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Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part VI


I don't often agree with Mitch McConnell.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for an immediate ethics review of Senator Al Franken in light of allegations that Franken committed sexual assault.

I don’t often agree with McConnell, but he’s right.

For all the wrong reasons, of course. But, still the allegations against Franken should be investigated.

On the face of it, the allegations are highly credible. There is photographic evidence and Franken himself has admitted that at least part of the accusation is true. The incident in question happened before Franken took office and while he was working as an entertainer on a USO tour and may in fact have no bearing on his office.

I don’t know. That’s why it should be looked into.

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What?

Did somebody have a question? Hello?

Ah, yes, I see you there in the back. Put your hand down. Let me finish before you start yelling.


Senator Franken should be investigated by the Ethics committee.

He’s a Senator. He’s a representative of the people. He should be held to higher standards.

Look here, I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I don’t owe any politician any slack whatsoever. I’m a citizen of the United States and it's not my job to make excuses for shitty behavior by politicians of any party. Even if I was so inclined – which I emphatically am not.

Senator Franken will have to answer for his shitty behavior and accept whatever consequences result.

I don’t know how it will shake out for Franken, but that said, for Mitch McConnell of all people to make this statement while blithely ignoring Trump's massive laundry list of admitted sexual assaults is ...


What?

You again? What now?

Oh, right. Yes. I know. Please, hang on for a damned minute. Let me finish.


Sexual assault isn't relative.

Franken's shitty behavior isn't made less by Donald Trump's shitty behavior.

There may be degrees of heinousness, but sexual assault isn't a game of comparison.

But that is exactly what happens when politics are involved.

It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to diminish the failings of our own by pointing out the egregious actions of those we don’t like. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing.


No. No. Just sit down. Let me finish.


Both sides do it. We all do it.

I see liberals right now doing it.

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Well, yes. That’s true.

Comparing what Franken supposedly did to what Judge Roy Moore (or Donald Trump) allegedly did is a false equivalency.

Because there is no comparison.

But that doesn’t in any way excuse Franken. Or Trump. Or any of the Hollywood creeps that have been recently outed.

But there’s more to it than that. And it does no good whatsoever to identify a logical fallacy and then use that same error in reasoning to make another – i.e. to diminish sexual assault by attempting to quantify it in relation to other heinous behavior.

But that's exactly what's happening here.

Because that’s what always happens.

Take Fox News conservative pundit Sean Hannity today:

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"Liberal media finally sees Bill Clinton for what he is, 20 years too late."

Hannity is course predictably dredging up William Jefferson Clinton and his infamous reputation as a horn dog.

Now here's the problem:

I can point out to all of you that

  • Liberals never excused Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct or tried to use the Bible to justify it.
  • She (plural, because there were many) wasn't 14
  • Bill Clinton was held to account. He was. He was held to account in court and paid nearly a million dollars to settle the case. And he was impeached for his behavior – even if he wasn't convicted in the Senate (Yes, he was impeached for perjury, not sexual misconduct. But you're just arguing semantics here. If there wasn't any sexual misconduct, there wouldn't have been any perjury).
  • He's not running for office

I can point all that out to you, to Hannity and his followers (and did, on Twitter to the predictable result), but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because it's a dodge.

It doesn't matter if what I say is true.

Hell, it doesn't even matter if what Sean Hannity says is true.

Because the whole thing is a non sequitur. Bill Clinton's shitty behavior has nothing to do with Roy Moore's or Donald Trump's shitty behavior (Yes, yes, I see you back there. I am deliberately setting aside, for the moment, the larger context of a culture that promotes, excuses, enables, and turns a blind eye to sexual assault in general. Yes. Hang on).

And while liberals' behavior regarding Clinton sure as hell isn't without fault – particularly the trashing of his accusers – the Left has always known who Bill Clinton is. What they did or did not do about it, is, well, part of the point here.

In a better world, if the Left had done more to condemn Clinton’s behavior back in the day, their condemnations of Moore and Trump et all would be virtually unassailable today.

In a better world.

But, of course, that’s not how it works and Whataboutism is a lousy argument no matter if you’re standing hip deep in the swamp or holding the moral high ground.

As I've previously noted here and elsewhere: the act of sexual assault has nothing to do with political parties.

Sexual assault isn't political. It’s not a Left, Right, Republican, Democrat, Liberal or Conservative thing. Sexual assault spans the spectrum. The ranks of both sides have more than their share of scumbags. And there are plenty of apologists to go around.

So, pointing to sexual assault by members of the other side to justify, excuse, or diminish sexual assault by members of your own side is not only a logical fallacy, it's just plain bullshit.

Whataboutism is a lousy argument.

Each individual case of sexual assault must be judged on its own merits (merits in the legal sense, not that sexual assault itself has any merit).

The damage done to the victims isn't lessened because something terrible happened to somebody else.

Those that survive rape, their pain and trauma isn’t diminished because somebody else was raped even more violently. The goddamned dumbest thing you can say to a sexual assault survivor is, “Hey, it could have been worse. Just look at…”

That’s not how it works.

Sexual assault isn't relative.

No matter the behavior of Al Franken, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, et al, if the allegations against Roy Moore are true then he is unfit for office because of his own actions.  His own actions and nobody else’s.

Donald Trump is unfit for office because of his (admitted) actions and his alone.

And perhaps Franken is too. I don’t know.

The only way to find out is to look.

So, McConnell is right – even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

And yes, before you ignore everything I just said and pull a butwaddaabout in my comments section, I do think Bill Clinton is unfit for office – and if he was running I would be opposed to him exactly as I am Roy Moore and Donald Trump and for the same reasons (the same reasons of sexual misconduct. I’m opposed to Moore and Trump for other reasons as well).

How our society regards sexual assault shouldn't be about counting coup.

It shouldn't be about balancing some political book.

It shouldn't be about comparison.

Sexual assault isn’t relative.

