Issue 53
December 8, 2019
It's Your Birthday, Thank Mom

My birthday was on December 2nd. Before sunrise, my phone blew up with “Happy Birthday” texts, many of which were likely prompted by Facebook reminders. These continued at a steady pace throughout the day. Some people chose to wish me a “Happy Birthday” via Facebook itself. A few “Birthday emails” made their way into my inbox. Traditionalists picked up the phone and rang, one (ready for this) from a land line. I even received a letter in my (gasp) physical mailbox.

Texts were the easiest to respond to. The majority of my well-wishers did not say “Happy Birthday Chris.” They simply texted what seemed to be a canned “Happy Birthday.” Thus, “Thank you, I appreciate it” was generic enough a response that cutting, pasting and using it to acknowledge those acknowledgments more than sufficed. Most of the balance of the texts read “Happy Birthday Chris.” Alas, these required individualized responses. I had to say, “Thank You (insert name here), I appreciate it.” Facebook posts were easy to “like” - err - respond to. Emails required a more in-depth retort. “Happy Birthday Chris, I hope you are well” obliged me to ensure my well-wishers via this medium that, indeed, all was ok in my world.

Mom’s Should Receive Our Happy Birthday Wishes

Most of us, myself included, feel obliged to wish friends and family members a “Happy Birthday.” Rarely, if ever, does anybody say “thank you” on our birthdays to the women that were primarily responsible for bringing us into this world: our respective mothers. We should make a point to do so. Moms endure stress, physical trauma, often get sick during pregnancy, put careers on hold and generally sacrifice so much to usher us into this ecosphere. They should be the recipients of our “Happy Birthday” wishes.

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Issue 52
November 24, 2019
Touchy Subjects

According to the United Nations, between 1 and 2 million Chinese citizens comprised of mostly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are currently interned in "re-education camps” Xinjiang, China. Supposedly, these de-facto concentration camps were created in or around 2015 under the regime of current Chinese President Xi Jinping. His government’s alleged primary objective: to change “the political thinking of detainees, their identities and their religious beliefs via indoctrination and torture.” Purportedly, these facilities are staffed by armed guards, surrounded by walls and fences and are under 24-hour surveillance. Allegedly, almost none of the internees were granted a trial. This makes sense; because according to sources, the vast majority of the prisoners housed in these facilities have never actually been accused of or convicted of any offense.

Remarkably, despite lawmakers from both sides of the political divide imploring President Trump to stand firm in his negotiations with China, and 24-hour news coverage about China, tariffs and trade, there has been minimal coordinated global action to mitigate these purported human rights violations. Is the reason because it’s not worth an American politician’s time to allocate resources to the Uyghurs' cause? Because reporting on alleged events in Northwestern China attract scant interest (and eyeballs) that drive advertising revenue? Or is it because there is a lack of hard evidence about these “re-education” facilities and what allegedly transpires in them, or combination thereof?

Due Process

You might have noticed that we’ve taken special care to preface potentially inflammatory statements with “According to,” “Supposedly,” “Purportedly” and “Allegedly. Reason being, we do not have any conclusive proof to corroborate them. That said, there is a reasonable amount of credible evidence, albeit from a small sample size, that they could be accurate.

In an article originally written by David Stavrou published in Haaretz Magazine with a moving excerpt reprinted in TheWeek, former detainee Sayragul Sauytbay detailed her experience and what she says she witnessed on a routine basis inside China’s re-education camps.

According to Ms. Sauytbay, prisoners are routinely:

· Shackled

· Shaved

· Starved

· Raped

· Electrocuted

· Beaten

· Brainwashed

· Housed in cramped quarters

· Fed soup and bread

· Forced to defecate in a bucket

· Forced to recite Communist Party songs

· Forced to say “I am Chinese,” and “I love Xi Jinping”

· Forced to serve as guinea pigs for medical experiments

Precedence

Earlier this month, Republican Senators Jim Inhofe and Roger Wicker implored President Trump to take an even more defiant stance on Chinese intellectual property theft. In a joint statement, they said “if Chinese companies are allowed to remove the profit incentive for standards-based wireless research with repercussions, we will soon face the globally undesirable reality that the only companies conducting this research will be those in non-market economies that do not share our values or have our best interest in mind.”

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Issue 51
November 17, 2019
TQC Book Review

At the Quintessential Centrist, our goal is to furnish you with fresh perspectives from across the political, economic and social spectrum. We strive to promote ideals and tenets of the center - where compromise is often found - through our in-depth columns, articles and analysis.

The internet, print, broadcast, and social media can all be sources of interesting and timely information. However, TQC believes that books often times contain some of the most pertinent and thought-provoking facts, figures and opinions. Some books are packed with quantitative information and hard data. These books we find help us buoy (or challenge) our arguments and in some cases, tightly held beliefs. Other books are more qualitative in nature; typically adding value from a top down perspective, incorporating ideas and values across the ideological spectrum. The very best titles challenge us to think objectively, critically, self-reflect, and potentially change our minds. Below we highlight a few of our favorite books we have read over the past year.

Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil

The 35th of an incredible 36 books penned thus far in his illustrious career; Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, offers his readers a fascinating history lesson on mankind, their relationship with, and consumption of, energy and natural resources. Be forewarned, this book is data heavy and granular in presentation. It requires the readers undivided attention. That said, it is well worth investing the time to read it as it is jam packed with important facts and figures. Energy and Civilization helped us examine more critically man’s relationship with the planet he lives on, and off.

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Jenny Anderson & Paula Szuchman

Authored by New York Times reporter and Gerald Loeb Award winner Jenny Anderson and Paula Szuchman, former managing editor of The Daily Beast and Page 1 editor at The Wall Street Journal, Spousonomics is a very fun and informative book that uses classic economic principles to target, tackle and remedy issues that arise in almost every marriage. Do not be deterred if you have never studied finance or economics. The examples given in this book are in layman’s terms (not theoretical numeric formulas), easy to understand, and applicable to “real life” situations.

Solitary by Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox, is a human rights activist and part of the “Angola 3.” Woodfox spent 40 years in solitary confinement at Louisiana’s infamous Angola Prison for a crime he did not commit. During his time at Angola, Woodfox endured unimaginable physical and psychological torture. This book captures the endurance of the human spirit, America’s (often) unfair and biased legal system, it’s (sometimes) ugly history, as well as progress. We do not agree with all of Woodfox’s arguments, especially concerning capitalism, but we recommend reading his memoir.

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Issue 50
November 10, 2019
Giants vs Jets

This Sunday November 10th, at 1PM EST, The New York Giants will host The New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, the venue in East Rutherford, NJ, where both teams typically play their home games. To say that both organizations are struggling would be an understatement. Sadly, struggling is nothing new for the “same old Jets,” the widely-used catchphrase fans use to describe the anticipation (finally) of success, only to be let down, time and again.

New York Jets

Many die-hard Jet fans – including this one - point to a divisional playoff game vs the Cleveland Browns in 1986 when the football gods decided to put the Jets in the penalty box. The men in green were leading by 10 points late in the 4th quarter. The Browns had the ball and were facing a second down and 24 yards to go. Star defensive end Mark Gastineau sacked Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar; it appeared the Browns would be in a desperate 3rd and 24. But a flag was thrown; Gastineau was penalized for roughing the passer, a foul that is (too) common today but relatively rare back then. The Jets protested to no avail. The Browns subsequently drove down the field and scored a touchdown. After stopping the Jets and getting the ball back, the Browns tied the game with seconds remaining on the game clock. In the first overtime neither team scored. The game was settled with ~2 minutes remaining in the second overtime when Browns kicker Mark Mosely booted a 27-yard field goal to seal the victory. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Jets have not won their division (the AFC East) since 2002, and only once before then in 1998. They have not made the playoffs in almost 10 years when a then over-hyped quarterback named Marc Sanchez “lead” the team to back-to-back AFC Championship games in ’09 & ’10. In reality, it was a stout defense and power running game that enabled the Jets to advance that far. A microcosm of the Jets folly was Sanchez’s famous “butt fumble” that occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, on national television, the seminal moment in a 49-19 lashing courtesy of the New England Patriots. Another embarrassing spectacle in Jets history was the “fake spike” engineered by Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in 1994. That play propelled the Dolphins to victory and took the air out of the Jets season.

Over the past three decades, Jet supporters have been teased on numerous occasions as it appeared that “greener” pastures lay ahead. There have even been brief windows of success within the multi-decade malaise of New York Jets football. In addition to the back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, the Monday Night Miracle will forever be a bright spot in Jets history. Unfortunately, one of the few things the Jets have done consistently during this span, even during times of reprieve, is come up short. In 1998 after winning the AFC East, the Jets were one game away from reaching the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos ended that possibility by scoring 23 unanswered points in the second half of the AFC Championship game, which resulted in a 23-10 Broncos victory. In 2004, (historically) reliable kicker Doug Brien missed two 4th quarter field goals that would have sent the Jets to the AFC title game.

In a 2013 pre-season game, Marc Sanchez was inexplicably playing behind the 2nd team offensive line. They proved porous. Near the end of the game, Sanchez absorbed a hard hit and injured his shoulder. Rookie Geno Smith was summoned and started all 16 games of the season. The team finished 8-8. Smith improved in 2014 but had a weak supporting-cast. The Jets struggled and finished with just 4 wins against 12 losses. Nevertheless, the future appeared bright with the young talented Smith under center. Expectations were lofty leading up to the 2015 season. However, in a stunning example of intra-squad dysfunction, during training camp of that year, Smith was involved in an altercation with teammate. Reserve linebacker IK Enemkpali was enraged that Smith failed to repay him $600 for a plane ticket to a football camp. Unable to settle their differences through dialogue, a fight ensued. Enemkpali punched Smith in the face. Smith suffered a broken jaw. His season was over before it started, his fate as a Jet all but sealed. He is currently a backup for the Seattle Seahawks.

Selecting 1st round draft busts is one area where the Jets have excelled. This has been a specialty of Jets management since quarterback Richard Todd was selected in the first round of the 1976 draft. Other notable 1st round busts include WR Lam Jones (’80), RB Roger Vick (’87), RB Blair Thomas (’90), QB Browning Nagle (’91), DT Dewayne Robertson (’03), LB Vernon Gholson (’08), DB Kyle Wilson (’10), DE Quinton Coples (’12) and DB Dee Milliner (’13). While QB Christian Hackenberg was not selected in the first round - he was a second-round pick - he deserves special mention. The Jets selected Hackenberg with the 51st pick of the 2016 draft. He was signed to a four-year contract worth $4.66 million, with $1.6 million guaranteed. The Jets cut him after two seasons. He never stepped on the field in a regular season game. He is currently out of football. Jets management accomplished an even more stunning feat of ineptitude by selected Jachai Polite in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. Polite was given a $1.12 million dollar signing bonus. After paying $100,000 in fines for being late to team meetings, the Jets released Polite before this season even began! He is currently on the Los Angeles Raiders’ practice squad.

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Issue 49
November 3, 2019
WAPO al-Baghdadi

On October 27, President Trump announced that U.S. Special Forces, at his behest, carried out a heroic raid in northern Syria that resulted in the death of one of the most savage terrorist leaders to date. As U.S. troops closed in, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, detonated his suicide vest taking three of his presumed-children with him. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. had also taken out al-Baghdadi's likely successor, Abu Hasan al-Muhajir.

At The Quintessential Centrist, we have often been critical of our Commander in Chief. His judgment is often lacking; his behavior, unbecoming and sometimes downright embarrassing. However, the aforementioned events deserve the heartiest of applause.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Since ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi commandeered over at least 140 terrorist attacks in nearly 30 countries in addition to those carried out daily in Iraq and Syria. He was as vicious as he was dangerous. Notorious for brutally torturing his victims, including fellow Muslims, al-Baghdadi was responsible for the genocide of Yazidis and Christians. His cruelty included forcing these groups into sexual slavery. He ordered mass beheadings of many others including foreign journalists and aid workers from the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. He burned a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. The list goes on.

The ISIS leader's reign of terror extended to Western targets inspiring the Paris, Nice, Orlando and Manchester terror attacks to name but a few. He inspired countless smaller, yet equally horrific lone-wolf attacks globally in the forms of shootings, slashings and car ramming incidents. Al-Baghdadi left hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, and Muslims a “heads” he wins “tails” they lose choice: join him and his barbaric comrades or flee their respective homelands and become refugees.

The point cannot be overstated: the world has much to rejoice at the demise of al-Baghdadi. Unfortunately, the authoritative Washington Post chose to eulogize the barbaric terrorist with a headline that read: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.”

Excuse us?

As if Mr. Baghdadi were merely a university professor and dean of a famous seminary who just happened to succumb to a long battle with cancer. The "obituary" went on to read that "when al-Baghdadi first rose as a leader of ISIS, he was a relatively unheard of 'austere religious scholar with wire-frame glasses and no known aptitude for fighting and killing.’"

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Issue 48
October 27, 2019
We(Got)Work(ed)

Earlier this week in last-ditch attempt to salvage its original investment, the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank injected $10 billion dollars into WeWork. In exchange for the lifeline that currently values WeWork at $8 billion - less than the sum of Softbank’s total investment ($13 billion) - Softbank will get a controlling stake in the cash strapped startup. Before Softbank leader Masayoshi Son agreed to write a multibillion-dollar check, WeWork was approximately one month away from running out of cash.

Exasperatingly, under the terms of the deal, WeWork’s outlandish co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann was effectively paid $1.7 billion to go away. Specifically, “Neumann is expected to sell nearly $1 billion worth of stock to SoftBank and receive $500 million in credit as well as a $185 million 'consulting fee'."

Under any circumstance, the size of this overly generous golden parachute would be heavily scrutinized. However, given Mr. Neumann’s history of arrogant, self-centered and tone-deaf behavior, brazen self-dealing and WeWork’s disastrous business performance metrics, it is downright disgraceful.

We (Did Not) Work

In early 2019, WeWork (officially known as “The We Company”) was preparing an initial public offering. Major Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan were busy pitching the deal to institutional investors. The bankers were apparently punch drunk from Mr. Neumann’s Kool-Aid spiked tales of what WeWork had to offer, which among other nonsensical things, included a “frictionless office-leasing experience.” In their pitch, bankers argued that WeWork was more akin to an upstart tech company. Somehow, they pegged WeWork’s valuation at $47 billion, despite that it had neither a unique nor remarkable business model, was a user of technology not a creator of it, and managed to hemorrhage investor cash since its inception, including ~$2 billion in the previous year alone.

Thankfully, markets tend to be effective at sniffing out odoriferous behavior. Soon after WeWork was pitched to the public, would be buyers of the shares began to question the firm’s nose bleed valuation and Mr. Neumann’s abhorrent judgement. Demand quickly dried up. On September 30th, WeWork scrapped its IPO.

Our Mission Is To Elevate The Worlds’ Consciousness.

Um, what? One of the more absurd claims made by Mr. Neumann was that his company’s mission was to “elevate the world’s consciousness.” At TQC, we have no idea what this even means. However, it appears that during his tenure at WeWork, Mr. Neumann seemingly lacked a conscience of his own. These are but a few examples of the fantastical claims and tone-deaf behavior that wreak of self-dealing, gross hypocrisy and blatant conflicts of interest which Mr. Neumann engaged in as CEO and whose cost was borne by WeWork’s investors:

• Sold hundreds of millions of dollars of WeWork stock ahead of its botched IPO when the firm was valued at $47 billion. (Those employees that were even authorized to unload shares had to do so at a lower price).

• Purchased a private plane for $60 million and used it for personal vacations.

• Authorized WeWork to purchase the “We” trademark from himself for almost $6 million dollars.

• Purchased real estate with funds partly derived from selling WeWork stock and subsequently leased the space back to WeWork.

• Allowed his wife, Rebekah, to terminate employees because she “did not like their energy.”

• Fired employees himself (perhaps his wife did not “like their energy”?) and moments later watched Run DMC perform their classic hit song “It’s Tricky.”

• Banned employees from expensing meat and serving it at company events then ate a lamb shank in the office.

• Hired the Red Hot Chili Peppers to perform at a company off-site event.

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Issue 47
October 20, 2019
25 Facts About America

Food

• Americans discarded $165 billion worth of food last year. That equates to roughly 150,000 tons of food per day, or ~40% of the total. "Fruits and vegetables are the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat."

• ~12% of Americans do not have enough to eat on a daily basis.

• "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines 'food insecurity' as the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members. In 2017, an estimated 15 million households were food insecure. The following 8 states have the highest rates of food insecurity in America: Mississippi (18.7%), Louisiana (18.3%), Alabama (18.1%), New Mexico (17.6%), Arkansas (17.5%), Kentucky (17.3%), Maine (16.4%), Oklahoma (15.2%)."

• In the early 1970's, Americans consumed ~2,200 calories per day. Today, the average American eats ~2,700 calories per day.

• "Three of the most caloric fast casual meals in America are: Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle and Waffles containing 2,480 calories, 125 g fat (40 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans-fat), 5,240 mg sodium, 276 g carbs (11 g fiber, 105 g sugar), and 63 g of protein. Applebee's New England Fish and Chips consists of 1,990 calories, 137 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 4,540 mg sodium, 134 g carbs (10 g fiber, 14 g sugar) and 55 g of protein. Finally, Olive Garden's Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara weighs in at 1,590 calories, 114 g fat (61 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 2,410 mg sodium, 78 g carbs (4 g fiber, 12 g sugar) and 66 g of protein."

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Issue 46
October 13, 2019
Planes, Trains & Emotional Support Animals

This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that restaurateur Besim Kukaj, proprietor of several eateries in Manhattan, was fined $64,000 after employees of his restaurant, Limon Jungle, refused to seat a patron who was accompanied by a service dog. Mr. Kukaj was forced to pay the customer, Harvey Goldstein, $14,000 and $50,000 to the city of New York. Judge John Spooner presided over the trial. He acquiesced to the NYC Human Rights Commission by raising the initial fine from $25,000 to $50,000. His rationale: “in the absence of adequate civil penalties, there is a risk that businesses will continue to do as respondents have done here—ignore the commission and write off their discriminatory conduct as a mere cost of doing business.”

As we have already noted, Mr. Kukaj is an established businessman who owns many restaurants in New York City. He has the resources which should have been properly deployed towards appropriate staff training in accommodation of disabled patrons. Barring a few specific exceptions, services dogs should be permitted entry into any venue with their owner so long as they are on a leash and obedient.

The terms “service dog” and “emotional support animal” (ESA) are incorrectly used interchangeably. A service dog is a highly trained canine that provides a range of specific functions to people with legitimate medical disabilities. (Worth noting is that service animals are almost always dogs. On occasion, they can be miniature horses).

Service dogs typically cost tens of thousands of dollars and undergo rigorous training to efficiently and effectively accomplish one or a few super specific tasks to aid a disabled owner, often under pressure and/or in difficult situations. They can potentially save their owner’s life.

A service dog is “offered legal protections through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that emotional support animals do not get. You can take a service dog almost anywhere that you go and they legally cannot be denied access. Legal protection of an emotional support animal is (typically) limited to housing and air travel.” Some of the specific tasks service dogs perform are as follows:

• Lead a visually impaired owner
• Anticipate and alert its owner to an oncoming seizure
• Answer the door (by pulling a lever)
• Bring its owner medicine & mail
• Bring a phone to its owner (and even bark into a speaker phone)
• Bark to get the attention of others if its owner is in trouble or unable to communicate
• Bark in the case of an intruder
• Alert its owner in case of a fire
• Help its owner stand up, sit down, negotiate stairs, etc.
• Provide psychological support

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Issue 45
October 6, 2019
The "Gig" Is Up

On September 11th, lawmakers in California passed a bill that requires most companies to classify contract workers as full time employees. The law is slated to take effect January 1, 2020. When it does, per the parameters of the legislation, Uber and Lyft drivers will be deemed employees with a minimum wage guarantee, workers compensation, sick leave and unemployment benefits. The bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), stated that, “it will help workers, not Wall Street and their get-rich-quick IPOs.”

At TQC, while we are not sure which companies Ms. Gonzalez is referencing – Uber was founded in 2009 and didn’t go public until 2019 and the timeline was similar for Lyft - we have no reason to believe that she is being insincere in her effort to help drivers. Unfortunately, what Ms. Gonzalez and CA Governor Gavin Newsom (D), who lobbied intensely in favor of the bill, do not seem to comprehend or want to concede, is that the vast majority of Uber and Lyft drivers ply their trade on a part time basis, by choice. Many drivers have other full-time jobs and drive occasionally for extra money. Some drivers are students looking to earn pocket money between classes or study hall. Other drivers juggle multiple responsibilities and pick up a shift or two during a little downtime. A retiree might even get behind the wheel to stay active and engaged with his or her community.

The minimum wage guarantees embedded in the Golden State’s legislation ring hallow. While the majority of Uber and Lyft drivers in CA do not work full time via standard 8 or 10-hour shifts, the vast majority of those drivers that do already earn considerably more than minimum wage.

The legislative changes to be enacted in CA will probably have a deleterious effect on drivers and consumers alike. The most important benefit Uber and Lyft offer drivers is flexibility. Their respective platforms allow drivers to work when they want, where they want and for as long (or short) as they want and not on a rigid schedule dictated by management. If drivers become fulltime employees as mandated by California law, the aforementioned ancillary benefits will cease to exist, the appeal of working as a driver will decrease and the cost of ride will increase. Said Lyft communications director Adrian Durbin:

“Only ‘a small fraction’ of Lyft’s roughly 325,000 drivers in California will keep working if the law takes effect. Some experts reckon ride fares could rise by as much as 30%.”

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Issue 44
September 29, 2019
Fast Fashion Fails To Look In The Mirror

“The primary objective of fast fashion is to quickly produce a product in a cost-efficient manner to respond to fast-changing consumer tastes in as near real time as possible.”

Fast fashion emerged in the 1980s as a way to deliver high-end designer styles quickly and inexpensively to the mass consumer who could not necessarily afford couture. With fast fashion trumping even the traditional "ready to wear" or, prêt-à-porter, aspiration no longer equated to sheer hopefulness, it could become reality without breaking the bank. Fast fashion plus the emergence of social media influencers, combined with immediate online access to apparel have proven to be a potent combination; since the 1980s consumption of clothing and accessories has grown exponentially.

The downside to the plethora of fashionable but cheap garments made possible by fast fashion leaders Zara (owned by the innovative Spanish firm Inditex), H&M, C&A, and others are abysmal working conditions for the textile workers who stitch the garments and massive degradation to the environment. The irony of fast fashion is that many of the trend setting consumers who represent a large component of the demand for stylish cheap clothing, are the same people who fight for “social justice” and claim to be stewards of the environment.

Think About This The Next Time You Buy A Cheap T-Shirt In 5 Different Colors

The global fashion industry accounts for ~2% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Zara alone can “manufacture over 30,000 units of product every year to nearly 1,600 stores in 58 countries." In a 2015 documentary titled "The True Cost", Director Andrew Morgan travels globally to delve deeper into the provenance of our clothing, the impact on the environment and human rights. According to the documentary’s website, 97% of our clothing is manufactured overseas while global consumption of clothing runs at 80 billion pieces.

After the oil and gas (O&G) industry, the fashion industry is the greatest contributor to environmental degradation. It takes “up to 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric and 20,000 liters of water to produce just 1 kg of cotton.” The World Resource Institute notes that it requires 2,700 liters of water to manufacture one shirt, which equals enough drinking water for the average person for ~2.5 years. This statistic is even more jarring when coupled with the fact that close to 800 million people – over 10% of the world’s population - do not have access to safe drinking water.”

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Issue 43
September 22, 2019
Are Wedding Parties A Waste of Money?

Last year, approximately 2.5 million weddings took place in the United States. According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding in America in 2018 (excluding the Honeymoon) was $33,931. That would equate to ~85 billion dollars per year spent on that special (or not so special) day. Irrespective that ~50% of all weddings end in divorce (and 50% of those that don’t probably should) the question remains: Are wedding parties a waste of resources that should be allocated to more appropriate causes?

In March, The Quintessential Centrist discussed the student loan crisis and potential remedies. To forgo lavish spending on nuptials was not a solution we offered. It should have been. While a select few fortunate young couples in America are lucky enough not to be in an “either/or” situation, the overwhelming majority of newlyweds (and their families) should make a conscious choice between spending on a sumptuous wedding, putting the money into a college fund, or making a down payment on a home.

Wedding Ca$hers

While the average wedding costs just south of $34,000, there are considerable variations when broken down by region. At the state level, the least expensive places to get hitched are in Mississippi ($15,581), Alabama ($17,766) & Arkansas ($17,935). The most expensive states to ruin your life in (just kidding) are Hawaii ($39,078), New Jersey ($38,049) & Connecticut ($36,971). The most expensive place to get married is in Manhattan, in New York State, where the average wedding runs close to $100,000 ($96,910).

Real Life

Wisconsin ranks #25, smack in the middle of the pack, with the average cost of a wedding running $24,681. Wisconsin also ranks 23rd in median household income at $54,610. The median home price is $187,100. In the Badger state, the average cost of instate college tuition, room and board workout to ~$18,000 per year.

Let us assume that an imminently married couple in Wisconsin is considering whether or not to divert $24,681 intended to pay for their “average” wedding into a tax-sheltered education IRA for their impending offspring. From 1957 to 2018, the average annual return for a broad basket of stocks has been ~8% (Prior to the mid 1950’s, stocks returned ~10% per year). To be conservative, let’s assume this couple picked a subpar stock fund that returned just 6.5% per annum until their child was ready to attend college. When their child turns 18, that initial $24,681 investment, even returning just 6.5% per year, would be worth $76,675! To be fair, we must factor in annual education costs increases. “The average rate of education inflation at public universities is 2.9%.” Using this methodology, by the time this child is ready to depart for university, the average cost of tuition, room and board at a state school in Wisconsin will be $30,112. $76,675 dollars would cover over 2 years of tuition, room and board. Keep in mind that ~70% of college students are forced to take out loans to pay for their education and leave school with ~$30,000 in debt. Put simply, it would behoove this couple to forgo spending $24,681 on one night (perhaps not) to remember, and put the money towards their unborn child’s education.

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Issue 42
September 15, 2019
License...To Shampoo

Every election cycle lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle often campaign on vague platitudes, pretending to be change agents who will finally catalyze transformative action on a range of issues like:

“Making the American dream accessible again.”
“Providing opportunities to all Americans.”
"Ensuring our children don’t bear the burden of our profligacy.”
"Supporting middle class wage growth.”
"Making education affordable.”
"Lowering the cost of healthcare.”
"Preserving the planet and protecting our resources.”

And so on...

Aside from a shrinking minority of centrists in Washington who actually work to build consensus across party lines, Republicans and Democrats have their own distinctive ideas about how to facilitate these grand plans. Unfortunately, the only consistent aspect of all these respective ideas is that they are overly grandiose, lack important details, economically unviable and politically dead on arrival. So in the run up to election day, we are promised the same things we hear in every election cycle but rarely, if ever, witness any substantive action once lawmakers are voted in to (or out of) office.

What if we told you there was a simple way to translate these grand intentions into reality with a politically sensible approach that would be agreeable across party lines? There is. And it cost nothing.

Democrats and Republicans can and should work together to repeal unnecessary and prohibitively expensive occupational licensing laws. When being licensed is in the public's interest, reciprocity agreements between states should be enacted. Lawmakers should also eliminate arbitrary education requirements for most trades. In doing so, they would actually endorse the economic and fiscal pillars that underpin conservative arguments while also appealing to progressive and egalitarian causes underpin liberal viewpoints.

License to…Shampoo

In the 1950’s, very few (~5%) professional occupations required a license at the state level. Today ~30% of all professional occupations require some sort of license across the 50 states in the union. The result: a complex, grossly inefficient web of inconsistent state and local laws pertaining to professional licensing. A report prepared by the Obama Administration’s Council of Economic Advisers & Department of Labor highlighted the fact that “over 1,100 occupations are regulated in at least one state, but fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50 states – suggesting that many of these requirements may not be necessary."

In the majority of states, a person must have a high school diploma or a GED to become a barber. This arbitrary requirement is absurd, unnecessary and discriminatory. Why would earning a high school diploma (or GED) make anybody more (or less) qualified to cut somebody’s hair? Solving basic algebra won’t render someone more qualified to eradicate a split end or sculpt a mohawk. There is no causal relationship to suggest this. This onerous requirement merely prevents somebody from practicing a trade and earning a decent wage.

Barbers aren’t likely to be replaced by robots anytime soon. Pursuing a career as a barber ostensibly allows those who are seeking to make an honest living to do so. Prohibiting someone from becoming a barber because they lack a degree is senseless and discriminates against people who lack the aforementioned academic credentials.

On October 8th, 2017 the former senior senator from Tennessee Bob Corker tweeted, “It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.” True as that might be, at The Quintessential Centrist, we cannot help but point out the irony in this tweet. For in the state of Tennessee, “permission to shampoo hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training ‘on the theory and practice of shampooing,’ at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition." But here is the kicker: no facility in the state currently even offers a course in 'shampoo tech.' Effectively, their only options would be "a) to go through the more rigorous and expensive process (1,500 hours and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition) of obtaining a cosmetology license, or b) to wash hair illegally…(and) face up to six months in prison and a $500 criminal fine, or a $1,000 civil penalty…” Apparently, the adult day care business is flourishing quite nicely in the Volunteer state.

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Issue 41
September 1, 2019
LGBTQC

In the past week, we reviewed the Annual Student Medical Form provided by a New York City private school to parents on behalf of their children prior to the commencement of the academic school year. We neither have access nor would we disclose student’s personal information; and have decided not to disclose the name of the school because the majority of students are minors. Along with the standard space for name, address, phone numbers, etc., part of the form contained the following options:

• Sex Assigned At Birth: Male / Female / Intersex
• Gender Identity: Girl / Boy / Trans Boy / Trans Girl / Non-Binary / Genderfluid / Other
• Students Affirming Pronouns: SheHer / HeHim / TheirThem / Other

Meanwhile at Columbia University, incoming students are encouraged to input their personal information into Columbia Health’s portal. In addition to ensuring that students have been inoculated (no sure thing given the misinformation spread by misinformed antivaxxers), reported their appropriate personal/family medical history and so forth, Columbia provides students space where they can “identify and edit their gender identity.” The options are as follows:

• Agender
• Bigender
• Female (cisgender)
• Female (transgender/female identified/MTF)
• Gender fluid
• Gender nonconforming
• Genderqueer
• Male (cisgender)
• Male (transgender/male identified/FTM)
• Nonbinary
• Pangender
• Transgender
• I identify as follows

Columbia prefaces this section of the form with the following statement: “Should these terms be unfamiliar, please note that the ‘female cisgender’ means female is the gender you were assigned at birth and you are female identified; ‘male cisgender’ means male is the gender you were assigned at birth and you are male identified.”

We appreciate the clarity, but it came woefully short for this author, who graduated university barely twenty years ago. Before reading this form, the author had never even heard of Agender, Bigender, Nonbinary, or Pangender. Apparently, neither had Microsoft Word, the most commonly used word processing program in the world. When first typed out, many of these terms were underlined in red, and had to be manually added to Word’s dictionary.

Does the fact that an elite private school offers parents a choice of the affirming pronoun in addition to “she/her” and “he/him,” a “their/them” option and that Columbia University, an Ivy League institution that attracts some of the brightest minds from all over the world, had to put a disclaimer in its own health form regarding how to explain the gender choices they provided, indicate that the inclusivity pendulum has swung a bit too far left?

Regarding Sex Assigned at Birth, we found the choices Male, Female & Intersex to be unremarkable. While the overwhelming majority of people are born male or female, various studies have borne out that depending on the criteria used, between .005% and 1.7% of people are indeed borne intersex. In the United States, ~3.75 million babies are born each year. Even using the conservative .005% data point would still translate into approximately 18,750 intersex babies born each year. The aforementioned private school was correct to include Intersex as a choice.

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Issue 40
August 25, 2019
XXX Pornography XXX

The Internet has connected people on many fronts. It has also rendered access to adult content so ubiquitous that it is almost a truism that everyone with web access has seen pornography online.

According to Similairweb, Pornhub is the 6th most popular website in the United States, trailing only Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and Yahoo, and ranking ahead of Twitter and eBay. In fact, three of the top ten most popular websites in America feature adult content.

When comparing websites, giving heavier weight to duration on a page vs number of page visits might yield somewhat different results; but even factoring in the potential for variance, it is indisputable that pornography is indeed one of the most commonly sought after “goods and services” available online.

Astonishingly, Pornhub compiles and aggregates an exhaustive amount of user data via its Pornhub Insights tool. The wealth of available information is staggering. Here is a snippet of what we found for the year 2018, the last full year for which data has been compiled:

• Visits to Pornhub totaled 33.5 billion over the course of 2018, an increase of 5 billion visits over 2017.
• Pornhub’s servers served up 30.3 billion searches, or 962 searches per second.
• Pornhub’s amateurs, models and content partners uploaded an incredible 4.79 million new videos, creating over 1 million hours of new content to enjoy on the site.
• The average visit duration in the United States was 10 minutes and 37 seconds. On a more granular level, users in Mississippi, South Carolina & Arkansas spent ~10% > average on the site, while users in Kansas, Nebraska & Utah logged ~10% < the mean.
• The most popular times to view porn was between 4pm – 5pm & 10PM – 1AM.
• ~28% of Pornhub’s users were women, a 3% increase from 2017.
• 25-34 year olds made up the highest percentage of users, at 35%. The average age of Pornhub viewers is 36.
• During the NFL Super Bowl, Pornhub traffic plunged 26%. During Thanksgiving people apparently ate their feelings instead; traffic dropped 13%. Nobody wanted to be “that guy” on New Year's Eve, when visits to the site dropped by 38%.
• Kim Kardashian’s sex tape is still Pornhub’s most watched video of all time with 195 million views.

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Issue 39
August 18, 2019
"Yes Hello, I'd Like To Cancel My Equinox Membership"

Last week, there was a social media tweet storm followed by a sprinkle of “protestors” who made a conscious decision to cancel their Equinox membership and / or stop paying for SoulCycle classes because Steve Ross – a passive investor in the aforementioned entities – hosted a fund raiser for Donald Trump at his home in Long Island.

At TQC, we respect the right of Equinox members to cancel their membership in order to keep their discretionary dollars from somebody they (apparently) disagree with politically, or for any reason for that matter. Unfortunately, for some of the protestors whose objective it was to financially impair Mr. Ross, quitting the gym won’t make a dent in his wallet. However, it could materially impact the bank balances of the employees – often young men and women of modest means - who work at Equinox.

Many Equinox employees are hardworking students working to subsidize their education or are young trainers trying to make contacts with the goal of building of a client roster to grow their book of business. It is a shame that if anybody is to bear the brunt of a cancelled gym membership, it’s going to be them.

Additionally, in our view, many of the protestors’ angst are misplaced. We have never met Steve Ross; everything we know about him we learned from indirect sources. That said, 99% of the people who canceled their gym membership have never met Steve Ross either, and know next to nothing about the man, other than that he supports Donald Trump. In this case, a better allocation of their discretionary dollars would probably go to supporting a politician that stood for what was important to them or perhaps donating the money or their time to a charitable cause of their choice.

If You Support Donald Trump, That Makes You a Morally Corrupt Person?

In our February 24th issue, we posted an article titled Where We Think Trump is Right. In it, we reminded our readers that:

“Our platform promotes civil discourse irrespective of political leanings. This, more often than not, involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies. And it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries.”

In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by ~3 million votes. That said, ~63 million people or ~47% of people who casted a ballot, voted for Mr. Trump. There are certainly a minority of Trump supporters who are unabashedly racist, and another sub-sector of Trumpists who might harbor racist views but don’t actively promote or act on them (we would be remiss not to point out that racist views do not just apply to Trump supporters and the far right. Some Clinton supporters and current radical Democrats are racist, too). That said, to lump 63 million adult Americans who support Donald Trump, toss them (and Steve Ross) into one bucket and label them uncaring, stupid or racist etc., is ignorant and simply wrong in its own right.

At TQC, we do not support Donald Trump, but we do stand behind a few of his policies when they make sound sense. We also believe that somebody can support Trump and be a perfectly law abiding, tax paying, charitable-giving, community-building, socially-accepting, job-creating, generally decent human being, as Steve Ross appears to be. Indeed, just because somebody is a Donald Trump supporter, doesn’t necessarily make that person evil or morally corrupt. However, an argument could be made that anybody who thinks it does, is closed minded and divisive themselves.

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Issue 38
August 11, 2019
$Investing$

One of the costliest and, unfortunately, consistent mistakes many investors make is to purchase a stock and employ a “stop” price, where they will sell their stock if it declines by a predetermined amount, typically 5% or 10%. Arbitrary stop prices potentially preserve some capital in the short term, but often prevent investors from making multiples of the money they saved from using the “stop” price, in the long term. In fact, utilizing a “stop loss” will almost guarantee that an investor will grossly underperform an appropriate benchmark consisting of a basket of stocks. The reason for this is simple: almost every single publicly listed stock that doubles, triples, quadruples, quintuples or even sextuples over a one, two, five etc., year time horizon declines at least 20% in between doubling, tripling, quadrupling or quintupling, etc., at least once, and often, many times.

Absent a corporate takeover, the results of a late stage clinical trial for a small biotech company, or another atypical event, stock price gains (and losses) are almost never linear. Let’s use a few real-life examples to help frame our argument:

Over the last five years, the shares of Netflix (NFLX) have gained over 500%. However, in between quintupling during half a decade, NFLX suffered a 30% drawdown in March/April of 2014, a 38% sell-off in August of 2015, and plummeted 45% in 2018. Had an investor sold NFLX during anyone of those three corrections they would have missed out on a large percentage of NFLX’s price appreciation. Over the last five years, the shares of Amazon (AMZN) have risen over 550%! However, in between almost sextupling in those five years, AMZN lost 28% in January/February of 2016, 13% in August of 2017, 16% in March of 2018 and 33% in the 4th quarter of 2018. Had an investor dumped AMZN at any point during those four acute sell-offs, they would have forfeited a substantial sum of money.

Worth noting is that this phenomenon is not just limited to technology or biotech stocks. It applies to blue chip companies as well. For example, the shares of Bank of America (BAC) have doubled since 2014. But in between generating a 100% return over a five year period, BAC corrected 17% in April/May of 2014, 17% in August of 2015, 40% in January/February of 2016, 25% in June/July of 2016 and 33% in 2018. Had an investor panicked and sold BAC on a negative headline during any one of the examples listed above, they could very well be sitting on a realized loss, despite BAC doubling over the last five years. Even stodgy, safe and steady Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), one of the lowest volatility stocks in the S&P500, has grinded out a gain of 33% over the last 5 years (investors were also treated to dividends). However, in between rising 33%, JNJ traded down 10% in September/October of 2014, 10% in January of 2016, 10% in the last 6 months of 2016, 14% in January of in 2018 and 14% in December of 2018. If an investor sold JNJ during any one of these drawdowns, their investment portfolio might very well be in need of a JNJ band-aid.

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Issue 37
August 4, 2019
Cash Bail Should Be Abolished

“Whether you’re in jail for three days, three weeks, three months or three years, it’s an accelerator of human misery,” said Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of New York State’s highest court and currently the chairman of an independent commission on criminal justice reform. “You come out a changed human being.” - NYT

At The Quintessential Centrist, our view is that under most circumstances, cash bail should be abolished. Reason being, it is one of, if not, the most explicit example of legal discrimination currently being practiced in America. The use of cash bail is categorically unfair and a blatant violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, because it directly discriminates against poor people. A compelling argument can also be made that cash bail indirectly discriminates against blacks and other minorities that represent a disproportionate number of subjects in the criminal justice system. Before further delving into why cash bail is unfair, it is helpful to first have a basic understanding of how the “system” functions.

The Process of Entering the “System”

To navigate each individual states’ particular laws pertaining to jail and bail is a granular, fiendishly complex undertaking. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus our attention on New York City.

Let us consider a common misdemeanor, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree (NYS penal code 220.03(a)), which until late 2018 included marijuana. Police stop you and allegedly find you in the process of a criminal act. They have 3 choices:

a. Let you go.

b. Give you a Desk Appearance Ticket (“DAT”), which means you are free to go home but must return to court in approximately 6 weeks to be arraigned before a judge. Generally, DAT’s are given to first-time offenders for petty larcenies, traffic and vehicular crimes or violations like disorderly conduct; and occasionally, for a nonviolent felony like grand larceny.

c. Cuff you and bring you back to the police precinct to write up the arrest report, check for any previous arrests etc., electronically scan your fingerprint and retina, take your “mug shot,” and place you in a cell until you’re ready to “get booked” at Central Bookings. At a minimum, you will spend at least one night in jail – detained and monitored by the Department of Corrections.

Central Bookings: This is a basement-level area with multiple jail cells (covered in wall scratching’s of graffiti with gang symbols and cries for help alike). This is where Dept. of Corrections first steps in, but you are still technically under the custody of the NYPD.

Arraignment

If you cannot afford a lawyer, a court-appointed public defender (either Legal Aid Society or one of the borough specific agencies) will be assigned to you.

In Manhattan, the prosecutors in arraignments are typically first-year attorneys, fresh out of law school. They read the allegations against you aloud. The “offer” they recommend to the judge is generally predetermined by a superior who read the police complaint – one of a couple hundred – overnight in a dark cubicle and decided this offer based on the highest level “charge” written by the arresting officer.

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Issue 36
July 28, 2019
4x3x2x1 Eat Right Live Well and Have Fun

Ever since high school, I have taken a keen interest in physical fitness, worked out consistently, read different books and periodicals and consulted with many fitness pros to broaden my knowledge base on the subject. I have logged thousands of hours in the gym testing out numerous weight lifting (anaerobic), aerobic, stretching and dieting routines, using myself as a human guinea pig. Since then, I have tailored many strength training and conditioning programs, stretching routines, and given copious amounts of nutritional advice to family, friends and fellow gym rats. When I was in my twenties and early thirties, a disproportionate amount of inquiries that came my way were about lifting weights and stretching. Once I turned 40, the majority of questions I received had more to do with diet and weight loss.

Mythos

Does a “diet” exist that people with an average amount of willpower can actually stick to over the long term, does not deprive them of their favorite foods and is well-balanced? The short answer is “no.” Indeed, the number of get slim quick gimmicks, get lean fast fads, and other enticing offers that conveniently find their way into our inboxes (talk about “junk” mail), mailboxes, across our computer screens or in books and magazines is mind boggling, can be overwhelming and most importantly, are of little long term practical value. The notion of the term “diet” is temporary, which is why they often fail; it inherently implies a short-term solution to eating and lifestyle choices that will revert to the mean. Below is a sampling of three of the most famous diets:

The South Beach Diet: In this diet, the subject must eliminate “bad carbs” derived in part from sodas, candy and cookies and eat protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and “good carbs” derived in part from brown rice, corn and legumes.

The Paleo Diet: Commonly referred to as the “caveman diet.” Only foods that existed hundreds and thousands of years ago before the advent of modern food processing technology, are allowed to be consumed. Meat, fish, nuts and vegetables are permissible. All grains and processed foods are not.

The Atkins Diet: The most famous of all fads. The original Atkins Diet simply instructed its participants to avoid all carbohydrates; fried eggs and bacon where fine. The new Atkins Diet is “healthier.” It includes leaner protein and “good carbs.” However, whole grains are not allowed until later, once the dieter enters the “maintenance phase.”

All three of these diets are rigid, not particularly well balanced, and close to impossible to stick to over the long term. The primary reason is because they all deprive of us of some of our favorite foods. That is no fun and tends to put people in rotten moods.

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Issue 35
July 21, 2019
Sacking the Sacklers

In November 2018, The Quintessential Centrist’s inaugural issue covered the opioid crisis and the efficacy of fast acting antidotes such as Narcan and Evzio to counter overdoses. At the time of publication, there had been plenty of ongoing media coverage as to the role of Purdue Pharma in perpetuating the opioid epidemic. Purdue’s legal troubles began in 2001 when the company was sued by the state of West Virginia, which was effectively ground zero for the opioid crisis. The state claimed that Purdue inappropriately marketed their drug, OxyContin, and hid “from doctors the extent to which OxyContin's morphinelike qualities could lead to addiction.”

At the Quintessential Centrist, we have sometimes been a vocal critic of the government for regulatory and judicial overreach, which, we believe can stifle economic growth, innovation and job creation. But with respect to Purdue Pharma and its role in propagating the opioid epedemic, both state and federal governments are right to prosecute the company to the full extent of the law.

According to the CDC, 400,000 people perished from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017. Beyond just the death toll, the economic and social costs have been stunning. An article penned in 2016 in The Science Daily approximated the economic cost of the opioid crisis at over $78 billion dollars. The numbers are certainly much higher today. The social costs have been equally if not more enormous as the nuclei of tens of thousands of families have been hallowed out, the fabric of entire communities shredded.

Purdue Pharma is certainly not the only company to produce opioids; publicly listed firms such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan are involved in the space. Indeed, every pharmaceutical company found to be complicit in monetizing the opioid crisis should be held accountable. Recently, Teva quietly settled a related lawsuit while JNJ continues to fight in court; next month a ruling is expected. The outcome should be carefully watched as it will set precedent. But Purdue, a private company controlled by the prominent Sackler family, is disproportionately to blame for this societal disaster. From their unscrupulous marketing tactics, refusal to accept responsibility and then to plan to profit from the very crisis they spawned, their actions are reprehensible.

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Issue 34
July 14, 2019
The English Bulldog vs The Olde English Bulldogge

According to thelisti, English Bulldogs are the 4th most popular dog breed in the world, and with good reason. Bulldogs are friendly, fun, and patient, traits that make wonderful family pets. They tend to get along swimmingly with other animals and love children. Given their sturdy stature, Bullies are not bothered when the youngest member(s) of the family pull, poke or prod them. While not known to be very bright – they have consistently ranked as one the least intelligent breeds – and can be stubborn at times, they are also loyal, loving, funny and eager to please. This wasn’t always the case.

Bull-baiting.

In Europe, harking back to the 1500’s, Bulldogs were bred to be extremely athletic, aggressive and ferocious animals. They were equipped with overly muscular bodies, massive heads and powerful jaws, and were trained to fight to the death. They were used primarily as a participants in the brutal “sport” of bull-baiting. In this sport, Bulldogs (and other animals) were coaxed into clamping down on the snout of an enraged, tethered bull; wagers were then placed, and whichever Bulldog immobilized the bull by pinning it to the ground 1st, would be declared the victor.

Those adorable wrinkles that help distinguish Bulldogs from various other breeds were once intended for the blood of a bull to meander through so as not to interfere with the Bulldog’s iron-clad grip. The Bulldog’s pushed in face allowed it to continue breathing – ironic because present day Bulldogs have a litany of respiratory problems - while its powerful jaw clamped down on a bull’s nose. During bull-baiting matches, dogs were often maimed or even killed and bulls were often badly injured too.

In the United Kingdom, bull-baiting reached the peak of its popularity in the early 19th century. However, the sport’s status and its association with gambling coupled with the growing horror of animal rights activists, served as a catalyst for politicians to get involved. In 1835, lawmakers made bull-baiting, along with bear-baiting and cockfighting, illegal via the Cruelty to Animals Act. By the stroke of a pen, the English Bulldog’s primary use in the U.K. and other parts of Europe was rendered null and void.

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Issue 33
June 30, 2019
TQC'S Position On Abortion

Before delving into the abortion issue, we think its prudent to remind our readers that at TQC, our platform is dedicated to promoting the ideals and tenets of the sensible center, where compromise is often discovered. While this sometimes involves highlighting and discussing some uncomfortable hypocrisies, it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries.

Prima facie, few issues are more divisive in the American collective than the debate over abortion. According to a recent Gallup poll, United States citizens are essentially split between pro-choice and pro-life camps. Indeed, 48% of adult Americans consider themselves “pro-choice,” while 48% define themselves as “pro-life” (4% of Americans claimed they had “no opinion”). Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly to people who reside on the east and west coasts, the dividing line was also just about equal between genders. 48% of women identify as pro-choice and 49% of men said they were "pro-life." One can certainly parse through a litany of data to unearth underlying trends regarding the number of overall abortions, when during gestation those procedures took place, where they took place, and more, but the bottom line is that ~1/2 of Americans support a woman’s right to choose, and ~1/2 do not.

At the Quintessential Centrist, we feel abortion - under most circumstances - is morally wrong (not for religious reasons), but we are “pro-choice,” with the following caveats:

• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion without any restrictions in the 1st trimester of pregnancy.
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in the 2nd trimester only if the woman’s life is in danger or if tests reveal the fetus is afflicted with a congenital defect or other grave ailment. We believe, however, that the standard established by the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision – that abortion is legal until a fetus reaches viability outside the womb (typically @ ~24 weeks) – must be followed. Therefore, even though we respectfully disagree with the tenet set by the Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe decision (and reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992) and generally do not support abortion in the 2nd trimester, we think abortion must remain available and accessible based on the aforementioned set of valid reasons. With the advancement of medical technology and breakthroughs in research, most genetic defects can usually be detected in the first trimester. But there are cases where certain afflictions are not discovered until later. Bringing a severely handicapped person into this world and sacrificing so much to care for them is one of the ultimate forms of altruism. We don’t think ordinary (or exceptional) people should be required to do something exceptional.
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in the 3rd trimester if and only if the woman’s life is in danger and she cannot be induced nor have an emergency caesarian-section. In the 3rd trimester, a baby can usually be delivered and an abortion should not be necessary. To be clear, there are certainly exceptional cases where a woman's life is in danger and the aforementioned alternatives are not feasible. In this case, we would support a late term procedure.

In short, we think unfettered abortion access is wrong and sensible restrictions should be in place. And, aside from a few specific carve-outs, there are cases late in the gestation period where it is and should remain illegal. Moreover, adopting (excuse the pun) a blindly pro-life stance without exceptions is incorrect. More significantly, denying a woman the right to have an abortion if certain conditions are met under Roe v Wade and reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v Casey, is a civil rights violation.

Now let's take a deeper dive into Americans' views. Although opinion polls show the nation is evenly split between the pro-choice and pro-life camps, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that despite the rage and vitriol surrounding the topic, many Americans actually do have centrist points of view surrounding abortion. To note:

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Issue 32
June 23, 2019
Their Right, Wrong Venue

Last month, Megan Rapinoe, co-captain and star midfielder on the U.S. Women’s national soccer team, indicated that she would continue protesting the national anthem during the upcoming World Cup tournament. Rapinoe called it a “good ‘F you’” to the Trump administration. In fact, regardless of who eventually succeeds President Trump, Rapinoe stated, “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart. I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”

Ms. Rapinoe was inspired in part by Colin Kaepernick, a mixed-race former NFL quarterback who in 2016 began sitting and then kneeling (to show more respect to current and former military personal) during the national anthem before games. That season, Mr. Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before each regular season game arguing that he would not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” and vowed to continue his protest until “the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.” Other NFL players joined him.

Said Ms. Rapinoe of Kaepernick’s actions, “Colin Kaepernick very much inspired me, and inspired an entire nation, and still does, to actually think about these things.” Many people credit Colin Kaepernick with being a catalyst that reinvigorated a national movement to protest racial injustice, civil rights violations and other forms of mistreatment of African Americans and other minorities.

Many athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe are quick to assert that protesting the national anthem is by no means a sign of disrespect to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice, in order for Mr. Kaepernick, Ms. Rapinoe or any American to exercise their right to free speech. However, many servicemen and women, as well as Americans in general, view it as just that, and take strong exception. At TQC, we have no reason not to take Kaepernick and others at their word. Yet we also can understand and appreciate how our military and ordinary citizens alike could be offended by their actions. To note, President Trump didn’t help bridge the divide when he asserted that “NFL owners should ‘fire’ players who protest the national anthem.”

At TQC, we support the right of anybody to protest the national anthem or anything else they see fit; as long as it’s done in a peaceful way. We stand firmly behind all Americans and their cherished right to organize against and reject anything they deem unjust. That said, while we have no issue with Mr. Kaepernick and Ms. Rapinoe’s actions, and in fact commend them for fighting for a cause they wholeheartedly believe in, we think the venues used to lodge their protest are inappropriate.

Current reality is a 24-hour news cycle full of rage, vitriol, violence and controversy. Furthermore, “reality” television and various social media platforms serve as a tinderbox for spats, allowing them to escalate to the point where an entire nation is consumed by taking sides and lobbing insults - often at perfect strangers - back and forth.

Most people attend sporting events for leisurely entertainment. Watching our favorite sports teams allows us a window to get a reprieve from it all. Often, children accompany their parents to the ballfield to root for their favorite teams and see their heroes in action. Spectators, most of which are ordinary Americans making ordinary salaries, spend a large percentage of their disposable income to purchase tickets, in part to take a break from the stresses that encompass life, to be entertained, spend time quality with their children, and watch their favorite players compete. As such, a professional football game, soccer match, or any sporting event is the wrong forum for a political protest.

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Issue 31
June 16, 2019
(IN)SECURE

A remarkable event took place in Washington last month; Congress passed a substantive piece of bipartisan legislation. In fact, prior to the passage of the SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act on May 23rd, by a margin of 417 to 3 in the U.S. House of Representatives, the only notable piece of recent legislation that was enacted with the blessing of both parties on the hill was the First Step Act, a sensible prison reform bill, signed into law by president Trump on December 21st, 2018. The SECURE Act still needs to be reconciled and voted on by the Senate; but the consensus is that some form of the bill will easily pass.

We commend Congress for passing a bi-partisan bill, an extraordinarily rare feat during this hyper-divisive time. Unfortunately, our lawmakers, the majority of whom have accomplished few things consistently but fail the American people by absolving their responsibility to work together, have failed their citizens yet again. This time, Congress let their constituents down by perversely doing exactly what they’ve been rightfully lambasted for not doing: working cohesively to pass meaningful legislation.

In its current form, the “SECURE Act” is disadvantageous to the tens of millions of working Americans and small business owners who contribute to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). But before we delve into the reasons why, it would behoove us to frame why IRAs, while sometimes used by wealthy Americans, are often a preferred retirement vehicle for small business owners, the self-employed, and working Americans that do not have access to 401k's. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on the two most commonly used IRAs: Traditional IRAs and ROTH IRAs, named after the deceased Delaware Senator and World War 2 Veteran William Roth, who spearheaded the effort to create the retirement product that has benefited millions of working American's and their heirs.

Each year, single individuals are allowed to contribute up to a fixed amount of money into IRAs. For the tax year 2019, IRS rules dictate that individuals can contribute up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are over 50 years old). Although similar, there are two important differences between a Traditional IRA and a ROTH IRA. The money contributed to a Traditional IRA is tax deductible, whereas contributions to a ROTH IRA do not qualify for a tax deduction. However, while Traditional IRAs are tax deferred until redeemed and then taxed as ordinary income (the theory being, at retirement, the account holders' tax bracket will be lower than it was when they were working) ROTH IRAs grow and are cashed out tax free.

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Issue 30
June 9, 2019
Fun Facts & Figures

Shoplifting & Theft

American retailers lose ~$50 billion dollars per year courtesy of theft. Shoplifting accounts for most (36.5%) of those losses. Employee theft, administrative errors and vendor fraud are responsible for most of the balance. According to Shopify, the most-shoplifted items include:

• Electronics
• Cigarettes
• Pregnancy Tests
• Handbags
• Weight loss pills
• Pain relievers
• Infant formula
• Alcohol
• Razors

"Thou shalt not steal" is one of the Ten Commandments of the Jewish Torah (known to Christians as the first five books of the Old Testament), which are widely understood as moral imperatives by legal scholars, Jewish scholars, Catholic scholars, and Post-Reformation scholars. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property.”

• The Bible is world's most shoplifted book. Most are swiped from hotel rooms.

Dangerous Animals

The Cone Snail, sometimes referred to as the “cigarette snail,” is a mollusk that typically measures ~5 inches in length. It is considered the 9th most dangerous animal in the world by Conde Nast Traveler (CNT). If you are ever on holiday in the Caribbean, you might be unlucky enough to meet one, especially near the vicinity of a coral reef. Cone Snails are gorgeous animals defined by their peculiar shape and beautiful shell. Look, but do not touch; they are one of the most toxic creatures on earth. Fortunately, only a few people have ever had the misfortune of being stung by one (there is no antivenom). If you happen to get stung by a Cone Snail, do not bother going to the ER, you will be dead on arrival. Instead, smoke a cigarette. The Cone Snail’s highly toxic and concentrated venom causes paralysis then death in the time it takes the average smoker to finish a cigarette, hence the snails nickname.

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Issue 29
June 2, 2019
Skewed Data: Why Flying Might Not Be As Safe As You Think

At The Quintessential Centrist, we are ardent fans of social economist Steve Levitt. Mr. Levitt, who currently plies his trade at the University of Chicago, possesses an uncanny ability to seamlessly explain complicated statistical information using fun, fascinating, real-life examples that keep his students and readers alike engaged and entertained. We recommend his enjoyable books, Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics.

Like most aviation experts, airplane manufactures and operators often make the case that flying is the safest form of travel. In Super Freakonomics, Mr. Levitt makes a similarly compelling case supported by exhaustive data: that driving is safer than flying. It probably is. However, in our view, some of the analytical data comparing the safety of those two respective modes of transportation – while not flawed per se - are materially skewed in favor of driving.

The most commonly used metric to measure safety in the driving vs flying debate is the morbid statistic of fatality rate per mile traveled. Sure enough, on page 65 of Super Freakonomics, Levitt argues, "per mile, driving is much more dangerous than flying." While factually correct, a more granular analysis suggests that this is a misleading statement with limited practical application when considering which mode of transport, air or auto, is truly safer.

Why?

When comparing the safety of air travel vs that of an automobile on a per mile basis, one fails to control for an important variable in the equation, the total number of hours of exposure. Consider the following: a commercial jetliner travels ~500 miles per hour (mph) at cruising altitude. A passenger vehicle goes ~70 mph on an open, interstate highway. As Mr. Levitt so eloquently does, let us use a real-world example to help frame our argument. A lady drives for one hour, she travels 70 miles. A week later, she decides to fly for one hour; she goes 500 miles. However, in order to travel a distance of 500 miles in a car, our lady friend would have to drive approximately 7 and 15 minutes, or 7.25 times further than a comparable trip in a plane, leaving a lot more opportunity (time) for bad things to happen. Hence, using per mile metrics when comparing the safety of various means of travel is deceptive, because that form of measurement does not control for the total amount of time spent driving a car vs flying in a plane. If our subject drove and flew for the same amount of time, the data would tell a very different story and airplanes would appear less safe. So if we are going to use fatalities per passenger mile as a default metric upon which to base our analysis, we must also control for the amount of exposure or time spent in each mode of transport; but we don’t.

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Issue 28
May 26, 2019
Harvard University, Disbarred

According to U.S. News & World Report, Harvard University is the 2nd best university in the United States, trailing only Princeton. Earlier this month, however, Harvard made a failing grade. In an act of cowardice, the university caved into a group of students who expressed disdain that Harvard law Professor Ronald Sullivan was among a group of attorneys representing accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

This resulted in Harvard removing Professor Sullivan from Winthrop house, an undergraduate residence hall where he lived and served as a faculty dean. Mr. Sullivan was subsequently stripped of his title as faculty dean - an unacceptable and humiliating way to lose a title he earned ~10 years ago when he became the first black faculty Dean to lead an undergraduate residence hall at Harvard. His wife, Stephanie Robinson, a faculty dean in her own right and also a lecturer at Harvard, sadly became collateral damage in the debacle. Unfortunately, she too was removed and stripped of her title as Dean as well. While Professor Sullivan and his wife will continue to teach at Harvard Law, they are no longer welcome to serve as undergraduate Deans.

That Harvard acquiesced to a group of students’ fantastical claims that having Professor Sullivan continue in his roles at the University was anxiety-producing and contributed to a hostile and unsafe learning environment, is absurd.

In our view, Harvard, a clear global education leader needs to re-examine its priorities and its raison d’etre. Colleges and universities are supposed to shape mores while simultaneously embracing freedom of individuality and choice. Regrettably, by removing Mr. Sullivan, Harvard created an idyllic and unrealistic isolation from the real world for a coddled group of undergraduates. In this case, it also imposed unreasonable professional restrictions on a distinguished faculty member. Although Professor Sullivan was under to no obligation to do so, he took a proactive (and costly) step and resigned from Weinstein’s defense team (there were rumblings about Sullivan being concerned for the safety of his family). In the spirit of maintaining order and continuity at Harvard, following these campus protests he made this difficult decision. Ultimately, it was all for naught, as his employer neutered him anyway.

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Issue 27
May 19, 2019
The DC MTA Debacle: Four Wrongs Don't Make A Right

One of the supposed virtues, ostensibly, of social media, is to forge dialogue and bridge divides between people. It is, however, increasingly doing the opposite. Online discussions are morphing into something more sinister where civic-minded individuals are lambasted for even constructive criticism of those flaunting rules. To boot, the First Amendment is rapidly becoming a victim of the political correctness movement.

Generally, despite highly publicized cases of hate crimes and anti-Semitism, America is more racially equal and harmonious now than it was generations ago. That said, there is no doubt that African Americans and certain other minorities still receive the short shrift in many areas of life. Those of us historically literate and socially aware, irrespective of our political leanings, are rational enough to acknowledge this. Furthermore, before the advent of body cameras, smart phones and other recording devices, the level of abuse that disproportionately affected people of color was materially higher. Technological advancements have prodded most members of our society to hold themselves to a higher standard. However, in this case of Natasha Tynes and The Washington, DC Mass Transit Authority (MTA), technology was a contributing factor in degrading all parties involved.

This recent “scandal” was precipitated by Jordanian American World Bank employee Natasha Tynes, who reported a black female employee of the Washington, DC MTA for eating while on the job, a violation of MTA rules. When Tynes singled out the MTA employee, she was effectively told to mind her own business, at which point she took a picture of the employee eating and posted it along with a complaint to the DC MTA, on Twitter. The ensuing backlash – against Ms Tynes, a minority in her own right – was as absurd and misguided as Tynes’ own overreaching action against a fellow citizen for a trivial violation. Ms. Tynes was accused of being a snitch, a racist, and compromising the employee’s livelihood.

More importantly and as equally unbelievable, Tynes’ spineless book publisher, California Coldblood, and its distributor Rare Bird, suspended working with the author on her new novel, They Called Me Wyatt. California Coldblood tweeted: "Natasha Tynes ...did something truly horrible today in tweeting a picture of a metro worker eating her breakfast on the train this morning and drawing attention to her employer…Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies…we do not condone (Tynes') actions and hope Natasha learns from this experience that black women feel the effects of systematic racism the most and that we have to be allies, not oppressors." We disagree with their decision. Tynes did not deserve to lose her book deal. Even if her actions were motivated by racism – and we have no reason to believe they were - her publisher and distributor have no proof that race was a motivating factor in her action.

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Issue 26
May 12, 2019
Horseracing

On Saturday May 4th Maximum Security, the clear (unofficial) winner of the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, was disqualified. After the race was over, two jockeys filed objections. They argued that Maximum Security committed a foul under the rules that govern horseracing in the state of Kentucky. After ~20 minutes of suspense, three judges or “Stewards” as they are known in the sport, upheld the competing jockey’s objections and made a unanimous decision to disqualify Maximum Security for violating Section 12 of rule 810. That rule stipulates that disqualification is warranted if "a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side to interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey." Maximum Security thus became the 1st horse in Derby history to be disqualified on race day (though in 1968, Derby winner Dancer’s image was eventually stripped of his title for receiving performance enhancing drugs).

Through their attorney Barry Stilz, Maximum Security’s owners, Gary & May West, immediately appealed the Steward’s decision. It was denied. The West’s could theoretically pursue legal options but the odds of any substantive changes are shall we say, a “long shot.” Thus, Country House, a 65 to 1 long shot in his own right was declared the winner while Maximum Security dropped to 17th place.

For the record, at The Quintessential Centrist, prior to this year’s Kentucky Derby, we did not know much about horseracing. For this piece, we thoroughly researched the sport and its rules. We also conducted interviews with several knowledgeable racing fans. And as always, we welcome our reader’s feedback. Your thoughtful comments, ideas and opinions are a material part of what helps us improve our process. We thank you in advance for your participation.

Taken what we have gathered over the past week via our own due diligence coupled with probing interviews, our view is as follows: from the untrained eye, it appeared that Maximum Security clearly veered out of his lane and impeded other participants. Under the state of Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) rules, this is a violation that warrants disqualification. That said, we wonder if there was room for the Stewards at the Kentucky Derby to be more holistic and qualitative in their approach.

At TQC, we are avid (American) football enthusiasts and as such, have the benefit of a deeper understanding of the nuances surrounding the sport. In the National Football League (NFL), one of the most common penalties in the game is “holding.” If officials wanted to, they could throw a flag for “holding” on essentially every single play. That said, referees typically only penalize a team for “holding” if the foul was either blatantly obvious no matter where on the field it took place, or it had a material impact on the play. We enjoy watching basketball too. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), players often take an extra half-step or “travel” when penetrating towards the basket. While “traveling” is not permitted under NBA rules – and when called results in a change of ball possession – officials rarely blow their whistle for this offense. “Traveling” occurs frequently. Unless the “travel” was egregious and or allowed for an easier pathway to produce a basket, it is often ignored.

Of course, “holding,” violations in the NFL, “traveling” violations in the NBA, and disqualifications in horseracing are subjective judgment calls. It is extremely difficult to get it right all the time. Mistakes do happen. That said, we would think in a race with 19 live animals weighing upwards of 1,000 pounds each, it would be abnormal for bumping and crowding not to happen. In our view, technically the correct call was made, but the Stewards probably should not have made the call. Maximum Security clearly impeded other horses, but would it have made difference in the outcome of the race? At least pertaining to which horse ultimately won? We would say unequivocally no, it did not. Maximum Security won by over a length (a legitimate argument could be made that Maximum Security’s foul affected the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the race).

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Issue 25
May 5, 2019
Notre Dame

On April 15th, flames engulfed and almost destroyed the iconic Cathedral of Notre Dame, in Paris, France. In the immediate aftermath of the blaze, people all over the world pledged vast sums of money to help pay for Notre Dame’s rehabilitation. This triggered a “fire storm” – excuse the pun - of controversy across social media. There was outrage that so much money could be raised at such breakneck speed to rebuild this venerated physical structure despite the many blights facing humanity. Wealthy French businessmen and philanthropists bore the brunt of the criticism.

Actress and activist Pamela Anderson expressed concern that a children's charity benefit she had recently attended also raised money to help rebuild Notre Dame de Paris.

Belgian golfer Thomas Peiters echoed Ms. Anderson’s concerns. He contended that “Kids are starving to death in this world and EU wants us to donate to rebuild a building ...I don’t understand.”

American writer Kristan Higgins chimed in, “Donate to help Puerto Rico recover. Donate to get the people of Flint clean water. Donate to get kids out of cages. Jesus didn’t care about stained glass. He cared about humans.”

Simon Allison, a well-respected reporter in South Africa noted, “In just a few hours…650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame…In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum (that was damaged in a fire last September). I think this is what they call white privilege.”

Anderson continued via Twitter:

"Last night we attended @OM_Officiel annual Gala to help raise money for youth suffering in Marseille - full of good intentions. While raising a meaningful amount of € for a great cause. Then ‘big surprise auction item’ came to raise money for rebuilding Notre Dame???" "Surely the children suffering in Marseille could have used the 100,000 € more than the church that has already received over a billion in donations by billionaires....I hope they will reconsider and give to where it is needed. to the community here in Marseille where it was intended. And would go much further in making lives better."

She makes a valid point.

Anderson and her boyfriend Adil Rami, a defender for the French soccer team, Olympique de Marseille, are avid supporters of his football club's children's charity. They were dismayed that a portion, albeit small in comparison, of the proceeds would be allocated to another cause. To this specific point, Ms. Anderson and Mr. Rami are correct; a charity created for and that subsequently earmarked funds to be deployed towards a specific cause should not re-allocate resources to another cause, however worthy that cause may be. Anderson is well known for her activism and philanthropy, supporting a range of causes from animal welfare to climate change and beyond. While we may not agree with all of Anderson's politics – she has publicly advocated for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, an accused rapist and leaker of top secret information - or the causes she supports, we can all agree that helping children in need is a most noble and worthwhile pursuit.

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Issue 24
April 28, 2019
Rich Lives Matter More

Wealth and its associated privileges afford much insulation and protection. However, it cannot safeguard against unexpected tragedy or death. Yet in the aftermath of the devastating Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka that have, to date, claimed 359 lives, the mainstream media has allocated a disproportionate amount of news coverage to the wealthiest victims. This subtly implies that rich lives matter more, or at least sell more newspapers and online advertising. At TQC, we find this troubling to say the least.

The day after the bombings, multiple news organizations highlighted the death of three of the four children of Danish billionaire Anders Hoch Polvson, who operates retail giant ASOS. Overnight, his story became - albeit indirectly – in part that a billionaire was not insulated from this act of terror. Of course, having to attend the funeral of ones’ own children under any circumstance is unfathomable. Our heavy hearts go out to, and we sympathize with, the Polvson family and all those affected by this senseless act. Unfortunately, the subtext of some media coverage implied that his loss was somehow greater because of his wealth. Mr. Povson’s story was not the only example of the mainstream press allocating an abundance of reporting resources on privileged persons affected by this terrorist attack.

There was considerable media focus on student Kieran Shafritz de Zoya, a fifth grader at the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. The school’s alumni include the children of several Presidents. In his grief, the boy’s father spoke of how Kieran aspired to be a neuroscientist but those dreams ended when terrorism claimed his life. Other prominent victims included Sri Lankan celebrity chef Shantha Mayadunne and a young relative of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. These were among the figures given notable mention in the press coverage. Indeed, the media seemed astonished that the affluent were among the victims.

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Issue 23
April 14, 2019
Anti-vaxxers

Ironic indeed that the very message Anti-vaxxers are conveying – not to vaccinate children – increases the probability of what are trying to prevent: their child being afflicted with a life-long disability or even death. - TQC

Below is a sampling of serious diseases coupled with some corresponding symptoms. All are preventable by vaccine.

Measles: Death, Pneumonia, Encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
Mumps: Deafness, Encephalitis, Meningitis (swelling of the spinal cord and brain).
Diphtheria: Death, Nerve Damage, Myocarditis (damage to the heart muscle).
Pertussis: Death, Coughing Fits.
Polio: Paralysis in the arms and or legs.

As a result of a herculean nationwide effort to inoculate children based on a scientifically managed, strict effective schedule, these and other debilitating illnesses were all but eradicated in the United States. Unfortunately, because of scaremongering and misinformation underpinned by pseudo-science spread by Anti-vaxxers, these and other serious but preventable diseases are making a comeback.

Anti-vaxxers have been particularly effective in communicating a falsehood, namely that vaccinations cause autism and other developmental problems in children. Ironic indeed that the very message Anti-vaxxers are conveying – not to vaccinate children – increases the probability of what are trying to prevent: their child being afflicted with life-long disability or even death. Despite misguided warnings, there is not a shred of credible, objective scientific evidence that depicts a causal link between vaccinating children and autism. On the flip side, however, there is exhaustive scientific evidence and hard data that demonstrate vaccines are a safe and effective means of preventing diseases that can cause permanent disabilities or even death.

Not only are anti-vaxxers being reckless with their children by not vaccinating them, they are putting entire communities at risk. Vaccinations are most effective when over 90% of people are vaccinated. “This type of protection is known as “community immunity” or “herd immunity.” When enough of the community is immunized against a contagious disease, most other members are protected from infection because there’s little opportunity for the disease to spread.” Once the number of inoculated individuals drops below 90%-95%, a vaccine becomes materially less effective. Thus, a small minority of parents are putting entire communities at risk, not just their own children. This is selfish, misguided and dangerous.

