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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Saturday, May 28, 2016
Can Bernie Sanders explain why socialism destroyed Venezuela?

If Bernie Sanders ever became a serious candidate for president, either as a Democrat if Hillary Clinton gets indicted or as a standard-bearer of the Green Party if she does not, he will have to explain Venezuela. Venezuela constitutes the end game of socialism, where government control of the economy has destroyed the country as thoroughly as if it had been invaded by a foreign power. According to a piece in Time Magazine, shortages exist for 80 percent of consumer goods, including food. Electricity blackouts are now a regular occurrence. Long lines at stores, which were once a feature of the old Soviet Union, are now common. Hyperinflation on the scale of Weimer Germany has set in.

The real reason Rep. Louie Gohmert is wrong about gay people in space

Rep Louis Gohmert, R-Texas has caused a minor kerfuffle when he suggested that a future space colony ought to consist solely of heterosexual couples, especially if the idea is to restart the human race after a world-wide disaster, such as an asteroid strike. The Houston Chronicle took the conservative congressman to task Thursday with the implication of homophobia. NASA Watch has also taken up the hue and cry. However, both Gohmert and his critics are missing the point.

Will 'Hacksaw Ridge' rehabilitate Mel Gibson?

Recently, Shane Black, the writer of “Lethal Weapon,” suggested that Mel Gibson, the star of that film, has been “blacklisted” in Hollywood due to an incident ten years ago during which the actor/director made an anti-Semitic rant during a DUI stop. Gibson subsequently did the apology tour and went into rehab. However, he has only been in six obscure films since and has not directed anything since 2006’s “Apocalypto.” The once A-list actor and director of such films as “Braveheart” has fallen on hard times. But, Gibson may be about to rehabilitate himself with the first movie he directed in ten years, “Hacksaw Ridge.

Friday, May 27, 2016
The Bernie Sander Donald Trump debate enrages Senate Democrats

The idea of Bernie Sanders going head to head in a debate with Donald Trump may excite political junkies and have certain advantages for both candidates, but Sanders’ fellow senators on the Democratic side are taking a dim view of the prospect. As far as they are concerned, Sanders should have dropped out of the race months ago, leaving the field to the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. But Sanders refuses to give up and instead has chosen to give Clinton, and her supporters fits. The venerable socialist from Vermont has no chance of winning the nomination, unless Clinton is indicted due to the email server scandal. But he has every intention of embarrassing the Democratic frontrunner. His next opportunity will be in the California Primary, where Sanders is neck and neck with Clinton.

Commuter chaos, DWI uptick noted in Austin after departure of Uber and Lyft

In the weeks following the departure of Uber and Lyft from Austin, the commuter chaos that has been left in the wake of the ride share companies continues, according to a Thursday story on NPR. Riders and drivers alike have been left stranded, though the city government is trying to fix a mess of its own making by fostering a non-profit ridesharing company called RideAustin, being developed by a number of tech businesses in the city. A number of other, smaller startups are also trying to fill in the gap.

Has Bernie Sanders flip flopped on NASA funding?

Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the venerable socialist who is currently giving Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee for president, fits by persisting in running, opened his mind Wednesday on a variety of subjects, most notably NASA and space exploration. Sanders’ answer was interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which because it was at variance with previously stated positions. Has the candidate executed a flip-flop (or “evolved” as some might charitably say)? Or is he pandering to technology oriented California? Perhaps the explanation is that, being a man of advanced years, Sanders may have forgotten what his previous position was.

'The Americans' to end after six seasons on the FX Channel

As the New York Times notes, FX has announced that its hit series “The Americans” will end after two more seasons. That means that the series will have a six-season run. The decision is said to be a creative one, meaning that the show runners have some sort of idea how they want the series to end and that six seasons will suffice.

Thursday, May 26, 2016
Planetary Resources is getting into the Earth observation business

Planetary Resources, a company devoted to prospecting asteroids and mining them for their mineral wealth, is getting into the Earth observation business, the company announced. The company has developed a new Earth observation satellite it called the Ceres, based on technology being prepared for the Arkyd spacecraft designed to prospect asteroids. Planetary Resources has raised $21.1 million in series A funding to start testing the technology and deploying the satellites.

Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh hit back at deceptive editing in Katie Couric documentary

The firestorm surrounding the deceptive editing of an anti-gun documentary called “Under the Gun,” executive produced and narrated by Katie Couric, continues apace. Conservatives such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have pounced, pointing out that the editing, which substituted nine seconds of a “B-roll” for four minutes of answers to a question on background checks for gun purchases, was meant to make pro-gun advocates look stupid.