This should be about the behavior itself and holding each individual accountable for their actions regardless of what anybody else has done.

This should be the one thing we all – left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberal and Conservative – all people of good conscience and intent, can agree on.

But, of course, it’s not.

Of course not.

And unfortunately, regarding the world as it should be instead of as it is can also be a cognitive bias and while the act of sexual assault itself isn't dependent on political party, how we often deal with it most certainly is.

And so here we are.

Senator Franken should be investigated for ethic violations.

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Democrats should be held to high standards.

In fact, they should be held to higher standards than they are right now.

AND. SO. SHOULD. REPUBLICANS.

So should the president. So should the Judges. So should every Congressman and Senator. So should every office holder. So should every cop and Priest and dog catcher. 

So should we all.

You want a better nation? A better world? Then you have to be better citizens.

It starts right here.

116 comments:

  1. Goddamn right Jim. Thank you.
    I had posted on this a couple hours before I saw your post, and it echoes the same. Thank you for being a voice of reason in this world.

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  2. I absolutely agree. I'm in favor of investigating these kinds of allegations, period. I want to know.

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  3. Thank you.

    As a fireman, I have to sign a piece of paper that says that I will not be unethical.

    I don't sign contracts for the fire district, I don't do anything but put wet stuff on the red stuff, and take people out of their cars or homes, because they're broken.

    I had to sign a piece of paper that says I won't be unethical, and as a fireman, I'm part of the US government, just on a very, very, local level.

    I expect no less from the people who actually get paid to do their jobs.

    I expect them not to be unethical.

    Apparently, this is too much to ask of our leadership. They must have skipped that part in school.

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    1. This comment is everything. Thank you!

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    2. As a government employee, I too have signed and have to follow a code of conduct. As a compliance officer I have to objectively hold employees accountable. I expect better of my representatives. I refuse to call them leaders since they work for us.

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  4. FTA:

    So, pointing to sexual assault by members of the other side to justify, excuse, or diminish sexual assault by members of your own side is not only a logical fallacy, it's just plain bullshit.



    I would only amend this to understate: "…and it reflects poorly on you."

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  5. Applause. I agree. Franken has taken responsibility and will face the Ethics Committee. If I were a betting woman, I would make the Toby Ziegler bet that about 1/3 of his colleagues have similar skeletons in their closets. And if we don't somehow figure out how to do this without what aboutism, we're doomed as a nation.

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    1. And Toby usually won his bets, too. :)

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  6. While it did occur before he was in office, I applaud him for stepping up right out of the chute and owning it, along with his apology with none of the usual, "if I offended anyone" bullshit. I also applaud the fact that HE called for the Ethics Committee to investigate and committed to fully participate.

    I also applaud the fact that the lady who came forward has accepted his apology. Again, nothing excuses it. Hopefully this case will show when you do step up and own your mistakes, something better can come of it.

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  7. On Facebook today I stated that I was all for an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. I said I wanted to hear what Al said. I said I was going to be objective and only look at what this case dealt with. And then I was told "It figures as a guy that you'd defend him." I didn't. Then I was told that the word "objective" was "man speak" for "We don't need stupid female emotions". It isn't. Then I said that folks were reacting predictably as people started calling for his resignation before we found out if this was a pattern of behavior or not. And then I got called a sexist pig.

    Middle-aged, white, and male is now a demographic that I am starting to believe is disliked by liberals.

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    1. Not "liberals" Liberal Extremists. Who are a problem that mirror Conservative Extremists. The problem part being the "Extremist" part.

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    2. Middle-aged, white, and male has always been a demographic disliked by those who are at the mercy of said group's privilege.

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    3. TBH... Yes.

      I mean, I can't speak for "liberals." I am not "liberals." I am one, Lefitst, angry woman who is tired of middle-aged white men assaulting. And shooting. And investing. And polluting. And legislating. And generally ruining my country and my life.

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    4. It may just be semantics, but it doesn't need to be a "pattern of behavior". If he is guilty of the accusation for this single action, then he is unfit to hold office. That's being held to a higher standard.

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    5. Nope. I'm a female liberal who has been flamed ad discarded by another liberal for nor being liberal enough because I didn't believe a Trump supporter should be left to die in a snowstorm just because of her bumper sticker. Yet another liberal (female/black) who I have been friends with and supported on issues time and time again whilst living out our Obama love together jumped on my ass for saying ALL looting was wrong when I had posted several videos of whites and one of blacks looting after the hurricanes. We are a testy bunch over here and will happily eat our own and herd cats. It's why we can't have nice things.

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    6. Well, you're male and you were speaking, thus you were guilty of "mansplaining".

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    7. I don't think your logic is sexist, but rational. Just because someone accuses someone else, does not make it a fact, and the penalty for making a sexist joke should not be the same as for rape. If they investigate they should investigate each and every allegation made about everyone. If this is a country of law you don't get to chose who to prosecute, but also there are gradient penalties based on the severity of the crime.

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    8. This. I may be a dumbass, but my perspective is mine. There are plenty of dumbass feminists who have no regard for my view of the world, and I love many feminists.

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    9. As a woman, I agree with you. It was good to hear that HE called for the ethics investigation, that he apologized genuinely, and that his apology was accepted.

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  8. I suspect that there will be many more male politicians in the coming weeks being accused, and rightly so! Finally woman can speak up and be believed!

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  9. As a woman -- we have all just been wanting men to be held to a higher standard. We're sick and tired of being scared to go out of the house at night, scared any moment we find ourselves alone with a man, etc. It should go without saying that Congress and Presidents should be held to the highest standards of all, but that has broken down in 2017. Scads of people voted for Trump knowing what a scumbag he is, and I'll really never get over that...

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  10. *Wild applause*

    Back then, I didn't know about most of the accusations against Bill Clinton, because the GOP had been gunning for both the Clintons for a while, and I don't follow gossip. Always seemed to me that he showed an frightening lack of judgement, to do anything with anyone not his wife, knowing how much they wanted to find him at fault. Anyway. Each of us needs to follow good ethics and morals before going after anyone else.

