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Comments on the 2019-20 PF Resolutions and Linked Resources (Bibs and Ev)

Comments on the 2019-20 PF Resolutions and Linked Resources (Bibs and Ev)

Quick notes

(1) These are my thoughts on the working PF resolutions.  For the most part, many of these are pretty good resolutions. A few need important changes.

(2) I strongly encourage you to download our PF app by searching, “DebateUS” in the Apple and Google Play stores.  The app will give you notifications of topic updates, topic arguments, and any other content. You can watch videos, read a textbook, and take quizzes to demonstrate your success.  You can also earn badges and other awards. If you have question, you can ask one. And you can use our timer (a version of which has the new NSDA times). And you can post in our social media feed.  The app has a lot of free content, but you can purchase a subscription for the entire year for $99 by Venmo (@Stefan-Bauschard)  or PayPal ([email protected]). You can also purchase a subscription to all of our apps for $150 for the entire season by clicking here — or sending $150 to one above addresses). The app is fully synched to the website, so you can download everything from there, including all fo this linked content. $99 is less than the price of one hotel room for one night at one tournament..)


  1. The European Union should endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  2. The benefits of Xi Jinping’s power consolidation outweigh the harms to China.

The first resolution is quite good. There are a lot of pro and con articles written about both the merits of the BRI and Europe joining it.

Bibliography for Belt and Road.

The second resolution is a bit weak. There are a limited number of articles on both sides and the resolution is constrained to China. Many articles related to this issue discuss the external threat created by the consolidation.

Bibliography for Xi power consolidation.

If you want a better option for China, try something like, “The United States should repeal Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act” (annotated bib).

Section 232 is what allows Trump to place these tariffs on China without the support of Congress.  This is a ripe debate and it is a conflict that isn’t going to be resolved soon.  And there are related questions of executive power and the potential application of tariffs in other areas (“tariff man”).

Final Comment: I really hope #1 wins a vote because #2 isn’t very good.

Letter grades: Topic 1 A, Topic 2 B-

Nuclear power

  1. The United States should substantially increase its production of nuclear power plants.
  2. The United States should prioritize nuclear energy over renewable energy to combat climate change.

Nuclear power is always a good debate. There are many good arguments on both sides and there is an extensive literature base, and it is easy to find 2019 articles.

I think the second resolution is meant to be a targeted subset of the first resolution, but the debates will probably play out in a similar manner, as whether or not nuclear power is the best solution to global warming is determined by its overall desirability relative to renewables.  Also, the second one has “prioritize” in it, which is never optimal.

Nuclear power basics. Bibliography and files.

Final Comment: It doesn’t matter which one wins, but #1 is probably the better wording. 

Letter grades: Topic 1 A, Topic 2 A-


  1. The United States federal government should ban its offensive cyber operations.
  2. Deploying artificial intelligence in US cybersecurity efforts produces more benefits than harms.

My guess is that the distinction between offensive and defensive cyber is not so clear, but I can see what it is getting at. Unlike #2, it’s debatable on both sides.


Deepening the US-China CyberSecurity dilemma (2019). This post explains why the US needs to engage in offensive cyber operations against China, but also acknowledges some of the downsides and has links to Pro articles.


The second one needs to be re-written. If the US didn’t use AI in cyber ops the US would get crushed because other countries do, especially China. It would basically be a surrender of our computer systems. I’m sure there is a lot of evidence that says AI in cyber warfare is dangerous, but I”m skeptical that there is evidence that says the US should unilaterally disarm in this area.  If this resolution is going to be considered the advocate needs to produce at least two pieces of evidence from someone who says the US should not use AI in cybersecurity operations and/or that we should abandone AI in cyber operations.

US DOD 2019:

The National Defense Strategy makes clear that the character of warfare is changing, he said, adding that competitors such as Russia and China are investing heavily in modernization in artificial intelligence to refine the future of warfare.

In fact, it would be difficult to have cyber threat detection without it –

Justin Lynch wrote in January of this year:

Most cyber threat detection platforms use some form of artificial intelligence to create warning indicators, according to public and private sector officials. However, the U.S. government is behind the private sector when it comes to use of AI, said James Yeager, the public sector vice president at cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike.

