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, October 31, 2015
NASA releases first images of Cassini's dive through the geyser of Enceladus
Friday, NASA released the first images from Cassini’s dive two days earlier into the geyser that is erupting water and ice particles through fissures in the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus from what is presumed to be a salty ocean underneath. The space probe, which has been orbiting Saturn for the past several years, survived the encounter. Scientists are eagerly awaiting the data that will be returned from the passage, which should be made available in a week or two.
Currently reading Leviathan Wakes
Just in time for Halloween, the Vampire Gabriella.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Hillary Clinton accuses Bernie Sanders of sexism over 'shouting' remark
Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and past and present presidential candidate, has been declared all but certain to win the presidential nomination. Vice President Joe Biden is not getting into the race. Clinton is said to have turned in Oscar-worthy performances at both the recent Democratic presidential debate and at the Benghazi hearings. However, as Politico reported on Friday, the Clinton campaign is making sure that the path to their candidate’s coronation is made smooth by accusing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, of sexism.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
NASA's Bolden claims NASA is 'doomed' unless it stays the course to Mars
According to a Thursday story in Space News, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a speech at the Center for American Progress in which he declared that if the next president deviated from the Journey to Mars program, the space agency would be “doomed.” The point he was making, that programs of that nature, have to have consistent support over several presidencies and congresses, was a valid one. The point was equally valid in 2010 when President Obama abruptly and without warning canceled the Constellation space exploration program. Bolden, however, had a ready answer for that, which may not be convincing on close examination.
Europe may help Russia land people on the moon 60 years after Apollo 11
According to a Wednesday story in the Verge, the Russian Federal Space Agency has announced plans to send cosmonauts to the lunar surface by 2029, 60 years after Neil Armstrong made that first giant leap on the Sea of Tranquility. A look at Russia’s shaky fiscal condition would tend to cast doubt that it is capable of carrying out such a plan. However, the also-ran in the 1960s race to the moon may be relying on the Europeans to provide some support for being the second country to land people on the moon.
When Ted Cruz proposes a flat tax, he really means a flat tax
About the same time that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas was unloading on the moderators at Wednesday’s CNBC sponsored Republican presidential debate, he was also rolling out his flat tax reform plan. While Cruz is getting a lot of popular support for slamming the liberal bias of the reporters who was asking debate questions, his tax plan is likely to get him even more support. When Cruz calls for a flat tax, he means it.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
'The Martian' is a time travel tale of a future NASA, not a bygone space agency
In a Tuesday story in The Federalist, Kurt Schlichter poses the idea that the smash hit film “The Martian” is as much a time travel story as it is a tale of space exploration. The idea is that the NASA and society depicted in the film are those that existed 50 years ago, when space exploration meant going somewhere with actual astronauts. Today’s space agency is too obsessed with political correctness and bureaucratic posterior covering ever to mount an expedition to Mars, not to mention arrange for the daring rescue mission of an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet.
J.K. Rowling compares Israel to the 'deatheaters' from the Harry Potter books
J.K. Rowling received a great deal of praise from most quarters for signing a letter condemning the notion of a cultural boycott of Israel. But, according to a Tuesday story in Entertainment Weekly, she undermined her position somewhat by seeming to compare Israelis to the infamous Deatheater villains of her beloved Harry Potter books, according to a Tuesday story in Entertainment Weekly. She used a parable from the books by describing how her wizard character Professor Dumbledore brought the deatheater Severus Snape back to the side of the good in the wizarding world through dialogue to illustrate why she is against a cultural boycott.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Astrobotic signs Chilean Google Lunar X Prize team for shared ride to the moon
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Tuesday that Astrobotic, a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, has added a new customer to the moon launch it is arranging for early 2017. The customer is another X Prize competitor, AngelicvM, a team from Chile. AngelivM proposes to send a rover called Uni to the lunar surface. The Chilean team is the third Lunar X Prize competitor to share the flight, the second being the Japanese team, HAKUTO. A British crowdfunded moon mission called Lunar Mission One that is separate from the X Prize and the Mexican Space Agency rounds out the list of customers sharing the flight.
NASA, China undermine the case for space cooperation by angering Rep. Culberson
It is clear that the current NASA leadership and China are keen to further space cooperation between the latter and the United States. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has even famously said that the current restrictions on such cooperation are “temporary.” However, as Space Policy Online reported Monday, both the space agency and China have undermined the case for such cooperation by angering Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Why is William Daley being so mean to Sarah Palin?
William Daley, former Obama chief of staff and member of the infamous Daley family of Chicago, published an op-ed in the Washington Post Sunday. He accused Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, former vice presidential candidate and, apparently, still the most powerful female politician on the planet, of single handedly causing what he calls the Republican Party’s “dysfunction.” Daley apparently means the current struggle between the establishment and conservative wings of the party and the rise of outsider candidates for president such as Donald Trump. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz.
