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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Tuesday, December 06, 2016
 
Should Donald Trump have Elon Musk up at the Trump Tower?

Should #Donald Trump have Elon Musk up to the Trump Tower? The New York Times seems to think so and, considering that Trump has met with Al Gore, no argument against it exists.



 
What was Al Gore doing at the Trump Tower?

Of all the people who would show up at Trump Tower to kiss the ring and bend the knee, the last person one expected to show up was Al Gore, the former vice-president and presidential candidate and current professional global warming hysteric. He came to have a chat with Ivanka Trump about #Climate Change, a conversation that included President-Elect #Donald Trump at one point. Gore pronounced the conversation as “very interesting” and “very productive.” Now Trump watchers are wondering what is that all about?



Monday, December 05, 2016
 
Amazon rolls out a store with no checkout lines

The future of grocery shopping has already started to arrive with some supermarkets rolling out home delivery services. Now, Amazon has unveiled a new kind of food store where there are no checkout lines. Instead you check in on a smartphone. The internet of things network tracks the items you take off and put back on the shelves. Then, when you leave the store with your cloth bag full of items, the software automatically bills you to your #Amazon account.



 
Senate Democrats toy with obstructing Donald Trump's cabinet picks

Senate Democrats, still reeling at the thumping their party received from Hillary Clinton on down, have been casting about for a strategy for what to do now. Politico reports that some of them have hit upon obstructing Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, at least some of them. They will insist of procedural votes and will do other things to stretch out the confirmation process. The Democrats would like to defeat at least one nominee, Jeff Sessions for attorney general for preference, just to feel good about themselves. The idea is that they will show the Republicans that Senate Democrats will not be ignored and that, besides, they want revenge for Merrick Garland, the man President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court whom Senate Republicans refused to even hold hearings on.



 
President of Lucusfilm takes a shot against male 'Star Wars' fans

In a sign that the “Star Wars” franchise may have fallen into the hands of the social justice warrior crowd, the current president of Lucasfilm, now a subsidiary of Disney, declared that she felt no need to cater to the desires of male fans, according to Heatstreet. The statement seems to be a reference to the fact that both the most recent movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the upcoming film, “Star Wars: Rogue One” have heroic female leads, which presumably do not cater to male “Star Wars” fans.



 
At the last minute, the Obama administration halts the North Dakota Access pipeline

The #Obama Administration threw a last minute curve in the North Dakota Access Pipeline as the Army Corps of Engineer decided to deny an easement for the pipeline to cross underneath Lake Oahe, The rejection grinds the construction of the multi-billion dollar pipeline designed to convey fracked oil from the North Dakota shale fields to a port on the Mississippi. A coalition of protestors including local Native Americans and radical environmentalists cheered the apparent victory while supporters of energy independence and Republican #Donald Trump supporters decried the decision as “lawless” and politically motivated.



Sunday, December 04, 2016
 
Why is Lori Garver still trashing NASA space exploration?

The UK Guardian recently published a story about the “uncertainty” that is alleged NASA is feeling about President Elect #Donald Trump’s #Space policy. In fact, that policy has been clearly spelled out, a way to “make America great again.” However, the British newspaper dredged up Lori Garver, the former NASA Deputy Administrator who resigned to become an airline pilots’ union boss. Garver took the occasion to trash talk the idea of returning to the moon or even going to Mars.

Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?


 
Does General James Mattis want to start a war with Iran?

Politico has a piece on General James Mattis, President Elect #Donald Trump’s pick to run the Defense Department and to rebuild the military that has been hollowed out by President Obama, claiming that he is just a little too obsessive about Iran. The animus seems to have begun with the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut carried out by a terrorist trained by #Iran. The attack killed 241 Marines. Politico believes that Mattis wants some payback and that desire makes him dangerous.



 
The end game at the North Dakota pipeline draws nigh

The protests against the oil pipeline in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is about to reach its end game. Whether that ending results in farce or tragedy largely depends on how idiotic the protestors choose to be.



 
Virginia school district considers banning 'Huckleberry Finn' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee are classics of American literature. Moreover, both novels are searing indictments of racial injustice. However, since the books use racially charged language typical for the times depicted, a school district in Accomack County, Virginia is contemplating banning both books from school libraries and the classroom. The move is being contemplated because of the complaint of a single parent who feels her teenage, bi-racial son is being traumatized by being exposed to such language, according to a story in the Washington Post.



