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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Friday, March 27, 2015
 
Lena Dunham steps in it again with 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?' article

Lena Dunham, the actress and producer who is the purveyor of the low-rated HBO series “Girls,” has stirred up controversy and brought down condemnation on herself once again. According to Fox411, on Friday the latest outrage concerns a piece she wrote for the New Yorker in the form of a quiz called, “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?” The juxtaposition has proven to be awkward, to say the leas

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"



 
Harry Reid is leaving the Senate and there was much rejoicing

The New York Times reported on Friday that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, the Senate minority leader, has announced that his current term in the Senate will be his last one. He claimed that neither his recent eye and facial injuries nor the fact that the Democrats are in the minority in the Senate were factors in announcing his retirement. The announcement set up a scramble for who might replace him as the leader of the Senate Democrats and another one for who will be elected to his seat back in Nevada. It also, as Hot Air noted, caused much rejoicing among Republicans and other conservatives.



 
Is Ted Cruz a Republican Barack Obama? Not really

In a Friday column, Peggy Noonan presented an insightful analysis of Ted Cruz and his prospects for winning the presidency. She touched upon an interesting but ultimately superficial comparison that people are making between Cruz and another man who used to be a first term senator running for the Oval Office. Of course, that man is Barack Obama.

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream



 
Obama appeasement seen as leading to a nuclear Iran

According to a Thursday story in the Washington Free Beacon, the Obama administration is preparing to strike a nuclear bomb deal with Iran by caving into all of the Islamic Republic’s demands. Alarmed at the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, Saudi Arabia has not ruled out acquiring its own nuclear weapons. The prospect of a deal that many see would ratify rather than prevent Iran’s drive to acquire a nuclear bomb makes it unlikely that Congress will approve of such an agreement, setting up a constitutional crisis between the White House and Capitol Hill on top of a nuclear standoff in the volatile Middle East.

Nuclear Iran



Thursday, March 26, 2015

 
In 'Justified' Ava takes her fate in her own hands (spoilers)

In “Trust,” the episode of “Justified” that aired Tuesday, Ava Crowder did something that she probably would never have considered just a few episodes before. When Boyd, her loving fiancé, managed to separate Avery Markam from $10 million, the last thing he expected was for Ava to shoot him in the chest and separate him from the money. Raylan Givens, who saw what went down, was dumbfounded to say the least. He promised that he was going to come after her. “I know,” she said as she drove off into the night.

Raylan: A Novel



 
Scientists to use new infrared instrument to search for Dyson spheres

Hitherto, much of what constitutes the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has consisted of using huge, radio telescopes to attempt to detect radio and television signals from planets in other star systems. In the over 50 years such efforts have been ongoing, researchers have come up short in the search for ET. IO9 reported on Thursday that a new facility, located at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California, is going to try a different approach called near-infrared optical SETI or NIRSETI. It is part of an effort called optical SETI that tries to detect artificial light pulses to look for alien civilizations.

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100



 
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission unlikely to be funded

When NASA announced that the Asteroid Redirect Mission was not going to move an asteroid to lunar orbit, but rather take a boulder from an asteroid and move it to lunar orbit, renewed questions were raised about whether the project is worth doing. The Houston Chronicle reported on Thursday that Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who chairs the House subcommittee that allocates NASA funding, is dubious about the ARM, to say the least. “I don’t think there’s a clear consensus on much in Congress, but we all agree that pushing a rock around in space is a waste of taxpayer dollars that we don’t have to spare.”

The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories



 
In 'The Americans' Elizabeth becomes the villain in her own story (spoilers)

Wednesday’s episode of “The Americans” has the improbable title of “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep,” though the plot has nothing to do with Philip K. Dick or the movie “Bladerunner,” which was having its first run around that time. However, the episode featured a bone-chilling confrontation between Elizabeth, the true believing Soviet spy, and a woman named Betty, played by Lois Smith, who choose the wrong night to work late. The episode ended up with Betty dead and, we can hope, Elizabeth scarred for life.

Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

 
Arnold Schwarzenegger to star in 'Maggie,' a different zombie apocalypse movie

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post-Governator movie comeback has not gone over very well with audiences, with a series of forgettable action pictures starring the 60 something former Conan the Barbarian. But that may change with the release in early May of “Maggie” another zombie apocalypse movie with a different twist. The Los Angeles Times noted that the trailer, seen above, was released on Wednesday.

The Walking Dead: Compendium One

The Walking Dead: Compendium Two



 
NASA's ARM will take a boulder from an asteroid and take it to lunar orbit

NASA announced Wednesday more details of its controversial asteroid redirect mission. The space agency has chosen to not snag an asteroid in deep space and move it to a retrograde orbit around the moon. Instead, an uncrewed spacecraft with a solar electric propulsion system will snag a boulder off of a larger asteroid and bring it to lunar orbit for an Orion spacecraft to visit.

Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy



 
Cornell assistant dean caught on camera endorsing pro-ISIS club on campus

Project Veritas, the guerilla journalism group founded by James O’Keefe, has struck again. Wednesday the group released a video depicting the Assistant Dean for Students of Cornell University, Joseph Scaffido, expressing sympathy to a “student,” who was actually a Project Veritas operative, for his desire to set up a pro-ISIS and a pro-Hamas club on campus. Scaffido even went so far as to offer advice on how to obtain funding for the clubs which would send care packages to both of the terrorist organizations and how to bring an ISIS representative to set up a “training camp.” Scaffido seemed to equate the idea to a sports camp.

Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore



 
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope on track for 2018 launch, but concerns remain

The House Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on the James Webb Space Telescope, due to be launched in late 2018, on Tuesday. While a spokesperson for NASA was upbeat about the project finally being on budget and on schedule, the General Accounting Office warned that challenges remain to keep it so. In the meantime, a group calling itself the Tea Party in Space denounced the project, suggesting that the telescope might be rendered useless should the sun screen fail to deploy once the JWST arrives at the Earth-Sun L2 point about a million miles away.

The James Webb Space Telescope Mission



 
Episcopal Church head declares global warming skepticism against God's will

Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, once chided global warming advocates for “speaking in the language of theology” when attacking skeptics of the theory. The Christian Science Monitor reported on Tuesday that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church, did just that when she denounced global warming skepticism as, in essence, being against the will of God. “Episcopalians understand the life of the mind is a gift of God and to deny the best of current knowledge is not using the gifts God has given you,” she said.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015
 
The case is made for a Ceres settlement'

With NASA’s Dawn space probe orbiting Ceres, the dwarf planet residing in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, some are imagining what might come after. The Next Big Future on Monday mused about the advantages of establishing a human settlement on Ceres. The idea is that such a settlement would be a hub for miners who would exploit the resources of the asteroid belt.

The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper




 
Obama angry that Israel spied on the Iran nuclear bomb talks and told Congress

Tuesday, Hot Air, citing a recent Wall Street Journal story, reported on the revelation that not only did the Israeli Mossad penetrated the nuclear bomb talks with Iran, but revealed what it had found out to members of Congress. The Obama administration is not upset at the espionage since it recognized that even friendly countries do that all the time. But it is incandescent with rage that the Israelis spilled the beans to the Congress, a body, though charged with oversight of foreign policy, Obama was very keen to keep in the dark.



 
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser could land at Ellington Space Port near Houston

Despite having been rejected in NASA’s commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.



 
How Ted Cruz is more gay-friendly than Barack Obama

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas delivered what many are calling the “Imagine Speech” at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on Monday in which he, perhaps channeling a more conservative John Lennon, asked audiences to imagine a more conservative America, One of the less talked about aspects of his candidacy is the fact that his agenda is actually more friendly toward gays than that of President Barack Obama, especially the Obama who ran in 2008. This revelation seems counter-intuitive but is true nevertheless.



Monday, March 23, 2015
 
Overcoming Shakespeare, Richard III gets his royal funeral at last

Modern politicians who are called names by their opponents and are accused of everything from wanting to starve children to killing old people can take comfort that they at least didn’t have a job done on them by Shakespeare, as was done to Richard III. The BBC reported Monday that the former King of England has finally gotten a royal cortege and a requiem mass over 500 years after his death. He is to be interred at Leicester Cathedral, with full honors that he was denied after being cut down at Bosworth.

