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Forbes – Common Core Razes Charter School Standards

17 Apr

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A battle is raging between those who would challenge our public school monopolies and those who wish to nationalize school curricula. There is much more at stake here than how Jane and Johnny learn to read.

The success of the American experiment has always rested on a balance between opposing forces, between those seeking common purpose and those sustaining healthy diversity. A great nation needs both in proper measure. A common language, a common set of founding principles, a common respect for each other and the rule of law binds us together. A diversity of objectives, a richness of experiences, and a willingness to challenge the status quo challenges us to keep moving forward. Nowhere is this more important than in education.

The Charter School movement, an autonomous mix of initiatives taking place in cities and states across the country, has made spectacular progress. Charters are proving that schools under local control, answerable directly to the parents and children they serve, can outperform monopoly public schools that have been captured by entrenched interests, principally teachers’ unions and the politicians their profuse campaign donations can buy.

Charter schools’ ability to experiment and innovate, guided by parental choice, is often the best hope for urban minority children who would otherwise face bleak life prospects. If current trends continue, charter schools could revolutionize K-12 education, discovering paths to success that no union boss or central planner could divine.

But trends might not continue, because countervailing forces are attempting to drag both Charter Schools and high performing public schools down to least common denominator standards called Common Core. Designed by technocrats in Washington, this “one size fits all” curriculum was dispatched to the states along with financial “incentives” to encourage “voluntary” adoption. Fortunately, attempts to slip Common Core under the radar have failed, as informed opposition swells.

Common Core Conundrum

Common Core Conundrum

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour Podcasts – Tax Day Special

14 Apr

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Tax Day Special- The Tax Pledge of Allegiance

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Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, discusses his experiences growing up in Massachusetts and how it helped propel him to fight for lower taxes for all Americans, how citizens enforce his organization’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and what we can expect during the remainder of the Obama presidency.

LISTEN (full length interview)

DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES (as aired)

WATCH (on YouTube)

 

Tax Day Special- Solve Inequality: Tax the Rich

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Robert Reich, University of California, Berkeley Professor and former Secretary of Labor, discusses his experiences growing up and in college and makes the case against tax cuts, which he blames for greater income inequality—a problem he claims can be addressed through tax hikes on the rich.

LISTEN (full length interview)

DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES (as aired)

WATCH (on YouTube)

Forbes – Dueling Visions for Taxing Times: Grover Norquist v. Robert Reich

13 Apr

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Limited government, federalism, and supply side economics, or tax, spend, and equalize

This is why I got into radio: A pairing of guests representing two competing visions for the nation’s economic future, each making their case in turn, no shouting.

Their policy recommendations are diametrically opposed. “No new taxes,” says one. “Tax the rich,” says the other. Their understanding of how our economy works, what drives innovation and growth, the proper role of government, the lessons of history, and what makes homo economicus tick couldn’t be more at odds. Their contrasting backgrounds—the precocious rebel who grew up to shame tax-raising  politicians vs. the bullied intellectual who reached the loftiest corridors of power—couldn’t be more revealing.

This week, I’m pleased to have Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, as back-to-back guests on RealClear Radio Hour, sharing their views on what each believes is wrong with America and how they propose to fix it.

To read the rest of the colum click here.

RealClear Radio Hour Podcast Robert Sirico, Michael Cannon

8 Apr

From the 2014 Conservative Leadership Conference in Raleigh, NC

A Moral Defense of Capitalism
April 5, 2014

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Devout humanist, Catholic priest, and social justice advocate Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, discusses his personal philosophical journey and the commonalities binding together Western civilization, the Christian tradition, and modern economic policy.

LISTEN (full-length interview)

DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES (as aired)

WATCH on YouTube

The Evolution of Obamacare
April 5, 2014

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Cato Institute health policy expert Michael Cannon discusses how—and why—Obamacare continues to  metamorphose at the administration’s whim, and how the resulting inconsistencies led to one of the most important challenges to the law, Halbig v. Sebelius.

LISTEN (full-length interview)

DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES

WATCH on YouTube

Forbes – Will Republican Culture Warriors Snatch Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory?

4 Apr

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I was recently invited to speak at the annual Conservative Leadership Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, a regional red-meat gathering of the conservative faithful trying to help Republicans win back control of the government. Since I’m neither a conservative nor a Republican—nor faithful, for that matter, as I am a rather unabashed atheist—you might wonder what I was doing there. I’ll give you the same answer I gave the conference attendees. To have any hope of becoming a majority party, you ought to take a page from libertarians trying to make common cause with Republicans by focusing on economic freedom as a uniting cause, while setting the culture war aside.

The conservatives I met there are not the caricature often pushed in the mainstream media. Yes, they say grace before every meal. Yes, they take their religion seriously. And yes, their faith informs their behavior, language, and political beliefs. But this isn’t a bunch of old white racists seeking to disenfranchise minorities and send children to work in coal mines. This was a racially diverse crowd of thoughtful people concerned about the swelling power of Washington, the misuse of that power, and the fiscal disaster that awaits us if we don’t do something about it.

