Poison Pero is RIGHT!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

THIS WEEK IN PICTURES

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PRAGER UNIVERSITY: Can The Government Run the Economy?

"Give us five-minutes and we’ll give you a semester." - Dennis Prager

This semester of Prager University is presented by:  Steve Forbes

"[I]n almost all instances, the best prescription for economic health is:  Less (government) is more.  Catastrophic mistakes by governments can poison the marketplace...If you want to understand why the American economy has been growing at the anemic pace of 1-2% a year, look no further (than government interference)." – S.F.


"[T]he economy is not a machine.  It is made up of people, and no one can control what billions of them are going to do...Here's a rule:  The more a government tightens its grip, the less an economy grows.  That's because an economy is not a machine, and government can't force it to act like one." – S.F.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

WASTEBOOK: Government Public Relations & Advertising

$1.4 billion
Governmentwide
Nationwide

A good product sells itself.

So what does it say when more than $1.4 billion is spent every year promoting federal agencies and services but trust and confidence in the government have plummeted?

Federal contracts for advertising and public relations average nearly $1 billion a year, according to a review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).359 Sixty percent of PR contracts are paid for by the Department of Defense (DOD).

Another $430 million a year is spent paying the salaries of approximately 4,900 federal public relations employees. The median annual salary for government public relation staff is about $90,000. DOD also employs the largest number of public relations staff. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had the largest percentage increase in public relations employees over the past decade. The number of VA PR staff grew more than nine percent from 144 employees in 2006 to 286 in 2014.

The total cost of PR activities governmentwide is higher than the $1.4 billion spent on contracts and employees, but is difficult to calculate. This is due, in part, to public relations activities not being delineated from other activities in contracts with broader purposes. “Although advertising and public relations contracts data provide an indication of the magnitude of federal spending on public relations activities, they do not capture the full scope of these activities,” says GAO.

GAO describes public relations as “an effort to develop and disseminate information to explain the activities of and the issues facing [an] organization,” which includes “issuing press releases and producing material for radio and television broadcasts.” The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says “public relations” includes “community relations and those activities dedicated to maintaining the image of the governmental unit or maintaining or promoting understanding and favorable relations with the community or public at large or any segment of the public.”

Advertising consumes the largest amount of what is spent on public relations by federal agencies.

Agency Average Annual Cost
Department of Defense $626.2 million
Department of Health and Human Services $116.7 million
Department of Commerce $37.7 million
Department of Homeland Security $37.6 million
Department of Transportation $36.0 million
Department of Veterans Affairs $23.6 million
Department of Agriculture $8.8 million
Department of Justice $5.9 million
Department of State $5.8 million
Department of Labor $5.6 million

The Department of Defense spends more on public relations and advertising than any other federal agency.

Despite the high cost of these efforts, just 32 percent of Americans surveyed expressed “a favorable impression of the federal government,” according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. “Currently, just 19 percent say they can trust the government always or most of the time, among the lowest levels in the past half-century. Only 20 percent would describe government programs as being well-run,” according to the Pew findings. The least popular agencies are the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the IRS, and the VA, all of which were viewed unfavorably by a majority of those surveyed.

The GAO report was requested by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi who says “with increasing pressures on limited federal resources, it is crucial to know how much is spent across the federal government on public relations activities.”

Federal agencies could improve their public relations at no cost whatsoever by simply conducting themselves efficiently and effectively rather than misspending taxpayer dollars on questionable and unnecessary projects and activities that will inevitably end up in Wastebook.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

THIS WEEK IN PICTURES

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

"May the enemies of Ireland never eat bread nor drink whisky, but be tormented with itching without benefit of scratching." - Traditional St. Patrick's Day toast


Originally posted at Wilstar
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The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he almost didn't get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship.

Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village. During his captivity, he became closer to God.

He escaped from slavery after six years and went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity.

His wishes were to return to Ireland, to convert the native pagans to Christianity. But his superiors instead appointed St. Palladius. But two years later, Palladius transferred to Scotland. Patrick, having adopted that Christian name earlier, was then appointed as second bishop to Ireland.

Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.

His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.

Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much of it is actually substantiated.

Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people from the dead. He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native to Ireland, and some people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday.

One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. And this stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That was the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country, in Boston.

Today, people celebrate the day with parades, wearing of the green, and drinking beer. One reason St. Patrick's Day might have become so popular is that it takes place just a few days before the first day of spring. One might say it has become the first green of spring.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PRAGER UNIVERSITY: Is Your Child Getting Enough Vitamin N?

