Friday, September 14, 2018

Neil Arthur Norman, 1931 - 2018

Our friend and colleague Neil Norman passed away Wednesday night September 12, 2018, after a long, courageous battle with cancer. We'll miss him -- a lot! Neil was a mentor to many of us, and an inspiration to all of us. He walked the talk, literally, walking his precinct well into his Eighties.

I was honored to present the the Benton County Democrat's 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award to Neil on May 31 of this year. I'm publishing the text of my presentation here in Neil's memory. It says so much about why we held Neil in such high regard.

Neil A Norman accepting the 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award

 When I was asked to say a few words about Neil as our 2018 recipient of the Norm Miller Leadership Award, I asked his wife Jan for some input on things Neil did before joining us on the Benton County Democrats. I think she said something like, “Oh, my goodness!” I understood her reaction when I received the “summary” 3-page email outlining Neil’s service and accomplishments.

I read through Neil’s impressive record of public service and political activism. I tried to wrap my head around the idea of someone who started actively looking out for others when he was in the 3rd Grade in a little town in Tulare County, California.

As legend has it, Neil recruited his best friend, a big 5th Grader, the son of migrant farm workers, and Neil’s self-proclaimed bodyguard, to help patrol the playground to ensure children of farm workers were not being bullied. Neil, seeking an advantageous vantage point from which to survey playground unity, rode on his friend’s shoulders.

That was a long time ago — we won’t say how long — but in all that time, Neil’s dedication to fairness, to the ethical treatment of human beings from every walk of life, of every race, and religion, has never wavered. What’s changed is that Neil, throughout his long record of service, has now carried others on his shoulders.

Neil’s record of public and professional service is long and distinguished, ranging from a plethora of democratic party and campaign leadership positions from El Dorado, California, to Lynchburg, Virginia and back to Richland, Washington, and places in between, to achievements in science and technology that include everything from rocket ships to nuclear power plants.

Please visit the displays here in the room, because I don’t have time to go through all of Neil’s accomplishments, and even if I did, you wouldn’t believe me.

Neil has received many prestigious awards. Just last year he received the National Society of Professional Engineers Award — the highest award given to an individual by the Society. Their description says, “It is presented to an engineer who has made outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare, and humankind.

And that phrase, “public welfare and humankind,” gave me the inspiration for how to tell you who my friend Neil Norman is.

When our current president attacked Muslims, Neil met with the Imam of the Tri-Cities Islamic Center to find ways to reassure members. When the president attacked immigrants, Neil worked with the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition to ensure that immigrants in our community knew their rights. When police in Pasco used what was perceived by the community and others as disproportionate lethal force to subdue a clearly mentally disturbed Hispanic man, Neil advocated for police de-escalation training. When refugees were relocated to our community, Neil collected donations of furniture for them, stored them in his garage, and helped distribute them.

Neil is a man of faith, and so I would like to quote from the Bible, if I may. This Bible was presented to me in 1946 — I think Neil may have been working on Harry Truman’s campaign at that time.

This is from James 2:14 - 26

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

You see that a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

And so, while Neil is an eminently deserving recipient of our 2018 Norm Miller Leadership award, what I think we are doing here tonight is celebrating the life of a man who lives his faith. A man whose myriad good works, define who he is.

It is my honor to present to Neil Norman our 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

September 11, 2001, Reimagined

WTC Attack September 11, 2001
On Tuesday of this week 17 years ago, Hijackers flew commercial airliners into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Passengers and crew were credited with thwarting the terrorist hijackers’ planned attack on the U.S. Capital. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, in which close to 3000 people were killed, was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in history.

We were fortunate at that time to have great confidence in the leadership of our country; in our intelligence community, the FBI and in law enforcement. There were system failures, particularly in communications. And sure, there was second guessing later about the actions taken in response to the attacks, but while events were unfolding, we trusted in our leaders to see the country through.

George W Bush first hears of WTC attack
Imagine what would happen now under the Trump Administration. The “usual suspects” carry out a devastating attack on a soft target with symbolic importance, like the December 19, 2016, attack on a Berlin Christmas Market — an attack claimed by ISIS.

Who would be blamed for not connecting the dots? Would the Intelligence and Law Enforcement agencies — the FBI, the CIA, NSA, DIA — carry sway with President Trump in formulating a measured response?

Who would we bomb, who invade? What new immigration restrictions would be imposed, what internment camps would we open for Muslim-Americans?

What new requirements would be added to the Patriot Act, what more intrusive surveillance on all Americans? What nature of protest would be made illegal? When would martial law be lifted?

The next terrorist attack on American soil is not a matter of if, but when. Determined fanatics willing to die for their cause will usually outwit even a well-managed Department of Homeland Security staffed with highly motivated and trained officers. A bombastic “strongman” equipped with a keyboard and wielding a heavy-handed immigration policy will never be an effective counter to terrorism. A country divided against itself will never be ready, or resilient.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A Commencement Address Never Given But Oft Quoted

I received this email and link from a Republican friend.


You may not like this commencement address, but I l like it, especially the points at the end.

My response was as follows:


This was written as a tongue-in-cheek protest by Neal Boortz* for never having been invited to deliver a commencement speech.

Interestingly, the sentiments expressed reflect a growing sense of frustration among the “new right” (Trump’s Republican Party) that universities are “indoctrinating" students to be liberals. In fact, an Iowa state Sen. Mark Chelgren* proposed a bill that would institute a hiring freeze at state universities until the number of registered Republicans on faculty comes within 10 percent of the number of registered Democrats. Sen. Chelgren — who, it should be noted, claimed to hold a degree in business that turned out to be a certificate from a Sizzler steakhouse — is not an outlier. Not among Trump Republicans.

That being said here’s what I agree with in Boortz’s piece:

Heading off with a diploma doesn’t mean learning is over, or even that your smarter than the mechanic who works on your car, although you’re probably smarter than the President

People need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the world and despite what the President says about "fake news," read newspapers, especially your local paper, and listen to a variety of news sources. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, especially if its a tweet by the President (or something sent to you by one of your many gullible Republican friends).

The rest of this piece by Boortz is conventional conservative bias against those who think things such as the Americans with Disabilities Act is government overreach.

I haven’t had time yet to address your contention that the Press is unfair to Trump.


*Neal Boortz is an American author, attorney, and former Libertarian radio host. Boortz writing about his talk show, said, "Don't believe anything you read on [the Neal Boortz] web page or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your own satisfaction."

*Mark Chelgren is an American politician who serves in the Iowa Senate. He is a member of the Republican Party. He was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He represents District 41. He has said that immigrant felons who enter the country illegally should be executed.