tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC November 12, 2014 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
start organizing on the ground level, town by town, person by person to get renewable energy. >> it's right there. some days in this issue some days i feel really optimistic. today is one of them. josh fox, great to have you here. >> thanks for having me. >> that's "all in" for this evening. the rachel maddow show starts now. >> good evening. the man at the witness table is a doctor, a very accomplished american doctor who is of indian american origin. he grew up in miami, florida. the man at the dais is a united states senator from cans is, specifically from dodge city, kansas. and here is how their conversation went. >> you ever been to dodge city, kansas? >> i have not, sir. but i would love to come. >> well, good. i'm going to invite you. and because we have a wonderful doctor from india, she's in her mid-30s and she's highly
respected by the community and another doctor from india that did my carpal tunnel on this when i did a stupid thing, and so i think you'd be right at home. >> he'd be right at home in dodge city because other people from india are also there. yes. welcome to the united states, american citizen who has lived here your whole life. you should try kansas, you'll see others of your kind. thanks to this year's election, senator pat roberts of kansas is coming back for another term in the senate. democratic senator mark begich from alaska, though, may not be coming back. as we reported last night, 50,000 outstanding votes remain to be counted in that race in alaska. as of tonight that number is down from 50,000, now closer to 30,000. that's still a huge number of votes still left unaccounted a week after the election.
but the associated press today called the alaska senate race for mark begich's republican opponent dan sullivan. dan sullivan then declared victory today. mark begich is so far refusing to concede that race. with this ap call now signs are pointing towards mark begich not coming back to the senate. that leaves the only outstanding senate seat from this year's elections, the seat that is held by democratic senator mary landrieu in louisiana. she's in a runoff that will happen december 6. she had won a couple of senate runoffs in louisiana in the past, but the odds are thought to be against her in this one, so much so that the democratic senate campaign committee pulled all of their ad support for her that they were planning for the runoff. but today in washington, the first day of the lame duck session, senator landrieu took to the floor of the senate apparently with support from her
democratic colleagues in the senate to talk about what she wants to try to do to try to save her senate seat. she announced today that she wants a vote immediately to approve the keystone xl oil pipeline. i say immediately, i mean immediately. she literally wants the vote to happen tomorrow. will that save mary landrieu's senate seat? well, let's lock at one specific thing about what it is she wants to vote on. it's the bill that has already passed the house to force construction of the keystone xl pipeline. one name on that bill, sponsor of that bill is mary landrieu's opponent in that december 6th runoff for the senate seat. it's a republican bill. bill cassidy, who she's running against, congressman bill cassidy sponsored that bill. so if mary landrieu bravely defies the democratic party and president obama to get that passed, what she will be passing
is her opponent's bill! so yea! slam dunk, now she beats him? that's a way to get him. get his bill passed. voters in louisiana on december 6 are going to have a choice between a rub guy that supports keystone or the democratic senator who supports keystone. if they're going to vote on keystone, that says nothing about whether or not she can win. there's no choice on that subject in that senate runoff. the democrats in the senate in their infinite wisdom have lined up behind the mary landrieu strategy that they'll defy the wishes of the president, defy the democrat party's base, defy the richest of the democratic donor class who are not all that psyched about throwing good money after bad and they're going to go for keystone because it will not help mary landrieu now anyway but it will kind of screw the environment, give the republicans what they want, upset the democratic base, set the president up for a painful presidential veto and split the democratic party in congress and depress democratic donors. why wouldn't we do it? honestly, it will win democrats nothing. at great cost.
so the big news out of washington today is that they're going for it. today was day one of the lame duck session of congress. they're going to work seven days this month and a grand total of eight days next month. but these 15 days, these are the last days that the democrats will be in control of the senate before the republicans take over in january. and once republicans take over, they'll do what they want. but right now the democrats are in control, they can do what they want. they're still in control of the senate. and apparently what democrats want to do is a lot of stuff that will hurt themselves and their party's policy priorities and help the republicans get what they want without a sweat. today white house chief of staff dennis mcdonough went to capitol hill and told senate democrats that for this last lame duck session while democrats are still in control of the senate, what they should focus on is things that the senate can do alone, and things that the senate can do with a majority vote while democrats still hold that majority.