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Issue 22
April 7, 2019
Colleges & Universities Should Consider Abolishing Tenure

"It is indeed ironic that tenured economics professors lecture students about the wondrous efficiencies of a free market, but function in a closed ecosystem of their own. When the time comes to discuss oligopolies and cartels, what better example to use than themselves?" - TQC

When the Quintessential Centrist published a piece on the student loan crisis, it touched on some ancillary topics which deserved greater attention. Tenured positions for college and university professors was amongst the drivers to which we alluded that were unnecessarily driving up the cost of a college education and thus, leaving a generation of young Americans bogged down by student debt. For the purposes of this discussion, we provide a brief history of tenure, assess some of its pros & cons, and ultimately delve into whether it makes sense to maintain what many see as an arcane system.

Tenure, which essentially is lifelong guaranteed employment, first emerged in the US in the post-Civil War era as a means of emphasizing the importance of higher education. At the time, the tenure model adopted by German universities was favored by American educators and that model has remained fundamentally unchanged to this day. In the US, the practice of tenure was institutionalized with the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 1915. At inception, freedom of thought and speech without the threat of persecution was one of the central tenets of the AAUP. Faculty members were protected from termination should their academic research and resultant conclusions not be met favorably. In other words, this was the academic equivalent of First Amendment rights.

Not to bore our readers with exhaustive history, but this is a salient and fundamental piece of the story. By 1940 the AAUP formalized a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The Statement defined tenure as “(1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence, tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society.” Proponents of tenure point to the wording of this statement as it emphasized both academic freedom as well as economic security.

Furthermore, tenure can add to the cache of institutions of higher education. The process by which to obtain tenure is rigorous. It typically requires in-depth and meticulous independent research and approval through a peer review process, which hopefully leads to a candidate being awarded a PhD. As more published, recognized experts in their respective field add value to a college’s reputation, a positive feedback loop ignites, which leads to the most qualified students vying for admission, driving benefactors to write big checks, and the school to build even more comprehensive research facilities. This attracts the best and the brightest in academia looking for a place to hang their hat and more prospective students to apply.

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Issue 21
March 31, 2019
Kylie Jenner

Forbes Magazine posits that, at 21 years of age Kylie Jenner is the youngest “self-made billionaire ever,” effectively besting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who previously held the record; Zuckerberg made his first billion by the age of 23 in 2006. A few months prior to Forbes' most recent feature, Ms. Jenner graced the cover of a previous issue for being the “youngest self-made almost-billionaire, with a net worth of $900 million.” There is no question that Kylie Jenner is an extremely successful entrepreneur. We applaud her success, but take issue with Forbes' assertion that she is “self-made.” To draw such a conclusion is laughable, egregious and even irresponsible.

We credit Ms. Jenner for leveraging her ~175 million social media followers (this includes over 100 million followers on Instagram alone) to build a formidable cosmetics empire. Kylie Cosmetics generated an impressive $360 million in revenues in 2018 via the sales of lip kits, eyeshadows, eyeliners and more to her fan base. Jenner’s latest business extension involves a partnership with the popular cosmetics retailer, Ulta Beauty, which will mark her first foray into the brick and mortar retail space.

A GQ profile on the young entrepreneur highlighted that,“it's important to remember that Kylie's cosmetics business was built by grinding. It started with her consistent assault on social media.” Indeed, achieving a critical mass of followers is paramount when building a brand online (take it from us, we know!). The significant difference between Kylie Jenner and most other young entrepreneurs looking to utilize social media is that Ms. Jenner’s foundation had already been laid, so building the house that encompassed her empire was considerably easier. At The Quintessential Centrist, we do not discount the hard work Ms. Jenner clearly has devoted to her business. However, we do think it is important for young budding online businesspersons, to understand and appreciate the following: Scale is imperative when leveraging social media to build a profitable brand. In fact, Ms. Jenner herself alluded to the importance of scale, telling Forbes, "it’s the power of social media…I had such a strong reach before I was able to start anything.”

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Issue 20
March 24, 2019
The Student Debt Crisis & What Can Be Done About It

“Getting a college degree has long been integral to the mythic promise of American opportunity. Yet for millions, it’s become exactly that, a myth---and a very expensive myth at that. The average student leaves school carrying $30,000 in debt. More than 40% of students who enter college fail to earn a degree within 6 years, and many of them wind up in the workforce lacking the credentials and practical skills required to get ahead.” - Bloomberg

A few weeks ago, following an exhaustive investigation by the FBI, dozens of privileged individuals including some public figures were charged by the United States Department of Justice with crimes that included racketeering, fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The offenses encompassed parents creating fictitious profiles of their children in order to bolster their chances of gaining admissions to selective universities, including highlighting athletic achievements for sports they did not participate in. Some high schools didn’t even field a team for the sport the prospective student was being profiled for! Other despicable actions included paying college entrance exam proctors to supply answers to tests, and outright bribery. Subsequently, both liberal and conservative factions of the mainstream press have had a bonanza highlighting the legitimate inequities regarding the college admissions process.

The Quintessential Centrist agrees that the college admissions cheating scandal is newsworthy. A few in the media have even written about how ultimately, it’s the children who will bear the brunt of their parents’ maleficence. That’s true; however much more widespread problems warranting investigation, thoughtful debate, and corrective action are the overbearing cost of a college education which has consistently outpaced inflation, the increasing amount of debt students incur to secure a college degree, and the fact that a growing number of employers (and students) maintain that the education our colleges provide is not commensurate with the skillsets they are seeking in new hires.

In an effort to frame this slow-moving crisis – and make no mistake, it is a crisis – consider these jarring statistics:

• In 2018, ~70% of college students took out loans to pay for their education.

• “According to figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, between January 1989 and January 2016…the cost to attend a university increased nearly eight times faster than wages did…”.

• Since the late 1990’s, colleges and universities have raised the price of education faster than any sector except healthcare.

• There is $1.56 trillion dollars of student loan debt outstanding. Aside from home mortgages, student loan debt represents largest consumer debt segment in the United States. To put $1.56 trillion dollars of student loan debt in context, consider that total credit card debt in America totals ~1 trillion dollars; and keep in mind, there are many more credit card holders in The United States than student loan borrowers. Hence, not only is the notional value of student debt roughly 50% larger than credit card debt, the dollar amount of student debt per borrower (~$30,000 per person) is exponentially higher than for credit card borrowers (~$5,700 per person).

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Issue 19
March 17, 2019
TQC & TAXES

The Quintessential Centrist believes in a progressive tax code. People who earn more should pay more. However, a progressive tax code must be applied with levelheadedness and proportionately. We agree with the position taken by many on the right side of the aisle who argue against excessively high marginal tax rates. A disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of all in marginal tax rates over 50% and / or be subjected to “wealth taxes” proposed by politicians on the left, are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. We must be prudent so as not to impose a marginal tax so burdensome that it takes away job creators' economic incentive to offer employment opportunities for working Americans. That is suboptimal for all Americans. It is important to keep in mind: most higher earning individuals in the United States already do pay significantly more taxes, as they should.

We align ourselves with many on the left side of the aisle who argue that although marginal tax rates are higher on the wealthy, it is unjust that certain rich individuals can use the tax code to their advantage and lower their tax rate to a level lower than what working class Americans pay, in some cases to 0%. Hedge Fund managers, Family Office principals and Private Equity partners are typically wealthy individuals. By utilizing “carried interest,” they can reinvest profits back into their respective entities vs. paying ordinary income tax on short-term capital gains. Real estate investors often use 1031 exchanges to roll proceeds from property sales into new physical assets thereby shielding their gains from income tax. At TQC, we do not begrudge those individuals for utilizing the existing tax code to lower their tax bill; any rational person would do so.

It would be an understatement to assert that the United States Tax code is mired in complexity. Its sheer verbosity and length (4 million words across tens of thousands of pages) is testament to its convolution. The code is so granular, complex and cumbersome that it takes dedicated accounting and legal professionals years of diligent study to master the various opacities of it. After weeks of due diligence, TQC was at best able to skim the surface in assessing and appreciating all the nuances of a tax code so large, it is bigger than the Holy Bible. No such irony because perhaps only God himself can fully comprehend it.

When laws are overly cumbersome and complex, it typically means that those with money and influence, especially the political kind, can exploit them. Again, we find nothing nefarious in paying as minimal an amount of tax within the confines of the law. However, an individual who is compelled to pay an attorney over $1,000 an hour to study page 328, paragraph 3, line 5 of a tax code, is likely to have earned a significant enough income whereby they rely on complex legal maneuvers to shield those earnings from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Here are but a few of the most egregious and regressive loopholes in the U.S. tax code that we feel are unfair to the vast majority of salaried, tax paying individuals across various tax brackets.

Step Ups:

"Step-ups" allow those lucky enough to inherit stocks, bonds, real estate and certain closely held businesses to avoid paying tax on these securities or assets. Instead of paying taxes on any gains from the time the assets were originally purchased, the “step-up” (in cost basis) allows the beneficiary or heir to use the current market value of the given asset. Therefore, if the beneficiary sells any of these assets, they are taxed on the difference between the price at which they inherited them at and the value they received from selling them. Scratching your head? Here is a back of the envelope example of how this works. In 1982, the stock price of IBM traded between ~$5 and ~$10 per share. Let’s assume an Investor X purchased 10,000 shares of IBM for $7 or $70,000, tucked them away and held the shares until they died this week. The closing price of IBM on Friday, March 15th was $139.43. Beneficiary Y inherits the shares, and then sells the stock for the current market price of $139.43. He smiles when $1,394,300 dollars appears in his brokerage account. Instead of paying taxes on the difference between the price Investor X paid for IBM and the price Beneficairy Y sold IBM for, because of the “step-up,” the heir pays nothing and keeps the entire $1,394,300 for himself. Here is another simplified example, this time using real estate. Let’s assume Real Estate Investor X purchased a piece of property for $1,000,000 and held it for 15 years, until her death last month. During the tenure of her ownership, she leased the site to a tenant. Upon her death, the property passed onto her daughter. The property is now worth $1,750,000. The daughter decides she does not want to be a property owner and liquidates it for its current market value of $1,750,000. Instead of paying taxes on the difference between the price Investor X paid for the property and the price her daughter sold it for, because of the “step-up,” her daughter pays zero tax and retains the entire $1,750,000 herself.

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Issue 18
March 10, 2019
Six Centrist Ideas

The Quintessential Centrist’s core mission involves offering readers an elevated discourse that blends news, careful analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political continuum. There is a sizable contingent of centrist-Americans who are interested in compromise, open to reasonable ideas, and whose main objective is facilitating legislation that will benefit the country, bridging ideological differences and helping to unite our bitterly divided nation.

This week TQC presents six centrist ideas, that if implemented prudently and responsibly, have the potential to improve America by making our nation safer and more equitable for the majority of its citizens. These represent topics that The Quintessential Centrist intends to continue researching.

TAXES:
At TQC, we believe in a progressive tax code. People who earn more should pay more. However, a progressive tax code must be applied with levelheadedness and proportionality. We agree with the position taken by many on the right side of the aisle who argue against excessively high marginal tax rates. A disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of all in marginal tax rates over 50% and / or be subjected to “wealth taxes” proposed by politicians on the left, are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. We must be careful not to impose a marginal tax so burdensome that it takes away job creators' economic incentive to offer employment opportunities for working Americans. That is suboptimal for all Americans. It is important to keep in mind: most higher earning salarymen and women in the United States already do pay significantly more taxes, as they should.

We align ourselves with many on the left side of the aisle who argue that although marginal tax rates are higher on the wealthy, it is unjust that certain rich individuals can use the tax code to their advantage and lower their tax rate to a level lower than what working class Americans pay, in some cases to 0%. Hedge Fund managers, Family Office principles and Private Equity partners are typically wealthy individuals. By utilizing “carried interest,” they can reinvest profits back into their respective entities vs. paying ordinary income tax on short-term capital gains. Real estate investors often use 1031 exchanges to roll proceeds from property sales into new physical assets thereby shielding their gains from income tax. At TQC, we do not begrudge those individuals for utilizing the existing tax code to lower their tax bill; any rational person would do so. That said, “carried interest,” 1031 exchanges and other unquestionably regressive loopholes in the tax code should be closed. Without debate, these loopholes disproportionality help wealthier Americans. Very few middle-class and working poor Americans benefit from these carve outs. We believe that is unfair to all Americans.

TERM LIMITS:
We support the introduction of term limits for members of the U.S. Congress & U.S Senators. Politics is the second oldest profession in the world. Unfortunately, it shares many properties with the oldest profession in the world. Too many politicians on both sides of the aisle allocate too much of their human capital selling themselves rather than performing the tasks and achieving the results they were elected to do. Instead, they often draft and vote for legislation that serves little purpose but to afford themselves a higher probability of getting re-elected while selling out the majority of the people they were voted into office to represent. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization. Certain Democratic and Republican lawmakers do put the American public before themselves; sadly, they are in the minority. Term limits are a simple, sensible idea that will better align politicians' intentions with the will of the people who voted them into office.

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Issue 17
March 3, 2019
AOC

Two weeks ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) succeeded in disenfranchising her constituents, including many of her supporters, and bragged about it:

“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”

Of course, AOC was referring to her "successful" grassroots campaign to protest Amazon corporation's efforts to establish a beachhead, and thereby 25,000 quality jobs and ancillary benefits, in Long Island City. Not only were AOC’s efforts misguided, they were selfish and undemocratic; 70% of New Yorkers actually supported Amazon building a headquarters in their city. Even progressive New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio challenged Cortez:

“As a progressive my entire life — and I ain’t changing — I’ll take on any progressive anywhere that thinks it’s a good idea to lose jobs and revenue because I think that’s out of touch with what working people want….I came up watching the mistakes of progressives of the past, unfortunately what happened in this city when it almost went to bankruptcy in the 1970s. I saw all the times progressives did not show people effective governance and all the times progressives made the kinds of mistakes that alienated working people…”

Fellow Democrat and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo chimed in:

“…a small group [of] politicians put their own political interests above their community – which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City…”

One thing is for certain, congressional freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is certainly a sophomoric operator with whom to be reckoned. As a sitting congresswoman, she is in a position of power and influence. Regrettably, that authority, as we saw with Amazon, can be abused and used to the detriment of the very people she claims to champion.

Other than President Trump, no other U.S. politician has recently been so successful at generating controversy through a combination of self-serving misinformation, scaremongering and willful ignorance as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Though some on the far-left cannot seem to get enough of Ms. Cortez, she has repeatedly contradicted herself, showed a stunning lack of basic knowledge (or willful deceit) and proved to be highly hypocritical in her personal conduct. In AOC’s reality, it is ok if she is incorrect as long as she is wrong for the right reasons. Her message should supersede facts, which should not matter as much when living in President Trump’s America.

