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, December 31, 2016
Charlie Sheen begs for Ted Cruz's help to overthrow Donald Trump
Has been actor Charlie Sheen, who has struggled with substance abuse problems and has admitted to contracting HIV, has already drawn attention to himself by begging God on Twitter to kill Donald Trump. Having been met with silence from Heaven, albeit anger from his fellow humans, the fired star from “Two and a Half Men” has turned to one of the Lord’s good servants for help in his quest to polish off the president-elect, according to the Washington Examiner.
Has Showtime's 'Homeland' switched sides in the war on terror (spoilers)
Showtime has rolled out the season six premiere of “Homeland” over two weeks early on various online platforms. The story lines and themes that the episode is developing raises alarm bells and suggest that the show, always ambiguous about the War on Terror, has switched sides and is casting America as the villain in the conflict.
Friday, December 30, 2016
Get ready for a new climate change debate
One of the beneficial effects of the coming Trump presidency is the fact that climate change dissidents, many of them eminent scientists, are going to emerge from the closet and make their views heard openly, according to Real Clear Investigations. Contrary to much of the media, the idea that humans are causing the planet to warm and that it is sure to cause a catastrophe unless drastic and painful measures are taken, is not a view universally held in the scientific community. The Obama administration has been able to tamp down on #Climate Change dissent by using government grants to favor those who held with its view on the warming of the planet. With Trump a climate change skeptic and his administration hiring people of a similar view from the Cabinet level on down, that situation is going to change.
Ryan Gosling to star as Neil Armstrong in 'First Man' biop
Ryan Gosling is currently starring in a musical called “La La Land” directed by Damien Chazelle about an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist. The two are due to reunite, according to Deadline Hollywood, in a different film project, “First Man,” a biop of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The project has been kicking around the film industry for a while, but it looks like long last it is going actually to be made.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Barack Obama kicks out 35 Russian diplomats and imposes sanctions
President Barack Obama has decided to punish #Russia for its alleged hacking of Democratic National Committee and other computer files for the purpose of influencing #Election 2016. He has ordered 35 Russian diplomats expelled and has imposed sanctions. The White House has suggested that the diplomats were engaged in intelligence gathering, which begs the question as to why they were permitted to remain in the United States, to begin with.
SyFy Channel's 'The Expanse' begins season 2 on February 1
One of the most anticipated #Television events of 2017 will be season 2 of “The Expanse,” based on a series of novels set 200 years in the future in which humanity has settled Mars, the asteroid belt, and some of the moons of the outer planets. The show, rightly called “Game of Thrones” in #Space, centers around the crew of a freighter that is caught up in a solar system wide struggle for power between Earth and Mars with the inhabitants of the asteroids, restive to free themselves from domination by the great powers, caught in the middle. Season 2 unfolded the mysterious disappearance and death of an heiress and the revelation that someone is testing a super weapon based on an ancient, alien artifact.
Will the SpaceX Falcon Heavy start America back to the moon in 2017?
As Eric Berger notes in Ars Technica, #SpaceX is teasing the long-awaited and often-delayed advent of the Falcon Heavy, a rocket capable of sending 54 metric tons to low Earth orbit, with an Instagram photo of a piece of hardware. The rocket, which uses 27 engines working in tandem in the first stage, should be partly reusable, if it works, and thus far cheaper to operate than the much more powerful #Space Launch System.The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Donald Trump expresses interest in seeing a man go to the moon
The Washington Examiner is reporting on an interesting tidbit that Douglas Brinkley, a famous American historian, let drop after meeting with #Donald Trump at his home at Mar-a-lago in Florida where the president elect is staying for the holidays. Trump, Brinkley said, is very interested in seeing a man go to the moon. The statement gave heart to a lot of supporters of #Space exploration but also some tittering on social media. Naturally some have raised suspicions that Trump may not have heard of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
Secretary of State John Kerry has an over hour long meltdown on Israeli settlements
In the spirit that states that the Obama administration cannot create a #Foreign Policy disaster that it cannot make worse, the outgoing secretary of state John Kerry took to the television and engaged in an over hour long anti-Israeli rant. His meltdown (it cannot be described otherwise) consisted of a lecture that Jewish subdivisions being built in the West Bank of the Jordan are a threat to the two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians will live in peace side by side. To be sure Kerry mentioned the relentless Palestinian campaign of terror in passing. But the main subject of his ire was settlements.
Charles Krauthammer's modest proposal to turn United Nations headquarters into condos
Americans, in the wake of the anti-Israel resolution passed by the UN Security Council, are increasingly disenchanted with the world body, seen as corrupt and filled with third world dictatorships which advance an agenda that is opposed to peace and freedom. That the United Nations regularly ignores genocide and other acts of aggression committed by its members while beating up on Israel for building subdivisions has caused many to contemplate abolishing it as a useless, obsolete institution. Charles Krauthammer, the columnist, and Fox News personality, had the most erudite solution.
Carrie Fisher's death creates a problem for Princess Leia in 'Star Wars: Episode IX'
Carrie Fisher’s death was a great tragedy for her family, friends, and “#Star Wars” fandom. But, as Yahoo News suggests, her demise presents the “Star Wars” franchise with a major headache. What to do with Princess Leia?
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia from 'Star Wars,' has died
Carrie Fisher, best known for her portrayal as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” franchise, has died. She suffered a massive heart attack while on an airliner in route between London and Los Angeles and was saved, at least for a while, by an EMT who happened to be on the same flight. She was placed in intensive care at a nearby hospital and the last reports were that she was in stable condition. The hopes of tens of millions of “Star Wars” fans were thus buoyed by the notion that this deadliest year of 2016 would not have Fisher and that the force, to coin a phrase, would be with her.
