Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: Honor and Polygamy

Honor and Polygamy
A Novel Reviewed by Gary Presley
November 24, 2014

"The in-depth descriptions of the Afghan setting and culture add exceptional intrigue to this thrilling mystery."

A different sort of independently published book I reviewed here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1% Will Have Designer Babies


I liked that word when I first came to understand its meaning. It has a place in recent news, I think, but not in a way that matches the happy connotation the word provides when it slips off a person's tongue. 

Dr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice. 
He said huge advances in the past two years meant "designer babies" were no longer HG Wells territory. 
Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue. 
Designer babies - genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be free of disease - have long been a topic of science fiction.
I've long thought genetic engineering will move the world far from a humane, democracy-based future where people are accepted for who and what they are. (Yes, I realize we live in a stew of racial, ethnic, and religious prejudices that kill and maim.) I first began to think about this issue when I learned several years ago that a majority of babies with Downs Syndrome were aborted. I cannot understand the issue on a personal basis, but I do feel such a thing shapes society in ways we cannot fully understand. There's also the issue of "selective reduction" and of gender selection. 
The world’s wealthiest 1 percent is likely to control over 50 percent of global wealth by next year
It won't be the low-income, single mother or working-for-a-union-wage family provider who'll be able to choose a "designer baby." It will be the one-percenter. And what will that mean? Super-intelligent one-percenters? A permanent inequality where those in power shape the lives of underlings through biology?

It's all science fantasy, of course, and democratic societies have the power to move to curb genetic manipulations so that there will not be a permanent master race controlling genetically engineered slaves. However, those same democratic, representative societies have allowed the world's wealth to be corralled by one-percent of the world's people. It takes no imaginative thinker to speculate that it bodes no good for a humane, democratic society if a small group controls power through wealth and, through practical science can shape human biology.

While you consider that (achievable) fantasy, you may also want to consider the curious case of the woman who was granted assisted euthanasia because of chronic tinnitus (a ringing in the ears).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cruel and Unusual Irony

Should rapists be put to death?

Oh, maybe, in my book. I can think of horrid circumstances where I might not object to the capital punishment of a rapist. Let's not list them here. Too horrid.

And I'm a hypocrite. I doubt I could sit on a jury and vote for the death penalty. Too impersonal. Too caught up in the maneuverings of our fragile legal system. 

I could kill another person. Without compunction, I think. I would kill to save my life, to save the life of someone I love. Let's not call that self-defense, though, if we're going to discuss the issue. It's killing. 

I say that because I hate the euphemism of "harvesting" when people speak of killing game. That cow that gave her life for your Big Mac was killed. Let's hope humanely.


Is it humane to relieve "unbearable psychological suffering?"

A rapist will be euthanized in that country because of the aforementioned "suffering."

It would have been cruel and unusual punishment to have executed him for any of those crimes.

Ah, irony.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Tiffiny Carlson, a disability writer for many years including for New Mobility, says she's been "given the opportunity to help the community in an even more profound way - I became the executive director of and the Determined2Heal Foundation, both of which were founded by my friend and fellow quadriplegic, Josh Basile."

Watch the video below showcasing Josh's story and the great work that the groups are doing to empower those that are paralyzed. This segment relates how a young group of quadriplegics and paraplegics went soaring in a glider thousands of feet in the air.

We are committed to helping the SCI community and hope that you can support our efforts during our holiday fundraising challenge.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pardon the Tolerance

image from Boston Globe 
There was a discussion a few days ago on Facebook that followed after a liberal sort—we're talking ACLU—had posted a link about the news that the actor Mark Wahlberg had applied for a pardon for crimes he committed as a young 16-year-old.

The crimes were horrific, no doubt. A man lost an eye in one of the assaults. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the near unanimous objection to a pardon on the part of the commentators. I suspect, like the original poster, many or most of them are liberal.

Was part of it class resentment? I suspect some. As much as the next populist, I resent the ease with which money allows a person to escape many of the jump-through-hoops demanded by society. It will be far easier for rich Wahlberg to get a pardon than would have been had he still be in Dorchester working as a plumber instead of becoming a successful film star.

But crime and punishment should be about rehabilitation, except for the psychopaths who should be locked away forever. 

