Monday, September 24, 2012

LD Debate - Your First Case


This article is aimed at helping novice Lincoln-Douglas debaters write their first case.  There are many, many ways to accomplish this task and so, I advise any novice LD debater to first consult your coach and possibly team-mates.  They are much more likely than I will ever be to help you meet the challenges you will face in your local districts because acceptable styles of LD will vary a lot depending on which circuit your team competes.  For the purpose of this article I will adhere to a more-or-less traditional, conservative style of Lincoln-Douglas which I hope is compatible with the style seen in the NFL National Tournament in recent years.  Very quickly as you gain experience, your will adapt to your regional style, I am sure.

Value Debate

Lincoln-Douglas is conceived as value debate.  In other words, most of the time, you will be expected to argue for or against a resolution based on the premise the position you are taking (either Affirmative or Negative) upholds, promotes, protects or enhances some higher principle, such as life, justice, or freedom. Generally speaking, you must defend a concept which makes life worth living; qualities we, as humans, all strive to attain. In many ways, I think universality is one key to choosing good values.  They are not just American values, or religious values, or modern values.  They are qualities treasured by anyone, anywhere, at anytime just by virtue of the fact we are human beings.  Therefore, you need to keep the goal of attaining or maintaining a value in mind as you begin to create your case.

Having said that, I should also mention that many times the value is not always one you freely choose from a broad list of ideals.  Very often, the value is explicit in the wording of the resolution.  For example, a resolution which uses wording such as "a just nation does such and such" very strongly indicates the debaters should value justice.  This type of resolution is really good for novices.  Probably the hardest task many novices have is deciding which value to defend.  A resolution which specifies one, saves much agonizing and stress.

Generally speaking, the goal of your case will be to prove that by siding with your point of view the judge will be upholding, defending, or promoting your value.

LD Resources

Lincoln-Douglas debate has been around for a while, and because it is such a compelling category, in my opinion, it has enjoyed a lot of really worthwhile press.  By that I mean, many intelligent and experienced individuals have written lots of useful information and offered excellent guidance about how to do LD, write LD as well as lots of criticisms and calls to modify this or that aspect of the genre.  I advise you to seek out these articles and read them.  Especially the guides directed to debaters from novice through advanced varsity.

I can tell you there are guides which explain very well the nature of the resolutions, how to extract and characterize the principle terms and the mechanics of case writing and the structure and timing of a debate round.  I recommend you read these as I have no intention of parroting their words and guidance.  I think I offer something, nevertheless, since I intend to take a broad swipe at the subject while still offering some practical advice to novice debaters.

Aff and Neg Case Differences

Lincoln-Douglas debaters (like any debaters) will be required to debate both sides of the resolution, so I think it is safe to assume you will write both an Affirmative and Negative case.  For the most part, the approach to both will be identical.  Each case should take an attitude of standing for a point of view.  In other words, if you are writing your Neg case, it is not enough to simply stand up and offer a case which states the Aff is wrong.  You must say why the Neg is right.  The same, of course, applies to the Aff so it can be said that both sides have the burden of proof to show their point of view is correct.  Of course, I know that sometimes debaters will simply refute the other side and win but I personally think your case will be stronger if you can carve out some ground and stand for something instead of only taking shots at the opponent.

One key difference in a Neg case is it is short.  While the Affirmative opening speech will run six minutes, the Negative will need to allocate a portion of the seven minute speech time to refuting the Affirmative case, so most of the time the first Negative speech will consist of about 3-1/2 minutes of constructive and an equal amount of time for refutation.  There is nothing precise about the amount of time in this division.  It is simply a guideline so you remember to keep the prewritten Negative speech short enough to allow for sufficient attacks against on the Affirmative.

There are other differences as well.  The Affirmative will likely spend some time on definitions, resolutional analysis, and framework.  Often it is not necessary to offer your own definitions if the Affirmative definitions are acceptable to you.  Of course, this means you still need definitions, I am just saying you may not need to read them.  However, if Aff gives definitions which are overly limiting or restrictive or perhaps too broad in order to give some advantage to affirmative or place extra burdens upon the Neg, you will need to offer counter-definitions to protect yourself, hence the need to have definitions in any case.  I could say, the safest approach for novices is always give your definitions even if they do agree with the affirmative.  It is the best way to ensure you avoid some subtle trap however, not repeating definitions you could allow more time for attacking.

Finally with regard to differences, I will say that while the Affirmative case could have three, four or more contentions the Neg will have far fewer.  As a rule of thumb I think it is best to have at least two contentions.  I have heard many one-contention cases and some comprised of multiple subpoints and these can work, but I am a firm believer the more arguments you can make in favor of your case, the more difficult job your opponent will have refuting you.  Of course, each argument must follow the basic argumentation structure I have discussed in several other posts on this site (see links at the end of this article).

Topic Analysis

Before one can write a Aff and Neg cases, there must be a detailed analysis of the resolution. Take the time the define each word or phrase of the resolution.  This must done with common sense.  For example, it makes sense to define a term like "due process" rather than define "due" then "process".  The goal is to have a thorough understanding of the definition of the resolution as well as possible alternative meanings.  You should try to get a grasp on what the framer of the resolution intended the debate to be about and set down some possible Affirmative points of view and Negative points of view.

I think it is best, at this point to isolate some values.  This is probably one of the more difficult objectives for novices and there are many techniques for doing it.  There are different kinds of resolutions and so different techniques for analysis and your coach may explain this in detail.  There are also handbooks and guides on the Internet (see reference below).   Doing a thorough analysis of the resolution is helpful to understand how the positions should be evaluated and many times yields a value in the wording of the resolution itself.  As I said before, the resolution may use terms like "a just nation" so revealing justice as a value, or "prefer individual rights" revealing individual rights as the value.  Quite often, advanced debaters feel they can do better by not picking the explicit value in the resolution and they choose others.  Fine, if you can make it work.  For novices, until you get to be advanced, I suggest if a value is stated in the resolution, go with it because there will be much less work involved in trying to justify why you have chosen a particular value to defend.

When the value is not explicit, there are other ways of determining good values and perhaps it is useful to novices to choose from a laundry list of values such as: life, justice, liberty, individual rights, autonomy, happiness, well-being, quality of life, governmental legitimacy, morality, democracy, etc.  But this does not mean, thinking, "oh, I like happiness so I choose that as my value".  It is better to look through the list after you have identified possible positions for your Aff and Neg and think: by urging the judge to support this point of view, will life or justice, or happiness, etc. be preserved or enhanced or greater? If so, how?  You need to find some connection between the position and the value and more times than not, that connection can serve as the value criterion.  For example, this position improves the quality of life because it reduces the threat of terrorist attack.  The value can be quality of life, the criterion we choose to achieve an improved quality of life is reduction of fear or minimizing terrorist threats.

Outline the Case

After you have collected your research, learned the main issues, and chosen a value and criterion you can begin to outline the cases.  The basic outline will look something like this:

I. Introduction
  A. Attention grabbing remark
  B. Resolution
  C. Definitions
  D. Interpretation (optional)

II. Observations / Framework
    (the value/criterion goes in this section)
  A. First observation
  B. Second observation

III. Contentions
  A. First contention
  B. Second contention
  C. (optional additional contentions)

IV. Conclusion
  A. summary

The Introduction
This portion of the constructive may be brief.  It often begins with an opening remark or quotation which is sympathetic to your point of view.  A brief remark from a historical figure, author, philosopher, etc. You will typically follow this with a remark which presents the resolution, "because I agree with of the quotation... I affirm the resolution, Resolved: ....".  It is good practice to repeat the resolution for the judge's clarification.

Following the opening, statements, you should present the definitions of the terms in the resolution to eliminate any ambiguity or uncertainty about how you interpret the resolution.  In fact, it is important many times to specifically explain your interpretation of the resolution after defining the terms, "therefore the resolution requires ..." or "is asking us to consider ...".

When writing the Neg case, since the case will be much shorter, much of the introduction is sometimes omitted.  Many simply begin with, "I negate the resolution, resolved: ...". followed by any alternative definitions as required.

The Observations/Framework
In this part of the speech, the framework is built.  In most circuits, both sides are expected to have at minimum, the value/criterion framework.  In other words, somewhere within this section of the speech you will declare the value you have chosen and the criterion used to achieve the value and you will explain, as succinctly and clearly as possible how the resolution, value and criterion are related.  For example, in a resolution related to terrorism, "I choose the value of quality of life.  The threat of terrorism causes people to live in fear and forces them to move about their daily lives with caution and watchfulness.  Jan Blankslate of Hashtable University stated "the number one weapon of terror networks is fear..." By reducing the threat of terrorism, we deprive them of their most effective weapon and improve the quality of life of their intended victims.  Therefore, my criterion in today's round is reduction of fear".

