Category: Utah

OR24 Caucus Report — It Wasn’t Like that at the Caucus I Attended

By , March 23, 2016 12:51 pm

I’ve read reports that ballot stuffers were hard at work last night, sealing the deal for Ted Cruz. How else to account for his resounding win in Utah when next door in Arizona the Donald won? Without going deep on that question, I’ll just say this about the OR24 (Orem 24) caucus last night:

  • There was no ballot stuffing last night.
  • There was no giving people stacks of ballots.
  • Kirby Glad ran the caucus in an orderly and controlled fashion.
  • Multiple people counted ballots in plain view of all in attendance.
  • I know at least four of the people counting ballots. The day they cheat is the day the world ends.

I say this as one who is not a party official. I have been a county delegate before last night–2008 and 2010, IIRC. I was there from start to finish of the voting. There was no hanky panky. And the results of our caucus virtually mirrored the final vote percentages for the state. Just sayin’.

So a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Orem (Caucus)

By , March 23, 2016 12:39 pm

UCRP_2016-03-23_1237Actually, it happened at the Orem, Utah, Precinct 24 Caucus–OR24 for short. I was elected county and state delegate. (A really funny thing did happen, by the way. My son David–bored to tears by the very slow reading of the party platform–volunteered to read. You know those commercials with the speed talkers in them? Got nothing on him. He finished to loud applause.)

Anyway, I’m waiting for some information on my responsibilities from Precinct Chairperson Kirby Glad. I also must attend a training session for officers and delegates–I’ll do this on Saturday morning. My plan is to use my blog to keep people apprised of what I learn about the candidates and issue, so check back.

Mitt vs. The Donald: The Donald Loses

By , March 3, 2016 10:49 am

My View: Utah House Bill 251 – Post-Employment Restrictions Amendments

By , March 3, 2016 9:55 am

Yesterday, I clicked on the Deseret News and discovered a story of intense interest to me, a story about the Utah business community’s reaction to House Bill Scales of Justice251. I’m a businessperson. I work with businesses in my law practice. I’m about as pro-business as they come. And yet, I support this bill.

A little background–a disclosure, if you will: I have some clients who are currently burdened by non-compete agreements, clients who are very talented in their own right and who would like to start their own businesses. And they’re struggling with how to proceed because those non-compete agreements are worded vaguely enough and their former employer is feisty enough, that if they decide to do anything even close to what their former bosses’s company does, they are confident they’ll be sued for breach of contract.

Here’s the problem. They want to do kind of what they did at their previous employer, but using different tools and working with different clients. In other words, they don’t want to violate the non-competes. Problem is the tool they want to use is a “hammer,” and one of the tools their former employer sells is, you guessed it, a “hammer,” albeit a different type of hammer that does different things than my clients’ “hammer.” (By now, you’ve probably guessed that I’ve changed the name of the tool for confidentiality reasons.) Nevertheless, per their non-competes, their former boss could come after them under a contract provision that says the following:

“Competitive Products” means any products or services [the former employer] sells or sold or that are competitive with products or services that [the former employer] sells or sold while [my clients] worked for [the former employer].

Do you see the problem? The employer could call virtually any product/hammer my clients use a “Competitive Product” under this definition. The contract then states:

 . . . for a period of two years after my employment with [the former employer] terminates, I will not (a) design, sell, develop, license, or solicit orders for or sales of Competitive Products, nor will I (b) affiliate with any business, whether as an employee, owner, officer, director, or agent, that performs any of the actions described in (a) for Competitive Products. (emphasis supplied)

You know that they say, or at least should say, “if the vagueness doesn’t kill you, the overbreadth will.” The Deseret News and others apparently think such language is fair. What’s good for business and all that. To wit:

[These agreements] keep employees from taking trade secrets or information about company strategies to competitors. They allow companies to invest in training employees without the worry that a competing company can take advantage of such largesse by luring a trained employee away.

