Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
This brings up a wider point that I've been mulling over for some time -- regarding our tendency to use modern constructions (such as"Europe") and impose them upon our analyses of the past. Goodness knows the neither the Ancient Greeks nor the Romans ever thought of themselves as"Europeans" as we understand the word's meaning today. Indeed, if either group had been forced to identify a"world" to which they belonged, it would have almost certainly been built around the Mediterranean... and thus included many"non-European" regions. Thus, because we (or certain groups of us) tend to invest identity and meaning in these more modern constructions -- be they"Europe" or even"Africa" -- we then impose that identity upon the past. Such a situation suggests that our current meta-organization of knowledge in the form of"Area Studies" and"Ethnic Studies" programs does much to obscure the reality of history by imposing modern boundaries on the pre-modern world.
We can't even live with ourselves terribly well most days. How well would we co-exist with another sentient, or semi-sentient, species? Not very well, suggests anthropologist Desmond Morris [via Butterflies&Wheels], but the real crux of his argument is two-fold: did Homo sapiens sapiens kill off Homo floresiensis (I'm not terribly fond of any of the currently popular 'nicknames' for this species, and I won't use them), and does our relatively recent co-existence with this species of humans affect our definition of humanity? There's some stuff in there about religion and evolution, too, but that's not what I'm terribly interested in. The best"Floresiensis for dummies" I've seen so far is anthropologist John Hawks' [via Panda's Thumb], who speaks directly to an issue which came up in my mind immediately: is it a hoax, like Piltdown, etc.? He says no, with some authority.
The question of whether a 'lesser' human (floresiensis was certainly not as intelligent, on average, as well as being smaller, though we can't speak to their wisdom or judgment or culture) can or should have full civil and legal rights is, mostly, an abstract one at the moment. But in the not-so-distant past we did make stark legal distinctions based on relatively minor genetic variations (and we still do, in certain circumstances). [Side note: if other species of humans, with clearly distinct abilities and features, were more widespread, would there be less racial thinking among ourselves? Or would it have come up sooner and stronger? Would racial categories be more meaningful in that case?] Aside from the upcoming (you can call it science fiction, but it's just a matter of time) issue of artificial intelligences, we haven't dealt terribly well, overall, with the issue of rights or responsibilities for individuals with physical or developmental or mental disabilities, not to mention indigenous peoples with non-agro-capitalist lifestyles. Those models would suggest some form of protective custody arrangement....
The second, historical, question is: is this where elves come from? Dwarves, gnomes, leprechauns, whatever you want to call them, but stories of forest-dwelling, elusive and irritable"little people" are deep rooted in our human civilization. Local folktales could very plausibly be the result of contacts as recently as 13-15Ky bp (This article also implicates Homo sapiens in the extermination of several other human species.). It's possible that these are just myths, imaginary tales with no basis in fact. It's also possible that they are based on contacts with non-human species like chimps and monkeys and apes. But this is a tantalizing find, and it suggests (proving anything at this distance is terribly hard) that some of our ideas, myths, etc., really do have roots that go back tens of thousands of years.
The race for control of the Senate is potentially more interesting. Right now, six seats seem likely to change hands: Illinois, Colorado, and Alaska from Republican to Democratic; Georgia, SC, and Louisiana from Democratic to Republican. Of these six, the only one that is a missed opportunity is LA, where the Democrats seem to have been overconfident that they could prevail in a runoff and allowed Republican David Vitter to amass too large a lead. (It now appears as if Vitter might win on Tuesday without even needing the runoff.)
