At the top, let me just say that the outpouring of congratulations means so much to me. I am pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to in-person interactions at tournaments. But I have great respect for so many of the people that put so much time into the activity. I wish I was better at sharing my admiration in the moment, but it is there. Hopefully, engagements like this, after I have a moment to gather my thoughts, can compensate.
I have so many things swirling through my mind that I want to share. We are going to unpack the NDT experience in several parts. Today, I am going to talk about policy prep.
To do so we have to rewind and reveal where we were at by the end of Northwestern. First, the only team who would read an old Aff against us was Georgia. UGA and us were both going to ADA and there were two of them so CEA Neg could never be put to rest.
Second, the trade area was a giant swamp of nonsense. The debate we had against Harvard at Dartmouth shaped a lot of our thinking. I do not think there was an example of us having less residual stuff to say. Treaties/nukes/surveillance all reasonably got to the same thematic presidential powers arguments. Not so much for trade. It led us to think more about topicality, more about trade and to prepare in a way where we focused on having more stuff of substance to say in a similar new Aff situation.
Third, a lot of assignments were going to be advantage area, impact answer and impact turned based. We didn’t know much about what the export control Kazakhstan wheat Aff was going to be about, but one would imagine it would be about Central Asia stability. Is there an energy DA that could use that as the link? People seem to think Indo-Pak war is a reasonable impact to read. Can we make it unreasonable? If given more time I would have cared way more about saying breaking up with every trade partner is good for whatever country. But alas.
Here is a thing about Kentucky in the previous five topics: we never really answered people’s advantages. Some of this was necessitated by the topic. Military presence and war powers just had huge link turn debates. Climate topic got to like 4 impact areas so the Aff would read some, the Neg would read what was leftover and then you just link turn. Similar on health care. Given my previous feelings on impact defense, it was also a personal/stylistic choice to an extent. That approach proved untenable on this nine topics in one resolution.
Fourth, CP’ing in DA’s. States nullify tariffs. The necessary and proper CP read in the finals. Anticipatory overrule with state secrets. My personal contribution against court Affs was to strike down the plan because judicial supremacy is unconstitutional and read Supreme Court bad modules.
So that’s how we were going to insulate ourselves from new Affs: topicality, CP’s that generate DA’s that you can combo with other CP’s, impact turns (with our main premise looking into more war good and energy type DA’s, but also doing random ones as we worked through things (like we read China IP theft good at ADA)).
I have not mentioned anything about Aff prep at this point. That’s because having Truf on your team is really unfair. We put this dude out on an island and he just makes Affs happen. Pretty sure he wrote the most NFU advantages in the country (I knew this about single payer, but I am just guessing here. If I am wrong, let me know). At the beginning of ADA he had: new version of China adv (got read), BMD adv (got read), RevCon adv (got read), Russia adv (got read), Iran adv (got read) and new CMR stuff for Rule of 2 (didn’t get read). The only NFU policy debate BT lost was one in which they dropped a DA.
In the finals of Gonzaga, we disclosed new against Emory. That Aff was the PCA surveillance Aff read in semi’s of the NDT. We then convinced ourselves we may not come up with better ideas and we should save it for the NDT. As demonstrated by kicking the Aff and impact turning food prices in the 1AR, we were obviously very astute in our quality judgements.
The other Aff that was floating around since the summer was 337. This Aff was like 60 to 70% done most of the year, but whenever it was brought up Truf just said it was garbage. Not garbage enough to scrap, but not good enough to read against a first round team. Then the week before ADA Truf says he had been doing the searches all wrong and 337 went from garbage to really good. How things change! So 337 got hoisted back onto the slate.
The other idea that stuck was “The United States federal government should compel executive exit from treaties and congressional-executive agreements underlying leases in perpetuity of land to the United States of America, including the lease of land in Guantánamo, on the basis that such leases are illegal.”
Force exit from treaties is the ultimate mutilation of this topic based on the operational changes/force sanctions/power is discretion logic. That and the fact that this guy Michael J. Strauss obsessively wrote about this area for at least 10 years.
There were two groupings as far as Affs go. The first was Harvard/Northwestern/Emory. Weren’t really going to read NFU against them. ESR and politics type DA’s are a concern, but less so. Harvard obviously goes for the Zivitosky DA a lot. Northwestern really likes being Neg against NFU and less so other stuff. Emory bit of a mixed bag. Did ESR a good chunk with midterms, but less after the election, but could still do ESR and war powers. They also could do an area DA or maybe a tricky CP.
The second grouping was Berkeley/UGA’s/UNLV. These teams like ESR/Treaties and politics/2020 (or oversight type DA’s). This is where Truf gets some help. We call in Kenny McCaffrey and tell him to start an Aff that can beat ESR, treaties, politics and 2020 and has something to say if a new process CP gets read. We told him we could probably make any idea T. He came back with the Unmasking Aff that was read during round 7 against UGA RS. One ballot on case and no politics. Two ballots on no case, but politics straight turn. Mission accomplished. Thanks Kenny, you are incredible!
We decided Gitmo vs Harvard for Zivitosky reasons. We said 337 against NU because it is pretty far removed from the Congress trade and sanctions files you would write first. We slated PCA vs Emory because of a debate they had in doubles of Wake where their biz didn’t look too hot. The nature of this topic meant that some areas just never really got figured out and we were hoping surveillance was that one for Emory.
The other two policy first rounds, Michigan and Kansas, we weren’t sure what to do. Could debate them early and just read NFU. Could debate them in elims when one of our Affs is freed up to break.
Given the way things had played out to that point it was interesting trying to figure out how much we should say NFU. Our record with it was very good. The innovation to date in that part of the topic was anemic. And now we are at the point where people are crunched, they are assuming new Affs in a lot of debates and they probably have one or two areas that have not gotten a lot of attention. That is a recipe for not producing fancy NFU Neg for the NDT. So we were ready and willing to read NFU with new advantages against UGA/Berkeley/UNLV/Michigan/Kansas. Depending on the pairing we were probably willing to do it twice, but only had to do it once against Berkeley in round 5. If we debated one of them in round 3 or 4 too we probably would have said NFU.
