By Stephanie Herman
(Published in Internet Herald)
March 15, 1998

The President and First Lady have found a new way to spend our tax dollars: they're hosting a series of "Millenium Evenings," braodcast and cybercast from the East Room of the White House. These events are intended to showcase scholarly, scientific and creative ideas -- a fun and educational way for our nation to ring in the next century! Of course, leave it to bureaucrats like Bill and Hillary to extend the celebration as long as possible -- they began their countdown back in '97.

The Millenium Evening of March 6 featured British physicist Stephen Hawking, who prefaced his remarks by showing a Star Trek clip. Hawking had guest-starred in the episode, in which he was "summoned," along with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, to play holographic poker with Lieutenant Commander Data, an android up to the challenge. It got a laugh at the White House, but perhaps dredging up Star Trek wasn't terribly gracious on Hawking's part; don't forget that Clinton endured a viable political nemesis in the Picard/Riker ticket of '92.

Hawking went on to discuss the future of genetic engineering, and Hillary knew ahead of time exactly what he was going to say. She'd already set up a briefing earlier that day with a geneticist, the National Human Genome Research Institute's director Dr. Frank Collins, to warn America that genetic testing looms on the horizon, and that without universal health care, we'll all be doomed to genetic discrimination and widespread uninsurability.

It's crisis-mongering at its best, despite the fact that the Kennedy/Kassebaum bill was passed in '96 to ensure against such things as discriminatory hiring practices based on confidential medical information. Last fall Donna Shalala submitted the necessary recommendations for federal privacy legislation to Congress -- including new measures dictating greater responsibility on the part of employers to keep medical records confidential with fines and possible imprisonment the penalty for failure to comply. What more does Hillary want?

Lots. And that's what scares people like Heidi Wagner, spokeswoman for the Healthcare Leadership Council. Wagner told an AP reporter that the administration's proposal is too sweeping. "Genetic testing is so new. My concern is that when the federal government decides to get involved, though well intended, there might be some unintended effects," she said. And Wagner makes another good point: laws are already in place to prevent workplace discrimination and to protect medical privacy.

Nevertheless, influential scientists are seen to hob-nob at the White House and suddenly Hillary's credibility in the medical field takes an unprecedented leap, not unlike her husband's recent rise in the polls. The whole thing would make a great Star Trek episode, no?

James Carville would likely snatch the job as casting director, depositing unwitting Republicans throughout the ship as stow-away Ferengi. Democrats would break free from Carville's command, grouping themselves together as downtrodden Bajorans, the silent victims of prominent Cardassians like Bill Clinton. After some hand-to-hand combat with Klingon Newt Gingrich on the bridge, Clinton emerges the victor, then co-opts Gingrich's idea to rename the ship "Free Enterprise." But wait -- Clinton as a Cardassian? Surely that role would require some understanding of foreign policy. Better make Bill a shapeshifter, morphing uncontrollably between a welfare advocate and a welfare reformer during a subspace power fluctuation.

And then, the portal doors whoosh open and in steps Counselor Hillary, a half-Betazed equipped with a talent for emotional empathy and license to act in the country's best interest. She's just beamed aboard to indoctrinate her first fleet of Universal Health Care's Holographic Medical Personnel. Each hologram has been programmed with information from 2000 medical reference sources and the experience of 47 individual physicians.

You might remember that Captain Janeway was forced to access her holographic MD because the ship's entire medical staff had been killed. In Hillary's case, though, America's MDs have simply abandoned their professions.

And while Hillary's holographic doctors won't be able to feel our pain, they will be able to simultaneously treat and document our pain (in quadruplicate) while submitting instantaneous polling statistics rating the intensity of our pain (not to mention our approval of Bill) to eagerly waiting White House staff members.

This article copyright © 1998 by Stephanie Herman and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.