Beyond this list, only four seats--Florida, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Kentucky--seem like possibilities to change hands. Potential Republican efforts in Wisconsin and Washington have not gained steam, and Oklahoma appears likely to elect (arguably) the most conservative Senate delegation since the institution of direct election for senators by choosing Republican Tom Coburn to join Jim Inhofe. Three historical patterns seem relevant to predictions on these seats: (1) that generally close contests tend to break toward one party; (2) strong Dem candidates in the South generally can run at least 5 points ahead of their national ticket; and (3) there's always at least one Senate upset. (2) suggests that Dems Betty Castor in Florida and Erskine Bowles in NC should prevail; Kerry figures to get at least 45% in NC and, at worst, close to 50% in Florida. I didn't think the race in SD would be as close as it has been, but still find it hard to believe that the state will oust Tom Daschle, one of the most talented politicians of the last quarter-century. Daschle began his career, by the way, by capturing a House election by less than 200 votes, so he knows how to win close races. He also has some important endorsement: from the unified leadership of the state's Indian tribes, and from the state's largest paper, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, which enthusiastically endorsed Bush earlier in the campaign. Finally, in Kentucky, Jim Bunning has done just about everything he could to lose this race (his latest was claiming that the WTC attacks occurred on November 11th), and Democrat Dan Mongiardo seems to have all the momentum. He certainly is the target of this year's most vicious smear in a congressional race, as two prominent Kentucky Republicans publicly termed him"limp-wristed," a"switch-hitter" and not a"man."
If Mongiardo and Daschle both prevail, the resulting Senate would be split 50-50, casting all eyes on Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee, who has already announced that he won't vote for Bush and would be a candidate to mimic Jim Jeffords and declare himself an independent.
I think the presidential election is too close to call, but if forced to choose, would lean toward Bush, for two below-the-surface reasons. The first involves the anti-gay backlash. The attacks against Mongiardo, who is straight, were no accident: Kentucky is one of the states with an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot, and the most recent poll shows the measure with the approval of 76% of the voters. Bush, obviously, will carry Kentucky in any case, but in one state, a surge in Christian right turnout associated with an anti-gay marriage amendment could make a major difference: Michigan, which polls have shown surprisingly close (Bush is actually ahead in the most recent Zogby poll), and a state that Kerry absolutely needs to prevail.
The second hidden issue is Ralph Nader. He's clearly not going to get much of a vote in 2004. But if--as appears likely, at least right now--Ohio and Florida split between Bush and Kerry, the race will be decided by Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, three states where Nader polled very well in 2000 and where, if he gets 2% in 2004, he could tilt the election to Bush. This gets at one of the stranger issues of this year's election for me--the trend of these three states toward the Republicans, which began in 2000 and has continued this year.
While much of my historical career to date has reflected a fairly “traditional” approach to scholarship (study – research – think – teach – write – publish), I have also been deeply impressed by how new forums, such as H-Net (“the conference that never ends”) and such on-line journal/resource centers as World History Connected can enhance scholarly exchange and growth. The Center for History and New Media and the History News Network provide academics with a valuable means with which to engage one another and the wider public – and do so in increasingly critical “Internet time.” Again, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to contribute to this venture. My own contributions may be infrequent over the next few weeks, as my wife and I are expecting a child in the near-term, but I will see what I can manage nonetheless.
One of the rhetorical tics of the Republican campaign has been to contrast Senator Kerry's"September 10th" view of terrorism with President Bush's"September 12th" view of terrorism.
But September 12th, 2001, is probably not the best day to model ourselves on, frankly. On September 12th we were victims, just barely beginning to think about the day after, absolutely unsure of what to do and what to think. We would have killed anyone, destroyed anything, to assuage our hurt and fear. We were hunkered down, we were paralyzed, we were in shock. Emotions were intense, raw, unfiltered by time or perspective. We were focused on one thing and one thing only: our pain, and our sense of embattlement.
That's how I remember it. I remember trying to teach, or rather, having a discussion with my students about Islam, military policy, the history of terrorism, who they knew and what had happened to them, what they'd heard and what they hadn't heard and what they needed to hear. I remember checking in with our college chaplain to see if our Muslim student population needed support or protection (Cedar Rapids, home to the oldest Mosque west of the Mississippi, had no anti-Muslim incidents, as it turned out, nor were our students harassed). I remember watching a lot of TV, listening to a lot of special reporting, having a little trouble calling family (my mother was stuck on the west coast on business) but generally trying to puzzle out what was going to come next. Absorbing the dozens of stories, and reporting and guesswork. We were six weeks from the birth of our son, and that was a powerfully sustaining and distracting component of our lives.
As an experiment, I did a google search using"September 13, 2001" and got a sampling of opinion and reporting which pretty well reflects what I remember from September 12.
