TOPIC: debate
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
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%.”

...
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.

...
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.

...
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.

...
Issue 55
December 22, 2019
Circumcision & Jewish Tradition

In accordance with Jewish custom, when a newborn boy is 8 days old, he is circumcised. Traditionally, a mohel, a Jewish person trained in the practice of "brit milah,” or circumcision, performs this religious and cultural rite of passage. The procedure is typically done in the home, followed by a celebration over Jewish-style cuisine, drinks, and conversation. When asked why, many Jewish parents say they circumcise their sons simply because it is “tradition.” Specifically, the ritual of circumcision is a rite of passage, a symbol of “total obedience to God’s will.” At the ritual's onset, it was also believed that circumcision provided a way of distinguishing a Jewish boy or man from others, particularly those who might seek to inflict harm on, or "pose as Jews." Today, circumcision is widely practiced outside Judaism - for religious, cultural and health reasons.

Tradition or Barbarism, or Both?

Religious traditions can be wonderful in drawing communities and families closer; they create an innate bond and sense of identity. But when do we reach an inflection point where a cultural or religious ritual that’s historically been socially acceptable, is considered barbaric and generally looked upon by society with disdain? For an example, look no further than the brit milah itself. In accordance with Jewish law, a mohel “must draw blood from the circumcision wound.” Up until the 1800's, the “m’tzitzah” or removal of the blood, was effected by the mohel who would suck the blood off the newborns penis. Centuries ago most Jews were unmoved by the thought, let alone the act, of a grown man putting his lips on an 8-day old’s penis to “clean” the wound. Of course, today all but the most regressive people cringe when they learn about this part of a bris that was formally commonplace.

In the ultra-religious Haredi sect, a mohel still removes the blood using his mouth. Regrettably, this abhorrent “custom” which most people would (now) argue is analogous to sexual assault, has resulted in multiple cases of an incurable sexually transmitted disease (genital HSV-1 or herpes) being communicated from mohel to baby. A newborn’s immune system is not fully developed. The herpes virus is usually an unpleasant annoyance for an adult; it can kill an infant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented cases of death resulting from herpes acquired via transmission from mohel to newborn.

Fortunately, today almost all mohels remove the blood with a suction device. But 100 years from now, might our descendants reflect back upon the present-day customs of the brit milah and cringe in a similar way to us when we learned about the related practices of the past?

Personal Experience

I am Jewish. I have attended a few brit miloht (plural for brit milah) in years past. While I remain malleable and welcome a respectful debate, my current position is that I will not attend any more of these "celebrations." I cannot in good faith – excuse the pun – take part in any social, cultural or religious gathering consuming Jewish fare, drinking wine and conversing, to celebrate a newborn boy’s religious rite of passage that involves his penis being handled by a grown stranger. In my view, doing so would be perverted and tantamount to child abuse.

...
Issue 56
December 29, 2019
Thank You (2019)

2019 was the first full year for The Quintessential Centrist (TQC). We would like to thank all of our readers for playing an integral role in our growing platform, an online forum that incorporates ideas and values across the ideological spectrum.

TQC is a work in progress. We have certainly made mistakes and have done our best to remedy and learn from them. Your constructive criticism helps us better accomplish our objective: to offer readers ideas that blend news, analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political and social gamut.

Over the course of 2019, we analyzed and opined on a broad array of topics related to politics, current events, culture, finance, technology, national security, health and wellness, international and domestic affairs, the arts, and more. In total, we penned 47 articles. What did we get right? Where did we come up short? Which articles elicited the most positive, negative, and impassioned responses etc.?

Whenever we received an approximately equal amount of critique from the left and right, our take was that we had fulfilled our objective of promoting the ideals and tenets of the center. We were extremely pleased with results of TQC’s Position On Gun Control. Many staunch conservatives accused us of being closeted liberals. An overwhelming number of liberals accused us of being a mouthpiece for the right. Hence, our piece on gun control was “on target.” Perhaps not so surprisingly, TQC’s Position On Abortion, proved catalytic for similar responses from both sides. This reassured us that we split the goalposts down the middle on that always controversial issue. We also received equally representative takeaways from Super Bowl LIII, Cash Bail Should Be Abolished, Fast Fashion Fails To Look In The Mirror, Planes, Trains & Emotional Support Animals, Touchy Subjects, and Religious Freedom vs Discrimination.

...
Issue 57
January 12, 2020
Qassem Soleimani

On January 3, 2020, President Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani while his convoy was en route from Bagdad International Airport. We believe this decision was correct.

Noted former CIA analyst and current congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin (D-MI):

“If you worked on the Middle East over the past 20 years you dealt with the growing organization and sophistication of Soleimani’s covert and overt military activities, which have contributed to significant destabilization across the region. What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?”

Slotkin is rightfully wary of Soleimani’s killing being a catalyst that drags the United States into yet another open-ended military conflict. The risk of a protracted, full on war is also something we take very seriously. Wars are typically started by wealthy people carrying briefcases, and fought by poor people carrying machine guns. For behind every news headline and data point(s) are human beings. Young men and women, some not old enough to legally enjoy a beer but nonetheless fighting for something they most likely know little, if anything, about. Undeniably, Trump’s strategic act of aggression increases the probability of a direct military engagement with Iran. All things considered, we feel strongly that the odds of a drawn out confrontation with Iran is quite low. The successful strike carried out with surgical precision to eliminate a dangerous foe, was worth the risk.

Qassem Soleimani’s Legacy & Why It Was Correct To Act

Gen. Qassem Soleimani was the highest ranking and commanding officer of the Quds Force, an elite division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In January of 2011, Soleimani officially became a “Major General,” a title bestowed upon him by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini, who described Soleimani as a "living martyr." That same year, Major General Soleimani was officially labeled a terrorist by the Obama administration. The following year, the European Union sanctioned Soleimani for participating in “terrorist acts.” It is a widely accepted view that Qassem Soleimani oversaw and/or at least had his hand in most major terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East.

Qassem Soleimani has been at war with America for over two decades. His actions have resulted in both casualties and the maiming of hundreds of U.S. and allied troops. As the years progressed, Soleimani and his comrades had been increasingly willing to engage both hard and soft targets. Their rational for this belligerent overconfidence: recent history had suggested that the risk of a U.S. response was almost nil. In particular, 2019 was a busy year for him. At Soleimani’s behest, Iran shot down American drones, attacked the U.S. embassy in Iraq, disrupted oil tankers in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz and launched a missile attack that destroyed key Saudi oil infrastructure.

At TQC we haven’t shied away from criticizing Donald Trump for many of his provocative shenanigans. But Trump did not create this crisis, the seeds of which were sown when he was still hosting a reality TV show, nor did he hit first, he hit back. And only after hundreds of dead troops were sent home to their parents in coffins draped with an American flag. The “luckier” victims of Soleimani’s actions did not die; they returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) minus their limbs that were blown off courtesy of the improvised explosive devices (IED) Soleimani had his underlings strategically place along key roads.

The indisputable truth is that Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist who detested the United States and all that America represents. He was responsible for over 600 American casualties, hundreds more allied deaths, and thousands of American and allied injuries that rendered some survivors disabled and disfigured. If the aforementioned offenses are not worthy of retaliation, what is?

...
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?

...
Issue 62
February 23, 2020
Pardon Me

The United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, gives a sitting president unlimited power to pardon or commute sentences of those convicted of federal crimes. While both are forms of clemency, a presidential pardon is full legal forgiveness for a federal crime. A commutation reduces the sentence for, but does not absolve the conviction of, a federal crime. (A sitting president cannot pardon individuals or commutate sentences of people convicted of state crimes; these powers are granted to the respective state’s governor or pardon board).

On February 18th, 2020, President Trump pardoned seven people. Three notable figures included in this group are Michael Milken, Bernard Kerik and Edward DeBartolo Jr. Trump commuted the sentences of four others, the most controversial of whom is Rod Blagojevich (D), the former governor of Illinois and primary focus of this article.

