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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Tuesday, June 30, 2015
 
The Draft Biden 2016 effort gains traction

With Hillary Clinton, the former inevitable next president of the United States, faltering and her one effective opponent a 73 year old curmudgeonly socialist named Bernie Sanders (“Get off my lawn, capitalist pigs!) Democrats are casting about for an alternative. According to a Monday story in RealClearPolitics, the Draft Biden 2916 effort is starting to grain some traction. The vice president, for his part, will decide whether he wants to make one more run for the presidency in early August.

Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics



 
Houston now has a spaceport at Ellington Field

Houston has basked in the honorific of “Space City” ever since NASA located what eventually became the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of the city. Indeed, “Houston” is the first word spoken from the surface of the moon. “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” Tuesday the Houston Chronicle reported that the city will add to that luster with the establishment of the 10th commercial spaceport in America at Ellington Field, close to JSC.

Tourists in Space: A Practical Guide (Springer Praxis Books)



 
NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission on the brink of cancellation

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission is still gasping along, but at least one space blogger suggests that its cancellation is all but inevitable. In the meantime, Space News just on Tuesday reported that the space agency has decided that the ARM must actually capture a boulder and take it to a retrograde lunar orbit to be considered a success. This metric was actually in doubt, with some NASA managers suggesting that as long as an unmanned probe, propelled by a solar selection propulsion engine, rendezvoused with an asteroid and then returned, even without anything resembling a rock, it would be a success.

Mining The Sky: Untold Riches From The Asteroids, Comets, And Planets (Helix Book)

The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper



 
America readies military option as Iranian nuclear talks grind on

The talks with Iran on that country’s nuclear bomb program grinds on in Vienna, with the Iranians behaving with intransigence and the Obama administration desperate to make a deal, any deal, so long as it looks good. Hot Air reminds us on Monday that a military option exists that could put an end to Iran’s dream if building a nuclear arsenal with which to threaten her neighbors once and for all. The Air Force has successfully tested the most powerful nonnuclear bomb in existence, called the Massive Ordinance Penetrator. It has prepared the B 2 Stealth Bomber to deliver the weapon to Iran’s hardened, underground nuclear facilities if President Obama gives the order.

The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West



 
France reacts to mob violence against Uber by detaining the company's executives

Recently, Parisian taxi drivers decided to deal with competition they have been getting from a new Internet car service called Uber by rioting and physically attacking cars they suspected of being part of that company. French authorities decided to deal with the situation by detaining two Uber executives and accusing them of running an “illicit service,” according to a Monday story in USA Today, The action illustrates how a bureaucratic, European socialist company reacts to change brought on by technology and entrepreneurial activity, by trying to ban it.

The Rideshare Revolution: The Quick Start Guide to Making $1000 Driving for Uber or Lyft



Monday, June 29, 2015
 
Ted Cruz picks a fight with Karl Rove over threats made by the Bush adviser

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, has picked another fight, this time with President George W. Bush’s old consigliere Karl Rove, now a pundit and TV talking head. In an excerpt from his upcoming book “A Time for Truth” that ran Saturday in Breitbart, Cruz describes an odd run-in with Rove concerning an endorsement that former President George H. W. Bush had made for a potential run by Cruz for attorney general of Texas. Rove told Cruz not to acknowledge the endorsement, claiming that the former president was “too old” to be making such statements of support.

A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America

Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight



 
Al Qaeda leader condemns ISIS to hell

Sunday, ABC News reported that Adam Gadahn, an Al Qaeda spokesperson who was recently sent to the 77 virgins courtesy of an American air strike, took his Muslim brothers in ISIS to task for their atrocities. In the view of Gadahn, ISIS has gone too far in its campaign of slaughter, rape, torture, and slavery. Members of ISIS are courting the wrath of Allah and are placing in peril their places in Paradise and the tender ministrations of the 77 virgins.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism--From al Qa'ida to ISIS



 
Supreme Court ruling sets up war between same sex marriage and religious freedom

As gay couples and their supporters celebrate the right to same-sex marriage, courtesy of a five to four ruling by the Supreme Court, signs abound that the controversy is not over yet. The Houston Chronicle reported on Sunday that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has told county clerks in the Lone Star State that they can refuse to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses if such violate their religious convictions. In the meantime, religious leaders expressed the fear that the gay activists will use the ruling to compel clerics to officiate at same-sex weddings despite what their faith dictates about such arrangements.

Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right



Sunday, June 28, 2015
 
SpaceX Falcon 9 destroyed on ISS cargo launch, imperiling commercial space

NBC News reported Sunday that SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon cargo ship laden with supplies bound for the International Space Station. Unfortunately, the Falcon broke up in the clear skies over Florida, resulting in total loss of the vehicle. Despite the fact that this was the first failure of the Falcon 9 in almost 20 launches, the failure bodes ill for the future of commercial space. As the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger tweeted, “SpaceX will learn from this, no doubt, but it opens a huge door for doubters in Congress to return and bash the company.”