The other parts of the framework, which may be in the form of observations or a narrative, serves to justify your approach to meeting your criterion.  A good framework will give the judge standards which explain how your approach is the only one that can achieve the value and why the Neg can not.

The Contentions
These are the major claims you will use to prove you meet your criterion.  These claims are derived directly from your research. They should possess all of the qualities of good argumentation, including warrants and impacts and the connection to your value or criterion should be stated or at least self-evident.  For example:

"Contention 1: Threat of terrorism has negative impacts on society
Threat of terrorism casts a shadow of fear over a society which affects the quality of life.  A Department of Security study cited reductions in the amount of traffic in lower Manhouston in 2003 demonstrates the reluctance of people to move about openly in the weeks following a threatened attack.  Moreover, according to the Wallmart Journal, following terror threats in 2008 and 2009 the prices of fuel and food increased 21%. ... "

"Contention 2: Threat of terrorism instills fear of others
Professor of Philosophy, Knowen Hardly writes, 'the nature of terrorism engenders a kind of paranoia in the society in which every person is a suspect to be feared.  It creates a quality of life conforming to Hobbes' state of nature, a perpetual war of everyman against everyman..."

"Contention 3: The rhetoric of terror extends the fear
"According to Rollin Apples, it is the rhetoric of counter-terrorism which perpetuates fear. By describing networks as shadowy, nebulous entities like the ghosts and dark spirits which created terror in the minds of children.  Terrorists are characterized as undercover operatives, elusive and unknown until they spring from the shadows to strike...  The rhetoric creates a fear with is greater than the actual threat...."

The Conclusion
Finally it is necessary to link everything together into a nice neat package and conclude with a narrative showing how the case ultimately achieves the value by meeting the criterion you established at the very beginning.  One of the biggest problems I see with novice cases is the lack of that common thread which weaves the entire case together from resolution to value to criterion to claims.  The conclusion is the last opportunity to bind it all together.

The Sanity Check

Finally I will conclude this article with an idea they may help any LD debater write a slightly better case.  A case is a lengthy speech with lots of backing and explanation and I realize it is necessary to provide all of this detail to drive home your point in a convincing way.  If you are thinking: there will be time in cross examination or the following speeches to fill-in the details or clarify the points, it is a clear indication the main speech is lacking.  A good constructive should stand entirely on its own and when it's finished, the judge should understand completely how it all ties together.
I think a good way to check the consistency, completeness and logic of your case is to perform a "sanity" check.  simply go back your outline, write down the major claim in each section of the outline as a single sentence and read it to someone.  If they get the overall major premise, the case passes the sanity check.  For example:

(I. Introduction)
Resolved: The war on terrorism is unjustified.
Terrorism is the use of fear to achieve a political purpose

(II. Observations / Framework)
Living in fear reduces the quality of life.
Reducing fear preserves the quality of life.

(III. Contentions)
The threat of terror harms many aspects of society and instills paranoia
The language we use to define terror increases the fear
The fear is worse than the actual acts of terror

(IV. Conclusion)
Governments use the threat of terror to justify the war.
But the threat of war degrades the quality of life.
Reducing the rhetoric of threat, reduces fear, which improves life and takes away the justification for war.

If above makes logical sense and the claims clearly lead to the conclusion, the case passes the sanity check, otherwise you need to improve it.

The Ultimate Lincoln-Douglas Handbook, Marko Djuranovic, 2003.

Sanity Testing, wikipedia

PF Debate - Your First Case


This is the last place you should be looking for how to write a case.  Since you are a competitive academic debater, you are on a team and most teams have coaches and your coach is your first and most important resource.  If there is no coach, or the coach is very busy, you have team-mates and there is a good chance they have experience writing cases already.  If you are the only team or one of several novice teams, this article is a last resort.  You are advised to seek help first-hand.  Having said that I will move ahead with caution.

The kind of case I will focus is one that is typical in the region where our team competes.  There are regional differences.  Perhaps in your district Pro always speaks first or perhaps different kinds of styles and arguments are expected.  These factors may change how one should write their cases and if so, I have no way to assist you.  I will tell you, the style I present seems compatible with the last few years of NFL National Tournament finals, so it should work for you.
Finally, please take note, that your case is more than a four minute speech.  It will continue through two constructive speeches, two summary speeches, several different cross-fires and a final speech.  So you must have enough total material to keep you going throughout the round, including the speaking you must do directly from your notes, which can not be prepared in advance.

An Approach to Case Writing

Since PF debate teams are two-person, it makes sense to divide the work.  On our team one member writes the Pro, the other writes Con.  They decide who will take which side.  Occasionally I decide for them.  If I think one member is weak in a particular position, I may have that member write the weak side so as to gain strength through doing research.  Each member would write a four minute constructive speech and then a two minute constructive speech.  The four minute speech will be read by whomever is the first speaker, the two minute speech can be used by whomever is the second speaker.  In addition, each person writing a case, should find at least three pieces of independent supporting evidence for each claim and keep those in the case file.

Do the Analysis

It is very important as each new resolution is introduced throughout the year, to get together and brainstorm the topic.  Breakdown each word and define it, get to understand the issues behind the topic, find out what is currently happening in the world which is related to the resolution, and try to understand what kind of positions may be taken by the Pro or Con sides.  If you are a novice, do a Pro and Con list.  Literally, write down all of the reasons to support the resolution on a sheet of paper labeled Pro, and all the reasons to reject it on a sheet of paper labeled Con.  Each member should compare their Pro and Con lists and discuss their impressions of each item on the lists.  From this list, three or four items should be identified which seem like strong reasons to support or reject.

Research, Research, Research,
Read, Read, Read
Learn, Learn, Learn

At this point, because you have selected some presumably good, Pro and Con points from your Pro/Con lists, you can start to research these points and see what kind of evidence you can find to support the points.  Make sure you select good sources, from reputable websites, books or magazines.  Avoid authors that may be very biased.  Copy the exact text of the sources you find, including author, publication, date, and the web address if applicable.  You should have enough info that anyone in the future can easily find the same source.  If the original source is a PDF file, or Word document, keep a copy of the entire document.  Make a copy of the portion you think is relevant to support the item from your Pro/Con list and keep it in a separate "evidence" file along with the information about the source.  Find and read as many sources as you can which support your points and save the best ones.  During the course of this research you may find, what you thought was a good point is actually a terrible point because you can not find evidence.  If this happens, consider taking another point from your list and research that point.  All of this research and reading will help you enormously to understand the issues in an even deeper way and this is essential to giving you confidence to understand and answer questions about the topic.

Outline the Case

After you have collected your research and learned the main issues, you can begin to outline the cases.  The basic outline will look something like this:

I. Introduction
  A. Attention grabbing remark
  B. Resolution
  C. Definitions
  D. Interpretation (optional)

II. Observations (optional)
  A. First observation
  B. Second observation

III. Contentions
  A. First contention
  B. Second contention
  C. (optional additional contentions)

IV. Conclusion
  A. summary

The Introduction
The Introduction portion of the speech often begins with an attention grabbing remark. Although it may be omitted, it is often used in most kinds of persuasive speaking so it not a bad practice.  Many PF debaters will select some quotation from a relatively well-known person, that serves as a lead-in to the issue being addressed in the case and usually this is followed by a statement of affirmation or negation of the resolution.  For example, looking to the Pro case we could start something like this:

"'We cannot command Nature except by obeying her.', Francis Bacon.  Because my partner and I agree with Francis Bacon, we stand in support of the resolution, Resolved:....".

Having made that very brief opening remark and then repeating the resolution for the sake of the judge, it is a very good idea to define the key words of the resolution.  "We offer the following definitions.  According to Merriam-Webster, ... is defined as ... and ... is defined as ...  The Oxford Legal Dictionary defines ... as ... the U.N. defines ... as ...".  The example shows how sometimes, one source may be better than another when giving the definitions.  You want to choose definitions from authoritative sources that support your case.  There is no need to define every word.  Only define those which you think are important not only to what you are trying to prove but also to what you think may be important in helping you defeat the opponent's position. 

Once you have repeated the resolution and defined the key words, it is helpful, though not required, to very briefly give your interpretation of the resolution as a way to justify your team position.  For example, you may say, "Therefore my partner and I believe the resolution is saying..." or "the resolution is asking us to examine...".  Overall keep your introductory remarks brief, perhaps no more than 30-40 seconds total.

