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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Wednesday, January 18, 2017


 
Wyoming mulling a war on wind and solar

Forbes is reporting on a bizarre new twist on the energy wars. Hitherto both the federal and some state governments have thrown restrictions on the drilling and use of fossil fuels. Now the state of Wyoming in contemplating what is, in effect, a ban on solar and wind energy in the state.



 
Tucker Carlson exposes Dom Tullipso as a fraud on Fox News

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson proved why he is rapidly becoming the king of cable news when he started his primetime show with an interview with someone calling himself Dom Tullipso. Tullipso claims that he is the head of something called Demand Protest, which purports to pay people $2,500 a month to protest against incoming President Donald Trump. However, the #Fox News research team did their due diligence with Mr. Tullipso, according to Mediaite, and so Carlson opened the segment by destroying his guest.



 
‘The Martian’s’ Andy Weir sells ‘Mission Control’ pilot to CBS

Andy Weir, the author of the bestselling science fiction novel “The Martian” which became a 2015 hit movie starring Matt Damon, announced on his Facebook page that he had sold a pilot to CBS for a proposed TV series entitled “Mission Control.” The series will feature astronauts on board the International #Space Station and the flight controllers and scientists at the Mission Control Center in Houston who supports them. The show will evidently be set in contemporary times. The project is currently in pre-production with casting pending.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017
 
Corinne makes a big mistake on 'The Bachelor' with a trench coat and whipped cream

One of the reasons that reality shows have the audience they enjoy is the lengths that some of the participants will go to win the prize. For instance, in “#The Bachelor,” the prize is for a bevy of beautiful young women to earn the hand of a handsome bachelor and an expensive engagement ring along with him, though the latter is only if the couple stays together for two years. For example, we can point to what the beautiful, blond, ‘business owner” Corinne tried to do to get Nick Vail, this year’s bachelor, into bed.



 
Why mining asteroids and the moon will not destroy the world's economy

A British tabloid called the Daily Star, noting the recently announced plan for #NASA to send a probe to the main belt protoplanet called 16 Psyche, claimed that unnamed experts had pegged its value, mainly in iron, nickel, and other materials, at $10,000 quadrillion. Considering that the protoplanet is 130 miles in diameter, the figure sounds about right. Then the story claims that if 16 Psyche were to be brought to Earth, it would destroy the world’s economy, likely for depressing commodity prices.

The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper


 
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Gene Cernan Twitter lament causes social media firestorm

On the occasion of the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, Neil deGrasse Tyson left a tweet that lamented more than just the passing of an American hero. “In 1927 Lindbergh flew from NY to Paris. 45 yrs later, in 1972 we last walked on the Moon. 45 yrs later, in 2017 we… we… we…” The tweet has caused something of a social media firestorm, largely from people who misunderstand what the celebrity astrophysicist was getting at.

Someone should write a book about it.



Monday, January 16, 2017
 
Gene Cernan, the last moonwalker, has died at 82

Gene Cernan, the last moonwalker, has died at the age of 82. Cernan is most famous for having commanded the mission of Apollo 17, the last mission that carried human beings to the lunar surface in December 1972. He was also on the lunar orbital mission of Apollo 10 and the Earth orbit flight of Gemini 9. Previous to Cernan’s #NASA career he served as a Navy aviator. He retired as a Captain.



 
Moon Express will shoot for the moon on a rocket with a 3D printed engine

When Moon Express mounts what it hopes to be the first private expedition to the moon later in 2017 in its quest for the Google Lunar X Prize, it will be doing so using an unproven rocket, the Electron, built by a company called Rocket Lab. The Electron, according to 3D Printing Industry, is powered by the Rutherford engine, the first to be constructed with primarily 3D printed parts. If the rocket succeeds, it will represent a leap and a first in engine #technology.

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


 
Donald Trump raises eyebrows about the EU, NATO, and 'universal health care'

President Elect Donald Trump is causing heartburn, even among his supporters, with recent remarks about the European Union, NATO, and universal #Health care. He expounded on the first two subjects in an interview with the German newspaper Bild. The Washington Post reported on Trump’s musing on the latter subject.



 
Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space, boasts that Russia will be the first on Mars

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in #Space, boasted to a meeting of gifted Russian children, that #Russia would be the first to land humans on Mars. She also had some things to say about the fact that the United States is dependent on Russian spacecraft to fly to the International Space Station. She lamented that at the age of nearly 80 she would be too old to embark on such an expedition herself.

