How to Pass Healthcare Legislation

Call me brazen for even suggesting that I know better than anyone else how to do politics–but that’s what blogs are for.  While this blog usually focuses on science fiction and fantasy writing, it has, on occasion, gone off the cuff.  

I have a way to pass Healthcare legislation.  

If a Representative or Senator votes against the Healthcare legislation and it passes, those districts they represent do not benefit from that Healthcare.  Let them OPT OUT their district and see how long it takes for folks to MOVE from that district, or elect someone else to represent them.  

It’s been proven that Republicans are only after ousting President Obama and the Democrats from power.  They no longer care about policy.  If you don’t believe me, watch this clip from MSNBC where Rachel Maddow proves that the Republicans are trashing the Stimulus bill and voting against it, while accepting the money generated from it and taking credit for it.  

With Healthcare, I think their constituents should pay the price of their vote.  If they vote against Healthcare, they don’t get it.  No one in their district will get it.  Let’s see how long it takes for people to say—“Oh, I SHOULD HAVE HAD this Healthcare that these other people are enjoying.  But my STUPID REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE voted against it.  He’s outta there!!”

In fact, why not make it a place by place vote—skip trying to “make it pass” through votes.  Tell anyone who votes for it, that they can have it.  If it’s so bad, it will fail.  But if it’s good, then people will scream if they DON’T get it.

Erasing The Fiction: Telling the Good News about the Prop 8 Trial

Occasionally, I stray from talking about science fiction and fantasy because something is important to say, or some event is happening that means a lot.  

The Prop 8 trial is happening in California right now, under the expert guidance of trial lawyers Olsen and Boies, best known for being on opposite sides during the Gore v. Bush Supreme Court moment in 2000.  Now they are together, and they are laying out the case for overturning Proposition 8, the nefarious way conservative folks ended marriage for the GLBT community in California.  

Thousands and thousands of people are watching this trial on liveblogging.  The Supreme Court has denied cameras and videotaping of the proceedings, with a ruling that happened only hours before the actual trial began last week.  Instead, we have had to follow some fantastic transcription of the trial.  

What we are learning is that we have been fed FICTION for a long long time.  And while it has been successful fiction, it’s not very good, and can’t really hold up to textual analysis, or any kind of scrutiny.  When you shine a light on it, it just because hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and very, very unchristian. 

The joy of reading the transcription—and please think of selling this as a book to people (I’d love a book of this trial for a donation to Courage Campaign Institute)–the joy of reading that transcription is the slow erasure of the lies that we’ve been told all our lives: that we will harm children, that we are living in direct violation to God and the scriptures, that we will hurt straight marriages, that we will bring destruction on America if allowed to marry (that last one has a Pat Robertson spin).  

Denying American citizens the right to marry each other is denying them the protections and promises of the Constitution.  First, we live as Americans and that document is our bible–it is what we rule by, live by, act by.  Second, there are countless, wonderful books—by theologians–that map out how the Bible is being used to discriminate, and that God loves everyone–including gay and lesbian people–and wants them, if they so choose, to find someone and love them as Christ loves people.  Christians who believe that gay people are not acceptable to God are treading a path away from God, away from Christ, and, unfortunately, away from the rest of us.  Just as they were some of the last holdouts on repealing slavery, and on granting the rights of women, so they are the last holdouts on accepting gay and lesbian people.  

It is so bad for the Church because many are walking away from God and Christ when they turn their backs on the church.  This goes against all that Christians stand for–they want no one to walk away from them empty-handed.  And yet….  I know they will be really upset when they figure this out.  It makes me sad.  What a horrible representation of God’s love.  

The trial is exposing those lies.  Though we have been blocked from seeing the trial ourselves, the truth is getting out there.  I am so proud of the people who are liveblogging this.  I am so proud to be a gay man right now, to see the truth unveiled, to see everyone slowly realize that we are not the scourge you made us believe we were.  

