TOPIC: doublestandard
Issue 12
January 27, 2019

"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.

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.

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 23
April 14, 2019

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.

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 48
October 27, 2019

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 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.