Sarah Palin’s Death Panels


[Pardon me for veering away from science fiction for a moment,but the following has a bit of writing and fiction involved in it.  I don’t usually get political, but I thought it was interesting.]

Let’s give credit where credit is due.  Sarah Palin, by herself, created the “Death Panels” as a work of fiction.  Constantly associating them with Obama is bad authorship.  Obama would be plagiarizing if he stole the idea from Palin, who is the creator.  

Anyone who can take what was meant to be a clause that provided End of Life Counseling and turn it into some sort of tribunal is a fiction writer with nefarious purposes (unlike those of us who have no nefarious purposes).  

End of Life counseling would be nice.  Not many of us look ahead towards our deaths.  I remember how calm my parents were when they came to us and showed us the shiny bullet-like urns they had bought for their cremation.  Or how they asked us to draw up a list of things we wanted from them in their will.  Or as they prepare to retire and don’t have a house to call their own (as a minister, my father was housed in a parsonage provided by each church).  As they approach death, they are thinking through all these things.  Did they have help?  Yes, they did.  A pastor-friend who talked to them about wills and cremation.  But it’s good to talk about the end of life and what you want that to look like.

Who wants their last days controlled by a hospital, or by people who don’t have your best interests in mind, or who, by not having a will or any written statement, just don’t know what you want in your last days?  

The clause in the Healthcare makes it VOLUNTARY, but also gives the doctors compensation for this counseling.  It’s only fair and it’s better to discuss what YOU want at the end of your life, rather than what someone else forces you to have.  Hospitals can keep us alive, nearly indefinitely…now we get to choose HOW we are treated at the end of our lives.

I urge the media to stop referring to these as Obama’s Death Panels, and start referring them to their proper author, Sarah Palin.  If she wants to talk about them, let her wear the albatross that they are.  If she wants to deny folks the right to talk about their own treatment, then let her be treated with the kind of hatred she is stirring up towards the President.  

It’s her Fiction.  Let’s give her the credit.

[update: NYT article says we’ve been here before.  Which means Palin plagiarized.  Wow.]

Inaugural Poem: Take Out Your Pencils. Begin.

I just finished watching the Inaugural Events on TV. Many things to talk about, but I want to use the words of the Inaugural Poet, Elizabeth Alexander, as a call to writers, and a call to Americans, to face the challenges we face in the world today.

Her poem, Praise Song for the Day, was Whitmanesque in its description of everyday people doing their jobs, but when she came to the Teacher telling the students to take out their pencils and begin, it stirred me. It reflected Obama’s call to action, and I heard it as a writer.

In Canada, I feel a bit outside of history as an American. As if America has gone on without me. It was my choice to leave America and work and live in the Yukon. I don’t regret that choice as much as I seek to know what my role is now. If anything, the Inauguration of Barack Obama called out the American part of me to work hard for freedom and justice. But here I am, in another country, and not so skilled at building bridges or repairing roads or even close enough to move towards changing policies. But I am a writer, an American writer. And there is much you can do with a pencil.

Alexander’s poem reminded me that we are all at the beginning of a test. A fiscal test, an international test, a test of our ideals and the strength of our nation. Wherever we are, we have that test before us–and now is the time to bring out our pencils and begin writing.

On this Inauguration Day, let us all take out our pencils and write the future. Write new policies, new ideas, to “meld imagination with a common purpose” as Pres. Obama said, and change what needs to be changed with a pencil and an eraser. Because with pencils, erasers are standard issue–we make mistakes, but we can correct them. Still, we have to write. Write to inspire. Write to correct. Write to change. To remind. To call out. Envision. Direct. Encourage. Explain. Record. Unite. Obama said to the nations that would oppose America–“We will outlast you.” And writing can outlast a thousand nations, even as it forges them.

Yes, I can build a bridge, repair a road, strengthen infrastructure–even from outside the United States. Writing has no borders.

Writers, go forge. “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

Bishop Robinson’s Prayer to Open the Inaugural Events

Pardon my side trip from Science Fiction and Fantasy. But this is important. It’s unfortunate that HBO blacked out the opening prayer of Bishop Robinson, especially after so much controversy over Rick Warren’s selection to pray on Tuesday. Here’s the video. This was shot by Sarah Pulliam of Christianity Today. Christianity Today, in a really nice gesture, allowed it to be posted on their blog and here on Youtube. Sarah, you may have saved a moment in history, important to a whole community.

HBO also decided not to identify the Gay Men’s Chorus when they sang with Josh Groban. It looks like coincidence, but it hurts a whole community to be nearly erased from this historic moment. What you can’t erase, though, are all the gays and lesbians who are watching, and all their friends who are watching, and requiring something different and something better from this new administration. For your enjoyment, here is the well-written, and surprising, prayer of Bishop Gene Robinson. I love the irony of the Blessings section. Full text appears afterwards.

Full text of the prayer, courtesy of the Advocate. I hope they don’t mind that I’m posting it here–I think it should be spread as far as we can spread it.

Good afternoon,

Before this celebration begins, please join me in pausing for a moment to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

Oh God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears, tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die a day from malnutrition, malaria and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants; women, people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy simplistic answers we prefer to hear from our politicians instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed any time soon and the understanding that our next president is a human being, not a messiah. Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the ways we care for the most vulnerable. And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office fo the president of the United States. Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady calm captain. Give him stirring words, we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color blind reminding him of his own words that under his leadership there will be neither red nor blue states but a United States. Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods. And please God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents and we’re asking far too much of this one, we implore you oh good and great God to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand that he might do the work that we have called him to do. That he might find joy in this impossible calling and that, in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.



Many in the GLBT community, knowing that Robinson was only going to pray on this first day–a Sunday morning when most other Christians would be in church–still they were looking forward to this representation by both Robinson and the Gay Men’s Chorus. Noticeably, they are hurt.

Though it didn’t get played on TV, on HBO, and will only be heard in snippets tomorrow morning in a collage playback before the swearing in, I hope this video gets round the world tonight to make up for it. Networks and Cable television have no idea the power of Youtube to completely make them obsolete in regards to news and events. You can’t erase a people from history. Not anymore.

Shine Anthology, and Dreaming of a Better World

In another post I talked about thinking positive about the future.  I linked to an anthology, SHINE, open to writers, that wants to make the world a better place in the future–a vision of how we WILL get it right eventually.  How  decisions we make technologically, politically, personally will solve–or begin to solve–global crises we face right now.  For years, scientists have been cast as Dr. Frankensteins in movies–playing God with forces we don’t understand–and rarely are they those who solve the problem.  If they do arch heroically at the end, it’s often to put back what went wrong, the Hamlets of a technological Denmark gone rotten.

When doing the radio series, Yukon 2058, I was sitting with Lil from Lil’s Diner and we were talking about Angel’s Nest, the future home for the homeless teens in our area, a cause Lil’s Diner has taken a personal investment in, literally.  For Halloween, the employees at the diner donated all wages made that day to Angel’s Nest and they kept the diner open most of the night to host a fund drive party.  We sat and talked about what teens need in this town, and I realized that science fiction could be used to describe what we want in the world–not just to warn people, not just a good story, but planting seeds in the minds of those who might be able to help us make those changes.  SF can be used to help people envision.

Who wants to walk into a post-apocalyptic future?  Why not place things in the future we need to see–and once seen, that we can create for real.  So, via radio, I created a youth center, the kind I would love to see the town create in the old Canadian Tire building.  And I put it on the air, and inside my vision for the future.

So, if you have ideas about what kinds of positive strides the world could make in the future–ways of solving crises in the world– allow me to suggest some positive outlets for you, outlets where your vision could inspire the vision of others who can make it happen:

1)  CBC North is going to want to interview you for your vision of the Yukon–a place that will be much changed in the next 50 years.  Imagine the future, and then talk about it on the radio.

