Before I get into the decision, I wanted to make a couple of quick
Is there any team classier than Harvard KT? These guys are two of the
best debaters on the face of the planet, and two of the nicest as well.
Joking, singing a little "Sweet Caroline," gracious in victory
or defeat, there to help out LM on Monday when no one in the world would
have blamed them for being gone... No offense to Tristan and
Josh meant, but I'll take KT as the best team in the country any day
of the week and twice on Sunday. Hope y'all are having a good time in
Jamaica right now.
There's a lot of seniors. I don't think I could list them all, maybe
I'll try later, but I just wanted to quickly say how glad I was to see
Beth, Maggie, Christine, and Stacey finish up their careers in style
on Monday. You're some of the best examples of what's great about this
activity that I know.
Hardy and Vanhorn. You singlehandedly knocked KT to second, you came
with great strategies all year, you
played the game the way it's meant to be played.
Congrats to Josh and Tristan. Didn't really think you won, but you're
two of the best debaters I've ever seen.
Congrats to Stace and Wicky. Closest anyone has ever come to winning
both tournaments. Couldn't have happened to nicer people.
And congrats to everyone at the NDT and Ceda Nats. It's been a great
year. I'm glad I got the chance to participate and watch as many debates
as I did.
With no further ado...
I started by evaluating the counterplan as I thought Berkeley was probably
ahead here. Northwestern's arguments:
1. The "exemption" argument.
The main problem here for me is that I just don't understand the
distinction between the counterplan exemption of territories and the
plan's exemption of governmental fossil fuel consumption. There is
no explanation of the difference between "ethical" and "procedural"
exemptions. It smells like an artificial distinction created by Northwestern.
The aff's evidence on this question is not nearly as good as was
promised. The Scheer evidence does speak to the need to believe that
renewable energies can fully replace fossil fuels, but hardly makes
the claim that any exemption = zero solvency. I guess that the affirmative
wins something of a solvency deficit here, but the degree
to which they win is approaching infinitesimally small.
Berkeley could have been much stronger here. I would have been very
persuaded by an argument that the exclusion of a few territories is
an insignificant difference which would not, in my mind, even come
close to allowing the "myth of indispensability" to continue.
My reading is that Scheer is concerned with systemic change. Both
the plan and counterplan would easily achieve such change. They are
both equally a leap of faith that the modern economy can survive the
transition, which is all that Scheer really wants.
Northwestern could have done more, too. The counterplan contains
the same non-governmental exemption, which means that if the only
choices in the debate are the plan and the counterplan, the choice
which creates LESS of an exemption is still the plan. If the framework
is "don't perpetuate the myth of indispensability at any cost,"
you can still probably win this as offense.
2. Must call on the Federal Government
The aff's evidence on this question is not particularly good. The
Scheer evidence says national governments are key because they "create
the legal frameworks." Stacey's argument that this doesn't assume
uniform action by subnational actors seems to resolve this concern.
The Krouzman evidence is a little better, though I'm torn about its
applicability. On one hand, it certainly states that the problem with
movements in Europe in the 20s and 30s were problematic because they
lost faith in the federal government. On the other hand, I don't think
this argument is placed in the context of the states at all. In fact,
the evidence suggests that the problem is endemic to the entire political
system from the national government down to local school boards. To
put it another way, loss of faith in the national government is a
symptom of the Left losing faith in the possibility of a just and
sustainable political system. I do not think this evidence supports
the argument that the solution to this problem is to call on
the federal government. Rather, Krouzman says the necessary change
must be for us to "demand that our institutions become more just
and sustainable." I think the counterplan achieves this goal,
probably better than the aff.
I would be willing to give the aff some benefit of doubt on the way
I should read this evidence had their spin begun earlier. However,
the 2AR is really quite new here. The Krouzman evidence is in the
same ballpark as the 2AR on this question, but only barely. Given
that the affirmative's argument in all other parts of the debate is
centralization is bad, the finesse necessary to make this argument
really has to be earlier in the debate.
3. "We solve – the plan causes the transition"
The plan probably solves. But maybe it doesn't. The negative's evidence
on "centralization bad" (the two Sale cards) isn't particularly
good. They say centralized governments are bad, a claim which I think
a lot of the evidence from the 1AC would support, but don't go much
further. It certainly isn't written in the context of
comparing demands on the state v. federal governments. At the same
time, I'm with the 2NR that the aff-case does very little to explain
why there isn't a link to this arg. The 1AR literally says nothing
more than "voting aff solves centralization. We = transition."
