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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Thursday, March 31, 2016
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump weigh in on energy and environmental issues
With a lot of the coverage of Election 2016 being about who insulted whose wife and when it is easy to forget that real issues are being decided that will be addressed in vastly difference ways depending on who becomes president. As Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz responded to some questions about their views on energy and environmental policy. Not surprisingly, the two men see eye to eye on a lot, especially eliminating energy subsidies and the undesirability of a carbon tax. But significant differences exist as well.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
More Donald Trump supporters are bailing on the presidential candidate
A surprising number of erstwhile conservative enablers of Donald Trump are starting to bail on his campaign, or at least openly wonder if the volatile businessman has a screw loose. Jim Geraghty at the National Review noted Wednesday that Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos, the latter of Breitbart, had a podcast interview in which Coulter referred to Trump as “mental” and compared him to a teenager who has to be constantly bailed out of jail. Yiannopoulos thinks that Trump’s late night tweets that denigrate women, including his fellow former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, are screamingly funny. He also refers to Trump as “daddy” much like Mattie Storin did Francis Urquhart in the British version of “House of Cards” before being dispatched screaming from a rooftop at the end of the series.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Donald Trump is headed for a fall and it is his own fault
Has Donald Trump reached his zenith and is starting to nosedive? A Tuesday piece in Politico suggests that he has and largely because of the alarming things he likes to tweet late at night, especially about women, especially about one particular woman, Heidi Cruz, the wife of his chief political rival and possible first lady of the United States. The development may well be the greatest example of nemesis following hubris in modern political history.
Monday, March 28, 2016
How Ted Cruz is teaching Donald Trump the art of the political deal
Donald Trump likes to boast that he is the master of the art of the deal. After all, he published a bestselling book by that very name. However, Trump seems to be falling short where it comes to the selection of delegates that will attend the Republican National Convention. In Louisiana and other states, Ted Cruz is outmaneuvering Trump where it comes to who will actually represent states and who will sit on committees. According to Red State on Sunday, Trump is very displeased and is threatening to sue.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Minimum wage hike to $15 an hour in California to cause massive job losses
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that a deal has been struck between Democrats in the California state legislature and labor unions to take that state’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour by hiking it a dollar a year until it reaches that level. The measure, if approved, will likely accelerate two trends that have been ravaging the job market in California, that being automation and the flight of businesses to other, more business friendly states.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
NASA discovers a frozen nitrogen lake on Pluto and mountains on Titan
NASA’s astronauts may be stuck in low Earth orbit for the time being, but robotic space probes sent deep into the solar system continue to open up strange, new worlds to human scrutiny. Thursday, the space agency revealed an image sent back by the New Horizons of what appears to be a remnant of a liquid nitrogen lake. On the same day, Cassini revealed the tallest mountain on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Ted Cruz denies tabloid allegations that he has had five mistresses
The National Enquirer has published a story that claims that Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, engaged in at least five extramarital affairs. Cruz was compelled to publically deny the allegations, calling them, “utter lies” and “garbage” according to a Friday story on NBC News. Cruz blamed Donald Trump, specifically Trump ally Roger Stone, for concocting the story.
Who will be the first back to the moon? The Chinese says a lunar geologist
When will humans return to the moon and who might they be? Forbes put that question to Dr. Paul Spudis, a lunar and planetary geologist and the author of the upcoming book The Value of the Moon, in a Thursday story. Spudis suggested that a return to the moon might take place in the 2020s and that the next footprints in the lunar soil will likely be Chinese.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission to conduct planetary defense experiments
NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission has always been controversial, having been slammed as a waste of time and money by the scientific community and members of Congress. NASASpaceFlight reported on Wednesday that the space agency is planning to tack on planetary defense experiments to the first phase of the mission, designed to extract a boulder from the surface of an asteroid and bring it to lunar orbit.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Donald Trump threatens Ted Cruz's wife in twitter rant
As Ted Cruz won the Utah Caucuses and Donald Trump won the Arizona Primary, the latter made a bizarre threat against the former’s wife, Politico reported Tuesday. The latest Trump tiff started when an anti-Trump group posted a seminude picture of the mercurial businessman’s wife from a 2000 issue of the British version of GQ. Then Trump tweeted, deleted, then tweeted again the threat, "Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!"