A real life space botonist comments on the potato garden in 'The Martian'
In the hit movie, “The Martian,” stranded astronaut Mark Watney famously survives on Mars by creating a potato garden using Martian soil mixed in with composted human excrement. According to a Sunday story in CNET, NASA believes that the movie is on the right track as far as astronauts growing their own food on long-duration space missions. However, some caveats exists concerning how the film depicted space agriculture.
Colorado to vote rather to scrap Obamacare in favor of single-payer health care
The good news, according to a Sunday story in the Washington Times, is that voters in Colorado will likely have a chance to get rid of Obamacare in their state thanks to a ballot measure in the 2016 election. The bad news is that the measure will invite Coloradans to impose a government run, single-payer health care system, similar to ones that operate in Canada and Great Britain. The costs, claimed by proponents, will amount to $25 billion a year, to be paid for by a hefty payroll tax increase. Vermont, a far more liberal state than Colorado, toyed with a similar idea but then scrapped it due to its high cost.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
In 'Bridge of Spies' Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks gets the Cold War right
“Bridge of Spies” is the latest collaboration between Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest living film directors, and Tom Hanks, one of the greatest living actors. The film is also Spielberg’s latest essay at an historical drama. In this case, as with “Lincoln,” “Schindler’s List,” and “Saving Private Ryan,” Spielberg and Hanks hit a home run. The success is made even more remarkable due to the fact that the subject matter, the Cold War, has always been a sore spot for Hollywood, with the 1950s blacklist coloring the film industry’s attitude toward what President Kennedy called “the long, twilight struggle” between the United States and her allies and the Soviet Union.
Bernie Sanders slams Hillary Clinton on Iraq, Keystone, TPP, and gay rights
When Bernie Sanders famously told Hillary Clinton that Americans were sick of hearing about her “damn emails,’ the statement was widely seen as a defense of the Democratic front-runner. Another interpretation, though, is that it was a gaffe which Ms. Clinton eagerly fell upon and twisted for her own purposes. In any event, Sanders is trying to recover from that perhaps unintentional defense of his main obstacle to the Democratic nomination by laying on her with a will at an Iowa Democratic Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines Saturday night, according to Politico.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
'Last Act' is Craig Shirley's account of the passing of Ronald Reagan
“Last Act” is the latest book about Ronald Reagan, the greatest president of the 20th Century, by Craig Shirley. Unlike his previous two books, which were narratives of Reagan’s campaigns for the presidency in 1976 and 1980, the subject is largely absent. Except for some flashbacks, the book relates the week long nationwide mourning that occurred after Reagan passed on to the ages in June 2004.
Is the end of Jeb Bush's campaign drawing nigh?
The Washington Examiner reported on Friday that the Jeb Bush for President Campaign has announced massive spending and staff cuts, recasting his quest for the presidency from that of a front-runner to that of an underdog. Many analysts suggest that the next step will be that of an also-ran as Bush will be forced from the race. That situation is quite a comedown from the days when Bush, the son and brother of past presidents, was considered the man to beat. It is illustrative of where Republican politics is these days when a resume and family connections to past administrations are considered liabilities.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Imprimius Pharmaceuticals offers cheaper version of pricey AIDS and cancer drug
When Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli raised the price of a drug called Daraprim, used to treat cancer and AIDS, 5,000 percent from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill, the move caused outrage across the United States. Bernie Sanders, the socialist candidate, running for the Democratic nomination for president, condemned the action and promised that he would take steps to reverse it. Even believers in the free market were uncomfortable about the price increase, which Turing has the legal right to do. However, as Ars Technica reported on Thursday, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has developed an alternative to Daraprim that will cost the hefty price of $1 a pill, or $99 for a package of 100 pills.
Could Joe Biden's greatest legacy be funding a cure for cancer?
As the Atlantic reported on Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden announced that he is not running for president. However, in a speech that sounded very much like an announcement speech, the vice president suggested that what the United States needs is one final push to find a cure for cancer. His son Beau, who so famously urged Biden to run for president from his death bed, died from the disease. There is not likely a person living in America who does not know someone who has had cancer or who has had it themselves. Biden may well be on to something that would be greater bid for a legacy that a third campaign for the presidency.
