The Century of the Self and the Importance of Questions

We interrupt this mass [media] hysteria for a public service announcement: Not everything you hear or read is true.

Your inner critic should immediately ask, well why should I believe you? You shouldn’t. Form your own opinion. Maybe you live in a magical land where no one can speak a lie and unicorns frolic with hippos and it snows but isn’t cold and no one ever gets sunburned and everyone is happy. Maybe you invented a pair of shades or a hearing aid that filters information so that all you see and hear is fact-checked, verified and valid. Or maybe you need to listen critically to information you get. You tell me.

Alright, sorry for the snark, perhaps I’m a little riled up. There are a lot of crazy and horrible things going on out there kids; I don’t have to tell you that. My heart goes out to those who are suffering with loss and pain and fear. Its completely natural that we want to know what happened. Who, Why? Will it happen again? Could it happen to me or my loved ones? A thousand questions. And I’m happy they’re being asked, no matter how crazy, or hysterical, or out there, or inquisitive, or relentless, or unlikely they may seem.

So you may see now why I’m feeling a bit perturbed. Amongst the reports from Boston, MA, I’ve seen and heard a fair share of questions…generally swiftly met by a barrage of labels. “Hysterical.” “Fearmonger.” “Conspiracy Theorist.” 

I was relieved to see that not everyone has gone around the bend, there was sanity in the facebook post of a friend of mine, which included an observation of people who have called for a swift death of the suspects, without trial: “some of these people would not trust the gov’t w/ healthcare policies, or with economic policies or gun control…. but they have let all honest skepticism fly out the window in the face of terrible event and an accusation.”

Well said.

So now seems like a great time to share a great documentary with you nice folks. It’s called The Century of the Self, and it’s fantastic. It’s broken down in 4 parts: Happiness Machines, Engineering Consent, There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads-He Must Be Destroyed, and Eight People Drinking Wine in Kettering.

This 2002 BBC documentary explores and exposes the way psychology has been used to manipulate the individual and the masses in order to create a consumer-driven society. You’ll see how the propaganda machine used as a tool for World War II found a new home in consumerism after the war was over. It explores both corporate and governmental attempts (and successes) at influencing populations. A little something for everyone. Check it out.

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That’s My Placenta! A Survey of Ownership and Activities

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If something is removed from your body, who owns it? The question may gross you out, but it has a serious side. Take for example, the human placenta. A little bio-class refresher: it’s an organ grown by a woman during pregnancy to attach the fetus to her uterus via the umbilical cord. It transfers oxygen, nutrients and hormones to the baby, and removes waste. (So get that-momma’s already feeding and picking up after you even before you’re born! That’s love ladies and gentlemen.)

If a woman gives birth in a hospital, as a majority of women do in the U.S., you’ll likely never see this amazing organ. Many may thank their lucky stars but a growing number are grabbing for a doggie bag–literally and figuratively. There is a growing contingent of families that want to keep the placenta for personal use. Hospitals and governments have policies that run the spectrum from allowing momma access immediately without question, protected by law, to a waiting period or injection of a preservative, or a blanket refusal. However, a lack of uniform policy combined with social stigma creates situations that can be simultaneously comical, sad, devious or hazardous. When faced with an official policy of refusal, some women call a funeral director to have the placenta released then returned to them via straw man. Some find a sympathetic hospital staffer to drop it in a designated biohazard bin then look the other way when the bag disappears. A few are lucky enough to be able to take it home in a cooler with permission. Some need a court order to get their body part released.

Why Want it and Why Would that Be a Problem?

There are a variety of reasons a person would want to keep their placenta, but  I can summarize three main: spiritual practice, placentophagy, and memorabilia. For  many, keeping the placenta has spiritual implications–some cultures believe the soul is attached, or individuals may want to perform their own memorial or ritual by, for example, burying it near a tree so that the tree grows as the child does. There is a beautiful and fascinating book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, that describes the intersection of Hmong culture with western medicine, in which the placenta burial ceremony is depicted. Other people choose to ingest their placenta, either raw, cooked or encapsulated. There’s plenty of googling to be done on this one if you’re interested but I’ll leave that to you and focus instead here on logistics and law. Suffice it to say that many strongly believe in this practice (including yours truly) and believe it can provide healing nutrients, prevent or slow postpartum hemorrhaging  and alleviate baby-blues. Finally, some use the placenta to create art as a way to honor the woman’s body or memorialize a birth. Again, google away if you so choose.