The Observations
This part of the speech is entirely optional.  Leaving it out allows more time for the intro or the contentions.  But by putting in, while it takes time, it allows you to set up more justification and explanation about your approach to your position.  Quite often a team may include burdens for themselves and the opponents.  They will make some statement such as "In order to win this debate Pro must show..." or "Con must prove..."  These statements are signals to the judge that you will expect the two sides to meet the burdens you place on them.  This approach can have limited effect.  Some judges will accept your burdens, some will reject them because they don't like being told what standards they should use to determine the winner or loser. If you think it is important to establish burdens, try to be little more subtle by saying something like, "we believe the resolution requires us to prove..." or "we believe the resolution requires or opponents to show...".  Its a subtle difference in which you urge the judge to think the burden is being required by the resolution itself and not because you think it helps your position.

Observations are also useful for establishing what is often called the framework which again is simply a statement which justifies your approach and gives the judge some way of evaluating the round.  For example, you may make an observation such as, "the resolution speaks of a moral obligation.  We believe a moral obligation is simply a duty to do something because it is right or good. Helping the less-fortunate is a good thing.  Therefore a case which promotes helping the less-fortunate fulfills a moral duty and should be preferred."  This kind of observation signals the judge that any case which promotes helping the less-fortunate should be seen as fulfilling the requirements of the resolution.  Bear in mind, if you choose to have an observation, I highly recommend, you back it up with evidence.  For example, you can say, "According to Philosopher, Immanual Kant, the principle of morality is based upon the categorical imperative, which says one should 'Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.'  We claim, helping the less-fortunate is a desirable, universal law so we observe that by helping the less-fortunate, our case promotes Kant's view of morality and is preferable to a position which fails to ..."

The Contentions
Next comes the contentions and this is where you prove your position with respect to the resolution.  It is now time, to pull out your points taken from the Pro list which you researched so diligently and declare each point as a major contention.  For example, in keeping with the theme that helping the less-fortunate promotes good and moral principles, let's assume the two strongest points you had on your Pro list state, 1. Unless we act, millions of acres of crops will be destroyed and 2. Unless we act, waves of refugees will over-run borders.  Your contentions will state:

"Contention 1 - Millions of acres of crop land will be destroyed
Joe Anybody in an article for National Geomorphic states that currently 100 million acres of rich crop land will be lost in the next five to seven years due to...  if current trends continue, Richard Someone of Yule Academy of Science believes an additional billion acres will disappear... Unless steps are taken or plans put in place now to alleviate the effects of these losses, the humanitarian costs will be enormous"

"Contention 2 - Displaced Refugees will Swamp the Borders of Neighboring States.
As conditions worsen, millions of people will flee their lands seeking better conditions.  This will create tides of refugees who will burden the resources of their neighboring states.  Dr. Santo Gromingo of Hazard University has stated 'the crush of humanity into refugee centers will spread disease and suffering which will decimate the would be irresponsible to ignore this coming disaster..."

When the contentions, are written, you basically take the key points you have researched, refer to your evidence, and construct a narrative which supports your claims in a very "judge friendly, people friendly" kind of way without sounding too elementary or under-researched.  The number of contentions you ultimately have will depend on how much time it takes you to read your entire constructive speech.  Novice debaters should have 2 or 3 good contentions.

Sometimes a team will combine some of their  contentions which are closely related in order to put in other contentions.  For example, contention 1 and 2 in the example above are closely related, so it may be possible to combine them in such a way, the team can present even more arguments.  For example, in outline form, it would read:

Contention 1 - Crop land will be destroyed.
  Subpoint A - Crop failure will result in mass starvation (reasons, evidence)
  Subpoint B - Lack of food will trigger movement of refugees (reasons, evidence)

Contention 2 - Proposed Plans can prevent disaster
  Subpoint A - Several nations have proposed solutions (evidence, explain)
  Subpoint B - Leading nations have failed to act (evidence, explain)

That covers the basics of how to build the contentions.  I will have more to say about them later when I discuss the development of the second constructive speech.

The Speech Conclusion
Up to this point, your written case should take about 3-1/2 minutes to present.  This will leave about thirty seconds in which to wrap it up.  It is appropriate to make a statement which connects everything back to the observations and interpretation of the resolution made at the very beginning.  This reminds the judge of the basis in which you started the case and brings it full-circle back to the resolution.  There are lots of different ways this can be stated and will depend a lot on the points you want the judge to remember the most.  Example:
"As seen by our contentions, we are on the brink of an overwhelming humanitarian disaster, resulting from loss of crops, waves or refugees, starvation, disease and stress on neighboring countries.  We also see how researchers and policy makers have devised possible solutions to alleviate the coming problems if steps are taken to act immediately.  Nevertheless, several influential nations have been reluctant to act.  We view this as a failure to do that which can be universally accepted as good and is therefore a violation of moral the obligation to help the less fortunate.  My partner and I urge the nations to fulfill their moral duty."

Finally, and this is more a kind of tradition to reserve your right to extend your case, debaters will typically say "For all these reasons and more we urge a Pro ballot.".
Let me conclude this part of the article by stating, that even though the examples given, focus on the Pro, the exact same style and procedures are employed to write the Con case.

Preparing the Second Speech

As I said previously, we typically have one team member write the Pro and other writes the Con.  This is only done as a way to share the work.  As part of that effort, we ask each member to write a second speech which is no more than two minutes long and will form the basis of the second constructive speech which is given by the other team member.  The second speech is a little more difficult to prepare because it will be read after the opponents have had a chance to present their case.  Because you may be the first speaking team or you may be the second speaking team (depending on the choices made after the coin flip), you may want to use different strategies for this second speech which I will discuss later.

The second speech can take two forms.

The first common form is a reinforcement of the points already made in the first speech.  This form the speech will be a very abbreviated version of the first speech and will typically be a revisit of the contentions given in the first speech but this time it is best to use new evidence and a slightly different narrative in order to strengthen the original contentions.  I would consider it poor form to repeat what was already said using the same evidence.  It is good form to reinforce what was said in a fresh way with new evidence and there is no prohibition on giving new evidence to support existing ideas at any time through out the round.  It is a very powerful tactic which shows the depth of your research and adds to your credibility. It will not appear as if your team ran out of things to say and so are repeating yourselves and serves to beef-up your own credibility by making a statement later in the round or cross-fire such as "we presented four independent pieces of evidence which supports our claim" or "both the Hazard University and the Dr. Lupe paper support our position".

The second form is to extend the first speech.  Sometimes you have a lot of important things to bring out and four minutes is not enough time.  It some cases, it is common for the second speaker to continue where the first left off in order to finalize all of the required points.  In this kind of speech your team will continue to introduce new arguments and claims which is allowed in either of  the Constructive speeches.  If you plan to do this, it is good form to "road map" or "signpost" your intention very early in the first speech and let the judge know your intentions, something like this in the observations portion of the speech, "We will present three contentions to support our case.  I will read the first two and if time permits, my partner will read the third." At the end of the first speech, remind the judge one final time, "if time permits, my partner will present the third contention in our next speech". It should seem obvious, when writing this form of the second speech, it is simply a continuation of the first speech and so it will be the speech that presents the final contentions and then gives the summary as illustrated above.

The Second Speech Strategies

The second speech is intentionally short and this is where it gets difficult for novices.  A good portion of the second speech, half or more, must be more or less spontaneously delivered in the form of attacks against the opponents case because, no matter if your team is first to speak or second to speak, by the time the second speech on your side is given, you will have heard the opponent's case and you will need to attack it.  I suggest a review of earlier articles I have written for refutation and rebuttals (see the references at the bottom of this article.) For now I only want to do a quick review of the some of the strategies you can take.

Strategies for Second Speech Type 1 - reinforcing the first speech

If your team is first speaker -
You give your first constructive, the opponents give their constructive.  It is now time for your team to give their second speech.  Under this scenario, a reasonable strategy is not to read the second speech (save the evidence and claims for the summary speech) and attack the opponents case for four minutes.  If you run out of attacks, then fall back on the contents of the second speech.

If your team is first speaker -
You give your first constructive and the opponents use part of their first speech to attack yours.  First, attack their speech for two minutes then use the second speech to reinforce your case using the remaining time.

If your team is second speaker -
Your opponent speaks, then your team gives their first speech.  Your opponent gives the second speech which consists of one to four minutes of attack against your case.  Attack their case for two minutes then read your second speech.

If your team is first speaker -
There is a very unlikely scenario that by the time you stand to give your second speech, the opponent has made no attacks.  In this case, spend all four minutes attacking their case and fall back on your speech if run out of things to say.

Strategies for Second Speech Type 2 - extending the first speech

If your team is first or second speaker but the opponent has not attacked your case -
Finish your case in the second speech as quickly as possible and attack for the remaining time.

If your team is first or second speaker and you have been attacked -
Attack their case first, then as time remains complete your case.

