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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Monday, February 29, 2016
South Korea plans moon landing by 2020
The Korean Herald reported on Sunday that the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has started a lunar exploration program, allocating funding to place a probe In orbit around the moon and a small lander and rover on the surface of the moon by 2020. At the same time, the United States and the government of South Korea have made a space cooperation agreement, fueling speculation that NASA will participate in the South Korean moon shot.
Marco Rubio and Donald Trump make vague promises for NASA
Over the weekend, presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and Donald Trump held separate rallies in Huntsville, Alabama, the home of NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center, and opened their minds, albeit briefly, about space exploration. According to AL.com, Saturday, Rubio promised a “Reagan-style” rebuilding of the military which would include “the space program.” He said, “Great nations do great things. We’re going back into space.” A day later, Trump promised that he would keep the space program “going” and would not seek budget cuts for NASA, according to Space News’ Jeff Foust.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Donald Trump's Mafia relationship, Klan support raises questions
Business Insider reported on Sunday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas suggested on “Meet the Press” that the reason Donald Trump is hiding his tax returns is that they might reveal how extensive the real estate tycoon’s ties are to the Mafia. In fact, we do not need Trump’s tax filings to understand that he has done business with organized crime for most of his career. Last summer, the Federalist recounted his extensive dealings with mobsters, many of whom controlled labor unions who worked in Trump’s various enterprises.
Cure for dementia predicted within five years
Hillary Clinton crushes Bernie Sanders in South Carolina by 48 points
The Associated Press reported that Hillary Clinton crushed Bernie Sanders in Saturday’s South Carolina Primary, leading by 48 percent of the vote. She led with African Americans, women, and people over 30. Sanders led with young people and independents. It was not enough, however. The betting among political observers is that Clinton has prepared Sanders for his final destruction as a viable candidate on Super Tuesday. Sanders has vowed to fight on, but Clinton is already moving on to attack Donald Trump, which many regards as the likely Republican nominee.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Hillary Clinton campaign beset by protesters and hecklers
While the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign has become increasingly confident that it is going to beat back the challenge from Bernie Sanders, the venerable socialist from Vermont, not all is happy with the slog to the nomination. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that a group of Black Lives Matter protesters was booted from a Clinton rally for holding up some unflattering signs In the meantime, Bill Clinton got into a shouting match with a group of hecklers, including a military veteran, irate about the VA and the Benghazi Massacre.
Friday, February 26, 2016
NASA's New Horizons returns images of the canyons of Pluto's North Pole
NASA’s New Horizon space probe, which flew by Pluto last July, continues to send data and images that amaze and awe. Thursday, the space agency released an image of Pluto’s North Pole taken by the probe’s Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image shows, as has previous images of other regions of the so-called dwarf planet, which Pluto is a diverse world with an active geology. The North Pole of Pluto is characterized by long canyons that are covered in yellow methane ice. The canyons show how the dwarf planet had, and perhaps still has active tectonics.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Former NASA officials vent on Obama space policy at the House Science Committee
As Ars Technica noted, the House Science Committee held a hearing on Thursday that was labeled as a discussion of a bill called The Space Leadership Preservation Act being offered by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas. The hearing did touch on the bill, meant to provide some stability to NASA by reforming the appointment of administrators and how its budget is developed. But the session soon morphed into an airing of grievances over the abrupt cancellation of the Constellation program by President Obama. Six years after the deed, many at the space agency still seethe.
Now that Rick Perry has been cleared is it time for him to go third party?
As the Austin American-Statesman noted on Wednesday, the appeals court in Texas dismissed the criminal charges against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry had threatened to veto funding for a statewide public integrity office to pressure District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg from office for a particularly embarrassing drunk driving incident. Perry was indicted for abuse of power. The court found that the governor of Texas can threaten to veto and veto any funding for any reason.
Mitt Romney hints of 'bombshell' lurking in Donald Trump's tax returns
Wednesday, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 presidential candidate, appeared on Neil Cavuto’s “Your World” which airs on the Fox News Network and opined that a “bombshell” might be found in Donald Trump’s tax returns. He urged all of the Republican presidential field to release their tax returns, which most have pledged to do. Trump, characteristically, responded snippily. He tweeted, “Mitt Romney, who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy.”
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Driver safety when the streets are flooded
One of the most hazardous times to be on the road is during periods of intense rain that causes a build-up of flood waters. Pavement that used to be passable suddenly become lakes or even flowing rivers that have become hazardous to attempt to drive over.