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour Podcast: Marian Tupy, Matt Ridley

30 Mar

The Measure of Human Achievement
MAR 29, 2014
Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and Senior Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, introduces this new website, which culls the best resources on development, health, and progress—and illustrates the massive improvements in our global economic, social, and cultural situation, despite the doomsayers’ drumbeat.

LISTEN (full-length interview)
DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES (as aired)
WATCH ON YOUTUBE (with slides)

Why We Should Be Optimistic About the Future
MAR 29, 2014
Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, recounts the long, flawed history of pessimistic predictions and invites us to examine the facts behind our inexorable march of progress. To illustrate, he describes how agriculture is supporting our growing population at an ever lower cost to the environment. As a result, human well-being and life expectancy are improving at rates previously unimaginable, notwithstanding man-made disasters like biofuel policy.

LISTEN (full-length interview)
DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES (as aired)
WATCH ON YOUTUBE (with slides)

Forbes – Lights Out For Earth Hour

28 Mar

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If green zealots get their way, we will be sitting in the dark for a lot more than an hour.

You would think that demonizing electricity would be a tough sell to a populace devoted to smartphones, gaming consoles, DVRs, flat screen TVs, iPhones, tablets, and the next “must have” gadget. But you’d be wrong. Earth Hour, an annual “turn off your lights” media event sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), continues to grow, despite the inherent contradiction between its purported goal of conservation-by-denial and how we and the developing world aspire to live today.

But it’s not just us here in America. How can the human race possibly achieve greater prosperity without bringing electricity to the billions of people on Earth who do not yet enjoy its blessings? The WWF’s campaign doesn’t say. Instead, it simply relies on the worn-out idea that humans once lived “in harmony” with nature and that “the planet” would be better off (for whom?) if we all returned to a simpler, less technologically dependent lifestyle.

Such musings have been a recurring theme in Western civilization for generations, particularly among wealthy elites. Fortunately, for centuries the consequences of back-to-nature evangelizing were restricted to a few intellectual poseurs reading some impenetrable books by some other intellectual poseurs who somehow convinced a slightly larger circle of poseurs that they had special insights on how the world should be.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Can Booming Dubai Remind America How To Grow Again?

21 Mar

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If you despair for America, visit Dubai. If you fear our nation’s best days are behind us, visit Dubai. If you believe American entrepreneurship is being crushed by incompetent bureaucrats, crony capitalists, rabid regulators, and a growing dependent class, visit Dubai. If you worry that Detroit represents our future, that “equality” will triumph over excellence, and that redistributionist democracy has entered a death spiral, visit Dubai.

Visit Dubai to convince yourself that if an isolated, backward-looking culture in one of the most troubled regions of the world can shake off the fetters of stagnation and build a prosperous modern city where 25 years ago there was only desert, then surely America can regain much of what it has lost.

Dubai

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – Podcast interview, Zac Bookman OpenGov.com

16 Mar

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Private Company Enables Widespread Government Transparency

Zac Bookman, Co-founder and CEO of OpenGov, explains how his citizen-friendly web platform is making government budgets, tax, and spending data accessible online, and why politicians and municipal managers are taking to it eagerly.

To listen to the podcast click here.

Forbes – Can Silicon Valley Sic Shumpterian Disruption On Bloated City Governments?

14 Mar

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It’s one thing to ship your tax money off to Washington, resigned to the fact that you have little control over the distant bureaucracy that consumes our nation’s fisc. But when it comes to your own city or town, where spending decisions impact everything from garbage collection to your daily commute, such resignation costs dearly. So what to do?

Imagine you could quickly and easily pry the cover off your municipal government’s books and look inside. Imagine every citizen being able to hold politicians accountable down to the penny: Where is my tax money going? Are we getting our money’s worth? Should I believe the mayor when he tells me he needs to raise taxes? Are we overpaying our civil servants? Can some city services be outsourced? How come my friend in the next town over pays fewer taxes yet gets better services in return?

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Imagine bondholders getting the answers they need to accurately price risk: Can this city service its debts? Is it operating as efficiently as similar cities? Are expenses and revenue out of whack? Are ominous trends brewing?

Imagine every candidate running for office having the power to become as well-informed as the incumbent: Are the current officeholders doing a good job? Can I do better? Where are the improvement opportunities? Is the city in trouble? Is the mayor a crook?

Imagine no more. A Silicon Valley startup named OpenGov.com is putting city finances online, along with a suite of analytic tools that make it easy for both city managers and any citizen to dig into the details of their city’s finances, past and present.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Dueling Visions for Taxing Times: Grover Norquist v. Robert Reich

11 Mar

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This is why I got into radio: A pairing of guests representing two competing visions for the nation’s economic future, each making their case in turn, no shouting.

