9.29.2006

Research Area: Hate Crimes

Granted, this is very sketch and leaves much up to you, but it's such a great start.

In my Capital Punishment Litigation course, were were talking about hate crimes when my professor said the following.

Hate crime statutes have resulted in more prosecutions of colored people who have harmed white people! Those who are in power always get to decide what is hate or not. Frequently, the hate crime statutes have been applied as courts interpret the violence as "hated motivated."

Congresspeople don’t include gay and lesbians in these statutes because “we hate them!” This actually victimizes them more because this points out that we DO hate them and they don't deserve to be in the statute at all. Now there is a movement in state legislatures to remove Arab people from those statutes ... violence against them is legitimate because we hate them!

7.05.2006

Responding to "Any Risk"

There is a compelling critique of the familiar "any risk of Disad Z means you vote for us" argument, located in the bowels of the new Ron Suskind book "The One Percent Doctrine." Essentially, the book details the Cheney argument that if there is even a 1% risk that terrorists have WMD, we have to act as if it's a certainty--because the impact of a terrorist WMD attack would be so disastrous.

Does this sound familiar? Now think where it led. Are you getting the idea?

6.01.2006

Position: Third Parties Good

People frequently make the argument in debate and life that your vote is "wasted" if you use it on a third-party. It makes sense because really, is the People's Movement for Tax Reform Party really going to get any elected positions? To combat this position people often argue, "well, they need my vote to raise money or to get on future ballots." While probably true that isn't a very convincing contention. I offer you an alternative.

The transaction costs of voting outweigh any potential benefits of casting a vote -- for anyone. Observe. To assess the expected utility of voting (R) we would multipily the likely benefit of having one's preferred candidate win (B) by the likelihood of the vote making a difference (P) and substract the time and effort it takes for someone to vote (C).

R = BP - C

R will almost always be negative because P is infitesimal in any sizeable voting district, even in an extremely close election. This is because an individual vote is outcome-determinative in a precise sense only if it actually swings the election to a particular candidate, which virtually never happens. No presidential election has even been decided by one vote. The probablity of your vote electing any candidate isn't appreciably greater than zero -- it doesn't matter if you vote for a major party or a third party.

Woah. I just blew your damn mind. So what does this mean exactly? Should you stop voting altogether? No and here's why.

Because the probablity that your vote will change the election is very nearly zero, one's utility of voting is maximized (and great enough to overcome the transasction costs) only if the psychic rewards felt from the act of voting itself outweigh the costs. What rewards are greater than knowing you voted for a candidate who stands for principles you really believe in?

BAM. Vote 3d party arguments win in life and debate.

3.21.2006

Go Slow And Win; All-Offense in the MG

The typical high-level parliamentary debate now look something like this.

After 20-25 minutes, the government and opposition teams return from their caves where they have been armed by their teammates and coaches with the weapons to conquer. The government has a plan text that was written, it seems, by an army of talented scientists and researchers; the opposition has used their magic lamp and all three wishes on an array of generic positions consuming many reams of paper. I think this is all excellent: it displays hard work and attention to detail and research, all of which I think are great.

The government says their case. There's less and less "resolutional analysis," which is good, because there is no point to doing this until you get into the topicality debate. (If you're going to define terms, you should be giving standards too; at least then you have some readymade counterstandards in the T debate. More on that another day.) The PMC is usually a pretty leisurely affair, and if it is quickly-spoken, it's just so the PMC can be four minutes long. Again, I have no problem with anything that has yet occurred.

The LOC announces the number of off-case positions. Average seems to be 3-4, but the numbers can get up as high as 6 or 7, depending on 1) the speed of the LOC, 2) what the panel will tolerate, 3) how many internal warrants are to be provided, etc. Then all of these positions are said, and then there is usually some case offense/defense (simple case turns, basic internal link attacks, whatever).

