A brief deprogramming session

As I have noted in the past, my main interest when it comes to policy on abortion is “what works”.

Unfortunately, for the MAGA “prolife” cult that is not what matters most. What matters is the *feeling* of doing something about abortion even when what is done is stupid and counter-productive, because for the cult abortion has become a matter of tribal in-group codes, virtue signaling, and shibboleths.

Case in point, the Mexico City Policy, which cuts funding for reproductive stuff abroad. Since Reagan, this has been wielded as a Participation Trophy to make “prolife” supporters of the GOP feel like they got something in exchange for support for every selfish, cruel and stupid GOP policy they have supported as the GOP continued to do nothing about abortion. Unjust war, torture, kidnapping of refugee children, sawing reporters to death as they screamed, starving Yemeni children, mocking POWs and troops living and dead, mocking the disabled, mass negligent homicide by Pandemic, Muslim bans, lies, corruption, sadism and cruelty: all of it was rendered worth it because the GOP threw the “prolife” movement the MCP bone whenever it came to power.

Then a study was done showing that the MCP’s actual real-world effect was to increase abortion rates in sub-Saharan Africa by a whopping 40%.

As a Catholic who thinks that political parties are tools for getting Catholic social doctrine implemented, I have zero interest in whose ox is gored by such news. The obvious thing to do in such a case is to get rid of the policy and lower the abortion rate abroad. But for MAGA Catholics, the Faith exists for the GOP, not politics for the Faith. So when I posted this information about the failure of the MCP, I wound up having a conversation with a MAGA brainwashing victim that became a brief attempt at deprogramming. I post it here as an quick example of what many Consistent Life Ethic Advocates will have to do millions of times in the hope of getting through the dense layers of MAGA programming to the hearts and minds of those trapped in the MAGA cult.

The Cultist began with a straightforward attempt to deny the fact in favor of spin:

“Rebuttal?” he wrote, linking to a crappy attempt at denial of the facts over at National Review.

My reply: I’ll take science over ideologically driven shit. But do keep listening to what your itching ears want to hear.

His attempt at flat denial rebuffed, my MAGA reader did not say, “Gosh. Maybe there’s a problem with the policy and we need to do something different to save the unborn lives it harms.” That’s because the MAGA cult never thinks of the common good. It always thinks about saving its own skin. So my reader next tried to deflect by saying:

not a trump policy, but a Reagan one. Did you disagree with it then?

My reply: The study was released in 2019. Ronald Reagan (for whom I voted twice) left office in 1988. Do you care that the MCP raises abortion rates by 40% or do you only care about defending the GOP no matter who dies as a result of your partisanship? What is your actual goal: saving the unborn or using them as human shields for your failed political ideology?

For those of you following along at home, my reply was ordered toward refusing to fall for his deflection and instead bringing his nose right back to “raises abortion rates by 40%” and rubbing it in that fact. That’s because the Big Lie of the MAGA cult is the claim “We make abortion our #1 priority and we don’t get distracted by lesser concerns”. On the contrary, they are constantly focused on lesser concerns. Lesser concerns dominate their every waking thought. Because it is the defense of every GOP policy–and above all of Donald Trump–that is the true #1 priority. The unborn are only of interest insofar as they can be wielded as human shields for that true #1 priority. So here, my reader’s goal was to try to pretend that the only reason I cared about the MCP was out of hostility to Trump and not because it, y’know, kills more children. In the MAGA cult where accusation is always confession, the charge that Seamless Garment supporters care more about liberal politics than human life is exactly backwards. It is the Cult that cares more about defending the GOP than about whether the unborn live or die.

Next came the prioritization of Self over the unborn, because the MAGA is deeply narcissistic and always thinks of self ahead of the Common Good. So my reader wrote:

I hear you, but question the morality. We can agree that abortion is evil. So, not supporting organizations that provide or promote abortions is a good thing. We agree? Therefore supporting MCP is good because it limits funding to those organizations that support abortions, right? You raise an interesting point about the consequences. But before going there, should we not start with the foundation that evil (supporting abortion) can never be done even if a supposed good (less 40% abortions) comes of it.What happened to “never do evil that good might come from it”?

My reply: So what matters is not the actual reduction of abortion, but performative piety that makes you feel good about yourself? No thanks.

To which my reader replied with yet another form of deflection, the Tone Police Ploy:

seriously? I’m just someone asking questions. You’ve changed Mark.

I was asking a question too. You need to answer it. You entered this conversation laboring to deny facts. When that failed you tried switching to pretending that this was about partisan politics and not saving the unborn. Then you switched to putting ritual purity over the lives of the unborn. Now you move to tone policing over the lives of the unborn. I am attempting to educate you about a deep bias under which you consistently operate in all your rhetorical strategies. Because like an awful lot of conservative Christians you are blind to it. Go back over what you have written and tell me I am wrong.

To which he replied with the “Absolute Ritual Purity Matters More Than Sanity” defense:

reduction of abortion IS good. End of story? The ends do justify the means?

My reply:

You have to first establish that it is evil to get rid of a policy that raises abortion by 40%.One of the marks of MAGA is that its adherents are unfailingly narcissistic and always think first and only of themselves and not of the common good. In this case, all you are thinking of is your sense of absolute ritual purity, even if it kills people. Jesus calls it “straining at gnats and swallowing camels.”

That is a manifestly stupid position. All you are really arguing is that in your persnickety demand for ritual purity you have chosen to pick one example of remote material cooperation with evil out of a gigantic host of such examples when it comes to federal monies and exaggerate it out of all proportion and sense. State monies go for all sorts of things I object to as grave moral evils. Yet I bet you don’t spend any time protesting nuclear weapons, or kidnapping children at the border, or paying the salary of antisemitic lunatics like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Government is and always was a blunt instrument and taxes have always been spent by it on both good things and bad. Yet Paul said to pay them anyway, even when those taxes went to Nero, who cut off Paul’s head.

The goal is to reduce abortion, not dance attendance on the narcissistic MAGA need to feel absolutely ritually pure. If getting rid of the MCP does that, then get rid of it. That’s not “doing evil that good may come of it.” That’s lessening evil and saving lives.

To this he replied: “you supported MCP with Reagan. You don’t support it with Trump. There lies your issue. You can spin it any way you want, but your anger and hatred have colored/distorted your views. How do you “interpret” CCC 1761? C’mon Mark, you’re better than this!”

Note the return to tone policing and the refusal to accept the fact that I am responding to the science. C.S. Lewis calls this the “restless fertility of bewilderment” that is one of the marks of the inability to deal with facts. The falsehoods start to recycle in an endless loop. It can’t be that I’m reacting to a study released in 2019. It has to be “hatred” for Trump.

As to CCC 1761, I agree with it. The Church says, “There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.”

I’ve been saying this for years, particularly to the “prolife” MAGA cult that has approved of massive evil for years with the excuse that supporting them will all be worth it so long as abortion is magicked away.

Here’s the thing: You have things exactly backwards. Your end is to avoid having to pay taxes toward something that makes you feel ritually impure, because you are all about yourself, not the common good. Paying taxes is remote material cooperation with evil, something you don’t mind at all in any other areas of life unless you are scrupulous to the point of mental illness. You don’t care that your taxes support nukes or unjust war or torture. Or that buying a book from Amazon supports a billionaire robber baron who underpays his workers (a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance). Or that your chocolate was harvested by slaves. Or that watching a movie on Prime means paying money to support other films that are blasphemous. None of that bothers you because you know perfectly well that remote material cooperation with evil is not sinful. But because you have a fetish about ritual impurity on this one particular use of your taxes, you pretend that this is a case of avoiding the ends justifying the means. In fact, though, you have it reversed. It is avoiding paying taxes for your one special fetish about remote material cooperation with evil that is your end. And to achieve that end you are willing to embrace a means that kills 40% more unborn children.

The ends do not justify the means. Repent.


As I say, there will be millions of such conversations in the long work of deprogramming of the MAGA Cult.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. – John F. Kennedy


44 Responses

  1. I find Dr. Pedro Gabriel’s arguments, and those of the USCCB more convincing. In my own country, I will/would fully support a party that advocates for a version of the Mexico City policy, at least on this point.

  2. … my main interest when it comes to policy on abortion is “what works”.

    And what ALWAYS works — and what should be the Primary Motive of the Church, rather than enforcing her will via state legislation — is conversion. The goal is not to outlaw abortion. The goal is that no one feels they need an abortion. Not that abortion become illegal. It is that abortion should become unthinkable.

    It’s why most countries in the world don’t have laws prohibiting shoving badgers in your pants. Because no one in their right mind wants to.

    The problem with so many in the pro-life movements is that this is not their goal. Their goal is to establish legislation outlawing abortion and euthanasia, all the while doing nothing about the conditions that bring those things about, then sit back smugly in their easy chairs and pray, “I thank Thee, O God, that I am not like other men.”

    1. @marksofmaine

      The conditions that may bring abortion and euthanasia about are only relevent inasfar as we are called by Jesus to remedy those in the first place. We are not supposed to indulge in people’s wishes because they might kill their children if we don’t grant them their wishes.

      1. “I do not consider the right to abort a matter of basic human dignity.”

        Most people in this forum agree with you on that. But remember, as Mark keeps pointing out, poverty is the most powerful abortifacient. America’s economic policies force lower-class women to choose between abortion and penury. Getting an abortion is the only way for many women to preserve some basic human dignity.

      2. @ Joel

        With all due respect, gimme a break.

        Most people on this forum, with the possible exception of @taco, do NOT object to the legalty of abortion.

    2. I think this is precisely correct. Conversion is key. Conversion results from attraction.

      The notion seems to be that if you magically make abortion go away, people will suddenly understand and accept the value of all human life. Or, if gay marriages are shunned, same sex attractions and relationships will disappear. In other words, that legislation controlling behavior will lead people to embrace a higher morality.

      I defy anyone to point to an instance where that has happened.

      We’re not going to convert people by “granting their wishes” — which I think is a dreadfully condescending way to characterize living wages or pre-natal care. Nor will we convert anyone by screaming at them or driving them to despair. The question is how to attract, in a largely pagan culture.

      1. “ The question is how to attract, in a largely pagan culture.”

        You know how you attract? You start by being accurate, our culture is 70% Christian. Oh, you mean CATHOLIC. That isn’t going to happen, especially when Catholics THEMSELVES support things like birth control, gay marriage, gay rights, and freedom of choice and conscience.

        You know how you attract? You lead by example. You be the change you wish to see in the world.

        Do you know how you do that? You come to the conclusion that maybe other peoples business is not what needs to be minded. You- and by you I mean the church, not you personally— stop asserting the moral right to mind other peoples business, even those who don’t belong to your group, because you think you have been granted it. When I see a letter of patent, signed by God Almighty, granting you that authority, then we can talk. The assertion that such a letter might exost doesn’t work.

        Do you know how you gain legitimacy to make those claims? If abortion is your overwhelming concern – I have a few concerns about it myself, but not enough to outlaw it – then you do that which is necessary to reduce the need for abortion. That would include birth control, sex education, and support for women to carry their pregnancies to term. Calling birth control evil – not under any moral system I’ve ever heard of that I would ascribe to – It’s a bit like pouring gasoline on a fire because it’s the only liquid you have access to. Demonizing people like me or our president — and I really like writing the words ‘our president— Who support a woman’s right to choose by calling us pro-aborts, baby killers, anti family, and murderers— Simply alienates your natural allies.

        Above all, you — and again this is a generic you, not you personally because I have no idea about you personally – really need to clean up your own house before you insist that other people need to buy a vacuum cleaner. As mark has written consistently, the unborn are the shield that the laughably named “pro“ “life” bowel movement uses to justify every bit of antipathy and sociopathy they have been committing for the last 40 years.

        Clean up THAT mess, and attraction may work.

        Please understand. I’m not yelling at you. But these issues go far beyond simple and simplistic solutions.

      2. @ Lise

        I did not equate “granting their wishes” with either living wages or pre-natal care. Neither do I believe that legislation necessarily leads people to accept another morality, though there are certainly reasons to assume that it does.

        I do not object to the implemenattion of social care programs. Economically, I’m pretty much in line with social democracy. I object, from a Catholic point of view, to the idea that a positive (biblical) commandment derives (part of) it value from the reduction of the violation of negative commandments. Or, conversely, that negative commandments derive their validity from other people obeserving positive commandments.

  3. So I’m pro-choice.

    But if I were pro-life, and were faced with the fact that the MCP caused an increase in abortions by 40%, and for whatever reason I was invested in keeping some version of that policy, the first thing I would be looking into would be the reasons why the policy was not working and the ways in which it could be changed for the better.

    The fact that they don’t even go there at all, tells me that they’re not serious about this whole abortion thing; is just a McGuffin to them. Its an abstraction; devoid of any true depth, understanding or purpose beyond self-gratification.

    1. You’re pro-choice. Everyone else posting here is also pro-choice, with the exception of myself. They just find it hard to say it.

    2. Actually, as a pro-lifer, that would be my question too, and I know at least a few who have considered what was going. The way I understand the issue is that the funds aren’t just prohibited for abortions, but for any company/ NGO that procures abortions, and while I hate the “only 3%” type claim that this seems to mirror, it does merit a look. So I started to read through that actual study (you can click on the link in the end of the article that Mark linked to), and found that the claim had a few, dare I say, relevant qualifiers, and the data brings more question than answers.

      Now this is based just on the raw data (see table 1 in the study itself). The first is that the 40% rise was largely in countries for whom the change had the biggest effect in aid (called “high exposure” countries). It turns out that abortion performing organizations who also provide other kinds of otherwise needed aid are not evenly distributed. This makes some sense. If some regions happen to be more dependent on abortion providing organizations for other needs besides abortion more than other regions (called “low exposure” countries), then the loss of aid could have some consequences. So that is plausible.

      Second, the raw rates don’t seem to make sense, or at least, the numbers are not clearly labeled (which for me, having done applied research myself, is a big no-no). Look carefully at the table 1, look at the abortion rates over individual time periods, and then look at the ones for the “totals”. The math doesn’t seem to work. For the individual time periods, you divide the number of abortions by the number of women*1/1000. They also have a metric of abortions/ 10,000 woman years (probably to more highly weight abortions for younger women than older women). But in either case, the total rates are all higher than the supposed average rates for the individual time periods. Are these total rates supposed to be average rates? Do they just combine rates into one? It’s unclear. Abortions are just added up, but the women are not (probably because several women were included in more than one time slot). I could slog through the code used to figure out how these were computed, but I don’t have the time for that.

      However, if you lived in a region where these organizations weren’t present, then, strangely enough, abortion rates actually went down. I’m not sure what to make of that. Second, When Obama came into the picture, abortion rates went up for everyone (and oddly enough, so did contraceptive rates). So I’m actually very, very confused by how they are getting their data now. Third, abortion rates in “low-exposure” countries initially had far lower abortion rates, but by Obama, they had caught up. This seems weird to me as well. They do not mention this in the main points of the study. Maybe they think that’s just a coincidence? But if so, why would that simply be a coincidence, but the correlation in the low countries not be one? Finally, the argument for contraception to reduce abortion doesn’t make sense here either, because contraceptive rates also went up across the board (this is charted in the supplementary data).

      Of course, there could be all sorts of reasons for this. Maybe low exposure countries don’t need as much aid. Maybe they need as much aid but are being provided with alternate funding sources (which seems more likely to me). Maybe there happened to be a famine in certain regions or civil conflicts. We can’t just depend on the raw data, so I’m not making too many claims either way.

      So I looked a bit more at some of the more “Polished” data, so to speak. Here they factor other variables into account, such as education, rural vs urban living, country GDP, etc. The analysis on figure 2 isn’t false on its own, but it seems strange. It measures “residualized rates” comparing low exposure to high exposure regions. In other words, they don’t measure rates, but rates relative to the other region. But what’s weird about it is that the times of change in policy correspond to inflection points on the graph. relative abortion rates start off lower for the high exposure countries, but are catching up midway through the Clinton years and catch up by the end, right until Bush comes into power and puts the policy in place, but then the relative rates start to level out during Bush’s years and reverse trends. So even though it’s higher during Bush, the change in rates begins at Bush and starts to reverse. By the time Bush leaves, both groups have similar rates and are trending opposite to how they began. When Obama comes into power and rescinds the policy, you actually have another inflection point in the trends. what this means is that high exposure relative rates continue to go up, but at a slower pace, while low exposure rates continue to go down but are slowed down. It’s like there is a time lag between the policy and its effects. But if you take a first derivative of both curves, then the picture is entirely different. And I think this is the better way to read what is happening, because the way the policy works is not that at day one of Bush’s presidency, the funds suddenly stopped coming. These places are already funded from before for a certain time, but they don’t get funds afterwards.

      Maybe I’m reading the data wrong. While I’m trained in and have done research in STEM, I am not the most familiar with all the statistical tools or jargon/notation used in the social sciences. I also think that many of these studies involve a bunch of assumptions that I wouldn’t make (for example, how they determined that a terminated pregnancy wasn’t a miscarriage but rather an abortion is not actually based on abortion records, but rather other factors… they did this to try to account for under-reporting, but I wonder if they are making cultural assumptions that do not apply to Africans like they do to us in the 1st world), but then again, I’ve probably made false assumptions when dealing with messy data as well, so I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t think that the results seem to say what the authors claim it says, even with the assumptions in place.

      1. There is one last thing about this study… it was conducted using data from 1995-2014 before Trump even came into office. I do not know how Bush implemented the MCP, but I read that under Trump, the actual aid didn’t actually decrease. Organizations had the option of discontinuing abortion services to receive aid (and apparently most complied), and if an organization didn’t comply, funds typically were transferred to other organizations providing similar non-abortion related services in the same regions.

      2. Thanks for this. I can’t say that I could follow all of your points, but appreciate your effort to explain the data.

        The whole conversation here brings me back to something that bothers me about how women are treated *everywhere*: Why hasn’t science advanced to the point where fertility monitoring is more exact and sophisticated? Why are drugs thrown at women as a solution to a problem, when more accurate, and better testing for fertility wouldn’t expose her to harmful (cancer causing) chemicals and hormones? Why aren’t the environmentalists more upset about the subsequent pollution of our water with these hormones and carcinogens that affect everyone? Abortion is a barbaric last resort that no woman would actually want to go through. I don’ t know about Africa, but my guess is that like here, it is mostly *married* women that seek out abortion for reasons of poverty/desperation.

        The cynic in me whispers, “if men could get pregnant, they’d be furiously working on a smartphone app to pinpoint the exact moment of ovulation…”

        Even a woman’s *saliva* looks different under a microscope when she’s moving toward ovulation…

        It’s ridiculous that the science is so stunted, and behind the times.

      3. @ Angela,

        Yah, I looked at the study and had the same thoughts you did: fishiness in the numbers. This would not be the first time that a tentative, iffy scientific result (“maybe X”) was reported with a screaming headline (“STUDY SHOWS X!”) I have often thought that people with degrees in journalism should not be allowed to report STEM issues.

