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, February 21, 2017
 
Why Marine Le Pen refused to wear a headscarf for the Grand Mufti of Lebanon

Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate for president of the French Republic, is not expected to win the upcoming election. Of course, considering recent history with Donald Trump, one should be careful about pronouncing what can or cannot ever happen in politics. In any case, Le Pen was recently in #Lebanon, a former French colony, burnishing her foreign policy street cred. She was invited to meet with that country’s #Grand Mufti when she was informed she would be required to wear a head scarf. Her reaction was, along the lines, of thanks but no thanks, according to Hot Air.



 
The fall of Milo Yiannopoulos is now complete

The #Fall of #milo yiannopoulos was not like the gradual sinking of a great ship, but rather like the sudden dropping of an airliner from the sky that makes a smoking crater on the ground. A week ago, he was on top of the world. Having achieved worldwide fame for having a gang of thugs try to burn down the University of California at Berkeley campus to stop him from speaking, Milo was basking in the glow of a lucrative book deal, lots of media appearances, and a speaking slot at CPAC. A couple of days later, all of that and more were taken away from him. The last straw had Milo being obliged to resign his position at Breitbart, according to the Washington Post.



 
NASA engineer plans to run for Congress because she is mad at Donald Trump

The Atlantic recently ran a story of how a #NASA aerospace engineer who works at JPL named Tracy Van Houten has decided to give up working on the Mars 2020 rover in order to run for Congress. The reason she is abandoning rocket science for the seamier world of politics is that she is mad at Donald Trump. Considering the circumstances of the decision, one has to scratch one’s head and wonder why.



 
‘Timeless’ ends its first season with a second one uncertain

“Timeless,” one of the most original series on television for a long time, has ended its first season with its 16th episode that tied up some storylines and set up a possible second #season. However, as Deadline suggests, a second season for the time traveling series is by no means assured. Fortunately it is not out of the question.



 
The good news is that Venezuela has solved the obesity problem

The good news is that Venezuela has solved the obesity problem and could, conceivably, cite that feat as a triumph of socialism over free market capitalism. The #Bad News is that the once prosperous country has done so in the same manner as Dachau and Andersonville Prison, but starving their people close to death. According to the Blaze, a new study suggests that 75 percent of the population have lost an average 19 pounds over the past year. That is what happens when literally no food is available to eat.



 
Satirical news site offers stories from a universe where Hillary won

There are #Fake News Sites and there are really fake news sites. HillaryBeatTrump.org allows people who are still traumatized by the results of the election in the real world to read news stories from the alternate universe where #Hillary Rodham Clinton is president. Unfortunately, none of the stories mention the reset button with ISIS, blaming a terrorist outrage in Santa Monica on a YouTube video, or the latest rape outrage perpetrated by First Dude Bill Clinton.



 
Grumpy Cat and Garfield to meet in an upcoming comic book

Grumpy Cat, also known as Tardar Sauce to her owner, has graced a million t-shirts and social media posts because of a face that suggests a dour attitude toward just about everything. She has even appeared in a Lifetime movie called “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” that unfortunately did not do very well in the ratings. Now, according to Entertainment Weekly, Grumpy Cat is going to meet an even more famous feline, one #Garfield, star of comic strips and the big and small screen. They will team up in a comic book to be published in the summer of 2017.



 
Now India is interested in helium 3 mining on the moon

The Times of #India is reporting that Sivathanu Pillai, a distinguished professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has suggested that #Helium 3, mined from the #moon, could meet all of India’s energy needs by the 2030s. The statement indicates an overall rationale for India’s space program, which has focused on the moon to a certain extent. India is not alone in looking at the isotope as a killer app that would justify a return to the moon.



 
Hints of the future leadership and direction of NASA

The #NASA Watch web site is a fascinating source of rumors from often unnamed space policy sources as well as the latest resentments from its author. A couple of tidbits, quoting recent Tweets, may provide a fascinating window into how the future direction of the space program is developing behind the scenes at the Trump administration.