The MG is, of course, going to have to answer everythiing. Issue selection in debates starts in the block, basically, so the MG has no chance to "narrow." Forced to go for everything, she will make tons of arguments on every position, balancing offense and defense, and keeping time allocation basically the same as the LOC in a vain attempt to stop what happens next.

The MO stands up and extends (in keeping with advice given here previously) several defensive arguments on the worst positions and then goes exclusively for the best ones. Weak procedurals are gone; bad disads are gone; only strength is left. A disad that took two minutes to say and two minutes to answer is reduced to three seconds in the block ("extend their #7, the no-impact; we're not going for it") and then is never heard from again.

Using this, the MO wins an enormous time tradeoff and can cover in massive detail all of the MG responses on the good argument. In the context of that argument, onto which 5-6 minutes of analysis are placed to answer around 2 minutes of MG time, the gov looks lazy, slipshod, careless, uninformed. Slow. The LOR does some easy impact analysis and the PMR drowns in the sea of what has come before. This is how the best teams in the activity are currently winning debates.

So how do you compete? The dominant strategy is for the MG to just speed up to get more out there. By being faster than the other team, your 2 minutes can be worth more than the 5 minutes the MO will put out. But this isn't sustainable in the long term; competitive pressures will eventually make everyone of roughl equal speed, besides which, it's hard to go twice as fast as the other side at any rate.

Gov teams are understandably frustrated at this turn of events. The arguments in the LOC are frequently badly-warranted blip wars and yet judges who swear they never vote on that stuff pull the trigger on disads with "internal links" that are nothing but tags. Because the problem is, they were nothing but tags in the LOC, but the MO adds all the internal analysis. Sure, the PMR might be able to get away with answering it since it's new; but that's a losing game, since PMR time is so precious, and besides which many people will be tricked into believing the analysis had been present the entire time.

Now I will solve the problem for you.

The LOC has turned the game into one of "all offense." Like Doyle Brunson might debate, they have forced you into a decision for all your chips. While elegant case attacks and beautifully-crafted counterplans are nice when they happen, it's tough to force; victory via overwhelming force is a much surer way to victory, and that's what the LOC is attempting. But notice something. The only way the MOC/LOR can get their time tradeoff is if they have defense to extend to make the position go away.

The best MGs in debate should be pursuing the following strategy: the shorter the position is, the less likely you should be to put any defense at all on it. Not a non-unique, not a no-link, not a no-impact. There are two acceptable arguments to make on a blippy, unwarranted, piece-of-shit disad:

1) Turns; (or "net turns" like a non-unique + a turn)
2) "______ outweighs" (but ONLY if the blank that is outweighing has no LOC offense on it, like turns; case advantages that are uncontested or subject only to defense are acceptable. otherwise they can just concede this argument and go for the offense on the other position which you have said outweighs, which is what they will do if they are good)

You can't kick a position in this situation. "Kicking" a position requires first answering all the live offense after you've extended all the defense; but there's no defense to extend here, and every single answer is offense so "kicking" it is the same as "answering" it, which means no time tradeoff for the opposition.

We're not done yet.

The turns need to go in a specific place. Find the place in the disad that's the least well-warranted (this is frequently the internal link level) and start with an overview. "This argument came out with no warrants," you will say; "they simply assert that the growth of U.S. soft power generates U.S. hard power and then move on." Point out this means that you get to answer all the warrants new in the PMR if they add the warrants later and say it in a manner that makes it onto the flow. "My first argument: this internal link has no warrant, and if warrants are added in the MO, we will answer them new in the PMR." (This seems like defense but isn't; it will combine with your turns to still be a "net turn," in that they can't extend a "no warrant" in order to get out of the position.)

When this is done, turn the hell out of the argument. Keeping with the soft power->hard power internal link metaphor, you can:

1) Argue the internal link is actually the opposite of what will happen from the initial link. If they say that use of soft power (the link) causes an increase in hard power (the internal link), argue it's the other way around. Remember, because you picked the weakest point in the position, you shouldn't have to exert very much effort doing this. If you can think of great reasons, cool; but if your reasons are bad, it's not that bad, because they probably didn't have any reasons or alternatively their reasons were also bad.