Ann Coulter:"It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."
Daily Utah Chronicle: Normal life suspended while investigations, personal and professional, proceeded and emotional healing began.
Texas A&M Battalion: international students fear backlash; Dallas Mosque shot at.
Colin Powell on Jim Lehrer: Saddam Hussein isn't supporting our efforts against terrorism, but everyone else is. Osama bin Laden one of the few terrorist leaders with an organization capable of these attacks [Ed - and if we knew that, what were we doing about it?]. Deflecting attention from the Saudis, but promising a long, hard campaign against not just al-Qaeda but all terrorist organizations (at least the ones that target Americans) and their state supporters.
Newsweek: Shock, trauma, global war,
Leonard Pitts in the Miami Herald: Resist the temptation to lash out against those who resemble those who we think hurt us. [I think I remember reading this article, actually]
UCLA Asia Institute Roundup of Asian News Sources: Sympathy, tempered with great concern at the likelihood of Presidentially promised retribution creating backlashes large and small and critiques of pre-existing US foreign policy.
Matthew Yglesias (yes, the same one) in the Harvard Independent: Harvard's memorial services, community events, panel discussions, heightened security, but classes resumed.
There's more, of course. It's a mixed bag, for sure. Is it a good metaphor for what we want to be? Are the decisions we made that day the ones we want to be our lasting legacy? Does the Bush administration policy adequately reflect our real mindset on September 12th, 2001, or does it just reflect their own recollection of that sensitive and shaky time?
In 1952, a Univac computer, with some relatively primitive algorithms and less less raw computing power than most modern appliances, correctly predicted the results of the election hours before final returns were known and in stark contrast to the predictions of human experts.
Somewhere along the way, we lost that ability: polling in the last few election cycles has been pretty weak as a predictor, and we've got millions of times more computing power and immensely denser and better data to work with. Even the most direct comparison, election-night exit polling, failed miserably last time, and not just in Florida.
Are the races really tighter? Is that the problem? Or are we outthinking ourselves: has the Heisenberg effect (I know, physicists hate it when social scientists use this shorthand, but it's not going away) overwhelmed our statistical models so that the ubiquity of polling is its own downfall?
Having said that, I recommend his further thoughts on"Historians and Technology." They are especially accessible to those of us who are more at ease with historical practice than technological innovation. Scroll past his initial remarks to his paper,"Engaging the User: The ‘Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert: Collaborative Translation Project' and New Scholarly Paradigms," which takes Dena Goodman's Project at the University of Michigan as a model for future work in history. The Encyclopedia's authors believed that one could encompass human knowledge in a single massive enterprise and that additions to that knowledge might take the form of appendages to it. Much of what we do does follow that form. Much of what we do doesn't conform very readily to it. Even so, Kuzniki is an able twenty-first century advocate of the Enlightenment's vision.
Wretchard at Belmont Club has a transcript of the newly released tape of Ossama bin Laden. I disagree with what Wretchard makes of it, but appreciate his having made the transcript available.
So, the October surprise is -- not the revelation of the capture of Ossama bin Laden – but the revelation that he is alive and well, capable of addressing the American public on the eve of its national election. Unlike Ed Cohn, I can't see how this benefits the administration's case for re-election. If anything, it underscores the administration's massive mismanagement of"the war on terror." If the bin Laden tape sways a fearful and terrorized electorate to re-elect George Bush, the case for democracy, itself, is weakened.
The issue: a film put together by a pro-Israel group, The David Project, featuring former Columbia students recounting their experiences in Middle Eastern Studies classes. Middle East Studies Professor Joseph Massad demanded to know how many Palestinians one student, a former soldier in the IDF, had killed; another student quoted Massad as saying,"I will not have someone in this class who denies Israeli atrocities.” In another case, a student asked his language professor about using the verb “prevent” in Arabic, and received the following response:"Israelis prevent ambulances from entering refugee camps.” Massad did not deny making the comments, but instead charged “This is a propaganda film funded by a pro-Israel group as part of a racist witchhunt of Arab and Muslim professors,” and he noted that “neither Columbia University nor I have ever received a complaint from any student.” Columbia’s existing system required students concerned about bias to contact either Massad himself or the chair of the department, Hamid Dabashi, a figure who hailed the Columbia “teach-in” at which one professor hoped that US soldiers in Iraq would experience"a million Mogadishus” as the “revenge of the nerdy ‘A’ students against the stupid ‘C’ students with their stupid fingers on the trigger” and has described Israel as “nothing more than a military base for the rising predatory empire of the United States.” No wonder no complaints were filed.