Their policy recommendations are diametrically opposed. “No new taxes,” says one. “Tax the rich,” says the other. Their understanding of how our economy works, what drives innovation and growth, the proper role of government, the lessons of history, and what makes homo economicus tick couldn’t be more at odds. Their contrasting backgrounds—the precocious rebel who grew up to shame tax-raising  politicians vs. the bullied intellectual who reached the loftiest corridors of power—couldn’t be more revealing.

This week, I’m pleased to have Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, as back-to-back guests on RealClear Radio Hour, sharing their views on what each believes is wrong with America and how they propose to fix it.

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To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClearRadio Hour – Debating Media Diversity

10 Mar

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In dueling podcasts I interview Darrell West from the Brookings Instituion and Mike Gonzalez from the Heritage Foundation asking them whether changes can and should be made in news reporting to reduce political polarization. Who should be the judge of journalistic credibilty and quality, the unguided masses or self-appointed elites?

Listen to Darell West make his case “Nudging News Producers and Consumers Toward More Thoughtful, Less Polarized Discourse” by clicking here and Mike Gonzales offer his rebuttal “The New Contras: Understanding the Left’s Grip On Media” by clicking here.

Forbes – Does Media-Enhanced Political Polarization Need To Be Fixed?

7 Mar

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“And that’s the way it is,” intoned Walter Cronkite, the “most trusted man in America,” at the end of each news broadcast. It seems like a different world, when a mere three television networks, the New York Times, Washington Post, and a few other major papers dominated public discourse. Yet, we still don’t seem to be over the nostalgia. As the story goes, after the end of World War II and before the dawn of the Internet, political debates were conducted with relative political comity, in stark contrast to our current era of increasing polarization.

Those bygone days weren’t as civil as we like to remember. In fact, the biggest difference is how information-starved were back then. Yet, the richness of our modern media landscape hasn’t dissuaded the Federal Communications Commission from trying to “fix” America’s media, through backdoor attempts to influence the content and delivery of the news.

Which brings us to this week’s key question: Does the media need to be “fixed,” and if so, how? That is no small matter. In dueling white papers, the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation offer competing perspectives. And I’m lucky to host them both this week on RealClear Radio Hour.

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – A Bold Alternative to K-12 Education

3 Mar

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Education Entrepreneur is Remaking Education at All Levels

Jeff Sandefer, co-founder of Acton Academy, explains how his academy’s Socratic teaching methods are empowering students to take charge of their own education, giving them the tools to learn to do, learn to be, and learn to know.

To get the podcast click here.

Forbes – Acton Academy: Socrates’ Antidote for Government School Hemlock

28 Feb

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Only someone in deep denial, or in total thrall to teachers’ union propaganda, believes our inner city public schools are anything more than dropout factories. Yet the comfortable belief that our own suburban public schools are doing fine seems just as misplaced. For a good idea of how misplaced, ask Jeff Sandefer, co-founder, with his wife Laura, of the Acton Academy, an alternative school that is turning teaching upside down.

Jeff’s soft spoken, low-key demeanor belies his considerable accomplishments and burning desire to remake America’s moribund educational institutions. A graduate of Harvard Business School and a multi-millionaire energy investor before turning 30, Jeff has packaged Socratic teaching into a system that can take a one-room schoolhouse full of children of various ages and different abilities and unleash the inner hero and genius in each of them. And he can do this without answering a single question, much less lecture students for hours as they sit passively at their desks.

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – New Economic Era Demands Response from Millennial Generation

26 Feb

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New Economic Era Demands Response from Millennial Generation

Bentley University President Gloria Larson introduces the PreparedU project at Bentley University in Massachusetts, a program developed in response to the global economic crisis and the new challenges Millennials are facing.

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To download or listen to the podcast, click here.

Forbes – 10 Ways To Dodge The Millennial Curse

21 Feb

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The Greatest Generation bequeathed Baby Boomers a nation on the rise. After saving Western Civilization from fascism, they rebuilt a war-torn world, powered an economic renaissance, sent a man to the Moon, banished Jim Crow, cleaned up the environment, and won the Cold War. Of course, they made their share of mistakes. But every American child born between 1946 and 1964 had a great shot at a better life than his parents.

We Baby Boomers were the main beneficiaries of that legacy. So what are we leaving behind for the next generation? Some sorry numbers tell the tale: About 90 million Americans of working age aren’t working; 47 million are on food stamps; 14 million collect disability; once-thriving cities are bankrupt; public schools aren’t educating. The economy is moribund, but this isn’t just another brief cyclical downturn. It really is different this time.

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“I told you Millennials were good for something, dear.”

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Art, Free Speech, Hypocrisy, Tightie-Whities, and Teenage Tantrums

14 Feb

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Welcome to the culture wars’ latest opera buffa.

