Curmudgeons Corner

Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.

Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, and The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015
 
All prayers for Harrison Ford and a speedy recovery.


 
In 'Justified' Raylan and what life might be like after Harlan County (spoilers)

n “The Hunt,” the episode of “Justified” that aired Tuesday night, Raylan receives a reminder of the life he would like to live if he survives his quest to put Boyd Crowder away. Winona and their baby daughter pay him a visit. Not only does Raylan find being a dad to be an unexpected joy, but he seems to be reconnecting with his former wife as well, especially in the carnal sense



 
In 'The Americans' Elizabeth uses idealism to corrupt her daughter (spoilers)

The episode of “The Americans” that aired Wednesday night was remarkable in that it depicted Elizabeth’s next move in her mandate to corrupt her daughter Paige and turning her into a Soviet agent. In a way, Elizabeth’s gambit is even creepier than Phillip’s use of sex (or at least the promise thereof) to corrupt Kimberly, a girl the same age as Paige, to get access to her CIA father and his secrets.




 
Obama throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus over Emailgate

Fox News reported on Thursday that Hillary Clinton has surfaced long enough to ask the State Department to release the emails she provided from her private server to the public. However, the scandal surrounding the former secretary of state’s use of a private, unsecured email account to conduct official business has only deepened. More importantly, signs exist that the Obama administration is trying to throw Hillary under the bus. Clinton is, of course, trying to return the favor.

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas




 
Culberson charges NASA with the 'development of the first interstellar rocket'

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that determines NASA funding, has been the driving force behind a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. However, according to a Wednesday story in Space Policy Online, the congressman has an even greater challenge for the space agency. During a hearing on the FY 2016 NASA budget request, Culberson charged NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to further “the development of the first interstellar rocket propulsion system that would carry us to Alpha Centauri and beyond.” Culberson is very keen to start the exploration of exoplanets that have been discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope.



 
Ridley Scott to bring 'Flashman' to the big screen

Variety reported on Thursday that Fox is developing a film based on the Flashman books, written by the late George McDonald Fraser. The film will be produced by Ridley Scott and Peter Chernin. There is no word yet who might direct, who will play the title role, or which of the books would be the basis of the film. Since over a dozen books were written about the Victorian-era anti-hero, the film could easily turn into a franchise

Flashman: A Novel



Wednesday, March 04, 2015

 
As Hillary Clinton wallows in scandal, desperate eyes turn to -- Al Gore?

With Hillary Clinton’s email dustup making Democrats nervous and the great liberal hope, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, stubbornly refusing to jump into next year’s presidential race, speculation has started about who might ride to the rescue. Hot Air suggested on Wednesday, perhaps with tongue firmly planted in cheek, the former vice president, and 2000’s presidential candidate Al Gore might ride to the rescue. Arguments exist for and against.




 
Ted Cruz offers the 'Health Care Choice Act of 2015' Obamacare alternative

The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments in the case of King v. Burwell, in which the plaintiffs allege that the language of the Affordable Care Act forbids subsidies for Obamacare health insurance policies in states where exchanges are run by the federal government. It is widely acknowledged that should the court find in favor of the plaintiffs and thus strike down the subsidies, Obamacare will collapse of its own weight as health insurance becomes unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. The Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas has an alternative ready to go.



 
The left reacts hysterically To Netanyahu's speech

In the wake of his historic speech before a joint session of Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu is being cast in the role of a modern Churchill, sounding the alarm to the existential threat to world peace that is Iran and its nuclear bomb program. However, that view is not universal. According to a Tuesday story in Hot Air, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was so incensed that she fled the House chamber “nearly in tears.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews warned of a dark conspiracy between the Israeli Prime Minister and Republicans to seize control of foreign policy from President Obama.



