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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Sunday, July 24, 2016
 
Debbie Wasserman Schultz forced to resign as DNC chair in the wake of #DNCLeaks

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has tendered her resignation as chair of the Democratic National Committee, effective Thursday when the Democratic National Convention is to be concluded. Donna Brazile, an old retainer of Bill and Hillary Clinton, will take over that post through the election, pending a party vote during the convention.



 
Gal Gadot fights in World War I as 'Wonder Woman' in upcoming movie

Recently, at Comic-Con in San Diego, the first trailer for the upcoming “Wonder Woman” movie, starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot as the title character, was aired and then released for the general public. The movie is going to be the original story of the iconic superheroine, but with a few differences from the comic book source material.



 
Debbie Wasserman Schultz gets dumped from speaking at the Democratic Convention

The fallout from the WikiLeaks revelation of the hacked Democratic National Committee email files proceeds apace. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, has been dumped from the list of speakers at the Democratic National Convention. The leaked emails revealed a systematic effort at the DNC to undermine the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the venerable but popular socialist from Vermont, to ensure that nomination of Hillary Clinton. The national committees of political parties are supposed to be neutral during the primary process, trusting in the voters to decide on the best candidate to be nominated by a party for president of the United States.



Saturday, July 23, 2016
 
Tim Kaine takes fire from both the left and the right

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia seems to have stumbled just a little coming out of the gate as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate. The far left of the Democratic Party, as expected, have excoriated him as being too centrist. However, the fact that as lieutenant governor and then governor of Virginia he accepted $201,600 in gifts from various friends, business associates, and political allies. At the time, an officeholder in Virginia could take unlimited gifts as long as they were disclosed. Kaine seems to have followed the law at the time, and no evidence exists of a quid pro quo. However, to use the common political phrase, he has an appearance of impropriety.



 
Democrats belatedly include paragraph about NASA in their party platform

The Democratic Party has scrambled to insert a paragraph into its 2016 party platform praising NASA and its space exploration programs. A previous draft of the platform contained no mention of the space agency. No explanation has been given for the sudden inclusion, however some speculation is warranted.



 
DNC emails released by WikiLeaks reveal plan to label Bernie Sanders an atheist

Throughout the campaign, Bernie Sanders and his supporters have claimed that the Democratic National Committee had it in for the venerable socialist from Vermont and was tilted toward Hillary Clinton. The DNC and the Clinton Campaign have vigorously denied the allegation, but now WikiLeaks has released some emails hacked from the DNC that suggests otherwise, just in time for the Democratic National Convention.



Friday, July 22, 2016
 
Hillary Clinton defies the left and chooses Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate

Hillary Clinton has chosen Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia to be her vice presidential running mate. The media is describing Kaine as the “safe choice” and in some respects this assessment is correct. But it is an option that seems calculated to drive the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party to fury.




 
Donald Trump goes after his greatest enemy -- Ted Cruz

If anyone wondered why Ted Cruz declined to endorse Donald Trump, Trump removed all doubt in a speech to volunteers in Cleveland the day after the convention. He spent at least ten minutes laying into Cruz and relitigating the Heidi Cruz insult and the accusation that Cruz’s dad was somehow involved with the JFK assassination. The performance even had some of Trump’s supporters agog on social media.



 
Gay, silicon valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel talks innovation to Republican convention

Somewhat overshadowed by Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, the remarks made by Pete Thiel were well worth the listen, not just for what he said but for what he is. Thiel stated, toward the end of his speech, he said, “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.” The crowd of hardcore, Trump loving Republicans went wild with delight. The sound of liberals’ heads exploding across the country was deafening.



 
Donald Trump delivers his 'Midnight in America' speech

If the late, great Ronald Reagan spoke of “morning in America,” Donald Trump spoke darkly, on the last day of the Republican National Convention, of “Midnight in America.” By delivering a dire speech about a country misgoverned by its elites, beleaguered by terrorists abroad, and ravaged by rampant crime, a bad economy, illegal immigrants, and bad trade deals at home, he perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the United States in the summer of 2016.



Thursday, July 21, 2016
 
Is America still great in space or does it need to be greater

Eileen Collins’ address before the Republican National Committee lasted four minutes and concerned her thoughts on restoring American leadership in space. Implicit in her remarks is the idea that the space program needs to become, using the Donald Trump campaign slogan, “great again.” Space reporter Eric Berger takes Collins to task in Ars Technica, suggesting that the vibrant commercial sector has already made America “great” in space. He also accuses her of pining for the days of Apollo, a curious slam considering how successful the moon landing program was.



 
Ted Cruz doubles down on his refusal to endorse Donald Trump

If anyone thought that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas was cowed by the boos he experienced the night before and the physical threats against his wife for his refusing to endorse Donald Trump, they might want to think again. Cruz met with the Texas delegation and expanded on the nonendorsement. He said that he declined to be a “servile puppy dog” to the man who had attacked his wife and father.