In recent weeks, Wellesley College has been embroiled in a raging controversy over …. a lifelike statue of a wimpy middle-aged man sleepwalking in his underpants.

The conflict between free expression and the right not to be distressed by art kicked into high gear when some irony-challenged students launched a petition demanding the “semi-nude” statue be moved indoors so as not to create any awkward, uncomfortable feelings among the progressive college’s all-female student body. The petition got a cool-as-a-cucumber response from the director of the campus museum. But that wasn’t the end of the matter.

The director’s response was met by a series of hysterical objections by students, faculty, and alumnae—every one worth reading. For a good look into the muddle and chaos that characterize today’s academic mind, you will find no better example.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on the Wellesley campus, so I haven’t seen “The Sleepwalker” up close, but there are plenty of photos on the web. It’s one of those hyper-realistic statues that could be easily mistaken for a real person, creating an illusion that lasts until it dawns on you that the thing isn’t moving. The natural reaction is surprise followed by laughter followed by a bemused shrug and rolling of the eyes.

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Courtesy Chris Roelofs

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – Customer Demands for Bitcoin Heard

11 Feb

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Customer Demands for Bitcoin Heard
FEB 10, 2014
TigerDirect, the online computer giant, is the latest retailer to accept Bitcoin. Director of Corporate Marketing Steven Leeds tells how TigerDirect expects to reap the benefits of this leading edge exchange technology.

To listen to the podcast click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – The Lessons of eGold

10 Feb

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Beyond Bitcoin: Will the future of e-currency be backed by gold?
FEB 10, 2014
E-Gold founder Doug Jackson discusses past examples of private money and why he thinks Bitcoin will be eventually surpassed by a 100% gold reserve-backed digital currency.

To listen to the podcast click here.

Forbes – Why Bitcoin Must Die. Long Live Bitcoin 2.0

7 Feb

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One day, there will be a global digital currency in widespread commercial use whose value will not be controlled by central banks. Governments can forestall this day, as they have for the past 20 years since the first digital currencies were launched, but the market demand for an alternative to inflation-prone fiat money that can be conveniently, securely, and inexpensively exchanged over digital networks will be too strong to resist. Alas, the currency described above will not be Bitcoin, at least not in its current configuration.

Why not today’s Bitcoin? Because the digital currency of the future must choose between two mutually exclusive paths. It can either be anonymous, enabling black market transactions in the shadow economy, or it can be fully compliant with the growing body of know your customer, anti-money laundering laws that constrain global financial markets. A single digital currency cannot do both.

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Cartoon Courtesy of Chris Roelofs

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – Contract Cities

6 Feb

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Courting Citizen Satisfaction, Averting Municipal Bankruptcy
Bloomberg Boston broadcast date: Feb 1, 2014

Oliver Porter, a principal at PPP Associates and author of The Contract City, discusses the latest revolution in municipal government. Hear how American states are adopting Contract Cities, a new way of doing government business that has seen successful in Georgia and Japan.

To listen to the podcast click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – LEAP Zones

5 Feb

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LEAP Zones—Rezoning for Prosperity
Bloomberg Boston broadcast date: Feb 1, 2014

Michael Strong, a pioneer in education and learning, chief visionary officer of Freedom Lights Our World (FLOW), and Chairman of Elevator Cities Development, Inc., tells how the LEAP Zones (legal, economic, administrative and political jurisdictions) in Honduras will allow impoverished areas to turn themselves into thriving commercial communities.

To listen to the podcast click here.

CBN News (video) – Bill Frezza responds to the State of the Union Address. Nice try.

29 Jan

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CBN News analyzes last night’s State of the Union address as the president tries to right his sinking ship.

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To view the video, click here.

Forbes – White House Income Equality Agenda Makes War On Progress

28 Jan

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In tonight’s State of the Union Address, Mr. Obama will attempt to shake off the most disastrous year of his presidency by doubling down on his fight to equalize our incomes. Apparently, his advisors convinced him he can breathe fresh life into tax and welfare programs by hijacking the word “opportunity” from the other side of the aisle without bothering to understand what it means.

To read the rest of the column, click here.

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Cartoon courtesy Chris Roelofs

RealClear Radio Hour

27 Jan

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The End of Privacy – Is the Government Destroying Trust?
January 27, 2014
Entrepreneur and lawyer, Wayne Bennett on the history, prevalence and cost of government demands that corporations violate their customers’ privacy.

To listen to the podcast click here.

Forbes – The Antigua Forum: Exporting A Different Kind of Latin American Revolution

21 Jan

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Call it the “Free Market Davos.” The Antigua Forum, sponsored by Universidad Francisco Marroquín, in Guatemala, finished its third annual conference last week. For three days, I had the privilege of joining a who’s who of 50 free-market reformers, hailing from Chile to Mozambique, to propose, challenge, and refine a dozen plans for peaceful revolution around the world. I’ve been going to conferences for almost 40 years and I’ve never seen one harness the power of spontaneous order so effectively, tapping the expertise of such a diverse range of participants.