I encourage everyone to read the transcripts of each of the daily summaries.  You will be amazed.  And then, for folks who are still struggling with religion or faith and sexuality, this uncommonly simple, but thorough book, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers.  

To my fellow GLBT, God is not “theirs”—he is Ours.  They do not own Jesus, or the words of Jesus, and they cannot block you from his love.  There are plenty of churches now who accept us, and know that accepting us is perfectly good in the eyes of God.  You can go through those doors and receive love from everyone.  

Thank you, Olsen, Boies, and the rest of you for erasing the fiction that has been fooling us.  May everyone get the truth.

Palin Eyes Role in New Star Trek Series

Fresh from her announcement that she’s accepting a position on Fox comes bigger leaked news.  Former governor Sarah Palin is in negotiations for a lead role on a new Star Trek series, tentatively titled Star Trek: Reckoning, going into production this fall, ready to be aired on both Paramount and Fox in the Fall of 2011.  

If she accepts, Palin would play Captain Nalia Fergus of the USS Steadfast, one of the ships convinced of an upcoming battle which the Federation won’t take seriously.  Unlike past series, this series concentrates on multiple ships and the Federation–so some political intrigue.  Palin, of course, has to be a “rogue” captain! [I love it!]  

The series takes place after Voyager, with an expansive Federation, a bit more difficult to govern, a bit too relaxed.  The title, Reckoning, refers to an Armageddon-like disaster predicted by the D’mi, a culture that sees dreams as predictions of the future.  They’ve had a collective, planet-wide dream that involves the whole Federation, but very few are listening.  The show is about their attempts to convince the Federation to do something about an impending attack that could destroy multiple sectors.  In the premiere and first season, they are able to convince three ships, who will work tirelessly through the series to undermine the current administration, all while trying to create alliances with other ships through deception, manipulation and controlling the media.

The President of the Federation, a very powerfully-minded, but peaceful, Betazed, is unphased by a dreaming culture predicting doom.  Fergus, believing D’mi predictions, forms an underground alliance with two other ships (writers are arguing over names like the USS Sun Tzu, USS Pearl Harbor, and the USS Buchanan) to protect Section 001, Earth.  This show will be about a bit of infighting in the Federation.  

“They’ve done it before,” says one of the writers.  “The TNG episode, Conspiracy, the Maquis, and the Dominion, and even the threats of Species 8472–but these were mostly alien attacks, people posing as humans.  The Maquis sequence really opened up the door to talking about multiple sides within the Federation–or even political parties,” say writers who want to remain anonymous till Paramount’s April announcement. 

Still they’re excited about the series.  And about these rogue captains.  “They really distrust the President.  He’s too peaceful.  He can read their minds–which they hate.  He’s a negotiator, a diplomat, at a time when they feel like war is coming. The constant question on the table will be–are the D’mi’s dreams really accurate, do they have a political agenda, and at what moment do you take matters into your own hands?”  

One of them quipped, “It’s kind of like writing a series in the Mirror Universe, except this one is bad.”

The coolest thing is that Fergus’ first officer is Commander Nuuk, a walking, talking polar bear from some ice planet.  Earth apparently dropped off its Arctic species on this planet (yeah, climate change wiped them out on Earth) and they mixed with the indigenous life there–very similar–so you get a polar bear.  Fergus used to hunt bears.  Nuuk doesn’t know that, so this is going to be a source of tension, as she doesn’t want to admit it, but thinks of him as a trophy first officer.  She’s gonna have a D’mi onboard too–who has these waking dreams–who’s living in both reality and fantasy all the time, but can’t tell the difference.  

These are three ships full of conservatives.  I do think that a ship of conservatives gives the writers what they’ve always waited for–the ability to write in closeted gay characters.  There won’t be much open romantic intrigue because everyone’s uptight, not wanting to be revealed.  

Palin has expressed interest, according to one former aide in Alaska.  “She likes the character.  It’s so much like her–bold, aggressive hunting woman, now commanding a starship of conservatives, who move with her every command.  They fight for Earth, and they seek to protect the planet from its own bad judgment.”  

Palin is reportedly brushing up on Federation policies, which like Kirk, she will ignore and bend at will, and she’s learning Klingon–just in case.  She does have some concerns.  She’s asked to be written in as a mother, with small children on board the ship.  She wants to be assured of a four year gig (no death in season two).  She also wants to have her own ghost writer write in folksy things she would normally say, but now in a command-sort of way.”  

Paramount and Fox want to give her as much latitude as possible.  “We’ve never been able to pick up this demographic.  Usually we just get intelligent, science-oriented, techno geeks with a liberal, compassionate viewpoint.  We have the potential to scoop Red State America–the O’Reilly viewers,” says one assistant producer.  “We wouldn’t just have a fan base–we’d have an electorate!” 

McCain, a trekkie since William Shatner was a child, has said he’d always wondered how the Earth in Star Trek ever resolved pluralistic ideas.  “Never made sense to me why everyone agreed on Earth.  What happened to pluralism?”  And he has a point.  How did this series eliminate differences of opinions?  Where did the all Israeli ship go?  Or the Chinese ships?  Where were the rivals to get spaceships into space?   Did they sabotage each other?  Surely there was more fighting before we conquered space.  This series, McCain indicates, will “bring back the lipstick in realistic.”  No one knows exactly what he means.  

It does bring up interesting possibilities for the writers.  Could they keep the Star Trek fan base intact–those rooting for the Federation?  But those fans just might like a quirky, folksy rogue captain–plucky enough to cause a conservative revolution.  

Palin as Captain of her own ship?  What do you think?  She does wear red well.


 Shatner giving Palin the baton, the formal written permission to be as “rogue as she wants to be.”


(this is, of course, a parody.  A wink to Sarah Palin.)


For more on the new Star Trek Series, don’t miss these entries:  Gingrich as D’mi, and Palin citing Star Trek to promote Gun Rights  and Red State America Wants Their Star Trek

The Resonance of Flashforward for People of Faith

graph on the sidewalkThe ABC series, Flashforward, arguably one of the best written series in a long time, and the best using a science fiction concept, wrestles with a very old idea:  what if you knew the future?  The show expands it to ask: what if everyone knew the future? And by Episode 3:  What if everyone THOUGHT they knew the future?  This is not a new concept when you are dealing with people of faith.  Christians, specifically, have a vision of the future they hold on to.  Actually, they have two.

The first one is a concept of Heaven/Hell–that after they die, they will forever be installed in one of two polar extremes: a place of happiness vs. a place of sorrow–both eternal (also known as With God and Without God).  After that moment, there will only be a seamless future–one that never changes.  

This vision of the future does guide their/our actions to certain degree.  Some believe, still, that you have to hedge your bets.  Do a lot of good things to move your path towards Heaven, or ask forgiveness–quickly–and move yourself away from Hell.  This can also guide people’s actions towards you as they try to drag you to one path or the other–most often to Heaven by use of guilt, judgment or restriction.  Ah well, the path to Heaven, I guess is paved with good intentions too.

But really it’s the other vision of the future that is more worrisome for people of faith.  

Revelation was a book written based on John’s Flashforward.  In that vision he saw lots of stuff–lots of destruction, lots of wrath…it gets ugly.  And believers think they may have an escape route–the Rapture.  That miraculously they get to escape the major drama of the Earth’s end because they believed.  This is not unsubstantiated by the Bible, but it is questionable when it will happen. Trust me, I don’t want to argue pre-post-or mid-millenial tribulation/rapture.  And please–don’t discuss it in the comments!  

What I’d rather discuss is the idea that Christians may be creating the Tribulation themselves–or creating parts of it.

In Flashforward we are slowly beginning to believe that the main character, Agent Benford, is actually creating the bulletin-board he saw in his vision not because it has answers but because it was there.  In some ways, he may be creating his future, not actually solving the mystery of why everyone blacked out for two minutes.  We’ve already seen, in Episode 3, a man get hired to the position of airport security, not based on good qualifications, but because he saw himself in that future, and so did someone else.   