To his credit, Columbia president Lee Bollinger is now investigating the matter.
Based on their public reactions to date, neither Massad nor any of his colleagues see anything inappropriate in their behavior, they see it as part of their job to orient their classes around their views of what the appropriate policy of the US and Israel in the Middle East should be. When departments are allowed to employ ideological litmus tests in the personnel process, as seems to have been the case in Columbia’s Middle Eastern Studies department, it should hardly be surprising that professors approach their job as Massad has done. Under no definition of “academic freedom” can a professor refuse to provide instruction to a student until that student answers a question such as “how many Palestinians did you kill”?
If possible, an even more bizarre conception of academic freedom has come from Cal.St.-Long Beach, where an English professor named Clifton Snider has claimed, “The special nature of universities protects professors from being question[ed] about their lectures.”
This assertion forms part of Snider’s defense after he came under attack by Town Hall columnist Mike Adams for ideologically biased assignments in his Introductory English class. Snider, in a remarkably similar situation to the Vinay Lal “Democracy in America” course UCLA about which I’ve previously written, listed a variety of suggested topics for a required opinion essay.
Some of Snider’s suggested topics are ideologically neutral; others are blatantly one-sided, all in one direction: i.e., “Energy (nuclear, solar, fossil, synthetic fuels, etc.). A related topic is Dick Cheney's secret conference on energy policy. Why hasn't the administration revealed who participated and should it reveal this information? Also important is the fact that, as Kevin Phillips writes,"four generations of the [Bush] dynasty have chased [oil] profits through cozy ties with Mideast leaders, spinning webs of conflicts of interest”; “The Economy (tax cuts, the military budget, education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, etc.). Under President Clinton, the Federal Government had a handle on the national debt. Now the Bush administration is passing that debt on to the post-baby-boom generation”; “Should Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been impeached for her partisan, political actions in the Bush v. Gore case of December 2000?”; “George W. Bush's time in the National Guard presents important questions about the character of a man who has sent hundreds of Americans to their deaths in war and killed and maimed untold thousands of others”; “Is it right for the Bush Administration to use the War on Terrorism for political or commercial purposes?”; “What evidence do we have that Mr. Bush and his cronies lied to the American people and the world in promoting the war with Iraq?”; “Discuss how the war has effected [sic] our relationship with other countries in the Middle East.”
More alarming—this is, remember, in an opinion essay requirement—Snider excludes students from writing about a host of positions that would be considered “conservative,” such as support for prayer in public schools, opposition to same-sex marriage, support for “the so-called faith-based initiative,” opposition to abortion, and opposition to hate crime laws. These are topics, the professor informs his students, “on which there is, in my opinion, no other side apart from chauvinistic, religious, or bigoted opinions and pseudo-science.” In an even more chilling statement, he adds, “Neither homophobia nor racism can be tolerated in civilized, rational debate; therefore, I will not accept either as arguments, however disguised, in your papers.” Except for hate-crime laws, I personally agree with Snider’s position on all of these issues. But to inform students that in an opinion paper, taking positions that disagree with those of the professor can constitute “homophobia” or “racism,” “however disguised,” is astonishing. To date, the administration at Long Beach has done nothing about the issue, but obviously no student who disagreed with Snider on political issues could run the risk of expressing their viewpoints in the class assignments.
The Massad and Snider cases are reminders that academic freedom is not an absolute right. First, as Snider seems not to have realized, it carries with it a presupposition that professors specialized training gives them a right to teach their subjects free from outside interference. When, as Snider seems to be doing, professors simply attempt to force students to agree with their political opinions, politicians can legitimately ask why they don't have a right to ensure balance--at least at public universities. Meanwhile, academic freedom is not a right solely possessed by professors--students also have the right to a college education free from ideological intimidation by professors, something that Massad and his cohort seems to have forgotten. My sense, unfortunately, is that problems like these two cases will become increasingly common, as departments that employ ideological litmus tests in the hiring process grow increasingly isolated from any dissenting viewpoints, and so they come to believe that behavior such as Massad's or Snider's represents an appropriate approach to the job of a college professor.
