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, August 19, 2017
 
Let’s use genetic testing technology to combat racism

One of the neat things about technology is that it can solve so many problems that hitherto did not seem to have solutions. #Genetic Testing, something that was not available during World War II, has proven to be quite a weapon against racism. #white supremacists have already used the technology to “prove” their alleged racial superiority only to get an unpleasant surprise in many cases. With that in mind, Katherine Mangu-Ward over at Reason has a bright idea.



 
SpaceX’s Elon Musk admits that the Red Dragon is dead for now

SpaceX’s #Elon Musk has formally informed NASA that the idea of a #Red Dragon, a version of the workhorse Dragon spacecraft that would be equipped with retro rockets to land on Mars, is dead for the time being. Musk is now talking about a downsized version of his #Interplanetary Transport System, which he discussed at length during a space conference last year, as the basis of his hopes for Mars exploration and eventual colonization. The SpaceX CEO has promised further details of his Mars plans next month.



Friday, August 18, 2017
 
The destruction of statues has started to get out of hand

The wave of statues being vandalized has started to get out of hand. What started as a campaign to expunge monuments of Confederate war heroes has spread to just about every edifice of bronze or stone that commemorated figures from history. A statue of ##Martin Luther King that stands in Bricker Park in Houston had white paint poured on it. Meanwhile, a statue of Joan of Arc that resides in Decatur in the French Quarter of New Orleans had the words “Take it Down” sprayed in black paint on its base.



 
Another path has opened for the 50th vote to repeal and replace Obamacare

It looks like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is not going to join President Donald Trump’s cabinet as energy secretary. Such a move would have freed his senate seat for the Republican governor of his state to appoint a GOP replacement and thus provide a 50th vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Fortunately, another path for the 50th vote has opened up, according to Hot Air.



 
People buying sex robots are asking for some unusual customizations

The sex robot industry is one of those phenomena that proves that we are indeed in the 21st Century. The UK Sun is reporting that True Companion, a firm that will build you a customized bed mate of either gender for just shy of $10,000, is getting some unusual requests. One, to get a sex robot that looks and acts like a celebrity, is something that could have been predicted. The other option is pretty sad.



 
Steve Bannon gets the boot from the White House

#Steve Bannon, the controversial #White House advisor, has either been fired or, as he claims, gave his notice two weeks ago. Bannon has been rumored to have been on the outs with President #trump for a while, even though he had proven to be instrumental in encouraging the president’s combative, if also undisciplined, style of dealing with the media.



 
Once upon a time we deflated the Nazis through humor

Does anyone remember when #Nazis were considered figures of ridicule? Once upon a time, people who purvey our popular culture made fun of individuals who dressed up in brown uniforms, carried swastika flags, and strutted about ranting about the Aryan race and the Jewish conspiracy. A classic example took place during the 1980 celebration of excess, “The Blues Brothers,” in which Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, coming upon a Nazi rally being led by Henry Gibson, gunned the engines of their automobile and charged said brownshirts, causing them to scatter and leap off a bridge into a stream, humiliating them to the laughter of the onlookers.



 
Now someone is going after statues of Lincoln and Columbus

Proof that President Trump was on to something when he suggested that those who are going after Confederate monuments are going to go after other edifices occurred with attacks on statues of both #Abraham Lincoln and #Christopher Columbus. Meanwhile, Vice Magazine called for blowing up Mount Rushmore on Twitter.



 
The Barcelona terrorist attack reminds us about what really is important

While the media has been entertaining itself with stories about Neo Nazi losers and a made up controversy about Confederate monuments, a #Terrorist Attack in #Barcelona reminded the world where the real threat to civilization resides. #ISIS has struck again, and 13 people are now dead and about a 100 wounded.



Thursday, August 17, 2017
 
The CW is developing a series about a female gladiator called ‘The Valiant’

Variety is reporting that the CW bought the rights to a Young Adult novel entitled “The Valiant” by Canadian writer Lesley Livingston. The book tells the story of a Celtic princess who winds up as one of the first female gladiators fighting for the edification of the Roman mob. The source material has some possibilities. However, we are talking about the CW, which perpetrated that Tudor-era mess “Reign.”



 
How plausible is the asteroid weapon in ‘Salvation?’

Last night’s double episode of “#Salvation,” which introduced science fiction concepts such as gravity tractors, the EM drive, #asteroid impacts, and Mars colonies, presented a new idea. The series revealed that at least in the universe in which Salvation resides, the United States worked on a top secret project called “Atlas” that was hinted at in previous episodes but is now revealed to be a method of weaponizing asteroids.



 
More of my wisdom, courtesy of the Hill: The question Dana Rohrabacher should have asked NASA


 
The Marist Poll has some surprising results about the Confederate monument issue

When President Donald Trump tweeted earlier today decrying the removal of statues and monuments honoring figures of the Confederacy, the usual reaction could be heard in various media and social media outlets. Surely the president has further disgraced himself by taking such an out of the mainstream, racist position. However, a new #Marist Poll suggests that the president is being a shrewd politician and is taking the same view as the vast majority of Americans.



 
New chancellor proposes to return free speech to Berkeley

In what the Washington Examiner calls a “shocking turn of events” the newly installed chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley Carol T. Christ has declared the upcoming school year as the “year of #free speech.” Hot Air is somewhat dubious and suggests that if Christ succeeds in returning sanity to Berkeley, she should be shipped off to the Middle East and North Korea to solve the problems in those parts of the world.



 
NASA has a plan to stop the Yellowstone supervolcano

One of the threats that could end civilization is the eruption of a supervolcano, such as the one that resides at #Yellowstone National Park. The scenario has the giant magma chamber beneath Yellowstone, the same one that causes the picturesque geysers, letting go, darkening the skies over North America for many months and covering the landscape with ash. Millions would die in the initial eruption, and much more as food runs out as farms will no longer be able to grow food, lacking access to the sun.



 
Aledade is a tech startup that claims to drive down health care costs

The American #Health Care System is a hot mess which Obamacare only made worse, as even the Affordable Care Act’s proponents now concede. While Congress seems unable to move on extracting Obamacare from the #American Health Care system, a number of technology companies are developing innovations that promise to lower the costs of medicine and at the same time improve outcomes. The New York Times has featured one of these enterprises, a startup called Aledade.



 
New York Times editor claims ignorance about Palin defamation

Hot Air notes that Sarah Palin’s lawyers had the #New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet on the stand Wednesday. Bennet revealed how the editorial that defamed Palin came to be written. He also attempted to verbally dance around the notion that the editorial was written in full knowledge that Palin was not responsible for the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in 2011.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017
 
Chicago Pastor wants George Washington statue removed

One of the points that President Trump made during the press conference that has the media in flames was that the drive to remove Confederate statues and monuments could be a slippery slope and that #George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be next, given their status as slave holders. The media reacted with more eye rolling that yelps of outrage. However, less than 24 hours, a #Chicago #pastor demanded that a statue of George Washington be removed from a park in that city’s predominately African American south side.



 
The Google Lunar XPrize has been extended to the end of March 2018

Eric Berger at Ars Technica is reporting that the #Google Lunar Xprize Foundation has extended the deadline for the fulfillment of the award to be the first private group to land on the #moon and perform certain tasks three months, from December 31, 2017, to March 31, 2018. The Foundation has also added a number of incremental prizes for accomplishments short of fulfilling all the requirements of the prize.



 
Democrats wish that Hillary Clinton would just go away

An unquiet ghost is haunting the #Democratic Party, according to Al Hunt of Bloomberg. Her name is Hillary Clinton [VIDEO], who is coming out with a book called “What Happened” which will be her perspective on the 2016 election. Democrats wish Clinton would not publish her book. Indeed, they wish she would go away entirely. One suggestion has been seriously floated that the twice defeated presidential candidate moves out of the country, at least for a “couple of years.”



 
Why did James Mattis visit Jeff Bezos?

Recently, Secretary Defense #James Mattis visited #Jeff Bezos at the Amazon.com headquarters in Seattle. Most media accounts touched on the feud that President Trump has picked with the tech mogul, mainly because of the Washington Post which Bezos owns. The subject of the discussion was not disclosed, but one can guess considering the businesses Bezos has developed.



 
What happened at the Trump press conference?

President Donald Trump started yesterday’s presser with a presentation about a new executive order he signed about infrastructure reform. However, he allowed the subject to veer into Charlottesville, something that still vexes both him and the media. The distraction has caused a firestorm on both the television media and social media. What did he say and what was so wrong about it?



