Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Plan Advocates

Before I begin this post, I'd like to quickly say that Climate Aid had an advocate. The GAO was totally in favor of defunding the programs. So don't be hating, kids.

It's time to delve into a subject that may be very touchy to all the squirrel huggers out there: plan advocates. I'm assuming everyone knows what an advocate is. It's someone who... advocates the plan. Not that hard. What baffles me is that there are teams everywhere that run cases without advocates. Hopefully they'll read this and repent. We can pray. 

The need for a plan advocate

Let's start with some basic groundwork. Why are plan advocates necessary for an affirmative team? Some debaters would tell you that they aren't. I respectfully (and correctly) disagree, for a few reasons. 

1) Advocates = Solvency literature
I've seen this happen to teams over and over again. They have a plan that makes sense on the surface, but has a gaping solvency hole that they just don't seem to understand. E.G, this year, I watched a team running a case to add Freedom of the Press as a requirement for Russia to graduate from Jackson-Vanik. They argued that because JV worked on emigration, it would work on other human rights issues too. What they didn't understand is that the JV amendment doesn't apply to Russia alone, so their plan was not only extra-topical but also illegal. Needless to say, they had no plan advocates and thus no evidence to get out of these holes. 
These issues are solved by having solid plan advocates. Good advocates don't just go "oh, bee tee dubs, why don't we try this?" They publish papers, testify before congress, and put out literature. That's why they are called advocates. 

2) Advocates save you the embarrassment of bad plan text writing
Plan advocates help you write solid plans, in one of two ways. They either write the plan themselves, or put out guidelines for what needs to be done. Let's take the cyber-warfare case, for example. While I'm not a fan of this case, it provides a perfect example of this type of advocate. Here's part of an advocacy card from the Center for Security and International Studies: 

"The recommendations in this paper are designed to accelerate reaching two goals: (1) expanding the number and quality of highly skilled cyber-security professionals and (2) giving those who hire those workers or who buy their services even better indicators of the skill levels of those whom they are engaging."

This card lays out criterion for a plan of action. These kind of advocacy cards help you make sure you aren't leaving things out of your plan when you write. 

3) Advocates make for better debate
It's true. Cases that are made up without the assistance of actual experts make for sloppy debate. Even congresspeople don't just make up their bills. They have teams of researchers and panels of experts that testify. Please do everyone a favor and have a plan advocate. If you try to write your plan on your own with no advocates or supporting literature, it means there won't be any specific evidence for or against your plan. It doesn't help you win, it just makes the debate ugly.

What makes a good advocate?
 So now you are probably wondering, "Wow, Wolky! That's brilliant! How do I make sure I have a good advocate?" 

Free Trade cures Lupus
I'm so glad you (I) asked that question. There a few things to remember when you are looking for a strong plan advocate.  First off, check and see if Dr. House advocates the plan. If he does, you don't need to look anymore. But if he doesn't, you should find someone else. Let's go over a few facets of good plan advocates. 

1. Field contextuality
First, remember that an advocate should have some sort of expertise or experience related to your plan. This seems common sense, but you'd be shocked how many teams quote random think-tanks or lobbyist groups. 

2. No money involved
Make sure your advocate doesn't have money/political victory at stake in the plan. Take, for example, when people quote the senators from Iowa advocate corn ethanol subsidies. Iowa exists because of corn. It's their largest crop and a huge source of campaign money for their representatives. Quite clearly, a senator from Iowa has a huge interest in getting money for corn ethanol, even if the subsidies are damaging to everyone else. 

3. No Think-Tanks
Don't quote think-tanks as plan advocates. Think-tanks universally get their money from corporations and lobbyists, and are essentially paid to advocate things that benefit the people that fund them. The CATO Institute was founded with a huge grant from oil companies. The Heritage Foundation gets lots of money from manufacturing and energy companies. The Brookings Institute gets donations from Israel. Accordingly, the things they advocate universally match the interests of these donors. Using a think-tank as a plan advocate opens you up to (justified) indictments. 

