The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio
Brian Gongol

We're introducing a new program element this week, our Weather Word. For today, the Weather Word is weird. There's an air stagnation advisory in effect for eastern Iowa, and a winter storm on the way for tomorrow. From an airmass that won't move, right into a big winter storm? That's weird. Speaking of weather, you might remember the recent snowstorms that paralyzed huge parts of China. Consider this: The government there says some people will have to wait until late March to get their electricity back.

It turns out that if you ride a bicycle standing up, you can break the pedal-gear mechanism. I know: I did it last year. I don't like to sit while riding, so that was quite the experience when I suddenly found the gear complex falling apart at my feet. I need to get a new bike so Brian Dean, Steve Locker, and I can do a

It's great news to hear the Fidel Castro's quitting his post as dictator of Cuba. Not such great news that his brother's taking over, but if nothing else, it's a change. And as we know, any kind of instability in the leadership of a totalitarian country tends to lead to other changes -- like a snowball rolling down a hill. What's sad is how communism has so outrageously and needlessly impoverished the Cuban people. According to an economic database from Oxford University, Cuba's economy is only three times larger than it was when Castro took over in 1959. That might superficially sound like good performance, but the economy in the US grew by four times over that period -- and started off many times larger. South Korea, by comparison, has grown ten-fold over the same period. And keep in mind all the advantages Cuba could have had as a free-market economy that South Korea doesn't have: Cuba has gorgeous beaches in a fantastic climate, immediate access to US markets, and all of the capital (intellectual, fiscal, moral, etc.) that has escaped to Miami over the years. The Cuban people are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, far worse off for having lived under Fidel Castro than they would have been with a free market and the rule of law.

There's no question that we could be doing better with the way we handle health care in this country. But if there's one lesson to be learned from other countries' experience, it's that the more you get government involved in setting health-care policy, the more politicized health care becomes. For example: Lots of walk-up and weekend clinics have popped up all over the US, because people want to get medical care outside of regular business hours. But in the UK, because the government handles most of the country's medical care, doctors' hours are now a matter of polls and public debate. How does that serve people better?

I noticed some new traffic cameras around town this week, and it really heightened my awareness of how surveillance creep leads to creepy surveillance.

China and Cuba are now exchanging television broadcasts. Why? Because they understand the importance of "soft power" -- the use of subtle influence via services like radio and television broadcasts. Now, if the Communists understand the value of marketing, why are we as free people in a market economy constantly fighting battles over whether to spend a comparatively miniscule amount on services like the Voice of America?

Microsoft has figured out that public demand is no longer just a matter of what people are buying -- it's sometimes a matter of what they're doing. They've become sufficiently concerned by the rise of open-source software that they're opening up lots of previously-secret computer code to those developers and others. Microsoft is tacitly acknowledging that they can't be the Solitary Power of the Software Universe anymore.

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