About time:

Moving quickly to reverse his predecessor’s policies on the treatment of terror suspects, President Barack Obama on Thursday signed an executive order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year.

He also signed an executive order to require that all U.S. interrogations of terror suspects must now conform to the U.S. Army Field Manual, a move meant to restrict what the CIA can do. The presdient created an interagency task force to advise him on detainee policy.

In addition, the man tapped to oversee U.S. intelligence is promising Congress there will be no torture, harsh interrogations and warrantless wiretapping on his watch.

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James Kirchik, writing for The New Majority, has a new piece on why the GOP needs to give up its neverending fight against those scary gays:

[T]he continued propagation of policies opposed to the advancement of the gay rights agenda will doom the GOP for a generation. Given the fact that nearly 40 states have passed laws in some way or another defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the notion that conservatives should drop gay issues may seem counterintuitive. But these successes are illusory. America has witnessed a sea change in attitudes on the subject of homosexuality over the past 35 years. In 1973, for instance, 73% of Americans viewed same-sex relations as “always wrong.” In 2006, that figure stood at 56%. In February of 2004, 61% of Americans supported banning gay marriage; two years later that figure dropped to just 51%. Likewise, support for the right of gays to serve openly in the military now stands at nearly 80% (a majority of Americans opposed open service when it first became a national controversy in the early months of the first Clinton administration), and about half of Americans support allowing gays to adopt children…

Conservatives face a stark choice. They can succumb to the short-term temptation of erstwhile electoral victory and continue to support regressive policies on gay rights that are fast going out of fashion. Or they can look at the statistics, talk to their younger colleagues, coolly survey the direction in which the culture is inevitably headed, and plan accordingly. This doesn’t necessarily require the GOP to support gay marriage, just to stand out of the way of what’s coming. A properly conservative party does not just wish to preserve the useful traditions of the past, but to adapt those traditions for the future.

I suggest reading the whole article. There is a lot there and I have to run off in a few minutes to a meeting. Before I go, a few points on why the GOP needs to stop with the gay-bashing:

1. It’s the right thing to do. People are perfectly welcome to hate gay people (or blacks, Jews, or left-handed people) in their private lives. However, when it comes to the public sphere, too much of the Republican anti-gay agenda has served to demonize gay people in a truly despicable way.

2. Simply from the point of self-interest, the Republican Party would be better served by dropping the gay hate. With every passing year, the hatred and stigma of gay people lessens. In the “conservative” Tory Party in England, there are already a number of gay elected officials serving openly without much of a clamor from the party faithful. Could you imagine such a state of affairs in today’s Republican Party?

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William Saletan asks what I consider to be a pretty simple question:

Should parents go to jail for believing so devoutly in faith healing that they don’t seek lifesaving medical treatment for their children?

Here’s the situation:

Leilani and Dale Neumann[‘s] … 11-year-old daughter died of diabetic complications after they relied on prayer rather than doctors to heal her. Now they face trial for reckless endangerment and a potential prison sentence of 25 years. They’re the third couple slapped with criminal charges in the last year for failing to seek treatment for a child.

My answer to his question? Yes; 110%; absolutely — send ’em to the pokey. As I noted in an earlier post ruminating on the death of John Travolta’s son:

If all this is true, Travolta (and other religious nuts like him who refuse lifesaving treatments on behalf of their minor children) should at least be prosecuted for child endangerment or criminally negligent homicide.

It is all well and good for adult religious nutjobs to refuse medical treatment for themselves. When they refuse treatment for their children, they should be held liable if that refusal leads to the child’s death. Children can’t speak for themselves and need the state to protect them from the insanity of their parents.

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I am a big fan of the Confabulum blog over at Culture 11. I consider Conor Friedsdorf to be one of the leading lights in the post-oogedy-boogedy era of the conservative movement in America today. I’m not as familiar with some of the other writers there, including one Ericka Anderson, who recently wrote a post that quoted esteemed right-wing gay-hater Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Remember her?

To refesh your memory, this is a classic clip from the West Wing, in which Martin Sheen seriously dresses down a character that was based on Dr. Laura:

Well, I posted a few comments over on Ericka’s blog post, which ended with the following:

Ericka,

Whatever Dr. Laura means to you, she is a force for hateful fundamentalist rigidity and intolerance in this country. I don’t know if she’s toned down her inflammatory, hateful rhetoric since her time in the limelight earlier in the decade but here is a nice little sample of some of the venom she’s spewed over the years:

“When homosexuals adopt children, these children are intentionally robbed of a necessary mom and dad.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger

“A huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger

“Her [Dr. Laura’s] perorations strongly suggest that many gays are predators, eager to convert new members to the faith. She urges parents to avoid bringing kids into the company of possibly gay relatives.” — Reuters/Variety on Dr. Laura, February 13, 2000

You see, it’s not just that Dr. Laura believes that homosexuality is a sin — a lot of people believe that, which is fine if that’s where the belief stops. It’s that she takes it to the next level and actively insults gay people by suggesting that they’re wildly predatory and denigrates the great work that gay parents do.

Dr. Laura and the rest of the fundamentalist sect of the Republican Party need to realize that the time for demonizing gay people is over — permanently. The Tories in England have a number of gay elected officials amongst their ranks. Could you imagine the same being true in today’s Republican Party? Nope. The gay-bashing continues unabated. In order to make the party relevant in the 21st Century, we conservatives need to get over our fear of teh gay and realize that even though it is perfectly fine for people to privately hold the belief that homosexuality is a sin, we can no longer try to bludgeon gay people over the head with misguided isolation and venom.

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Parents that encourage their talentless children to go on American Idol should be convicted of child abuse.

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Sometimes the stupidity that comes out of otherwise intelligent people’s mouths amazes me:

The media is reporting that former Sen. George Mitchell, who handled the Northern Ireland peace process, is being eyed by the Obama administration to be a top diplomatic envoy to the Middle East…

While Mitchell’s impending appointment is earning a great deal of praise, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman complains the diplomat is too fair and balanced for the post:

“Sen. Mitchell is fair. He’s been meticulously even-handed,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “But the fact is, American policy in the Middle East hasn’t been ‘even handed’ — it has been supportive of Israel when it felt Israel needed critical U.S. support.”

“So I’m concerned,” Foxman continued. “I’m not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East.”

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This strikes me as fairly outrageous. Republicans in the Senate are now obstructing the confirmation of Attorney General Eric Holder because he won’t pledge — in advance — to not prosecute anyone who tortured prisoners in American custody:

Senate Republicans hope to delay a vote on the confirmation of Eric Holder to become attorney general in order to pressure him to say whether he will prosecute intelligence agents for torture if they were following orders and acting within what they believed to be legal guidelines.

Holder told the Judiciary Committee last week that waterboarding is “torture” and therefore illegal. Susan J. Crawford, the top Bush administration official overseeing the trials of detainees, told the Washington Post that at least one individual held at the prison center at Guantanamo Bay was “tortured.”

The question Republicans want answered before Holder is confirmed: Will you prosecute those who took part in that torture?

Leaving aside the salient question of whether people should be prosecuted for torturing people, it is mind-boggling to me that sitting U.S. Senators are, in effect, asking for a blanket guarantee that anyone who committed such acts would not be subject to prosecution. All this before the designee even takes office!

The main idiot behind all this is Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Someone remind me, why didn’t we just let the South secede?

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Here is the video of Obama’s inauguration speech:

Update: As an added bonus, here’s the video of Obama taking the oath of office.

Update 2: Go here to read the full transcript of the speech.

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