4. Texts, not Concepts

  • This is a plan advocate: The US and Russia should ratify a BIT based on the Russian model text.
  • This is not a plan advocate: Investment is good. 

A plan advocate should advocate the plan, not the concept or goal of the plan. This is important to remember. Don't just Google "Free trade good yummy" and expect to find a solid advocate. Remember: the more specific the advocacy card, the better. The advocate needs to support the plan text, not the goal of the plan. 

Debating against cases that lack advocates

So, what do you do when you are faced with an irritating and stupid case that doesn't have a plan advocate? It's easy to say that a case needs an advocate, but how do you translate that into a round? Here are some tips for how to slam an affirmative team when they don't have an advocate. 

1. Vagueness Fun
Teams that don't have advocates also usually have vague or poorly written plan texts. Instead of worrying about how to turn the lack of advocate into an argument, think about what it teaches you about the affirmative team. It tells you that they made the plan up themselves. Accordingly, they have invariably failed to account for important details, timeline issues, costs, etc. Throw up a vagueness block off of some of the bad plan writing, and watch them scramble to find solvency evidence that doesn't exist.

2. Focus on solvency
Remember what I said about  advocates going hand-in-hand with solvency literature? Well, you are debaters so I know you can follow this logic. If they don't have an advocate, they usually won't have a ton of solvency evidence either. And what's the first thing you should do if you know the affirmative doesn't have solvency evidence? I'd attack solvency, personally. But that's just me. 

3. Feel free to run bad DAs that barely link
You heard me. Run big DAs that have sketchy links to the affirmative plan. This will work in the absence of an advocate for a few basic reasons. First, because they can't say 'They didn't link our plan to the disadvantage with evidence" because that's exactly what they've done with their advantages. When there's no solvency/advocacy cards from the affirmative team, they set the precedence for the round that you can just run impacts with no evidence links. Secondly, they will usually lack the all-important spikes and turns that are characteristic of well written plans.

The bottom line is that plans without literature set the tone for the round. That tone is that you don't need evidence to link the plan to arguments. That's a precedent that favors the negative over the affirmative, and it's why you need an advocate. Go get one. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Case Discussion: Withdraw from New START/Use New START as leverage

For those of you who don't know, my years of Team Policy debate were spent being debate partners with a dude named Sam Paul. Sam was pretty much awesome at debate (he averaged 28.3 speaker points last year), but he is very particular about his hair. Once, right before a tournament, he asked his brother Aaron to trim up a few long hairs on the top of his head. Unfortunately, Aaron flunked arts and crafts in kindergarten and is highly unskilled at using scissors. Simply put, Sam went to the tournament with a tiny bald spot on his crown. 

This highly traumatic experience is nothing compared to the state of his head today. You see, when people run cases like withdraw from New START, it makes good debaters like Sam pull their hair out in anguish and despair. Please, loyal reader: kill this case, and save Sam's hair. 

Despite everything that would be dictated by human decency, prudence, and intelligence; despite cries of terror from alumni and coaches everywhere, people are still running this case, in two different veins. Some people want to use New START as leverage on various policy issues (withdraw if Russia doesn't give us what we want), while some people are just withdrawing straight up. The differences are fairly minor, like agnostics and atheists: both groups are doomed to eternal torment, the difference is just how committed they are to their blasphemy. 

The signs are already apparent for those that watch. Earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in North Carolina, and Scarlett Johansson is dating Sean Penn. This case is like the apartment building in Ghostbusters: it's drawing all the agents of the devil to earth. Kill it quickly, lest we perish.

Let's discuss. 

1. Withdraw from New START
So basically, Heritage hates New START so people think this case is a good idea. There are a few big problems with this case. Let's go over them.

Read the advocates, people!
I don't think any of the affirmative teams have actually read the articles from Heritage that they quote so blindly. NONE of these articles advocate withdrawing from the treaty. They all argue against ratification in the first place. While that in itself shows they are crazy, the fact is that withdrawing from a treaty is very very different from not ratifying. These same Heritage huggers are the same people who cling so fiercely to the constitution. So, let's talk about that.

Terms of withdrawal from the treaty
Affirmatives like to point out that there is a withdrawal clause in the treaty. Let's look at what it says. Unlike the affirmative, I've actually read the treaty. Here's what it says:

New START Treaty, Article XIV
"Each party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests." 

It also says that we have to give Russia detailed notice explaining the "extraordinary event." So what does this mean? Well, the aff case blatantly violates/abuses this provision for a few reasons.

I. "Extraordinary events"
This is pretty self-explanatory. An extraordinary event needs to happen. Like, we get nuked, or Russia violates the treaty, or something like that. The treaty is very clear and repeats this phrase several times. You can't withdraw just because you change your mind. Bummer, doods. 

II. "Related to the subject matter"
Here's the other violation. It says that the reason for withdrawal has to be related to the subject matter of the treaty. This means that missile defense can't be used as a justification to withdraw. The subject matter of the treaty is the numerical limits and deployment guidelines for intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic nuclear weapons.. The words "missile defense" only appear once in the treaty, and not in the context of BMD. This means that any decision we make to withdraw has to be based on an event related to nuclear weapons; not missile defense. Oops. 

On that topic, let's hit the last issue here.

Missile defense is not limited
READ THE TREATY! There is no mention of missile defense limitations in the treaty. Russia tried to link BMD to the treaty in the preamble, but because it didn't make it into the actual text of the treaty, the aff has nothing to stand on here. 

2. Leverage New START
This case might be even more crazy than withdrawing, for two reasons.

It puts us in blatant violation of the treaty
Here's why. Remember the conditions for withdrawing from the treaty? Well, Russia refusing to comply with some crappy Human Rights standard, or not giving us CTR access, is in complete violation of those conditions. Linking START to some other random issue violates that standard on "events related to the subject matter of the treaty." 

Russia wouldn't comply
Maybe you've heard not to poke a bear with a stick. This case is equivalent to smacking a bear in the face with a baseball bat. There's already a distrust within Russia of American motives. To try and use START as leverage would vindicate all that distrust, and irrevocably strengthen anti-american sentiments within the government and the public. All those "return of the cold war" DAs apply to this case more than any other.

The bottom line
These cases offend me. They cling to outdated and offensive biases against Russia, and historically crazed sources. The effects of this case are being felt in galaxies far far away. Just look at what Obi-Wan had to say when this case won the Houston Open. 

Please, everyone. Listen to Ducreux. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wolky Rants: Better Mandate Writing, Better Debate

It's time to touch on an issue that is a personal pet-peeve of mine. How often have you sat in a round listening to the other team's mandates thinking about that stat with the monkeys.? You know the stat. 1000 monkeys with typewriters would eventually type Hamlet? Then you start wondering if it was, in fact, a monkey with a typewriter that wrote the mandate. Sloppy mandates make for lots of sloppy losses and sloppy debates. 

Here's the crux of the issue: having a good plan idea or conceptual solvency doesn't mean you can just write a plan up and send it through. We aren't debating concepts or goals. We are debating policies. If your mandate doesn't actually work as a policy, you can't win the debate. Let's go over some of the most common/most egregious errors in plan writing. 


This, to me, is the cardinal sin of plan writing. So I'll say this in all caps. YOU CAN'T FIAT RESULTS, SOLVENCY, FLUFFY FEELINGS, OR THE RETURN OF THE DINOSAURS. Understand? You can't use fiat to say the plan will work. Example. Mandate: The US will work with Russia and develop a plan to solve this problem. Yay! We solved the problem! Why? Because that's our plan.

When you write a plan, you need a mechanism through which to exert fiat and hopefully achieve solvency. Read through your plan. If you don't clearly specify the means of achieving solvency, you have a terribly worded plan. What are examples of mechanisms? Oh, I dunno. Just these little things we call POLICIES. Programs, laws, international organizations (please not NGOs) and government bodies in action. We are here to debate policies, not goals. Go fix your mandate, then come thank me when you start actually winning solvency debates on aff.

