case than an entire rez.  I also don't like the idea of listing certain ethnic groups to limit the topic to in the rez; this would seem to gut a lot of the pedagogical/intellectual advantages of opening up a discussion of race without serving any obvious purpose.  It would also probably lock (topical) affs into defending some form of identity politics.  Maybe a list of mechanisms would work better; allow a policy to address any racial inequalities, and limit it to reparations, land transfers, etc. (not really sure what good terms of art would be).

An econ topic would be cool in theory (it would be neat to be on-face T for once with a Zizek aff), but I think the details are problematic.  "New economic policy" is only a limited mechanism if we're capitalising it and talking about Lenin.  The aff could do just about anything and call it economic policy.  See: Congress' use of the interstate commerce clause (which is far more limited than this and still gets twisted to justify things like drug policy).  The only limit in the proposed wordings is the effect of the plan.  This means 1) massively unpredictable plans, and 2) everyone would have to be effects T.  In general, I think specific actions in some other foreign or domestic field are better ways to talk about the economy than an explicit "econ topic."  Aside from kritikal objections to detached and depoliticised views of the economy, it's a practical near-impossibility to write a resolution that puts predictable limits on the aff.  Economics intersects with everything; econ is already in every topic, and an econ topic would include everything.

Prison reform: meh.  There are some cool cases out there, but unless the policy ground is HUGE, most of the interesting K affs will be very contrived to fit within the rez.  If massive changes to the prison system are T, then the possibilities are enormous, probably too enormous; allowing the aff to fiat large structural changes to the USFG moots tons of Neg ground, kills predictability for any policy ground and lets the aff start essentially fiating K alts to the current state system.  More likely, the topic would be much smaller; this is fine, but nothing special for K ground compared to, say, the Russia topic. I'm unconvinced by the argument that politics scenarios will be truer under this topic; the problem with most politics debates is not that the policies we discuss are not important to political capital.  My biggest problem here is that there's just no uniqueness; there are simply more relevant topics to discuss right now.  Aside from WoT issues (which would only be T under a pretty huge topic since the controversy is mostly due to these things operating OUTSIDE the domestic criminal justice system), what's unique to 2008 about prison reform?  Russia just elected a new Prez and is in a unique historical situation, and a war nearly broke out in Latin America already this year over narcoterrorism and Cuba is changing leaders for the first time since the revolution.  Racism is always a salient issue, and the WoT, immigration, Obama's candidacy, etc. all provide some 'uniqueness' as well.  I like the idea of having a prison reform topic, but I don't think this is the time for it.  Finally, this may be just my personal biad, but I don't think there's really that much great evidence on the 'other side' of the rez (i.e., current prison system approach good).  Major legal reviews on the question tend to be scathing critiques of the status quo.

Ryan Bach

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