Violence in Egyptian Media
Matrix Reloaded was banned in Egypt on grounds that it challenges traditional religious views on "human existence, and creation." The film discusses free will, in a somewhat sophmoric way, but it does not say anthing about the creation of human beings. As for confronting beliefs on existence, does it matter if a couple of people think they really are in the matrix? Even if that were true, I don't see how if would affect one's belief in God.
On a more realistic note, the censors feel that "the film has too many scenes of violence at a time when we are trying to fight this phenomenon." Fair enough, Egyptians are concerned about violence on television. I can understand that. If that's true, however, then why do the censors not work on stopping the shows that pass freely on television. A study on programming during the holy month of Ramadan, the most watched time for Egyptian television, showed that violence against women was highly prevalent and condoned. If they are at all worried about programming challenging the basics tenants of Islam, billed as a religion of peace and tolerance, then why do they allow such barbarism to pass nightly during the holiest month of the year?
Moral of the story: Violence against a dictatorial, tyrannical power structure trying to enslave the masses is not to be viewed. Abuse of women by the heroes of prime time television shows is normal and laudable.
PS: What do we expect from the country which aired "Horse without a Horseman" during Ramadan. A serial which drew on the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." A book forged by order of the Tsar of Russia to detail the Jewish conspiracy for world dominance.
High School Exit Exams
With California's public schools still in shambles, many attempts are being made in an attempt to increase the value of education. One such idea is the California High School Exit Exam (CHSEE).
Exit exams are a good idea in general. We always seem to talk about 'how much smarter the Europeans are than Americans,' and they have comprehensive exit exams to finish high school. For the Brits, it's the A-Levels, for the French, the BAC. A-level results stay with you the rest of your life, often put on your CV; and the type of BAC taken determines what you can study at university. Mind, these tests are quite difficult. The equivalent in America would be to require that all students take AP tests for each of their subjects, and then use these results to get into college.
I'm not suggesting a change that radical, but some sort of basic knowledge needs to be garnered. People need to know why the American Revolution was fought, and who King George was. They need to understand something of the founding fathers and their ideas, Jefferson vs. Hamilton and the like. An understanding of the function and division of our government is near essential to the proper functioning of our democracy. Hemmingway, Melville, Milton, Orwell, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Laclos, Hugo, Cervantes, Goerthe, and myriad other authors should be read and remembered. Some basics about the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Counter-Reformation, and the Restoration ought be committed to memory. The ideas of Voltaire, de Tocqueville, Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Franklin, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche should be understood. Exposure to the classics goes without saying. Some basic physics and biology would help to appreciate this world. Some may call this Eurocentric, but these people and ideas form the core of modernity. I am certainly open to ideas from other cultures, but these people have so influenced society the world over that they are essential.
Perhaps this is just my wishlist of study, but I think the idea that some level of mastery should be acquired before graduating is held by many. The California exit exam only requires "scores of 60 percent correct in language arts and 55 percent correct in mathematics" in order to pass. That's not a passing grade in any one class, why should it be passing on the comprehensive exit exam? Before people get up in arms defending this watered down exam, just take a look at an 8th grade exit exam from 1895. It is eye opening to think that what we required of 8th graders one hundred years ago would be difficult for a Ph.D. to pass today.
North Korea's Nukes
Richard Perle, the man appeasers love to hate, has brought up the notion of precision strikes against North Korean nuclear facilities. It's good to know that we finally have people in positions of power, like Rumsfeld, who aren't afraid to take action when necessary, even in the face of negative consequences.
Clinton, for all his failings, did fine for himself. He appeased several terrible regimes, and came out of office with a high approval rating, and a huge check for his memoirs. Had he confronted these problems during his tenure, Clinton would have had some tough choices to make. So instead of driving a hard bargain with the North Koreans, he let them go on their way developing weapons behind our backs. Had he taken any other action, he would have had to deal with the after effects. But now, it's a different president who has to deal with the results of his decision. This way, Clinton's time in office isn't spoiled, and somebody else has to fix the problem.
A military strike on North Korea poses a certain distinct drawback in the sense that it might provoke a military response against South Korea or Japan. This isn't so much of a problem if North Korea only has conventional weapons; but if, as rumored, they already posess one or two nuclear weapons, the consequences could be catastrophic. North Korea possibly has missiles that could reach the West Coast, but it surely has a delivery system that would extend to South Korea and Japan.
I don't think that the response would be a military invasion of S. Korea, that would surely kill the 30+ thousand troops we have at the DMZ, and draw the United States into a full fledged war. But I wouldn't rule out a barrage of missiles aimed at Seoul and Tokyo, potentially nuclear tipped. It seems that a strike to destroy North Korea's nuclear technology might release that which the strike was intended to prevent. However, to counter that point, it is conceivable that if N. Korea had only a small number of nuclear weapons, and we struck, they would not strike back with those weapons, but use conventional warheads. That way they could keep the nuclear weapons on hold for deterrence against any further US military intervention.
I am in favor of destroying N. Korea's nuclear facilities, but I'd want good evidence that N. Korea doesn't already possess nuclear weapons. Of course, it goes without saying that if Clinton had taken care of this mess back in '94, we wouldn't have to be worrying about the state of North Korea's nuclear arsenal.
An opinion piece in Haaretz gives a pretty good summation of the current Iranian nuclear weapons quandary. Iran is developing nukes, we all know it. We just don't know how quickly, or with what sort of range.
Given that, the question is, how do we deal with it? We could a) give up, b) attack, c) negotiate. I'm sure that choice a is not the best. Choice c doesn't seem too good either. Iran is not Iraq, and there are not as many justifications for an invasion. The terrain is mountainous and much more treacherous, and the current political situation inside the country is such that an attack may well strengthen the Islamiscists and galvanize resistance.
Choice b is not very appealing because it does not work. How can we possibly negotiate when Russia is supplying the materials used to construct the nuclear reactors? How can we negotiate when there is no enforcement mechanism? We cannot trust the Iranian regime, and so the basis for any negotiation is tenuous at best. That seemingly leaves us with no options.
Perhaps if we modified b and c, we could get a viable alternative. We must show that we will not allow countries to blackmail us using nuclear weapons. North Korea and Iran are examples of how attempting to gain nukes will bring a country to the big table, and will act as a form of immunity. It seems that we should negotiate, and try as hard as we can to stop the nuclear club from expanding, but use tactical strikes if necessary.
We have the technological ability to strike targets such as nuclear facilities with great precision. We should strike the plants before the come online to avoid contaminating the area with fallout, but we must remain resolved to use force if the time comes. Without the will - or perceived will - to use violence, any threat from the US looses credibility, and any negotiation becomes futile.
UPDATE: The past couple days of protesting in Iran are a wonderful sign of the weakness of the Iranian regime. The people are getting fed up with the government, and its days may be numbered. Just like last year's protests against the death sentence for Hashem Aghajari, these manifestations are going virtually unreported. I really don't understand why the mainstream press continues to underreport the events in Iran.