The Long View 2008-01-04: Lizards, Airships, Caucuses

Airships of all varieties are one of those things that seem to provide endless clickbait, as the relatively recent article I linked in the image demonstrates. Nothing of note has happened in the intervening years to make airships a thing again, but articles about it are hardy perennials.

Whenever you see one or more airships in the light of day, you know that reality is slipping from the Main Sequence.

If you ever really see airships flying about, you will know that something is seriously wrong.

Lizards, Airships, Caucuses

We all hope for reports about frogs, but for now we must content ourselves with the assurance that it rains iguanas at Bill Baggs park:

Miami Herald

Wednesday night's bitter cold came like a giant Sominex for the tree-dwelling iguanas of South Florida.

When the temperature falls below a certain level, the large green lizards drop out of the trees and litter the ground.

They aren't dead. At least a lot of them aren't.

The iguanas are recent immigrants from Central America, and have not yet gotten the hang of the place.

* * *

If we can believe Popular Mechanics, 4 New 'Blimp' Designs Bring Return of the Airship:

Always on the verge of a seeming comeback, airships are back in the spotlight, touting new technologies. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency recently announced funding for an innovative, ballast-free airship technology created by Aeros Aero­nautical Systems, based outside Los Angeles. The Aeroscraft ML866's potentially revolutionary Control of Static Heaviness system compresses and decompresses helium in the 210-ft.-long envelope, changing this proposed sky yacht's buoyancy during takeoff and landings, Aeros says. It hopes to end the program with a test flight demonstrating the system. Other companies are planning their own first flights within the next few years. Each has a design that it promises will launch a new era of lighter-than-air transportation.

I like airships, but I recognize that they are like canaries in a coal mine. Airships, as many readers will have noted, are found chiefly in alternative-history stories. There seems to be scarcely a respectable Alt-Earth without fleets of them. Whenever you see one or more airships in the light of day, you know that reality is slipping from the Main Sequence. Somewhere things are happening that ought not to be happening, and we must take steps to find out what they are and stop them.

* * *

Meanwhile, there was some nonsense in Iowa last night about the presidential election. If the results from these caucuses meant anything (and they almost certainly don't) they would mean that Democratic third-place finisher Hillary Clinton's only reliable supporters are old ladies, while Republican leader Mike Huckabee has Republican support that extends far beyond his evangelical activist base. Actually, Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn managed to surmise the results, such as they are, in this interview last night before there were any actual reports. For the most part, the two of them ignored the caucuses and talked about the general election. There was this reflection about Senator Bob Dole (no-hope Republican presidential candidate in 1996) that had occurred to me more than once:

MS: I think McCain would seem very tired next to Obama. Now there’s a side of McCain that I like, like when he’s doing his jokes about mocking Hillary’s call for the Woodstock Museum to be publicly subsidized.

HH: Right.

MS: And that’s the way I wish Bob Dole had run in 1996, as the guy, as the cranky, old guy who sort of ignores the Boomers, and cuts straight to the young people who all loathed their parents and that whole Woodstock-Boomer generation thing. And I always felt that if Bob Dole had run a sort of post-modern candidacy in 1996, he could actually have won. And McCain would in effect be trying to do that against Obama. Obama would be the hokey, you know, believe in the hope of change, whatever his stupid, meaningless slogan is, and McCain would just be the sly, vicious, cranky, mean guy who keeps puncturing that sort of marshmallow. I don’t write off a McCain-Obama match-up, but I do think regardless of who he’s running against, he would be a problematic candidate for Republicans to get behind.

Such a strategy might have been fresh and effective in 1996, which was why Bob Dole was as likely to have adopted it as a snake would be to tap dance. In any case, the time for it may have passed. Generation X has moved on, to be replaced by a generation both less sardonic and more connected.

* * *

Peggy Noonan affects to take the caucus results seriously, perhaps because her girl Hillary received so thorough a shellacking. She does have these useful observations about the the Reverend Governor Huckabee and his supporters:

Mr. Huckabee likes to head-fake people into thinking he's Gomer Pyle, but he's more like the barefoot boy of the green room. He's more James Carville than Jim Nabors. ...[The people who caucused for him in Iowa] have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools' squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don't admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don't need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.

Certainly there are elements of the Democratic leadership who seem to be a bit divorced from reality. However, the Huckabee boomlet suggests that the concerns of the Republican leadership are becoming irrelevant to the people who are expected to vote for the party. As for Huckabee himself, Mickey Kaus notes this disturbing development:

His next problem may be not so much New Hampshire as Ed Rollins, the Reagan White House political aide who came in a week ago to manage his campaign. Mr. Rollins began his tenure announcing ... that he... would like to sink to his knees and "shoot Romney in the groin" and "punch his teeth out." ...Self inflated dirigibles, especially unmoored ones, can cast shadows on parades.

So far the airships are just metaphorical, but we must keep an eye on them.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

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