2) Argue the plan will directly cause the opposite of the internal link. If the internal link is "the use of soft power generates hard power," argue the plan will directly cause a decrease in hard power. This is called a "parallel turn," for reasons that should make sense. They've articulated a two-step relationship between the plan and hard power; you articulate a one-step relationship in the opposite direction. Follow this up with an argument that even if there is some small relationship between plan and soft power and consequently hard power, the more direct relationship of "plan = decreased hard power" is a "net internal link turn," if you want to get that jargony about it.

3) Argue one of the other internal links or the initial link will do the same as #2. (If their first link wasn't "you use soft power," but instead "you cut budget deficits; U.S. financial security is key to soft power projection" then argue cutting budget deficits will lead to decreased hard power.) This is just like before and "parallel turns" the disad.

Now, you may be asking: how the hell am I going to have time for this? Easy, silly. You don't have to answer the link or the impacts or any of the uniqueness. Do this for as long as they spent on the position and then move on. If they spent 1.5 minutes on the whole disad, surely in 90 seconds you can put out a shitload of turns on the ONE internal link you're attacking. At fifteen seconds per turn, which is actually a really long time when you think about it, that's six turns on one position. At ten seconds, assuming some will be shorter and sorta blippy, that's nine turns!

The MO is now, in the parlance, fucked. If they concede even a single one of these arguments (and assuming nine turns on four positions each, that's 36 arguments--an awful lot of pressure) they will probably lose the debate, because all of these arguments operate independently from one another. Losing one is fatal and will cause you to lose the whole disad because the rest of the scenario is "clean"--the link, uniqueness, etc. is all undisputed, so all it needs is one internal link to operate. If there's seven turns on the internal link and the MO answers six very well but concedes or misunderstands the seventh, they will lose; that seventh argument, on its own, forges an independent scenario from link to impact such that conceding it is like conceding an entire disad.

If the MO drops even one, the PMR can extend it and win the whole position quite cleanly. If the MO's answers on one are bad, same. It's very tough to be in that situation. Best part is, you can put the opp in that position more easily if their arguments are short and unwarranted. Answer those new warrants in the PMR just like you said you would, and your answers are "gold" (right by default because, no second rebuttals).

Try this. You will like it.

2.26.2006

Six Quick Tips For Persuasion

How many ballots have you lost because "the other team was more persuasive?" What does persuasive mean? If you answered "one or more" and "I don't know," then this post is for you.

After my first oral argument concluded, I scribbled the following reasons on how to be more persuasive. They are all pretty easy fixes and I guarantee will give you more of that magical power.

1. Avoid speaking in first person: There is no reason to say "we think the government team should win because," or "it is our argument that Russia has nuclear weapons." Just say the argument. It's more persuasive if you say your arguments as an argument instead of something with a qualifer, "I believe it." This is a subtle change but it makes you all the more powerful as a speaker. This will also have the added bonus of giving you better word economy so you can fit in more arguments.

2. Make eye contact: This is essential to make the judge believe you. I never really understood why you make eye contact when you speak until I started watching other speakers. If someone didn't look at you when they said they loved you, would you believe them? (I should hope not). If someone has the guts to look at you when they speak you naturally believe them more.

3. Roadmap all the time: You should be doing a roadmap at the top of every speech AND at the top of every position. You may say, but "this is a waste of my time, I will be making those arguments anyway." However, telling a story is much more persuasive because at the end of the round, most judges will only remember those stories. They are going to hear exactly what you said in those roadmaps in their head and hopefully even write that as their RFD for you.

