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, October 23, 2017
 
Linda Billings thinks that the National Space Council meeting is a ‘spectacle’

Linda Billings, a self-described expert in communications, has just published her take on the recent meeting of the National Space Council, which she refers to, caustically, as a “spectacle.” She quotes from an obscure French philosopher about what such a thing is, as images and words meant to supplant reality. In this, as in much else, Dr. Billings is wide of the mark. The NSC meeting was only interesting to people who follow space policy. It also pretty much tracked reality in regards to what the current state of space policy is.



 
Hillary Clinton targeted in Russian spy plot

The story about the Russian spy plot to gain access to the Clintons reads like a plotline from “The Americans.” The Hill is reporting that Vladimir Putin targeted Bill and #Hillary Clinton to achieve influence over the then powerful political power couple in 2009 and 2010. Part of the operation was legal, albeit unseemly, involving lobbying the State Department to get the Uranium One deal. The effort provided a lot of support for the Clinton Global Initiative and helped to ensure Bill Clinton with a $500.000 payday for a one-hour speech in Moscow. Part of the effort was covert and illegal.



 
Trump to become more aggressive fighting the Taliban

The Daily Caller is reporting that the #trump administration has changed the strategy in Afghanistan with a view of bringing the civil war between the Afghan government and the Taliban [VIDEO]to a conclusion. Under Obama, American efforts had primarily been directed at Al Qaeda. Trump has unleashed American military and intelligence assets against the former rulers of the landlocked Central Asian country.



 
In ‘The Walking Dead’ the war against Negan begins (spoilers)

“#The Walking Dead” has returned to Sunday nights and with it the Great War against Negan and the so-called Saviors. We had finished the previous season with the usually cocky wielding of Lucille being sent packing from Alexandria thanks to the timely intervention of the Kingdom and the Hilltop, spearheaded at King Ezekiel’s attack tiger. In the first episode of the new season, the alliance of Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom take the fight to #Negan.



Sunday, October 22, 2017
 
Environmental groups find new reason to oppose Bridenstine as NASA head

Rumor has it that the confirmation hearings for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) for #NASA administrator will be held on November 1, though this date had yet to be officially confirmed. However, a number of #environmental groups and some science groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists are marshaling to oppose Bridenstine’s appointment.



 
Nancy Pelosi is wistful for a Romney presidency

The following story is a couple of days old but is worth delving into since former President George W. Bush [VIDEO] has gotten the strange new respect treatment from the left. It seems that House Minority Leader #Nancy Pelosi said, during a speech, that "Wouldn't it be nice if [Romney] were president of the United States?" The statement has, to put the matter mildly, caused eyebrows to rise across the United States.



 
Trump to allow release of JFK assassination files

AFP, among multiple media outlets, reports that President #Donald Trump will not block the release of top-secret files concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Some in the intelligence community had wanted to keep the records secret, the theory being that they might reveal still current sources and methods. However, Trump would like to see them released in the interests of transparency.



Saturday, October 21, 2017
 
Steve Bannon for United States Senate?

#Steve Bannon, former consigliere to #President Trump and current head of Breitbart News, gave a speech at the fall convention of the California Republican Party. The address was vintage Bannon, praising President Trump, excoriating the Republican establishment, and championing his brand of economic nationalism. The speech roused Hugh Hewitt, a radio talk show host and cable news commentator to offer an outside-the-box suggestion.



 
President Trump slams Frederica Wilson in a blistering tweet

As he tends to do, President #Donald Trump took to Twitter recently and launched on Rep. #Frederica Wilson. It was the latest salvo in one of the more degrading Washington battles in recent memory. It started when Wilson claimed that Trump had been “insensitive” when calling to console a widow of a soldier recently killed in action. Things spiraled out of control from there.