China is planning a moon landing, Mars mission, large space station in the near future
According to the International Business Times, #china issued a white paper outlining a number of ambitious #Space explorations goals. Some of the missions outlined, focusing on the moon and Mars as well as a large crewed space station, have already been previously announced. But China has now outlined missions to asteroids and the Jupiter system as official targets of its space program.
Donald Trump boasts that he would have beaten Obama in 2016
A day or so after President Barack Obama boasted that he would have won in #Election 2016 had he been able to run for a third term, Donald Trump, the president-elect, took to Twitter and chose to disagree, according to the Washington Examiner. “President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that, but I say NO WAY! - jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.”
Monday, December 26, 2016
Rep. John Culberson weighs in on space and science policy
Recently #Science Magazine sat down with Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas to discuss science and #Space policy in the upcoming Trump administration. The reason Culberson will be a key player in these areas is that he is the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds agencies such as NASA, NOAA, and the National Science Foundation.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
Barack Obama boasts he could have won a third term based on 'hope and change'
Over the weekend, President Barack Obama was on a podcast run by his former advisor David Axelrod. He boasted that had he run for a third term in 2016, he would have won based on the old “hope and change” theme that he used successfully in 2008. He may well be right. He is a better politician than Hillary Clinton could ever conceive of being and, while his policies are unpopular, his personal job approval remains high. He would not have made the mistakes that Clinton did nor does he have any of the personal baggage that the actual 2016 presidential candidate suffered from.
Sen. Ted Cruz calls for defunding United Nations in wake of anti-Israel resolution
The decision of President Barack #Obama to abstain from an anti-Israeli resolution in the United Nations Security Council continues to spark unrestrained fury in the United States. According to the Washington Examiner, Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas threatened to cut off UN funding until that resolution is reversed. Cruz’s sentiment is widely held on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina intends to offer such a measure in the Senate. The incoming Senate minority leader Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York may support such a bill, and the incoming president Donald Trump would almost certainly sign it.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all. May you be infused with the spirit of peace and good will.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Iraq's Christians face a bitter sweet Christmas homecoming
#Christmas in Northern Iraq is turning out to be bitter sweet for what remains of that country’s Christian community. To be sure, a number of Christian towns and villages have been liberated in the push to retake Mosul from ISIS. But Christians who were forced to flee the homes their ancestors lived in since the story of Jesus Christ was a living memory are finding their churches ruined and ransacked and their houses all but destroyed, according to the New York Times.
A new, disturbing trend of revenge gifting arises for the holidays
#Christmas is traditionally the holiday when families gather together, setting aside what differences they may have had, to embrace the spirit of peace and goodwill as they exchange gifts., feast, and otherwise commemorate the birth of the man who changed history over 2,000 years ago. However, according to Business Insider, the holiday has become the occasion for some people, disappointed in the outcome of the recent election, to take revenge on their relatives who backed Donald Trump. The idea is to find a cause, say Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, or a pro-illegal immigration group, and donate money to it in the relative’s name. Take that, you Trump-loving so and so.
Friday, December 23, 2016
Barack Obama abstains from UN Security Council anti-Israel resolution
The United States has chosen to abstain from a UN Security Council resolution condemning the building of Israeli settlements in Eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, causing the measure to pass by 14 votes with the single American abstention. The move is seen as President Barack #Obama extending the middle finger to #Israel in general, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, and President Election #Donald Trump, who has signaled that he intends a friendlier stance toward the Jewish state.
Donald Trump's promise to expand American nuclear capability causes panic
#Donald Trump’s offhand suggestion that the United States should, “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes” has got a lot of people in a blind panic, causing a lot of flashbacks to the nuclear war anxiety ridden 1980s. Bizarrely, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News named Will Bunch claims that the late, great Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave because of Trump’s tweet.
Fight over a Christmas tree in Knightstown, Indiana resolved
With the coming of the holiday season in modern America comes battles fought in the so-called “War on #Christmas” involving expressions of the holiday in the public square. The latest such battle took place in the town of Knightstown, Indiana and the decoration of the town Christmas tree. The ACLU of Indiana had filed suit against the town, not against the tree itself, but against a cross that was planned to be on top. The organization had found a single person who was offended by the religious symbol and had gone to court to compel the town to take it down. A symbol that is seen as one of unity in places like Sri Lanka and Baghdad had divided the small, Indiana town.
The argument whether or not 'Die Hard' is a Christmas movie flares anew
One of the perennial debates that flare out around the holidays is whether or not the 1988 classic movie “Die Hard” is or is not a #Christmas movie. The meme on social media is that “The world is divided into two groups of people: those who think that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie and those who are wrong.” Now Washington Examiner editor Jason Russell plants himself in the latter camp with an editorial that states, “Die Hard is Not A Christmas Movie. That’s a Compliment.”
Thursday, December 22, 2016
John Bolton refuses to shave his mustache even to get an office with Trump
The story, imparted by the Washington Post, that John Bolton, President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, was denied the office of the secretary of State because of his formidable mustache struck many as bizarre, to say the least. Bolton tweeted recently, “I appreciate the grooming advice from the totally unbiased mainstream media, but I will not be shaving my #mustache.”
Kourtney Kardashian has six Christmas trees in her home
The #Christmas tree, which has origins in Germanic paganism, is one of the most recognized symbols of Christmas, festooned with decorations and lights. On Christmas day, hundreds of millions of families will gather underneath their trees to open presents just before starting to prepare dinner. Even in non-Christian countries, such as Iraq and Sri Lanka, Christmas trees have become symbols of unity and peace that have transcended religious traditions. However, at the Kourtney Kardashian household, the Christmas tree has become a symbol of what some might consider wretched excess or at least enthusiasm for decoration.
