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, The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper, and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?

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Monday, September 25, 2017
 
Anthony Weiner is going to prison for 21 months

As Hot Air reports, a former congressman, former candidate for mayor of #New York, and convicted online sexual predator #Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a teenage girl. He also has to submit to Internet monitoring, serve a three-year supervised probation after he leaves prison, and register as a sex offender. Weiner’s fall would be Shakespearian if it were not so sordid and pathetic.



 
Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the physics of Game of Thrones dragons

Every time a science fiction epic such as “The Martian” and “Gravity” hits the big screen, we can count on Neil deGrasse Tyson to take to Twitter to nitpick the science. Tyson’s purpose is twofold. First, he tries to use popular culture to impart some lessons about #Physics to a wide audience. Second, Tyson takes the opportunity to show off his awe-inspiring brilliance.



 
‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ is a different kind of origin story

“Wonder Woman,” the film that featured Israeli actress Gal Gadot cutting a swath through Europe in the closing weeks of the First World War, was one of the few smash hits of the 2017 summer movie season. By an odd happenstance, another #Origin Story of the famed, feminist superhero is coming to the big screen. It is called “Professor Marston and the #Wonder Women.” The story is about how a Harvard psychologist named Dr. William Marston created the #Wonder Woman comic and how his unusual domestic arrangements with his wife and a former student influenced the development of the super heroine.



 
Australia is getting its own space agency

#Australia has played a crucial role in the exploration of space dating back to the Apollo program, as anyone who saw the film “The Dish” is aware of. However, the country has not had its own #Space Agency, something even New Zealand has had, until a recent announcement held at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide. The new Australian space agency is designed to coordinate aerospace policy for the country and to make it a player for international cooperation, notes the Australian newspaper.



 
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ airs its pilot episode at last

The long-anticipated first new “Star Trek” to appear on television in 12 years aired on CBS recently. The #Pilot Episode will be followed by the rest of the season that will only be available on CBS #Access. CBS is a new live streaming service that will only be available for a subscription fee. “Star Trek: Discovery” is set ten years before the original five-year mission of the USS Enterprise and features Lt. Commander Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green. She is a human woman who was raised by Vulcan Ambassador Sarek, serving on the USS Shenzhou under the command of Captain Georgiou, plated by Michelle Yeoh.



 
The Sunday professional football became a political battlefield

The first football #Sunday occurred after President Trump threw down the gauntlet [VIDEO] concerning football player protests during the #National Anthem. Just as the president planned, many players joined the protests by kneeling during the salute to the American flag. According to the AP, fans at stadiums booed and yelled for the players to get to their feet. Others cheered. In a million living rooms across the country, emotions ran high, likely mostly negative. The day resulted in bizarre behavior, instances of courage, and acts of ignominy.



Sunday, September 24, 2017
 
Will the first person to go to Mars leave from Texas?

#Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to construct its spaceport at #Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas. The latest schedule suggests that rocket launches of the Falcon 9 and perhaps the Falcon Heavy will commence from the Texas launch facility toward the end of 2018. In the meantime, rumors abound of greater plans that Musk has for the commercial spaceport.



 
Hillary Clinton accuses women who voted against her of lacking self-respect

#Hillary Clinton is continuing her blame tour [VIDEO] and has found a new group of people to point an accusing finger at. Women, especially white women, who voted against her lack all respect for themselves. Why else, she suggests, would they vote for a man who said what he said about women that was caught by Access Hollywood? Just once, one would hope that an enterprising reporter would call the twice-failed presidential candidate on her record where rape victims are concerned.



 
How protesting pro athletes are like the Westboro Baptist Church

President Donald Trump, using his unerring ability to find an issue [VIDEO] to get people mad at him for his benefit, has doubled down on his lambasting of professional sports athletes who kneel during the #National Anthem. He has now called for a boycott of the NFL until the demonstrating players are brought to heel. Just as he intended, many of the players and even some owners are offering defiance. They will now show disrespect during the National Anthem not because they think that the United States mistreats #African Americans, but because they are mad at Trump and, by extension, people; who voted for him.



