Cross About Cross Examination

Dear Negative Team:

I noticed a few things in that last tournament where I judged you collectively, and they’ve gotten worse over the course of the year.  So here’s a few pointers on how to win a ballot and maintain high speaker points when you’re delivering for me.

First, Political Capital is bunk.  You can refer back to George Bush’s claim that he had it and was going to spend it on social security reform (which went utterly nowhere) after his re-election to see this.  Any link stories based on political capital are lies.  The closest you can possibly come to making a political capital claim is to use the chunks of evidence that say “half of the senate would rather commit seppuku than vote for a plan like that” while claiming that the real-world-civics-education aspect of the debate should not assume fiat, only indeterminately high lobbying capacity.

Second, Bio-Power is bunk.  Stop wasting my time with it.  As long as services critical for life and health are paid for with Federal Reserve Notes — that is, the US Dollars that the US Federal Government supports and is the ongoing functional foundation of its legitimacy in our capitalist society — then the government cannot have more control over individuals than they already do.  The only question is whether or not the individuals actually need to convert the power to money before getting services or just go from power to services.  And this is a turn:  Corporations behave like sociopaths with no duties to anybody but their biggest shareholders and the use of paychecks and benefit packages gives them biopower over their employees that they exercise to the detriment of real people every time layoffs come around.  (See also Network: “There is no America.  There is no Democracy.  There is only IBM, ATT, ITT, and Exxon.”)  Neither the aff nor the neg is going to undo biopower by any means of policy, but the aff’s policy of shifting biopower away from the feckless corporations back to the elected government, of-by-and-for the people, helps to put the worst abuses of biopower in check.  And that, quite frankly, is what nationalized health care is supposed to be all about.

Third, Counterplans that Affirm the Resolution mean that the negative has ceded its advocacy.  Please stop running them.  If topicality is a voting issue for me, which it is, and I told you this, then you had better not be affirming the resolution.  I really wish at some point 2AC would stand up after hearing a different-agent “counterplan” and say “Yeah, they’re right enough.  We totally grant their counterplan.  But their counterplan affirms the resolution, so we’ve just aggreed that X should Y, so if you’d be so kind as to vote affirmative now we’ll stop wasting our breath and your time.  Thanks!”  Because I swear I’ll give perfect speaker points to somebody who can crystallize that tersely and perfectly and be done.

Fourth, the only reason topicality matters is because it determines whether or not the affirmative has affirmed the resolution.  If they haven’t affirmed the resolution, you get up there and say so and explain to me how and why and you win.  That’s all.  For the fear of dread Cthulhu, please stop claiming that not having to research non-topical cases is good for your education.  It isn’t.  It’s bad for it.  More things to research results in you having to learn more if you’re doing any research at all instead of just reading this canned claim that your education is harmed by being exposed to new and unusual things.

Fifth, if you’re running contradicting perspectives, please put some if/else conditioning in there so I know where you’re actually leaning and what you actually expect.  If you don’t do it, then I really hope that the affirmative slaps you with a double-turn and annihilates your cognitive credibility so that I can be pleased with the thought processes going into at least something I’m seeing.  Really, if/elsing is easy:  “We believe in this critique here, but you’ve said that you’re not keen on K so if you don’t like that then please consider this alternative…”  That’s it.  That’s all I’m asking for.  That little line is worth 2-3 speaker points on its own.

Sixth, please respond to the affirmative case as early as possible.  Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of bad off-case in the 1NC and the debate never gets back to anything said in the 1AC, meaning that the carefully constructed house of cards that is the affirmative’s case isn’t getting touched, much less summarily knocked down.  Maybe I’m biased because that’s what I’m good at, but really, if it’s going to flow through the round then can we cut the first eight-minute speech and just assume “1) Flowers, 2) Bunnies, 3) Rainbows” and go from there?

Seventh, and affirmative listen up, is Terminal Impacts.  I don’t believe in them.  You should’ve caught this from the first thing I said in my paradigm.  I’m sad that you didn’t.  The thing about terminal impacts is that they’re not going to happen based on any policies that just about anybody can lay out in about 30 minutes of “constructive” speeches.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t harmful impacts, and I certainly will be wanting to mitigate harmful impacts — just because as a species we’re not going extinct (really we’re not) doesn’t mean that we’ve done anything to mitigate people’s suffering.  So for the negative, don’t think that the one thing you say against the affirmative (“we’re not going extinct!”) in any way turns the entirety of their case any more than the affirmative should have claimed that we’re going extinct or are in three different ways on the fast track to global annihilation anyway.