  4. Thank you for be a strong voice of reason in this messy world, Mark. Deprogramming is going to be a necessary art for many of us to engage in as we move forward. The arguments MAGA cultists offer are always distorted and never fully make sense. You do an amazing job calling out the elephant In the room and bringing your harassers back on point. Keep shining you are a beacon of light and hope. Reading your works is like finding the key to unlocking the Rosetta stone. After years of feeling like I lacked the ability to articulate the arguments held deep in my heart, I finally feel decently equipped for hard conversations. I can’t thank you enough for all that you do. Your voice of reason truly is one of the only reasons I haven’t left the church yet… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, THANK YOU Mark!

  5. I looked up “religion in Sub Saharan Africa”. It is around 60% Christian and 30% Muslim. These are not secular women, exercising “choice”–they are religious women violating their consciences. “Choice” leads one to believe that there are options. We all know that this is not the case–that’s on all of us.

    Wealthy countries depend on rare earth minerals that come from those countries, (for their iphones, computers etc.) but none of the wealth trickles down. Abortions rates are directly linked to poverty.

    Even in rich America, women of childbearing age are being painted into an economic corner, and forced to put off having families. Something tells me that it won’t be long before this country will start offering women monthly stipends like they have in France– to be able to afford a child AND put food on the table. Reaganite pro-lifers would love to be able to exclude brown mothers from that stipend.

    The fact that we are still talking about the Mexico City policy is all part of the smoke and mirrors. Americans don’t want more brown babies. The fact that they can say “MexicoCitypolicysecuringoursouthernborder” all in the same breath means one thing, and one thing only. It is the antithesis of Christianity. They aren’t fooling anybody under the age of 40 that can read or has listened to a Trump rally.

    1. @Taco: let’s bring the follwing proposal to the House, Senate or Office of consecutive president: we increase the amount of foreign aid in these matters tenfold, but we exlude those organisations that provide abortion services. It should become clear very quickly what each side’s priorities are.

      1. @Artevelde
        Works for me.

        Healthcare providers (aka real doctors) should be trained to do an emergency abortion should the rare case present itself. International Planned Parenthood should be dissolved. History will out their agenda. I have no doubt that future generations will consider us all barbaric, white supremacists.

        My guess is that there will be untold millions and millions of chemical abortions unless we utterly change our priorities as human beings– but it doesn’t even feel like we’re close.

    2. I would agree that the seamless garment can be used to shy away from pre natal dignity / justice, that doesn’t diminish it’s truth. We have enough nukes to destroy the world in a few hours, and we care so little about the world destroying monster chained up throughout our country that we gave the codes to a hollow man who believes in nothing. It drives me to weep that the pre natal image of God was destroyed, usually due to patriarchal economic hostility, nearly 4k times today, but how disingenuous when not a single word of protest that our nation threatens the lives of the entire world with an errant warning and a decision to strike preemptively. We are a nation of bougee psychopaths, placated as long as our side is in charge.

  6. Pace, bensnewlogin.

    New here, was trying to respond to Artevelde and the phrase “granting people’s wishes”, and marksofmaine talking about conversion. And now, to you.

    If 25-30% of Americans describe themselves as “Nones”, and you tot up folks of Jewish, Moslem and other affiliations, you’re under 70% of the population identifying as Christian — but then I wasn’t talking about population. If in your corner of America people are living lives centered on Christ informed by love of neighbor, that’s pretty great. I want to be where you are. Where I am, people are rather more harsh, materialistic, apparently driven by appetites of one kind and another, and often casually cruel.

    Now, somehow I conveyed to you the opposite of what I meant, because “be the change you want to see” is what I was getting at. The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Christians can push for any legislation all they want, but making laws doesn’t change people’s hearts.

    1. @ lise

      Thank you. As i said, i wasn’t yelling at you. I don’t think people where I live are any better than people anywhere or everywhere else. I wish it were the case. There is one thing that I think does mark where I live, though it might just be true of any big metro area— a willingness to leave people alone.

  7. p.s. Yesterday we walked past a gorgeous, brand-new, convertible Rolls Royce. “Wow, look at that one” I remarked to my husband.
    He sighed, and yelled at it saying, “Oh go feed some children!”

    We used to argue about the moral implications of owning such a car years and years ago. I personally wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

  8. @taco

    I have no objection to rich people per se. I know what I would do with that kind of money, and it wouldn’t be to buy a Rolls. But that’s me.

    But I look at he who buys the Rolls as he who paid $100,000 (I have no idea what they cost) to be able to go where i go in my $16,000 toyota. Perhaps a bit more comfortably. Perhaps with people noticing. But That 84K difference provides a lot of jobs.

    1. I live in SoCal, and I’ve noticed one small benefit of the traffic jams around here: once in a while I’ll see a Rolls or a Ferrari stuck in it with me and I realize the traffic is just as bad even for them.

      1. @ joel

        So, is it a matter of the rain falling on the just and the unjust alike, or a matter of the rich are as free as the board to sleep under a bridge?😘 😬😬😬😬😬😘😏😜

        I’m feeling a bit snappish today.