Saturday, September 23, 2017
 
North Korea threatens to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean

The latest North Korean threat is to conduct a hydrogen bomb [VIDEO] test in the middle of the #Pacific Ocean. Whether or not this is just windy posturing is best known to Kim Jong-un and his associates as well as, one would hope, various intelligence agencies. However, as a piece in the Atlantic suggests, a bomb test in the ocean is a far more concerning matter than the usual test in an underground chamber.



 
Donald Trump slams protesting professional football players

During his lengthy and freewheeling speech at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President #Donald Trump suggested that football players who “disrespect the American flag” as Colin Kaepernick used to do, should be fired, using the kind of salty language that he is known for. The line brought immediate applauds from the audience and yelps of outrage from some of the players and their supporters. However, the president is on to something where an issue that benefits him is concerned.



 
Jimmy Kimmel forgets that his sole job is to be an entertainer

The job of a late night talk show host is to be entertaining. The formats of the various shows that come on after the local news vary to some degree, but boil down to the host doing an opening monologue and then engaging in light banter with celebrity guests. Sometimes a musical number or a comedy skit occurs.



Friday, September 22, 2017
 
John McCain may have killed Obamacare repeal and replace – again

One thing one can always count on Sen #John McCain, R-Arizona is that one cannot count on him. McCain has announced that he cannot “in good conscience” support the Graham Cassidy Obamacare #Repeal and Replace bill. McCain has very likely killed the bill, barring a miracle. Great rejoicing could be heard from left, including from Jimmy Kimmel, late night talk show host turned health care warrior. The rest of America who thought it had elected a Republican government to rid itself of Obamacare is learning once again to live with disappointment.



 
Uber to be banned in Greater London

Transport for London, the local governing authority that oversees the transportation infrastructure in the #Greater London Area, has decided not to renew #uber’s license in its jurisdiction. TFL cites problems with the ride-sharing company’s lack of “corporate responsibility.” The 40,000 Uber drivers who operate in London and the three and a half million Londoners who use the app are pretty sure that the TFL has caved into demands from the traditional black cab company, its drivers, and the union it represents.



 
Seth MacFarlane commits a thought crime in the latest episode of ‘The Orville’

The third episode of “The Orville,” the first to air on Thursday night, delved into a favorite “#star Trek” theme of ethical conundrums based on alien cultural norms as opposed to universal standards. The episode also triggered the folks at io9 who concluded that #Seth Macfarlane, the show’s creator and star, is guilty of a #Thought Crime. Some spoilers follow.



 
A plot line from ‘Salvation’ reminds one of an old Bond movie

One of the various plot threads that run through “Salvation,” a CBS TV show about an asteroid headed on a collision course with the Earth, consist of the machinations of a hacker group called “Resist” or as some spell it “Resyst.” The mainly millennial members of the group appear to report to a mysterious leader who is never seen or identified. During the final episode of the first season, the agenda of the group becomes evident. It means to start a #nuclear war between the United States and Russia, presumably to eliminate the two great powers for reasons that remain unclear. The plot thread is very reminiscent of something the occurred in an old James Bond movie, which suggests a big reveal in a potential second season.



 
Trump persuades China’s central bank to cut off North Korea

President Donald Trump scored a major diplomatic victory at the United Nations and raised hopes that the North Korean Missile Crisis might be resolved short of war. Soon after Trump signed an executive order targeting financial institutions doing business with #North Korea, the Peoples Bank of China, that country’s central bank, agreed to freeze all financial transactions with the Pyongyang regime, according to the Washington Examiner.



 
Bernie Sanders to complicate CNN health care debate?

CNN has announced that it intends to hold a live debate about #health care reform on September 25. In one corner will be Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, the co-sponsors of a bill that proposes to take Obamacare spending and send it as block grants to the states. In the other corner are Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn and Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. The inclusion of Sanders, who is pushing a single payer, government health care bill has mainstream Democrats riled, according to the Washington Free Beacon.



Thursday, September 21, 2017
 
The European Space Agency proposes commercial partnership for a moon mission

It looks like NASA will not be the only national space agency to leverage commercial lunar landers to return to the moon. The #European Space Agency is reaching out to commercial providers to provide a lander for a mission it calls “In-Situ Resource Utilization Demonstrator Mission.” The idea is to test technologies that would use lunar resources such as water to leverage human occupation of the moon.