Beyond the First Two Speeches

In my opinion, one of the best strategies to carry your team forward until the end of the debate, is have a sufficient number of prewritten bits of evidence and warrants which can be used to reinforce your case and attack your opponent.  This reduces the amount to "ad lib" time you will need which is often a struggle for very beginning novice teams.  It is very common to simply run out of things to say and so you have two choices, either end your speech with the obligatory "..for all these reasons and more we urge a ... ballot" and sit down, or pull out some canned warrants, you had prewritten, and just start reading them until you run out of time.  Neither strategy is great, but using the entire speech time, even if not so effectively seems better in the mind of many judges, than just ending early and sitting down.

Typically, by the time all four opening speeches are made and the opening cross-fires are complete, the summary speeches will mark a phase where you want to begin to narrow the debate to a few key issues.  These are the issues you think you are winning and you need to make real certain, the issues you are focused upon are still on target with the general principle of your position as either the Pro or Con.  Be careful of being pulled off track and down the rabbit hole of irrelevant arguments that don't really support your case.  This is a VERY common problem for novice debaters.  I think a good approach for the summary speeches is divide your time between why your team position is right and the opponent position is wrong and at this point in the round, focusing on minutia starts to become a problem.  The more the round progresses, the shorter the speeches so the broader your focus should be become until at the final focus your final arguments are basically bullet points.

There is more I can write, and there are certainly dozens of approaches to writing PF debate cases.  I hope the ideas presented here are clear enough and simple enough to get you started.

Additional information:

Elements of Debate - Constructives
Elements of Debate - More on Constructives
Elements of Debate - Cross Examination
Elements of Debate - Rebuttal Speeches (part 1)
Elements of Debate - Rebuttal Speeches (part 2)
Rules For Better Affirmatives in Debate

2nd Speaking Position Strategies for PF
PF Cases: Theory and Practice part 1, part 2

PF 2012 Proposed November Resolutions

Some of you may have already found out the two proposed resolutions for November Public Forum debate have been released for voting consideration. They read as follows:

Resolved: The United States government should increase its efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East.

Resolved: Current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security.

At first reading, these both seem to be potentially interesting topics so I have not voted while I consider the topics more fully.  Here are some very preliminary thoughts.

The first topic reads, somewhat like a policy debate topic although it is much more narrow than a typical policy resolution. The use of the term "efforts" seems like a very vague term designed to prevent teams from focusing on particular "plan" proposals.  Over all, it seems there needs to be a fair amount of time dedicated to defining terms. At first glance it appears the Con ground is pretty large.  Potentially Con can argue the U.S. should not promote democracy, or take the position the current levels of promotion are sufficient or argue the current level are excessive, or change the actor and advocate someone else should promote democracy such as the U.N or E.U.  I am already thinking of ways to apply Policy-like "counterplan" ideas on the Con side and wrap them in a conventional PF debate case structure.  Again, without looking too deeply at this point, Pro has very limited range of advocacy and for me it seems very U.S-centric which is troubling on a certain level.

I like the wording of the second resolution much better.  It is very -er- PF-like if that term can be considered a standard.  The division of ground is very clear and I like that. It either undermines security or it doesn't.  The biggest requirement is try to get people's arms and heads around, what is the current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East?  This can get a little sticky since there may be a general regional policy and there may be very specific policies for specified nations in the region.  I can't predict right now without lots of research how big of a factor the debate around the scope and content of U.S. policy may end up being. If it is a non-issue, then this topic can focus on a very compelling debate. Otherwise, it could make this debate misery.

Hmmm. Vote for the first or second...we shall see what the coaches think.

Comments welcome, as always.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

PF 2012 Climate Change Mitigation Frameworks

For part 1 of this topic analysis click here.
For more on Public Forum topics, click here.


In response to a request made in a comment I am posting this as a service for novice debaters.  It is hastily thrown together but hopefully it is useful despite the fact some of my ideas may not be well supported in the literature or may be half-baked.  Please do not expect me to do this for each new topic.

About PF Frameworks

There are two principle kinds of framework in PF, interpretative and comparative (this is my terminology). They are very useful and work for novices as well as varsity debaters.  Interpretative framework is a kind of 'topicality' argument in which the debater establishes definitions or interpretations of the resolution which become the basis for establishing a case.  Comparative frameworks contrast the points of view and explain why one point of view should be preferred.  The comparative framework attempts to assign value to different arguments but in reality both kinds of framework are evaluative because not only do they provide a justification for the approach you take in your case, they also in most instances, provide criteria by which the judge can weigh the Pro and Con cases.

Some may claim there are theory frameworks in PF debate.  These kinds of arguments would tend to address "a priori" issues relative to the resolution or the opponent's case mainly as a check against abuse.  I don't want to discuss these at this point. First, theory is never required to win debates in Public Forum, second it is very, very rare in most districts to find judges and opponents that can deal with theory so without a viable debate, the educational purpose of debate is not fulfilled and thus counterproductive.  Perhaps in a few years, the category will evolve a little more and tolerate critical or theory arguments.  If you see it becoming the next 'big' thing in Public Forum, let me know.  For now let's just move on.

These ideas are only ideas.  They are not in final form and are only to get you thinking in a particular way.  Your framework will make claims and like all claims you should back them with evidence and I have decided NOT to find that evidence for you because it is important you take from this the concepts of how a framework is built. It is sort of along the lines of the adage, "Give a person a fish and they will eat once.  Teach them to fish and they will eat a lifetime."  So, happy fishing.

Interpretive Frameworks

Duties of Developed Countries

This debate demands a good interpretive framework because, as I have already pointed out in part one of my analysis, the resolution is very imprecise.  For example, the term "developed countries" has no accepted definition except one we can construct from the two individual words.  Nevertheless we are forced to assume, that whomever wrote this resolution had in mind that the developed countries are richer and developed countries contribute the most to global warming and so developed countries have a moral obligation to help those most impacted by the effects of global warming who by extension are unable to help themselves because they are not rich.  All of this is merely assumption based on perhaps, a "newspaper reporter" assessment of the issues.  Nevertheless, if we look to current lists of countries more or less defined as developed according to the U.N., it excludes nations like Brazil, Russia, India and China.  You may recall this is the BRIC block of countries defined as some of the fasted growing economies in the world.  Yet, remarkably, they are not considered developed countries.

It seems intuitive to me, Con can create a significant reaction in the judge by arguing that under the definitions of the resolution, developed countries like the E.U and U.S. have a moral obligation to shoulder the responsibility and pay whatever price is needed whereas nations like BRIC are not under any moral obligation to do anything.  Even if they volunteer to reduce GHG emissions, they do so out of a spirit of international cooperation but not necessarily out of a sense of moral duty.  Given the emotional impact this may generate, Con could argue the term "developed countries" is too exclusive and that is reason enough to reject the Pro position.  It is better to lift the burden of obligation and let each country act with common sense and compassion according to their own abilities to contribute to the solution.  This interpretation is preferable because it allows each nation to guard their sovereignty by internally establishing measures without being forced to comply to mandates and without putting blame on those most able to help.

Pro may be able to create a sense of compassion in the judge by characterising the actions of the developed nations, whoever they are, as irresponsible and gluttonous; wantonly consuming fossil fuels and belching pollution to the peril of the earth and its inhabitants.  The resulting climate change impacts are most likely to harm those who are least able to help themselves and who are the least responsible for the current state of the climate.  Because, the developed nations, whoever they are, have thus acted, they have a moral duty to reduce the impacts of their reckless activities.  Therefore, preference should be given to the interpretation which recognizes the duties of nations since developed nations have been self-serving in rejecting, over the last three decades, the obvious conclusion their actions are harmful to the biosphere.


Mitigation can be a very ambiguous term.  We don't know with any precision how much 'mitigation' is sufficient for the Pro to win therefore it is a lousy standard by which to judge a debate.  If only one person in the U.S. sold his car and bought a bicycle, would the reduction in GHG emissions constitute mitigation?  Many researchers and organizations propose standards while at the same time, most admit that while emissions can be reduced, global warming will likely continue, perhaps just a little slower.  The U.N. definition of mitigation is very vague, simply limited to reducing sources and enhancing sinks of GHG.

Mitigation also opens the 'timeframe' hole.  How long can we wait before we declare success for the Pro.  If the mitigation plan was, one person per month sells their car and buys a bicycle, eventually we would see a reduction in the level of emissions so would Pro win?

The Con side can take several approaches to leverage the ambiguity of the verb mitigate, in the context of global warming.  The most obvious, is find a definition which requires a certain level of reduction that places a very high probability of failure on the Pro.  Maybe an even better approach is define mitigation as a target level of reduction, and then if Pro offers their own definition, stick to your standard and if possible prove they can not meet their own standard.  My advice to Con, no matter what, do not leave mitigation undefined.  Con will also do well to address the timeframe issue and urge the mitigation standard must be met in the smallest possible amount of time.  Again, this will enable the use of evidence which characterizes mitigation as a long-term process which should not be dealt with under compulsion, but with a deliberate plan in full cooperation of all the nations.

