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Neal Stephenson

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The End of Easy Hypocrisy?

“The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.”

In Foreign Affairs, Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore argue that, as a result of whistleblowing, the US is “no longer able to rely on easy hypocrisy in our foreign policy. “Secrecy can be defended as a policy in a democracy. Blatant hypocrisy is a tougher sell. Voters accept that they cannot know everything that their government does, but they do not like being lied to.”

Note: The link is behind a paywall, but Digby has an excerpt and thoughts up, as does Farrell in the Washington Post. This also reminds me of Neal Stephenson’s Neo-Victorians in The Diamond Age, which I presume is the tack a defender of our obvious diplomatic double-standards would take: “That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code…does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.”

Strapped to the Rocket.


There is no shortage of proposals for radically innovative space launch schemes that, if they worked, would get us across the valley to other hilltops considerably higher than the one we are standing on now–high enough to bring the cost and risk of space launch down to the point where fundamentally new things could begin happening in outer space. But we are not making any serious effort as a society to cross those valleys. It is not clear why.

In Slate, sci-fi author and technophile Neal Stephenson discourses on what rockets tell us about innovation and the course of technology over time. “The phenomena of path dependence and lock-in can be illustrated with many examples, but one of the most vivid is the gear we use to launch things into space.

The Seed on the Feed.

By way of Ed Rants, Sci-Fi and executive producer George Clooney are collaborating on a 6-hour TV version of Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. Not the most approachable of Stephenson‘s books offhand, so I’ll be curious to see what they do with it.

Pirates, Barbary and Otherwise.

“What is needed now is a framework for an international crime of terrorism…Coming up with such a framework would perhaps seem impossible, except that one already exists…The ongoing war against pirates is the only known example of state vs. nonstate conflict until the advent of the war on terror, and its history is long and notable. More important, there are enormous potential benefits of applying this legal definition to contemporary terrorism.” Via Breaching the Web, author Douglas Burgess makes an intriguing case in Legal Affairs for using long-standing anti-piracy laws to fight terrorism. Definitely worth a read, and not only because I have pirates-on-the-brain after finishing the literary (and highly-condensable) exploits of Jack Shaftoe, King of the Vagabonds earlier this week.)

Rusted Root.

Quicksilver, the first tome in Neal Stephenson‘s new trilogy, has just been released to decent reviews. I may just have to take a break from orals reading and procure a copy…fortunately, Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle seems to be set in Colonial America, so I might even be able to rationalize such a digression.

If it ain’t Baroque…

Via LinkMachineGo, Neal Stephenson offers up a very brief excerpt from Quicksilver, which is now being labeled as “Volume One” in a Baroque Cycle. Waterhouse, Shaftoe, Enoch…it looks like Stephenson’s world is becoming increasingly Faulkneresque.

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