Andrew Sullivan makes a good point:

A reminder of what so many forgot these past eight years: the executive branch’s first duty is to protect and defend the Constitution, not the territory, of the U.S. On that score, Bush and Cheney did not keep us safe. They did to the Constitution what Osama bin Laden could never have done.

I am so happy that we will soon have a President that looks at the Constitution as the law of the land rather than an impediment.

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For those of you that can’t watch it on TV, here’s a streaming live feed of the Obama inauguration:

Update: I posted the archived video of Obama’s inauguration speech here.

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Here’s is the video of openly gay Rev. Gene Robinson’s speech at Obama’s first day of inauguration ceremonies that HBO for some reason decided to not broadcast:

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As everyone ramps up for what I expect is going to be an exciting week of casting Bush aside and welcoming our 44th President to the White House, let’s not forget the poignancy of Obama’s inauguration, coming just one day after the national holiday signed into law in 1983 to celebrate the birthday of one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There have been a lot of eerily poignant moments over the last year but this one, I think, is one of the most inspiring.

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Following up on an earlier article that recounted the many ways in which the “war on drugs” has been an abject failure, Culture 11 has a new post that details the truly staggering cost of the nation’s war on marijuana:

So, here’s a sane, simple proposal to save the country billions of dollars a year: end the war on marijuana users.

This failed and counter-productive program is an assault on people who pose virtually no threat to themselves or anyone else, certainly no more than that all-American “Joe Sixpack” revered in our recent presidential election.

Yet, getting caught with a few seeds or trace marijuana residue on a pipe is enough in some jurisdictions to trigger an arrest. Most who favor continuing the war assume that law enforcement focuses on sweeping up kingpins and members of cartels. But, here’s a sobering statistic. Of the 872,000 arrests in 2007 for marijuana-related offenses, almost 90 percent were for simple possession of the dried vegetation in question. The typical arrestee is younger than 30. Think college-age kid caught lighting up a joint. Now, multiply that by 775,000 — that’s where a significant chunk of your drug war dollars are going.

Read the Whole Piece

Earlier: The War on Drugs is an Abject Failure

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Heather MacDonald over at Secular Right wrote an interesting post pondering the strange phenomenon of people believing in God’s intervention in mundane, everyday affairs even when He appears to avoid meddling in more weighty concerns.

The vast majority of Christians, guided by their priests and pastors, assume a loving God who intervenes regularly in human affairs. Christians pray to God to cure them from cancer or protect them from a plane crash. (Intermediaries are also useful: A soon-to-be closed Catholic school in Brooklyn is called Our Lady of Perpetual Help, presumably because She does provide perpetual help, but not in this case.) A politician and Baptist minister in Kentucky is promoting a law requiring the state’s office of homeland security to display a plaque that reads: “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.” Apparently God is not just a co-founder of the United States but also a federalist, honoring state boundaries in his on again, off again solicitude for the country.

[Martin] Gardner [in his review of Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem in the New Criterion] argues that were God to start preventing some deadly accidents, he would have to prevent all such accidents, resulting in chaos. The reality is far worse than that. Since believers give credit to God for answering their prayers when they are saved from catastrophe or illness, they have to explain why he answered their prayers and not those other people’s prayers, why he saved these children from a tsunami and not those other children. Any believer who today thanks God for making sure that his coronary bypass operation was successful has to explain why God allowed at least 37 peasants to be buried in a Guatemalan landslide on Sunday. Such an explanation requires either extraordinary narcissism on the believer’s part or positing capricious injustice on the part of God.

I recommend reading the entire post. It’ll help you try to wrap your mind around why people think that God decided to intervene to help them win $50 in the Lottery while shirking his responsibility to prevent thousands of people from dying on 9/11.

Update: Secular Right‘s Bradlaugh makes a related point in a later post:

I watched Bill O’Reilly’s show last night on Fox News. The Big Mick was going on about how the successful ditching of that plane in the Hudson River, and the rescue of all on board, must have been a miracle.

I’d be curious to see O’Reilly’s mailbag on that. Somewhere out there in TV-land there must have been someone watching who’d lost a loved one in a plane crash. That person would surely have been thinking to himself: “Wait a minute here, pal. My wife was as worthy of life as anyone. She was a loving wife and mother, a patriotic and hard-working citizen. Why didn’t she deserve one of these miracles your God hands out so capriciously?

Don’t religious people understand that when they talk like this, they are implicitly insulting people? This planeload of people was deserving of God’s attention and a subsequent miracle, but that one wasn’t? Why?

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Who said that the excesses of the lunatic fringe were going to end anytime soon?

Some on the right are livid about [Krispy Kreme]’s innocuous-sounding press release this week: “Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American’s sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies — just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet ‘free’ can be.”

Krispy Kreme used the “c” word, and the American Life League is outraged. “The unfortunate reality of a post-Roe v. Wade America is that ‘choice’ is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of ‘freedom of choice’ is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand,” the group’s president, Judie Brown said in a statement. ALL added, “President-elect Barack Obama promises to be the most virulently pro-abortion president in history. Millions more children will be endangered by his radical abortion agenda. Celebrating his inauguration with “‘Freedom of Choice’ doughnuts — only two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion — is not only extremely tacky, it’s disrespectful and insensitive and makes a mockery of a national tragedy.”

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SNL’s send-up of an early Bush State of the Union could easily have been done in recent days. In it, Will Ferrell’s Bush reflects on the disasters he’s unleashed on the US:

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