he said specifically they should focus on nominations, on getting the president's nominees confirmed. >> we talked about nominations generally and we really want to get, obviously, get some progress and get our people into the slots because we have a lot of important work to do. >> there's one thing that senate democrats definitely can do right now alone with this last bit of power that they've got before the republicans take control of the senate. they can confirm president obama's pending nominees. i mean, the republicans certainly are not going to do that when they're in control, right? but the democrats could do that now. that's what they could spend this time doing. there are about 160 obama nominees of various kinds pending right now including a couple dozen judges. one of the highest profile nominees is, of course, the president's choice for attorney general of the united states, loretta lynch. as we reported last night senate democrats have inexplicably
decided to not even try to confirm her while they're still in control. they're instead just going to hope that mitch mcconnell will do it. he seems really nice now. it's not clear on what senate democrats plan on spending their time doing instead of confirming the attorney general or any of these other nominations that the white house says are their biggest priority and that are in the power of the senate democrats to pass if they want to, what else are they going to do besides that? so far the only concrete thing we've heard is they want to work on the republican idea for the keystone pipeline because mary landrieu wants to lose her senate seat with a feather in her cap. here's another idea, though. one of the surprises on election day, at least one of the surprises that defied the overall narrative of election day which is that it was a huge republican night. one of the things that didn't go
that way was the issue of guns. everywhere that gun safety, gun reform were on the ballot, they won on tuesday night. in washington state, this is interesting, it was a measure on the ballot that would implement background checks for all gun sales in washington state. the gun lobby countered with a competing ballot measure that would have banned background checks for gun sales in the state, so both of those were on the ballot at the same time. i should tell you that six washington state counties did stick their thumb in the eye of logic by voting to pass them both. in six counties they passed both a thing and a ban on that thing simultaneously. that's kind of amazing. but otherwise of those six counties overall in washington state it was a big win for background checks. background checks passed by an 18-point margin and the competing bill, the deliberately confusing ban on background checks that was also on the ballot at the same time washington state voters voted no on that one by ten points. so gun reform passed in washington despite this bamboozling effort and despite six washington state counties being amazing.
the gun reform passed in washington. also in the same election republicans did pretty great in governors' races coast to coast, but two races where they thought they were going to be winning claiming democratic scalps if they claimed them anywhere. two places they thought they would oust the sitting democratic governors were the states of connecticut and colorado. you remember that the nra put out this sort of horror movie of a magazine right before the election, vote your guns. it's a terrifying world. chaos is at our door. that horror movie magazine included this report card for connecticut governor dan malloy. he got the big "f" from the nra. the reason they were so upset with him is in the wake of the newtown elementary school massacre, governor malloy signed gun safety reforms in connecticut. similar measures were passed in colorado and signed by john hickenlooper.
the nra went after him as well. these are the nr ashes's financial disclosures before the election in colorado. they're very specific. $5,758.56 for, quote, phone bank opposing hickenlooper for governor, $37,591.50 for printing color post cards against hickenlooper for governor. 299,095.85 for tv ads opposing john hickenlooper for governor. the nra went all out. they thought they'd oust these two democratic governors who dared to sign gun safety legislation after massacres in their states, but both of those democratic governors survived. even on this hugely republican election night that we just had. and in the state of colorado, it wasn't even just hickenlooper, it was even worse for the nra. after that colorado legislation, the gun safety legislation passed in the wake of newtown and the aurora movie theater massacre in colorado, the gun lobby mounted a recall campaign against two state senators who voted for that legislation. these recalls were low turnout elections held in isolation two months before any other election day, a very tiny proportion of voters turned the out.
