Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month Bad?

Posted October 30, 2013 by Winch
Categories: Uncategorized

Jeff likes to stutter, “B…b…b…but the corporations!”

Below is a point-by point response to a particularly gratuitous attack on the Breast Cancer Awareness phenomenon. Please read the article first, and then take a look at my responses.

“These events have been inundated with corporate sponsors who pledge to donate a small portion of their proceeds to breast cancer research—provided, of course, that you continue to buy their products. Everything, it turns out, sells better in pink.”

Yes, businesses piggyback on cultural phenomena for their own benefit. But that this purportedly “soils” the integrity of the phenomenon itself is ridiculous. First of all, businesses, especially brand-name corporations, also help to promote and propagate the cause. Yes, businesses grow because of the cause, but so does the cause. Secondly, Why is the fact that they are raising money through sales a blemish on the donations themselves? Should they not seek to make those marginal sales and have less profit from which to donate?

“The great hypocrisy of these corporations is that they purport to be raising money for a cure while simultaneously using ingredients in their products that can serve as risk factors for the disease.”

This point is totally valid. I agree with the author 100%.

“In 2011, only 15% of Susan G. Komen’s donations went to fund research grants.”

According to the same article from which this statistic was taken, “The organization’s 2011 financial statement reports that 43 percent of donations were spent on education, 18 percent on fund-raising and administration, 15 percent on research awards and grants, 12 percent on screening and 5 percent on treatment.” Such unworthy causes! It’s as if the author wants us to believe the majority of funds are going towards lavish Caribbean cruises.

“Much of the breast cancer awareness movement focuses on early detection and treatment, while a shockingly small amount of resources are allocated to prevention and research exploring the root causes of the disease.”

…So start your own damn non-profit that focuses on the root causes. It’s like saying Greenpeace is at fault for not funding aeronautics research.

“Breast cancer has only become relevant to wider society because white, middle class women have become the face of the disease.”

Thank you to all white, middle-class women who helped promote an important cause.

“The intense focus on breast cancer has also been used to water down feminism and divert attention from other more “controversial” women’s health issues, such as access to contraceptives and abortions.”

If charity is indeed a zero-sum game (which it is not because there are still untapped pockets of society who give less to charity than others), then use the force of those other important issues to divert resources back to those causes. Don’t tear down an important cause because it is getting in the way of your pet cause. That is chutzpah.

“Talk of “survivors” and the “fight” against cancer inherently suggests that those who succumb to their disease—those who “lose their battle”—have failed in a way that survivors have not.”

This strikes me as unwarranted hypersensitivity. That OBVIOUSLY is not the intent of the movement as a whole. Also, it is not the role of the “zeitgeist” to ensure the emotional security of every dying cancer patient. Different patients probably require different types of emotional support. The current culture offers an outpouring of optimism and hope, which probably soothes and comforts many, many, many patients. If the author would like to see a more realist message, she can start her own non-profit rather than shitting on hope.


- Winch

Why I read the news — and you should too.

Posted August 8, 2013 by Jersey
Categories: Uncategorized

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The Great Bubble Machine - Matt Taibi's notoriously controversial takedown of Goldman Sachs.

            “The Great American Bubble Machine”              Matt Taibi’s controversial takedown of Goldman Sachs.

Jeff can’t be bothered.

I graduated from college at a time of great political and economic uncertainty. Two wars, congressional gridlock, and a global financial crisis had all taken their toll. For the first time, there was a sense that America was on the wrong side of history. Then I began paying attention to the news, poring over it in fact for hours at a time. What were the adults all talking about, now that I was one?

They were talking a lot about corruption. Matt Taibbi, it seemed, was raking up another example of corporate malfeasance every other week. And not just tax evasion. These were enormously complicated schemes involving unfathomable sums of money. After following several stories like this one I started to catch on. We weren’t simply on the wrong side of history. There were immensely powerful actors shaping history.

Steven Brill’s seminal exposé, “Bitter Pill,” drove the point home. It tells the story of how hospitals often engage in unconscionable price gouging, bankrupting the uninsured on even the most ordinary items. For one patient, gauze pads came in at $77 a box as part of his $348,000 hospital bill.