It was very very nice having such a tight plan of action on the Aff. Final Truf tally: NFU, Rule of 2, INF, PCA, Unmasking, Gitmo, 337. Just fucking incredible.
I had cards for a deference Aff that had Congress change the rules for when a regulation could get deference if it attempted to preempt the states. Standard Kentucky federalism business for advantage one, but advantage two was about preemption trading off with state torts for consumer protection which got to another set of domestic impacts. I really thought a Congress deference Aff would wreck people since most did not demonstrate any ability to go for like an agency flexibility DA. Alas.
Where did we leave off with the Neg? Oh right, debating new Affs EXCEPT for those pesky UGA folks. Two top ten UGA teams. ADA and the NDT. So that is a total of four chances to be Neg against CEA’s. I wish I could say we had four different Neg’s, but we did not. The first was impact turning nonprolif which happened in ADA semifinals. The second was what happened in the finals which was the brainchild of Seth Gannon. Here is my relation to this argument: I trust Seth completely, I never opened it, I do not recall the origin story and the only thing I do remember is it seeming like he tinkered with that file every Sunday and Monday of a tournament since after Gonzaga I think? I think we were sitting on ex ante CEA’s for a while.
I wanted to write more sophisticated turns based on arms control/emerging tech being bad, but ran out of time. If we had to have more debates with them, we would have focused on CP’ing DA’s or sparking them or something.
We have reached the end of part 1, what we were thinking about and working on for policy debates going into the NDT. In future parts: prepping vs critiques, thoughts on files I worked on, the ADA, the NDT itself and an ode to seniors.
Cannot say I am wild about hearing that the wiki crashes over the last 3ish months have been due to someone deploying a spider to download all the documents back from 2012. Then I hear that this "aggregation service" is being sold for profit. Not wild about that either. So I thought I would offer a little corrective, free of charge.
The wiki is great. Open source is great. The people out here chopping cards are great. This is not an area where we need novel ways to make money.
One issue with the wiki in the era of open source is that its search function isn't very good. It takes you to a wiki page, but then you just have a bunch of documents and you don't know which one to click on. Let me help you with that.
There are over 4,000 wiki docs in this folder, feel free to download them:
It is not 280,000+ unique cards, and not every document on the wiki. And has no Kentucky docs in it (which is a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask). But it is a bunch of cards since Trump got elected.
How does one search all these documents? That is where Doc Fetcher comes in. http://docfetcher.sourceforge.net/en/index.html
You have to make sure java is up to date then you download doc fetcher.
In the search scope on the bottom left there you create index form. You pick the folder you want it to scan then it is going to take sometime running. It is scanning that folder and indexing all the documents in it. What happens is you can search a folder, but it lets you look into the document.
The little up and down arrow on the right center of the screen lets you search for each occurence of the word or phrase you typed in.
So I would use the dropbox folder and docfetcher if you know someone has read a card about something but the wiki proves too cumbersome to navigate.
Ok, let’s get into it.
Psyche, lol. You probably thought I was going to rank the teams and start a huge flame war. Not today! I am going to do something different.
Here’s the thing. I like debaters in all stages of development. I like the novice who is diving in because they don’t know what they have gotten themselves into and how great it is going to be. I like the kids who have decided varsity debate is for them and they are out here scrapping. I like people who are finally breaking through with arguments they have researched on their own. I like the programs that are setting new peaks for themselves or are successfully undergoing a reboot. There is a lot to love.
I enjoy first round bid teams and applicants a lot. They are the best of the best. They push your own teams to be the best. They are out here innovating. Most of the time they are the oldest members of a class so you have the most memories of them. Debate would be so incredibly boring without this back and forth at the top, both as a coach and as a lover and observer of the game.
This week is not fun for a handful of teams. Being on the bubble is brutal. I can speak from personal experience as a debater (#18, wtf, #thanksDallas #thanksOmar) and as a coach (UK has gotten the #16 twice in three seasons (#goCats)). So I think it is important in this stressful time to take a step back, appreciate the journey and for people to know the season was fun and the post season tournaments can be funner still.
My thoughts on the first round applicant teams, in tabroom order:
1. Baylor RW
Very impressive for a sophomore/junior combo. Can definitely punch above their weight. They take speaking in paragraphs to a whole new level (flow-ability be damned!). I love any team that can resort to Baudrillard in a pinch. I like it when they talk about Afro-pessimism too because they are really attempting to push the bounds of how that argument is articulated. I often hear a new angle that I hadn’t really thought of before. Historically similar to the way Marquis Ard used to debate which I enjoyed. I also enjoy their commitment to research. You wouldn’t think all their cards need to be from 2017 and 18, but I love a team always looking for card upgrades.
2. Baylor TZ
This might be Zoda-centric because I have judged him a million times and I do not believe I have had the pleasure of meeting Jonas Thraser-Evers yet. I love semiocapitalism and Robin James cards. I love “gz” at the end of cards and am still mad I gave up the practice of initialing evidence. I love all the schools of thought this team dabbles in, very flexible. Love the commitment to trying to be as specific as possible. Their wiki practices=bad, but of course I get and enjoy the docs regardless. You knew someone had to be the “affective investments in the presidency” team before the year started and I am glad this team followed through.
3. Binghamton AY
Got off to a bit of a slow start, but a really strong 2nd semester. Another very flexible team on the Neg. I am here for any team that will 1NC Robin James, Shannon Walsh and Ingrid Hoofd. That’s NICE. Also on the Aff they say “Counter-Interpretation – the Aff can either Affirm or Negate the resolution” with a card which is pretty funny and really makes you think. I am not aware of any Binghamton first round teams in the past so this is potentially one of those new peaks for a program, and for a deserving team.