Tuesday, August 15, 2017
 
Iceland has all but eliminated Down syndrome, but there is a catch

On the surface, the claim that #Iceland has eliminated Down syndrome among its population could be considered a good thing. Down syndrome occurs when an infant has an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. The syndrome comes with a number of physical characteristics, but the main and most concerning result is cognitive delays to one extent or another.



 
Made in Space and NASA achieves breakthrough in space manufacturing

Currently, everything that goes into orbit has to fit on top of a rocket, inside its nose cone. When the shuttle was still operational, its cargo bay could carry more volume. However, the fact that everything that humans use in #Space, from satellites to space station modules, have to be sent from Earth has been a limiting factor. The International Space Station took years to build because it had to be assembled with pieces launched from Earth. A company called Made in Space means to change that state of affairs. In partnership with #NASA, the firm had just made a breakthrough, according to Space.com.



 
New York Times reporter gets into exchange with Ted Cruz about Charlottesville

President Trump and his supporters complain that no matter what he said about the riot in Charlottesville, his critics will never be satisfied. Some truth exists surrounding this complaint, as exemplified by an exchange between a #New York #Times Reporter and Sen. #Ted Cruz, R-Texas. When the exchange was over, the varsity debater and Harvard law grad from Texas had the advantage.



 
SpaceX launches 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station

While Americans remain frightened about the Korean missile crisis and angry over Charlottesville, some good news happened at the Kennedy Space Center. A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off, carrying a Dragon supply ship to the #international space station. Minutes later the first stage of the rocket landed without a fuss near the launch pad, Elon Musk’s space launch company is taking rocket science, a synonym for something hard, and making it look easy. The launch was the 11th Falcon 9 flight this year and the 12 resupply flight to the ISS mounted by SpaceX.



 
North Korea stands down from threat to attack Guam

North Korean state media has reported that Kim Jong-un has decided not to, after all, launch missiles against Guam, thus averting war with the United States. Of course, the dictator could change his mind at any time, as he has indicated, but for now, the world is breathing a sigh of relief. Most are ascribing the decision to tough warnings emanating from the #trump administration as well as promises of economic sanctions from China. Nevertheless, Kim and a nuclear #North Korea remain a problem that needs fixing.



Monday, August 14, 2017
 
Trump finally names names in the Charlottesville riot

President Donald #trump finally called out at least most of the perpetrators of the violence in Charlottesville by name, two days after the event, when he stated, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” The reaction to the statement was divided into “better late than never” and “too little too late.” The exception to those hot takes was expressed by Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was mowed down by an automobile used, allegedly, as a weapon of terrorism.



 
Iran continues its military buildup

While the Trump administration is wrestling with the prospect of a Second Korean War, #Iran continues to demonstrate its hostility to the United States. The Iranian parliament recently voted to increase the #Islamic Republic’s war spending by over $500 million, with half going to missile development that is prohibited by United Nations resolutions, according to the Washington Free Beacon. At the same time, Iran announced the intention to send a flotilla of warships out into the Atlantic as a direct challenge to western navies.



 
Did the movie ‘300’ lead to the election of Donald Trump?

A recent article in “AV Club,” a left-leaning journal of entertainment news and cultural criticism, posits the theory that the film “300” led directly to the rise of the alt-right and the election of Donald Trump. The idea that a fantasy cartoon version of the #Battle Of Thermopylae could do that is a bit odd, to say the least. However, it bears some examination.



 
A divided nation finds unity in ‘Game of Thrones’

One good thing about living in America is that a nation divided by political acrimony and a grinding culture war can unite around a show that features mass murder, rape, incest, and political double-dealing. So, what happened this week on “Game of Thrones?”



 
Part Time Scientists to take cell phone service to the moon

Space.com recently reported that a private German group, #Part Time Scientists, will mount an expedition to the moon sometime in 2018. The group used to be part of the Google Lunar X-Prize but was obliged to drop out due to time constraints. However, the mission is notable for what it is going to carry to the moon and where it is going.



 
Were the police ordered to stand down in Charlottesville?