None of this is to say that individuals, or even individual institutions, can be blamed for the rash of challenges now facing this country. Nor is it to say that media outlets have the last word on the cause of the financial crisis or the integrity of the healthcare industry. But keeping abreast of the issues is essential to comprehending how the world works and why we are forced to operate under the conditions we do.

It is also essential to changing those conditions. If America is indeed in decline, it is not merely because it is subject to some inscrutable, inexorable historical process. History is made. And the first step to making history is to know how it develops out of the present.

I read the news because I want the “reality-based community” to be “history’s actors.”

Journalism is not just educational; it is political. Not because it can be partisan (though of course it often is) but because it can be empowering. If politics doesn’t excite you intellectually, if you have no sense of civic duty, then read the news to satisfy your own self-interest. Read it so you can practice informed consent when it comes to the decisions that will affect you and the future of this country the most.

The March 2013 issue of Time dedicated its entire feature section to Steven Brill's 24,105-word article. It was a first in magazine's 80-years history.

The March, 2013 issue of Time dedicated its entire feature section to Steven Brill’s 24,105-word article — a first in the magazine’s 90-plus years of circulation.

- D. Schwartz

Sunk Costs and Elevators

Posted July 18, 2013 by Winch
Categories: Economics, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Jeff would rather ride the escalator anyway…

The elevator took an oppressively long time to pick me up from the eighth floor today. As I waited and waited – and waited, and waited – I finally gave up and deigned to take the stairs. The stairs. That windy, vertiginous exercise shaft built for fire emergencies. I knew that the second I burst through the exit door the elevator would mockingly ding. Its heavy door would swing open, welcoming some lucky, undeserving cadge into its mirrored bowels. He would descend without a sweat, emerging on the ground floor with a hop in his untested step.

Did I make the right choice? I huffed down the stairs, regretting my decision more and more with every passing floor. Had I waited just one more minute, I was certain, I would have caught the elevator and saved myself the aggravation of second-guessing and regret. So why did I cave and choose the stairs? Was I punishing the elevator for taking too long? Would the elevator ever rue the day it dallied up that automated shaft?

I knew the answer. I had committed an unforgivable economic fallacy: I had accounted for a Sunk Cost when making a decision. Economics 101! A sunk cost is an irrecoverable loss and, as such, should not be taken into account in making decisions about the future. In this case, the sunk cost was the time I had spent waiting for that goddamned elevator to arrive. Every second that ticked by was an inconsequential, though undeniably aggravating, unit of time with regard to the future tradeoff of taking the elevator versus taking the stairs. I should have realized that each passing second was a second closer to that palliative ding. My ever-diminishing wait and the prospect of that sweet, sweet elevator ride was certainly a greater value proposition than taking the stairs. Instead, I forgot the cardinal rule: in economics, what’s past is never prologue.

- Winch

Why No One Should Have to Change Their Name

Posted March 7, 2013 by Jersey
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,


Jeff  wonders: is there a word for feminism, but for men? Is there even room for such a word?

Jill Filipovic’s recent piece, “Why should married women change their names?” is thoughtful and well written.

It’s also myopic and misguided.

Granted, no woman should be obligated to take her husband’s surname, and the fact that 50% of Americans disagree on this point is astonishing. But I find Filipovic’s suggestion—that a man ought to do what she herself will not—symptomatic of a widespread disregard for male issues in contemporary feminist discourse.

If “putting a word to the most obvious social dynamics is the first step toward ending inequality,” can Filipovic put a word to her contention that men “don’t grow up under the shadow of several thousand years of gender-based discrimination?” My own word for this would be misandry (a term, by the way, that one rarely encounters outside of a gender-and-sexuality seminar).

Much thought has been given to man’s own sense of socially conditioned “psychological impermanence.” The fact that Filipovic makes no mention of this is, again, what I find so asymmetrical about current gender debates. Any productive conversation about gender has to begin with the acknowledgment that there are more than one, that both men and women face discrimination because of their sex.