How fracking and other drilling technology are keeping American production high
Following the pattern of previous oil & gas gluts, many producers are shutting down operations and even going out of business as the price of fossil fuels plunges below the cost of extracting them. However, as the Daily Caller recently explained, some fracking operators are responding to the oil and gas glut by improving their extraction technology, increasing efficiency, and thus producing more product for the same cost.
Defeated in Nevada, Ted Cruz looks to Texas and SEC Primaries to turn it around
Stung by three defeats in a row, in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and now Nevada, Sen. Ted Cruz is looking for the SEC or Super Tuesday primaries on March 1 for some wins to staunch the bleeding. One of the states that are up for grabs is Texas, Cruz’s home state. Texas had been one place where Cruz was expected to win. Some in the media now hold that prospect to be in doubt after Tuesday’s defeat in Nevada.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
How NASA plans to venture almost but not quite all the way back to the moon
Why Hillary Clinton's promise to bring back public option health care is bogus
Donald Trump kind of sort of promises to prosecute Hillary Clinton
NASA announces WFIRST as a new space observatory
Arguments about NASA's Space Launch System depend on temporary assumptions
Another Internet fight has broken out over whether NASA’s planned heavy-lift Space Launch System is the key to America’s hopes for deep space exploration or whether it is the worst idea ever conceived by human beings. Mary Lynn Dittmar touts the former view in a Monday Op-Ed in Space News. Keith Cowing retorts with the latter view in NASA Watch. Both positions are based on assumptions that will likely change with the next administration.
Is Hillary Clinton the 'real conservative' in the presidential race?
Robert Reich gives Ted Cruz a back handed endorsement
How Bernie Sanders once proposed abolishing the CIA
Monday, February 22, 2016
Ted Cruz dumps communication director for Rubio Bible smear
RNC airs ad accusing Hillary Clinton of race baiting
Now Donald Trump is launching a birther attack against Marco Rubio
Congress considering measures to counter BDS anti-Israel boycott
The so-called Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is a global initiative to strike at Israel economically. The BDS movement, disturbingly similar to the Nazi era “Don’t buy from Jews” campaign is already facing legislative sanctions in both Canada and Great Britain. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday that the United States Congress is preparing legislation that is seen as a rebuke of the BDS movement and of the Obama administration.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Russia's moon and Mars exploration ambitions hobbled by a lack of money
Friday, PhysOrg reported that the ambitions of the Russian Space Agency continue to exceed its financial wherewithal to carry them out. A Russian rocket is due to launch the first element of the European ExoMars program, which consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter and the Italian-built Schiaparelli lander in March. Both are due to arrive at Mars in October. After that, Russia’s space exploration plans are a bit hazy, hobbled by a lack of money.
Jeb Bush bows out of the 2016 presidential race
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Why Marco Rubio and not Donald Trump really won in South Carolina
On paper, Donald Trump won the South Carolina primary Saturday night, garnering what appears to be somewhere between 35 to 33 percent of the vote. But the real winner was Sen Marco Rubio, because he is so close to Sen. Ted Cruz that he may wind up in second when the votes are all counted, but more importantly because former Gov. Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race. The majority of Bush’s voters are likely to go to Rubio with a few to Cruz. Trump will get none of them.
Israel may be the next country to land on the moon
Virgin Galactic unveils the new version of SpaceShipTwo
Friday, according to USA Today, Virgin Galactic unveiled the newest version of its commercial spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, dubbed the VSS Unity, 16 months after the previous version crashed, killing one of its flight crew. The company will subject the suborbital spacecraft to a rigorous series of tests before beginning commercial operations. SpaceShipTwo will take paying passengers on jaunts up to 100 kilometers into space, allowing them to feel weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. VSS Unity will be taken to a high altitude by a carrier aircraft before firing its rocket engines for the suborbital flight. The spaceship will then land like an airplane and then be prepared to do it all over again.
NASA compared Pluto's moon Charon to 'the Incredible Hulk'
Friday, February 19, 2016
Spacecraft that could fly on beams of light
Two polls show Donald Trump ahead in South Carolina by single digits
The latest hint that the air may be letting out of the Donald Trump balloon occurred a few days ago when a Wall Street Journey nationwide poll indicated that Ted Cruz was ahead by two points. At the time, the survey was considered an outlier, with other polls still showing Trump comfortably ahead in both statewide contests and nationally. Friday, a day before the South Carolina Primary, two polls, one by the Wall Street Journal, the other from Clemson University that shows Trump leading the rest of the field by only single digits.