Michael Milken

Financier widely recognized as the individual responsible for promoting the market for high yield bonds or “junk bonds” to finance leveraged buyouts in the 1980s. During the latter half of that decade, Milken was paid over $1 billion dollars at investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, a record for the era. In 1989, Milken was charged with racketeering and securities fraud related to an insider trading investigation. He took a plea bargain and acceded guilt to certain securities violations, though not insider trading. Under the terms of the deal, Milken was sentenced to a decade behind bars (later reduced to 24 months), fined $600 million dollars & banned from the securities industry for life. Since his release from jail, Milken has given large sums of money to various charitable causes related to medicine and medical research. According to Forbes, he is currently the worlds 606th richest person with a net worth of $3.7 billion dollars.

Bernard Kerik

A law enforcement professional who joined the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 1986, Kerik was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections from 1998-2000 and served as New York City’s Police Commissioner from August 2000 until December 2001. Following the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Iraq, President George Bush choose Kerik for several mandates in Iraq. He is widely credited with doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances. The United Nations (UN) noted that Kerik's team made "positive interventions in a number of areas.” In 2003, Bush nominated Kerik to lead the newly created Department of Homeland Security; however, Kerik later withdrew from the process and admitted that he hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Kerik was later investigated by state and federal authorities for unrelated violations. As a result of those probes, in 2006 he plead guilty to two misdemeanors. In 2009 he plead guilty to more serious charges, including tax fraud. He was sentenced to 4 years in a federal penitentiary.

Edward DeBartolo Jr.

Not only a successful real estate investor who sold his company to Simon Property Group, DeBartolo also owned the San Francisco 49’ers for 23 years. He was extremely well liked by both players, whom he treated like family, and most fans. During his tenure, the 49’ers won five Super Bowls (1982, ’85, ’89, ’90, ’95) and amassed the most wins within a 10 year time frame in NFL history. In 1992, DeBartolo was accused of sexually assaulting a cocktail waitress in Menlo Park, CA. He was never charged with a crime; the case was settled out of court. DeBartolo’s most serious legal trouble stemmed from an extortion case involving the former governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards. Edwards wanted $400,000 from DeBartolo in exchange for a river boat casino license. DeBartolo failed to report this to authorities. He was charged and later plead guilty to failing to report a felony. In exchange for testimony against Edwards, DeBartolo was given two years of probation and fined $1 million dollars. He ultimately pulled out of the casino project. The National Football League also imposed its own financial penalty and barred DeBartolo from controlling the 49’ers for one year. In 2000, he ceded control of the team to his sister, Denise.

...
Issue 64
March 8, 2020
The Democratic Primary

Over last two weeks, we have witnessed a tectonic shift in the fortune of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination and the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. After Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) suspended her campaign following a disastrous third place finish in her home state, the field was reduced to just two formidable candidates: Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President, Joe Biden.

In rapid succession, candidates dropped out of the running. Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday, March 1st. A day later, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) dropped out. Michael Bloomberg followed, announcing his retirement on Wednesday, March 4th. (Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Andrew Yang left the contest earlier on.)

Ms. Warren has yet to formally endorse a candidate; she will probably do so in the near term. Neither has Andrew Yang, who might be unwilling to do so unless that candidate supports universal basic income, a cornerstone of his economic plan. But Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and a few other fringe candidates have all thrown their weight behind Mr. Biden. These former democratic nominees put ego aside for the sake of the Democratic party and united to support the former VP. They believe in the rapidly emerging political reality: Mr. Biden, a centrist, has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in a general election.

We agree, as do the betting markets. Punters currently make Joe Biden a 1 to 7 favorite to secure the Democratic nomination. Senator Sanders is currently a 7 to 1 underdog. Hillary Clinton, who has not even announced her candidacy, is currently trading at 16 to 1. With respect to the general election, currently bookies make Trump a 2 to 3 outright favorite, no matter who he ultimately ends up running against. That said, as of now, in a hypothetical head to head competition, oddsmakers see Trump easily trouncing Bernie Sanders while Joe Biden would prove to be a more formidable adversary.

Moving Forward

There is now a clear distinction between the leader of the 'progressive' wing of the party - represented by Bernie Sanders, and the moderate wing of the party, embodied by Joe Biden.

We reject Bernie Sanders. His ideas are outlandish and he is not a proponent of capitalism. However, capitalism - when subject to reasonable rules and regulations - is the system that has made the U.S. both an economic and military powerhouse. It is the system which, through competition, innovation and creative destruction, expands the economic pie. Let us be clear, the current state of capitalism in America certainly has its flaws – oligopolies in the technology sector that stifle competition are a glaring example of one – but they can (and should) be remedied. Socialism, especially the kind Senator Sanders espouses, is a flawed system unto itself.

...
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.

...
Issue 71
May 17, 2020
Office Space

Office Space, starring Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston released in 1999, is a comedy that portrays a group of disenchanted employees toiling at a software company at the dawn of the Internet age. The movie scored decent marks with critics but fared poorly on the big screen; it barely recouped its production cost. However, with the help of Comedy Central airing the film over 30 times, Office Space garnered a cult following, particularly with tech workers, and subsequently performed well on video and DVD, sold millions of copies and established itself as a classic film favorite among movie aficionados.

Office Space was a comedy. In contrast, the current state of the commercial office space market in America could be mistaken for a horror movie. Economic shutdowns enacted to stem the spread of Covid-19 have rendered office buildings across swaths of America eerily vacant. Many tenants are unwilling and / or unable to pay rent. In turn, landlords with existing mortgages are having difficulties servicing their debts and covering operating costs.

Pundits have chimed in, claiming the behavioral changes forced upon us by the coronavirus will permanently impair the market for office space. As companies quickly conclude that their employees can be equally as productive working remotely as they can “at work,” they will look to cut costs by reducing their office footprint.

Stocks of publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITS) have been decimated. The shares of Vornado (VNO), which owns office towers in major metropolitan areas, have been halved. New York City stalwart SL Green’s (SLG) stock is down by almost two-thirds. Conversely, shares of Microsoft (MSFT), Zoom Video (ZM), Teladoc (TDOC), and other companies that benefit from the physical-to-digital shift have soared despite the recent stock market malaise.

...
Issue 73
June 7, 2020
George Floyd

On Monday, May 25th George Floyd – an unarmed black man – was unjustly killed in a brutal example of excessive police force. Mr. Floyd died from asphyxiation after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes – the last two of which Mr. Floyd appeared to be unconscious - while he was on the ground, face down, and handcuffed. The suspected crime: trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase a sandwich. During the ordeal, two other officers, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, also subdued Mr. Floyd. A fourth officer, Tou Thao, secured the perimeter of the scene. Mr. Floyd was not resisting arrest. During the disturbing ordeal, he cried out that he “could not breathe.” George Floyd died at the scene. He was 46 years old.

As of this post, Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Officers Thao, Lane and Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All four men are currently in custody.

Before We Opine

George Floyd’s unjust death ignited worldwide protests denouncing police brutality, racism, and other related injustices that blacks in America have suffered and continue to experience. In a short, powerful timeframe, America has reached another important inflection point regarding civil rights.

Unsurprisingly, we’ve witnessed seemingly every major corporation in America, celebrities, athletes, politicians, perhaps even your friends on Facebook etc., dare we say wannabees, who have never paid much attention to social justice, post statements of solidarity and support for black Americans and the nationwide protests (of course, some companies and many people have been active before the fact and consistently so, we are not referring to them). Indeed, we found some “protestors,” particularly a cohort of white ones, were simply doing what is trendy or cool in the moment. They might hold up a sign that reads “black lives matter” and snap a selfie for Instagram, but have little if any understanding, nor curiosity, of what many black people are tired of and frustrated about.

The first and most important part of our due diligence for this week’s post was to make it our objective to engage, listen, and learn. To better understand and appreciate beyond the obvious reason(s), why so many black Americans feel disenfranchised.

Of course, not every black American is the same, has the same experiences, or thinks similarly - (assuming as much would be biased in its own right). That said, an overriding theme that many (legitimate) protestors on the street are trying to convey is: Black Americans are exhausted. Worn-out from the pain, frustration and sense of hopelessness they feel from being disproportionately profiled by law enforcement, subjected to a criminal justice system that is not colorblind, which is unto itself a catalyst that perpetuates a negative feedback loop: arrested, jailed, convicted, sentenced, compromised employment opportunities, lower median income, gutted communities, “food desserts” but liquor stores abound, lack of access to healthcare, lower revenue streams from property tax to support education, etc., that while not impossible, is exceedingly difficult to break.

It’s A Beautiful Day…In Some Neighborhoods

Unfortunately, the experience of George Floyd was not an isolated incident. While racism in America is in a (very) slow non-linear decline, it clearly exists, particularly as it relates to policing. George Floyd’s saga happened to have been videotaped. But we must bear in mind that for every George Floyd, there are thousands of other victims of police misconduct of whom we will never be aware.

...
Issue 74
June 14, 2020
Censorship

On Sunday June 7th, the editor of The New York Times (NYT) editorial page, James Bennet, resigned following the publication of an op-ed called “Send In The Troops,” penned by Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. In the “controversial” letter, Senator Cotton argued that President Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and send in federal troops to restore law and order in cities where rioters had overwhelmed local law enforcement. The moment it was published, executives at the Times faced a backlash from many journalists and support staff. NYT columnist Michelle Goldberg called Cotton’s piece “fascist.”

Regrettably, in a spineless act of capitulation, “leaders” at the Times all but forced Mr. Bennet out the door. Then, in a pathetic attempt to mollify their outraged employees (and some readers), the newspaper released a statement explaining where they came up short. NYT publisher Arthur Gregg Sulzberger released a generic statement that could have been cut and pasted from any corporate boardroom: "While this has been a painful week across the company, it has sparked urgent and important conversations.”

The Insurrection Act of 1807

The Act empowers the U.S. president to call into service the U.S. Armed Forces and the National Guard: when requested by a state's legislature, or governor if the legislature cannot be convened, to address an insurrection against that state ,to address an insurrection, in any state, which makes it impracticable to enforce the law, or to address an insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy, in any state, which results in the deprivation of Constitutionally-secured rights, and where the state is unable, fails, or refuses to protect said rights.

The Insurrection Act has been invoked 20 times in America’s history. On 13 occasions, federal troops were sent following formal requests by state authorities. On the other occasions (7) the sitting president did so of his own volition. The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was in 1992, by Republican George Bush. The state of California requested federal help following the riots that occurred after the infamous Rodney King verdict. Unbeknownst to most, Bush also invoked the act in 1989. He dispatched troops to Saint Croix following civil unrest that ensued after Hurricane Hugo leveled the U.S. territory. Prior to that, the Insurrection Act was invoked four times by Democrat Lyndon Johnson to quell riots in the late 1960’s and three times by Democrat John F. Kennedy to enforce federal desegregation laws and stop rioting that stemmed from the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision. In the late 1950’s, Republican Dwight Eisenhower invoked the act to protect the Little Rock Nine. Presidents Bush and Johnson acted after local authorities requested federal assistance. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy did so without an “invitation”

Upon Further Examination

Let us breakdown, paragraph by paragraph, Senator Cotton’s op-ed piece that caused a mutiny among many Times staffers and resulted in James Bennet “resignation”.

“This week, rioters have plunged many American cities into anarchy, recalling the widespread violence of the 1960s.” TQC Take: There were indeed incidents of violence that included unprovoked attacks on law enforcement officers, law abiding citizens, businesses, and people defending their businesses. That said, because this was the opening paragraph, Senator Cotton should have made a point to draw a distinction between the majority of protesters that were peaceful, and a small minority, that were not.

“New York City suffered the worst of the riots Monday night, as Mayor Bill de Blasio stood by while Midtown Manhattan descended into lawlessness. Bands of looters roved the streets, smashing and emptying hundreds of businesses. Some even drove exotic cars; the riots were carnivals for the thrill-seeking rich as well as other criminal elements.” TQC Take: We cannot say for certain what Mayor Bill de Blasio was doing that Monday. That evening, Midtown Manhattan did descend into lawlessness. Senator Cotton's description was accurate.

“Outnumbered police officers, encumbered by feckless politicians, bore the brunt of the violence. In New York State, rioters ran over officers with cars on at least three occasions. In Las Vegas, an officer is in 'grave' condition after being shot in the head by a rioter. In St. Louis, four police officers were shot as they attempted to disperse a mob throwing bricks and dumping gasoline; in a separate incident, a 77-year-old retired police captain was shot to death as he tried to stop looters from ransacking a pawnshop. This is 'somebody’s granddaddy,' a bystander screamed at the scene.” TQC Take: The incidents Mr. Cotton described happened. Whether or not law enforcement bore the brunt of the violence is debatable. On a few occasions, police officers in New York City and elsewhere used excessive force against protestors. Despite what we saw on television – peace is bad for ratings - most protesters and police showed restraint. Some politicians cowered in their defining moments; others exhibited leadership.

...
Issue 76
July 12, 2020
Black Lives Matter

The senseless murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, perpetrated by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three colleagues, catalyzed demonstrations in cities and towns across America. To that end, the organization Black Lives Matter (BLM) has been instrumental in bringing much needed attention to systemic racism, a non-colorblind criminal justice system, police bias - and brutality against black people, to a broad swath of Americans and global citizens. BLM is proving to be an effective change agent.

At TQC we believe black lives matter, reject the retort “all lives matter,” - because all lives can’t matter until black lives matter as much as every other race’s - and commend BLM for their continued hard work and dedication to improving the lives of black and brown Americans.

Do Not Go There

No, stop right there. We are not going to do that. Specifically, we take issue with certain right wing pundits who attempt to blunt any meaningful discussion about excessive police force (or worse) against minorities. We will not say something analogous to, “well, how come BLM and its supporters never discuss black on black crime” or “most black people are killed by other black people, not cops” etc. We also take issue with left wing pundits who refuse to have meaningful discussions on the topic of black on black crime and react to any invitation to do so as a nonstarter.

Black on black violence and racist police policies towards black people are separate (though one could argue intertwined) issues that both matter, and both deserve attention. We will address both subjects – and much more - in this post. But before we go any further, we want to make it clear that in our view, certain people on the right side of the aisle should immediately stop trying to change the topic of police brutality by bringing up black on black crime statistics; and certain people on the left side of the aisle should immediately stop trying to shut down any substantive conversation about black on black crime. Both topics in fact matter very much to black lives.

Data

Fortunately, exhaustive amounts of research and subsequent data has been generated about both subjects. This is important; raw data is colorblind. Unfortunately, because most people respond to emotional pleas and/or personal experience, not statistics, disingenuous individuals on both sides of the political divide have become astute at cherry picking data from larger data sets or research to buttress their own agenda. Perhaps no facts and figures have been sifted through and cherry picked more than those generated by the meticulous research of Harvard economics professor, Roland Fryer Jr.. In a June 22nd Wall St Journal opinion piece that we strongly encourage people to read, Dr. Fryer wrote, “…I set out on a mission to quantify racial differences in police use of force. To my dismay, this work has been widely misrepresented and misused by people on both sides of the ideological aisle.”