Monday, February 20, 2017
 
Lt. General H.R. McMaster becomes National Security Adviser

John Bolton and his mustache are not going to be #national security Advisor to President Donald Trump after all, though he will apparently serve in some as yet unnamed capacity. Instead, the president has named Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a real soldier/scholar who is steeped in counter-insurgency strategy. McMaster is quite willing to tell the bureaucracy and his political masters no if he feels that it is warranted, an excellent quality for someone who will sit at the right hand of the president.



 
In 'The Walking Dead' no living human dies for the second episode in a row

The latest #episode of “#The Walking Dead,” entitled “New Best Friends,” is the second in a row in which no human being died, which must be some kind of record, though it is a near #Run thing in two instances. It was also the second episode in a row where Negan, the noxious leader of the Saviors, did not appear.



 
Ocean mining vs. asteroid mining

Gizmodo recently asked an interesting question. “Why Mine Asteroids When We Can Mine the Seas?” The question is not frivolous. The #ocean floors are much more accessible than even Earth-approaching asteroids where it comes to sending out mining robots and bringing back #Raw Material. Mind, the very question has within it the either/or fallacy. If we mine asteroids, we can’t mine the sea and visa versa.



 
Milo Yiannopoulos disinvited from speaking at CPAC

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay right-wing provocateur, has made a good living for himself driving the left insane, which some might think is a short trip for many. The most extreme example took place on the Berkeley campus where a mob showed up and tried to burn the university down rather than allow Milo to speak. This incident instead made Milo even stronger, upping orders of his new book, and causing President Trump to suggest that universities that don’t respect free speech might lose their federal funding. So, it seemed only natural that the Conservative Political Action Committee should invite Milo to its annual convention. The theory was the attendees would hear him speak, engage in at the most polite debate, and show how tolerant the right is as opposed to the left.



 
Why 'The Great Wall' is a bust in North America

Bringing in #Matt Damon to be the big American star in the Zhang Yimou-directed fantasy historical epic “#The Great Wall” seemed like a good idea at the time. Despite grousing by some social justice warriors that a white character had no business being in a movie set in medieval China, Damon is one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, thanks to his appearing in hit films like “The Martian.” But it looks like “The Great Wall” is a bust in #North America. It is a hit in China, which means that the movie will still make money.



 
Democratic leaders scramble to quash impeachment talk

The presidency of Donald Trump is but a month old, but already some people in the Democratic Party have already started to think about how to get rid of him long before election 2020. Indeed, they have been dreaming of that even before Trump was sworn into office. The #impeachment talk has gotten people in the #Democratic leadership, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worried, according to Politico. The idea is, at best, premature and at worst madness.



Sunday, February 19, 2017
 
John Bolton and his mustache is front runner for National Security Adviser

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that the consensus among top Trump advisers for a replacement for Michael Flynn as #national security adviser has fallen on John Bolton, that great mustache attached to a man was once George W. Bush’s controversial UN ambassador and is a fixture on Fox News. Bolton seems to be a favorite among Flynn supporters who have remained behind and are still smarting because of his abrupt firing.



 
How will the media cover the next voyage to the moon?

The news that NASA is considering a scheme to send a crew of astronauts on board an Orion spacecraft, launched by a heavy lift #Space Launch System, in a trip around the moon has caused a range of reaction from people who follow space issues. The reactions include deep skepticism and even scorn from some to thoughtful acknowledgments that the thing is likely technically feasible, albeit risky and likely expensive. But, an unofficial poll by this writer of people who do not follow space from day to day elicited a universally enthusiastic reaction.



 
How a new technology right out of Star Trek could help blind people to see

Do not be surprised if, in the near future, you start seeing people walking around with eyewear that looks remarkably like Star Trek’s #Geordie Laforge’s Visor. A company called eSight has developed a device that, in many ways, act just like a visor for low vision people.



 
John McCain is wide of the mark when he compares Trump to as dictator

Sen. #John McCain, R-Arizona seems to have recovered his respect from the #media that he lost when he dared to run for president in 2008, as Hot Air notes. He decided to lay into President Trump for his yelling at the media, comparing the president’s bloviating to what dictators do. McCain is in full maverick mode, something not seen since the second Bush administration when he was a thorn in the side of the man who thrashed him in 2000.