What do Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Alexandra Kerry have in common? They're coming to the latest and oddest entrant in the"look at me, I'm a swing state!" category: Hawai'i. Clinton did video chats with our TV stations, too. Hawai'i has been a solidly Democratic state, so reliable that only incredibly popular incumbent Republican presidents (Nixon, Reagan) have won here since statehood forty-five years ago. The last time a member of the national ticket campaigned here was in 1960: VP candidate Richard Nixon visited Hawai'i. But now we have a Republican governor (inexplicably endorsed by my own faculty union, for all the good that did us), Linda Lingle, who is campaigning hard for Bush/Cheney here and nationally, and the game is afoot.
The combination of strong labor unions (Hawai'i is still, I think, the most unionized state in the union, so to speak) and a solidly Democratic Japanese American community (the largest ethnicity in the state) has kept this state one of the least contested, most political machine-like in the country. But demographics (rising Caucasian numbers in particular, plus a softening of Japanese American support for the Democrats), the relative decline of union strength, the centrality of military affairs to the islands and the rise of a more diverse business community (which routinely votes its own state as the worst in the nation for doing business) has produced a tidal shift. Democrats still control the state legislature, but not as overwhelmingly as they used to.
There are some more specific issues at play in Hawai'i. As the AP story above notes,"With the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, Hawaii has none of the economic problems that many states on the mainland have. The islands are in the midst of a construction boom. Tourism is soaring after recovering from the Sept. 11 attacks." [Rant-On] Of course that's not what we were hearing from our governor when we were negotiating, but it's the story she tells in post-debate 'spin alley.' I still think we should have had the strike vote. [Rant-Off] That doesn't mean that anyone can afford to live here, of course, and that's a point that the new crop of TV ads is targeting. Lots of Hawai'i-based military forces are in, or are training for, Iraq and Afghanistan, and though they are considered generally pro-Bush, there's some undercurrents of concern as well, particularly among our heavily mobilized National Guard population. Democrats say, nervously, it's still a strong Kerry state; Republicans are crowing about being competitive and pulling out the stops in local campaigns (I've gotten a whole bunch of automated phone"poll" calls and my mailbox is dripping with Republican flyers). All I can say is that I feel sorry for you folks on the mainland if you have to wait until our polls close at 11pm Eastern Time.
p.s. Here is the single weirdest (non-terrorist related) election scenario I've read yet: Acting President John Edwards.
p.p.s. Adam Kotsko has some proposals for the next election cycle. He's an idealist, as am I, but that doesn't mean we're wrong.
Over at Baraita, Naomi Chana had the Red Sox in mind when she asked what event from the Hebrew Bible most closely parallels the final victory in the World Series. For chronology, she suggests the restoration under Zerrubabel (Ezra 3 ff; Zechariah 4 ff); but, in terms of reaction, Chana suggests that Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:25 ff) may be more appropriate. Not satisfied with either analogue, she solicits suggestions and asks if it would be a fair extra credit question on a test.
Micah, one of Chana's readers, was reminded of an extra credit question in a high school course on pre-historic people in"Early World History.""What proto-human does your instructor most resemble?" The multiple choice options included: Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, and Australopithecus, says Micah, but everyone who read the book knew that Mr. ****** looked exactly like the picture of Australopithecus. It was one of those"I know that you know that I know" moments, Micah continues, but do you check the right answer, get the extra credit, and admit that you'd thought of the resemblance already or do you opt for"none of the above" out of respect? In any case, Mr. ****** was one of Micah's favorite teachers and he thinks that he gave the right answer. For some reason, Mr. ******'s question reminded me of the discovery of homo floresiensis, but I suppose Mr. ****** was more than three feet tall.