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    1. Yeah, it's especially frustrating as a young woman to see the mishandling of Clinton's behavior used to derail meaningful action now. I didn't know about the accusations against Clinton back then either... because I was six years old and who talks about politics and sexual misconduct to a six-year-old? That doesn't mean I can't have valid anger now.

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  11. This news this morning was a gut punch. I am an Al Franken fan. I saw a friend say he thought Franken should take the high road and resign. And all I could think about was how we Democrats are always being asked to unilaterally disarm. Don't take corporate money because we think money in politics is a problem. Don't engage in gerrymandering when we have the majority. Don't get rid of the filibuster.

    But I have to agree. He should be investigated and if these allegations are true and don't have some mitigating circumstances, then he should step down. It sucks. But the right thing to do is the right thing to do even if it allows a possibility that someone who doesn't share our progressive ideas a chance to get into that senate seat. Oooof! God dammmit Democratic men. Get a hold of yourselves, like maybe in private, in the shower or something, or with a consenting adult who is into it who you have no power over, who isn't a subordinate or groupie or fucking asleep!

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    1. Thanks Kevin. It sucks but it’s true. Al Frankenstein though? 😞

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    2. Sen. Franken acknowledged his misconduct, and apologized to the young woman, and she accepted his apology.

      He's too valuable to lose.

      And yes, go through the process, get whatever code violation they wish to impose, then go on to kick their asses.

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  12. Yes. He should be investigated. He might be cleared, he might be damned. But who is the jury? I have to admit, I couldn't be impartial on this. I'm female, a rape survivor, a Democrat, and a lifelong fan of funny writers. I'm partial as hell, and I doubt there is anyone out there who isn't, one way or another. Unless we find a race of genderless ETs with extra time on their hands and no access to cable, filling a jury box isn't going to be easy.

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    1. I’ll say one thing, at this point there is not one man in government who are calling out this crap that I’d trust as far as I can spit. They’re ALL complicit. Creeps!

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    2. There are many women who are also complicit or act as enablers. One of the things that has bothered me the most about Hillary Clinton over the years is that she didn't toss the bum out. It didn't stop me from voting for her. When the choice is between not so great and total disaster I'll take not so great.

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    3. I, too am a rape survivor, a Democrat, an Honorary Thespian and theater major in college. I usually am not at all one to go easy on a perpetrator. But in this case what we are seeing here is a woman who was, "Top Hooters Girl of All Time" and a model for Fredricks of Hollywood as well as a model for Playboy twice (although only once nude). I'm going to guess this was not the first time someone "pretend" groped her breasts as a Hooters girl. And it is really, REALLY odd to me that she was so shocked and upset all these years later because, in a kissing scene, as an "actor", after she gave permission for the kiss, she was kissed more passionately than she expected. Okay, the photo was not funny and in poor taste. Yes. I agree. But come on! If you are "Top Hooters Girl of All Time" do not tell me you have not been exploiting your own self and your own breasts to make money and garner attention. So you have likely gotten quite a lot of it. Some wanted and some unwanted. Oh you mean someone made a joke about it? They didn't take you seriously? Maybe put a shirt on and stop exploiting yourself!
      As you can see I am angry. Some of us have suffered brutal sexual assaults. So brutal that we never told our parents until we were in our 50's. I was sexually assaulted on a date by someone I knew as a teenager. I did not see it coming. I did not expose myself or exploit my sexuality. I was just....there...alone with him, in a pair of blue jeans & tee shirt, during the daytime. That was my crime. His father was a diplomat. After the rape NOTHING happened. Nothing except my medical care and my continuing in with life. He finished his American education and likely went back to his country to rape many other women.
      My point is this. When I was in the theater if someone had kissed me too passionately or touched me unexpectedly (say on the rear instead of the small of the back) I would stop the scene say, "HEY! Cut . it . out!" And it would stop. And I might think less of that person but I wouldn't think much of it. You know how many boys and men came into the dressing rooms when we were naked, uninvited? TOO MANY TO TELL YOU.
      So, I am not buying her "poor me" story today. She is a worldly actress who has exploited her sexuality. And now to say that she feels violated because somebody kissed her harder than she thought they would, in a kissing scene, when she said, "Go ahead" is ridiculous. And anybody who has spent five minutes in the land of entertainment would know it, too.
      I think Sen. Franken should be investigated. And I will be interested to hear how it ends up considering all the facts. Nobody deserves to be assaulted. But there are people who exploit themselves and then go on to exploit others with their stories of victimhood. I think this is one of those cases. I realize there will be a lot of people who disagree. But I needed to speak my peace.

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    4. Thank you for your thoughts. Rape survivor here as well, and my radar went up about this LeAnne woman too. Plus old Roger Stone let the cat out of the bag 24 hours before Ms. Leeden broke her story. Seemed a little to fishy to me.

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  13. A problem is a problem – it's what you do about it that makes the difference. Comparing Moore's behavior to Franken's is a false equivalency, of course. But response to the charges is fair game, and Franken wins this round.

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  14. I love the whataboutism !!! !guess you are talking to me , ' because I would love to say whatabout McConnell ?? I think if one could get into his military records it might be found the Pot calling the Kettle Black . Altho I am one of the "ME TOOs" I'm a little weary of all the accusations , and "Tell all " I was a child , I've had Counseling , I don't need attention I am now a counselor myself. haven't we had enough ? I hate what happened to me and others , but I bet a dime there are very few it hasn't happened to, AND very few men that hasn't touched or groped ..Our country is in big trouble enough , without all this mess, Thank you Jim Wright , this is one of your best.

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  15. Yes. F'n right. Thank you, Jim. Creepy abusive people (both sexes can be guilty) can be of any political persuasion. I'm a rape survivor. I've been harrassed countless times. Sexual harrassment, abuse, and rape suck, and if you do it, you suck, too. Period. I don't give a damn what your politics are--your unwanted attentions and unwanted body parts are the same.

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  16. I'm a huge fan. This is one of the rare instances where I disagree with you. Not on the whataboutism, but Franken's actions. He did not grope her. The photo shows this. He appears to grope her. It was a gag. Distasteful, yes. But not groping. Not sexual assault. That kiss is also questionable. They were rehearsing a skit. There was a kissing scene. He, allegedly, pressured her to rehearse the kiss. She gave in. He took it 'too far' and gave her some tongue. Not cool, but also not how he recalls it. And if you can use a picture that shows he's not groping to say you were groped, I'm going to question those claims I can't see with my own eyes. This is getting out of hand. We throw these terms around far too easily and recklessly. We have enough monsters out there without manufacturing more.

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    1. Being a fan, huge or otherwise, doesn't mean you can't disagree.

      I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your comment here either, HOWEVER, I would point out to you that a picture is a single moment in time, usually a fraction of a second. What happened before and after that moment, you have no idea. Just because that particular picture may not show a thing, that doesn't mean the event didn't occur. It just means it didn't occur in the fraction of a second that was recorded.

      Of course, the converse is also true: It doesn't mean that it did, either.

      Thus, a deeper investigation is required. As Franken himself has requested.

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    2. I agree with Jim 's reply - but would add that this picture also does not seem to actually show him touching her at all, though the perspective makes it appear otherwise. So, it's a moment in time that shows no more than him posing to appear as if he's going to grope her. To be clear, though, as Jim said - this is one moment in time and nobody knows what happened before or afterwards. I just wish people would notice that it is entirely possible he's not actually even touching her in the pic.

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    3. Taken alone, the picture is not great. In the context of the story she told, there does not have to be contact for it to be creepy as hell. She states that he was hostile toward her after the forced kiss. In that context, the photo is more than a random bad decision.

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    4. This is also why I think an investigation should be pursued, even though I do not think any laws were broken.

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    5. Thanks for putting "the picture" up there. I'm the person who hadn't seen it yet.

      But what I see is a comedian MUGGING FOR THE CAMERA while pretending to grope a woman WEARING A FLAK-JACKET. I gotta say, I think that's rather funny: groping Kevlar?!? To quote a different SNL alumnus... "Ewww".

      Bad taste? Sure. Behavior inappropriate for a US Senator? Sure. Behavior inappropriate for a comedian on a USO tour in 2006? Nope. Bad Example for Others? Maybe. (White) Male abusing a position of power? Nope.

      Of course, there could be other incidents. As I indicated above, I haven't followed this mess closely.

      But if the US Congress wastes it's time & our money investigating that picture, I'll be pissed. The GOP's politically motivated witch-hunts didn't start with Benghazi, nor even Whitewater (ahem, Joe McCarthy?). It's all they've got left to do, except to cash in once they loot our country & give it all to their big Donors.

      -elkern

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    6. Looks like I was wrong about Franken. Damn. Well, there's a first time for everything...

      And it's easy to imagine that my prior post exhibited a cavalier attitude toward sexual harassment. I assure all that this is not my intent. Things gotta change; we gotta change 'em.

      -elkern

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  17. I know that Sen. Franken was acting like a fool. My heart is broken.

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  18. Resign? Step down? If this was a one off misjudgment and not a pattern of piss-poor behavior I see no reason to ask him to step down. But I'll wait until a pattern emerges or not.

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    1. Here's a pattern worth looking at:

      In 2009, Franken introduced a provision to the next year’s defense appropriations bill that banned federal funding for “defense contractors who forced employees to mandatory binding arbitration in the case of rape, assault, wrongful imprisonment, harassment, and discrimination.”

      In 2011, Franken joined other Democratic senators to introduce the Arbitration Fairness Act (he reintroduced the bill in 2015) to “eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases.” Such clauses often apply to employees alleging workplace harassment.

      In 2012, he supported the Violence Against Women Act, saying "The VAWA reauthorization bill is another step toward a more just society as Sheila [Wellstone] described it,” Franken said. “And I look forward to it becoming law.”

      And just this past October, Franken pushed a bill to establish federal funding to train first responders and members of law enforcement in interviewing possible survivors of sexual assault. Franken sponsored the legislation after a former intern raped a 19-year-old university student, Abby Honold, who reached out to Franken’s office to discuss the subject.

      http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/accused-of-sexual-misconduct-franken-has-focused-on-the-issue-as-a-senator/ar-BBF3rUj?li=BBnb4R7

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  19. It's all sad. And you've done a great job noting the nuances of the various oft past touted cases. And there are nuances and degrees and even including over-reaction and deliberate sabbotage. I don't feel the latter likely applies in the bevy of current circumstances. One thing, though that needs to be in the opening paragraph of every such article in the current explosion of coverage of this general issue, however, is that if we are going to be serious about this for the vast spectrum of public officials that are now being swept into the raging current of this bust dam's outflow, then by heaven the House of Representatives and Senate better hold the President to the same standards and meet out the same gravity of punishments.

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  20. The main difference is, it appears that Franken is, at least partially, owning up to and apologizing for having made, at the very least, a stupid mistake (or, potentially, committed an act of assault).

    However, he IS owning up to it. In fact, he's going further than that:

    "I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate."

    That's right. Not only Mitch McConnell, but AL FRANKEN HIMSELF says that there should be an investigation.

    So yeah, there should be one. Because you're right, there should be a higher bar for public "servants".

    Which comes back to the reason that I've got more respect for Al Franken than I do for some other figures, in entertainment and in politics.

    He's saying flat-out, "I'm taking responsibility for my actions."

    But there are far too many who aren't. No matter the political affiliation, they, and the ones who enable/excuse/otherwise try to ignore... THEY are the problems.

