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In today's pages: Oubliettes, elephants and changes of heart

January 5, 2009 |  5:01 am

On Bob Barr, Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, elephants, armenian genocide, California prisons, aresenic, Samuel HuntingtonMonday's Op-Ed page Bob Barr, author of the Defense of Marriage Act, now argues for its repeal. The former Georgia congressman who became a Liberatrian candidate for president says his 12-year-old law isn't working out as planned:

Even more so now than in 1996, I believe we need to reduce federal power over the lives of the citizenry and over the prerogatives of the states. It truly is time to get the federal government out of the marriage business. In law and policy, such decisions should be left to the people themselves.

Meanwhile, in another change of heart, retired political consultants and fundraisers Pamela Finmark and William D. Chalmers come to the Op-Ed confessional with support for a plan to ban their (evil?) fundraising work and instead pay for political campaigns with "patriot dollars" -- a sort of ATM card issued to each American voter.

U.C. San Diego anthropology professor Esra Ozyurek, author of books and studies on 20th century Turkey, argues that an apology to Armenians for the 1915 massacres is an important step in the right direction even though it has been signed by (so far) only 26,000 Turks.

Critics will certainly reply that these modest activities do not compensate for the original crime nor the suffering caused by its denial for almost a century. They will complain that the current signature campaign does not use the word genocide. Yet the significance of this campaign cannot be understated.

And, free Billy. Daphne Sheldrick, who chairs the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, argues against keeping the Billy the Elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo.

On the Editorial Page, we consider the recent Times story on arsenic in California prisons. We're surprised, but not surprised.

Most residents would prefer to forget about our prisons and the 170,000-odd inmates they hold; it’s only when news emerges about riots or environmental disasters or financial crises that they rise, briefly, to the public consciousness. The trouble is, closing our eyes doesn’t make the prisons go away. So severe have their problems become after years of neglect that they’re about to give us a very painful reminder of their existence.

The page also notes that the late Samuel Huntington was not the first academic whose ideas became policy; and we warn the Screen Actors Guild and the studio chieftains that their current spat over how to share revenue may distract them from new competitors who are planning to take it all away from both sides.

Photo: Getty Images/Win McNamee

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