Friday, December 28, 2012

Gifts …

Gifts smI taught a lesson last Sunday. The assigned source for the discussion was a talk given by Pres. Henry B. Eyring entitled, “Help Them Aim High”. From the title of his talk you might be wondering how I jumped to gifts, I’ll ask for an indulgence as I review, what was for me, a great lesson; not because of anything I said but rather for where the class took the lesson.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

So You Think You Know The 80–20 Rule?

man frustratedDo you want to motivate others to change behavior? Are you frustrated that your children, students, employees … aren’t moved to action by your crystal clear messages. Perhaps there is a lesson in the following 80-20 story found in “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, by Chip and Dan Heath:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Should Congress Delegate Its Authority to Increase the National Debt Ceiling?

John MarshallThere are Supreme court rulings that support as well as oppose allowing Congress to delegate a broad range of its law-making power to bureaucracies within the Executive branch. The Supreme Court stated in US v. Shreveport Grain and Elevator Co., “That the legislative power of Congress cannot be delegated is, of course, clear. But Congress may declare its will, and, after fixing a primary standard, devolve upon administrative officers the "power to fill up the details" by prescribing administrative rules and regulations.” In 1825 Chief Justice John Marshall stated in his opinion in Wayman v. Southard, that Congress may not delegate powers that “are strictly and exclusively legislative.

Monday, November 26, 2012

William George Jordan Shares His Secret for Creating Analogies

William George Jordan created a lecture series entitled Mental Training: By Analysis, Law, & Analogy in the early 1890’s. The objective of these was to improve the ability of students to digest and utilize information.

In 1907 he published a pamphlet entitled Mental Training: A Remedy for “Education” which included a list of his twelve lectures along with a short summary of each. His view on education can be summed up in one short sentence; rather than simply feed children facts we should focus on teaching them how to think. In Mental Training shares his proposed methods for giving students the tools the need to digest and use information.

I’ve always been amazed by Jordan’s ability to teach using analogies drawn from a vast array of historical events, everyday objects, machinery … . He shares the “secret” to developing this skill as he describes an experience with a student of his lectures:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"If God be for us who can be against us." The Miracle of 1746

We read in the Old Testament of the many times God intervened in the affairs of man. From the escape of the Israelites from Egypt to the fall of Jericho, miracles seem to have been almost a daily occurrence. Why then did the Israelites repeatedly turn their back on the Lord? Good question, perhaps they simply forgot or were able to rationalize the miracles away. Many were the miracles associated with the founding of our country. These have been largely lost and are no longer to be found in today’s history books. On a day which we celebrate gratitude I would like to share one of my favorite “miracles”. One that that was celebrated for years and for which Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a ballad about over 130 years after the incident.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Favorite William George Jordan Quotes

William George Jordan - 1910-08 - Americana One of my favorite authors is William George Jordan. What I love about his writing is his ability to paint pictures with words and then use them to teach principles. You can find a quotable quote in nearly every paragraph he writes. Below are some of my favorites (I’ll be adding to this list over time).  If you are preparing a speech and are looking for insightful quotes on human nature Jordan has some great ones. Links to all of WGJ’s books can be found in my post “Books by William George Jordan.”

  • "Let us conceive of gratitude in its largest, most beautiful sense, that if we receive any kindness we are debtor, not merely to one man, but to the whole world. As we are each day indebted to thousands for the comforts, joys, consolations, and blessings of life, let us realize that it is only by kindness to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one [and] begin to make gratitude the atmosphere of all our living and a constant expression in outward acts, rather than in mere thoughts."
    —The Power of Truth

Friday, November 16, 2012

Can Communities Enact Sunday Closing Ordinances? A Postscript.

First of all I want to thank those of my friends who supported changing our Sunday closing policy, because it challenged me to research my initial position. I would also like to thank those who referred to me and other supporters as “idiotic fairy tale worshippers”, “blatant hypocrites”, “tyrants”, “religious bullies”, “liars”, having “libido dominandi [the will to power, the desire to dominate, the lust for government] … for providing the ongoing motivation to continue my research and study the issue.

The result of my research and study (see my earlier posts on Sunday closing for detailed information and sources) led me to the conclusion that while cities, counties and states may enact legislation that supports either side of the question, choosing to support as a common day of rest a great decision. Here’s why:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bright Spots

Switch by Chip and Dan HeathIn Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, authors Chip and Dan Heath share the story of Jerry Sternin (1938-2008) who in 1990, while working for Save the Children, was asked to open an office in Vietnam and fight malnutrition. He was told by the Vietnamese government that he had six months to make a difference. Note, in 1990 about 65 percent of all Vietnamese children under the age of five suffered from malnutrition.

Jerry had researched malnutrition in Vietnam. The conventional wisdom was that the causes were poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water, and ignorance of the rural villagers. From Jerry's point of view this information was “True But Useless”, as there was little he could do in six months to remedy those issues, especially with almost no budget.

Fast forward six months and Jerry had improved the health of over 60 percent of the children in 14 villages. Over time what he did reached 2.2 million Vietnamese people in 265 villages. He accomplished this without resolving the key issues mentioned above and with very limited financial resources.

How was that accomplished on a shoestring budget?

Jerry Sternin in Vietnam, 1991According to Jerry “It's easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting.” Jerry visited a limited number of villages and assessed the health of the children in each one. He then analyzed the information he collected, found the “bright spots” (healthy children among the very poor), studied what the mothers of those children did differently, then shined a light on their practices and let the villagers help each other modify their behaviors.

What were the behaviors?

  • Bright-spot moms fed their children four times instead of twice a day. In total they did not give their children more food they just spread it out over the course of the day (malnourished children could only process a limited amount of food at one time).
  • These moms were actively involved in feeding their children. Rather than just having them eat out of a communal bowl, these mothers encouraged their children to eat and hand-fed them if necessary, even when the children were not feeling well and did not want to eat.
  • Bright-spot moms also added bits of crab and shrimp from the rice paddies to the rice as well as sweet potato greens (considered a low class food).
  • He then worked with the villagers and "designed a program in which fifty malnourished families, in groups of ten, would meet at a hut each day and prepare food. These families were required to bring shrimp, crabs, and sweet-potato greens. The mothers washed their hands with soap and cooked the meal together."

The problem was solved using the local wisdom of the village. No earth shattering discoveries taking years of research were needed nor were millions of dollars required to change a host of social and infrastructural issues. Simply looking for small pockets of success, in the otherwise dismal world of children's health in rural Vietnam; then shining a light on it.

Don't we sometimes look at our environment, whether it be work, civic, or home, and feel overwhelmed by the myriad of apparent obstacles to achieve success. Some of these are ones we have little control over and would seemingly require more time and money than we have to overcome. However, if we are willing to look for them, it is always possible to find small areas of success that we can build on.


Monday, November 12, 2012

If thy brother hast ought against thee

Sermon on the MountWe covered Christ’s teaching of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Sunday School last week. As I was preparing the lesson I kept being drawn to two verses in particular—Matt 5:23-24  which read:

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought [anything] against thee;

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Highland Prop 6 Results and Comments

Here are the results as Tuesday night November 6, 2012:

  • For 2,993 (45.94%)
  • Against 3,522 (54.06%)

Although there may be additional adjustments due to absentee and/or provisional ballots we can be fairly sure that the end result will stand.

Note, here’s the final count dated 20 November 2012. To see a signed copy of the Official Certification of the Highland City Municipal Election of November 8, 2012 click here.

Highland Prop 6 Final Results - Click to go to Utah County site

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why I drive PAST the stores in my city to shop in Highland

Here’s an email that was sent last night by a resident of Cedar Hills who shops in Highland because of our Sunday closing policy and she is evidently not the only one.

Dear friends,

vote against prop 6I cannot vote on Prop 6 because I do not live in Highland but I wish that I could because I am certainly in favor of SUNDAY CLOSURE and would vote AGAINST proposition 6.  Whenever possible I drive past the McDonalds, Harts and Wal-Mart in Cedar Hills to shop in Highland because I love to support stores that are closed on Sundays.   I also go to Highland instead of American Fork or Pleasant Grove.  I would rather have my money go to your city even more than my own.  I also know that I am not the only one who feels this way.  So this is another issue to consider when thinking about your tax dollars--mine and others will stay in Cedar Hills/AF/PG if your stores open on Sundays.  

Thank you for your consideration.  Feel free to forward onto others,

Julie Sessions

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunday Closing: My Final Thoughts

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time since March of this year researching “Blue Laws”, dialoging with supporters and detractors. I’ve found clear and overwhelming support for Sunday closure laws from any virtually any perspective you wish do choose. No need for logical gymnastics, no need to parse words and stretch points, simple clear common sense support from many, many sources.

Residents of Highland can freely choose to support or oppose the change to Sunday opening based on what they feel will be best for the community. We have the freedom to make that choice. Business rights do not trump the rights of residents. The claim if you don’t support Sunday opening you oppose “liberty” is not supported well by the Constitution, the Founders, or the sources they used in framing the Constitution.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fiscal Conservatives should vote AGAINST Prop 6 in Highland by Tara Tarbet

The other side notes that Smith's Marketplace generates over $400K in annual sales tax revenue, Wal-Mart produces over $300K. What they choose NOT to mention is that Lehi and Cedar Hills only receive 50% of that revenue. The rest is redistributed by the state to municipalities based on each municipality's population. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

“Blue Law” Gold by Mark Beesley

highland-utahMark Beesley submitted the a letter to the SL Tribune and then recorded a message regarding proposition 6. Mark is one of many non-LDS members of our community who share the view that we should maintain our current Sunday closing policy. He said in an email that “changing the policy is simply bad economics for the vast majority of residents. If Highland homogenizes itself into another Lehi, American Fork or Orem our community will be less attractive and property values will decrease. The introduction of more tired national chains that can only survive on a 7-day model will eliminate the diversity, charm and value of locally-owned businesses that truly cater to local tastes. I believe it makes sense to reject Proposition 6.”

Here is his recording and a copy of the letter he submitted to the Tribune:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Moral Foundation for Sunday Closure Laws by Ben Austin

I thought Ben Austin’s summary on Sunday Closure laws from a moral perspective was excellent. He agreed to allow me to post it on my site. It is well worth a few minutes of your time to read. Thanks Ben.


I wish to warn you that the following essay is somewhat lengthy. Many of you will feel that I could have covered each point much more quickly. I acknowledge this, but I chose to develop the ideas slowly and carefully because I wanted to be sure I was thorough. You will also find that Sunday closure is not even mentioned until the very end, but the earlier portions are necessary because they set up the framework for understanding blue laws. These sections are also valuable because they set the stage for discussing other political debates as well, such as the definition of marriage (a topic which I plan to address with my next treatise). I know that the first part of this paper is very philosophical and rather abstract. I do not consider myself an expert in philosophy, but I've tried to model my arguments using C.S. Lewis' writings as an example, so hopefully it will all make sense.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday Closure Thoughts by Kristen Chevrier

Some thoughts on Sunday closure (please share this with your friends in Highland):

I do not see the push to abolish Sunday closing laws as a push toward freedom. I see it as just another attempt to homogenize and to stifle the ability of a community to set its own standards.

Please consider the following:

An Alternative Solution for Highland's Revenue Problem that Increases Freedom by TJ Abbott

Here’s a great tongue in cheek solution (at least I think it is:) to Highland’s revenue problems that could even be “better” than eliminating the common day of rest which has always been part of Highland but is now viewed by some as limiting our freedom. Thank you TJ for this brilliant proposal.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunday Business Opening by Don Ruzicka

Don wrote the following open letter to Highland residents regarding Prop 6 which is on the ballot this election cycle. I thought I’d share it with you.

For many years Highland has had an ordinance that does not allow businesses to be open on Sunday. With a few exceptions the vast majority of businesses everywhere already close on Sunday simply because they too need a day of rest and because of the reality that comparatively little shopping occurs on Sunday. Other businesses came to operate here and serve us knowing they could not be open on Sunday. As a result Highland has uniquely enjoyed a very peaceful and relaxed atmosphere on Sundays which has always been an important part of its charm and desirability. It’s nice to be able to take a leisurely drive to visit relatives or friends or just enjoy the abundant beauty that we are surrounded by in Highland without having to contend with the congestion and frenetic pace of every other day. It is truly one of the most beautiful and desirable places to live anywhere. IT’S WHY MOST OF US CHOSE TO LIVE HERE!

Lessons from a Sea Shell

I teach a Sunday School class for 17 and 18 year olds. Each Sunday I bring a random object and ask the class members to find a lesson in it. I reserve time at the end of the lesson to let the class share their thoughts.

See shell from IndiaLast Sunday I brought in a sea shell I picked up on a recent business trip to India. I showed them the shell at the beginning of the lesson and asked them to guess where I got it. Of course, no one guessed and they were surprised to learn it was from India. I then proceeded with my lesson.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Can Communities Enact Sunday Closing Ordinances–Part II

A more than sufficient number of signatures have been affixed to a referendum that will put a recent Highland City ordinance, lifting a restrictions on Sunday business operations, on the ballot this November (1,893 were validated versus the required 889). So now let the debate begin. See Part I for background info or click here to see a list of all posts on this subject from multiple Highland residents. If you want a good chuckle read “An Alternative Solution For Highland’s Revenue Problem that Increases Freedom”.

Well actually is has already begun. Local newspapers have published several articles, Facebook and blog posts have been written with a number of comments and replies (1). I’ve found that opponents to Sunday restrictions fit one or more of the following categories:

  • Strict libertarians who are opposed to most if not all restrictions on property rights.
  • Those who although they may value a common day of rest do not wish to “impose” that value on others.
  • Those who rebel at the thought of religious underpinnings to any law or ordinance. They may value a common day of rest but don’t want to feel like they are being told what to do.
  • Those who have no interest in a common day of rest or those who value the potential tax revenue from businesses more than a common day of rest.

Those that support Sunday restrictions include:

  • Those who value a common day of rest and believe it benefits the community as a whole.
  • Those who want to limit business growth in our small community.

Below are three of the most frequent comments by opponents of Sunday restrictions on business. They represent valid points of views or questions. My responses to each follows:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Can Communities Enact Sunday Closing Ordinances?

Book cover of The True-Blue Laws of Connecticut and New Haven and the False Blue-Laws Invented by the Rev Samuel PetersAn issue that has come up in our community, Highland, Utah, regarding the a city ordinance that precluded businesses being open on Sunday (these types of laws and ordinances are often referred to as Blue Laws). The issue arose because of a challenge with the city budget. The rationale for removing the restriction was it would help the city attract new businesses thus raising additional sales tax revenues. The city council, after much discussion with the residents, passed an ordinance which eliminates the community day of rest.

Personally, I am opposed to the change but I have respected friends who are supportive of it. While the concept of a shared community day of rest coincides with one of the 10 Commandments, the adoption of Sunday business restrictions is no more “enforced religion” than laws that prohibit stealing, lying (perjury), or killing, each of which are also one of the 10 Commandments.

Before we get into a lengthy discussion on the matter (see Can Communities Enact Sunday Closing Ordinances – Part II?) let’s get some facts on the table:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Fourth of July

Taylor Caldwell (1900-1984) was prolific writer whose works include Pillar of Iron, The Listener, and Captains and the Kings. The following “speech” given by a disabled veteran is found in her book The Sound of Thunder. It is an excellent reminder of what we really celebrate on the 4th.

fireworks-statue-of-liberty“It’s very good to celebrate the Fourth of July with firecrackers and the shooting off of cannon and bonfires and picnics and speeches. It’s nice to go out in rowboats and canoes on the lake, here in the park, and have a holiday. A holiday. I know you people work very hard, most of you twelve hours a day, six days a week. My dad does, too. You deserve a holiday, and pleasure, and the banging of firecrackers. But it shouldn’t be on the Fourth of July. Independence Day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

To Each Generation: A Right and a Responsibility

Mike Bready, a neighbor and fellow state delegate, shared with me his thoughts on the race between Senator Orrin Hatch and Dan Liljenquist.  He sent me the write-up  allowed me to share it on my blog. His insights have value well beyond tomorrow’s primary.. Here it is:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Brief Review of Senator Hatch’s Votes on Unconstitutional Bills by Scott Bradley

imageIn 2006 Scott Bradley ran as the Constitution party’s nominee against Senator Hatch for the U.S. Senator. Note, prior to joining the Constitution Party, Scott was a long-time active member of the Republican party. During his campaign is produced the following short list of votes by Senator Hatch that expand the power of the Federal government beyond its Constitutional bounds. Scott graciously gave me permission to share this with you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sources of Campaign Donations to Representative Jim Matheson

Representative Jim MathesonI’m adding Jim Matheson to the list of current Utah federal representatives who’s donations I’m analyzing. Below are charts & tables that summarize 2006-2012 campaign contribution data from MapLight (a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that seeks to show the impact of money on politics). I downloaded the data June 14, 2012. 

Individual donors are required to provide addresses to campaigns so it is easy to show the source of funds from a location perspective. For PACs it is difficult because if a PAC is set up by a company with a national or global presence then it is hard to identify a specific location. If on the other hand it is a PAC that represents an industry or cause then donors can come from anywhere in the US. For the PACs I went through the list and identified the ones that I determined had a significant presence in Utah (for corporations I looked up where they had offices or plants) then added a small fudge factor to this total to err on the side of donations from Utah. Note, similar to Hatch donations I did not take the time to research all of them but I did look for those that I thought would have a Utah presence first. Also, I generalized the industries for the PAC contributions (e.g. Pharmaceuticals, Hospitals, Doctors, and Medical Devices are categorized as Healthcare) and added a pie chart to the sources PAC donations by Industry.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sources of Campaign Donations to Representative Jason Chaffetz

Jason_Chaffetz Official PortraitOne of Senator Hatch’s campaign staff asked me to select another candidate for federal office and do an analysis of their campaign donation sources so they could be compared. I thought it was a reasonable suggestions so I decided to use Representative Chaffetz as a comparator to Senator Hatch. As I did for the Senator I tried to err on the side of contributions coming from Utah when there was subjectivity involved.
Below are charts & tables that summarize campaign contribution data I downloaded from MapLight (a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that seeks to show the impact of money on politics). The data contains all donations for election cycles 2006-2012. I downloaded the data June 13, 2012. 

Individual donors are required to provide addresses to campaigns so it is easy to show the source of funds from a location perspective. Note, there just a few donations that had no state listed so I assigned them to Utah.
For PACs it is difficult because if a is PAC set up by a company with a national or global presence then it is hard to identify a specific location. If on the other hand it is a PAC that represents an industry or cause then donors can come from anywhere in the US. For the PACs I went through the list and identified the ones that had I determined had a significant presence in Utah (for corporations I look up where they had offices or plants) then multiplied their donations by 2 to cover anything I missed to come up with the percentage donated that are Utah related. Note, similar to Hatch donations I did not take the time to research all of them but I did look for those that I thought would have a Utah presence first. Also, I generalized the industries for the PAC contributions (e.g. Pharmaceuticals, Hospitals, Doctors, and Medical Devices are categorized as Healthcare) and added a pie chart to the sources PAC donations by Industry.
Aside from the amounts involved there is a stark difference between the mix of donors between Senator Hatch and Representative Chaffetz. Whereas 22% of the individual donor’s to the Senator come from Utah, 69% Chaffetz’s donations come from Utah. The ratio of individual donors to PACs is 55/45 for Senator Hatch and nearly the reverse, 46/54 for Representative Chaffetz. Also, while Jason’s biggest PAC category was Political (mostly conservative groups which isn’t surprising since he is a Tea Party favorite) at 24%, Senator Hatch’s was Healthcare at 30%.

The source file, Chaffetz 2006-2012 Campaign Contributions (Excel 2007), can be downloaded simply by clicking on the aforementioned filename.

Here are the charts and tables:

  Contribution Amounts Percentage
Source   UT   Non-UT   Total     UT   Not UT
Individuals  $     400,264  $     180,097  $     580,361 46% 69% 31%
PACs  $     483,832  $     191,804  $     675,636 54% 72% 28%
Total  $     884,096  $     371,901  $  1,255,997 100% 70% 30%
Jason Chaffetz Campaign Donations 2006-20122006-2012 Campaign Contributions for Jason Chaffetz: PAC vs. Individual 2006-2012 Campaign Contributions for Jason Chaffetz: Location of Individual Donors2006-2012 Campagin Contributions for Jason Chaffetz: PAC Donations by Industry
State  Contributions  %
UT  $             400,264 68.97%
CA  $               42,302 7.29%
VA  $               23,159 3.99%
NY  $               18,700 3.22%
FL  $               17,010 2.93%
AZ  $               16,750 2.89%
CO  $                 9,800 1.69%
MD  $                 9,226 1.59%
CT  $                 7,500 1.29%
DC  $                 6,650 1.15%
NV  $                 6,250 1.08%
TX  $                 5,600 0.96%
MA  $                 3,000 0.52%
SC  $                 2,500 0.43%
NM  $                 2,400 0.41%
ID  $                 2,250 0.39%
DE  $                 1,200 0.21%
GA  $                 1,000 0.17%
NJ  $                 1,000 0.17%
PA  $                 1,000 0.17%
MI  $                 1,000 0.17%
OH  $                     500 0.09%
KY  $                     500 0.09%
OK  $                     200 0.03%
MT  $                     200 0.03%
TN  $                     200 0.03%
MN  $                     200 0.03%
Grand Total  $             580,361  

Industry  Contributions  %
Political  $             164,126 24.29%
Finance  $             124,243 18.39%
Energy  $               62,500 9.25%
Healthcare  $               60,250 8.92%
Retail  $               53,000 7.84%
Construction  $               29,500 4.37%
Manufacturing  $               26,000 3.85%
Defense  $               26,000 3.85%
Transportation  $               23,000 3.40%
IT  $               19,707 2.92%
Entertainment  $               17,500 2.59%
Agriculture  $               17,500 2.59%
Insurance  $               12,000 1.78%
Communications  $               11,500 1.70%
Real Estate  $               11,000 1.63%
Legal  $                 8,060 1.19%
Misc  $                 5,500 0.81%
Media  $                 4,250 0.63%
Grand Total  $             675,636 100.00%