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The decline of Russia as a country is reflected in its faltering space program
As Ars Technica pointed out on Monday, the budget for the Russian space program was slashed by 30 percent due to the faltering economy in that country. The Russians will spend as much on space exploration in the next decade as NASA will in a single year. The decline of the Russian space program reflects the overall decline of Russia as a world power, even as President Vladimir Putin struggles to reassert his country’s influence in world affairs through military adventures in the Ukraine and Syria.
Bill Clinton slams Barack Obama in speech supporting Hillary Clinton
Monday, March 21, 2016
Now Lena Dunham is getting hate from the left for supporting Hillary Clinton
Lena Dunham, the actress, producer, writer, and voice of her generation is getting new hate from an unexpected source. According to a Sunday story in Variety, she is getting all sorts of grief from her fellow millennials for supporting Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders. Dunham, who famously suggested that voting for Barack Obama was as moving an experience as the first time having sex, is supporting Clinton based on the idea that she is a feminist icon. In other words, Dunham is invoking her gender and not her youth in which candidate she supports. As a result, she is getting a taste of how hard the left can dish out hate a vitriol.
Buzz Aldrin has some ideas for the next president for NASA's space exploration
As the Obama presidency begins to wind down and the frenzy surrounding the selection of his replacement rises to a crescendo, the question of what impact the change of administration will have on NASA and the space program will have has arisen. Wired cautioned on Monday that next year will not be the occasion for another, disruptive change of course, with the Journey to Mars ripped out and a new plan instituted after a lengthy deliberation. The caution has a point though one could point out that 2010, when Obama assassinated the Constellation program in the middle of the night, was not the time for that sort of thing anyway.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Ted Cruz hopes for wins over Donald Trump in Utah and Arizona
The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Saturday some good news for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas as the next two contests for the Republican nomination draws nigh. Cruz, according to the Y2 Analytics survey, leads in Utah with 52 percent of the vote. John Kasich and Donald Trump follow with 29 percent and 11 percent respectively. If the totals hold up for Tuesday’s caucuses, Cruz will have won all 40 of that state’s delegates.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
NASA to publish peer reviewed paper on the 'impossible' EM Drive
News about the so-called EM Drive has been a little thin for the past few months. So the announcement Friday in the Next Big Future that NASA’s Eagleworks was preparing a peer-reviewed paper that explains how the device works is of great interest. The continued development of a propulsion technology that does not use propellant is taking place against the backdrop of the space agency’s interest in a whole variety if exotic technologies, ranging from nuclear thermal rockets to using antimatter to send spacecraft at hitherto unimaginable speeds out into the universe.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher introduces a bill to start building space settlements
The rise of Donald Trump causes an outbreak of Sarah Palin Derangement Syndrome
Thursday, the rise of Donald Trump as a malignant political force was the cause of an outbreak of Sarah Palin Derangement Syndrome in the mind of a writer from Chicago named Steve Chapman. Chapman draws a direct line between Trump becoming the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and the rise of Palin as a political force of nature when she was selected as John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Palin, you see, is simply Trump in a skirt, something that may be hard for the rest of us to imagine, despite the fact that the lady from Alaska has endorsed and even campaigned for the mercurial real estate tycoon and reality TV star.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
More of the Republican establishment are joining the Ted Cruz Crew
Proof positive that the prospect of being shot by Donald Trump in the morning (figuratively speaking) is concentrating various minds, some very unusual Republicans are starting to rally to Ted Cruz’s side. Sen. Marco Rubio, whose campaign for president recently reached its end, suggested on Wednesday that Cruz is the only real conservative in the race, which means in Republican parlance the only candidate worth voting for. But that is nothing compared to Sen. Lindsey Graham announcing that he will be holding a fundraiser for Cruz. Add to that the rumor being spread by Roger Stone that Jeb Bush will soon endorse Cruz, and we have the mother of all strange bedfellows.
Now the left is irate at Obama's pick of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court
President Barack Obama may have thought he was giving gun rights advocates a thumb in the eye by nominating Merrick Garland, a judge many suspect harbors decidedly anti-Second Amendment views. But, according to Politico on Thursday, he also seems to have riled his liberal base. It appears that the left is irate that Obama has picked an old, white man with a centrist reputation rather than a “woman of color” with a more flexible view of the United States Constitution. Democracy for America’s Charles Chamberlain was particularly perturbed by what he saw as a “lost opportunity” to unite the left in a Supreme Court nomination fight that might drive more Democrats to the polls in November.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
One Thousand Words for War includes "Strands of Grass" by Renee Whittington. The book has been reviewed in Kirkus.
Nineteen rising stars answer a challenge to write in a distinctive narrative frame native to East Asian literature, offering visions of alien contact, escape from repression, and exploits in alternate, virtual, and extraterrestrial worlds.
Wow, I am literally hitched to a rising star. Anyway, buy the book and several more for friends.
NASA's Charles Bolden jousts with Congress on Europa probe, Space Launch System
Tuesday, according to Space News, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden continued the now annual ritual of trying to explain the lean and inadequate Obama space agency budget proposal for FY2017 to Congress. In the proposal, which is $300 million less than the current year’s allocation, funding for two favorite projects of Congress, the Europa probe, and the heavy lift Space Launch System, have been especially hard hit. The House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas was not amused.
The fifth Indiana Jones movie makes Harrison Ford the world's oldest action hero
Tuesday’s announcement that the fifth Indiana Jones movie will be rolled out in 2019 has been met with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Harrison Ford will be in his late 70s by that time, making him the world’s oldest action hero. Steven Spielberg will direct, but the title and plot have not been revealed. Nor do we know who else will be in it, especially the horrid Shia LaBeouf as the younger Jones. IO9 has some speculation about what Indy’s situation might be, as a retired family man who had to take up the hat and the whip one last time to save the world.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Did Ben Carson endorse Donald Trump in return for a position in his presidency?
Newsmax reported on Tuesday that Dr. Ben Carson admitted that he would play a role in a prospective Donald Trump administration “at least in an advisory position.” He also admitted that Trump was not his first choice for an endorsement but that he decided to support the mercurial real estate tycoon because he is most likely to win. Hot Air raised the possibility that Carson’s support was purchased by Trump which, under some circumstances, is illegal.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Ms. Clinton vows to 'put a lot of coal miners & coal companies out of business'
Sunday night, the Democrats held another townhall with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on CNN. During the event, Clinton said, “We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." To be sure she went on to say that she did not want to “leave miners behind” and has plans to address the devastated economies of coal rich regions of Kentucky and other states. Still, she is likely to live to regret making that sound bite, that will now play on thousands of campaign commercials.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Nancy Reagan and the role of first ladies as political targets
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan is dead and buried, reunited with her beloved President Ronald Reagan in the afterlife, but she is still causing political discourse. The New York Times reported on Friday that Hillary Clinton lauded Ms. Reagan for helping to address the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, which brought an angry outburst from some parts of the gay community who seem to blame the deadly disease, not on a virus, but on the former president. Clinton felt compelled to walk back the praise.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Why Donald Trump and Barack Obama are responsible for political riots in Chicago
Friday night provided images from Chicago that had not been seen since the late 1960s when violent protestors shut down a Donald Trump rally and then swarmed into the streets, attacking police, resulting in numerous arrests. The protests, apparently organized by Moveon.org, constituted classic street theater, targeting Trump and his supporters. Some of the protestors were clearly Bernie Sanders supporters. Even before the last rioter left the street, the argument ensued as to who was to blame.
Friday, March 11, 2016
United States Air Force and Navy to grow to meet foreign threats
Whoever gets elected president this year, it looks like the country is in for a military buildup, reversing the downsizing of the armed forces initiated by the Obama administration. The Washington Times noted on Wednesday that the Air Force wants to add fighter jets to its inventory, not only the troubled F-35 but also new copies of the F-22, the production of which was discontinued in 2009. Hot Air adds that the Navy wants to start building new ships as well, adding carrier battlegroups and attack submarines. Both branches of the service have as variety of futuristic weapons in the pipeline including lasers, rail guns, and arsenal planes.
Arguments for a NASA return to the Moon are being made again
Even though President Obama declared the moon off limits to American astronauts in his now infamous Kennedy Space Center speech about six years ago, the arguments for returning to the moon before going to Mars persist. Thursday, Popular Science published a piece arguing for the moon. Blastr echoed some of the return to the moon arguments the day before.
Hillary Clinton calling Benghazi victim's mom a liar is going to cost her
The events surrounding the Benghazi massacre of four Americana and Hillary Clinton’s reaction to them still haunt the presidential candidate. Clinton has gotten into an argument with Patricia Smith, the mother of one of the victims, Sean Smith, according to a Thursday story in the Washington Examiner. Smith claims that Clinton lied to her and other Benghazi family members about the reasons for the massacre, ascribing it to the outrage caused by a YouTube video. Clinton, as late as a debate on Wednesday, insisted that the family members, including Smith, are the ones who are lying. The problem is that Clinton is the liar, and there is proof.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Sarah Palin savages Ted Cruz for remarks about Trump voters
A reporter for Breitbart News named Michelle Fields was allegedly roughed up by Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, according to a Wednesday story in Politico. Fields was attempting to ask Trump a question as the candidate for president was leaving a press conference in Florida. Lewandowski grabbed Fields by the arm and tried to pull her to the ground to move her out of the way of Trump. The Washington Post’s Ben Terris, who witnessed the incident, confirmed Field’s account. Fields posted a picture of the bruise that Lewandowski left on her arm.