It may be best to just roll with a traditional AI investment topic:

I still think the U.S. has the edge over China in AI capabilities at the moment. However, as much as I would like the U.S. to win this race over the long run, if I were a betting man I would bet on China. As I describe in my new book “The AI Advantage,” China is executing its strategy for AI, and the U.S. is still wrestling to create one. China is also reaping the benefits of having a determined government, an inexhaustible pot of money, a growing cadre of smart researchers and a large, digital-hungry population. Perhaps if the leadership of the U.S. government devoted as much attention and investment to AI as it does to its other strong priorities, the U.S. could maintain its lead in the field. That seems unlikely over the next couple of years, however.

CNBC, in an article title, “US falls behind China in the race fo AI dominance, adds: The challenge to US leadership this time is more sophisticated, resourceful and advanced. The failure to respond would damage US interests for decades to come and accelerate the decline of US global leadership.

The South China Morning Post adds:

China is fast becoming the next AI-DNA powerhouse, threatening Silicon Valley’s long-standing global edge in bio-intelligence. As other countries form alliances with the two giants, the world will be divided into rival tech blocs. This new geopolitical order – depicted in Kai-fu Lee’s latest book, AI Superpowers – will not be shaped by US President Donald Trump’s trade wars, but by competition to control the artificial intelligence and biotech industries The world is already on the threshold of this new era. China has invested US$9 billion in expanding its AI and biotech capabilities within and beyond its borders, to take a great leap forward in the commodification of a resource that might be the  new oi : namely, our biological and genomic data. Equipped with AI programs that can decode the genetic profiles of entire populations and ecosystems, forms of “cybercolonisation” are increasingly likely, along with potentially massive shifts in geopolitical power. In fact, China and Silicon Valley seem poised for a race to control our biological data.

Final Comment: I hope to God that #1 wins because #2 is not debatable.  Hopefully #2 can be something like, “The Congress should substantially increase funding for military AI applications.”

Letter grades: Topic 1 B, Topic 2 D


  1. The United States should replace means-tested welfare programs with a universal basic income.

There is a great debate on UBI and replacing means-tested welfare programs is huge subset of that debate. Some conservatives even propose this. This is a very well written resolution with great ground for both sides.

UBI files, ppt, essay, argument outline, UBI and gender

2. Job creation tax credits are an effective tool to decrease poverty in the United States.

Sorry, UBI is just better than job training as a topic, so I didn’t feel like putting a bib together on job creation tax credits. I guess they had to put a second resolution. If people vote for #2 over #1 that’s a huge opportunity cost of something interesting to be debated.

Final Comment: I hope to God that #1 wins because #2 is as dull as…

Letter grades: Topic 1 A, Topic C (sorry, this sounds dull)


  1. On balance, the economic development benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement outweigh the harms.
  2. The African Union should officially recognize Somaliland’s independence.

#1 Bibliography

A quick search of what is available seems to show that most of the articles on the topic are pro, but Con teams that take a big of time to investigate the potential harms of free trade, capitalism, and globalization will find plenty of Con ground.

#2 Bibliography

It’s hard to find stuff that says Somalia should do this, at least absent an agreement with Somalia, but there are some articles on it . It is an issue that has been around for at least 12 years, and I don’t know how timely it is, but it is an okay topic.  It could probably only be a one month topic, as the literature base is not very large, and since it’s not a pressing issue in the world, there isn’t that much that is going to be written about it.


  1. The United States Department of Education should be abolished.
  2. On balance, charter schools are beneficial to the quality of education in the United States.

These are both good topics, though it will be easier for debaters to find more evidence on both sides for charter schools. Abolishing the DOE is certainly debatable, but it’s a more radical proposal from the far right.

Final Comment: I hope #2 wins because #2 is a more even debate. #1 is a fringe, right wing proposal. Perhaps, “School choice is net desirable” is a better #2.

