Life Imitates The Third V

Once again, life imitates my soon-to-be released novel, The Third. From today’s The Telegraph (U.K.):

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a "single European transport area" aimed at enforcing "a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers" by 2050.

The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.

Top of the EU's list to cut climate change emissions is a target of "zero" for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU's future cities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto "alternative" means of transport.

"That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres," he said. "Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour."

From The Third, Chapter 2:

“You aren’t that young, are you?” Dempsey asked as he took a left on 12th Street, heading west. “I thought you were old enough to remember when just about everyone owned a car.”

Dempsey honked the truck’s horn, and Ransom watched as a lady reading the news board jumped in the air. He could remem­ber car-filled streets, but the memories were few and hazy. The clearest was of him sitting in the backseat of his family’s minivan, looking out the window as his mom pulled into a parking lot filled with cars. Perhaps he remembered it so well because the summer sun had reflected off their windshields and reminded him of a sky filled with stars.

“I was five, maybe six, when the carbon taxes went into effect,” Ransom said. “I remember my dad coming home from work and telling my mom that they couldn’t afford to drive any­more. Sometime after that, I think the car was sold or given to a recycling center.”

The only difference? In my book cars are banned around 2040.

Scary, ain’t it.

Government Bureaucrats and For-Profit Schools

Driving home from work this week, I caught a story on NPR about government regulators and culinary schools. Apparently regulators are upset that students are graduating with loads of debt and entry-level jobs that can’t pay off their loans.

[Roger] Hollis says he has taken out thousands of dollars in student loans to pay for an associate degree in cooking. Despite his work experience and his expensive degree, he'll still be starting at the bottom, as a line cook. "Twelve, 15 [dollars] maybe an hour, yeah."

Many former students say that with that income, it's virtually impossible to keep up with their student loan payments. Newbies may spend years as a line cook; the average salary, according to the online industry magazine Star Chefs, is less than $29,000 a year.

Attorney Michael Louis Kelly represents California students suing the parent company of Cordon Blue, Career Education Corp. His clients say the school promised something it cannot deliver.

"The model doesn't work," Kelly says. "You can't go to school, accumulate $30- or $40- or $50,000 in debt, and then go into an industry where you're going to have to start out at $8 or $12 an hour anyway."

Why are government regulators worried only about students who attend for-profit schools? There are plenty of public and private schools who churn out graduates with loads of debt and little or no job prospects. Last year The New York Times ran a story about Cortney Munna, a former New York University student who racked up $97,000 in student loan debt majoring in religious and women’s studies. After college she found herself making $22 an hour working for a photographer. Back in January the same paper ran a similar story about law school graduates with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt who are unable to find work (or at least work as an attorney) and, as a result, can’t come close to paying back their loans. Shouldn’t government regulators be just as concerned about the cost and job prospects of private and state sponsored non-profit schools as they are about for profit schools?

The education industrial complex generally oversells the value of a degree. It’s something that public institutions do as much as for-profit universities. Kids go through the school system school hearing how a college degree will lead to great jobs and financial security. While this is statistically true in broad terms, rarely do you see these educators showing the market value of a science or engineering degree compared to, say, a liberal arts degree. I’m not saying that college degrees are worthless. It’s just that some have more market value than others.

Students looking to finance their education through student loans should be shown the cost of paying off the loan and realistic job prospects and pay upon graduation and be given some time to think about whether or not the cost is worth it. However, it’s hypocritical for Washington bureaucrats to zero in on just for-profit institutions when you have students graduating from state-sponsored institutions with loads of debt and job prospects that are no better than those who graduate from a for-profit culinary school.

Besides, a degree from any post-secondary education facility—public, private, trade, or for-profit—only goes so far toward financial or career success. In reality one’s work ethic, creativity, and ability to build relationships and adapt to a changing world are much better indicators whether or not you’re going to be successful—financially or otherwise. Instead of focusing on the value of a degree, students and post-secondary schools should teach the aforementioned concepts along with their degree-related material.  The schools and their graduates would be much better off as a result.

Getting a Utah Driver's License is Like Getting an Anal Exam

A Sample Utah Driver's License

Big thumbs down on Utah’s more restrictive driver’s license requirements.

After going through the requisite, but metaphorical, anal exam to renew my license today, I wondering if the legislators who passed the law are more concerned with people's citizenship then keeping unsafe drivers off the road.

