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The Lunch Guys / Sexual Abuse, Al Franken & the Desire for 'Purity'

The Lunch Guys are: L to R, Randy Alfred (editor & writer), Dan Hubig (artist), Jeffrey Klein (former editor of Mother Jones & West magazines), Jerry Barrish (artist & bail bondsman), Larry Gonick (cartoonist), Michael Castleman (writer), Phil Ryan (lawyer & former Freedom Summer participant), Andrew Moss (epidemiologist & writer) and Enrico Deaglio (writer).

Not pictured: Ben Christopher (Political reporter for, Michael Nolan (activist & promoter), Bernard Ohanian (editor & writer), Dean

Rindy (political media consultant), Michael Singsen (lawyer), Tom DeVries (investigative journalist), Dave Moriaty (former publisher of the Austin sun & Rip Off Press) and Frank Viviano (writer).

Sometimes the conversation happens via email rather than at lunch. This is an email conversation from several days in December, 2017.

Dan Hubig - I sure don't feel comfortable writing this, I may regret it, but here goes .... we’re at a difficult moment .. while it's absolutely true that the time has come for men to get the message about the treatment of women (while patting an ass is not rape ... never the less, actions like those cannot be tolerated anymore ... ) however, it's also true that the right has declared full out WAR against anyone who does not buy their bullshit .. especially if you are poor, dark, female and/or living in a Blue State ... and what's the Democratic Party's response? Let's try to be reasonable and achieve PURITY in order to be able to condemn the R's from on high ... whilst the Trumpians hand us our heads and go about destroying the democracy.. but hey, we can cling to our Purity to keep us warm at night .... while the world burns down around us ... I hope I'm wrong about this ...

Mary Jo McConahay - Certainly worth discussion. Watching Franken's speech was a trial, knowing who is in the White House.

Larry Gonick - On the other hand, it may pay off for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans on this issue.

Andrew Moss - They are doing this so they can take the high ground with Moore (and Trump himself)

Stephen Vincent - It's all an ill wind brewing. Whatever passes for Democratic leadership it has ashes in its mouth.

Frank Viviano - The left is paying now for allowing -- or even enabling -- the likes of Harvey Weinstein to bray about their progressive values while casually indulging their taste for rape. I agree with Larry and Andrew, the Dems' only choice at this point is to distinguish themselves from the Republicans by taking the high ground and dumping the rapists -- while Trump endorses them for high office.

Mary Jo McConahay - Agree but might note A. Franken was no rapist.

Dan Hubig - Exactly M.J. ... Franken's actions were wrong (assuming they happened the way the various women described) and they should have created a reaction .. but is being thrown out of the Senate too much? Personally, I think he should have taken the floor and declared that, considering the danger to democracy that the Republican Party has become, that he could not consider resigning until either the Republic was restored or the true sexual predators in their midst resigned (Trump & Moore to start) ... we are fighting a war, pure and simple, and we had better start fighting it ...

Bob Simmons - The famous Democratic circular firing squad.

Andrew Moss - This country has gone nuts

Bob Simmons - Political theater or not, it may have a strategic value, but it's tactical value is crap. Occupying the 'moral high ground' is a kind of vaporware that will not work in today's environment. Remember what Hitler said when advised that the Pope was unhappy about the invasion of Poland. "Fuck the Pope, how many divisions does he have?"

Dan Hubig - If Purity were only made of rope, then we could hang ourselves with it a lot easier ...

Ben Christopher - But a few things: - you fight this “war” by winning more votes - Franken’s approval rating in his home state has dropped into the 30s overnight (about where Trump’s national numbers are) - A Democratic governor will replace him with another Democrat, most likely a woman. - 2/3rds of all voters think politicians accused of sexual harassment by multiple people should step down. Franken has been accused of at least eight. - Last month, women swung towards the Democratic candidate in Virginia by a 22 point margin. That probably isn’t a coincidence. For the Democratic Party, this isn’t a question of doing the right thing despite it all. This is a question of doing the right thing when the stakes are low—and probably work to your advantage.

Dan Hubig - Interesting points all ( ... with actual facts and statistics!) but I do take some issue with the "war" comment. The war I'm referring to is the for the basic tenets of democracy. You can't win the votes, if the votes are being denied. Even if you have the votes, you can't 'win' if one party refuses to acknowledge the victory. You can't win if there exists a huge and powerful machine dedicated to mis-information, anti-democratic activity and the destruction of anyone who stands in their way. If these impediments are cleared then I agree with you ... but until those of us on the side of democracy get the message that the anti-democratic elements intend to 'win', no matter the costs to our society, then we will find ourselves on the loosing end.