 
Why Newt Gingrich is vindicated by Trump’s return to the moon plan

If one person on Earth feels vindicated about the Trump administration’s push to return to the moon, it is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In a recent post in his newsletter, the former presidential candidate and current social and political commentator waxed eloquently about the recent meeting of the National Space Council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Gingrich stated, “I am especially excited about Vice President Pence’s recognition that it is important to put Americans back on the Moon – and that going to the Moon is about more than just landing there.” To understand why Gingrich is so excited, one has to go back over five years when the former speaker was a presidential candidate.



Friday, October 20, 2017
 
An Apollo astronaut reflects on why we haven’t been to Mars yet

Popular Mechanics caught up with #Apollo astronaut #Thomas Stafford recently. The 86-year-old former Air Force officer, test pilot, and astronaut voiced a complaint that is common with people of his era. Why have we not been to #Mars yet, not to mention even back to the moon since 1972? The spectacle of a burst of space exploration that included six successful expeditions to the lunar surface was a handful, followed by decades of being trapped in low Earth orbit was aggravating to those who lived through it. The reasons are complicated and I explain them in “Why is it so Hard to Go Back to the Moon?”



 
You can’t boycott Israel if you want Harvey relief money in Dickinson, Texas

The town of Dickinson, which resides south of the Johnson Spaceflight Center, was one of the hardest hit areas [VIDEO] in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey. Many homes and businesses wound up being flooded out. Six weeks after the storm, the community is still trying to recover.



 
Liberal students support the Trump tax plan when they think it’s Bernie Sanders’

Perhaps taking a cue from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas who hammered Sen #Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont by asking him what parts of the Trump tax reform package he dislikes, a group called Campus Reform sent a man in the street interviewer to the campus of George Washington University and asked random students about tax reform. The answers were illuminating.



 
Why the left now misses George W. Bush too

Ten or so years ago, people on the left were making movies that fantasized about the assassination of then-President George W. Bush. The younger Bush was the recipient of the kind of hatred that is unprecedented in American history, except for the ire that every other politician with an “R” after his or her name gets. Bush had a brief moment of popularity after 9/11, but by the middle of his second term, it was all but gone.



 
Why the Senate passing a budget resolution is a big deal (maybe)

The Senate passed a #Budget Resolution last night on a near party-line vote, with Sen. Rand #Paul, R-Kentucky bolting to join the Democrats to vote against it. The substance of the resolution is not as important as the fact that it sets up a vote on a #Tax Reform measure that can pass the Senate for 50 plus one votes instead of 60 votes. The question is, will the Senate pass tax reform or, as Hot Air is afraid it will do, blow it like it did Obamacare twice?



 
Blue Origin conducts a hot fire of its BE-4 rocket engine

#Rocket Engine testing is a common occurrence. Engines are set up on test stands and are fired to make sure they work as designed before being put inside a rocket to send it to Earth orbit and, sometimes, beyond. #Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space launch company, recently did a hot fire of its new BE-4 rocket engine. Ars Technica suggests that the test was historic for a number of reasons.



Thursday, October 19, 2017
 
A scientist has an explanation why we have not heard from ET

The Fermi Paradox looks at the mathematical probability that #Intelligent Life is teeming in the universe and the fact that we Earth people have not received any signals from aliens yet. A number of possible explanations have been advanced to solve the paradox, including the depressing idea that civilizations tend to destroy themselves, say in a nuclear war or an environmental holocaust. However, Science Magazine notes that Alan Stern, the scientist most famous for his association with the New Horizon space probe that flew by Pluto a couple of years ago, thinks he has a possible explanation.



 
Pluto Lander proposed by Global Aerospace Company

When #New Horizons soared past Pluto just over two years ago, it revealed a strange world with glaciers of frozen nitrogen and mountains of packed water ice. Much of the features and processes that were uncovered by the probe were entirely unexpected by scientists, which is pretty impressive for a former planet that was downgraded to a “dwarf planet” in a decision that is still roiling the scientific community. Now, according to Spaceflight Insider, a group of scientists and engineers at the Global #Aerospace Company are proposing a follow-up mission that would land on Pluto and then hop about its surface.