The riot that took place in #Charlottesville, Virginia shocked the United States, overwhelmed social media, and temporarily at least drove the Korean Missile Crisis off the front page. Groups of Nazis, Klansmen, and other racists brawled in the streets with Marxist, Antifa radicals. A woman was murdered when someone decided to use his car as a weapon against a group of protestors, The New York Times is reporting that some community leaders, such as Brittany Caine-Conley, a minister in training at Sojourners United Church of Christ, are openly wondering where the police were in all of this chaos.



 
The New York Times thinks that sex was great in the old Soviet Union

The following essay could also be entitled “We can hardly wait for Sarah Palin to win her law suit so we can no longer have to read such nonsense.” The #New York Times has published an article that states that women had better sex in the old Soviet Empire than they did in the free world. The idea is as counterintuitive as suggesting that gay sex is more fulfilling in Iran. On the other hand, the Times has been shilling for communists since Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer by covering up Stalin’s crimes when he ran the Times’ Moscow Bureau.



Sunday, August 13, 2017
 
Germany is finding something disturbing about its Muslim refugees

When the allied forces began to liberate the concentration camps during World War II, one of the first things they did was to round up German civilians in the surrounding towns and villages and march them through the death facilities, almost literally rubbing their noses in the horror their government had inflicted. Ever since, to its credit, Germany has preserved the camps as reminders of the ultimate example of inhumanity and the promise that it must not be allowed to happen again.



 
Why did the Charlottesville riots happen?

When reacting to the rioting in Charlottesville, Virginia, #President Donald Trump was entirely accurate when he stated, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He was also, especially in the judgment of his many enemies on social media, being woefully inadequate. Why did the president not condemn the perpetrators of the violence by name? Some of that social media reaction was no doubt opportunistic, coming from people who are pretty sure that the president tacitly encouraged the violence, especially from the racist alt-right. Fortunately, Roger Simon at Pajamas Media provides some sober perspective.



Saturday, August 12, 2017
 
How Trump intends to get the 50th vote for repeal and replace of Obamacare

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are involved in a tiff over repealing and replacing Obamacare. McConnell, having failed to get the 50th vote necessary to pass repeal and replace, would like to move on to tax reform. Trump is insisting that McConnell do his job and pass the reform of health care reform. McConnell has been reduced to giving lectures about how the president has “unrealistic” expectations about how the senate works, despite having promised to rid the nation of the scourge of Obamacare for seven years. Now it looks like the president is sending help in the form of the 50th vote.



 
Why did Trump threaten Venezuela with military intervention?

When President Donald Trump threatened the Maduro regime in Venezuela with unspecified #Military Intervention, eyebrows raised across official Washington and in the media. With a crisis about to boil over into war in Korea, could the United States afford to pick a fight in South America, even against a country whose government is locked in pitched street battles with its people? It turns out that Trump has every reason to worry about the beleaguered Latin American country becoming a strategic headache for the United States. Also, methods exist for applying military pressure that does not involve landing the United States Marines.



Friday, August 11, 2017
 
Chelsea Handler calls for a military junta to remove President Trump

This essay could have been entitled “I am old enough to remember when the Hollywood left thought military dictatorships were a bad thing.” After all, some of the greatest villains of the 20th Century were generals who seized power in their countries and ran them roughshod. Franco in Spain and Pinochet in Chile come to mind. In any case, #Chelsea Handler, the comedian, TV talk show host, and vodka aficionado has decided that a junta would be a great alternative to the freely elected President Donald Trump. She has tweeted, “To all the generals surrounding our idiot-in-chief...the longer U wait to remove him, the longer UR name will appear negatively in history.”



 
Michael Moore’s ‘The Terms of My Surrender’ panned by critics

Michael Moore might now add to his resume that includes documentary film maker, fake #Working Class Hero, and general public nuisance, the title of producer and star of his own Broadway flop. Such is the judgment of the New York Times and other theater reviewers of Moore’s one person show, “The Terms of #My Surrender,” now playing, but not for much longer, at the Belasco Theater. The play is less of a one person entertainment than it is a two-hour political rant delivered by Moore for the edification of New York hipsters who would be expected to eat up the rhetoric.



 
Can diplomacy still save the situation in Korea?

