Friday, May 8, 2009


Too many times after asking my kids or others at tournaments how their round went I get an answer like, “We lost we didn’t have any offense on the da.” So??? Not having offense on a DA should not mean an auto aff lose. While with some (read most) judges controlling things like issue specific Uniqueness makes it easier to win a bigger risk of a DA, the lack of offense does not mean a negative victory.

Now before I explain how to effectively utilize defense to win debates I will say this, offense is good, its good to have link turns or an impact turn to a disad. An ideal situation is combining your offensive and defensive args together to beat a disad. Seldom should the 2ar straight turn the disad, straight turns should be utilized earlier in the debate to either make the debate smaller, or stick a team to an argument you have the goods on.

Defense and the meta-game.

Lots of different people discuss the “meta-game” and how it relates to debate (and I’m sure I will write more about the meta-game and other debate topics) but a safe way to define meta-game is big picture thinking. The debate is not multiple sheets of paper that function independently of each other but one big multi-headed hydra that needs to be addressed in conjunction with each other. If the 2nr goes for states cp and politics da, while those are 2 independent positions they make up ONE strategy and must be addressed as ONE strategy not TWO separate issues.

Lets face it, the negative is usually going to win some risk of the disad (assuming they don’t totally concede some arguments in which case you probably did not lose on no offense), so assuming they do win some risk of their disad the job is now to discredit the relative risk of the disad.

Disad vs Case

In this 2nr, the 2nr is almost always investing serious time going for reasons the disad turns the case along with some solvency takeouts or some impact defense. As a 2ar this 2nr strategy usually made me nice and cozy inside. Your aff is good (presumably) you’ve got some big beefy impacts with some solid internal links. Another benefit the affirmative has is that judges are usually aff leaning in the context of case arguments. This means that for the negative to mitigate the impact to the case they need to do significantly more work beating up the case then the aff does defending the case.

To contextualize this better lets assume the AFF is RPS with competitiveness (hege and econ impacts) and warming versus a health care politics disad with a bioterrorism (Steinbrenner) and economy impact.

Assuming I could not win a link turn to the disad (who are we kidding, of course I could) assuming YOU cannot win a link turn to the disad smart defensive arguments you can and should be making to mitigate the disad

1.) Non-Unique- AE being debated now / will be debating inevitably

2.) No Ev of a specific health care bill

3.) Obama has already spent PC on energy and didn’t lose

4.) Timeframe for bio terror is a joke

5.) How health care solves for bioterror is a bigger joke

6.) Steinbrenner assumes a huge new influenza being used as a weapon, swine flu proves an outbreak of new virus’s won’t be deadly

7.) No bio terror (no motivation, not feasible any thing in this arena)

8.) Aff’s I/L to the economy is significantly bigger then the disads.

If you had ZERO cards on the health care disad assuming you won a decent risk of your case these arguments if executed well could be enough to win your aff o/w the disad.

Its also particularly important to do this when a team reads a new politics da because its NEVER an issue at the top of the agenda and the negative is always going to tell you to default to issue specific U, which is basically always garbage. Obama saying he supports something does not mean its at the top of the agenda. You almost never hear a president say I don’t care about X issue. The vaguer the da the worse the ev and i/l ev for it is.

Its all about the packaging

Anyone who tells you otherwise is clueless. If you want to win big debates you need to be the one telling the more convincing story.

If I was giving the 2ar in this spot I would make sure to start off discussing how the risk of the Warming adv or competitiveness advantage was larger then the risk of a mitigated disad and why my internal links to the economy and hegemony were larger then that of the disad’s and EVEN IF they won that the plan was contentious in congress there was no guarantee the plan would derail a health care bill that may or may not exist and that things like bioterror were much more improbable then our warming impact and how that systemic impact out weighed the risk of a bioterror attack that hasn’t been proven feasible or even an extinction level impact.

This is obviously a rough rubric for what a 2ar should do in that spot, but the point is this, aggressively extending these defensive arguments in the context of discrediting the disad at the U, Link and Impact level raises a significant doubt to the disad vis a vis the aff. If you can prove to the judge that it is a bigger stretch for the negatives impact claim to be true then it is for your affs to be true, you will win.

Disad + CP vs Case

Now the existence of the CP obviously makes it harder for the aff to beat then the disad vs case alone. In this context the 2ar needs to focus on how the Magnitude of the Solvency deficit to the CP O/W the risk of the disad (explaining all the problems with the disad)

Tips for executing this in the 2ar

1.) use the 2nr prep time to write this stuff out, its free prep time for you, figure out what you think they are going to go for and explain how your aff’s i/ls access it better or why its mitigated

2.) DO NOT give the 2ar overview where the 2nr did their impact work, consider doing it on the adv flow you are winning. Have it separate and distinct, the only thing you should do at the top of the 2nr’s impact assessment is answer the disad turns the case arguments. The reason for this is that when you give it on the 2nr’s work you invariably spend too much time to trying to mitigate their work and not enough time selling the impacts your aff.

3.) Start off the 2ar with this work, too many times debaters wait till halfway through the 2ar or 2nr to do their impact assessment / work. Doing it at the top gives the judge the big picture story you are selling 20-30 seconds into the speech not 2:30 into it. It helps make your 2ar and 2nr sound better. You are a used car salesman in these 2 speeches and how you sell it will determine if the judge is buying or not

4.) Point out how dumb a strictly offense/defense based system is for evaluating disads- taken to its extreme if those were the only answers I made on the health care da the 2nc could group it say no offense in the 2ac on the da evaluate from offense defense perspective extinction boom. While an argument might not be an offensive reason the plan is good, if it discredits the thesis of the negative’s claim it should mean the judge should diminish the probability of their arg. Many times the aff loses because the 2nr makes an arg like evaluate it from offense defense if we control the direction of the link there’s only a risk the plan causes something bad. The phrase only a risk is usually code for we don’t have much here so hopefully this works.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The proliferation of new affirmatives- ruining debate 1ac at a time.