After I got over the “what am I doing here?” feeling that washed over me from reading the participant bios, I realized that scar tissue earned in the world of technology entrepreneurship might offer relevant lessons. Indeed, these lessons were eagerly absorbed by passionate social entrepreneurs committed to political and economic disruption fueled not by mobs or guns but by voluntary cooperation, promising not just hope and change but measurable economic benefits. I stood in awe when I realized the seriousness of their plans to go forth and do it, in countries both rich and poor.

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – Drones Are More Than Murder

20 Jan

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Jonathan Downey is the co-founder and CEO of Airware, a startup that develops platforms and operating systems for unmanned commercial aircraft. In this segment, he lays out an exciting future for drones well beyond military applications, as well as the prospects for US adoption of enabling regulations.

To listen to the podcast click here.

RealClear Radio Hour – Self Help Africa: Why Only Profits Can Cure Poverty

20 Jan

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Entrepreneur, Will Galvin, Head of US Operations of Self Help Africa discusses how his unique aid business model invests in and leverages community strength to foster development across Africa.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Announcing RealClear Radio Hour

15 Jan

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I’m pleased to announce that RealClear Radio Hour, brought to you by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in cooperation with RealClearPolitics, launches this weekend. The program, hosted by yours truly, will air every Saturday at 10am on Bloomberg Boston WXKS 1200 AM and 94.5 FM HD2. It can also be heard on iHeartRadio, with podcasts available from YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, and at RealClearRadio.org. This one hour program offers listeners a fresh perspective on the political and social issues of the day through informative interviews and discussions. Modeled on the success and format of public radio, each one-hour show will feature select, in-depth guest interviews, covering everything from economics and technology to religion and world news.

Forbes – Book Review: The Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

14 Jan

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Like many an engineer who got nary a whiff of a liberal education, I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to make up for it through my own reading. Charting a course through history, economics, and literature has been relatively easy. But making sense of the conflicting schools of philosophy without a roadmap has been vexing—until the right book came along to finally help put all the pieces in place.

That book, The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization by Arthur Herman, should be standard reading in every Philosophy 101 course, and on the short list of “must read” books for any educated adult. Herman lays out the competing dynamic between Plato’s mysticism and Aristotle’s empiricism, which has driven over 2,300 years of history.

For the first of these 900 years, the Schools of Athens laid the foundation of Western thinking, with Plato’s Academy becoming the model for every monastery, university, and totalitarian regime. Meanwhile, Aristotle’s legacy bequeathed to us capitalism, the scientific method, and the American Revolution.

To read the rest of the column, click here.

The Blaze – Analyzing Progressive Narrative Control

8 Jan

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A short excerpt from my conversation with Andrew Wilkow on The Blaze yesterday discussing my Forbes column “2013: The Year The Progressive Narrative Collided With Reality.” Connecting the dots between Obama, Mussolini, and Plato in three minutes or less.

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To view video click here.

Forbes – Anatomy of an NPR Hatchet Job, Target: Oil & Gas

7 Jan

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On-The-Job Deaths Spiking As Oil Drilling Quickly Expands” screams a supposed National Public Radio exposé on the “terrible price” we’re paying for the fracking revolution that has transformed the U.S. energy industry. “Last year, 138 workers were killed on the job — an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009.” The story blends chilling statistics, heartrending anecdotes, and stern warnings from Labor Secretary Thomas Perez calling for a national voluntary stand-down of U.S. onshore oil and gas exploration and production because, “No worker should lose their (sic) life for a paycheck.”

As anti-fossil fuel advocacy, it was a masterful piece. But was it responsible, credible journalism? Five minutes on Google provides an answer—and lays bare NPR’s practiced techniques of framing, context manipulation, and choosing which facts to report and which to ignore to advance a consistent left-liberal editorial agenda as biased as any right wing talk radio show.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – 2013: The Year the Progressive Narrative Collided With Reality

30 Dec

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When it comes to crafting winning political narratives, progressives have a natural advantage over conservatives. That’s because progressives have a free hand to project rosy visions of the future while conservatives must constantly defend against progressives’ distorted depictions of the past.

Two fundamental techniques undergird progressives’ success at narrative spinning. The first is skillful framing of the debate through investing heavily in public opinion making machinery. This disarms critics while giving lawmakers cover to vote for bills they’ve neither read nor understood. Thus framed, policies are judged only by their stated intentions, never their actual results. This allows politicians to promote new pieces of legislation named for their lofty objectives, even if the thousands of pages of vague and contradictory content deliver just the opposite.