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    1. I hope Franken's "taking responsibility" means more than empty-gesture "thoughts and prayers"...

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    2. "I hope Franken's "taking responsibility" means more than empty-gesture "thoughts and prayers"..."

      Well to date he's made a very public apology without excuses or "if anyone was" statements.

      He's also sent a personal letter of apology to Tweeden (which she immediately publicized).

      He's offered to be the subject of a full Ethics investigation.

      He's agreed to step away from sponsoring a rape victim bill at the request of the victim the bill is named after.

      I mean ... what more do you want?

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  21. I'm a rape survivor as well as someone who endured having men rub against me numerous times on the NYC subway over the years I lived there. It's boorish behavior for sure, and I'm glad we're changing how we view it. Back when I rode the subways and commuted for a time in the late 1980's, if I'd tried to have someone who rubbed up against me arrested, I would have been laughed at. Women hated the behavior back then, but society was accepting of a hell of a lot of behavior that allowed for it. Just like my Dad, who was from the WWII generation, came out with some whoppers that made me cringe in later years of his life. The same was true of bullying back in the day. Times are changing, and for the better. I'm more troubled by a man who tried to date 14 year olds than I am by a man who took society's cues to mean a certain thing at the time that it doesn't any more. It's a hard thing to parse, and not everyone is going to come up with the same answer for themselves.

    I do like that Franken has asked for an ethics investigation. I will wait and withhold judgment on his situation. It happened more recently than Clinton's incidents, so I view them a little differently. I think the left has been better about calling for consequences to these actions, such as in the Weiner case.

    It's not easy, but I'd at least like to think some of us are progressing in these areas.

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    1. Absolutely. And thank you for this insight.

      It's complicated, more so by changing standards of behavior.

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    2. Extremely well put, PattiNH - and some of the exact points I wanted to make, but you said it better. :-)

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    3. I was single until 1989. It was a minefield. I never knew where the line was, and what each woman wanted me to do. I think I did well, but I'm not sure.

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  22. If this proves to be a one time event, thoughtless action, and the perpetrator has owned up and tried to make amends, I don't think he should be forever condemned, just like I don't think anyone should be forever punished for a lapse in judgement. I also believe the victim should have input in the decision. However, if it is a pattern of behavior, with multiple incidences, and victims, then it becomes a different issue and should be handled differently and there should be lasting consequences and put on the sex offenders registry. I don't think there are any easy answers, victims are still looked at in askance and have to practically jump through hoops to be held blameless for the actions of the abuser. Education helps, but women and men need to communicate with each other to clarify the issue if sexual assault. I'm not sure which comedian said but it is one of the best sentences I've heard. The gist was "if you wouldn't want it to happen or to be said to your mother or sister, then don't do or say it to any other woman."

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  23. Didn't Franken actually suggest the ethics investigation himself and said he would cooperate? I am sure he will cooperate and IF the allegations are found true - or others show up - he should resign because that is what the right thing to do is.

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  24. All of this! As always, your writing is just so damn accurate. Thank you!

    "How our society regards sexual assault shouldn't be about counting coup.

    It shouldn't be about balancing some political book.

    It shouldn't be about comparison.

    Sexual assault isn’t relative.

    This should be about the behavior itself and holding each individual accountable for their actions regardless of what anybody else has done.

    This should be the one thing we all – left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberal and Conservative – all people of good conscience and intent, can agree on."

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  25. I said at the time that if Bill Clinton had been working for a company, any company, he would have been fired and would have great difficulty in working in that industry every again.

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    1. Back then, he might not have been working in that industry ever again, but it's likely that the victim would be feeling unwelcome. Victims got blackballed too. Things have improved some - we have a long way to go.

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  26. I agree completely. The only thing I would add is that Franken has also said the he, Franken, should be investigated by the Ethics Committee.

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  27. Sidle up next to it and lick its ear?!? That's kind of an odd tag line for someone asking all of us to do better, act better, be better. Just thinking that's probably not the best image to put out there for this piece.

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    1. Context matters.

      Taking my tagline out of context and attempting to make some kind of character judgement about me based on isn't something I'm going to entertain.

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    2. Charis: As far as I can tell, no one (until you came along) has taken offence to Jim's tagline. He's had this tagline for ages.

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    3. I have always assumed that crazy is a willing mistress.

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  28. There was a time in the not so distant past that men and women worked together and flirtations were part of the fun about going to work. Now, of course, fun is fun only if one thinks it is fun. For those who disliked any part of the male/female "fun" part of working, a firm "NO" usually did the trick. But it was no crime. Going back beyond the early 90's, it was a trip to HR for whatever they decided to be your fate. However, pedophilia IS a crime. So, with that in mind, I would say Moore should be under criminal investigation. But really? All the others? Men just need to learn to be gentlemen. Learning takes awhile. Even 20-25 years of learning. Change takes time.

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  29. I agree, he should be investigated. And, apparently, he agrees as well. From his statement: "I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate."

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  31. Numbers, or perhaps pattern is a better word, counts for something, too. A one time lapse in an otherwise reasonably good life merits one level of censor; repeated occurrences earn harsher penalties.

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  32. I am disappointed the news about Franken. Like others, I'm glad he owned his misconduct and made a full throated apology that was accepted by Ms. Tweeden. As some pundit observed, "Franken blamed himself for his behavior while Trump and Moore blame the women for their behavior." Do I want him thrown out of the Senate? Not really. He has done a good job for the people of his state and for the people of the nation. But, should the Ethics investigation he asked for recommend he step down, I'm willing to bet that not only would he step down, he would do so graciously and with generous comments toward the Ethics committee.

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  33. I don't like how this is eclipsing the Moore situation. Those women really need to be heard and deserve justice. The timing of this is rather sensationalistic and I am concerned it's victim one - upmanship.

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  34. As a survivor of abuse and sexual assault I thank you.

