• Story of 7 brothers in WWII is remarkable

    This time last year, I did a commentary on five brothers who served in World War II. Very impressive.
    Imagine my surprise when someone who caught the commentary sent me a package with this note:   
    “Dear Professor Kengor: Your [commentary] about the family whose five sons served in WW II was interesting. You might be interested to know about families who had more than five sons who served in WW II.”
    Well, Ted Walters of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, certainly had my attention.
    He continued: “My mother, Stella Pietkiewicz, had seven sons serve in WW II. She had the honor to christen the plane, Spirit of Poles, because she had the most sons who served in WW II.”
    Yes, seven sons.
    Along with Ted Walters’ letter was an old newspaper clipping that showed six Pittsburgh-area mothers, all of Polish descent, who had 33 sons in service. Anna Lozowska, Maryanna Sawinska, Katarzyna Antosz, and Mrs. Joseph Wojtaszek each offered five boys to the cause.
    Honorta Lachowicz provided six sons. Stella Pietkiewicz took the prize with seven.
    Bless their souls. These moms gave their boys to the cause of freedom.

  • Record keeping is a financial must

    If your financial life is confined to boxes, file cabinets and various piles of statements and receipts that only you can navigate, it might be time for a little de-cluttering.
    Software- and Internet-driven advancements in money management not only provide paperless alternatives to planning and tracking savings, spending and investments, they make finances easier to handle in an emergency.
    If you’re thinking about resetting your record keeping, here are some steps to get started:
    First, think about financial goals. Before tackling the job of reorganizing your financial record keeping, think through your current financial objectives and what changes might give you better data and efficiency to achieve them.
    You might want a system that tracks spending, saving, budgeting and on-time debt payments. If you already have that system in place, you might want more detailed information on retirement or your child’s college fund.
    Consider involving your financial and tax advisors in the discussion and see what suggestions they have.
    Also, create a system that makes it easy for loved ones and financial professionals to help in an emergency. If something were to happen to you, could a loved one easily navigate your finances? When organizing, always keep your spouse, children and/or executor in mind.

  • Call Me Ishmael...

    As a young boy, I remember being frustrated at how many people had the same name as me.
    My classes were filled with Jimmys, Johns, Bobbys, Williams and Mikes. It seemed as if our parents had absolutely no imagination when choosing names for their children.
    It’s difficult growing up with a very common name. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be named John!
    Today, Liam and Noah top the list of popular boy baby names. “John” doesn’t even make the top 40!  (I feel much better now.)
    Each year, the list of popular baby names changes, with the top 10 usually populated by movie star and rock group celebrities.
    Are we going to see a surge of Lady Gaga’s in our future?
    We don’t seem to care all that much what someone is named. We’ve got a Barack in the White House, which isn’t anything strange if you’re a history buff. Among Presidents and Vice-Presidents, we’ve had Grover, Milhous, Millard, Simpson, Gamaliel, Delano, Birchard, Hannibal, Horatio, Mifflin, Rufus, Cabell, Agard, and Schoolcraft.
    And I used to think Spiro was an odd name.

  • Veterans like Loyce Deen made U.S. great

    I’ve written in the past about how my Pop carried with him a haunting memory from his time aboard the aircraft carrier Essex in World War II.
    Anti-aircraft fire had killed a turret gunner during a sortie. Pop, whose job it was to repair and prepare planes for the next mission, went up to inspect the plane as soon as it landed and saw the gunner’s body. At Pop’s recommendation, the captain of the Essex gave the order to bury the man in the plane in which he had given his life for his country.
    This burial at sea was unique. It was the only time during World War II that a valuable plane was ordered to be used as a coffin.
    The burial itself was filmed and included in the 1950s series, “Victory at Sea.” Pop saw it for the first time when it was rebroadcast 20-25 years ago.
    Seeing that on the Essex dredged up disturbing memories of what Pop had seen on that long-ago day and for years afterward he would retell that vivid story many nights after consuming copious quantities of Jim Beam.
    The story didn’t end for me with Pop’s passing in 1999, because several years later, I stumbled onto a website about the airman who was buried in his plane.

  • A staffer's view of the Legislative session

    I served many of my eight years on County Council as a member of its state legislative committee. In that role, I frequently visited with elected legislators in both House and Senate, lobbyists, and staff.
    It was a close-up view of the legislature from the “outside.” This year, I had the opportunity to view the legislature from the “inside” as a staff member, an analyst for the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee (HRPAC).
    It was illuminating, although there were few surprises.
    The basic job of legislative analysts is to study bills and provide a synopsis, the “CliffsNotes” version, to legislators.
    We look at intent and actual effects, issues raised, costs (in the broad sense, not just dollars), conflicts with existing statutes, technical issues, etc.
    HRPAC was a great assignment.
    The wide range of legislation referred to it included major bills on minimum wage, state lottery, taxes and abortion issues to not-so-major ones (all important to someone) on, for example, barber licensing and special license plates.
    Many were in between, updating laws on lobbyists, various types of medical professionals, telephone service charges, alcohol sales, sex offenders, hunting and fishing licenses, etc., etc.