Many times I’ve watched Christians start to cringe if current events start to resemble events predicted in the Bible: the Anti-christ being a big icon to watch out for, as well as the Mark of the Beast, etc.  Credit cards, health cards, any kind of number that identifies you will no doubt bring a lot of fear–and have that implanted in a chip inside your hand or your forehead, and Christians will freak out.  (Hopefully lawmakers would NEVER pass an idea like that unless they want great opposition from Christians).  

I’ve lived through three people who were thought to be the Anti-Christ:  Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and now, Barack Obama, for various reasons.  Often each one of them had a mystical kabbalistic criteria (their names added up to three sixes as Reagan’s does, or Obama’s “name” was spoken about in the Bible as paired with Lucifer–a complete stretch of the imagination) and a few of them have been “assassinated” and come back to life (Reagan and the Pope).  Each time I hear that someone new is the anti-christ, I cringe, thinking that people are gonna start believing all us Christians are loony.  And some of them, those that seem to be magnets for the news, deserve that label, not the airtime.

But then I wonder how often I too look at events with Revelation in the back of my mind.  At what point will events start coinciding so well that there’s a tipping point in even the most casual reader of the Bible–where people start to say–Hey, I’ve seen that before?  How often do we reject good things based on a false premise that THIS moment is part of Revelation, when obviously time just keeps rolling on?  


In Christian circles, we often thank God we don’t know the future–because if we did, it might take away from “who holds the future” and make it Fate, not choice.  But maybe that fits more squarely in Christian mythos–that our fates, our destinies, are already written.  I don’t think so, myself.  Everyone has choices.  But if you see a glimpse of your future, you won’t know if it is meant to be, or if you are being given a warning. We ask all the time for God to guide our lives, for us to make good choices, but we fear getting on the road to the wrong destiny.  As if the roads are already there and once on them, we’ll go 90 miles an hour.  

From Cassandra’s ignored warnings to Oedipus fighting against his fate to modern day futurists who tell us what will happen based on world economic events…one of our eyes is always on the future.  But will we let our concepts of the future influence today’s actions?  Will we allow small evidence to convince us that we are living in  “the end times” and then make irrational decisions?  Or will we make good decisions based on evidence in front of us and walk knowingly into the future, brave, but watchful, not reacting to everyone who says—the anti-christ is here, the anti-christ is there, etc.

What’s probably most disturbing is the Christian concept that they will be persecuted in the End Times.  And certainly every time someone critiques a Christian we hear echoes of this “end times” fear resurface.  That the critique means that the critic must be an enemy, and that Christians are being targeted.  This most resembles “making the future happen.”  By letting ourselves be irrational, afraid of debate, sensitive to criticism, and dogmatically judgmental–I think we will create the discrimination and persecution that will probably come.  But it happens because we’re being a$holes.  I mean, spread negativity long enough, represent bigotry, discrimination and narrow-mindedness long enough and folks will be distrustful.  Eventually, yes, being a Christian will be bad publicity.  But NOT because the enemy is bad, but because Christians are unloving, paranoid judges.  We will create the future we don’t want to happen.  Just like Benford is creating in Flashforward.  

Flashforward is a great show, allowing us to be thankful we DON’T know the future.  What a burden.  Hopefully it will teach us to treasure the moments we have, without being afraid of what’s coming–and make us watch out not to create the fates we want to avoid.  Let’s be good to each other out there.  We’re in this world together.

The Media and the Flashlight in the Dark Room theory


What do you want us to see now?
What do you want us to see now?

Imagine, if you will, a large room, completely dark.  The room is crowded with people, most of whom you can’t see.  Only those next to you can you see dimly.  You don’t know what others are doing, thinking, or what they look like.  

However, a flashlight comes on and you can see a person, and also hear what he is saying.  

