Tom Grover

Las Vegas, Nevada

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It’s long past time for Utah State University to properly honor Senator Harry Reid

March 27th, 2015 · Uncategorized

This morning, Utah State Aggie Harry Reid announced that, after 30 years representing Nevada in the Senate, he would retire. In addition to being an Aggie, Senator Reid will have also served as Majority Leader for eight years.

Senator Reid is, without question, the most famous graduate of Utah State University ever. No other graduate of Utah State – or any other Utah school for that matter – has even come close to ascending to Reid’s height in U.S. government.

Reid was born into poverty, the son of a miner and a laundress who cleaned the laundry for the 13 or so brothels in Searchlight, Nevada. Reid learned to swim and play billiards in those brothels.

So what was the conduit between Reid’s hard scrabble beginnings and his ascendency to the very top of the most powerful deliberative body in the world?

His education. Reid received his bachelors degree from Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Utah State is the kind of place that can propel an impoverished kid playing billiards in a Nevada brothel to running the United States Senate. That’s a story that should be told and retold by Utah State, and part of telling that story is properly honoring Reid on campus.

In addition, while at Utah State, Reid joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a decision that would have a profound impact on the direction of his life.

Yet, strangely, there isn’t any kind of significant acknowledgement on campus that Reid’s improbable path included the Spot Where the Sagebrush Grows. UNLV has named a building after Reid, and Reid didn’t even go to school there! If a visitor walks around Utah State’s campus today, they are given absolutely no indication that Reid went to school there. It’s really quite unbelievable.

Utah State should proudly claim Reid as one of it’s most prominent graduates by naming a major building or facility after him. No doubt that some yokels will balk, simply because Reid’s politics run contrary to most Utahns (and, frankly, my own), but this is obviously not a legitimate reason to not honor Reid. By honoring Reid, Utah State increases it’s it’s prominence and tells the important story that through an education at Utah State anything is possible.

GO AGGIES!

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The Daily Show skewers Clark County School District’s abstinence only sex education

February 13th, 2015 · Uncategorized

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Jerry Tarkanian & the infamous Spectrum water bomb incident

February 12th, 2015 · Uncategorized

tark

As a kid growing up in Cache Valley, I have fond memories of some crazy games between Utah State and Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels in the Spectrum.  The Spectrum was especially raucous when UNLV came to town.  Of all the great stories in Spectrum lore, however, the infamous 1990 Jerry Tarkanian water bomb is an incident that Aggie fans love to relive and retell.

Engineering students rigged a water pump in the vent behind the UNLV bench.  Triggered by remote, the pump soaked the Shark with Aggie blue water.

Now, a lot of coaches would have been pissed about that, and some would have likely even given a lecture about “class”.

Not Tark.

He loved it.

And you gotta love that about him.

RIP, Tark, from this Aggie and many others who have nothing but fond memories of you.

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The tender feelings of millionaires

February 12th, 2015 · Uncategorized

Major League Soccer isn’t coming to Vegas.   It appears that simply putting the Soccer Stadium taxpayer subsidy on the ballot  was enough to drive MLS away.

From the Review-Journal:

The partnership of Findlay Sports & Entertainment and Cordish Cos won a $56.6 million subsidy from City Council in December to build a $200 million, 24,000-seat stadium in Symphony Park in its effort to draw an MLS team.

But the 4-3 council approval on Dec. 17 stirred political turmoil, as Councilman Bob Beers successfully sued his own city to get the stadium subsidy on the ballot to allow city votyers to decide in June.

“They’re waiting for a response from the league (MLS),” Coffin said. “They’ve been beaten up pretty bad and they’re not public people. They’re not used to being criticized by everyone.”

Sorry, Councilman Coffin, I just can’t muster the same sympathy for the investors.   Did you know that the median household income in Clark County is just $52,873?  So when the soccer investors asked for a $57 million handout from Las Vegas taxpayers, they ceased being private persons and became very public persons. They  voluntarily opened themselves up to be “criticized by everyone.”

Of course, if they didn’t want to be “criticized by everyone,” they could have funded the stadium privately.  And, under basic market principles, if there had been any actual demand for a downtown soccer stadium, there wouldn’t have been a problem raising sufficient private capital.

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The real, actual reason John Dehlin will be excommunicated

February 4th, 2015 · Uncategorized

For a century and a half, the narrative of the Restoration was told and retold, passed from one generation to the next with little to no professional historical treatment. Like a faith promoting game of “telephone,” as the narrative was passed along, it evolved away from fact. That evolution was fueled by the excited,  pure faith of the storytellers, who wanted to present the sacred in the most inspiring light possible. Now, to be sure, the people involved in this narrative evolution did not have nefarious intent. In fact, they did not know about the evolution at all! They just told and retold the narrative that meant so much to them, that had profound, and very real spiritual meaning, even if it had departed from the facts.

