Conscience Laureate

Friday, September 30, 2011


(Not my actual dentist)

I had oral surgery on Tuesday.  As my friend Stella says, “Nothing goes easy for me,” and since my friend Linda loves when I write about myself, here is the story.

Tuesday I went to my dentist, Dr. William Freidrich, for a simple visit to check on a previously cracked crown that he had replaced. Should have taken about five minutes.  While I was there, he decided I should have a teeth cleaning.  Again, a simple procedure … for ordinary people.  Suddenly, there was a blood-curdling, scraping sound.  I screamed like a wounded gazelle, helplessly trapped in the mouth of a lion.  The hygienist decided that it would be wise to call for the dentist to come in.  The dentist, in turn, decided to take an x-ray to investigate.

Dr. Freidrich found out that the loosening of the crown revealed an unknown problem with a molar in the right back part of my mouth.  I had two choices; neither of them pleasant.  My first option involved a complicated procedure that involved receiving a painful root canal, planting dental implants, and other procedures that sounded equally scary and increasingly multifarious.  After the first thirty seconds of hearing about this ingenious plan, I tuned out, and stopped listening about what else lurked behind Door Number One.   Door Number Two perked my ears, and definitely sounded like a more viable and practical option; pull out the bad tooth.  And… it would give me the appearance of having higher cheekbones.  Because I have a round chubby face, higher cheek bones sounded good, so I took that option.

(not the actual tools)

The dentist jabbed into my gums about four times with his ‘benevolent’ shots of Novocain.  After a 15 minute wait for the local anesthetic to kick in, the procedure began.  Oh joy.  The process of pulling a tooth is reminiscent of those scenes you see in the Wild West movies where the dentist takes a pair of pliers, pulling with all his strength to loosen the molar.

After much struggling, the offending tooth was yanked out.  Dr. Freidrich packed the region with gauze, gave me extra gauze, told me to rest and not to talk until 7 p.m. that evening and all should be fine.  I also could not drink Diet Coke or smoke cigarettes. Taking away smoking, soda and talking  -- as you can imagine, a veritable nightmare!  Pretty much limited my life to the bare bones of existence, since those are my three favorite activities! The dentist took my cell phone number so that he could text me, and check on my status, since I would not be able to respond to any phone calls.

(Flanagan in Iraq)

Tuesday evening, I was an invited guest at the private suite of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf for a party being given in the honor of my dear friend, former Congressman Michael Patrick Flanagan.  Flanagan had been in Iraq for two years on special assignment for the State Department and I really wanted to see him.  I was not going to miss this event, whether or not I could talk.

By four o’clock Tuesday afternoon, the blood was gushing from my mouth extensively.  Luckily, I live across the street from Northwestern Hospital, where my dentist is located.  I walked back to the hospital, holding a towel up to my mouth, so the other pedestrians would not be sickened by the unrestrained blood flow.  Dr. Friedrich saw me immediately, shot me full of Novocain again, and decided to stitch up the wound.  Because I take the blood thinner Coumadin, I have to be careful when it comes to open wounds.  I am also allergic to all narcotics, so I could take nothing for the pain except Advil.

I got home and the bleeding was still pervasive, but not to the point that I could not change into sports clothing and drive to U.S. Cellular Field.  I wrote a BIG NOTE saying, “I cannot talk, I had a tooth pulled,” that I showed to people as I left my building and arrived at the suite.

Dr. Freidrich kept texting me, asking me how I was doing.  I sat quietly in the suite, as people visited and chatted.  I took notes on all of the fascinating comments that I wanted to interject upon when I could not speak.  The seven o’clock hour arrived.  Hallelujah!  I could finally start talking again!  Unfortunately, it was a BIG MISTAKE!!  The flapping of my jaw caused the blood to start gushing once again.  I frantically stuffed my mouth with gauze and exited stage left to go home.

By the time I arrived home, the blood was surging at a fast pace.  I kept changing the gauze and decided to try to wait until morning and not go to the emergency room at the hospital.

