Monday, May 25, 2009

Week of 05/25/2009

Stop Reinventing And Start Reforming
– by David Matthews 2

There has been this perverse trend of late to constantly reinvent and re-imagine things.

Ronald Moore did that with “Battlestar Galactica”. Christopher Nolan did it with “Batman”. JJ Abrams just did it with “Star Trek”. NBC did it with “Knight Rider”. ABC just brought back “The Human Target”, with a complete revamp and trying to get people to forget about the fact that there was another series just like that starring Rick Springfield that didn’t even make it to Sweeps Week. Volkswagen reinvented their legendary Beetle. Ford reinvented the Mustang (which became the model for the re-imagined “Knight Rider”).

Now some things DO need to be reinvented. Nolan’s re-imagined version of “Batman” certainly needed the reset after executives and a certain infamous director at Warner Brothers thoroughly destroyed the previous movie series and essentially turned it into a pathetic live-action Saturday Morning cartoon. Our system of taxation quickly comes to mind as something that desperately needs to be reinvented.

But unfortunately most of us do not have the means to simply “reset” our lives and reinvent or re-imagine ourselves. We can’t wake up in whole new bodies, new faces, and live new lives with new friends and new experiences. Even the people who have to, such as those in the Federal Witness Protection program, need extensive help and resources to make it happen, and even then it’s not easy.

Most of us have to move forward with our lives. We do not have the luxury or the resources to simply go back to page one in our lives and start fresh with new names and experiences and a new look. That sort of re-invention only exists in the realm of science fiction.

So why is it that politicians think that they can do just that?

Back in the 1990’s, Democrats tried to re-invent themselves as the “New Democrats”. They tried to re-imagine themselves as being a bunch of forward-thinking people looking to help bring society into the 21st Century. It really didn’t work. It was the “New Coke” of politics. They ended up losing their ever-precious control of Congress in 1994 and it took twelve years before they could begin to get some of their control back.

In the 2000 Presidential Campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush tried to re-brand himself as a “compassionate conservative”… which was a stark contrast to his history as the Governor that executed more prisoners in recent history. His re-invention, though, became the first real miserable failure of his two terms in office, as events transformed the “compassionate conservative” into a strutting, pompous, Orwellian war-mongering chickenhawk.

Why do politicians think that they can simply re-invent themselves on command and expect people to simply buy into it?

If a violent and uncontrollable mass-murderer suddenly told you that he changed and he doesn’t wantonly kill people, would you immediately buy into it? Would you trust him to handle knives, even if it’s a plastic knife?

Would you trust a pedophile with your children just because they say they’ve re-invented themselves and they no longer do what they do? No, in fact our society goes to extreme tyrannical ends to prevent such a situation, because they absolutely and positively DO NOT TRUST those people… unless you’re talking about Catholic priests.

We reject the idea that someone who has done wrong can suddenly flip a switch and be good. Even if they really did change their lives around, change their thought processes, never pick up a knife or never go near a child ever again, WE cannot simply change our minds about them, because their HISTORY has not changed. What they have DONE has not changed. How we SEE them has not changed.

Even if we accept the possibility that they HAVE changed, we still have that history in the back of our skulls reminding us of what they did. That cannot be reset at the flip of a switch, no matter how hard we would want to believe their sincerity.

Someone needs to tell that to the Republican Party, though, because they’re hell-bent on trying to do just that.

The Republicans pompously believe that they can restore their tarnished record as corrupt spend-a-holic war-mongering chickenhawks. They believe that they can suddenly change and become these supporters of limited government and fiscal responsibility. They even believe that they can change their self-sullied image… by changing the image of the Democrats.

Okay, let’s just ignore the sheer stupidity of that last part for a moment. Do the Republicans REALLY BELIEVE that voters would magically forget what they spent eight years doing and suddenly become these born-again pseudo-libertarians?

Their evangelical supporters in talk radio and cable TV certainly believe this can happen. They’ve been busy spinning the idea that the GOP has reformed overnight and they’re now these new watchdogs of excessive spending and abusive government.