4. Dartmouth ET
Keeping the reps K alive, love it. Saying psychoanalysis bad, love it. PIC’ing out of random stuff K Affs say, love it. This arms sales Aff looks cool. Two wins at the Dartmouth RR as sophs, legit. The return of Dartmouth debate seems to be in strong, capable and very slow-speaking hands. Also I have to issue a formal apology. I never understood (and still don’t) what the OFAC Aff is. I just wanted to be edgy.
5. Emory GS
First thing that popped into my head: they do this thing where they functionally drop stuff early, but pull it together in the 1AR and 2AR. Which is pretty annoying, but also pretty effective. They read a lot of Affs. That’s great. They are pretty fast. That’s fun. They read the Romney DA. That wasn’t great. They have an affinity for NAFTA-based args. I respect it. Their first 2NR this year was C02 ag, lol. They take UK cards so their reading comprehension is very good (#goCats).
6. Harvard CM
Very good against new Affs. Strong abuser of conditionality. Impact turning stuff and CP’ing out of it all=rude but awesome. Managed to read two Affs so my preseason bet “under 1.5 Affs before the NDT” didn’t pay out (in before they say they read 3 because NFU and NFU to China are different Affs). Sophomore getting called up to debate with a badass senior is serious business but former debater of mine John Cooper has held his own well. Must be because I taught him everything he knows. I love how they fiated disarm. Like hey, no corner cutting, read movement cards like everybody else.
7. Indiana AD
I believe Harry has debated with four different people in four years. I absolutely love when a program is reaching a new level of success (which I have said many times, I know). If there was a Most Improved Debater award (and there obviously should be), Harry would definitely win it. This guy is just a machine, debates with a level of ruthless efficiency you don’t usually see.
I am not erasing Cameron either. I am acutely aware of when a young debater is thrown in to debate with a much more experienced senior. It is a heavy and unique burden. Cameron has made huge strides when I’ve seen them debate on Monday. Always takes two debaters to get those W’s and very happy for the regular season success Indiana has achieved.
8. Liberty HT
I think Liberty is a very strategic team. Focusing debates more often on issues of accessibility rather than abstractions makes them difficult to debate. De-emphasizing evidence forces opponents onto unfamiliar ground. Debaters take for granted how much time slinging cards fill up and the difficulty of having to be articulate for 6 to 9 minutes. Well coached and prepared. Another pair of debaters in a long line of Liberty debaters that didn’t debate in high school who were a ballot away from winning a national tournament. You love to see it.
9. Northwestern JW
Former labbie Gabe and former corn shucker Joey have come a long way. I have not seen them debate for literal months. I like how NU is all “ugh single payer is so boring, we have to read ACA and public option” and this year it’s all “ugh, NFU is so boring we have to like fiat whatever we want about the nuclear arsenal.” But as far as I am aware no one successfully called them on it so to the victor goes the spoils. Neg highlight is obviously linking teams to dedev and then winning. It’s like those lessons you learn on the mean streets of the Iowa debate circuit don’t become outdated. Scrappy beginnings to a team that won a major tournament. Great stuff.
10. Oklahoma JS
Volatile team, but clearly capable of beating anyone. I always have respect for a team this proficient in going for psychoanalysis (debate from Dartmouth is a pretty good example of this). They dabble in going for topicality. Love keeping people honest. I like what they bring to debates about settler colonialism on the Aff and Neg. Always trying to find some new angles. I think in general there has been less of an arms race over settler colonialism and answering it as other K subjects and OU is certainly reaping the rewards being so well versed.
11. Oklahoma PW
They have not crossed my path very often this year. They don’t have a wiki to surf L. They seem to be one of the strongest teams in terms of K vs K debates. Kind of team that feels underrated and could win CEDA and make it to the NDT semi’s or better.
12. Rutgers AH
If I am correct this team is a sophomore and frosh. And the frosh did LD in high school. And they won a major tournament this year. Woah. That’s incredible. Another team that hasn’t crossed my path as much as I would like. I am sure to get briefed before post season tournaments. Against BT at Northwestern they said “The affirmative must advocate for a restriction that is tied to and dependent on the bodies and voices of the speakers. Grounded activism makes performance political” which I find to be a very challenging and rewarding type of argument to engage with. I always like it when D7 debate is strong and thriving.
13. UNLV HS
Kudos to whoever pushed the sanctions Aff idea. Very unique angle to attack the topic. I wonder how many people can say they landed on a very novel and strategic approach to a given topic. In the octas of Northwestern they read the courts, esr, treaties and concon CP’s! It’s that commitment to negative fiat I find endearing. They reached new heights last year as a squad and are sustaining it this year. That shows their squad and process is on the right track and bigger than a given debater. That’s awesome.
14. UC Berkeley FG
Very good 1AC’s. New and precise cards. Carefully crafted. They have an affinity for laundry list type cards that I am not sure about, but it is working for them. Conflict of interest Aff was fun and creative. Like the hardline approaches they take in K debates. Somebody has to be that team. Just another form of keeping folks honest.
15. UC Berkeley NR
Their Neg wiki is really cool. They are both sophomores I believe. Proven to be a very a tough out already. Sky is the limit. Some very impressive wins on the resume.
16. UGA AR
To this day the biggest mystery of the topic is UGA AR breaking a nondel Aff in the octas of Gonzaga. Nobody from UGA has told me why that happened. They read single payer for an entire year. They read NSA’s for an entire year minus one debate??? But why???? I love how on the one hand even they had to concede politics was bad and start going for other stuff. On the other I like how there is not a number of 2AC arguments that can deter them from going for court capital (see Dartmouth RR for proof). Being flashy is fun, but being consistent and just beating people on stuff they know is coming demonstrates some real mastery of the craft. I taught Advait how to flow and now he is part of one of the best teams in the country. Cool.
17. UGA RS
Ah, a real UGA team who just reads the same Aff every round. Thank you! The NSA’s + Sabotage Aff combo has proven remarkably durable. A good amount has been thrown at this NSA’s Aff and it is still standing. Just two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I think people are still underrating them. They are SO good. They are my pick for some kind of epic 7 judge throwdown in the quarters of the NDT that takes like 4 hours. Will it be on the NSA Aff?? Time will tell!