4. Speak with confidence: This seems like a no brainer but there is an easy way to do this. Only say things you are sure are true and speak with authority. If you are not sure something is true, then just don't say it! This means that everything you are saying you are positive about and that confidence will shine thru whether you try to or not. This is really important because judges don't know everything -- especially the facts or history neccessary to prove an argument. If you aren't convinced what you are saying is true (and it's really obvious to a listener), why do you think a judge would be?

5. Pre-empt the obvious answers: Premption is neccessary for strategy too (in another post) but it is also great to build credibility into your speech. If there is something that seems to completely negate your position, answer it before the argument is even made. This shows that you know there is another side but it's not important. Concede arguments when neccessary too. For example, if you run a political DA that says that Bush's popularity will decline (but currently it's really low), then you should say, yes, Bush's popularity is already low, but that just means that any more decline will be tragic (or whatever) when you first make the argument. It is much more persasusive to admit your weaknesses but overcome then rather than to pretend they don't exist.

6. Don't say clearly, obviously, etc.: If it's clear or obvious then you wouldn't need to say so, would you? You should build up the strength of your argument that the judge thinks it's clear you are winning. Again, this also is good for your word economy but it really makes you sound more persuasive when you don't have to result to such language to fill in where your argument is lacking.

2.21.2006

Don't Leave Home Without It

Winning the NPTE starts at home, moreso than any other tournament. Marie and I were at the tournament three times, and each time we refined our prep approach. Every year we did better, from not breaking, to 5th, to 1st. I will now tell you the research secrets.

There is a toolkit, a baseline set of arguments that you must never be caught without on any topic. Teams are more prepared for the NPTE, and you need to be able to sit down for any topic and begin preparing, instantly, with little discussion. Here are the elements of your toolkit. (in upcoming posts, I will detail more about what each part needs to have ready, but this is just an overview)

For each topic area, prepare the following.

1. A really good actor CP.

I'm looking through my NPTE folder from last year, and the one that jumps out at me is "OCC Counterplan," from the "Personal Finance" topic folder. That topic involved a lot of cases and literature about credit cards, bank lending rates, payday loans, and so forth. All of them had something in common: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over them, pre-empting both states and other agencies of the federal government.

The idea here is that in every topic area, you should find an actor which is just the best actor for most/all cases on the topic. Maybe they have expertise. Maybe they have legal jurisdiction that's better than everyone else. Maybe there's some kind of net benefit to that actor gaining legitimacy or something. Who knows? The idea is, you want an actor you can wield like a broadsword. The other team is going to be great at debating their mandates--so you be better at debating the actor.

These need to be topic specific, with topic specific advantages and stuff. Don't just pull your old "SCOTUS CP" and think you're done. At a minimum, rewrite the net benefit to be about the topic, so you can claim to solve better in a more specific persuasive way or something.

2. Topic-specific politics scenarios.

For international topics, this means international political disads! If you don't have an Obasanjo disad ready for your Africa topic, you aren't done prepping. If you don't have a NASA Chief Cred DA ready for the space topic, maybe you should get on that! Do your research so that the politics impacts and internals are all "in the topic area," because it's better to have a Water Politics DA in a water debate because, first, the links are better; second, the impacts have a decent chance of turning case or being able to piggyback on their advantages or something.

These can often pair up with an actor CP or something.

3. Aff cases on, at minimum, both "directions" of the topic.

In general, you should have plenty of cases period. You need lots and lots that you like. But if, for example, the topic is about "intellectual property rights," whatever that means, you should have one really good aff expanding those rights and one aff contracting them. For a South America topic, you need a topic that engages the US more there, and one that engages us less; or maybe a case that repeals an existing program there, and a case that expands an existing program. Something like that.

This is imprecise, but the point is that you need to be able to "go either way," because NPTE topics are generally unidirectional (to their credit).

4. A conceptual critique that is topic-specific.

Don't just trot out your stupid statism or Marxism K and decide you're done. Find out what the major conceptual malfunctions in the topic are and then write critiques about them. Anyone who walked into NPTE last year with a critique of the term/concept "intellectual property" wasn't working hard enough, and anyone who walks in this year without similar critiques for all major topic areas isn't either.