But if that really is the case, then I have to ask… where were these “new watchdogs” when they cobbled together the Sarbaines-Oxley Act? You know, the federal law that forces companies to spend countless amounts of money in auditors and repeated reviews and mind-numbing forrest-slaughtering paperwork? If the Republicans are so gung-ho against the over-encroachment of government, especially involving the private sector, then how did the Sarbaines-Oxley Act get past them? Remember, they were the ones in charge when it was passed and signed into law.

Where were these “new watchdogs” when they passed sweeping changes in banking and bankruptcy rules that led to the economic problems that we’re in the middle of now? Did these things just happen in the dead of night by themselves? Did a mysterious shadow cabinet come in and make these changes and let the Congress take the blame for it all?

Did the federal debt just magically become a trillion-dollar morass through osmosis? The last I recall, the push for the almighty Paulson Plan that put the debt past the trillion-dollar mark in October of 2008 was a BI-PARTISAN effort. That meant that Democrats AND REPUBLICANS voted for it! Where were those “political mavericks” then? Where were those “tea-baggers”? The ones that now sponsor “tea party rallies” and pretend to be speaking on behalf of the founding fathers, where were they last October? Was it just an optical illusion that they were standing behind George W. Bush and the Democrats when this thing was being cobbled together? A trick of the media? Some liberal Hollywood magic?

Let’s get brutally honest here… it is high time that the Republicans STOP pretending that they can somehow re-invent themselves like a bunch of lame soap opera actors and instead deal with the REAL WORLD. Here in the REAL WORLD people cannot re-brand or re-imagine ourselves at the drop of a hat.

Change for us in the REAL WORLD involves REFORMING ourselves. It is a very lengthy process by which we have to OWN UP to the things that we have done in the past and then work very hard to NOT DO THEM AGAIN.

If someone is overweight and they want to be fit and trim, then they have to change their diet and work out for a long time to get there. They can’t just get a committee of people together, make a speech, and then - PRESTO - they’re fit and trim the next day. I know that’s how you politicians deal with problems, but that’s now how it works here in the REAL WORLD. No, that overweight person has to work hard to get fit and trim, and they have to work for a long time to get there. And they have to be careful about what they eat afterwards so they don’t end up back where they were before. That is what REAL REFORM is about!

If the Republicans are serious about changing their ways… REALLY AND TRULY SERIOUS… then they need to first ask for forgiveness for the things that they did wrong. They need to seek amends for the things they screwed up on. They can’t just pretend that nothing happened previously, nor can they just pompously waive their hands and say that “mistakes were made” without taking ownership of them.

This is more than just putting out a couple of token fall-guys or hyping a couple of poster children either. This has to come from the whole party. You’ve seen what happens when a few corrupt politicians are caught up in scandal. You’ve seen what it does to the party overall. You want real reform? You REALLY WANT to change your ways? Then you will have to make it the party standard.

And it’s not going to happen overnight. You have to convince voters that you’re serious about this, and that takes time. Even if you start now it won’t happen by the 2010 mid-term elections. Maybe by 2012 you might rebuild some of that trust, but that would depend on what you guys do and how interested you are in REALLY reforming yourself.

Of course there is always the possibility that they’re not REALLY serious about changing their ways or reforming their image. There’s always the possibility that all of this talk about their new cause is nothing more than a SCAM, and that they’re really just trying to defraud the American voters. Their unrealistic insistence that people buy into this “re-imagined” image of theirs certainly opens the door to it being a FRAUD. The only way to find out is to see how long this image of them being pseudo-libertarians lasts and whether or not they can practice what they preach.

