Saturday, June 26, 2010


I haven't been watching TV much recently, so if this has been reported and I just missed it, forgive me. But it seems that the plan Obama has hammered out with BP re the Gulf oil compensation plan is an AMAZING accomplishment.

Under present law (thanks again, Bush-Cheney admin), an oil company can only be held liable for $54 million in claims. WA Senator Patty Murray is trying to change that with a new bill, but in the meantime, that's the law/regulation or whatever you want to call it.

Obama has gotten BP to fund a $20B fund to pay the people hurt by the Gulf oil disaster -- and it isn't just $20B, according to Ken Feingold, who is administering it.  It's replenishable by BP if $20B isn't enough -- and as the efforts to stop the flow have failed miserably, it may be necessary to pay fishermen, shrimpers, hotel chains and other tourist industries who depend on tourism, etc. for numerous decades.

This is HUGE. This is so huge, in fact, that some GOP folks are calling it a "shakedown."  One GOP fellow has apologized to BP for the inconvenience of being required to help beyond what is actually required of them. 

Kudos to BP for agreeing -- but the greatest kudos go to Obama's folks, who doggedly pursued them, cajoled them, and reminded them that this disaster is a public relations nighmare and that only by doing the right thing could they ever redeem themselves as a company in the eyes of the world.  That must have taken some doing...  That's diplomacy (or clout) of the highest order. 

Because of the way this has been handled, the American taxpayer shouldn't have to put out an extra dime to rescue the Gulf; BP had agreed that they made the mess, and they'll clean it up.

So in addition to health care reform, mitigating a global financial meltdown, smacking Wall Street upside the head and almost 100 other things this administration has done, it has also had our backs during this presently-unmitigated catastrophe in the gulf.  The oil continues to gush, the white sands of Florida continue to turn foul,  people continue to hurt and fish, foul and mammalian wildlife contine to die, but one thing is certain: Obama is focused on what CAN be done to make certain something like this will be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and then WHEN it occurs, the companies responsible will honor their moral and ethical reponsibility to fix it, whatever it takes, for however long it takes.

That's leadership. That's quick-witted strategy. That's the fellow I voted for.  I have never been more proud of a vote in my lifetime.

I hope every other person who voted DEM in 2008 will take stock of what has been accomplished against enormous, vitriolic odds and realize that this administration is getting results. In just 18 months we're a helluva lot farther along than we "should" be, given the virulent attacks and stonewalling of the other major party.  And it's only the beginning, as long as we turn out in large numbers this year again and use the ballot to proclaim, "Good job!  Keep it up!"

I hope Obama supporters will get busy following the 4th of July and volunteer to make phone calls, go canvassing, and reach out to friends and family to underscore to all you meet that you've seen what can be done when you have representatives in Congress and elsewhere who have ours backs and who do the right thing, even when it's hard...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Michael Jackson One Year Later...

This anniversary snuck up on me. I can't believe it has been a year already. I guess that's because I'm not over being sad yet...

Michael Jackson's untimely death was a tragedy of immense proportions. There are so many questions left unanswered...

He was helpless to help himself. Why would nobody else help him?  

Are people allowed to disintegrate before the eyes of their familes and friends?

Are there people willing to look the other way, provided they're well paid enough?

Will a company use a person until they're all used up?

The sad answer to every one of these questions is "Yes."  It happens every day. It doesn't only happen to Michael Jackson. But when it happens to someone who's world renowned, we take notice.

We look around. We realize the importance of the people around us, who are as special to us as Michael Jackson was/is to his family and fans.  Any of them could be gone tomorrow... just as he was...

It isn't fair. Michael was killed by an addiction that consumed him, administered by a licensed doctor who continues to insist that nothing he did "should" have killed him.  But it did!!! 

It did.

And here we are, a year later, sadder... but no wiser. People die every day of legally-prescribed drugs approved by licensed doctors. Dr Murray administered a drug in Michael Jackson's rented mansion that should only have been administered in a hospital setting during a surgical procedure. He did it because Michael insisted.

Would he have fired a gun at Michael, had Michael insisted?  He may as well have...

If Michael wasn't competent to make wise decisions, why in the world would a doctor abide by them?

I just don't understand. And I never will. This is a tragedy that should never have happened.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Been Really Busy!

Sorry for the delay in posting again. I'm working on at least three different fronts every day -- often day and night -- so my ability to blog often falls by the wayside.

I have a heavy Elance workload right now -- have for more than two weeks -- and it looks like that isn't going to slow down any time soon.  I'm also making at least 50 calls a day for OFA and riding herd on some volunteers who are doing what they can to keep the ball rolling for OFA. The third front is LIFE -- you know, the stuff we all need to do: eat, sleep, get in a wee bit of entertainment whenever we can shoehorn it in.

I went to see THE GRAPES OF WRATH on Sunday -- a live play put on by Lakewood Playhouse. Based on John STeinbeck's novel, it's a real downer of a story about the Dust Bowl years and the hundreds of thouands of American who were displaced and forced to relocate during that decade in our history.

What seemed very fresh and contemporary to me about the story was that, the moment the beleaguered, transplanted Okies tried to organize to keep themselves from being paid almost nothing for their labors, the people in power --  Californians with land and fields to harvest -- started calling them "Reds" to demonize and marginalize them.

That happens today. Progressive and Liberal (and even moderates like Obama) are called Marxists, Socialists and Communists by the people whose positions of power are being questioned and "threatened" (their term, not mine) by the notion that all Americans should be able to rise to their highest potentials without having roadblocks placed in the way, beyond the obstacles that come to us naturally.

JFK and RFK were called Liberals (and worse) by their opponents because they insisted that black Americans and Native Americans and Hispanics should be able to share the American dream, since they too had bled and died and suffered in every war we ever waged... even though some of them came here as slaves as the result of brutal kidnapping (blacks, Chinese). (The term "being shanghied" came from the brutal custom of kidnapping hardy young Chinese workers in Shanghai and tossing them into the bowels of a ship bound for San Francisco.)

Ted Kennedy was a Liberal eventually-- but he grew into the role as the decades developed after 1970; he didn't start out the way he ended up.  He grew into the role of a liberal as his heart developed and matured. 

His two brothers, Jack and Bob, were trying to move the ball forward during more primitive times. They recognized that it was patently unfair to deny the same opportunities to non-white Americans. We can see and acknowledge that now. (Well, most of us can. There are still a few clueless Neanderthals around. I met several of them during 2008 when I was phoning voters and heard them say, "I will never vote for a black man.")

So if being for equal justice and equal opportunity is socialist, I guess you need to count me in. I just see my belief system as being an inseparable part of my Christian upbringing.

I don't believe in people getting what they don't earn (although that happens often enough via lottery, inheritance and luck), but I do believe that anyone who works hard, gets taxed (this eliminates a lot of rich people, who write off their taxes and pay next to nothing!), and does everything he or she can to contribute to move the ball forward for him/herself and others ought to have an equal opportunity to succeed, unfettered by his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or political affiliation.

But that's just me.  How about you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

About DeForest Kelley...The Final Journey

The reminders started coming in before midnight from England. This is the 11th anniversary of De's passing.  It's a dreary day here outdoors and perhaps that's fitting...

But on the day he actually passed away, the sun was shining in southern California. And it became very busy, very fast.

I was in charge of calling the 12 people on his list that needed to be notified of his death before the information assaulted the airwaves. The publicist at the hospital said she would release the news at 3 p.m., so I had just under three hours to help Carolyn back to her room, process the loss myself, and make those calls.  It was a very short three hours.

None of the people on De's call list had been given any notice that he was in precarious health -- I'm sure to alleviate their pain until the last possible second, and perhaps to keep the news from leaking out that he was seriously sick at all.  (22K+ cards and notes -- which we received after his passing -- would have put him over the edge, for sure, because he was always so good about responding to everyone who cared enough about him to reach out to him.)

So I had to make the calls, introduce myself, and diplomatically find a way to deliver devastating news. The call list included his two nephews.

The shock in every voice was palpable over the phone. "What?! I can't believe it? What happened?! I didn't even know he was sick!"

So every call took a minimum of five minutes, except when I had to leave voicemail messages. De didn't want anyone who was close to him to find out about his passing while driving a car or by turning on the television...

I turned all the PR stuff over to AC Lyles at Paramount. He would know what to say. I didn't have time or the inclination to face cameras, questions and the further distress of saddened reporters. (When I watched the news late that night, I could see that, although the reporters were professional, they were very sad and surprised to hear the news.)

I wanted to go to the vigil near his star that night... felt I should be there since I was his star polisher.. but it had been a very, very long day and I was exhausted.  Unable to sleep, but exhausted.  So exhausted that as I left Carolyn that night to drive home, the thought crossed my mind as I exited her hospital room, "Oh, wait. I still need to go over and say goodnight to De..."  Crazy. I suppose predictable, too.

While we waited for the fellow from the Neptune Society to arrive to pick up De's body, I sat with Carolyn part of the time and cleaned De's room part of the time (at Carolyn's request, so things wouldn't be vulnerable to theft, souvenirs, what have you).  It was eerie cleaning up in the room where his body lay.  One thing I noticed, the few times I looked over at him, was how peaceful he seemed. The lines in his face were relaxed, smooth. I thought about how hard it must have been for him these past months (indeed, two years) to be constantly concerned about what would happen to Carolyn following his passing. This couple was in love, top to toes; it filled the room as they struggled to keep a lid on the inescapability of his leavetaking.

When the Neptune Society driver arrived, about 4 pm, I left Carolyn's room to help him move De from the bed to the gurney (or whatever you call the contraption that funeral folks use), then accompanied his body as the man pushed the cart down the long hallways to his van.  Nurses stopped what they were doing, turned with respect to the event. Some said, "Goodbye, De.." "Thank you, De."  "God bless you, De," as we passed.  The lump in my throat got bigger; my eyes were swimming.

As we exited the building, TV helicopters hovered overhead. I told the Neptune guy, "I know he can't feel anything, but be gentle with him."  He said, "Oh, I will!  We are with everyone. But I have to tell you.. this one is special to me, too. I've picked up some famous people -- Mayor Sam Yorty included -- but Mr. Kelley... well, I'll never forget this day."

Neither will I. Neither will I.

If I could, I suppose I would, because absolutely every other memory I have of that man is happy, hopeful, humorous and beyond human description. I put a lot of the good stuff into my first book about De. Those of you who have read it now know him about as well as I did all along the way.  And I hope you were all blessed by it.

The last part was hard to read, I know (even though I was very careful as I wrote it) because it was hard to live through. But live through we do... because it's what we have to do, and for no other reason. If losing someone we love doesn't hurt, something is very wrong.

Carolyn and I were "prepared" to lose him, but we weren't ready to lose him. The rest of the world, in a very real sense, was in the same boat with us eleven years ago today.

I'm happy to say that on most days of the year his passing is the farthest thing from my mind. What he brought to this planet remains. That's why people email me from all over the world on his birthday and on this day to tell me they're with me in solidarity: heart, mind and spirit.

DeForest Kelley: You brought love, grace and joy to the world, much like another Fellow you're with today. I hope you look down occasionally and grin that wonderful grin. It lit up the world.

"He isn't really dead, you know... as long as we remember him."


Lisa Hamner, De's Present Star Polisher
June 11, 2009

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shall I Divulge? Oh, Sure, Why Not?

OK. I apologize in advance if this sounds like bragging... but...

The Director of the Washington State OFA organization, Dustin Lambro, called to ask me to be on an important conference call tonight hosted by Jeremy Bird, who reports to Mitch Stewart, who reports to President Obama. WOW!

Dustin asked if I'd be one of three volunteers across the country to report on last Saturday's event for the Vote 2010 Kickoff, because we had a very good turnout and numerous "best practices" to report.  So I did that.

It was kind of fun.  I guess I must have misplaced every last nerve I ever had. I no longer get stage fright when asked to do something of significance that's outside my comfort zone. I guess that's because it's such an important thing and I know, for sure, it ain't about ME, but about what I can share that will help others be more effective as volunteers, team leaders and community organizers. 

Tonight's call was less stressful, by far, than taking the stage in Seattle, Sacramento, Oakland, Denver, Baltimore and Vegas to talk about DeForest Kelley to 3K people OR present a STAR TREK stand-up comedy routine -- that's for sure!  It felt kinda nice, actually... 