Saturday, December 03, 2016
 
Why Donald Trump accepted a phone call from the president of Taiwan

Only President-Elect Donald Trump can spark a worldwide diplomatic tizzy and a media meltdown by accepting a phone call. In this case, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called to congratulate Trump on his election to president of the United States. Trump took the phone call and let people know that he did so. Consternation and panic have ensured.



 
Moon Express co-founder Naveen Jain predicts $10,000 trips to the moon by 2026

Almost 50 years ago, when NASA first sent men to the moon, the United States spent roughly $100 billion dollars to do so. In Moon Express’ co-founder Naveen Jain is correct, by 2026, people will be about to go to the moon and back for just $10,000 per ticket, a remarkable decrease in the ticket price. Naveen made this rather bold prediction during a recent interview with CNBC. He even suggested that the trip to the moon would take roughly four hours, perhaps a reference to the EmDrive, a propellantless engine its proponents maintain will get people to the moon in hours, and to Mars in weeks.



Friday, December 02, 2016
 
Why the German Google Lunar XPrize mission will not debunk the moon landing hoax

A number of news organizations have offered breathless stories about the plans of the German Google Lunar X Prize team, Part Time Scientists, to send a rover to the Apollo 17 landing site. Science Alert declares, “-the mission could finally put the Moon landing hoax rumours to bed once and for all.” The statement is false for a couple of good reasons.



 
Team Donald Trump debate how to drop the hammer on Iran

One of the many messes Barack Obama has left Team Trump to clean up is the matter of #Iran. In the wake of the nuclear weapons deal, Iran has become very aggressive toward its neighbors and to the United States, at one point taking a group of American sailors as hostages. While the incoming administration contemplates what it wants to do about the nuclear agreement, it is weighing options of more sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to abandon its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism.




Thursday, December 01, 2016
 
Donald Trump said to choose General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as Secretary of Defense

According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump has chosen former Marine General James Mattis as his nominee to be secretary of defense. Because Mattis has served in the active duty #military within the past seven years, Congress will have to pass a special dispensation to allow him to assume the civilian job, something which it did once before for George C. Marshall.



 
What Donald Trump accomplished with his deal with Carrier

People, like Ed Morrisey at Hot Air, are wondering how #Donald Trump worked the deal with Carrier that saved the jobs of about 1,000 workers in Indiana. By all accounts it involved the president-elect picking up the phone and making a call to the president of the air conditioner company, kicking off some negotiations that involved Mike Pence, still officially the governor of Indiana. The final deal seems to involve an incentive package more that Trump’s threat to slap a 35 percent tariff on products that are produced by outsourced factories.



 
The real reason Newt Gingrich is so angry with Mitt Romney

Allahpundit over at Hot Air has had quite enough of Newt Gingrich mocking Mitt Romney for his about-face in courting President-Elect #Donald Trump after having spent so much time attacking him as a candidate. Gingrich has been so vehement and so constant in his ridicule, one might think that the former speaker has some sort of personal vendetta against the 2012 presidential candidate.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016
 
Nancy Pelosi beats back revolt among House Democrats

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi beat back an insurrection against her status as leader of the House Democrats, winning 134 to 63 against Rep. Tim Ryan. That Pelosi has presided over the decimation of the House Democratic caucus seemed to matter less than party loyalty. Pelosi will lead the tattered, decimated ranks of her party as part of a leadership team who are in their 70s. The happiest with the results, according to Hot Air, were Republicans. Kellyanne Conway quipped tartly on Twitter, “What a relief. I was worried they had learned from the elections & might be competitive and cohesive again.” The National Republican Congressional Committee endorsed Pelosi for Democratic leader.



 
Last night's dialogue on The Space Show on the Trump space policy and other topics.


 
Chris Shank, a space establishment figure, chosen for Trump's NASA transition team

Team Trump has chosen a #Space insider named Christopher Shank as part of the NASA landing or transition team. Shank worked for the space agency between 2005 and 2009 where he was a close adviser to then-NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. Since then, after a brief stint in industry, he has worked in Congress for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The appointment is causing some consternation in some parts of the commercial space fan club.

Update and Bumped: Rand Simberg screams and leaps.