My bedroom looked like a crime scene from Law and Order.  There was blood all over my sheets and pillows. Upon reflection, I was stupid not to go to the hospital.

Wednesday morning, I went to at the dentist at 7 a.m., the second he opened his doors for business.  It turned out that because I was spitting the blood out (rather than let it drool from my mouth), I was loosening the clots, thereby making the situation worse.  Dr. Friedrich once again shot me with Novocain (I had now received more than a dozen in my cheek, total), took out the stitches, suctioned out the remaining clots, and stitched me up again.  He told me to go home, rest and not talk, drink, or smoke.

I had a lunch appointment Wednesday that I did not want to cancel. Somehow I managed to dress myself and take a cab to go to the meeting. I told the two people present that I had to stay quiet, and could only sip some soup. I ended the meeting as quickly as possible ( for me that meant 90 minutes!) and went home to cry in pain and lie in my bed. 

It’s been a cumbersome week.

I sent an e-mail to some friends to let them know what was going on.  All of them offered to come over immediately to change the sheets, so I would not have to lie in that bloody mess, and to bring me anything I needed.  I turned down all offers because all I wanted to do was suffer by myself.

My two favorite offers were from my friends, Patti and Linda.  Patti offered to bring ice cream.  The thought of anything cold in my mouth would have caused me to scream so loudly that my sister in Dublin would have heard it.  Linda offered to “drive like the wind” from her home in Oak Park.  I checked the wind speed in Chicago and it was only 12 miles an hour so it would have taken Linda hours to arrive!  Still, their immediate offers to assist me in my time of need were (and are) cherished and appreciated.

The dentist kept texting, people kept e-mailing and Wednesday night I just tossed and turned.

Now you know why I did not post a blog on Thursday; I was not being lazy. I think I had a good excuse.  I will get a note from the doctor, if necessary.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


In the United States there is dispute about when the first public library actually opened.  Boston, Massachusetts and Charlestown, South Carolina both have a good claim to the title in the 1600’s, so don’t believe that it was Benjamin Franklin’s library in Philadelphia in 1731.  In Chicago  it is clear that on April 1872, the City Council passed an ordinance establishing a Chicago Public Library that officially opened on January 1, 1873 at the southeast corner of LaSalle and Adams streets.  Chicago currently has 77 branches located throughout the city.  But in today’s computer world, with Google replacing the need for encyclopedias, and e-books replacing the turning of pages, how can libraries survive?

In 2008, the Chicago Public Library unveiled a campaign to reintroduce themselves to Chicagoans to let people know about all the resources and services that are available for free at the library.

They announced a campaign called “Not What You Think”, obviously not with much fanfare because I do not remember ever reading about it.


“The Chicago Public Library has created a new ad campaign to reintroduce itself to Chicagoans who may not be aware of many new and updated resources and services available free of charge at the Library. With funding from the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the Library retained All Terrain/Chicago to create the“Not What You Think” campaign – which shatters stereotypes many people have of public libraries. The ads are specifically geared toward adults who are post-college and pre-children who may not have visited a Chicago Public Library recently. Ads feature young entrepreneurs, a senior citizen who loves music and our own librarians who highlight resources such as downloadable media, author events, free WIFI and business resources. The ads currently appear on the CTA, print and online media. In 2009, the campaign will expand to viral video, targeted event outreach and highlighted event listings on   www.chipublib.org/notwhatyouthink.

Because the Chicago Library Foundation is paying All Terrain, the marketing firm, there is no record of what the company received for putting the campaign together, or what they receive to continue working on it.  So much for open government on contracts!  In Chicago, there is always a loophole around full disclosure.

All Terrain’s latest campaign to get people back into libraries was to create monthly Library Lounge Nights at local bars.  I find that offensive on a number of levels.