Pro has the most to gain by the ambiguous definition of mitigate and obviously should reject any attempt by Con to pin them down.  In fact, it may be to Pro's advantage, depending on the case, to urge a definition which emphasizes the obligation of nations to mitigate the effects, not the causes of global warming.  This approach is favorable to cases which more or less accept the inevitability that global warming will continue, so developed nations should provide assistance to those nations which will be affected to either help protect them or help them deal with the aftermath.  Taking this approach, reduces timeframe pressure since the timeframe will be dictated by nature and not the Con team.

Global Warming

Yes, even the definition of global warming is - uh - debatable.  Clearly global warming is the long term trend of rising average temperature of the earth but what is disputable to either small or great degree depending on one's sources, is does this debate focus on global warming in general which includes significant contributions from natural cycles or does it deal with only anthropogenic global warming? Either way, I can't think of a lot of framework mileage to be gained by favoring any particular interpretation.  Its pretty hard to build a framework around this terminology although one can possibly make a Con argument, that even if all anthropogenic contributions to global warming suddenly ceased, global warming would continue. Would Pro still consider there is a moral obligation to mitigate the effects?  I am not really sure what that buys anyone.  It is an interesting thought but not really a framework upon which to evaluate a debate.

Resolution Interpretation

There is a thing in some debate circles known as "framer's intent" meaning what was intended by the person who crafted the resolution?  There is a strong presumption, developed countries ought to mitigate the effects which will impact the least developed countries.  Assumptions are the framework (and theory) debater's friend.  There is nothing which specifies who should receive the benefits of the mitigation efforts.

If Con were to interpret the resolution to mean mitigation of effects with no specified or implied beneficiary, it could create a convenient framework from which to argue that developed countries will take steps to mitigate the effects of global warming upon their own people, not out a a sense of moral obligation but in keeping with the social contract and the duty of nations to protect their citizens.  Picture, for example, the scope of humanitarian disaster looming in a place like New Orleans or Southern Florida when the sea-levels rise.  The U.S. will take steps to mitigate these impacts because it is the duty of government.

The presumption the framer intended developed countries ought to help least-developed countries already lies in favor the Pro so there is no need to extend that framework.  Even if Con does offer an alternate interpretation, Pro can still make a convincing argument, social contracts notwithstanding, there is a moral obligation to help the world's unfortunate as well.

Comparative Frameworks

The basic idea behind all comparative frameworks is give the judge a mechanism to compare the cases presented in the round and favor one particular approach over another.  The framework can be very broad comparing, for example, the broad objectives or points of view of each side and urging a preference for one.  It can also be much narrower, focusing on particular aspects of methodology such as comparing the solvency, harms or advantages of the two approaches and urging that one side should be preferred.  There are two ways to urge preference.  The first is straightforward.  Contrast both approaches to the case or its construction and explain why your approach is best or theirs is worse.  The second way would be to agree with their idea or concept but then show how their approach or implementation is flawed.

Conceptual Framework

In my opinion, the concept of moral obligation for countries can present some opportunities to construct weighing mechanisms.  I have already posted information which provides evidence that countries are not moral agents which obviously favors Con. But, no matter which side of the debate one finds themselves on, a framework built around the concept of moral obligation can help clarify your position for the judge.

Several broad ideas are possible for Con.  A country is a sovereign state managed by a political body we call the government.  The governments of the developed countries are democratic and can do nothing apart from the will of the citizens.  In fact the only duty of the state is to serve the will of the people.  Preference should be given to the case which correctly assigns responsibility for mitigation to individuals rather than governments.  The interests of the globe are best served by individuals or collectives of concerned citizens acting out of a sense of duty to their fellow human beings.  One can not expect governments to agree and work together effectively and efficiently since governments have no independent will nor possess the human emotions of guilt and remorse.

The government is a sovereign state and state is a social body acting from the collective will of the individuals which comprise it.  In so far as the state is the embodiment of the people, state morality is the embodiment of the collective morality of its people.  So preference should be given to the case which recognizes the moral duties of a country are an extension of the moral duties of its people.

Solvency Framework Ideas

It should be considered that any actions which ultimately harm people can be not considered moral actions.  Any country which acts thinking it is doing the right thing but ends up harming people is not acting morally.  Instead, one should consider that states must sometimes do things that do cause harms because it is their duty to serve the best interests of the majority of their citizens.  While we agree there is a need to mitigate the effects of global warming, we believe it is improper to characterize any actions as a moral obligation since there will inevitably be harms arising from the actions we take.  Nevertheless, we must still act from necessity, not moral duty. (Note, this is a very generalized framework which will allow the Con to expose potential harms in the Pro solvency and thus show, Pro is acting immorally.)

Any and all actions we take which lessen the effects of global warming should be considered as positive steps which fulfil the moral obligation of developed countries.  The biggest impact in this debate arises from inaction and thus the most immoral thing we can do, is sit back and do nothing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The PF Debate Case: Theory and Practice - part 2

For more on Public Forum topics, click here.


In part 1, I discussed why the Con must establish an advocacy as opposed to only a refutation of the Pro position.  In most NFL districts (but apparently, not all), Public Forum speaker positions are decided by a coin-flip and it is possible for the Con to speak first without fully knowing what the Pro will choose to advocate.  It makes sense Con will need to have a case which builds a position independently from the Pro since there is no presumption for the Con.  Simply refuting the other side, is not necessarily establishing a position so it forces the listener to surmise a position for Con at best or at worse, the listener may assume a default presumption for Pro since there is no alternative position on which to establish a decision.

Until now, I have focused the discussion on the Con but one should not think the points I am about to make only apply to Con.  They work equally well for the Pro because both sides should advocate a position.  So part 2 of this topic will apply to what I call the Pro-pro speech (proponent of the Pro position) and the Pro-con speech (proponent of the Con position).

Why We Believe...

Whether you are Pro or Con, your constructive speech must establish a position of advocacy on either side of the resolution.  You will, in so many words say, we believe or support...'something' with respect to the resolution.  This is the principle claim or thesis of your advocacy.  It is not enough to say, we believe the other guys are wrong.  That comes later.  When you explain by analysis why you believe or support what you do, you build an advocacy which must be grounded in evidence or common knowledge.

The Role of The Framework

To create the grounds for advocacy, it is useful and perhaps in some cases, essential to establish a framework which defines the basis of your case.  There is a good chance you have a framework whether you call it that or not and indeed you may build a framework for your advocacy without actually saying, "our framework is..." so as not to create confusion for judges who are not accustomed to debate jargon.  Framework is, in my opinion, the use of common rhetorical devices which clarify your arguments and will usually take two principle forms.  First, is an interpretive framework in which you can explain your interpretation of the resolution through definitions of terms and an analysis of how your interpretation of the resolution is the basis for your case.  Second is a comparative framework in which you will contrast the differences between your claims and potential or actual claims of the opponent and show why your claims are more important or relevant. The comparative framework may also be called a value framework since the comparison will often place a relative value on the claims being compared (i.e. more just, more fair, etc).   In PF debate, the speeches are short so the framework needs to be concise and clear as a way of justifying why you make your claims with the majority of the case built upon the actual work of proving your claims are true (why we believe/support...).


Solvency deals with the idea your case should discuss why your point of view provides solutions to the perceived problems derived from the resolution. Not every case will be able to make solvency claims.  When a case can make solvency claims they will fall into two types.  One: with some resolutions your case will present solutions for one set of problems and the opponent's case another set of problems.  Or two: your case and your opponent's case will present solutions for the same problems.  Either way, you will likely want to present your case within a comparative framework and as part of your analysis explain why the listener should place higher value on your solutions.  The framework and solvency work together this way.  First, create a comparative framework in which you explain why your certain kinds of problem solving should be valued over another.  For example, explain how preference should be given to solutions which cost less, or uphold democratic principles, or some such.  Then present your solutions and explain how they fit the framework of being least cost or most democratic or whatever the framework demands as a basis for preferring your solutions over the opponent's solutions. Throughout the debate, continue to reinforce the idea while explaining how your opponent's case fails to meet the criteria of your framework.


