January 15, 2006 - January 8, 2006
. If the headline sounds snide, sorry. It's sincere. We're
foursquare behind Detroit's retro binge. It could be their salvation,
just as turning its vision directly toward the past rescued
Harley-Davidson from the ash heap of history. Here's what Popular
Mechanics has to say about the Dodge Challenger concept car:
You can't have old-time muscle cars without old-time muscle car wars.
Sounds like they're coming back, too:
Chevy better get busy. They've been a day late and a dollar short for a
long time now.
We hope all the Detroiters are paying attention because we've got some nominations for additional retro models we're sure would be a huge hit in the era of boring aero-baked-beans that's turned most cars into Japanese Beetles. Savor the possibility of these beauties updated and brand new in your local showroom:
The ridiculous suppository Pontiac is currently calling a GTO has to
go. Don't care if it's fast. It's an ugly, generic loser. NECESSARY FEATURES for the new
production model: pistol grip shifter, vinyl seats, cheap radio,
blackwall tires, STP decal.
The truth is, deep down inside, everybody wants one of these. Always
have. This is America at her flamboyant, exuberant, and vulgar finest. NECESSARY FEATURES: All (although
it would be okay if this time Cadillac included a suspension.)
The only car ever modeled on the face of Winston Churchill, but
American as a half-pound cheeseburger. NECESSARY FEATURES: bulldog eyes
and grille, wide whitewalls, pneumatic power accessories, and those big
chrome tits out front. (Oh, yes, he did. We'd bet on it.)
They got it exactly right this one time, then stank up the highways
with decades of derivative, rococo abominations. Time to admit past
mistakes and get on with the serious business of yesterday. NECESSARY FEATURES: All. (We're not
kidding, you esthetically challenged goons at FoMoCo. This is your last
The children may not know this, but long, long ago, before there was
fake wood, there was real wood, and they used to put it on cars. Some
cars. It would heal something deeply broken in our culture if we did it
again. NECESSARY FEATURES:
Wood. You got it? WOOD. And the wide whitewalls, of course. You're
allowed to include a CD/DVD player but the fascia had better be made of
Fighter planes weren't the only glamorous flying machines in the old
days, you know. There were also heavy bombers, called flying
fortresses, with room for a whole bunch of guys wearing leather jackets
and sidearms. Maybe if we had them again it would put a little spine
back into the metro-sexual followers of our age. NECESSARY FEATURES: split
windshield, plenty of dials and things on the dashboard, and room on
the front cowling for original nose art.
Back then, people used to believe in flying saucers for a reason. They
could be anywhere, everywhere, and things were a lot more fun as a
result. Let's return to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Now.
NECESSARY FEATURES: Alien-eye tail lamps, inter-dimensional drive, and
crap hanging from the rearview mirror.
For a long time there was only one real cop car, a pit-viperish sedan
made by Plymouth that sat coiled and ready to strike from the side of
every highway and byway in the land. It had no interior options, but it could
cruise all day at 140 mph. It's better not to let the cops have them
anymore because they've got more than enough enforcement tools to make
our lives miserable. But why can't we have them? NECESSARY FEATURES: 440 V8,
4-barrel Carter thermo-quad, true dual exhausts, metallic brakes,
police pursuit radials, Koni shocks, 3:23 rear-end, drilled hubcaps,
spotlight, vinyl seats, and hand-cranked windows.
Lexus, Cadillac, and Mercedes act like the convertible hardtop is a
technology they just dreamed up in their 21st century labs. Nope. The
original was far cooler, and we need it back. NECESSARY FEATURES: two-tone paint,
whitewalls, and lots of whirring and clicking solenoids.
Yes, cars really were better looking back then. And Raymond Loewy was
the best of all designers. NECESSARY
So it wasn't safe. That's why anyone who drives it is automatically a
hero. The hell with Nader. It's where he's going anyway when his long
cruise is done. This car is fun. Nothing gets sideways quicker under
every sort of driving condition. You'll love it. If you have the guts. NECESSARY FEATURES: X-frame,
swing arm independent rear suspension, carbon monoxide heater,
rear-engine, violent oversteer. And NO AIRBAGS OR SEATBELTS, you
chuckleheads. Don't spoil this ride.