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  35. He should be investigated, but so should Moore, Trump and any other member of the GOP that has been accused. If he ends up being the only one going under the microscope, it's just back to the same double-standard party-line hypocrisy.

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  36. I'm not sure where I am on all of this, except that I think those who have been accused need to face the music, and then we have to decide what the next step is. In Franken's case, I'm inclined to be a bit more lenient than I am in Moore's: Franken's charges stem from a time when he was a working comedian, and it's never been a secret that a lot of comedians have made their money and their reputations through off-color words and behavior, whereas Moore was a judge, whose money and reputation were at least supposed to have come from knowing and enforcing good.

    And for Franken (where the victim has apparently already accepted his apology), I'm inclined to consider a lighter "verdict" because of what he has done on behalf of women in the time since this incident (and any others that may surface in the coming days). For Moore, even if the pedophilia has stopped, his behavior since then has not been such that I'm inclined to suggest he gets any benefit of "time served."

    I agree that the current outrage is well past due, and I think it's a good thing to bring it all to light because this is the only way we're going to steer toward an end. But I'm not sure I can totally condemn behavior retroactively: If we laughed at the comedians, we paid to see their shows, we accepted and condoned their behavior decades ago, aren't we complicit? Do they have to pay the price for what, in some ways, we egged them on to do, especially if they have since changed heir ways?

    As I said, I'm just now where the line really is.

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  37. I identify and agree with Decadent Sundae but add my uneasy feeling with demonizing unseemly acts (not statutory assaults) perpetrated 25-30+ years ago. For centuries women were considered property and as I block my own "all men are animals" thought, the vestiges of this "privilege" will take longer than a century to wipe out and be replaced with gender parity. Wasn't The Office and it's prevalent sexism the highest rated show for years?(never watched it) I fear the pendulum is swinging too sharply as we work our way through the discrepancies, and we risk destroying many careers and unions "getting back" en masse.

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  38. The ONLY point I'd raise in Franken's defense is that he ALSO called for an ethics investigation into himself.

    But other than that, you're ENTIRELY correct Jim, per the norm!

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  39. I concur with you Jim. As individuals who shape and form the moral soul of our Nation we must first have the guts to look within ourselves,especially myself and the rest of the men residing in our Nation. Holding congressional members or Presidents to a higher moral and spiritual standard is like the pot calling the kettle black if we men don't hold ourselves to the same high standards within our daily lives as fathers, husbands, boyfriends and human beings.

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  40. So very true. As a progressive I feel we need to keep 'our' house in order, regardless of what the other side does. Yes, this could actually lead to an imbalance politically should the Conservatives decide to openly ignore all corruption on their side, but I think that rather unlikely in the medium to long run. Faced with a party and a movement that sticks to the moral high ground, even the faux purity of the religious right will fail to move others to their side. In the end, there will only be those on the far right who nakedly admit that no corruption is too much to get their way. That will, of course, fail.

    Politics has always been a dirty business, but it does not have to be mired in a reprehensible morality that forgives all personal failures as mere peccadilloes. We can be a better people should we choose to do so.

    But some one must lead that charge and I say it is us.

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  41. Bill Clinton sexually assaulted who? It seems like cheating on your wife with a consenting adult has become "sexual assault" somehow. I know there have been partisan accusations of him being a rapist and a murderer but I thought he had only been found guilty of cheating on his wife with consenting adult women?

    Sure, Clinton was a bit of a sleaze in his personal life but sexual assault? Rape? When did these become the terms we use to describe sexual relationships with consenting adults??

    And Franken, in the photo he appears to be groping a Kevlar vest? WTF? Was the woman asleep? Were they joking around with other people (someone's taking the photo)? Is that sexual assault???

    Damn, I'm all for holding people who sexually assault others accountable but it seems like the term "sexual assault" had become like "gender", ie. a word or term that has no actual definition anymore and means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

    And of course Al Franken, one of the very best Senators we have and one of the extremely few liberals in the Senate, will be investigated and of course he'll end up facing a majority Republican panel and end up castigated by them and resign, because getting him out of the Senate is what the Republicans want.

    Of COURSE any Democrat accused if anything at all will be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail and the Republicans will benefit, as none of their members will be run out of office. They aren't going to volunteer to resign in shame as they HAVE no shame.

    Investigate, absolutely. But of it's not *sexual assault* but is instead some dumb fuckery by a comedian at a party then that needs to be explained too.

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    1. Thank you for so succinctly proving my point. For proving every point of this essay and all the ones women have been making for years now. If there was an award for obtuseness, you'd own it, Rick.

      Also, nowhere in this essay did I say or even imply that Bill Clinton was a rapist.

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    2. " I do think Bill Clinton is unfit for office – and if he was running I would be opposed to him exactly as I am Roy Moore and Donald Trump and for the same reasons (the same reasons of sexual misconduct." I would call that statement a pretty strong implication Jim. And yes you are overlooking the fact that Clinton's accuser had her day in court and the judge did NOT let the case proceed due to lack of evidence. So her backers refiled the case, the million dollars was paid so the case would stop not as an admission of wrongdoing. I am not saying that Clinton's behavior was correct but it did not rise to the standard of the behavior of Trump or Moore and you did in fact imply an equivalency.

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    3. Stop.

      I did NOT imply an equivalency. And that's not exactly what happened in the case either.

      Look here, I have no intention of retrying Clinton. I'm not going to entertain those who want to use him to justify their own shitty actions and I'm not going to entertain those like you who think they have to rush to his defense. Clinton can answer for his own actions.

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    4. YES! Thank you, @Rick Aucoin.

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    5. For the record, Bill Clinton had more than one accuser and at least one of those accusations included rape.

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  42. McConnel also should as for an ethics review of the president, Roy Moore, and all others accused of sexual harassment. Treat all equally.