 
Let the War in Halloween commence

The folks at Hot Air are not the only ones who are puzzled why a school in the town of Walpole, Massachusetts decided to declare war on Halloween, except that the school and town reside in a state that sent Elizabeth Warren to the Senate and is thus capable of anything. In any case, school officials have decreed the Halloween is “not inclusive” and have thus canceled the annual Halloween Parade in which children get to wear their costumes while marching about. In its stead, the school will sponsor a “Black and Orange #Spirit Day” party after hours.



 
Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders clash over tax cuts in a televised debate

If one wanted to know what the 2016 general election campaign could have been like had it not been between Trump and Clinton, one would have gotten a hint during Wednesday night’s debate on tax cuts that aired on CNN between Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. The hypothetical campaign between the champion of socialism in one corner and the defender of #Free Market Capitalism in the other would have been far more edifying than the one that features grabbing lady parts and shaming 12-year old rape victims.



 
Scientists locate and measure a lava tube on the moon

#Scientists have speculated that areas on the moon, called lava tubes, may be the perfect location for future lunar colonies. American and Japanese scientists, combining data from the Selene orbiter and the Grail probe, have located one of those lava tubes in the Marius Hills region of the moon. Moreover, they have been able to ascertain that it is large enough, potentially, to contain a #Lunar Colony with room to spare.



 
‘Salvation’ has been renewed for a second summer season

Deadline Hollywood has reported that CBS has decided to give “#Salvation,” it's summer drama that used an asteroid headed for a collision with Earth as the McGuffin, a second season to air in the summer of 2018. The announcement will be welcome to fans of #science fiction and political melodramas. The awesome thing about “Salvation” is how many genres it managed to encompass in one show.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 
The latest attempt to fix Obamacare has collapsed

The bad news is that the latest attempt to fix Obamacare has collapsed. The #Good News is that the effort was a bipartisan “compromise” that would have bailed out the health insurance companies without fixing the problems that made such a thing necessary, as Hot Air points out. Now both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are uncertain about what to do next.



 
Linda Billings thinks that commercial space is both libertarian and Nazi

The Trump administration’s push to return to the moon has caused rare excitement, perhaps not seen since the early days of the Apollo project. Scientists have started to develop strategies to begin delving into the secrets of the universe. The commercial space sector stands ready to lend a hand. Even NASA seems to be on board. Perhaps, at last, humans will venture beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since 1972. However, #Linda Billings, a self-described “communications expert” is less than thrilled and has attempted to state why in her blog.



 
Plurality of Americans believe the media makes up stories about President Trump

Politico, along with the Morning Consult, released the results of a poll that concludes that a plurality of #Americans, 46 percent, think that the media just makes up stories about President Donald Trump. 37 percent do not believe that the press engages in publishing fiction as fact and 17 percent are not sure. More Republicans than Democrats agree that the media publishes lies about the president. However, Americans, by and large, do not believe that the press should be punished by the government for this alleged practice. So while the news media lacks credibility with the public, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution still does.



 
Uber should not be allowed to operate in London because of GPS

The latest argument being mounted against Uber [VIDEO] by the #London transport bureaucrats is a real doozy. It seems that Uber drivers depend more on their GPS and Google Maps systems that every rideshare car is equipped with than the meticulous memorization of London streets and addresses that every #Black Cab driver has to go through before being allowed to take passengers hither and fro. Plus, #Uber drivers tend to have “funny names."



 
A Harvard professor’s plan to make Hillary Clinton president now

For the gentle reader’s edification, a Harvard professor named Lawrence Lessig has offered a path for Hillary Clinton [VIDEO] to become president, not in 2021 after she wins an election but, perhaps, early next year, presuming a series of unlikely events. The scenario is the sort of thing that might work in a satirical cable TV series like “Veep.” However, as a real-world proposal, it reads like the ravings of a madman.



 
Does the return to the moon require a mission statement?