The second is dodging all responsibility for failure. This is accomplished by blaming insufficient resources, the prior administration, the greedy 1 percent, sabotage by Republicans, or even the people’s obdurate failure to appreciate the progressive benefits conferred upon them. When the going gets tough, reality can be dismissed with a slogan. Forward!

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Obama to Health Insurance Companies: Merry Christmas. Now, Drop Dead.

23 Dec

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Insurance is a complicated product. Even President Obama figured that out. Hundreds of highly trained actuaries spend thousands of hours assembling risk pools to determine premium levels, underwriting standards, and product offerings. Investment managers spend thousands more trying to match financial assets acquired from those premium payments with long term liabilities to guarantee coverage promises can be kept. Get it right and you are rewarded with a stable company with stock suitable for widows and orphans. Get it wrong and your business dies.

When it comes to health insurance, however, this finely tuned balance has now been completely destroyed, culminating years of political meddling. And for its final Christmas present of a year that will go down as the worst in insurance history, the Obama Administration unilaterally waived yet another key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Four days before the deadline to sign up, the Department of Health and Human Services told people with cancelled plans facing Obamacare Exchange sticker shock they can now buy cheaper “catastrophic” plans after all—at least until the 2014 midterm elections. This, along with a dozen other changes voted on by exactly zero legislators, may well be the last nail in the coffin of commercial health insurance. The insurers themselves may not admit it, but they are the walking dead.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Fed Readies Reverse Repo Hoping To Soak Up QE Cash

17 Dec

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Everyone, it seems, loves asset inflation. What could be more satisfying than watching the value of your home, your stocks, and your 401(k) soar, especially after the economic beating from the mortgage meltdown? Monetary illusions that pass for prosperity buy Washington time to tackle other Big Problems, like providing affordable health care to everybody, eliminating income inequality, bringing peace to the Middle East, and saving the planet from global warming.

But woe to the powers that be if the asset bubble pops and rampant inflation follows. Paying more for gas, groceries, and rent as wages stagnate, housing prices collapse, and retirement savings erode makes voters grumpy. This is a threat to incumbent politicians—especially if they have not meanwhile solved the aforementioned big problems. They can try to shift blame to mysterious forces beyond their control, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as mainstream media loses its ability to enforce Washington orthodoxy.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – App Fatigue Sets In As The Digital Revolution Ages

10 Dec

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The technology pendulum never stops swinging. Its rhythms create, then disrupt, then transform, delighting users while enriching innovators. When tech revolutions reach middle age innovators give way to optimizers, markets saturate, and products ossify. That is what creates the right conditions for the next cycle. Having been at this game since minicomputers vanquished punch cards, I’ve ridden enough waves to respect the rhythm.

Each cycle has its own tools. Tools have been agents of change since cavemen figured out how to chip flint. Most tools start out as cumbersome curiosities, nurtured by a motivated few. Those that provide competitive advantage proliferate, evolving into blessings. Then they become essentials, before aging into relics waiting for the next wave of innovation to wash them away.

The dominant tech innovations of our times – the PC, the Internet, and the smartphone – crawled out of separate primordial swamps powered by common semiconductor DNA. For half a century, Moore’s Law enabled spectacular growth. But as pointed out recently by Broadcom’s chairman and CTO Henry Samueli, “The Moore’s Law blowout sale is ending.”

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Pope Francis Is No Economist

3 Dec

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We all hoped this guy would be different. Jorge Bergoglio’s spontaneous ruminations upon becoming Pope revealed a humble, loving heart. Too bad that in his formal writing the new Holy Father couldn’t resist biting the invisible hand that feeds a lot more poor people than the Vatican ever has.

Most of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation, is an ennobling call to the faithful. Ninety percent of its 223 pages make a learned and passionate case for why Christians should spend more time calling others to Jesus, a subject on which Pope Francis is truly an expert. His writing offers a joyful and inclusive spirituality that even this atheist can appreciate.

But when it comes to economics, the Pontiff’s expertise isn’t much to go by, judging by his ahistorical, populist attack on an economic system that has done more to alleviate poverty than a thousand Mother Theresas ever could.

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClearMarkets – The FDA Reluctantly Approves Google Implant

27 Nov

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By Llib Azzerf

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced its granting of conditional approval to Google’s direct neural interface for implantation in Americans. Google Implant™ remains banned in the European Union, with its approval marked by protests and controversy in the United States. U.S. regulators apparently buckled under pressure from trade negotiators worried that an “implant gap” could imperil U.S. competitiveness due the product’s fast-growing popularity in China, where it has enabled Chinese entrepreneurs, executives, and diplomats to wirelessly access and search the Internet using only their thoughts.