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  43. YES. Exactly this. This is exactly what I knew would happen when the Weinstein floodgates opened. I was thinking about the fact that there was no avoiding the bummed-out realization that celebrities and people I personally like would turn out to be secret scumbags. I knew once that rock had been lifted, there would be critters under there I had thought were awesome and I knew how much that would hurt.

    But that's just it. Whataboutism isn't an argument. Franken absolutely should be investigated, and abusers of women or men or subordinates or whatever aren't fit for office. End of story. Was I a fan of Franken? Yep. I was a fan of Louis CK, but I didn't know his little secret.

    And when that rock gets lifted, you never know who you're going to find under it. Guaranteed you're going to find those that will blow your mind and upset you and make you want to deny it - but there they are, under the rock.

    It's not anyone's fault for liking them before we found them under the rock. And I get the desire to deny. But if you FIND THEM UNDER THE ROCK does it really matter whose side you thought they were on? Whether they were higher up on the soil layer than others, whether they were under the right (or left) side of the rock?

    Speaking as someone that is now finally getting therapy for what happened to me as a child, no, it doesn't fucking matter. And there's gonna be people under the rock you never thought would be there and that literally hurt your feelings to find there.

    I've been diagnosed with PTSD (I kind of always knew, but it was actually a relief to see it in writing). I'm 48. I'm finally going to therapy, now, for the first time since childhood. Ten years ago, a repressed memory surfaced when I'd found out a childhood friend committed suicide. "I know why." came out of my mouth at the same time the memory of what her father did to me resurfaced. I thought repressed memories was something that happened to other people. I'm still grappling with the realization that my own brain tucked something away so I wouldn't have to deal with it.

    I was not penetrated. So I get the "well at least you weren't" bullshit line almost every time I share what two different men on different occasions did to me before I was nine - I got it from a beloved family member who didn't know how much it hurt me to say it. In fact, I've never seen anyone address that particular thing before this essay. Seeing that in writing, from you, was also something of a relief.

    Thank you for this, and thank goodness you're here. This essay was it, exactly.

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    1. To clarify, I don't want to hang anyone out to dry that isn't wet. I agree with this whole essay.

      I'd also like to add that most men I know ARE NOT CREEPS. Most men are not rapey, do not stalk children, etc. It's vitally important to separate creepy behavior from non. I hate when the "boys will be boys" shit get trotted out, because that seeks to paint all men with the same brush. In spite of what happened to me, the vast majority of men I know are decent people. Just like with everyone. Lots of great folks, a few assholes.

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  44. I have to comment that you are the only person I follow (on Facebook) that I agree with 90% of the time. And this post is absolutely right. Thank you. Unfortunately, I can't comment on FB posts 'cause I'm not your "friend;" I suppose you have reached your limit.

    There is an update to this situation: Al Franken has called for an investigation OF HIMSELF. I'm of the opinion that the reason that he wants such an investigation is not to clear his name or to make some excuse (he's already admitted guilt), but to give an opportunity for women to speak their minds on the issue. IMO, that speaks highly of his character.

    Thanks, again for your FB posts and blog. Voices like yours are needed!

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  45. Right there with you. If anyone is doing this to anyone, then they should be stopped and called to account. Don't care who they are. Bottom line.

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  46. Excellent. Thank you for your voice in the wilderness. Sanity is not yet extinct. Nor are ethics. As a society, we should be honest and ethical, without the requirement of signing a piece of paper. I hold myself and those in public office to that standard. It isn't hard, just occasionally uncomfortable. Thank you again.

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  47. Have you seen the numbers that have come out on much money has been paid out to settle claims against members of Congress? The largest total was over 4 MILLION dollars in, I believe, 2007. Obviously MANY members of congress have done their fair share of this kind of despicable behavior. I say they should all have to confess & apologize if they plan on hanging Al Franken out to dry.

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  48. AaaaaaAAAAAmen *using my best Sidney Poitier voice from the movie: Lilies of the Fields*

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  49. We appear to need "truth and reconciliation" at this time, about a great many things.

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  50. It is very relevant to me that Leeann Tweeden has accepted Al Franken's apology and has said she was not looking for him to resign or be fired, with the caveat that no more women come forward. Which IS going to happen, because he was on a ribald set (SNL) and you can just see the next few shoes getting ready to drop. We all laughed and laugh at the "jokes", even when they are chock full of masochism or sexual innuendo, but then we are outraged, OUTRAGED I tell you, when men in society act them out in real life. Reminds me of Valentine Michael Smith's confusion over "jokes", and when he finally learned how to laugh.

    I am a woman who has experienced sexual harassment too many times to count. And worse than "plain" harassment. I also literally do not know one woman who HASN'T been harassed. Even with that experience, right now I am conflicted. What Leeann Tweeden experienced obviously scarred her, but I have something possibly controversial to say about that. I am deeply disturbed that there seems to be a false equivalency about a forced kiss and rape being on par, considering the reaction on the news today, and listening to many of her interviews. (The Jake Tapper one was well worth the listen / watch.) When I listened to it, I actually felt like she should have just been up front with him on the tour, sat down and said "You totally pissed me off, and this is why." And it is also very notable to me that after she told him to never do it again, it appeared that he respected her boundaries.

    Sometimes it IS just a stupid joke (the picture with her in the kevlar vest). I've been the butt of those types of jokes, and some made me laugh, some pissed me off. I know, I know, to her it wasn't a "joke". She's been angry for almost 10 years about it. And he should be censored. But.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that, just as there is a difference between 1st Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Murder, Involuntary Manslaughter and Manslaughter, there HAS to be a difference in how instances of harassment (or rape) are viewed. If we ask for every single man who has sexually harassed or offended a woman to be fired, there wouldn't be a man working. Note that I said harassed, not raped. There ARE degrees. The congressman who dropped his towel and exposed his genitals is NOT on par with Franken. What Bill Clinton did is NOT on par with Franken. And by damn, what Moore did is NOT on par with Franken. And it's a disservice to every woman to give them a false equivalency.