 
Valerie Plame is in trouble again

#Valerie Plame, the former CIA analyst and a covert officer who was at the center of a President George W. Bush-era scandal, is in trouble again. According to the Hill, she tweeted an article in the Unz Review entitled “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars.” The resulting firestorm on social media was as instant as it was predictable. The article was written by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer who is a frequent critic of Israel and #American Jews. Plame has expressed admiration for Giraldi in the past.



 
Bernie Sanders is now going for a wealth tax

You have to hand it to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. Ever since being beaten for the Democratic presidential nomination by Hillary Clinton, he has been on a roll. First, he proposed seizing control of healthcare by the government in his “Medicare for All” bill. Now, according to Hot Air, Sanders has trotted out that #Socialist oldie but goodie known as a wealth tax. Before he is hustled off to the afterlife, where everyone is equal, Sanders will likely call for nationalization of industries, such as the airlines, the oil companies, and the high-tech companies like Google and Apple.



 
Why ‘Salvation’ deserves a second season

“#Salvation,” the wildest and, in many ways, most original show that you’re probably not watching just ended its first, and some fear its only #season with multiple cliffhangers. Is the world about to blow up in a nuclear war even before the asteroid hits? What is that new plan to stop the asteroid that Liam came up with at the last minute? Did Amanda make it out of the burned ruins of Capital Eye alive? Who freed that traitorous vice president and where did they take him?



 
It turns out that NASA is willing and able to go back to the moon

Back in the middle of the Obama administration, when the #Journey To Mars was the program of record, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden would regularly dismiss the idea of a return to the moon, which many in Congress, the #Commercial Sector, and the scientific community preferred. According to a 2013 piece in the Huffington Post, Bolden declared that NASA did not have the budget to develop a lunar lander. The #Space Agency was entirely focused on asteroids and Mars, for which it did have a budget – or so Bolden said. However, that was then, and this is now.



 
‘South Park’ just can’t quit Donald Trump in ‘Put it Down’

Before the current season of “#South Park” began, Trey Parker and Matt Stone promised that they were going to leave politics and especially President Donald Trump behind. However, the second episode of the current season, “Put it Down” features the president’s tendency to make alarming tweets. The episode also touches on #North Korea, fidget spinners, texting while driving, and childhood suicide. It ends with a musical number. Some spoilers follow.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017
 
Buzz Aldrin endorses Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator

#Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, along with Greg Autry, a commercial space expert, has endorsed Jim Bridenstine to become #Nasa Administrator. Aldrin had thus moved further to undo that damage he helped to wrought when he threw his support behind Barack Obama and his gutting on human space exploration over seven years ago. Somewhere, Aldrin’s old shipmate, Neil Armstrong, who opposed Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program, is smiling.




 
‘Firefly’ the cult classic space western has turned 15

"Firefly,” the short-lived #science fiction western created by #joss whedon represents one of those wistful “what might have been” events that fans of the show still pine about a decade and a half later. The series did not last a single season and, even though a big screen motion picture sequel was created three years later, “Firefly” could not be called a commercial success. Reasons for the fact that the series did not last ten seasons as it surely deserved to remain a matter of debate, though sabotage by executives at Fox is the favorite theory.



 
What are future expansion plans for Houston’s light rail system?

According to a recent article on Crain’s Houston, the #Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County is contemplating what it should do next with the light rail system that extends north through the Houston Medical Center and Downtown with branch lines that extend south-east, covering among other places the University of Houston Central Campus. The current system, especially the main red line that extends north to south, has been more successful than its supporters had hoped for when it first went into service in 2004. Ridership is booming, and economic development has been proceeding apace along its route.



 
If Obamacare repeal and replace passes thank Bernie Sanders

The Washington Examiner is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to bring the Graham Cassidy Obamacare repeal and replace bill up for a vote next week. The bill would take a lot of Obamacare spending and block grant it into payments to the states. It would also get rid of a number of mandates that the original #affordable care act imposes. If the bill passes, and thus far only Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky has expressed explicit opposition to it, one analysis suggests that Republicans have Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont to thank for it.



 
Will the LUVOIR be the great space telescope of the 2030s?