2)  SHINE anthology, edited by Jetse de Vries, is open to writers this next spring who want to write optimistic science fiction.  This doesn’t mean that utopia comes without dramatic tension or story, only that it includes a positive vision of the world of the future.  If you want to write up your idea as story, read these guidelines.  This is going to be a great opportunity for writers and thinkers, since anthologies, collecting these positive views of science, will likely have a great distribution and put you in pages populated by well-known, world-class thinktankers/writers.  (If only there could be a weekend to gather engineers, scientists and science fiction writers to pool ideas…)

3) the 24hr Playwriting competition, held here in Whitehorse by Nakai Theatre in April, might be another place to launch a positive future in the Yukon, as local plays are funded, produced and showcased through the Homegrown Theatre Festival in the Yukon, in order to get them ready for possible Canadian distribution.

4) Write directly to the Governmental groups that might help implement your idea: help them see what impact your idea–all consequences considered–might have on the Yukon.  Write for funding to research it through the Northern Research Institute

5)  Don’t forget other Canadian science fiction magazines: On Spec needs you!  And loves you.  And wants to promote Canadian voices.

I think if a people down south, my fellow Americans, can be inspired to change by electing Barack Obama as President, then anything is possible.  I think we are being called on to help make that change ourselves, first by envisioning and then by doing.  I think science fiction writers inspire change.

Else why would the first American space shuttle be named Enterprise

The State of the States:the Political Landscape (No. 2 in a series)

Some surprises for me in Texas concerning the political landscape.

You’d think that in Texas, things are pretty bleak for Obama.  Or you might think a lot of things about the States when it comes to this presidential race.  Two things surprised me.

The NAS Ft. Worth military base sells books in the main exchange, the main shopping center on a base.  It caters to mostly military personnel.  You can only get on the base with a military ID, which my dad carries.  (He’s a retired Senior Chief Petty Officer. )   So, the book section is roughly the size of a Walmart’s book section.  In this base, on the shelves were three books by Obama, one from Nancy Pelosi, one each from Hillary Clinton, Tom Brokaw, Joe Biden, a bio on Michelle Obama.  There was one small paperback for McCain, Faith of my Fathers.  No Bush books, no conservative books, nothing I expected.  I assumed Military bases would be bastions of right wing conservatives, and that their bookstore would look like a Rush Limbaugh’s list of quotes.  Where was the Coulter?  Where was Cheney?  Rove?  Any books condemning the Democrats?  Nope.  Here, in addition to the ones listed above, three books condemned the war in Iraq; one condemned a too powerful presidency.  I was amazed.  What does this mean?

“It means nothing,” my dad said.  “Liberals work on the staff, and they are usually civilian.  The military is all conservative.”

I argued that the staff would have to buy books that would sell, not books that stay on shelves.  They obviously know their market.

“Those are the books that didn’t sell.  All the conservative ones got picked up.”

I told him the bookshelf was full–these weren’t remainders.  They were the books for sale.

“Most of the clientele there are civilians.”

You can’t get on base without an ID!!   He refused to believe that military personnel might be turning away from Bush and towards Obama.  In Walmarts across America you will at least see The Faith of George Bush or several books condemning Democrats or Obama…but not one positive book about Bush.

I think conservatives are losing ground in the military.  People want change.  And a failed war, broken promises to veterans, and no exit strategy is straining an otherwise conservative base….well, it’s straining this one at least in Ft. Worth.  Who knows what other bases are like?

The second striking thing:  Wish I’d had a camera on the highway as we passed out of Ft. Worth Texas.  Some one had bought a billboard and put the American Flag and the head of an eagle on it with the words, “There’s only one God-loving American patriot running for President.”  It left you to assume who it was.  And forced you to think that only one man could qualify under that description.  I know two men who qualify.

People will buy a billboard, or rent one, and put up one lie after another.  You can’t say your opinion loudly enough down here.  The landscape is littered with homemade propaganda:  “If you have morals, vote McCain.”

It’s crazy.  But then conservatives still hold more power than they should.  Witness the latest muscle-flexing of the religious right.  The boycott on McDonald’s for supporting “the gay agenda.” The only time they seem to care about their health is when they’re trying to take away the rights of other people.  Now that McDonald’s caved in to their demands, they will go back to eating the fries….

Democrats could never do the same damage to McDonald’s.  Mickey D’s would never feel the pain of our ban.

We’re smart enough not to eat there.