Generally, these agreements include reasonable time limits, after which employees are free to work for whomever they wish. (emphasis supplied) (“In our opinion: Response to bill regulating business contracts suggests House leadership is at odds with business community,” Tuesday, March 1, 2016)

The law firm Michael Best agrees, saying

Non-compete agreements protect the goodwill of a company, which is something that a nonsolicitation and confidentiality agreement cannot entirely do. A company’s protectable interests do not just include its trade secrets and confidential information, but also its goodwill. Goodwill is often associated with the people who work for the company, and customers associate certain names and faces with a particular company. The purpose of non-compete agreements is to allow employers to invest in highly-trained employees and to have them work directly with the community and customers, serving as the face of the employer. Employers invest significant time, money and resources in doing so. Employers should be entitled to protect these investments by not allowing the employees who are associated with a company’s goodwill to leave and immediately work for a direct competitor. (What Utah Employers Should Know about House Bill 251, February 22, 2016)

As one who has, with his clients, looked down the barrel of a 2-year prohibition on future employment in the same industry, I suggest the Deseret News reconsider the term “reasonable time limits.” Hardly. Not when you’re prevented from working an an industry you love, an industry you’ve trained for most of your adult life–and not just at your immediate past employer’s. Riddle me this Batman: After that two-year hiatus, how sharp will that employee’s saw be?

What is a direct competitor by the way? Inquiring minds would like to know before they venture out, only to get swatted down by a rolled-up copy of their non-compete agreement. Until a judge says otherwise, a direct competitor is what the former employer says it is. And if the former employer is a bully? (What’s the saying? “Power corrupts; absolute power coupled with a non-compete corrupts absolutely.”)

As for the attorneys at Michael Best, employers are not the only ones investing significant time, money, and resources in training. So do the employees. Do employers think their employees came to them as blank slates? Heck no. By the time they arrive on an employer’s doorstep, employees have likely done years of schooling, including post-graduate work in many cases. They’ve probably worked for myriad other employers, gaining valuable skills, skills they’ve brought to their new employer’s table. And because they signed a non-compete–probably in a rush, possibly in glee at finally having a new job, likely without understanding fully the contract’s meaning, and surely not comprehending its consequences–an employer, generally a person they barely know, gets to control them for another two years–after they’ve left his or her employ.

You can bet the employer has thought this all through.

The problem, folks, is the playing field is uneven: The employer has the job, the salary, and the benefits. The potential employee needs a job, the money, and health insurance. The employer has thought the non-compete issue through many times. For the potential employee, it’s probably a problem of first impression. It’s car salesperson vs. car buyer. Price negotiation, finance terms, do you want the 2- or 5- year warranty on that doohickey vs. huh? In other words, unfair.

Hey, I get the impulse. I even understand that in some circumstances such agreements make a ton of sense. But not in all. In fact, I’d guess they make sense in very few cases. That said, I’ve just thought of a couple of potential compromises, so the Senate can vote yes on this puppy:

  • If an employer feels strongly enough about requiring employees to sign such agreements, then require the employer to split the cost with the potential employee of one hour with an attorney versed in such agreements.
  • In the alternative: Utah maintains offices throughout the state to deal with workforce issues. Require employers to send potential employees to consult with someone at the Department of Workforce Services about the consequences of signing such a contract–before they sign.
  • Finally, my least favorite, but better-than-nothing option: Require the employer thoroughly disclose the possible consequences of signing a non-compete–again, before the potential employee signs.

In short, if we’re going to allow these agreements in Utah, if we’re going to allow a virtual stranger to have control over an employee for two years after they’ve left a job, let’s give some protection to that employee. Do that so that if and when the employee actually does sign the non-compete, there truly has been a meeting of the minds.

