2005 has passed from the scene, unloved and unmourned, but to quote a great philosopher we can only say, Excelsior! As 2006 unfolds these will be some of the stories in the news.
The National Security Language Initiative will spend $750 million during the period 2007 to 2011 to teach American "critical" foreign languages, as opposed to those uncritical foreign languages, good only for ordering dinner or putting together modular furniture. To this we can only say "My hovercraft is full of eels" and wish the program good luck. The grousing has already begun, along the lines of national security, ha!, but it is a safe bet that universities will take the money. When it comes to Federal money universities are like crackheads accidentally locked inside a police evidence locker. And while the idea of kids learning foreign languages from kindergarten onward is a great idea on the surface, we might worry about whether they will be taught from My Big Book of Baath Slogans or Uncle Osama's Bedtime Stories.
Prince Alwaleed's ultrasupermega-gifts to Harvard and Georgetown may fade a bit in 2006 but since the world's fifth richest man is a publicity hound, the story is bound to return. The little interview in the New York Times gives some insights into his thinking. He seems to be the very model of a modern Saudi prince, businessman extraordinaire, media mogul, and completely capable of reconciling a bundle of contradictory thoughts and impulses that would tax the average person. On the one hand, he'll give millions to American universities in a naked effort to improve Islam's image and buy influence. On the other, he really thinks this is for everyone's good since obviously we need to be edumacated. Anyway, the universities asked him for the money (file under, Surprise, Big). He'll sell a hotel to Israelis without blinking (business is business), and own a media company that broadcasts the most appalling anti-Semitic garbage. Good thing that's protected by free speech, but that the prince can pick up the phone and get Rupert Murdoch to change Fox News headlines within minutes, well, that's pretty normal, isn't it? Anyway, it's only fair. Let's leave it with a short comment on the interview from fellow Saudi The Religious Policeman:
Look. You have to understand that the population of Saudi Arabia has zero Christians.
That's the point. Why shouldn't you should spend your millions educating your own students before you educate kids at Harvard?
Obviously, it could be something we are contemplating.
Great interview! I'd love to see more like her doing interviews on US TV.
By the way, the Arabic translation of "Obviously, it could be something we are contemplating." is something like "Some millenia after Hell freezes over", but without the same sense of imminence.
Who won't be in the news in 2006? Norman Finkelstein. No, that's just wishful thinking.
Anyway, what would the New Year be without our first piece of hate mail?
Stop this nonesense. You are stupid not us. Everyone with more than 2 brain cells knows that Harri was killed by Israel and Us. At least more than 90% of the terrorist activity and killing in the region and the world is done by the US and Israel. Than's why you and your propaganda buisness is not going to fool us rather is going to destroy your own iron cage and exposed your crimes more than ever. The whole world hates you. Israel is responsible for the assasination of John Kennedy as vennuno has said. You have a very dark history.
Let us leave aside the conventional misspellings and point out that ‘Harri' presumably means Rafik Hariri, late prime minister of Lebanon, assassinated apparently by Syria, perhaps even on the orders of that country's president. By ‘vennuno' one supposes the writer means Mordechai Vanunu, ex-Israeli nuclear technician, who served eighteen years in prison for treason.
Vanunu has indeed stated that the Kennedy assassination was an Israeli operation, an allegation conveniently repeated in Al-Ahram and al-Jazeera, among others. Obviously this solution is more compelling than recent evidence that the Cuban secret service and the KGB used Oswald to kill Kennedy. Vanunu, who has become an Anglican, has adopted the name John Carson, which may or may not explain his continuing stream of revelations regarding Israel unconventional weapons programs and intentions.
But enough about that. More interesting is the phrase ‘iron cage,' used here in a sort of metallic self-incarceration sense. In fact the phrase originates with Max Weber and refers to the rigid confines of modern bureaucratized society, a dehumanized false utopia of technology and rationality. The writer's unwitting, or perhaps witless, use of the expression and letter as a whole merely shows that, if nothing else, Weber's fears about hyper-rationality prevailing in modern society may have been slightly overstated.