Did Ted Cruz really win by losing the nomination in 2016?

Peter Weber, writing for The Week, posit an interesting theory that Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas actually won in the long run by being denied the Republican nomination by Donald Trump. The idea is that Cruz will not be tainted by being defeated by Hillary Clinton in the November election, but will win reelection to his Senate seat easily in 2018 and will be well positioned to come roaring back in 2020 for another presidential run.

Bernie Sanders accepts a debate challenge with Donald Trump

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the venerable socialist from Vermont, is not likely to be the Democratic nominee for president, but according to a Thursday story in Politico, he is already parlaying his quixotic national campaign to raise his profile in the Senate. He is using his status as a national figure, with millions of admirers and Twitter followers, opposing both the Puerto Rico bailout bill and the Toxic Substances Control Act, the first landmark environmental legislation in a number of years. His opposition to these bills may be of no consequence, except to provide publicity for Sanders and irritate his fellow senators, however.

Hollywood goes back to Mars with 'The Space Between Us'

Last year, movie audiences thrilled to the story of an astronaut played by Matt Damon trying to survive after being stranded on Mars in “The Martian.” Now, in the upcoming film, “The Space Between Us,” Hollywood is going back to the Red Planet with another story, this time about a real-life Martian.

The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump exchange insults

As USA Today noted, the feud between Donald Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, has flared anew. The renewed outbreak of hostilities started when Warren railed against Trump for profiting during the subprime housing crisis that led to the 2008 economic meltdown. Then, during a speech in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Trump mocked Warren, calling her “Pocahontas,” a reference to the senator’s hotly disputed claim of being part Native American. Trump followed up with a tweet that referenced the fact that Warren and her family made a tidy profit by flipping foreclosed homes, suggesting that she was a hypocrite. Warren has defended her business effort by claiming she just wanted to help her family and unemployed construction workers.

55 years ago President John F. Kennedy sent America on course to the moon

As ZME Science reminded us on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 is the 55th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s address on “urgent national needs” before a joint session of Congress in which he committed the United States to “achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” A little more than eight years later, the dream was given form when Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface in an event followed in real time by a billion people on a planet that contained just 3.5 billion inhabitants.

Children of Apollo: The Space Race Gambit

Children of Apollo: The Hard Road to the Stars

Children of Apollo: The First Woman on the Moon

NASA's Charles Bolden calls for space cooperation with China

According to a Tuesday story carried by the Voice of America, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called on the United States Congress to change the law that prohibits the space agency from cooperating with China. Bolden cited the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which involved a joint mission of an American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz in 1975. The example might not be a good case for a similar mission with China, however. In any case, against the backdrop of a possible shooting war with China in the South China Sea, such a change as urged by Bolden is unlikely to occur.

78 year old Bill Cosby to stand trial on the charge of sexual assault

The AP reports that Bill Cosby, a decades-long icon of both the small and big screen, has been ordered to stand trial on a 23-year case in which he is accused of drugging a woman and then having sex with her. The incident, involving a Temple University employee named Andrea Constand, is just one of dozens of alleged encounters in which the actor and comedian is accused of drugging women to have sex with them. If Cosby is convicted in this case, he could serve ten years in prison. He is 78 and not in the best of health.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The real reason why Hillary Clinton wants to be president

Rich Lowry recently opined that Hillary Clinton cannot explain to anyone why she should be president. Actually, the case is that she could offer such an explanation, but it would not be one that many people would find attractive.

The real reason Donald Trump thinks Vince Foster's death was 'fishy'

People who think that elections should be about the issues are tearing their hair about the way Donald Trump is going after Hillary and Bill Clinton. First, Team Trump rolled out the Internet ad that featured various women complaining about how Bill savaged them while Hillary cackles over a grainy black and white image of the former president with a cigar in his mouth. Then, Trump himself pronounced the death of Vince Foster to be “fishy.”

NASA to be ordered to literally aim for the stars in House funding bill

It turns out that the mandate for NASA to return astronauts to the moon is not the most exciting part of the space agency’s funding bill now moving through the House. The same bill suggests that NASA start to research propulsion technologies that would be used to send the first probe to Alpha Centauri, according to a Monday story in Science. The idea is that the first expedition to the nearest star to our solar system would depart in 2069, the 100th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The language seems to have been included in the bill by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, the chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA.