Tuesday, March 03, 2015
 
The Firedrake


 
Texas lawmaker pushes for marijuana legalization in the Lone Star State

With recreation pot now legal in the states of Colorado, Washington, and most recently Alaska, Texas state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview has introduced bill in the state legislature to completely decriminalize marijuana in the Lone Star State, according to a Tuesday story in the Houston Chronicle. The bill would essentially repeal every provision in Texas state law that refers to marijuana. Were the bill to be passed and signed into law, marijuana would be regulated in Texas just like any crop, such as jalapenos, rice, or citrus fruit.



 
Netanyahu praises Obama, attacks Iran deal in speech before Congress

According to a Tuesday story in the New York Times, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress on the subject of Iran, its drive to acquire a nuclear bomb, and its aggression throughout the Middle East. He started, mindful of the political overtones of the speech, by giving effusive praise to President Barack Obama for his past support of Israel. Then he systematically demolished the plans by the administration to strike a nuclear deal with Iran that would place Israel in particular but also the entire world in general at deadly peril.



 
Hillary Clinton used personal email for State Dept. business contrary to the law

The New York Times dropped a bombshell on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday when it revealed that she never used a State Department email address while conducting official business. This practice has profound effects on not only the transparency of her official communications but also their security, Clinton may well have violated federal law by not having those emails backed up on State Department servers as required. Her official communications were also likely open to any foreign intelligence service who cared to hack into them./P>



Monday, March 02, 2015

 
Netanyahu's popularity soars as he defies Obama

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States to campaign against a Munich-style agreement with Iran over that country’s nuclear bomb program. His visit is causing a great deal of heartburn for the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress. Gallup has released a poll Monday that will deepen that political version of acid reflux. Netanyahu’s favorable rating among Americans has soared to 45 percent while his unfavorable rating has remained at 24 percent. President Obama’s unfavorable rating is more than double that of Netanyahu. The president’s attempt to marginalize the Israeli prime minister has failed utterly.



 
In 'The Walking Dead' Rick and his group find an uneasy sanctuary (spoilers)

In “Remember,” the episode of “The Walking Dead” that aired on Sunday, Rick and his group arrived at the walled community of Alexandria, yet another apparent sanctuary from the flesh eating zombies that shamble about the planet. They’ve seen this movie before with sanctuaries that turned out to be traps. Woodbury was ruled over by a madman known as the Governor. Terminus was a nest of human cannibals. Even the farm and the prison had turned out to be temporary bolt holes against the madness that had overrun the planet.



 
NASA space exploration supporter Barbara Mikulski to retire from the Senate

Hot Air reported on Monday that Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, has announced her intention to retire from public life when he term ends in January, 2017. The retirement is of particular interest to observers of space policy because of Mikulski’s involvement in space issues from the very beginning of her Senate career. In recent decades, Mikulski has been a warm supporter of NASA spending and space exploration. That support was not always forthcoming.



 
New Democratic Coalition revolts against Elizabeth Warren liberalism

Even though Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass has thus far ruled out a run for the presidency, she has become such a force for liberalism in the United States Senate that the Boston Globe is already comparing her to the late Teddy Kennedy. This phenomenon has a group of moderate House Democrats sufficiently alarmed that they fear Warren’s ascendency spells electoral disaster for 2016, according to a Monday story in the Hill. The small group of moderates intends to roll out their economic agenda sometime this week.



Sunday, March 01, 2015
 
You've seen the movie, now read the book. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History


 
Germans create 'biobattery' that turns solid waste into energy and fuel

It’s 2015 and in the spirit of taking stock how the real year resembles and is different from the 2015 imagined in “Back to the Future 2” we turn to the Mr. Fusion power plant. As fans of the movie remember, Doc Brown had souped up the time traveling DeLorean with something called “Mr. Fusion,” presumed to be a cold fusion plant, to give it the power to go from 1985 to 2015 and, by the way, to fly. The power plant was powered by food waste and other biomass. Fusion power plants and flying cars are yet to be a reality, but according to a Friday story in Science Daily, a power plant that runs on all sorts of biomass has been developed.