    2. I looked it up. $365,000.

      My Dad used to tell me that super yachts provide lots of jobs too. I don’t have a problem with wealth if the wealthy are good stewards. I don’t want to be standing there before God on the last day blushing over a golden toilet when some people didn’t have clean water.

      My wealthiest relatives have let money drive them nuts.

      To tell you the truth, when my husband scolded that car (nobody was in it) we had just partaken of the most swanky breakfast at the El Encanto, (sweeping Riviera view of the city, the Pacific and the islands. Soooooooooogo beautiful….)The waiter totally buffed us out. It was our Valentine gift to each other. My first reaction to my husband’s comment was to feel guilty about an $80 breakfast. I don’t know. Maybe we deserve it, maybe we don’t. Where do you draw the line? For me, it’s well before a $350k car, even if I was a Jeff Bezos. (Have you seen the Bezos-butthead episode on South Park?). I have this very strong hunch that he’s…kind of…a butthead. All the money in the world and he can’t be a gentleman.

      Sometimes I’m relieved we don’t have more. Money just flees from us. In SB I was sheltering with 7 of my kids for months. (So, so, so many tacos! !!! Food has become outlandishly expensive!) Four of them are adults, two of them are excellent income earners, one is a UC student and the next dropped out of college until Covid ends to learn finished carpentry. He loves it. The next one is applying to Harvard and Stanford. We were laughing about possibly needing to get a legal divorce so we can get a break on the tuition.

      When my MIL threatened to cut us out of her will I shrugged. I don’t lose a wink of sleep over it. Financial manipulation is disgusting. I won’t play that game anymore (mostly). It must infuriate her. Sucks for her that she can’t control us. Boy does she love to tell people what to do–but time is proving to be the great undoer of important plans and the important people that like to make them. Have you heard about those weirdos that have themselves frozen? I have way too vivid of an imagination. Gross.

      @Joel, I know what you mean. Being behind a garbage truck in Paris is like the next ring of hell after the 405 in L.A.

      Our favorite happy hour bar/restaurant is on the sand on a beautiful beach. You can’t make reservations. Covid cut the seating in half. Even the billionaires that live in their 50 million dollar mansions on the cliffs get a little buzzer to let them know when their table is ready. It’s my favorite people watching spot.

      1. @ taco

        I was having a discussion with my dentist a couple of hours ago about how money makes people very, very weird. Paul doesn’t understand how money does that. For him it’s very simple: have money. But he also has a lot of issues around it. My parents were adults in the depression era, And I learned a lot of bad attitudes towards money from them. It took a lot of conscious work to get all of that garbage out of my head. I finally realized when I was in my 40s that as long as I had more money coming in than I had going out, I was fine. I’ve lived my life accordingly ever since. Since money isn’t an issue to me, it’s not any longer an issue for me.

        The issue of your expensive breakfast is a difficult one, especially for a compassionate person like you. The way I would look at it as this: your kids aren’t starving, youre not mugging people on the street, you’re not buying cars that cost $365k, or lighting your cuban cigars with $100 bills. Even were you to give away all of your money in an effort to feed the poor, you couldn’t even begin to solve the problem. So you do the best you can. I don’t remember the exact line, but Linda Hunt put it extremely well in “the year of living dangerously“. At least I think that was the movie; I’m old so I’m excused if I don’t remember. But it was basically along that line that you can’t solve the problems of the world, no matter how much you give or how hard you try. Your job is to try to add whatever you can to the light, even if it’s just a bucket’s worth.

        Your comment about your mother-in-law made me laugh. My mother was the same way. It didn’t surprise me when she died that she left 90% of the estate to my sister. My brothers were angry about it because it was yet more unequal treatment. My sister was smug about it. Paul was angry about it well after the fact, insisting that I should have been confronting my sister and getting my share. I simply told him that I don’t care about it, because it was absolutely no surprise to me. I could have used a fair share, because I would now have the kitchen of my dreams. but I certainly didn’t need it.

        As for your favorite happy hour bar, I understand that perfectly. I’ve often made the comment to Paul when we’re seated in our front yard eating dinner during the summer, that even if I were Bezos or Gates or one of them, and had all of the money in the world, I could not have anything better than sitting on our front deck in our secret garden, listening to the birds sing and pretending that the distant roar of traffic is just the waves on the sand. And I really mean that. It’s a beautiful spot, calm and peaceful, and could not be better no matter how much money was put into it. One of the things that made it possible to get through this pandemic and staying home is that i’m in my favorite place in the world.

      2. “My Dad used to tell me that super yachts provide lots of jobs too.”

        No. Warren Buffet explained it thusly, when he said that he was rich enough that he could, if he wanted, hire 1,000 painters to do nothing but paint new portraits of him every day. He could pay them well for doing this. That’s 1,000 good jobs, right? But the actual utility of those portraits is zero, and it’s 1,000 people who are *not* working on teaching our children, caring for the sick, or building new homes or office buildings. Those 1,000 jobs would actually be a drag on the economy.