Having just come back from the TOC much of what I am writing is fresh on my mind.

But to preempt some people who will be reading this and thinking “Oh your team just lost on a new aff so you’re just grumpy.”

1.) Anyone who knows me or who has discussed this topic with me, knows that I have felt this way since I was debating in college.

2.) I’m pretty sure my labbies over the year have probably heard this at some point or another too.

3.) While my team did lose to a new affirmative, I felt like under the circumstances they reacted in the manner they were coached to, and debated well under the circumstances, I was not frustrated at all.

If you take offense to this, well…. whatever.

I had the privilege of listening to most of the final round of the TOC between Bellarmine (aff) and Westminster (neg) and it was exactly what the final round of one of the most important tournaments of the year should be like. Bellarmine read the same aff they had read since debate camp and Westminster had an incredibly specific strategy involving high tech case arguments and a specific CP. The evidence comparison in the debate displayed both teams knowledge of the other’s evidence and authors. All 3 judges and the spectators all commented that this might be the best debate they had seen all year.

Unfortunately the final round of the TOC this year does not resemble what other big debates or late elimination rounds this year looked like. Most of the debates will usually involve something incredibly obscure, borderline topical aff, with evidence quality that is shouldn’t be good enough to be win one debate, but that will definitely not be good enough to be ever read again. This in turn causes the negative to read an incredibly generic strategy, not make sophisticated case arguments, read an extremely generic Kritik, and ends up with the negative going for something vague and generic that involves little about the topic. Having judged many of these I can say these debates are usually at a significantly lower level then the teams are capable of debating at and ends up being frustrating for all sides. It should also be noted that at the TOC the new affirmative did not have an extremely good record. I’m fairly confident most new affs read did not win and often lost on hyper generic arguments like Heidegger or CO2 fert.

This is not an overall you should read one aff all year long post. There are situations to read new affs, your old one is bad, its not inherent, you are debating a certain style team and want to adapt. I have no issue with reading new affirmatives in theory. My problem with new affirmatives is using them not just for reasons outlined above but when an aff is hardly sustainable to read once just to catch the other team off guard with. New affs on balance encourage bad card cutting. At the TOC this year I can count a minimum of 10 new affs that were read 1 time and then not read again by X team in exchange for either another new aff. If the aff is only good for one debate because its either not true, its evidence is bad or it is truly an extremely bad idea should we be breaking these affs? There is obviously a balance that needs to be struck between winning and education / preserving some value to this activity. Everyone at the TOC wants to win that tournament and they should, but they must also recognize and be willing to accept that some of the strategic decisions they make for arguments they advance could be hurting the activity as a whole.

“Ultimately policy debate is good because it is hard”- Jeff Parcher (in maybe one of the best edebate posts of all time The norm has become for teams to actively run away from debates about their CASE in favor of having negatives ready crappy generic strategy. Call me old school but every time I was affirmative the initial Under Armor commercials came to mind with the adage of you “You must protect this house.” Debaters and their coaches are afraid to protect their house. Write a good aff, read all articles about your aff, know the neg’s authors, know what they negative is likely to do against you and write blocks on it. If your aff is good, and your blocks are solid and you know your aff you should never be afraid of flipping aff or reading the same aff all year long. New affirmatives cause a race AWAY from debates about the aff in favor of the crappy array of generics out there. The best debates I was in or have judged have involved extremely good research and understanding of the aff from both sides and we should be encouraging that type of debating amongst the debaters, not one and done affs.

The more and more I think about this the more I’ve come to believe that this is not the fault of kids or coaches who are cutting bad or potentially lower quality evidence but the fault of debaters and judges. Debaters are not good at calling people out for reading bad evidence and judges have become too comfortable saying “Yeah well I agree it might not be qualified, it might be from a random blog, but I mean they’ve got a card.” It used to be only at the NDT in college that judges would use the “well they have a card” guise for making decisions, but this has now reverberated to almost every debate judged. We’re told not to believe everything we read on the internet, but it seems like in debate rounds a place for intellectual discussion on issues we often settle for evidence from people who are less qualified then the kids debating on the issue. Debaters CALL OUT TEAMS FOR BAD EVIDENCE read. Judges BE WILLING TO SAY THAT DESPITE HAVING A CITE, TAG, AND URL, THE TEXT READ IS NOT EVIDENCE.

I don’t suspect everyone will agree with me, but I do hope that everyone agrees that it is becoming increasingly more common for affirmatives to be afraid of defending their “house.” We do a disservice to the debaters and the quality of the debate if we allow this to continue. If you are a coach challenge your kids to find the best possible aff and learn everything about it. If you are a student, work hard, debate is most satisfying not just when you win but when your pour your heart out defending something and the work you’ve done translates into overall success. Judges, be willing to disregard bad evidence, be sympathetic to good smart arguments made by a team even if not evidenced. Winning is obviously an important function of debate, but if debate becomes a race to the bottom of crappy affirmatives what is the point? We change topics yearly to learn about different arguments and issues, why then do some of the most important rounds and major tournaments ultimately get decided on generics that can be read year round vs unsustainable new affs?


So other people have been blogging about debate, and since I like to go on Rants about stuff I figured I'd write out my rants rather then yell at my kids or other kids and coaches about them. Feel free to comment. I hope to update this pretty often but I might hit a topic lull or something so if you want me to comment about my thoughts on something or have some question / topic that mighr be a good blog shoot me an email