Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ethical Navigation

My Vanilla Latte is Not a Moral Lapse

Delicious AND morally neutral.
So, the scandal that is (deservedly) engulfing Planned Parenthood has caused a few otherwise-rational people to go badly off-course while trying to navigate the ethical waters.

Specifically, I am thinking of Megan Fox (this one, not that one) who made a very public break with Starbucks yesterday on the PJ Media website.
(I wind up on that site from time to time because they feature several writers I enjoy reading, including Victor Davis Hanson, Andrew Klavan, and Andrew C. McCarthy.)

I'm not familiar with Ms. Fox's work, but I presume she must have something on the ball or PJ Media wouldn't publish her. In this particular instance, though, she's just being a ninny.

Ms. Fox's initial diatribe accused Starbucks of "subsidizing" Planned Parenthood. That accusation was based on a much-corrected report on The Daily Signal website that erroneously listed Starbucks as a company that "directly funded" Planned Parenthood. That report apparently relied entirely on information from 2nd Vote, an organization that purports to help conservative-minded donors figure out which charities and groups are worthy of their support. That both of Ms. Fox's sources are somewhat careless with language is clear from their cavalier use of the phrase "directly funded." Their definition of that phrase is, to put it mildly, rather all-encompassing. By their reasoning, when you buy a loaf of bread you are "directly funding" whatever the guy who grew the wheat does in his spare time.

So, in a nutshell: Ms. Fox had a very public conniption based on third-hand information which she simply took at face value, from a second-hand source that has already had to correct it's initial report three times.

But wait! There's more! After Ms. Fox fired off her indignant message to Starbucks corporate, she received a very polite reply which made it clear that "Starbucks does not have a corporate relationship or sponsorship with Planned Parenthood," and that Planned Parenthood most likely listed Starbucks as a sponsor because it matches charitable donations made by its employees, and some of those employees may be donating to PP.

One would think that would have mollified Ms. Fox, but she was in high dudgeon and still had plenty of self-righteous thunderbolts to hurl in reply, including "If individuals want to donate to these murderers, let them do it with their own money...NOT MINE" and "I am going to make it my mission to turn others away from Starbucks" until the company bends the knee to her moral authority.

Due respect to Ms. Fox, but this is what my dad used to call "all the way wrong."

First, when a company chooses to offer charitable contribution matching, they are seeking to attract or retain valuable employees by doing so, something which is clearly in their interest as a business. They don't do it to promote a corporate political agenda. This activity also benefits society, as it encourages charitable giving. It doesn't seem reasonable to me to advocate for punishing companies based on our own political views about their employees' charitable giving.  If you don't think Planned Parenthood should be a qualifying 501(C)(3) organization, by all means lobby to have its status revoked. But to expect companies to apply your viewpoint to the free association activities of their employees is out of line. What if companies chose to do this sort of thing about other hot-button issues of the moment? Would Ms. Fox support a company not matching a contribution to Catholic Charities because of the church's position on same-sex marriage? Or not matching a contribution to the Institute for Justice because of its work promoting school choice? Surely we don't want to politicize charitable giving that way, do we? And of course it is possible that being publicly lambasted by the likes of Ms. Fox might make companies decide to stop matching charitable contributions altogether, which would adversely affect all charities. As an ethical matter, attacking companies for their employees' private associations strikes me as perverse.

Second, she is simply mistaken in referring to "her" money. Once she gives it to the barista at her favorite Starbucks in exchange for her beloved "grande mocha with coconut milk, no whip, extra hot," the money is no longer "hers." That's how commerce works. The money she gives to Starbucks in exchange for their product is their money, and what they do with it in no way implicates her, morally or in any other sense. It is a profound error in logic to suggest otherwise. That's easy enough to see if you just reverse the process, and imagine that your employer tried to publicly shame you for something you did with "their" money after you cashed your paycheck.

Finally, unless Ms. Fox is going to apply the same ethical yardstick to every company she spends "her" money with (wildly unlikely, to say nothing of practically impossible), throwing a high-profile fit aimed at Starbucks is nothing more than virtue signaling (a phenomenon I wrote about here). Anyone can rail publicly against Planned Parenthood itself, don't you see? And there's nothing special about calling for congressional action to de-fund the organization, either. But targeting a popular company for your chastisement because of a highly attenuated relationship with PP? Well, that is how some folks choose to trumpet their moral superiority in the present climate. So brave.