  • State Dem Chairperson bashes silly editorial

    “Do you know Debra Haaland?”
    That question was put to me recently by a neighbor when our paths crossed while walking our dogs in a nearby park.
    “We’ve never met,” I said, “even though she was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor last year and she’s now the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.”
    “Did you see her letter to the editor the other day?” my neighbor continued.
    “Her letter,” as my neighbor put it, was actually an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal wherein Haaland takes that newspaper to task for a rather silly editorial it published criticizing State Auditor Tim Keller and Attorney General Hector Balderas for having used their own personal email accounts to rally fellow Democrats to their party’s causes.
    In other words, the state’s most widely circulated daily (which “has long been rumored to be a right-wing newspaper,” Haaland noted) had nothing better to do with its ink than criticize a couple of politicians for doing what all politicians do, irrespective of party.
    And doing it on their own time and dime, at that.
    My neighbor’s dog is named Greta, I learned, but I know nothing about his politics.

  • Insulting stereotypes, demeaning dialogue can't pass as humor

    After a group of Native American actors walked off the set of “The Ridiculous Six,” now shooting in northern New Mexico, I happened to be at Ghost Ranch for a conference.
    The cast and crew were also at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, but only their trailers were visible.
    Too bad. I would have enjoyed a word or two with them. Instead, I’ll give them 600 words.
    Let me say up front that I’m a fan of Adam Sandler when he’s in movies for grown ups. The rest of the time he makes garbage, which, unfortunately, is what “The Ridiculous Six” is.
    Some Native actors, including Mescalero Apache consultant Bruce Klinekole, took exception to insulting stereotypes, ignorance and disrespect for Native culture.
    Good for them.
    The fact that they objected publicly brought the discussion into an open forum on the Internet and in the media.
    It tells you something that I can’t fully explore all the offensive material because the content is too raunchy for a family newspaper. Indians in the movie are supposedly Apache; in real life Apaches were personally modest and conservative in their behavior. Sandler’s Apache women were named Beaver’s Breath and Wears-No-Bra and one that’s unprintable.

  • Changing face of healthcare

    Whatever you think of Obamacare, the United States healthcare system before Obamacare was a mess.
    Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is an attempt to straighten it out. So said Dr. Michael Richards, speaking to the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Association. Richards is executive physician in chief of University of New Mexico Health Systems — one of the leaders responsible for moving New Mexico’s healthcare system into the new century.
    As Richards spoke, the doctor sitting next to me was muttering. This transformation is going to be hard on doctors, especially those in private practice.
    The problem, as we hear often, is that the United States spends more than twice as much per patient as other advanced countries, but our outcomes are worse, our error rates are among the highest, and alarming numbers of Americans have little or no access to services.
    The ACA addresses three goals, Richards said. These goals conflict with each other, so regulatory processes are needed to keep them in balance.
    First is insurance reform, especially to improve access by abolishing the limits for people with pre-existing conditions. This is good for those patients but it adds cost to an already costly system.

  • Proposed Los Alamos bag ban bad for environment and freedom

    Los Alamos County Commission is now considering banning plastic grocery bags.
    More than 200 municipalities in the United States, including two in New Mexico — Santa Fe and Silver City — have banned the distribution of lightweight plastic shopping bags.
    Proponents of bag bans, specifically the Sierra Club, claim they will reduce litter and protect the marine environment, diminish our consumption of resources and emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce waste and save taxpayers’ money.
    Unfortunately, the supposed environmental benefits of banning plastic bags evaporate upon closer examination.
    For starters, authoritative studies show that plastic bags constitute less than 1 percent of visible litter in U.S. cities.
    Litter is never a good thing, but the right way to reduce it is to through education — not to simply ban plastic bags.
    Members of some pressure groups claim that plastic bags kill large numbers of marine animals. Even for bags distributed in coastal cities, that claim is simply false.
    As David Santillo, a senior biologist with Greenpeace, told The Times of London: “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags. The evidence shows just the opposite … on a global basis, plastic bags aren’t an issue.”

  • Sierra Club talking points get debunked

    Here are how some Sierra Club talking points being debunked:
    Talking Point: Plastic bags last forever in the landfills.
    Debunking: Everything lasts forever in the landfills we use. They are designed to keep what’s put there as stable as possible to reduce the chance of nasty stuff oozing into the environment.
    TP: Re-usable bags are friendlier to the environment.
    D: If you consider the entire lifecycle of these bags, the re-usable bags are worse for the environment. Most of them are made in China with dirtier energy and no restrictions on what waste products are allowed back into the environment. Most of the plastic shopping bags currently offered at checkout are made in the U.S.A. with much cleaner energy and high standards for waste product disposal. Banning plastic shopping bags eliminates more United States jobs and contributes toward polluting the environment.
    TP: Paper bags are better because they’re recyclable and biodegradable.