Saturday, February 18, 2017
 
Is the use of ‘sensitivity readers’ a form a censorship?

Some authors and publishers have started to hire “sensitivity readers” who will scan a manuscript and flag parts of it that might be deemed “offensive,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Material that might be considered “offensive” might include politically incorrect portrayals of “marginalized groups” such as transgendered, Muslims, or people with terminal illnesses. Some of the readers are flagging “cultural appropriation,” a new term that has been coined by some among the #social justice warrior crowd defined as the depiction by a white author of characters and the culture of another ethnic group. J.K. Rowling recently got into trouble for her depiction of Native American magic because she is a white, European woman.



Friday, February 17, 2017

 
Congress may be on board if and when Trump proposes a return to the moon

If, as many expect, President Donald Trump calls on NASA to return to the moon, with a lunar orbital mission as early as 2019, he will have the rare enthusiastic support of #Congress, according to a story in Wired. Disagreements between the executive and legislative branch have bedeviled previous attempts to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. President George H. W. Bush’s #space exploration Initiative died a quick, miserable death in a hostile Congress. Even President George W. Bush had to issue a veto threat to make sure that Congress would serve the Vision for Space Exploration the same way.



 
President Donald Trump gives the media a thrashing

The reaction to one of the longest, most raucous presidential press conferences in history depended largely on where one was at. For the mainstream #media and the never trumpers, President Trump had become completely unhinged, acting like Captain Queeg demanding where the strawberries had gone to. For Trump’s many supporters, the spectacle was the president giving the media the thrashing they have richly deserved. For most people, the reaction consisted of, “I was at work. Anything happen?”



 
Apollo moonwalker Harrison Schmitt’s vision for a return to the moon

The House Science Committee had one of its periodic hearings discussing the future of human space flight. The panel included three older men whose experience dates back from the #Apollo era, including Apollo 17 moonwalker Harrison Schmitt, and one woman who was an employee of NASA under the Obama era whose role seemed to be to defend Earth science funding. The hearings got a lot of media criticism because of the age of the participants and the lack of commercial space people on the panel. However, Schmitt’s vision for a return to the moon, with an eye on going to Mars, had some interesting insights from the Apollo era while at the same time looking forward to commercial partnerships.

The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories


Thursday, February 16, 2017
 
Republicans' Elizabeth Warren project begins to bring results

If the evidence is needed to lend support for the idea that making Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass the face of the Democratic Party is a brilliant move, the Hill reports that a Politico/Morning Consult Poll has President #trump at 42 percent to Warren’s 36 percent in a 2020 matchup. Trump loses to an unnamed Democrat, however. The poll was taken just after the Senate vote for Warren to be silent after she broke the rules by slandering Jeff Sessions, then still a senator and now the Attorney General.



 
Rocket Lab rolls out its first Electron rocket to its New Zealand launch site

According to Forbes, Rocket Lab has rolled out the first of its high tech Electron Rockets to its launch pad at Mahia Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand’s east coast. The rocked, dubbed “It’s a Test,” will be launched shortly in the first of three test flights the company intends to make before conducting commercial space flights. Rocket Lab’s most high profile customer is Moon Express, which hopes to ride the #Electron rocket to the moon in its quest to win the Google Lunar XPrize.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017
 
NASA considering sending a crewed Orion spacecraft around the moon in 2019

One of the criticisms of the modern #NASA is that the space agency is a little too timid and risk adverse, which has had the effect of making human space flight more expensive. According to Ars Technica, that stance may be about to change. A group of high-level NASA managers is considering an option to make the first flight of the #Orion on top of a heavy lift #space launch system a crewed mission. Such a decision would cause the flight to slip from 2018 to 2019, which it may anyway, a serendipitous event as it would make the first flight of humans beyond low Earth orbit in more than a generation occur on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

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


 
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with a Middle East mess to repair

A sure sign of the seismic shift that is taking place in American Middle East policy was indicated in a Washington Post story in which a Trump official will not insist on a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, at least at this time. This change in policy will come as a relief to Israeli Prime Minister #Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits President #Donald Trump on February 15.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017
 
Piers Morgan and J.K. Rowling start an epic media feud

A social media war has broken out between J.K. Rowling, the author of the much beloved #harry potter books, and #Piers Morgan, currently the U.S. editor at large for the Mail Online and a former host on CNN. The argument, oddly for two citizens of the United Kingdom, is over American politics. Rowling is a sworn foe of President Donald Trump, and Morgan is his warmest defender from across the pond.