Paul Spudis, a lunar and planetary scientist who has been an advocate for a return to the moon, turned to the pages of Smithsonian’s Air and Space to discuss what he calls a #Mission Statement for going back to the lunar surface. Such a thing would not only be useful for keeping the program focused but would also constitute a good answer for the question as to why we are doing it. He has come up with a short, succinct phrase: arrive, survive, thrive.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017
 
Why China will not be a partner in the return to the moon

In the wake of the announcement of the latest return to the moon proposal, space policy makers are casting about for international partners for the effort. As with the #international space station, having other countries join in the lunar initiative would help to share its cost and would serve as a vehicle for diplomacy.



 
‘The Brave’ is the TV show that ‘Homeland’ should have been

"#The Brave,” a new series that airs on NBC on Monday night, depicts the adventures of a group of analysts, spies, and special operators who deal with terrorist threats to the United States on a weekly basis. The show stars Anne Heche as Deputy Director Patricia Campbell and the leader of the group.



 
Raqqa has been liberated bringing the Islamic State to an end

As Hot Air notes, the Syrian city of Raqqa has fallen to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters, backed by the United States. As of this writing, the stadium complex, used by ISIS as a torture center and prison, is being cleared of mines and any die-hard #Islamic State fighters who remain. A number of #ISIS terrorists managed to escape, but much more were either killed or captured in the fighting. The vaunted Islamic State as a distinct territorial entity has come to an end.



 
Bigelow and ULA team up to build space station in lunar orbit

Part of the emerging architecture for a return to the moon is a Deep #Space Station that would be deployed in cis-lunar space. The idea is that astronauts would ride to the DPS or, as some call it, the Deep Space Gateway in an Orion spacecraft. Then they will ride a reusable lunar lander the rest of the way to the moon’s surface. The DPS would eventually serve as a refueling depot with rocket propellant refined by lunar water brought up from the surface to be used to top off spacecraft headed for destinations such as Mars.



 
Commercial companies want to help NASA return to the moon

As America, hopefully, this time for real, prepares for a return to the moon, the one problem facing the effort is actually landing on the moon. NASA and its associated contractors are developing two parts of the back to the moon infrastructure, the Orion spacecraft and the heavy-lift Space Launch System. In addition, commercial companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin are developing their own heavy lift rockets, the Falcon Heavy and the New Glenn respectively.



 
Why Megyn Kelly is crashing and burning on NBC

#Megyn Kelly, by all accounts, is crashing and burning as the second coming of Katie Couric in her morning slot at NBC. It is not hard to understand why. The no-nonsense, hard-hitting Kelly who liked to make her guests sweat on #Fox News does not come across as very appealing as the gooey “Megyn in the Morning” fluff gal that NBC tried to make her into. So much for that $23 million a year contract. So how does the network salvage its investment and, more important, how does Kelly save her career?



Monday, October 16, 2017
 
Why Madison Clark is the most deadly person in ‘Fear the Walking Dead’

Two things have become self-evident about the zombie apocalypse by the conclusion of the third season of “Fear the #Walking Dead.” First, being bit by one of the “infected” (they are called “walkers” in the other show) is a horrible thing. The best that can happen is that the body part that gets bit can be amputated instantly and without painkillers. The worse that can happen is that a friend will have the mercy to shoot you in the head before you “turn” and become one of those shambling, growling creatures that wander about the land trying to eat every living thing, especially living humans.



 
Jimmy Kimmel philosophical about the loss of his Republican audience

Jimmy Kimmel [VIDEO], the former late-night comedian, turned after-hours political polemicist, was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning about his sharp turn to leftwing rants during his monologues. Kimmel was not overtly political before the Trump presidency. Now he is making his views known on such subjects as gun control and health care but in a serious, unfunny manner. As a result, his audience, especially among Republicans, has taken a noticeable nosedive. Kimmel’s reaction has been, mildly speaking, unusual.



