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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Thursday, August 25, 2016
Team Ted Cruz crows 'I told you so!' as Donald Trump backs away from mass deportation

While Donald Trump is backing away just a little from his plan to deport all 11 million or so illegal aliens thought to reside in the United States, some of the former members of Ted Cruz’s campaign for the presidency are saying “I told you so” Politico reported. Cruz had tried to warn voters back during the primaries that Trump didn’t mean it when he suggested that a “deportation force” would sweep through the country, snatch up illegal aliens, and march them across the border. However, either Cruz was not believed to it didn’t matter to Trump’s many fans.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Donald Trump loves the idea of Rick Perry knocking Ted Cruz out of the senate

It looks like #Donald Trump is not letting his anger at Ted Cruz for not bending the knee die away. At a Texas fundraiser, according to the Washington Examiner, he was asked about the possibility of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry attempting to primary Senator Cruz. Trump was filled with fulsome praise of the former governor, who had been very pointed in his criticism of Trump during the Republican primaries when he was also running for president, but who has since become a Trump supporter, becoming an advisor for agricultural issues. A hypothetical poll suggests that if a primary were to be held today, Perry would beat Cruz.

How Barack Obama betrayed the Iranian freedom fighters

Bloomberg has a piece out about a new book, “The #Iran Wars,” by Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon. The book documents the lengths that President Barack #Obama went to establish a rapprochement with the Iranian mullahs. Obama was so obsessed with this policy that he betrayed the Iranian freedom fighters during the “Green Revolution” that took place starting in the summer of 2009.

Seasoning Stixs proposes to flavor meat from the inside

Two methods exist to season meat, wet rub or dry rub. With wet rub, one immerses the meat in some kind of liquid blend for several hours or even a couple of days before cooking it. While the meat is cooking, one can mop the outside with leftover marinade. Dry rub covers the outside of the meat with spices. A variation exists of dry rub when one covers the meat with kosher salt along with the dry rub. This method draws out the liquid from inside the meat but also draws in the spices. Now, a company called Seasoning Stixs believes it has come up with a third method of kicking up your meat a notch.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should reveal their plans for NASA

The Verge notes that the future of NASA and #Space exploration depends on the outcome of the 2016 elections. Unfortunately, neither candidate, #Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, has chosen to open their minds on the issue aside from confusing statements and empty platitudes. Neither candidate seems to have anyone on staff who handles space issues. Neither candidate has offered any detailed policy positions concerning space. Since NASA is a high profile agency that spends a not insignificant amount of money, this state of affairs needs to change.

On that subject, a reading list for the candidates would include 'Making Space Great Again' Through Commercial Partnerships and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?

Ted Cruz moves to block path to citizenship, welfare benefits for illegal aliens

While Donald Trump’s stance on illegal #Immigration is being softened to some extent, his former rival for the presidency, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas is going all out to block illegal immigrants from getting means-tested welfare benefits and from having a path to citizenship. Cruz has filed a number of amendments to an immigration reform bill that would accomplish both goals.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Fox New host demands that the Clinton Foundation help the people of Louisiana

The scandal surrounding the Clinton Foundation as a money laundering operation for the Clinton family has been very much in the news. While some Clinton retainers such as James Carville claims that the foundation does a lot of good works in the Third World, the fact of the matter is that it is under investigation for the pay to play operation it was used for to enrich the Clinton family. Now, Fox News personality Eric Bolling has upped to ante just a little by demanding that #Hillary Clinton use the Clinton Foundation’s vast resources to help the people of flooded Louisiana.

Nanoracks being paid by NASA to study making space habitats out of fuel tanks

#NASA recently handed out study contracts to six companies to develop deep #Space habitats that will sustain astronauts in cis-lunar space and on the Journey to Mars. Five of the companies are developing habitats that would be launched fully outfitted and ready to go. A team called Ixion, led by Nanonracks, and including Space Systems Loral and the United Launch Alliance, has come up with a different approach. #Nanoracks, which has provided commercial experiments for the International Space Station, envisions using the fuel tanks of upper stages of rockets and outfitting them to become habitats.