The idea is that you need some concept that is badly misunderstood by almost all major policy actions in the area such that you can't discuss the topic for seven minutes without mentioning the concept critiqued. This is another thing you can be sure is in your holster every debate which will calm you and make you feel better in prep.

5. An exclusion CP for all the likely, popular affs on the topic.

On the South America topic last year, it seemed likely a Plan Colombia debate could occur. Many probably did, although I don't think we had any. The point is, you could see that debate coming a zillion miles away. If "American Indian Rights" is a topic this year, you can anticipate debating Yucca Mountain. And so forth. Figure out what the obvious affs are.

Then, write an exclusion CP for those. For Plan Colombia, we excluded certain little-known but helpful parts of the program (like school building money). The idea is, you want to be ready with a really nitpicky distinction you can debate so the aff is off their game. For bonus points, then change your affs to reflect this exclusion CP and immunize yourself against it.

6. A consult CP for relevant topic specific actors.

Last year, our semifinal round was won (for at least a couple of judges) on a garden variety "consult AU" counterplan. Figure out who the actors are in each topic and then write consultation counterplans for them. Figure out who has expertise or will be pissed if the US or UN or other world actors take actions without consulting them, then consult them. For the water topic last year, we had a cool "consult TVA" counterplan that we didn't get to run.

This is like an agent CP, but you have more flexibility--sometimes you want to consult people who can't implement on their own. As a bonus, you get auto-competition with consult CPs, so long as you don't lose to silly theory arguments. (Agent CPs frequently suffer from "cooperate" permutations of a sort.) Basically, you'll be better-armed than the other side to debate the specifics of your consultation agent, and to win the debate, they need to win offense of a sort: either that the consulted actor will say no (have reasons they won't), or that consulting them and having them say yes is actually bad.

7. Proto-topicality shells for terms in the topic you expect to come up ("terms of art").

Start with the words of the topic. (What's "Africa?") Then figure out other important words. (What's a "patent?" What's a "water right?") Then write great standards for these that you can explain quickly and persuasively, and then just leave the violation blank. You're good to go. Take advantage of the topic area knowledge and dig up real field-contextual definitions, and examples of where the term is used the way it is and how.

Make a LOT of hay in your standards about the function of topic areas being mooted if people play too fast and loose with terms.

8. And as many other affs as you have time to write or think about.

You can never have too many.

Next time: how to pre-prep in outrounds!

Debate Secrets: Beat the Pride

But Icarus, in his foolish pride,
Rose up high to reach the sun.
Pride, they say always hath a fall,
And so it was, Icarus fell.


There are many great debaters who will never win nationals for one simple reason -- they are too prideful. I don't mean outside of the round (kettle: hey pot, you're black) -- but in the round when they make argument choices. Here are some examples of what I mean.

1) Playing Your Roles: Debaters must listen to their partners. The LO/MG should be willing to make argument that their partner wants in the round. Many debaters are too proud to run thier partner's arguments instead of making their own. This is ridiculous because it takes two to win. I was always willing to run Ian's argments, like the Obasanjo DA he handed me once, even though I did not even know how to pronounce that name (I kicked it in the LOR like a fool, but that is for another post). Sometimes, the MO will have better arguments than you and you should put your pride away and make them.

Additionally, very importanly, no matter how great the MO's argument ideas may be, if the LO does not run them, neither should the MO. When the MO runs new arguments in the second constructive, she might as well ask the judge to sign the ballot for the government right then.

2) Make arguments that you don't believe in: This does not mean arguments that you morally disagree with. I mean strategic arguments that you think are stupid. Once in a round I made the pathetic argument that "counterplan was not philosophically competitive" in one of the 20+ answers I put on the CP. The other team knew how stupid it was but somehow missed it on the flow. 2/3 of the panel voted for us on that argument. I was very embarrassed when people teased me later, but it worked! There is nothing shameful about covering your bases and putting out arguments that you know you could easily beat. I have argued that CPs must be non-topical (ridiculous) with a straight face. You shouldn't obviously make only crap arguments but you want to put as much on the flow as you can. Especially in light of reason #3.