Micah suggests that the children of Israel's repeated marches around the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6) may be the best analogue to the Red Sox victory."So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city." (6:20) It's odd that I thought that I remembered"the people raised a great shout" of rejoicing after the walls" came a tumblin' down." Their shouts preceded it, summoning stone from stone. So, the faith of Boston fans, year in and year out, presaged victory at the last.
Michael Tinkler, the Cranky Professor, contemplates"Numerology" as a way of structuring an introduction to European Studies.
Nathanael Robinson at Rhine River and Brandon Watson at Siris are discussing the"Massachusetts Liberal Senator" and"Texas Republican Fundamentalist" tropes. Nathanael also has an interesting post on the social production of space.
At Mode for Caleb, Caleb McDaniel explains why"family values" are not Christian values.
Over at Chapati Mystery, Manan Ahmed looks at efforts to ban"honor killings" in Pakistan.
At Rebunk, Derek Catsam has the net's best post on the Red Sox winning the World Series.
As Andrew Sullivan notes, the debate about Abraham Lincoln's sexuality will be renewed in March when Free Press publishes C. A. Tripp's book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. Doug Ireland has a foretaste of it in the LA Weekly. Color me skeptical.
Phil Carter, who does a well respected blog called Intel Dump, has an important article in the Washington Monthly,"The Road to Abu Ghraib". He begins by saying that"A generation from now, historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq. On that date, CBS News broadcast the first ugly photographs of abuses by American soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison." Read the whole thing. Thanks to Abu Aardvark for the tip.
The competition for attention at History News Network is getting intense. Rebunk just won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Liberty & Power just welcomed Nicholasvon Hoffman as a guest blogger. They've also got some new mystery blogger over there named"Tex" who no one seems to know. I ‘spose that if a family gets large enough, there may be someone in it you haven't actually met yet. But von Hoffman. Hmm. I'd forgotten just how sharp his tongue could be. What must Cliopatria do to keep up with all this competition? Win the Miss Collegiality Award at the AHA Convention in Seattle, maybe? Well, jeez, KC Johnson already almost lost tenure at Brooklyn College for not showing enough leg on that score! What if we recruit David Brooks? Probably not. He's occupying some real expensive real estate already and the recent reviews of his workaren't actually all that good. Christopher Hitchens, perhaps? Boy, has he learned to game the system! He figured out that you can get a royalty from the Nation by endorsing Bush; and a royalty from Slate by endorsing Kerry! (Tip o' the hat to Jim Lindgren at Volokh) Is Hitchens the original flip-flopper or is it Christopher/drunk v Hitchens/sober? If it's the latter, which is which? And, as for the competition at HNN, let's ponder that ...
Muhlenberg College has spent tens of thousands of dollars developing courses and bringing speakers to study, and to use as an inspiration to learning, stage magic.
There's elements of popular culture studies, cognitive and perceptual psychology, theater, philosophy as a search for meaning, and apparently a few other things in there.....
Claptrap? Inspired Pedagogy? Edutainment?
And if that doesn't get your attention: Who owns your work? Congress has made it easier for Universities to own intellectual property produced by its members (including students), and it's paying off. So, if you write a textbook, or a popular history, how long before the University is looking for a cut?
If the whole world could vote in the US elections.... we'd probably need more lawyers.
Seriously, though, I don't think there's ever been a presidential election in which the opinion of the rest of the world was as important as this one. I have very mixed feelings about that, to be honest, but if the president of the US is 'the leader of the free world' (and whatever other countries we deem allies of convenience) then we have to at least note what our words and actions mean to the rest of the world.
With that in mind, I offer two sources on world opinion, one serious and one worthless internet poll. For decent reporting on world affairs, the World Press Review Online remains the gold standard: not quick or comprehensive, but selective and effective reporting. They have two articles of relevance:"Poll shows 8 out of 10 countries back Kerry" and the"US Elections 2004" page which samples opinion from a variety of sources.