 
German Google Lunar X Prize team Part Time Scientists get a launch contract

#Space News reports that Part Time Scientists, the German-based Google Lunar X Prize team, has acquired a launch contract from a Seattle-based company called Spaceflight Industries. Spaceflight is a broker for secondary payloads on existing launches, in this case likely a SpaceX Falcon 9. To date, three competitors, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, and SpaceIl, the latter an Israeli team, have confirmed launch contracts. Team Indus, the Indian team, claims a launch contract, but this is not yet certified. A number of other teams are scrambling to nail down their own launch arrangements before the December 31, 2016 deadline. The time limit for mounting a private mission to the moon and claiming the cash prize of the Google Lunar X Prize is the end of 2017, just over a year later.



Tuesday, November 29, 2016
 
Just in the way of a reminder I will be on The Space Show tonight at 10 PM Easter to give my words of wisdom about the Trump space policy and related topics.


 
Does Donald Trump really want to slash climate change research?

The media, such as the UK Guardian, is replete with stories on the theme of “#Donald Trump wants to scrap #Climate Change research” and with the accompanying “We’re all going to die of global warming,” echoing the cry from the millennial DNC staffer named Zach who cussed out Donna Brazille for shortening his life by failing to stop Trump. While the idea of draining the climate change swamp, as politicized as any area of science ever was, to pay for more #Space exploration is beguiling, the people who are panicking are not understanding what game Trump is playing.



 
Canada's Justin Trudeau becomes a world-wide laughing stock

The death of Fidel Castro, the monster that has blighted Cuba for the past nearly six decades, may have another casualty. The collateral damage seems to be the reputation of #Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose accolade for the fallen tyrant has made him the laughing stock of the world.



 
Episode of 'Timeless' depicts real life math genius Katherine Johnson

“Timeless,” the NBC series about three time-traveling special operatives who hop from historical period to historical period, took us to July 20, 1969, in its most recent episode, the day man landed on the moon. Our heroes, engineering genius Rufus, historian Lucy, and soldier Wyatt, have to stop the time traveling criminal Garcia Flynn from turning civilization’s greatest triumph to a tragedy by stranding Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. The series, as in previous episodes, depicts real-life historical figures, including a hitherto unsung hero named Katherine Johnson.



Monday, November 28, 2016
 
Tomorrow, starting at 10 PM eastern, I'm handing out words of wisdom on Donald Trump's space policy and related topics on The Space Show.


 
Francois Fillon about to make a political revolution in France

Hot Air notes that French #politics are about to take a turn that is as earth shaking, in its own way, as what just happened in the United States. A round of voting called “the conservative primary” has propelled a man named Francois Fillon to become the favorite to become the next president of the French Republic. This development is a hopeful one for a couple of reasons.



 
Writers of 'Star Wars: Rogue One' offer slam against Donald Trump

“Star Wars: Rogue One” is an eagerly awaited film depicting the operation that stole the plans for the Death Star, something that featured so prominently in the first film that hit the theaters in 1977 and changed science fiction cinema forever. However, the writers of the movie, Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, decided to pop off, somewhat indirectly, about Donald Trump on Twitter, according to Heatstreet, Weitz declared, “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” Team Trump have been scurrilously accused of being racists. Whitta added, “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.”



Sunday, November 27, 2016
 
Donald Trump claims he won the popular vote after all

The political commentariat is all ablaze about President Elect #Donald Trump’s latest tweet in which he stated, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." The tweet comes on the heels of claims on some of the right of widespread voter fraud taking place during the recent election, especially in California. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the popular vote by about 2.2 million people. Indeed some have suggested that the president-elect lacks a mandate because of this fact.



 
Forget the moon and Mars, scientists say let's colonize Titan

Most dreams of human colonization of #Space involve the moon or Mars. But, in a recent article in Scientific America, Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix, authors of a new book entitled “Beyond Earth, Our Path to a New Home in the Planets,” do a little outside the box thinking and hit upon Titan, a moon of Saturn, as the first home of humanity in outer space.



 
Why Green Party candidate Jill Stein refuses to go away

Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate whose performance in the recent presidential election resulted in a dismal showing, is refusing to remove herself from public attention. First, she was one of the addled people ranging from Jesse Jackson to the prime minister of Canada who marked the passing of Cuba’s tyrant Fidel Castro with inappropriate praise. “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!” Then there is her initiative to force a recount of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania states that Donald Trump won which placed him over the top. The Hillary Clinton campaign has joined in that effort.