Ted Cruz gets endorsements from Carly Fiorina, Mark Levin, and Meghan McCain
As the field of Republican candidates continues to narrow, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas is starting to pick up some important endorsements. Carly Fiorina, a former presidential candidate and critic of the current front runner, Donald Trump, gave Cruz her nod, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. Other endorsers include radio talk show host Mark Levin and, most curiously, Meghan McCain, the daughter of Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and one of Cruz’s most bitter enemies in the Senate. Sen. McCain once called Cruz a “wacko bird.”
Wednesday, March 09, 2016
University of California researchers cure cataracts in infants using stem cells
According to an article in Nature just published on Tuesday, researchers at the University of California San Diego have found a way to cure congenital cataracts in infants using stem cells. The way the technology works is that the cataract is removed and then stem cells are inserted to regrow the lens. The study was performed on 12 infants under the age of two. All of the infants developed restored vision within three months, especially compared with a control group of 25 children who had a plastic lens inserted.
New movie in the works celebrating African American women in the Apollo program
The Apollo program that landed men on the moon has been slammed by some on the left as a white male operation, of little relevance to women and people of color. Apollo even inspired a protest song by the late Gil Scott-Heron “Whitey on the Moon.” The launch of Apollo 11 was the venue of a protest led by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, then considered the civil rights heir of Dr. Martin Luther King. But, as a Tuesday story in Gizmodo suggests, the slam is more than a little unfair. A new movie, starring Janelle Monae, is in the works that celebrates the contributions of African American women “computers” in the early space program.
Trump and Clinton wins, Cruz scores, Sanders surprises, Rubio & Kasich shut out
Tuesday night, Donald Trump scored convincing wins in the Mississippi and Michigan Primaries, as well as the Hawaii Caucus. But Ted Cruz won the Idaho Caucus and came in second in the other contests. Marco Rubio and John Kasich were also-rans, with increasing doubts as to their continued viability as anything but spoilers for the 2016 contests.
In the meantime, Hillary Clinton won a smashing victory in Mississippi but suffered an unexpected defeat at the hands of Bernie Sanders in Michigan.
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
NASA's asteroid redirect mission is delayed at least another year
Space Policy Online reported on Monday that NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission has slipped a year already. The current plan is to launch a robot, propelled by a solar electric ion rocket, to visit an asteroid and collect a boulder from it in 2021. The robot would then place the boulder into a retrograde lunar orbit. Then astronauts aboard an Orion spacecraft, launched by a heavy lift Space Launch System, would visit the extracted boulder and take samples from it for further study on Earth. That mission is now scheduled to take place in December 2026, but the timeline for the mission continues to be “refined.”
Monday, March 07, 2016
Newt Gingrich condemns Mitt Romney's attack on Donald Trump as 'nasty'
According to a Monday story in the Washington Examiner, former Speaker Newt Gingrich weighed in on Mitt Romney’s speech in which the former Massachusetts governor condemned Donald Trump as a fraud and much else besides. Gingrich suggested that the speech was “nasty” and that by delivering it, Romney has disqualified himself from being nominated for president should a deadlocked Republican National Convention need a compromise candidate. Romney, while he has eschewed campaigning for president, has suggested that he may be open to a draft if the Republican Party mounted one.
Trailer for Dinesh D'Souza's 'Hillary's America' now available for view
As Vanity Fair reported on Sunday, Dinesh D’Souza has released the trailer for his latest film, Hillary’s America, due to be released to selected theaters in July 2016. D’Souza, who previously produced politically charged films such as 2016: Obama’s America and America: Imagine the World Without Her, latches on to the presumed nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president and expands it to something of a secret history of the Democratic Party. The resulting story is not pretty.