The Hubble #Space Telescope, despite a rocky start due to an out of focus mirror, has revolutionized astronomy in its many years of observing everything from distant galaxies to nearby planets. The follow-on to the Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope, is due to launch in 2018 and should push back the frontiers of astronomy even further. A new piece in Forbes is touting a concept for an even greater space telescope, the Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR), that is said to have 40 times the capacity of the Hubble. LUVOIR is one of four #Decadal Survey Mission Concept Studies that was started in January 2016 and will last for three years.



 
France may outlaw wolf whistles and asking a woman for her phone number

The latest attempt to criminalize boorish behavior is taking place in France, according to the UK Sun. There is a move to outlaw what many think is the harassment of women in public places, such as the street or in the Paris Metro. Acts that may become criminal offenses include wolf whistling, asking a woman for her #Phone Number, and following her around. Marlène Schiappa, France’s under-secretary for gender equality, is championing the proposed law, which is also supported by French President Francois Macron.



 
Confederate Chic in popular culture

Victor Davis Hanson has discovered something interesting about #Popular Culture and the Confederacy. While images of Confederates in bronze and marble are threats to democracy and racial harmony, people who wore the gray during the Civil War are often the heroes in old movies. Indeed, a lot of popular music over the years have celebrated the Lost Cause. Hanson refers to this phenomenon as “Confederate Chic” purveyed by mainly left-wing creators of popular culture.



Tuesday, September 19, 2017
 
Jim Bridenstine gets Richard Shelby’s endorsement to be NASA administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma has picked up and important endorsement for his nomination as NASA Administrator. Sen. #Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, the chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Justice and Space tweeted, “Met w/ @POTUS nom for @NASA Administrator, #Jim Bridenstine. We had a good meeting. I look forward to supporting him throughout this process.”



 
More reasons why Amazon should relocate to Texas

The Dallas Morning News recently published a piece that examined Amazon.com’s desire to establish a second corporate headquarters outside of Seattle. The paper noted that a city in Texas would be ideal for such a facility owing to the state’s business-friendly culture. Naturally, the piece touted Dallas as the perfect site for the new headquarters, but most of the points made apply to Houston as well. Also, Houston has a seaport, something that Dallas lacks.



 
President Donald Trump gives a UN General Assembly speech like no other

If anyone doubted that the United States is under new management, #President Donald Trump disabused them of that notion in his first United Nations #General Assembly speech. Trump has said what it said before the United Nations before, but no American president said those things inside the General Assembly meeting hall. Trump was employing diplomacy as a fully charged phaser bank, to use a reference from “Star Trek.”



 
Dan Helmer wins the prize of the most cringe-worthy campaign ad in recent memory

The Democratic primaries in Virginia are not for a few months, but already the race for the Democrat who will go up against Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican representing the 10th District is already going hot and furious. #Dan Helmer, one of the Democrats, has gotten some name recognition in the worst way possible, with one of the more memorable and cringe-worthy campaign ads in living memory.



 
Bill O’Reilly talks to Sean Hannity about his firing from Fox News

Bill O’Reilly, the former #Fox News host who left the cable news network in April under a cloud of sexual harassment accusations and an advertiser boycott, was on #Sean Hannity’s radio show recently, his first public appearance beside his podcast. O’Reilly has a new book, “Killing England,” coming out. He was also buoyed by recent revelations about one of his principal accusers.



Monday, September 18, 2017
 
Hillary Clinton thinking of declaring her 2016 defeat illegitimate

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that Hillary Clinton [VIDEO] is considering questioning the integrity of the election in which she lost the presidency for the second time. She also admitted that even if she decided that machinations from the Russians denied her the Oval Office, not a lot of options are available to overturn the results and, in effect, replace President Trump in the middle of his first term. Nevertheless, Ms. Clinton seems to be spiraling down into the fever swamps of conspiracy theories.



 
Jerry Pournelle, Newt Gingrich, & Donald Trump were smeared in the Daily Beast

David Auerbach waited until Jerry Pournelle [VIDEO]’s corpse had barely chilled before publishing a bizarre piece in the #Daily Beast that links him, #Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump together. He did this by taking some passages out of a couple of Pournelle’s novels out of context and by making assumptions about space-based missile defense (which Pournelle and Gingrich favored), moon bases (which Gingrich has championed) and, of course, the border wall.