By the late twentieth century when professional treatment of Church history began in earnest, a wide chasm had developed between the factual historical record and the narrative that Latter-day Saints were taught around the dinner table, at FHE, in seminary and in Sunday School. Complexities about the Prophet Joseph Smith, airbrushed over for generations, re-emerged. Initially, those blemishes were only known by wonky academics. The average lay member of the Church was completely oblivious to the chasm.

But then the information revolution changed everything.

Suddenly, the previously forgotten messy, contradictory, unflattering and often disturbing elements of our origins were just a few clicks away.   The chasm had grown so large for many, that claims about Joseph Smith marrying other men’s wives or a 14 year old girl could only be understood as bombastic anti-Mormon lies. Those who kept digging, however, were forced to face a difficult jarring reality- the narrative they had been taught, and upon which they had built their lives, was radically different than the historical record.

This experience has been heart wrenching and anguishing for many Latter-day Saints. Marriages and families were in jeopardy. Spouses who discovered the chasm often faced marital discord, and even divorce. Though the Internet has been commercially available to the masses for twenty years now, until very recently, the Church essentially ignored this growing phenomenon. No resources were developed or offered to those in a crisis of faith. Those who fell upon a crisis of faith were alone.

Until John Dehlin came long.

John discovered the chasm while serving as an early morning seminary teacher. Instead of struggling alone, John created a forum, Mormon Stories, to discuss the chasm issues in depth, honestly and respectfully. That’s what has made John unique. Every topic he has covered on Mormon Stories has previously been discussed elsewhere. However, religion generally, and Mormonism specifically, are extremely volatile and polarizing. Apologists and polemicists offer such charged, diametrically opposite treatments of Mormonism as to be essentially useless to a person struggling in a faith crisis. John’s unique contribution to Mormonism was the one-on-one help he has provided to thousands, as well as the even handed approach to discussing the chasm.

John invited experts on Mormon Stories to discuss, in hours long interviews, the difficult issues carefully and in depth. Unlike apologists and polemicists, John’s agenda has never been to convince his audience to view Mormon issues in a certain way, but instead to provide a forum to discuss the issues openly and understand them better. By having a thoughtful, steady, balanced forum to discuss Mormon issues, many thousands of Latter-day Saints worked through their faith crisis.

Personally, John’s wide ranging interview with “Rough Stone Rolling,” author Dr. Richard Bushman was pivotal in my ability to accept the historical record in Mormonism while finding a way to see the Divine in our history. John pressed Dr. Bushman with the kind of blunt questions that I had.   Dr. Bushman responded with brilliant, honest answers. I still distinctly remember driving down 400 North in Logan listening to the Mormon Stories episode where Dr. Bushman bore his testimony of why and how he believed even though he fully understood the disturbing parts of our history. Things finally “clicked” for me. It was a resource that only existed through Mormon Stories. The Church offers no equivalent, sadly.

Of course, John’s work has upset some people. Discussing these difficult issues or even acknowledging the existence of the chasm makes some people feel threatened. After all, these issues raise the possibility that the sacred narrative we have been taught isn’t entirely accurate. That scares some people. So instead of engaging the issues, they project their spiritual fears and anxieties onto and against John Dehlin, the very man who has put himself out there to help people work through their faith crisis.

John’s fate is set. His Stake President wants John to remove all of the Mormon Stories episodes, which address difficult, controversial issues, which are unflattering to the Church. In other words, John’s Stake President wants him to deny the existence of the chasm, and from now on to ignore it.

John is a man of integrity and won’t deny that the chasm exists or that it continues to hurt families, marriages and individuals.

That’s the real reason John is being excommunicated. In a twist of irony, the man who has helped Mormons navigate the effects of proof-texted history is the target of proof-texted accusations. Of ten years of John’s work, the accusers have hand picked, and proof-texted a few Facebook comments as the basis to terminate John’s membership in the Church. These Facebook comments, like any Facebook comments, were not polished thoughts but informal, undeveloped statements. Of course, that’s a flimsy pretext.  John is being excommunicated for refusing to deny the existence of the chasm.

John will be excommunicated on Sunday evening, February 8, 2015 in North Logan, Utah.

Excommunicating John Dehlin won’t make the unflattering facts about Joseph Smith’s life or our origins go away.

Excommunicating John Dehiln won’t resolve issues surrounding the historicity of the Scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, Bible and Book of Abraham.

Excommunicating John Dehlin won’t heal the wounds Latter-day Saints have felt in the battle against same-sex marriage.

Good, faithful Latter-day Saints will continue to spiral into faith crisis when they discover the chasm.

And John Dehlin’s work will still be there to help them.