"We teach what isn’t taught." - Dennis Prager

This semester of Prager University is presented by:  John Rosemond

"When all is said and done, the most character building two letter word in the English language is 'No' - Vitamin N.  Dispense it frequently.  You'll be happier in the long run, and so will your child." – J.R.


"Children who have grown up believing in the 'something for nothing' fairy tale are likely to become emotionally stunted, self-centered adults...More and more children, I find, are suffering from a Vitamin N deficiency.  And they, their parents, and our entire culture are paying the price" – J.R.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

WASTEBOOK: High Speed Train Going Nowhere Fast

$3.1 billion
California
Federal Railroad Administration

Six years have chugged by since the federal government awarded billions of dollars for California’s high-speed passenger train but not a single track has been laid.

The “bullet train” promised to make the 520 mile trip from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area in less than three hours by traveling over 200 miles per hour.  But the only thing high-speed about this train is how quickly it is chew chewing taxpayer dollars.

With a price tag of nearly $100 billion, this rail system is the single largest public works project currently underway in the U.S.

Already billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, the only ones being taken for a ride by the train are taxpayers.

The original plan had a cost of $64 billion with passenger service beginning by 2020.  That amount jumped to $98 billion and the departure time for passengers was delayed an additional 13 years to 2033.

 The initial 118-mile track segment of rail structures was to be completed next year, but this year the Federal Railroad Administration extended the deadline to 2022.  As of May, the rail authority still had fewer than half of the parcels of land needed to construct the segment.

In February, the rail authority redirected the first segment to head north to San Jose rather than south to the San Fernando Valley.  With the new end point in an empty lot near Bakersfield, the train is being ridiculed as “a high-priced train to nowhere.”  The Bakersfield Californian editorialized, “the California High Speed Rail Authority’s new plan to drop southbound passengers at a dusty rural junction 23 miles from Bakersfield is nuttier than a pistachio orchard— which, perhaps appropriately, is what that land was destined to become.”

The federal government is largely to blame for the project getting off track.

Federal funding for the bullet train comes from two separate grants: $2.25 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus, awarded in January 2010 and another $901 million federal grant provided in October 2010.

A September 30, 2017 deadline was set for spending the stimulus money.  The Obama Administration demanded the first segment of the railroad be built in the Central Valley believing that the less-populated farmland was the most “shovel ready.”

But construction began two years behind schedule because political, legal, logistical, environmental, and financial problems stopped the project in its tracks.  Lawsuits have hindered the acquisition of the 1,400 parcels the state is attempting “to purchase or seize through eminent domain.”

These setbacks “have forced contractors to leave equipment idle, which is likely to result in multimillion-dollar claims of losses,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “Construction experts are projecting the first 29 miles of construction alone could be as much as $400 million over budget.”

As of February, $1.1 billion of the $2.5 billion grant had been spent.  The rail authority “is accelerating its pace after a painfully slow start, with a half dozen construction crews now building overpasses, relocating utilities, and demolishing structures.”  No tracks, however, are being laid yet.

Public and private support for the train is declining, increasing the need for more government support.

The train was sold to voters, who approved a $9.95 billion bond referendum in 2008 to get the project started, with rosy projections and a stipulation that the system would operate without additional public subsidies.

Today, fewer than half of California voters—44 percent—favor building the high-speed rail system, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey taken in March.

Despite the billions of dollars provided by the federal government, the rail system is struggling to attract capital and is $43.5 billion short.  Private investors have shown little interest in the project.  Financial support from the state has also been lagging, in part because the federal government waived the requirement for the state to make an upfront dollar-for-dollar match.  The unusual agreement allows California to spend federal dollars first before putting up any of its own money.  Money raised from state greenhouse gas fees was expected to bring in $150 million for the project this year, but only provided $2.5 million.

The Spanish construction firm Ferrovial, selected to build the train, cautioned on its winning bid application that “more than likely, the California high speed rail will require large government subsidies for years to come.”  The conclusion was based upon reviews of 111 high-speed train lines around the world.  The rail authority, however, tried to bury its tracks by deleting this warning when the proposal was posted online for the public.204

While the stimulus provided $8 billion to support high speed rail projects in the U.S., California was the only state to get aboard this gravy train.  A similar high speed passenger train that had been planned in Florida never left the station precisely because Governor Rick Scott worried such a train would take taxpayers for a ride. In 2011, he rejected $2.4 billion offered by the federal government for the project, explaining that it “would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits.”


There is no way to get the bullet train back on track. Unless California derails it altogether, taxpayers in the state and across the country are going to be railroaded for years to come by this train wreck.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Reminder: Daylight Savings Time


Thursday, March 09, 2017

THIS WEEK IN PICTURES

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