Google Implant is the only commercially successful product to grow out of the $3 billion Brain Activity Map Initiative (BRAIN) launched by the Obama administration a decade ago. Initially developed to help disabled individuals control their motorized wheelchairs, Google Implant is comprised of a small array of nano-electrodes implanted directly into a patient’s visual cortex and linked to an external power pack and Wi-Fi transceiver. When researchers learned they could project the World Wide Web directly onto the brain with search queries directed by sub-vocalized commands, rogue Google X researchers working out of the tech giant’s Shanghai skunkworks took the research in a new direction.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – The Knockout Game Goes Viral, The Hunger Games It’s Not

26 Nov

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Enthralled with the movie saga of starving and oppressed young heroes rebelling against brutal government tyranny? Then what do you make of gangs of inner-city teenage boys trying to prove their macho playing a one-punch knockout game, preying on innocent victims whose government obliges all of us to house, feed, educate, and provide medical care to these barbarians within our gates?

The good news is that mainstream media is finally picking up on the story, which has been simmering for years in the alternative press. Thankfully, attempts by the New York Times and others guardians of the prevailing narrative to dismiss this as urban myth or blame it on violent videogames are gaining little traction. Shining some light on this story may help combat the trend. The bad news is that until more forceful law enforcement measures are taken, increased media attention is more likely than not to produce a wave of copycat incidents, similar to reports of flash mob looting.

Underneath lie the forbidden issues of race and class. While the mainstream media studiously avoids identifying the race of knockout game perpetrators, an overwhelming number appear to be black males, with victims chosen specifically because they are not.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Battling For The Heart And Soul Of America’s Political Parties

21 Nov

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To our progressive friends, it seemed like a century of advocating for government-sponsored universal health care reached fruition when the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. But triumph turned to tragedy when Progressivism’s signature accomplishment blew up on the launch pad. Not only did this make a shambles of our wounded president’s governing philosophy, it sent the most vulnerable Democratic officeholders scurrying for cover, leaving damage control to a few befuddled party elders.

The Evil Party will get a chance to do some soul searching as soon as the baying press hounds switch their attention back to the Stupid Party, which rarely misses an opportunity to shoot itself in the foot. When that happens, expect a civil war to break out among the Democrats mirroring the conflict that’s been roiling Republicans.

To read the rest of the column, click here.

Forbes – Janet Yellen To Too-Big-To-Fail Banks: Party On!

19 Nov

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The king is dead; long live the king.

As America’s great money printer prepares to hand over the reins to a presumptive successor determined to continue down the same Keynesian path, one has to wonder: How much longer can the Federal Reserve maintain the fiction that it is “managing” the nation’s inflation and unemployment rates?

By failing to honestly measure either, while pumping up one asset bubble after another, it is only a matter of time before the “official” figures from government statistical agencies come totally unglued from the reality experienced by most Americans.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – China Builds World’s Largest Temple to Capitalist Materialism

12 Nov

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Forget the Great Leap Forward. Forget the Cultural Revolution. Forget the Little Red Book, and the 100 million souls who perished transforming one of the world’s oldest and most entrepreneurial civilizations into a communist gulag. These ghosts of China’s Marxist past are being exorcised in in a new kind of revolution—by consumers.

Derided in Communist times, the consumer remained a forgotten figure as China’s ruling elite set out to compress two centuries of economic development into a couple of decades. But as the U.S. and European economies sputter, threatening the growth of China’s export model, China’s economy is being belatedly redirected to serve to its own people.

And what better way to mark the transition than the completion of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu, China, a shopping center/hotel/theater/water park/office complex of such colossal proportions it could swallow three Pentagons. With the most usable floor space of any building in the world, at 19 million square feet, this behemoth structure is devoted to the pursuit, the enjoyment, the recreation, and the conspicuous consumption of the mighty Yuan.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Interview – Killing the Goose Trying to Lay Golden Eggs

11 Nov

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Click here for my interview with John Lester on his program Steel-on-Steel on my IMF wealth confiscation column in Forbes. I come on at the nine minute mark after his opening rant. Cheery end-of-times stuff. :)

Forbes – Big Brother’s Stop-and-Snatch Asset Forfeiture Boom

5 Nov

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Imagine you are a small town grocer whose business is not large enough for an armored car service, so you regularly deposit the day’s cash receipts in a local bank. You’re only insured for thefts up to $10,000, so you make sure to never have more on the premises. One day, without warning, the government swoops in and confiscates all the money in your bank account, accusing you of “structuring” your legal deposits to avoid triggering mandatory reporting requirements for cash transactions over $10,000. To top it all off, prosecutors can keep your money without winning a conviction, and you’re required to prove your innocence to get it back.

No, this is not a story from some banana republic kleptocracy. This happened to Terry Dehko and his daughter Sandy Thomas, who run a grocery store in Fraser, Michigan. Incidents like this are becoming more frequent and egregious, and alarm bells are starting to sound around the nation as an increasing number of innocent citizens become collateral damage in the never-ending war on drugs.