Has history been more discriminating toward women in this regard? Of course. But to take men out of the discussion entirely is to perpetuate the kind of intolerance Filipovic undoubtedly abhors.

- D. Schwartz

Wagner’s Anti-Semitism and Me: Struggling with an Artist’s Troubling Legacy

Posted February 7, 2013 by Jersey
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Living at home sucks. There’s just no getting around it. It’s the little things that get to you. Like when you bring home a six-pack of Weihenstephaner—yeah, it’s imported—and the first thing your dad says is, “German beer, huh? Not something I usually buy.” That’ll teach you for trying to earn his admiration through alcohol.

My Jewish baby-boomer parents were in the habit of bringing up the Holocaust whenever anything from Germany reared its head, effervescent or otherwise. They grew up in the shadow of the Shoah and were leery of all things German as a result. For me though, the moratorium on Teutonic culture had little pragmatic, or even moral, value. It seemed like collective punishment, nothing more.

Read the rest at

- D. Schwartz

A Paean to Proust

Posted January 31, 2013 by Jersey
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For me, Marcel Proust’s prose often outshined the objects they depicted. In Swann’s Way, a book I picked up shortly after graduating from college, flowers are likened time and again to stars. Chrysanthemums for instance, “kindle their cold fires in the murky atmosphere of winter afternoons.” The transmutation of ordinary landscapes into scenes of celestial wonder—this was one of Proust’s specialties.

It was partly his marvelous command of language and partly something else, a sensitivity that I couldn’t help but admire. This half-Jewish, highly asthmatic Frenchman was attuned to transcendence in a way few people are. He lusted after the beauty he saw in everything, and ultimately found salvation in its embrace. Proust’s descriptions don’t outshine beautiful things so much as they communicate their true worth, at least for us Romantics.

At regular intervals, amid the inimitable ornamentation of their leaves, which can be mistaken for those of no other fruit-tree, the apple-trees opened their broad petals of white satin, or dangled the shy bunches of their blushing buds. It was on the Méséglise way that I first noticed the circular shadow which apple-trees cast upon the sunlit ground, and also those impalpable threads of golden silk which the setting sun weaves slantingly downwards from beneath their leaves, and which I used to see my father slash through with his stick without ever making them deviate.

His sensitivity, his vital, ecstatic appreciation of everything from hawthorns to stained-glass windows, is something I admire, now more than ever, because I can feel it slipping away. When I was in school, when I was more or less paid to cultivate myself, this kind of sensitivity was not hard to come by. Everywhere professors pointed to this or that beauty; a vital, ecstatic engagement with life was inevitable. But when I left, when this ritual of appreciation was lost to me, it was only through Proust that I found it again. In a word, I admire Proust for his ability to, as another Romantic once put it, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

- D. Schwartz

Swann's Way is the first volume of Proust's seven-part masterwork In Search of Lost Time. The novel recently made a cameo appearance in the film On the Road, an adaptation of the Kerouac novel starring Kristen Stewart.

Swann’s Way is the first volume of Proust’s seven-part masterwork In Search of Lost     Time. The book recently made a cameo appearance in the film On the Road, an adaptation of the Kerouac novel, starring Kristen Stewart.


Posted January 9, 2013 by Winch
Categories: Uncategorized

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We love to hate a good cliché. The shameful refrain that freezes the dance of our nimble language. Yet, in moments of weakness, we crumble under the weight of silence. We caulk the void with black holes and vacua. We victimize attentive winds with the lesser scripts of our Hollywood forbears.

It takes a fool to spin a phrase, and it takes a wit to forge one. But only a master of words and games can purge the lifeless banality of its tedium. Awaken the dead. Squeeze life from this shriveled effigy of language. Play a sweet song with muted strings.

A crestfallen man contemplates his tortured life, considers the varying degrees of precipitation. Life’s a motherfuckin’ bitch, he says. A wry smile, a gruff sigh, a work of rustic art.

Lights and tunnels, wings and prayers, beautiful words seeking salvation. We rescue them with a timely flourish and they, in turn, rescue us.


- Winch


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