When the sun breaks over the Bear River Mountains in Cache Valley early Monday morning, February 9, 2015, the chasm will still exist.

Eppur si muove.

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on the Review-Journal’s decision to disable comments

January 23rd, 2015 · Uncategorized

You may have noticed this morning that the Review Journal has disabled comments on news articles. Currently, each article in the RJ is appended with this notice:

Due to an increase in uncivil behavior and dialogue the Review-Journal has temporarily disabled the comment boards. The Review-Journal will use the time to evaluate the effectiveness of the comment boards and find an appropriate time to reintroduce them to reviewjournal.com.

A more detailed explanation can be read here.

That reads as though the RJ has put the Vegas Valley in time out for bad behavior, and maybe the valley, or at least some in the valley, deserve it. I admit that though I read the RJ every morning, I haven’t read the comments section in a while, so I have no idea whether there was an actual increase in uncivil behavior recently, though, to be honest, it’s hard to see how the comments could have become more uncivil than they have traditionally been.

The RJ is not the first news outlet to struggle with how to handle comments, nor will it be the last. That said, I have mixed feelings about the RJ’s decision.

I sympathize with the RJ as to the burden that these comments place on their resources. Any effort to create and enforce boundaries through a comments policy inevitably drains the very limited resources of the newspaper.

From the RJ’s more detailed explanation:

The reality is that there are simply not enough resources to effectively moderate every story on our site, especially when high-profile stories can rack up hundreds of comments over the course of a few minutes, many that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. We are not unique in this. In an age of ever-leaner newsrooms, not many are in a situation to pull from elsewhere to keep hate-mongers at bay.

Though the RJ doesn’t reference it, I am sure that over the years they have also received numerous “preservation letters” as to potentially defamatory comments. A preservation letter is a demand by someone, usually the person who has been allegedly defamed, that a third party, such as the RJ, preserve certain electronic evidence such as the IP address, email address or other data about the anonymous commenter who engaged in allegedly defamatory conduct. Though the RJ itself is shielded from liability from the defamatory comments of anonymous users by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, there could potentially be liability for the RJ if they failed to preserve evidence upon receipt of a letter. And then there’s the not insignificant administrative cost and burden of dealing with preservation letters.

That said, I do see value in the comments section of the RJ as much of a cesspool as it may be at times. I recall last year that RJ columnist Steve Sebelius commented on twitter that while the overwhelming majority of comments have little to no substantive value or insight, there are a smattering of smart takes that appear. I tend to agree with this. And even the comments which are bigoted, racist and hateful serve a limited purpose as they remind us of the harsh reality that such ignorant darkness exists right here in our own valley. That dark reality would exist whether or not revealed by the comments section in the RJ. We are better off as a community knowing that it exists.

Additionally, sometimes the subjects of a news article will appear in the comments section to engage the public, at times promoting their cause, at other times setting the record straight as they see it. This can act as a check on the RJ, as well as give people in the news the opportunity to speak directly to the public. This is especially valuable where the person in the article is a lay person without a bully pulpit.

Of course, comments on the RJ have been anonymous, which is both a blessing and a curse. Anonymity removes the social consequences of airing a particular point of view which both liberates otherwise marginalized voices to speak freely but also allows bullies to romp unbounded by social norms and decency.

I hope the RJ finds a way to make comments work on their website, though I sympathize with the many problems and burdens the comments bring.

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Las Vegas in 1971: Drunk Frank Sinatra Tossed From Caesars Palace At Gunpoint

January 12th, 2015 · Uncategorized

From The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, September 8, 1970:
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Apparently, The Chairman of the Board and Caesars Palace patched things up because, according to this write up in the Review-Journal, Sinatra was back performing at Caesars by 1974.

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Mortality

January 7th, 2015 · Uncategorized

Last night I left work late, about 10 PM. I was sitting at a stop light on westbound West Sahara at Town Center. I was in the far right lane, the middle lane was empty and the far left lane also had a car. Suddenly, an SUV blew past me in the middle lane, running the red light. It honestly had to be going 120 MPH or more, I’ve never ever seen a car drive that fast on surface streets. It was so fast that my car was rocked by the air displaced as s/he whizzed by. It was stunning, I am still kind of shaken up by it to be honest. I then held my breath as I watched it blow through three more red lights. Fortunately, it was late enough that traffic was light, otherwise an accident would have meant certain death for some innocent person and/or family. All of this is to say that it was a jarring, unexpected reminder of mortality. I am not guaranteed a tomorrow and neither are you.

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Go Big Red! Beat USC!

December 27th, 2014 · Uncategorized

2014 Holiday Bowl
NEBRASKA vs. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Saturday, December 27, 5:00 PM on ESPN
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

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Las Vegas in 1948: Santa Arrives

December 22nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

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From the Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tuesday, November 30, 1948.

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