It was the year Democrats killed the United States Senate. If you missed the story, it's not surprising. When Sen. Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster, it was billed as the Democrats' last-ditch response to Republican "obstructionism." We were invited to play tu quoque because Republicans had threatened to invoke the "nuclear option" themselves in 2005. Largely ignored was Reid's relentless assault on Senate traditions.
The body, most memorably described by George Washington as the "saucer" into which legislation was poured to cool, had been stripped of many of its traditions even before Reid pressed the nuclear button. "The amendment days are over," Reid proclaimed in 2012. Underlining the point, he filled the "amendment tree" of every important piece of legislation, offering Republicans no opportunity to suggest alternatives. Reid then demanded a cloture vote, often on the same day. The Reid reign is more Capone than Cicero: no debate, no amendments, no time even to read bills. Protecting minority rights and preserving the Senate's tradition of debate has always been a triumph of the American system. The year 2013 sounded a tocsin.
It was a bad year for those who think they understand and control vast, complicated systems. Yes, I'm thinking of Democrats and Obamacare, but also the sun. Climate activists have assured us with chilling urgency that the global temperature is rising and that turning the dial labeled carbon dioxide several clicks to the left will avert catastrophe. Except 1) it's nearly impossible to reduce CO2 (think China and India); 2) it's been 18 years since the atmosphere showed any warming despite increasing concentrations of CO2; and 3) money spent on reducing CO2 cannot be spent on other problems.
Now, another variable seems to be misbehaving. Apparently, the sun is weakening. "There is no scientist alive who has seen a solar cycle as weak as this one," Andres Munoz-Jaramillo, who studies the solar-magnetic cycle at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told The Wall Street Journal. More than half of solar scientists, according to the newspaper, speculate that the sun could be returning to a more quiescent phase after a burst of activity that began in the 1940s. Or not. The sun may be dimming a bit, but it may not affect global temperatures because we've been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. On the third hand, it's possible a more pronounced solar minimum could yield another glaciation. During the last one, an ice sheet one mile high covered most of North America.