Not So Subliminal Anti-Mormonism on a Sunny Saturday Morning

By , November 3, 2012 10:41 am

So this morning, I followed a link on Twitter to a story in Politico and learned something about Mitt Romney (and therefore me) that I had never supposed. Apparently journalist and WSJ contributor Paul Levy doesn’t think much of Mitt Romney (and therefore me):

“It’s very simple: I think Romney [and therefore me] is a dangerous religious freak whose election [not mine] will cripple America,” said Levy, who has donated $225 to Obama this year.

In the early morning–I was still in bed, reading on my smartphone–that was bad enough. But then I realized that Levy’s was the only quote in the story wherein any of the people quoted gave a reason for their contribution. Worse still, that quote appeared in the 4th paragraph–just 14 short lines in even shorter paragraphs–into the story, with no similarly outrageous reference to President Obama being a closet Muslim to balance the tale. An in-kind campaign contribution to the Obama campaign if you will–in an article about journalists contributing actual dollars to campaigns. (I wonder if they can spell IRONY at Politico.)

Well, you can imagine how I felt. I immediately sought refuge among my friends on Facebook. Wrong move that. Quicker than a Mormon man jumping from one polygamous bed to the next, I stumbled upon the following gem on Joanna Brooks’s wall:

It seems that Lisa, apparently and entirely unaware of her audience, decided it would be nice to establish her street creds as one who can separate the wheat from the chaff. Speaking for those in Lisa’s version of chaff (I live in Utah Country), I’ll report that thresher she is not.

Anyway, I’m now awake, and even though I was awaken rudely, I am fine. I’m sure Paul and Lisa would want to know that.

Kids. We Were That Once.

By , September 30, 2012 2:58 pm

Back in the summer of 1995, I was sitting on a grassy hill in the middle of UC-Berkeley’s campus with my daughter Caroline. It was new-student orientation week, and she and I were there to be oriented before she began school that fall. We had driven to Berkeley from Provo, Utah, our home for the previous four years and just 45 minutes down I-15 from Salt Lake City, the epicenter of Mormonism. Now if Mormonism teaches anything besides Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon, it teaches about the importance of families. We have Family Home Evening. We have the song “Families Can Be Together Forever.” We have temples where families are sealed together for “time and all eternity.” We have “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” In short, Mormons like families. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that some of us may actually believe Mormons invented the family.

So there I was sitting on that hill with my daughter in the middle of possibly the most liberal college campus in the United States, across the Bay from possibly the most liberal city in the U.S. and the second largest city in maybe the most liberal state in the Union–sorry Massachusetts. And what did I see? Hundreds of mothers and fathers sitting on the same grassy hill with their sons and daughters, eating box lunches before the afternoon’s activities. Their children, like my daughter, were about to separate from their family and move on. Then it hit me: Most, if not all, of those parents were not from Utah. Few were Mormon. Yet, like me, they were excited for their children’s future even as they were anxious for their safety. Like me, they were going to miss their children. Like mine, their family was about to be changed forever. I laughed because I realized that I had spent so much time in the Utah Bubble that I had almost come to think that Mormons had the corner on families. Seeing all those mothers and fathers on that grassy hill brought me back to reality.

Now Utah doesn’t have a corner on bubbles either. I’m mean count ’em: There’s the Beltway Bubble, the Liberal Bubble, the Media Bubble, the Conservative Bubble. Bubbles here, bubbles there, bubbles everywhere. The world is a virtual Lawrence Welk Show.

With that in mind, I’d like to step outside my Conservative Bubble for a moment to point you towards a blog post by Nina Camic, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She tells the story of her stint as an au pair to the daughter of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. Upon hearing about his recent death, she wrote:

A pause for reflection.

I came to live in the States as an adult (if you can call 18 adult) because of the goodness of a person who died today. I was an au pair to his little girl. I learned through him and his wife how to transition from Warsaw to New York again. I came with barely a flight bag full of clothes and possessions and joined a household that had a staff of helpers and an extended family of cousins, aunts, nephews — all intensely close, bonded in ways that history sometimes bonds people because of unusual circumstances. That I was treated kindly is such an understatement that I can’t even quite say it. The father of my charge will always in my mind be the person who liked nothing better than to drive away from the city, to the country home, fire up the grill and throw some meats for an evening supper with just his little girl, his wife and the au pair from Poland. After dinner, he and I would clean up in the kitchen and if I learned how to wipe down every last inch of counterspace it was because he taught me well. He was too kind for words and his little girl was just like him, making my au pair duties about the easiest that could be.

