Gongol.com Archives: July 2008
Brian Gongol

July 23, 2008

Water News Power outages lead to wastewater bypasses

The American Way Practical change will beget ideological change in Cuba
(Article in Spanish) Writer laments that Cubans are being granted minor practical changes in daily life -- like the right to have a cell phone -- but are still denied fundamental human rights like that of free speech. And it's true that the denial of those freedoms is tragic. But in the big picture, little rights are going to form the route to the big ones. In the former Soviet Bloc, the emergence of the fax machine, photocopier, and personal computer enabled practical communication to take place that helped embolden the pro-freedom movement (the Solidarity movement, for instance, published leaflet-sized newsletters in defiance of government prohibitions). In contemporary China, those very mobile phones that Cubans are just now getting have been used to organize demonstrations and protests. Access to basic consumer technologies may not seem like much of a right, but consider this: Suppose a Cuban family gets a microwave oven, cutting dinner-preparation time by, say, 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes can be used in any number of ways, but suppose they're used to read a clandestine copy of something by John Stuart Mill or to listen to Radio Marti or to just get into a dinner-table argument over whether a person ought to have the right to private property. Small improvements in technology enable people to take stock of the things they really value, and that (thanks to human nature's inclination towards a thirst for liberty) in the medium term may be enough to give Communism a much-needed heave-ho in Cuba.

The United States of America 60 years ago, West Berlin was under a Soviet blockade
What in the world will places like Tehran, Beijing, and Karachi look like 60 years from now? Or, for that matter, Mexico City and Havana? An interesting proposal was floated about a year ago that suggested that the US should back the creation of "free cities" around the world, where American-style laws and freedoms would apply, with the come with implicit guarantees of American cooperation to help sustain them. We might even think of taking it a step further, and offering that we'll open our doors to the accession of any state, province, or territory that wishes to join us. It's hardly a new idea -- the EU is actively engaging in an accession project, and it's merely a historical anomaly that the United States hasn't added any new territory in a long time. It's been half a century since we added Alaska and Hawaii, but there was a time when new states were admitted to the Union every few years. No territory need be taken by force, but we ought to consider hanging the "Welcome" sign in the metaphorical front window.

Business and Finance Surprise! Threats of higher taxes are chasing financial firms out of London

Weather and Disasters Derecho storm beats up Iowa

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