 
Keith Ellison gets an endorsement for DNC chair from --- David Duke

Keith Ellison, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota, is a front-runner to become the next head of the Democratic National Committee. Nevertheless, Ellison has been dogged by his ties to both the #nation of islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, the latter widely considered to be a terrorist group. Now he has a new headache stemming from the most unlikely of endorsements. #David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan and former member of the American Nazi Party according to the Washington Times. Duke has been a perennial candidate for a variety of offices in Louisiana and is, to put the matter mildly, a controversial figure.



 
Hubble repair mission by Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser mini-shuttle proposed

A proposal for a new Hubble repair mission has surfaced in a number of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Astronomy Magazine. The idea is that a crewed version of a miniature space shuttle being developed by #sierra nevada called the #dream chaser, The vehicle would dock with the Hubble space telescope and astronauts would spacewalk to provide upgrades and repairs to extend the life of the venerable and wildly successful instrument for a few more years.



Monday, February 13, 2017
 
Michael Flynn resigns as National Security Advisor

##national security advisor #Michael Flynn resigned his position in the Trump administration as stories surrounding an unauthorized conversation he had as a private citizen with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislya in which, among other things, sanctions against Russia may have been discussed. According to CNN, Flynn compounded his folly by at first denying that the conversation took place and then, when proof came to light that it did happen, denying that it involved the sanctions. Flynn finally was reduced to claiming that he did not recall whether sanctions came up or not when his position eventually became too untenable to survive at his post. He almost certainly misled both the president and Vice President Mike Pence.



 
India calls for a substantial increase it its civil space spending

As Ars Technica notes, #India is calling for a hefty boost in the budget of the ISRO of 22 percent, from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion. If NASA had a budget increase on the same percentage basis, it would rise from $19.3 billion to about $23,5 billion in s single year, more than enough to go back to the moon and go to Mars.



 
Two good reasons to make Sarah Palin ambassador to Canada

The rumors that Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate is being considered for the post of ambassador to Canada, not so far denied by the Trump White House, as elicited reactions ranging from eye rolling to red faced outrage. The rumors may be typical trolling from the Trump administration or, remarkably, the idea may be serious.



 
Joy Villa rocks the Grammys with her ‘Make America Great Again’ dress

America, at least that part that cared about such things, braced itself for the political content, especially of the anti-Trump kind, in the acceptance speeches at the Grammys. However, #joy villa, a singer and songwriter of some moderate fame, stole everyone’s thunder by appearing on the red carpet in a blue and white designer dress that read on the front “#make america great Again” and on the back “Trump.” Consternation and outrage ensued in a music industry where people who will admit to supporting the president could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.



Sunday, February 12, 2017
 
Donald Trump’s interest in high speed rail may be made obsolete by the Hyperloop

McClatchy is reporting that like President Obama before him, President Donald Trump is interested in building high-speed rail lines across the United States. The idea is that 200 miles per hour trains would whisk passengers and cargo between destinations, substantially cutting down travel times. However, an emerging technology called the #hyperloop may already be about to make the high-speed train obsolete.



 
Why Chelsea Clinton and Caroline Kennedy will not battle for a U.S. Senate seat

The New York Daily News trumpeted a beguiling scenario of a #Chelsea Clinton vs. #caroline kennedy race for the United States Senate seat now held by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand should she decide to run for president in 2020. The idea of two great Democratic dynasties battling it out for a place on the greasy pole of politics is something that fascinates political pundits as well as some Democratic activists. Despite #Hillary Clinton’s spectacular defeat last year, the Clinton name still has some reverence in liberal circles. And the name of Kennedy is pure magic, eliciting as it does the lost glories of Camelot and a wistful regard for what might have been had Oswald missed. But a couple of problems occupy the path between now and this battle of the Democratic princesses.