it was absolutely a single issue election, but the voters who didn't turn out voted strongly to throw out these state senators, to throw them out because of their gun votes, to throw them out on behalf of the gun lobby. the gun lobby in colorado then distributed these images of tombstones with the names of those senators on them that they'd run recalls against because they killed them. they killed those senators. and then they put up the third gravestone saying who's next, along with an ar-15 on the bottom there. who are the guys that the ar-15 is going to murder next? that was nice. in colorado. but those recall elections happened last year in september. this year on election night in colorado even as, you know, mark udall lost his senate seat to cory gardner and part of the
legislature went back to republicans even on that big republican night coast to coates which was a good republican night in colorado probably, not only did john hickenlooper hold on to his seat against all that spending from the nra, but the two gun rights candidates who ousted those state senators purely on the basis of a one issue gun rights campaign, those two gun rights people who ousted the senators both lost there are seats. democrats took both of those seats back including one that used to be the coordinator for michael bloomberg's mayors against illegal guns group. that's who holds that seat now that the gun lobby had put the gravestone about. republicans overall did great. but this headline in the new republic this week is right, republicans won the midterms, the nra did not. and that raises a really specific question. which is totally within the power of the democratic party to do right now. one of the nominations that president obama has made for a really important, really high
profile job, nomination that the senate has not acted on, is his nomination for surgeon general of the united states. that's the guy who senator pat roberts thought would be right at home in dodge city because there are other indian people there, too. he did not get a vote in the senate because the nra said they did not want there to be a vote on him in the senate. the nra said they would score the vote on an nra report card if the senate put him up for a vote. so they didn't do it. the reason they're so against him is that he once signed on to relatively mainstream public health position that gun violence is a public health problem in the united states. in the real world, in a country with this many shootings, that's not actually a controversial statement unless gunshot wounds just don't seem like that much of a problem to you. but the nra getting hysterical about that position is why we don't have a surgeon general. right now the white house says they want democrats in the senate to prioritize nominations while they still hold the senate and they can pass whatever nominations they want. one of the nominations the
president has made this the senate could act on and pass with a majority vote with just democrats voting for him is vivek murthy for surgeon general. what's the reason not to do that? because you're afraid of the nra? right, i guess? the nra is going to oppose democrats no matter what democrats do. ask arkansas senator no longer mark pryor. he voted no on the background check bill in the senate. big wet kiss to the nra, then the nra endorsed his opponent anyway and ran about a half million dollars worth of ads against him in arkansas. how did that vote pay off for you? mary landrieu trying to force a vote on keystone. then the republicans will attack her as a radical environmentalist anyway. there is no substantive objection to the nomination of loretta lynch to the attorney general of the united states. she's been unanimously confirmed by the united states senate twice already in her career, but if you give the republicans the
ability to control whether she gets confirmed they'll find a way to turn her into a kenyan muslim gay ebola carrier, right? doing what republican interest groups want because then they'll be nice to you because you gave them what they want, that is the original sin of this era of the democratic party. in this lame duck session, they have one last chance to actually get some substantive stuff done. and yes, republicans will cry and moan and campaign about it. republicans will cry and moan and explain anyway no matter what the democrats do. is there any reason to believe that the democrats will wake up to this reality and actually get something done? could the loretta lynch confirmation get done? could the vivek murthy confirmation get done? can anything get done? joining us now a political reporter at the huffington post
that has been writing about gun rights politics. the vivek murthy nomination was off the record for a long time after they decided to shelf it after that threat from the nra. what do you make about the chances of gun reform groups now essentially trying to put him back on the agenda based on what just happened in the elections? >> i think that the ebola crisis in particular highlighted the fact that the senate has yet to confirm a surgeon general. so certainly there's momentum that's stemmed from the talk about the conversation around ebola and the fact that we didn't have a surgeon general to try to explain to the american people more about -- more information about the disease and why they shouldn't be panicking, but the problem is that there are roughly ten senate democrats who continue to oppose dr. murphy's nomination because of comments he made criticizing politicians for being too scared of the nra to enact stricter gun laws.
there's little indication that that has changed even though most have lost their seats, so they have nothing to lose really by supporting him now, but the nra really continues to hold a considerable influence over lawmakers on capitol hill. >> even as the nra runs ads against democratic senators who have helped them with votes like that and positions like that in the past because democrats enjoy punches themselves in the face i'm sorry. from your reporting about what could happen and what democrats do prioritize right now, the loretta lynch vote right now do you have any insight into what the strategic thinking is there. they do want loretta lynch to be confirmed. >> the strategic thinking is to focus on a lot of the judicial vacancies right now which republicans will outright oppose when they take control of the senate.
democrats really want to use this narrow window they have, they're only going to be in session two weeks to try to confirm as many of the pending nominations as they can with a simple majority as they can while they still have it. republicans have said that they don't -- they will give loretta lynch a fair shot and they just want more time. they want more hearings, they want more meetings. democrats believe that republicans won't have much reason to oppose her. what republicans want to do is take her temperature on the subject of immigration since the president is potentially pursuing executive action on immigration, but otherwise they have said they have little reason to oppose her. >> sabrina siddiqui, thank you for your time. >> thank you. much ahead tonight including a world record, one with very, very local relevance here, and a superweird moment of geek. on the screen, see how nothing beats america's favorite
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on the screen, see how there's that thing on the screen right there? i can't see that physically in real space, but i can see it in the monitor that it's there. there, there it is. it's weird. i start to think after doing this job a long time that this virtual reality stuff right there, those splitting numbers exist in real life, too. it makes me behave strangely especially when drive.