SpaceX: Making Commercial Spaceflight a Reality (Springer Praxis Books)



 
Anti-Mormon rapper Bree Newsome hauls down the Confederate battle flag

Saturday the Associated Press reported that a woman named Bree Newsome climbed up the flagpole at Soldier’s Memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse and hauled down the Confederate battle flag. She and a friend named James Ian Tyson were promptly arrested and were subsequently released on $3,000 bond. The two are being treated as folk heroes who engaged in a bit of civil disobedience. However, as Gateway Pundit pointed out, Newsome has a dark past that somewhat undercuts her hero status.

The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem



 
Two new developments hold out hope for effective treatment of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease, with just between three and seven percent of sufferers surviving after five years. But, a couple of developments suggest that the disease may not be as fatal as it has been in the near future. The Health Site reported on Saturday that a new compound, called MM41 has shown some promise in mouse studies. In the meantime, the Houston Chronicle reports on a new test that detects pancreatic cancer earlier than ever before, holding out promise for better treatment of the disease.

Johns Hopkins Patients' Guide To Pancreatic Cancer (Johns Hopkins Medicine)



Saturday, June 27, 2015
 
Sarah Palin weighs in on the 'Appeal to Heaven' flag controversy

With the frenzy against the Confederate battle flag proceeding apace and even the American flag under attack by people like Louis Farrakhan, just as Rush Limbaugh predicted, Sarah Palin has weighed in on a more obscure flag controversy in a piece published on Breitbart News on Saturday. The controversy concerns the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, a Revolutionary War-era banner, which flew over a courthouse in Warren, Arkansas before it was taken down in response to demands by a militant atheist group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

3x5 Polyester An Appeal to Heaven Flag

The Second Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration (Dover Thrift Editions)



 
Ted Cruz proposes retention elections for Supreme Court justices

Whenever the Supreme Court renders a decision that seems constitutionally dubious, especially for conservatives, some propose that the checks on the power of the court be strengthened. The decision to uphold federal subsidies of Obamacare and, to a lesser extent, expand same-sex marriage to all 50 states has inspired Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to suggest just such a solution. Cruz would like to enact a new constitutional amendment allowing for judicial retention elections of Supreme Court justices, as he set out in a Friday article in National Review.

A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America

The Supreme Court



 
Read Echoes of Apollo. Trust me on this. It is the best thing I've read since The Martian: A Novel.

'Echoes of Apollo' is an action packed technothriller about the first space war

“Echoes of Apollo” by George Thompson is the sort of space faring technothriller that Tom Clancy would have been proud to have placed his name on if he was still alive. The novel is a near future story of what amounts to the first space war between China and the United States. “Echoes of Apollo” not only involve the sort of cutting edge technological toys inherent in the genre, but also makes clever use of the technology of the past. The story also casts a new light on the ongoing debate as to whether or not to return to the moon.



Friday, June 26, 2015
 
Last Days Forever is the latest by Vanessa Knipe, an author living in England and an old friend. Consider downloading the book to your Kindle as I think you'll like the story a lot.


 
Audi partners with Part Time Scientists to land a rover on the moon

According to a Friday story in Engadget, Part Time Scientists, the German team that is going after the Google Lunar X Prize, has formed a partnership with the Audi AG to build the final version of the rover that it proposes to land on the lunar surface. The German car company will provide the rover’s “four-wheel drive tech, as well as expertise in lightweight construction and piloted driving.” In return, the company will get an advertising bonanza as the rover will now be called the Audi Lunar Quattro Moon Rover.

A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts

The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories




 
Supreme Court makes same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states

The United States Supreme Court handed down a five to four decision that invoked the 14th Amendment equal protection clause to the Constitution that has made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states of the United States, according to a Friday story in the Associated Press. Moreover, every state has to recognize same-sex marriages consummated in every other state. While the decision may not end the controversy as a political issue, it will end it as a legal issue.

Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court and Beyond

The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart

Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts



 
In the wake of the Emanuel AME Church Massacre, time to ban the series 'Firefly'

In the wake of the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church, America seems to be bent on eradicating even the hint of any symbol regarding the Confederacy, from removing the Confederate battle flag from public spaces to even deleting Civil War computer games. Serious people have proposed banning “Gone With the Wind” and sanitizing “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Others have advocated blowing up the Jefferson Memorial and other monuments to famous Southerners whether they had anything to do with the Civil War or not.