It seems like a little thing. How many of us watch the History Channel
to add an interesting drib or drab to our general education? Not as
many as tune in to Desperate
Housewives, no doubt, but those who do watch probably expect to
be treated like intelligent adults -- say, a cut or two above the
audience for the old "In Search of" series narrated by Leonard Nimoy.
That show at least had a standard disclaimer acknowledging that there
might be other interpretations of the material presented. No such luck
with last night's History Channel offering called Little Ice Age, Big Chill. Here's
the description from the network's website:
Of course, the news that the Little Ice Age amounted to a few degrees
drop in average temperature didn't make it into the promos or the first
dramatic scenes of the show itself. We did get to see a band of monks
laboring their way up to an alpine glacier to exorcise (Fools!) the
"demon" ice flow that was threatening a 17th century mountain village.
We saw microscope slides of what purported to be Black Plague germs and
illustrations of violent activity in the French Revolution accompanied
by assurances that these events were precipitated or exacerbated by the
Little Ice Age. We were also told that the leaders of the day (you
know, church idiots) had no way of understanding the vast
climatological forces arrayed against them before we were informed that
these forces had contrived to lower temperatures by approximately three
degrees celsius. Then just to make sure we didn't underestimate the
impact of three degrees, the narrator plunged into a description of
just how hard life was for the medieval peasants of the time, who had
no FEMA or other government agencies to look after them when disaster
Is it petty to point out that the narrator was Edward Herrmann, whose voice has become synonymous in TV land with FDR and the golden age of New Deal liberalism that the evil corporatist Christian Republicans keep trying to repeal? Okay, so it is petty. But it may be fair to suggest that the refined tones of an old school Bucknell Phi Beta Kappa do add a ring of credibility to a script, whether it's presenting documented history-slash-science or mere speculative propaganda.
And it's definitely not petty to suggest that Little Ice Age was put together so sloppily and disingenuously that it provokes many more questions than it could possibly have intended.
The producers' intentions aren't at all hard to decipher. The climate alarmists have been busy for some time now redefining global warming as global climate change. Too many of us commoners have been too unreasonably resistant to the idea that global warming is responsible, as we've been told, for colder than average winters as well as warmer than average summers. The real objective of the smart people is to pass worldwide laws reducing CO2 emissions, since these are the primary component of climate conditions that can be attributed to human beings. Therefore, the "emergency" that has to be sold to the populace is rapid climate change -- up, down, or sideways -- which mandates handing power over to scientists and globalist bureaucrats who know better what's good for us than do tainted nationalist institutions like the Bush administration and, well, the Bush administration.
So the message we need to understand is that rapid climate change can happen and when it does happen it's disastrous. There aren't too many avenues open for proving that point. In fact, there's only one: finding instances when rapid climate change has already happened in recorded history and demonstrating that those changes had enormous impacts on society and the general welfare. It's also helpful if you can make it look like you're not shilling for the global warming crowd, which makes people suspicious. That's why the Little Ice Age is so perfect. If you can make them believe in sudden cooling, they're more likely to believe in sudden warming, too, and then you can always explain later on that even sudden cooling is simply a regional permutation of sudden warming. Or could be the next time it happens. Or something.
Anyway, Little Ice Age gives us a twofer, because apparently it followed another odd period called the "Medieval Warming," which was actually responsible for the emergence of European civilization from the Dark Ages. All those beautiful cathedrals erected by the evil Roman Catholic church were not so much symbols of cultural renaissance as manifestations of the natural optimism created by balmier days and more luxuriant crops. Can you start to see how helpless the old-fashioned institutions are in the face of climate change?
