The Irreverent Frog

 

 

                                                              by Walter Brasch

 

             The First Sometimes United Church decided last week not to ordain any frogs. To find out why, I visited the Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson.

            I approached him as he finished blessing the ceremonial offerings plate. "Rev. Johnson," I asked, "the frogs-rights groups are upset with your Board's decision. What are your reasons?"

            "The Bible tells us that frogs are nothing but problems."

            "The Bible tells you that?" I asked suspiciously.

            "Right there in Exodus. God said he'd smite all of Egypt with frogs if the Pharaoh didn't let the Jews be free. It proves that God was so ticked off he had to find the most loathsome creature he could to punish the Pharaoh. Do you know how bad it must be to be smited by, of all things, frogs?"

            "But God used the frogs to help the Jews. It's not that the frogs did anything God didn't want to be done."

            "Bad is bad," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson. "Turn to Revelations," he commanded. "John says that he saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs come from the mouth of the dragon. That proves it! Not only are frogs loathsome creatures, they're also unclean." I tried to interrupt, but the anti-frog minister wasn't about to let another view meddle in his logic. "Even Shakespeare hated frogs. Right there in Macbeth. The witches brewed the most horrible concoction they could. What do you think was in it?! Eye of newt and toe of frog!"

            "This is ridiculous," I said. "Are you sure there's nothing deeper to your decision to ban frogs from the ministry?"

            The Rev. Mr. Johnson cleared his throat, looked at me carefully, then somberly explained—"They're green."

            "They're green?" I asked incredulously. "That's it? Because they're green!"

            "Green conflicts with our basic color scheme. It's not as if we're the only religion not to like color. For the longest time, a lot of churches didn't allow anyone who's black to be ordained, let alone be a member, so I guess that green is just as good a reason as any." He thought a moment, and then added, "Of course, I guess there might be another reason."

            "I thought so!" I said, now writing furiously in my note pad.

            "Frogs also have webbed feet. It's against the laws of God for ordained ministers to have webbed feet."

            I stopped writing. "Let me get this straight. You don't want to ordain frogs because they're green and they have webbed feet?"

            "That's right. Webbed feet is not God's wish for humanity. Webbed feet is a sign of breaking with God's world of five-toed feet. It's a sign of willful rebellion. It results from living in a sinful world."

            "Shouldn't the Church recognize that even frogs have faith?" I asked.

            "The Bible tells us to love all creatures, and that we are all part of the Lord. But, nowhere does it say that frogs should be ordained."

            "But what about their knowledge of Scripture or whether frogs have the ability to lead people? Shouldn't that count for something?"

            "You think that frogs can lead people? Have you ever seen a frog walk? There's no one who's going to hop to church on Sunday mornings."

 

            "But, most frogs seem to be so much more respectful and honest than many of your own parishioners," I pleaded in the frogs' defense.

            "I agree," said the minister, "and the ministry should offer models of integrity, morality, and honesty—if at all possible. And, I do admit that some ministers do stray from the paths of righteousness on occasion. But, at least they're not green, they don't have webbed feet, and they never smited anyone!" He thought a moment, and then suggested, "Maybe instead of trying to ruin the ministry, he could join the military. They have amphibious vehicles and a whole darn SEAL team."

            "You know dang well the military doesn't allow frogs."

            "Not my problem."

            Forgetting my role as an objective reporter and lapsing into an impassion plea, I cried out, "Frogs are wonderful creatures who should be given a chance to preach the will of God!"

            The Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson looked at me sharply. "You ain't a frog in disguise are you, boy? You ain't trying to take over this here church, are you?"

            "Oh, no sir!" I said. "I'm just trying to find out why frogs can't be ordained if they have every other ability."

            "You're trying to cause us serious trouble," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson, "and I don't care to discuss this issue any more. Now, if you'll leave me alone, I have to go watch an important television show. Never miss it. Even better in re-runs than first time I saw it."

            "What show is that?" I asked.

            "The Muppets."

 

            (Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 16 books, the most recent one Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at the media and popular culture.)

 

Republicans Do Not Support Our Troops

Originally posted at Cagle.

This week, Republicans in the Senate successfully showed their collective contempt for our men and women in uniform and in the process they made our military weaker and our country less safe.

Led by John McCain -- the upper chamber's cranky uncle -- Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the ban on gay men and lesbians openly serving in the military.

If McCain's comments after the repeal effort failed are any indication, members of the Grand Old tea Party fail to grasp the finer details of the policy or how it has been implemented. Worse still, they are defiant in their ignorance.

There's more...

'No Drama Obama' Needs a Strong Second Act

by Walter Brasch

           The Obama administration is a welcome change from the Bush–Cheney years. Against severe Republican opposition, President Obama has kept campaign promises to reform health care, curb Wall Street excesses, create a federally-funded stimulus program to help bring the nation out of the recession, and to remove American troops from the needless Iraq war, which has already cost Americans more than $740 billion and 4,400 lives. He has also pledged to eliminate the Bush–Cheney tax cuts for the rich, while not raising taxes on the middle- and lower-classes.