        Like yacht jobs.

  9. Long time back, a wise woman explained “poverty of station” to me; she was a Third Order Franciscan.
    In brief, she explained that a millionaire’s wife needn’t shop at Goodwill, and probably shouldn’t — she should dress and entertain and so forth in keeping with her income and place in society. BUT, not collect expensive handbags and trinkets and focus on her beauty and comfort such, to ignore the rest of the world. So she might have material comfort but must be engaged and open handed, and a force for good in proportion to her wealth.
    Made sense to me, still does.

  10. @ Ben, what a gracious reply. Much food for thought and yes, I agree with you on all counts: Money makes people (damn) weird. I was going to say awful but your optimism and positive relationship with it inspires me. I love the your description of you and Paul dining in your garden–just beautiful. One of the silver linings of Covid has been all of the al fresco dining. State St. in SB looks absolutely amazing. All of the downtown is lit up with little lights and imported trees and tables halfway into the street. There are street musicians every few blocks.I hope they keep it that way forever. I do worry about all of the Europeans enjoying the mild winter here as it seems a little too soon for jetting around. Just as I’m settling into our casita, we will leave again to your neck of the woods. My husband cut and stained his own wooden planks for our bedroom and bathroom floor, and has been installing about ten square feet a day. It’s not done so we are presently sleeping in the presidio style chapel. Haha how many people have an altar for a headboard with a baby blue cupola above, adorned by a Holy Spirit dove? Lol–it matches the baby blue fountain with the bronze statue of my sister in the center. I have an eccentric family. (to say the least)

    @Elisabeth, thank you for the sound words of wisdom. I’m not the millionaire wife, just a closeted bon Vivant with an overly generous husband. Funny you should mention handbags–he worked for a famous shoe and handbag company not so long ago, which led to some indiscretions. The walk-of -shame-closet tells a tale, but the $400 boots and $200 handbags were more than 75% off!! :/. Now I’m back to haunting Ross and fighting with an 11-year-old who wants the expensive shoes and clothing all of her little friends have.

  11. @Joel, I’m okay with ship builders. It’s not them. Sometimes I hope that the next world is a lot like this world. I love the ocean. It could never involve the DISGUSTING wallowing in extreme excess that goes on here in this place that I think is a foreshadowing of what beauty can be enjoyed when life is just. I couldn’t enjoy something so extreme when children suffer from the withholding of the most basic forms of dignity.

  12. tis funny, we are like the mythical story of the native people who sold their land for baubles. we have traded away our political souls for baubles. the mexico city policy, hyde amendment, and “pro life” judges are baubles that fool social conservatives into cooperating w/wickedness, wars, diabolical stinginess, avarice, and the nuclear destruction of the world. we have traded away our political souls for baubles. electing people of color, lgbtq mayors, and women are baubles that fool progressives into cooperating w/wickedness, drone murder, pre natal injustice, and the nuclear destruction of the world. for shiny useless conservative baubles the people of texas freeze and the people of my own state of sc watch their people die for lack of insurance, pro-life indeed. for shiny useless progressive baubles the progressive people of chicago and ny city allow their police forces to manipulate evidence, murder their people and, in chicago anyways, have an actual torture chamber for enhanced interrogations. for shiny conservative pro life baubles we allowed W to start 2 diabolical imperial wars and smear Muslims as our enemy. for shiny progressive baubles we let his successor bail out the banks and intensify drone murder such that even american citizens were ripe for the killing. for shiny conservative baubles we let a flim flam artist threaten the existence of the entire world, lose children and destroy the american infrastructure to such a degree that mail delivery time is around 15 days, and for nothing more than a few useless stupid baubles.

    1. @myshkin

      you have a great deal that is worth saying, but then you put this in: “ electing people of color, lgbtq mayors, and women are baubles that fool progressives into cooperating w/wickedness, drone murder, pre natal injustice, and the nuclear destruction of the world.”

      This is the gross dross that outweighs the entirety of the bold gold you have posted. God forbid that people should be treated fairly and equitably. We wouldn’t want to threaten all of that white, male, Qhristian, heterosexual privilege, would we? Especially, since so much of what you decry is the product of entitled, privileged, white, male, Christian heterosexuals. We really don’t want to recognize that “there is no one righteous, no, not one”.

      “ You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself.”

      1. Fair; and i will indeed require an ocean of mercy. Also I appreciate your good words; thank you. Electing People of color, women, and our lbgtq sons and daughters isn’t the problem. The problem is that these good actions leave so many of us satisfied that the work is done and our vigilance against wickedness grows lax. The bauble is not the persons elected, I’m sorry that’s what I communicated, the bauble is that we accepted that this good action is enough; it isn’t nearly enough, and we can’t be distracted by the baubles of a singular good action to distract us from the work still to be accomplished. Finally, I would suggest that the forces of privilege you identify are exactly those who hold up the good electoral acts as shiny baubles in hopes to distract us from the fact that so much more must be done.