How the love story of Nancy and Ronald Reagan changed the world
Sunday, March 06, 2016
Ted Cruz's Maine and Kansas victories prove he can beat Donald Trump
Sen Ted Cruz’s two smashing victories in Kansas and Maine during the “Super Saturday” contests have upended the conventional political wisdom. Previously, the pundits were saying that Donald Trump was on a romp toward the nomination and that the only way that he could be stopped was that the other three candidates could hold him below the delegate count that would cause him to lock a victory at the Republican National Convention. The new conventional wisdom is that Cruz now has a shot of stopping Cruz outright and grabbing a win for himself. Even Trump’s victories in Kentucky and Louisiana were narrow ones. Cruz took more delegates, closing the gap between him and Trump. It is finally clear that had Sen Marco Rubio and Gov John Kasich not been in the race, Cruz would have swept all four states.
Saturday, March 05, 2016
Ted Cruz to knock Marco Rubio out of the race and go one on one against Trump
According to a Friday story in The Hill, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, suggested that the time to stop Donald Trump would not be at a brokered convention, but rather at the polls during the primaries. Part of that strategy will be a drive to knock the other major candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, out of the race by denying him a victory in the Florida primary. The strategy is risky, to say the least because that state’s massive haul of delegates would likely go to Trump.
Friday, March 04, 2016
Argument simmers at NASA over whether or not to land on Europa
A Friday story in Ars Technica suggests that there is a dichotomy of opinion inside NASA. NASA engineers are eager to land a probe on Europa, the ice shrouded moon of Jupiter thought to contain a warm water ocean that may be an abode of life. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden doesn’t think that trying a landing until the moon is thoroughly mapped would be prudent. However, the space agency engineers have the better political and engineering arguments in their favor.
Sacha Baron Cohen gives Daniel Radcliffe and Donald Trump AIDS in new movie
Sacha Baron Cohen has made a good living by being offensive. In his latest film, The Brothers Grimsby, he had decided to push that envelope just a little more by giving Donald Trump AIDS. Possibly more shocking, he suggests that Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe has AIDS, according to a Thursday story in The Hollywood Reporter. Radcliffe and Trump are played by actors in the movie.
Thursday, March 03, 2016
Former Clinton staffer given immunity in email server investigation
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Justice Department has granted Bryan Pagliano, a former Hillary Clinton staffer, who worked on her 2008 campaign before setting up the now infamous unsecured email server in 2009. The FBI has indicated that Pagliano is cooperating with the investigation. Naturally, Hot Air is wondering what all of this means.
Is Buzz Aldrin advising Donald Trump on space issues?
Late Tuesday, Keith Cowing posted one of his tweets on his blog NASA Watch with a remarkable claim. “Sources report that Buzz Aldrin is advising Donald Trump on space issues #NASA #JourneytoMars.” The claim is extraordinary because Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is one of the world’s leading advocates for sending people to Mars. Trump, on the other hand, has openly disdained going to Mars, suggesting that fixing potholes and rebuilding bridges are more important. How does one explain the dichotomy?
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Keith Cowing is claiming that Buzz Aldrin is now advising Donald Trump on space matters. If true, the development is fascinating, considering the disdain with which the Donald has mentioned going to Mars. Also, the last time Aldrin advised a president on space matters, things did not turn out so great. Much more anon.
The case for Ted Cruz repeating Newt Gingrich's moon base gambit in Florida
BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday that Ted Cruz intends to make a big play for Florida, which holds a winner take all primary on March 15. Since Cruz is thus far polling a distant third in the Sunshine State, Hot Air opines that the gambit is a way to knock Marco Rubio out of the race. If Rubio does not win his home state of Florida, his presidential campaign is over, leaving Cruz as the sole non-Trump candidate. Cruz is clearly betting that he can beat Trump one on one. A serious campaign in Florida also gives Cruz an opportunity to do something that backfired on Newt Gingrich four years ago, make space a political issue.
Bernie Sanders supporters will refuse to support Hillary Clinton in November
Hillary Clinton, in the opinion of most pundits, sealed her path to the Democratic nomination by winning most of the states in the Super Tuesday primaries. Her delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is now insurmountable. However, as the Washington Times reported on Tuesday, Clinton cannot count on Sanders’ followers in November. That presents a significant problem for her lifelong dream of becoming the first woman president of the United States.
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Louis Friedman says that no plan or budget needed for NASA to get to Mars
The ongoing argument about how to fix NASA’s dysfunctional Journey to Mars program took an interesting twist Monday when Louis Friedman, the co-founder of The Planetary Society and now its Executive Director Emeritus, weighed in Monday on the controversy in The Space Review. Friedman, unique of virtually everyone outside of NASA, advocated staying the course, suggesting that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the space agency’s approach to deep space exploration. The article brought a sharp rebuke from NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing.