Pig mud

“He who slings mud generally loses ground.” – Adlai Stevenson

I don’t need to go looking for outrage. Therefore, I am not a regular reader of Huffington Post. Because I’m on Facebook, outrage comes right to me. I am often chagrined, though not entirely surprised at what passes for a stunning, righteous exposé, when it is really a desperate, logically weak hit piece.

At issue are Hobby Lobby’s investment ties to Pfizer and Teva, pharmaceutical companies that produce contraceptive drugs and devices, and also to major health insurance companies Aetna and Humana. Mother Jones, the originator of the story, admits that

MorningStar, an investment research firm, provided Mother Jones with the names of the companies in nine of those funds as of December 31, 2012. Each fund’s portfolio consists of at least dozens if not hundreds of different holdings.

This is why people outsource their portfolio management, especially if they’re no Warren Buffett.

I try to be a mindful, responsible consumer. It can be extremely difficult to the point of mental paralysis. Does the name Foxconn ring a bell? If you own a computer, you are probably remotely tied to Third World slave labor. Unfortunately the alternative handicaps one’s ability to function in modern society. It is impractical if not impossible to eliminate every taint of evil from our purchasing decisions — it would require us to live essentially like John the Baptist, wearing camel hair (ethically sourced!), subsisting on locusts (organic!). He is a hero and role model to me in many ways, but frankly, most of us aren’t called to the austerity of a desert hermit.

The average person is engaged in some degree of compromise. My job is to share information, not to lambast friends for drinking Starbucks coffee, eating Girl Scout cookies, shopping at Wal-Mart, and so on. I have certain big-name debit card for my humble funds, because in my neighborhood one can’t spit without hitting one of their ATMs. Why would I hold anyone else to a standard too absurd for me?

That’s insane. Naturally, it is exactly what HuffPo and Mother Jones expect from Hobby Lobby. If I dug deeply enough, I’m confident I could uncover filthy associations on their end, too. We find what we look for; I suppose they count on a lack of scrutiny. HuffPo has already shown a breathless credulity toward any story that makes same-sex “marriage” opponents look bad — even if it is a complete (and, to any skeptic, transparent) fabrication. Mother Jones implies that, because conservative Christian investment firms exist, Hobby Lobby has done actual wrong by – hint, hint – not availing itself. But possessing information does not always constitute an obligation to act on it in a specific way, or even to care.

So, Where to Draw the Line?

I’ve agonized over the investment problem myself, causing me some delay in setting up an account, always thinking I’d figure it out later. Perhaps not the best plan. In Hobby Lobby’s case, is there a proportionate good to be gained by divesting Pfizer and Teva, who produce literally hundreds of drugs — some of them lifesaving, many of them far bigger sellers than any contraceptive/abortifacient (in fact, I have looked at two recent, long lists of top-selling drugs and have yet to see those classes represented at all)? Or Aetna and Humana, two insurance giants? I might be inclined to say yes, but I can’t answer for Hobby Lobby. Only Hobby Lobby can.

The HHS mandate differs substantively in degree and in kind from paying taxes into a general fund or diversifying investments, a point perpetually lost on the HuffPos and MoJos who are so desperate to throw anything at the wall that might stick. It is direct; it is coercive; it leaves no doubt about where the money goes; and, most frustrating of all, it is unnecessary. If it stays, the First Amendment is not worth the paper it was written on.

Meanwhile in Connecticut…

Mrs. Richard Blumenthal, in a mass e-mail, has latched onto the Hobby Lobby case as an excuse to plug the ever-obstinate Senator’s “Women’s Health Protection Act,” more accurately called the “Unrestricted Abortion Protection Act.” HuffPo & MoJo at least have the vigor to try digging up fresh dirt; the Blumenthals rehash the same canned talking points about “access,” “telling women what to do with their bodies,” “personal decisions between women and doctors,” yada yada yada…similar to what I received in one of the most un-politic of responses when I pleaded with him in favor of the Blunt Amendment. Am I held in contempt? What, am I not a woman and a constituent? I know for a fact I’m not the only one, and the pro-life movement is aging in reverse like Benjamin Button. Love us, hate us — you can’t ignore us forever, Senator.