    How a man acts when called out should be a very large determining factor in how society judges him. And damnit, I am furious that the outrage over Franken has and will divert attention from Moore, who I truly believe is a predator and molester of girls and very young women.

    I hope this doesn't fall under the "whataboutism" that you warned against.

    Excellent, thoughtful essay, as always.

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  51. The Senate Ethics committee has long been most of a rubber stamp. It has two members: chair Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and vice-chair Christopher Coons (D-DE.) I think that McConnell is going to try to turn this into a Ken Starr-style shitshow so, though I may agree that an investigation is appropriate, I would prefer the whole idea vanish for a while. Let's see McConnell investigate Moore who, at least so far, is the subject of multiple allegations much more serious than the single allegation directed at Franken.

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  52. I'll support Senate hearings on Franken's conduct if we also have House hearings on Trump!

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  53. Whether or not she is sleeping, is touching someone over ceramic plates in small arms body armor groping or sexual assault? This is an honest question. Does it reach that bar? The kiss is another question altogether, but the photo's existence is not in question.

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    1. First, let me say I'm a woman. Secondly, I need to say that I've been wondering the same thing. The photo is certainly distasteful and I think less of Mr. Franken than I did before it came to light, but does the activity depicted actually rise to the level of sexual assault?

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    2. The photo is what it is, and it ain't good at all, but if you look at it you can see there is no actual touching happening. It's taken from an angle to look as if there is touching going on, and it's clearly wrong to do that, but it does not show a man actually touching anything.

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  54. Ironically, Louis C.K. performed a riff about how historically the worst violent offenders have been white Christian men. He described how a date should begin:

    Her - "Where are you taking me?"

    Him - "Statistically soeaking, to your demise"

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  55. I saw a billboard recently that claimed that 93% of women were victims of sexual assault. I have no clue where that statistic came from or how valid it might be. However based on my own sad experiences, I suspect the number falls way short. I for one am glad that women have become emboldened and instances this behavior are coming to light and at least being discussed, but we should never think that it is limited to politicians or actors. There is a pervasive culture of assault and cover-up that I am hopeful will begin change and my daughters will never be subjected to the miserable behavior I have.

    I might add that most men are wonderful and respectful wrt women. It only takes a couple of bad apples.

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  56. Right on - this whole essay is spot on. This is not a partisan issue. This is a morality/criminality issue. When will we as a nation stop bickering across the aisle and work together, especially on matters that have nothing to do with politics? Sadly, that answer may be NEVER.

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  57. Jim, a good essay, and lots of good comments. See, we have can good things.

    I was having a pint with a buddy of mine and our conversation sparked a memory of something I’d read in one of Stephen Donaldson’s books.

    "In accepting a gift, you honor the giver."

    At the time as I read it as a teen – and in the context of the story – it made perfect sense. But I hadn’t seen the menacing implications of that concept, in the contexts addressed in this essay, nor in the entire history of the human species for that matter, dimorphic as we are. What a trudge, to reach the concept of parity between the sexes.

    We talked about the thin veneer of civilization. And then we drank some more beer. He brought up heuristics and I promised to look it up.

    Love you man, and cheers,

    Leroy

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  58. Seldom hear it so clearly stated. Whatsaboutism drives me up the wall. Nice essay, Jim.

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  59. This is perhaps a more complicated issue than it seems. I have the following paragraph in one of my essays:

    "Were you a butt patter? (I was. It was the 1960’s and we hadn’t heard your side yet.) Plan to see every pitiful aged remnant of the flaming foxes you knew in the parties of your youth, on TV, telling America that you sexually assaulted them on 16 separate occasions."

    I submit that things done in relative innocence, in more benighted times, should be judged differently. Yes, we could and no doubt should do better, but in my opinion things done for reasons not including or even related to sexual gratification should be viewed differently.

    If there is no difference, does that not mean that all things are the same? Surely not.

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  60. One other comment: how might I get invited to Thanksgiving dinner at your place next year?

    :)

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  61. You'll need a lot of investigators to hold everyone to a higher standard. And why would anyone hold themselves to a higher standard when the odds are they'll get away with it, or they can reach for their checkbook.

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  62. I actually wanted to sent you a quick thought about your "pass through" post on facebook, but I don't have a box to add a comment, and I am not a twitterer. I just wanted to post the observation that the PGA Tour is a non-profit corporation. I read somewhere (maybe from John Feinstein) that establishing the Tour as a non-profit was one of their best money making moves ever. (It's been a few years since I read that but that was the gist of the thing)

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  63. Al Franken has already said he welcomes an ethics investigation. None of the other accused have said that.

    -The New York Crank

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  64. One more thing Jim. I came back to see if you had posted something new, but ended up rereading your post.

    Rereading is very important. It takes time to digest good writing. To really understand important writing, you have to be a ruminant of sorts. I haven’t reread Heinlein for literally decades, and I was a fan as a young boy. I read several of his novels, many of which were beyond my ability to prehend. I read them anyway.

    Grok. Can’t forget that concept.

    Vonnegut’s “Man Without a Country” is probably more apropos in these times, but I need to reread that too. I remember to this day the cover of “The Star Beast,” that’s how they grab ya, with images of longing and adventure.

    And I’d never realized the contention brought about by Starship Troopers. Thanks for that. It’s now on my must-read list.

    I agree with you on every point in your essay. But I am not a fair man, as you are. I’m off the rails.

    I don’t care if the accusations against Moore are true. Because in my view, Moore should be kept as far away from levers of power as possible, barring physical assault. Slander works just fine for me.

    This is not my usual take on matters such as this. But I believe Roy Moore is a danger and a menace, and one more indication that our country is tacking towards a fascist theocracy should he be elected. Honor be damned. We are presumed to be a nation of laws. Fuck if he should become a lawmaker.

    Garrison Keillor quipped (paraphrasing) “Maybe Moore could legalize stoning.”

    Good bye, all men of good will.

    Leroy

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