Month: September 2008

Crystal Ball and New World Order: Predicting the Future Can Jeopardize the Present

Over and over again I hear people discussing the possibility of the United States losing its position of leadership in the world. China, they say, is rising. Russia, they worry, is becoming more belligerent. What is going to happen, they wonder, when America is no longer number one? This subject attracts a lot of attention. After the Cold War ended and a simple division of the world under the rubrics of “good” and “evil” was no longer appropriate, an opening was created for a new, equally simplistic, explanation. Scholars of international politics have indulged themselves in hypothesizing about the makeover of the world: trying on different shapes and discussing whether they fit. Different theories have emerged: from returning to great power politics to becoming an integrated world where nation-states no longer matter and international corporations conduct the orchestra. So which world is it going to be and what should we do about it? These are the wrong questions: They are also useless and destructive. Wondering about the shape of the world takes our attention away from real problems and instead makes us worry about monsters under the bed. After the September 11 attacks, however, confused and discombobulated, we felt the need for this shape to be defined. We found a definition in the 2002 National Security Strategy, otherwise known as the Bush Doctrine. In it, President Bush attempted to...

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On the Web, an All Access Pass Shouldn’t Come at Such a Premium

In 1990, with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and again in 1998 with the passing of the Section 508 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Americans with disabilities won victories toward the better use of technology for all. Like curb-cuts outside office buildings or wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, the purpose of these acts was to enact laws which would (hopefully) guarantee many disabled members of society a more balanced and comfortable way to accomplish day-to-day activities that the majority of Americans take for granted. Section 508 and the later WCAG–supplementary guidelines on accessibility from the governing group of the Internet, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)–are both instrumental in ensuring access to emerging technologies. With the importance of mobile, connective technology such as Web applications and company intranets, more and more Americans depended on technology to run their businesses and their lives. All of which mandated a certain level of Web accessibility to access information and perform tasks virtually such as email. Most of the Web sites are currently (relatively) easy for Americans without disabilities to navigate. Visual clues, clean layouts, roll-over navigation, and streaming video are all commonplace technologies used to navigate the Web. Many of these, however, pose problems to Americans with disabilities: blind users cannot see where the navigation is on a page, deaf users cannot hear the content presented in a streaming video,...

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Democratizing Schools: Restorative Justice in the Face of Zero Tolerance

You might well have heard of public school environments as places of "zero tolerance," authoritarian in nature, and even comparable to jails or correctional facilities in terms of their disciplinary measures. Tardiness results in an entire lesson missed sitting in study hall; disrupting class earns a whole day of detention; rough-housing might lead to suspension, even expulsion. These punishments only further alienate the offender and do not address the needs of the victim or school community. Restorative justice is a movement that, in effect, seeks to democratize schools. Though the term "restorative justice" is not yet common in the education system, it has proven its potential to become as ubiquitous of a phenomenon as "zero tolerance" in schools. Restorative practice is a cooperative, community-based approach to discipline: rather than doing justice to or for the offender, it is working with all those involved to repair harm done to the victim or community and establish responsibility for one’s actions. The current educational system does not adequately (if at all) create a sense of belonging or connectedness, instill a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, or effectively address recidivism. Restorative justice offers a platform to imbue these skills in both the administration and students, to create community, and to address the root of the problem in terms of disciplinary measures. Rather than replacing or over-turning traditional disciplinary measures, restorative justice should be used in conjunction with them....

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Dialectica Radio: Show Two – Bicycling In Austin

This week on Dialectica: the LBJ Sustainability Working Group provides a prelude for their Bicycle Pub Crawl (10/3) with a discussion on bicycling issues in Austin. Representatives from the Yellow Bike Project and the Orange Bike Project will be on-hand to dissect issues the Statesman refuses to report on. [soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/114251895%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-hfumT” params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true”...

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Hillary McCain-Obama

I’d like to put forward a new candidate. Her name is Hillary McCain-Obama, and she is perfect! She has all the credentials needed to be a great president. She is a wonderful legislator, has great military experience and projects a unifying and inspiring presence that mesmerizes not only people here in the United States, but all over the world. And as an African-American woman who is not trying to hide her grey hair, she is poised to make history. The point of this absurd exaggeration is to show that none of the presidential contenders is perfect for the role, but then, very few presidents were; the role is too demanding of people who want to fill it. The U.S. presidency involves many responsibilities and it is nearly impossible for one person to have the talents or the energy to be equally strong at all of them. No wonder Thomas Jefferson called the presidency a "splendid misery." A president must perform three main functions. He must be head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief. Since each of these has elements that contradict the others, no one person can fit the bill. The head of state, in the words of Charles de Gaulle, should embody "the spirit of the nation." This person is the face of the country, the king surrogate, the symbol of the values for which the nation...

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