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vw rabbitDid you ever buy one of those fax/printer/scanner doo-hickeys? Remember what happened when one of its three functions quit working? Yes, you junked it or set it aside because it's not designed to be repaired. Unfortunately for this poor planet just about every consumer good we manufacture, particularly the electronic ones, suffer the same fate, and most often they go into landfills which, as we're now learning, isn't an answer. There is no 'away' anymore.

Cars are the worst offenders in this regard, and what's worse is that we'll discard them simply because they're no longer "new". Just look around. How many 20 to 25-year-old cars do you see on the road? The main problem, as I see it, is that automakers simply stop making parts for older cars after so many years. (Your 1975 Fairmont may be perfectly reasonable transportation but just try and find a replacement z-bar for the 200ci L6.)

Secondarily, some cars are designed so badly it's just not economical to repair them. Let me tell you about the automatic transmissions in the mid-90s Ford Taurus...

Or maybe not. I just ate.

What this all means is that the driving public essentially re-equips itself with an entire new fleet of vehicles every ten years, and that's a heavy burden on this planet's ever-shrinking natural resources.

There is a two-fold answer. The first is a car designed specifically to be repaired or updated indefinitely. I think in terms of the simplicity and utility of the old VW Rabbit but one which is propelled by an electric motor, powered by a small reciprocating gas engine. (The new Chevy Volt uses this system.) By making the gas engine modular it can be replaced when the time comes, inevitably by more efficient technology. An electric engine also means no transmission or, if front-mounted, no driveshaft, either.

The dash, instead of being embalmed in swoopy swaths of plastic, should be designed to fold out, allowing easy access to wiring and the heating/cooling system. This is just common sense stuff.

The second part of the answer is the hard part, and that's convincing a driving public to stop regarding the car as an extension of its respective egos. It's a CAR, people. You might think you're a pretty hot kumquat in your red convertible Pacific Rim-mobile, but so do the other 50,000 guys driving the very exact same car. Frankly, no one cares. (A red, convertible Ferrari is another matter, though.)

So how do you get Americans to buy a car that's strictly utilitarian? My solution is to stamp each car prominently with the year of its manufacture on, say, the rear panel. This will have the effect of celebrating the cars age, especially a line of cars whose body style seldom changes. People will begin to take pride in owning their car for many, many years. It's like that little gauge in some cars that indicates your current mileage. It makes some drivers want to drive as efficiently as possible.

I also imagine owners applying their own sense of style to their cars, using them as tabula rasa to make art on wheels. Did you ever see a Phillipine tuk-tuk?

Yes, the auto companies will inevitably make fewer cars under this scheme, but that's the whole point. We'll always need cars in this country but let's have access to at least one that we can wear out and rebuild, not just abuse and junk.



john boehnerFebruary 10, 2011: "We're going to have a relentless focus on creating jobs." - John Boehner.

So far the list of Republican accomplishments for 2011 is:

(1) Attempted curtailing of abortion rights.
(2) Attempted defunding of Planned Parenthood.
(3) Attempted defunding of NPR.
(4) Investigating Muslims.
(5) Declaring English as America's Official Language.
(6) Reaffirming "In God We Trust".
(7) Challenging AARP's tax-exempt status.
(8) Approved defunct funding for failed religious schools.

Nope. No job creation here. Move along. Move along.


Fox News Lies!And what lies is Fox News spewing lately? They couldn't wait to crow over NBC's lack of reporting on parent company GE's zero tax payments in 2010... except NBC had.

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Today's Google Chow.

Dinosaurs: "...and so, fellow Gondwanalandians, the only way to save our economy is to cut corporate taxes and eliminate the cursed unions."

After decades of research the Professor had flung his Chrono-Cam back sixty-three million years along the fluctuating eddies of time. Now that he had discovered what really destroyed the dinosaurs there was only one conclusion he could make:

Professor: "Oh, fudge. There goes my funding."