I freely admit that I have my own Starbucks obsession to deal with (you should see my mug collection), but I've also had no trouble criticizing the company when I felt it was warranted. During the comically inept "Race Together" promotion, for instance, I ridiculed the company repeatedly online, and dutifully waited for them to drop the idea before resuming my vanilla latte fetish. But in this instance, they're being unfairly singled out and maligned by someone whose ethical GPS has gone haywire.

I resent Ms. Fox's claim that my vanilla lattes are "directly funding" infanticide and trafficking in fetal body parts, and I further resent her implication that I am a morally inferior creature unless I join her in boycotting Starbucks (that's the whole point of her campaign, to strike a pose of moral superiority over those of us who aren't pissed off enough about Planned Parenthood's barbarity to take it out on Starbucks).

I would gently suggest to Ms. Fox that she switch to decaf for awhile, go read (or re-read) Nicomachean Ethics, and then expend her energies attacking the butchers at Planned Parenthood and their devoted minions among the political and chattering classes. Those people richly deserve her scorn. Starbucks, and the people who enjoy its products, do not.

You might say that, yeah...

Things That Make Me Happy: Grudge Match Edition

Last night my beloved Kansas City Royals took on long-time nemesis Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. After years of being Verlander's favorite whipping boys when he was the best pitcher in baseball (through 2012 he was 15-2 against KC), the Royals have had his number of late (he's only 4-6 against them since 2013). Last night, thanks to a solid seven innings from Danny Duffy (now 5-5, 4.04 ERA), the Royals took Game 1 of the three-game series 5-1. Starting All-Star catcher Salvador Perez had three hits, including a two-run home run (his 16th of the season) in the 4th inning...


Game 2 tonight will see new Royal Johnny Cueto (7-6, 2.70 ERA) make his second start for the team against the Tigers' Matt Boyd (0-2, 14.85).

Wild Kingdom Bed & Breakfast Update

"I don't mean to be rude, but I prefer to eat in the shade."

My stealth photography still needs a lot of work, but every so often I'm able to get a decent shot of a bird who mostly keeps his back to me. This particular American Goldfinch prefers keeping his back to my apartment, which makes it easier to get a bit closer...

My XE is Shining So Brightly*

For the record, if I were to win the Powerball drawing tonight I would most certainly wind up donating almost all the money to charity. Someone my age doesn't really need tens of millions of dollars to enjoy his sunset years, and I know of many worthy causes that could use the help. That said, I would certainly spend some of the money on necessities like a place to live and a vehicle. My needs in both regards are modest, but I will admit that there would be a temptation to drive something like this, if only for a short time...

2016 Jaguar XE Sedan

Of course, this beauty won't be available in the U.S. until sometime next year, so for now it shall have to remain a pleasant dream...

*If you're not a fan of The Who, this heading will be explicated in the send-off section below.

"Because yes, everyone is dying to know what's behind your clever headings."

Until Next Time...

In March of 1968 I was nearing the end of my 9th grade year of school. In those days, most public school districts had what were called "junior" high schools, consisting of 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. Nowadays the one I attended is called Antioch Middle School (grades 6, 7, and 8), but the building hasn't changed much since I attended Antioch Junior High.

My 9th grade year (1967-68) was my first year living in Kansas City, Missouri. As I have written about here, I was a big fan of the local Top 40 AM radio station WHB. In March of 1968 they began playing a new single by The Who, a British band I had liked since the previous fall, when "I Can See For Miles" made the Billboard Top 10 (the band's only single to reach so high; it also made the Hot 100 Singles list for '67). I especially liked guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, who in those days was a skinny kid with a big nose, just like I was (Pete is just eight years older than me).

Today's send-off is that song from the spring of 1968, "Call Me Lightning." What does this have to do with the heading for the item about the Jaguar XE? That heading is a reference to the line in the song "My XK-E is shining so brightly," which is obviously a reference to the legendary Jaguar E-Type, also known as the XK-E. Enjoy...

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