Changing your image is not as simple as changing your tie. REAL change starts from the inside and it takes time and a lot of convincing. The Republican Party has destroyed their own image and their own credibility by years of corruption and gross incompetence. That’s a lot of damage to fix. If they’re really serious about changing their ways, then they have to start fixing that damage instead of just pretending it never happened.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Week of 05/18/2009

The Curse of Precedence
– by David Matthews 2

In 1942, two months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Government carried out a plan to arrest every American citizen of Japanese ancestry and place them in interment camps. They weren’t the only ones either. There were also internment camps for Italians and Germans. The excuses used by the federal government were fear and necessity. The Supreme Court would accept those excuses in 1944, citing Article 1 Section 9 of the US Constitution, stating that the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended in cases of rebellion or invasion.

It was an unconscionable act, based entirely on fear and bigotry, and one that the federal government finally atoned for decades later. It was thoroughly condemned.

But it could also happen again. There is no law, no constitutional prohibition, nothing in this world from stopping the United States of America from doing it again.

The movie “The Siege” opened up that very possibility. Done just a few years before 9/11, the movie focuses on a fictional terrorist attack in New York City, and a power-mad neo-con solider played by Bruce Willis who used terrorist attacks to violate the Posse Comitatus Act and require the forced internment of male Muslims in the city.

And the justification? Well we did it in 1942. It’s precedence.

And I’m sure that there were many after 9/11 that wanted to do just that. I’m sure that there were many people who wanted to hunt down and find every Muslim in the country and raid every mosque and put them all in the same kind of internment camps that we put Japanese and Italians and Germans.

And what would have stopped them? The media? Please! Those ego-driven ratings-happy institutions know when to shut up. They did just that in the 1940’s. The ACLU? Yeah, right. You can see how successful they have been in stopping some of the other Orwellian programs that have come out of the rectums of Dick Cheney and his neo-con friends. Public sentiment? After 2001, are you kidding? We were scared and pissed-off at the same time.

When we are not running around like a bunch of lions with thorns in our paws, we like to pretend that our government is governed by the Rule of Law. They can only do what they are allowed to do by law, and nothing beyond it. But going beyond the Rule of Law is another and more primitive justification for government action: the Rule of Precedence. They’ve done it before, and unless there is otherwise something concrete preventing them, they are free to do it again at any time.

An abusive spouse will ALWAYS find a way to abuse his or her victim, no matter how many times they apologize for doing it, no matter how many times they promise to never do it again, no matter how many times they are given restraining orders and threatened with jail or worse. The only way to stop an abusive spouse from preying on their victim is to put them in prison or put them in the grave.

Likewise, an abusive government will ALWAYS find a way to abuse its people, no matter how many times they apologize for it afterwards, no matter how much money they give in reparations afterwards, no matter how many times they are threatened and condemned for doing it afterwards. The only way to stop an abusive government is to put the perpetrators themselves either in prison or in a grave.

The later option is called either insurrection or revolution. The former option is called JUSTICE.

There is a reason why the first ten amendments to the US Constitution were created and ratified. They weren’t there to make government difficult. They were put in place to PREVENT the government from becoming abusive.

Every single limitation of government power that makes up what is commonly called the Bill of Rights is there because at some point in history, that power was ABUSED by agents of the government. The limitations are there to make sure that those abuses DO NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

Unfortunately what America’s founding fathers failed to do was to follow through with that chain of thought. What happens WHEN those limitations are breached and agents of the government do what they are supposedly barred from doing? They never really ponder that possibility. They instead default on the belief that “the people” would once again rise up and put an end to it. Never mind that at that time it took “a long train of abuses and usurpations” (to quote Thomas Jefferson) to get to that point, and even then not everyone agreed with it.

What happens is that barring criminal convictions, those encroachments that are never supposed to happen become the exceptions to the rule.

Freedom of Speech is supposed to be the rule… EXCEPT in the case of the Federal Communications Commission, or the US Postal Serivce. The Fourth Amendment can be voided in the name of the Drug War or terrorism. The Fifth Amendment protection against abuses of eminent domain can be voided in the name of better property taxes.

And even WHEN wrong, agents of the government continue to get away with what they do by invoking that outdated notion of “sovereign immunity”. Sure some inept cops and a corrupt prosecutor deprived a man of his property and freedom, but just pay him a few thousand dollars and be done with it. Don’t worry about the corrupt system, though. They’ll have to answer to their actions somewhere.