The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper


Sunday, January 15, 2017
 
Joss Whedon wants a rhino to perform an unnatural act on Paul Ryan

Joss Whedon is a beloved TV show and filmmaker, having created such TV shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” and the first two “Avengers” movies. He is also an infuriated man, made more so by the election of Donald Trump. Most recently, for some reason, he decided to tweet a rude suggestion about Speaker Paul Ryan.



 
Carrie Fisher will not be brought back digitally as Princess Leia after all

Rumors to the contrary, Entertainment Weekly reports that LucasFilm will not resurrect Princess Leia digitally in Episode 9 of the “#Star Wars” series. Through the use of computer technology, the Grand Moff Tarkin was brought back for “Rogue One” despite the fact that Peter Cushing, who played him in the original movie, has been dead for over 20 years. The young Princess Leia was also recreated. Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia in the original trilogy and in “The Force Awakens,” died tragically at the age of 60 of a coronary event.



 
Rand Paul to offer Obamacare replacement bill

As congressional Republicans move swiftly the effect the orderly and long overdue demise of Obamacare, Democrats are offering hysterical jibes on the theme that the GOP has no plan to replace it with and when they do come up with one, it will likely kill a lot of people. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, plans to offer an Obamacare replacement bill very soon. As of this writing, the details of the bill have not been made public, but the general outlines of a replacement proposal are starting to take shape.



 
Peter Thiel is mulling a run for governor of California

It looks like that the idea of eccentric billionaires running for high public office may be catching. Politico is reporting that Peter Thiel, the gay, Silicon Valley tycoon with libertarian leanings who supported Donald Trump is thinking of running for governor of #California. That his prospects are daunting is to put the matter mildly. California is a deep blue state that is dominated by the Democratic Party and which went for Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly in the last election, giving her along with New York State much of her edge in the popular vote. On the other hand, he provides the formerly Golden State a much-needed perspective as it struggles under the misrule of Democrats.



Saturday, January 14, 2017
 
Donald Trump hits back at John Lewis for calling him illegitimate

Rep John Lewis, D-Georgia, is a hero of the civil rights movement, something that has allowed him to say alarming things more recently. Lewis has declared that Donald Trump is not a “legitimate” president because of what he sees as Russian influence in his election. Trump, who generally never gives anyone a pass when they attack him, was not amused and said so in a series of tweets, according to The Hill.



 
German court hands down suspended sentences in firebombing of synagogue

In a ruling that is raising eyebrows across the world as well as concerns for the safety of Jews in one of Europe’s largest countries, a German appellate court upheld a lower court ruling that handed down suspended sentences to three Palestinians who firebombed a synagogue in the town of Wuppertal. The court declared that the firebombing that caused less than a thousand Euros worth of damage was motivated by “legitimate criticism of Israel” and not anti-Semitism. Ironically, the same synagogue was burned by Nazis in 1938.



Friday, January 13, 2017
 
Moon Express has raised the money for private lunar expedition

One of the truths that has hampered the exploration of #Space has been the lack of money to undertake all the projects that some would want to do. The fact applies to big space agencies such as NASA and small, commercial startups. Money will no longer be a barrier for Moon Express’ quest to be the first private company to land on the moon. The company announced that it has raised $20 million to finance its first attempt to land its MX-1E spacecraft on the lunar surface by the end of 2017.



 
Showrunner of 'The Americans' comments on Donald Trump and current relations with Russia

The cast and the producers of “The Americans,” including former CIA agent turned #Television showrunner Joe Weisberg, held a presser in advance of the March beginning of the show’s second to last season. The show depicts the adventures of two deep cover Soviet agents in 1980s Washington in the shadow of the end game of the Cold War. Naturally, the subject turned to contemporary American Russian relations, Donald Trump, and accusations of computer hacking.



 
Barack Obama slams the door on Cuban refugees

With about a week left in his presidency, #Barack Obama has suddenly ended the so-called wet foot-dry foot policy for Cuban refugees. Henceforth, at least until Donald Trump reverses the order soon, Cubans seeking to flee tyranny in the island nation will be subject to deportation. The new policy is seen as part of the president’s effort to restore normal relations with the Castro government. Of course, the United States government will still consider asylum requests as it does with emigres from other countries.