So what’s the problem? Why would Hospital refuse to allow a mother to take home her own organ? Again, no single answer. Hospitals may cite risk of disease due to releasing human tissue full of blood. There could be prejudice to hurdle–utilizing a placenta in private circumstances is not the norm in American culture. There could be a profit incentive for the hospital–placenta is increasingly being used in beauty products for such things as anti-wrinkle creams and shampoos. More altruistically, but also with funding in mind, the placenta is a source of stem cells for medical research.

So Who Owns It? Momma or the Hospital?

I’m going to give you the classic lawyer response on this: “It Depends.” It depends on whether the state you live in has laws that directly address this, or what indirect laws the hospital and department of health choose to apply. It depends on what the placenta is called, or how it’s classified. You can find a survey of law and legal issues here and here.

In 2007 the placenta ownership question made its way to a Nevada courts in Swanson v. Sunrise Hospital. In short, Mom wanted to take her placenta and the hospital refused. Ultimately, the court ordered the hospital to release it (though too late to encapsulate so it was buried instead). But that’s just one case in Las Vegas, Nevada. It probably doesn’t apply to your situation. Precedential persuasion only goes so far, and less so the more “icky” or stigmatized the subject matter.

Hospitals have a tightrope to walk when releasing placentas–honor patient rights and wishes, while protecting themselves from liability. The sympathy a hospital has for momma’s rights will vary state to state, county to county, even hospital to hospital. Further, the official policy of a hospital may not accurately reflect the unofficial practices of staff.

And what’s in a name? The way the placenta is classified can have a bearing on it’s disposition–what a staffer will do once they have it in their hands and who then has access to it. It can be trashed as medical waste, frozen as human tissue, or considered human remains to be picked up by a coroner. With each of these classifications, different laws apply. Compare to other things that are removed from a body: stuff like swallowed change or diamond rings and likely handed over, kidney stones or lukemia cells that will likely be discarded, sperm and ova and organs that can be donated, cord blood that can be banked. You can see the power of a label.

So What If You Want To Keep Your Placenta?

The best bet for keeping your placenta is to give birth outside of a hospital, if it is a safe option for you (consult medical professionals–I am not one). However, if you plan on a hospital birth and want to keep your organ, do your homework:

  • Don’t be shy. Talk to your doctor about his or her thoughts, feelings, and policies. Have they ever heard of this? (Surprising how many have not). Have they ever allowed this before?
  • Call the hospital ahead of time to find out their policies and alert them that you want to keep your placenta. Ask to have it put in your medical chart.
  • Is there anything written down that guides the situation? Find out if there are any local laws, regulations or guidance.–state, regulations, hospital policy. This way, you can find a different hospital if need be. All of these things can be legally challenged, with varying degrees of difficulty. Don’t be surprised if there is nothing.
  • You may need to sign a release. Ask the hospital if they have one or if they require one. They’ll likely have to consult with their legal team. You can hire an attorney to write one and guide you through this process.
  • Likely you’ll be asked why you want your placenta. You don’t have to answer, but it may help the process along. If you’re going to answer, be prepared. Some people are upset by the question, thinking, “It’s mine, why do I have to justify my reasons?” If that’s your position, more power to you, but be prepared to perhaps meet some resistance. Some hospitals may not release your placenta without knowing why (that there is a legit use), because they’re thinking about their own liability or even ethics.
  • Be prepared: If the Hospital will let you take it–how is that going to happen? Are you okay with it being frozen or do you need it raw? Is your cooler ready with your hospital to-go bags? Does this need to be released to someone else as a straw man? Have that person in place. Don’t let it get to the point of needing an emergency court order, where you risk the viability of the placenta.
  • Consult an attorney to help you through the process 🙂

In Conclusion

Although you may feel strongly that something that comes from your own body belongs to you (and I agree with you), there are public health concerns and social stigma that you are fighting against. This may not be fair or proper, but it is the way it is right now. The best I can say to you is to be prepared to protect your rights. I hope that you are in a friendly environment, but you may not be.

SOURCES & ADDITIONAL READING

The Atlantic: Why Some Mothers Choose to Eat Their Placentas; March 22, 2013.

Placenta Benefits website

Patheos.com: Placenta Magic

The New DARE–Drug Abuse Reliant Education

With the school system failing them, many children are turning to drugs. Heard this one before, right? Well, how about the part where the pusher is your pediatrician, and the fed is subsidizing?

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Terrifying.

A recent NYT article spot lighted increasing psych diagnoses in children for the purpose of acquiring “brain boosting” pharma creations to increase academic performance. The purpose is to make a child more competitive on a college application, and increase funding for a school district as test scores rise. Children are being force-fed drugs instead of given the attention they need or the freedom to be creative and learn discipline on their own as pharmaceutical “solutions” are abused as steroids for the brain. Worse yet, the behavior is sanctioned by those in authority, who are supposed to advocate for their well-being–their parents, doctors and the federal government.

