On days like yesterday and today, with the bad news coming fast and furious, it is often best to keep busy.
I hereby withdraw my protest against the Chronicle of Higher Education, who have run my letter regarding Jon Wiener's rather silly comments about the Columbia situation. My eyebrow is still raised in a Spock-like expression that says "curious," considering that my letter was sent to them on May 10th and today is July 8th.
Over at History News Network William Polk puts himself in the shoes of North Korean and Iranian policymakers. Polk was taught at Harvard, helped found Middle East Studies at the University of Chicago, and worked for many years at the State Department. His interpretation of Axis of No-goodnik policy is hyper-realist; everything that these countries do with respect to nuclear weapons development and internal repression is a logical response to the encirclement and isolation effected by the US. He doesn't like these regimes but he understands them, so to speak. His explicitly amoral analysis speaks volumes about American foreign policy and risk avoidance in the pre-9/11 era.
Incidentally, Polk's daughter is one of the editors of a new book on the looting of the Iraq Museum. This review by Dan Cruikshank suggests story presented is dramatically incomplete, since it makes no mention of the facts that the museum was a Baathist institution, that some of the looting during (and before) the war was an inside job, and that the story emanating from the Iraqi side has continually changed. My analysis of the affair as of mid-2004 is here. Not to worry though, the story is enshrined as the "cultural crime of the century." Still, the century is rather young.
To remain in an ancient vein, the often sensible Rami Khouri of the Beirut's Daily Star produced a truly astonishing editorial in which he links the Early Bronze Age of the Levant (ca. 3600-2200 BCE) with the recent Baath Congress in Damascus. This had me so agitated that I produced a 3000± word essay on why this linkage was historically ludicrous and politically dangerous. Khouri managed to combine two of my major research interests, the Early Bronze Age and nationalism, that have hitherto been unrelated, so I guess I should be grateful. The Daily Star has been approached but they have not expressed interest. Otherwise I will remove the jokes and include the essay as a chapter in what I hope will be a book on archaeology and nationalism.
And finally, by all means check out our friend Tony Badran's recent posting at Across the Bay regarding the increasingly frequent Palestinian claim to have descended from the Jebusites. The problem is of course that Jebusites are attested only in the Bible, which makes their concomitant denial of modern Israel's connection with ancient Israel, which is attested in the Bible as well as in extra-Biblical sources, such as Assyrian and Moabite texts, a tad, well, problematic. We can call this the Crosseyed and Painless approach to history:
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don't stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape