TOPIC: socialjustice
Issue 24
April 28, 2019
Rich Lives Matter More

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

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

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

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Issue 32
June 23, 2019
Their Right, Wrong Venue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Issue 35
July 21, 2019
Sacking the Sacklers

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

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

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

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

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Issue 37
August 4, 2019
Cash Bail Should Be Abolished

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

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

The Process of Entering the “System”

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

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

a. Let you go.

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

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

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

Arraignment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Issue 52
November 24, 2019
Touchy Subjects

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

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

Due Process

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

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

According to Ms. Sauytbay, prisoners are routinely:

· Shackled

· Shaved

· Starved

· Raped

· Electrocuted

· Beaten

· Brainwashed

· Housed in cramped quarters

· Fed soup and bread

· Forced to defecate in a bucket

· Forced to recite Communist Party songs

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

· Forced to serve as guinea pigs for medical experiments

Precedence

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

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Issue 61
February 9, 2020
Dear Congresswoman Plaskett

The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) consist of four major islands: Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, Saint John and Water Island, and ~50 minor islands, rock formations and coral reefs. The vast majority of USVI inhabitants reside in Saint Thomas (pop. 52,000) & Saint Croix (pop. 51,000). Approximately 5,000 people live on Saint John and ~200 on Water Island.

The USVI is an “at-large congressional district.” This means it is not entitled to designate a voting member of Congress, but can elect a delegate to participate in debates, sit on committees and advocate for the Virgin Islands. The current Congresswoman representing the USVI is Stacey Plaskett (D).

Dear Congresswoman Plaskett,

I was born in Saint Thomas and lived on the island for a few years. This past weekend, I came back to visit and spend time with one of the most wonderful women I know, a second mother to me. Her name is Marion. She 77 years old; age is beginning to catch up with her.

While chatting in her living area, I asked why she did not have her air conditioner running. She replied that she could not turn it on. I inquired if it was broken; it was not. Congresswoman Plaskett, Marion can no longer use her air conditioner because her utility bill has tripled since Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority (WAPA) restored "service" (or lack thereof) following the hurricanes that ravaged the USVI.

Ms. Plaskett, Marion is fortunate. While far from rich, despite a ~3-fold increase in her utility bill, she can still afford basic necessities, but many of your constituents can not. They are allocating such a high proportion of their income to rapidly increasing energy bills that some are being forced to go without basic goods.

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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.”

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