Rachel Maddow shares the fun, running coverage of the Philae lander by xkcd, and marvels at the amount of technology applied to landing a spacecraft on a comet with the only major malfunction being connected to one of humankind's oldest technologies. watch
Rachel Maddow teases ahead to an upcoming segment about a malfunction in the harpoons of the Philae space lander, and enjoys the anthropomorphizing of Philae online by the European Space Agency to keep the project accessible. watch
Doug Heye, former deputy chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Republican Party's plan for governing and the party's apparent real strategy of focusing strictly on opposing President Obama. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that Republicans have embraced a policy of denying President Obama anything he pursues, despite the preference by Americans overall, as shown in a new Pew survey, that they work together. watch
Rachel Maddow points out politically impulsive behavior by Senate Democrats that are ostensibly strategy based, but are actually foreseeably damaging to the Democratic image and political interests, as well as President Obama's policy priorities. watch
* The world noticed: "The historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China that they will commit to targets for cuts in their nations' carbon emissions has fundamentally shifted the global politics of climate change. The agreement has given a fresh jolt of optimism to negotiations aimed at reaching a new international climate treaty next year in Paris, where the American and Chinese targets are expected to be the heart of the deal."
* Ukraine: "Russian tanks, artillery and air defense systems have poured into Ukraine over the past two days, NATO's top commander said Wednesday. U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove expressed concern that the border between the former Soviet allies was now "completely wide open," allowing Moscow to potentially bolster rebels in eastern Ukraine who are skirmishing with government troops despite a cease-fire."
* Closer to home: "Russia's long-range bombers will conduct regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, the military said Wednesday, a show of muscle reflecting tensions with the West over Ukraine."
* Turkey: "Members of a Turkish nationalist youth group assaulted three visiting American sailors in Istanbul on Wednesday, hurling balloons filled with red paint at them, putting white sacks over their heads and calling them murderers."
* A tragic milestone: "More than 5,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday, marking another grisly toll in the epidemic."
* Related news: "The Pentagon doesn't plan to deploy the full 4,000 U.S. troops to Ebola-stricken Liberia -- scaling back the number even as the virus makes rapid gains elsewhere in West Africa. Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, who's leading up the effort overseas, said the current 2,200 troops will grow to nearly 3,000 by mid-December. But the military doesn't expect more soldiers on the ground will be necessary."
* Mexico: "Mexicans furious at the presumed massacre of 43 students torched the ruling party's Guerrero state headquarters and briefly took a police commander prisoner as growing protests rocked President Enrique Pena Nieto's government."
* South Carolina: "A federal judge on Wednesday struck down South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, opening the door to such marriages but also giving the state a week to appeal. The attorney general said he would do so immediately."
While terrestrial events can disappoint, it's important to remember sometimes that humans are still capable of truly extraordinary accomplishments. Take today, for example, and this report from Alan Boyle.
After a suspense-packed, seven-hour descent, the European Space Agency's Philae lander made an unprecedented touchdown on the surface of a comet Wednesday -- marking the high point of a $1.3 billion, 10-year mission.
Cheers erupted as the confirming signals were received at from the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, at 11:03 a.m. ET. The signals took 28 minutes to travel at the speed of light over the 317 million miles (510 million kilometers) between Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Earth.
Stefan Ulamec, Philae lander manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, declared, "It is sitting on the surface. Philae is talking to us -- we are on the comet."
For more on this, our own Summer Ash took a closer look at the story a few days ago in our "Week in Geek" feature, and we'll have even more on tonight's show.
As Congress' post-election, lame-duck session gets underway today, it's worth reflecting on what's possible in a brief period of time.
As Rachel noted on the show last night, nearly four years ago at this time, there was a great exchange between Jake Tapper, ABC's White House correspondent at the time, and then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, about expectations for the 2010 lame-duck:
TAPPER: So just to put a period on this, the president thinks that funding the government, passing unemployment-insurance extensions "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, the DREAM Act, tax cuts and START all can be done?