Russians claim that eight people are interested in a private voyage around the moon

For the past several years, the Russians, in partnership with an American company called #Space Adventures, have been working on a flight of a modified Soyuz that would occur beyond low Earth orbit, looping around the moon, before heading back to Earth. The same partnership has taken a number of paying customers, including computer game tycoon Richard Garriott and Iranian-American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari, to the International Space Station. The Russian news agency Sputnik reports that eight possible private customers have expressed interest in paying $150 million each for the voyage of a lifetime.

Senate Republicans move to provide relief from Obamacare skyrocketing costs

With #Obamacare collapsing under the weight of skyrocketing premiums and insurance companies bailing from the exchanges, a group of Republican senators have offered a bill, entitled the Obamacare Tax Relief and Consumer Choice Act, which would provide Americans some relief from the individual mandate. The senators in question are Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Kelly Ayotte, R.-N.H.), John McCain, R.-Ariz., James Lankford., R-Okla.), Ron Johnson, R.-Wis.), and Richard Burr, R.-N.C. The bill would provide a number of provisions that would help consumers, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Monday, August 22, 2016
Donald Trump demands that the the Clinton Foundation be shut down

The Clinton Foundation is starting to become a serious running sore for the hopes of #Hillary Clinton’s hopes of becoming the first woman president. Soon after former President Bill Clinton announced that if Hillary is elected president, the Clinton Foundation would no longer accept money from foreign governments and interests and that he would remove himself from association with it, Donald Trump said, in effect, why wait?

Chinese mulling a radar station on the moon to observe the Earth

The number of useful and even profitable things that people could do on the #moon is limited only by the imagination. The South China Post is reporting that a group of Chinese scientists is studying the idea of installing a powerful radar station on the lunar surface to conduct Earth observation.

More ways that Moon Express could make money in the short term

The Motley Fool’s newsletter explored some more ways that #moon Express could make money, besides delivering the ashes of the deceased to the lunar surface, a business that the company has already signed onto with Celestis, which has already shot cremated remains into #Space. The investment company ran some numbers for the idea of selling moon rocks as jewelry. Another business would be to land low-cost science payloads to the lunar surface.

Sunday, August 21, 2016
Bus Rides to Flavorville - A Houston Food Blog has just started courtesy of Ms. Curmudgeon. It's all about eateries that you can get to on Houston's bus and light rail system. Check it out.

Why Donald Trump should apologize to Ted Cruz

Much has been written about the new Donald Trump, likely shaped by his new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. Gone are the bombast and the insults. Instead, we see a Trump who is just as aggressive, but more focused, with just a touch of humility and compassion. By some accounts, Trump 2.0 is starting to become more attractive than the original version and is closing the gap with Hillary Clinton. But Trump needs to make a final step for the sake of party unity. He needs to apologize personally to Ted Cruz and his family.

Why did the remake of 'Ben Hur' fail?

“Ben Hur” is the latest remake to bomb at the box office, making a paltry $11 million on its opening night against a production budget of $100 million. Deadline #Hollywood has a long-winded analysis as to why the film failed to attract a broad audience. Faith-based historical #Movies can still succeed in the modern era, as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and a slew of lower-budget offerings such as “Risen” proved. “Ben Hur” did not insult the source material, as “Noah” and, to some extent, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” did. So why did the latest version of a Jewish prince suffering but then finding the capability to forgive during the life of Jesus Christ fail?

On the other hand, original stories from the ancient world are waiting to be told, as for example:

Saturday, August 20, 2016
Barack Obama should not expect a warm welcome when he goes to Louisiana

When President Barack #Obama finally graces the good people of #Louisiana with his countenance on Tuesday, no doubt shamed into it by Donald Trump who adroitly stole a march on both him and Hillary Clinton, he should not expect a warm welcome. Indeed, if his advance people are not too careful, he might get booed.