           However, much of what the President is doing appears to be little more than an extension of Bush–Cheney values. And that is not what the Americans voted for when they elected him to office.

           Candidate Obama ran, and won office as an anti-war politician. President Obama has increased American presence in Afghanistan. In July, 66 American soldiers were killed, the highest number for any month during the war.

           Candidate Obama pledged to end the PATRIOT Act, which has done little to protect American safety and much to destroy American Constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, due process, and protection against unreasonable governmental invasion of privacy. However President Obama signed legislation to extend the Act for yet another year.

           During the 2008 campaign, both candidates Barack Obama and John McCain promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. However, President Obama, apparently scared by the right wing paranoids, hasn't transferred any prisoners to maximum federal security prisons in the U.S., any one of which should have little difficulty dealing with suspected enemy combatants among the general population of killers and rapists.

           President Obama had failed to clean up the corrupt Minerals Management Service of the Department of Interior, which under the Bush–Cheney administration had become little more than feckless advocates for Big Oil. About a year into the Obama administration, the MMS exempted BP from filing a full environmental impact statement. Against the advice of environmentalists, and his own statements while a candidate, President Obama allowed continued deep water drilling in the Gulf, claiming that safety concerns were met. About a month later, the BP oil rig ruptured, killing 11 workers and leading to the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It took five weeks before President Obama finally placed a six month moratorium on deep well drilling, only to have that moratorium overturned by a Louisiana judge with financial ties to the oil industry. The Obama administration appealed that order and issued a broader moratorium. By then, more about 200 million gallons of oil had spilled into the gulf, killing wildlife, the fishing industries, and tourism.

           Although Candidate Obama  promised better transparency in government—and to a certain extent has succeeded—as President he allowed BP and his own government to place severe restrictions upon the media that were trying to give full coverage to the spill. 

           The transparency credibility issue surfaced again this month when the Defense Department rejected the application for Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings to accompany troops in Afghanistan. Hastings had accurately reported the political statements by Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led the President to fire him for the nature of his comments that "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of the democratic system."

           Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama had said he believed in gay marriages. However, President Obama, although extending the rights of gay couples, has yielded to the fears of irrational conservatives and says he opposes same-sex marriages, but believes in civil unions. Unlike President Obama, supporters of same-sex marriage include Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, and Cindy McCain.

           The Republican leadership tried to block extending unemployment benefits during the Recession; it was weeks until President Obama spoke forcefully against the Republicans, which has earned its label as the "Party of 'No.'" Hopefully, President Obama will be quicker to denounce the prattle of Republican leaders who are mounting a campaign to reduce Social Security benefits.

           Solely for political reasons, the Bush–Cheney administration took gray wolves off the endangered species list one week before Barack Obama became president. Slightly more than a year after taking office, President Obama officially continued the Bush–Cheney policy. The action by both administrations allowed the killing large numbers of the 1,600 wolves in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Montana, often by state officials from helicopters and often into the dens that housed pups. No matter what the federal government said about wolves not being endangered, there were two realities. First, the Cattle Industry lobby wanted wolves removed, although federal subsidies reimburse ranchers for any livestock killed by wolves. The second issue is that wolves are competition for hunters, a majority of whom tend to be conservatives or supporters of Republican philosophies. While wolves kill for food or to protect their pack, human hunters may claim they hunt for food, but go to extraordinary lengths and expense to stuff and display their "trophy kills," and often will kill animals, such as bears, prairie dogs, and coyotes that have no food value. Unlike their human competitors, wolves usually don't use guns with telescopic sights, buy all kinds of whistles and electronic calls that mimic the cries of other animals, use elevated shooting stands, send out decoys, or even create elaborate steel-jaw traps. They never take their prey back to a cabin, consume 6-packs, and tell stories with other wolves. A federal court this week ruled that gray wolves in the Rockies were not only an endangered species, but stopped state-supported wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.

           Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, against severe opposition, pushed through some of the most critical social legislation in the nation's history. Harry Truman stood up for his principles and for the benefit of the people when he lashed out at a "do-nothing Congress." Candidate Obama was elected on a forceful campaign mantra of "Change you can believe in," and not "A slight variation of present policies that you can maybe live with."

           President Obama is known as "No Drama Obama" because of his quiet intellectualism.  He needs to be more forceful, both in fully supporting social legislation he and his base believe in as well as attacking the vicious smears, lies, and distortions from the extreme Right Wing. If President Obama continues to pandering to the conservatives, and continues a slide into compromise that dilutes necessary social justice legislation instead of trusting the millions who voted for that change he promised, especially when he has both the power of the presidency and the votes in Congress, he will be a one-term president, hated by both the right and the left.

 [Assisting on this column was Rosemary Brasch. Walter Brasch's latest books are the witty and probing Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at American culture and the mass media; and 'Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, which discusses governmental neglect that magnified both the damage from the hurricane and the BP oil spill. Both books are available at amazon.com, and other stores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu.]

 

 

 

 

Would a Black Judge Have Been Biased in Brown v. Board of Education?

