Yesterday’s ballyhoo about Sesame Street’s “first autistic Muppet,” Julia, joining the cast is underwhelming, since the personality and temperament of one of the show’s inaugural characters suggests that he, too, is very much on the spectrum: Bert (of “and Ernie” fame).
David Benkof | All Articles
The brouhaha around today’s release of the live-action remake of Disney’s 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast has focused on a supposed gay character, whose inclusion has led some theaters and countries to eschew its exhibition. But there’s so much material that’s “strange, no question” in Disney’s retelling of this tale as old as time that anyone can find something to object to – in fact, given the film’s bizarre politics, a bit of chaste homosexuality seems rather tame.
Memo to Planned Parenthood: there are consequences for having declared war on the party that won the election. After spending millions to defeat Republicans, the group is nonetheless demanding the GOP keep sending it billions. Dream on.
This Sunday, Jews everywhere read the Purim tale of Mordecai and Esther’s heroism through their proximity to the king. The Biblical story will have new resonance now that America’s First Family includes Orthodox Jews. The religious observance of First Daughter Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner has drawn both fascination and scorn. For example, their attendance at inaugural events on Shabbat, depending on whom you ask, was anything from a beautiful example of Jewish law meeting extraordinary circumstances to what one liberal feminist called “a perversion of Jewish values.”
It was completely predictable.
Since the recent wave of anti-Semitic bomb threats, vandalism, and cemetery desecrations, journalistic and social media have vocally celebrated condemnations, fund-raising, and volunteer efforts by Muslim groups in an attempt to bolster interfaith cooperation and rehabilitate the reputation of the Islamic community precisely when its very welcome in America is being questioned like never before.
The very day the Trump Administration barred The New York Times from a press briefing and the president said reporters “shouldn’t be allowed” to use unnamed sources (“we’re going to do something about it”), much of the Left couldn’t be bothered to protest. They were too busy howling about a minor change to federal transgender bathroom policy. Once again, President Donald J. Trump’s opponents have been pursuing something shiny and gossamer while barely noticing unprecedented threats to the Constitution.
Ever since Donald Trump transitioned from reality television to reality reality, with each outrageous step his detractors have erroneously proclaimed his career’s demise. As a candidate, he said American POWs aren’t “real heroes” and was revealed to have crudely bragged of sexually assaulting women. As president, he has cozied up to a notorious foreign dictator and told blatant whoppers about his popularity. Political opponents and media voices – Democrats but also Republican dissenters like me – seem baffled at his invincibility.
Behind-the-scenes reports have suggested the Trump Administration is agonizing whether to repeal an Obama-era order requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Despite traditionalist suspicions of transgenderism, conservative values actually favor a permissive policy. The problem with the Obama order, though, is that it militantly nationalized a complex problem and privileged dignity for transgender students over the equally legitimate value of privacy for everyone else.
The comments hit the news like a firebomb: the director of something called the “Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect” said President Donald J. Trump’s condemnation this morning of anti-Semitism is “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration” and a “pathetic asterisk of condescension.” He claimed Trump and his staff have committed “grotesque” acts of anti-Semitism that he declined to specify. If Holocaust experts don’t accept Trump’s remarks, why should anyone?
Today, the Conservative Political Action Conference canceled the speech of professional provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos later this week after the release of taped remarks in which, among other things, he speaks approvingly of “consensual” relationships between “younger boys and older men.” The belief that children can consent to sex is despicable, but the expressions of horror from both liberals and conservatives over much more benign remarks on the tape suggests they’re protesting too much.
As scattered voices have demonstrated for decades, the Recycling Empire has no clothes. Only aluminum recycling, they have shown, offers clear environmental and economic benefits. Despite persuasive exposés in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune, and elsewhere, anti-recycling forces have done little more than feebly suggest we dump mandatory recycling.
After President Donald J. Trump gave meandering answers to press questions over the last two days about attacks on Jews, several voices in the media, especially Jewish ones, have put forward the unfair – and patently false – charge that President Trump “refused to denounce” American anti-Semitism in his remarks.
Like other Jewish historians and community members, I was bothered by the Trump Administration’s universalist Holocaust statement papering over the fact that, by and large, the Holocaust was about Jews. As a gay man who has written extensively about LGBT history, the episode reminded me of a similar bit of amnesia gay people have fostered about ourselves: that “AIDS is not a gay disease.”
When the GOP-controlled House voted last Thursday to overturn an Obama-era regulation that prevented some mentally ill people from purchasing firearms, anti-gun Democrats howled. They mocked the Republican Party for being such lapdogs to the National Rifle Association (NRA) that they would do something as plainly stupid as giving guns to people who are unstable and unpredictable.
Liberals are saying Trump Education nominee Betsy DeVos “wants to take money away from public schools” by helping parents use taxpayer dollars for religious and other schools. But under the current system, the government unfairly forces many parents to choose between an expensive religious education and a free education that stymies their religious observance. Since practicing one’s religion without government interference is a constitutional guarantee, America’s public school regime is unconstitutional, and should be upended by the coming more-conservative Supreme Court.
In punishing CNN for its supposed “fake news,” President Donald Trump endangers far more than one news outlet’s ratings and reputation. A president who rewards networks and newspapers that praise him, while threatening to isolate others, undercuts the public’s trust in all political coverage. And good political coverage is crucial to keeping politicians good.
Perhaps the biggest chutzpah yet in this chutzpah-laced presidency was President Donald Trump’s late-November Tweets demanding proof he did NOT lose the popular vote due to illegal voting. Trump shifted the burden of proof (normally on the person making an outlandish claim) to reporters and political opponents, demanding they prove a negative. It’s a fool’s errand. Millions of Wookies didn’t vote for Hillary, but what documents, eyewitness statements, or statistics could prove it for certain? Trump’s similarly fictional accusations can’t be countered by normal forms of evidence either.
Sex education is at a crossroads as the Trump era begins, after a Bush Administration that promoted abstinence-only programs and an Obama Administration that tried to cut them. Given President Donald Trump’s own debauched sexual history, educators are understandably unsure of the new administration’s strategy on Sex Ed. Despite their many detractors, abstinence-only programs should continue to play a prominent role.
Republicans are rightfully thrilled we’ve finally regained most levers of power. But we need to acknowledge the price: leadership by an out-of-control dilettante whose policy whims and massive ego threaten the well-being of the party, the country and the world.