 
Republican candidate for Congress claims to have been a UFO abductee

Congress has had members who have flown into space. Harrison Schmitt, the Apollo 17 moonwalker, served one term in the Senate. Jake Garn, then a senator, and Bill Nelson, [VIDEO]then a congressman and now a senator, flew on the space shuttle in the 1980s. However, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a #Republican candidate for a House seat in Florida, may be the first candidate for a major party to claim to have ridden on an alien spaceship as an abductee.



 
Bill Nelson may be in peril of losing his Florida senate seat

Politico is reporting that Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida may be in trouble for reelection in 2018. The betting is that Nelson will face Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, who is term-limited and is expected to run for the senate. Scott will decide as to whether to run late in 2017 or early in 2018. He has every incentive to wait until the last minute because fundraising rules are more constrained for a federal candidate than a state one.



 
Study: Corporate tax cut to increase wages by $4,000 to $9,000 a year

According to a new economic study, the #Corporate Tax cut being proposed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will provide a boost of between $4,000 and $9,000 a year in wages, the Washington Examiner is reporting. The study was published by Kevin Hassett, the newly-installed chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Democrats are, naturally, disputing this analysis, claiming that most of the benefit of lowering the lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would adhere to shareholders.



Sunday, October 15, 2017
 
NASA proposes joining proposed Russian missions to the moon

With the Trump administration push to return to the moon, NASA is understandably looking for international partners for the great enterprise. According to Space News, one of those partners is Russia, a country that has lunar ambitions. Russia has a number of robotic missions to the moon in the works, and the space agency is expressing interest in participating in them. However, would such space cooperation work or even be appropriate in the age of Putin?



 
Hillary Clinton still doesn’t understand why she lost in 2016

#Hillary Clinton recently sat down for an interview on the UK’s Channel Four. Naturally, the subject of her good friend and political ally Harvey Weinstein came up. Ms. Clinton tried to deflect the question by stating, "Look, we just elected someone who admitted sexual assault to the presidency.” She was, of course, referring to #Donald Trump and the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted of crude, sexual advances on women. However, the reaction to her statement was not received well.



 
Biloxi School District pulls ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from eighth grade reading

According to the Biloxi Sun Herald, the community’s #School District has pulled #Harper Lee’s classic novel of racial bigotry and #Coming Of Age in the depression era south “To Kill a Mockingbird” from the eighth-grade reading list because some of the language makes people “feel uncomfortable.” By “language” the school district means the period use of the “n-word” in casual conversation. The ghost of George Carlin was not available for comment on what has become the word no one should use or hear anywhere.



Saturday, October 14, 2017
 
The moon, been there, done that, not hardly

One of the most aggravating arguments against going back to the moon was expressed by then President Barack Obama in his now infamous April 15, 2010, speech at the Kennedy Space Center. “We've been there before. Buzz has been there. There's a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.” Every lunar and planetary scientist who heard that had to have groaned in exasperation. In fact, there is a lot more of the #moon to explore and a lot more to learn about it, as Popular Science points out. The Apollo astronauts only landed on tiny portions of Earth’s nearest neighbor close to its equator.



 
Big aerospace mounts a defense of space exploration

#Marillyn Hewson of #Lockheed Martin has published an op-ed in the Washington Post that serves as a response to the one by David Von Drehle that attacks the very idea of human space exploration. Hewson mounts a defense of why Americans should send people to explore the heavens. None of what she said includes anything quite as crass as “because NASA wants us to spend a lot of money to do so” even though big aerospace is pretty much in favor of anything the agency that writes the checks is for.



 
Harvey Weinstein to demand his old job back

You have to admit, Harvey Weinstein has either got a lot of cajones, or he is seriously in the denial stage of what has happened to him. Multiple news sources, including Hot Air, is reporting that Weinstein is going to dispute his firing from the Weinstein Company. He intends to claim that he followed the terms of his contract in that he paid the legal costs and the “fine” for each of the settlements for his various instances of sexual misconduct under the so-called “prey for pay” clause. In any case, Weinstein also intends to claim that he has not been accused of sexual harassment since he signed his current contract in October 2015.