Fears of the Mayan apocalypse might have been for naught, but that doesn't mean 2012 went by without any new signs of our world's impending doom. On Tuesday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the United States experienced record temperatures in 2012. Last year's average temperature of 55.3°F is a full one degree higher than 1998, the old record-holder. According to one study, weather stations across the country recorded 34,008 new daily highs, juxtaposed against a paltry 6,664 new record lows.
Those warm days led to a variety of problems. Last year was also the 15th driest year on the books, including a devastating summer drought that crippled much of the West and Midwest. The winters seem to grow milder each year; some cities like D.C. haven't seen substantial snowfall in nearly two years. Super-charged storms wrecked havoc throughout the year, culminating with Hurricane Sandy.
But don't try telling Republican deniers. And don't hold your breath for Democrats to push meaningful action. Prospects for impactful legislation to combat climate change passing Congress are slim to none. Sure, President Obama managed to squeak a temporary extension of wind-energy tax credits into the fiscal cliff deal, but it was a small-bore measure that will bring about minimal changes in turbine construction in 2013. Meanwhile EPA chief Lisa Jackson reportedly resigned in a huff of protest last week after she learned that the Obama administration planned to approve the controversial Keystone Pipeline, a spit in the eye to the environmental movement. Despite the preponderance of evidence confirming humanity's role in climate change—evidence that becomes more irrefutable each year—our political class isn't ready to tackle the tough decisions necessary to avert catastrophe.
So They Say
"True, we have a higher gun-violence level, but overall, muggings, stabbing, deaths—those men raped that woman to India to death with an iron rod 4 feet long. You can't ban the iron rods. The guns, the iron rods, Piers, didn't do it, the tyrants did it. Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns, and I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn't matter how many lemmings you get out there in the street begging for them to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand?
—Conservative radio host Alex Jones, going crazy on the Piers Morgan show
Daily Meme: Trying for the Best Ever
- Famed journalist Richard Ben Cramer died yesterday from lung cancer. He was 62.
- His most famous piece of reporting, his book about the 1988 presidential election,What it Takes, is a classic of the genre—any genre, in fact. In 2010, Ben Smith called it "the book that defined modern political reporting."
- And it hasn't had many rivals spring up since its publication in 1992. "Others would try to get as close to the core of a campaign as he had, and some would emerge with accounts worth reading, but none would achieve the same level of intimacy or leave a lasting mark."
- If you want just a hint of how much reporters love this book, read these in-memoriam pieces from Smith, Chris Cillizza, and Jonathan Martin.
- Cramer's other most famous work was a Ted Williams profile for Esquire, which Tom Junod calls "the greatest magazine profile ever published by Esquire and, not incidentally, the 'greatest magazine profile ever written.'"
- Joe Biden, who earned prime real estate in What it Takes, said "It is a powerful thing to read a book someone has written about you, and to find both the observations and criticisms so sharp and insightful that you learn something new and meaningful about yourself. That was my experience with Richard. He was an unmatched talent who set an enormously high bar for political journalism."
- James McBride, a close friend and fellow writer, said yesterday, "He was one of the greatest nonfiction writers to sit behind a desk and put a pen to a page. He's the writer that we all wanted to be. ... He could spin a yarn out of anything."
- His colleague at the Baltimore Sun, Tom Horton, said "He had raw talent for writing and reporting and was just so damn good. He was born to be a journalist and a writer."
- Cramer, when looking at the difference between reporters during his heyday and now, noted that everyone seemed to be at the mercy of the campaigns, desperate for access instead of wielding power like he and his cohorts had. “Even if you had the wherewithal to embarrass a reporter, there was no mechanism to do it. And in most cases, you might as well save your breath because the reporter had no shame anyway.”
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie reminds us that schmoozing doesn't make a great president. Circumstances do.
- Matt Duss thinks that the Hagel pick means that Obama just might be ready to get to work on his 2008 campaign promises on foreign policy.
What We're Reading
- Mitt Romney was the first presidential candidate in more than two decades to not rely on lawyers as his biggest cash cows, thanks to his many Wall Street friends.
- Tim Murphy teases out the connection between the NRA's private security plan and a private security firm.
- Congress, better than gonorrhea.
- A profile of Charlie Crist of the "Oompa Loompa skin, Anderson Cooper hair, and ... Keanu Reeves chin."
- An NYU grad student set out to tweet all the U.S. drone strikes of the past ten years. He thought it would take ten minutes. Four weeks later, he's still at it.
- During his Reddit "Ask Me Anything," Nate Silver said politics are way more annoying to analyze than sports. Because: way more delusional people.
Poll of the Day
John Boehner can't catch a break. Conservatives among his caucus have grumbled and moaned since he pushed the Senate's compromise solution to the fiscal cliff, and now the public has turned against the House Speaker. In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 31 percent approve of Boehner's actions during the fiscal cliff negotiations, compared to 51 percent who disapprove. Those ratings are flipped for President Obama, with 52 percent satisfied with the president's performance.