So, my thoughts are very much with the kids he leaves behind. Kids… How oddly stated! Kids. We were that once.

Yup, we were all kids once, and we’re all grown-ups now, men and women. Most of us, most of the time, are even good grown-ups. In the last days of this never-ending and way overheated presidential election, it’s worth remembering that even the former publisher and CEO of The New York Times–that bête noire of conservatives everywhere–was a kid once and was, apparently, a very good, kind, and generous man.

Slightly Informed Anti-Mormon Bigotry on Display

By , March 3, 2012 11:06 am

Okay, so I’m a Facebook friend with Bruce Bartlett, a one-time big player in D.C., still a player, largely in the economics and tax policy sandbox. He posts on Facebook a lot and has a pretty good following. I toy with de-friending him now and again because he is quite negative generally and very negative when it comes to Republicans. A former member of the party–under Reagan, IIRC–he has since left the party and cannot help himself when it comes to taking potshots at the idiotic Right (his favorite word has to be idiot).

Anyway, yesterday he linked to a story on Slate about the recent Randy Bott controversy and attendant bruhah over Blacks and the Mormon priesthood. (More on that later.) Among other things–and ironically it turns out, given the question Slate posed in the title of the article, “Is Mormonism Still Racist?”–the conversation in on Bartlett’s wall revealed some, shall we say, revealing attitudes about Mormonism:

I rarely stand silently by when people go off on my religion like that, so I entered the fray:

I have no idea where the conversation has gone since my post. I haven’t been back. If I did return, I would ask whether those disparaging Brigham Young would like to have one quote, one aspect of their lives–that part they would be most ashamed of today–paraded around as representative of their entire life. I think I know what the answer would be.

Did Brigham Young have his faults? Yes. Is his quote about interracial marriage offensive? Yes, certainly today, probably then–only much less so. (Presentism is a fallacy we should avoid, by the way.) Does it tell of the whole man? I think not, not even close. And by the way, Brigham was known for firery rhetoric, words he used to stress the importance of what he was saying, but words he never intended to follow through on. I would venture that the interracial marriage rhetoric fits that bill. Yes, he thought interracial marriage was wrong. No, he never intended to kill anybody for marrying someone of another race.

Now, about that Slate article. Therein, the author tells of an informal survey/video that went viral. Apparently a number of BYU students were pretty weak on Black history (emphasis mine):

Just this past month, the BYU campus became embroiled in a controversy concerning racism—or, at the very least, racial insensitivity and ignorance. In a satirical celebration of black history month, comedian David Ackerman dressed in a hoodie, Utah Jazz gear, and blackface, and quizzed BYU students on their knowledge of African-American history. On the video, which went viral, BYU students failed to correctly identify February as black history month and failed to name important black American figures beyond Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. (The rapper 50 Cent was also named as a hero of black history.) And Ackerman succeeded in getting his painfully naive interviewees to imitate what they believed to be typical black behavior, with finger snapping, the “gangsta limp,” and jive talk all making appearances.

According to Darron Smith—an African-American convert to Mormonism and a BYU alum who, from 1996 to 2006, taught a course there called “The African American Experience”—Ackerman’s video reveals that problematic attitudes about race are not limited to “older generations” of Mormons. Ackerman “provided a microphone for today’s BYU students (even the few black BYU students) to voice their ignorance about the black experience in America.” And while you might very well see something similar at other “isolated, conservative” college campuses around the country, in Smith’s view, the deference of BYU students to church authority makes church leaders responsible for such ignorance—a point now driven home by Bott’s remarks. Smith places the lion’s share of the blame on BYU’s administration. (Smith’s own contract at BYU was not renewed in 2006.)