Sadly, the results aren’t surprising. Asset forfeitures proceeds line the pockets of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies—total net assets seized in fiscal year 2012 exceeded $4.2 billion, according to the Department of Justice. A more perverse incentive structure is difficult to imagine. So, more people are beginning to ask: How did we get into this mess?

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – Why Obama’s Healthcare.gov Will Never Work As Specified

29 Oct

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“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Thus answered the HAL 9000 computer in the classic Stanley Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey after internal contradictions in its software programming drove the computer mad. In a case of life imitating art, we have just seen what happens when you try to translate 11,000 pages of Obamacare regulations into software.

When humans try to implement rules and regulations rife with contradictions, errors, and omissions, they use judgment, rationalization, corruption, bargaining, and selective ignorance to resolve the gridlock. People have spent thousands of years honing these skills, learning to live under a succession of despots. But computers have not yet advanced to the point where they can divine our rulers’ intentions rather than their stated instructions, much less know what they can—and cannot—get away with in order to make the system function.

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClearMarkets – White House to Become Self-Funding Through Fines and Forfeiture

25 Oct

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By Libb Azzerf

Today, President Obama signed Executive Order 13652, the Regulatory Agency Freedom Initiative, establishing a permanent program that would allow the White House to self-fund its regulatory agenda without Congressional budget approval or oversight. At a Rose Garden news conference, where he was flanked by the heads of all 75 federal regulatory agencies and departments representing over 275,000 federal employees, the president declared this a historic moment.

“The American people are fed up with Congress not doing its job in funding the budget, while holding a gun to our heads attempting to deny citizens the federal regulations they need and desire. Not satisfied with delaying our hard working federal employees’ pay for the 16 days they were forced to stay home during the government shutdown, Republicans are now turning their terrorist tactics to target thousands of new rules and regulations designed to help Americans live better lives. Executive Order 13652 will end the tyranny of the minority that prevents us from moving forward.”

The federal government’s squeezing of $13 billion out of J.P. Morgan for alleged crimes it committed when it purchased bankrupt Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual at the urging of panicked Treasury Department officials is just the beginning. Using the JPM settlement as a model, the Regulatory Agency Freedom Initiative will give each and every regulatory agency the power to exact both fines and property forfeitures against any target of its choice, with limits set only by the negotiation prowess of the U.S. Attorney General.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes: Cheap Over-the-Counter STD Test Turbocharges Casual Sex

22 Oct

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Imagine you’re a young Millennial prowling for a hookup. It looks like tonight might be your night. But when the magic moment arrives, instead of reaching into your pocket or purse for a condom you whip out a pair of cheap, disposable multi-function STD testers, part of a six pack you picked up at CVS. Reassured of each other’s status, you and your paramour get back to whatever passes for romance these days with your minds at ease.

Eat your heart out Erica Jong, the zipless age is here.

To read the rest of the column click here.

Forbes – International Monetary Fund Lays Groundwork for Global Wealth Confiscation

15 Oct

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) quietly dropped a bomb in its October Fiscal Monitor Report. Titled “Taxing Times,” the report paints a dire picture for advanced economies with high debts that fail to aggressively “mobilize domestic revenue.” It goes on to build a case for drastic measures and recommends a series of escalating income and consumption tax increases culminating in the direct confiscation of assets.

Yes, you read that right. But don’t take it from me. The report itself says:

“The sharp deterioration of the public finances in many countries has revived interest in a “capital levy”— a one-off tax on private wealth—as an exceptional measure to restore debt sustainability. The appeal is that such a tax, if it is implemented before avoidance is possible and there is a belief that it will never be repeated, does not distort behavior (and may be seen by some as fair). … The conditions for success are strong, but also need to be weighed against the risks of the alternatives, which include repudiating public debt or inflating it away. … The tax rates needed to bring down public debt to precrisis levels, moreover, are sizable: reducing debt ratios to end-2007 levels would require (for a sample of 15 euro area countries) a tax rate of about 10 percent on households with positive net wealth. (page 49)”

To read the rest of the column click here.

RealClearMarkets – President Obama Orders Interstate Highway System Shut Down

7 Oct

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By Libb Azzerf

Today, President Obama, unfazed by criticism that his administration is unnecessarily inflicting pain on the American people in an effort to wrest control of federal spending away Congress, doubled down on his Barrycades program by issuing an Executive Order closing the entire Interstate Highway System.

Toll booths serving all major bridges and tunnels were also shut down blocking all traffic, despite the fact that most of these are operated by municipal authorities, on the justification that these connect to federal highways. Four hundred thousand furloughed pentagon employees were recalled and immediately deployed across the country to put police tape on anything that moves.

At the press conference announcing the Executive Order, a White House staffer was caught murmuring into an open mic “If blocking a bunch of geezers in wheelchairs from visiting the World War II Memorial is not enough to prove to the American people that nothing can function without federal permission, just wait until food riots break out!”

To read the rest of the column click here.

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