2. Agencies matter, kids
This one can actually bite you big-time in a round. If you don't research the specific government agencies that would administer your plan, you end up in serious trouble. If you try to give a bio-defense program to the Department of Education, what's gonna happen? They are gonna freak out and do a terrible job. But they have to do it, because you fiated them to do it. Make sure your plan fiats the agencies that are actually capable of doing the job. This means *gasp* research. Don't automatically assume that you can guess where the plan belongs. Lookitup. Profit.

3. Cut the fancy wordage
This is one that I find particularly annoying. How often have you heard this?

 Mandate: The US will require Russia to significantly improve its protection of fundamental human rights by making significant reforms to their court system and implement a substantial blah blah blah.

What do I mean here? Simply put, actual methods and specifics belong in a mandate, words like "significant", "substantial", "sufficient" and "legit" do not. I've seen so many teams over the years put words like this in the mandate in order to make the plan bigger. Or something. Cut out these irritating filler words and put in specifics that actually make the mandate.

  •  Crappy: Congress will eliminate grandfathering in the Clean Air Act and require coal plants to significantly reduce pollution.
  • Awesome: Congress will eliminate the NSR clause of the CAA of 1972 and require all pre-act coal plants to meet the DOE's current BACT standards.

Specifics are good. Filler words are not.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Juggernaut Index: Reloaded

Aight. The regional championships are rapidly approaching, and nationals slots are on the line. It's time to do a quick review of the juggernauts, young and old. Here are some cases of note.

The Top 10 
(Returning favorites are in italics, new contenders in bold)
  1. Smallpox eradication: This case is so yummy. You have many many different directions to go on justifications, the DAs are based on fear-mongering and not science, and St. Tucker is the advocate. 
  2. Bio-detection: Still awesome. Still winning. (Formerly ranked 1,2)
  3. IPR Enforcement: This case is lovely. I wish more people were running it.
  4. JVOS Conditioning: Makes JV worth watching. 
  5. Pull out Tactical Nukes: Why haven't we done this already? (Formerly ranked meh)
  6. MSSIS Integration: The ethos neg brief is useless if you want to beat this case.
  7. Bilateral Investment Treaty: Sketchy negatives are sketchy.
  8. Ban Cluster Bombs: I just like this case. I can't help it. (Formerly ranked 9)
  9. Jackson-Vanik Graduation: Begrudgingly, I will alot this a place on the hallowed list. It still bores me. 
  10. Space Weapons: Beat the T, and this case is sound. (Formerly ranked 3)

The Fallen (former juggernauts that have seen better days)
  • Cyber Security: I saw Peter Voell's brief on this case. Enough said. Keep this aff handy to use as fuel during a nuclear winter. That's about all it's good for.
  • Bush BMD: Turns out the status quo is better, the tech is glitchy, and the case is only tentatively topical. Oops. 
  • WTO support: It passed.

  • Overturn 123
  • Overturn START
  • Minimal deterrence
  • Arctic militarization
  • NATO expansion
  • Adoptions/orphans
  • Arm wrestle with Putin

Choosing Your Battles: The Art of Strategic Collapse

First off, I'd like to apologize to everyone, because I know you've waited for months for a new post with baited breath. I had my appendix out a few months ago, right after my last post. That marked an unprecedented stretch of apathy towards this blog, as I settled within myself in the name of self determination. Kind of like isolationist Japan, which is a great consulate ally in Age of Empires.  The bad news is I haven't blogged in three months. The good news is that I have fresh and brilliant ideas to share with the world as you all prep for the final qualifiers, regionals, and nationals. At least, I think they are brilliant. I could very well be wrong, but that's why we have the comment section at the bottom.

Edit: It's been so long since I blogged that I don't remember what font I like to use. =(

Our topic today is a deadly and difficult art form known as the strategic collapse. Like Shao Lin martial arts, this is a skill that many debaters have forgotten because it is counterintuitive to everything we are taught. First off, what is it? Here's a piece of evidence explaining it.