Approximately 1,000 civilians are shot and killed by police each year. And each year, ~100 police officers are shot and killed in the line of duty. Though the data is patchy, most studies indicate that while people of all races experience mistreatment by the police, a black person is ~2.5x as likely to be killed by a police officer than a white person. Compounded by the fact that blacks represent only ~12% of the population, it appears there is a clear bias. And according to the work of Dr. Fryer, not surprisingly there is indeed bias, but surprisingly this was not the case when it came to shootings. According to Dr. Fryer:

“We didn’t find racial differences in officer-involved shootings…(but)…There are large racial differences in police use of nonlethal force. My research team analyzed nearly five million police encounters from New York City. We found that when police reported the incidents, they were 53% more likely to use physical force on a black civilian than a white one…We controlled for every variable available in myriad ways. That reduced the racial disparities by 66%, but blacks were still significantly more likely to endure police force…Compliance by civilians doesn’t eliminate racial differences in police use of force. Black civilians who were recorded as compliant by police were 21% more likely to suffer police aggression than compliant whites. We also found that the benefits of compliance differed significantly by race. This was perhaps our most upsetting result, for two reasons: The inequity in spite of compliance clashed with the notion that the difference in police treatment of blacks and whites was a rational response to danger. And it complicates what we tell our kids: Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down—but the benefit is larger if you are white…”

Unfortunately, certain misinformed (or worse) people on the right side of the aisle cherry pick Dr. Fryer’s data and argue something along the lines of: “Dr. Fryer, a black Harvard economics professor even concluded that police were not racist when it came to using lethal force.” Of course, they conveniently withhold the balance of the information in the aforementioned statement. At TQC, we believe most police officers protect and serve their communities professionally, ethically, and whenever possible, peacefully. However, the data is indisputable, and the fact is undeniable, police bias exists in America. BLM is correct to bring greater awareness to this problem and fight for respect and equality under the law.

Black On Black Crime

We would also be remiss not to point out that most critics of BLM that attempt to deflect the issue of police bias by invoking black on black crime statistics, conveniently leave out the fact that the majority of white people (~83%) are killed by other white people. Most crime is intra-racial. In a recent Op-Ed in the Miami Herald titled, “Let’s talk about black-on-black violence,” Leonard Pits Jr. discussed this and other points.

Wrote Mr. Pits: “being concerned over the shooting of unarmed black men hardly precludes being concerned over violence within the African-American community. (Rudy) Giuliani and others suggest a dichotomy where none exists.” We agree, Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity and other misguided (or worse) critics of BLM do suggest there is a dichotomy. However, just because somebody (else) might be truly concerned about black on black crime, does not mean they are not similarly concerned with police bias against black people. Furthermore, Pits argued:

...
Issue 54
December 15, 2019
Religious Freedom vs Discrimination

In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took legal action against the state of Michigan for working with Saint Vincent Catholic Charities (SVCC). The ACLU sued the state because SVCC, a faith-based Christian organization that works to match suitable foster and adoptive parents with children who are desperately in need of a stable home, refuses to consider prospective LGBTQ guardians. This year, The Wolverine state capitulated and agreed to stop funding SVCC and related religious organizations.

At TQC, we believe that prospective LGBTQ parents should be able to foster and adopt children. However, our position is that the ACLU’s litigation is wrong. The true subjects of “discrimination” in this case are not prospective LGBTQ parents. Orphaned children or those who have been placed in foster care remain among America’s most vulnerable demographic, more so than the prospective LGBTQ parents that the SVCC and others like it are refusing to engage. These children desperately need to be placed in stable households. The ACLU’s lawsuit neuters an effective agent working on their behalf to facilitate this.

Unfortunately, this case is just a microcosm of a growing trend in America; similar lawsuits have been brought against faith-based organizations throughout the United States for identical forms of “discrimination.”

Consequences

Even if the ACLU’s case is not overturned, it is worth noting that it won’t materially impact adoption rates in more liberal, secular parts of America. In these states, there are many nonreligious organizations with a mandate to connect children in need with willing guardians, irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation. (A few Christian organizations do in fact place children in nontraditional homes.) We support this as it makes sense: LGBTQ parents are disproportionately willing to foster and adopt children when compared to their heterosexual peers. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, “of the 114,000 same-sex couples raising children in America, 25% of them are bringing up adopted or fostered ones, compared with 3% of heterosexual couples with children.”

...
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.

...