Answering some Reader questions

First a note- we do strongly encourage readers to send in questions for posts/the podcast. However, please email rather than my emailing my school email address (not even sure how you got that) or texting me at 5am (thank you Alderete for publishing my phone number).



Moving right along.


Question 1: “blah blah blah some judges don’t like framework….” I’m paraphrasing.


Look, lots of judges don’t like lots of things. Sometimes this comes from seeing a ton of crappy debates about ASPEC, sometimes they had their career ended on Veto Cheato, maybe the politics disad killed their dad. For whatever reason, some judges are going to be impossible to get on XYZ argument. In those instances you just need to suck it up and go for something else. If you can’t then it sucks to suck. /discussion.


However, some judges are just “hard” to get on a certain issue. Now, I don’t mean to trivialize hard. Hard is generally still really hard. But, most judges in their hear of hearts still fundamentally respect an ass whooping. So if you chose to go for X in front of a judge that you know is a hard sell on X, then you have to really sell the crap out of it. No set of steak knives will do, you have to earn the Cadillac. For framework, this generally means you are going to have to go above and beyond the usual read 20 cards from debate coaches without explaining anything and sit down 2NC most people are giving these days. In debates I have seen this year here are three weaknesses of people who go for framework that I could see causing them to lose in front of hard judges


1. No link- this is the biggest one. Basically aff teams will spin their plan in a reasonable sounding way and negs will not counter this spin well enough. To win framework I think you need to put a diverse set of things in the 1NC , and maybe even extend in the block, that force the affirmative to do something to prove why they are in fact not reasonable. Things to put in their would be like, a topic disad (China), some sort of K of expanded engagement, maybe a CP that competes off the topic mechanism etc. In order to beat these the affirmative either needs to answer then with substance, at which point you don’t need framework, or they need to drop the ruse and start cheating. These shells can be short so you can throw all 3 of them out in under 2 minutes. Since you have nothing else to say anyway, there is no reason not to. Make the other team actually get their cheat on instead of just implying “oh they would have cheated if we had read a disad, but we didn’t read a disad because we wanted to read 5 more Rawls cards in the FW 1NC”. Many judges who are “hard” to get on FW have an idea in their head that planless teams are generally not as abusive as policy wonk teams think them to be. So in the absence of evidence to the contrary they will give them the benefit of the doubt. When the planless team actually does dodge every link its a lot harder for them to give a snooty RFD about how you had all kinds of ground.


2. Obsession with stupid impacts. Portable skills, decision-making, etc are all stupid impacts. Not only is the impact stupid, the internal link into said impact is stupid. Stop reading them. If you have to read them stop going for them. If you have to go for them at least go for them for a small amount of time and instead focus on other impacts as your round winner. Why are these impacts stupid? Lets put 20 seconds on the clock Tosh style and walk you through it

1. Evidence is written by debate coaches

2. Its warrantless

3. Other countries in the world dont have debate and still learn skills and make decisions

4. There is no threshold- 1 debate probs not key

5. They are easily k’able

6. They are basically making an empirical claim with no empirical evidence

Time. The only two impacts you should ever be talking about on framework are fairness and topic education. I feel I have beaten fairness into the ground on the podcasts so lets talk a little about topic education. In policy debate we have this thing called a “topic”. Now, despite what most framework 2AC’s would have you believe, the “topic” is not any of the following:

-South American history

-the domestic policies of South American countries and how they impact their citizens



-random non governmental groups that may or may not be located primarily in a topic country

In an overwhelming number of debates I have judged or scouted negatives are getting DESTROYED by affirmatives on the question of whether or not the affirmative is about the topic. If this happens to you it is a Hindenburg magnitude disaster. This most often occurs through the affirmative winning an argument that is something like “we are a pre-requisite to discussing the topic”. Well, first of all, you just conceded you aren’t the topic. This is K debate 101. If the topic is “manage the environment” and the neg says “Heidegger”- just because they have a Dillon 99 card that says ontology is prior to whatever that doesn’t mean the topic becomes “resolved: Heidegger”. I digress…


The point is, negatives never challenge this argument in an intelligent way. Some things you should do

1. Point out the affirmative has no evidence or logical basis for what they are saying. We have had 60+ years of pro/con debate on engaging Latin America and never once did either side bring up the “lol prerequisite” the affirmative is saying. Now the response to this should be (though the team you are debating will likely not point this out) “well that’s why its failed”. The “it” in question being all of US engagement ever. Even when authors says something like “the history of economic engagement is one of exploitation” they are not saying

