Curmudgeons Corner

Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.

Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, 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, November 20, 2017
 
Three reasons to build a Mars colony

Futurism Magazine had a recent story in which it polled a number of experts to list all the reasons we should not try to colonize #Mars for the foreseeable future. The reasons include that it is too far away, that the conditions are too severe, that a Mars colony does not have an economic benefit for Earth, and that colonizing Mars is just too expensive. To be sure, these are all valid reasons to not undertake the settlement of the Red Planet for the foreseeable future. However, three reasons exist for sending human colonists to make new homes on Mars.



 
Charles Manson has entered Hell

The cliché that everyone’s death diminishes us does not apply to Charles Manson. The career criminal, a #Cult Leader, failed musician, and mass murderer finally died at the age of 83 at Kern County Hospital. Manson had been serving nine consecutive life sentences for multiple murders he instigated in late 1969. He initially received the death penalty, but that punishment was overturned briefly by the United States Supreme Court in 1972, commuting it to life in prison.



Sunday, November 19, 2017
 
Marco Rubio still harbors doubts about Jim Bridenstine for NASA administrator

While Rep. #Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, awaits a Senate floor vote on his nomination to be NASA administrator, Sen. #Marco Rubio, R-Florida, continues to express doubts about him. While the entire Democratic membership of the Senate Commerce Committee voted against Bridenstine’s nomination, he passed on a party-line vote. How the vote will stack up on the floor, likely to come after the Thanksgiving recess, is uncertain.




Saturday, November 18, 2017
 
NASA to test new miniature nuclear reactor

World Nuclear News is reporting that #NASA is gearing up to test what it calls a kilopower reactor at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The idea is to provide future #Space Probes and even human expeditions into #Deep Space a new power source that will serve as an alternative to solar power [VIDEO] or Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). The work is being done with the help of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.



Friday, November 17, 2017
 
Why the Apollo moon landings were the greatest reality show in history

While the study mentioned in the tabloid, The Daily Mirror, surveyed people in the UK, its results will likely be replicated worldwide. People, responding to a poll conducted by an online live casino, choose the Apollo 11 moonwalk as the most momentous television event in history. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the funeral of Princess Diana followed as second and third most momentous. Americans might choose a different third most memorable event, say the JFK assassination or the Challenger accident, but Apollo 11 remains on top. The irony is that, as NASA Watch points out, half of Americans alive today never saw the moon landings live as they happened.



 
Christopher Tolkien departs as head of the Tolkien Estate

The news that #Christopher Tolkien has stepped down at the age of 93 from his post as director of the Tolkien estate, along with the amicable resolution of a long-running legal action between the estate and Warner brothers, means good news for fans of high fantasy. The recently announced “Lord of the Rings” TV series that will air on Amazon [VIDEO] is just the beginning. The Tolkien Estate will now be free to monetarize the entirety of the author’s body of work, including “The Silmarillion.”



Thursday, November 16, 2017
 
Al Franken latest celebrity to be accused of sexual assault

#Al Franken, United States Senator and the least funny person ever to be on Saturday Night Live, is the latest powerful man to be called out for sexually assaulting a woman. [VIDEO]Journalist Leeann Tweeden recounted a story of a series of incidents when both were on a #Uso Tour in 2006 to entertain the troops in Afghanistan. The juiciest part of the story is that photographic evidence exists of Franken groping Leeden’s breasts while she was asleep on the plane coming back to America with the failed comedian grinning at the camera.



 
How solar power is getting greater acceptance in the south

The argument that some in the public policy community make for investments in solar energy [VIDEO] is that it is a way to fight #Climate Change, the theory that the use of fossil fuels is causing the Earth to warm uncontrollably. However, according to the Clarion-Ledger, a newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, solar is getting a full acceptance in the south, a region that traditionally is suspicious of the motives of environmentalists, for more traditional reasons. Solar is becoming cheaper and more competitive with fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, and it is allowing homeowners and business owners to achieve energy independence.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017
 
How tax reform may end Obamacare at long last

Having punted twice on Obamacare, #The Senate Republicans have decided to try to redeem themselves by including a repeal of the individual mandate, which states that everyone must have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The mandate has forced millions of people who are not on an employer or government health insurance plan to buy policies on the exchanges that are expensive and do not fit their individual health needs. How can the Senate include such a provision in a #Tax Reform Bill? One can blame or credit the United States Supreme Court.



 
Possible Earth-like planet discovered 11 light years away from Earth

Using its planet-hunting High-Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument, the European Southern Observatory in Chile has discovered an Earth-sized planet orbiting a #Red Dwarf Star called Ross 128 residing just 11 #Light Years away from Earth. The planet, designated Ross 128 b, has a good chance of being the home of extraterrestrial life due to the distance it orbits its home star.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017
 
Bill and Hillary Clinton are about to be thrown under the bus

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering appointing a special counsel to delve into the various illegalities and other shenanigans revolving around the Clinton Foundation, especially the Uranium One deal. Ordinarily, this news would elicit groans about a replay of the 1990s with Team Clinton going to war with the special counsel with the help of their media enablers. Kenneth Starr can relate to the hot hell that will follow. However, the Clintons may be stuck without their media allies this time. Some folks have started to wake up to what a beast Bill Clinton was toward women and their role in letting him get away with it.



 
Besides ‘Deadwood’ what other canceled TV series needs a big screen revival

Coming Soon notes that a “#Deadwood” movie is now in the works which is supposed to tie up some loose ends left from the HBO series that starred #Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane as rivals in the wildest of Wild West towns. This project is all well and good. However, many other defunct shows cry out for movie sequels. Some were canceled prematurely. Others were well beloved, and thus a revival would be welcomed.



Monday, November 13, 2017
 
Yuri Milner thinking about a private expedition to Enceladus

One of the most astonishing discoveries of the now concluded Cassini space probe that spent years orbiting Saturn was that of plumes of water shooting out of cracks in the ice crust of #Enceladus’ South Pole. Scientists believe that the plumes are coming from a subsurface ocean similar to the one that resides inside the ice crust of Europa. #NASA is now contemplating a $1 billion New Frontiers mission to explore Enceladus further, flying through the plumes with a suite of sensors designed to detect organic material, to launch in the mid-2020s. #Yuri Milner, a Russian born entrepreneur and philanthropist is also thinking about such a mission, privately financed, cheaper, and taking off sooner than the one NASA is thinking about.



 
In the future of Andy Weir’s ‘Artemis’ you can go to the moon on vacation

#Andy Weir’s second space novel, “Artemis,” is coming out and will in short order be a major motion picture, just like his first novel, “The Martian.” One of the fascinating aspects of the background of the novel is that it is set in a resort town on the moon, [VIDEO]called like the novel “Artemis.” #Business Insider notes that by the 2080s, enough people are willing to shell out $70,000 for a lunar vacation to justify building and maintaining such a city. Other moon based industries exist, which triggers part of the plot of the novel but we can just concentrate on what is involved in a lunar vacation for this piece.



Sunday, November 12, 2017
 
Study suggests that NASA saved money going commercial for LEO transportation

When President George W. Bush first proposed commercializing Earth to low Earth orbit transportation in the wake of the Columbia accident, the initiative was thought to be radical, albeit one that cheered commercial space advocates. When President Obama doubled down on the concept, eliminating #NASA’s direct role in low Earth orbit transportation, cries of outrage could be heard from Congress. To be fair, most of the anger from Obama’s initiative resulted from his cancellation of the Constellation program, which many thought to be high-handed and politically motivated.



Saturday, November 11, 2017
 
‘Let Her Speak’ is soon to be a major motion picture about Wendy Davis

The news that Hollywood is going to develop a movie about Wendy Davis, the hapless Texas state senator who is famous for a futile 11-hour filibuster against an anti-abortion bill and a doomed run for the governorship has raised eyebrows in Texas political circles. The fact that Sandra Bullock has been attached to play Davis has faces hitting palms. Of course, former Senator Davis is more popular in Hollywood than she ever was in the Lone Star State, but this sort of hagiography is just absurd. The title of the movie, “Let Her Speak,” is astonishing. Davis is most famous because she would not shut up.



Friday, November 10, 2017
 
Congress expresses frustration over NASA Space Launch System delays

During recent hearings about the state of the development of NASA space exploration systems before the House Science Committee, chairperson Rep, Lamar Smith, R-Texas issued a warning that Congress is beginning to lose patience with delays of the first flight of the Space Launch System. He warned that commercial alternatives being developed by SpaceX and Blue Origin are starting to look more attractive. Ars Technica speculates that Smith, who is retiring after his current term, may feel freer to speak out about such matters.



 
What to do with a problem like Roy Moore?

Republican voters in Alabama are caught in a quandary. A story in the #Washington Post had accused Judge #Roy Moore of initiating sexual contact with a 14-year old girl in the late 1970s when he was 32. The accusation, nearly 40 years later, is almost impossible to prove or disprove. However, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Bill O’Reilly, the last thing a politician needs is an allegation of a sordid sexual encounter with a child that is not only immoral but illegal under Alabama state law. The accusation at the very least follows the old principle that was once expressed by Lyndon Johnson. Moore is forced to deny it, keeping the story in the public eye.



Thursday, November 09, 2017

 
Ted Cruz is sure that Democrats are responsible for Southerland Springs massacre

When a deranged gunman entered a church in the small town of Southerland Springs [VIDEO], Texas and started to shoot people, including pregnant women and crying babies, a lot of people on social media were quick to place blame on people and entities beyond the shooter. TV personality Chelsea Handler was pretty sure it was the Republicans. Former “Star Trek” child actor Wil Wheaton cursed the NRA, a narrative that fell apart when the news broke that a former NRA instructor stopped the shooting and put the monster to flight with his personal weapon.



 
Does George Takei think ‘Star Trek’ was real?

Shakespeare once wrote that love makes fools of us all. That statement may be true, however, if the Bard had lived in the modern age, who might have written Twitter makes fools of us all. Some people would point to the president’s frequent missives as a case in point. However, perhaps the dumbest tweet of the year may have come from #George Takei, best known for playing Lt. Sulu in the original “#Star Trek” and who is now an Internet Social Justice Warrior.



Wednesday, November 08, 2017
 
Steven Spielberg takes a big risk in ‘The Post’

As Deadline Hollywood reports, the first trailer of the upcoming Steven Spielberg directed period drama, “#The Post,” is available and can be seen below. The movie, which will be released in selected theaters in December to qualify it for the Oscars before being released wide in January, stars Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, and Meryl Streep as the Post’s publisher Katherine Graham. The story is about the struggle in the early 1970s to publish the so-called Pentagon Papers, a series of documents that revealed the American government’s unvarnished assessment of the Vietnam War, one that was wide of its public stance.



 
Apollo astronaut Dick Gordon has died at the age of 88

Dick Gordon started his career as a naval aviator in 1953 and then as a naval test pilot in 1957. Gordon was selected in the third group of NASA astronauts 1963. He flew on Gemini 11 and as command module pilot on #Apollo 12. He was slated to command Apollo 18. However, that mission was canceled due to budget cuts. Gordon died on November 6, 2017, at the age of 88. Thus the ranks of the Apollo-era astronauts continue to dwindle as time and age call them to that final journey.



Tuesday, November 07, 2017
 
Has the zombie apocalypse genre run its course?

#Zombie Apocalypse TV series, which include “#The Walking Dead,” its spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead,” and their quirky cousin on the SyFy Channel, “Z Nation,” have started to notice something. These shows have begun to #Run stale and, indeed, run out of gas. Each of these shows has gone beyond its McGuffin, that most of the human race has died and have risen as undead, flesh-eating creatures, to wreck civilization and menace the few living humans left alive. The zombie apocalypse scenario, once the initial shock wears off, either becomes something that can be adapted to or else one has to conjure up other threats to keep the suspense going.



 
Newt Gingrich explains how Nixon took the fun out of space exploration

If you have not gone to Newt Gingrich’s alternate history Facebook page, “What If, History that Good Have Been,” you ought to. The page consists of short videos by the former speaker, writer, and history teacher in which he describes counterfactuals, what if a historical event went differently than it did in real life. The one that interested me the most, for reasons you’ll find obvious if you have been following my work, is “What if Nixon had Continued Kennedy’s Space Program?”



Monday, November 06, 2017
 
Members of the Saudi royal family detained in ‘anti-corruption sweep’

As the New York Times reports, a new Saudi Arabian “anti-corruption” sweep has nabbed 11 princes of the extended royal family, including billionaire investor Prince #Alwaleed Bin Talal, as well as four sitting ministers and a great many former ministers. The alleged criminals are as of this writing cooling their heels, rumors suggest, at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh which is being turned into a holding center for royals and other officials who have been targeted. An airfield that services private planes has been closed as a measure to keep anyone else from fleeing the country.



 
Will the first lunar colony be a tourist resort?

#Andy Weir, whose debut novel “#The Martian” was a runaway bestseller and the basis of a hit movie, is due to release his second book, “Artemis,” on November 14. “Artemis” is set on a #Lunar Colony and is a slightly different story than “The Martian.” Weir sat down with Business Insider recently and discussed, among other things, the economics of colonizing the high frontier of space.



Sunday, November 05, 2017
 
Why are more fans watching ‘The Orville’ than ‘Star Trek: Discovery?’

As Deadline Hollywood reports, “The Orville,” #Seth Macfarlane’s take on a Star Trek-style space adventure series has been renewed for a second season, a remarkable accomplishment considering how hard it is to keep such a series on the air. The gentle reader is invited to think about what happened to “Firefly” to illustrate the point. The news is even more surprising considering that an actual Trek series, “Star Trek: Discovery” is also airing, albeit on the new CBS Access channel for which one has to pay a subscription. What is even more surprising is that while the critics like “Star Trek: Discovery” far more than “The #Orville” the fans are flocking to the latter series.



Saturday, November 04, 2017
 
Where is ‘House of Cards’ headed now that Kevin Spacey is gone?

As Cinema Blend notes, the fall of Kevin Spacey [VIDEO] from grace due to allegations of his sexual harassment and abuse of underage boys is going to affect the future direction of “House of Cards.” For the first five seasons, Spacey played the nefarious, Frank Underwood, starting as Chief Democratic Whip in the House of Representatives and ending as a disgraced former president. Now Spacey has been fired from the show, both as its star and executive producer. His behavior had created what can be described as an “unsafe work environment.”



 
Are you ready for ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Series?’

With the great success of “Game of Thrones,” speculation has abounded about what the next great high fantasy TV series will be. Remarkably, according to Deadline Hollywood, “The Lord of the Rings” is being shopped around as a series. At one point HBO, Netflix, and Amazon were in the running as venues for the TV show based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Eyebrows are being raised across the entertainment industry for a number of reasons.



Friday, November 03, 2017
 
Courtesy of the Daily Caller, I smite the Senate Commerce Commerce Committee Democrats hip and thigh. Bridenstine Pummeled During NASA Confirmation Hearings


 
NASA renews CATALYST agreement with lunar lander companies

Part of the emerging strategy that NASA is employing to get astronauts back to the moon is to partner with commercial companies to provide lunar landing services. Even before the election of Donald Trump and the subsequent pivot back to the moon, the space agency had signed an agreement with a number of companies under the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown, or CATALYST, initiative to develop lunar landing technologies. Such technologies will be used by commercial companies to provide lunar landing services for both NASA and commercial payloads. NASA has just renewed the CATALYST agreement with three companies, Moon Express, Astrobotic, and #Masten Space Systems.



 
Rick Perry was right about the link between fossil fuels and crime prevention

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recently returned from a trip to Africa and noted a relationship between the availability of energy and #Crime Prevention. According to the Houston Chronicle, Perry recounted a conversation with a young girl in South Africa who noted that her family needed electricity so that she could read without using an open fire. He stated, “--"those fumes literally killing people. But also from the standpoint of sexual assault." He also noted that street lighting helps to reduce crime such as sexual assault and that electricity can be easily generated by #fossil fuels.



Thursday, November 02, 2017

 
Donna Brazile reveals the extent of Hillary Clinton corruption at the DNC

#Donna Brazile has served a number of roles in the Democratic Party. She was, for example, Al Gore’s campaign manager. Her most recent office was as the interim chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, starting on July 24, 2016, when Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned from that position in disgrace. She has set forth what she found in a new book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.” An excerpt from the book describes the shocking extent to which Hillary Clinton [VIDEO] and her team had “taken over” the DNC before she won the presidential nomination. Generally, a presidential candidate does not gain control of the party apparatus until after he or she clinches the nomination.



 
NASA confirmation hearings turns into partisan attack on Jim Bridenstine

The Washington Post reports that Rep. #Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma had his confirmation hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee for the post of NASA administrator. Led by ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, committee Democrats tag teamed against him, accusing the Oklahoma lawmaker of being everything from a climate change “denier” to a partisan politician. Bridenstine was also savagely attacked for his opposition to same-sex marriage to his vote (on Constitutional grounds) against the Violence Against Women Act. The Democrats conducted what amounted to a coordinated attempt to take down Bridenstine’s nomination.



Wednesday, November 01, 2017
 
Astrobotic chief executive supports the Deep Space Gateway in lunar orbit

The results of NASA’s 45-day study to map out a path to a return to the moon is still a few weeks away. However, it looks like that both the space agency and industry is looking at the so-called #Deep Space Gateway, as it is now being called, as a crucial part of the architecture to get robots and humans back on the lunar surface. John Thornton, the chief executive of a company called Astrobotic, recently penned an op-ed in Space News supporting the DPG concept.



 
How the New York terror attack may affect the Virginia governor’s race

Recently, as the gentle reader may recall, a group called Latino Victory started to run an ad in Virginia that depicted a white, Ed Gillespie supporter attempting to run down minority children with his pickup truck. The Ralph Northam campaign at the time refused to condemn the ad, and its supporters claimed that it accurately reflected the racist nature of Republican Trump supporters.