LivEmpire2I’m not saying that all parents, doctors and government officials are proponents of this system. Quite the opposite–I’d surmise that physicians and politicians  and parents alike would claim victimization. In fact, Dr. Anderson, quoted above, says just that–he doesn’t have a whole lot of choice. Likewise, those involved with Medicaid and the federal budget may see the unnecessary diagnosis as …oh, i don’t know… fraudulent? Criminal? Child abuse? No matter the reason, we are talking about falsifying a disorder for the sole purpose of having access to a controlled substance.

How about the parents? Can they be blamed for wanting the best education for their children? Abuse of drugs like Adderall has been going on for years in order to boost academic achievement among kids who are simply looking for a better class rank or test score, and it appears this is happening in kids younger and younger. And now instead paying cash to a friend or sibling who has a prescription, they can more easily get their own, with the blessing of parents and physicians while utilizing insurance purse strings.

Education is a highly competitive arena, whether it’s a student vying for a scholarship or admission to their college of choice, or a district teaching to standardized test scores and praying for funding. The Obama administration’s lauded “Race to the Top” initiative even goes so far as making funding an actual competition–schools submit innovative proposals for education reform in an effort to win federal money.

An anonymous California superintendent pontificated that “diagnosis rates of A.D.H.D. have risen as sharply as school funding has declined.” Poor children are being prescribed stimulants at increasing rates, and Medicare is paying the bill. If we are not directly funding public education in this country, we are indirectly doing so in efforts to respond to the problem.

Well I guess that’s one way to “Damn the Man and Save the Empire.” Good luck out there Liberty Lovers.

The Grey Area on Guns – NPR Segment

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Do my ears deceive me? Is this an actual conversation on guns….well perhaps not an actual conversation, but at least an acknowledgement within one story that there is more than one point of view that could even be rationally considered, and not all is as black and white as polarized media portrays.

Check out this 17-minute segment from NPR: The host shoots a gun for the first time and describes what it feels like to her, NPR attempts to be impartial toward gun-ownership, and 7 people (owners and non, civilian and ex-military, first or second-hand experience of gun accidents, men and women, all Caucasian and from the same town) share their points of view in sound bite form.

Hey Doc, You Could Have Just Asked.

Please read this woman’s story of her hospital birth, and how “routine” yet unwanted procedures were done without her consent, and perhaps unnecessarily. Her ability to find the strength to speak out about this is inspirational. She’s handling this exceptionally well, and doing a great job of raising awareness of one aspect of how our health care system is broken.

I’m sure there are people out there that had a fantastic hospital birth experience. However, this doesn’t happen for everyone. This woman’s story also depicts the necessity of asking questions and getting involved in your own health care, especially when planning birth the way you want it. It’s great to talk with your doctor and the hospital staff about their routine practices, and if you want any special arrangements or have certain requests. If you’re most comfortable with a hospital birth, you can also look into having a Doula with you, who will know your birth plan and desires, and advocate for you while you’re busy doing other things…you know, like having a baby.

The delivery of health care in the U.S. is an incredibly complex, frustrating, mind-boggling system. This woman hits the nail on the head when she uses the term “patient consumerism.” While doctors have taken oaths to “do no harm” while treating the patient, in theory they must do so in a vacuum. However, they work in a world that is increasingly detaching them from the patient by use of forms and coding and standardized care protocols and finite increments of time for billing, and insurance, insurance, insurance. This woman feels betrayed by her physicians because they didn’t take a few moments to simply ask her consent, when she was in a position to contemplate the risks and benefits and make her own decision for her own health and the health of her baby.

 

The Value of Money–More Trouble Than It’s Worth

A coin clattered to the floor as a young man at the bar pulled his hand out of his pocket. From a corner booth I saw his ears perk to the sound but he didn’t turn his head until a voice–my own–knee-jerked “Oh you dropped…” I glanced at the ground to see a quarter, “…money.”

He made a sound between “meh” and “yeah” as he waved it off with a flick of his wrist and an eyebrow shrug and turned away again to his beer and hockey game on TV behind the bar.

I stared at the quarter on the floor, wondering how long it would stay there, wondering if I should pick it up, wondering if an unsuspecting server would slip, banana-peel-style with drinks and hot wings flying. Then I realized how long I had awkwardly been staring at the floor and I looked away. But I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that things are not as they should be.