(1) The website of All Terrain  lists some of its clients as Stoli, Absolut Mango and Kilo Kai Rum, along with the Chicago Public Library.  Is All Terrain “double-dipping” by using bars to promote the library?  Aren’t the liquor companies already paying them to promote bars?

(2)  At the Happy Hour events, people can sign up to receive a library card.  Since one can only use the card at a library, why wouldn’t people get the card at the library?  Maybe because people who get the card at a bar are only using that as an excuse to hang out at the bar? It legitimizes drinking on a Tuesday night by claiming that one is going to go the bar for “educational reasons.”

(3)  It is obvious that only stupid people would get their card by going to a bar by this quote from Ruth Lednicer, Chicago Public Library’s Director of Marketing, about one of the Happy Hour events.  “We had people lined up outside in 95 degree weather to get in, and one woman by the time she made it to the table where I was doing library cards, I asked, ‘How long had you waited?’ And she said, ‘About an hour. I wanted my library card.’   Doesn’t this stupid woman realize that once she has her library card she has to go to a library to use it?  If she went to the library instead of the bar, she would have had to wait just a few minutes to get her card.  Then, she would have been able to use it immediately at the library itself.

It would be interesting to see how many of the people who got their library cards at a bar actually went to a library and checked out a book.  I doubt very many.  I think the only winners in this campaign are the marketing firm and the bars, but certainly not the library.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Once Labor Day passes and school resumes, children’s thoughts turn quickly to their next long vacation  --  the winter holiday break.  The December holidays mean different things to varied religious groups, so we’re supposed to be politically correct and say, “Happy Holidays,” and not delineate to which holiday they are referring.  The City of Chicago does not worry about offending anyone and makes a big hoopla about the Christmas tree that is erected at Daley Plaza.  In fact, it was September 7th, just two days post Labor Day, when the City issued a press release about their search for a perfect tree. 

The press release said, “The City of Chicago is looking for the perfect tree to grace Daley Plaza this holiday season and serve as the City’s Official Christmas tree. Beginning September 7 through September 30, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will accept tree nominations for this year’s tree in Daley Plaza.”   The release also said, “Chicagoans will be able to vote on the three finalists beginning October 17 through October 25 on the Chicago Sun-Times website at www.suntimes.com.”  

So voting will open in just a few days, but I wonder how they will know that ONLY Chicagoans will vote? Even if the web site link requires an address, anybody (even my blog readers in Ireland) could click on the link and use any random Chicago address, if it is even required.  But illegal voting in Chicago is a story for another blog.

There are strict criteria for what kind of tree the City will accept as a gift.  The tree must be donated but the city pays The Brickman Groupto cut it down and haul it away.

•       Trees must be at least 55 feet or taller;
•       Spruce or Fir Trees are best. Pine trees are ineligible because they are not sturdy enough;
•       Please include a brief description of why your tree should be Chicago’s Official Christmas Tree and include any background information on the tree;
•       All submissions must include 3 photographs (1 from afar and 2 up close) or the tree will not be considered;
•       Tree must be located within 100 miles from Chicago’s Loop

I called Mary May, the Chicago employee listed as contact on the press release, and asked how many people had nominated a tree to be considered.  She would not tell me how many entries there were, but by the tone of her voice when she told me that there are not a lot of trees of that size around, I don’t think there is going to be much competition in the contest. 

So what if Chicago does not get an appropriate tree?  A Festivus pole is the answer!  For the sitcom-challenged, Festivus is the holiday that Frank Costanza created on The Seinfeld Show.  It’s celebrated on December 23rd.  A clip form the show can be viewed here

The “official” Festivus website  explains the holiday and its traditions.

The Festivus Pole: The Costanzas' tradition begins with an aluminum pole, which Frank praises for its "very high strength-to-weight ratio." During Festivus, the unadorned Festivus Pole is displayed. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is "very low-maintenance," and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting."

The Airing of Grievances: At the beginning of the Festivus dinner, each participant tells friends and family of all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year. As quoted from Frank Costanza: "I've got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're going to hear about it!"

Festivus dinner: In "The Strike," a celebratory dinner is shown on the evening of Festivus prior to the Feats of Strength. The on-air meal appeared to be meat loaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. In Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us, by Allen Salkin, drinking is encouraged with hearty beer, rum, bourbon, or wine. In the episode, no alcohol was served, but George Costanza's boss, Mr. Kruger, drank from a flask.

The Feats of Strength: After the dinner, the head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.

Think of all the money the city will save in transporting and decorating a tree if instead, it opts for a plain Festivus aluminum pole.  Because there are no religious connotations surrounding the holiday, no one should be offended if this December you cry out, “Festivus for the rest of us!” as you dance around the pole.  I am cooking this year, you are all invited.  But beware the Feats of Strength.  I may choose YOU.

Monday, September 26, 2011


(Kathy's random Chicago ward map)

Today I am starting out with some census demographics before I delve into the body of the story.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the country from the 2010 census is broken down as follows:

White persons not Hispanic- 63.7 %
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin- 16.3%
Black persons-12.6%
Asian- 4.8%
Persons reporting two or more races- 2.9%
American Indian and Alaska Native person- 0.9%
Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander- 0.2%

(It adds up to 101.4% but who am I to argue with the government?  It is probably because Hispanics may be of any race, so also are included in applicable race categories and people report in more than one category.)
Females are 50.7% and male are 49.3% of the total country's population of 308,745,538.

The characteristics of Chicago‘s population  do NOT mirror those of the country as a whole except for gender, where females comprise 51.5% of the city. The total population is 2,695,598.

White persons-42%
Black persons- 36.8%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin- 26%
Asian persons- 4.3%
Persons reporting two or more races- 2.9%
American Indian and Alaska Native person- 0.4%
Native Hawaiian- 0.1%

(Again more than 100% but that is because of some double reporting)

According to the U.S. Census American Community survey, the breakdown of the largest European ancestries in Chicago is:
·                    Irish: (201,836)
·                    German: (200,392)
·                    Polish: (179,868)
·                    Italian: (96,599)
·                    English: (60,307)

Now you have the figures to examine, as I get to “the rest of the story  Because I have many readers outside the Illinois geographic area, I need to diverge a bit first with an elementary political education of how the City of Chicago is governed. Chicago is divided into 50 wards.  Each ward elects an Alderman to represent it in City Council.  The ward boundaries are changed every 10 years according to the census, and the process is called “redistricting.” Each ward is supposed to have approximately the same population. The boundaries are drawn and determined by the ethnic background of residents – they tend to resemble the scribbling of a two year old child.  Each ward is a self-contained area, but the shape is changed every 10 years to include or exclude certain populations.

Since there are 50 wards in Chicago and the population is currently determined at 2,695,598, that would mean that each ward should have approximately 53,911 residents contained within it.  Boundaries are cut and pasted from one ward and attached to another to conform with the population changes.

Chicago currently has 20 black wards, 13 white wards, 11 Hispanic wards and six wards with a “majority minority” mix of Hispanics, blacks and Asians.  Last week, the City Council’s Black Caucus revealed their proposed new ward map, which would include 19 majority black wards.  They would give up the 2nd ward, represented by white Alderman Bob Fioretti.  The city has experienced a 182,000-person drop in Chicago’s black population and a growth of about 25,000 in the Latino population.  The Latino Caucus does not like the proposal that the Black Caucus wants because they feel that it does not give them enough new wards.  But if the Hispanic growth is 25,000, then that would only give them enough population for ½ of a ward.

Fran Spielman wrote in the Sun- Times, “The Hispanic Caucus is demanding as many as six more wards to reward Latinos for their 25,000-person population gain over the last decade. The Black Caucus map includes just two more Hispanic wards ­— the 10th and 23rd. Both are currently represented by veteran white aldermen: John Pope (10th) and Mike Zalewski (23rd).”

What does not make sense to me is that if the population of a ward is supposed to represent the population of the city EXACTLY by the percentages, then there should be 21 white wards, 19 black wards and 13 Latino wards.  That adds up to more than 50 wards, so some maneuvering would have to be done.

But what about women aldermen?  There had been 19 and now there are only 15.  If women comprise 50% of the city’s population, why aren’t there 25 female aldermen?  I know it doesn’t logically fit in quite the same way – because we all know that in the city, people naturally tend to segregate themselves by race, but definitely not by gender – making it easier to actually put on a real map.  But I am writing this, so I can say what I want to!

If we look at European ancestry in Chicago, then there should be four Irish wards, four German wards, etc.

One could make the case for all sorts of different groups having representation by the percentages but the bottom line question is, “Why should there be quotas by race only?”

Re-mapping should not be based on race, religion or ethnic background but solely on the population within a ward to have all Aldermen represent about the same population of PEOPLE! Citizens should be voting for the best candidate for the job, and that has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin; but solely on their qualifications to serve.

Haven’t we moved beyond making decisions based on race?  Haven’t we reached the point where people should ”not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  I guess we have to keep dreaming, Dr. King.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I have written many blogs about why I hate the government interfering in citizen’s private lives when it comes to what we can and cannot eat.  I have no problem with the government protecting us from contaminants, and requiring sanitary conditions in food processing plants and restaurants but stop with the calorie police already!

The latest interagency group to deal with calories and children is a coalition of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Why should the notional value of the food that children and adolescents eat be the business of government?  It should be the responsibility of parents.
The FTC claims “The proposed principles are voluntary and do not call for government regulation of food marketing.  They are an opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers, public health advocates, the entertainment industry, academics, and other stakeholders to provide comments that will inform the working group’s final recommendations to Congress.” (my emphasis added)
 Does “voluntary” mean that the companies do not have to do it?  What if a company does not follow the guidelines?  Anytime the government calls for something “voluntary”, you know it’s really mandatory!  Plus, when the FTC throws in the threat of going to Congress, the food companies know they are screwed!

The FTC posted on their web site  a quote from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “Children are strongly influenced by the foods they see advertised on television and elsewhere. Creating a food marketing environment that supports, rather than undermines, the efforts of parents to encourage healthy eating among children will have a significant impact on reducing the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. These new Principles [sic] will help food and beverage companies use their creativity and resources to strengthen parents’ efforts to encourage their children to make healthy choices.”

The food marketing police say “By the year 2016, all food products within the categories most heavily marketed directly to children and adolescents ages 2-17 should meet the two basic nutrition principles set out below. These include breakfast cereals; snack foods; candy; dairy products; baked goods; carbonated beverages; fruit juice and non-carbonated beverages; prepared foods and meals; frozen and chilled deserts; and restaurant foods.”


Principle A: Foods marketed to children must make a meaningful contribution to healthful diets, and contain at least one of these food groups:
  • fruit
  • vegetable
  • whole grain
  • fat-free or low-fat (1-percent) milk products
  • fish
  • extra lean meat or poultry
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans
Principle B is that the foods should minimize intake of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health or weight. The key standards are:
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per serving and 15 percent or less of calories
  • Trans Fat: 0 g per serving
  • Added Sugars: No more than 13 g of added sugars per serving
  • Sodium: No more than 210 mg per serving
It makes no difference what the government or even a parent tells a child.  Once that child leaves the watchful eye of an adult, she will stuff her mouth with fries and candy because…  *news alert*… fries and candy taste good.  I’m not kidding.  They really do.  The only way the government will solve the problem of childhood obesity is to totally ban all food that tastes good.  That might be coming soon. Don’t bother to write a comment to me on how delicious an apple is compared to a Milky Way bar.  If you really believe that, you are an alien from outer space.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Son and grandson
(Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak / August 31, 2011)

I have been hospitalized twelve times in the past ten years.  Because of my vascular problems, I pay a hefty health insurance premium and a huge deductible.  Money I had been saving for my old-age is being used to help keep me alive now.  I worked very hard to earn the money, but understand how fortunate I am to have the cash to pay the hospital bills.  I am no charity case.  Not so with the circumstances surrounding the hospital stay of Barbara Latasiewicz, who has been living the last two years in one of the biggest rooms in Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.  I would have sympathy with Latasiewicz’s ordeal after her stroke if she were not an illegal immigrant and had no family.  But she does have family who visits her regularly, but do not take any responsibility for her care.

When I read the story of Latasiewicz, on the front page of the Chicago Tribune,  I was outraged on a number of levels. 

(1)  Being a former public relations executive, I immediately realized that this was an obviously a “fluff” PR piece that the Adventist communications staff had pitched to the newspaper to make the hospital look good.  Currently there are discussions in Illinois about hospitals losing certain charitable deductions and starting to have to pay for municipal water bills, etc.  So I picture the hospital lobbyists sitting with the marketing people saying, “Do you have any stories to make the hospital look charitable?  We need to help influence lawmakers through stories in the media.”  And some PR  person said, “I think there is some Polish lady that has been living here a long time.  Why don’t we go for that one?  Everybody agreed and today, they are probably still high-fiving each other with the impression that they made the hospital look good through its “generosity.”

(2)  Latasiewicz came to America in 1990 with her son, using a temporary visa, and she stayed past its expiration.  She is a self-proclaimed illegal immigrant.  She told the Tribune, "He started school, and I had to stay. I didn't want to leave him by himself."  She did not flee her native country because of persecution, war or famine, she just wanted to stay.  Because of her illegal status, she is not eligible for Medicare or other public funds.  So the hospital has to provide her care without recompense.  Free care drives up hospital costs for the rest of us.

(3) The story said, “She was declared a ward of the state after the hospital found she was not capable of managing or making decisions about her health, finances and future.”  So now taxpayers--something Latasiewicz never was-- are responsible for taking care of her.  So I, a taxpayer, have to help support a non-taxpayer who is also an illegal immigrant!

(4) Peter, the very son she moved to America with, has declined to help take care of his Mother financially because he has his own family now. If her own son does not choose to care for his Mother, why should I?  What does Zygmunt Matynia the Polish Consular General in Chicago say about the case? He said the consulate has not been involved and if she went back to Poland “he didn't know what benefits she'd qualify for in Poland because she hasn't worked in the country for two decades.”  So her own native country won’t take care of her, but Americans are expected to?  The bill for her care up to this point is more than $1 million.

(5)  The Tribune story said that she is well enough to leave the hospital, but with nowhere to go because she is an “undocumented”
(Their word, not mine) immigrant. "She's in limbo. There's really no options for her at this point," said Tam Tran, Latasiewicz's guardianship representative from the Illinois state guardian's office. "We know she's more appropriate for a nursing home setting, but this is the only option: to reside at La Grange Memorial Hospital."  She does have a place to go!  Poland—where she is a citizen. 

(6)  The final source of my outrage about this case were some lines  from the story talking about her hospital stay, “Like a hostess in her own home, Barbara Latasiewicz offers visitors beverages from the minifridge given to her by hospital staff one Christmas.” And that the staff plans to mark her second anniversary this week with a party.  What!? The hospital staff is having a party to celebrate her anniversary of two years as a freeloader!?  Oh puhleeze! 

Latasiewicz is well enough to leave the hospital but says she has no place to go, so she continues to stay. My condo is up for sale and when I sell it I plan on moving into Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  Fabulous views of Lake Michigan from the rooms, three hot meals a day and flat screen TV.  No phone, cable or electric bills to pay and all the visitors I want.  With my laptop computer and minifridge for Diet Coke, it will just be like home.  Only cheaper because I will not pay a dime. Oh, wait.  I am a citizen, so I don’t qualify for the freeloader’s program.