This indictment is patently unfair. Time was that BYU’s student body came largely from Utah and the intermountain west. That’s no longer the case. Today, 33% of the students are from Utah, 67% from other states. Thirty-six percent come from California (12%), Washington (5%), Texas (5%), Arizona (4%), Colorado (3%), Oregon (3%), Nevada (2%), and Virginia (2%). These students come to BYU with an average GPA of 3.82 (2011) and have SATs to match. Many of these students have served missions throughout the world. In short, they are not blindered, stupid people. They’ve been around. They are simply students, many recently graduated from high school, and they–like their white peers in virtually any and every college across the country–don’t know that much about Black history*. Is that an indictment of BYU, the Mormon Church, or our high schools? I think we all know the answer.

*Of course, this is my hunch. Challenge me, and we’ll all learn the truth. Otherwise, I’ll go with my hunch because I don’t have the time to back up my hunch with research.

No, Mitt Didn’t Save the SLC Olympics Single Handedly, But He Helped–A Lot

By , February 19, 2012 2:45 pm

Hey, you can attack Mitt Romney on a number of fronts. Yes, he’s made his share of gaffs. Yes, he apparently has trouble connecting with some people (he certainly didn’t have that problem with me*). Bain. Negative ads. Pick your poison. But the SLC Olympics? Don’t bother.

To my knowledge, he’s never claimed that he, and he alone, saved the SLC Olympics. In most everything I’ve ever read on the subject, he’s been generous in his praise of all the work others did to put on the Games. And in almost everything I’ve ever read, people in the know give him great credit for his leadership in saving the games. So when I read the following petty political comments in an article in today’s Deseret News, I just shook my head:

A trio of former local government elected officials, all Democrats, held a press conference on the steps of the Salt Lake City-County Building earlier Saturday to criticize Romney’s tenure at SLOC.

Romney is guilty of “arrogance and of acting as if we couldn’t possibly do it ourselves. He had to come in to save us and ride in on his white horse,” former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck said.

Former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Joanne Milner and former Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch offered similar accounts based on their experiences with Romney.

“He was not the savior of the 2002 Olympics,” Milner said. “It was the people of Utah.”

Did Romney say he was the savior of the Olympics? No. You have to put the word ‘helped’ in front of the word ‘save’ to capture the credit he has taken. The following, from the same story, is typical of what he might say in a town hall meeting:

“There’s power in unity,” Romney said. “We came together as a group of people not caring about who got credit, but caring about putting on the best Games in the history of sport and you did that.”

Later, at a special “Stars on Ice” show at Energy Solutions Arena, Romney said the community’s hard work showcased “the character and the passion of the people of Utah.”

He told the arena audience that he loved them, too, and “the experience that we shared together,” noting that when he took over the Games in 1999, he feared no one would sign up to volunteer.

Instead, nearly twice as many people as needed came forward. Some gave millions to bolster the Games’ budget, he said, while others worked for 17 days straight without pay or even tickets to events.

His comments in debates are not so extended, but even there, he’s never said anything less than he “helped save the Games,” and in some cases he quickly acknowledged the help of others. In any case, the SLC three appear to be all the DNC could scrape from the bottom of the barrel of people in Utah it asked to criticize Romney’s involvement in the Games:

A video released Friday by the Democratic National Committee also accused Romney of accepting the same kind of federal bailout for the Olympics that he now criticizes on the campaign trail.

But state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said Utah’s minority party has “no gripe with Mitt Romney’s handling of the Olympics. He did a commendable job. I don’t think it’s useful for the Utah Democratic Party to say anything other than the truth.”

The DNC reportedly lobbied hard for state party support of their national effort to discredit Romney’s claim of turning around the Salt Lake Games, a key component of his campaign, even reportedly using a top adviser of President Barack Obama.

