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Francis Barton
106 followers -
sometimes behave so strangely
sometimes behave so strangely

106 followers
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I have encountered a problem with the Feedly app for Chrome recently.
When I right-click on a link to download an mp3 from a podcast feed, it crashes Chrome instantly (all tabs and windows disappear).
I'm running Chrome 34.0.1847.116 on Linux Mint on my laptop.

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+Charlie Barton you might like this! Kayaking after your skiing?

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These are the Communities I have joined on Google+
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Interesting change of policy.
When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names. 

Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use. 

We know you've been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be. Thank you for expressing your opinions so passionately, and thanks for continuing to make Google+ the thoughtful community that it is.

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Not yet read, but with recommendations from +Jordan Peacock and +Daniel Estrada it is going to be a good read... :)
// A hundred times, this. Utterly essential reading.

States within the global political economy today face a twin insurgency, one from below, another from above. From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies in which the global disenfranchised resist, coopt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the loopholes, exceptions, and failures of governance institutions to build global commercial empires. These empires then deploy their resources to corrupt, coopt, or challenge incumbent political actors.

From above comes the plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists to tax-haven lawyers to currency speculators to mineral-extraction magnates, the new global super-rich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign to limit the reach and capacity of government tax-collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cut-throat business competition.

Unlike classic 20th-century insurgents, who sought control over the state apparatus in order to implement social reforms, criminal and plutocratic insurgents do not seek to take over the state. Nor do they wish to destroy the state, since they rely parasitically on it to provide the legacy goods of social welfare: health, education, infrastructure, and so on. Rather, their aim is simpler: to carve out de facto zones of autonomy for themselves by crippling the state’s ability to constrain their freedom of (economic) action.

[...]

(Note that, conceptually, plutocratic insurgencies differ from kleptocracies; the latter use the institutions of state to loot the population, whereas the former wish to neutralize those institutions in order to facilitate private-sector looting. In practice, these may overlap or co-mingle.) 

[...]

The political strategy associated with the plutocratic insurgency is to use austerity in the face of economic shocks to rewrite social contracts on the basis of a much narrower set of mutual social obligations, the ultimate effect being to de-collectivize social risks.

[...]

For plutocratic insurgents, this strategy is dictated at bottom by a raw cost-benefit analysis: The price the social modernist state asks them to pay in taxes and regulatory burdens outweighs the benefits they believe they receive from living in such a state. Plutocratic insurgents believe they can afford (and therefore everyone should be required) to buy for themselves the sorts of goods that the state was once expected to provide. They live in gated communities, travel via personal jets and private bus fleets, and send their children to exclusive schools. While each of these decisions may be motivated by lifestyle choices or a desire for social differentiation, the result is a progressive moral disinvestment and civic disengagement from the quality of these traditionally public services, especially as the habit of opting out of public services trickles down from the oligarchs to the upper middle classes.

[...]

Shock-therapy-driven globalization of the formerly closed economies of the Eastern bloc and the Global South turned out to have an unfortunate bug. While the mainstream globalization celebrated by the likes of Thomas Friedman grabbed the headlines, the parallel development of a “deviant” globalization in industries like narcotics, immigration, wildlife harvesting, and antiquities smuggling remained long enough in the shadows for it to set deep roots. Though the weakness of the post-communist and post-developmental state represented a dire problem for mainstream businesses and for imploding middle classes in these countries, it offered comparative advantages for illicit commerce. While plutocrats sewed up the licit opportunities afforded by the integration of the global economy, they mostly avoided dealing in goods and services that were banned for moral or prudential reasons. By contrast, deviant entrepreneurs realized that arbitraging the moral and regulatory differences that existed in different jurisdictions worldwide presented fantastic business opportunities—with opportunities continuously emerging as the capacities of different states contracted at differing rates. The unsung globalizers of the 1990s and 2000s, therefore, were the criminals who rapidly scaled up their local mom-and-pop graft organizations to become globe-spanning deviant commercial empires.