3) Play on your opponents pride: A LOT of debaters hook on an argument that you've made and beat it to a pulp. They want to show off their powers like giving 30 reasons why they are topical (even though you never cared about topicality and frankly it was a stupid argument, see #2 above). When you know your opponent, you learn what things they will get hung up on. You make those arguments not because you think you will win them but you know your opponent will cling to them. Don't run arguments you know they will turn and win on, but feel free to run arguments you know are bad but your opponent loves to argue. Debaters spend a lot of time on the arguments they are comfortable with and can easily beat -- intead of spending their time in the places they are going to lose. Make a list of the arguments that your various opponents enjoy and make them. Does X team love to argue about a politics DA's uniqueness? Does Y team like to show off their T theory? Make these arguments because you never intended to win on them but because you will win the time skew.

4) Be willing to kick arguments: even ones you could win! This will give you a HUGE advantage in the time division. In the end of the round, the person that wins the most arguments doesn't neccessarily win the debate. The winner is the team that wins the RIGHT arguments. Therefore, as the MO/PMR, kick things that don't matter. I don't care if you could spend a few minutes on them to win that argument. If you don't think that the judge will vote on it or that it matters in the impact analysis, don't waste your time there. Plenty of teams are afraid to kick something because they don't want to admit that your opponent made some good arguments. Heck, maybe your opponent made shit arguments too but it will take you more time to answer. Bow out and win the debate elsewhere.

5) Adapt to your judge: You know your judge will vote on T like it's his job? But you think their case is topical? WHO CARES! Run what you know they are going to listen to. Your judge is old skool and hates Ks? Don't run a K even if they said your exact link text to your gender K. I remember a friend on the circuit who wouldn't stop complaining about how he smacked down his opponent on a complex procedural argument but his judge -- who had a reputation for hating procedural arguments -- didn't vote for it. He ran that argument only because he was motivated by his own pride. Every minute he spent beating his opponent on the argment was completely wasted.

I know of another debater who dropped a topicality argument in a deep NPDA outround on PURPOSE! Why? Because he knew that his judges weren't buying it (be careful when doing that unless you can read the judge well, more in another post). Was he a bad debater because he dropped a whole position or a great one because he put his pride away and did it for the ballot? He made it further than his opponent that year, I think that speaks for itself.

In conclusion, you have to decide what is most important to you. The pride of intellectually winning a debate round -- making only your own arguments, making only the smartest, best arguments, chasing arguments until you prove everyone (even your opponents!) that you are right, and debating to some "perfect" standard of debate despite the judges' desires -- or getting the ballot?

2.15.2006

Impact Comparison

Weighing and comparison of impacts is very easy but people ignore it all the time. It is impossible to graduate to high-level debate without doing this in every rebuttal and probably most constructives.

At the end of most debates, you will be winning some arguments and so will they. The job of the rebuttalists is to sort out which should come first and why. If the rebuttalists don't do it, the judge has to, and this is going to unavoidably result in intervention. I tell every team I judge to do this for me and almost none of them do; when only one team does it that team wins 100% of the time because who am I to wade in and sort through impacts when one of the teams is doing it for me?

Here are some common and easy-to-apply ways to weigh impacts. There are more but these are the incredibly easy-to-grasp ones. The best rebuttalists can think of situationally-specific reasons some impacts are better than others, but some of these are bound to apply in every debate. Use them.

Magnitude (People Affected)

This is the "body count" impact. It is the simplest because you just count up the number of people that your impact has some effect on, and that's your magnitude impact. A gay rights case affects about 3-5% of the target population directly, and perhaps many more if you can make and win the argument that an unequal society harms everyone. "A million people get the flu" is a million people of magnitude, plus whoever has to care for those people and stuff. easy!

