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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Sunday, August 02, 2015
Pistol used by ISIS terrorist in Garland, Texas attack link to Fast and Furious

n a bizarre twist, two separate Obama administration scandals find themselves linked. According to a Saturday story in the Los Angeles Times, Nadir Soofi a lone wolf ISIS terrorist who tried to shoot up a Draw a Cartoon of Mohammed contest in Garland, Texas had a weapon that has been linked to the Fast and Furious operation. In effect, the Obama administration helped to arm an ISIS terrorist, albeit by accident.

Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up

Saturday, August 01, 2015
Sarah Palin all but endorses Donald Trump for president

Sarah Palin published a piece in Breitbart Friday praising Donald Trump and giving the media the back of her hand for not only underestimating the business tycoon and media star but also for being afraid of him. Thus continued the most curious political friendship in American history. The multi-billionaire real estate mogul and the hockey mom mama grizzly from Alaska have very little in common, except a political philosophy and a tendency to go rogue and annoy a great many people. It is the most fascinating alliance since President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher teamed up and helped to destroy the Soviet Union while turning up the special relationship between America and Great Britain into high gear.

Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again

Sweet Freedom: A Devotional

Upcoming Mars movie to be heavy on teenage angst, light on science

Aintitcool reported Friday that Ender’s Game’s Asa Butterfield and Tomorrowland's Britt Robertson are set to star in a movie about the first boy to be born on Mars and the first interplanetary romance. The movie, which has yet to have a name, will be directed by Peter Chelsom, most famous for having helmed Hannah Montana: The Movie. The unnamed movie is just the latest of what seems to be a series of films set on a future Mars, the most famous one being Ridley Scott’s production of The Martian, based on the Andy Weir bestseller. Unfortunately, unlike the Scott movie, the Chelson project does not seem to be overly burdened by science.

Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet

ESA's Philae finds the basic building blocks of life on Comet 67P

Thursday, the European Space Agency released some of the initial data derived from the Philae space probe that landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov¬-Gerasimenko last November. Philae used sensors to analyze the comet’s gas and dust as it descended to the surface. As an unexpected bonus, Philae was able to take samples in two different locations as it bounced and then finally came to rest in an area different from its planned landing site. The results would seem to confirm a theory proposed by scientists that life may well have started on Earth as a result of comet bombardments billions of years ago, depositing the basic chemical building blocks of life.

COMETS!: Visitors from Deep Space

Friday, July 31, 2015
An Apollo moon mission might have been sent to Crater Tycho

Back before the Apollo program was truncated and the last three missions to the moon were cancelled, NASA planners contemplated sending a mission to Crater Tycho, which had some of the most challenging terrain on the lunar surface.


Ted Cruz drops the hammer on Mitt Romney

When Mitt Romney, the failed presidential candidate in the 2012 presidential election, pointed a scolding finger at Ted Cruz, the journal senator from Texas and current presidential candidate thought he must have died and gone to heaven. Romney is respected as a good man who might have made a pretty decent president had he not be such a bad politician. The main rap against Romney from the conservative base was that he was too gentlemanly and too timid, especially in the third debate, to have prevailed in an election that was very winnable. The National Journal reported on Friday that Cruz, keeping that in mind, unloaded on Romney with gusto.

Double Down: Game Change 2012

How three enterprising Chechen ladies took ISIS for $3,300

Yahoo Travel reported on Wednesday that three women in Chechnya took ISIS for $3,300 before getting caught. They are now under investigation for Internet fraud, which seems to be illegal even when committed against the most fearsome terrorist army in modern times. The scam seems to be a combination of the Nigerian Prince con, in which a mark is fooled into giving the con artist large sums of money and catfishing, in which the mark strikes up an online romance with someone he thinks is an attractive woman (or man depending on the gender and preference of the mark.)

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life

By shooting Cecil the Lion, Walter Palmer may have been a conservationist

Dr. Walter Palmer is probably the most hated person in the world, with the possible exception of members of ISIS, the baby organ traffickers at Planned Parenthood and, of course, Lois Lerner and the rest of the IRS. He is on the run now because he flew to Zimbabwe and paid $50,000 to shoot a lion named Cecil for the sheer fun of blowing away a predator cat. However, as Wes Siler, a nature blogger suggested on Wednesday, Dr. Palmer may have contributed more to the conservation of endangered species than all of the animal rights activists combined who now what to kill him.

The Ghost and The Darkness

Thursday, July 30, 2015
NASA's New Horizon's Alan Stern declares Pluto to be a planet

Alan Stern, the chief investigator for the New Horizons flyby mission of Pluto, has always believed that it should be a planet. In the heady afterglow of the images and data that have flowed from the edge of the solar system, Stern has grown even blunter in his opinion, according to a Thursday story in Business Insider. He declared Pluto’s status as a “dwarf planet” to be “Bull s---.”

Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System, 2nd Edition

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet

Mitt Romney takes Obama's side in Iran nuclear deal dispute with Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president, suggested that by concluding the nuclear deal with Iran, President Obama had become “the leading financier of terror.” The theory is that the deal would involve an influx of over $100 billion to Iran, once sanctions are listed, which the Islamic Republic would use to finance terror throughout the world. Cruz endured a number of attacks for his accusation, not the least from the president himself. Gateway Pundit noted on Thursday that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee in 2012, has weighed in on the matter and has come down firmly on the side of President Obama and against Cruz.

No Apology: Believe in America

National Geographic Channel to air Ron Howard produced series 'The Red Planet'

Proof positive that Marsmania is about to strike comes with the Wednesday announcement that the National Geographic Channel is to broadcast a miniseries called “Red Planet” in 171 countries and 44 languages in 2016. The miniseries will be produced by Imagine Entertainment, with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, along with Radical Media. The show will depict the colonization of Mars from a unique perspective, mixing interviews and documentary footage from the present day with a dramatization set in the year 2032. Howard and Imagine Entertainment have been involved in such space related projects as the smash hit movie "Apollo 13" and the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon."

The Martian

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

Democrats increasingly think the Joe Biden's moment has arrived

As Hillary Clinton continues what appears to be by many to be a death spiral in what many once considered to be a march to a coronation for the presidency, Democrats are scrambling to find an alternative. Clearly the self-confessed socialist Bernie Sanders is unacceptable. He is a formula for a landslide victory by whomever the Republicans nominate. So, as the National Journal suggested on Tuesday, weary eyes are turning toward Vice President Joe Biden, described as a “happy warrior.” Of course the last pol to be called that was then Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who got beat by Richard Nixon in 1968.

Biden Time: Crazy Uncle Joe in His Own Words

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
'Bombs Away' by Harry Turtledove shows how life goes on during an atomic war

“Bombs Away,” the aptly named latest alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove, follows the writer’s now well-used formula. The novel takes a point of departure in wartime and recounts a different narrative using multiple viewpoint characters, most of whom are ordinary people caught up in the conflict. What makes “Bombs Away” interesting is that it depicts a nuclear war during which civilization stays functioning, more or less.

Bombs Away: The Hot War

NASA officials tout the heavy lift Space Launch System for planetary exploration

Aerospace Technology reported on Monday that NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System has passed the critical design review, which must take place prior to the fabrication of the first model, due to be launched in 2018. The CDR is fortunate for the monster rocket that the space agency is counting on to send humans to Mars. The planetary science community is increasingly looking at the SLS to power the next generation of robotic space probes to the outer planets, among other destinations. This desire was discussed at a Tuesday hearing before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on the subject of planetary exploration in the wake of the wildly successful New Horizons flyby of Pluto.

Space Launch System (SLS): America's Next Manned Rocket for NASA Deep Space Exploration to the Moon, Asteroids, Mars - Rocket Plans, Ground Facilities, Tests, Saturn V Comparisons, Configurations

Unmasking Europa: The Search for Life on Jupiter's Ocean Moon

Smoking gun email found, proving IRS scandal cover up

According to a Wednesday story in the Washington Times, Judicial Watch, the public interest law firm, has found what amounts to a smoking gun email that proves that the IRS was trying to cover up the harassment of conservative and tea party groups by slow walking their application for nonprofit status. In a 2011 exchange between Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the heart of the scandal and Cindy Thomas, a program manager at the tax agency’s Cincinnati office, Ms. Thomas admitted to sending further demands for information to a group to distract it from complaining to Congress. She expressed the fear that a judge would find out and force the IRS to deal with the backlog of applications it had deliberately created.

Stand Up to the IRS

Donald Trump promotes Sarah Palin as cabinet secretary

Donald Trump, the businessman and media personality, continues to defy gravity by remaining at the top of the Republican polls, despite various missteps and revelations that would have sunk a lesser candidate. According to a Tuesday story in the Hill, Trump, during an interview on a radio show called “The Palin Update,” suggested that the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate would be a good fit for a cabinet secretary in his hypothetical administration. “She really is somebody who knows what’s happening, and she’s a special person,” Trump said.

Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education in Business and Life

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
GMO rice emits less methane, causes cognitive dissonance for environmentalists

ZME Science offered a report on Tuesday on a new strain of GMO rice that is likely to cause cognitive dissonance in the environmental movement. The rice, which just ended a three year trial in Chinese rice paddies, emits one percent of the methane that ordinary, organic rice does. As a bonus, the GMO rice creates greater crop yields.

