Poison Pero is RIGHT!

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

PRAGER UNIVERSITY: Is Gun Ownership a Right?

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

This semester of Prager University is presented by:  Eugene Volokh

"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." – U.S. Constitution, Second Amendment

"A 'free state' is what the Framers wanted America to be.  They saw an armed citizenry as in part a hedge against tyranny...So, does the 2nd Amendment secure an individual right to bear arms?  It did when it was written; it has throughout American history; and it does today." – E.V.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

WASTEBOOK: Boondoggle Boulevard

$76 million
New Jersey
Federal Highway Administration and Department of Housing and Urban Development

More than $341 million was spent reconstructing just 12 ½ miles of a New Jersey road on which fewer than 7,000 people live. The price tag comes to about $27.3 million per mile.

The stretch of Route 35 running between Seaside Heights and Bay Head was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

Even though the project was fast-tracked by state officials, it was finished a year behind schedule and $76 million over budget.

More than $20 million of this excess was spent to pay contractors for not working. All work was stopped during the summer of 2014, but the contractors continued to be paid.  Construction was shut down for Memorial Day weekend and then halted altogether from June 13 to September. Contractors were paid again for being idle when construction was stopped while pipes were being installed under the road. “Those numbers are mind-boggling,” says Barry LePatner, a construction contract attorney. He points out “a suspension of work shouldn’t add up to ($25 million) in labor costs.”

Government officials cannot explain how another $23 million was even spent.

State officials justify the exorbitant costs by claiming “this is not just a resurfacing job.” Instead, Route 35 was “redesigned as a state-of-the-art roadway.” This included reconstructing the roadway, landscaping to enhance medians, replacing miles of gas, sewer and water lines under the road and adding bicycle lanes on the northbound side of the road.

Anthony Attanasio, who was an assistant commissioner of the state DOT until April 2014, says the setbacks were caused, in part, because the plans for the area were inaccurate. The planners “were essentially blind to what utilities were beneath the road.”  As a result, “this created a stop-and-start pattern— contractors would dig down and find an unmarked gas pipe, then they would have to call the gas company and wait for it to inspect or replace the pipe.”

Democrat state Senator Raymond Lesniak calls the project “a boondoggle” and is urging the U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress to investigate. “The Route 35 reconstruction project is the poster child for what’s wrong with the state and federal government’s Sandy relief effort,” says Lesniak.

The high price of the project was only a bump in the road for the state, however, because most of the costs were billed to the federal government.

“Very little of the cost for the Route 35 reconstruction project will be paid by New Jersey taxpayers,” according to Steven Schapiro, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

“Of the $341 million project costs, $336.3 million are expenses eligible for federal reimbursement and fall under the 80 percent (the Federal Highway Administration) will pay for, totaling $269.04 million. The State share of eligible costs, which is 20 percent, would be $67.26 million. When the $4.7 million that FHWA determined was not eligible for federal reimbursement is added in, the State share totals $71.96 million. Of that amount, NJ has been reimbursed $50.1 million by a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts. That leaves $21.86 million for which the State is responsible. However, NJDOT expects additional reimbursement from the CDBG grant but we don’t have a figure at this time,” explains Schapiro.

And while the reconstruction is finally finished, this isn’t the end of the road for the costs associated with this project. Residents say the construction damaged their homes, including cracks in walls and ceilings. At least 36 property owners contacted the New Jersey Department of Transportation with claims related to work on Route 35. The state, however, is referring the residents to the contractor but the contractor’s insurance company has been denying liability.

For taxpayers, the reconstruction of Route 35 has been a rocky road with the cost amounting to highway robbery.


Thursday, March 23, 2017


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.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

WASTEBOOK: Government Public Relations & Advertising

$1.4 billion

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.


Friday, March 17, 2017


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