Thursday, January 12, 2017
 
Sen Lindsey Graham apologizes to Sen Ted Cruz for suggesting he could be killed

Last February 2016, in the heat of the presidential campaign, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina opined that if Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas were to be murdered on the floor of the Senate, the assassin would get away with it so hated the man was. Cruz had become a constant irritant to his fellow senators, forcing them to take stands on Obamacare and spending that they rather not have done. However, the old adage that that was then and this is now applies. Graham and Cruz are joining forces to defund the United Nations unless and until it rescinds the anti-Israel resolution the Security Council passed with the tacit support of the Obama administration. Graham openly apologized to Cruz for suggesting he could be killed according to The Hill.



 
Is it time for a sequel to 'Hidden Figures?

“Hidden Figures,” the movie about how three African American women helped shape the early #Space program while battling against the culture of discrimination that adhered at the beginning of 1960s America, has become the number one movie in America, edging out the previous front runner, “Rogue One.” The movie has had a lot of crossover appeal, attracting both white and black audiences with its inspirational story. The inevitable question arises, could there be a sequel?



 
Rex Tillerson jousts with Marco Rubio over Vladimir Putin

When it was Rex Tillerson’s turn to face a confirmation hearing he found himself jousting with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida over whether or not Russian President #Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and a human rights abuser. Tillerson, who has been nominated to be soon to be President #Donald Trump’s secretary of state, was reluctant to say that Putin was those things categorically. Rubio was unsatisfied with those answers and suggested that he might vote against him. If every other Democrat also votes against, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have voted not to recommend confirmation.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

 
Donald Trump abuses CNN reporter at raucous press conference

#Donald Trump, proving once again, to paraphrase Napoleon, that it is sometimes better to be a lucky politician than a good one, held his first post-election press conference the day a fake news story was published by Buzzfeed and reported on, to some extent, by CNN, blew up. The story was a lurid tale of Trump, Russian hookers, shadowy deals with agents of Vladimir Putin, based on what American intelligence concluded was an attempt at disinformation. However, Buzzfeed did a document dump, and CNN reported on what the webzine had done. The development allowed Trump to beat up on a CNN reporter during the news conference as the hapless journalist sputtered denials.



 
Sen Ted Cruz and Rep John Culberson to have more influence over space policy

The new congress has set about making committee assignments. According to #Space Policy Online, two powerful Texas legislators have been returned to chairmanships of subcommittees that will have an increased role in determining the future of the United States space program during the Donald Trump presidency. Sen. #Ted Cruz, R-Texas will chair the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas will continue to lead the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. Both men are champions of space exploration and, to varying degrees, commercial space. Donald Trump’s attitude toward space is more in line with that of these two Texans than was Barack Obama.



 
Cory Booker starts his run for president to go after Jeff Sessions

Sen Cory Booker, D-New Jersey is set to testify against Sen Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama during the latter’s confirmation hearings as Attorney General. The gambit is seen as a breach of Senate etiquette and, in any case, a quixotic gambit. After his adroit performance during the first day of hearings, Sessions is widely judged to be easily confirmed. So why is Booker, who had once allied with Sessions to pass civil rights legislation, going after his fellow senator?



 
Buzzfeed tale of Donald Trump, secret deals with Putin agents, & Russian hookers collapses

Social and other media is buzzing (so to speak) about a report in Buzzfeed that claims that the Russians have “compromising” information on Donald Trump, The report contains stories of Trump operatives making secret deals with Russian and that the President Elect had Russian prostitutes performing “golden showers” on him. The story started to fall apart within hours of its publication. Indeed, the story was known to a number of news media outlets, but even the most stridently anti-Trump websites and newsmagazines refused to run the unsubstantiated charges.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017
 
Donald Trump chooses anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. to study vaccination safety

President Elect Donald Trump caused considerable alarm in the #Health care community when he summoned Robert Kennedy Jr to the Trump Tower and then appointed him to a vaccination safety panel. Unfortunately the younger RFK, nephew of President John F. Kennedy, is a leader of the so-called “anti-vaxxer” movement, which believes that a link exists between childhood vaccinations and autism. The theory was first posited in a 1998 article in the British medical journal Lancet. 12 years later Lancet was obliged to retract the article when it was revealed that the underling study was based on, at best, dodgy data and was funded by lawyers representing parents who claimed that their children were given autism by vaccines.