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds



 
Ted Cruz announces for president, is compared to Reagan and Luke Skywalker

Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has become the first major candidate to announce a run for the presidency for 2016. He made his announcement early Monday morning, just after midnight, with a tweet, “I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support!” The tweet was accompanied by a 30 second video that include classic scenes of Americana, farms, factories, a baseball game, an urban landscape, and children saying the pledge of allegiance. Cruz is scheduled to make a personal announcement at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.



Sunday, March 22, 2015

 
Jerry Brown is mad Ted Cruz is running for president because of global warming

The Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas intends to announce his candidacy for president on Monday at a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, was first to denounce the Cruz candidacy, stating on “Meet the Press” that Cruz was “unfit to be running for president” because of the Texas senator’s skepticism of the theory of global warming, which Brown blames for the current drought in his state. But, if a study by NOAA is to be believed, concerning any relationship between the drought and global warming, Brown is the science denier.



 
California will not run out of water in a year, but new desalination tech needed

The now four year long drought that has afflicted California is a serious problem, illustrated by a recent article by a NASA scientist named Jay Famiglietti that the state’s reservoirs have a year’s supply of water left. This led to screaming headlines across the media that California is going to run completely out of water sometime in 2016 unless something draconian is done. The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that Famiglietti has made some clarifications. California is not going to go bone dry in a year. It has decades worth of water from other sources, including groundwater. But, that does not mean that tough decisions are not in the offing.



Saturday, March 21, 2015

 
Greenpeace co-founder has become a global warming 'denier'

One of the most noxious aspects of the global warming debate concerns the tactics employed by climate change advocates. Some accuse global warming skeptics of bad faith, as they did Wei-Hock Soon by suggesting that he is in the pockets of big oil. Others try to argue by appealing to authority, claiming that the “consensus” of the scientific community is that global warming is real and is human caused. The science is settled and “deniers” must shut up and conform. However, in a Friday story in the Heartland, Patrick Moore, who holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and is a co-founder of Greenpeace, offered a devastating critique to the whole theory of human-caused global warming.



 
Is Ted Cruz about to announce for president?

According to a Friday story in the Texas Tribune, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas has informed the media that he intends to make a “major speech” at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on Monday. The announcement has spurred speculation that Cruz intends to either announce his intention to run for president of the United States or, at the very least, form an exploratory committee in advance of doing so. It is an open secret that Cruz, who was elected to the Senate in 2012, is interested in moving up to the Oval Office.



Friday, March 20, 2015
 
Could Joe Biden save the Democrats from Hillary Clinton?

As Hillary Clinton, the formerly once and future inevitable next president of the United States, continues to be mired in scandal and controversy, Democrats are desperately trying to find someone else – anyone else – who could be their nominee for president in 2016. Hot Air reported on Friday that someone has created a Draft Joe Biden site. The proposition has some entertainment value, for reasons that should be obvious.




 
Mars One answers its critics

In light of recent accusations levied against the Mars One project by one of the people selected to be a Mars settler, the project’s CEO, Bas Lansdorp, issued a response on Thursday in both a video and in a written interview on the project’s website. The accusation, made by Dr. Joseph Roche, indicated that some of the final 100 Mars settlers were selected for their ability to raise money for the project rather than their qualifications. Lansdrop accused the author of the article, Elmo Keep, of making false claims and being sensational.





 
Obama's 'reassessment' of relations with Israel could kindle a Middle East War

According to a Thursday story on CNN, President Barack Obama finally called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “congratulate” him on his triumph in the recent Israeli elections. Obama took the opportunity to issue a threat to the Jewish state. In light of Netanyahu’s recent opposition to a Palestinian state, the president suggested that the United States would “reassess” its policy toward Israel. One thing being considered is the United States would no longer stand in the way of a UN Security Council resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian State and demanding that Israel withdraw to behind the pre-1967 borders.