Trailer for Civil War epic 'The Free State of Jones' has been released

The trailer for an upcoming Civil War drama, entitled “The Free State of Jones,” has been released, according to Coming Soon. The movie, which stars Mathew McConaughey, tells the story of Newton Night, a deserter from the Confederate Army, who rebelled against the Confederacy and established his own independent country in Jones County, Mississippi. “The Free State of Jones” is written and directed by Gary Ross, who created such films as “The Hunger Games” and “Seabiscuit.” The movie is scheduled to be released on June 24.

Monday, May 23, 2016
Former Vice President Al Gore takes a dim view of Donald Trump

Al Gore, the former vice-president and presidential candidate, appeared on “The Today Show” on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Understandably, the conversation drifted to contemporary politics. Gore takes a dim view of Donald Trump and his quest for the presidency. Climate change is at issue. Trump is a climate change skeptic, and his energy policy is being developed by people who are sympathetic to fossil fuels. Gore has become famous for warning the world about the alleged dangers of human-caused global warming.

House appropriators to mandate NASA send astronauts back to the moon

Ars Technica reported on Monday that House version of the NASA funding bill for the next fiscal year will contain a complete change in the space agency’s space exploration strategy. The bill will defund NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, which proposes to snatch a boulder from an asteroid and deploy in in lunar orbit to be visited later by astronauts. Instead, the bill will mandate that the space agency begin plans to return to the lunar surface in advance of the Journey to Mars.

In the spirit of "I love it when a plan starts to come together."

A Giant Lunar Leap For Private Enterprise

U.S. can still beat China back to moon

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

Newt Gingrich is on Donald Trump's short list for vice president

National Review is reporting that Newt Gingrich has become Donald Trump’s most high profile policy advisor and the top of the short list for vice presidential running mate. On the latter, the selection of the former House Speaker and 2012 presidential candidate would defy conventional presidential wisdom. Most pundits suggest that a better fit for a Trump ticket would be much younger, preferably ethnic, perhaps a woman, and certain someone who brings with him or her an important swing state. Gingrich has none of these advantages. He does bring one of the most brilliant and outside the box minds in modern politics. That quality is both an advantage and a liability.

Washington State GOP convention awards 40 out of 41 delegates to Ted Cruz

Donald Trump is, by all appearances, unifying the Republican Party behind his unlikely candidacy for president of the United States. That success is providing dividends, as the polls are beginning to show Trump neck and neck with, and even ahead of in some matches, Hillary Clinton. But, as CBS News reported Sunday, Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s defeated rival, remains the fly in the ointment and the monkey in the wrench where it comes to the drive by the mercurial real estate tycoon and reality show star to become president. Washington State Republicans held their state convention and awarded 40 out of 41 delegates to Cruz.

'All the Way'' makes Lyndon Johnson a heroic figure with a slice of his career

A heroic biop of President Lyndon Johnson is a tricky proposition. Those who were alive when the man was president remember him mainly as the man who devised two of the greatest disasters in American history, Vietnam and the Great Society. Jay Roach, well experienced in doing historical dramas that do violence to history, succeeds in making LBJ a heroic figure in the HBO film version of “All the Way,” a stage play that takes a slice of Johnson’s life, beginning with the searing tragedy of the Kennedy assassination and ending with the triumph of the 1964 election. In the middle, the film depicts the struggle to enact the Civil Rights Act, a world-changing piece of legislation that helped to end the noxious institution of racial discrimination in the South known as Jim Crow.

Sunday, May 22, 2016
China reveals plans for large space station called the Tiangong 3

The latest Chinese space station, the Tiangong 2, is slated to be launched later in 2016 and will be visited by Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou spacecraft. But, according to Spaceflight Insider, the Chinese are already looking ahead to their permanent low Earth orbit space facility, the Tiangong 3, slated to begin construction in 2018.

Bernie Sanders targets Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for electoral defeat

The Bernie Sanders insurrection continues apace, but now with a new target. To be sure, the venerable socialist is still contesting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, going to far as to declare that she is “jumping the gun” in declaring that she is the nominee. But now Sanders is targeting Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee and a member of Congress. The New York Times noted on Saturday that Sanders is supporting Wasserman-Shultz’s primary opponent, a radical law professor named Tim Canova.

Los Angeles production of 'Romeo and Juliet' denounced for 'Israel bashing'

...a version of the classic love story being performed at Los Angeles’ Theatricum Botanicum is causing accusations of the Bard’s genius being perverted into an Israel-bashing screed. Responding to complaints by parents whose children were exposed to the version of the play, set in contemporary Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has denounced the production.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016