No one's evidence in this debate assumes a world where I am comparing
the plan and counterplan. This makes an ultimate resolution extremely
I see two potential tiebreakers:
First, the counterplan solves faster. Stacey makes an argument in
the 2NR that the states solve faster since they're closer. I'm not
sure what the impact to this is, or how to apply it, but the 2AR doesn't
Second, presumption. Everyone agrees centralization is bad. Given
this, the path of least resistance is decentralized action (i.e. –
the counterplan). So, it seems like I need to find a proactive reason
to call on the more centralized actor. I don't think it quite comes
to this, but this means I would probably shift presumption, in the
context of this debate. So, the aff, I think, would have to win that
the counterplan is worse than the plan—the tie goes neg. Don't
get me wrong. I recognize that this argument is not really in the
debate. But I don't feel too uncomfortable sorting this out myself,
since neither team does much of anything to resolve this for me. Even
a quick 2AR statement that "presumption goes aff when there's
a CP – it's a rule, judge" would probably be enough. But
absent any guiding statement for evaluation, I need to figure out
SOME way to assess the differences, and the general agreement on centralization
being the only relevant impact in the debate points me in this direction.
Neither of these is enough to assure me that the counterplan is a
better option. If I had to vote here, I think there's a chance the
negative is ahead, but honestly, I'd probably still be thinking about
it now, trying to decide.
However, the topicality debate ended up being easier to resolve that
I think Northwestern's only hope on the interpretations is to win
that they are the only ones defining a word. This would enable them
to access their "resolution more important than arbitrary ground"
argument, which I think they are ahead on. However, I don't think
they win that they are the only ones to define words. Berkeley has
interpretation of energy policy which provides an effective counter-interpretation
to both of the terms Northwestern defines. If "energy policy"
means regulations, then affs are allowed to regulate fossil fuel consumption
and nothing else. This interpretation creates a topic with the limited
set of cases they list as legitimate (cap and trade, cap, carbon tax,
etc.) There is a resolutional basis for this interpretation.
Energy Policy – even if Northwestern wins that an energy policy
can theoretically contain a whole host of things, Berkeley has established
a baseline for what must be contained in an energy policy: the regulation
of fossil fuel consumption. So, an energy policy could theoretically
include a lot of things, but many of them (drilling for
oil, for example), wouldn't be topical. Similarly, energy policies
can obviously include promotion of renewable energy, but under Berkeley's
interpretation of the topic, those would go beyond the scope of regulation.
Reduction – I'm fairly persuaded that this evidence is, to
put it as nicely as possible, pretty crappy. I do really wish Stacey
had done more work here (for example, pointing out that it says "achieve
a substantial reduction in costs by replacing internal systems"
and is therefore obviously not applicable since reducing costs by
fixing systems and reducing fossil fuel consumption by mandating solar
power are not even close to analogous), but she does say that the
ev is terrible, which it is. Also, she suggests that the interpretation
of energy policy as purely regulations prevents this reading of the
word "reduction." So, maybe you can theoretically achieve
a reduction by replacement, but the term "energy policy"
in the resolution forecloses that option because, as stated above,
energy policies are regulations.
Short version: these interpretations fold into each other. Berkeley
has established a minimum standard for topical affs. They must regulate
Northwestern also has an interpretation of the topic which is internally
consistent. Energy policies can be broad, and reductions can happen
So, the only question is: which interpretation is better?
Northwestern does have an argument that their interpretation is better
because it's from a Congressional source, but I don't think they respond
to the criticism that it's not a definition with intent to define
but rather is just political rhetoric. In any case, I don't think
the qualifications of the Waxman evidence are strong (or weak) enough
to affect my decision significantly.
So the real issue is which interpretation is better for ground, limits,
etc. I honestly don't think it's very close on this. Northwestern
has no offensive reason to prefer the broader interpretation, and
their defensive arguments are not particularly strong.
Arguments like "debating alternative energies inevitable"
are non-starters. The whole point of Berkeley's argument is that such
debates are important, but that the negative should have the ability
to engage in the link level of that debate. If the neg can win what
the replacement energy would be, they can direct the debate in that
Most of the rest of Northwestern's arguments amount to "extra
T is good because you get more ground." Those are tough to win
in any circumstance. And those args are particularly hard to win given
that Berkeley has done a lot more work the argument that it's not
more ground. As explained above, debates about replacement energy
inevitable, but if the aff doesn't get to specify, the neg has equal
opportunity to control the debate. If the aff can specify, they can
direct the debate in whichever direction they want. The only other
ground argument is that the neg gets a built-in CP to exclude one
part. This is also problematic. It forces the negative to read the
CP, and it doesn't account for the interactions the aff can generate
by combining a cap with a replacement.
Northwestern's final argument amounts to: "come on, our aff
is really big." However, the aff at no point in the debate does
any work on reasonability. A rigorous defense of "evaluate this
debate, not what we justify" would certainly have been enough
to sway my decision, but that doesn't happen at all.
Short version: the aff has no offense. The version of the topic they
allow creates an unmanageable research burden for the negative. A
more limited topic still enables a number of perfectly good cases
with reasonable ground on both sides.