An advantage is a claimed benefit that can arise through the acceptance of your case or implementing some facet of your case. Indeed, solving a problem is an advantage but it is not the idea I want to convey for this discussion.  In Public Forum debate I would like to introduce the idea that advantages are benefits that can arise after the solvency.  It is best explained by illustration.  Let's say your case advocates reducing carbon emissions as a way of mitigating the effects of global warming.  You get the obvious direct benefits which may result from reduced greenhouse gases.  Your case then solves a problem (or at least mitigates a problem).  But, in this case, as a result of that action, there may be other benefits you can claim - these are the advantages.  For example, you may claim that by the U.S. taking a proactive step it is able to reassert its leadership in world-affairs and this can be beneficial to other things, such as generating cooperation in solving clean-water solutions or reducing energy dependence or saving the rain-forests. When advantages are used in a comparative framework which urges preference to your advantages, they can be another tool in your case arsenal.  However, care must be given to keep your solvency as the core to achieving the advantages otherwise you risk becoming non-topical.


Disadvantages are the opposite of advantages.  Where advantages are benefits arising from solvency, disadvantages are harms arising from the opponent's solvency.  Some may think of disadvantages as a kind of refutation of claims since they can be used that way after you fully understand what the opponent's case is advocating.  Used in this sense, the disadvantage "turns" the opponent's solution by explaining how the opponent's solution will result in bad things the opponent has not revealed to the listener.  For example, yes, we could decide to build sea-walls in low-lying areas to mitigate flooding due to global warming, but we will drive the country over the cliff to bankruptcy; an obvious disadvantage.  This approach works after the opponent's case is known and only works so long as you do not offer solutions which lead to the same disadvantage.

There is a way to use disadvantages as part of your advocacy and not as a refutation of the opponent's case.  What you need to do is find disadvantages that can only arise as a consequence of accepting the principle of the opponent's case and explain how your side avoids the disadvantage.  Thus, avoiding the disadvantage becomes an advantage for your side.  For example, with the resolution, "developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of global warming", Con can reasonably assume the Pro will advocate some kind of spending to mitigate the effects.  Con can build a disadvantage scenario which preempts the Pro case by saying something to the effect, "our research shows (cite evidence as required) that effective mitigation will require large expenditures which will bankrupt the E.U. and the U.S.  Our case avoids financial disaster by showing how developed countries have already taken fiscally responsible steps toward managing (not mitigating) the effects of global warming...".  Of course, such a scenario only works if your case truly avoids the spending disadvantage.  The main thing you need to remember, in order to create an advantage out of a harm your opponent creates, is to show very clearly the only way to avoid the disadvantage is side with your case.  Once again, do not say, we must avoid the opponent's disadvantage.  That is refutation.  Rather, say, the only way to avoid the opponent's disadvantage is accept our position.  Now it is advocacy.

See part 1 for the bibliography.  In addition, the following sources were referenced when researching this topic:

Bro. Kevin M. Tidd, Framing the Issue: Helping Public Forum Debaters Develop Case Frameworks, Rostrum, 2011
Josh Zoffler, Framework In Public Forum, National Debate Forum, Summit Debate, 2011

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The PF Debate Case: Theory and Practice - part 1

For more on Public Forum topics, click here.


advocate (verb) = to plead in favor of
advocacy (noun) = the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal
proponent (noun) = one who argues in favor of something : advocate

refute (verb) = to prove wrong by argument or evidence
refutation (noun) = the act or process of refuting
rebut (verb) = to contradict or oppose by formal legal argument, plea, or countervailing proof
rebuttal (noun) = argument or proof that rebuts

ground(s) = a basis for belief, action, or argument
presume (verb) = to suppose to be true without proof
burden of proof (noun) = the duty of proving a disputed assertion or charge

National Forensics League, District Operations Manual, pg 36 & 44 2011
Public Forum Debate focuses on advocacy of a position derived from the issues presented in the resolution, not a prescribed set of burdens...Neither the pro or con side is permitted to offer a plan or counterplan; rather, they should offer reasoning to support a position of advocacy.


While the topic of this essay could easily be expanded to Policy debate and Lincoln-Douglas debate, I want to limit the topic to a discussion of Public Forum debate.  Public Forum is the somewhat new kid on the block and probably the least defined, least evolved form of debate.  In the beginning it seemed the coaches and founders of PF debate understood what it was not, but only vaguely defined what it was.  It has evolved into anything but an "easy" form of debate.  I find it at times to be very confrontational and owing to the short speech times and cross-fire format, it is often quite intense.  For some reason, no doubt due to the fact citizen judges are employed and because of bias from the participants of other forms of debate, PF debate is seen as some kind "beginner" form of debate.  It definitely is not. 

I personally do not encourage beginners to start with Public Forum even though the topics have a certain air of familiarity to those moderately informed of current events. First of all, it is a lot work because topics change so frequently, additionally, there is a certain expectation that debaters will possess refined presentation skills (I guess like a news channel pundit) which imposes pressures on beginners, speeches are short so it favors the ability to be concise and streamlined in one's argumentation and there is a need to be persuasive to a non-expert, citizen judge which actually requires a great deal of adaptability and skill.  All of these things combine to make PF debate a very difficult form of debate on many levels.  True, while it easily tolerates a wide range of skill levels, the very best PF debaters have worked very hard to hone precise skill-sets which are not nearly as rigorous in other forms of debate. That is my opinion.

The Division of Ground

Like all forms of debate, PF debate starts with a resolution.  The resolution is a claim which divides contrary points of view, the Pro and Con.  It is expected the resolution should provide more or less equal ground for each side of the debate.  The grounds will be the totality of evidence, logic and credibility which enables a side to support its position in the debate.  No one wants to stand up in a debate and make unsupported claims.  One needs to back those claims up with a rationale as to why the claim is true.  That rationale will be the evidence, opinions of experts, empirical data and believability of the sources providing support for the claim.  This is what I mean by the "grounds".  Under present selection methods, it is the duty of National Forensics League coaches to select resolutions which provide a more or less equal division of ground from the list of approved resolutions.

Presumption and Burden of Proof

Most people in the U.S. are familiar with the judicial concept of presumption of innocence.  Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  If a trial were a debate, it would go something like this.  Resolved: Mr. Smith is guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree.  The defense team has the presumption of innocence.  The prosecutor has the burden of proof to convince the jury the resolution is true.  Technically, the defense need not prove anything because the court already presumes Mr. Smith is innocent and if the prosecutor can not prove his case, Mr. Smith can be released without the defense saying anything.  However, as soon the prosecutor begins to put forth evidence and persuasive reasoning to prove the "Pro" position, the defense will need to refute the prosecutor's arguments with counter-evidence in order to maintain the presumption of innocence.  So we see in this illustration the idea that presumption is a kind of mindset that something is true (or false) if other facts or evidence does not demonstrate otherwise (Wood 1991).  And the burden of proof is the requirement that one must prove a claim is true, it is not presumed to be true.  I illustrate these terms for clarity as these words are often brought up and used when speaking about debate and what the duties of each side is in a debate.  Look, at the statement above extracted from the NFL District Operations Manual and we see mention of the burdens.

In law, the purpose of the trial and its corresponding presumptions and burdens is aimed toward protecting the innocent.  Therefore, it is useful to apply presumption of innocence and place the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt upon the prosecution because it serves that purpose.  Academic debate has an entirely different purpose, one aimed toward education.  Education is advanced when both sides are forced to advocate a position (Johnson 1992).  Nevertheless, because, there is little definition about presumption or burdens in debate, a great deal of discretion is left to the judge, and ultimately it is she who decides which side if any may have presumption.  Many judging philosophies may assume there is a certain presumption favoring the status quo, but certain judges may evaluate the risks present in the affirmative case versus the status quo and assign presumption to the affirmative (Hanson).  Moreover, in practice we see that as soon as the Negative side begins to present its counterclaims against the Affirmative case, the standards of evidence and proof supported in academic debate today promote the educational purpose for both sides and presumption only becomes a defacto standard for judges unable to reach a decision in any other way.  It is for this reason, I believe it is necessary to maintain a high standard for evidence in all forms of debate.

Advocacy in Public Forum

Public Forum was initially conceived to appeal to a wider, lay-audience as many felt Policy and Lincoln-Douglas had become too jargon-laced, specialized and thus exclusionary.  In the beginning the focus for Public Forum was more on an analytical, narrative form of speech and there were specific restrictions about what kind of argumentation was allowed in the later speeches.  The Public Forum format has evolved somewhat over the years both by rules and practice and emerged as a very popular, legitimate debate format.

Public Forum debate is the only category in which the Con may speak first, depending on the choices made after the coin flip.  Therefore, if Con speaks first, it would be impossible for Con to refute any claims of the Pro which have yet to be made.  It is necessary for Con to establish a position of advocacy.  Since it is unknown prior to the coin flip, who will speak first, both sides must be capable of presenting a position of advocacy. Perhaps this is the rationale behind the National Forensic League mandate "they [the pro side or con side] should offer reasoning to support a position of advocacy" and it is expected in most cases, each side will establish a position independently of the other side's particular case, based solely on the perceived division of ground implied in the resolution and it is expected these positions will be presented by each side during their constructive speeches.