Good for them.

*In order to write the article I referred to in an earlier post, I had to interview Romney at the SLC Olympic headquarters in Salt Lake. Romney sat at a half-moon shaped table, surrounded by something like 10 different news organizations, including someone from ESPN and a couple of guys with KFI out of, you guessed it, LA. And then there was me, representing the Marriott Alumni magazine. Each took turns asking his or her questions, until it was my turn. I began by making a crack, something about LA, snow, and cocaine–I’m sure you had to be there–catching Romney completely off guard. He laughed out loud, and won my heart as a result. What can I say? I’m easy.

Did Romney Save the SLC Olympics?

By , February 17, 2012 4:55 pm

The AP’s Kasie Hunt and Jennifer Dobner go round and round before they essentially acknowledge that, yes, Romney played a big part in saving the Salt Lake Olympics, a conclusion I came to years ago. During the run-up to the Games, I wrote an extended profile on Fraser Bullock for the Marriott Alumni Magazine, a publication of BYU’s Marriott School of Management.

Bullock was Romney’s right and left hand man and the CFO of the olympian bid to save the SLC Olympics. I interviewed Bullock extensively and Romney once for the article, among a variety of other people. To quote from my article:

According to his boss, SLOC President and CEO Mitt Romney,“he is one of the best CFO/COO’s in the country, if not the best.” And Romney needed the best because when he took over on 11 February 1999, SLOC was tottering at the top of a very challenging bobsled run of its own, one littered with tawdry headlines of tarnished Olympic rings, unhappy sponsors, and financial mis-management. “I always joke that I was already living in Utah, and Mitt wanted to save the relocation expenses,” Bullock adds.

Actually, saving those expenses was a harbinger of things to come. In short order, Romney and Bullock discovered that what you don’t know can hurt you. It was no secret that the media’s new favorite target was SLOC, that the Justice Department was looking for skeletons in SLOC’s closet, and that radio talk show hosts were shouting SLOC’s name from the rooftops. Moreover, SLOC had no operations plan, they weren’t using appropriate financial systems, and they had no Paralympic organization—SLOC is the first organizing committee to do both games. Morale was nonexistent. “The organization was virtually paralyzed; it didn’t know which way to turn,” Bullock explains.

What wasn’t readily apparent at the time of the scandal was that there was a severe financial crisis. Adding up all the numbers, Bullock and Romney discovered that SLOC was headed for a projected $400 million budget shortfall. And the previous twelve months gave little reason for confidence that they could fix the problem: SLOC had raised only $13 million the year before the scandal hit the headlines. “It doesn’t take a math degree to figure out that with about three years to go, the Salt Lake Olympics were in trouble; and at that rate, we weren’t going to be able to raise the funds to close the budget deficit, ” Bullock explains.

Now imagine Santorum or Paul, Gingrich or Obama in the same situation. Hard to do, isn’t it?

So how did Romney and his crew manage? Well, according to my article:

As of the end of October, SLOC had raised $859 million dollars, $395 million more than Atlanta,the previous high. Because SLOC gives 40 percent of what it raises to the United States Olympic Committee and because some of the donations were in kind and therefore not budget relieving, the net impact of the fund raising was to reduce the budget deficit by about $200 million dollars. Add that to the $200 million Bullock and his team were able to cut, and the snake was dead. “So at this point, we believe we’re in a break-even situation, which is exactly where we want to be,” reports Bullock, who recently relinquished one of his SLOC titles, CFO.

Read the story(beginning on page 21). It tells of a turnaround effort that should cause everybody to take a second look at Romney–and then beg that he ask Bullock to be his VP.

UPDATE: On my Facebook page, BYU Professor Warner Woodruff responded to this post:

Warner Woodworth – This sounds too naive, or at least too one-sided. This guy must be a Mormon or a Republican fanatic to have such a love affair with Mitt’s Olympics. From the sources I knew who helped manage the games in 2002, it was a lot more complicated, and Mitt was made to look better than his leadership really warranted. But maybe they were all wrong back then.