 
Ted Cruz booed at the Republican National Convention for not endorsing Donald Trump

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas strode out to the stage of the Republican National Convention to a standing ovation. He gave a heartfelt address, mentioning the searing story of a little girl whose police officer father was killed, and offered a defense of the United States Constitution and conservative principles. But Cruz left the stage to the din of boos from many of the delegates. The problem was not what Cruz said, but what he did not mention. He declined to specifically endorse Donald Trump. The reaction of the crowd was so violent that Cruz’s wife, Heidi, had to be escorted from the arena under guard.



 
Eileen Collins touts space leadership but declines to endorse Donald Trump as the leader

One of the more anticipated speeches that took place on the third night of the Republican National Convention was delivered by Colonel Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. Her remarks followed a short video that celebrated the American spirit of exploration and innovation on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016
 
What if the moon landings had continued past Apollo 17?

One of the most haunting facts about the Apollo program to land men on the moon, as Scientific America noted a while back, is that the last three planned lunar missions, Apollo 18, Apollo 19, and Apollo 20 were canceled, even though the hardware to fly them had been built. The reasons for this cancellation included the desire to save money and equipment for the Skylab program and also the sense that further missions to the moon risked another accident such as Apollo 13, with potentially fatal consequences.



 
Night Two of the Republican Convention had speeches by Chris Christie, Donald Trump Jr.

On night two of the Republican National Convention, the highlight consisted of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie making the case against Hillary Clinton while Donald Trump Jr. made the case for his father, now the official Republican nominee for president. The night did not contain any distractions such as the plagiarism charge against Melania Trump.



Tuesday, July 19, 2016
 
One summer evening in July men walked on the surface of the moon

Everyone who was of age on July 20, 1969, remembers where they were when men landed on the Moon. I was on a family vacation in Panama City Beach, Florida on that day. My family, along with another family with whom we had been friendly for years, crowded into a single beach-side motel room with one of the only working TVs to watch the first moonwalk.



 
How Texas is making the switch to green energy the right way

The Obama administration’s approach to developing green, renewable energy has been to provide subsidies to companies selling solar, wind, and other environmentally benign sources. It is also clamping down on the regulation of fossil fuels, especially coal, to provide disincentives for using such sources. The White House would like to impose a carbon tax, but thus far Congress has stymied that approach.



 
Melania Trump speech the climax of the first night of the Republican convention

The theme of the first night of the Republican National Convention was “Making America Safe Again.” The night featured speeches from people like Rudy Giuliani “the rock of 9/11”, Marcus Luttrell, the former Navy SEAL whose adventures were dramatized in the film “Lone Survivor” and Pat Smith, whose son Sean was killed in Benghazi and who blames Hillary Clinton for it. The climax of the night was delivered by Melania Trump, who would be the first lady should Donald Trump be elected president of the United States.



 
NASA and commercial space partnerships praised in Republican Platform

While the Democratic Party Platform contained no mention of NASA or America’s space efforts, the Republican Platform contained two paragraphs. Under “Building the Future: Technology” the platform offered praise for NASA’s partnerships with commercial companies such as SpaceX and Boeing that has “reduced the cost of space access and extended America’s space leadership.” The platform stated that “we must sustain our preeminence in space by launching more scientific missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and ensuring that our space-related industries remain a source of scientific leadership and education.”

Speaking of Democratic activists, NASA Watch's Keith Cowing is spreading disinformation. Commercial space partnerships was a concept developed by George W. Bush, not Obama. And Newt Gingrich has been a big commercial space fan since the 1990s.



Monday, July 18, 2016
 
Taiwan building lunar lander for a joint mission to the moon with NASA

According to AFP, the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology on Taiwan is building a $47 million, 3.7 metric ton lunar lander on behalf of NASA. The vehicle is designed to carry a rover called Resource Prospector which would roll about the lunar surface searching out deposits of oxygen, hydrogen, and water. The Resource Prospector mission is still being formulated but is envisioned to be a joint project with several national space agencies and commercial companies. The lunar lander is the first vehicle of its type to be built in Taiwan.



 
'Ghostbusters' reboot opens to disappointing earnings

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the rebooted “Ghostbusters,” which replaced the all-male cast with an all-female cast, made $46 million domestically in its first weekend. The earnings would be respectable if not for the fact that the CGI-heavy film cost $146 million to make. Considering that marketing a summer blockbuster can cost upwards to $150 million, the first weekend numbers do not look promising.



 
SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Dragon spacecraft to the ISS and then lands nearby

A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from a launch pad in Florida, carrying a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station. A few minutes later, the first stage of the Falcon 9 touched down at a prepared landing pad a few miles of the launch pad. The first event has been a common occurrence for decades. The second was just the fifth and the second on land for the Falcon 9 first stage. Therein is how the economics of space travel is starting to change.