you know what that is? it's a countdown clock. it's showing that a thing is about to start in exactly that long. this september one of the all-time most important world records was shattered when this woman in a bathrobe in norway, a tired meteorologist in stripy socks did the weather continuously for 33 straight hours, 33 hours of explaining weather. she actually broke the record at the 24-hour mark, but she had enough energy and enough weather that she just kept rolling on for another nine hours after the record fell. and thus the gauntlet was thrown, all other long-wined meteorologists had to bow to her greatness. the line starts with this person from norway, but apparently everybody else has to get behind her. but now one man, one master
atmospheric prognosticator has stepped out from the fog to challenge the nordic goddess of long-winded weather and that man is al roker, the national treasure that is named al roker. the world record longest continuous weather cast right now is 33 hours thanks to that lady in norway, but it's about to be 34 hours because that's what al roker is about to do. they're going to air it on today.com as well as the "today" show on nbc and local affiliates. but it will start here. it will start here in just a few minutes on the "last word with lawrence o'donnell" and that's what this countdown clock thing is about. a countdown to the al roker-thon, 38 straight hours of weather. just so you know how this is going to go, this is not an old school filibuster. mr. roker cannot get up there and read from the phone book or the 1932 farmer's almanac. there are rules. he must talk about weather the whole time. he can only talk about the current weather.
he can only talk about weather from up to seven days ago or weather seven days from now. he can't do a 153 weather forecast. and number three, every 60 minutes he gets a five-minute break which can be carried over. so if we goes for six straight hours without taking that break he can add up the five minutes he banked and then take a 30-minute break. usually tv stunts are kind of stupid and, in fact, some guinness world records are kind of stupid, but honestly, this one's about the weather. the weather! and al roker's also using it to raise funds for the uso. so come on. it starts in just a little bit. that's exactly how close we are. that's when it starts. usually i care about nothing on television. this i care about. i got to say. i'm so jealous of lawrence that it's starting on his show. this is going to be awesome. in the u.s., real estate in hong kong, and the optics industry in germany?
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and it is the biggest and perhaps the most important mandate a political party has had in the recent era, and it is very simple what that mandate is. it is to stop barack obama. it is to stop the democrat party. there is no other reason why republicans were elected yesterday. republicans were not elected to govern. >> there is going to be a firestorm on capitol hill. you're going to see calls for impeachment. i don't mean that necessarily they'll do it, but there will be calls for it. >> some of the other things
people are suggesting such as possible impeachment of the president for what many will consider lawless actions if he goes too far. some would suggest he should be impeached. how big would the action have to be? what would he have to do to make it an impeachable offense, that would so offend the republicans that they would take the political perilous step of impeaching him. is president obama trying to bait the republicans into impeaching him? >> normally it would be something bringing the country to a tipping point, the first thing people would say is impeachment. >> it's still kumbaya let's work together in the conservative media land. and among republicans. the unifying post election theme in the wake of the elections is, as you see here on the screen behind the chairman, stop obama. that's really their big idea. everything president obama does is positively outrageous to the republicans and to the conservative media. and that was before president obama went to china and
negotiated a one on one u.s. and china agreement on pollution and climate change. republicans' reason for living was that president obama must be stopped! even before this. how much does the president's new surprise climate agreement up that ante for them? in 2012 robert draper published a book called "do not ask what good we do" inside the house of representatives. the opening vignette from that book was inauguration day 2009 when president obama was being sworn in to start his first term. robert draper's telling, a group of senior republicans met that day on inauguration day to plot a strategy of opposing the new president on all policy. on every bill. they would oppose him as a matter of strategy even when they actually agreed with him, they would say no, to anything coming from him. that revelation in the robert draper book suddenly made a lot of things make sense from president obama's first term
that seemed weird at the time. >> this law failed by seven votes. when seven republicans, who had co-sponsored the bill, had co-sponsored the idea, suddenly walked away from their own proposal after i endorsed it. so they make a proposal, they sign on to the bill, i say, great, good idea. i turn around, they're gone. what happened? >> yes, they did agree with you on stuff, but they couldn't possibly do anything with you. they decided that would be a fate worse than death. and this has been a fruitful strategy for the republican party. they won the house in 2010, they won the senate in 2014. and really nothing gets done at all. nothing, nothing gets done in congress. after republicans took the house in 2010, that congress is officially on the record books as the least productive congress