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Issue 16
February 24, 2019
Where We Think Trump Is Right

We believe Donald Trump represents many of the worst elements of capitalism (at The Quintessential Centrist, we believe that despite its flaws, capitalism is by far the most effective system, besting socialism, communism, or any other "ism"). TQC will not consider endorsing Trump in the 2020 presidential election unless his opponent is a radical like Elizabeth Warren or socialist like Bernie Sanders.

The President of the United States must hold himself to standards that are materially above of what is expected of an ordinary citizen, regardless of the circumstances. Trump certainly has not adhered to the higher level of personal conduct that is a non-negotiable precondition to serve as Chief Executive of the United States. Frequently, his behavior is indicative of somebody who is thin skinned and downright infantile; this does not even include his terrible habit of tweeting about high level policy issues. To be sure, he has denigrated the office and further polluted the very swamp he promised to clean up; an impressive feat given the long lineage of ethically challenged men and women who have served in both chambers of congress.

As we have reiterated in past issues, at The Quintessential Centrist, our platform promotes civil discourse irrespective of political leanings. This, more often than not, involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies. And it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries. In the past, TQC has supported both Democrats and Republicans on specific issues. On those occasions where we focus on specific politicians, our analysis is predicated on three important “P’s”: person, polices and principles, and not the party with which they happen to be affiliated.

Before illustrating where in our view President Trump is correct, we would like to preface those arguments with the following:

Overall, we are not Donald Trump supporters. We did not endorse Trump in ’16. This author did not vote for Trump (or Clinton) in the last presidential election. We explained why we favor centrist Howard Schultz and encouraged him to declare himself a formal candidate in our February 10th issue.

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Issue 15
February 17, 2019
Senior Syphilis

If the title of this article is meant to shock or be misconstrued, it is neither. This week’s topic of discussion is not about American youth and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), rather we will delve into an unheeded demographic where STDs are becoming evermore prevalent: the elderly. Unfortunately, senior citizens in our society are too often overlooked and sometimes outright ignored. Nowhere might this be more apparent than in the lack of focus, education and care for the aged who are becoming infected with STDs at an alarming rate. This must change.

While older people tend to be mindful of their blood sugar, blood pressure, cardiac care and more; many are startlingly ignorant of the epidemic that’s taken hold of their communities. STDs? Why would those even apply to them if they are not of child rearing or producing age? One reason is the lack of basic education and effective communication by health care providers. Another impetus is societal neglect. Simply put, older people are marginalized when it comes to many relevant public service health campaigns. As a result, they do not consider themselves a high-risk group for STDs. This false sense of immunity coupled with the fact that older people tend to have more compromised immune systems, increases the probability that the elderly will acquire a sexually communicated disease.

Needn't we forget that many senior citizens are products of the Baby Boomer Generation. They came of age during the sexual revolution. Their attitudes towards sex combined with the use of drugs like Viagra & Cialis have made an the active sex life well into retirement all but commonplace.

In late 2018, the US News & World Report published an article that encompassed some sobering statistics: "A recent analysis of patients on Athenahealth's network found that patients over age 60 account for the biggest increase of in-office treatments for sexually transmitted infections. The report found that in adults over age 60, diagnosis rates for herpes simplex, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis and chlamydia rose 23 percent between 2014 and 2017.” In 2014, Psychology Today published a piece with the following lead in sentence: “According to the Center for Disease Control, among our senior citizen population sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spreading like wildfire. Since 2007, incidence of syphilis among seniors is up by 52 percent, with chlamydia up 32 percent." The examples above were published in the mainstream press. And while there has been much written on this particular phenomenon, the stories tend to be buried in the back pages of a newspaper or relegated to the preserve of medical journals.

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Issue 14
February 10, 2019
Why We Like Howard Schultz

It is not obvious why (voters), sick of Mr Trump’s antics, would warm to a Democrat offering a different set of implausible promises. “If we try to out-crazy the policy announcements of a troubled president, we will do nothing to restore confidence,” warns Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. - The Economist

On January 27th, Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks, announced his interest in running as an independent candidate in the 2020 election for President of The United States. TQC hopes he formally declares himself a candidate. From the due diligence we've done, Schultz appears to be center-left on social issues and fiscally to the center-right. In our view, this is exactly the prescription this great nation needs at this time.

At The Quintessential Centrist, we are transparent about our views. We pride ourselves on being malleable and open when new ideas, proposals, or policies merit serious consideration. We are open to respectful debate and welcome the prospect of having our minds changed. Indeed, if a counter-party offers a superior argument underpinned by facts and empirical evidence, we will (as we have done in the past) alter our views.

As most of our readers are aware, Howard Schultz is the man responsible for turning Starbucks into a international success story and, in the process, created a new coffee culture in America. In addition to paying better wages (before service industry wages became a political talking point) and offering affordable health care options, Schultz provided an opportunity to all his employees -- both part time and full time -- to advance their education tuition free via a partnership with Arizona State University's online program. In short, Schultz is a socially liberal, fiscally centrist self-made businessman who advocates both for his workers and for meaningful social causes. And unlike the current businessman currently occupying the Oval Office, Mr. Schultz was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Schultz was born to a poor family in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a housing project with his two siblings, a homemaker mother and father who became a truck driver after serving in the US Army. Schultz learned the value of hard work at a young age and has since carried those values throughout his incredible life. When Schultz was a young boy, his father had an accident that left him unable to work. The family was left with no steady source of income, and no health care insurance. To help, Schultz worked a series of odd jobs. He attended Canarsie High School and was later awarded an athletic scholarship from Northern Michigan University. He was the first member of his family to attend college.

On the fiscal side, here are a few prudent and responsible positions Schultz takes:

*Supports a progressive tax code: people who earn more should pay a higher rate of income tax. We agree. That said, he also understands that excessive taxes and regulation thwart economic growth and stifle job creation. We also agree. He should know. He's created over 300,000 jobs, the majority of which are in the United States.

*Believes paying his employees a living wage is both ethically correct and good business practice: Schultz paid his baristas a living wage well before it was politically fashionable to do so. As a result, Starbucks' employees earn above average wages vs. their peers. Schultz has delivered on the notion that by treating his workers well via higher pay and benefits, they would be more productive and create a value-enhancing experience which would yield greater customer satisfaction and increased brand loyalty. In that, he has been proven correct.

*Opposes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (AOC's) proposal to raise the marginal tax rate on earnings in excess of $10 million to 70%. Ms. Cortez claims her plan will only affect the richest sliver of Americans. We vehemently disagree. In our view, Ms. Cortez seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that a disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of her tax plan are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. Impose a 70% marginal tax on those families, and you take away their economic incentive to create employment opportunities for working Americans. Under AOC's tax plan, the richest sliver of Americans will certainly be worse off. And so will the 99%. Like Mr. Schultz, at TQC we believe that people who earn more should pay more, but a progressive tax code should be applied with a degree levelheadedness and proportionality.

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Issue 13
February 3, 2019
Super Bowl LIII

Tom Brady, the ageless quarterback for the New England Patriots will lead his team on to the field today to compete in Super Bowl LIII vs The Los Angeles Rams. Mr. Brady, already anointed the Greatest Of All Time. (G.O.A.T.) by many NFL analysts has earned numerous accolades. At 41 years old, he is also an outlier with respect to age and ongoing superior performance. His illustrious career has spanned almost two decades; to date, Brady currently ranks 3rd in touchdown passes (517), 4th in Passing Yards (70,514), Passes Completed (6,004) & Passer Rating (97.6) and 13th in Completion Percentage (64%). Today will be Brady's record breaking 9th Super Bowl appearance. He has emerged victorious in five previous championship games and enjoyed MVP honors in four of those contests. Let’s also not forget that Brady has been crowned the NFL's most valuable player 3 times and been selected to 14 Pro Bowls.

Remarkably for most his tenure with the Patriots, Brady hasn't had the benefit of throwing to top flight wide receivers. He is particularly skilled at transforming average players around him into stars. Unfortunately for his divisional rivals, he does not seem inclined to hang up his cleats any time soon; Brady stated that there is "zero chance he is retiring" after this year’s Super Bowl.

Some experts make the argument that it is unfair to compare Brady to former greats like John Elway, Joe Montana & Dan Marino. Those stars played in an era when teams relied more on running the football. Quarterbacks of that time did not benefit from as many opportunities to pad their statistics. Moreover, as a result of numerous rule changes football is a less violent sport. Players today, and particularly quarterbacks, are afforded more protection than ever before. This has enabled them to stay healthier and avoid absorbing the most debilitating hits, thereby extending their careers. This skews the equation when comparing Brady to other football greats. While the argument over who is the G.O.A.T won't be settled anytime soon, it is without debate that Mr. Brady is the most successful quarterback of all time both on and off the field.

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Issue 12
January 27, 2019
#TechToo?

"Regarding protections, opportunities for advancement and recognition of women and minorities, Big Tech finds itself today where Wall Street was a generation ago". -TQC

When Bloomberg news anchor Emily Chang published “Brotopia: Breaking up the Boys Club of Silicon Valley” in February, 2018, the timing was ideal. This book was published in the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein’s devastating fall from grace and the growing influence of the #MeToo movement. Although the book received a healthy endorsement from reviewers, its central topic, the sexist and misogynist culture of Silicon Valley, fell by the wayside. That most of the general public, and many women in particular, did not include Big Tech in its call to arms defies logic. The “boys club” culture of Silicon Valley has been well documented and not just by Ms. Chang but many others. So how is it that this particular segment of industry is somehow exempt from the basic tenets of society’s improved professional mores? Have the power players of the tech sector been spared simply as a result of the massive wealth they have generated for themselves and their shareholders coupled with the “cool” factor missing from old economy companies?

By comparison, largely-vilified Wall Street has made a lot of progress by acknowledging its culture problem and then taking action to foster a more inviting workplace environment for women and minorities. Regarding protections, opportunities for advancement and recognition of women and minorities, Big Tech finds itself today where Wall Street was a generation ago. Ironically, many of the same people who work in the technology sector -- which politically leans disproportionately Left -- while quick to express outrage over even an inkling of malfeasance at banks and brokerage firms, are less inclined to call out members of their own community for identical sins.

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Issue 10
January 13, 2019
Unsafe Safe Spaces

In 2016, the University of Chicago’s welcome letter to the incoming freshman class of 2020 informed students that it would not support “trigger warnings” or a culture of safe spaces. The Dean of Students John Ellison declared that at the academic institution “…we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

Both Dean Ellison and the University of Chicago are brazenly at odds with many of this country’s institutions of higher education. At The Quintessential Centrist, we believe that they are correct.

Safe spaces are an outgrowth of both the feminist and LGBTQ movements as they provided a forum for those who felt marginalized from the norms of society. The idea was to be able to speak freely and communicate effectively without suffering vilification. Unfortunately, what was intended to create a protective environment has permeated the intellectual sphere to the point where, at best, divergence of opinion is stifled and freedom of thought is met with vindictive backlash.

Conservatives are now clamoring for the same, not least because they feel increasingly isolated and are now pushing for a safe space culture where they, too, can freely express their views without risking character assassination. This is an absurd and short-sighted response. An article published in New York Magazine on January, 5 2019 delved further into this issue. The journalist cited a work from National Affairs where arguments were presented by Frederick M. Hess and Brendan Bell from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. The two scholars asserted that conservatives needed "an ivory tower of our own,” which is clearly a politically loaded turn of phrase. The insinuation is that safe spaces created by liberals are tantamount to creating idyllic and unrealistic isolation from the real world while also imposing intellectual restrictions of alternative points of view. While Hess and Bell are correct in referring to safe spaces as an “ivory tower,” fighting fire with fire won’t put out the flames of dissent.

The Quintessential Centrist rejects the concept of liberal or conservative-driven safe spaces. In our view, it defeats the notion of what free speech is intended to promote and implies that civil discourse, irrespective of political leanings, is a fundamentally unviable concept in America, a nation founded in-part on its differences. The immigrants who have made up this nation represent every race, religion and creed. Many, starting with the Pilgrims, came to this country to escape oppression -- be it of thought, religion, political leanings, gender bias, or homophobia. Interestingly, this chasm between the left and the right has been growing fervently since even before the election of President Donald Trump.

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Issue 8
December 23, 2018
Santa's Identity Crisis

While many families are hunkering down for a festive Christmas, the mood in the Claus household is more somber. And perhaps with good reason. Santa’s identity faces challenges with some clamoring that he should be neither a man nor a woman while others say he should be a man. But fear not Mrs. Claus, for based on a survey conducted by Graphic Springs, 19% believe Santa shouldn’t lay claim to any gender, while 10% say he should be woman and an overwhelming 70% say he should retain his male gender status. While we can be reassured that Santa in his current rendition is not about to be usurped any time soon, that this dialogue is even taking place defies comprehension.

Christmas is one of the few holidays that have transcended religion. It is a unifying time of the year for many. Indeed, the lore of Santa, the North Pole, toy making elves, and reindeer is cheery and warming but also rooted in compassion. The original Saint Nicholas, upon whom Santa is predicated, was actually a Greek Bishop born in the 4th century. He was known for his charitable acts of providing gifts to the poor. The ongoing tradition of gift giving to children post St. Nicholas was, in fact, in honor of his name day on December 6th. At the behest of Martin Luther during the Reformation, the date of gift giving was redirected to Christmas Eve as homage to Christ. While the Reformation gave rise to other traditions such as Christmas Trees, carols and Christmas markets, St. Nicholas endured and became Santa Claus. This evolution over 1600 years has put the Claus family firmly on the map.

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Issue 7
December 16, 2018
TQC'S Position On Gun Control

“…when James Madison penned the 2nd Amendment, machine guns, military grade assault rifles & bump stocks – which effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons - did not exist. Hence, we must apply common sense and rationality when applying text written in 1791 to the present.” – TQC

The United States is facing an ideological chasm. We have collectively lost the ability to empathize with anyone other than “our own.” Few issues are more indicative of this and divisive than, the debate about guns in America. The sensible middle where compromise is often discovered has been relegated to irrelevance.

Nobody at The Quintessential Centrist is a gun owner nor do we hunt, shoot skeet, or targets for practice. We do not have any reason to carry weapons for self-defense, though after publishing this article, we might. To have a better appreciation for the plight of gun owners, we interviewed a sampling of them. Some were city dwellers who carried handguns primarily for self-defense and / or target practice. Others were long gun (shotgun / rifle) owners whose primary use was for hunting wild game. We also talked to people who thought guns should be outlawed.