In the past renewing a Utah driver's license, providing you had no points or citations on your record, was easy. You filled out a form, wrote a check, and mailed it in or do the entire process online. Two weeks later you’d get a renewal sticker. Only once every 10 years did you actually have to show up in person to renew. And aside from the requisite long line to stand it, getting a new one was pretty straight forward.

Now, it seems, the Utah Department of Public Safety is more concerned with applicants' citizenship status than whether or not they can actually drive. Whether you’re renewing your driver's license or getting a new one, you have to provide proof of citizenship along with a host of other proof of residence documents. (For a full list of what’s required, click here.)

So when I showed up this morning, I came with a birth certificate, social security card, a bank and utility statement (dated within the last 60 days). All of my documents were examined twice. After the second examination, my birth certificate and social security cared were scanned into their computer. (I assume they’re now part of some Big Brother database.) Amazingly they didn’t ask for a DNA or blood sample.

Don’t misunderstand. I have no problem ensuring driver license applicants are Utah residents before issuing them a Utah driver's license. However, I’d rather see more concern for keeping unsafe drivers off the roads than non-U.S citizens from driving. I’d rather share the road with 10 non-U.S. residents who know how to drive then one citizen of this great country who can’t. (And based on my daily commute to work, there are plenty Utah residents/US Citizens who can’t.)

Instead of worrying about citizenship, a smarter way to go would be to have every non-citizen or non-Utah resident applying for a driver's license take a driving test. If you don't pass you don't get a driver's license. Apply for a State ID card instead. All the new rules will accomplish is discouraging non-U.S. citizens from applying for a driver's license.

Sadly, having safe drivers behind the wheel seems to be the last thing on the minds of the wise, all-knowing elected officials in Salt Lake and the bureaucrats at Utah Department of Public Safety.

How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief

My latest post is up on the OpentoHope blog. It's a brief look on how Sen. Joe Biden, at the age of 30, lost is first wife a month after being elected to the U.S. Senate, overcame his grief, and put his life back together. You can read it below or here. On November 7, 1972 a relatively unknown lawyer named Joe Biden pulled off a big political upset. By just over 3,000 votes he defeated two-term incumbent U.S. Senator J. Caleb Boggs and, at age 30, became the sixth youngest Senator in U.S. history.

Despite the amazing victory, he almost never took the oath of office. On December 18, 1972 while Biden was in Washington D.C. looking at his new office, his wife, Neilia, took their three children shopping for a Christmas tree. They were involved in a fatal automobile accident. Neilia and his infant daughter, Naomi, were killed. His two sons, Hunter and Beau, were critically injured.

His life suddenly and unexpectedly changed, Biden suddenly found himself as a 30-year-old widower and single father. He also found himself filled with anger and doubt. In his memoir Promises to Keep Biden wrote, "I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in; how suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option ... I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry."

A career in the U.S. Senate suddenly didn't seem that important as being there for his two sons. He considered resigning before even taking the oath of office. Beau recalled his father saying, "Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can't get another father."

Eventually other U.S. Senators like Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy convinced Biden to take the job the people of Delaware elected him to do. In January of 1973 he took the oath of office at his sons' hospital bedside. However, because he still wanted to be there for his sons, he gave up his the home he and his late wife were planning to buy in Washington D.C. and commuted by train to and from his home - a practice he still continues.

Still, life wasn't easy for the young Senator. At first he did the least amount of work required for his job. "My future was telescoped into putting one foot in front of the other ... Washington, politics, the Senate had no hold on me," Biden wrote. Senate staffers began placing bets on how long Biden would last.

No one would have blamed Biden for quitting. After all, he has lost half his family. But Biden didn't quit. Despite his grief, Biden he hung on and slowly began rebuilding his shattered life.

It wasn't until 1975, however, when Biden met Jill Jacobs that the pieces really fell into place. Falling in love again renewed Biden's interest in life and politics. "It had given me the permission to be me again," Biden wrote in his memoir. Two years later they married.

With his renewed passion, Biden continued what was to become a successful political career. He was re-elected five times to the Senate. He served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987-1995 and currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In 2008, after a second failed attempt to become the Democrat's presidential nominee, he was asked to be Sen. Barack Obama's Vice Presidential running mate.

"Failure at some point in your life is inevitable but giving up is unforgivable," Biden said during his Vice Presidential acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

It's impossible to say what would have happened to Biden if he had decided to give up.

But he didn't.