18. Kansas HM
South Korean auto tariffs. Was that when it became clear this topic was a free for all? Kansas HM knows what’s up on the Neg. Assurance DA? Good. Saudi Oil DA? Good on every topic. I just love debaters from Kansas. I love them in lab, my team and at tournaments. They make this unsavory business so wholesome.
19. Kentucky BT
They are fine. Next.
20. Louisville BY
I believe this is a sophomore/frosh pairing once again. Could be wrong on that. Wish I knew more about this team. I only saw their GSU doubles debate many moons ago. Going to have to do my homework going into the NDT. Results speak for themselves. Young duo who focus the debate on the core issues they want to engage in who are going to make a lot of noise this year and the ones to follow.
21. Michigan GW
They read a lot of Affs, which I enjoy. They have respect for the Adv CP which I myself respect. I like watching them in clash debates. That is high praise because clash debates are not necessarily must see TV, but I like Michigan’s approach and execution. Michigan GW also some of the nicest people you could meet. They seem to be good shepherds of the Michigan program. Big team, seem to have fun and enjoy each other. They drew me into a flame war that I really don’t think would have happened if people knew they were joking, but w/e. All is forgiven.
22. Wake EF
I have never seen Wake EF debate on the Neg so my comments are Aff-centric. First, they do ins and outs. Old school tactic. It’s awesome. Second, their approach to answering framework is very thorough. Some teams do really well with having 2-4 big conceptual things clash with framework. Wake EF has that sort of thing going on built into the 1AC, but they also don’t cede any ground. They make arguments from all the angles. They engage in more of a theory debate paired with a more substantive turn debate. Very interesting and hard to counter. I am still too dumb to really get what was going on with the story Aff after seeing it in action like three times. I like how there is a Bricker card in every 2AC though, that’s funny.
23. Honorable Mention--Iowa GL
Not eligible to apply, but a very strong contender for a first round if they could. Two hard workers with a love of the game who get deep inito the lit. Nothing but respect. Sorry for the circumstances that prevent your NDT participation.
Thank you to all the teams for caring as much as you do and trying as hard as you do to force your opponents and arguments to new heights. Regardless of what happens on Monday, all the teams are immensely talented and the NDT is sure to be a bloodbath as usual.
1. Harvard RS reads the best Aff on the topic now
Sorry Georgia, move over. Harvard RS has changed the game. Look at these tags:
“Overhunting of large mammals leave small mammal populations unchecked – that means rat waves.”
“Overhunting ruptures large dung beetles – cascading impact.”
“Dung beetles are key to global agriculture”
This 1AC was awesome.
This plan tho:
The United States federal government should substantially increase restrictions on executive discretion in the implementation of sanctions pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 1978.
I get that the healthcare topic wasn't for everyone, but the death drivey acceleration of Affs on this topic is too much. This isn't really unique to Harvard, everyone is doing it. More on that below.
2. Going too far
This same Harvard team said zoonotic disease through illegal hunting and bushmeat would cause extinction. The Neg read the disease security K. 2AC #1 is "not our disease spread". NOT OUR DISEASE SPREAD. Note that my criticism is not a question of substance (which Harvard was definitively wrong about), but rather a question of form. Not my Baudrillard is all well and good, but this is too much.
3. Concon is a core generic now
Adapt accordingly! Multiple top 10 teams read it in the 1NC! The 2NR in the semi's included it! The school prayer rider has shown up in several 2AC's as an industry standard response to said convention (#thanksTruf).
If only I could say this was one of the ten dumbest developments on this topic but alas.
4. The Rider DA is back
Wow. Ok. A couple things (we are talking about the Cal DA in case you are not in the loop).
First, we first struck aliens in the semi's of Wake and Wimsatt was like "wtf, this is so dumb and makes a mockery of the activity, I would never vote on this." But oh, ok, the rider DA is awesome. Sure.
Second, the 1NC includes a letter to the editor as the rider bad card. Wtf! Also it's from a shitty newspaper (93rd biggest in the US). The only real question is what Cal debater planted the card and why did they choose such a stupid paper (we have to figure out if any of them have connections to Albany).
This just kind of knocked me on my ass. The Rider DA always does when it shows its ugly face.
5. Reading an Aff in every area
I don't think anyone has done all 5 yet. I believe Emory GS has 4 (everything but surveillance). I think Michigan GW has 3 (nukes, deference and treaties). I am not remembering anyone instantly that has 3 or more. We only have two :(
6. Fake Politics DA's are stupid.
I am talking about these DA's that are about one member of Congress. One, they don't work with ESR because they are about interacting with Trump and the plan making things go south. Perm means Trump backlash goes away seems pretty established at this point. Two, no one reads evidence that these people would vote for the plan (obviously). Three, if they have an agenda and are strategic it compounds the issue with #2. Four, these still aren't better than the nothing burger agenda DA for the same reasons that politics is broken and no one can interact with Trump because he is a petulant weirdo. Just go for heg bad or something or link people to dedev like NU and high school juniors everywhere do, fuck.
7. Day 1 NU Meals
They were very good. Across the board awesome. Loved it.
8. Answer CX Questions
This issue comes up in K debates. Debater 1 asks "what does X mean?" Debater 2 generally does one of the following: 1. We don't take a stance. 2. Why is that relevant. 3. For the purpose of our argument then insert wishful claim.
What Debater 2 seldom does is just say what something means. There is an easy way to resolve this the next time it comes up in your debate. Pause for a moment. Type into your browser what word they are talking about. Click enter. Read the results.
It's really that simple.
9. This topic is the wild, wild west
Ugh. What have we done? Why is the trade area everything with the economy and sanctions? Why are single treaty Affs ok? Why do deference Affs get to be way smaller than Chevron which is probably not nearly all deference? Why did we let sanctions and operational Affs be a thing? What happens when people remember surveillance is in the topic and topicality does not matter?