 
Could we build an Orion nuclear bomb ship today?

Glenn Reynolds, the purveyor of Instapundit, used his weekly column in USA Today to use the occasion of the end of Cassini’s mission to Saturn [VIDEO] to wonder if we could have sent a crewed spacecraft to Saturn in 1970. Because of a little-known military project called #Orion (not to be confused with the current deep spacecraft project), the idea was not entirely frivolous.



 
Dallas school board member publishes list of schools considered for renaming

When the war against the statues first boiled over, President Trump openly wondered whether it would go beyond figures of the Confederacy to #Founding Fathers such as George Washington and #Thomas Jefferson. While the president’s speculation was met with eye-rolling, the jihad to remove history has not only included slave-holding founding fathers but figures such as Joan of Arc and Christopher Columbus.



 
The Emmys go full bore anti-Trump

It used to be that a Hollywood awards show would have a single incident in which a recipient would say some annoying political statement. The rest of the broadcast was devoted to the art, though often in an aggravating self-congratulatory fashion as if the most important thing in the world is who won the award for best-supporting actress in a comedy. However, the most recent Emmys had become a three-hour political rant with a few television awards added in, as if by an afterthought. Welcome to the age of Donald #trump.



 
Stanislav Petrov, the man who saved the world, has died

Stanislav Petrov, according to sources in Russian media, now being reported widely in the West, died last May. Remarkably that event was not noted at the time and was only known because of Karl Schumacher, a German political activist, found out from Petrov’s son. The man’s passing should have been commemorated on a scale of that of a world leader or a famous philanthropist. The reason for that fact that I am writing this article and you are reading it solely because of an action Petrov undertook one day during the height of the Cold War.



Sunday, September 17, 2017
 
Trump sets social media ablaze with gif of him hitting Hillary with a golf ball

President Donald Trump’s sense of humor is sometimes questionable, to put the matter mildly. Recently the president tweeted a Gif in when he hits a #Golf Ball and then cuts to the projectile hitting Hillary Clinton [VIDEO] in the back as she boards a plane. The video is not particularly amusing unless one thinks that the twice-failed presidential candidate getting hit in the back by a golf ball is funny. One suspects that a large number of people, including those who have been wronged by the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state, are vastly amused. However, the reaction on social media is over the top hilarious.



 
The White House lawnmower boy gets criticism

Young boys have been mowing lawns since the lawn mower was invented. Many suburban families delegate lawn mowing duties to their male children (and more recently girls as well) as a way to teach responsibility and to give dad and mom a rest from a disagreeable chore. Some young folks make a little extra money, even an age of professional landscaping services, by mowing neighborhood lawns.



 
Dianne Feinstein steps up her attacks on Judge Joan Larsen

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California questioned the Catholic faith of Judge Joan Larsen, a Trump nominee for the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, she received a firestorm of criticism. Feinstein was accused of being an anti-Catholic bigot and of imposing a religious test for a judicial appointment, which is contrary to the United States Constitution. Sen. Feinstein elaborated what bothered her about Judge Larsen on a broadcast of CNN’s “The State of the Union.”



Saturday, September 16, 2017
 
Chelsea Clinton falsely accuses Michigan of allowing gay people to die

Chelsea Clinton just learned a valuable lesson about how one should be careful about what one posts. She recently tweeted, "Absolutely appalling: Michigan House Passed Bill Allowing EMTs To Refuse Treatment To #Gay People." The problem was that was not true, and Clinton was obliged to delete the tweet when this was pointed out to her, according to the Washington Free Beacon.



 
Are you ready for ‘True Lies’ as a TV series?

“True Lies” was one of the most popular films of the early 1990s, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a super spy and #Jamie Lee Curtis as his initially clueless wife who thinks he’s a computer salesman. According to Deadline Hollywood, an effort is underway to bring the movie to the #Small Screen as a series. James Cameron, the director of the original film, is involved, as is McG, who successfully brought the film “Lethal Weapon” to television.



 
After Cassini what is next for Saturn?

Now that Cassini is history, having taken its death plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, scientists are dreaming of what kind of million should follow it to the system of the ringed planet. As the New York Times reports, nothing had been funded yet, but a lot of ideas are being proposed.