Barack Obama NASA funding plan touches off firestorm over Europa mission
Thursday, the Planetary Society took a look at President Barack Obama’s proposed spending plan for planetary science for FY 2017 and found that it was, for the most part, promising. The exception was the proposed spending for Europa, which the organization found to be unserious. In turn, Keith Cowing’s NASA Watch found that the Planetary Society’s complaining was unserious.
Donald Trump was for invading Iraq before he was against it
Thursday, February 18, 2016
The real reason President Barack Obama is going to Cuba
Pope Francis says that Donald Trump is not a Christian for wanting a wall
The latest person to pick a fight with Donald Trump, the mercurial real estate tycoon who is running for president of the United States, is His Holiness Pope Francis I, according to a Thursday story in the Associated Press. While flying back to Rome from his latest international tour, the pope said that Trump was not a Christian because he wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. True Christians, opined the pope, build bridges and not walls. Trump, a Presbyterian, took umbrage and suggested that the Vicar of Christ had no business determining who is a Christian and who is not. He also accused the Mexican government of disparaging him to the pope.
'Hookers 4 Hillary' support Ms. Clinton for president as only they can
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Ted Cruz pulls ahead of Donald Trump in a national poll
Why is Nikki Haley endorsing Marco Rubio?
Back in January, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley suggested the Sen. Marco Rubio believes in amnesty for illegal aliens, a big deal breaker for many conservative Republicans. But that was then and this is now. According to a Wednesday story in The State newspaper, Gov. Haley is prepared to endorse Rubio for president in advance of that state’s primaries. Rubio has thus racked up an impressive number of endorsements which includes South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the sole African American in the United States Senate.
Ted Cruz throws down the gauntlet over Donald Trump's lawsuit threats
Tax Policy Center analysis of Ted Cruz tax plan may be politically biased
Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, released a tax reform plan that would create a single 10 percent flat tax and a 16 percent business tax to replace the complex tax code that currently exists. The plan is compelling as it would greatly simplify compliance with the tax code by removing most credits and deductions. The proposal would also eliminate distortions in the economy by eliminating incentives and disincentives for business activity. CNN reported on Tuesday that the left-leaning Tax Policy Center has released a study of the plan and has found it to be wanting. It will explode the deficit by $8.6 trillion over ten years and would favor the wealthy. However, previous studies by the TPC suggest that it may have a political bias where it comes to conservative tax proposals.
Student project aims to create a map of water on the moon
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Scientists propose using Cold War era weapons to deflect asteroids
Hillary Clinton barked like a dog where people could see her do it
It would have been one of the cardinal rules of politics that a seeker after public office should not make animal noises in public if anyone had thought necessary to set it down to text. Great and not so great politicians from Themistocles to Barack Obama have known this rule instinctively. However, CNN reported on Tuesday that Hillary Clinton, who is running for president, crossed that line campaigning in Nevada. She barked like a dog, while on the stump while people and video cameras were watching.
How Bernie Sanders rose from a bum to almost becoming president of the United States
Donald Trump's threats against Ted Cruz, Republicans part of a risky strategy
The ever mercurial Donald Trump is making threats again. USA Today reports that Trump has threatened to sue Ted Cruz is the other candidate does not stop being mean to him. He has also threatened to bolt the Republican Party and run on a third party ticket unless the Republican National Committee stops being mean to him, according to a Monday story in USA Today. No doubt, some stratagem exists behind Trump’s promises to wreck mayhem. Unfortunately, the blustering is at the price of making him seem like a whiny little girl.
Also related: Trump: The Art of the Deal
Fears mount that Bernie Sanders would slash NASA spending if elected President
Monday, February 15, 2016
Hillary Clinton Campaign angers Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid
How far ahead Donald Trump is in South Carolina depends on who one asks
How far ahead is Donald Trump in South Carolina? It depends on who one asks. CBS came out with a poll on Sunday that placed Trump at a whopping 42 percent, 22 points ahead of Ted Cruz, who is at 20 percent. But Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz noticed that pro-Jeb Bush PAC has done an internal poll that has Trump at just 26 percent, just two points ahead of Cruz, who is at 24 percent.
NASA is already studying what sort of person is best suited for the journey to Mars
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Antonin Scalia's death starts firestorm on his replacement on the Supreme Court
Antonin Scalia, the great conservative associate justice of the Supreme Court, was found dead at a West Texas resort on Saturday at the age of 79. His corpse was not even cold yet when a firestorm broke out over whether President Barack Obama would be able to name his successor or not. Senate Republicans are pretty sure the next president should have that honor. Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, expressed outrage that Obama should be denied the chance to shape the court for a generation with an appointment.