These avatars of deviant globalization constitute the leaders of today’s criminal insurgency. While they often emerge from the excluded and subaltern classes within their societies, what distinguishes them from classic social revolutionaries is that rather than seeking to build or capture institutionalized state power, they wish merely to protect their rents in the various (usually deviant) markets they control. Organizations such as the First Command of the Capital in Brazil, the ’Ndrangheta in Italy, or the Zetas in Mexico have no interest in taking over the states in which they operate. Instead, like plutocratic insurgents, they seek to selectively cripple the state so as to establish a private zone of economic autonomy, while continuing to rely on the state to supply vestigial social services. These actors thrive in (and indeed try to foster) weak-state environments, and their activities reinforce the conditions of this weakness.

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Even paradigmatically “failed” states—such as Congo, Somalia, and Afghanistan—are deeply connected to the global economy; instead of being connected to the formal and legal parts of it, however, their primary ties are through illicit trade in minerals, through piracy, through the global drug trade, and so on. The crucial issue is thus not connectedness or disconnectedness, but rather what kind of connectedness.

[...]

Prison-based drug syndicates in Brazil, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, and many more—all are criminal insurgents who not only have demonstrated the will and capacity to shut down areas of their host states’ basic functions, thereby upsetting global markets half a world away, but who also provide social services to local constituencies.

Criminal insurgency is thus the form that deviant globalization takes as it scales up and reaches political self-consciousness. On the one hand, the more deviant industries grow, the more damage they do to the political legitimacy of the states in which they operate, thus undermining the capacity of the state to provide the infrastructure and services that the criminal insurgents want to free ride on. On the other hand, the people living in the semi-autonomous zones controlled by criminal insurgents increasingly recognize the insurgents rather than the hollowed out state as the real source of local power and authority.

[...]

Instead of projects of collective emancipation, what both plutocratic and criminal insurgents desire is for the social modernist state to remain intact except insofar as it impinges on them.

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Indeed, as the social modernist state failed to realize its promise, the very notion of a revolution that aspires to a project of national-scale collective social reform has come to seem quaint. (Of course, rebels who seek to take over or direct the state toward projects of social reform do still exist: Marxian movements like the Zapatistas in Mexico or the Naxalites in India, Islamic movements like Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Moro insurgency in the Philippines. But these are arguably anachronistic phenomena.) Today’s rebels increasingly seek neither state control nor national (or international) social reform. Nor do they seek a political revolution in the Arendtian or Burkean sense of a contest for direct operational and ideological control over the organs of the state. Instead of being in revolt against a particular political regime with the goal of building better government, they aim instead to cripple their hosts states in order to gain de facto zones of private autonomy that can enable individual or corporate enrichment. They are thus parasitic in a very specific sense: They free ride on the institutional legacy of social modernism so as to avoid costs to their businesses.

What both insurgencies represent is the replacement of the liberal ideal of uniform authority and rights within national spaces by a kaleidoscopic array of de facto and even de jure microsovereignties. Rather than a single national space in which power is exercised and all residents enjoy rights in a consistent and homogeneous way, the cartography of the dual insurgency consists of diverse enclaves of heterogeneous political authority and of non-standardized social-service provisioning arrangements.

[...]

In short, while globalization is indeed undermining national political institutions and thus national identities and loyalties, what appears to be replacing the national is not the “global” political identity that “cosmopolitical” dreamers have long aspired to, but rather a return to localized identities rooted in clan, sect, ethnicity, corporation, and gang.

[...]

The ultimate losers in all of this, of course, are the middle classes—the people who “play by the rules” by going to school and getting traditional middle-class jobs whose chief virtue is stability. These sorts of people, who lack the ruthlessness to act as criminal insurgents or the resources to act as plutocratic insurgents, can only watch as institutions built over the course of the 20th century to ensure a high quality of life for a broad majority of citizens are progressively eroded. As the social bases of collective action crumble, individuals within the middle classes may increasingly face a choice: accept a progressive loss of social security and de facto social degradation, or join one of the two insurgencies.

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As someone who has worked in nonprofits, this is profoundly true: unless you (a) can dedicate 10 or so hours a week to volunteering, in a position where that amount of time is useful or (b) have important domain knowledge in the role you're volunteering for, you should probably be giving money rather than time. The overhead associated with getting someone up to speed on a new role actually makes most volunteers a net loss of time and money for the organization they're volunteering for.

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Love this.

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