A Bone to Pick: The good and bad news about food, with wisdom and advice on diets, food safety, GMOs, farming, and more

Ted Cruz challenges President Barack Obama to a debate on the Iran nuke deal

One thing that can be said about Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is that he does not shrink from a fight. Nor is he afraid of taking on anyone whom he feels is leading the country down the path to disaster. Days after calling out Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader as a liar and then getting slapped down on the Senate floor for his pains. Cruz challenged President Barack Obama to a mano a mano debate on the Iranian nuclear deal, according to a Tuesday story on RealClearPolitics.

Ted Cruz is Running for President!: A 2016 Presidential Election Coloring Book

As Jon Stewart departs 'The Daily Show,' recent revelations tarnish his legacy

Jon Stewart is preparing to leave his perch at “The Daily Show” and many would think this is a good thing. The Federalist recently noted that pernicious influence that the left leaning funny man has had on public discourse, with his mix of humor and liberal commentary. His audience tends to be made up of low information voters who do not get their news from any conventional source, thus representing a bloc ill-equipped to understand and react to political issues. Recently, a former African American writer for “The Daily Show” revealed that Stewart has an angry dark side. However, as Politico reported on Tuesday, Stewart served as an unofficial media adviser to President Barack Obama, making two secret visits to the White House that is known of.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher's Edition: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

Monday, July 27, 2015
Mike Huckabee says Obama leading Israelis 'to the doors of the oven

It began when Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and current presidential candidate, accused President Obama of “marching Israelis to the doors of the oven” with his Iranian nuclear deal, as Breitbart reported on Saturday. That statement went one step beyond the often used Neville Chamberlain analogy. The statement, based on Iran’s often stated desire to replicate the Nazi Holocaust, has caused a great deal of outrage and consternation.

God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

German scientists confirm NASA results of propellantless 'impossible' EM drive

Hacked Magazine reported on Monday that a group of German scientists believe that they have confirmed that the EM Drive, the propulsion device that uses microwaves rather than rocket fuel, provides thrust. The experimental results are being presented at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando by Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology. Tajmar has an interest in exotic propulsion methods, including one concept using “negative matter.”

Beyond: Our Future in Space

Neil Armstrong moon suit Kickstarter campaign meets with success 23 days early

The one permanent fact about museums is that they are in constant need of money. Now, as the Smithsonian recently found out, a new source of revenue is available in the form of crowdfunding. The Smithsonian recently started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500,000 to persevere, digitalize, and display the moon suit that Neil Armstrong wore when he made that iconic first footstep on the lunar surface. USA Today reported on Saturday that the campaign raised that money and more in about a week, with 23 or so days to go. The campaign is now in its stretch goal to raise a further $200,000 to perform the same service for the space suit Alan Shepard wore during his first Mercury space flight.

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon, 1963-1972

Sarah Palin funds John Boehner Republican opponents

The Conservatives4Palin blog noted on Sunday that former Alaska governor and presidential candidate Sarah Palin has arranged for SarahPac to provide funding to the reelection campaigns of Republican House members who opposed re-electing John Boehner as House Speaker. As the New York Times reported at the time, Boehner suffered the embarrassment of having 25 members of his caucus vote to deny him a new term as speaker. The Republican majority in the House was large enough to have Boehner reelected by a comfortable margin in any case.

Sweet Freedom: A Devotional by Sarah Palin

Senate Republicans take revenge against Ted Cruz by refusing to back amendments

Think of it as the Empire strikes back. Two days after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas took to the floor of the Senate and called Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar, Republican senators, apparently on the behest of the Republican leader, refused to second a motion to back a Cruz amendment to the highway bill to make the lifting of sanctions against Iran contingent on that country recognizing Israel’s right to exist and freeing four American hostages. As the Washington Examiner reported on Sunday, the lesson was struck home by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah when he delivered a soliloquy about decorum in the Senate, obviously directed against Cruz.

The American Senate: An Insider's History

Sunday, July 26, 2015
European Space Agency makes big step to send JUICE to the water moons of Jupiter

According to a Sunday story in Business Insider, the European Space Agency has committed $384 million to the huge aerospace firm Airbus Defense and Space to get started on the "JUpiter ICy moons Explorer” or “JUICE” mission. Due to be launched in 2022 and arrive at the Jovian system in 2030, JUICE will fly by the icy moons of Jupiter, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede, before settling into orbit around that latter moon for eight months.

Unmasking Europa: The Search for Life on Jupiter's Ocean Moon

Is the White House getting ready to take Hillary Clinton out?

CNN reported on Sunday that Hillary Clinton, former senator and secretary of state and current presidential candidate, is in full damage control mode concerning her private server and the transmission of classified emails. She is denying that any classified emails were sent through the private server, despite the fact that State Department Inspectors General say they were and are calling for a Justice Department investigation. Now, Michael Goodwin suggests that the leak of the recommendation came from the highest levels in the White House.

