The following was written by Mikaela Malsin, topic committee member:
As a Topic Committee member, I wanted to discuss what I understand to be some concerns and frustrations raised over the topic process and over this year's slate of resolutions. I strongly prefer not to use Facebook (deactivated my account in 2014, created a new one in order to run various Georgetown pages, but oppose it as a social/dialogic platform and am trying to stay off). For the record, I am speaking only own my own behalf.
1. The Topic Process. I think it is fundamentally flawed from start to finish. This is my second year on the committee, and it's been really enlightening; in prior years I would often grumble along the lines of "omg, why does the committee ruin the topic" (sincerest apologies to all prior topic committees from years I said or thought that), and now I think I have at least some insight into the problems. I don't yet have solutions, but I know there's a lot of interest in generating them and I hope to see/help produce reform proposals soon.
Problem: Most of the topic process, including the role/function of the committee, is poorly defined. I’ll include the full text of the “Topic Selection” section of the CEDA Constitution at the end of this post. If you want to contribute to the topic process (anything from writing a paper to serving on the committee) there’s not much guidance on how to do that, and definitely no guidance regarding what is expected of you or how you should go about making decisions.
One example of the problems created by limited guidance: The topic paper process lacks clear guidelines and certainly lacks consensus re: what a topic paper should look like, what should appear on the ballot, and whether the committee should or should not play a 'gatekeeping' role in that. There were 10 controversy papers on the ballot this year. Reading all 10 and making informed decisions about them is incredibly time/energy intensive, and that's just the work to be done to rank your personal preferences. Is that really a burden we want on everyone? Or are we okay if people vote without reading all the papers closely?
Problem: Resolutions created by committee, completed in a compressed timeframe, based on the work of others. I really think this is the largest issue, though also an incredibly difficult one to reform. I worked on last year's topic paper, attended the topic committee meeting as a voting member, and was still unhappy with the resolutions we produced.
We take the collective work of one group of people, in the form of a paper written to persuade the community with a necessarily limited set of evidence to support it, and try to turn that into an unspecified (minimum of 3, but what is a 'good' number? Would 3 be enough? How many is too many?) number of resolutions to present to the community to vote on. It is a messy and unwieldy process.
We want the community to get resolutions that reflect the controversy area that was selected by community ranked vote. That requires repurposing/expanding upon the work from the paper, and it also requires either mind-reading or ongoing, binding consultation with constituents from the community — which may be desired, but currently lacks a good mechanism/process and also becomes incredibly difficult once the topic meeting starts (more on this further down). As an example from a previous year, the Healthcare Coverage topic paper recommended "expand benefits" and "access" as key terms for inclusion in the resolution. These were the two [u]primary[/u] recommendations for resolutional wording; neither of those terms appeared on more than one resolution on the ballot as a result of the research done at the meeting. If people "thought they were voting for" a topic focused on healthcare benefits and access, they would be disappointed, but the truth is that it's not possible to know exactly what the community (as represented by their school's vote) "wants" in voting for a particular paper.
We also want every term that appears in the resolutions to be well-vetted and to produce a year's worth of good debates. We divide up research assignments and then try to make assessments based on what we and others have done. It's hard to make good decisions that way. We focus on a few small pieces at a time and then try to put those pieces together. People get invested in their individual projects/assignments, because they've put in work on them. People get distracted by a work e-mail, miss a few minutes of discussion, and get lost. People try to convey concerns or opinions from constituents and are imperfect messengers, or haven't been given evidence to support the arguments being passed along.
This work is primarily done in 3 days. There's a general expectation that the resolutions will be complete by the end of the weekend of the TC meeting. That's not actually a CEDA requirement, but it does make sense in that people go home, summer institutes/classes begin, etc., and committee membership is an unpaid position — the understanding is that the topic committee's work should be complete by the end of those three grueling days. So people put in some preliminary research, but the *vast majority* of the work is done during the weekend of the meeting.
This means two primary things: 1) It's not reflective of the best work that could be done, since it's such a compressed timeframe. Adrienne Brovero consistently points out that we should be putting in more effort between controversy vote and meeting time, and she's absolutely right, because three days is just not much time. 2) Input and thus influence comes from people who can and do follow along, make contributions and put in work. That is quite a bit of effort, and most people don't — even if they wanted to, the livestream might or might not be working, it's hard to follow the flow of the conversation, etc. To attend the meeting in person is expensive and exhausting. All of this happens against the backdrop of the end of the academic year, national high-school championship tournaments, the one chance most debate people have to travel or take any kind of break or visit family, etc.