Pity for all the 2N's. Have fun with concon. Hope you win the coin flip.
10. First round voting.
I have thoughts, but I am not sure they are fit for public consumption. I don't want to hurt any feelings or ruffle any feathers. If you would be interested in a blog post about my make-believe ballot and logic, let me know.
I didn't judge or watch any of the debates that took place. I have less to muse about than usual. RR's are funny because there is so much of the tournament you don't have to directly care about on that weekend given the pairings. But here is the story from my point of view.
New Affs went 4-2. Pretty good, but not a blowout. Three treaties, two trade and a deference. If you were sitting on an INF Aff the cat is out of the bag. One T 2NR went Aff. Dartmouth read what one would consider a big treaty Aff. We read "arms control treaties." Emory read just INF. The trade and deference Affs were small. Prep accordingly! With these small ass Affs + the logic of operational changes + the logic behind the sanctions good Affs it is going to be the wild wild west the rest of the semester.
Politics DA's suck. No 2NR was an agenda DA. 2020 lost. Court politics went 1-1. Yuck. I am curious to see how Neg teams will innovate given the above trend and how unreliable politics is.
Old Affs are still pretty good going 3-1 on the weekend.
Oklahoma had a 1NC that had a Calum, Lundberg and Ben Meiches card in it. That was pretty funny.
It snowed like a foot It sucked. Hopefully NU avoids such a fate.
Dartmouth hosts a good event, very enjoyable.
1. Regional Debate is Fun for Rivalries
One of the many virtues of regional debate is that the fields are smaller. That means the odds of debating a team of similar caliber to you in the prelims and elims greatly increases. National tournaments are not a reliable way to get head to heads against any particular team. It helps that regional tournaments are usually inter-district affairs so you have that rivalry angle as well. I think debates are a bit more fun when the teams have some familiarity and try to throw team specific curveballs at one another.
2. Pre Round Prep
Few things here. One, the prep for every debate should be the same. Two, there should not be an hour of prep before round 1 and 5. Push back start times and let people sleep. Three, regional tournaments should do thirty minutes of prep before a debate.
3. How Many Rounds Should Regional Tournaments Be?
One school of thought when looking at tournaments is a "bang for your buck" school. They take how much a tournament costs, divide it by how many rounds they get and the smaller the number the better.
That's not an unreasonable way of going about things, but there are other virtues that could be maximized. One is making debate feel like less of slog. In that spirit I propose regionals be 6 rounds and break to octas unless they exceed 44 teams. This could let you do a pretty chill 3-3-4 schedule which is pretty nice.
The reason 3-3-4 is because it creates chill days for everyone and a normal length day just for those two teams who make it to finals. Schedules should always be slanted this way where benefits are spread to everyone in the prelims and elim days are longer for the teams that make the finals. It's fine, one of them will get a trophy at the end.
Alternatively, you can do a 6 round schedule that maximizes people's ability to not miss class. Tournaments that start on Saturday avoid Friday classes (since we are talking regional tournament and the participants will mostly be driving). Then you could do 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 where most elims are over on Sunday (if you only break to octas) and people can go home if needed.
I am just saying, I went to MBA and they did 3-3-4 and it was pretty deece.
4. Open Source, Let's Be Real
First, we all knew who got to what first. MSU read Scarry 14 at GSU. Northwestern said this NDAA solvency deficit thing first even including the weird do you read or not read the bill part of the block. So like we know where shit comes from.
Second, people take other people's shit. That's fine. That's how it is supposed to go. If we collectively decide that the best answer to ESR is NFU operational changes + NDAA solvency deficit + NOT reading the text of the bill out loud so be it.
HOWEVER, can we PLEASE stop fronting with the citations. I see two ways out of this dilemma. One, we can all format cards the same so things more seamlessly go in each other's files and it doesn't create eye sores. Or two, just copy and paste the card and own up to you didn't get it first.
I would also accept having to say thank you after you read the tag of a card you copy and pasted. That would be pretty funny too.
5. Spicing Up Debate
Another fun part of regional debate is it is less of a death march and people float ideas a lot more. One topic of conversation was making debate more fun by making one change to it.
Example that is pretty realistic---elim debates settled by challenges. Emporia State still does this I think. I haven't heard much first hand feedback but the idea sounds awesome.
You get all 32 seeds in a room and the top seed gets to call out who they want to debate. Then you do that a bunch. And just keep doing that every elim.
My idea---there is a quota on how often you can read an argument. So you can read ESR but only in two thirds of your NEG debates or w/e. It would be great
a. variety is the spice of life
b. if you take someone's trade Aff and your opponents take someone's trade Neg due to open source that is fine, but like you have to read other shit eventually. If open source arrives at "solutions" to best versions of things then people should be forced to branch out.
c. AT---I am a small school, you suck for proposing an idea that is more work. I don't have a good answer really. There is really no redistribution to make the game equitable for small schools now and this is a symmetrical rule so how bad could it be in practice? idk.
6. Longest CP on Record
MSU read one that was 298 words. That seemed pretty long to me. There were no repetitive phrases either. Word efficiency was trying to be maximized. Not sure what the longest one on record is. Let me know before Buntin goes on some rant about CP's back in his day were like 750 words and had 12 DA's to go with them and something about peaches too.
I didn't participate in Arms Sales vs. Nukes. People made the obvious observation the wording on the nukes topic was broad and presumed that was always a bad thing. My experience with nukes topics is its literature base is so good it's fine if everyone has to research every side of everything. Debaters will be better for it and the lit supports it. Just felt like that should be said out loud.
The objection that college is doing nukes stuff now is harder to answer, but more a personal preference thing than a damning critique. To each their own. Not really here nor there since nukes lost, but I didn't see that strong a case for arms sales in its own right.
Given the experience on education and immigration (and topics in general probably, but the last two years really stand out in my mind) there are going to be some serious knee jerk reactions to a topic like this.