US District Judge Vaughn Walker is the judge who issued the ruling that Prop 8, which bans same sex marriage in California, is unconstitutional. Conservatives are now claiming that he is gay (which is unconfirmed at this point) and that his gayness presents an obvious bias. Furthermore, he should have recused himself from the case because as a gay man he would have a conflict of interest in deciding a case on gay rights.

The obvious question is - would a straight man not have a bias? Prop 8 would maintain straight people's monopoly on marriage. Wouldn't a straight person have a conflict of interest in deciding a case about whether they get to have more rights than other people in society? Presumably a lot of straight people voted in California to take away the right of gay people to get married - wouldn't they be biased in favor of protecting their own rights and taking away the rights of gays in California?

How about a devoutly religious judge? If that person believes it is an abomination against God to have gay people get married, wouldn't that create an obvious bias? Should we look into how religious each judge is before we let them decide cases like this? How about Antonin Scalia, who has on many occasions talked about how deeply religious he is? Should he be recused if this case reaches the Supreme Court? Clarence Thomas? Samuel Alito? How many justices will be left to decide this case?

Now, let's think about it a different way. What if there was a black justice on the Supreme Court when they were deciding Brown v. Board of Education? Would he be biased in favor of having the same rights as white Americans? Should he have stepped down from the case because he would obviously want the same constitutional rights as any other American? Bias!!

Of course, there was a black man in the courtroom at the time. The man who was the winning attorney on Brown v. Board of Education and would later become the first ever African-American justice on the Supreme Court - Thurgood Marshall. Should the court have told him that he couldn't litigate the case because it would be biased of him to want the same rights as white people?

Should Marshall have also recused himself from every case that involved race when he was on the Supreme Court? If so, why did the white justices get to rule on those cases?

As you can see, although the bias argument might seem appealing at first blush to some, it is quite absurd when you break it down. If you're not already convinced, let me give you one last example. What if California decided to take away women's right to vote - could a female justice not rule on that case because they would be biased in favor of keeping their own constitutional rights?

But you don't have to worry about these absurd right-wing arguments for much longer because conservatives will lose this battle, as they have lost every right civil rights battle they have ever fought in this country. As I explain here:

And as far as whether being gay is an abomination and ruins the institution of marriage, I want you to think about this:

As Judge Walker meticulously explained, there are no rational arguments in favor of denying gay Americans the same rights that straight Americans enjoy. Only irrational ones, like the one that says that it is biased for a gay man in this country to ask for equal protection under the law.

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Would a Black Judge Have Been Biased in Brown v. Board of Education?

US District Judge Vaughn Walker is the judge who issued the ruling that Prop 8, which bans same sex marriage in California, is unconstitutional. Conservatives are now claiming that he is gay (which is unconfirmed at this point) and that his gayness presents an obvious bias. Furthermore, he should have recused himself from the case because as a gay man he would have a conflict of interest in deciding a case on gay rights.

The obvious question is - would a straight man not have a bias? Prop 8 would maintain straight people's monopoly on marriage. Wouldn't a straight person have a conflict of interest in deciding a case about whether they get to have more rights than other people in society? Presumably a lot of straight people voted in California to take away the right of gay people to get married - wouldn't they be biased in favor of protecting their own rights and taking away the rights of gays in California?

How about a devoutly religious judge? If that person believes it is an abomination against God to have gay people get married, wouldn't that create an obvious bias? Should we look into how religious each judge is before we let them decide cases like this? How about Antonin Scalia, who has on many occasions talked about how deeply religious he is? Should he be recused if this case reaches the Supreme Court? Clarence Thomas? Samuel Alito? How many justices will be left to decide this case?

Now, let's think about it a different way. What if there was a black justice on the Supreme Court when they were deciding Brown v. Board of Education? Would he be biased in favor of having the same rights as white Americans? Should he have stepped down from the case because he would obviously want the same constitutional rights as any other American? Bias!!

Of course, there was a black man in the courtroom at the time. The man who was the winning attorney on Brown v. Board of Education and would later become the first ever African-American justice on the Supreme Court - Thurgood Marshall. Should the court have told him that he couldn't litigate the case because it would be biased of him to want the same rights as white people?

Should Marshall have also recused himself from every case that involved race when he was on the Supreme Court? If so, why did the white justices get to rule on those cases?

As you can see, although the bias argument might seem appealing at first blush to some, it is quite absurd when you break it down. If you're not already convinced, let me give you one last example. What if California decided to take away women's right to vote - could a female justice not rule on that case because they would be biased in favor of keeping their own constitutional rights?

But you don't have to worry about these absurd right-wing arguments for much longer because conservatives will lose this battle, as they have lost every right civil rights battle they have ever fought in this country. As I explain here:

And as far as whether being gay is an abomination and ruins the institution of marriage, I want you to think about this:

As Judge Walker meticulously explained, there are no rational arguments in favor of denying gay Americans the same rights that straight Americans enjoy. Only irrational ones, like the one that says that it is biased for a gay man in this country to ask for equal protection under the law.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks

Become a Fan of The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

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