NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite released its first public image of our home this past week. The satellite was able to see the entire Earth at once because it orbits us at a distance of over a million miles, nearly four times as far away as the Moon. This orbital location has a special name, it's called the "L1 Lagrange Point".
First up from the God Machine this week is an interesting shift in Americans attitudes towards Pope Francis in advance of his U.S. visit in September. MSNBC's Eric Levitz reported this week on the latest survey results from Gallup.
Americans are losing faith in Pope Francis, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.
The Pope's favorability rating in the U.S. has fallen from 76% in early 2014 to 59% today, roughly where it stood at the start of his papacy.
Gallup's report noted that the most striking change dragging down the pope's U.S. support is the changing attitudes of American conservatives. Last year, 72% of conservatives said they had a favorable opinion of Francis, while this year, the number stands at just 45%
To put that in perspective, Gallup also noted this month that among Republicans, 49% have a favorable opinion of Donald Trump -- suggesting that on the right, Trump's message is resonating slightly more effectively than the Vatican's.
The report added, "This decline may be attributable to the pope's denouncing of 'the idolatry of money' and linking climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality -- all issues that are at odds with many conservatives' beliefs."
Though Francis' standing dropped with more than one U.S. group, the decline in support among conservatives was the most significant, and it comes on the heels of high-profile criticism of the pope from prominent Republican figures, including Rush Limbaugh and several leading GOP presidential candidates, each of whom have argued the pope is addressing debates they want him to avoid entirely.
Or put another way, after Republican leaders urged Francis to stay on the sidelines of major political/moral disputes, Republican voters soured on the pope.
Rachel Maddow reports on increasing pressure on Fox News to make its Republican primary debate rules more inclusive as Chris Christie buys advertising on Fox News to boost his poll numbers with Republicans nationally to qualify for the Fox News debate. watch
Dan Rather, host of The Big Interview on AXS Tv, talks with Rachel Maddow about how Donald Trump can be doing so well in the polls against all of the Washington, D.C. conventional wisdom about his seriousness and gaffes. watch
Benny Zelkowicz, cable news viewing titan, pits his power in the weekly Friday Night News Dump challenge for a chance to win a jar of powder that magically tastes like bacon without actually containing bacon (or so the label says). watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the Senate having to work into the weekend because time is running out on the very important highway funding bill and Republicans have attached a lot of unrelated amendments to it that have to be worked through. watch
Tricia McKinney, senior planning producer for The Rachel Maddow Show, works with Rachel to select a appropriately random, unwanted item to serve as a suitable prize for this week's Friday Night News Dump. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on what new details have been learned about the deadly shooting at a movie theater in Lafayatte, Louisiana, including the shooter's disturbing mental health history which somehow did not prevent him from purchasing a gun. watch
* The latest details from Lafayette: "The lone gunman who opened fire at a packed Louisiana movie theater had a history of 'extreme erratic behavior' and was so unstable that his wife removed all of the guns from the home, court documents show."
* As of yesterday, there have been 204 days so far this year. There have also been 203 mass shooting events so far this year.
* Sandra Bland: "Authorities released in full the long-awaited autopsy results for Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old whose death inside a jail here was met with disbelief by her family and members of her fellow activist community. But the report did not include toxicology results, leaving questions unanswered about preliminary reports suggesting Bland consumed a large amount of marijuana shortly before her death."
* A gut-wrenching story out of Oklahoma: "Two teenage brothers were being held on Thursday in the stabbing deaths of their parents and three siblings -- ages 12, 7 and 5 -- in their home in a suburb of Tulsa, Okla., the police said. A fourth sibling, a 13-year-old girl, was taken to a hospital in critical condition, the police said, and a fifth sibling, a 2-year-old girl, was unharmed."
* Perry catches a break: "An appeals court on Friday rejected one of the criminal counts against former Gov. Rick Perry but said he must face the other one in the abuse-of-power case against him."
* Dems have been calling this the Trump Bill: "The House voted Thursday to punish local jurisdictions -- known as 'sanctuary cities' -- that defy federal immigration authorities in order to protect immigrants living illegally in the United States." It passed 241 to 179.
* An incredible streak: "The price of health care has grown more slowly than core consumer prices -- what Americans spend on everything except food and energy -- over the past five years. It's the first time that's happened since record-keeping started in 1959."
Chris Christie's presidential campaign has a new television ad, which may not work quite as well as the Republican governor's team intended. Here's the transcript:
"President Obama gave away the store to the Iranians, to a group of people who since 1979 have been chanting 'death to America.' This was negotiated so badly that you wouldn't let this president buy a car for you at a car dealership.
"Now, he's lying to the American people about how the deal's going to work. I would've walked away from the table. That's what Ronald Reagan did when he walked away from Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.
"And so as president, the top priority is to protect the United States of America, and I'm the only one in this race who's had at least some small part of that responsibility. I'm Chris Christie and I approve this message."
The whole idea behind the ad is odd, in a candidate-focuses-on-his-weakness sort of way. Christie has no meaningful background in foreign policy or national security, and he's struggled at times to understand the basics, so for the governor to pretend this is his area of expertise is jarring.
For that matter, if the scandal-plagued Republican has any evidence of the president "lying to the American people about how the deal's going to work," Christie hasn't shared his proof with anyone.
The latest report from the Pew Research Center offered generally good news for President Obama -- Democrats' favorability is improving, while Republicans' favorability is sinking -- but there was one trouble area for the White House that stood out.
Just over half of Americans (53%) continue to say that Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy and national security is "not tough enough"; 37% say he handles these matters about right, while just 4% say he is too tough. These attitudes are virtually unchanged since November 2013.
Republicans are far more critical of Obama's approach to foreign policy than Democrats or independents.
Indeed, the partisan split matters. A 53% majority believes the president's approach to national security isn't "tough enough," but that's exaggerated a bit because a whopping 80% of Republicans have convinced themselves this is true. The numbers of Democrats and Independents who agree is significantly smaller.
Still, it's a deeply odd thing for a majority of Americans to believe. Consider something Obama said this week during his address to the VFW National Convention:
"I've shown I will not hesitate to use force to protect our nation, including from the threat of terrorism. Thanks to the skill of our military and counterintelligence professionals, we've struck major blows against those who threaten us. Osama bin Laden is gone. Anwar Awlaki, a leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- gone. Many of al Qaeda's deputies and their replacements -- gone. Ahmed Abdi Godane -- the leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia -- gone. Abu Anas al-Libi, accused of bombing our embassies in Africa -- captured. Ahmed Abu Khattalah, accused in the attack in Benghazi -- captured. The list goes on. If you target Americans, you will have no safe haven. We will defend our nation."
As of yesterday, Abu Khalil al-Sudani, the al Qaeda operative "in charge of suicide bombings and operations involving explosives" was killed by U.S. forces, which means he can be added to Obama's "gone" list.
I'm reminded of Jeffrey Goldberg's point from last year: "Obama has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency."
Earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said of the international nuclear agreement with Iran, "This is not America's deal with Iran. It is Barack Obama's deal with Iran." It wasn't an offhand, impromptu comment made during an interview; the Republican senator actually included the line in a written statement.
Yesterday, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Iran deal, Rubio made a nearly identical argument to Secretary of State John Kerry:
"Secretary Kerry, I do not fault you for trying to engage in diplomacy, and striking a deal for Iran, I don't. I do fault the president for striking a terrible deal with Iran. [...]
"[E]ven if this deal narrowly avoids congressional defeat because we can't get to that veto-proof majority, the Iranian regime and the world should know that this deal is your deal with Iran, meaning your's and this administration's, and the next president is under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it."
Obviously, when the Florida Republican refers to "the next president," Rubio believes he's referring to himself.
The surface-level issue is the concern that the GOP senator is using a serious foreign-policy debate for campaign grandstanding -- Rubio wants far-right activists to see him, not his rivals, as the party's fiercest critic of nuclear diplomacy. All of the top Republicans are talking about their plans to abandon the U.S. commitment in this area, and Rubio sees value in being a top member of the club.
But just below the surface, Rubio's posturing even far more serious.
There's some disagreement about how many times House Republicans have voted to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act. I've seen some estimates of 56 separate votes, though some put the total a little higher.
But let's not forget their friends on the other side of the Capitol. As National Journalreports, Senate Republicans are at least going through the motions to keep their repeal crusade alive, too.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed repealing Obamacare as part of the long-term highway bill currently being considered in the upper chamber.
McConnell's office said Friday that the Senate would vote Sunday on an amendment to the highway legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act. The initial vote, which would cap debate on the repeal amendment, would need 60 votes.
Obviously, this is a ridiculous endeavor. The very idea of repealing an effective health care law is increasingly bizarre, and as Senate GOP leaders realize, there's zero chance of the repeal measure passing. The fact that Mitch McConnell sees this as a necessary part of the debate over highway spending is itself quite sad.
So why in the world is the Republican leader doing this, announcing an ACA repeal vote out of the blue? Apparently because McConnell is looking for an adequate pacifier for his far-right flank and this is the best he could come up with.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.
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