Answers to your burning questions:
1. Should you read framing pages?----NO
2. Will there be NEG arguments?----Yes, defense industrial base, fill in, interoperability, relations, condition CP's. That's a fine base.
Did you know there are a lot of cards about who is in charge of this shit between State, Defense and Commerce? Did you know that will produce ground for both sides? You didn't?? Did you come up with an opinion on a subject you don't know anything about anyway??? You did!? Great!!
3. But like is this good NEG ground?----The last two topics have demonstrated that people don't know reasonable arguments if it bit them on the ass so I can't really say. Look at your 1NC's from the last two years. If you are three T violations, an agent CP and three politics DA kid. . .burn your tub, start over and actually go where the cards take you. The issue hasn't been the topics, it has been you.
4. What about the AFF though?----Will always find a way. They'll read some link uniqueness, everyone will think all DA's are dead and people will go for the K or something.
Once we get past the point where some folks read T violations (always referenced by the author name of the random card, never by the word defined) that tries to get people to be multiple countries at once, the Neg loses that gambit and we settle in for like 3-6 countries that have intrinsic US advantages everything will be fine.
So don't worry folks, focus on still figuring out immigration (the parole CP I think has turned some people's brains into pudding) and just leave your preconceived notions that are informed from the last two topics behind you when you get to this one.
1. Debaters handing judges their computer to type in emails.
Yuck. No thanks. Not really a time saver. Don't know where your computer has been. Most judges have this information in their philosophies now. Just copy and paste it.
2. Pausing the debate for marked cards.
A few things are going on. One, people are reasonable at declaring marks, but don't actually mark anything in the speech. That is bad. Two, other team always says "can we get the marks?" no matter what. Never impacts cross-x, seldom comes up speeches.
I feel like this is a classic debate copycat thing like asking "Is anyone not ready?" Debaters don't care about the marks, but hey I have legitimate grounds to say it so why not?
The remedy is that the prep timer should keep running for the team that marked cards. They should do it in the speech so all they have to do is save and resend instead of this thing where all the marks happen when the clock is not running. Ultimately it is the fault of the team with the marks, but the opponents demanding marks and it never mattering is annoying.
3. Three advantages in the 1AC is optimal
One plus framing is terrible (more on that later). Three stems is harder for the NEG to deal with than two even if two advantages may end up with more terminal impacts from time to time. I don't have a very comprehensive reason for this, but think it is right.
4. Critical Affs with terminal impacts
No good. Policies being ableist is a good enough reason to reject them. You don't need to solve broader ableism or say Islamophobia justifies genocide. These structures are bad. Eliminating a policy that is an example of those bad structures doesn't get rid of the structures. None of these Affs institutes a mechanism that could cause broad structural change. But it is ok because these impacts claims are unnecessary! The policy is bad enough in its own right.
5. Open Source is Good
The MBA tournament does a tournament wide Dropbox that collects and shares all the documents at the tournament. This is a cool feature that is obviously difficult to achieve at larger tournaments with less minions running around.
It is very hard to emphasize enough how different high school debate could be with better wiki practices. A baseline would be having people get closer to having entries for each of their debates. High school falls woefully short of this standard.
The next thing is that people only post 1AC and 1NC's. This combined with people posting only cites leads to very shallow understanding before tournaments and debates. I have never found the pro-cites argument that compelling because you are free to look up people's open source card and googling article titles doesn't reall teach you that much about doing searches. Reading articles and figuring out what words people use does which open source facilitates.
Let's breakdown this cites only thing more and why it is not as good as open source:
a. Forcing other people to look up the original is none of your business, it is their problem if they are depriving themselves the debate training associated with going through the motions.
b. Round reports solve figuring out rounds at a glance. Or you could do open source and cites.
c. People stealing cards is outweighed by other consideratons. Why post cites at all? Transparency is a thing, just a question of degree. Open source improves equity because the schools that benefit disproportionately are the ones with less resources, AND this is actually a mechanism by which people are incentivized to stay on the bleeding edge because arguments depreciate faster so you have to do more work to have an advantage.
But what posting cites does do, especially in high school, is create a transaction cost that prevents people from engaging with evidence at all and being ignorant of the depth of a given a position. The result is people take everything at face value and only focus on the tags of arguments. This is obviously a terrible result.
So people should stop being scared and do open source. It will make debate so much better.
6. Framing pages are still bad
Over the last two years many high school squads have decided to read 1AC's that contain framing pages. I do not think I have seen one of these be the most strategic way to deploy a given Aff over that time. Let's go through it.
One claim forwarded on these pages is util bad. This is always quickly abandoned when forwarded. I wouldn't say this argument is super popular, but everytime it comes up it is jettisoned very fast.
A second kind of claim is about probability. This generally is supported by evidence relating to cognitive biases and decision making. One main issue with this style of argument is that while DA's might link more the Aff probably links sufficiently. Imperfect information, an uncertain future and policymaking always make for a problematiccombination. These cards are usually broad enough to indict the fallibility of decision making in general, not just "DA logic."
A second issue is that these considerations usually beg the question of the DA proper. The link to the DA might be pretty intrinsic, or r the subsequent debating might make the DA risk high. In either case this bias argument is too conditional to put in a 1AC.
The third issue is it tradesoff with a better class of argument. The big idea behind a claim like this revolves around threat exaggeration. But the main issue with threat construction and immigration policy is not the conjunctive fallacy. It is other stuff. But no on reads cards about the media, or people profiting off alarmism or ideology. They just read this damn conjunctive fallacy stuff and it always sucks.
A third claim is no war or something. This has always been a not great argument, but I can't believe people claim this after 2016. Don't know if you are aware but Trump is president and has released like a million policy documents about why great power competition with Russia and China is a big deal. Also, surprisingly, the NEG can read not war impacts as a DA impact. Also when your Aff impacts at best tens of thousands of people the Neg doesn't have to necessarily get to a war that involves Russia, China and the US nuking each other to outweigh. 175k people died in Iraq since 2003.
Affs should be doing two things mainly:
1. Describe a logic of policy making that informs/shapes/led to the policy you are getting rid of and say we need new frames of understanding. Neolib, security, racism. . .whatever. Say justificatons matter. Say this logic leads to threat exaggeration in x, y, z, way. That means the DA is suspect for hopefully more empirical reasons + CP's are worse because their justifications are all wrong ( but not omg you have a net benefit ergo you link to our nonexistent 1AC K).
Example---lots of law reviews write this kind of stuff with respect to equal protection cases---can’t justify originally racist policies by retroactively making up justifications. This can sort of be deployed as an AFF intrinsicness argument. For instance if an AFF gets rid of a racist inadmissibility standard, and the NEG says doing that would increase the population, this type of claim could support a re-raise that says, yes you are right, but if you are a policymaker trying to limit the population, inadmissibility standards are a very silly way to do that when you can set numerical caps, so population control cannot be an argument for retaining this particular restriction.
2. Establish some sort of framework that reduces the salience of politics and backlash arguments. This is obviously the most useful if you picked your Aff to minimize DA ground in the first place.
Doing these two things would make the entire 1AC relevant across many pieces of paper and it would make the Neg reckon with 8 minutes of arguments instead of 3.
7. MBA=Best Trophies in the Game
A lot of the tournaments I have been too have really strong trophies. I like St. Marks and the Texas plaques. I like the Glenbrooks and their big classy trophies (but this may just start at semifinals, I can't remember). But the bells are just too good. They look great and they make noise. They are fun and classy. They draw eyes on a trophy shelf/case better than others. The cannons for octafinals are also really strong. Tournaments don't usually hook up that level of elim.
No long introduction for this one. Saying things candidly and in public still makes me laugh and boy oh boy is this post going to be candid.
1. Spectrum of Nukes AFFs
A handful of mechanisms exist to restrict first use authority. They are not all the same. They are not all NFU. You can’t read NFU good cards if your plan is not NFU. Thank you for coming to this Ted talk that should be appropriate for 4th graders, not necessary for college people.
2. Restrictions now cards are bad
That Donnelley card sucks, says nothing. It does not implicate war powers. Broader inter-branch conflict arguments are obviously heading into rocky waters with a Democratic House. But saying “things are happening now/checks on Trump” doesn’t necessarily implicate the office of the President or foreign policy in a super negative way like NEG cards describe.
AFFs should have real cards about this or stop wasting their time.
3. Day 1 schedule sucked.
Too much downtime. What did you actually do during round 2 prep that went on for what felt like 2 hours? Never been a lunch before 11AM person but reasonable people can disagree. Do enjoy 40-45 mins pre-round. It takes too much time to move and get everyone settled before the real stuff begins. Day 2 schedule seemed more reasonable (minus the part about gathering outside in 30 degree weather at 10PM).
4. 2:15 decision time always
It is REALLY good. I like the extra hour it gives. I like how it could force debaters to manage their time more carefully with post round docs and silly breaks. I like knowing things faster. I think a lot of judges in the status quo get done somewhere between 2:15 and 2:30. Not a lot are deciding in the 2:00 to 2:15 range. So feeling like you go to decision time with 2:15 is weird when you never decide under 2:30, I get that. But I don’t think that necessarily means you are being rushed.
If debaters tighten up and judges do a little more focusing in the round and break the habit of endlessly going back and forth when the decision arrow has been pointing to one team since 5 minutes after the 2AR ended, I think debate will be better for it.
I think this was pretty successful for the first go. Thank you to everyone who participated and was diligent about adding this to their routine. Hopefully, debaters had to type fewer emails and fewer people came up to them pre-round. Hopefully, coaches had to do less walking around pre-round to get on threads. Hopefully, squads had access to some information they didn’t normally have.
If you want to join all you have to do is make sure your wiki is up-to-date then email me.
Folks who are already in, please ensure your wiki is up to date! That resource should not suffer.
I will say one thing that was suboptimal. Participating teams always sent out stuff when they were AFF, but it was more dicey when they were NEG. NEG teams should feel fine asking 1A’s to put whomever on the email chain. Do it more! Be bold! You already have to give them your email! I want all the docs not just most of the docs.
News flash to teams that don’t really use the wiki, asked if this was the PRL, said this was surveillance, or said they only like sending cards to people in the debate… if someone wants to beat you, they are going to get your docs. You can create transaction costs which is annoying, but ultimately that strategy will not stop people from getting your docs.
The only thing that strategy accomplishes is reducing your access to the same amount of information as people in debatedocs. I get a lot of threads. I know a lot about people’s arguments. I did not go seeking out a single thread that was not in debatedocs. That could be you too for the low, low cost of not being a coward and being more transparent with your arguments.
6. Say more not less
When you are AFF and someone is breaking a new-ish argument against you and your answers are not that hot, do you think you should say more or say less on those pages? Most people say less when the obvious answer is to say more. Spam whatever you gotta do. Different impact defense args, impact uq, add-ons that don’t really have to do with anything but crowd the page, way more analytics, etc.
7. Path dependency is a problem
Somewhat related, when you are NEG and read a new argument you do not have to go for it. If you put something in the 1NC you should be confident going for it. You should be even more confident if the 2AC makes 4 answers or fewer. Does that lead to weird blocks where you are talking about striking aliens and fusion power or consulting NATO and war powers? Yes, it does. Is it easier to win with that block if the AFF takes the advice above and spams all over your new thing and functionally drops positions? Yes.
8. Ayush, CP’s and New AFFs
Let’s fucking talk about this. Harvard CM has had a new AFF read on them 4 times. Kentucky Rule of 2 AFF, Cal conflict of interest AFF, Indiana psychological evaluation AFF and Kansas South Korea tariffs AFF.
The last one being a trade AFF where they just go for the cap K every time (despite having a team that reads a trade AFF, weird.), in the other 3 1NC’s there was a total of 11 CP’s (4, 2, 5). How many of these CP’s made it into the block? TEN OF THEM. He kicked one CP in the block against Indiana and that was it. How many cards were there total for these CP’s? I think 4 or something.
Harvard is 4-0 against new AFFs this year by my count. Not my Plutonic ideal of beating a new AFF, but pretty funny nonetheless.
9. Who gets to go to the Dartmouth RR?
I think there are three obvious includes: Kentucky BT, Harvard CM and Georgia AR. I think the most satisfying way of picking RR participants is to generate the most competitive field possible. That means you don’t want a team that is going to go 1-5 or 0-6. They have to demonstrate some ability to beat teams that are going to be included.
Elim depth is a coward’s metric. Winning elims is harder than winning prelims. Convincing more people you are right is harder than convincing one person. However, the caliber of the competition still matters more. Particularly for deciding a RR field. I don’t think this idea is too far out of the mainstream because if you look to recent first round voting over the last 3 to 4 topics it seems head to head wins is a more important metric than “deep runs” at tournaments.
That leads to another tier of team: Oklahoma JS, Berkeley FG and Emory GS. These teams have wins against the three listed above.
Who is the last team (assuming Dartmouth does not invite themselves?). I see four contenders (because OU PW and UGA RS can’t be considered): Iowa GL, NU JW, UNLV HS, Wake EW. Caring less about elimination depth reveals UNLV and Wake’s head to head competition to be a bit worse than Iowa and NU’s.
Northwestern has beaten Wake, OU JS, Emory GS, UNLV HS and Berkeley this year. Iowa GL has beaten NU (twice), UGA RS, UNLV (twice), OU PW and Wake.
So that is a pretty tough call. Iowa with two head to head wins. Northwestern punching above their weight better with wins against teams I think are clear includes. Tough choice! Glad I do not have to make it.
A note for people who might get upset about whatever they get upset about. One, people think this stuff already, I am just saying it out loud. What are the best metrics to determine RR fields? Not an unreasonable public discussion. Two, all these teams are good. Trying to determine the precise top 7 is very tricky. Obviously all the teams I mentioned above are top 10 caliber teams that would have a reasonable shot at winning a given debate against the other ones mentioned. There are no slights here. Finally, the sample size is always smaller than folks want it to be. Makes the decisions tough.
10. The First Semester AFF Power Rankings
I have it at 39ish AFFs with plans read in the 1st semester. Things I thought about while looking over the whole board:
Does the best AFF in a non-nukes area compare to the worst nukes AFF? I do believe some trade AFFs clear that bar.
Should deference AFFs just be better than trade AFFs because it is harder to write a deference NEG? I think so but some deference AFFs are just not there card wise.
The market has to count for something. How many people read it? Has it survived sophisticated strategies? Does it win a lot?
Does it pass the ESR test?
Tier 1--Top Shelf Prime AFFs
I think these are the best AFFs. NSA’s had a very good semester, good job Georgia. Losing an impact turn debate at Wake vs Harvard isn’t too surprising. With an AFF like that which can survive the T challenge the most likely thing to lose to is something you grant the link to. Should that really even happen because of infinite prep? No, but it does.
Iran is great fun although I don’t know if UNLV appreciates what it has. It’s so good, cut more cards about it. Don’t lose to ESR and politics. That makes us both look bad.
NFU, good AFF 8 years ago. Still good AFF. Lots of advantages, lots of link turns, good CP answers. Good clean fun.
Tier 2--Ham Sandwiches of AFFs
Rule of 2
North Korea and China are adv’s not AFFs. NFU for K reasons is just worse than NFU because you link to stuff, you restrain what advantages you can read and it is not worth the K args you can make in the 2AC.
Operational NFU is an extra topical over correction to a not that threatening set of negative arguments. ICBM bad lit is ok, but not hot enough to deviate.
Is there another trade AFF better than a nukes AFF?
I think, maybe. GMU’s business about national security exceptions and the WTO is probably the best version of the general Congress trade AFF I have seen.
Authorize first use in declaration of wars and court NFU are tough sells. I don’t think the existing versions are very strong. Both are too generally about nukes and NFU and not tailored enough from top to bottom.
Are they worse than trade or deference AFFs? I don’t think so, but it is a closer call.
One nukes AFF that is worse than trade is psychological evaluation. I am not trading T and the ableism K to read the white supremacists storm the nuke silos advantage. NO THANKS.
Trade AFF’s ranked
Iran then a big gap. Then GMU national security business emerges from a scrum of Congress tariff AFFs. Then everyone else’s Congress tariff AFF stuff. Then Cal’s TPA business. Then OFAC. Then sanction NK. Then sanction SCS. Then that court non-del thing UGA read. Then if another trade AFF exists no thank you.
You have to win a debate or get launched into the sun: do you read trade or deference
Phew, this is a tough question (obviously bracketing Iran sanctions). There are many issues with the way deference has been written to date.
One, the impacts are too easy to CP out of with ESR and Congress. Like that FAA thing about flight sharing? Not so much with the court key warrants.
Two, deference teams think their shit is magic. Like ok deference teams I get it. You’re edgy. You’re nerds. You love law reviews. You think you are so clever. But you can’t just come up with a legal abstraction then cut a bunch of cards that sounds like the same general concept and call it an AFF. You are a deference AFF, you aren’t God. You can’t solve with “legal standards” or “regulatory certainty” and just plug and chug whatever you want.
Three, answers to court DA’s suck which is weird because court DA’s suck (unless they are about national security/foreign affairs).
So NO I would not risk getting shot into the sun with deference AFFs to date. Have fun melting suckers.
I guess this Emory Curtis-Wright thing is the best one? Maybe?
Somebody had to do it (no, they actually didn’t, but debate is predictable this way). At the end of the day the marketplace of ideas has to tell you something about surveillance and treaty AFFs. They don’t punch above their weight, they are not read very often, they don’t win a lot. Maybe sometime, but not in the first semester.
I am Lincoln, head coach at UK and coach with Montgomery Bell Academy. This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.