World's tallest Christmas tree being built in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country, with the rest being primarily Hindu and Muslim. Just 7.4 of Sri Lankans are Christian, 82 percent being Roman Catholic. So, it is remarkable that what is claimed to be the world’s largest Christmas tree, towering at 325 feet, is rising over Galle Face in Colombo, the country’s capital. Even more remarkably, the tree was almost not erected because of the objections of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo. Ranjith’s position was that the money being spent on the edifice should better be spent helping the poor and those in need.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Lena Dunham had to apologize for wishing she had an abortion
Lena Dunham, actress, producer, and public embarrassment was forced to apologize for wishing she had an abortion to gain street cred with the pro-choice movement, according to the Washington Free Beacon. What she got instead was the rare agreement between the pro-choice and pro-life movements that she is a creep. The pro-choice crowd pointed out that having an abortion is no casual manner and is something that is approached after wrenching consideration. The pro-life movement opposes abortion but found the wish to have one solely to gain political credibility to be particularly obnoxious.
Commercial space advocates added to Trump NASA landing team
Both Ars Technica and the Wall Street Journal are reporting that, at the behest of #Donald Trump’s tech advisor Peter Thiel, Team Donald Trump is beefing up the NASA transition or landing team with advocates of commercial #Space. The move is seen as balancing the presence of such people as Christopher Shank and Doug Cooke who represent the old space agency way of doing things. Ars Technica suggests that a fight is developing over the future direction of NASA, whether we will see a revival of the Constellation program or whether the space agency will use a more commercial centric approach to space exploration.
Scottish historian discovers that the 1914 Christmas truce was not the only one
Many people know of the #Christmas Truce of 1914, which happened after the battle lines of World War I had settled down to the series of opposing trench systems. British and German troops spontaneously called a halt to hostilities and emerged from their trenches to exchange gifts and even engage in soccer matches. Now, according to the Huffington Post UK, a historian named Thomas Webber at the University of Aberdeen, the 1914 truce was not the only one thyat took place during the Great War on the Western front.
Christmas tree lighting in Aleppo marred with explosion
Aleppo, even more than Baghdad, would be considered the last place that the #Christmas spirit would prevail. The city, recently recaptured from rebels by Russian-backed Syrian government troops, has been the scene of some of the worst atrocities in modern times, with indiscriminate bombing and death squads massacring unarmed civilians. However, Aleppo’s Christian community, which regards the regime of Bashir Assad as their protector, celebrated Christmas with the lighting of a Christmas tree in Azizieh square in the western part of the city, long held by government troops. The ceremony, attended by dozens of people, including some wearing red Santa suits, was marred by an explosion, according to the Associated Press, of an IED or a mortar shell being fired is not currently known. Though the incident spread panic, no casualties were reported.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Chinese claim that they are testing the em drive in space
According to Popular Science, Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the #china Academy of #Space Technology (CAST), recently announced that China has successfully tested its version of the EM drive in the laboratory. Chen also stated that the technology is currently being tested in space, many presume at the new Tiangong-2 space laboratory. If the latter is true, China has jumped ahead in the race to develop the potentially transformative space propulsion technology. Recently, NASA’s Eagleworks lab at the Johnson Spaceflight Center published a peer reviewed paper of its test of the em drive, finding the technology to be at least plausible.
Astrobotic withdraws from the Google Lunar XPrize
At almost the last minute, Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh company that is trying to develop a lunar transportation business, has withdrawn from the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The company’s chief executive, John Thornton, made the announcement in the pages of #Space News, noting that it was not able to secure a launch contract in time to meet the end of 2016 deadline. The X Prize will award $30 million to the first private firm to land a robotic probe on the moon, move it 500 meters, and return hires images and video.
The astronauts prepare to celebrate Christmas aboard the International Space Station
Santa came early to the astronauts on board the International Space Station in the form of the Japanese cargo ship Kuonotori or “White Stork.” When the supply ship docked with the ISS recently, it brought five tons of food, water, and other supplies, as well as #Christmas presents for the two Americans, three Russians, and the single Frenchman currently on board the orbiting #Space laboratory.
Iraqi Muslim businessman erects Christmas tree in Baghdad
Baghdad, Iraq may be the last place where one might find the Christmas spirit, but it is now the scene of an 85 foot #Christmas tree, thanks to Yassir Saad, a Muslim businessman. The symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday rose in the center of an amusement park in the capital of the majority Muslim country at the cost of $24,000. Saad says that the tree is meant to be a token of love and peace, something that Iraq has conspicuously lacked for the past number of years.
Monday, December 19, 2016
'Ban on Christmas' at German school in Turkey denied
Reports that the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had “banned #Christmas” at a German-backed bilingual school in Istanbul caused a diplomatic row between the two countries when it was first reported in the media a few days ago. But now the Istanbul Lisesl, which has been in operation since 1884, has denied that the “ban” ever took place and put it all to a misunderstanding.
Retired astronomer suggests that the Star of Bethlehem was Jupiter
When scientists ponder what the famous Star of Bethlehem really was, they usually hit upon it either being a super nova or a comet. Both phenomena, shining in the night sky over the small village of Bethlehem in Judea during the latter part of the reign of Caesar Augustus, would be spectacular enough to attract the notice of the three wise men from the East. However, according to Real Clear Science, Michael Molnar, a retired astronomer from Rutgers University has recently theorized that the star in question was really the planet Jupiter.
What does Donald Trump do now that Aleppo is fallen?
The Siege of Aleppo is over, except for the mopping up and the resettlement of the refugees who were lucky enough to get out. The battle featured some of the worse of humanity, the remorseless massacre of civilians by Syrian armed forces, backed by Russian and Iranian allies as well as the studied indifference of the world community, especially the outgoing President #Barack Obama who has absconded to his final vacation before leaving office, in sunny Hawaii. The aftermath of the atrocity is going to be the job of #Donald Trump to handle. He has already proposed establishing safe zones in Syria for refugees to flee to, presumably to be protected by international troops backed by the United States.