Firefly: The Complete Series

Funko Legacy Action: Firefly - Malcolm Reynolds Action Figure



Thursday, June 25, 2015
 
97 percent of scientists believe in global warming? Try 36 percent

The statement “97 percent of scientists believe global warming is real” has become a media cliché used to beat down climate change skeptics with the illusion of consensus. However, as Forbes pointed out, the method that was used to arrive at that figure was so dubious that it might as well have been grabbed out of thin air. Forbes also looked at a peered reviewed study of geoscientists and found that the actual figure of scientists who believe that human-caused global warming is real and that it is of serious concern is 36 percent. That is hardly something to base upending the entire economic order of the planet on.

The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists

Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics & Deniers; A Geoscientist looks at the Science of Climate Change



 
With a tip of the bowler and a swish of the umbrella, Patrick Macnee departs

Patrick Macnee, the British actor best known for his role as John Steed on the 1960s spy show “The Avengers,” has died at the age of 93, the BBC reported on Thursday. He was a Second World War Navy veteran and appeared on stage and the big and small screen for close to 60 years. He died of what is termed “natural causes.”

The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Megaset

The Avengers & Me (TV Series) by McNee, Patrick, Macnee, Patrick, Rogers, Dave (2002) Paperback

The Avengers: The Inside Story



 
As Bernie Sanders surges, the Hillary Clinton Campaign goes on the attack

According to Thursday story in Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in the United States Senate who admits to being one, is continuing to give the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign fits. He is starting to gain on Ms. Clinton in the important early states of Iowa and New Hampshire among Democratic voters. According to the Daily Caller, the Clinton camp is starting to take notice and fight back. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Clinton supporter, let Sanders have it on Morning Joe on MSNBC. McCaskill suggested that the fiery senator from Vermont is “extreme.” She also implied that Sanders being a socialist is a bad thing.

The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition...Socialism



 
DARPA is already working on designer organisms to terraform Mars

Space visionaries dream of a time when human beings will not only settle Mars, but will terraform the Red Planet into something more Earth-like, with a breathable atmosphere, running water, and a functioning biosphere. Evidence exists that Mars was more or less Earth-like billions of years ago before the atmosphere leached away into space and the water became frozen under the ground and at the poles. Terraforming Mars is decades away from the beginning and probably centuries away from the end. But DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already genetically engineering organisms that will help turn the Red Planet blue, according to a Wednesday story in Motherboard.

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)

Green Mars (Mars Trilogy)

Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy)



 
Using rhetorical gymnastics, the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare subsidies

According to a Thursday story in the Associated Press, the Supreme Court has upheld subsidies for Obamacare insurance exchanges in states where the federal government rather than the states have set up the exchanges. This decision was taken by a six to three margin even though the plain language of the law states that subsidies only be available with exchanges, "established by the state." The court decided that the phrase was “ambiguous” and that in the full context of the law, the phrase could also mean that subsidies would be available on federal exchanges as well.

Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare



 
'Gone with the Wind,' 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' and the Jefferson Memorial must go

Having succeeded in getting rid of the Confederate battle flag, the left is now casting about for other cultural symbols that are an offense to their eyes to get rid of. Some of the symbols, such as the film “Gone with the Wind” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” are rather silly. Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post, someone on CNN implied that blowing up the Jefferson Memorial would be desirable because, after all, the author of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves.

Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary Edition

The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete TV Series

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power



Wednesday, June 24, 2015
 
How Noam Chomsky and Lawrence Krauss got space exploration wrong

According to a Tuesday piece in Motherboard, Noam Chomsky, a philosopher and political commentator, and Lawrence Krauss, a physicist and cosmologist, had a public dialogue about space exploration. Being both men of the far left, they concluded that space travel should be best left to robots and conducted by governments. The conclusions are the exact opposite of what the prevailing trends are in space policy.

Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing



 
Would sending people to Mars bring Americans together?

In an op-ed published in Florida Today on Wednesday, Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieutenant governor of Florida, and Rich Ramos, a Florida businessman, proposed a new justification for sending humans to Mars. A Mars program would serve, in their view, as a means to foster national unity of the sort that is rarely achieved outside times of war. Some recent polling data suggests that they may be on to something.

The Martian

The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration

The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper



 
Is Rush Limbaugh right about the American flag being slated for destruction?

As the Confederate battle flag begins to be lowered across the South, being expunged from retail outlets, being made, to paraphrase a term from George Orwell, an “unflag,” Rush Limbaugh, the fiery conservative radio talk show host, wondered, is the American flag next. Politico reported Tuesday that Limbaugh accused the left of harboring ill-feelings toward Old Glory, and that it is just itching to expunge the Stars and Stripes from flagpoles across the country. The long-term conservative commentator may be indulging in his tendency to exaggerate to make a larger point. But it is a point worth exploring.

Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson

American Flag: 100% American Made - USA Flags Made In USA - Embroidered Stars and Sewn Stripes - Free Shipping for Prime Members and Amazon A to Z Guarantee. US Flags 3 x 5 ft by Grace Alley. This 3x5 American Flag Meets US Flag Code. Made In USA!