Donald Trump denies suggesting that Iowa voters are brain-damaged in retweet
The Trump campaign is reacting badly to the news that a Quinnipiac Poll reported that Ben Carson has pulled ahead of Trump in Iowa. Politico quoted Trump on Thursday that he is “surprised” at the result and suggests that the poll is an outlier. The Washington Times, though, adds the story of a retweet on Trump’s Twitter account that suggested the Iowans are brain damaged. Trump denies doing the retweet, blaming the social media gaffe on an unnamed intern.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
NASA's Kepler telescope spots a white dwarf 'death star' tearing a planet apart
Even though the operational life of the Kepler Space Telescope, both the main mission and the follow on K2 mission, has come to an end, the results are still being examined and are continuing to amaze. NASA announced on Wednesday that the Kepler turned its attention to a white dwarf star called WD 1145+017 located 570 light years away in the constellation Virgo.
How Paul Ryan wheeled and dealed his way into the House speakership
How Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the soon to be reluctant Speaker of the House and the conservative Freedom Caucus came to an understanding late Wednesday depends on who one asks. Politico describes it as Ryan “conquering” the 40 or so member Freedom Caucus. Red State suggests that the group of conservatives stood its ground and refused most of Ryan’s demands. In any event. 70 percent of the Freedom Caucus agreed to support, if not “endorse” Ryan for speaker. Barring last minute developments, Ryan will become Speaker of the House next week.
Discovery Channel to cancel 'Mythbusters' after nearly 14 years
Entertainment Weekly announced on Wednesday that bad news that the next season of the long-running Discovery Channel series “Mythbusters,” which starts next January, will be its last. The idea that there would come a time when Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman will not blow things up, drop objects from great heights, and otherwise examine urban myths for fun and science seems inexplicable. But there it is.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
More of my wisdom from The Hill: How Newt Gingrich’s moon base became ‘pretty cool’
Has Neil degrasse Tyson turned against space exploration?
As Raw Story reported on Tuesday, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Maher had a strange conversation soon after the celebrity astrophysicist appeared on the HBO rantmeister's show.”Real Time." The conversation turned to geoengineering as a way to combat global warming, which many people refer to climate change. It then turned to Maher’s utter disdain for the idea of space exploration and settling other worlds, motivated perhaps by his often expressed hatred for former President George W. Bush, who once advocated for a program to go back to the moon and send astronauts to Mars.
The Democratic Party having left him, Jim Webb leaves the presidential race
Former Sen. Jim Webb went to the National Press Club on Tuesday and announced he was withdrawing from the presidential race, at least as a Democrat, according to CNN. Truth to tell, the former Reagan-era Assistant Defense Secretary and Navy Secretary and former Democratic senator has never felt entirely at home in either party. He is too much of an economic populist to be a Republican and too little a socialist to be a Democrat. The fact that he has a relatively hawkish foreign policy has estranged him from the Democrats as well. The Iraq War, which led to a tense exchange with then-President George W. Bush, soured him on being a Republican.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
White House Astronomy Night not without controversy
Astronomy Night at the White House, which involved students on the lawn star gazing and hobnobbing with scientists, NASA astronauts, and other celebrities, went off without a hitch Monday night. However, the event was not without controversy. The Washington Free Beacon pointed out that Ahmed Mohamed, the Muslim Texas school boy who got into trouble for bringing a clock to school that many thought looked like a bomb, greeted President Obama, as promised. Mohamed recently met with the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, an accused war criminal wanted by the United Nations International Court of Justice for committing acts of genocide in Darfur.
Former President George W. Bush lays into Ted Cruz
Monday, Politico reported that former President George W. Bush addressed a group of campaign donors and revealed the one man who he considers the greatest threat to his brother Jeb’s candidacy for president. Oddly enough, that man is not Donald Trump, who has attacked the entire Bush family at one point or another. George Bush the younger does not like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Ironically, Cruz was a domestic policy adviser to the 2000 Bush for President Campaign.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Only Ted Cruz can save the Republicans from Donald Trump
Politico reported on Sunday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, observed that the candidacy of Donald Trump is helping his own quest for the White House. The theory is that Trump, like Cruz, is framing the central issue of Election 2016, which being who will be best able to stand up to what the Texas senator calls the Washington Cartel. That observation is simply restating what every political analyst is saying, that 2016 is the election year of the outsider. Cruz is contending that he is the best, the more experienced outsider to go to the White House and bring the government to heel.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Bernie Sanders promises to raise everyone's taxes, not just the rich
Sometimes a politician, especially one running for president, makes a gaffe that consists of telling the truth that proves inconvenient to his or her political prospects. So it was with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, when he admitted that he intends to raise everyone’s taxes on Sunday’s “This Week.” The attack ads write themselves.
Europe and Russia are headed back to the moon together
Russia is turning its attention to the moon again for the first time in about 40 years. The first Russian mission to the moon since long before the end of the Cold War will be Luna 27, a robot lander that will touch down on the edge of the lunar South Pole as early as 2020. Russia is looking for international partners to help make Luna 27 a reality and made have found one in the European Space Agency, according to a Friday story on the BBC.