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Linkdump: Takedowns, smokers and dying culture

Tom Slee has a good takedown of the anecdote-based arguments of Clay Shirky.

But stories and analogies should be a starting point for thought, and not its terminus. They should be the spark that prompts more analytical, more rigorous investigation and introspection, testing out your idea to see where it fits reality and where it fails. In this essay, and in some of his others (see below) anecdotes are all there is, and that’s just not good enough.

Slee alludes to Shirky’s statement that Charlie Bit My Finger youtube video was the number 1 video and that it suggested the paradigm-shifting nature of user-generated content away from complex production models. Except it isn’t. In fact, Slee says:

the most watched video made in the last five years shows Lady Gaga and a group of hired models dancing on an elaborate set in a video that embodies complex production methods, that is part of the Vevo channel (a joint venture between Google and major record labels) and that features product placements by Nemiroff Vodka, Parrot by Starck, Carerra sunglasses, and HP Envy  [link]. Now there is a complex business model.

That’s the thing about anecdote-related pieces. People can refute your larger point simply by mentioning extra details about the anecdote that show it’s not typical or valid any more. Actually,  you have to give credit to popularizers like Shirky, Friedman and Gladwell.  Making your prose interesting and readable is the hard part; fixing the logical errors is not as much of a challenge.

Daniel Seidemann counters the logic of pro-Israelis about Jerusalem settlements

93 percent of Israel – including most of West Jerusalem and the 35 percent of privately-owned land in East Jerusalem expropriated by Israel since 1967 – is categorized by Israel as "State Land." Only Israeli citizens and those entitled to immigrate under the Law of Return may acquire properties on this land. Palestinians of East Jerusalem, with rare exception, are in neither of these categories. So while Wiesel may purchase a home in anywhere in East or West Jerusalem, a Palestinian cannot.

Since 1967, Israel has built more than 50,000 dwellings for Israelis in East Jerusalem, but has built fewer than 600 for Palestinians (the last was built 35 years ago). And from 1967 until today, as East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population increased from 70,000 to 280,000, Israel has issued only 4,000 permits for private Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem. Barred from building legally, the Palestinians built without permits – leaving them subject to Israeli demolition of their "illegal" homes.

Today extreme settler groups have launched a campaign to evict Palestinian families – refugees of Israel’s War of Independence – from densely-populated Palestinian neighborhoods in the heart of East Jerusalem. They are doing so based on the "right" of Jews to recover properties lost in the 1948 war. But under Israeli law Palestinians have no such right. So while Israel insists that Palestinians renounce any "right of return" – something understood as necessary for the two-state solution – it is implementing a Jewish right of return to Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and turning 1948 refugees into 2010 refugees.

Karl Levin has a testy exchange with Goldman Sachs CEO about shitty deals.

Paul Krugman criticizes Mitch McConnell’s false logic for opposing new banking regulations:

"And basically, the (Republican) argument boils down to saying that what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department. Because then people will know that they can’t let their buildings burn in the first place, right? It’s incredible. So anyone who says bipartisan, should say, bipartisan doesn’t include the Senate minority leader."

Jane Brody reports that teenagers engage in risky behavior not because they are oblivious to the risk but because they perceive the benefits of them as being greater or more important. Fascinating!

Jonathan Schwarz lets us know about a South American mining tragedy that resulted in 8 million miners being worked to death.

Wow, a great insight in an article about a terminally-ill blogger by Madison Park:

"What we’re seeing over the last decade, we are gradually moving from a culture that had become during the 20th century, very closed about death," said Dr. Chris Feudtner, research director of Palliative Care Services at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

A cultural shift has occurred, he said, referring to columnists and Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who discussed their impending deaths with frankness. Pausch’s last lecture, urging students to fearlessly pursue their dreams, went viral on YouTube in 2007, getting more than 11 million views.

Their line of thinking may be, "I’m still alive. I don’t want to be closed. I want connection. I want to be able to share what I’m learning on this journey," Feudtner said.

Bloggers like Miles Levin, an 18-year-old who had a rare soft-tissue cancer and died in 2007, and Michelle Lynn Mayer, a 39-year-old mother who had scleroderma and died in 2008, shared their thoughts on living and dying, too.

"We all tend to be open via video, blog or Facebook about what we do every day. It’s hardly surprising that openness extends to people’s last days or weeks," said Dr. David Cassarett, author of the book "Last Acts," about end-of-life decisions.

These bloggers, Cassarett said, are helping the rest of us through largely uncharted territory. He used a sports analogy to explain.

"Hardcore bicycle riders ride in packs, and there’s a tradition," he said. "The one in the front points out hazards in the road to those who come behind. It’s both an opportunity to be helpful, if you’re in front. You spot sewer grates, so others can avoid accidents."

Blogs like Markvoort’s could be acting similarly, he said. They don’t shy away from the ugliness and brutality of the dying process.

"They’re not just about hope but also about despair. That is, they’re telling us not just what we want to hear but also what we need to hear," Cassarett wrote.

This is a great insight. The sick and the elderly are easy to overlook especially because they don’t get out of doors as often. But information travels quickly over the Net, and unless one is a hermit, one is active on Facebook or blogging or some web-community. This network becomes a way for people to keep up with you. This happened to a friend of mine who has breast cancer.  It is convenient to have people check her blog for the latest anecdote. Web communities and blogging tools allow for more introspection than we used to have. Before that  we had poetry and prayer and churches and hospital socializing.

1/4 of boys in Indonesia between 13 and 15, Margie Mason reports:

As smoking has declined in many Western countries, it has risen in Indonesia — about 63 percent of all men light up and one-third of the overall population smokes, an increase of 26 percent since 1995. Smoking-related illnesses kill at least 200,000 annually in a nation of 235 million

"If Kelly Clarkson goes ahead with the concert, she is by choice being a spokesman for the tobacco industry and helping them to market to children," said Matt Myers, president of the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which has urged Clarkson to drop the sponsorship.

"She has the power now to turn this situation around and to send a clear message to Indonesian young people and, frankly, to the young people of the world."

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