A. Its impossible to talk about engagement without first talking about exploitation. Obviously you can talk about it.

B. That all engagement ever will be exploitative. This is crucial when related to A. That engagement has been done in a problematic way in the past does not mean it always has to be problematic in the future. Take immigration which several people have been reading cases about. In the past immigration policy has been exploitative- requiring people to jump through hoops, only letting in immigrants with degrees so we can benefit from them economically etc. That doesn’t mean future immigration policy HAS to be that way or that it is even likely to be that way. You could think of it as a correlation/causation sort of distinction but that’s not really the point- the point is that teams take evidence written by people not in debate and then attach all this debate terminology to it to turn that evidence into a useful strategic ploy. in 100/100 debates when people call for the evidence that “supports” these arguments made by the affirmative it says nothing of the kind.


2. Talking about engagement is not defending the topic. The topic isn’t resolved: engagement? The topic says should increase, pointing out engagement is flawed is not advocating for an increase. This gets back to the point above- saying one of the topic words over and over again is not defending the topic. The words in the resolution when combined have a particular meaning that is greater than just the word engagement or just the word Mexico, the resolution implies a direction for change. What a lot of teams fail to understand about the theoretical basis for resolutions and plan texts etc. is that the affirmative is supposed to be proposing some sort of change. The world, as it is, is bad and the affirmative gets to describe how to fix it. This proposed fix generates clash because fixing things is hard, especially in international relations. The affirmative gets a strategic benefit- they get to pick something that is wrong – and they incur a strategic cost- they have to explain why their fix will actually work. Planless advocacies try to have their cake and eat it to- they get to say x is wrong but never have to defend in a meaningful or predictable way some sort of fix. This is the fundamental issue at work in framework debates that is rarely explained- the affirmative, by not proposing a fix, leaves nothing for you to clash with. In the context of topic education, we learn a lot about problems in Latin America or problems with engagement, but because the affirmative will not defend should increase we learn nothing about what to do about those problems. When affirmatives respond” we are the topic” most negatives respond with a  bunch of strung together definitions and go “ha ha, you arent firm about what the government in DC should do to make greater its tit for tat policy of expanding trade agreements with the geographic area defined as Mexico”. This isn’t a complete argument. What you need to say is that “the topic” is a sentence crafted to provoke discussion, the affirmative refuses to engage the controversial part of that- the fix- so while they are related to the topic they are in fact not the topic.


Global 3- Man my subpointing in this article has sucked. Anywhoo- negatives mishandle the argument that “policy debate is stupid”. I will dovetail this with my 5am text question which was about how “hegemony gets read every year, why is it important to debate that”. This is an argument I hear all the time, and one of the better indicts of traditional policy debate imo- its stale. People read the same crap over and over again, it is hyperbolic and stupid etc.


To start, I will not under any circumstances defend the politics disad. As far as I’m concerned if at this point in time you still read or encourage your students to read the politics disad you are part of the problem. You are the debate equivalent of the KKK in that southpark episode about changing the flag- whatever side of an argument you take you delegitimize it with your presence.


So lets defend hegemony- yum. First, is it really that common that teams talk about hegemony? I submit to you that it is not. If we use as the indicator number of teams who discuss hegemony in the 1AC than hegemony is a dying argument. A quick perusal of the case list reveals this pretty quickly. First of all, its pretty hard to even find a policy team on the case list now a days, but since planless teams rarely read hegemony we should obviously not count them in any tally of “is hegemony common among policy teams”. Based on my informal survey K teams would be much better served by complaining about climate change advantages than hegemony. Anywhoo… Second- is it really that stupid to discuss hegemony on a foreign policy topic? It turns out the question of US leadership in the world is like, pretty important. In fact, its a central element of a majority of recent international issues (Iran, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Climate change, Austerity/financial collapse/banking reform, bitcoin…) It was probably less central to say, the privacy topic a decade ago, but for economic engagement US leadership is probably a pretty important issue. Third, comparatively it is more work (research) to read and defend a hegemony advantage than critical alternatives. As an example, lets take Wilderson. An argument that draws on a relatively small body of articles (both in terms of authors and responses you have to prepare for), Wilderson would be substantially easier to prepare to debate than hegemony. Lets look at why

-hegemony is an impact- nto a case. No one reads a planless aff and just talks about hegemony- they have to win an internal link and solvency. They have to propose a fix. This leaves it open for the other side to make solvency take outs, solvency turns etc. These mean that stupid hegemony cases can be punished on substance. You can also turn the impact with a disadvantage. None of these things are available to the team neg against Wilderson.