in the history of congress. but they're about to lose that title to the congress that came right after them. the congress now, which is set to wrap up having done even less than the last congress which did less than any congress before. woo-hoo and as congress has just stopped the obama white house has evolved to try to keep making things happen, even without that other branch of government in operation. they can't raise the minimum wage, the president raised it, at least for federal contractors. they can't do anything on pollution and climate change, the president will do what he can administratively including negotiating deals with other countries including china. they can't agree to do anything other than make campaign ads about isis, well the president will mount a military campaign without congress that frankly pushes the limits of what a president is allowed to do with troops under the war powers act. they can't do anything other than make campaigns about ebola
either? the president will put in a request for funds and who knows, maybe they'll act some day, but in the meantime he'll get the pentagon to send troops and moving support as long as funding lasts. do you like the way this is going? because there's more where this came from, particularly on immigration. he can keep going like this. or would you prefer that some of the policy in our country be made with congress? with this vestigial political congress that trails around behind us like a fish tail on a bird. the answer depends on whether or not you are a republican. the pew survey put out a new poll on what americans believe should happen next in our government. there's a lot here. but the bottom line, do you think republican leaders in washington should try as best they can to work with president obama to accomplish things even
if it means disappointing some of the republican base? overall to that question the country says yes. yeah. you guys work together to do something. a clear majority of the country says yes, do something together. but when you ask just republican voters the same question, look, the answer is no, 2-1 no, two-thirds of republican voters say republicans should not work with president obama even if it means that less gets done for the country. republicans just say no. no. no, never and on nothing. the country says yes, but republican voters say no. so what do we get? hold that thought. ♪ it's not about how many miles you can get out of the c-max hybrid.
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the legacy of usaa auto insurance could be one of them. if you're a current or former military member or their family, get an auto insurance quote and see why 92% of our members plan to stay for life. today in washington not just orientation day for senators and members of congress who got voted in last week and will start in january, in addition to them, for a handful of people today, they actually got sworn into office today. and they get to start in congress right away during this lame duck season. those members include a man named dave bratt who does not have to wait until january because the way dave bratt got his seat in congress is by beating eric cantor, the republican house majority leader
in a republican primary in virginia for eric cantor's home seat. eric cantor then quit congress and that's what made that seat an open seat. that's why dave bratt was sworn in today so he can take his seat immediately until having to wait till january with everybody else. eric cantor's powerful staff in washington sort of cast to the four winds once mr. cantor unexpectedly lost that primary then quit congress. but having been through that whirlwind of anger and recrimination and surprise and shocking loss inside their own party, the eric cantor staff, i always thought, is in a particularly good spot. they've got a particularly good vantage point from which to see where the republican party is really coming from right now and where they might be going. joining us now a republican strategist former communications director for the republican party and most recently deputy chief of staff to majority
leader eric cantor. >> that's one heck of a buildup, i'm going to have to live down to that, i'm sure. >> i know you're still working in republican politics and you're still an active player in all this and life continues after the major leader leaves office. but does that experience taught you anything? >> when i'm not at home in the corner have the shakes, i do talk about it a lot. i talk to the members. the party is in a place to do good things. the party learned a lot from some of the thins that we tried to do that wasn't necessarily making the headlines that we were talking about earlier, but really good things to get the party talking about people again. we stopped talking about people, we stopped talking about families. one of the things we tried to do is focus on families, focus on people. i don't mean family values as we talked about in the 1980s or 1990s. but talk about flex time, their take-home pay. >> talking about policy. >> exactly. >> that brings me to my theory. >> yes. >> the belt way theory, the belt way explanation for what happened to your boss, what happened to eric cantor is he was too soft on immigration.
he wasn't seen as being anti-immigration enough and so therefore somebody was able to come from the right on the issue of immigration and turf him out. my theory is that eric cantor didn't actually do enough substantially on immigration to justify his whole career ending because of it. i think the reason he got turfed out is because he was talking about policy, policy and legislation and that itself is seen as a toxic thing by a big chunk of the republican party. >> the immigration policies in that race were fascinating. there was one day when we had our opponent attacking us, mr. bratt, congratulations to him now, now a member of congress, so he's got seniority on everybody coming in from tuesday's victories, but we had our opponent attacks us for having a secret plan to work with obama on amnesty. meanwhile, the same day at the same location, the other side of the virginia state capital, not in the congressional district, was luis gutierrez attacking us for being the sole person blocking immigration reform. who is right? neither. obviously it was something that he talked about he wanted to see things get done.
one of the things i'm most proud about working for eric cantor was he was somebody that wanted to get things done, enact policy change. one of the things that we saw quite often as recently today he was interviewed in "time" magazine talking about his relationship with joe biden. we're very enthusiastic on working with joe biden on things like the violence against women act, the kids first bill, which was a really important bill for our office but something that the house was able to pass on an overwhelming basis and we were able to get the senate to pass the bill. the house and the senate passed a bill and the president signed it into law. these things can actually happen now more. >> so therefore eric cantor must die. you know, this is why i'm saying about the politics here. this pew survey came out that if you ask americans broadly do you think that these new republican leaders in washington should work with president obama to get stuff done? the public says yes. majority of the public says yes. if you ask republican voters 2-1 no. they say 2-1 no even if it results in less being done for the country.
they just don't want anything done that has to involve the president of the united states. so that's not specific to any individual policy, passing legislation. >> i would say it's specific to some policies. you talked about them earlier, immigration reform is one of those, climate change. everything you went through in your last segment are specific issues that i think a lot of republican voters -- >> they want nothing -- it's not like they have a republican idea they want to work on for immigration. >> i think there are other things on other issues that we can do and the house has done and with a republican senate we can move forward. one example, we're sitting in manhattan. this is carolyn maloney's district. she had a bill that passed in the house to move forward a national women's museum. the house passed that, the senate won't move it. you would think with everything that we've talked about in the past two years with the war on women, it would be the house republicans blocking that, not harry reid stalling that bill. a bill from texas that would pass but stuck without a vote. what washington would do to govern and to work, house
appropriations bills, house has moved seven, not enough. but the senate has moved zero. we have a ledge branch bill and the ledge branch appropriations bill will never be front page of "the washington post" but if more than 400 members of congress vote for that, perhaps harry reid can move one bill. >> if we start with just bills introduced by democratic members of the house that the republican house then passed and now we'll see if mitch mcconnell moves on them -- >> i think some of them will. >> we will be in outer space. that could be a place to start. >> understand mitch mcconnell has wanted to be majority leader for a long time. he's going to do this to get things done. very quickly, one thing that won't happen in a house
republican senate there won't be a vote for impeachment. republican leadership thinks it's crazy. they won't support it. >> our friends at fox news beg to differ. we'll see what happens when the president moves on immigration if the impeachment calls disappear on the right. >> good to see you, thanks for the coffee mug. >> are you stealing that? >> yes, absolutely. >> that's all right. >> it's not a gift? >> i guess it is now. see? we're negotiating. we're working together. goodnight. goodnight. for those kept awake by pain... the night is anything but good. introducing new aleve pm. the first to combine a safe sleep aid. plus the 12 hour strength
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comcast business. built for business. we want to make something that is scary or technical or complicated into something more approachable, more lovable. hello mr. bill, mr. cartoon bill sitting there on capitol hill. hello municipal poop fairy. now please everybody pick up after your dog. and hello little philae space lander piggybacking with your friend rosetta to the surface of a comet traveling so, so fast. as you've heard today the lander philae landed on that speeding comet today. rosetta took this picture of philae lowering down away toward the comet. one important part of philae's job was to fire harpoons into
the surface of the comet so the little lander could stick to the comet's surface once she landed. that went wrong, though, oh, no, the harpoons. look at the is tweet, i'm on the surface but my harpoons did not fire. my team is hard at work now trying to determine why. it was time for the backup plans for this lit space lander on her comet. but there's a throwback super, super, super old school science about what happened next after the whole harpoon problem. and that story is just ahead and it's crazy. stay with us. i make a lot of purchases for my business.
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considered a manly thing. the signet ring, worn on the pinky. at face value it's always been a little weird that jewelry bedazzling the little stubby one of a man's finger is supposed to be a tough guy thing. but the reason we're supposed to see that as a tough guy thing is because really what it is is a sign of power. the signet ring, the ring on the little finger with the sign embossed on it was originally a way that people embossed their personal sign or their initial or their coat of arms or whatever into a blob of wax in order to seal a dom or seal a letter. you and you owe alone are supposed to have a signet ring. whoever you're sending the document from you. wax seals, the world's earliest form of document security. ancient idea. today we earthlings flung a machine 317 million miles away
from earth. 300 million miles. and then we successfully aimed that machine, about the size of a washing machine to drop down on to a comet that was ripping through space at 84,000 miles an hour. once the commit lander dropped down on to the surface of the comet, though, there was another question as to whether or not it would be able to stay there. gravity on that comet is only about 1/10,000th of what gravity is here on earth. so there's a real risk it won't stick, right? any little shove might bloop, accidentally pop the lander back off into space. there isn't enough gravity to hold it down. they had thought the surface of that comet might be rocky. they had harpoons ready and
screw down feet ready to try to stick it to the rocky surface. but it turns out the surface of the comet is instead sort of soft and powdery. so the screw downs and harpoons weren't able to function to hold it down. this thing really could poof back up into space accidentally if it's not held down. particularly because it's supposed to pull out its arms and grab pieces of the comet's surface to study. if it pushes down too hard with one of the sampler arms ber the lander could just nudge itself with enough force that it could fly off. the lander was going to stick on to the comet. the plan was, other than the harpoons and the screw-down feet and all that stuff which maybe hasn't worked because the surface was too soft. the plan was that this little lander was supposed to have a thruster built into its roof. genius idea. the thruster on the roof was designed to shoot big strong thrusts of cold nitrogen gas
straight up, thus pushing the craft down into the comet's surface. essentially thanks to the recoil from those thrusts. but the thruster didn't work. the brilliant web comic xkcd did a live seers of comets today which updated every few minutes. it was so good. we' linked it today at maddow blog. it's so good it will make you cry. but this is xkcz about two hours into the seven-hour process. the rosetta spacecraft from which the little lander had been dropped. you see the comment below in all its mystery what's there. then you see the lander itself, philae floating down towards the comet surface. it says hey, are you in touch with earth? the spacecraft responds yes, yes, i'm in touch with earth. i'm in touch with earth and they want you to know, little landing craft, they're a little worried about your top thruster. there's a chance you might have to hang on to the surface of the
comet without it. notice there in the comet the little lander's status report changes from in space to worried. worried. without that top thruster how am i going to hold on to the surface of that comet once i land, instead of just flinging off into space again because there isn't enough gravity to hold me down. worried. the lander says well, i really hope the harpoons work on comets because otherwise, how am i going to hold on? well, now we know. the harpoons didn't work on the comet and apparently the little screw down feet didn't work on the soft surface of the comet either. and the amazing cold gas thruster device that was supposed to make it all okay anyway, that was supposed to use the recoil of the thrusts of cold gas to sort of mash the lander down deep into the surface so it couldn't accidentally fly away. now we know the top thruster didn't work either. and the reason it didn't work was a wax seal. there's a gas tank that fires the cold nitrogen gas thrusts that was supposed to keep the little lander stuck to the surface of the comet. a pin was supposed to tap the
wax seal and break it. with the gas tank thus unsealed that would start the thruster. the pin didn't break. one question mark remains about this almost unbelievable human achievement. sending a machine 300 million miles away from earth and having it land on a comet traveling 80,000 miles an hour while it talks to us and takes pictures at the same time, the one remaining question mark about whether that little machine is going to be able to literally stick around and finish its work instead of flinging itself accidentally off the comet and back into space, that question mark is due to the familiar of a tiny blob of technology that humans have been using for centuries. now it's time for "the last word." good evening, lawrence. i'm very excited for your show tonight.
>> great, awesome. >> chinese hackers have broken into the government agency that tracks the weather. and you are about to watch al roker try to break into the guinness book of world records. >> it's been 100 years since it was this cold this early. >> the cold now covers about half the country. >> temperatures are expected to drop. >> crazy temperature drops. >> by dougt -- double digits. >> it's 70 degrees here. >> you're a cruel individual. how dare you mention those temperatures, my friend. >> records are falling. and it's really cold out there.