Donald Trump claims George W Bush lied about WMDs to justify Iraq invasion
Saturday, February 13, 2016
The collapse of Venezuela is a warning of what President Bernie Sanders would do
Bernie Sanders, the avowed socialist candidate for president, has been causing a lot of excitement by promising free stuff to his supporters. Elect him, the theory goes, and everyone will have economic security, provided by the federal government. But the Washington Post reminded us on Thursday that real world consequences exist for the kind of policies that Sanders advocates. Venezuela went down the path that Sanders would like to take the United States, and it is now on the verge of complete collapse. By collapse, we mean a post-apocalyptic, Road Warrior-style future in which starving hordes are fighting over the last can of pet food.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Dana Rohrabacher urges appeasement of Putin's Russia
Back during the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, then the Republican presidential candidate, expounded at length on how he viewed Russia as a strategic threat. President Obama replied, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” The zinger sounded cute at the time but has since come back to haunt Obama as Russia’s Vladimir Putin has embarked on imperial adventures in the Ukraine and in Syria. The president has belatedly awakened to the Russian threat and is asking for funds to beef up American defenses in response. However, a member of Congress named Dana Rohrabacher expressed opposition to Obama’s moves in a Thursday article in the National Interest.
NASA discovers that climate change is slowing and not hastening sea level rise
One of the effects of climate change, also known as global warming, has said to have been the rise in sea levels. The idea is that as the Earth’s temperatures began to increase the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps would melt, causing the oceans to rise. Unless something was done, cities like Miami and New Orleans would sooner or later be under water. However, AFP reported on Thursday that a new study by NASA has suggested that climate change is actually slowing the rising of the oceans and not hastening it.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Gravitational waves from a black hole collision detected
The National Science Foundation announced on Thursday that the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington have detected gravitational waves for the first time. The gravitational waves, first postulated by Albert Einstein just over 100 years ago in his General Theory of Relativity, are ripples in space/time caused by catastrophic events in the universe. Scientists postulate that the gravitational waves, detected last September, were caused by the collision of two black holes over a billion years ago.
Ted Cruz either has 'troll-like qualities' or is the second coming of Reagan
Either Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, has a “troll-like quality” and operates “below the level if human life” or he is the second coming of Ronald Reagan. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews made the former assessment of Cruz according to a Wednesday story in the Washington Times. None other than Rush Limbaugh, the father of all conservative talk radio, compared Cruz to the winner of the Cold War in a recent broadcast. Considering the things the left used to say about Reagan, the two points of view may not be all that compatible.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Supreme Court deals crippling blow to Barack Obama's climate change agenda
The Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday that the United States Supreme Court has taken the unusual step of issuing a stay against a regulation imposed by the EPA against power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The stay was in response to a petition by a coalition of 29 states and a number of energy companies to overturn the regulation because it would cripple energy production in America and cause energy prices to shoot through the roof. The regulation, known as the Clean Power Plan, mandated that CO2 emissions from power plants be cut by a third by 2030. The regulation was designed to fight global warming, which some scientists theorize is caused by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Is Ted Cruz the real front runner in the Republican presidential race?
With the New Hampshire Primary lost and won, the action turns to South Carolina. Tuesday, a piece in the Washington Examiner posited the theory that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and not Donald Trump, the winner in New Hampshire, is the actual front runner in the Republican race for the presidency. That statement is rather bold, considering that Trump is ahead of Cruz by double digits in South Carolina. Everything, as it turns out, depends on Cruz coming from behind and winning the next primary down south.
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Bill Clinton said he sometimes wishes he wasn't married to Hillary
On the eve of what many suspect will be an epic, humiliating defeat in the New Hampshire Primary for Hillary Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made a remarkable admission. Tuesday, as he was at the last Hillary for President Rally, Clinton proclaimed, “Sometimes when I am on a stage like this, I wish that we weren't married, then I could say what I really think." Of course, he hastened to add, that he did not mean that in a negative way. If you say so, Mr. President.
Monday, February 08, 2016
In defense of the Apollo program
For most people, even those who were not alive when Neil Armstrong made his famous giant leap and small step, the Apollo missions to the moon remain a golden age of space exploration, A young president issued the challenge to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth, and eight years later the thing was accomplished. Indeed, NASA did it five more times before Apollo 17 proved to be the last time men landed on the moon in 1972. Since then, no one has been beyond low Earth orbit, despite a number of attempts to start deep space exploration programs, both by presidents named George Bush.