Also, by the time we vote on the slate of resolutions, we are exhausted and ready to snap. Feedback on those resolutions is limited to those paying attention/following along and motivated to get in their input before Sunday afternoon.
So most people discover the 'results' of the meeting at the very end and are perplexed (again, I was always one of these people too). I think a better version of this work would involve more thorough group research/vetting at every step with community input, but it would honestly take a month.
Problem: Lack of representation. I think this is also directly related to the above. The ways in which community members communicate with TC members is scattered and ad-hoc. There’s no particular process or mechanism for soliciting feedback. There’s no real clarity on what it means to be a community representative, or how best to represent one’s constituency (and for everyone besides the grad and undergrad reps, the nature of that constituency is frankly also ambiguous). Also, most of that input/feedback comes as the meeting is ongoing, which compounds every issue with the meeting itself. If you are hearing from people and trying to communicate particular concerns, it trades off with focus on the discussion at hand; if you're dedicated to contributing to the discussion and work at hand, it's hard to be a good "representative."
If there is something people feel strongly should be included in a resolution (or all resolutions), the way to do it is to present research to the committee and make a case for it. However, it’s not necessarily clear from the outside or before the fact what issues the committee will be considering, even to the committee itself. Also, if people don’t want something included (e.g. National Space Policy) that is a harder case to make, simply by virtue of the difficulty of proving “inclusion will be bad for debate.” As always, it is harder to go neg.
2. This year's topic process/resolutions. I've heard a few particular concerns and will try to address them briefly.
A. Fidelity to the topic paper. As discussed above, I think there are fundamental problems with the process that make fidelity to the topic paper a difficult principle both to operationalize and to do perfectly. I think the resolutions produced are mostly reflective of the topic paper. They are not identical to the 5 resolutions suggested, but that's why there is a three-day meeting scheduled every year in the first place. If people would rather vote for precise/particular resolutions along with the controversy area, that is a reform that could be proposed. I'll also address what I understand to be the most controversial divergences ('national space policy,' India) below.
B. Critical teams see the resolutions as unacceptable. This one surprises me because I thought the topic area itself would tend to require, at a minimum, the kind of interaction with foreign nations that necessitates governmental action (the topic paper itself discusses the mechanism in exactly those terms). I am unclear on what might satisfy these concerns, and would have welcomed input along those lines, particularly going into the meeting.
C. 'National space policy'. This was actually some of the earliest and most comprehensive research done post-topic paper — shoutout to Patrick Waldinger working much harder than the rest of us. As a group we researched iterations of "international space cooperation" as a primary mechanism, and generally agreed that it does not meet most standards as a limiting phrase, particularly if you don't want the aff to use, e.g., private companies only (and privatization is listed as primary neg ground in the topic paper). There was disagreement and debate over 'national space policy' vs. 'space policy,' and 'national space policy' was believed to be more specific in ways that would be useful for neg ground.
D. India. I'll take the heat for this one, and I'll die on this hill. The topic paper lists India in all the suggested resolutions, but only has specific sections on China and Russia. On Day One, people researched various countries. The research produced on India demonstrated a fairly extensive degree of cooperation currently occurring between the U.S. and India, which obviously complicates neg ground. The neg cards produced did not promise much. From talking to people who work on space policy in D.C., my understanding is that *the* controversy around international cooperation in space revolves around China and Russia. This makes some sense given the very different nature of the relationship. My reasons for opposing India's inclusion in the resolution are very similar to the reasons most people didn't think we should include, e.g., Japan or the EU. If India was flagged as being the reason people voted for the paper, or if there was evidence presented (at any point in the process, by anyone) to demonstrate a viable controversy area with *unique* neg ground, I would have felt differently.
TL;DR I think if you are dissatisfied with this year's resolutions, you probably have an issue with the larger topic process, and so do I. I'm interested in identifying the best ways to fix it.
IV. TOPIC SELECTION
Section 1: The CEDA Topic Selection Committee will be responsible for choosing problem areas and writing debate topics. The CEDA Topic Selection Committee will consist of nine members: Two of the following (President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President) three at- large members, one undergraduate student representative, one graduate student representative, one representative appointed by the National Debate Tournament, and one representative appointed by the American Debate Association. Open nominations for the at-large members will be solicited at the Fall business meeting. The term of office of the three at-large representatives will be three years, and to provide for overlap one will be elected each year.
Section 2: By May 1 the committee will report to the Executive Secretary no fewer than three problem areas to be voted upon by the general membership. In early July the committee will report to the Executive Secretary no fewer than three resolutions corresponding to the winning topic area.
Section 3: The Executive Secretary will distribute a formal topic selection ballot to all CEDA members in early July. The designated deadline must be no more than five days before the topic announcement date.
Section 4: Topics will be selected through a proportional voting system. Voters will be required to rank as many choices as they wish, consecutively, with one being the first rank. All first place votes will be counted. If one choice receives a majority, it wins. If not, the choice with the LEAST first place votes will be thrown out, and ballots that had the discarded choice as first will be counted using their second place votes. This process will be repeated until one choice attains a majority. If two or more of the choices to be eliminated have equal numbers of first place votes, they will be eliminated together, with second place votes for both added to the respective first place totals on the same round. If a choice is eliminated and its second choice is already eliminated, that ballot's third choice will count as a first choice, and so forth. In the event of a tie, the resolution with the highest number of initial first-place votes will win. If still tied, the resolution with the highest number of second-place votes will win, and so forth.
Section 5: The CEDA topic will be announced on the third Friday in July. When announcing election results, the Executive Secretary shall report the total number of ballots received and the vote totals for each topic wording.
Section 6: The chair of the Topic Selection Committee may be a committee member selected by a majority vote of the committee. The committee may also elect a non-voting chair from outside their membership.
Section 7: The Executive Secretary shall, upon receipt of a problem area ballot or a topic- wording ballot, provide acknowledgement of its receipt via email to the sender. The notification shall not disclose the particular vote, but is merely intended to inform the sender their ballot has been received and will be tabulated. The Executive Secretary shall inform any member of problems with their ballot at this time (e.g. improperly completed ballot). When announcing results, the Executive Secretary shall report the total number of ballots received and the break down of votes for each problem area.
Section 8: Within each four-year cycle the national topic should reflect a rotation of at least one 21 of each of the following topic categories.
So, ADA nats happened. And the NDT. And the topic is over. And there hasn’t been a take for as far as the eye can see. The necessary corrective is here! Part one and part two are here and here. In no particular order:
1. People doing funny stuff in the body of cards.
I LOVE it. I need everyone to share with me every screenshot they have of this phenomenon immediately. HR’s contribution:
2. Are Warm Up Tournaments Necessary?
We went to ADA, not just for the warm up, but that was definitely a part of the reason. We also have pulled back from winter break tournaments due to budgetary concerns and debater feedback. I think if one looks at this closely, they will find no causality. Kentucky and Georgia debated at ADA and made finals. Wake didn’t and made semi’s. Hegna did and got top speaker. Caitlin didn’t and got 5th.
Kentucky has had a very mixed bag over the last five years of how people felt about skipping tournaments. Probably not one of the biggest influencers on end results. BUT, I will say in warm up’s defense, there is nothing quite like the fear of looking stupid in front of people to get the juices flowing and up the preparation. BT in particular were very happy they went to ADA and got a lot of the kinks out like. . .
3. Dropping DA’s
The ultimate full circle. We read the Japan DA at GSU. That Japan DA ends up in Georgia docs. Georgia reads that Japan DA against us. Trufanov cannot fathom how to answer it.
I ate food during the first part of the ADA finals and when I got back the 2AC cx was winding down and Gabe J says Truf dropped a DA. I said stfu that troll sucks. Then he shows me the 1NC. Then he shows me the 2AC. And then we spend a lot a lot of time talking about whether they can do anything besides going for conditionality.
Reports from the judges were that they noticed pretty much immediately, but then started wondering what elaborate piece of showmanship was going to occur in the 2AC. Did UGA read impact defense against their own DA? Did the 1AC straight turn the Japan DA to the point you need no additional cards? Not so much.
There was a good deal of scrapping that happened after this that created some pause, but what a way to lose your first and only NFU policy debate. R
4. The ADA Tournament is Good
The competition is high quality. The quarters were 5.5 first rounds, Indiana AD and Trinity DK. The case for a warm up is reasonable, although not definitive. I think the slant of the judge pool is exaggerated. Liberty HT in quarters + Kentucky pref experiment proves good teams find a way. But the ADA national list didn’t look that far off from a national tournament.
But here is the real reason the ADA tournament is enjoyable: it is built around a series of programs that take novice and JV debate seriously. That creates a unique culture and tournament experience worth celebrating. It’s not the model we chose at Kentucky, but I grew up in it and respect it. It’s one of the most realistic ways to grow the activity.
Also, everyone who has won that tournament is smart and talented.
5. New Affs Bad
Not talking about the stupid thing in policy debates I don’t even flow. Talking about this Michigan GW vs Wake EF debate at the NDT. Here is the argument from the 1NC:
“Interpretation- Non-black people should disclose their 1AC against black people. 4 reasons to prefer:
a.) Fairness- non-white people are already structurally ahead in the debate community, this means that competitive equity and openness is especially key.
b.) Securitization- the refusal to disclose against black folk is a securitization from nuanced dialogue because there’s have no time to prep. They literally disclosed no parts of the aff after being explicitly asked. This is external exclusion offense.
c.) Resistance Clash- They destroy the quality of method debates because as the aff they get infinite permutations and prereq arguments so side bias already swings affirmative, which means all we have is the ability to create nuanced arguments against the aff.
d.) Rush to Unintelligibility- In method debates there is always a rush to who can say the least in order to avoid clash which uniquely hurts method debates. We have a responsibility to build competitive standards with each other in order to engage methods.
At best this is a reason to vote them down for their pedagogical model, but at worst they shouldn't get theoretical arguments like permutations because they’ve destroyed nuanced clash.”
So white people are structurally ahead + depth is important. The first argument seems to fall apart quickly. Why is the corrective that you have to disclose? Why not that you aren’t allowed to switch affirmatives at all?
The bigger issue, though, is fairness along another axis, which is team size. The advantage small schools get from the asymmetry of breaking new seems to massively outweigh the marginal improvement 25 minutes of thinking would get the Neg. I think invoking fairness in this context would backfire.
So, the depth argument speaks to a larger issue. On the Neg side we have this linear notion that the more time an argument is known the better off the opponents will be. That could impact you like 30 minutes at a time. You didn’t know about an Aff, they told you 30 mins before the debate, your 1NC will be marginally better. Not night and day better, but better.
But there is a linear impact going the other way. That impact is the amount of pretournament preparation you have to do to not get caught by surprise. If your goal is the pop a new Aff on something specific (which mine is, it’s the only thing that can get me to feel something from an argument preparation standpoint) you have to change a lot of the way you prepare. Disclosing doesn’t completely take away from that, since 30 minutes can’t do all that much. You will want something you can quickly tailor. BUT it might create a sense of complacency that is much worse for overall argument development due to spinoffs and unforeseen connections.
The big thing that swings in favor of new Affs is small schools need it + getting the coaches out of the room is good for argument growth. I guess you could solve the 2nd thing with CI—tell us, we won’t tell our coaches, but seems hard to verify.
6. Dude Judges
They need to fucking chill. Judges need to be there for the debaters. That means don’t raise your voice and don’t use the post round to teach tough lessons. Non-male debaters are entitled to the same range of feelings and emotions in a post round that male debaters are afforded.
I have been yelled at in a post round before (only one is sticking out in my mind at the moment, so if you thought you yelled at me you probably didn’t do a very good job). It is not great, but it doesn’t mean any tension is an attack or requires escalation. If you have trouble dealing you may want to remove yourself from the situation instead of hoisting yourself onto others and telling them to deal with it.
Non-male debaters across social media were sharing stories of several judges doing a bad job in the post round. Listen to them and get your shit together.
7. The Most Tested Aff
I can’t believe going into an executive power topic the most scrutinized Aff by fucking miles was CEA’ing NSA’s for NNWS’s.
8. So this Happened
Ouita Michel (formerly Papka) is a UK debate alum. She won the NDT in 1986 (was either the first or the second woman to do so, if anyone has definitive history either way, let me know). She has since become a chef who owns a restaurant empire in Lexington. You may have seen her on the latest season of Top Chef. Here is what she said after the win:
“Congratulations!! We are so proud. This officially means I will cook whatever your heart desires for your close of season dinner at the Hill. Prime beef? no problem, lobster? its in the pot. Just no liver and onions-- ha!”
That is NICE. I can’t begin to fathom what to do with a blank check from a world class chef.
9. Breaking New isn’t for Everyone
I don’t mean people shouldn’t write and break new Affs. I am talking about in situations where there is gap between you as the Aff and the skills of the Neg team. The higher up the ranking you go two things start to happen. One, those teams have debated a bunch of new Affs during the year and in their career. Second, they prepared for the tournament on the assumption people would be breaking new Affs on them. That significantly diminishes the edge you are getting.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be striving to cut an Aff that threads the needle, but I think people too quickly give up on the equity of old. Preparing for new Affs cuts the other way. By the end of NU does everyone have a case neg to everything? No. If you are a team reading a more obscure Aff, are teams going to do targeted research against you? Probably not. The odds that they say something new against your old stuff? Low. The odds they say something a little different you might not be ready for against new? Reasonable.
10. The NDT Bye is Wild
I was going to make the argument the bye is so huge for winning, but looking at all the NDT’s on tabroom that doesn’t appear to be the case. BT, Michigan AP and Emporia SW made the finals with a bye through doubles. Everyone else debated in the doubles.
So, my point is going to be the bye is still really, really nice. The pressure of round 8 (especially if things have gone wrong and you are on the bubble) to relief, to having to ramp up for your first do or die debate that happens very late is an emotional roller coaster. Going from so stoked to career over jars me just thinking about it. Being able to pass on all that was huge. It makes sense why people fill the box and make aggressive moves in the prelims. It is funny how no other tournament really rewards you that like the NDT.
11. Shrine to New Affs Dead in the Box
If people think it would be funny to memorialize all the 1AC’s that died in the box in one place for reference I will do it. I think it is pretty funny. You don’t need to save those top-secret sneaky impacts (hint we were gonna say that war was good). If people will contribute, I will do it.
12. Congress deference Aff
It would have wrecked people. How many off were you reading against deference after you take out amendment, court capital and court clog? That’s what I thought.
13. Courts Neg
It sucks. Minus the amendment CP which is good. Also, the clog. But everything else is bad. Court capital doesn’t work by reading Roberts swings when you haven’t read any cards about why the plan creates urgency to swing in the first place. If you don’t talk about national security or international law the Neg has nothing to say.
14. Sniping New Affs
I want to do this so bad and it seemed like it could have definitely happened on this topic, but I was just too scattered. Like I knew CFIUS was a thing but didn’t do anything to stop it. That would have been my best bet. If I hunkered down and became treaties guy maybe I would have done Paris and OST ahead of time? There wasn’t a moment this year where I wrote an argument in anticipation of a particular Aff, it got read against us and we won. Sad! Maybe next year.
15. Researching the K
Was annoying this year, particularly in the preseason. It quickly became apparent that the stem was nothing like health care or climate (exec power, SOP or constitutionalism didn’t lead to a strong K lit base like the previous three topics). You know what it reminded me of? Legalization! The last legal topic with a weird list! It makes K debates silly. I presume the foreign policy resolution will be reasonable since it will deal with a region of the world and that seems to generate better stuff (Middle East, Latin America, etc.)
16. Amar, Trade Guy, Adam
Love Amar. One year of coaching and his team wins the NDT. Must be nice. Who knew what a mess of an area he got in the preseason. Amar trade cards on the season: 2372 (I counted). Rest of squad: 7. Have fun being a trade lawyer Amar. Your five years on the squad pushed it to new heights.
Weird topic. Unwieldy, but played to our strengths. Good people. Good fun. I have one more post relating to the NDT that is going to drop next week.
There were two pretty funny reactions after I started this blog. The first was that I was trading off with other websites. Everyone knows people, particularly debate people, have limited bandwidth for clicking on things. And concentration of viewpoints in one place was necessary for…something.
The second was related to the content. My first series of posts didn’t really talk about critiques that much. This criticism seemed to misunderstand the blog’s purpose. I wasn’t attempting to cater to a particular audience, but was using talking about debate in more freeing ways as a form of catharsis. Like I stated yesterday, I love debate and really enjoy the people who put so much time into this activity. But I am not usually able to say as much as I would like to folks at debate tournaments face-to-face, and the modes of socializing that happen at debate tournaments aren’t really for me.
To be fair, I was throwing my posts on CPD to free ride and see how many clicks I could get, so that may have generated a sense of justification for those criticisms since CPD (God help us) is the place where deliberations about debate public goods happen. So I stopped doing that.
Anyway, just wanted to throw that out there. If you missed part one you can find it here.
Similar thing today except this time it’s about preparing vs critiques. So after Northwestern what was our thinking?
The first thing that was big related to the NFU Aff. I thought K teams’ business vs NFU through the first two tournaments of the year was not up to snuff. But starting at Gonzaga the docs and the results kept getting better. NFU is a pretty good Aff, but by the second semester the tight Neg docs and critical mass of experience debating it made me worried. So for important K debates we were going to switch Affs. But to what?
The origin of the first Aff is kinda funny. We debated Cal NR at Northwestern. Their Aff at the time was about Empire and debt. Baylor TZ said the executive was bad for affect reasons. Wake EF’s Aff about black deference seemed to defend a broad restriction on executive power based on some rounds I watched. So I wanted to pursue a defense of executive power that hadn’t come up to date.
This is where Ideen Saiedian enters the story. Ideen debated for USC, is a great guy and I follow him on twitter. He tweets frequently about Iran and Syria, particularly relating to leftist hypocrisy concerning US intervention and engagement in the region. This interested me and I explored further. So thanks for educating me Ideen!
This led to a literature base of folks critiquing forms of anti-imperialism. Most of these folks seemed to advocate some form of US intervention in Syria. The arguments these folks made shed new insight for me on binary thinking and flattening critique. They gave me new angles and vocabulary to articulate these ideas in a debate.
For those interested in source material:
Khiyana: Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution
Syria And The Left: The Pitfalls Of Anti-Imperialism
Syria and the 'Anti-Imperialism' of Idiots
Syria and the Left," Jacobin
A Foreign Policy for the Left
Syria and the Problem of Left Solidarity
Indefensible Democracy, Counterrevolution, And The Rhetoric Of Anti-Imperialism
Aleppo, barbarism, and the anti-imperialism of fools
So this started as a Neg position, but given the topic was everything it became easy to make this a trade Aff about arming the Free Syrian Army.
The main teams we had in mind with this Aff were Wake EF and OU PW. There was a reasonable amount of institutional memory of how an Aff about foreign policy centered on activist demands from another country plays out given our experience on the military presence topic reading an Aff about Okinawa and basing.
Wake EF’s NDT innovation was very interesting for this argument. Still a structural argument, but with a different implication concerning a more direct material race war. Made for a pretty interesting final round hypothetical. Would they continue with that idea given this Aff is guns good? What would their main link arguments be on the fly? Getting the guns from other sources was a no go because the USFG is heavily policing arms flows for ISIS reasons.
If the Neg went for an argument that concluded don’t give Syrians guns because of “residual link logic” concerning the US being bad, the 1AC was specific about saying that was bad. What would the counter to that have been? Like I said above, historically when we have read an Aff like this the debate was heavily shaped by fungibility and pornotroping, but I wonder what other angle of attacks would have been figured out.
The other Aff we had was mostly designed for OU JS and settlerism arguments. The Aff was sanctioning Russia good. First, we are in a political/hybrid war with Russia that we are losing and it could escalate. Second, cards about how lumping together the US and Russia is bad. Third, Russia spreads bad ideologies worse. Fourth, analytics centered on US experiences do a really poor job of explaining Russia state formation and what they are about. Basically a thread that said the Neg had to have cards specific to Russia. Finally, a card that said you can’t really appreciate how true these arguments are if you don’t speak Russian so default to Truf. That last one was kind of a troll, but did have a reasonable card behind it.
Bing AY we were going to read NFU. They had reasonable stuff against it, but their potential range was a worry. They started incorporating Spanos and Baudrillard trolls, so who knows what they would say against a new Aff. Felt similarly against Cal NR.
Liberty HT was a unique case given argument focus and stylistic choices. We had two Neg debates with them in the first semester. Neither of the other two Affs really answer the questions Liberty raises about portability and efficacy of scholarship, so it was NFU by default. Being Aff against them at ADA and learning the ropes was a huge help.
Now let’s talk about Neg prep. I enjoyed this part a lot. First, I looked at every K team. Anything could happen and I did not want to be surprised. Also for a team like HR that was going to be finding a way to scrap for 5 wins and be hovering in the middle of the tournament. . .that means more than half your debates could be against the K. For example, of teams that went 4-4 or better here are those that had more than 5 K debates in prelims:
But on the flip side BT only had one in prelims! Which is to say, you have to be prepared for everything, but there is only so much time in the day. That means you have to try to make smart choices, and you also have to plan to get lucky and dodge some areas you didn’t cover (K or policy, doesn’t matter).
So what to do? First, what subject matters are prevalent. Here was my list going into the tournament:
Nuclear/Psychoanalysis, Afro-pessimism, melodrama, affect, Asian internment, postmemory, coloring, surveillance/ableism/medicalization, queer anarchy, opacity, disability/ableism sans surveillance, dark sousveillance, settlerism/nukes, surveillance on queer people, settler colonialism with no nukes, black feminism, Derrida/nukes, choreosonics, poetic negritude, nukes with no psychoanalysis and no Derrida, black joy/poesis, psychoanalysis/exec power/Trump, black deference, empire/imperialism, cybernetics, English language bad, racist surveillance, surveillance and Chicanas, black anality, Harney/Moten/undercommons.
Soooo, a bit of a spectrum here. Two of the biggest standouts in terms of frequency are antiblackness and arguments about surveillance. But that is a lot of mechanisms attached to antiblackness and the relative strength of the ontological claims is pretty different.
The next two questions that came up were what do we want to accomplish and what have other folks been doing?
A goal at the outset was to diversify what we were reading as much as we could. Trying to get to three to five off instead of the more traditional two. So, in the context of surveillance that would be like framework, a K, a topic education style DA related to the way they critiqued surveillance and a surveillance good argument.
What were other people doing? Lot of folks going for framework, but they all aren’t doing it the same way. Some did it with not a lot of evidence and said standard stuff (Harvard, Emory, Kansas). Michigan read the classic dml style cards. He has been cutting cards that read like this for five or six years. My issue is they are never about the topic and are limits good cards, but not great at drawing the line to insulate oneself from counter-interps. I think you can just say 90% of the arguments you would get from reading the long card.
Berkeley also takes an interesting approach. They read cards about citizen literacy and engagement and what not. My issue with those cards were they weren’t clear at describing something close to what a topical debate is as being necessary to learn the literacy.
I like extra stuff on framework beyond the procedural stuff, but I feel like it needs to be closely tied to the topic and needs to let you generate a positive and alternative vision for what debate can be about compared to the Aff. That notion led me to the following articles:
Policy Roundtable: The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy
Is the Left Ready to Handle National Security
The state of Leftist foreign policy
A Foreign Policy for the Left,
This formed the basis of a new topic education argument. We also had the business about Syria/humanitarian intervention and anti-imperialism that linked to some old business and maybe new K Affs would link more to it.
Turned my attention to surveillance next. We had a handful of cards about negative critique, can’t be sweeping about surveillance, government surveillance is dictated by practice and norm entrepreneurs so have to design a surveillance system in a context instead of more abstract yes/no style critique. Did not get around to figuring out how to make surveillance benevolent. I saw some folks try to recycle stuff from healthcare but didn’t really know stuff about it that topic and wasn’t going to figure it out here.
I borrowed heavily from others to improve our settler colonialism business. Dartmouth and Michigan have good stuff! Something I am going to research more personally over the summer.
So that left the major outstanding question of antiblackness and the various mechanisms associated with it. If only I had the time to see if I could invent something new. I probably couldn’t but one of these days I am going to hit pause on the policy cards and only cut K cards.
I do this thing all the time, but I particularly do it for K debate. Everybody is out here doing serious research. Who knows how many hours are put into a given subject matter? By February, the debate community has been thinking about antiblackness and how it intersects with whatever the topic is for hundreds of cumulative hours. So my goal is to not start my own understanding from scratch, but to get a fuller appreciation of what people have done to date, because it reflects so much time in trial and error compared to what I could ever do on my own. So when people tell you that wiki surfing is making you bad because you just copy and paste, tell them they are wrong because you are doing it in a way where you are trying to master complexity, not just plug and chug the first doc you come across (if you are doing the latter, stop it).
The evidence on both sides seems pretty reasonable/balanced. There were no innovative wagons I wanted to jump on. I made sure our arguments about capitalism, existentialism and Wendy Brown were up to date and called it a day. It seemed like the cards were not the issue, but information asymmetries and execution.
It seems like folks focusing on the strong ontology version of the argument are doing themselves a disservice because you don’t need to get into a totalizing debate that is hard to prove to win that, chances are, someone doing something in America is going to end up having a racist implication. Probabilistically speaking, given the history that comes up in these debates, public policy bolstering racial hierarchy is a reasonable bet.
And the other side frequently doesn’t have cards or mechanisms to resolve that issue (for example single payer was a good Aff because it had multiple ways to help alleviate hierarchy and had good case studies to back it up. I can’t say the same thing necessarily for NFU or surveillance Affs). But the other side does have a lot (and I mean a lot of cards at this point) that are pretty on point answering the strong ontology claim. I just think it is messier to water down what you are saying after you start (which I see teams do a good amount of the time), but doesn’t seem necessary to get to a specific speech about the Aff. The perm becomes a little better I guess, but if you get a little more specific that should easily compensate.
So didn’t really get there on having 4 or 5 off versus stuff. Didn’t cut the sick postmemory Neg. Did get up to like 3.5 in most situations.
Random other thoughts:
1. Does trying to write other arguments disprove that you don’t have ground on framework? No. The Neg should not be treating ground as a yes/no question, but a question of quality and how hard one has to work to acquire it. The external topic restraint is a ground-generating mechanism. If the Aff can cherry pick by going outside the topic to make it easier to answer what’s in the topic that makes ground worse under that interpretation. It also has to do with the fact that K Affs operate at a high level of abstraction. There is nothing wrong with that per say, but the issue becomes when one’s goal is to win a debate. That puts a high premium on argument avoidance and abstractions are perfect for that because their meaning is not as clearly fixed and the interpretation can change from speech to speech, debate to debate.
They don’t even have to be that self-interested for this dynamic to play out. Academically speaking, fluidity is preferred over fixity/static interpretations so the content of an idea has a sort of natural ebb and flow to it. Academically engaging, but possibly not the best basis for a debate if side equalization is anywhere on the priority list.
Hey high schooler, don’t turn that into a card. You should lose if you do that. Oh, shit is this a card now too? I have to get out of here.
2. Execution matters so much more than evidence in critical debates. True or False? False. Not really because judges are out here comparing cards and checking in. But the cards give you a vocabulary, so you don’t have to sound like a debate meme in the moment. And if they are good cards, they are giving you ways to understand the implications of arguments so you can evolve past buzzwords into fully fleshed out ideas with clear impacts. This is why pursuing research concerning these debates is important. And just because they read a card that has been in circulation for a minute doesn’t mean either side is stagnant or it is just the eternal return of clash debates. The innovations don’t really come from whole new positions, but rather new packaging, two or three sentences at a time.
3. The wiki would help, but there is a sort of naturally occurring information asymmetry generated by these debates. I aggressively scouted what these debates were about. Some of them have a handful of cards, some less. But the real action is in the speeches, in the packaging, in the interpretations. The feedback from debaters in the room and judges is hit or miss. Can’t watch ‘em all at tournaments. Video is unreliable. I don’t really have a solution to this and I am not saying it is a huge pressing problem. When people look at the wiki and want more it couldn’t hurt, but I don’t think that is the real source of an understanding gap.
The issues are very complex, a given debater can fit within a wide spectrum of quality in terms of explanation, they can lead to many different implications, you cannot port them to the masses in a speech doc like a politics 1NR. Not saying it is bad, but it does raise the bar of necessary prep. So the grind continues.
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.