Finally, stop running Narrative K if you don’t have an opposing narrative of your own.  If debate is storytelling and you don’t tell me a good story, then you lose for not telling me a story and I drop your speaking points for wasting my time telling me that debate is storytelling which I already knew.  Really.  And per the previous point — once again, this is for both when you are affirming and negating — please, in the name of Eris, have a narrative that is better than “See Jane.  See Jane run from nuclear annihilation.  Run, Jane, Run!  Too late, Jane died horribly all because you voted for the other team.”  You have more time and more resources to work with to form a cohesive, coherent, dare I even say persuasive narrative than any other debate event you can participate in.  Please use it.

That Guy With The Shaved Head

Update: Since very few of you have seen Network, a fabulously prescient film from the 1970’s, here is the relevant bit that you can use as a 2AC if somebody combines the Narrative K with the Biopower K to feed back the Corporations Are Bigger Than Government story.  The card should be labelled “Chayefsky, 1976.”

There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians. There are no Arabs! There are no third worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars! It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today! That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today! … You get up … and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy.  There is only IBM and ITT and A T and T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.  What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx?  They pull out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do.  We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies… The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business.  The world is a business…! It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children, … will live to see that perfect world in which there is no war and famine, oppression and brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

And that is both the true promise and the true threat of Biopower.  If you want to see it originally delivered by Ned Beatty to get a hint as to how you should be delivering it in round, it’s on YouTube.  Isn’t the 21st century wonderful?


Update #2: So most of the topicality I’ve seen has been related to who is getting social services (instead of on substantially increasing against apparently a standing budget of $557B) and while a lot of affirmative plans go extratopical in covering the designated demographic, there are some that go untopical.  And, as previously noted, when they go untopical, they have failed to affirm the resolution so “Aff” can’t be written on the ballot.  And the best way to describe that picture is to start with a Venn diagram like this:

So first of all, the actual population that is being targeted is massively smaller than the population that should be targeted, even before you take out the extratopical portion of the population that doesn’t need to be targeted.  This is true for illegal immigrants (about 13M), this is more true for Natives on reservations (about 0.8M) so the first question you bring out in cross examination — right after “what’s the intial cost of implementing your policy?” — should be “how many people are affected by your policy?” because both of those are substantial questions to form a topicality point of their own.  If necessary, follow it up with “and how many of them are in poverty?” but ideally it won’t be necessary because the better follow-up is “and why are they in poverty?” because the answer to that is going to fork into your claims that their policy won’t have any solvency and will, in fact, be an ongoing money-sink. (Note that if you’re listening carefully, the other team may read cards on why some of their target population is in poverty… and never even try to solve for it such that the solvency they’re hoping to get will leak right out through, oh say, failed infrastructure.)

But the real topicality argument is this:  The social services are not for people living in poverty.  If, for example, a policy targeting a population were implemented and then the subset of that population were to collectively win the lottery and cease being in poverty, they would still be receiving the increased social services based on the not-poverty qualification and the other team (not an affirmative position) wouldn’t be able to hide behind a facade of topicality.  It is merely circumstantial that there is any overlap between the targeted population and the topical population, and when the policy is passed by whatever branch of the federal government and then re-sold to the American people, it will be sold honestly and directly as non-topical.  “Poverty” may come up in justifying the policy, but probably not because the other team probably has barely mentioned it at all because that’s something they can’t solve for.

To re-clarify:  If the affirmative position fails to target people living in poverty because of their impoverished status, then you can hit them with this — and the less overlap there is, the easier it is to make this point stick and double it up with a substantially violation.  And remember to close your topicality argument with “Even if you believe that they’ve got a good case and a good policy, they have failed to affirm the resolution so ‘affirm’ is not a valid option for your ballot.”  If you’re really on the ball, you can use that to turn right around and say “But we don’t think that’s it’s that great of a policy because…” and start with a spending disadvantage before going on to non-solvency — “so you’ve taken the unfortunate increase in spending and gone nowhere with it, and haven’t even affirmed the resolution.”