The Fugio Cent was designed by Benjamin Franklin and known as “America’s first coin”

As the paramour of a person who has recently taken up coin hunting, I was taken aback by this man’s dismissal of that dull metallic disk. For those unfamiliar with coin hunting (as was I only three short months ago) this is a hobby that is both more fascinating than it sounds, and just as dull as it sounds. One aspect that is really engaging (for nerds) is engaging in history to pinpoint the best locations to find coins in the ground with a metal detector. You can search historical records online, hit up local historical societies, view areal photographs to see how the area around you has changed and where buildings or fairgrounds or whatever used to be, and ponder the activities of those that lived in other eras: What were they doing? Where would they have amassed and dropped things? And what about the coins themselves? What years are they from, where minted, how did the metal composition change due to current events like war? What about different designs or printing flaws and how did they come to be? For example, that failed experiment of a dollar coin–the Sacagawea-well, a number were made in gold and shuttled on the Columbia into space as an intended gimmick for collectors, but a dispute arose between the US Mint and Congress as to whether the Mint was authorized to do so, and most were melted down, though some were kept for display; and some Sacagaweas were minted early for a Cheerios prize-in-a-box, and it turned out to be a real prize as the mold was subsequently altered. That’s some fine numismatic nerdery right there.

So one begins to realize that what’s printed on that coin or piece of paper is not necessarily always its “value”. Coins from 1964 or older, for example, are worth more than their face value in silver content. I can put it in a parking meter or I can keep it in a safe as an investment. So how do we really know what something is “worth”?

At this point, it seems, we believe what we’re told. There’s this agency named the Federal Reserve that isn’t really “Federal” at all that makes up the “value” of money and we believe it. But why?

It wasn’t always like this. If you really want to have your mind boggled, start reading about how the modern day banking system began, how we moved away from the gold standard, and how the precious metals and stock market is manipulated…it seems like the stuff of conspiracy theories, but this is on the record. I won’t even begin to try to explain this because I’m still wrapping my head around it. You can start with this video if you’re interested:

How the Markets Are Manipulated, James Corbett.

I had a conversation with my father years ago that stuck with me. My father was generally quiet about his thoughts but occasionally he opened up. On this particular night, I was ranting about money and wealth, as I was wont to do in my teenage and college years as “What do you want to be when you grow up” came to fruition, and I fancied myself quite the do-gooder. I therefore had/have a challenging relationship with money. He asked me “What is money?” I immediately and smartly answered “Power.” He shook his head and asked again, “What is money?” I was deflated and perplexed. I didn’t know where he was going. “It’s paper…?” He was nodding; he said “Money used to be necessary for survival.” I pointed out that salt used to be currency. Yes, he said, it was essential in society. Now what is it? It’s obsolete.” I had the light bulb moment: “It’s an idea.” Exactly. And having been in the oil refining business for three decades, he continued “And the most tangible equivalent today is oil. Without it the world would stop. We need oil to survive–to run our cars and use our computers and wear our clothes…”

The value of money is mutable in our increasingly global society. Lacking a solid foundation of tangible items to back the promise of paper causes more trouble than its worth, perhaps. We rarely even use the bills and coins nowadays to remind us that money is supposed to be something–most of it is transacted with the swipe of a plastic card as we become increasingly flippant about its value. I will never forget the moment in law school I acquired $10,000.00 more debt in a matter of minutes. I was walking across the center of campus on a bright sunny day from the financial aid office to my next class, with my cell phone attached to my ear. I had called my student loan provider to let them know I needed additional money for the semester. Those Stafford loans don’t cover tuition, you know. I was put on hold for only a couple of minutes and the voice came back and said, “okay, can I help you with anything else today?” That was it. I hadn’t even gotten from one building to the next yet. I remember thinking about how that was way too easy, and it felt like it meant nothing.

All these thoughts went through my head as I was jarred from my reverie by watching the dude at the bar get up from his stool, toss down some tip money as he tossed back the bottom of the glass, and walk out. My curiosity and sense of duty to my coin hunting partner wouldn’t let me leave that coin on the ground. And it was now officially abandoned. I got up from my seat and snatched it up: A 1995 quarter–no silver to speak of, but I get another hour in the parking meter.

Interesting post from a fellow wordpress blogger.

International Liberty

I realize the sequester kicks in tomorrow and I should be writing about that rare opportunity to control the burden of government spending.

To be sure, my fingers are crossed that Republicans won’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and I’ve been busy on Capitol Hill talking to folks about the issue, but this post already says everything you need to know about that topic.

It’s time to switch gears, particularly since I have a soft spot for feel-good stories.

And what could be more heart-tugging than a story about the right to keep and bear tanks?

Here are some blurbs from the Wall Street Journal.

Weapons buffs may stock semiautomatics in the gun safe. But nothing makes a statement like having an Army tank in the garage. …there are several hundred to 1,000 private tank owners in the U.S. …Brothers Ken and Gene Neal, owners…

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