-for a hegemony advantage the most common negative strategy will be to counterplan out of it- not really something you can do vs Wilderson

-in 2013 there are 18,300 scholarly journal articles about “US hegemony” ignoring synonyms, there are 318 about anti-blackness (thats ever, not in 2013)*

-Hegemony can be impact turned- there aren’t very many judges excluding Chattahooche alums who will dismiss out of hand impact turns to your hegemony advantage

-hegemony articles/arguments cover a huge amount of ground/issues/areas of the globe requiring you to familiarize yourself with more issues

-the role the US should adopt internationally is a pressing factor in almost every current events issue/election of any kind etc


I’m not saying any of these arguments are round winners/even good, but I have never ONCE, not once seen a team try and defend the arguments discussed in policy debates when attacked by the other side- and if you can’t defend what your vision of debate looks like than yea you are probably not going to win framework.



Ok even I’m getting sick of FW at this point. Moving on


Question 2: “In your RFD you said we needed to resolve arguments- what is that”


Ah, argument resolution. One of my favorite topics. Think of competing claims like link and link turn as being arrows pushing in opposite directions





Argument resolution is an attempt to explain why your arrow pushes better than the other sides. Impact calculus is a form of argument resolution


















Argument resolution can be about any issue though. Lets say the uniqueness to the China SOI disad is the focus of the debate. Each team has a key piece of evidence

Team A: their card says that China is aggressively pursuing its SOI in LA – its from october and from a professor of international affairs at Harvard

Team B:  their card says China isn’t very concerned with LA- its from December and from a staff writer at the LA Times.


Here is generally how this debate would go

Team A “prefer our evidence, its from a qualified author not a staff writer”

Team B “prefer our evidence- their card is 3 months old, new stuff has come to light”


Now, argument resolution is explaining to the judge why those two competing claims should result in you winning.

Team A “qualifications are more important than date- SOI refers to a structural foreign policy principle- its unlikely to change over a small period of time. Also, qualified authors are more likely to factor in important events and ignore trivial ones- their staff writer probably misinterpreted a minor event and concluded China was no longer seeking influence”.


If you don’t resolve things for the judge they are left to do it for themselves at the end. When they have to do it themselves you are more likely to be unhappy with the resolution and feel like you got “screwed”. Always be thinking before final rebuttals- what are the important issues in this round? How can I prepare to spin these issues in my favor? I see a lot of debates where the 2 final rebuttals spend all their time winning their offense but never explain why it matters/is more important than what the other team is winning. In these debates teams will often lose despite winning their advantage more than the other team one their disad just because the other team did a small amount of impact calculus.


Question (kind of?) 3 “i really disagree wih your comments about weighing the aff being a framework argument. most teams dont really explain their fwork when they read a k they just do impact calc like we outweigh cause they dont get their case. so then its good to say you do get to weigh it or you will lose”


So this is a blog about debate,an activity where there are two sides to every issue. As such, a lot of the time I get messages like “lol that argument youe xplained sucks” etc. Here is the thing- this isn’t “”. I am well aware that in reality there are bad K teams who don’t do a good job explaining their fw. The question is: should you prepare your 2AC to beat bad teams who don’t explain arguments, or should you prepare to beat the best teams who are going to explain things well? Clearly the latter. If a team is bad at explaining their FW such that you could beat them with an inferior argument, does that mean you will lose going for the stronger argument? No. If you prepare the best argument you will still beat the bad team and will now have a shot at beating the good team. Yes, much of the advice given in these posts isn’t necessary to beat bad teams- nothing is. They are bad.



*yea obviously this comparison presents some problems- the point is its a response to the comparison that hegemony is as stupid of an issue


One response to “Answering some Reader questions

  1. What I see a lot is teams thinking that if they win framework, they win the round. That won’t cut it. You run framework so when you win OTHER ARGUMENTS you win the round based on a framework for decision you have established.

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