For those who have lost a spouse, Joe Biden's story is one of hope. If you continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult it may be, there are better days ahead. Despite the challenges and obstacles he faced as a 30-year-old widower, Biden rebuilt his life and his family.

Each day we make the decision to push forward or give up. Each day that decision will bring us closer to rebuilding our lives or falling back into darkness. Though difficult, Biden chose to live again and reaped the rewards of his efforts.


Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to Abel's e-mail updates and be the first to learn about upcoming books, essays, and appearances.

More widower-related articles by Abel Keogh

  • Up with Grief NEW!
  • Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
  • Widowers: They're Still Men! NEW!
  • 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
  • Photos of the Dead Wife
  • 5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
  • How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
  • Life with a Widower
  • Dating a Widower
  • The Grief Industry
  • Suicide Survivor
  • A Letter to Elizabeth
  • Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
  • The Widowerhood Excuse
  • How to Talk to a Widower
  • Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower
  • Glad We Didn't Elect This Guy

    The city I live has been around for a little more than 10 years but has become known throughout the state for a lack of roads and corrupt politicians. For once it looks like our city dodged a bullet. The candidate that lost the mayoral election in November just pleaded guilty to fraud and racketeering charges.

    Former Eagle Mountain mayoral candidate Richard Culbertson and his wife, Kathleen, pleaded guilty on Thursday to fraud and racketeering charges.

    Richard Culbertson pleaded guilty to three counts of communications fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies. Richard Culbertson faces from one to 15 years in prison for each count, served consecutively or concurrently. If the sentences are consecutive, he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years. He was also ordered to pay restitution and a maximum fine of $74,100.

    Kathleen Culbertson gave a tearful plea of guilty to three counts of communications fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all charges reduced to Class A misdemeanors. She faces a maximum of one year in jail for each count and $18,600 in fines, along with restitution.

    The Culbertsons were charged in a mortgage fraud case in which they allegedly used their daughter's and son-in-law's names to buy a home.

    The couple's attorney, Greg Skordas, said the plea deal is not new, and he believes the deal was worked out quickly so the Attorney General's office would be able to move forward with mortgage fraud charges in other cases. The office has developed a task force for mortgage fraud as a result of the spreading mortgage fraud cases in the state.

    You can read the rest of the article here.

    More Political Mud

    I could grouse some more about latest round of gutless, anonymous political ads that have again run in the local paper and been taped to the doors of residents in my town slamming those running for mayor and city council. But why do that when there's a great article sums it up the junior high school election atmosphere in this town or a local news broadcast can show you the clowns that want to run this town. Did I mention that I can't wait until this election is over?

    Never mind.  That won't end anything. No doubt the side that loses will have their claws out for the new mayor and city council members as soon as they take office.

    Gutless Political Ads

    A surprising political ad appeared in the October 18 edition of The Crossroads Journal, a small, bi-weekly community paper that's mailed to the residents of Eagle Mountain and other rapidly growing communities of northwest Utah County. Well, it's not too astonishing if you know what politics are like in the small, bedroom community I've called home for the last three years. Politics in Eagle Mountain can get downright nasty.

    Since moving to Eagle Mountain, anonymous "informational" pamphlets have been left on my door by political groups targeting candidates and encouraging me to find out the "truth" about individuals or issues being discussed by the city council. Candidates for mayor and city council have refused to attend "meet the candidates" nights because they feared bias from the group sponsoring the event and decided to hold their own events on the same night. Recently, a member of the city council was charged with accepting $10,000 from a developer to finish her basement. The complaint against the councilwoman was initiated by a member of the city council who has acknowledged double-dipping into city funds in 2005 by using a city credit card to buy a hard drive for his laptop [and] then asking for city reimbursement. The money was paid back and charges were never filed.The advertisement that appeared in the local newspaper was a perfect example of the toxic political atmosphere that exists in what is otherwise a pleasant city. Under the headline "Know Before You Vote" the ad listed the tally of public records found for the last 15 years on the two mayoral candidates and six people running for city council. It also gave a website where these records could be viewed.

    And what did those public records reveal?While one candidate for city council had a bankruptcy in his background, another had a divorce and two others each had a pair of traffic tickets. One of the mayoral candidates had three bankruptcies, two divorces, a disbarment from the Utah State Bar, a reinstatement to the Bar, a slew of small claim collections and lawsuits and four traffic tickets. (The same day the ad ran in The Crossroads Journal, the Provo Daily-Herald ran a story on this mayoral candidate stating that his real estate license had been revoked by the state's Real Estate Commission on Wednesday over loan fraud.)