Magnitude (Severity of Effect)

Adding a level of subtlety is severity of effect. Being killed is worse than being hungry, but being hungry is worse than being inconvenienced. Whether being hungry is worse than being discriminated against is a subject of genuine debate and disagreement. The point here is that even if they affect a ton of people, if all of those people are affected in only a very small way, it's not really the case that their impact matters more.

This type of comparison depends heavily on details. Unemployment and war can both have severe effects. Here it will be necessary to apply the internal warrants of your impacts, explain your scenario more, and so forth. In other words, use your arguments to win the impact comparison debate rather than just trying to win every argument in the debate. See the diff?

Timeframe

How long does an impact occur over? Other things being equal, an impact that lasts one day is less important than an impact which lasts for a year. This is an extremely neglected area of impact debate, because people become obsessed with magnitude, which is a blunt instrument. In particular, many impacts function on a timeframe longer than a single human life which means that they can outweigh death.

Think about works of art. Shakespeare's works outlasted his life. Everyone will die eventually, but some things last beyond life and death. Given the choice between avoiding the French-English war or wiping out the works of Shakespeare from history, what would you choose? Everyone who died in that war is dead now anyway. See? You can even outweigh war with a play. Just gotta use your brain!

Reversibility

Impacts which can be reversed are less important than those which cannot be reversed. Species extinction is the archetypical example of irreversible impacts: once a species is gone, nothing short of a Michael Crichton novel can bring them back. On the other hand, jobs can always be regained. In environmental debates especially, you should use this axis of comparison to your advantage if at all possible, since many of them turn on "damage to environment vs. damage to the economy."

Death is irreversible. Discrimination is reversible though some of its effects may not be. Disease is reversible if it's treatable. Economic downturn is always reversible. Grey goo is only reversible with blue goo. And so forth. Explain that in a choice between doing a bad thing forever and doing a bad thing temporarily, you would always choose the temporary bad thing and you will win a lot of debates!

Certainty

Also known as "the sum of the link and internal link debates." More certain impacts matter more than less certain ones. Sure their impact may be war and genocide, but to get there, you have to march through a thousand layers of internal links and uniqueness problems; our impact is guaranteed. In this way, you can fold in the other parts of the debate (link, uniqueness, any brink concerns you may have) into the impact comparison, so you can stay in that mode. The impact is what matters; everything before that is just a vehicle to get to the round-winning arguments.

"Especially Wrong"

Impacts that are discriminatory in the invidious sense are worse than those that aren't. Imagine that their impact is that 100 people will die from disease, but your impact is that 100 people will die from anti-Semitic violence. You both have 100 people, you both have irreversible impacts, you both have (assume) equal certainty, etc. I think in that position you're ahead in the debate, because it's worse to target specific protected classes of people and put your impact on them. Admittedly, this is the most "hand-wavey" of the impact comparison axes, but no one's really going to challenge you on it: just explain that "all other things being equal, a discriminatory impact is worse than an equitable impact" and you will be fine.

This can mean that you really get a lot of mileage out of cases that reverse specific kinds of discriminatory impacts, like "repeal DOMA" or "ban Yucca" because all of your impacts are "especially wrong," meaning you start with a gigantic advantage in the debate. But you need to use it, and that means pulling out the weapons.

Hope this helps. It sure will help you get my ballot, and I don't think I'm the only judge out there who wants to hear why your arguments are the best ones in the debate--not just that you're winning every argument in the debate.

Reading List: Team Names and Mascots

I'm sure you've heard of the opposition to sports teams/mascots such as Redskins. I'd also be willing to bet that you have not read an academic article on it and the debates you've had are not as in depth as they should be.

Fix this problem by reading the following article: A Public Accomodations Challenge to the Use of Indian Team Names and Mascots in Professional Sports, 112 Harv. L. Rev. 904 (1999)