Most gun owners do actually support thoughtful regulation and consistent licensing procedures regarding the purchase, sale and usage of firearms; this was the most surprising thing we garnered from our due diligence . Many are in a moral quagmire, stuck between what they support – thoughtful rules and regulation – and the legitimate worry that any new law that curbs gun rights will set off a cascade of ever more restrictive legislation; with the end game being an outright ban on private firearm ownership.

A minority of staunch gun rights advocates are incorrigible and unwilling to entertain even the most benign ideas pertaining to gun control. This includes weapons that have no practical purpose other than for illicit activities. Most in this camp argue that any new law put in place that regulates and imposes common sense restrictions on gun ownership is a non-starter. Like-minded individuals rebuff any constructive criticism or pushback by labeling their critics “elitists” and other terms purposefully so universal that anybody who wants to, can easily identify with them.

Unsurprisingly, the most ardent, uncompromising pro-gun activists live in rural and sparsely populated suburban areas. In our view, many in this group are neither sensitive enough nor do not properly consider that most violent crimes where a firearm is used are committed in cities. Moreover, that many city dwellers live in fear of violent crime, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks with semi-automatic weapons that can cause large-scale casualties.

Certain anti-gun activists are equally as unreasonable. They refuse to consider anything but a blanket ban on both the sale and possession of all firearms. Arguments are usually general, lack substance and buoyed by misguided statements such as “just get rid of guns” or “there should be no guns.” Many supporters of blanket gun bans are members of the far-left, who claim they are the voice of openness and inclusivity. They argue for social freedoms and ideas - but too often only those ideas that are commensurate with their own - while dismissing their critics as backwards, regressive and even intellectually inferior.

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Issue 6
December 9, 2018
Not Just Another #MeToo Article

The Twitter handle that became an epithet for something far more powerful turned into a double-edged sword with unintended consequences. - TQC

In the days after Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation to the Supreme Court, former First Lady Michelle Obama noted in an interview “she was surprised at how much has changed but how much has not.” She was referring to the landscape in the year since The New York Times damning expose on Harvey Weinstein which segued into the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein’s sexual abuse of women in entertainment unified women across all strata and industries in the US; fear was taken out of the equation and replaced with strength in numbers. Yet, the Kavanaugh accusations had the opposite polarizing impact as the maelstrom surrounding his nomination prompted President Trump to conclude that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America." The First Lady, meantime, declared that “women need to show the evidence” when making such bold allegations against a man.

The Twitter handle that became an epithet for something far more powerful turned into a double-edged sword with unintended consequences.

This was not anticipated. The purported advancement and increased inclusion of women in all industries was thought to be sufficient enough to counter a backlash against #MeToo. At The Quintessential Centrist, we have alluded to this in the past. Not only has the women’s rights movement made tremendous strides in the past five decades, but also the data and statistics indicate that in the US, women are, at the very least, outpacing men in education. They are closing the gap in career trajectory and income. As a corollary, until recently, there were scores of sociological articles expressing concern that boys and young men were at greater risk of being financially, socially and professionally marginalized. Girls and women had made enormous strides in upward mobility in every aspect. Hence, the alarm that one of the unintended consequences of #MeToo is potentially leading to a renewed divide in the workplace and elsewhere. Does bitter political divisiveness since President Trump was elected to office threaten to unravel us?

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Issue 5
December 2, 2018
Read This Before You Go Abroad

“…what’s transpiring in the retail foreign exchange market is indicative of oligopolistic practices, not capitalism…” - TQC

Billions of dollars are at stake. The targets: The uninformed general public traveling overseas. The perpetrators: The monopolistic foreign exchange (FX) booths situated throughout airports and tourist hotspots & retail banks. No informed person would ever use an FX changing firm (or bank) to source foreign currencies if they had any idea how badly they are being fleeced, especially when an ATM provides far superior rates. Let us provide a window into the world of foreign currency exchange.

First, we must put the foreign exchange market into context. It’s by far the largest and most liquid market in the world. In fact, it dwarfs stock and bond trading. All major currencies trade against one another globally. Two common markets are the "spot" or current market and the "futures" market. Both markets are very liquid and offer buyers and sellers instantaneous access to foreign currency. In Friday's market for the $U.S. Dollar / Euro ($USD/EUR): One Euro could be bought for $1.1319 U.S. Dollars. Hence, the market for the $USD/EUR looked like this: Bid $1.1319 Offer $1.1320. The Euro could be bought for $1.1319 and sold for $1.1320, a difference of less than a penny. Furthermore, the amount of currency bid for and offered at these prices, just fractions of a penny wide, amounts to millions of dollars. Far more than any retail customer would ever seek to exchange at an airport kiosk or retail bank.

FX booths and bank branches sometimes offer to exchange foreign currency for "no commission." Instead, their take amounts to far more than a reasonable standard commission. This is what typically transpires: A foreign exchange booth or retail bank branch offers $U.S. Dollar / Euro but widens the market - the difference between the bid and the offer - out. The “markup” they take amounts to well in excess of any commission any broker could ever expect to make on any foreign exchange trade. For example, vs Friday's quoted current market, they might post that they would buy Euros for $1.02 and sell Euros at say $1.24 when the inside market (see above) is $1.1319 bid and $1.1320 offer. This is absurd. FX booths and banks are in essence locking in a ~10% markup from unsuspecting customers, possibly more, on a trades that should cost less than 1 penny to execute.

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Issue 5
December 2, 2018
Gentleman’s Clubs and Nail Salons

At The Quintessential Centrist, we believe its important to be balanced and prudent. Sometimes, that involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies.

In New York City, the competition amongst nail salons is fierce. There are often two competing salons on the same square block. The welcoming signs and smiling faces mask a painful reality; this a business model partially underpinned by human trafficking and other blatant civil rights violations. While human rights abuses in the sex-trade and related industries are well documented, similar violations in the nail salon industry are rarely mentioned in the press. Here is one exception.

A disproportionate number of nail salon employees are undocumented immigrants. Hence, this is a particularly vulnerable demographic for a myriad of reasons. Their remuneration is often below minimum wage, including tips. And those are the more fortunate ones. Others are not compensated at all while many are subjected to mistreatment at the hands of their employers. The working conditions can be abysmal. Young women are often exposed to toxic chemicals without proper protective gear. As their wages are so low, these vulnerable employees have little choice but to "live" in overcrowded one-room dwellings, many of which lack basic safety features. These homes are often as unhygienic as the salon's where they work 12-14 hours a day in, tending to the hands and feet of "exhausted" patrons.

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Issue 3
November 18, 2018
Kavanaugh Should Have Been Disqualified, But Not For the Reason You Might Think

The confluence of events leading up to and following President Trump’s election created a tinderbox in the run up to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Be it Trump and certain incorrigible, bombastic supporters or certain members of the extreme left, who are equally as unreasonable, common sense and rationality - the sensible middle where compromise is often discovered – have been relegated to irrelevance.

At The Quintessential Centrist, we believe that Judge Kavanaugh should have been disqualified from serving on the Supreme Court; but not because of the allegations of sexual assault lodged against him. Ironically, it was Kavanaugh himself who created serious doubts as to his suitability to serve on the top court.

While numerous studies have concluded that the number of "unfounded" assault/rape accusations is only ~8% - and this low percentage is not surprising given the shame and humiliation victims are often subjected to when coming forward – we must also consider and put the following into perspective: Anybody can accuse anybody of anything, at any time and at any place. Consider that approximately 250 million adults live in the United States. Not only is it then reasonable to assume that one extremist individual might fabricate a story about somebody else in order to derail his or her career; we’d argue given a population of over 250 million people, it's unreasonable to assume that at least one person would not do so. Hence, even though false accusations are not representative of the overwhelming majority of sexual assault claims, given the sheer number of people who reside in America - and with that the possibility of malfeasance - we must be fair and reasonable when examining the circumstances of each and every claim.

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Issue 2
November 11, 2018
Airplane Logic

The boarding process today on all commercial airliners is completely irrational. Consider the following: in return for purchasing a first or business class ticket or being a premier rewards card holder, a customer is granted the privilege of boarding.... first? This makes little sense to me.

If an air traveler is about to give up all control of his or her well-being and board an overcrowded flying tuna can, with parts constructed by the lowest bidder, piloted by a complete stranger, with germ-tainted re-circulated air, with 1/4 inch of aluminum separating them from sudden death at over 35,000 feet, they should have no interest whatsoever in wanting to board first. Wouldn’t they want to board last? Why spend any more time on that plane than need be ?

I’ve discussed my argument with some peers. The most common pushback I get has to do with baggage. Most airlines charge for checked bags. As a result, any bag that can fit in the overhead spaces is placed there, to avoid paying a fee and having to wait to claim your luggage at one’s final destination. Boarding first guarantees you will find space for your luggage. I understand and appreciate this argument, but it doesn’t suffice, especially given how airlines price their seats today. Most basic economy tickets are situated in the rear of the aircraft. Most people place their luggage at or near the row they are assigned. Furthermore, in the business class section of a plane, only those passengers who purchased business class seats can use the overhead bins in that section. Bottom line: people who purchase premium tickets or hold a rewards card should be called to board last, not first.

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Issue 2
November 11, 2018
Is "Body Positivity" Really Body Positive?

In short, at The Quintessential Centrist (TQC), our view is that the “Body Positivity” movement should support and encourage obese and overly thin people in their objective to love themselves enough to live a healthier lifestyle; not encourage people suffering from dangerous conditions to love the way they are without question.

Whether it’s an individual attempting to garner attention and trend-set or someone who is a genuine advocate for a cause, does it not seem like every other week, a niche or subculture is pushed into the limelight?

This could apply to politics, religious sects, sexual preferences and orientations, body modifications, odd hobbies -- you name it – somewhere, there is probably an editor at a major media outlet saying: “I found our ‘thing’ of the week!’”

At The Quintessential Centrist (TQC), we believe that as long as our fellow citizens aren’t infringing on the rights of others, promoting violence and/or engaging in criminal activity, they should be able to live the life they so desire, free to express themselves, argue for any cause no matter how trivial it might seem, and assemble to protest (unless lawless action is imminent) without fear of retribution.

That said, we think it’s prudent to highlight the dangers and hypocrisies of one movement that’s been gaining momentum, the “Body Positivity” movement: The recent movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image and be accepting of their own bodies and others as well.

By no means are we arguing that body positivity is a bad thing. Quite the contrary. At TQC we believe everyone should practice proper self-love and self-care. However, where do today’s “trendsetters” draw the line between promoting a healthy self-image and enabling a self-destructive lifestyle?

In the United States, obesity is a serious epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately one third of American adults, or ~90 million people, are obese. Let us be clear, that’s not just overweight, that’s obese. By definition, a person is obese if their Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 30%. In addition to the dangerous health conditions linked to obesity, the economic damage is stunning. For the year 2008 – the last year in which data from the CDC is furnished on its website - the reported dollar cost of obesity to our economy was $147 billion.

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Issue 1
November 4, 2018
Opioids

In this time of political divisiveness within these United States, might managing the opiod crisis be one issue on which both Republicans and Democrats can find some common ground? Earlier this year President Trump, with the support of both parties, signed an omnibus funding bill which allocated $6 billion dollars to combat the opiod crisis. But, it is not only President Trump who has advocated for naxolone treatments being easily available to those at risk. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has taken this initiative a step further by proposing safe injection sites known as Overdose Prevention Centers and has gone as far as launching a $500 million lawsuit against manufacturers of prescription opiods. The mayors of San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle have thrown their support behind this proposal and, indeed, have already established safe injection sites in their respective cities.

By rendering naxolone in the form of Evzio (an injectable) and Narcan (a nasal spray) readily available, policy makers have conceded that the U.S. does not know how to manage the opiod crisis. The numbers speak for themselves; in 2016, approximately 42,000 Americans died from opiod overdoses and by June 2017 that number climbed to 67,000 (according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control). That this crisis is impervious to economic, racial and geographic barriers is perhaps why both parties are unified in providing easy access to naxolone as a possible solution. The deleterious effects of these deaths on families and communities have been well documented. While both rural & poor inner city areas remain the most susceptible to opiod fatalities, addiction has also found its way into the more affluent strata of society.

Mayor DeBlasio’s efforts to create safe injection sites is adding another dimension to the national plan and some question whether this is going too far. His strategy is not without obstacles on both the state and federal levels. The mayor’s long-standing feud with fellow Democrat Governor Cuomo will certainly create a stumbling block as well as a statute which stipulates that such sites violate federal law. Under federal law, known as the crack house statute, it is illegal to operate locations for the distribution of controlled substances. However, there are loopholes to these federal encumbrances. A precedent has been set by the needle exchange programs established in the 1990’s to combat the spread of HIV; an argument can be made that this too is an epidemic of sorts. Equally, if it is presented under the guise of a research study, then this plan can be authorized by the state health commissioner. Per the mayor’s proposal, these centers will be domiciled within non-profit organizations that already provide needle exchange programs and it will be less disruptive to local communities.

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The Quintessential Centrist seeks to provide a salve in this difficult time by offering a dynamic, new online media platform dedicated to promoting the ideals and tenets of the center - where compromise is often found - through our in-depth columns, articles and analysis.

TQC provides a truly holistic approach to media, offering readers ideas that blend news, analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political continuum as they relate to culture and the arts, finance, technology, national security, health and wellness, and domestic affairs. We approach this broad range of verticals in a thoughtful manner and embrace both serious and more light-hearted topics with fluency.

TQC is not beholden to page-clicks nor sensationalism at the cost of fact based coverage underpinned by exhaustive research or opinion pieces that incorporate ideas and values across the ideological spectrum. With our fresh approach focused on promoting thoughtful discourse, our readers will be afforded substantive material where they can engage in respectful discussion and debate with other TQC readers, free from the acrimony that has tainted our national media landscape.

Will TQC be the first to “break” the latest news events or opine on hot button topics? No. But our homepage is where you will be able to come for exhaustive investigation that presents both sides of an issue - even hot button issues - from liberal & conservative ideas and values underpinned by facts and opinions malleable to when those facts change. TQC is a safe haven where readers can digest, opine, share information, and learn. An oasis in the modern time.

TQC also takes a slower approach to the current hurried pace of news and media by favoring more thoughtful, long-form articles that encourage real thought and analysis. We are a home for you to enrich your mind and elevate your discourse on a range of issues. Sometimes we will make you laugh. Other times, the topics we write about may make you cry. But one thing is for certain: TQC will always try to make you think.