The Pro-pro and Pro-con Speeches

Let us agree with Merriam-Webster the definition of the verb advocate is "to plead in favor of" and an advocacy would be the act of pleading in favor.  Each side is charged with pleading in favor of their side of the resolution. Therefore, one side is a proponent of the Pro side and one side is a proponent of the Con side and these advocacies should be clearly communicated at some point in the respective constructive speeches.  I would characterize these speeches as the Pro-pro and the Pro-con because each is intended to establish a case which defines a specific position as proponents of the pro position or proponents of the con position.  This should not be a speech which establishes a refutation or argument against another position.  This distinction is important because it helps both the team and the judge understand exactly what ground the team intends to defend.  It narrows the debate to specific opposing points of view and promotes the clash that is desirable in debate. Quite often one sees the judge critique of "no clash" and this often happens when the debate occurs entirely on one side of the flow.  For example, the Con attacks the Pro position and the remainder of the debate focuses entirely on the legitimacy of the Pro case.

At the risk of extending this model terminology a little too far, I would characterize any Con attacks against the Pro position as Con-pro (contrary to Pro) and attacks against Con as Con-con (contrary to Con).  The terminology serves as a nice device to remember that regardless of which side of the debate a team is on, its case will be comprised of Pro (for) and Con (against) type arguments.  If the team is Pro, its case will be Pro-pro (for the Pro) and Con-con (against the Con).  If the team is Con, its case will be Pro-con (for the Con) and Con-pro (against the Pro).  However, and this is my opinion, the weakness of some Con cases is seen in the fact that the "Pro" part of a team's case is often missing. This is not a big problem for Pro because it is expected Pro will affirm the resolution whether they make the first speech or not. Consider the rhetoric often seen in election campaigns.  A candidate may oppose the platform of the opponent with clear and compelling reasoning but the people, while evaluating the candidate's arguments may say, "okay that makes sense, so what is your platform?"  A politician who argues against an opponent without a platform or plan is arguing from a position of weakness.

Deriving Positions From the Resolution

How does a team establish a position of advocacy as opposed to a position of refutation?  I think the simplest answer is to be sure the case tells why a position is desirable, beneficial, just, moral, or otherwise promotes positive attributes.  If your case only explains why another position is undesirable, harmful, unjust, immoral, etc., then the case is refuting rather than building a position.  Sometimes the case itself can present a position because the wording of the resolution makes it obvious.  For example, the October 2011 resolution, Resolved: Private sector investment in human space exploration is preferable to public sector investment, the Pro-pro position would advocate a position in favor of private sector investment and the Pro-con position would advocate a position of public sector investment.  The positions are explicit in the resolution wording. Another obvious example was the November resolution from the same year, Resolved: Direct popular vote should replace electoral vote in presidential elections.  Pro-pro favors direct popular vote and the Pro-con will favor electoral vote.

Most Public Forum resolutions do not present two opposing positions.  Usually there is a single position statement explicit in the resolution which is favored by the Pro and the Con is left to figure out what the Pro-con position should be and so the obvious and easy solution and the one that seems implicit in the wording is simply negate the resolution.  If the resolution says Resolved: Wikileaks is a threat to United States national security, the Pro-con would claim, "no, Wikileaks is not a threat to national security".  Indeed, it would be legitimate to argue that Wikileaks has not done anything which threatens U.S. national security and Con could even win those arguments but at the end of the round, the judge needs to evaluate the risk potential in the Pro advocacy and when looking at the Con side finds nothing to favor Wikileaks except perhaps the evidence that so far, Wikileaks has not been a significant security risk to the U.S.  For me, if the judge votes Con, Con wins from a position of weakness not from a position strength and so it is a risky case from the very beginning.  Let's look at another example, Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.  This resolution can be negated in several ways.  The Con team can test these possibilities to see which allow the Pro-con to establish a position of advocacy and which are possibly very difficult positions to defend.  One possible position is entities other than developed countries have a moral obligation, perhaps the UN or NGOs should do it. Another is developed countries do not have a moral obligation because states are amoral. Perhaps developed countries have a moral obligation to not mitigate the effects of climate change because there is a high probability of creating more problems than those being solved. Finally, they have a moral obligation to do other things which are more important than mitigating climate change effects such as spending money and resources on reducing the proliferation of nuclear weapons or reducing terrorism.

Building an Advocacy

Hopefully, this portion of the topic establishes a theoretical foundation for Public Forum advocacy as creation of a defensible position derived from the Public Forum resolution.  This is in keeping with the current NFL guidelines.  There are many approaches to writing cases and in the next part I will attempt to illustrate some practical ideas which demonstrate my advocacy ideas for Public Forum debate cases.

Part 2 is here.

Jeffery T. Bile, Propositional Justification: Another View, CEDA Yearbook, Vol. 9, 1988 (pp 54-62)
Bill Brewster, Analysis of Disadvantages: Scenarios and Intrinsicness, Emory University, 1984
John Durkee, Ted Turner Debate: Establishing Theoretical Grounds, Rostrum, 2003
Jim Hanson with Brian Simmonds et al, Sample of The Policy Basics and Advanced Sections, Breaking Down Barriers: How to Debate, West Coast Publishing, undated.
Minh A. Luong, Burden of Proof and Presumption in Lincoln-Douglas Debate: A Call for Reform, Rostrum, 1995
Robert C. Rowland, The Function of Presumption in Academic Debate, CEDA Yearbook 13, 1992
Lisa Seeland, Practical Refutation and an Effective First Affirmative Rebuttal, Rostrum Library, University of Vermont, 2000
Stacy Weida, Karl Stolley, Developing Strong Thesis Statements, Welcome to the Purdue OWL, undated, last edit 2011
Stephen C. Wood and Jean M. DeWitt, Prima Facie Old Distinctions / New Applications, National Forensic Journal, 1991
Dr. Loritta Yeung, Argumentative Strategy: Negation, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, undated

Saturday, September 15, 2012

One Full Year of Debate Topics

Its official, Everyday debate is one year old today.

May the next year be even better!

Friday, September 7, 2012

LD 2012 Due Process Neg - part 2

For part one of this topic analysis, click here.
For links to other LD topics, click here

The "Ought" Debate

The Negative can win the legal debate if that is the direction taken by Affirmative by simply drawing a few exceptions around the position taken by Affirmative.  At present, the law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court extends due process protection to ALL persons regardless of citizenship, as long as those persons are within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court system.  There is no easy way for Neg to refute this.  But, the big caveat is the noncitizen person accused of terrorism must be within the jurisdiction of the court.  Those who have not entered the U.S. are not extended constitutional protects.  Neg wins.

Cole 2010:
"The notion that noncitizens are entitled to the same constitutional protection for their basic human rights as citizens must be qualified in at least one respect. The Supreme Court has historically treated foreign nationals outside our border very differently from those within our jurisdiction. As the Court recently noted, "it is well established that certain constitutional protections available to persons inside the United States are unavailable to aliens outside of our geographic borders. But once an alien enters the country, the legal circumstance changes, for the Due Process Clause applies to all 'persons' within the United States ... "

Nevertheless, it usually is never that cut-and-dry in debate and the Affirmative debater will also be writing a Negative case so is unlikely to leave that kind of hole in her case.  The point is, we have a legal framework but there is one word in the resolution which makes this a Lincoln-Douglas debate and not a Public Forum debate; the word "ought" and "ought" signals an opportunity to enter a hypothetical world where we are free to talk about things outside the pale of conventional jurisprudence and imagine a alternative position.  Basically it can be an Aff position which says, "Yes, I know in many circumstances we legally deny due process protections to noncitizens but I am saying, we need to change that."

However, "ought" can also work for the Neg who can say, "Yes, I know we extend due process protections to noncitizens accused of terrorism who are held in U.S. territories, but in some cases, regardless of citizenship, it is not the wise thing to do and we need to change that."

Cole 2010 continues:
"To assert that noncitizens are entitled to substantially the same constitutional rights protections as citizens is not to assert that these rights are absolutes, or that the Constitution is a suicide pact. With the exception of the bans on slavery and torture, most constitutional rights are not absolutes, but presumptive protections that may be overridden by compelling showings of governmental need and narrow tailoring. Thus, for example, the First Amendment creates a strong presumption of protection for speech, but that presumption is overridden where the speech is intended and likely to incite imminent lawless action."

Realizing there is flexibility in constitutional law, that is, there can be compelling reasons to suspend or modify certain principles, we can explore the idea the nation's security interests, provide a compelling reason.  I think many debaters will take this course because it is simple enough and evidence exists.