 
Kerry claims close ties with Israel, though Obama may have threatened war

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and had some remarkable things to say about negotiations with Iran over that country’s nuclear weapons program and relations between the Obama administration and the State of Israel, according to a Sunday story in the Washington Examiner. Kerry said that Israel is safer because of those negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is headed for the United States to address a joint session of Congress on the idea that Israel and, in fact, the entire world is being placed in danger because of the Obama administration’s deal to strike a deal – any deal – at all costs.



 
Carly Fiorina sees Vladimir Putin as a major threat

Carly Fiorina is one of the more interesting potential Republican presidential candidates, as illustrated by her performance at CPAC. First, in a Thursday speech, she ripped into Hillary Clinton, discrediting the former secretary of state as the first woman president in waiting. Then, on a Saturday foreign policy panel, according to Hot Air, she demonstrated that she had a better grasp of Vladimir Putin than does President Obama or, for that matter, his predecessor President George W. Bush, who once opined that he was able to look into the Russian tyrant’s soul.



Saturday, February 28, 2015
 
As the march on Mosul is delayed, the time is nigh for a Kurdish state

As ISIS barbarians burn priceless books at the Mosul Library and smash apart statues that are thousands of years old at the Mosul Museum of Antiquities, the Obama administration boasted that the march on that city would begin in the spring. Now, as Hot Air reported on Saturday, the liberation of Iraq’s second largest city has been postponed indefinitely. The search is on for who leaked the spring offensive plan and why now it is not going to happen.



 
Going Interstellar


 
Cornell researchers create computer model of life on Titan

A Friday story in Phys.org highlighted some research going on at Cornell University concerning the possibility of life in the methane seas of Titan, a moon of Saturn. The question of whether or not there could be life on Titan was put into a computer model. The answer was, there could be life on Titan but not, as that old line of dialogue from “Star Trek” say, as we know it.



 
Lois Lerner 'missing' email tapes found, criminal probe ensues at the IRS

The IRS Inspector General’s office admitted to the House Oversight Committee that backup tapes of Lois Lerner’s emails that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen had said were irretrievably lost have been found, according to a Thursday story in the Washington Times. Indeed it took only 15 days of work to track them down in a backup facility, The IRS Deputy IG has told Congress that a criminal investigation is under way into a possible cover-up.



Friday, February 27, 2015

 
Craig Ferguson to return to scripted comedy in 'The King of 7B'

Craig Ferguson, the Scottish American comedian and actor who hosted “The Late Late Show” for many years, has been “walking the Earth” doing standup comedy all across America and making the occasional YouTube video. A considerable amount of speculation has occurred about what his next gig might be. For a time, it looked like the gig was going to be a prime time talk show though that eventually fell through. Deadline Hollywood reported on Friday that Ferguson is returning to scripted comedy, with the lead role on “The King of 7B.”



 
Leonard Nimoy, aka Mr. Spock, lives long and prospers no more

Leonard Nimoy, the 83 year old actor best known for his portrayal of the logical alien from the planet Vulcan, Mr. Spock in television’s “Star Trek,” died at his home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, according to the New York Times. The cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease brought one by years of smoking. Nimoy had quit smoking nearly 30 years ago.

Some of Nimoy's books:

I Am Not Spock

I Am Spock

The Full Body Project: Photographs by Leonard Nimoy

Shekhina

We Are All Children Searching for Love: A Collection of Poems and Photographs

You & I

A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life

Come Be with Me: A Collection of Poems

Will I Think of You?

Warmed by Love



 
Alliance for Space Development to push reusable spacecraft and space settlements

The Alliance for Space Development, consisting of a number of space advocacy groups such as the National Space Society, the Space Frontier Foundation, and the Mars Society, was formed as a result of a closed-door meeting recently. The news was received with puzzlement in some quarters and outright scorn in others. However, Space News reported Thursday that the ASD has hit the ground running and is pushing for a number of legislative items and other initiatives designed to further the cause of space development and settlement.



