Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Soviets and Cigarettes

As Americans we read and hear on the news about how the federal government spends and wastes taxpayer dollars, in the millions and billions. The same thing happens in small amounts too but that's never covered in the news. But those small expenditures in the form of federal grants add up.   

The National Institutes of Health (an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) in their mission statement seeks to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability by investing $32 billion yearly in medical research for the good of the American people.

In April, 2015 the NIH awarded a one year grant to University of Arkansas historian Tricia Starks to research and write a book titled Cigarettes and Soviets: The Culture of Tobacco Use in Modern Russia. Ms. Starks is an expert on the subject.  
The relevance of the book as it relates to Americans is that understanding Russia's smoking history will aid the United States in efforts to control tobacco use. (Yes, really.)
Cost to taxpayers: $48,500

I'm no expert on Russian cigarette smoking, but I don't think it's money well spent. I do hope Ms. Starks has success with her book though. What do you think?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

State Dept Employees Learn How Not to Lie, Cost to Taxpayers $545K

How many ways can the federal government spend and waste taxpayers money? Here's one:

Testifying before Congress is probably intimidating, even for seasoned and well-heeled ambassadors, diplomats, lawmakers and various officials. But I like to think they can rise to the occasion by being prepared for any questions and remaining calm under stress. Unfortunately, there have been embarrassing testimonies by diplomats that could have been avoided by simply telling the truth.

The State Department came up with a solution by contracting an outside agency to hold classes that will teach senior level officials how to answer questions. The name of the course: “Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying”.

AMTIS, Inc. was awarded a five-year contract beginning in 2014 to hold three or four classes each year with a class of no less than 10 and no more than 15 participants.

To sum it up, the State Department is paying AMTIS, Inc. $545,000 to teach federal employees something that can be taught from within the State Department by a competent staff that is already on the payroll. A less costly solution, in my opinion, 'just tell the truth'.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson was First Lady of the United States from November 22, 1963, when her husband Lyndon Baines Johnson took office, until January 20, 1969.

Born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karmack, Texas, her nurse remarked that she was as pretty as a ladybird. The name stayed with her.

Lady Bird Taylor graduated high school at 15 but when she realized that she had the highest grades in her class she intentionally let her grades slip so that she wouldn't have to give the valedictorian speech. After graduation she enrolled in the University of Alabama for the summer and took her first journalism course. Rather than enrolling for the fall semester, she returned to Texas and entered St. Mary's Episcopal College for Women. After graduating from St. Mary's, Lady Bird entered the University of Texas where she earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees, a year apart, one in history the other journalism. 

A shrewd businesswoman and wise investor, Lady Bird Johnson used her family inheritance to buy a radio station, it proved wildly successful. She subsequently bought a television station, against the advice of her husband while reminding him that she could do what she wanted with her inheritance. The television station also proved successful. The Johnson's became millionaires by way of Lady Bird's $41,000 investment and business acumen. Lady Bird Johnson was the first First Lady to become a millionaire in her own right.  

Mrs. Johnson was the first First Lady to employ a press secretary, a chief of staff and a liaison with Congress. As First Lady she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In a poll ranking the most important and influential First Ladies, Lady Bird Johnson ranked third behind Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jacqueline 'Jackie' Kennedy

Jacqueline 'Jackie' Kennedy was the First Lady of the United States from 1961, when her husband John F. Kennedy took office, until his assassination in 1963.

Born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, she learned to ride before she could walk and became an accomplished equestrian. As a youngster, she attended private schools, studied ballet, wrote stories and poems and drew illustrations for them. As a student at Vassar she was a member of the art and drama clubs and also wrote for the school newspaper. In her junior year of college Bouvier traveled to France in a study-abroad program through Smith College, where she studied at the University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in Paris. Upon her return home to the United States she transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature. During her early years of marriage to John F. Kennedy, she took continued-education classes at Georgetown University.

Upon moving to the White House, Mrs. Kennedy made it her first priority to restore the historical character of the White House and to make the house family friendly by adding a kitchen to the family floor. Prior to the Kennedy administration, furnishings and other items in the White House had been taken by previous presidents and their families, leaving the White House bare of historical pieces. Mrs. Kennedy personally wrote letters to track down many of the missing historic pieces. She also introduced a Congressional bill establishing that White House furnishings would be the property of the Smithsonian rather than for outgoing presidents to take as they wish. She founded the White House Historical Association, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and created the position of a permanent Curator of the White House. She was the first First Lady to employ a curator.

On November 22, 1963 she was sitting alongside her husband in the back seat of a car in Dallas, Texas as he was assassinated by a lone gunman.

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