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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Belated Slogging

posted by on April 10 at 10:57 AM

Things I’ve been meaning to Slog, but haven’t:

1) A while ago, I finished reading Matrimony, a well-executed but otherwise ordinary novel by Joshua Henkin. It reads like a first novel even though it isn’t: It’s about two friends in a creative writing course at a liberal arts college, and their respective girlfriends, and what happens after they all graduate. The most interesting thread has to do with the relationship between the two boys, but Henkin basically abandons that midway through, in favor of death, relationship drama, and Jewish breast cancer genes. Kind of a bummer.

2) Metro Classics screened Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes recently. Is that the best movie about ballet in the history of the universe, or what? The simple trick editing in the performance section is weirdly exhilarating. Of course, the story is wildly sexist, but oh well. The Red Shoes is on DVD from Criterion; I recommend.

The Red Shoes

5) This American Prospect article on Obama’s foreign policy starts off kind of dumb (oh, Obama wants to “end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place,” does he?), but read on. As Slog addicts know, I’m not terribly psyched about a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and I not only approved of the surge (and the pause!), but also the counterinsurgency strategies that accompanied it. So I was interested to learn this:

Sarah Sewall, a Harvard professor and another of Obama’s closest advisers, also knows about stepping outside of her comfort zone. A longtime human-rights advocate with the disarmament organization, the Council for a Livable World, Sewall found herself in 2005 and 2006 with an unlikely partner: Gen. David Petraeus. He and two colleagues were rewriting the Army and Marine field manual for counterinsurgency and wanted Sewall’s input on how to create a more just, humane, and successful doctrine. For agreeing to help, she was attacked by some on the left. “Should a human-rights center at the nation’s most prestigious university be collaborating with the top U.S. general in Iraq in designing the counterinsurgency doctrine behind the current military surge?” Tom Hayden wrote online in The Huffington Post.

Sewall’s involvement may have lost her some influence within the academic left, but she has become a hero to the military’s growing circle of counterinsurgency theorist-practitioners. “Her impact on the thinking about the war and the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been significant and not without cost,” says Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, one of the counterinsurgency community’s luminaries. “She has shown, in my eyes, great moral courage. I think Senator Obama is listening to someone who has thought long and hard about the use of force and who understands the kinds of wars we’re fighting today.”

4) I just finished The Nine, a newish book about the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin. I checked it out of the library because of this review in the New York Times, but it’s perhaps only interesting if you are playing the game described by the reviewer: trying to figure out which justices Toobin talked to and which refused his advances. The discussion of trends on the Court is far more stunted than in the classic The Brethren. I agree with Toobin’s thesis that, in the end, important Supreme Court decisions are essentially political and therefore subjective, but that’s the least interesting way to approach the mechanics of the court. 5-4, Toobin writes: conservatives here and liberals there. 5-4: liberals here and conservatives there. I also want to know about the obscure cases where personality and even dealmaking may have had an outsize influence compared to ideology per se, but Toobin couldn’t care less. Still, if you want to get worked up about what a terrible mistake it would be to elect John McCain, this book will do it. Bush v. Gore, harrumph.

5) Finally, because most sane people avoid the comments on Erica’s posts, you may have missed the fact that Obama gave an interview to The Advocate just last week. More importantly, Obama wants to get rid of DOMA, while Clinton favors a partial repeal preserving (that horrible euphemism) “states’ rights.” Talking up LGBT issues with gay audiences isn’t particularly courageous; at this point, unfortunately, talking up LGBT issues in front of general audiences is.

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Thank G-d for Annie Wagner.

Posted by Dawgson | April 10, 2008 11:18 AM

Once again the LGBT crowd gets "triangulated" by Clinton.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 10, 2008 11:25 AM

Oh Obama is triangulating on gay rights as surely as Clinton is, he just draws his triangle differently. But the effect is the same: no marriage for us.

Posted by chicagogaydude | April 10, 2008 11:33 AM

yes, but states have ALWAYS held marriage rights. is overturning DOMA and making marriage controllable at the federal level really doable? is it really a good idea to bring marriage under federal control? i'm totally with clinton on this, even though i think it'll make the path to us calling ourselves "married" a little longer. it'll be the most copasetic-with-the-constitution way to do it.

the thing about obama is that change from the federal government just doesn't happen that fast. he can't just whip the states rights away from them to make something the way we want it, because we're too impatient to work on the nation-wide culture shift that's going to have to come in order for gay marriage to really pass and be protected--no president should have that kind of power. not even an idealist president whose ideals i agree with.

Posted by kim | April 10, 2008 11:50 AM

ummmmm Erica DOES mention the Advocate article. It's the first paragraph of the quoted section. In fact, the paragraph could've been deleted to make the quote look even more anti-obama, but it wasn't. I think you're being a little to harsh on ECB, Annie.

Posted by Cook | April 10, 2008 12:04 PM

@4: Uh, overturning the federal DOMA would in no way "put marriage rights under federal control." They weren't under federal control before DOMA, remember? And lots of states, including Washington, have their own DOMAs to deal with. All retaining the states' rights provision does is provide a rock-solid excuse protecting states that, in the hypothetical future, refuse to recognize gay marriages that other states have already recognized. In my opinion, marriage should not be a condition you pass into and out of as you move from state to state. States will go ahead and refuse to recognize gay marriages anyway (as they currently do for same-sex marriages in MA), but at least they won't have the federal government's explicit blessing to do so.

You're confused.

Posted by annie | April 10, 2008 12:06 PM

@5: "Met with" is quite vague (and doesn't include a link); and the Politico article was published before the Advocate interview even went up online. I think it's reasonable that people might not have known about the Advocate interview, but maybe all Slog readers have your eagle eyes.

Posted by annie | April 10, 2008 12:16 PM

It's also, we should note, his second Advocate interview. I'd guess the original post referred to the first one.

Posted by tsm | April 10, 2008 1:03 PM

@3 - not according to the AP wire story I sent to the Stranger today with the subject SlogTip ...

Face it, a vote for Clinton is a vote for DOMA and do-nothing "oh it's not convenient I'll get to it in a few terms" more of the same behavior.

Real Presidents don't "ask" the military, they ORDER the military to implement a change. Any ex-military person knows that.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 10, 2008 3:57 PM

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