 
Sarah Palin hits it out of the park at CPAC and the media is irritated

Some weeks after delivering what many pundits believe was a “disastrous” speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, former governor, former vice presidential candidate, and still the current most powerful female politician on the planet Sarah Palin took to the podium at CPAC on Thursday and hit it out of the park. Most of her speech concerned veterans’ issues, both heartfelt and filled with policy suggestions. She also took some swings against the Obama administration’s ISIS policy. The media, typically, reacted with irritation.



 
In 'The Big Bang Theory' Penny and Sheldon have 'The Intimacy Acceleration'

The episode of “The Big Bang Theory” that ran on Thursday, “The Intimacy Acceleration,” had three separate stories packed into a half hour, including commercials. Howard and Bernadette find, to their horror, that the airline has lost Ms. Wolowitz’s ashes in transit. Sheldon and Penny conduct a strange social experiment with one another. The rest of the friends visit a crime solving room complete with a “zombie.”



Thursday, February 26, 2015

 
In 'Justified,' Ava may be about to learn the price of betrayal (spoilers)

Tuesday night’s episode of ‘Justified,” the series about an old-school deputy marshal in Harlan County, Kentucky, was an eventful one that involved, among other things, a shootout that ended with the death of a dumb as a stump henchman named “Choo Choo.” However, the meat of “Alive Day” concerned the tragic heroine of both the current and the previous seasons, Ava Crowder, who may be about to suffer the consequences of betrayal. Her fate, telegraphed as dire, will be the fault of both the hero, laconic Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens, and the villain, slow talking and violence-prone Boyd Crowder



 
In 'Salang Pass,' 'The Americans' show pedophilia as a spycraft tool (spoilers)

“The Americans” is often a disturbing TV series in that it depicts intimately the efforts of a pair of deep-cover Soviet agents living in 1980s America to subvert and, eventually, destroy the United States during the end game of the Cold War. Wednesday night’s episode, “Salang Pass,” upped the creepiness ante by having Philip, one of the KGB spies, employ pedophilia as spycraft. It doesn’t help matters that he recognizes how utterly creepy his mission has turned out to be, but is using every bit of his training to seduce a 15-year old girl anyway.



 
Obama begins back door gun control with bans on bullets

According to a Thursday story in the Washington Examiner, the Obama Administration is moving to impose gun control in a rather oblique manner. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will propose a ban of 5.56 M885 ammo, popular with target shooters and hunters who use the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. The BATFE will do this by reclassifying the ammo as “armor piercing,” which is prohibited by law. The idea is that the ammo would pose a threat to police officers who wear bullet-proof vests




 
Pat Robertson attacks NASA Mars exploration, says God did not create aliens

According to a Wednesday story in Salon, Pat Robertson, a televangelist and former presidential candidate, took to the airwaves on his “700 Club” and choose to inveigh against NASA in general and the exploration of Mars in specific. He seems to have it on good authority that God would not choose to create life on any other world but the Earth. His supposition is in the distinct minority among mainstream theologians though perhaps not of fundamentalist Christians like Robertson.



 
NASA's Dawn eyes two mysterious white dots on its approach to Ceres

As the ion drive propelled Dawn, NASA’s asteroid explorer, makes its final approach to the dwarf planet Ceres, scientists are in high excitement due to the detection of not just one, but two bright dots inside an impact basin. Io9, in a Wednesday story, posits theories that the dots are either evidence of volcanism or else are impact craters that have exposed ice deposits beneath a layer of dust. But as the Planetary Society noted, no one knows for sure.



 
Jonathan Gruber in trouble in both Vermont and Massachusetts

For Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor who is the father of Obamacare, it looks like it may be a case of Nemesis following hubris. First, the Hill reported on Tuesday that the state of Vermont has caught Gruber padding his billable hours for a study of how to bring single payer government run health care to that state. Next, the state of Massachusetts, where Gruber helped to bring forth Romneycare, has fired him from the board that oversees that state’s health care exchange.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015
 
How Hillary Clinton showed hypocrisy by praising Patricia Arquette on pay equity

When actress Patricia Arquette took the opportunity of her Oscar acceptance speech to inveigh for pay equality between men and women, she got two different types of reactions. The right rolled its collective eyes at another Hollywood liberal giving a political rant. The left, surprisingly, slammed Arquette for exercising “rich, white woman privilege” and neglecting even more aggrieved victim groups such as ethnic minorities and gays. However, according to a Tuesday story in Time Magazine, Hillary Clinton emerged from her undisclosed location to praise Arquette. Her reaction was curious, considering Clinton’s record on pay equity.




 
35 percent of Americans agree with Giuliani that Obama does not love America

When Rudy Giuliani suggested that President Barack Obama does not love America, much of the reaction consisted of outrage and consternation. However, according to a Wednesday story on Hot Air, Giuliani has a lot of company. A YouGov poll concluded that 35 percent of Americans believe that the president of the United States does not love the country he was elected twice to govern. Only 47 percent of respondents replied that Obama does love the United States.



 
Scientists mull how to find life on Europa

Ever since the Europa mission had been given the official nod of approval by NASA, scientists have been giddy with excitement at the prospect of exploring a new world where life might reside. The likely model for the mission is the Europa Clipper, which will orbit Jupiter and fly by the moon multiple times. According to a Tuesday story in the New Scientist, researchers are mulling over how to use the Europa Clipper to search for life.



 
Cruz NASA space hearings highlights Mars vs. moon controversy

The Washington Post noted on Tuesday that the recent hearings concerning the future of space exploration and commercial space held by Sen. Ted Cruz’s Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness highlighted a persistent conflict ongoing in space circles. The question of where to next send humans into space, Mars on back to the moon has proven to be a vexing one. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin was in the Mars corner. Former NASA official and possible future NASA administrator Scott Pace championed the moon.



 
NASA is planning the next round of planetary missions

While attention has been focused on a multi-billion dollar mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, NASA is planning a number of new planetary missions. Most are grouped under the Discovery Program, small-scale missions with a cap of $450 million, and the New Frontier Program, which has a cap of $1 billion, according to a Tuesday story in Spaceflight Now. Meanwhile, Space News reports that the space agency is zeroing in on a Mars orbiter for 2022 that will feature new technology demonstrations, as well as a remote sensing mission.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015
 
Obama vetoes Keystone XL bill despite public support and economic benefit

Congress waited until it had returned from the President’s Day break to send President Obama the Keystone XL Pipeline approval bill. As Hot Air noted on Tuesday, the president did not take long to use his veto pen. Congress will now try to override the veto and then, failing that, start attaching the approval language to other legislation. Considering the president’s stubbornness on this and other issues, success is far from assured.




 
Not much new happened at Ted Cruz's first NASA space hearing

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas conducted his first hearing as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness on Tuesday. He and several other senators, including ranking Commerce Committee member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, questioned two panels of witnesses on a variety of space topics, ranging from sending humans to Mars to how best to enable commercial space operations going forward.



 
Houston researchers using nanoparticles to speed blood clot busting

When a person is brought into the emergency room, having suffered a heart attack or stroke, one of the first things the trauma team will do is to administer clot busting drugs. The idea is that in cases where a clot has caused the trauma, blood flow has to be reestablished as quickly as possible to minimize the damage. Minutes and even seconds count between the patient having a speedy recovery or else spending months in rehab and possibly having permanent impairment. Gizmag reported on Monday that some new research being conducted at Houston Methodist Research Institute has the potential to speed up the blood clot busting, helping stroke and heart attack patients to recover faster.