Unfortunately that only serves to reward the corruption and abuse. The abuse is tolerated and even condoned, with what can only be a glorified bribe offered for “compensation” after-the-fact. But don’t go after the abuser! Oh, no, don’t do that! That abuser is one of “us”. That abuser is “protected”.

Like the mafia, the people in government look after their own; and they pompously feel that only THEY can deal with their own.

And that concept of protecting one of “their own” transcends any notion of justice, any concept of fairness or balance. It is about camaraderie and it is about the perpetual assertion that whatever they do, THEY CAN DO NO WRONG! Everything that they do is automatically justified simply BECAUSE they are in the government, and the government CAN DO NO WRONG!

A glory-hungry police officer arrests hundred of people that only he claims were dealing drugs. The only evidence comes from the supposed eyewitness testimony of that officer. The prosecutor says its good enough, the judge says its good enough, and the jury says its good enough, and the people are convicted and sentenced to years in prison. Then it comes out that the officer made up many of the allegations. The evidence was planted, the people he says were dealing drugs were actually someplace else at the time, and one by one the officer’s record is shown to be more fiction than fact.

But what happens? In a truly just society, that officer would not only be removed from his job and be deprived of his pension, but that officer would be the one having to serve every year behind bars for each and every person he put there through his fabrications. And the prosecutor who looked at that evidence and didn’t raise any questions about it would also lose his or her job.

But those two groups are agents of the government, and they don’t want to be held responsible for their actions! And the people they work with don’t want them to be held responsible either, because it would mean that THEY could also be held responsible for their own possible abuses.

So what happens is that there is now precedence for allowing abuse… on the fear that carrying out justice would set a DIFFERENT form of precedence that could hurt THEM.

And thus we come to the federal level of government. And here we find a whole new world of abuse being not only tolerated but even sanctified and condoned.

There is a game that goes on with the White House, and it doesn’t matter whether it is under Democrat or Republican control, that says that any kind of power and authority they assume, by hook or by crook, must be sustained AT ALL COSTS!

Remember those warrantless wiretaps? The “accidental” searches that weren’t authorized? Executive privilege? Guess what? Despite the complaints made from Democrats over these abuses of power, the Obama Administration wants to CONTINUE using them!

Remember the calls for hearings? Criminal charges? Impeachment? Suddenly everyone in Washington is mute. Justice? Oh, no, no, no… maybe a “truth and reconciliation” committee, but not CHARGES! That would mean holding someone… ACCOUNTABLE… and they can’t have that!

Worse yet, that would actually take power AWAY from the current government, and that would be absolutely unthinkable!

Let’s get brutally honest here… ANY time an abuse of government goes unanswered, it commits TWO crimes against society.

First those that fail to bring justice when they have the power to do so are GUILTY of facilitating that abuse. They become accomplices to the crime by aiding the criminals in getting away with their actions. They are just as responsible for them as if they were right there alongside the criminals.

Second, those that fail to bring justice when they have the power to do so not only sanction that abuse, but also help destroy even the pretense that the system is based on an impartial and objective Rule of Law… and instead establishes that it is based on a very subjective and bigoted Rule of Man. There is nothing more that can hasten the destruction of ANY system of government than by turning an objective rule into a series of temperamental exceptions.

Imagine what would have happened if, instead of excusing and apologizing for the interments of 1942, the government brought CRIMINAL charges up against those that instigated the action? Do you think that any future administration would even consider letting history repeat itself? Or would they suddenly develop a newfound appreciation of the rights and freedoms they give lip service to?

The criminals in government are no different than their counterparts on the streets in that they share one thing: the fear of judgment for their actions. That’s why they hide behind pillars of power, because they believe it will give them immunity from judgment. The only way to keep them honest, then, is to take away that immunity.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Week of 05/11/2009

Game Fiction Meets Reality
– by David Matthews 2

(Disclaimer: the following story is entirely fictional. All names have been changed to protect the innocent, not mention avoid copyright lawsuits by a major software company, but let’s get brutally honest here… if you’ve played the game then you know who many of these characters are supposed to be.)

Once upon a time in the land of Byrule…

The captain of the guard starts rushing inside the simple hut located in the outskirts of the forest.

“GRINK!” he shouted.

The pointy-eared figures huddled around the table turned towards the hurried soldier and gestured towards the woods.

“GRINK!” he shouted out loud. “GRINK!”

After several minutes of searching, he found a lone forest person sitting by the pond. An abandoned fishing pole sat nearby alongside a seashell-shaped musical instrument. His faded green tunic and brown boots were the only indications that this was once the hero of legend.

“GRINK!” the military leader exclaimed and quickly ran over to him. “Grink, we need your help!”

Grink, however, appeared more annoyed than concerned. “What now?” he asked nonchalantly.

“Grink, we have a problem. Bannon has struck again and he’s taken the princess!”


“SO?” exclaimed the officer. “Grink! Princess Pelda has been captured! You have to rescue her!”

“Again?” Grink asked.

“Yes again!” the officer said with a tone of frustration in his voice. “Grink, you’re the only one who can do this! You’ve faced Bannon before. You know how to defeat him.”

“Let’s see if I get this straight,” Grink said as he sat up. “You have a whole ARMY of knights at your disposal. You have swords and catapults and lances and horses and armor. You even have sorcerers and mystics and soothsayers that can aid you. And yet you are always turning to ME, a forest creature, to save the day?”

“Well… YES!” said the captain of the guard.

“Forget it!” he replied.

The officer’s jaw dropped. “But… but… Grink, you’ve ALWAYS come to Byrule’s aid in the past! You’ve ALWAYS helped out the princess in the past!”

“Yeah,” Grink said as he stood up, “and let’s go over that, shall we?”

“First of all,” he began, “you came to me back when I was eight years old. EIGHT YEARS OLD! I was a CHILD then and you had me chasing all over the area fighting monsters, moving boulders, hunting down a magical sword, being chased by these fire-spewing plant creatures, chasing down these stupid triangles, and finally fighting a grown man to rescue the princess. Ever hear of child endangerment laws?”

The solider was dumbfounded by Grink’s statement. “But… but… you accepted the challenge… you were eager to…”

“Hey, I was EIGHT YEARS OLD!” Grink said. “OF COURSE I’d accept it! I didn’t know any better! And what did I get out of it? I got a thank-you from the princess. That’s all! A pat on the head, an attaboy from the King, and then it was right back here to the woods.”

The officer stood there in shock at the retelling of the classic tale of Grink and his quest to rescue Princess Pelda.

“And it didn’t stop, did it?” Grink continued. “No, Bannon kept on escaping and kept on kidnapping the princess, and you kept on coming back to see me. Whole army of knights and warriors and sorcerers and you seek me out. And I kept on buying it. I kept on going back and fighting his forces and fighting Bannon and saving the princess… and what did I get? Masks and some stupid flute!”

The forest creature gestured to the seashell-shaped musical instrument nearby.

“That’s not a flute,” the officer said. “That’s a Toneria! That’s a valuable musical instrument with magical powers.”

“It’s… a… flute!” Grink said as he picked it up. “It works like a flute, and it plays like a flute, and for the longest time I thought that if I learned to master it, I would get me some serious action! But you know what I got instead? I got jokes about being an overgrown sprite and people asking me where my wings are, and where’s my pot of jeweleez to hand out. THAT’S what I got from that stupid thing!”

He kicked the ground in front of him. “So here I am now, an adult, and I go out there to rescue the princess, like I’ve been doing all this time, and I have this whole ‘destiny’ thing on my back. I’ve been crossing time and space, going between dimensions, traveling by boat, by bird, and by horse, solving riddles and unlocking secrets, I go face Bannon, I defeat him for the umpteenth time, and I rescue the princess, and I thought MAYBE she would at least give me a kiss, right? I mean, come on, this is the only Byrulian tail that I’ve ever chased in my life, and I just saved hers YET AGAIN! You know what I got? I got ‘thanks, you’re sweet, but I’m a ruling princess and you’re just a poor forest creature.’ I save her time and time again and THAT is the thanks I get from her!”

“Look I’m sorry you have your issues about this,” the solider said, “but you’re the only one who can do this! The King said so himself! He said that you are the only one that can wield the Triangles of Power and Time and Space. He said that only you can heft the magic sword and play the mystical tone on the Toneria. The masks of illusion and protection only work for YOU, Grink!”

“So says the King,” Grink retorted. “But you know what? I hung around those sprites and fairies afterward and you know what they told me? Oh, you’ll love this! They asked me why I kept on showing up for all of these dangerous crusades to rescue the princess. And I told them the same thing that you just said. I told them it was my ‘destiny’. You know what they finally revealed to me? They told me that the KING was the one that invented this whole idea of ‘destiny’! They told me that ANYONE can retrieve the swords or harness the power of the triangles or wear the masks.”

The captain of the guard was shocked. “You’re lying!” he exclaimed.

Grink picked up the Toneria and played a few tunes. A triangle appeared at his feet.

“Go ahead,” he said, “pick it up.”

The soldier picked up the glowing triangle. As he did, lightning appeared all around him and he was bathed in a circle of light.

“Now, if I was the only one who could use it, would you have even been allowed to pick it up?” Grink asked.

“This…” the soldier said, “is impossible. I shouldn’t be doing this!”

“You can go ahead and set it down now,” Grink said.

The soldier did just that. The lights and lightning disappeared when he did.

“HOW?” he asked. “How could the King create this fiction about you being the only person to use this?”

“I’ll tell you why,” Grink said. “One word: insurance. He sends you and the other soldiers and the mystics and all of the other forces after Bannon and any of you dies, he has to pay for your death benefits. He sends me, a simple forest creature, and I get killed, then he doesn’t have to pay a penny.”

The soldier was still struggling to make sense of it all. “But what about all of those jeweleez he gives you as a reward?” he asked. “I’ve been there when he gives you bags upon bags of jeweleez!”

“Yeah, let’s talk about that,” Grink said bitterly. “Sure he gives me bags upon bags of jeweleez! And before I even reach the castle gates, I’m being herded over to something called a Tax Collection Office, where I’m told I have to pay a tax for all of the arrows I use, all of the shields I go through, and every time I cross through dimensions and time portals. Plus I have to pay a visitor’s fee for every time I visit the castle, or use a horse, or go fishing. Oh, and those times when I rescue the princess? Yeah, that’s called a ‘royalty tax’, because we ordinary forest people have to PAY to spend time with members of the royal family. By the time I am allowed to leave the castle gates, I’m lucky if I have enough jeweleez to make it back here.”

He plays a few more tunes on the Toneria and the triangle disappears. Then he hands the musical instrument over to the captain of the guard. “So I’m done with it. I’m not going to be risking my neck just because the princess is bored.”

The captain of the guard appeared lost. “But… Grink… if you don’t want to save her, who will?”

“Tell you what,” Grink said. “I’m not supposed to know this, but if you go to the other side of the castle you’ll see this huge green metal tunnel. Bang on it three times with a lance or something like that and two men from a land called ‘New Jersey’ will appear. They claim to be some sort of vocation called ‘plumbers’. I met them by accident the last time I was there.”

“I don’t…” the captain said, obviously confused.

“That royal pain gets off on putting herself in danger,” Grink said. “You think Bannon just escapes from jail every time I bring him down? She lets him go and then goes off with him voluntarily! When she gets bored with me saving the day, she puts on some sort of disguise and heads on over to their land and calls herself ‘Princess Fungus’ or something like that and pretends to get in trouble so the two plumbers can save her.”

Just then a large metallic ball drops down from the sky into the lake.

“Ah!” Grink said with a smile. “Well, if you don’t mind, I have a very important guest that just dropped in. But remember, bang on that green metal thing and the plumbers will take care of it.”

The captain of the guard left the lake area, Toneria in hand and obviously befuddled and disappointed by the revelations. As he left, the metallic ball rolled out of the lake and unfurled itself to take the form of a metal-armored being.

“Sorry I’m late,” it said in a deep metallic tone as it played with the helmet clasps. “Some loser named Captain Pigeon kept on challenging me to a race.”

“That’s okay,” Grink said, “I just had to give the bad news to the King’s guard about his precious little girl.”

The helmet was removed and the metal armor retracted to reveal a beautiful woman underneath. “So you’re not off to save her again?” she asked with a grin.

“Are you kidding? After all the drama she gave me when all of us were together playing tennis? She can go find another lackey. Besides…” he said as he snaked an arm around her waist, “you’re much more limber than her.”

And thus finally, after years of adventure and aggravation, the legendary forest creature Grink FINALLY had a happily ever after…

The same, however, could not be said for the sorcerer Bannon, who had to endure several weeks of verbal abuse from the self-absorbed Princess Pelda before the two plumbers from New Jersey could take her away.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Week of 05/04/2009

How To Save The Auto Industry
– by David Matthews 2

The automobile is considered one of the hallmarks of American invention and innovation. Americans didn’t invent the automobile, but it was Henry Ford that invented the method of mass-production, and to do so with high volume and make them cheap enough for as many people as possible to get one.

In fact that was the big secret behind the success of the automobile industry back then. They made them in high volume, but they also made them affordable. And the business world and local governments help provide for this by improving the roads, paving them over, making them smoother, opening the door for mechanics and auto parts stores and gas stations to be put up.

Whole communities were built up and supported by the mass-production of American automobiles. Their very lives were dependant on the viability of the automakers.

Now the American automakers are dying. They’ve been dying for quite some time now… they’ve just been able to deny it for this long. They masked their symptoms, blamed them on other factors, minimized the scope of their condition, and led people to believe that nothing was wrong.

To be certain, the automobile industry itself is NOT dying. The automobile is far from endangered. But American automakers are struggling, and in fact two of the three companies that make up the “Big Three” are on the verge of going the way of the Tucker. Chrysler has recently declared bankruptcy and will have to scavenge most of its assets and facilities just to pay creditors. General Motors is struggling to keep from joining them. Ford is the only one that is surviving, and they may be the only ones left in America if things keep on going they way they have been.

There are plenty of fingers being pointed for the reasons behind this. Bad economy, failing banks, instability in the price of gas, inept management of America’s energy policy… and of course unions get the most heat.

But if you want the REAL source of the problem, you just have to look at what the “Big Three” were trying to do for the past decade.

For the longest time, the automakers have been shoveling high-cost high-powered vehicles, often with really low gas mileage. In the 1990’s those things were possible because gas prices were kept artificially low thanks to increased dependency on foreign oil. The federal government also helped tremendously by giving these vehicles waivers from fuel mileage standards and giving tax breaks for businesses to buy them. And of course there was plenty of financing for these vehicles.

In short, the social and economic environment was artificially maintained so these vehicles could be sold!

Unfortunately these conditions didn’t last. And rather than change and adapt, these automakers kept on churning the vehicles out and expecting the conditions to fix themselves. They ignored the warnings and dismissed them as wealth envy or jealousy or environmentalist hysteria.

Now those days of excuses are over with. The economy is in decline. The sins of the past have caught up with them, and like a bulimic model in denial, the automakers are scavenging everything they have just to survive. They’re shutting down plants, laying-off countless thousands of hard-working Americans, and in the process killing whole communities that have been built-up and sustained by the jobs they provided.

Sure the government has tried to help. They have been bailing out the Big Three off-and-on for years. They’re the needy addict-friend that calls up when they need money. Each time they PROMISE to change, and they PROMISE to improve, but the overall problems still exist.

So are they destined to fail? Are they beyond hope and beyond help?