 

You've seen the movie, now buy the book.



 
Report: Contestants on 'The Bachelor' are not paid

The whole purpose of “reality shows” like “The Bachelor” is that they are relatively cheap to make in comparison to scripted TV. To be sure, the contestants are vying for a prize, money sometimes, a cookbook contract on “Masterchef,” or the chance to become the heir to Adam and Jamie on the new “Mythbusters.” However, if a report on Mic is accurate, the contestants on “#The Bachelor” are shamelessly exploited. Not only are they not paid for their appearances, but the single prize is an expensive engagement ring that they don’t get to keep unless they stay with the Bachelor for at least two years.



 
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seriously does not like 'The Bachelor'

The current season of “The Bachelor” is on, featuring a group of beautiful women vying for the attention of a smoldering handsome man, with the attended drama, emotions, skin, and smooching. The ladies range from a food server to an “aspiring dolphin trainer,” while the object of their desire is a 36 year old software sales executive. The show has its following, since it has remained on the air year after year. But “The Bachelor” has its detractors as well, most recently basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar has called “The Bachelor” the equivalent of “romance porn.” He penned his critique in a guest column in “The Hollywood Reporter.”



 
American military tests Perdix micro-drone swarm delivered by F/A-18 Super Hornets

The Defense Department announced that the United States military successfully tested a swarm of 103 Perdix micro-drones programmed to fly and act in concert, much like bees. The 103 drones were dropped by three F/A-18 Super Hornets. The artificial intelligence software that guided the six inch long drones allowed the swarm to exhibit “collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing,"



 
The anti-Trump protest movement starts to fall apart

Proof positive that the Trump years are going to be entertaining has arisen due to a speck of dust up resulting from the planned protests at the Inauguration. Hot Air relates the story of a woman named Jennifer Willis who had expected to attend the rally with her daughters. But she was put off by a blog post by another woman named ShiShi Rose that people like her should check their privilege regularly if they mean to attend the protest. Willis has decided instead to stay at home and yell at the television.



 
Joe Biden to wage a personal war on cancer during his post-vice presidency

When people have been at the pinnacle of power for eight years, figuring out what to do next can be difficult. That situation is not the case for Joe Biden, soon to be the former vice president. He has decided to spend the rest of his life waging a personal war on cancer, launching the Joe Biden Cancer Initiative. He is motivated by the fact that he is in the sad position of being a parent who outlived one of his children, thanks to the death of his son Beau from Brain Cancer. Biden was already the moving force behind the so-called Cancer Moon Shot which deploys government resources to find cures and other treatments for the pernicious set of diseases that start in various parts of the body to take the lives of over half a million Americans a year. To be sure, thanks to new treatments and preventative measures, that number represents a decrease in recent years. But it is not yet zero.



Monday, January 09, 2017
 
Breakthrough Starshot and European Southern Observatory to hunt for Alpha Centauri planets

The International Business Times announced that the Breakthrough Institute, which proposed Project Starshot to send nanoprobes to Alpha Centauri, has made a deal with the European Southern Observatory to hunt for planets that may be orbiting that star, one of the nearest to our solar system. After upgrades are made to the VISIR instrument on the Very Large Telescope located in Chile, the search for planets will commence starting likely in 2019.



 
Meryl Streep helps to turn the Golden Globes into an anti-Trump pity party

One of the most annoying things that happen during #Hollywood awards ceremonies is when actors decide to turn their acceptance speeches into political rants as if pretending to be other people gives them license to do so. The Golden Globes was no exception. The first ceremony of awards season was broadcast in the shadow of the coming great Donald Trump terror. Meryl Streep, who once played Margaret Thatcher, took the occasion of her lifetime achievement award to paint an apocalyptic vision of what is to come for the entertainment industry under the Orange Haired Overlord.



 
How did 'Hidden Figures' became a smash hit in Donald Trump's America?

In its first weekend in wide release, “Hidden Figures” came within $200,000 of overthrowing “Rogue One” as number one movie in America, despite being in 1,500 fewer auditoriums. The phenomenon suggests a mystery. How was it that a film about three black women struggling against racism to help put the first American into orbit in the early 1960s became such a smash hit in Donald Trump’s America? To listen to the media, this unexpected popularity should be impossible in a nation divided by racism and sexism that just elected a monster as president.