And I responded:

Gregory Taggart – Warner, this guy is me, and the article was for an alumni magazine–your school’s–and written before the games even started, so yes, it is one-sided. Nevertheless, the sources I know give him great credit, even as they acknowledge that Mitt didn’t carry the Games on his back, something I don’t think he has ever claimed. Finally, I plead guilty to being Mormon–how did you guess?–and a Romney fan. Fanatic? No. Neither am I naive. Just someone pulling for a guy I like, gaffes and all.

I’ll add that I’m vaguely aware that some of the people involved in bringing the Games to SLC were put out that Romney got so much credit and they so little, due in large part to the scandal. I can understand that. My feelings at the time were that the original organizers were unfairly tarred by the so-called scandal. Not that there was no scandal, mind you. There was, but the goings on seemed to be part and parcel of the bidding process, a process–tainted as it was–that apparently had been going on for years. The unfairness was that it came to light on SLC’s watch. (I stress that these are vague memories, so don’t quote me on this.)

No, That Gap

By , May 15, 2011 7:13 pm

The following passage from Walter Russell Mead‘s essay, Establishment Blues, has caused me to think about and appreciate my faith more than anything I’ve read outside the scriptures in many moons:

The religion gap between the elite and the rest of the country is a big part of the problem — and in more ways than one. I can’t help but notice that the abandonment of serious religion by most of the American elite has coincided with a massive collapse in both the public and private morality of the American establishment. Kids who weren’t raised in church or synagogue or mosque, who were taught that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ were simplistic categories in a complex moral world of shades of gray, who were told that their highest moral duty was to be true to their inner passions, who were the first generation in American history to be raised in a Scripture-free educational medium, turn into self-indulgent, corner-cutting, self-centered adults.

What a surprise! We raised a generation of bright kids without a foundation in religion, and they’ve grown up and gone to Wall Street. We never told them that the virtuous life was both necessary and hard, that character was something that had to be built step by step from youth, that moral weakness was both contemptible and natural: and we are shocked, shocked! when, placed in proximity to large sums of loose cash, they grab all they can.

Religion is no guarantee of righteousness; Elmer Gantry is not the only sticky-fingered preacher in the history of the world. But at least in western history when the culture and habits of mind of an entire social milieu have lost touch with their cultural foundations in ethical monotheism, trouble is usually on the way. The estrangement from religion is also an estrangement from the ideas and cultural values that bind society into a workable whole.

The French aristocrats laughed at the manners and the morals of the common people and ridiculed the faith that lit the darkness and softened the harsh conditions of ordinary lives. Enlightened and cosmopolitan, the establishment mocked the attachment of the ignorant peasants to the king. The well educated, well connected elites accepted no limits on their ability to convert their social privilege into personal wealth; they accepted no limits on the gratification of their physical desires — flaunting their romantic affairs in the same spirit in which they feasted at Versailles while the gaunt peasants starved. They used and abused to the fullest all the privileges that came with their status while mocking and rejecting any sense of duty and obligation.

It was fun while it lasted.

I’ve bolded the parts that have virtually been ringing in my ears since I first read the essay. I’m not sure why. Yes, what Mead says confirms my own beliefs, but the reason his thoughts have so impressed themselves upon mine must go beyond that. Maybe with a little more thought on my own, I can come up with the reason.

This I do know: I am thankful beyond measure for the faith of my father and mother, my grandfather and my grandmother, and–lucky me–my progenitors going as far back as my great-great grandparents on both sides. You see, my great-great grandfathers on both sides marched in the Mormon Battalion across the United States, into Mexico, and on to San Diego–well before The Beach Boys beckoned us all to Southern California. And then they walked back to Salt Lake City and, at least in the case of George Washington Taggart, walked on to Winter Quarters, Nebraska–prodded on by the faith that strengthens me daily.

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