Sen, Marco Rubio calls on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to support NASA space

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-#Florida, the former presidential candidate who is running for reelection to the Senate, met with aerospace business leaders in Florida and called upon both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to fully support NASA’s #Space program. Rubio expressed his support for both the Journey to Mars program and commercial space ventures. The senator also denied Trump’s assertion that the American space program is “third world.”

Hillary Clinton blamed Colin Powell for the email server to the FBI

In a bizarre twist in the running sore that is the ongoing email server scandal, the notes of the FBI interview with Hillary Clinton, released in redacted form to Congress, revealed that the Democratic presidential candidate blamed Colin Powell for the arrangement. She claimed that the former Bush-era secretary of state had advised her to set up a personal email server to handle communications. One problem is that Powell does not recall such a conversation taking place.

Friday, August 19, 2016
Donald Trump and Mike Pence show up in Louisiana to comfort flood victims

Donald Trump and Gov. Mike Pence may not have been elected president and vice president of the United States, but they did a job that the current occupants of those offices refuse to do by going to #Louisiana to comfort the flood victims. Trump and Pence were seen helping to unload a truck of relief supplies, thanking first responders, and comforting people whose homes have been inundated.

It turns out that NASA's Space Launch System is not too expensive to fly

One of the raps against the Orion deep spacecraft and the heavy lift #Space Launch System is that the system would cost far too much to fly and would fly too infrequently. Figures of $2 billion a flight or more for a launch every two years have been bandied about by armchair aerospace engineers and amateur space policy analysts on the Internet. Eric Berger of Ars Technica, who is rapidly becoming the best space reporter of the current generation, sat down with Bill Hill, #NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, for some answers.

Buzz Aldrin explains why NASA should return to the moon on the Journey to Mars

Recently Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, sat down for an extensive interview with The Fix. The interview was wide-ranging, including Aldrin’s struggles with alcoholism when he returned from the moon. Naturally, the subject turn toward NASA’s Journey to Mars, for which he is a passionate advocate in the winter of his life. Aldrin had an interesting observation concerning why astronauts should return to the moon first before going to Mars.

Who was that man last night and what has he done with Donald Trump?

#Donald Trump, a candidate for president of the United States, delivered an address in Charlotte, North Carolina and did something that he has never done in public before. He expressed regret for some of the mean things he had said on the campaign trail, especially when it caused “personal pain.” He was not specific, though truth to tell the list would be long. In any case, the question arises, who was that man and what has he done with Donald Trump?

Thursday, August 18, 2016
The Atlantic says Hillary Clinton had better get ready for misogynist attacks

The Atlantic Magazine, anticipating a Hillary Clinton presidency and thus preparing the battlefield to come, has published a piece by one of its editors that Americans should get ready for a barrage of sexist and misogynist attacks on the first woman president. The suggestion is that all criticism of the second President Clinton would be based solely on her gender and not, as some would think, her policies, her personality, and her criminal record.

Ted Cruz vindicated in the Iran ransom for hostages deal

When the Iran ransom for hostages deal first came to light, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas was first and foremost in demanding an accounting and suggesting that it violated federal law. The Barack Obama administration has denied any connection between the arrival of a plane full of euros and Swiss francs to Tehran airport and the departure of a plane full of hostages from the same airport on the same night. Now, thanks to reporting from several news organizations such as Fox News, we learn that the Obama administration held the $400 million until the hostages were released. The revelation suggests that the $400 million in foreign currency was ransom and that President Obama and his people knew that it was.

Are space settlements and exploiting extraterrestrial resources 'immoral'

Last year, Dr. Linda Billings, a self-described “expert” in aerospace communications decried the “jingoism” she sees as replete in American #Space rhetoric in Scientific America. The article raised considerable hackles in space policy circles at the time. Dr. Billings has struck again with a post on her blog which ends with the following statement:

“Deep in my brain and in my heart I think and feel that colonizing other planets and exploiting extraterrestrial resources would be immoral at this stage of human development.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
'Making Space Great Again' Through Commercial Partnerships courtesy of Forbes.

For those readers who are checking this blog out for the first time through the link on the Forbes piece, most welcome. Check out some of the articles linked below on a variety of subjects. Also, feel free to purchase some of the books I link to as follows.

NASA announces the Space Robotics Challenge

NASA has announced its latest Centennial Challenge, called the #Space Robotics Challenge, which will be conducted by the space agency, Space Center Houston, and NineSigma. For a cash prize of $1 million, contestants will be invited to program a virtual robot to do a series of tasks on the Martian surface. The scenario will involve a Martian dust storm having damaged a habitat on Mars, similar to what took place in the opening scenes in the movie “The Martian.” The virtual robot will be ordered to perform a number of tasks, including realigning a communications dish, fixing a solar array, and plugging a habitat air leak.

Freeform network developing an alternate history magic military adventure 'Motherland'

According to Deadline Hollywood, Freeform, the network formerly known as ABC Family, is developing an alternate history #military fantasy called “Motherland.” The premise of the proposed series is that the witch community made a deal with the colonial government on the brink of the Salem Witch Trials. Don’t burn us at the stake and we’ll use our particular set of skills to defend the community against all threats.

Donald Trump makes a full-throated appeal for African American votes

As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York noted, #Donald Trump gave a serious speech in West Bend, a town north of Milwaukee which has been wracked with riots and made the most full-throated appeal to African American votes made by a Republican in living memory. He noted that a lack of law and order has primarily fallen hard on the black community. The key to the elevation of blacks in America, he said, is personal security. One can hardly produce economic development when businesses are in peril of being burned down and people in danger of being mugged or worse. Where it comes to black votes, more than most Republicans, Trump has nowhere to go but up. He is polling about one percent of African Americans.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Is there anything to the rumors of Hillary Clinton's state of health?

Is Hillary Clinton too sick to become president? US News recounts the number of stories, mostly based on observations of the candidate on video, which suggests that Clinton may have an ongoing #Health problem. She is known to have suffered a concussion due to a fall in 2012, but Clinton has been pronounced fully recovered. But odd behavior captured on images and video, including one instance of her having to be helped up some stairs and another case in which Clinton seemed to “zone out” in mid-speech has some tongues wagging.

Six years into Obamcare most Americans oppose government run health care

As problems surrounding the Affordable Care Act, including skyrocketing premiums and insurance companies bailing on the #Obamacare exchanges, persist some worry that the Democrats will attempt a “solution” that involves moving to a Canadian-style government-run health care system. However, the Washington Free Beacon reports that a recent poll conducted by the American Action Forum suggests that such a move would encounter stiff resistance from American voters.

House Republicans conclude Hillary Clinton is guilty of perjury

If #Hillary Clinton is elected president, the first order of business for #Congress may be to impeach her. House Republican leaders concluded that she perjured herself during congressional testimony last year. Ms. Clinton allegedly lied when she said that she did not handle classified emails and when she stated that she had turned over all relevant emails from her now infamous unsecured server. The conclusion is based on the results of the FBI investigation into the email server matter, which Bureau Director James Comey declined to recommend a prosecution.

Donald Trump proposes screening immigrants for their commitment to American values

Donald Trump, during a well-received foreign policy speech, proposed a system for screening immigrants he called “extreme vetting” in which applicants would be queried about their commitment to the United States Constitution and traditions of tolerance and civil rights. The idea is that people who might have the propensity to commit acts of #Terrorism would be prevented from entering the country, at least legally. The vetting would include questioning the applicant as well as his or her family and friends and an examination of social media. A similar system existed for immigrants from Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War. Anyone attempting to enter the United States from a country too unsettled to allow for such a screening process would be denied a visa.