 
Ted Cruz and Barack Obama on collision course over fossil fuels

Hydraulic fracking, the technique that extracts oil and natural gas from shale formations, has caused a plunge in energy prices and is a bright spot in an otherwise moribund American economy. Naturally, President Obama wants to clamp down federal regulations on the process, at least on Federal lands, according to Politico. But Breitbart reported on Thursday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Rep. Joe Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, are proposing a different approach in the form of the American Energy Renaissance Act.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

 
Scientists conclude that lunar lava tubes safe for human settlers

NASA may have abandoned plans to return to the moon for now, thanks to President Obama’s mandate, but other countries and a lot of private groups are interested in setting up shop on the lunar surface. According to a Thursday story on the BBC, scientists at this year’s Lunar and Planetary Conference have concluded that underground lava tubes would be stable enough to house as many future lunar settlers as needed.




 
Hillary Clinton's adult camp idea is not as ominous as it sounds

Hillary Clinton addressed a convention of summer camp counselors and suggested that what America needs is camps for adults, Hot Air reported on Thursday. Even though we are assured that these camps would not be the kind the reader must be thinking of, the mockery has started fast and furious on Twitter. However, her idea of conservatives and liberals being segregated in “red cabins and blue cabins” who will then be forced to meet and talk to one another is one of the more original public policy ideas to come out of a politician’s mouth, especially a Democrat’s, for quite some time.




 
Obama's idea for mandatory voting may not be constitutional

Fox News reported on Thursday that President Obama, casting about for more ways to become a transformative figure, has proposed making voting mandatory. He cites, as an example, the law in Australia that exacts a fine for anyone who does not duly show up at the polls. Naturally, the president has a hidden, political agenda that goes beyond just promoting doing one’s civic duty, He believes that nonvoters tend to be the young, the poor, and ethnic minorities who make up the natural base of the Democratic Party. However, such a law, as Obama suggests, would likely run into constitutional problems



 
Driverless cars could mean fewer police, bans of human driven automobiles

The prospect that in the future most cars will be driven by onboard computers has sparked quite a bit of discussion about their long term effects. Mashable reported on Wednesday that Elon Musk. of SpaceX and Tesla fame, opined that human driven cars may be made illegal since driverless cars would be so much safer. Business Insider added that the advent of driverless cars may allow the reduction of police forces in half.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015
 
It's time to reboot 'Forever Knight'

From time to time, studio executives, bereft as they sometimes are of original ideas, try to reboot old movies and TV series. These sorts of exercises rarely work, with a few exceptions, such as “Battlestar Galactica.” The Canadian-produced series “Forever Knight” about a Toronto police detective who happened to be a vampire could prove to be another exception in the right hands.




 
Senators to pursue breast cancer cure

While breast cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, especially if it is caught early in a mammogram or a self-examination, it nevertheless kills millions of women every year. A group of United States senators, Republican, and Democrats, are banding together to do something about that. They mean to eradicate breast cancer, according to a Wednesday story in the Washington Examiner.




 
NASA's Dawn detects ice plume rising from Ceres

As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft moved into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet residing in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, scientists were in rare excitement about two bright dots that were spotted on its rocky surface. Phys.Org reported on Wednesday that, even though Dawn has yet to start its principle investigation of Ceres, scientists believe that he white dots are the result of plumes rising from what may be a subsurface ocean, similar to what are thought to exist at Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus. This conclusion has led to further speculation that some parts of Ceres may contain life



 
Obama, media react negatively to Netanyahu landslide

When the polls closed in Israel Tuesday, the exit polls suggested that Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the opposition Zionist Union were neck and neck with about 27 seats each in the new Knesset. Because of Israel’s coalition politics, most analysts suggested that Netanyahu had the easiest path to forming a government. But with the votes counted, it looks like Netanyahu scored a landslide victory, picking up 30 seats to the Zionist Union’s 24, the reverse of what polls leading up to the election suggested would be the result. Neither the Obama administration nor some elements of the mainstream media is happy.



 
Missouri state senator demands that the EPA back off regulating barbecues

The Washington Examiner noted on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency had given a $15,000 grant to the University of California Riverside to develop technology to make backyard barbecues less polluting. The EPA assured the public that it does not regulate backyard barbecues and that the grant was just for a student project. At least one Missouri state senator has seen fit to raise the alarm and call for a protest. The theory is that what is a study today could become a mandate tomorrow.