Let’s say he’s ranting about something.  There is a murmur in the darkened crowd, and suddenly six other flashlights pop on.  The people highlighted now chat about that rant.   No one in your area.  But you can see all the others and hear them talking about it.  

Then a strong murmur sweeps the crowd and seventeen new flashlights pop on, the people responding to the first flashlit rant.  Sometimes, you notice, they try and correct the rant, sometimes the person rants about the rant, and occasionally a spotlighted man or woman will talk about how this rant is felt through the entire room.  

But you don’t know what everyone else is thinking about the rant.  And even more importantly, you don’t know if they would have been thinking about the rant had the first person not been flashlit.  Why was that person flashlit in the first place?  Hmmm.  Maybe those with flashlights enjoy the reaction of the crowd, or they may be paid by someone to flashlight on a regular basis, and sometimes those with flashlights are concerned about other people with flashlights getting more attention.  

This is Media.  

I work for the media, and I know that my flashlight is used to highlight something I want people to know or talk about.  To keep my job, I have to have things to light up.  To move up the career ladder, I must highlight things that will get people talking–and even to flashlight more people talking about what I talked about–to create the bigger murmur.  I can either join the chorus of voices, lead the chorus of voices, or attempt to highlight something else–and wrest the focus, the murmur of the crowd, the other flashlights, on a topic I want to highlight.

Recent articles on Sarah Palin forget one thing–they turned the flashlight on her.  Her Facebook page is one of a billion Facebook pages; her opinion is one of a billion opinions.  She has no more sway if we don’t flashlight her.  We would never have known about her Facebook page, except that someone with a flashlight wanted to get the crowd’s attention.  Media control people’s knowledge and awareness.  In that darkened room, no one really is aware of my opinion without the media.  My blog comment here will reach exactly 120 people over the course of my life–only because these are my friends and they don’t need a flashlight to see me.  I’d be lucky if this post made it outside my close circle of friends.  My opinion here couldn’t make the murmur happen–and flashlighting someone without the expectation that this will cause a murmur is a waste of batteries, it seems.  Fluff stories.  Feature articles to pass the time.  

I hope as new technology transforms all of us into Media—with our own flashlights–that we choose carefully what to highlight–that we don’t spread the rants of bigotry, lies, distortions, and divisive arguments around the internet or TV.  Let’s choose truth to highlight–even ugly truth, but we make sure it is truth first.  

As flashlighters in a darkened room, we are responsible for vetting what we highlight—we are asking the whole room to turn and look at us.  We are asking the whole room to think about what we are flashlighting them to see.  What we flashlight may not be indicative of the thoughts of the whole room, but it can influence people so much that other people will think they are the thoughts of everyone, might even change their minds, or it might cause them to assume that the whole world is thinking this or that.  Gradually, that assumption will win over naysayers.  

You can use this to the world’s detriment, or use it to sway the world for its good.  Palin may cry foul over the media’s flashlighting, but she loves the light.  And she knows how to manipulate it.  You can END this story by turning the flashlights off of her.  Ignoring someone is the fastest way to shut them up, to make them irrelevant.  You can kill “news” by putting it in a vacuum.  You can choose to flashlight INTELLIGENT opposition, not lies.  It doesn’t help the Republicans or the naysayers to the Healthcare plan to continue spotlighting Palin’s rants.  Turn off her light; let smarter voices be heard.

The media, ultimately, is responsible for the life of a bad, or good, story.  

Please, for the sake of our time and sanity, stop highlighting things that tear down truth, and spotlight the truth instead.  You can still get the murmur, get the crowd talking.  We have to train the crowd to murmur against real injustice, murmur about the making the world better–something that makes a difference, not that makes a buck out of a murmur.

In the dark, the flashlights are the only way anyone can see.  Use them well.

To Watch or not to Watch: a review of the Watchmen

watchmen-poster-groupMy title refers not to whether or not you should watch the film, but about the dilemma of the characters–to watch over others or not.