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas

After all these years Mel Brooks' 'Springtime for Hitler' still offends

The Washingtonian reported on Friday about a man named Jeffrey Imm, who is picketing a production of the theatrical musical version of “The Producers.” The play, based on a 1968 film by Mel Brooks, depicts how a pair of crooked Broadway producers attempt to make a lot of money by putting on the most offensive musical in history, called “Springtime for Hitler.” Imm apparently does not get the joke. He is offended by the play within the play that makes light of Adolf Hitler and, in his view, all the evil he wrought.

The Producers (2001 Original Broadway Cast)

Saturday, July 25, 2015
Feminists find the space program to be jingoistic, sexist, and racist

Friday, Breitbart published a delightful satirical piece in which a fictional feminist academic laid into Buzz Aldrin for walking on the moon. Using phrases like “cissexist white male privilege” and “neocolonial triumphalism” and even “cosmic man spreading” the fictional Linda Thump lays into the space program as only a women’s study professor could. She even suggested rewriting Neil Armstrong’s first words, substituting them with, “This is an accidental and undeserved moment in time for a lucky entitled manbaby, one giant leap for oppressive neoliberal hegemonic capitalist heteropatriarchy. F--- the lot of you.” But surely Linda Thump is too outrageous actually to have a real world counterpart.

Proving that satire is dead, Linda Billings, “a science communications researcher based in Washington, D.C.” offers a piece in Scientific America called “The Inexcusable Jingoism of American Spaceflight Rhetoric.” The verbiage in the piece is less lurid than that of the fictional Linda Thump, but the sentiments are about the same.

Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

Can one advance space policy by trashing the Apollo moon landings?

With the presidential election season drawing nigh, space advocates are firing up their computers and are starting to offer unsolicited advice to the presidential candidates about how to fix the space program. Stephen Smith, a frequent critic of NASA, was first out of the gate Friday with a long, rambling blog post on why space exploration should be entirely commercial, by which he means “commercial” funded largely by the American taxpayer. He begins his dissertation by, in essence, trashing the Apollo program, perhaps the greatest engineering and scientific achievement in human history.

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

Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program

Proposal for a series of one on one 'March Madness' presidential debates

As the first debate between the Republican presidential candidates draws nigh, criticism of how the networks are handling the unwieldy 16 person Republican field is intensifying, as the Washington Examiner noted on Saturday. The system now is to have the top ten candidates according to an average of the last five polls participate in the main debate while the bottom six participate in a consolation prize “round table” discussion. This system has made almost no one happy, certainly not the six who were hoping that a good debate performance would catapult them to the top tier.

Presidential Debates: Fifty Years of High-Risk TV

Debating Our Destiny: Presidential Debate Moments That Shaped History

Friday, July 24, 2015
Ted Cruz calls out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a liar on the Senate floor

If any doubt existed that the people of Texas sent a young lion to prowl the halls of the Senate, it ended in the past two days. The day after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, confronted Code Pink protestors on the issue of the Iranian nuclear deal, Cruz took to the floor of the Senate and said that the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a “flat out lie” concerning the reauthorization of the Export Import Bank. As Politico noted on Friday, conservatives like Cruz are keen to end the depression era relic that they view as corporate welfare. McConnell, however, maneuvered to make certain that the bank continue.

A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America

NASA's New Horizons shows Pluto has hydrocarbon snow and nitrogen ice glaciers

NASA released the latest data and images to come from the New Horizons space probe on Friday, which recently flew closely by Pluto. The findings reveal an active planet where hydrocarbons fall as snow or sleet and glaciers made of nitrogen ice flow. Pluto may still be officially designated as a “dwarf planet” but it is turning out to be a world that is stranger and more complex than scientists were able to imagine before the passage of New Horizons.

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Hillary Clinton may be in more legal trouble over the private email server

The bad news for Hillary Clinton is that two inspectors general of the State Department have requested that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation in the use of her private email server to transmit classified information, the New York Times noted on Friday. The good news, such as it is, is that any such investigation will likely to slow walked, Hot Air adds. The Obama administration has been quite flagrant in shielding its allies from criminal prosecution that many of them so richly deserve.

The Queen: The Epic Ambition of Hillary and the Coming of a Second "Clinton Era"

A lunar geologist gives a reality check for NASA funded return to the moon study

The study that suggested that American astronauts could return to the moon by 2021 for $10 billion has caused rare excitement in the media though perhaps a little bemusement as well. Officially, due to a presidential mandate, NASA has eschewed a return to the moon. Of course, presidencies and thus space policy mandates change. In any event, Paul Spudis, a lunar geologist who frequently writes about space policy and is an advocate of a return to the moon, provided a reality check for the proposal Thursday.

Back to the Moon

Blogging the Moon (Once & Future Moon Collection)