  13. @Ben,
    You pointed out what bothered me about myshkin’s comment. It needed to be pointed out, but what he might have been referring to is the PC Police who think they can have all their bases covered with all of the latest jargon and lingo, when there is so much more to the struggle for equity.

    Yesterday a kid of mine was explaining all of the minutiae about terms like ciswoman, Latinx etc. He worked in the equity dept of his college. He saw and heard a few things that made his eyes just roll into the back of his head because sometimes, some of them need/are just *searching* for something to allow them to let their inner rage-monkey out. It defeats the cause.

    If they want me to refer to myself or kid as a ciswoman, –fine, Latinx? Sigh–ok if it really helps. (what was wrong with just LATIN?) but iff that makes them happy, then I’m absolutely ready to help heal wounds by using their language. I won’t die on that hill.

    Yesterday I was reading in the MarinIJ, the excuses of these young PC activists who think that they shouldn’t have to face legal/monetary consequences for tearing down a statue of Junipero Serra at the San Rafael Mission, and spraying “rapist” in red on it.

    They do absolutely nothing for the cause, and in fact do literal damage.

    Someday I’ll tell you about the young trans person who transitioned from a woman to a man in the finance dept of my husband’s work. She was one of his employees. She, who transitioned to he, was so sure my husband was out to get him (because we are Catholic and have 8 kids) that he was nasty and salty preemptively. He was only kind to him, and bent over backwards to make him feel welcome and appreciated. But he refused to accept his kindness. He lied and made up garbage about him, running to the big boss to make things up, and refusing to ever let his guard down or relax and be disarmed.

    Anyway, God bless him. We clearly have a long way to go to mend fences.

  14. @ taco

    I agree with you 100%. I really have no idea what he was referring to, but it stood out to Me as being unlike everything else he was saying.

    I agree with you 100% as well as about the disease of “political correctness”. But who uses the term really determines what they mean by it. The first time I heard it was more than 40 years ago, when I was working against the Briggs initiative. I had written in the handbook that was used state wide in the fight against it. It was subsequently used by other people as well, but the biggest was the Braves initiative. Some radical lesbian feminists, who were also Communists and a few other ists, objected to some of what I had written, telling me it wasn’t “politically correct“. I had no idea that they were actually serious. I asked them what it meant, and they explained it to me in typical radical lesbian feminist communist jargon. I asked them if what I said was true or false? They repeated that it was politically incorrect to say whatever it was I said. I told them that if what I had written it wasn’t true, please provide me with the evidence, and I will change it. If they disagreed with it, they were welcome to add in their own opinions, marked as such. But if it was simply a matter of it not being politically correct, then I wasn’t going to change it at all, and in fact, would withdraw this very valuable handbook and they could write it themselves.

    For some reason, they withdrew their objections.

    But you have it exactly. There is a great deal more to the struggle for equality then jargon and lingo. Unfortunately, for those on the further edges of the political spectrum, left or right, jargon and lingo become substitutes for intelligence and critical thinking. And in the case of the political correctness, as I said, who uses the term has a good deal to do with what they mean by it. But in all cases, it’s used as a way to shut off actual discussion.

    Regarding your husband’s experience, I think it was unfortunate. I’m sure he did exactly what you said: he tried to be kind and supportive. But People can feel that way regardless of the reality that is presented to them I am well aware of people who have been so badly hurt — really, damaged is the only word that applies — by whatever it was they went through, that they cannot engage in any kind of openness or critical thinking. In itself, it is a kind of bigotry. But it is also a defense against further hurt. I’ve known a number of gay people over the years who feel that way about any and all religion. Explaining to them kindly that putting all religious people into that particular basket does no one any favors merely enrages them further. “You don’t know what I’ve been through.“ My response is always, “you’re right. I don’t know. But I do know what I’ve been through, and I’ve met many kind and wonderful people who are religious.“

    There was actually a lot more to Myshkins statement that I didn’t like, especially about how liberals and progressives are allowing policeman to manipulate evidence etc. etc. etc. etc. What I got from this post, and what I have gotten from previous posts of his, is a genuine and admirable despair over the evil that people do, mixed with a pile of right wing politics that has nothing to do with reality at all. I really don’t know how to address that.

    1. I am an idiot and am responsible for the impression my words make so I do not protest your conclusion from a place of offense. But the best articulation of my political belief is probably David Bentley Hart. I believe the Scandinavian model to be what we should be going for especially in the area of criminal justice and penal policy. As I live in SC my vote doesn’t count and I withhold it in protest to this rigged system. I believe the Logos is reality not the second amendment. I believe that the former mayor of Colorado city texas is the inevitable end of republican avarice, but my friend, noticing the destruction of the poor in progressive bastions like NY, Chicago, and San Francisco is not driven by right wing madness; it is driven by the need to understand how people of good will, with some exceptions, sit idly by while the state uses its police power to destroy the weak

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