You should see the film. It’s good to understand the gritty basics of superheroes and why they do what they do, and what kinds of mortals these heroes be.

I’ve bought the book, but I haven’t done more than skim it to see how close it comes to the movie.  I think the movie is faithful to the book.  But for those who haven’t read the book–like me–here’s the skinny on the movie:

The movie explores a history of superheroes in America–as if they really existed. The opening credits are brilliant.  All the moments of American history have as a background these groups of superheroes–mostly non-superpowered costumed vigilantes.  We won Vietnam, Nixon has won a third term as President, it is 1985.  We are in a cold war, but Andy Warhol is painting Night Owl not Marilyn Monroe.

Someone is killing off costumed superheroes who have retired.  Since an Act of Congress, superhero groups and persons have been outlawed or disbanded.  One of the superheroes has become a megamillionaire trying to create green energy; others have just retired without revealing who they were.  The threat of nuclear war is ever present.  One hero has superpowers, Dr. Manhattan, created in an accident (like all good heroes), and he is approaching godhood, barely concerned with humanity, but seeking to help find a way to help the world find an energy solution too.  He is the reason the Russians don’t attack–they are frightened of his nuclear abilities.

These heroes have mixed pasts.  They are more vigilantes, no longer asked to keep vigil.  There is no strong moral code guiding them.  Except for Night Owl, very few of them know what a moral code is.  For Rorschach, whose mask constantly changes shape–a fascinating thing to watch–humanity is disgusting, all the baser natures breeding and leaving nothing of value.  For him, he doesn’t care about humanity–they are all criminals waiting to happen.  When he searches the streets to find answers to who killed the Comedian (who dies in the first few minutes of both the film and the trailer), he beats people up to get his answers.

The movie is more complex than a whodunnit.  And this is what I love about the story.  It will complicate your ideas of justice.  And heroes.  And what responsibility is taken up when you take up a costume and “crimefighting,” and what kind of person needs to have that role, and what person doesn’t need to have it.

The movie shows us heroes who want to do something to help the world, but are filled so much with their own problems that they just don’t have the teamwork, the focus–they aren’t even on the same page.  You thought the Fantastic Four squabbled, but this is chaos.  It’s gritty real, though, at what a “real” group of heroes would be doing–all idealism, but with their own agendas.

If you liked Dark Knight, you will enjoy Watchmen.  It makes you think about vigilantism–what decisions you are allowed to make on behalf of others, and what decisions you shouldn’t make on behalf of others–even to keep them safe.

The movie is also visually stunning.  The sequences on Mars, the blue Dr. Manhattan, the fighting sequences–we’ve come a long way through the Matrix and out again.

The movie isn’t perfect.  I’ve never seen a worse Nixon–he looks plastic, as if he is wearing a mask himself; there are poor choices in music–Leonard Cohen singing “Hallelujah” during a sex scene; the sex scene itself seems a bit long.  But these are small things in a long movie that, overall, satisfies.

It has a lot of gratuitous violence–but I think the violence says a lot about these heroes.  They’ve become numb to it, to the choices they make regarding other people.  The world is something to clean up and guard.  Silk Sepctre II says that the law that disbanded superheroes was the best thing to ever happen to her–she never wanted to be a superhero.  Her mother, the first Silk Spectre, made her.  She hated the clothes. And the responsibility.

The end will keep you talking for weeks.  I promise you.  It is no easy ending and the movie leaves you wrestling with decisions.  Go see it.  Justice isn’t an easy topic.  Our conversation afterwards at Tim Horton’s involved youth who tag buildings with graffiti, but it could have been anything we were upset about.  To what ends does vigilantism aspire?  How far would you work outside of “the law” to get “justice”?  It sparks a lot of difficult conversations.  I’m sure I came across like an idiot–but i tend to let myself talk to see what I might say.  Cause only when I’ve said it, do I get to evaluate whether or not I believe it.

So, go see the movie and see what you start talking about afterwards.