Letter grades: Topic 1 C, Topic 2 A-

Charter schools evidence

I put a quick bibliography for abolishing the DOE here. Check out some of the very conservative sources…

Employment Rights

  1. The United States should strengthen labor unions.
  2. “Right to Work” laws are harmful to the interests of employees.

Right to Work laws annotated bibliography

These are both pretty good resolutions, though the first will stimulate broader debates than the second one. “Right to work laws” are just one way to weaken unions.

Final Comment: #1 is better because it’s broader.  #2 is okay because it’s pretty narrow.  It could never be a 2 month topic.

Letter grades: Topic 1 B, Topic 2 B-

Federal Judiciary

  1. The United States Supreme Court should rule that qualified immunity for law enforcement officers violates the Fourth Amendment.
  2. The United States Supreme Court should rule that plea bargaining violates the Sixth Amendment.

These are essentially run backs of two okay/workable L-D topics.

Since the area is the “federal judiciary,” keeping USSC in the topic is probably inevitable, but in parts of the country where kids can counterplan in PF (and/or run justification arguments), life will be brutal, especially with the Pro going first. Why?

Con teams will run Congress counterplans with court disadvantages (legitimacy, activism/minimalism, Hollow Hope, Court stripping, Court politics) and law waste to the Aff. A past college policy topic specialized a Court agent and life was basically hell for the Pro. If people are confident counterplans will stay out of PF then these are good resolutions. If not, I’d change the resolution to something like “The government should…”

Qualified immunity long essay and evidence

Plea bargaining  Full argument outline and evidence


Final Comment: Both of these topics are okay. The big weakness of the qualified immunity topic is that qualified immunity is rarely a defense in police shootings, so getting rid of it won’t have much of a consequential impact.  Abolishing plea bargaining is less problematic in this regard (90+% of cases are pled), so it would be a radical change with significant consequences (many say it would destroy the judicial system, and some LDrs ran that as an advantage when this topic was debated in LD)).   Of these two, hopefully abolishing plea bargaining wins.

Letter grades: Topic 1 C, Topic 2 A-/B+

Latin America

Western countries’ recognition of Juan Guaidó was in the best interest of the Venezuelan people.

I think this is an interesting topic because it is written in the past tense.

The rise of Russian influence in Latin America is a threat to regional stability.

This is going to be tricky for the Con, at least for judges who want offense. I guess Con just says,, “not so bad…” Maybe it helps some countries in the region? Perhaps. It seems there are better resolutions about Latin America – refugees, drugs, collapsing economies

Final Comment: I think these topics are both meh. It would be ideal to come up with something  better about Latin America.

Letter grades: Topic 1 A-, Topic 2 B-

Middle East

  1. The United States should withdraw from the Afghanistan Peace Process.

There is actually a great debate on this, with Taliban good/bad, withdrawal good/bad, Russia influence, China influence, Pakistan terrorism.

Some have pointed out that Afghanistan is not in the Middle East, but that isn’t that important to me. We don’t have to have a Middle East topic and a topic about Afghanistan could be good.

It is possible to “cut to the chase” of the impacts with a less time sensitive resolution: Resolved: The United States should substantially reduce its military presence in Afghanistan.  There are a few quick updates to an older bibliography on this issue here.

2. The United States should increase its military presence in the Persian Gulf Region to deter Iranian aggression.

In some ways this would be great to debate about, but there are two problems.

First, The timing on this would have to hit the sweet spot and it’s probably too timely, as whether or not to increase presence would significantly impacted by what is going on in the status quo.

Like say Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz on a Friday and on Saturday the Pro says we should defend it. What does the Con say? Dedev?

Say the US makes a deal with Iran on a Friday and then on a Saturday the Pro has to defend increasing presence in the Gulf? That doesn’t make any sense.

Second,  absent some radical breakthrough, the resolution moves in the direction of the status quo.  Allowing the Pro advocacy to move in the direction of the status quo is always not the best idea because it’s hard for the negative to generate uniqueness. A better resolution may be, Resolved: The United States should adopt a policy of constructive engagement with Iran. OR . The United States should reduce its military and economic pressure on Iran.


Letter grades: Topic 1 A-, Topic 2 B-/C+