Add to that the problem of where the line is between 'inappropriate' acts and 'illegal' acts. Is a squeeze or stupid pat on the butt to be equated with the abuse of power and position to force someone's acquiescence?? Maybe we need to go beyond the line now to make the point ... but that not only isn't fair, it feeds the ultimate and powerful reaction that's going to come. It's a difficult and tricky question and has noting to do with polls and stats.

Frank Viviano - Ryan Lizza's firing by the New Yorker edges me into Dan's uncomfortable corner. The war on sexual aggression began with the revelations about Bill Cosby, justifiably accelerated with multiple accounts of Trump's predatory behavior and the release of the famous pussy-grabbing tape, and went viral worldwide with the disclosures about Harvey Weinstein. Several things can be said about each of these cases. Dozens of victims, on the record, have testified in excruciating detail to what they experienced. They involve actions that can be accurately described as rape or at the very least criminal assault. And there's a good chance that none of the perpetrators will pay for his crimes. Each of them has what looks to be a fail-safe shield: Cosby asserts that anyone who calls his drugging and subsequent intercourse with his accusers "is a racist." Trump says that "the people decided" his accusers were lying when he was voted into the Presidency, and the matter is closed. Weinstein tried playing the "I'm a sixties guy! A good guy!" card. When it didn't work, he vanished into a luxury "therapy" resort behind a wall of lawyers. The problem is that the odious and unambiguous examples set by these three monsters have led us into a very perilous forest, where one person -- anonymously and wielding unspecified charges through high-priced legal spokespersons -- can now destroy a career, with immense collateral damage. That's surely the case with Garrison Keillor. The Ryan Lizza debacle is even more alarming. It entails charges that have not been disclosed, leveled by a woman who admits to having had a consensual relationship with him, but whose identity has not been revealed at her own request. He could well have been set up, and as the reporter singly responsible for the removal of the terrifying Anthony Scaramucci from the White House, he most certainly has countless enemies in the organized crime cabal otherwise known as the Trump Administration. Seems to me that there used to be something called "due process" in the United States, involving the presentation of documented evidence before a jury of one's peers, and an assumption that anyone accused of a crime has the right to confront his or her accusers. (The only jury that matters, in our demented Social Network Age, are the members of the online public, whose own identities are cloaked in cutesy nicknames.) These criteria apply to Trump, Cosby and Weinstein, whose respective crimes have been documented beyond all doubt so far to no effect. But for Lizza, Keillor and who knows how many others, there are no criteria. "Guilty as charged, and immediatel off to the career guillotine" is the definition of justice. Only the nostalgic recall the phrase "innocent until proven guilty."

Dan Hubig - People fuck up. To violate a person’s private space and even touch inappropriately is an affront and should not be tolerated. But what is the correct punishment?? There is a long way from hugging someone too close to an act of true aggression. A pat on the ass is not rape … to act as if it is is an enormous overreach … and one that will, in the end, be used by the reactionary powers to crush this moment of clarity.

People who use their power to force acquiescence to sexual acts are rapists. A person (Franken) who poses for a photo where he imitates touching a sleeping woman’s breasts is a child-man (BTW, you can tell in the photo that he is not actually touching her) with a 13 year old’s sense of humor. YES, he deserves to be called on the carpet and examined to see if this is more than mere stupidity. I admit that, at this moment, the process for looking into these situations is somewhere between weak and being an accomplice, but the answer, surely, is to strengthen and clarify the workings of the Ethics Committee, not to leap over it and declare “guilty” without examination.

‘Censure’ by the Senate should be a real punishment for minor infractions. Then one’s constituents can can make the ultimate decision on the congressperson's (or president's) fate. There was evidence that some of the accusations against Franken were, possibly, misunderstandings while others might have been deliberate manipulations, maybe not, but these questions should be resolved. The fact that he quit, tells me that there may have been more to it that he let on, but still, he deserved a hearing. In my humble opinion, the Democratic Party does not fight! Basically, what we end up doing is trying to win by backing in to victory. Vote for us because we are not as bad as those other guys! That's the problem with wanting Purity ... it’s absolute but only from one perspective (like the Tea Party's). There is no ‘Purity’ that we can all agree on. Purity is not undesirable … it’s impossible. But now on to the more pressing problem … our democracy is under full scale attack by the fascistic right. To not have that in the forefront of our thoughts and actions is to miss the point of ‘Now’. All the while we are busy rearranging the deck chairs so that they are more egalitarian (a good and noble cause) the ship is going down, down, down …

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