As far as I know, Wahlberg isn't in the tabloid news for various escapades. I think I've read he's the sort of Roman Catholic who tries to attend Mass daily. He has a family. He's gainfully employed. He hasn't been in trouble since the original crimes.

Personally, as suggested in this column from the Boston Globe (which is generally anti-pardon for the class-reasons noted above), I would have no problem with a pardon so long as Wahlberg made an apology to his victims and paid restitution to them and to the state, and I am surprised at the (apparent) source of opposition I saw on Facebook.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Frozen Out
I'm underweight. I have little body fat. I have post-polio syndrome, one factor of which makes my body think it is 20-degrees colder than the air temperature. I wear long sleeves, a vest, a scarf, and a wool cap in a house where the thermostat is set at 72-degrees. Even on hot summer days, I do not turn on the air-conditioner until my wife comes home and say, "How can you stand it in here?"

And so I love an electric blanker. I especially loved my Biddeford Blankets, one made of plush fabric with a heating element. It could be yours too for sixty bucks at your nearest Target store. I bought it. I used it, oh, perhaps 50 days or so. It quit.

But I failed to register the warranty. And I cannot find the sales receipt.

"You can't run it on high all the time," my wife said. "You burnt it up."

"Why does it have a "high" setting if it won't work on "high?" was my logical reply.

"You just run it too hot," she replied. "Anyone can see that."

Thus, we have another conflict between logic and faith.

I'm tired of being cold. I wear a polar jacket, with a hood, in the mall. I sit next to an electric heater at home. I shiver. I hurt. I hate winter.

The good folks at Biddeford Blankets, however, have a 800-number for questions. Dare I ask them to honor the warranty I didn't bother to register?

I call. "Leave your name and telephone number, and we'll return your call."

Except when they don't ...

Perhaps I shouldn't have told them I didn't register the warranty when I left the message. That's called shooting yourself in the foot, I think. I don't know. My feet are too cold to feel anything.

But I'm an honest guy. I don't want to freeload. I did ask, fingers crossed, if they might have a problem with a particular lot number. That's all I have. A lot number. No serial number.

I'll give Biddeford another day or three, and then I'll break down an get another blanket. And I'll send in the registry card, and I'll keep the sales receipt. I suppose $60 is cheaper than driving to Key West or buying an airline ticket to a tropical island. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bless You

I was "blessed" four times in the last two days, the word uttered as a pray, the stranger's hand upon my shoulder.

Being blessed is something I'm familiar with for two reasons: first, I feel blessed in my life; second, I use a wheelchair, and thus I'm obviously disabled, and there are people among the religious who feel that God acts in the material word. 

I suppose this is something controversial to discuss in an open forum. First, I would wager, on no basis whatsoever except intuition, that most of my internet friends are either agnostic or athiest; second, most of my internet friends in the disability rights movement take umbrage at being "blessed." Those in the disability activism moverment each have their own reasons, obviously, but I think I can say that the general idea of bringing the need of blessing into human interaction is that if a person (non-disabled) bless another person (disabled), the person with the disability is seen as less worthy, as needy.

It is the "charity model" of disability illustrated in a touch.

There's a measure of reality in that, but it also presumes that there's solidity of purpose when one person acts to bless and another person receives the blessing. Maybe the first person fully respects the other. Maybe the second (disabled) person feels comforted by the blessing. Maybe it's not about politics or sociology but about a recognition of the universality of human pain, human need. 

I know how I feel: I believe the person offering the blessing is reinforcing his or her own faith. I believe that person sees me as a rolling Biblical verse that references the power of God.

I told my wife of this opinion after the exit queue in the theater where I was touched three times. She disagreed, but I don't think she fully understood what I was attempting to say. Or perhaps, I agree with her sentiment that people are acting in good will. Who knows what's in another's heart? If there's ugly pity in the heart of the person who offers the blessing, I will do nothing to change their perception of me if I strike out in anger. I will simply confirm their idea that I am in need.  

And so I allowed the touches, and accepted the offered blessings in silence, and let the pilgrims move on with their lives, feeling better, or more satisfied, or fulfilled in their faith while I rolled on, with the same ever-slippery grip on infinity.