 
How Donald Trump became the 'law and order' candidate

From terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, not to mention Paris and Nice, to mass police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the world seems to be spiraling out of control. The Donald Trump campaign has come to realize that the chaos afflicting the world will play neatly into its hands, as Byron York noted in the Washington Times. Trump is already calling himself “the law and order” candidate and has added “make American safe again” to his original slogan “make America great again.”



Sunday, July 17, 2016
 
Former NASA Lori Garver trashes Eileen Collins for addressing the Republican convention

Add Lori Garver to the list of people who are unhappy that former shuttle commander Eileen Collins is slated to speak at the Republican National Convention. Garver, who is the former Deputy Administrator of NASA, tweeted, “Shocked Eileen is supporting this anti-science misogynist. Sorry her legacy is now co-opted by self-interested men.” Garver, whose tenure at the space agency was fraught with controversy, allowed these words to go out on social media apparently unaware of the irony.

Addendum: Many thanks to the great Professor Glenn Reynolds for posting this on Instapundit.



 
Bernie Sanders supporters want veto power over Hillary Clinton's running mate

While Bernie Sanders has offered a lukewarm endorsement of Hillary Clinton, removing the last barrier to her march to the Democratic nomination, his supporters have not been appeased. Evidence suggests that they would like to hold veto power over who she picks as a vice presidential running mate. A number of prominent Democratic names are said to be unacceptable to Sanders supporters and might spark trouble at the Democratic National Convention.



 
Hillary Clinton wants a constitutional amendment to overturn 'Citizens United'

Hillary Clinton wants to, in effect, pass a constitutional amendment that would amend the First Amendment and restrict free speech, overturning the Supreme Court’s “Citizen United” decision that lifted prohibitions on spending by independent organizations. The decision struck down campaign finance laws that the federal government passed against political speech by restraining the amount of money that could be spent on it.



Saturday, July 16, 2016
 
Russia and China forming space exploration axis to go back to the moon and Mars

In a development that ought to be of concern to the United States and her allies, Russia and China have started to forge a space exploration alliance, according to a recent article in Forbes. Joint missions to the Moon and Mars are under discussion between Moscow and Beijing.



 
Barack Obama backs Islamist Erdogan in the attempted Turkish military coup

As usual President Barack Obama was surprised and blindsided by the attempted military coup in Turkey. Also, as usual, he backed the wrong side where the interests of the United States are concerned. The elected president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is an Islamist, who has been playing footsie with ISIS, allowing fighters to flow into the Islamic State and smuggled oil out of It. He has aspirations to recreate the Ottoman Empire to a certain extent, which means that he would like Syria’s Assad out of power and the long-term Kurdish insurgency crushed. The units of the military that launched the failed coup were seeking to restore the secular republic that had served Turkey so well since Kemal Ataturk and would likely have been more forthright in cutting off ISIS and helping the West crush the Islamic State.



Friday, July 15, 2016
 


 
Donald Trump's choice of Mike Pence as running mate will get him killed says Jesse Ventura

When Team Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, the theory was that Pence would provide reassurance to the conservative wing of the Republican Party. He may lack the charisma of Newt Gingrich or the street brawler quality of Chris Christie, but Pence is a solid conservative not given to saying or doing alarming things. However, Jesse Ventura, former Navy frogman, the former wrestler, former action star, former governor of Minnesota, and current conspiracy nut is pretty sure that Trump has signed his death warrant by choosing Pence, a solid establishment figure, albeit conservative.



 
Former astronaut Eileen Collins slated to address the Republican National Convention

Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, is among the eclectic list of people that includes politicians, sports stars, celebrities, and Trump family members slated to address the Republican National Convention. Collins was the pilot for STS-63 Discovery, the first space shuttle to rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir in 1995. She also piloted STS-84 Atlantis that docked with Mir in 1997. Collins commanded STS-93 Columbia that deployed the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in 1999. Finally, she commanded STS-114 Discovery in 2005, which delivered supplies to the International Space Station, the first shuttle flight after the Columbia disaster.




 
President Barack Obama is irritated by a challenge from Texas Lt.Governor Dan Patrick

The latest terrorist outrage in Nice has driven the dust-up over race in the United States, brought on by shootings of two African American men by white police officers followed by the mass murder of five white cops by an African American sniper in Dallas. President Barack Obama, reaching back to his community organizer roots, held an “honest dialogue” about race at the White House that included police officers, Black Lives Matter activists, and elected officials and was broadcast on ABC television. The dialogue got a little too honest for the president’s taste when Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called the president out for his tendency, in Patrick’s view, of being too quick to blame the police when shootings of African Americans occur.



 
Latest terrorist outrage in Nice gives rise to calls to bring down the Islamic State

As the Bastille Day celebrations died down in Nice, the resort town in the south of France, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a 25 ton truck a mile through a crowd of people, killing 84, including 10 children and two Americans, and maiming uncounted others, before stopped by local police in a hail of gunfire. People were sent flying or were crushed beneath the wheels of the truck. Dismembered bodies were left behind in the vehicle’s wake.