For a wildly imprecise snapshot, there's nothing like an on-line poll. An Australian friend forwarded me a link to http://www.betavote.com/, where anyone can identify their nationality and cast a vote. George Bush is leading, as of this moment, in Lichtenstein and Niger, and within striking distance (their idea of"statistical tie" is anything within ten percentage points, apparently) in Afghanistan, Barbados, the Cocos Islands, Comoros, Congo, the Cook Islands, Iraq, Kiribati, North Korea (DPRK), Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mayotte, Montserratt, Myanmar (Burma), Niue, Norfolk Island, Pitcairn, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Western Sahara (Only Afghanistan exceeds 400 votes cast at this point). Bush is showing strongly in Africa and on small islands, in other words. Yes, I know it's nearly worthless data -- if it was worth anything as a real poll, it would show Bush leading in Israel and Russia and a tie in the US -- but it's data nonetheless.
Our standing in the world really is at stake. First, if we can't clean up the election process, we're going to have to put up with a lot of pointed comments about our hypocritical attempts to spread a dying system of representative democracy. Second, if we reelect George Bush, we're clearly going to have to make our case to the world all over again, and other nations will increasingly take the lead in regional and perhaps even world affairs. Don't be fooled: Kerry will give greater attention to the opinions of our allies and the world in general as a way of making our agenda theirs, but Bush will be ignored, except where he can bribe and bully, and our ability to do those things is slipping away by the hour.
Update: For what it's worth, Tom Friedman agrees with me:
I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade
If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.
Just to remind you, I took exception to Cramer's attack on historians like Jonathan Dresner and Greg Robinson for their criticism of Michelle Malkin's dreadful book on Japanese internment, to his sweeping charges against"the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S." as not adhering to"professional standards", to his claim that"the Communist Party, USA still has a significant fraction of college professors as members", and to his use of Professor Laurence Tribe's embarrassment on plagiarism charges as evidence of pervasive abandonment of"professional standards" by academic professionals.
I would not foam about these things, except that Brother Cramer makes broadscale accusations like these, without offering convincing evidence, to a substantial public audience. He gives us a clue that his motivation for all this may lie in his resentment of the academic community, which has apparently not renewed his adjuncting contract at Boise State. That M.A. from Sonoma State just doesn't seem to cut it with the boys in Boise any more. But, ahh, sweet vindication now for Clayton when someone with"the right credentials" says"the same thing" Cramer's been saying all along. And so he quotes from Matthew Price's"Hollow History," a review of Peter Hoffer's Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud -- American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin for the Boston Globe:
In his new book,"Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud -- American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin" (PublicAffairs), Hoffer contends that his profession"has fallen into disarray" and aims a polemical blast at his fellow historians for condoning sloppy scholarship and an anything-goes ethical climate.There is no denying that Hoffer offers a severe indictment of the practice of American history, but he does it with the discipline learned by its professional training. He makes an argument and offers substantiating evidence. There's no hint of post-McCarthyite smear of professors making up a significant part of the CP, USA; there's no generalizing from one embarrassed professor of law at Harvard to the whole academic community; there's no broadscale indictment of"the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S." Hoffer would be quick to recognize that Clayton Cramer's labeling Dresner and Robinson a"truth squad" intent on burning Malkin's book is amusing, in light of his own one modest accomplishment, helping to expose Michael Bellesiles's Arming America as a fraud.
A specialist in Colonial history and American jurisprudence, Hoffer is a respected scholar whose previous work has generally earned the esteem of his peers. Now, setting himself up as judge, jury, and executioner, Hoffer puts historians in the dock -- and throws the book at them.
"American history," he writes,"is two-faced" -- split between celebratory popularizers who often value rousing narrative over scholarly rigor and academic specialists whose jargon-riddled, often dour monographs ignore the ordinary reader. Meanwhile, Hoffer accuses the American Historical Association (AHA), where he has served as an adviser on plagiarism and a member of its professional standards division, of abdicating its responsibility to enforce basic scholarly principles in both realms.
Incidentally, my young friend, Andrew Ackerman, who covered the Bellesiles story when he was editor of the Emory Wheel, wasn't impressed by Price's"Hollow History." You can read his criticism of its account of the Bellesiles story at Outside Report. Oh, and the Reporters need to correct their masthead. Andrew's a hobo no more. He's gainfully employed at The Nation. There's a dig to be dug there (hint: what national journal was most supportive of Bellesiles's case long after all was lost?), but the guy needs the job.