A long, long, long time ago I was really, really into politics (the late 60's and early 70's, as a newly fledged voter), but after Watergate I bailed for a very long time... except for brief forays to campaign for McGovern-Shriver and to vote for Jimmy Carter and Dukakis-Ferraro. I didn't really want to be working for what seemed to be a bunch of lobbyist-purchased politicians. I considered it all pretty corrupt and unsavory for about 30 years, and checked out. 

But in my heart of hearts, I really did want to care again -- I just didn't consider politicians people to care about!  Now that I do have an Administration in office that I really do care about, my enthusiasm is back.  It feels good, if a little scary (because I remember what happened to all the politicians I cared about in the 60's -- bang, bang, bang). But I figure, hey... if these people are willing to go out there and run, and lead, and risk their lives, who am I to sit on the sidelines when I admire them so and agree with their policies?  I mean, it would be lame to do that.

So I'm in, with both feet.  I pray every day that the tension and turmoil and demonizing that is tearing the country apart will fade and that we'll all agree to disagree agreebly where we do disagree politically... That would be fantatsic. 

I would love to discuss the issues without running into the spin/smear machine. It would make life less stressful in a number of ways.  I don't like being tense... at all.  I'm the peaceable type.

WOO HOO! WE Made It to OFA'S WA Flickr Website!

End of brag.

Thanks, Dustiin Lambro!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Perspective on the Gulf Oil Disaster

Any time anyone defends a position, the general understanding is that they accept whatever it is they're defending -- and its consequences.

GOP Congressman Don Young has said that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is not an environmental disaster. I'm astounded and appalled.

What is it, if not an environmental disaster of almost biblical proportions?  Wildlife and habitat are dying wholesale, the lives and fortunes of people across the Gulf coast are stymied and may indeed be perishing...

I have no idea how even our most conservative citizens can be taking any of this in and not having almost-blinding "AHA!' moments. 

The "party of no" orchestrated this course of history by getting into bed with the oil barons and not questioning whatever they said. 

"Failsafe" systems failed... at what cost? We don't even know the total cost yet because the oil is still "spilling.."  a misnomer for GUSHING LIKE MAD!! BP had no backup plan in place to immediately address a gusher lying a mile beneath the surface of the ocean. They've been scrambling -- will be scrambling for months still -- to find a way to shut the thing down and give the Gulf coast an uphill chance to recover in the decades to come.

And this is just one offshore oil rig among thousands in the Gulf. How many others are similarly constructed? How many additional back-up devices is BP planning to build for each of them, now that they know their "fail safe" back-up plan failed?

If this doesn't infuriate the right and the center the way it infuriates me (and I'm far from a leftie, believe me) and make them reconsider voting for folks whose vested interests (paid for with lobbyist money and exorbitant campaign contributions) lie with multinational giants, something is very, very wrong...

How long can people blindfold themselves and refuse to see what believing a lie can do to the planet?

I feel similarly about nuclear power (a rare point of contention between the Administration and me). I think we must always be very careful when taking as gospel the information that any vested interest puts out there to tout the greatness/safety/failsafe nature of its product or operation. 

"Trust -- but verify" is a pretty good rule of thumb. 

Here's the worst part: whatever failures have occurred happened on our watch. We were responsible for the people we voted into office.  We still are. Take your vote seriously. Don't just vote the party that daddy voted. It's time to grow up, be an adult, and look at the facts in every election, instead of listening to the talking heads on the cable station you feel most attracted to.  THEY ALL HAVE AGENDAS.

The Republican Party doesn't resemble the GOP of old.  What it resembles these days... is... the Gulf oil spill: gushing, damaging, destroying... and with no backup plan whatsoever to actually fix what's broken. All they can do is gush about what's "wrong" as they see it... never seeming to realize that they created a lot of it to begin with...

It's a never-ending story, but it needs to stop.

We, as voters, can stop it. Let's get 'er done this year during midterm elections.

I believe the Obama administration has our backs. If you've doubted that up till now because of all the conflicting "opinions" on all sides, check out and familiarize yourself with the agenda. I think when you do, you'll actually feel better...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

AMEN! My Sentiments Exactly...,8599,1993050,00.html?xid=aol-direct

Obama and his allies can't lose, with an opposition that is blind to the way most Americans think...

Those who denigrate him do so at their own political risk. I think we'll be finding that out in November.