    Compiling public records on those who seek public office and putting them on display for all to see is a good idea. Public records can be informative as to the integrity and honesty of those seeking office. Someone with a personal life so out of control that he has had multiple bankruptcies, divorces and other problems should make voters wonder how effectively this person can run a city.

    But public records are not the final indication of whether or not someone is going to act with integrity while in public office. It's doubtful that a public records search would have indicated that a previous mayor of Eagle Mountain, Kevin Bailey, would have lied about being abducted or another mayor, a former Utah highway patrol officer, Brain Olsen, would have been charged with seven third-degree felonies for misusing public funds.

    Results of the public records search aside, what was truly bothersome about the ad is that those who paid for it remain anonymous. A visit to the website reveals that it was funded by concerned builders, developers and entrepreneurs --some of whom claim to live in Eagle Mountain --but no names, businesses or organizations are listed.

    In short, it's politics as usual. Eagle Mountain style.

    It's easy to disseminate politically damaging information -- even if the information is true --so long as it's done behind a cloak of anonymity. That way you don't have to justify why you ran it or what you were really hoping to accomplish with the ad.

    Those who ran the ad claim "this public information is presented for the sole purpose of informing the electorate and is not a statement for or against any political candidate or issue."

    If that's true, then why not put your name on it?

    If you're going to list the public records of candidates for mayor and city council don't hide behind an anonymous website. Instead, have the courage to declare the names, organizations, businesses and individuals who sponsored the ad and/or paid the private investigator for his work in compiling the records.

    The voters of Eagle Mountain should know who's paying for the advertisement containing a public records search so they can see what candidates these people have supported in the past. This gives the voters the chance to learn what political motivations, if any, were really behind the ad. It's not secret that developers have funneled large amounts of cash into Eagle Mountain's political campaigns. What if those who bought the ad turned out to be supporters of the candidates with big zeros next to their name in the public records search? Is it not reasonable to ask if the ad would have run if their candidate of choice would have had multiple bankruptcies and divorces?

    While it may be legal for someone to run an anonymous advertisement, the ad itself is reminiscent of anonymous hit-and-run political tactics that are so often used to silence those who find themselves on the wrong side of a political issue. Those who profess so much concern for Eagle Mountain should be able to rise above the anonymous mud slinging and deal with the truth and facts.

    If Eagle Mountain is going to stop being the political laughingstock of the state, it should not only demand more honesty and integrity from those who are running for office but also from those who use their resources to buy political ads in newspapers and otherwise work to influence the election.

    Small Town Politics II

    Right before the primary election, I complained about how nasty our local elections were. To put everything in perspective, I probably should have disclosed a little bit more about the political history of our fair city. The town I live is only 11 years old. During that time the town has had 10 mayors. Some have resigned for personal reasons. Others have resigned because of legal troubles. Marathon Girl and I have seen three mayors run the town in the three years we've lived here. The guy who was mayor when we bought our house stepped down after being convicted of a misdemeanor for falsely reporting his own kidnapping. The second mayor resigned after being charged with felonies for misappropriating public funds. The mayor who was appointed to replace him as so far managed to avoid any trouble. However, he only wanted to fill in until someone could be elected this November and declined run for office.

    But trouble doesn't stop at the mayor's office. Not in our little town, anyway. A week after the election a member city council, who received enough votes in the primary to make it to the general election, was charged with accepting $10,000 from the town's main developer to finish her basement in 2005. Accepting the money wasn't illegal. However, Utah law requires public officials to receive gifts to disclose the gift. This council member never disclosed the "gift."

    Ironically, according to news reports, the council member who reported her "mistake" doesn't have a squeaky clean reputation either. He has admitted to "double-dipping into city funds in 2005 by using a city credit card to buy a hard drive for his laptop, then asking for city reimbursement. He paid back the money and charges were never filed."

    And then to top it off last week in another high profile incident, a former city councilman killed himself with a handgun as he was flying his powered parachute. According to police the event was in someway related to a domestic disturbance incident.

    It's Chicago-style politics without the big city atmosphere. (No offense, ChicagoJo.) Personally I'd rather have boring, small-town politics instead of this mess.

    And people wonder why I have not interest in running for public office. Who'd want to be part of this mess?