Disney H-1B abuse lawsuit provides a problem and opportunity for Donald Trump
Hot Air reports that one of the several issues that await #Donald Trump when he becomes president is the flagrant abuse of the H-1B visa system by companies like Disney to try to lower their labor costs. The H-1B system is meant to give companies access to skilled employees that they would not otherwise acquire in the domestic labor market. #Disney seems to have definitely abused the system by firing existing employees in its IT department and replacing them with H-1B workers from India who are willing to work for lower wages and fewer benefits. To add insult to injury, Disney required the laid off workers to train their replacements and to maintain a “positive attitude” as a precondition for getting their severance package. 30 of the 250 laid off IT workers have decided that a positive attitude does not put food on the table and are filing suit.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Japan is getting into the lunar mining business
Proving that interest in using lunar resources for the benefit of businesses and to further the exploration of #Space has become widespread, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that JAXA, the #Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has signed a memorandum of understanding with a small startup firm called iSpace Inc., based in Tokyo. The purpose of the memo is to develop an enterprise, “for the mining, transport, and use of resources on the moon.”
Uber in a fight with California over driverless car testing
#uber, the ride-sharing service that has upended the personal transportation market, has become famous for its clashes with some local governments. The company found itself driven out of Austin entirely for refusing to put up with what it considered onerous rules for vetting drivers. Houston has struck a temporary compromise with the ride sharing company that will last at least through the Super Bowl. In the meantime, ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft are working with the Texas state legislature to come up with state-wide regulations that will be acceptable for all parties involved.
Hollywood C-List actors beg Republicans to overturn the election of Donald Trump
One of the more bizarre post-election political commercials is an offering by a group of obscure #Hollywood types, most of them formally famous, led by Martin Sheen, begging Republican electors to vote for anyone but #Donald Trump. Sheen, it should be noted, played the president of the United States in a series called “The West Wing,” a kind of liberal fantasy as a Bill Clinton without the libido. Other C-list actors include Mike Farrell and Loretta Swit of “MASH.”
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Barack Obama rediscovers the Russian threat
President Barack #Obama’s invoking the great Ronald Reagan about the alleged love Republicans have with Russian President Vladimir Putin is causing face palming and eye rolling over at Hot Air. To be sure Donald Trump and some of his associates seem to be a little too prone to ignore the threat Putin poses. But then everyone remembers how during the 2012 campaign President Barack Obama mocked Mitt Romney when the then Republican candidate warned about the Russian threat to world peace. “The 1980s are calling and are asking for their foreign policy back.”
Why Texas rather than California will have the first state space program
When Gov. Jerry Brown, D-California vowed that his state would “launch its own damn satellites” if Donald Trump closes down NASA climate change research, a lot of eye rolling resulted. Brown has been called “Governor Moonbeam” for that kind of grandiosity, However, if any state in the union is going to start its own #Space program, it is more likely to be #Texas than California. The difference is the business-oriented way that the Lone Star State approaches large projects.
Friday, December 16, 2016
A modest proposal for Mr. Donald Trump
One of the tasks not often mentioned by the media facing President-elect #Donald Trump is what to do about NASA and its programs. The change of administrations provides an opportunity to announce a new goal for America’s #Space program, to return astronauts to the moon by the end of Trump’s second term, the year 2024.
How the Soviet KGB conducted its version of 'Rogue One'
Discover Magazine reminds us that the kind of military industrial espionage as depicted in the latest Star Wars movie “Rogue One” has real life counterparts. The Soviets, for example, conducted a massive operation to steal the plans for the space shuttle in the 1970s and 1980s. The operation was not quite as exciting as the one in the movie as it involved no gun battles with United States Marines nor, so far as can be determined, midnight meetings in parking lots with exchanges of files as depicted in spy fiction. Most of the time, KGB agents bought up mountains of open source documents, mainly from the United States government. In the later years, the Soviets conducted the first known instance of cyber espionage to understand what made the shuttle flew.
NASA, 'Rogue One' and the real planets of the 'Star Wars' universe
The public affairs folks at NASA like to attach the real life work that the #Space agency does to just about any movie remotely having to do with space. “The Martian” was pure gold since it depicted a group of heroic NASA astronauts and ground technicians attempting to save one of their own stranded on Mars. In any case, “Rogue One” is no exception to the rule. The folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have gotten into the act and started a discussion of some of the real life exo-planets that have a passing resemblance to the worlds depicted in the long running space opera franchise.
Is 'Rogue One' the 'Star Wars' for the Occupy Wall Street generation?
Now that “#Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has been unleashed on an unsuspecting galaxy, the question arises, is the movie worth seeing and does it have some kind of political subtext that many will find annoying? Opinions vary on both these issues, but Armond White, writing in the National Review, answers those questions with no and an exasperated yes.
How 'Rogue One' brought back a memorable 'Star Wars' character
One of the more interesting aspects of “#Rogue One” is the fact that one of its characters, the Grand Moff Tarkin, was played by Peter Cushing, who inconveniently has been dead since 1994. How the special effects wizards who created a universe of droids, spaceships, and the Death Star did it has profound implications for the future of movie making.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Where is the Rebel Alliance Media operation in 'Rogue One?'
Rebellion is defined as “open resistance against established authority.” In the Star Wars universe, of which the film “#Rogue One” is now a part, rebellion is depicted as small groups of stalwart heroes engaging in blaster battles and space dogfights against forces of the evil Galactic Empire. But military action is just one part of what a rebellion has to do in order to survive and prosper. Propaganda persuaded the people to join the rebellion. Is an integral part of succeeding against a tyrannical regime.
Why fans still want to wait in line to watch 'Rogue One'
Why would “#Rogue One” fans willingly wait in line for the most anticipated film of 2016 in an era of online ticketing and assigned seating? According to Gizmodo, for some fans, waiting in line is part of the “Star Wars” experience, a chance to meet with friends, dress as favorite characters, and have a party.
What is the real purpose of the Galactic Empire in 'Rogue One?'
“#Rogue One” is the latest offering for the Star Wars franchise, residing somewhere between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope.” The setting is a galaxy far far away in a time long long ago groaning under the crushing heel of the Empire, But the Galactic Empire is a comic book villain with its storm troopers, star destroyers, and death stars whose sole purpose is to provide a foe for our intrepid rebel heroes to fight against. It does not resemble most tyrannies, with the possible exception of North Korea. The Empire’s sole purpose is to let loose the storm troopers on restive villagers and star destroyers and death stars on planets. The purpose of tyranny, in this case, is tyranny.
Why the Death Star in 'Rogue One' makes no military sense
In “Rogue One” a motley group of rebels is tasked with stealing the plans for the Death Star, the massive, moon-sized superweapon capable of destroying entire planets. The operation leads to the first movie that was produced, “Star Wars: A New Hope” in which Luke Skywalker and his friends destroy the super weapon and triumph over the Empire. However, as a recent article in the Federalist suggests, a Death Star makes no military sense, especially with that one design flaw that allowed an untrained young pilot to blow it to atoms.
Why some Donald Trump supporters are boycotting 'Rogue One'
The trouble started back in November when the writers of “#Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, took a couple of shots against Donald Trump supporters by Tweeting the implication that their movie was an allegory of Trump (i.e. the Evil Emperor) and the rebels who oppose him (presumably progressives such as themselves.) The president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, poured gasoline on the fire by declaring that she did not feel obligated to cater to male science fiction fans.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Sean Hannity to produce Kevin Sorbo faith-based film 'Let There Be Light'
Kevin Sorbo, best known for his starring role in “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Andromeda” is directing himself in a faith-friendly film entitled “Let There Be Light.” The film will not be the first religious oriented movie. Sorbo has been in as he was in “God’s Not Dead” as an atheist college professor who gets his comeuppance. However, “Let There Be Light” is the first effort of Sean Hannity, the radio talk show host and Fox News personality, as an executive producer. The project is not a one off effort. Hannity is getting into the movie business.
Bill Gates has started a climate change technology investment fund
Bill Gates, the mega-billionaire who helped spark the computer revolution will Microsoft, recently met with #Donald Trump and later pronounced him the second coming of John F. Kennedy. Just as JFK sparked the race to the moon, Trump may well spark a race to innovation in a broader sense. Gates may be thinking about his latest venture, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, designed to develop technologies that would help to ameliorate the effects of climate change. The areas of interest the new fund will invest it range from fusion energy to dealing with cow flatulence, a matter of concern for California regulators and a headache for dairy farmers in that state.
Sen. Jeff Sessions is a space policy player in the Donald Trump transition
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, is pulling double duty trying to influence the incoming president’s #Space #Policy. Session’s home state is the home of NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center where the heavy lift Space Launch System is being developed. The SLS will provide the space agency the capability to launch 130 metric tons into low Earth orbit in one launch. The rocket, however, has been expensive to develop and will be costly to operate, according to some critics.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Sen, Elizabeth Warren savages one of her supporters as a crony of Donald Trump
Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has developed a well-deserved reputation as a liberal firebrand, excoriating Wall Street and championing high taxes and heavy government regulation. Warren is seen by some on the far left of the Democratic Party as the singular hope for recapturing the federal government for the left. However, a recent Warren post on Facebook and the firestorm it created suggests that a run for president by the radical senator would be as entertaining, in its own way, as the recent #Donald Trump for president campaign.
Why Rick Perry may be good for renewable energy at the Energy Department
When the news that President Elect Donald Trump had picked former Texas Governor Rick Perry as secretary of energy, some in the media had the obvious reaction. Texas means oil and gas, which means that under Trump the United States is going to turn away from the #Renewable Energy enthusiasms that have featured Obama policy. Plus, Perry once proposed eliminating the Energy Department altogether during his first run for the president when he made the so-called “oops” gaffe when he forgot the entire list of departments he would eliminate. In any case, the truth about Perry and energy is a little more complicated than one might think.
Former NASA astronaut proposes Mars sample return mission for Team Donald Trump
One of the salutary effects of the election of Donald Trump will likely be the final cancellation of the ill-conceived and unpopular Asteroid Redirect Mission. The ARM grew out of President Barack Obama’s idea of sending astronauts to an Earth approaching asteroid. But now #Space experts are casting around for something that will test most of the technologies that ARM would have but would be aligned more with both NASA’s Journey to Mars and joint ventures with the commercial space sector. According to Yahoo Finance, former astronaut and physicist John Grunsfeld is proposing a Mars sample return mission.
Why Jessica Chastain's 'Miss Sloane' tanked at the box office
The gentle reader has no doubt seen the ads for the gun control infomercial disguised as a feature motion picture, “Miss Sloane.” The movie depicts a hard-bitten Republican lobbyist who has an epiphany when she is asked to conduct a PR campaign for an NRA-like organization to sell firearms as a female empowerment tool. Instead, she jumps ship to another firm that is pushing for a Brady Law “common sense” gun control law. According to the Washington Free Beacon, the movie tanked over the most recent weekend, only becoming the 11th grossing film in the United States and having the 79th worst opening of all time.
Monday, December 12, 2016
Texas town is rolling our an 'Uber for 911 emergency services' app
One of the problems with the proliferation of smartphones is that they have complicated the lives of 911 dispatchers. A call from a land line will give the dispatcher the location of the person in an #Emergency and can, therefore, facilitate the dispatch of police and EMTS. But a mobile phone will often display just the nearest cell tower as the location of the call. Often someone calling for an emergency is in too much distress to give an address or other location. However, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the town of Keller in Tarrant County Texas is taking 911 into the 21st Century with an Uber-style app that will give the dispatcher more information to work with.
Is Team Hillary Clinton trying to overturn the results of election 2016?
Is Team #Hillary Clinton trying to overturn the results of the election? According to Hot Air, they are at least making a good show of doing so. The Washington Post story that suggested that Russia made an attempt to influence the outcome of the election has provided some impetus to a plan to persuade enough electors to deny Donald Trump the presidency. Never mind that there is less to the Russian story than meets the eye.
More of my wisdom courtesy of Forbes. NASA Casts Its Gaze Back To The Moon With Commercial Partnerships
Women are reporting a loss of libido in the wake of Donald Trump's election
One of the strangest reactions to the election of Donald Trump has been the sudden drop in libido among individual women. Stephanie Land, for example, writing in the Washington Post claimed that Trump’s ascension had robbed her of any desire to date or find a man. She is not the only one. Whether their preference is a casual hookup or looking for a life partner, a number of women are reporting that Trump has driven them to chastity. The reaction is unique in the history of politics and seems counterintuitive.
NASA is helping private mission to Alpha Centauri Project Starshot
Project Starshot, a project to send a swarm of tiny, nano-sized probes to Alpha Centauri, caused a stir when it was announced in April 2016. Now Engadget reports that NASA has joined the effort by developing a crucial bit of technology that will keep these tiny devices functioning as they cross the interstellar gulfs.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Report: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, to be Trump's secretary of state
A number of news organizations are suggesting that #Donald Trump has picked his secretary of state. His name is Rex Tillerson, the current CEO of Exxon-Mobil. The selection is an unusual one in that Tillerson does not have any government or diplomatic experience. His education is in engineering. Tillerson’s pick for the State Department is as outside the box, in its own way, as the nomination of Ben Carson to be Secretary of HUD.
Donald Trump has made it ok to make fun of the president
One of Donald Trump’s many accomplishments, even before he has been sworn into office, has been to make it ok to make fun of the president of the United States. Late night comedians shied away from lampooning President Barack Obama for two reasons. They liked him and his policies. They were afraid of being thought of as racists by their peers. But in #Donald Trump, comedians have the perfect subject. Trump is as larger than life, over the top white male Republican. He is #Comedy gold.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Will Negan die anytime soon on 'The Walking Dead?'
One of the enduring truths of “#The Walking Dead” is that anyone can die at any time, especially if the character is well beloved by the fans but is not an entirely central figure such as Rick, Michonne, or Daryl (though even they can bite the big one if the plot requires.) One character that the fans really want to see dead is the swaggering, bat-wielding Negan, war lord of the Saviors and terror of the entire region. Recently US Magazine with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who plays the bringer of death and terror, and got some answers.
Is it time for Carl Grimes to die on 'The Walking Dead'
Fan theories have been swirling about that the next major character to die on “The Walking Dead” will be the teenage Carl Grimes, Rick’s son who has all too quickly grown up before our eyes on the show. According to Hollywood Take, the actor who plays the now one-eyed lad, Chandler Riggs, is off to college. Taking on a full course load and appearing in an episodic TV show with location shoots would be difficult to manage. Also, Riggs is somewhat coy as to whether his contract has been renewed for Season 8.
Has 'The Walking Dead' become too bleak to watch?
USA Today notes that after a spike in the Season 7 opener of “#The Walking Dead”, thanks to the cliffhanger of who Negan kills and who he leaves alive, the ratings for the series about the zombie apocalypse have taken a nose dive. From a peak of 21.5 million viewers, the series has shed 5 million audience members in the weeks since. As “The Walking Dead” heads for its holiday hiatus, the loss is a matter of some concern.
Congress overcomes Elizabeth Warren's opposition to pass 21st Century Cure Act
One of the things that congressional Republicans are patting themselves on the back about is the passage of the 21st Century Cures act, a $6.3 billion bill designed to do a number of things to enhance the #Health of Americans. The bill contains more funding for medical research and development. Including Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, measures to expedite the approval of new drugs and medical devices by the FDA, mental health reform, and money to fight the opioid epidemic. The bill was passed on a bi-partisan basis, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law.
Is Donald Trump Vladimir Putin's 'Manchurian Candidate?'
The Hill newspaper is reporting, citing both the Washington Post and the New York Times, that the Russian government of Vladimir Putin conducted an operation to deliberately influence the outcome of the most recent election, favoring #Donald Trump. The conclusion was arrived at by a preliminary CIA study. Naturally, the report is being hotly denied by President-Elect Trump, cited previous intelligence failures. However, social media is currently ablaze with the idea that Trump is some sort of “Manchurian Candidate” and that his election was somehow illegitimate.
Of course you should read Dark Crusade: A Vampire Gabriella Story (The Vampire Gabriella Book 5) for what really happened.
Friday, December 09, 2016
Donald Trump chooses more members of NASA landing team
Team Donald Trump has announced more members of the NASA transition or “landing” team that will embed itself into the #Space agency and ferret out what kind of issues need to be addressed by the incoming president’s political appointees, including his pick of an administrator, according to Space News. The team is an eclectic group of academics, including Greg Autry of the University of Southern California and Jack Burns of the University of Colorado, former NASA employees, including Steve Cook of Dynetics, Rodney Liesveld, and Sandra Magnus of the AIAA (also a former astronaut. Jeff Waksman is listed as formerly being affiliated with the United States House of Representatives as a research fellow.
Kirk Douglas turns 100 years old
2016 may have been like the Grim Reaper insofar as the number of celebrity deaths that seem to have occurred, from that of astronaut and senator John Glenn to musician David Bowie, but Kirk Douglas, the legendary actor, yet abides, just having turned 100 years old. Douglas has had a career spanning seven decades and has made numerous iconic films.
Before he died John Glenn wrote a letter praising Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos
Shortly before he died, John Glenn, the first American to fly in low Earth orbit, wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos, who is, among other things, the CEO of the commercial #Space company Blue Origin. The letter consisted of a figure of space exploration’s glorious past reaching out to space’s commercial future to render praise and encouragement. Bezo’s current rocket ship, the suborbital New Shepard, named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, has flown multiple times in the skies over Texas. Blue Origin is currently working on the New Glenn, a reusable orbital spacecraft. Glenn pronounced himself honored by having his name on a rocket.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
God speed John Glenn, dead at 95
John Glenn, the first American to fly into orbit, has died at the age of 95. Few people living today who were not of age in 1962 will remember what an American hero Glenn was. When he flew in low Earth orbit, almost not making it back due to a glitch that might have detached the heat shield of his Mercury capsule, it was as if America had won a decisive battle in a major war. The war in question was the Cold War and the campaign being fought was the race to the moon. Glenn returned from #Space a national hero and was given a welcome appropriate to a conquering general. Of course, thousands of people at NASA and various aerospace contractors were crucial for Glenn’s flight, but he was the one who got the ticker-tape parade and the visit to the White House.
At long last the CW's 'Reign' is coming to an end
Even the most glittering, most glorious reigns must come to an end. Thankfully, so does the CW’s “Reign,” a TV series that is alleged to be about the early life of Mary Queen of Scots. The series was extremely light on #history, story, plot, and intrigue and heavy on melodrama, pretty (and decidedly non-period costumes), mysticism and romance. The character of Mary in the series resembled the real Mary Stuart, a bimbo and religious fanatic with an appalling taste in men and a lack of skill in politics, not at all.
Green Party Jill Stein thinks people use floppy disks to hack into voting machines
Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president in the past election, is still providing some unintentional comedy relief in her campaign to prove that the 2016 election was hacked. According to the Washington Free Beacon, she told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that, “people walk around and they reprogram these machines and use, like, a floppy disk.” The statement has caused a lot of guffawing on social media for obvious reasons.
Donald Trump chooses Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, to head the EPA
President Elect #Donald Trump has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the head of the EPA. To hear the environmental lobby, one would think that the end of the world will result unless his nomination is blocked. Pruitt, along with a number of other states attorneys general, has been battling the current EPA over regulations that tend to cripple industry, especially power generation that uses fossil fuels. Pruitt is a climate change skeptic, meaning that he is somewhat dubious about the theory that human caused co2 emissions are causing an uncontrolled rise in the Earth’s temperature that must be addressed now with draconian action least the world be destroyed in a few decades.
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Why Dr. Ben Carson may be the perfect outside the box pick to run HUD
When Donald Trump nominated Dr. Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, more than a few people, even fans of the two men, scratched their heads in puzzlement. Surely the famous neurosurgeon would be a better fit at #Health and Human Services or perhaps surgeon general. The best that can be said is that Carson grew up in poverty living public housing and would thus have a unique perspective running a sprawling department with a $50 billion annual budget.
Texas and Arkansas senators pit queso against cheese dip
With the election over and the current session of Congress almost concluded, some senators have some time on their hands. It looks like the two senators from Texas, Ted Cruz, and John Cornyn, have decided to have a good old fashion #food throw down with the two senators from Arkansas, Tom Cotton and John Boozman. At issue is which is the tastiest confection, Texas queso or Arkansas cheese dip.
Is Joe Biden really running for president in 2020?
When Vice President Joe Biden suggested to a group of reporters that he might be up to running for president in 2020, the media scratched its collective head and wondered, “Is he kidding?” Biden would be 78, after all, an age when a lot of people are already dead. But then people remembered that the Democrats don’t have much of a bench, thanks to how many defeats that party has suffered during the Obama years. If not Biden, who? Elizabeth Warren? Please, the senator is like Hillary Clinton without the warmth and charm.
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NASA funds Restore-L space mission to refuel and repair satellites
One of the problems with satellites since the beginning of the #Space age has been the fact that when they run out of fuel or suffer a fault, they become useless, orbiting space junk. To be sure, dead satellites can be replaced, but the original ones start to break apart, collide with other space junk, and eventually create a hazard to navigation.
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
Donald Trump makes a deal with a Japanese telecom to create 50,000 American jobs
One has to hand it to Donald Trump. He is not yet president of the United States, but he is already using his influence to persuade (some might say strong arm) corporations to invest in American industry and jobs. First, he brokered the Carrier deal that saved the jobs of 1,000 people and the Christmas of their families in Indiana. Now he has persuaded a Japanese telecom called Softbank to invest $50 billion in the United States and create, it is estimated, 50,000 jobs.
Should Donald Trump have Elon Musk up at the Trump Tower?
Should #Donald Trump have Elon Musk up to the Trump Tower? The New York Times seems to think so and, considering that Trump has met with Al Gore, no argument against it exists.
What was Al Gore doing at the Trump Tower?
Of all the people who would show up at Trump Tower to kiss the ring and bend the knee, the last person one expected to show up was Al Gore, the former vice-president and presidential candidate and current professional global warming hysteric. He came to have a chat with Ivanka Trump about #Climate Change, a conversation that included President-Elect #Donald Trump at one point. Gore pronounced the conversation as “very interesting” and “very productive.” Now Trump watchers are wondering what is that all about?
Monday, December 05, 2016
Amazon rolls out a store with no checkout lines
The future of grocery shopping has already started to arrive with some supermarkets rolling out home delivery services. Now, Amazon has unveiled a new kind of food store where there are no checkout lines. Instead you check in on a smartphone. The internet of things network tracks the items you take off and put back on the shelves. Then, when you leave the store with your cloth bag full of items, the software automatically bills you to your #Amazon account.
Senate Democrats toy with obstructing Donald Trump's cabinet picks
Senate Democrats, still reeling at the thumping their party received from Hillary Clinton on down, have been casting about for a strategy for what to do now. Politico reports that some of them have hit upon obstructing Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, at least some of them. They will insist of procedural votes and will do other things to stretch out the confirmation process. The Democrats would like to defeat at least one nominee, Jeff Sessions for attorney general for preference, just to feel good about themselves. The idea is that they will show the Republicans that Senate Democrats will not be ignored and that, besides, they want revenge for Merrick Garland, the man President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court whom Senate Republicans refused to even hold hearings on.
President of Lucusfilm takes a shot against male 'Star Wars' fans
In a sign that the “Star Wars” franchise may have fallen into the hands of the social justice warrior crowd, the current president of Lucasfilm, now a subsidiary of Disney, declared that she felt no need to cater to the desires of male fans, according to Heatstreet. The statement seems to be a reference to the fact that both the most recent movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the upcoming film, “Star Wars: Rogue One” have heroic female leads, which presumably do not cater to male “Star Wars” fans.
At the last minute, the Obama administration halts the North Dakota Access pipeline
The #Obama Administration threw a last minute curve in the North Dakota Access Pipeline as the Army Corps of Engineer decided to deny an easement for the pipeline to cross underneath Lake Oahe, The rejection grinds the construction of the multi-billion dollar pipeline designed to convey fracked oil from the North Dakota shale fields to a port on the Mississippi. A coalition of protestors including local Native Americans and radical environmentalists cheered the apparent victory while supporters of energy independence and Republican #Donald Trump supporters decried the decision as “lawless” and politically motivated.
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Why is Lori Garver still trashing NASA space exploration?
The UK Guardian recently published a story about the “uncertainty” that is alleged NASA is feeling about President Elect #Donald Trump’s #Space policy. In fact, that policy has been clearly spelled out, a way to “make America great again.” However, the British newspaper dredged up Lori Garver, the former NASA Deputy Administrator who resigned to become an airline pilots’ union boss. Garver took the occasion to trash talk the idea of returning to the moon or even going to Mars.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
Does General James Mattis want to start a war with Iran?
Politico has a piece on General James Mattis, President Elect #Donald Trump’s pick to run the Defense Department and to rebuild the military that has been hollowed out by President Obama, claiming that he is just a little too obsessive about Iran. The animus seems to have begun with the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut carried out by a terrorist trained by #Iran. The attack killed 241 Marines. Politico believes that Mattis wants some payback and that desire makes him dangerous.
The end game at the North Dakota pipeline draws nigh
The protests against the oil pipeline in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is about to reach its end game. Whether that ending results in farce or tragedy largely depends on how idiotic the protestors choose to be.
Virginia school district considers banning 'Huckleberry Finn' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee are classics of American literature. Moreover, both novels are searing indictments of racial injustice. However, since the books use racially charged language typical for the times depicted, a school district in Accomack County, Virginia is contemplating banning both books from school libraries and the classroom. The move is being contemplated because of the complaint of a single parent who feels her teenage, bi-racial son is being traumatized by being exposed to such language, according to a story in the Washington Post.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
Why Donald Trump accepted a phone call from the president of Taiwan
Only President-Elect Donald Trump can spark a worldwide diplomatic tizzy and a media meltdown by accepting a phone call. In this case, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called to congratulate Trump on his election to president of the United States. Trump took the phone call and let people know that he did so. Consternation and panic have ensured.
Moon Express co-founder Naveen Jain predicts $10,000 trips to the moon by 2026
Almost 50 years ago, when NASA first sent men to the moon, the United States spent roughly $100 billion dollars to do so. In Moon Express’ co-founder Naveen Jain is correct, by 2026, people will be about to go to the moon and back for just $10,000 per ticket, a remarkable decrease in the ticket price. Naveen made this rather bold prediction during a recent interview with CNBC. He even suggested that the trip to the moon would take roughly four hours, perhaps a reference to the EmDrive, a propellantless engine its proponents maintain will get people to the moon in hours, and to Mars in weeks.
Friday, December 02, 2016
Why the German Google Lunar XPrize mission will not debunk the moon landing hoax
A number of news organizations have offered breathless stories about the plans of the German Google Lunar X Prize team, Part Time Scientists, to send a rover to the Apollo 17 landing site. Science Alert declares, “-the mission could finally put the Moon landing hoax rumours to bed once and for all.” The statement is false for a couple of good reasons.
Team Donald Trump debate how to drop the hammer on Iran
One of the many messes Barack Obama has left Team Trump to clean up is the matter of #Iran. In the wake of the nuclear weapons deal, Iran has become very aggressive toward its neighbors and to the United States, at one point taking a group of American sailors as hostages. While the incoming administration contemplates what it wants to do about the nuclear agreement, it is weighing options of more sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to abandon its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism.
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Donald Trump said to choose General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as Secretary of Defense
According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump has chosen former Marine General James Mattis as his nominee to be secretary of defense. Because Mattis has served in the active duty #military within the past seven years, Congress will have to pass a special dispensation to allow him to assume the civilian job, something which it did once before for George C. Marshall.
What Donald Trump accomplished with his deal with Carrier
People, like Ed Morrisey at Hot Air, are wondering how #Donald Trump worked the deal with Carrier that saved the jobs of about 1,000 workers in Indiana. By all accounts it involved the president-elect picking up the phone and making a call to the president of the air conditioner company, kicking off some negotiations that involved Mike Pence, still officially the governor of Indiana. The final deal seems to involve an incentive package more that Trump’s threat to slap a 35 percent tariff on products that are produced by outsourced factories.
The real reason Newt Gingrich is so angry with Mitt Romney
Allahpundit over at Hot Air has had quite enough of Newt Gingrich mocking Mitt Romney for his about-face in courting President-Elect #Donald Trump after having spent so much time attacking him as a candidate. Gingrich has been so vehement and so constant in his ridicule, one might think that the former speaker has some sort of personal vendetta against the 2012 presidential candidate.