Even while North #Korea and the #United States exchange threats of military action, diplomacy behind the scenes is occurring to try to defuse the situation in the Northwest Pacific. The two countries are maintaining back-channel communications to convey information to one another. In the meantime, China has told North Korea that if it launches an attack and an American response occurs, that country is on its own.



 
Trump declares American military ‘locked and loaded’

President Donald Trump has pronounced American armed forces to be “#Locked And Loaded” should #North Korea launch an attack. The statement, made on Twitter, came after the president offered to visit upon Pyongyang “fire and fury” if it persisted in threatening the United States and her allies. North Korea has responded by suggesting that it plans to launch four missiles to land in the waters near Guam, an American possession that hosts important military bases.



 
NASA to start exploring safer concept for a nuclear thermal rocket

The New Atlas is reporting that NASA has contracted with a company called BWXT Nuclear Energy to examine concepts for a nuclear thermal rocket engine that could take humans to Mars and beyond far quicker than chemical rockets. The plan is a revival of an old concept that was developed in the 1960s called NERVA but with some modern twists.



 
Judge in Palin defamation suit against the New York Times orders special hearing

The defamation suit that #Sarah Palin has brought against the #New York #Times has taken a strange turn. Judge Jed Rakoff has refused the request of the Times to dismiss the suit. However, the judge is not allowing the action to proceed right away either. Instead, he has issued a “close question” about the central issue of the suit. That matter is whether or not the editorial board of the New York Times showed actual malice when it suggested that Palin was directly responsible for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and a number of other people because of a campaign graphic that placed cross hairs over the then congresswoman’s district.



Thursday, August 10, 2017
 
Some helpful advice for Daenerys, the mother of Dragons

Since certain jobs for advisors to Daenerys, #Mother Of Dragons and true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, may about to be open, a number of people in the #Real World have looked at the strategy thus far for putting her on the #Iron Throne and have found it wanting. Naturally, they have some helpful suggestions for how things might be turned around.



 
Obama’s National Security Advisor says to not get too tough with North Korea

usan Rice, who served as Barack Obama’s UN Ambassador and then National Security Advisor, wrote a remarkable op-ed in the New York Times about the #North Korea crisis. She took President Trump to task for threatening North Korea with destruction should it continue to build nuclear weapons with the intent of striking at the United States and her allies. In so doing, Rice demonstrated how Obama’s foreign policy brought the world to the brink it now finds itself on.



 
The inventor of the EM drive is excited that it is on the TV show ‘Salvation’

The #Em Drive, a controversial piece of technology that allegedly creates thrust without propellant, is at the center of the plot of the current #TV Show “Salvation.” A commercial space entrepreneur named Darius Tanz, loosely based on Elon Musk is building the device to save the Earth from an impending collision with a giant asteroid. No one could be more excited by the use of the EM drive as a plot device than the inventor of the technology, #Roger Shawyer, according to the International Business Times.



 
Trump’s tough North Korea talk backed by Mattis and Tillerson

President Donald Trump has come into some criticism for promising to visit “fire and fury” on #North Korea if that country persists in threatening the United States and her allies. The president’s critics suggest that the words were unnecessarily provocative and might lead to war when there is still a chance for diplomacy. However, #Secretary Of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the president’s tough talk, suggesting that a new, coordinated message is emerging from the administration designed to impress on Pyongyang the perils of proceeding on the course it has embarked on, according to the Washington Times.



 
The Koch brothers are major investors in ‘Wonder Woman’

The irony cannot be more delicious. “#Wonder Woman” is not only considered a shining example of feminist film making but is so far the most successful film of 2017. The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that none other than Charles and David Koch are silent investors in the #Movie as well as a number of other projects at Warner Brothers. The motive does not seem to be out of an ideological agenda, but rather motivated out of traditional desire to make money from what has turned out to be a shrewd investment.



 
Fox News’ Eric Bolling files defamation suit against Huffington Post reporter

When Eric Bolling, the Fox News, and Fox Business personality, was suspended from his on air duties pending an investigation into allegations of sexting, many people had a sense of déjà vu. FNC had previously been rocked by the forced resignations of its founder Roger Ailes and one of its most well-known on air personalities Bill O’Reilly under accusations of sexual harassment. Bolling has also been accused by one former female Fox guest of sexual harassment. However, Bolling has decided to pursue a different strategy by slapping the #Huffington Post reporter to the tune of $50 million.