The American automakers CAN bounce back. But only if they do things right.

Step one is to BURY the sport-utility vehicle. That needs to go away. The idea that you can create a mini-van from a truck was dependent way too much on the price of gas. The reason why the original mini-vans sold in the 1980’s was because they were fuel-efficient. Trucks are not, because they are heavier and rely on too much power, which consumes more fuel. If the automakers stuck with mini-vans, then they probably would not be in this situation today.

But fuel-efficiency is only part of the problem. The gas-powered vehicle has no future! It is a finite fuel and unless there are infinite pockets of oil that have intentionally gone untapped, then we have pretty much reached a saturation point with the resources we have. Even making a hybrid vehicle or using additives like ethanol only postpones the inevitable. It is destined to END. It is only a matter of figuring out under whose terms that it will come to an end, but make no mistake, it WILL come to an end.

The next step is to take several pages out of the history books. If Henry Ford made cars almost a century ago the same way his company does today, then he probably would have been out of business in a year. Likewise, the German automaker Volkswagen probably would have folded after World War II if they patterned their vehicles like their American counterparts of the time.

Their secrets? Affordable vehicles! They didn’t create an expensive car and then artificially create the means to afford it. They made the car affordable.

Cripes, the secret of the original Volkswagen Beetle was that it was powered by the same kind of engine used in lawn mowers! How complicated is that?

The other big thing is fuel. As I just said, and as I have continued to say for years now, the gas-powered vehicle is on borrowed time. It WILL be disappearing; it’s just a matter of when and under what conditions.

Forget gas-powered vehicles. There are plenty of alternatives out there today. They have been discovered and invented and tested and put on dog-and-pony displays for the media and for the White House for years! Pick ONE of them and use it!

So here is the challenge to the automakers… this is how you save yourselves: invent and mass-produce an alterative-powered vehicle for the average American, and do so for under $10,000.

The means to make the vehicles would not be an issue. The automakers would have plenty of eager workers and plenty of prime locations here in this country for the manufacture of an alternative-powered vehicle. You’d have plenty of hungry dealers looking to sell those vehicles. And given the liberal lean of the current White House, you would probably find them to be extremely open to an environmentally-friendly vehicle.

Not only that, but it would necessitate creating the means to support this alternative-powered vehicle, which would mean a whole new batch of businesses and jobs. That also would be a boon for the economy!

So why sell them for under $10,000 you ask? Simple. It’s to generate the DEMAND. Yes, people would LIKE to buy an alternative-powered vehicle, but if you tell them that it’ll cost $50,000 then they’re not going to be in a hurry to get one, especially in a bad economy.

But put the sticker price at less than $10,000, and factor in the depreciation of trade-in vehicles, you’ll find those same people being MORE than willing to make the jump. And then once you HAVE that demand and you can gradually raise the price to match the overhead costs.

Let’s get brutally honest here… it is WELL WITHIN the means of the American automakers to bring themselves back from the brink of oblivion. They were the ones that put themselves into this freefall and they are the ones that can change it. But they have to WANT to change first.

The “Big Three” have to be willing to make some SERIOUS and fundamental changes to their operations. Granted, they wouldn’t be the only ones that would have to. The unions have made plenty of concessions in the past, and while they are jaded by those decisions and how that trust has been systematically abused, they probably would be open to make one more concession if it means a brighter future for their members. Same with the government. It’s hard for environmentalists to say no to an alternative-powered vehicle. Cripes, they’re pushing lightbulbs on us that are classified as hazardous waste if they ever crack or shatter!

The dawn of a new day in automobiles does not have to be the dream of science-fiction writers. Not now. Not when the means of that day have been here and have only lacked the will to make it happen. The executives at Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors need to take the lead on this, and they need to do it RIGHT NOW, lest some European or Asian company beat them to it, because the ones that do it will set the stage for the others. If they sit on their hands on this, then they WILL be sounding the death-knell for the American automotive industry, as well as the death-knell for a HUGE faction of America.