TAPPER: In the next 18 days?
TAPPER: Good luck.
GIBBS: Yes. Well, thank you. (Laughter.) Yeah, you'll have a lot to cover.
In Tapper's defense, the session turned out to be a little longer than 18 days, and the vote on the Dream Act came up short in the face of an unyielding Republican filibuster.
But in that lame-duck session, Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, repealed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, ratified the New START treaty, passed a middle-class tax-cut extension, extended unemployment benefits (back when Republicans considered that worthwhile), approved a bill providing health coverage for 9/11 first responders, they passed most sweeping food-safety bill in 70 years, confirmed some judicial nominees, and passed the defense authorization bill.
Every one of these bills passed Congress during the 2010 lame-duck session. And here's the kicker:
Though pop culture isn't my usual fare, this complaint in the Weekly Standard about last night's "Concert for Valor" calls for a response.
Who would have thought that that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown, accomplished musicians all, would be so, well, tone-deaf? But how else to explain their choice of song -- Creedence Clearwater's famously anti-war anthem "Fortunate Son" -- at the ostensibly pro-military "Concert for Valor" this evening on the National Mall?
The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at "the red white and blue." It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The piece concludes that the Veterans Day event in front of the Capitol "was not the place" for the song.
The Washington Postreported that plenty of other conservatives were also bothered by the performance.
Maybe it's time to take a closer look at what "Fortunate Son" is all about.
The day after the midterm elections, as Republicans were still celebrating their big wins, Rush Limbaugh issued a stern warning to his GOP allies: don't even try to get stuff done. Republicans, the radio host said, "were not elected to govern."
A day later, Limbaugh elaborated, making the case that Republicans were elected "so that there'd be continued gridlock." In other words, as far as the far-right media figure is concerned, gridlock isn't just the unfortunate byproduct of divided government in highly polarized times, it's the actual, intended result of popular will.
It seemed like an odd perspective. The country actually wants gridlock? That's the goal?
Overall, 57% of the public says Republican leaders in Washington should try as best they can to work with Barack Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters [....]
Within the Republican Party, only about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners (32%) want to see the GOP leadership work with Obama if it disappoints some groups of Republican supporters. About twice as many (66%) say GOP leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done.
In other words, Limbaugh's sentiment may sound ridiculous, but it's actually a reflection of Republican voters' will in general. Two years ago, most GOP voters wanted their party to work with President Obama following his re-election, but such attitudes have clearly faded away -- by a two-to-one margin, rank-and-file Republicans would prefer nothing to cooperative governing.
Democratic voters don't think that way, nor does the country at large, but the GOP electorate doesn't much care. Their priorities are, in order: (1) reject and oppose Obama at all times; and (2) see point (1).
Just a couple of months ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was eager to move past his troubled first term by unveiling a new policy agenda. Near the top of the list: drug testing for welfare beneficiaries.
As local reports noted at the time, the Republican's plan would require "drug testing at an undisclosed cost for able-bodied adults receiving unemployment insurance payments or benefits under FoodShare, the successor to the food stamps program."
Hunter Schwarz reported yesterday that this wasn't just campaign-season rhetoric: Walker is actually moving forward on this.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he wants recipients of food stamps and unemployment benefits to undergo drug tests, a move that could face possible legal trouble. [...]
Walker, who won reelection last week against Democratic challenger Mary Burke, has not offered details for such a plan, but spokeswoman Laurel Patrick told the Pioneer Press that Walker would work with his cabinet to "craft a specific proposal" in the next several weeks.
If it seems like stories like these keep popping up, it's not your imagination: conservative policymakers keep targeting welfare recipients with drug tests, and the policies keep failing rather spectacularly.
Indeed, the policy seems to be following an odd trajectory: it's tried in one state, where it flops, which in turn leads another state to try it, where it fails again, and so on.
And while it's clearly too soon to evaluate Walker's plan on the merits -- the details have not yet come together -- it's not too early to note why the underlying idea is so misguided.