The Security Imperative

The major premise of this case would be extension of due process protections to noncitizens accused of terrorism is an unacceptable national security risk.

Okey 2012 provides a framework:
At the heart of the purpose and importance of every state is the protection of lives and environment for the survival of private enterprises. This is the essence of the social contract mechanism that accounted for the evolution of states at the first instance. According to Thomas Hobbes, lives of individuals in the 'state of nature' were 'solitary, poor, brutish, nasty and short'. It was a state in which survival of the fittest was the order of the day as a result of statelessness, absence of rights and contracts. In other to avoid the catastrophic situation that characterized the ' state of nature' as a result of lack of contract, mutual respect for individual rights and man's inhumanity to man,individuals willingly decided to cede or give up some of their fundamental rights to a sovereign entity called 'State' with the mandate and expectation of this neutral entity creating laws that would regulate their social interactions Hobbes (1651). The aforementioned contract was latter reconceptualized by John Locke to include another dimension whereby individuals willingly gave up their rights of self defence to this neutral entity called 'state' in exchange for protection of their lives, liberty and the property of all individuals within it. And that the legitimacy and continued existence of these 'states' is dependent upon their ability to fulfil their part of the 'social contract bargain' (Locke 1689)

By establishing the principle objective of any state is the security of its people and the preservation of itself, it then becomes possible to exploit the fact, significant security risks are exposed by due process procedures and these risks outweigh the harms of denying due process protections.  The impact calculus is a straight-up and obvious utilitarian argument centered on the magnitude of the harms.  The values of security and protection of the innocent (the U.S. population) are easy to set up.  Liberal references to social contract theory, consequentialism and realism frames up the premises.

Harbour 1992:
"In dealing with the questions of war and peace, one of the most important of the strand of consequentialism is known as realism. Although some realists simple deny applicability of morality to state behavior, others believe leaders, acting as trustees for their citizens, are morally required take actions to promote their nations good, even at the expense of foreigners."

For the evidence of risk in extending due process to persons accused of terrorism, I leave it to you to find.  It is abundant, even in sources which would otherwise be cited in favor of the Aff position.  Because many sources do not adequately address the security question, it is an approach that may work well for the Negative in a values-centered debate.  Below I have cited a few (not so good) sources to get you started.

Rethinking the Neg

I really wanted to develop a case idea in which terrorism exists in an alternative world where contemporary jurisprudence and western concepts of justice are meaningless, and in that context due process has no value and is ineffective as an answer to the violence against U.S. culture.  I conceptualized it as the 'Red Pill/Blue Pill' case. In the end, I found it too difficult to find literature which could be comprehensible to the average high-school debater and frankly I am not sure I completely understood it.

In the course of researching that idea, I did conceptualize another point of view which I will throw into your lap, unrefined, half-baked and probably just begging to be turned by the clever Affirmative pragmatist.

Resetting the Mindset

The basic concept of this Negative position is reset your thinking.  The major premise is, we should not extend constitutional due process to persons accused of terrorism because we should not accuse persons of terrorism.  Release them all, withdrawal the troops and end the Global War on Terror.  Reboot the system and start over.  I think there are two ways to do this, one is eliminate the rhetoric of terrorism and certainly there are plenty of writers to support that point of view.  Another is send home everyone accused of terrorism and end the War on Terror.  Is it a legitimate advocacy for Neg?  You decide.  It will need plenty of warrants.

The definition of terrorism is a construction to legitimize war
Chomsky 2002:
"...there is an operational definition of terrorism, the one that is actually used -- it means terror that they carry out against us -- that's terrorism, and nothing else passes through the filter. As far as I know, that's a historical universal, I can't find an exception to that. You might try. For example, the Japanese in China and Manchuria [claimed they] were "defending" the population against Chinese terrorists and going to create an earthly paradise for them if they could control the terrorists. The Nazis in occupied Europe [claimed they] were "defending" the "legitimate" governments like Vichy and the population from the terrorist partisans who were supported from abroad, as indeed they were. They were run from London, Poland and France and so on. ... Also, as far as I am aware, this is virtually universal among intellectuals, educated folks like us. Apart from statistical error, this is the line that they take. Now, it doesn't look that way in history, but you have to remember who writes history."

The War on Terror undermines its own legitimacy.
Alam 2004:
"The bogey of America’s ‘global’ and ‘unending war’ on terrorism will soon face another test. While the United States and its neocolonial allies have incarcerated thousands in Gulags spread across the world – without charges and without recourse to law – the ‘war against terrorism’ has produced very few convictions for terrorist crimes against the United States. If the al-Qaida is indeed a formidable adversary, with a global reach, and with sleeper cells in the United States itself, trained in the manufacture and use of WMDs, its failure to launch even a single operation against the United States since September 11, 2001, poses a problem for the credibility of the ‘war against terrorism.’
It is of course all too easy for the United States to take credit for this failure. ‘Look how good we have been against this formidable foe. Our intelligence failed utterly before 9-11, but we have since fixed all the problems.’ Alternatively, they might argue that they are fighting these terrorists in Baghdad and Najaf instead of Boston and New York. But this rhetoric will wear out over time.
If indeed al-Qaida fails to launch another attack against American interests, on American soil or elsewhere, Americans too will begin to ask: Did the United States overreact. Worse, they might question if this war was a phony, a cover to curtail liberties, to launch preventive wars, to line the pockets of corporate executives with tens of billions stolen from American tax-payers. Have so many Americans died in vain – for a phony war? Have Americans died for Israel – to fulfill its strategic objective of balkanizing, pulverizing the larger Arab states? Once Americans begin to ask these questions, the consequences could be unpredictable for Israel and for the exercise of American power in the world."

The WoT feeds the expansion of terror.
Miliband 2009:
"Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good," Miliband says, adding that, in his opinion, the whole strategy has been dangerously counterproductive, helping otherwise disparate groups find common cause against the west.
"The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common," Miliband argues, in a clear reference to the signature rhetoric of the Bush era. "We should expose their claim to a compelling and overarching explanation and narrative as the lie that it is."
"Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology,"

The WoT perpetuates itself
Zizek 2005:
"What legitimizes such biopolitics is the mobilization of the fantasmatic dimension of the potential/invisible threat: it is the invisible (and for that very reason all-powerful and omni-present) threat of the Enemy that legitimizes the permanent state of emergency of the existing Power (Fascists invoked the threat of the Jewish conspiracy, Stalinists the threat of the class enemy - up to today's "war on terror," of course). This invisible threat of the Enemy legitimizes the logic of the preemptive strike: precisely because the threat is virtual, it is too late to wait for its actualization, one has to strike in advance, before it will be too late... In other words, the omni-present invisible threat of Terror legitimizes the all too visible protective measures of defense (which pose the only TRUE threat to democracy and human rights, of course). If the classic power functioned as the threat which was operative precisely by way of never actualizing itself, by way of remaining a threatening GESTURE (and this functioning reached its climax in the Cold War, with the threat of the mutual nuclear destruction which HAD to remain a threat), with the war on terror, the invisible threat causes the incessant actualization - not of itself, but - of the measures against itself. The nuclear strike had to remain the threat of a strike, while the threat of the terrorist strike triggers the endless series of strikes against potential terrorists."
Our server is in an endless loop.  Its time to reboot.
(The concept will obviously need work.)

Sources used:

Are Foreign Nationals Entitled to the Same Constitutional Rights As Citizens?, March 2010
David Cole, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

A New Legal Framework against Terrorism: A National Security Court, Part I
Posted by Yale Undergraduate Law Review on Jul 12, 2012 in Domestic Law
By Julio Guillermo Garzon


Homeland Secutiry Affairs
Volume IV No. 3: October 2008
Preventive Detention in the War on Terror: A Comparison of How the United States, Britain, and Israel Detain and Incapacitate Terrorist Suspects
Stephanie Blum

George Mason University
Noncombatant Deaths: Weighing the Consequenses
Dr. Frances Harbour

Information Clearing House
The Clash Thesis: A Failing Ideology?
by M. Shahid Alam

Distorted Morality: America's War on Terror?
Noam Chomsky
Delivered at Harvard University, February 2002

'War on terror' was a mistake, says Miliband
Foreign secretary argues west cannot kill its way out of the threats it faces
Julian Borger, Amethi, India
The Guardian, Wednesday 14 January 2009
How does racism provide a metric for biopolitics of security?
By Scott Mason on July 7, 2009

Biopolitics: Between Terri Schiavo and Guantanamo
Slavoj Zizek
Artforum - December 2005

Cyrille Begorre-Bret

Jean Baudrillard - The Spirit of Terrorism
Translated by Dr. Rachel Bloul
Le Monde 2 November 2001