Well, if you can't, that's why it's so important to understand the catastrophe of the Little Ice Age. For example, if you thought the French Revolution was caused by a series of incredibly bad kings who raised taxes to the stratosphere (that's NEVER the problem, is it?), you're wrong. It was caused by colder temperatures that eliminated the tiny margin of crop surpluses on which the peasants lived. That's why they responded by dreaming up all those ridiculous notions about liberty, equality, and fraternity and killing every aristocrat in sight.
There's also a complicated argument about how the cooling caused the rampant spread of the Black Plague, which is very convincing if you didn't see the History Channel's earlier documentary about how Black Plague probably wasn't Bubonic Plague, which means we don't really know what it was, where it came from, or why it died out eventually.
And to drive it all home, we can even see how the Little Ice Age lasted almost all the way to the 20th century and froze up New York harbor, which we have honest-to-(er)goodness photographs of, so are you convinced yet?
Don't forget that anything which has happened once can happen again, even if it happens for different reasons this time around. What you should all be asking yourselves is, who can protect us this time around and keep all the bad things from happening. Can they do it soon, please, or before that even?
Uh, not so fast
Okay. Let's say that there was a Little Ice Age which lasted, as the History Channel tells us, from c. 1300 to 1850 A.D (er, A.C.E.). And let's say, before that, there was a "Medieval Warming," which lasted from c. 900 to 1300 A.C.E. The warming wouldn't have been caused by CO2 emissions because of the relatively low incidence of SUVs during the late middle ages, and the cooling wouldn't have been caused by the Kyoto protocols of 1295 because there weren't any.
This creates a twofold problem right out of the box. First, these are -- in human terms -- quite lengthy periods of climate change that more or less have to have been caused by natural phenomena rather than human screw-ups.
Second, it doesn't take advanced mathematics to calculate that the current normal -- i.e., non-warmed, non-cooled -- climate ideal we're so desperate not to destroy with CO2 emissions is at most about 150 years in duration. Couldn't it, in fact, be something other than "normal" -- i.e., a blip, a transition, an aberration in the natural dynamics of the earth's weather? And how can we possibly claim that our historically recorded temperature data, which began sometime toward the end of the Little Ice Age and ended sometime this morning, is telling us anything significant about "trends" we're trying to project 100 or more years into the future? Further, if the weather is really changing again, it's the third time it's done so in the last 700 years, and what possible basis do we have for believing that we have the power to alter the cycle? What exactly would constitute stability in this timeframe -- how would we know for sure that we'd either secured it or lost it in the first place?
Are you laughing yet? Well, wait. It gets better. If you look beyond the History Channel and the gentle authority of Edward Herrmann's narration, it turns out that there's reason to doubt whether there ever was a "Little Ice Age" or (ta-da!) a "Medieval Warming."
With respect to cooling, there's this (just for one example) at RealClimate.org:
And the same source has this about warming:
It's not our place to say that these arguments prove the History
Channel wrong. What's far more important is that scientists are
apparently still not in complete agreement about what was going on with
weather and temperature in the period between 1300 and 1900. That's
kind of a large gap if you're pretending to know what's been going on
between 1900 and 2005, especially when you're planning to reengineer
the entire global economy based on what you think you know about
So there may have been protracted but stable warm and cool periods during the past 700 years. Or not. The climate in the period from 1900 to 2005 may represent a third such period of relative stability. Or not.. Alternatively, the past 100 to 150 years may represent a period of gradual warming. Or not. If the climate is warming (or cooling) (or just getting more extreme), then the cause of whatever it's doing may be CO2 emissions from our factories and SUVs. Or not. Therefore we should just trust the scientists who are so rigidly sure of themselves that they're willing to overlook the nonexistence of valid economic prediction models and bet the farm on long-term weather prediction models, of which not one has ever been proven accurate. And we should be unfailingly grateful to the slightly confused but highly self confident seers -- and their minions -- who keep swallowing their exasperation to help all us dummies understand this particular science of doom.
Why does this remind us vividly of an excerpt from the Mark Steyn column we referenced at InstaPunk last week?
If we wrote a letter to Edward Herrmann, do you think he'd
explain it to us?