Strategic Collapse Definition
Sam Wolkenhauer (Former debater, blogger, winner of 3rd Grade Sunday School Trivia week) April 6, 2011
Strategic collapse is a negative strategy where the negative team intentionally drops large portions of their argumentation in the 2nr, in order to "collapse" the flow on a few major points, usually a few disadvantages or solvency. This strategy is used to consolidate the issues when affirmative argumentation contradicts itself, or when major issues are dropped.

How's that for a card? So, the strategy is pretty simple. Drop all but a few issues in the 2nr, and collapse the flow on those points. The reason people rarely (if ever) do this is because it is counterintuitive to everything we think we know. Dropping an argument is a huge no-no, so why would we do it on purpose? Well, allow me to explain how and why you the strategic collapse should be one of the primary weapons in the negative arsenal.

1. Benefits of the collapse
 There are many reasons that a collapse is beneficial to the negative team. Let's go over the three biggest ones. 

1. It leaves more time for weighing
Remember what I always say. Remember what every coach you've ever had has ever said. Weighing and impacting wins the round. How many 2nrs have you seen where they have continued argumentation on minor issues that have no bearing on the round? Nit-picky inherency and workability issues that carry no weight; evidence disputes; lame topicality; people regularly carry these issues all the way through, while they neglect the arguments that actually have impact and actually matter. 

A strategic collapse on issues that don't matter will give you more time, and condition you to, weighing the arguments of critical importance. 

2. It sets the field in your favor
A collapse allows the 2nr to pick only the issues that they are winning as points to debate. Arguments that the affirmative team has brilliant responses to get kicked, while the undercovered issues pull through. 

This is especially important because there are no new answers in the 2ar. If the aff responds to a major DA with a measly little de-link or uniqueness argument, you can collapse on the point, crush the aff response, and force them to try to respond to two minutes of 2nr DA analysis with their one little 1ar response. This is very difficult to do. If you keep all the arguments on the flow, in contrast to the collapse, the DA is never given the level of attention and the time it deserves, and the affirmative gets away with lame responses. Use the collapse to pin the affirmative on their weak points. 

3. Credibility gain
No joke. Kicking lame arguments makes you look very credible and mature in the judge's eyes. Let me share a comment I got on a ballot once where we did an epic collapse in the 2nr.

"Your willingness to conceded issues rather than arbitrarily arguing them helped me trust you on the issues you kept arguing." 

This isn't hard to understand. Nothing is more annoying to a judge than a debater who doesn't know when to quit arguing stupid issues. Drop and profit.

2. How to collapse
Well, I guess it's more like "how to know when to collapse." Collapsing in and of itself isn't that hard. Just drop the arguments you are dropping, and talk about the most important ones. Here are some guidelines for how to know when to collapse, and what to collapse on.

1. Under-covered off-case arguments
Any solvency or disadvantages that are sparingly covered by the 1ar should be a point to collapse on. If the aff spends 4 minutes on inherency and significance, and then tries to blow through the off-case, it means you should jump on it. DAs and solvency are the most critical arguments for negs to win on.

2. Major DAs with no impact response
If you have a giant disadvantage with major impacts, but the aff only responds to links or uniqueness, it means you should collapse on the point and weigh it out. This is especially true with case-turning impacts. All too often affirmatives just try to de-link and squirm out, but concede the impact analysis. Collapse and profit, negative team. 

3. Contradictory affirmative arguments
Most of the time when the affirmative contradicts themselves, the negative just says 'THAT'S A CONTRADICTION LOL! =D"

NO. PLEASE NO. Instead of pointing out a contradiction and acting smug, how about the negative team collapse on the stronger of the two contradictory arguments. Then use the affirmative's contradiction to prove your point. Concede the weaker argument to win the stronger one. 

Listen to Courage Wolf, everyone...

The world will look up and shout, "Save us!"